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Ultra training week 3: One step forward, one step back

Written by Fiona

August 27 2018

This week the ultra training (thanks you John Hampshire Coaching) looked easier. Two gentle jogs or walks of around 30 minutes mid-week and then a 30km weekend run. The 30km run was still daunting but I knew I had run that distance before and it did not seem as impossible.

I was aware, however, that I had run on flatter routes rather than including hills – and since I am aiming for the Ochil Ultra 50k with lots of hills I knew I needed to include some ascent and descent into the 30k training run.

The week went like this:

Monday: Circuits weight class with HunterFit UK. I am sure this is improving my overall core stability and general strength. This is much needed as I progress through the menopause years and face diminished muscle strength and weakness.

Tuesday: A six-mile walk. Okay so it is more than the 30 minutes suggested but it felt easy and it offered the chance to have a good catch up chat with my former Aberdeen Evening Express colleague Yvonne.

Wednesday: I admit I could not resist the chance to head out with the Westies hill runners again and I figured I needed to throw in some hills to my overall training. The 10.5km run in the Kilpatricks included a total ascent of some 550m.

I need to be pushed to run more hills and with so many people in the club capable of running far faster and harder than me, this session is my perfect way to improve my hill running ability.

Thursday: Rest day.

Friday: Five mile walk. Again it felt easy and I enjoyed a catch up chat with my friend Jane, followed by a start-of-the-weekend evening wine.

Saturday: The long Run.

Sunday: Rest. Headed to meet an old school friend at The Fringe in Edinburgh.

One of my favourite West Highland Way views. The rowan tree looks fab with Dumgoyne in the background.

A tougher than tough long run

It could be that I have not allowed myself enough rest and recovery but it might also be that I am expecting my body to adapt too quickly to long training runs, but the Saturday long run was my toughest yet.

I procrastinated about where and when I would run and eventually set out from Mugdock Country Park at 2pm. It was warm and from the outset my head and body felt heavy.

I hoped that the miles would loosen my legs and that once I reached half-way my mood would lighten. I often find that after reaching halfway, I get a burst of energy because I feel proud of myself.

I had decided I would run along the west Highland Way to Dumgoyne Hill where I would do a summit hike and then run back to the start along the Pipe Track and via Strathblane and Mugdock Park.

The problem was that when I reached Dumgoyne I realised I’d run only 10.5km and it had taken me an hour. Admittedly I did stop a few times to sort my rucksack and to chat to a few people who I recognised (or recognised me).

But I felt quite low that I’d run only 10.5km and it had felt so hard.

So, I resolved to do two summits of Dumgoyne. At least if I hadn’t run far I would push myself to add meaningful ascent to the run.

Summit one.

Summit two.

The first ascent was 400m followed by another 300m ascent. It actually felt good to be pushing myself and on the second lap I had a few comments from other hill baggers about my madness. I told them that I have friends who do many more multiple summits than me. Two summits seems like nothing compared to the 10 non-stop ascents by friends Jamie and Alex recently.

I descended from the second climb via Dumgoyne’s quieter and more runnable south-easterly path. I was rather amazed to see that the two ascents had added only about 5km to my overall run. Hmmm.

Descending away from Dumgoyne and realising I’d run “only” 15km.

At this point I think I knew I would not make the full 30km.

By now, my legs were tired and any hope of a burst of euphoria on reaching the half-way point had been ditched.

I forced down more jelly babies and jelly caterpillars and drank more Active Root Ginger and Green Tea sports drink.

I didn’t feel terrible but I didn’t feel great either.

I slowly plodded along the undulating Pipe Track and descended into Strathblane and then picked up the long off-road track back into Mugdock. I told my legs to shut up and I gave my depressed mind a shaking. That climb felt like a huge slog.

Great views, which I was able to appreciate even if my head wasn’t in this run.

A wee boost on a tough run

As I approached the 20k mark I bumped into another friend, Jo. She listened to my moans and told me I was doing brilliantly. I didn’t feel brilliant but her words did give me a boost.

The chat lasted about 10 minutes and perhaps the rest helped a bit but I headed off again with a slightly lighter heart.

However, those final 8kms – I had to force myself to do 8km and not the full 10km – did not feel good. I could have easily reached the car park in less than 5km but instead I ran loops of trails that I know so well.

By 24km I was counting every step to reach one more kilometre and another kilometre. I finished the run with another km away from the car park and then one more back to the car park. This is my worst kind of running because it feels so pointless.

A wonderful Scots pine on the Pipe Track above Strathblane.

At 28km I gave in. I hate to cheat myself in a training run but I was exhausted. My hips hurt, my feet were sore and my head wasn’t in it.

Added to that I’d under estimated how long the run would take and I was due to head off for a meal and overnight at a friend’s house in Ayrshire.

I called it a day, did some stretching and drove home.

I think that I probably should have had more of a rest week preceding the run but I not convinced. I do think there are days that feel good and days that do not. Saturday felt crap.

I am now very unsure about whether I will be able to run a 50k ultra in the hills. It is 20k further than I have ever run before and it’s in five weeks’ time. I worry that I have left the training too late. Perhaps I should choose another ultra that gives me a more realistic build up.

One good thing happened

I am pleased to report that there has been a positive outcome from Saturday’s run. I again employed my technique of eating nothing for at least two hours after a long run. The aim is to try to avoid the nausea I often suffer after a long or hard run.

I drank some water and more Active Root. I felt a few small waves of nausea in the hour after the run but a few hours later I was able to eat a normal meal and I didn’t feel ill.

I think this is my solution for the nausea. Or it could have been I was running so slowly that my body wasn’t adversely affected as it usually is.

You can read about week four of my ultra training soon.

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