My Run From Bridge Of Orchy To Fort William On The West Highland Way

west highland way copy

The idea and the planning had been going on for weeks. Where should i go for a test of distance and endurance, what would i need to take and logistics of getting there and back. I settled on making my way from Bridge of Orchy to Fort William. The reasons being that the train stopped at Bridge of Orchy at 08.15am the morning of Friday 21st June and left Fort William at 19.50 the same day. The train was the Caledonian sleeper service out of London so i had no need to worry about advance accommodation as i slept on the train in both directions. The only down side to the plan was the fact that i had 11 hours and 35 minutes to cover the distance. Having missed the train i would then be stuck 500 miles from home with no accommodation and having to re arrange travel back home, not to mention an upset wife and children!

I left home at 18.00 on the Thursday 20th June to get in to London for the sleeper service and made it to London Euston without any trouble and was an hour early for my train. After milling about and wasting some time it was time to board the train.

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I was sharing a cabin with another traveler who was doing the 3 peaks challenge and on his way to Ben Nevis to meet up with his fellow climbers. After having something to eat and checking through my gear it was time to get some sleep.

I had a 7am alarm call and was greeted with a cup of coffee from the on board train host. I made sure i had a large breakfast consisting of porridge with granola topping, ready salted crisps, banana, an energy gel  and about a pint of water. With an hour and a half to go until i got started it was enough time to let it all go down. After gazing out of the window and admiring the scenery for a while we were almost at Bridge of Orchy. I bid farewell to my fellow traveler and went and waited in the corridor ready to depart the train. Bridge of Orchy, i jumped out of the train and instantly headed in the wrong direction! Good start, after spinning 180 degrees and heading for the station exit i was on the road and away. The initial few hundred yards are a road way heading towards the trail of the West Highland Way.

On leaving the station you come down to a cross roads where you cross and head for the hills beyond.
On leaving the station you come down to a cross roads where you cross and head for the hills beyond.
Bridge over the river Orchy leading on to the West Highland Way trail which then starts on a gradual climb through the forest to the Inveroran Hotel
Bridge over the river Orchy leading on to the West Highland Way trail which then starts on a gradual climb through the forest to the Inveroran Hotel

Once across the bridge you head out on to a trail proper and begin a gradual climb through a pine forest. This eventually turns in to more open ground and after about 2 miles you come upon the Inveroran Hotel and take a left hand turn on to a tarmaced section of road where the next marker point to head towards is the forest lodge.

Heading down from the initial climb towards the Inveroran Hotel
Heading down from the initial climb towards the Inveroran Hotel
The road towards the Forest Lodge
The road towards the Forest Lodge

After working up a good sweat starting out on the climb up it was good to get on to the flatter road and try and calm down a bit and be mindful to take it easy, slow down and pace myself. Another mile or so along the road and the Forest Lodge came in to sight. There is a gateway to pass through at Forest Lodge and the problem from here was that the road turns back in to the original surface of cobbles. It was a firm surface to run on and not loose under foot but was lumpy and bumpy as you can imagine. I knew this was going to be a head down section as the next point to aim for was the Kingshouse Hotel about another 9 miles away. The path wound onwards and gently climbed as it went eventually passing Lochan Mhic, a small lake. Then way ahead i could see the A82 main road which i need to cross to get to the Kingshouse Hotel. I pressed on along the track and noticed that i had a very wet back and my legs were getting wet. I knew i was getting hot but something wasn’t right, i kept going and checking my watch i was about 45 minutes ahead of my planned schedule and thought i could afford myself 5 minutes to stop and buy a drink at the Hotel. I reached Black Rock Cottage and the A82 was right in front of me, down to the road, cross over and i was almost on top of the Kingshouse Hotel.

Approaching Kingshouse Hotel
Approaching Kingshouse Hotel

kings-house-hotel

On reaching the Kingshouse Hotel i found out the cause of the wet back and legs. My water bladder had split and all my water was leaking out! I had lost about 1 litre over the last 12 miles, i decided to keep it, headed in to the Hotel and went to buy a can of coke to top up on. I had reached the Kingshouse Hotel in 2 hours 17 minutes and was doing well. After having a fight with my bag trying to find enough change the landlady told me i could have it for free. I thanked her and continued on my way. I drunk the coke and then made a start on my water before i lost all of that as well. The trail then continues along a steady rise heading towards the infamous Devil’s Staircase. The Buchaille Etive Mor was rising up like a giant pyramid from the edge of the A82 but was rapidly becoming covered by cloud and soon it began to rain. I pulled out my mac from my bag while trying to keep momentum and not stop completely. Now about 13 miles in and on a steady rise my legs were beginning to burn and i had to slow right down knowing i was only just over a third of the way along my entire planned route.

Buchaille Etive Mor
Buchaille Etive Mor

towards devil's staircase

The way then continues and lowers slightly to briefly come back in to contact with the A82, this marks the start of the Devil’s Staircase. My god i had under estimated how tough this section was going to be! I was just approaching the 16 mile mark not quite the half way mark and my legs were so heavy and burning it brought me to a stand still. A mild panic washed over me, i checked my watch and i was still ahead of time but if this was how it was going to be i thought i may not make it. Rather than try and be a hero and jog up and kill myself it was time to be sensible and power walk.

Looking back down the Devil's Staircase.
Looking back down the Devil’s Staircase. The trees at the bottom marks the start of the climb next to the main road.

Initially i kept coming to a halt so i took on a gel and had some more drink and eventually managed a steady pace and only stopped briefly a couple more times before making the summit. Was i glad that was over, i was now looking forward to the decent thinking it would be easier and i could make some more good time.

Summit of the Devil's Staircase approx 1790 feet elevation.
Summit of the Devil’s Staircase approx 1790 feet elevation.

From the summit the Way then leads down towards an old military road that leads in to the town of Kinlochleven. I started to descend what was quite a loose and rocky footpath and i felt my quads tighten up. Then i had my first cramp. My calf’s and hamstrings were holding up well and are quite strong but i’m not used to such steep descents and my quads were clearly too weak for the task. I was now 17 miles in and my legs kept locking up and i was in agony. I thought the military road would be flatter but it wasn’t and the decent continued and so did the cramp. Kinlochleven was going to be make or break. I was either going to quit and bail out at Kinlochleven and get the bus back to Fort William or i was going to continue at a far slower pace and stand a chance of missing the train.

The descending military road towards Kinlochleven
The Hydro electric pipes fed from the Blackwater dam.
The Hydro electric pipes fed from the Blackwater dam.

I headed to a local shop to top up on drinks again and did some math about how much time i had. It was now 13.30 i was bang on the best schedule possible, i had set myself an absolute cut off of 15.00. If i had been that late it was a no go and i would have had to get the bus for fear of definitely missing the train home. But my legs were cramped badly, i was in agony but i was also dead on the best schedule possible and had about 6 hours to cover 15 miles to Fort William. Decision time. I had come for a test, i was willing to fail but failure would have been missing the train. Let’s do it! Onwards!

I knew the way out of Kinlochleven was another hugely steep climb. I had descended from 1790 feet to just 50 feet above sea level and now had to climb again. i needed to let my legs freshen up and regain themselves if i was to last so i started out on the steep climb and again i had waves of panic and i really felt like throwing in the towel and heading back for the bus. The daft thing that kept me going at that point was the fact it hurt less to climb up than it did to descend down! keep marching on. On reaching the top of the steep climb it again meets up with a military road. Although i had about 13 miles to go i knew i was on the home stretch, it made me feel so much better and once on to the road i managed between a shuffle jog and brisk walk if the legs started to cramp again. I had been passing people all the way along the route and it was good to have something to aim at ahead. This section was a little quieter.

Ruined cottage along the military road to Fort William
Ruined cottage along the military road to Fort William
Looking back to the ruined cottage
Looking back to the ruined cottage

A bit further along i checked my watch and the GPS had stopped working! The stopwatch was still running but i had no average pace time to see if i was moving quick enough. I could only do rough math from the elapsed time adding it to the time i started out and estimating what the time was. It packed up at 25.45 miles, the battery was indicating it was getting low so i can only think it is a power saving aspect of the watch.

I could see another group of walkers much further ahead and pushed hard to catch up with them. If nothing more at least i could get the time from them. On reaching them and finding out the time it was 15.20. A quick calculation, that gave me about 4 1/2 hours to cover around 8 miles. Come on! It had to be in the bag, no way was i going slower than 2 miles an hour. I was then in turn caught up by another walker, Stuart and his girlfriend he said he had seen me from miles off and had hell of a time trying to catch me. My slow down to get an accurate time from the walkers and discussing distance left had meant he managed to catch me. We were now coming to a split in the road that has two alternative routes back to Fort William.

The split in the route. Right is the longer official route. The left is an alternative more direct route.
The split in the route. Right is the longer official route. The left is an alternative more direct route.
On the military road to Fort William 5/6 miles to go.
On the military road to Fort William 5/6 miles to go.

On pointing Stuart in the direction of the official route i was able to start jogging again. It may have been more direct but flat it wasn’t! One steep climb mentally repeating “don’t run it hop and bounce, hop and bounce” trying to keep a momentum going led into another steep descent. It was absolute hell and my legs had had enough, they kept locking up and i was doing a weird stiff legged sideways crab like jog/skip. It may sound a bit stupid but i was so exhausted i was getting quite emotional and seriously thought i was going to collapse and be stuck there.

The final stretch
The final stretch
looking back towards where i had come from
looking back towards where i had come from

Then the best sight i could have seen to lift me up and get me to the end. Fort William. Looking at my watch and it was almost at 8 hours and 30 minutes, i had almost 3 hours to cover around 2 to 3 miles. Through all the pain, the cramp and the agony i knew then i had made it!

Fort William comes into view..and the end.
Fort William comes into view..and the end.

I can only imagine what the locals were thinking of this bedraggled, sweaty mess that was shuffling along towards the centre of town. When i started out i had bought my MP3 player thinking the long quite periods would get to me and i would use it to get by and help keep me going. I hadn’t used it once. My mind was so in the moment and concentrating on every footstep, how i was feeling, how far i had to go and doing mental calculations along the way i had no use for it. It had been me and nature, my brain and my body nothing more nothing less and i loved it.

The End! Fort William High Street.
The End! Fort William High Street.

It was the longest, hardest, most arduous, exhausting, painful, excruciating, amazing, fantastic and mind blowing experience i have put myself through in one day of my life. I made the 35 miles to Fort William in 9 hours 1 minute and 4 seconds and had 2 hours spare which i used to get a meal and a celebratory pint in my favourite pub in Fort William the Grog and Gruel. I had people who doubted i could do it in 11 and 1/2 hours, i even doubted myself physically but i knew mentally i was as tough as they come and i could push through pain that most people would fold and give in to. Would i do it again? definitely! but please give me some time to recover…and next time i’ll do it quicker! Now, time to sit down and dream up the next challenge.

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Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 Review

Brooks-Mens-Adrenaline-GTS-13-400x400Having become an ASICS fan over the past year i haven’t felt the need to try any other brand, following the old cliche “if it ain’t broke, why fix it”. So trying the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 would be interesting to see if it could cope with my over pronation. Brooks describe the construction elements of the shoe as follows:

Midsole
• Anatomical Brooks DNA
• Full-length BioMoGo
• Progressive Diagonal Rollbar (PDRB®)
• DRB® Accel
• Combination Last
• Heel Caterpillar Tech
• Flextra
• Universal Platform

Outsole
• HPR Plus
• Forefoot Stable Pod Construction
• Blown Rubber Forefoot

Upper
• Profile Sockliner
• Adjustable Saddle Construction
• Moisture-managing Element Mesh
• Synthetic Overlay Materials
• Moisture-managing Element Linings
• Internal Support Saddle

Green Features:
• BioMoGo, the world’s first-ever biodegradable midsole for running shoes

First impressions straight out of the box were that they were a very smart and stylish looking running shoe. On handling them and giving them a flex they felt quite stiff as to be expected from a support shoe. The only addition this time around i could find from the old shoe is Omega Flex Grooves which make the sole more flexible, so i can only presume the older model was slightly stiffer. The sole is very well gripped with a nice depth of lug which is good for heading on to trail runs. Brooks has these shoes at 342g but my mens UK size 9 weighed in at 320g which is a very good weight for a support shoe. They have a plush soft tongue which makes them really comfortable over the top of the foot. The side walls and toe box are fairly thin and offer good ventilation with enough room for your toes to feel comfortable. They also have a nice snug heel cup that holds your heel making them feel very supportive before you even start running. A removable inner sole that is anatomically shaped to offer arch support and over pronation control. On putting them on they were a snug and supportive fit. They are a little narrower than what i usually wear being a D width rather than my usual E width. That said they are not uncomfortably narrow or restrictive. The arch support could be felt immediately gently pressing against that area of the foot. The heel of the sole was very solid and felt quite hard without much give. the shoe continued to feel very firm through the arch and only softened into the toe area. With the initial feel of all this stiffness in the shoe it would be good to see how they perform. Since starting running i have moved from a heel strike to a mid foot strike in a bid to run a little quicker, but with this firmness i wasn’t sure how well they would flex through the foots natural transition. Although the laces have some stretch in them the were fairly short. I usually double tie them to prevent them coming undone but could only tie these once due to how short they are.

On starting out on soft ground the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13’s felt very solid and quite heavy. There is no doubt they gripped the foot firmly and were very supportive. Over grassy ground i didn’t really feel i was getting the best out of the shoe and felt i was carrying them instead of them carrying me. I would say over this soft recreation type ground i was only getting about 60% out of the shoe. I then moved on to some local trails. These have firmed up nicely in the current period of warm weather. The shoes really started to wake up on this terrain. Every impact of loose stone or uneven ground was swallowed up by the shoe. The shoe was holding my feet very firmly and comfortably but the sole construction was good enough to dissipate any shocks from uneven ground. Although on soft ground the shoe felt solid throughout on firmer ground the support throughout the arch area was evident and gave a comfy ride. I would say the shoe ramped up to 80%-90% performance over this ground and i was really happy with the protection they offered. Now up to 4 miles and no hot spots had started anywhere on my feet so the support and control was perfect across the whole foot. Moving of trail and on to the pavement the shoes were really singing. I ran with a heel strike to see how they felt and the transition from heel to toe was firm, comfy and controlled. Not feeling at any moment that my foot was collapsing and over pronating. Trying a more mid foot strike it felt slightly abrupt as it is firm and supportive in the arch but quickly softens in to the toe area. This is a positive in my book as it helps quicken the pace as you would expect from a more mid foot strike running style. It is as if you are getting a little kick back from the support with the mid foot strike style. I would say the shoes were right up at 90%-100% of what they have to offer out on the road. With 6 miles run in them and no hot spots, soreness or blisters i could very easily run on for much longer and see these as a real distance option for overpronators.

I have since run a further 11 miles over road a and trails before writing this review and the shoes have reconfirmed everything written above that they are a great road shoe that you easily take onto the local trails. The only down side being that they wouldn’t be at their best on very soft ground. All in all i think these are a really great shoe and give them 5 out of 5. They cope with over pronation perfectly, are a good weight and feel they would perform well over long distance runs.

Fearlessfeet Facebook and Blog Share

friendrun

Since linking up with www.RunningBloggers.com i have linked up with some really great and amazing people. The vast majority of whom i can relate to and in return can relate to me. As well as providing huge amounts of motivation and inspiration they have made me feel a little less of a loony with aspirations well outside of my abilities to someone who should continue to knuckle down and chip away at making those aspirations realities. So it’s time to share some of that running love and pass on the page links so others can be inspired in return.

Von Ralls –  http://liftheavyrunlong.com

Cecil Vermule –  http://dreadmilldrummer.blogspot.com

Carmen Peterson – http://sherunseverywhere.blogspot.com

Cassie Channell – http://channellingmyinnerrunner.blogspot.com

Gene Meade –  http://gene-spincycle.blogspot.com

Alice Toyonaga – https://www.facebook.com/pages/ChatterRunGirl/174284385970207?fref=ts

Karien Vd Merwe Potgieter – http://www.runningtherace.co.za

Tina Garstad – http://fabulosi-t.blogspot.ca/

Dawn Rushing  – http://rushingherd.blogspot.com

Chris Collins – http://nzmultisports.wordpress.com/

Gabe Escobar – www.Therungeek.blogspot.com

Lindsey Lynch – http://onemotherofaday.wordpress.com/

Stacey Privia – http://www.staceyontherun.wordpress.com

Some Kind of Runderful – www.somekindofrunderful.com

Stephani Itibrout – Www.troublerun.blogspot.com

Jessica Winn – http://www.progressiverunner.com

Paul Arts – www.artsy72.blogspot.com

A Mother’s Pace – http://amotherspace.blogspot.com/

Robert Harem – http://www.robertharem.blogspot.com/

I Thought They Said RUM – http://ithoughttheysaidrum.wordpress.com/

Run With Shane – http://runwithshane.wordpress.com –  https://www.facebook.com/RunWIthShane

Julianne Franklin Tutko – http://middleagedwomanontherun.com/

Suzan Dees –  http://welcometothenuthouse.com

Amplify: Life Tech Run – http://amplifytoday.com/running/

Jennifer Marcum – http://teacherintraining75.blogspot.com

Carrie’s Cultural Commentary – www.carriesculturalcommentary.com

Mike Hill – www.fishflyruns100.com

Lindsay Dion – Www.rantsandrehabilitation.com

Ruby McCray Smart – http://rubylynnslens.blogspot.com

Matt’n’Julia Freeman Davis – http://the23rdmile.wordpress.com/

13 13’s in 13 – http://13halfsin13.blogspot.com/

Molto Vivace –  http://yousignedupforwhat.wordpress.com/

Susan Tate – www.thismamarunforcupcakes.blogspot.com

Ron Atienza –  www.runningfromdebt.com

Beth Terroni – www.thefacebook.com/boltingbutterfly

Andy Scraggs – http://www.myfitnessgoals.co.uk/

bruc

Thanks to you all for sharing your endeavors and in turn keep me putting one foot in front of the other. I look forward to reading my stories over the months and years ahead, Baz.

Running, Diet And Struggling To Recover

diet

 

 

For some while now, probably as far back as March when i did the half marathons i feel i have been struggling to recover from runs. Any run over 5 miles i will ache for days after where as previously i would have felt good and strong again within about 24 hours. I decided to evaluate what i was eating and see if i was lacking somewhere. Quite shockingly i was about 1000 calories short on where i need to be in comparison to calories burned. Also i was very low on protein intake. No wonder i have been struggling to recover and getting small injuries appear! My diet was looking like this:

 

Banana and coffee pre run

Breakfast – Oats 60g, Rape Seed Oil 30ml, Honey 5ml

Lunch – Tomato and Onion Pasta

Dinner – 3 x Chicken Thighs, Cous Cous 130g

 

This was coming in at approximately 1340 calories and only 64 grams of protein! To maintain body weight i should be consuming 2000 calories add running to that i should be consuming about 2500 calories. I can see obviously why i haven’t been recovering very well.

 

fuel

 

 

So i sat down and made some tweaks to the above adding some extra foods in to bump up calories and protein. Now the diet is looking like this:

 

Pre Run – Banana and Coffee

Breakfast – Oats 60g, Rape Seed Oil 30ml, Honey 5ml and added Whey Powder 25g

Lunch – Tomato and Onion Pasta with Cheddar Cheese 50g

Mid Afternoon – Whey Powder 50g and Rape Seed Oil 30ml

Dinner –  3 x Chicken Thighs, Cous Cous 260g and Spring Greens (or other leafy veg)

 

With these adjustments the calories are now 2300 and protein is at 148g which is a decent improvement and i hope will help my recovery after runs. I always felt what i ate was quite good but i just haven’t been eating enough. Hopefully this will help with my long term goals of increasing the distance that i run as well. Thanks for reading and i hope to update you with another post soon.

 

diet1

Running On A Budget

bargain

 

 

Money has been stretched for most people in recent times so i thought i would write a post on what budget gear is currently available. I’m not one for buying really expensive clothing if i can find something far cheaper that does the job perfectly well then that’s good enough for me. I haven’t included running footwear because of so many variables like pronation, supination and width. I have searched out socks, shorts, t-shirts, long sleeve tops and also added a few accessories. I hope this is of some use to people and saves you some time trawling around the internet.

SOCKS

Nike Elite Running Quarter Sock Unisex – £5.00  http://www.achillesheel.co.uk/nike-elite-running-quarter-socks

Mizuno Women’s Ronin – $6.88  http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpage-MZWRS.html

Karrimor Duo Sock – £3.00  http://www.sportsdirect.com/karrimor-duo-run-socks-1-pack-415044

Adidas T Sock – £2.99  http://www.sportsshoes.com/product/ADI4605/adidas-t-run-ankle-running-socks/

I have used the Karrimor and Nike socks with no trouble at all and the wear and durability is great. I have started using socks like the Nike elite more when racing as they have good elastication through the whole sock and help support the foot more than the average sock.

fastgood

SHORTS

Asics Boxer Short – £5.00  http://www.sweatshop.co.uk/clothing/shorts/asics-boxer-short.html

La Gear L LK – £2.49  http://www.sportsdirect.com/la-gear-i-lk-short-ld20-572050?colcode=57205025

New Balance World Class – $9.88  http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRA-NBMWCS.html

Nike 4 Inch Women’s – £5.00  http://www.achillesheel.co.uk/nike-4-inch-short-womens-black-baltic-blue

Lonsdale 2 Stripe – £5.00  http://www.sportsdirect.com/lonsdale-2-stripe-woven-shorts-mens-435000?colcode=43500092

I use the Lonsdale shorts mainly because they have zipped pockets which can be handy at some races when i want to keep my train ticket or door key on me while i run.

budget

T-SHIRTS

Asics Womens Eikoku Top – £7.00  http://www.achillesheel.co.uk/asics-eikoku-ss-top-womens-ss09

Karrimor Short Sleeve Men’s – £3.99  http://www.sportsdirect.com/karrimor-short-sleeve-run-t-shirt-mens-451131

New Balance Lady Short Sleeve – £6.99  http://www.sportsshoes.com/product/NEW689527/new-balance-lady-short-sleeve-t~shirt/

Asics Ready Set T – $9.88  http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRA-AMRSET.html

Craft Active Run – £4.00  http://www.sweatshop.co.uk/clothing/t-shirts/craft-active-run-t-shirt.html

When i started running i went and bought 2 or 3 cheap technical t-shirts but as most people will find as you enter races you will start to get a t-shirt as part of your entry. These seem to be getting better all the time and i have a good collection of technical t-shirts from races.

LONG SLEEVE TOPS

Brooks Women’s Equilibrium Nightlife LS – £12.00  http://www.achillesheel.co.uk/brooks-equilibrium-ls-top-nightlife-womens-aw09

Men’s Asics Favorite – $24.88  http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpageMRA-AMFVLS2.html

Karrimor Women’s LS – £4.99  http://www.sportsdirect.com/karrimor-long-sleeve-running-top-ladies-456032

Asics Eikoku LS – £7.99  http://www.sportsshoes.com/product/ASI2095/asics-eikoku-3-long-sleeve-running-top/

Ronhill Vizion – £10.00  http://www.sweatshop.co.uk/clothing/long-sleeved-tops/ronhill-vizion-l-s-crew-11818.html

sale

ACCESSORIES

Nike Shoe Wallet – £2.50  http://www.achillesheel.co.uk/nike-shoe-wallet-grey

Asics Arm Warmers – $8.95  http://www.runningwarehouse.com/descpage-AARMW10.html

Lonsdale Headband – £1.99  http://www.sportsdirect.com/lonsdale-headband-mens-770009

Hilly Reflective Armband – £2.99  http://www.sportsshoes.com/product/HIL67/hilly-reflective-running-armband/

Adidas Team GB Cap – 3.00  http://www.sweatshop.co.uk/accessories/adidas-team-gb-cap-ss12-7795.html

There are loads of bargains to be had out there and you can easily go cheaper than some of the items i have listed. If you do go cheaper you will begin to compromise on quality with t-shirts tending to be cotton rather than technical polyester. With regards to shoes if you know what type you need going for last seasons model can be a cheaper way of getting the footwear you need. With regard to the t-shirts remember that you can start to build a collection by looking at races that offer a technical t-shirt as part of the entry. If anyone knows of some great money saving websites please feel free to comment and let people know, thanks.

Happy running all!, Baz.