“By The Way” Tyndrum, November 30th – December 1st 2013

The first of three winter training weekends for runners training for next April’s Hoka Highland Fling ultra trail race was held at Tyndrum on the last weekend of November. Superbly co-ordinated by John Duncan, the Fling organiser. Kirsty Burnett provided the facilities at her superb wee complex of hostel, chalets, Trekker huts, hobbit hoses, and camp site “By The Way” nestling beneath the west highland railway at Tyndrum lower station.

The idea of bringing runners of varying standards together from elite level to those training for their first ultra, to share ideas, good company, some stunning trails, not forgetting FOOD proved to be a big hit.

Around 30 runners assembled at Tyndrum on Friday evening. Runners had travelled from Glasgow and the south, Edinburgh and the East, and from Deeside and Inverness in the north. There was also the Hoka crew who had travelled up from their base in Kendal in the Lake District along with Marcus Scotney, Hoka sponsored athlete, coach and massage therapist. After settling in to their accommodation, we headed for The Real Food Café in the village to sample or in many cases reacquaint ourselves with the excellent food served up in this popular venue. The Real food Café proprietors Sarah and Alan have been long time supporters of the Highland Fling race. The sky was starry as we walked back to “By the Way” and we hoped the forecast of a cold but dry day tomorrow would hold good.

The “Communal Kitchen” and lounge at the hostel made for a bustling school camp away day atmosphere on Saturday morning as we all tucked into breakfast (some breakfasts larger than others!) prior to setting off for our Saturday expedition on the Highland Fling Route.

The By the Way hostel and campsite is the venue for the race finish, so John had planned for us all to run an out and back stretch “down the way” to Beinglas Farm at the top of Loch Lomond. After posing for a group photo shot we all headed off. There was no compulsion on this and folk could turn round at a point of their choosing, Half a dozen folk turned around at 8 miles just after the A82 road and rail crossing in Glen Falloch. Some made it an approximate 20 mile round trip to the Falls of Falloch. The biggest group completed the 13 miles to Beinglas to make up an approximate “marathon training run” and a couple of hardy souls who are obviously well into their winter training and went 15 plus miles almost to the top of loch Lomond to make up a 30 miler.

The afternoon, or what was left of it, was spent relaxing, swapping tales of races past and races to come and several folk took advantage of Marcus offering a very good rate for massaging tired legs after the morning miles.
Early evening saw everyone meet up again in the communal lounge which with the props of screen, projector and laptop was turned into an informal mini lecture theatre. John had asked myself and Marcus to give a couple of short presentations, and Debbie Consani, another Hoka athlete was also on hand to chip in advice. I drew on my experience of over 30 years involved in Ultra distance running, which in recent years has also involved supporting and managing both Scottish and Great Britain Ultra distance teams. Using some “ultra legends” of varying global prominence from Lizzy Hawker to Richie Cunningham as examples of how folk dig deep to find that extra little something. I tried to loosely talk around what many perceive to be the limits of performance whatever your standard, but as far as Ultra (or any) distance goes, those limits are rarely just physical. I also managed to link 800 metre runner David Rudisha with Don Ritchie and Yiannis Kouros. The link being they have all set world records at 800metres, 100km and 24 hours respectively, and didn’t exactly wake up one morning and decide to do so. It took a few years of graft and planning.

Marcus Scotney, with a marathon best of 2.32 and an English and GB ultra international gave an entertaining and informative presentation on all the main elements of how to train for an ultra. He touched on planning, setting realistic goals, working out a personal schedule that suits the workload you can handle, and how to fit that into a busy life. Also how to watch out for signs of overtraining, all things that several of the group, training for their first ultra found really useful.

After a short question and answer session, we then all tucked into the lovely meal that Kirsty and her helpers had cooked for us all.

Sunday morning again appeared cold but dry with a fabulous sunrise over the Crianlarich Hills to the east. Throughout the weekend there had been an opportunity to Test run a pair of Hoka Shoes. While some did opt to try out a pair from scratch on the long Saturday run, many more were happy to try them on a shorter Sunday recovery run which split into two groups. One group headed north on the West Highland Way Way towards Auch Farm below Beinn Dorrain, while Kirsty (plus dog) led others up a forestry commission track behind her house through the woods and over to Glen Conan , where the Tyndrum gold mine is located. Kirsty has some amazing wee trails literally, on her doorstep!! After showering, we all congregated again over hot drinks and snacks, before all heading our separate ways home.

Everyone agreed they were going home totally enthused and inspired, many looking forward to the next raining weekend already. Check out details of the two remaining Hoka Highland Fling training weekends at the fling Facebook site. Run and Become would highly recommend to any runner or group of runners, just wanting a self catering, self sufficient short break, checking out “By the Way”. It makes for a superb base and Kirsty and Ranold are excellent hosts.

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