(for Day 1 click here)
We woke up to a frosty but what looked like another fine day. There was a chill in the air and a cold wind. By the time we had breakfast the blue sky had been replaced with clouds and the only sun we saw were some lighter patches in the distance.
Lorna did have a very swollen ankle from going over her foot the previous day which did put some doubts on to her progress. We all set off together – at 9:30 am – down the hill back to the Inversnaid Hotel to rejoin the West Highland Way.
I should point out that we were down to 9 runners as Lucy had to leave early in the morning to catch a bus or hitch a lift back to Glasgow to fly out to Amsterdam that afternoon – as you do! We would later become a group of 10 again as Norry would join us after having run towards us from Tyndrum.
Tim and I headed off at the front again. The section north of Inversnaid was one of the main reasons for me wanting to do this recce of the course as I had been told that it is rather rough to “run” on. If the final bit into Inversnaid gave me an idea then this was nonetheless an eye opener and worth seeing first hand. There were lots of rocky sections and parts with roots to get over which meant little running and lots of powerwalking. Even though we had run 34 miles the previous day we were still doing this on relatively fresh legs so I did have to remind myself that both on April 28 and June 23 I will be running that immediately after the34 miles, so more attention to detail will be required. This part of the route is roughly 4 miles long but will no doubt leave its mark.
I stayed behind Tim first but after a couple of miles we changed places which allowed me to stride out a bit more when I could. I felt remarkably good which was a surprise both from the point of view of the previous day’s exertions and a not particularly early night which had included some drinks.
And even though the weather wasn’t quite as nice it was again a good day for running and a joy heading up lochside towards Beinglas. I expected to meet Norry here but he was running a bit late so I bumped into him at Beinglas farm. After a quick catch-up he continued south to meet some of the others while I headed north. I enjoyed the route over Beinglas. After the Farm the West Highland Way spends quite a long time on a land rover track which goes up and down and up and down and … you get the picture. All in all though it was more up than down and it felt like that too. A reasonable amount of the up though was runnable (the gradient was not such that powerwalking was necessary). As on the day before I stuck to my 25 minute nutrition plan which kept me ticking along nicely. What did annoy me a bit was the closeness to the road at times with lots of traffic noise. I did come across a rather interesting obstacle a bit later on. I had just gone through the rather narrow tunnel which goes under the railway and had around 500m to get to the underpass that takes you underneath the A82. Lying in the way on this 500m stretch was a group of cows with 4 or 5 very young calves. I had only 2 years ago had a not very pleasant encounter with a herd of calves and had no intention of getting too close so made a rather large detour through a muddy field and up a steep bank to get over the stile at the other end. Phew! Onwards and Upwards, literally!
I knew that the path would bypass Crianlarich to the South west so was pleased that we were now on the other side of the road. As per my Garmin GPS I had about 12km to go to get into Crianlarich. The bypass to the south west would take me up over a hill, but I didn’t know how high this would be.
At the 10km to go mark I thought I had topped out. There was a gate with a sign: right for Crianlarich, left for Tyndrum. I looked left and it went up so up I went and it went up and up and up. It finally topped out at over 300m above sea level. Now for the descent then: Too steep to enjoy, and every time it came round a bend it decided to go up again. Nasty bit of path but as with the bit after Inversnaid I was rather pleased to have checked this part out before race day. Eventually I hit the valley bottom, crossed the road (one of the few road crossings on the WHW), avoiding the fast moving motorbikes and ran on to Auchtertyre which will be the site for the 3rd checkpoint on the WHW race (but only the 2nd feed stop after Balmaha!). From here on the route flattened out nicely and I had a nice 5k to finish in Tyndrum with a run time of just under 3:40 hrs for 19 miles (30 km). A rather hilly 19 miles (with 650m of ascent).
So over the 2 days I had covered 53 miles (85km) with 1700m of ascent in 9:40 hrs. I am very pleased with that effort. The legs tired a bit towards the end of both days but not a lot. I ran at the end of both days. Nutrition worked really well. I had targeted roughly 200 cals per hour and believe that some hours were a bit lower. I will aim to increase this to roughly 250 cals as I feel my body will be able to take these on board and deal with them. This will stave off some of the tiredness in the legs in the later stages of the run. Most of the food I had with me worked really well. The only thing I will omit going forward will be the mini Scotch eggs – too dry, I nearly choked on them, but then Tim nearly choked on a cheese sandwich. Jelly babies were a real booster as was the coffee at Balmaha. I essentially had a mix of slow and fast energy releasing foods with me (jelly babies/gels fast; pork pies/cereal bars slower). This meant some was there gradually and other energy was thrown at the muscles at short notice.
The 25 min feeding regime worked well too and I think I will stick with that. I most likely need to give some thought how to let these coincide with the support crew stops, if at all, or just to call those a bonus booster.
From the general ultra and fitness point of view the weekend was amazing. As already said the legs felt a bit tired during and after the 2 days. On the Monday after though again a little bit of tiredness in the legs but I could run down the stairs normally. By Tuesday all was back to normal. I do have an easy week planned for this week with just a couple of runs and swims. I am also going out on the time trial bike for 90 min tomorrow as I have Galashiels Sprint Triathlon on Sunday and haven’t used the TT bike this year yet. And I think that is the only other physical activity I will be doing this week.
So a great weekend on the West Highland Way, lots of good stuff learnt, two days of running with some great company.