Tuesday, 18 April 2017

THERE’S NO “TIN” IN TYNDRUM – The Highland Fling Training weekend

What does that spell?

First problem of the weekend was how to pronounce the name of the little village we were staying at. It was firmly established that the proper and correct pronunciation was “Tyne –drum” and most certainly not “Tin-drum” after all, I was informed there’s no Tin in “Tyne-drum” (there is gold but that’s another story) That sorted out it was time to do some running….and talk about running….and listen to stories about running.

No sooner had I signed up for this weekend did I end up with a gammy hamstring which was less than ideal prep for a weekend based around running, and not just running but ultra-running. However it was a weekend that I had been looking forward to so I decided to go along. It wasn’t as though I’d actually have to do much actual running was it?

Leaving late from work and roadworks wherever I looked meant that I didn’t reach the “by-the-way hostel” until late but re-assuring my arrival was met with a lovely degree of enthusiasm from people I had never met before. Although the fact that I had bought a cake with me might have been the reason. I was given a delicious bowl of veggie stew before heading to bed in my “camping cabin”, a camping cabin being a sort of shed containing bunk beds, a posh shed mind you, it had a heater and a window complete with curtains. The hostel itself was lovely and John had organised everything amazingly well especially the group meal on the Saturday night which was served complete with wine.
A camping cabin
Group dinner with the other runners
The following day saw people taking lots of different options. The majority were there for the official Highland fling training run of 33 miles and they caught the early bus taking them south along the west highland way to their start point. There was also a 20 mile option if you got off the bus a little bit earlier. Other people and smaller groups headed off to do their own thing and so I joined Lorna who was also struggling with a hamstring injury for a run north from the Inveroran Hotel which was also the starting point for both Emma’s run to Kinlochleven and Sandra’s epic run all the way to Fort William. Sandra had run over 40 miles the previous day and was in training for the South Downs way 100 mile race. Ian, her husband and better known as the West Highland Way Race director, had taken the car down to Bridge of Orchy and he was going to run to Fort William from there.
Lorna, Emma, Sandra and me!

A sunny day on the West Highland Way

Cheery West Highland Way walkers
Ian Beattie on his way to Fort William

Owls eggs maybe?
 It was a bright, sunny, breezy day and we all enjoyed a relaxed run over the first part of Rannoch Moor. Frogspawn on the water and a frog on the trail confirmed that spring really was here and it was all too soon that Lorna and I had to turn back to the car at Inveroran leaving Emma and Sandra to carry on their way. We turned back into a slightly stiffer breeze but both of us reached inveroran hotel after 2 hours of gentle running with our injuries none the worse for it. 

The advantage in being back earlier than the main group was that the showers were all free and so I got washed and settled down with a cup of tea (ok, ok it was actually a glass of red wine…) to listen to a practice run of one of the talks that was to take place later in the evening as people started to return gradually from their adventures in varying degrees of knackered-ness, head for showers and crack open a beer before dinner was served.
Running essentials
 After the group meal we were entertained firstly by a talk from Paul Tierney and Sarah McCormack of “Missing Link Coaching”. Based in Cumbria they offer an online coaching service and they went through some coaching and physio basics with us. Paul is an experienced ultra-runner, recently winning the epic Lakeland 100mile race and Sarah is a former Irish Cross country champion, European cross country gold medallist and top 10 finisher in the world mountain running championships. They both clearly knew what they were talking about. 

The following day they took us through various exercises including running with sticky tape over our mouths to prompt breathing through the nose. This is not as easy as it sounds and it makes sure you get some very odd looks from other users of the West Highland Way path. Paul also took us through some foot exercises but I was distinctly nervous about these given the injuries I have suffered in recent years but I gave them ago – until my feet got too cold to stand it. He had us on the damp morning dew covered grass in bare feet! It was freezing!
How to plank!
A talk from Paul and Sarah of "Missing Link Coaching"
Question and answer session with the panel
After Paul and Sarah’s talk Kirsten Cowling, the last place finisher in last year’s Highland Fling race, gave a talk about her race prep and training and the race itself and his has got to have been one of the best, funniest and most entertaining running talks I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. I really look forward to hearing her account of this year’s race that she is in training for.

Finally it was a Q&A session with Paul, Sarah and 15 time West Highland Way finisher and all round ultra-running legend Adrian Stott and some useful running hints and tips materialised from this. The ones that I found most interesting was the lack of focus on mega-mileage. I was surprised by how little mileage many of the participants of ultras do (or say they do!) so maybe the Don Ritchie Style of 140 mile per week isn’t totally necessary. The other was that walking can be a useful addition to a training programme. Bob Graham round record holder Jasmin Paris cites some of her best races coming after holidays featuring long days of walking in the mountains and it seemed to confirm my own experience of how strong people with a mountaineering background rather than a running background were when it came to races like the Tour de Monte Rosa stage race.
Sunday recovery run
The following day it was time for a short recovery run on the West highland way before heading home after a fun weekend with lots learned and new friends made. It actually felt like a very relaxed weekend despite it being all about running mega distances. The people that I got to know there were not running bores as I had expected and were friendly and welcoming towards an obvious non-ultra-runner and I definitely plan to go along to another one of these Highland Fling training weekends next year. I might even do the race some time. Maybe….no rash promises now…

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