Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The end to yet another perfect season of Ultramarathon racing

The end to yet another perfect season of ultramarathon racing!.

I feel that this statement offers a true reflection of my racing achievements for 2014. As usual my base training had started way back in January, where I had tried out various running, hydrating and nutritional strategies all designed to help me prepare for the famous West Highland Way 95 mile Ultramarathon.

Winter training is always challenging with ever changing and unpredicted weather patterns. You have to be prepared for the worst case scenario as you never know what elements mother nature has in store for you on the day. As most of my runs are based in the hills and are over 20 miles per training session (Character Building)! ........  then I have to ensure that I carry spare layers of clothing, hi energy hydration and nutritional snacks.

The following kit list is an example of what I carry during my long winter training runs.
  • 12 litre running hydration vest
  • Headtorch with spare batteries
  • Bivi bag
  • Space blanket
  • Map & compass
  • Whistle
  • Top layer for upper body core
  • Gortex jacket
  • Light weight waterproof over trousers
  • Gloves
  • Bandana
  • Wool hat
  • 2x 500ml of hi energy drink
  • Chia seeds
  • Sweets (Elephant Heads)
  • Dried fruit bars
  • Granola bars
  • Banana

My first race of the season was the 32 mile (Howarth Hobble) ultramarathon, which is set in the surrounding foot hills and moorland of West Yorkshire. The race starts and ends in the tiny village called Howarth, which is home to the famous Bronte family, see link for details.

Shortly following this race came the (HOKA Highland Fling), which is a 53 mile trail race that follows the famous West Highland Way. The race starts in Milngavie near the Scottish city of Glasgow and finishes in the scenic village called Tyndrum. Once again shortly following the Highland Fling I entered the Cateran Trail ultramarathon, which is a 55 mile trail race that follows most of the famous Cateran Trail. The race starts and ends at the Spittal of Glenshee in Perthshire. My hard efforts that I had put in during the long winter training months had certainly paid off, as I had achieved PB's (Personnel Best) in all races.

The West Highland Way race came around quickly after the Cateran Trail Ultra. I was on a mission to finally bring this 95 mile trail race to a successful close. During my 2013 attempt I had to DNF (Did Not Finish) after 60 miles, as I had great concerns that both my achiles tendons were about to rupture. Ouch!. As you can imagine, I was gutted as I only had 35 miles to go to finish the race. Further to this I had bonked! (Hitting the Wall) on several occasions, but I had recovered from them quickly. After scrutinising my performance during the race and identifying what had caused me to DNF. I put pen to paper and roughly scripted out how, I was going to put solutions to these serious issues for my 2nd attempt on the 2014 West Highland Way race. Remember this:

You only get out what you put in !

The above quotation was my new training moto !......... I started plotting out my undulating training schedule and race day strategy. I was fortunate to be able to recruit two fantastic runner friends , John and Sarah who would be my personal support crew for the duration of the race. Being part of a race support crew is a very responsible job. It is vital that each person knows what is expected from them and that they work together as a team, each of them pulling their own weight. If the team does not gel together and have issues, then the runner will surely suffer from this and it could mean the end of the race!.

The last few days leading up to the race I started my carbo loading process. This is where you eat small portions of high complex carbohydrate foods on a regular basis, such as (Brown Rice, Whole Wheat Pasta, Humous and Couscous), not forgetting protein and essential omega fats. The race started promptly at 1am and I ran for over 23& 1/2 hours before I got timed out at Glencoe CP (Check Point), which was 70 miles into the race. During the race I had serious issues with chaffing, which I had to endure for over 23 hours. Bloody hurt !. Also I Bonked on 3 occasions, which I quickly recovered on two occasions but the 3rd time had wiped me clean out. I was suffering from serious hallucinations, fatigue, chaffing and had twin groin strain. All in all, even though I was timed out after 70 miles, I did not volunteer to DNF. I was proud to think that I had  achieved running
70 miles of very hilly and tough terrain, but the funny thing was that my legs were still feeling strong and I reckon that they had easily another 26 - 30 miles left in them. This had proved to me that my training strategy had worked and that it also highlighted some minor improvements. Such as investing in better moisture wicking underwear, having prepared an improved hydration and nutritional strategy.

It was important to me that soon after my  recovery period, that I signed up for more races. The reason for this was to stop me from falling into a mild depression. This is quite common for all runners following a big race. It is vital that following a short recovery period that the runner quickly starts his or her base training. Starting slowly and gradually building up the miles.

To finish off the year, I had entered the Jedburgh 3 PEAKS ultramarathon, which is a 38 mile trail race that takes in some of the most stunning scenery of the Scottish Borders. Following this I entered the (Goathland) marathon, where I ran 29 hilly miles around the picturesque North Yorkshire Moors with an injured glute. Ouch !. Finally I  had offered my services to Sweep (Last Running Marshall), the Hardmoors (Rosberry Topping) 1/2 trail marathon.

Watch this space for my next chapter titled

An Epic journey into unknown territory -The West Highland Way Race.


My fabulous West Highland Way support crew

Crossing the finishing line of the HOKA Highland Fling 53 miles in over 13 hours

“Keep on running & be inspired”

Darren Barnes

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