Monday, 26 May 2014

West Highland Way Training, Trossachs Style

My training for the West Highland Way Race (WHWR) is now approaching it's peak.  The month of May started quite slow with recovery from the Highland Fling interrupted by minor calf injury.  The second week of May I put in 50 miles, and followed it up with a 62 mile week last week.  

My ideal goal for my peak weeks is to reach as close to a 95 mile week as I can, based on the rather unscientific principle that if my body can handle putting in as many miles during a week as I'll race on the day then I'm likely to have sufficient structural resilience and metabolic resilience (principally ability to burn fat) to be able to run the race well.  This principle has stood me well for races like the Devil O'Highlands and Fling, but pushing up my weekly mileage to 95 miles is a whole lot more challenging. 

My biggest week's running so far was the week of the this year's Fling where I ran 32 miles in the 6 days before the race and the 53 mile race to see a total of 85 miles.  The closest I've come to this has been the last 7 days where I've covered 74 miles.  Most of these miles have been done at any easy or recovery pace (also co-incidentally ultra race pace)  to reduce the stress on my body.   Going everywhere at a slow pace is relaxing, but sometimes it's good to inject some pace.

Another way to keep things fresh is running in stunning places, I'm very lucky to have such places right on my doorstep, no need to get in the car, all I do is put on my kit, tie my laces and head out the door.  Follows a pictures from three of the runs I've done in the last four days. All these runs were done early in the morning, heading out the door with just a small glass of water, no food and no caffeine.

Ben Gullipen

On Friday morning I awoke early and rather than toss and turn in bed waiting for the alarm I got up and I headed up Ben Gullipen, a little before 5:30am.   The sun was shinning and the air cool, beautiful conditions to put a spring in your step.  I took it easy for most of the way up but the final few hundred feet I went with the urge to put the foot down and powered up to the masts, with my heart rate maxing out a 183 beats per minutes.  I have done almost no high intensity running in the last few months so it good to see that the legs still had plenty of power on tap.

On the descent I took a few photo's to capture the quiet beauty that can be stolen whilst everyone is still asleep.

View from Ben Guilipen looking north towards Ben Ledi and Loch Lubnaig.

View looking back north east towards Callander, 4 and half miles till home
View looking east towards Stirling and Edinburgh (in the far distance and under cloud)

Callander to Loch Venachar to Keltie Bridge loop

On Sunday I awoke early again and was a little bit creaky as I got ready for my run.  My glutes especially were protesting from the hill sprint the day before.  Once I got out the door my muscles all warmed up and I was able to move gently along.

I wanted to get a long run in so headed out on a 15.4 mile loop that takes me from Callander to Loch Venachar, then back to Callander via the trail underneath Samson's stone, then along the cycle path to Keltie Bridge, then back home.

Arriving at Loch Venachar looking west towards Ben Venue
Above Loch Venachar looking west towards Ben Venue and Ben A'an
 Most of my body was moving comfortably but my knees began to ache on the climb up from Loch Venachar.  My right knee in particular has ached on hills during long runs since the Fling, it's never been bad enough to halt training but it's something that I will need to monitor carefully.

I suspect my quads have strengthen up quickly in response to the running the Fling but the ligaments underneath my knees haven't yet had a chance to rebuild their strength to balance the strong quads. This in-balance I'll need to fix before the WHWR.

My calves have also been a bit niggly too, with both calves feeling near injury at various points this month.  Thankfully this seems to be settling.

Coilentowie out/back

On Sunday I did another early morning run, 9 miles at a recovery pace.  My knee was fine for most of the run, and just ached a little on the final descent back to Keltie bridge.  A few spots of rain didn't affect my run but didn't inspire me to take any photo's.

Callander to Loch Lubnaig Progressive Run

On Monday morning I headed out at 5:30am for an hour and half run, timed to get me back from 7:00am when the family needs to be up and start getting ready for school.  I wanted to get a least ten miles in so headed along the mostly flat route 7 cycle path up to the Strathyre Forest Cabins.

Arriving at Loch Lunaig, 5 miles in.
I took it easy on the way out and near the turn round point decided that I should have just enough time to squeeze in another mile so ran a further half mile out, when I turned the elapsed time was 48 minutes, giving me 42 minutes to get back, oopps... a big more negative split than I had planned.

To claw back the time I decided to turn the run into a progressive run, steadily upping the intensity from 8:40min/mile pace for the first half then moving at 8:00 min/mile as I headed back.

Bluebells besides River Lenny
I wasn't in so much of rush that I could miss taking a photo of the blue bells that are carpeting many areas in the Trossachs right now.    Shortly after I passed a campsite with pretty well the most amusing tent design I've ever come across, so had to take a few more photos.

VW Tent at compsite

VW Tent looks fun from all angles
Once I got into the last four miles it was clear that I wouldn't get back from 7:00am unless I really upped the pace.  First I put in some 7:30 miles, then a 7:00 minute mile but still was outside my target time so I finished the last mile at 6:40 pace with my HR maxing out at 170bpm.

I completed the 11.1mile run 1:29:50, not a quick average by I was really pleased by being able to put in some quick miles, especially after running lots of miles in the previous week.

Fitness improvements are coming

For most of this year I've been frustrated that despite my high mileage (for me) of around 200 miles per month my apparent fitness measured by my HR monitor hasn't been as good as previous years where my mileage has been less.  I've done PB's at the Loch Katrine Marathon and the Highland Fling so I know I'm fitter, but it hasn't shown in the calorie per mile data that I've collected.   

In the last two weeks I've started to see my calories per mile come down, with my pace for a given heart rate improving.  Most significantly my heart rate drift during long runs has been minimal.  I put all my HR monitor data into a Training Log spreadsheet and have a column for race finishing times.  In April I average an 9:55 estimate for the Fling, with half a dozen runs around the 9:40 to 9:50 mark, and I finished the race in 9:42.  This my Fling predictor has an average of 9:35, with a couple of runs around the 9 hour mark.

I also have a column for the WHWR, but this column is far more guess work as I've never run further than 53 miles before.  The average WHWR estimate is now 21 hours, with a few runs a little under 20 hours.  I would absolutely love to get close to 20 hours, so it's great to see my fitness looking like it's heading in direction that makes this dream a little more plausible.

Fingers crossed my niggles will melt away over the coming weeks, although perhaps it's a tall order to expect this at the same time as running more miles in training per week than I've ever done before!

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