Recovery fun runs
I took things very easy in the week after the Highland Fling, just doing a couple of short recovery runs but still ended up tweaking my right calf - all too similar to what happened post Loch Katrine Marathon. I took a couple days off running and then just eight days after Fling ran the Chloe McKintye Memorial 5km fun run with my youngest daughter, thankfully my calf was mostly healed up for the run.
The fun run rekindled my daughters enthusiasm for running, but she found running in her old Merrell Kids Flux Gloves a bit painful on the sharp stones on the trail. On inspection I found the rubber outsole almost completely worn away, perhaps only a mm or two thick. She loves the shoes so much that she wore them practically all her play time for over a year so I guess I shouldn't be too suprised. I promised her that I'd buy here replacements but Merrell are no longer doing these shoes in her size, Merrell Kids Trail Gloves are very similar but didn't have the purple colour that she loved, white and pink just wasn't going to fit the bill. So I went hunting online for other similar shoes and came across Junior Trailroc, Junior F-Lite and Junior Talon's and my daughter just loved the idea of having the mini dads shoes. I felt the Trailroc would probably be a bit stiff for her, so went for the black and white Junior F-Lite's. These should arrive in the next day or so, fingers crossed they match up to her high expectations.
The week since the fun run I did a series of recovery runs totally 30 mile, my legs steadily settling down as the week progressed. Curiously each morning I awake I'm really aware of my leg muscles being really twitchy as though they had been rewired overnight. My runs were all pretty comfortable, and my hear rate for a given pace back to where it was before the Fling.
Magic starts when you head out the door
Then something happened over Saturday night, not sure what, but something clicked. I awoke early on Sunday morning, a little after 5am, nothing unusual for me, but it was light already and I didn't expect to get back to sleep so I crept out for a early morning run leaving the house just before 6am. The sky was clear with just a few clouds, perfect conditions to enjoy a half marathon distance run along Loch Venachar past Invertrossach house. The photo below captures what I saw when I arrived at the east end of the Loch looking west towards Invertrossachs house (the distant white building in the centre) with Ben Venue beyond and to the left.
|Arrival at east end of Loch Venachar looking west|
I pottered along at just below 10 min/mile pace just soaking up the beautiful views. I've never seen the loch this still before, the reflections were simply breathtaking. The pictures don't quite do it justice, but are still pretty amazing no less.
|Half way along the loch looking back eastwards|
As well as the enchanting views being radiating calm my own body was calm too, my heart rate stayed low for the whole run, more than 5 bpm lower than usual for the pace.
|View from south side of loch looking north towards Harbour Cafe and Ben Ledi|
At 7am I past Inverstrossachs house and then headed off the road taking a short trail loop that takes you back to the road for the return leg home. The views just kept on rewarding me on every turn.
|Return leg, looking east and heading back home to Callander|
I was back home before 8am, my household still asleep. Had I really been out and experienced something more magical than a dream?
Fitness gains quantifiedAfter my run on Sunday I logged the data from my heart rate monitor into my training log spreadsheet and found that I that run was most efficient (number of calories per mile reported) I have run for over a year and the most efficient ever on that route. The spreadsheet also has a column for estimating possible West Highland Way Race finishing time, my Fling performance extrapolated to around 21 hours, while this run projected sub 20 hours?!?! Wooohooo :-)
This morning (Monday) I awoke early again and went out for a 6.5 mile route as a recovery run, I ended up drenched as the heavens open 10 minutes into the run and stayed heavy for the rest of the run. Thankfully I didn't get cold but hadn't worn socks and ended up with a small blister on my left foot. Not a single blister during the Fling and then my first blister for many many months in a single rather soggy recovery run. On the upside my heart rate stayed low just as it had done the day before, my efficiency was even better and WHWR projection time even lower. Wooohooo II :-)
I've been expecting to hit really good efficiency figures during training over the past few months thanks to the higher volume of training (consecutive 200+ mile months) I've been doing but never seem anything more than an occasional blip of good efficiency (like the day of Loch Katrine Marathon) but mostly it's been up and down but never settling. My resting heart rate has also up and down and generally high.
To finally see some improvements in efficiency is great news, I'm not sure why it's taken so long, but I'm really hoping that I'll now see a period of stable fitness that I can build upon as top off my training for longest race of my life in less than six weeks time.
Training plans for the West Highland Way Race
I am not following any specific training schedule or published approach. Instead I'm training by feel, choosing week by week what I feel my body can handle in turns of training. I am really prone to injury so having this flexibility to add extra recovery days or whole weeks seems to have worked this year so far. Also when I feel I'm recovery quickly I can add in extra long runs or harder runs.
This flexible approach allowed me to pus my weekly mileage up way past what I've done before, two weeks before the Fling I did a 72 mile week, then the 6 days before the Fling I ran 28 miles and topped it off with 53 miles of the Fling to leave me with 85 miles for a single week. Previous years I've topped out at 50 mile weeks, but string too many together on the trot and I'd get injured. So far I've had a couple of minor calf injuries, but these have settled with a few days off running, for me this is marks a pretty exceptional period of injury free training.
My good run at the Fling having given my confidence a real boost in the effectiveness of training I'm doing. In the four months training before the Fling I ran one 20 miler, and one marathon, but lots of hilly runs in the 13 to 16 mile range. Doing lots of regular long runs of modest length seems to helped my recovery, my aerobic fitness and in particular my fat burning capacity. My structural resilience also proved to be great during the Fling and was able to run all the descents strongly. The physical adaptation that I wanted to improve upon all looked to be improving.
The preparation for the Fling obvious worked out very well, but will it scale to the greater demands of the West Highland Way Race? I'll be on my feet for at least twice as long and I'll have sleep deprivation to deal with too.
To further improve my fitness for the big race my broad plan is:
- Add more fasted runs to help improve fat burning capacity
- Add hill sprints to increase strength, general aerobic fitness and an extra stimulus for fat burning
- Increase weekly mileage, ideally up to 95 miles in one week to match my WHWR mileage
- Do more long runs in combination with big ascents/descents - double Ben Ledi, or tours of three Callander Peaks
- Do a few more marathon or slightly more distance training runs
- Only do back to back long runs if my body is recovering quickly enough
- Do lots of recovery runs - 80%+ of my mileage will by at a 9 to 10min/mile pace.
- Introduce daily power naps after lunchtime to help boost my immune system on other benefits.
- Try 1am long runs, with strategic napping before hand to recreate race night/day.
- Cut back on daily caffeine intake
- Keep going with modest carb, moderate-high fat, modest protien diet.
- Before long runs eat source of proteins that help with muscle metabolism (eggs are one best natural sources for this.)
- Listen to my body, if it squeals back off before injury strikes - I'd rather be slightly under prepared than injured come race day
Oh, I'm might cross my fingers occasionally too :-)