Thursday, 1 July 2010

WHW 2010 Reflections

I don't often do this but at this point nearly 2 weeks after the race I thought I might reflect on what went right and wrong for me on the day, and whether I learned anything.  John K normally does this sort of recap and they're always interesting. I'd welcome any comments on some of the points I can't quite figure out yet.


I had a good run, enjoyed it, and was pleased to get under the 24 hours (at last!) but I also came away thinking that I could have done better on the day.


I set out a race plan to finish in 23 and a half hours and stuck to it. At only one point was I more than 5 minutes off target (when I got to Auchtertyre 15 minutes faster than I planned in spite of being on time at Beinn Glas). It was a conservative plan, one I knew that barring accidents I could keep to, and I built a lot of spare time into the sections from Kingshouse to the end - but I ended up using all the time anyway. I've always gone slowly over this last twenty miles or so, and I can well remember from the days when I was a factory production manager being told frequently by my planner "you can only plan to known performance, not hopes or aspirations", but I can't help feeling that a more aspirational plan might have pushed me along a bit more. My biggest frustration was walking all the runnable ground between Kinlochleven and the end  -  9 or 10 miles. Running this at any pace would have saved me at least 30 minutes, so I need to find a way to access this. I may still be putting in too much effort on non-runnable ground early on, but I suspect I ran out of steam late on due to nutrition or hydration issues.

Aches and Pains

I get a few of these as everyone does, but compared with the issues that some runners get I seem to be really lucky here. Walking around on Sunday morning was fine (I went for a walk with Jan up the last couple of miles of the WHW on the Sunday afternoon). Took things easy for a week after (10 -15 easy miles total) but had a biggish day in the Lakes last Tuesday and now back into the swing of things.

Equipment and stuff

The dry day made choices really easy. I wore one pair of trainers (Asics Nimbus) and one pair of socks (Falke) from start to finish.  I chose to start in a long-sleeved shirt and tights because in previous years the midges were a problem, but as they were almost non-existent this year shorts would have been OK. The only thing I changed was into a short-sleeved top at Auchtertyre, then back again at Glencoe. I found the "Foreign Legion" style hat (essential for UTMB attempts!) useful in the sunnier parts of the day, but the weather was never really hot. I have normally carried a rucksac the whole way, this year I ditched it at Rowardennan and I never carried more than a half litre of fluid after that. It would be great to travel light the whole way but it seems unreasonable not to let your crew have some sleep on the first night so I normally carry enough liquid to see me through to Rowardennan. If my track record of finishing earlier on the second night holds good, maybe I can negotiate on this next year!

Hydration and Nutrition

I've learnt a lot over the past few years, but I'm sure I still don't get this right. I used to get a bit paranoid about not eating/drinking enough, but there is some good reading about this around now (eg look at the UTMB site), and the wisdom these days seems to be
- drink to thirst
- although you will burn at least 100 calories a mile, so long as you put back 100 calories an hour you will survive.

The problem I have with the first of these is that I rarely get thirsty, so if I didn't work on some sort of preset pattern I probably wouldn't bother to drink at all. What I have been doing in recent races is to drink a litre every 4 hours, ie 250ml once an hour, plus a "bonus" of a cup of tea whenever I can get one. I tend to start on coke, then move through ginger beer to water in the closing stages. In this year's race I drank a total of 6,5 litres
- 3,50 litres up to Auchtertyre (50 miles, 11,5 hours) weight loss zero
- 2,75 litres Auchtertyre to Kinlochleven (31 miles, 7,5 hours) weight loss 2kg
- 0,25 litres Kinlochleven to the end (14 miles, 4,5 hours) weight loss 2kg
I lost my appetite for eating/drinking round about the Devil's Staircase. The weight loss figures suggest that I didn't drink enough in the later stages, but maybe I should have been drinking more earlier too. The figures suggest I should be going for a litre every 3 hours in this type of race - adjusting to the effort seems to be important as I drank at a litre every 4 hours throughout the Heart of Scotland and finished feeling tired but constitutionally quite strong after nearly 31 hours, but at a slower overall pace. I would be interested to know what rates other people drink at.

I took Succeed Cap every two hours. Other runners I talked to afterwards took them more frequently. I felt nauseous coming into Kinlochleven  (sure sign of electrolyte imbalance) but I guess by then the damage was done, I should have taken them more often from the start, or at least after the day warmed up a bit.

I consumed a total of 4000 calories during the race (coke, ginger beer, milk shakes, rice puddings, custards, bananas, soup, sausage rolls, marmalade sandwich, and 11 Gu gels) but again it was front end weighted (2600 before Auchtertyre, 1400 after) - I guess this is fairly inevitable. I had a pretty good appetite up to Glencoe but I'm wary of eating too much at one go as this has caught me out in the past - you have to walk too long afterwards to digest it. I guess if my hydration was better over the closing stages I would have been able to eat more then as well.

So the main thing I think I really need to address here is hydration and electrolyte tablets - increase intake by somewhere between a third and a half as much again - problem is training doesn't give you any realistic feedback on this, I'll have to wait for the next long race to try it out.

In Conclusion

This analysis was a bit too much of a technical exercise for me (not what I go running for) and I probably won't do it again for a while. But I think it's been useful and I've come to the conclusion that while I'm happy with the way I plan my races (aim to run as much of the easily  runnable ground as possible and don't bother about the rest), to get the best execution I probably need to pay better attention to hydration/electrolytes to be able to carry on later in the race.

Enough of this stuff, time to get out and do a few hills before the Lakeland 100......



Peter Duggan said...

Hey Andy, some interesting stuff here, especially re. calories burned and put back and 'front-loading' of what you did put away (all according roughly with my own perceptions). So perhaps we're all still trying to learn the same tricks? ;-)

John Kynaston said...

Good post Andy. I'm sure this will help you next year when you plan your sub 22hr run!

For all my planning I'm not so good at recording exactly how much I ate and drank.

I'll add this on to my future reports!

But I reckon I drank about 8litres of water and about 3litres of perpeteum drink during the course of the race.

Plus I took a succeed tablet every 90mins until Beinglas and then every hour after that.

Regarding food I ate something (energy bars, jelly babies, etc etc) every 30mins until Glencoe.

After that I struggled a bit more with food and ate mainly gels.

I think I lost 2k or so over the race.

All the best for the Lakeland 100. That sounds such a great event. Look forward to hearing all about it.

David Egan said...

Your analysis is really useful for us readers. The biggest thing I am still learning is how to listen to my body during a run and be able to interpret and rectify any problems. I hope all goes well for the Lakeland100. I will be there doing the 50 so I hope to see you around.