Monday, 23 June 2014

Could we have predicted Paul Giblin's new West Highland Way Record?

Paul Giblin ran another awesome race this year, setting an almost impossible to believe time of 14:20:11, eclipsing what was a jaw dropping 15:07:29 performance from last years' race.  We could go one for a very long time coming up with superlatives, but with this quick post I'll just pass on an observation, that for sure Paul will have been aware of going into this year just what he could do.

Look up Paul's Athlete Profile on the Power of Ten and four race times stand out as being surprisingly well correlated.

This similarity or the WHWR/100k ratio is uncanny, it's only 0.03% different, if we use the 2013 WHWR/100k ratio to estimate this years 2014 WHWR performance from the 2014 100k performance we get a time of 14:19:57, just 14 seconds faster than what Paul actually delivered on the day.

Just how stupendously close the 2013 and 2014 ratios are has to be coincidence, but, but... but... we have to conclude that Paul's time this year's amazing WHWR performance was on the cards the day he rolled up at ran 7:10:31 at the 100k UK championships back in 3rd of May.

Paul must have known as well that he was in the shape of his life, he might be pinching himself of just how well he raced, but it was all there waiting to happen all he had to do was execute flawlessly. And the man did.  RESPECT Paul RESPECT :-)


Now what might happen if we combined Paul talent for running tough ultra trail routes with Steve Way's record breaking 100k performance from the same 3rd of May 100k UK champs race... we get a predicted time WHWR time of 12:37:32.

Now this is all just numbers, Paul has a unique talent for running tough trails and converting his 100k performances to WHWR times, this is feat that Steve Way himself is unlikely to be able to achieve without lots of time in the mountains and running the WHW route.

I think it's time to start thinking about truly stupendous WHWR times, sub 14hr is totally possible, sub 13hr will one day be done.  Paul has proven beyond doubt that records are there to be broken, the impossible wafted aside as he thunders past.  The barn door has been blown open, the potential is there.

Quick West Highland Way Race Report

Conic hill, 4:20am Saturday 21st June, 17.5 mile done
Had a absolute blast in West Highland Way Race on Saturday, had a few little mishaps along the way but came pretty close to running the perfect race.  Finished in 20:18:46 which is nearly an hour faster than Gold target, and just off my Platinum dream time.  Very happy indeed.

View from Devil's Stair case looking back towards Buachaille Etive Mòr More. 4:49pm, 75 miles done
Weather was great, underfoot conditions perfect, atmosphere at start, during and after at the awards ceremony was electric.  Some truly amazing performances were put in by the elite men and women.

Paul Giblin's new course record of 14:20:11 will create shock waves far beyond Scotland, a world class performance.  2nd place Robbie Britton also ran an astonishing race finishing in 14:47:18, 20 minutes inside Paul 2013 course record.  Matt Williamson in 3rd finished in 16:04:07, a time that would have comfortable won in most previous years.

In the women's race Fiona Ross won in 18:45:04 which I believe is the 3rd fastest women's time and Rosie Bell finishing in 19:02:19 with the fourth fastest women's time.  I actually caught and passed 3rd placed ladies finisher  Keziah Higgins on the descent into Kinlochleven (80miles in) but she passed me later on the way to Lundavra after I was hobbled by a calf injury.  Keziah finished strong in a time of 20:09:35.

It's now a day an half since I finished and I am feeling a bit battered and bruised thanks to the little mishaps but 100% elated.  Scrapes, bruises and strains are just part of the collateral damage of covering 95 miles on stony trails, these will be heal quickly.

I will write a full write this week, collect together various photo's taken by my family and crew.  I had an absolute ball and much of this was made possible by the support of my crew and my family. Thank you guys and girls :-)

Thanks also to race organizers and all the marshals, the warmth and efficiency was top class.  What an amazing event you've created!

Friday, 20 June 2014

How to follow the West Highland Way Race

If you wish to following this years West Highland Way Race remotely then you can do so online using the SPORTident website that will be updated as runners pass through each check point.  The page for tracking the race as whole is:

SPORTindent West Highland Way Race main page

From there you can type in your runners race number, which for me is no. 30, or your runners name, club.  The page allocated for myself is:

SPORTindent WHWR Page for Robert Osfield

Picture of Loch Lomond, I took in April, from the West Highland Way Route, 21 miles into the 95 mile way.
This will be the first time I have run a race longer than 53miles so from Tyndrum onwards I'll be in new territory, how my mind and body will cope with the distance, time on my feet and time awake I really don't know - I will find out something new about myself tomorrow, both physically and mentally, which is both daunting and exciting.

My plans for the race is start at a steady pace, and one that I feel that I should be able to maintain for a good distance into the race.  I really have no idea how long it'll take me to finish, but my in theory someone with my race times at other ultra's should be capable of a time in the 20 to 24hr range.  As so many factors can affect ones performance on the day there is no sure way of knowing.

One can dream and one can analyse spreadsheets of race results and trying to come up with various figures for goal times, the ones that I have settled on are:

  • Platinum - 20hrs : The is my perfect race performance. Looking at how other runners of similar capability at shorter races there is a small but not impossible chance that this might happen. You can dream though :-)
  • Gold - 21hrs 17minutes:  This figure is based on the 2.19 multiplier of my Highland Fling Time of 9:43 that I set this April.  The 2.19 value is the average ratio of previous Fling and WHWR finishers that blogger and ultra runner John Kynaston worked on this spring.  As this is an average it seems appropriate to give myself a 50:50 chance of hitting this target.
  • Sliver - sub 24hrs : Doing a sub 24hr WHWR is something that 69 runners out of the 181 starters achieved in the 2013 race, so it's still a very good performance and one I'd be very happy to achieve on my first attempt at running such a grand distance.
  • Bronze - sub 35hrs : Finishing with the 35hr cut off will mean that I'll achieve my main objective and this is to finish and be able to receive my WHWR finishers Goblet.  In theory I should be able to do a sub 24hr time, but running 95 miles is no small undertaking, many things can and will go wrong when running for so long.   If it does turn out that I'm finishing over 24hrs it's likely that I've really struggled over the last part of the race walking in during a second night or having to be awake and moving forward.  A time over 24hr would signify I greater struggle and determination to finish that will likely to be required if all goes well, so even just finishing I'll be very very chuffed with.

If you are following the race via the SPORTident website you'll be able to see how I'm progressing through the race, and my using the pacing spreadsheets I developed in preparation for the race you should be able to spot how my race is going - whether I'm finishing really strong like last Marco Cosani who came 2nd last year, or struggling more a finishing more like the average runner.

The following spreadsheet use Marco's overall pacing but recalibrates to a range of finishing times, if I am able to finish as strongly then my split times should fit along one of the columns which then would indicate the type of time I might finish in.

Perhaps more likely given I'm new to runner 95 miles will be something closer to the average runner, who typically starts out too fast for their fitness levels and struggles much more walking much of the later stages of the race.  My approach to pacing in theory should be more like Marco's but there is no way I will know whether I can keep going steadily right to the end till I do arrive at Fort William. Follows is the set of splits and projected finishing times for the average splits calibrated to a range of finishing time.  Again look up the check point elapsed times and find the column closest.

Note how the times for the first leg to Drymen at similar for both tables but the finishing time is widely different - the strong finishing would see me finish 3 and half hours quicker than if I can't maintain the pace and finish more like the average runner.

Fingers crossed all my preparation and training will help me finish, and finish strong.  6 months training, 1243 miles run in training and race and I'm fitter and stronger than at any other time in my adult life, but will I be a match for the West Highland Way and all it's midgies?

I am totally excited to find out! :-)

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

West Highland Way Splits

I am now in the final phase of preparation for the 95 mile West Highland Way Race (WHWR) that commences at 1am on Saturday 21st June, part of this preparation has been looking at what splits. In this post I'll provide the spreadsheet so that others can tailor the splits to their own target times, some will be suitable for printing out and taking with a runner and crew, and others will be suitable for guessing finishing time based on how a runner is doing at each check point.

Those not at the race can follow progress online via the sportsident website which will report runners passing through check points in real-time, in combination with my spreadsheet you'll be able to

My own pacing plan : Pacing by Heart Rate

My own pacing plan will be to use my Heart Rate Monitor as a guide, aiming for a zone between 80 and 82% of my Lactate Threshold, which equates to a range of 140 to 145 beats per minute.  On the way to Drymen I'll attempt to keep my heart rate down to a 135 to 140 bpm range, and for the rest the race up to 140 to 145.  I'll also set a heart rate never to exceed of 150.  This range is roughly 12 bpm lower than when I raced the Highland Fling back in April.

Pacing by heart rate has worked well for me over the last six months, and especially well at the Fling where a combination of good training in the run up and good pacing on the day saw me finish in 9:43, a PB by over an hour.  This positive experience has given me the confidence to try it out in the full WHWR, I've never run further than 53 miles before so I really don't know how well it'll work in practice.

Pacing by heart rate during the Fling resulted in my being able to maintain my effort level right through to the end, something I'd very much like to repeat for the WHWR.  If I can then I should be able to get close to doing an evenly paced split for the first and second halfs (Mlingavie to Achtertyre, Aucteryre to Fort William).  Rosie Bell, the winner of the women's race, came very close to achieving an even paced split last year with her average pace in the second half 97% of her first half average pace.

Will I manage a strong finish like Rosie or slow down significantly like the average runner does?  We'll find out on the 21st!

Splits on the West Highland Way Race 2013

When working out splits I have taken the approach of working out the average time taken for each leg by all the finishers in the 2013 race, this average split data gives me a base from which I derive all other split data.

I don't believe the average splits provide an ideal example of what to aim for on the day - as you include both runners that have a good race and ones that don't, so have come up with a technique for adjusting the split times to achieve different levels of average first half pace/second half pace.  The technique applies a pace gradient to each leg, typically slowing down the early legs and speeding up the later stages.  Using this pace gradient adjustment it is possible to tailor the splits to different first half/second half splits - such as an even split, or adjust to a specific competitor, from the race that you feel paced well and would like to emulate, such as 2013 race winners Rosie Bell and Paul Gilblin, this then provides a split profile which you can use a template for your own race plans.

The first half/second half split adjusted data won't be the actual splits that the runner that they are inspired by achieved last year, it'll be a "Rosie Bell Style" or Paul Giblin Style" split profile that captures how strongly the started and finished.  The actual race splits they achieved will show some legs faster and other legs slower.  This is an advantage of the approach though, as all runners have strong and weaker stages relative those around them, and take different amounts of time at check-points etc.   As the adjusted splits is based on the averages of all runners these individual leg variations are removed.

The follow table shows the "Rosie Bell Style" splits when fitted to the 2013 average time of 25:31, compare the splits to the averages in the table above.

The difference between the two sets of splits is most marked in the early and later legs.  The leg to Drymen in particular shows that an conservative start and strong finish runner like Rosie will be able to run the first leg half an hour slower than the "average" runner, but finish the less leg not much less than half an hour quicker with a pace close to what they began with.

Tailoring splits to your own personal goals/expectations

I don't plan to aim for the average 25:21:58, nor would I expect anyone else to, so the splits tables above are only really useful for illustration.  To be useful to our own race plans we need to decide upon the split profile we want to target and a finishing time, in this post I can't publish a full range of time zones and split profiles as there is an infinite number of combinations!  Instead you use my spreadsheet directly, choose either the OpenDocument link if you use a standards compliant spreadsheet, or the Microsoft link if Excel gets your love.

Open up the spreadsheet and you'll see two sheets, the Splits Calculator sheet that creates the tables as above, or a second Split Projection sheet that I'll cover later in this post.  The Splits Calculator has the fields that are appropriate to edit colour green, the main one of interest is at the top and has "Finished Time" label to the let of it.  Just type in your target time in format hours:minutes:seconds and the spreadsheet will automatically populate the split tables for the various split profiles.

For fun I'll put in 14:59:59 to give everyone an idea of what splits would be required to sub 15hrs for the first time.  Paul cam every close last year, and he's back this year and will have some stella competition that includes Robbie Britton and Matt Williamson so if all the elite's are fit then perhaps this could be the year... :-)

First up we'll use the average split profile to show just how crazy the splits would need to be at the start - faster than the fastest of elites run the start of the Fling at...

For a perfect even first half/second split profile we'd see:

The "Paul Giblin Style" split profile:

Personally I think Paul went out too fast, last years 2nd place finisher Marco Cosani paced more even race, using 16hr splits inspired by Richie Cunningham's previous WHWR win splits.  Marco was catching Paul from Glen Coe an indicator that Paul did indeed go out faster than is optimal.  If a runner was to run with Marco's split profile for a sub 15hr it'd look like:

Even more sensibly/evenly paced sub 15hr would follow "Rosie Bell Style" split profile:

Personally I think Rosie Style split profile would be the one that makes a sub 15 most likely, but the elite runners will be racing each other as much as the clock so the idea of precision pacing is likely to be dispensed quite early.

Finally I'll include split profile based on John Kynaston's 2013 race, relative to Paul, Marco and Rosie he started faster and finished slower, but still started far more sensibly and finished stronger than the average runner.  John isn't an elite like these three runners but loves spreadsheets even more than I so I thnk he totally deserves a stab at a sub 15hr even he won't be racing this year (we'll see him Marshalling with Katrina at Lundavra):

Nothing like setting of at tempo pace and hoping that you'll be able to keep till the end, GO Kynaston GO! :-)

For your own race if you want to use the splits calculator pick one of the race profiles and the target time you want and then print off and laminate the splits.  If you are struggling to get things to work and need some splits just let me your target time and preferred profile as a comment below and I can plugin in your target time and post the splits in a follow up post.

Finish time projections based on splits as the race progress

The second sheet on the spreadsheet provides just the time through each checkpoint for a range of different split profiles and times.  If you have a runner that you are following that is like to pace like Marco Cosani then plugin the base time into the green field and the increment you want.  For instance for the sub 15hr time and look down to Marco's split profile entry, it'll look like click to see a big version.

Personalizing the split profile to your own requirements

So far I've only discussed and illustrated changing the target time but entering different times into the green "Finish time" box, in the split profile examples for Paul, Rosie, Marco and John you'll also see a "PaceGradient" green box with differing negative values in it.  You can enter your own values in here to control how much slow down/speed up relative to the average splits that are used as the base for the splits computation - in all the examples I've given the gradient is negative, although reflecting on it now it should probably be labelled slow down gradient... this work is bleeding edge so likely to be a few bits that redefining later....  

Anyway the details of the computation aren't actually too important, then effect of them is the key, to the right of the PaceGradient box you'll see two automatically computed values, PaceScale - a multipler used to make sure all the legs% add up 100% for a given PaceGradient, and the part that humans will be interested in the SplitRatio - which is the ratio of SecondHalfAveragePace/FirstHalfAveragePace which is 1.0 for even splits. 

You can try different  different PaceGradient values till you get the SplitRatio you are after or simply see the changing paces through the race that start to make sense to what you are aiming to achieve.  I used a couple iterations of trial and error to get the appropriate PaceGradient for the even split, Paul, Marco, Rosie and John's pace profiles.  If I were programming this rather than using a spreadsheet I'd be able to get the program to compute the pace gradient given the SplitRatio but I'm not good enough spreadsheet wizard to do this.  Perhaps John can work out how to do it :-)

How to use splits before and during the race

Before a race having an idea of the time for each section can give you a guide to the time of day you are likely to arrive and how long each section is likely to take.  How long it takes will help guide how much food and drink you'd want to take, and whether this means you'll need a pack or can rely on handheld bottles and pockets in your shorts.  

During the race you'll want to keep things simple and just carry the splits you need, this will probably mean editing the spreadsheet to get only the data you want and printed off in nice clear form then laminate.  John Kynaston creates mini split cards for each section and picks these up at each check point/aid point.  The splits I have aren't as fine grained so you can probably get away with just one splits card for the whole race.

As I pace by heart rate I don't need to worry about fine grained splits for pacing, but others find it useful, and rather than preach how I might do it when I don't use it, I thought I'd ask, John with a few quick questions, here's his answers:

RO: What is the bit you always look at when you are running? 
JK: When I'm running I like to keep an eye on my average pace for my mini-split but I also like to keep track of how far to go to the next checkpoint and once there compare my time to my plan.  

RO: Do you check progress/pace between the mini splits and compare it to your pace specified on the split card? 
A: Yes ... but I try not to get too discouraged if I'm behind on a particular split. I do like to have realistic splits and hope to be ahead of them as I find this more positive. If I have a 'poor' split I try to put it behind me and try and concentrate on the present one. 

RO: Do you keep pressing the lap button on the watch or do you just leave it running?
JK: Yes I press the lap button each time I get to my mini-split.  I make sure the watch is NOT on automatic mile splits.

Thanks and see you on Saturday!

Thanks to John for helping provide his own splits for different races and with helpful suggestions, no doubt there is still plenty I can improve upon.  Thanks also to John for doing the WHWR podcasts and all those that helped provide lots of great insights, advice and inspiration.

It's now full two sleeps and an attempt at a Friday afternoon nap till Race day.  I can't wait, or at least I can wait a little as not all my race kit has arrived in the post yet :-)

I look forward to see all runners, support crew and marshals on Friday, Saturday and on Sunday at the Prize giving.  May the Goblet be with you!!! 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Final weeks before the West Highland Way Race : Tapering vs Tunning in

Taper -> Taperitis

It is now less than three weeks to the West Highland Way Race, and if I follow the standard recommended practice for marathons and ultras I'll progressive taper down my mileage for the next few weeks.  The theory is you cut the mileage to enable your body to recover from high mileage weeks at the end of your training cycle and leave your well rested and fresh for race day.

The trouble is feeling fresh on race day is something I found elusive with a standard three week taper, typically I'll be suffering from colds, or various aches and pains - classic symptoms of taperitis.  Getting all these symptoms increases the anxiety levels before a race which does nothing to help one get a good nights sleep, rebuild the body, support the immune system or restock energy reserves - undermining the whole purpose of the taper.

I haven't yet read a good explanation of the cause taperitis, my best guess is that this cascade of events in a taper is likely due to the lower mileage reducing the cortisol and growth hormone release associated with consistent training.  Cortisol helps energy release but also suppresses inflammation and the immune system, this is fine as long as it's balanced with a release of growth hormone to allow the body to rebuild itself after our training.  Cut training and cut associated cortisol levels and our bodies can respond with the immune system becoming more active, and more responsive to any niggles, be them colds or muscle strains.  This is mostly a good thing, but I suspect if we see a sudden change in training the big changes in daily hormone cycles can lead to an imbalanced response.  Could the immune system become over sensitive in this period?

Cutting training mileage and number of time your go also growth hormone release, this component of the immune system will them be less active.  If your body doesn't need lots of repair this shouldn't be a problem, but again I do wonder if the sudden change in daily hormone release could lead to imbalances.

Another factor may be that when we train we activate Autophagy, which is an immune response that cleans up cell debri.  With autophagy diminished it could be that our overall immune system is reduced and the balance of pro and anti-inflammatory processes are changed.

The may also be psychological aspects in play.  When we train regularly we can feel positive about preparing for the race ahead, we feel like we are doing something.  Reduce the training and we no longer have this mental stimulus and release of our pent up energy.  It's quiet easy to end up anxious and over fixated with every ache and pain that we'd normally ignore as a minor niggle when training.

We've all had these taper from hell.  There has to be a better way.

Learning from times when I haven't had the opportunity to Taper

Last spring during my build up to I ended up with a bout of Metatarsalgia in my left foot (pain under the ball of the foot) that refused to clear up, I ended up having to cut my mileage down lower and lower, finally less than 6 mile a week.  In the end I had to pull out from the Fling and tried my best to rest my injured foot and get it sorted.  Alas rest didn't work either.

I had signed up for the Devil O' Highlands and with one month to go decided I had to start training even if my foot wasn't yet healed up properly.  Curiously enough getting back into training was sore initially on my foot but it actually improved with as I upped the daily mileage.  I haven't yet figured out why, perhaps the dance between Cortisol and Growth Hormone was playing in my favour?

Given such a short training cycle I didn't have much time to ramp up my mileage before the Devil, I got up to doing 18 miles in one day less than 10 days before the race and then began my taper.  Despite the short amount of training and short taper I ran a great Devil, finishing a hour quicker than what I expected.  This got be wondering just how necessary a big taper was.

In all my races since last August I've gradually got more confident about doing training runs close to race day.  Before the Loch Katrine Marathon, this March, I ran a marathon paced test run of half marathon length just 6 days before the race.  Come race day I was perfectly fresh and got a 6 minute PB.   Before the Highland Fling, in April, I did a hilly 15 miler race pace test on the Wednesday before the race, did a 4 mile recovery run on Thursday, rested up on the Friday and put away a hour PB in the Fling on the Saturday.

Since the Devil last August I've now done four ultras and a marathon and the longest taper has been 10 days, shortest two days and in all these races I've ran really well.

Could it be that big three week tapers simply aren't necessary?

Final phase of training - Tuning in

The key objective of all our training is to prepare ourselves for race day.  Come race day we want out body and minds to be perfectly tuned for the demands of the race.  The last phase in training has to be increasingly tuning the mind and body into those specific demands.

The bulk of training where we do the majority of our miles and hard training sessions make our bodies stronger, increase our aerobic fitness and for an ultra runner ideally improve our bodies ability to burn fat efficiently.  The bulk of our training is likely to contain a variety of training sessions, some easy recovery days, some long runs, some back to backs to fatigued legs, some tempo, some interval or hill sprint sessions.  This big mix of runs can push our bodies in lots of different ways, the various stressors help build our overall fitness.

However, on race day we rely on a set of physical and mental capabilities that are specific to that event. For an ultra runner we'll need to be run and walking from start to finish.  We'll need to navigate, we'll need to deal with weather and terrain that are specific to that day and route.  We may need to deal with sleep deprivation, wet, cold or hot conditions.   Preparing physically and mentally for all these outcomes is likely to be the key to getting the final phase of training right.

Maintenance of Fitness and Physical tuning

In the final few weeks before a big race you are unlikely to be further develop your aerobic fitness, structural resilience or fat burning capacity.  You do however have the capacity to ruin all of this by trying to train to hard too close to the race, so there is little point in trying to push all your toughest training weeks as close as possible to race day.

Instead I believe the final few weeks should be about maintaining fitness.  Maintaining fitness requires less intense training than building fitness so reducing the weekly mileage and intensity of training sessions is sensible.   What I have found, from my tracking my own training and recovery, that my body can quite happily handle running for an hour each day without little stress, as long as I keep the pace easy to ultra race pace (9min/mile pace and slower for me), which means roughly 6 miles a day is safe to do, day in, day out.  Pushing my mileage below this level doesn't seem to be required, so for me this is means that during "taper" I can happily run 30 to 40 mile weeks - I just need to keep the intensity nice an easy.

I have also found that I can happily add a ~half marathon runs done an ultra race into taper weeks and still feel recovered the next day and not be carrying much fatigue over to the next day.  I wouldn't want to run back to back half marathons but a couple interspersed through the week is fine.

As race day approaches you want to tune your muscle tension to the level appropriate for the event, and for an ultramarathon this means nice and relaxed.  The best way to achieve nice relaxed muscles is to keep all runs in the final week around the same pace as your ultra race.   If you will be running of routes with lots of hills and walking then practising run/walking on routes at similar as your can find to the race route, and do them at a similar pace.   This will ensure your muscles tune into the appropriate muscle tension and your muscle memory can tune into the motor patterns you'll want to be automatic on race day.

Take care of what your eat in the final weeks

As we reduce the length of big runs and our weekly mileage the amount of glycogen we use up goes down, especially if you cut down faster runs like tempo runs and really long runs.   With the reduced energy needs, in particular for glycogen, if you keep eating the same foods and quantity of food you could easily end up filling your glycogen stores quite quickly then the access carbs will also be converted to fats and your body will reset itself to to storing carbs as fat and burning carbs as fuel rather than sparing them.

High Glycemic Index (GI) Foods foods in particular are likely to the biggest culprits for sabotaging your fat burning capacity so stay clear of sweet snacks, pasta and white bread etc as they elated blood sugar very rapdily and induce and insulin spike that tells the body to store blood sugar as muscle glycogen and convert it to fat and store in your fat cells.  The only time safe time to play with these foods is right after a run when your insulin sensitive is at it's highest, or as part of meal that contains plenty of protein, fibre and fat that reduces the overall GI of the meal.

Studies looking at eating low carb diet for two weeks and then carbo loading in the final days before a race have shown improvements in fat burning capacity and performance but the results aren't conclusive.

My recommendation would be to stick to a moderate carb diet right through to the final day before the race and make sure that the overall GI of the foods are low.  For an ultra you want to fill your glycogen stores but your don't want to risk over filling them as if you do then your immediately switch to fat storing rather than fat burning.

If you feel peckish in the final week and want a snack try something like an apple, or cheese on oat cakes as they are low GI.  Skipping breakfast and having bigger lunches and dinners that properly fill you up can help the body spend more time fat burning and less time snacking - this approach to daily intermittent fasting also activates the Autophagy thus maintaining this aspect of the immune system even as we reducing our training mileage.

Complete Race preparation and Relax

Anxiety in the weeks before a race can build, a little bit of stress each day can be healthy but only if you have down time where you can fully relax, if you carry anxiety with you all day and night it leaves you with chronically high Cortisol and erodes your aerobic fitness and muscle strength - absolutely not what you want before a big ultra.

For me I only find it easy to relax once I know I am well prepared, the earlier I sort out all the major elements of race prep. the sooner I can relax and enjoy my time off.  My goal for these final weeks before the West Highland Way Race is to plan the race out, for my own race and my support crew and get it written down.  Once I've written it down and agreed the details with my crew I'll be able to close a mental door on all those items.

To help get a handle on what I need to plan for and decide I have drawn up a mind map - it's too scrawled to publish online, but it does roughly contain all the major elements I need to look at over the next few weeks and steadily tick off.

Preparation wise I've now got a initial set of splits prepared, which I'll publish soon in case other might find it curious or useful.  The splits will help the next phase which is plan out food and drink for each stage of the race.

I have a number of foods like chocolate milk shake, yoghurt drink, home-made coconut oil+chocolate bars, sticks of liquorish that have been my stable for my ultra in the past year that have worked well and will be part of my food/drink inventory for the West Highland Way Race.  I'll add to these as well.  Rice pudding sounds good as does hot soup.  My aim will be to provide my body with a range of easy to digest sources of carbohydrate, protein and fats.  I'll avoid foods high in fibre for race day.

I plan to wear most of the same things as I wore for the Fling and other ultra's but still have a few items like shoes to try out before finalizing.  As I don't plan on changing too much there isn't too much to plan here save for extra changes of clothing for doing a day long race in the unpredictable Scottish climate!

Reading previous reports from runners and supporters will also be part of my prep.  This is to reforce the community tradition behind what I am undertaking - I am not alone but part of an extended family, as well as spot good tips and lessons to learn. Knowing that others have been through similar experiences as I'll likely encounter will give me a template of how to handle things when they go astray - so many accounts you see runners describe low points that they felt they couldn't continue yet they pull through and some even finishing really strongly.

I don't plan to specifically spend time and effort on visualize myself running or spend too much time training myself for positive thinking.  I will just instead just let positive thoughts come and enjoy them. If I happen upon negative thoughts then I'll embrace them - and look for the underlying problem that is causing them and do something to address that issue, ignoring and burying problems won't solve them, but finding a solution for them can be a really positive thing.

Don't "think positive", BE POSITIVE, Enjoy these final runs and weeks

I am really looking forward to race day.  Sure I would have liked to do a few more big training runs, or hit my target top weekly mileage but overall I'm healthy, happy and only have minor niggles despite the 200 mile months that I have done for the past four months.  I have never managed this amount of consistent training before, I have never been better prepared to run 95 miles.

The next few weeks are precious and I plan to enjoy every run. I won't count weekly mileage, I will just run often as I feel I want to and go as far as I fancy.  What I do know is that I'll do all the miles at a relaxed pace, walk when the hill steepens too much, play with a sprint or too if I the whim comes my way.  I have done all the hard work now it's time to enjoy the fitness I've built and tune in to pace and style of running that I'll employ on race day.

My preparation I'll tick off bit my bit each day and make sure that it's all coming together with plenty of time so I can relax in the final week.  I'll finish with a view from the end of Stank Glen looking down to the River Lenny taken on a 15 miler I did this week.  I love the route so will be sure to be run it a few more times over the next few weeks, doing such a long and hilly route might not fit a classic taper but it ticks all the boxes for enjoying my time and inspiring my love of running in Scottish highlands - just about perfect for tuning into running the whole West Highland Way!