Devil o' the Highlands Footrace

Smiles at Cow Hill

📷 Michael Philp

I got to the start line of the Devil o' the Highlands Footrace feeling fit and strong. In fact this was probably the strongest I've ever felt running uphill. Training had gone well — no heroics, just lots of easy running, weekly hill reps, lots of tempo intervals. I signed up for coaching with Pyllon at the start of the year and have been working with John Connolly. I love it. I don't have to think about what training to do. I have a plan that I trust and that makes my life simpler, which in turn makes it easier to get out the door to train! Going into the race I felt better uphill than I've ever felt. I surprised myself on long runs by being able to add in tempo surges late on and still finish feeling good. I ran on the West Highland Way a lot to let my legs remember the terrain. I was confident in my fuelling plan (alternating between a gel and a bar every 45 minutes). I hadn't run for much over 4 hours in training so going the distance was certainly an unknown, but I hoped all the running I'd done before meant my body would remember. I wasn't feeling very confident downhill, especially on technical terrain. I blame this on all the postpartum hormones as I'm still breastfeeding, but I wasn't too worried as there aren't too many technical descents in the Devil. Overall I believed I could be competitive in the race!

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The long return to running

I've read lots of stories of people who tried to return to running too quickly after having a baby, and had problems later. I hope not to have a story like this and have been erring on the side of caution. I started the NHS Couch to 5k program at 17 weeks post-partum. I'm currently in the middle of week 4. I'm finding it slow going, but it's giving me a good structure to avoid rushing back into running, and helping me work out where I can fit running in to life with a small baby!

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Five Ferries

After two years of being stuck at home over Easter I was excited to be able to have a four-day adventure again this year! At 30 weeks pregnant I was still running regularly but very slowly and only short distances, so going by foot wouldn't get me very far. I decided to cycle the Five Ferries route. People usually aim to cycle this in a single day. This sounds fun but quite stressful as you have to time it well for each ferry! I used Fiona Outdoors' excellent blog post to plan my route. My plan was to ride it over four days, which would give me plenty of time to explore, take the occasional detour, and not have to rush for ferries! The distances I planned were very unambitious: only around 20 miles a day. This was deliberate; I know I am prone to overdo it, which means I'm then very tired on subsequent days. I knew I would be able to ride 20 miles over a whole day even if I was super tired.

Bikes on ferries

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Third Trimester


I used to have control
now I grow
ever outwards
my swollen belly aches
you kick.
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I used to be a runner

I used to be a runner
Fast and fit and strong,
Now I'm getting older
And I'm getting fat.
The midwife said stay active
So I keep on shuffling on,
But every day gets harder
To move my bump along.

I used to be a runner
And dance nimbly down the hills,
Now I jiggle with every step
And prefer going up instead.
Then I lean into each puff
Let my bump lead the way;
I waddle like a hippo
But it blows the cobwebs away!
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