During a little pre-Christmas break in Scotland, I had a run out on my favourite section of the West Highland Way. The original intention was to run from Drymen to Rowardennan, however, I noticed that there was a diversion in place to avoid the forest above Drymen. After a quick consultation with the WHW Race Forum to get the full story from the horses mouth, I decided to change plans to avoid the fallen trees and run from Balmaha to Rowardennan and back instead.
When I am running well, this is without doubt the section of the WHW I enjoy the most. The scenery is breathtaking, the trail interesting without being too tough and it's always sheltered from the worst of the weather. During the previous week, my confidence has been growing as I have suffered less and less from the stiffness/soreness in the evenings after a run, but did realise this would be the biggest acid test so far.
As I left Balmaha, it felt great to be back on this section again and I had a nice spring in my step. I allowed myself to run maybe a little faster than I have done so far and just tried to concentrate on a fluid style. For a while, I did not really think about my heel, everything felt normal and smooth as I settled into a lovely rhythm. As ever, I walked up the small climbs, but I noticed how much I was enjoying the downhill parts. I remember thinking how my quads would pay for that later; how right I was!
After an hour, I started to feel the heel, though it was more awkward rather than sore or painful. The problems seem to occur in the calf muscle as it tries to "protect" the tendon and, at present, the muscle is just not strong enough to make this compensation. Unfortunately, the only way to build up the muscle is to keep stressing it in a controlled way; it is just going to take time.
I do not think my running style was compromised on the return journey (take a look at the video) but I did take things noticably easier on the way back to Balmaha. Once I got past the 2 hour mark, I started to feel knackered, made worse as I remembered how I would zoom along this section when fit and here I was struggling to finish. It was great to get 3 hours under my belt, but it has highlighted the length of the road ahead to get back to full race fitness.
I am hoping to start a more structured training programme in the new year but am just going to concentrate on a few easy weeks at first, then in the middle of January, I'm going to try a "medium" week and see how the legs cope. Between now and then, I'm going to limit my runs to a maximum of 1:30 hours, with the majority under an hour. I find that writing things down in the blog tend to make them stick in my mind better and I'm more likely to follow the plan. That gives me another 4 weeks of steady training before I have my next serious test.
Happy Christmas to all!