A training update

I thought it was time I gave you all a bit of a training update. 

I've done a couple of races, Run the Blades 50k and Devil O' The Highlands Ultra, got some new shoes, Inov-8 Terra Ultras and I've been doing a bit of recovery! 

So, about 4 weeks ago I ran the Run the Blades Ultra. This race was my first ever over marathon distance race which I unexpectedly won last year! This year, people must have seen my finish time and thought "I can beat that" because there were a number of speedy runners in the lead pack this year. I wasn't one of them! 
The race was only 2 weeks away from Devil O' The Highlands and so I just treated it as a long run. Took it nice and easy and enjoyed the race. Even if I was racing it, I wouldn't have been in the lead pack anyway. Maybe next year! 

After the Blades I had a bit of a niggle in my left foot so I took a complete week off from running. Which then led to a further week off. With 2 weeks off and the niggle still in my foot, I wasn't sure what to expect but Mandy and I headed to Fort William with Nicola and I decided I would run the race no matter what. As it happened, the foot didn't cause me any issues at all. 

Devil O' The Highlands

This is a race from Tyndrum to Fort William, 42 miles of trail running along the West Highland Way. It was meant to be my 'A' race for the year but due to one thing and another, it became a race that I would like to do well in but knew deep down that I hadn't put the training in for it. I'd done a couple of long runs, squeezed in a couple of 70 mile weeks but not really enough to do well. I was aiming for a 6hr 30 time for the race. 

Nicola Duncan joined Mandy and I on our road trip from Edinburgh to Fort William on the Friday evening and Nicola and I headed to the start line together early Saturday morning. We got the bus from Fort William, which was arranged by the Race organisers, at 4am! 
We both tried to get some rest on the bus journey to Tyndrum and we arrived just after 5am at the Green Welly Shop in Tyndrum where race registration took place. 

6am we were lined up on the start line, facing North and after a short countdown we were off. Nicola went off like a rocket and I didn't see her again! She had a fantastic race and ended up finishing 1st Female and 14th overall!

On my Garmin, I usually have my watch auto-lap every mile. This then shows me my mile splits and I can adjust the pace if I need to, however, Mandy had borrowed my watch and turned auto-lap off because she was running on the track. I tried to turn the auto-lap back on but then realised something, it was really nice not having my watch beep at me every mile. I could focus on the trail ahead, the hills and mountains around me and just be one with the run. It was amazing!

The miles went by without me really noticing. I took my first gel 1 hour in to the race and then made a mental note to take a Clif Blok at 1:30, another gel at 2 hours and then I would be at the first drop bag checkpoint where I could restock my supplies. 

There was one section between Bridge of Orchy and Glencoe, the old Drove road, which was really boring. Tough rocky road underfoot and masses of midges! I just wanted to get that section finished as quickly as possible. 

I got to Glencoe ski resort and from here on in I knew the route. I'd done a recce from here a number of weeks before hand and had a quick thought to myself - "Excellent, less than a marathon to go!" - It's funny how your mindset changes when you take on an Ultra! 

There was tons of support around the Glencoe area and it was lovely to get some encouraging shouts and cheers. 

I got to the drop bag checkpoint, collected my supplies and I was off again pretty quickly. The volunteers at all checkpoints were brilliant! 

It wasn't long until the first real climb of the route was in front of me, the Devil's Staircase. I had to walk it. 

The Devil's Staircase
(photo: Fiona Rennie)

I got to the top, took a couple of jelly babies from the marshals at the summit (who were dressed as Devils!) and then I started the decent down the other side. 

The next checkpoint was Kinlochleven and Mandy was going to meet me there. On the descent in to Kinlochleven my quads started to cramp and I had to actually walk some of the downhill! This was new to me, I've never had cramp from running downhill but all the climbing and rough terrain had obviously taking it toll. 

I got in to Kinlochleven and Mandy was waiting for me. This was when I realised I hadn't been eating much since Glencoe, most of the supplies I had collected there were still intact! I emptied my race vest of everything I couldn't stomach and restocked with gels and Clif Bloks. As I was just about to leave the checkpoint Peter, a running buddy, pulled in in his car and gave me a quick shout. It was great seeing Mandy and Peter and it gave me a wee boost for what I knew was just ahead of me - the climb out of Kinlochleven! 

This next mile took me 20 minutes of constant climbing! 

The rain was also becoming really heavy and I decided it was time to pull on my Montane softshell jacket. I was starting to get cold as I was having do more walking that running due to the terrain, the wind chill was getting to me. As soon as I pulled on my jacket though I felt brand new and got back in to a nice pace. 

Between Kinlochleven and Fort William I had a couple of stitches, some really enjoyable miles and some not so enjoyable. It was a great run and with 3 miles to go I thought I might be on target to get sub 7 hours. However, there was one flaw in my calculations. I was calculating everything with the expectation that the race was 42 miles long. 

I got to the final checkpoint, took a bite of the best tasting water melon I have ever had and shot off after a sub 7 hour target. 

I clocked up a 7:46min/mi! I then hit a hill and all pace drained from my legs and I spotted my watch was saying I was close to 42 miles and I couldn't see the finish. I met someone on the hill and they told me I only had 1/2 a mile to go, damn, the course was 42.32 miles long and I just didn't have anything left in my legs. 

The finish shuffle
(Photo: Sandra Hunter)

I finished in 7hr 06min 46sec. 31st overall out of 288 runners. I'm happy with that. 

My checkpoint splits were: 

Bridge Of Orchy : 49m
Glencoe : 2h 37m
Kinlochleven : 4h 11m
Lundavra : 5h 47m
Fort William : 7h 06m 46s

Inov-8 Terra Ultras

With 2 ultras now under my belt with the new Inov-8 Terra Ultras on my feet I have to say I love them. I've been wearing Inov-8 trail shoes for years. The X-Talons are my go to shoe for the Cross Country season and the TrailRocs are great for non-technical trails and forest runs. So where do the Terra Ultras fit in to the mix? 

Well, for me they sit at the top end of distance running. They have more cushioning than the X-talons and a wider toe box than the TrailRocs which makes them perfect for technical descents. The wider toe box means I'm not smacking my toes at the end of the shoes and as a result, I've not lost any toe nails. 

I found they also get rid of water much better than my X-Talon 212s. A couple of times I've ran through rivers in the 212s and I can feel the water sloshing around inside the shoe. I ran up some pretty wet trails during the Devil O The Highlands and I never once felt water sloshing about inside. 

The sole is pretty flexible and I'd maybe like a bit more protection on the underside of the shoe from sharp objects. A couple of times I took on sharp rocks and could feel the pressure coming through but, other than that, the grip is good and the sole feels like it could take on most terrains. 

With a less aggressive sole compared with the X-Talons, I felt comfortable wearing the Terra Ultras on the road sections just as much as the trails during the DOTH race. 

I could go on about these shoes but I would recommend you trying them out if you can. I took at chance and pre-ordered them without even seeing them other than on the Inov-8 website but I'm so glad I took the risk. They are great shoes and I'll be wearing them a lot over the coming months. 

Scottish Half marathon

My next race will be the Scottish Half Marathon next month. The original plan was to go for a new PB but now I'm just looking to go and enjoy the race. This next week I'll still be taking it easy. A couple of runs during the week and then maybe a longer run next Sunday. I'll then get back to running most days and trying to get some fitness back ready for the half marathon. 
I'd love to try and get sub 1:30 but with all longer races I've been doing, running 6:50 min/mi for 13 miles might be a bit much. We'll see how the training goes over the next couple of weeks. 


Owain Williams

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