Sunday, April 26, 2009

Doing the Highland Fling

Yesterday I ran the 'Montane' Highland Fling, finishing in 11 hours 24 minutes. That means I have finished all 4 Highland Fling races and I think I am one of only 4 people to do so, along with Jez Bragg, Ellen McVey and Rob Reid - not a bad group of which to be a member :)

To be frank, however, I did not have a good run, and the fact I finished it is one of the few positives. With the benefit of hindsight (which I know is a wonderful thing) I probably went off a bit too quickly, going through Drymen in 1.45 and then Balmaha in 3.04. I felt fine at that stage, but had a tumble on the path after Balmaha and didn't feel quite so good afterwards. Liz (Phil T's wife) was providing both Phil and me with backup during the first half of the race and had arranged to meet us at Sallochy car park, about 3 miles before Rowardennan. I was really relieved to meet her - by the time I got there my legs had been showing the first signs of cramp, and I wolfed down 2 cups of chicken soup, followed by a Muller rice. It was a bit of worry to have cramp so early, and I was also concerned about how hungry I felt. Something clearly wasn't right.

The next section proved that I was right to be worried. About an hour after I had eaten, I started to get cramp again. This was to be the pattern for the rest of the run: eat, run for an hour, get cramp and have to walk, eat, then repeat the whole cycle again. I ate some beans at Inversnaid which saw me through the tough section along Loch Lomondside, but the cramp came on again about a mile before Ben Glas farm and I could hardly get down the hill to the checkpoint. By that stage I wasn't bothered about my time at all but just had to finish - 2 DNFs in a row in WHW races was not an option at all. I had arranged to meet Allybea and Liz at Ben Glas Farm and was desperate for some food, but as I staggered towards the checkpoint and looked around I realised they were not about. When WHW Race Control Geraldine told me that there had been problems with the parking and most backup crews were not able to get parked I thought I was going to burst into tears - how was I going to get rid of the cramp with no food?

Thankfully Geraldine and Hugh came to my rescue, giving me some of the surplus food from the faster runners who had already passed through. The food was enough to get me going again, and I actually felt quite good as I came into Derrydarroch farm where Allybea and Liz were waiting with the long-awaited soup. After that, though, it was just more of the same. The cramp returned about a mile before I crossed the A82 north of Crianlarich, and I had to walk up and down all of the hills from then on: flat bits were ok, but unfortunately there are not many flat bits on that section. Allybea met me at the A82 crossing with yet more soup, and once that had been digested I managed to run more strongly over the last section past Auchtertyre and up to the finish. As is often the case I finished strongly, getting in under 11 and a half hours, but it could have been so much better if it hadn't been for all the problems with cramp.

We stayed overnight in Tyndrum and went to the ceilidh for an hour or so. It was good to catch up with everyone, although we were all a bit tired after the run and headed back to the cottage for a early night. I didn't really get a chance to speak to Ellen and Murdo and pass on my thanks for, once again, organising such a fantastic event. To see so many people taking part was incredible. I remember when Murdo first came up with the idea for the race, but I doubt if even he would have imagined it would grow to such a size in 4 years. Thanks also to Liz and Allybea for all their support during the race, and to Liz for the excellent breakfast!

I have spent some time today on the internet researching cramp in endurance events. The general consensus seems to be that it is caused by a lack of magnesium, which can be aggrevated amongst other things by too much caffeine. I know that I drink far too much coffee, especially when I am at work, so I am going to try and cut down and see if that makes a difference. I will also plan to increase my fruit intake and pay more attention in general to my food strategy. Having said that, I'm sitting writing this with a large glass of wine beside me - not sure I see that changing :)


Subversive Runner said...

Good to see you and Ali mate. Looking forward to the Cateran and then the WHW.

Silke said...

Sounds like you had a tough race. Well done for getting to the finish!
See you at the Cateran Trail.

Marco Consani said...

Hey Ian,

Well done finishing the race especially after such a hard time. It's all training until the big one.

Speak to you soon and good luck at the Cateran Trail.


Brian Mc said...

Well done on pushing through and completing the race.

Cramp is often caused by a lack of sodium. Body builders get it terribly when preparing for a competition as they eat almost no salt at all.

Before cutting down the caffeine (your productivity at work will plummet) I'd use Succeed salt caps during a race to see if that sorts the problem.

John Kynaston said...

Hi Ian

Well done on completing another Fling and joining the elite '4 timer' club.

Hope you are recovering well and getting ready for the next challenge!

Catch up soon


Geraldine said...

Hi Ian

Glad to be of assistance at BeinGlas. The parking issue was a nightmare and two marshalls spent the day calming down the owners and directing traffic. Murdo has already posted on the fling website asking for suggestions to aviod the problem next year.

Anyway most importantly despite the cramps you made it onto the Totty list altough you lost points for wearing a top - next year us marshalls expect torso on display or no mars bars for you!

See you at Cateran trail

Thomas said...

Ian, well done for finishing this despite difficulties. A hard race can be as rewarding as an easy one. But I hope you will have a couple of easy ones now!


Billy said...

Congratulations on your race and completing all the Flings. Interesting thoughts on cramps, as I'd like the answer to that one too. Maybe magnesium spllementing in the diet might work?