No, I’m not talking about dancing. I’m talking about the 53 mile ultra marathon that takes place in May 2016 along the first half of the West Highland Way, which I was talked into entering… I blame Sarah fully for this. I think it’s her revenge for the TGO Challenge (200 miles coast to coast across Scotland that I suckered her into.)
Since entering, I’ve spent a huge amount of time reading and re-reading every page of the website and every blog I can get my hands. Personal favourite is from ultra runner www.redwinerunner.co.uk, in case you’re interested. I’m not quite so worried about the distance. Having completed the Longmynd Hike last year, I know I can cover 50 hilly miles with a heavy backpack. What I don’t know is whether I can cover that distance, plus an extra 3 miles in the 15 hour time limit… It’s a hell of an ultra running challenge!
I’m frantically trying to put together a training plan which includes easy running days, hill climbs, strength training. Do I add in speed work? Am I too slow to even worry about speeding up? Should I just work on my endurance? Are my legs and glutes strong enough? My brain is fried.
Not only is there the training to think about, there’s also the hugely important question of what the hell to wear! I’m struggling with trainers at the moment; I’ve had an ongoing battle with shin splints ever since I started running four years ago, and since the TGO Challenge in May this year, I’ve also suffered with plantar fasciitis. Do I wear trail running shoes, of which I’ve still not found a pair I find comfortable and supportive enough, or do I go with road running shoes? Apparently people have worn both on the route, so I’ve no idea.
Not only is footwear an issue. What I wear on the rest of my body needs thinking about. I tend to run hot when exercising, but I am also prone to the most ridiculous friction burns ever. I prefer running in vests but with a hydration pack on this is probably a bad idea. Do I wear layered shorts to keep cool? Do I go for compression tights? Long sleeve top? T-shirt? I’m probably worrying more than I need to, but after a bout of hypothermia during the Longmynd Hike, I’m a little paranoid.
Once all the clothing issues are sorted, then I need to think about nutrition. Based on my experiences from the Longmynd Hike, I know after a certain point, food just doesn’t want to go down. Babybels and chorizo work for a while. Custard has been recommended and is probably going to play a leading role. Hydration? Where to start?! After a bad experience at the London Marathon a few years ago, I’ve steered well clear of all types of hydration tablets. I can’t do this on a 53 mile run though.
Other than all this, however, I can’t tell you how excited I am for the race. It’s a stunning route and one I’ve had my eye on for quite some time. The terrain covers everything, dirt tracks, fire roads, technical rocky sections, scrambles, long uphills slogs, speedy descents. It’s going to be epic! As long as I figure out how to train, what to wear, what to eat and get past the cut off points!
Any ultrarunners out there, or Fling finishers, I’d love some advice!