Thursday, 20 August 2015

An EPIC journey into unknown territory - My preparation for the (WestHighland Way Race)

"My EPIC journey into unknown territory"

To prepare my mind, body & sole on my 3rd attempt to compete in the famous (West Highland Way) 95 mile race.

It took time to decide on a perfect title that would summarise my EPIC journey, my accounts, personal sacrifices and changes that I had to make in the preparation leading up to the West Highland Way race.
This would be my 3rd and final time that I will be competing in this gruelling 95 mile race. I had placed myself under extreme pressure to ensure that I had the best chance ever of successfully completing the race. This had meant that several personal sacrifices and changes had to be implemented such as lifestyle, diet, training plans and race strategy. 
It was the Christmas holidays and I was restricted to my bed with a very serious chest infection. As I lay in my bed,  I reflected back over my previous races, analysing the good practices, triumphs and mistakes that I had endured over the past five years. Then it struck me !, I thought to myself. If I want to compete in the West Highland Way race then things would need to change now !. So it did, I carefully scripted out a six month training plan, but this time I threw into the race mix the famous (Hardmoors 55) ultramarathon as my first race of the season. Shortly following this I would then compete in the (HOKA Highland Fling) ultramarathon. However, one other important element had to change such as cutting out all processed foods and meat from my diet. I decided on having a Vegan diet. 
As I stood on the weigh scale  the gauge displayed "14stone 10lbs". Ho "Bollocks" !, I thought to myself.  I had to remind myself  that my body's composition had contained very little body fat as it was constructed from well defined and sculptured muscle. However, I had decided that I would need to loose about a stone in weight, while still maintaining muscle definition and building on body core strength. So I purchased a new type of food blender called the (Magic BULLET). Each morning I would prepare and drink a homemade fruit smoothie. The ingredients would include kale, spinach, berries, hemp or soya protein powder, chia & flax seeds. My daily food intake would consist of between 5-6 small meals, made up from 60% carbohydrates, 30% protein & 10% non saturated fats.  This would include fresh (fruits & vegetables) such as  granola bars, natural nut butters, figs, mango, dates, lentils, rice, potatoes, grains, kale, spinach, peas, beans, beans and more DAM beans !.
Soon after recovering from my chest infection, I immediatley kicked into action my (base) training plan and strategy. Due to work and family commitments, I decided that 80% of my training time should be completed over the course of each weekend. This would include B2B2B (back to back to back) running with regular daily mileage in exceess of marathon distances (26.2 miles). I also included brick sessions, which is also known as a durathlon (run, cycle, run). Most of my long runs would be on hard compact trails and hilly terrain. These would be completed on trails around  the North Yorkshire Moors & the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland. I had to think about my diet such as what "whole foods" do I need to consume during those long and hard runs. So I started to experiment with dried fruit such as mango, figs, raisens and dates. They had to be easily digestible and have an abundance of  long lasting fruit sugars that will prevent me from bonking (hitting the wall).  

With all these changes in hand, I was now starting to reep the benefits. My pace and endurance had excelled themselves. Further to this my body weight and composition was heading in the right direction. I had to stay focused on my diet, maintain self discipline and have a positive mindset shown towards running long distances each weekend. I also included within my training strategy lower and upper core weight strengthen sessions. With all this  preparation in mind, I was starting to feel confident in achieving my long term goal the (West Highland Way) race crystal cut glass goblet.

Hardmoors 55 Mile Ultramarathon

It was Saturday 21st March and I was standing on the starting line of one of Europe's toughest winter ultramarathons, the (Hardmoors 55). I was racing 55 miles with my training buddy Jason. The route follows the long distance walking path called the (Cleveland Way), which starts from Guisborough and finishes in Helmsley North Yorkshire. Our race strategy for the day was to start off slowly and gradually increase pace towards the end of the race. This worked great as we were passing fatigued competitors along the latter stages of the race . The worst thing that anyone can do when competing in a long distance endurance race, is to start off to fast. During the latter stages of the race we teamed up with Jackie  from Southern Ireland. 

We finished the race in 13 hours & 53 minutes 


Hoka Highland Fling 53 Mile Ultramarathon

It was 6am on Saturday, 25 April 2015 where after a full hearty breakfast, I met up with my TEAM WLAC (We Love A Challenge) running friends Jenny, Jon, Mel and Jason. 
The weather conditions on the day was a mixed bag of showers, sunny periods and hail. To summarise this in two words I would say that it was all good "character building".
As the race got underway, I slipped into a slow to moderate pace to prevent myself from bonking (hitting the wal) to soon. Upon reaching the summit of Conic Hil the views over Loch Lomond were stunning to the eye. The downward decent towards Check Point No 1 was leg destroying to say the least.  Bearing in mind that only less than four weeks ago, I had successfully completed the Hardmoors 55 mile ultramarathon. Most folk would of taking time out after the race to recover.
After 24 miles, I had developed a sudden and sharp pain in my right calf. Negative thoughts were flowing through my mind to what was the cause of this potential race disaster. I thought to myself, that if I did not address this issue immediately then it  could lead to a sudden end to my race. So I STOPPED and grabed some tape out of my rucksack to strap up my calf. Once this was done I was quickly up running again and back into a confortable pace. As the distance progressed, I was having regular high points (feelling good within myself) with lots of energy derived from stored muscle glycogen. This had demonstrated to me that my Vegan diet was starting to pay off. "I had lots of energy and I had recovered quite quickly from my last race".

I eventually crossed the finishing line with the sound of bagpipes playing, spectators and friends congratulating and cheering me on. I had completed the  race in 13 hours and 15 minutes.

The Hoka Highland Fling race is not to be underestimated. With the ever changing weather conditions and the topography of the route. The rediness colour of  my eyes had proved that I was badly dehydrated but  "feeling happy" with my achievement.

I must point out that both the Hardmoors and Hoka Highland Fling ultra races were just training runs for my big race which was latter in the year (June), the 95 mile "West Highland Way" ultramarathon.

Crossing the finishing line

After 13 hours and 15 minutes of running I'm  still smiling 😊


To follow shortly;

My EPIC journey and accounts  as I compete in the famous (West Highland Way) 95 mile race.

Don't miss out....

“Keep on running & be inspired”

Darren Barnes

Follow my running activities on Twitter @enduranceruner

Facebook "TEAM WLAC"  (We Love A Challenge)"

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