Glen Ogle 33 mile Ultramarathon – Killin Scotland
The week after my West Highland Way disappointment, I felt that I needed some support to take my ultra running to the next level. I had plenty of motivation to get out and run frequently and on some tough routes, but like a lot of runners, I was always running at a social pace. This was great for getting me around courses, but the competitor in me wanted more.
I wanted to train smarter, run stronger and race harder. So who better to contact, than Paul Giblin – head coach at Pyllon Ultra. Paul had his hands full, but wanted to sign me up with another coach, who for me required no introduction – James Stewart, a highly successful ultra runner and team GB athlete. Importantly, someone who also inspired me after watching the Adventure show which tracked James’ West Highland Way race win a couple of years earlier.
After completing the paperwork, I met with James to do discuss where I have been, where I am now and where I want to go. We were both excited to see what the coming months would bring.
16 July 2016 – A new journey begins and my first weekly plan is provided.
Without going into the specifics, as the plan was specific to me and my ability at that point in time, there was a combination of Intervals, hill, long and recovery runs. To achieve the session, you need to complete it and this makes you accountable, something that was missing when I was just racking up the social miles. With everything being recorded via my Garmin, nothing is missed!
Aside from the running sessions, something completely new to me was mobility work. A minimum of 5 mobility sessions being introduced per week was a big change. I mean, I hadn’t even heard of Voodoo Floss – have you? I was your typical runner; none of my routines involved any form of rehab, mobility or stretching. Now that I am 4 months down the line with mobility, I feel it’s paying off. The trick is, that once the kids are in bed, I can do all of my stretching in front of the television and it’s become my normal routine now. Motivation becomes habit!
With the introduction of mobility work, I recover quicker from earlier speed, hill or long trail runs. My legs are loosened off and it gives me a chance to perform better on my next session.
Firstly, there is always a place in running for social runners. For many, that’s what keeps us going, but if you want to be fitter, stronger and faster or more competitive and finish further up the field, then chances are you need to get some of the tougher sessions done more regularly.
Some of the best runners I have met and some of the best training tips I have ever received, have been during social runs. It gives us a chance to learn and engage with experienced or new ultra runners and for me, this is the absolute joy of being part of the ultrarunning community – everyone wants to help others be better.
James continues to encourage me to take part in my social runs and there will always be a space for them in my training plan from time to time. Just because they are social by the way, doesn’t mean they won’t also be tough! As I recall some of the longer social runs I’ve been involved in have been fairly brutal in terms of distance, elevation and conditions.
Back to training
Having proper guidance and structure to work from has paid dividends. Some sessions I achieved what I set out, sometimes I smash it and sometimes I fall a little short, but I now go into each training session with guts and determination to perform to a high level. James and I discuss the week that has passed, and then we focus on the week ahead. This works well for me and keeps me on point.
In turn, I am running the fastest miles of the year, I feel stronger, fitter and mentally stronger to take on the tougher sessions. My speed endurance has improved and my overall endurance has improved.
Glen Ogle Race Planning
When James and I sat down to discuss the months ahead, we agreed that Glen Ogle 33 mile Ultramarathon, which I had already pencilled in as my end of year social run would serve as a benchmark for the future. There goes my end of year social jolly!
When thinking about times, I estimated that a 4:30-4:40was achievable with putting in the hard work, but aside from having a time goal, there had to be a goal of being able to run the race strong and to race harder than I had before. It also included strategies on which parts of the race I was going to be pushing and which parts to hold back a little. All this was a far cry from just plodding round to reach the finish line and it felt great.
After completing my training and taper, I felt physically and mentally ready to get out there and take the race on. My time goal had shifted closer to 4:40, which I was comfortable with, as this was still a challenging but achievable target.
To achieve a race target based on only time, many variables need to come together, especially over 33 miles with 3,000ft of elevation for good measure. So what could go wrong – the weather! Oh yes! A couple of days out, the forecasts say yellow warning, torrential rains and 50mph winds for the whole race.
““Whether the weather is fine, or whether the weather is not; whether the weather is cold, or whether the weather is hot; we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not!”
This altered my mood slightly, but I still planned to run and to run strong. The race was due to set off at 8am and the weather didn’t disappoint. Driving to Killin was bleak.
At 8:10am with a 5 second countdown, we were off. I felt strong and positive, but it was wet and windy making the trails waterlogged and slippery. I reckon this was my first ultra that I was strong enough to run the hills that I would normally walk, apart from a couple of the really big climbs. So much so, that walking was at a minimum through the whole course.
The first 5 miles, which sees you climb to 1,250ft passed quickly, but when I got to the first checkpoint I was sodden! I felt weighed down and sluggish, but I pushed on and kept positive. The miles were ticking down nicely and despite the conditions I felt good. When I arrived at the checkpoint 18.5 miles at Strathyre, I was due a feed. I took on a banana, gel and protein shake. But my stomach was so cold and my body was cold that it didn’t go down well. I struggled for the next 3 miles to run hard until the food settled. This is what can happen in poor weather conditions.
Unlike 2017, I ran pretty much the whole way from Strathyre to the finish. I had mentioned to James that I overtook a fair amount of people on route back and this was testimony to how much my running had improved, that I was actually running stronger in the second half of the race. my fastest 5k was the last 5k.
I finished the race in 5:08:30. Which I was absolutely delighted with! Yes, I wanted to run my target of 4:40, but as I said, everything had to come together for me to hit that target.
A line has been drawn in the sand and I am enjoying a week of recovery, walking and easy runs.
Now it’s time to raise the bar again! It’s getting done!
It’s only been a handful of months working with Team Pyllon and James. I am training smarter, running stronger and racing harder. It’s hard work, but I am getting out of it, what I am putting in.
If you do want to take your running to the next level, I would encourage you to sign up with a coach, join a club with a coaching structure or think about what sessions you are doing and why. If even just for a short time to set you off in the right direction.
Yours in training