With the West Highland Way Race 12 days away I thought I would write my thoughts and plans down on what to expect and how I plan to approach it.
My last few weeks have been a bit odd in the build-up as I feel I haven’t really done many long runs since the Highland Fling Race at the end of April. That said I did do a 3 day long run weekend which totalled 90km and cycled to Durham over 3 days the other week with my girlfriend which will have helped the endurance and strengthen some muscle groups that I use less in running.
I nearly fell into the trap of hearing lots of other participants doing lots of long runs and feeling that I hadn’t done enough. But when I look at the fact that I have covered 1700km of running in 2012 with distances from as little as 3km (as part of my run365challenge) to 84km (the Highland Fling race) per day then the work has been done. I have mixed up run surfaces from trail, hills, off road and on road and recently replaced my trail shoes (as I had destroyed the pair I had after 4 months of running in them) ready for the big day.
So physically I actually feel ready, mentally I feel I haven’t done enough but then that is a notion nearly everyone who goes into a race distance they have never done before will have. There is always an element of doubt. I have little doubt of finishing. My target though is to finish in 20 hours for the 95 miles. Someone said to me at the end of the Highland Fling that a good measure for the WHW race time is to double your Highland Fling time, and I ran 9:56 for the Fling, so that is a good omen.
As with any endurance event the key will be fuelling and pacing. I want to keep race fuelling simple and will be carrying a mix of gels (SIS Go), energy chews (Honey Stinger), Jelly Babies, Flap Jacks, Snickers and cheese sandwiches and alternate between these every 25 minutes. I will run with a Salomon S Lab backpack where and can carry the above in the front pockets. I will carry drinks in a fuel belt as this helps me to control things better than the fuel bladder.
Compared to other long distance endurance events you are required to have a support crew which you will meet at various sections along the course. At those meeting points I intend to eat something completely different to what I have during running. As the race starts at 1 in the morning I have made some of the checkpoints into mealtimes. Therefore Rowardennan will be my breakfast stop with coffee, jam or honey sandwiches and/or pain au chocolat. Auchtertyre will be my lunch stop with pasta and some soup. Afternoon tea at Glencoe with cake and coffee and then dinner at Kinlochleven with a bit more pasta and soup.
There is the option at Inversnaid and Beinglas Farm to leave a drop bag and I will leave a bit of food and drink there too. Most checkpoint/drop bag points are only 2-2.5 hours apart so I plan to only carry between 300-600 ml of drink between checkpoints to help with food absorption. Also later on I want to switch to coke for the extra energy/caffeine boost.
One of the unknowns in the race will be the weather and if it is wet I expect to have to stop more often with my support crew to change socks, shoes or other wet clothing. Personally I would prefer dry even if windy as it makes logistics easier but we will have to deal with whatever the weather throws at us.
If anyone fancies adding their own thoughts I’d like to hear from your (or your thoughts on my thoughts).