My lead-in to this wasn’t great although I had planned to do very little running in the 5 days in between the 2 weekends. I still needed to do 3k each day as I was in the final days of my challenge to run every day for a year.
In the end I did 3k on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and around 7k on Wednesday as part of the club run. Unbeknown to me something was festering in my ankle. I had picked up a skin infection during my run up the West Highland Way and the runs later in the week were getting quite unpleasant. Initially I thought I had picked up an ankle injury due to running too fast on the Monday.
It was only the week after that I realised and found out what the problem actually was.
Come the Friday I was teetering if I should even go on the 2 day jaunt. It had been organised by a few runners from Harmeny Running Club who wanted to run the course before the race on May 18. This suited me as I wanted to do the same.
With my achy foot I made my decision to go very late (Saturday morning – 60 min before I was due to be picked up). I packed the previous evening just in case I was up for it. The wall to wall sunshine in the morning may have helped in the decision to go.
There were a number of options for me to shorten the run if I felt too uncomfortable. Strangely though the foot felt as if I could run on it, so I thought I would see how I got on. The trails are mostly soft and that would help.
Day 1 was scheduled to be 32 miles followed by another 23 on Day 2. There were 8 of us running on the first day with 5 left for the second. We got going just after 9:30 am in what was a beautiful spring day and although I wore notably less than on the West Highland Way I was still overdressed.
The route is really well marked but there are a few areas you could miss a marker if you are focusing too much on running. This was one of the reasons why I had planned to do this run to get a good idea of the route ahead of the race itself.
The first day took us from Spittal of Glenshee to Blairgowrie via Alyth. There were a number of reasonable climbs especially towards the latter stages. I was also surprised how much tarmac there was en route and this my ankle didn’t like. I faired notably better on the off road sections.
As we have been dominated by weather from the East the North East of Scotland had the lion’s share of the Scottish snow and this was evident on this run too. We had a lot of snow to wade through. Compared to my WHW run it hadn’t been packed down as much by hundreds of walkers making our progress notably more difficult.
I was slow early on – well for most of the first day – but this seemed to come more from fatigue from the previous weekend than my ankle actually playing up. Overall it was behaving, except when on tarmac when it felt pounded. What it didn’t seem to like was stopping, it appeared to stiffen up then and make progress after a stop slower. Once I had covered 2-3 km it would loosen and I would get some speed up. This I really only noticed later on in the run and would happen both on trail and on tarmac.
Alyth (after approx. 38km of running) would have been a place for me to drop out but overall I felt I was OK and the ankle had settled being happy enough if kept in motion.
I got to Blairgowrie in good spirits and decided that I should be fine for day 2 as well. I would at least stay the night in the hotel (Spittal of Glenshee), enjoy the company and again decide in the morning if it would be sensible to run or if I’d better just go for a walk and let my fellow runners do day 2. I did have an option to do the second part on April 28.
Next morning my ankle seemed in a similar condition (if not even less sore) than the previous morning. I was assured that we would have very little tarmac to deal with so off I went with the group again. As for leg tiredness – none.
This time we were running from Blairgowrie back to Spittal of Glenshee via a “shorter” route.
Overall I was running better today and the tightness had moved to my calf which again would loosen if I kept moving. I think we had fewer stops today than the previous day so that helped.
Compared to the first day we now had snow flurries and about 5 degrees less, so in a way we had summer then winter. Nice! It made no difference and the route in many places is nice and runnable. The final hill (mountain) which takes you over a 600m high pass really is the sting in the tail. I had been told that the last mile is great as it is a running descent to the finish. With the amount of hard packed, icy snow at the top there was no running descent. I therefore look forward to this section being covered in less snow on race day and actually running down it to the finish.
The route is great with some fantastic scenery, very quiet – except for nature – in places. A lot of it appears very runnable although we ran less than I hope to do on race day.
My legs were tired on the first day from the West Highland Way efforts the previous weekend but seemed to regain strength later on and even more so on the second day.
It was not a particularly sensible decision to run with an ankle where I wasn’t sure what the problem was but I felt that with the opt out clauses I had I would be able to manage the situation and I did. It was only when sitting at my desk 2 days later that I looked down at my leg and thought: This doesn’t look like an injury – the leg was swollen from mid-calf to my toes. Went to the doctor and she diagnosed it as cellulitis (I remembered WHW Race director mentioning this in his talk at the Inspiration evening in 2012) and gave me a course of antibiotics. Great thing was that she is friends with a number of Scottish Ultra runners and didn’t think what I had done over the past 2 weekends particularly odd.
She cringingly also allowed me to continue with my run every day challenge (as long as I didn’t do them at 6 min/mile pace) although I did bail out of the club session on the Wednesday evening.
In the meantime my foot is back to normal and I am off the antibiotics. Running the Cateran course was good as I now know where to take care and where I can just keep going. I am looking forward to race day as I have high hopes for this one. I may yet run bits of the route again on April 28 to get more comfortable with it.
The nutrition plan for this run was similar to the WHW run and worked overall again. I’ll be testing some stuff out in the meantime after some feedback from the WHW report ahead of the Cateran race.