Laura Watson

The inaugural Cape Wrath Ultra in May 2016, organised by Ourea events (Dragon’s Back ultra), a supremely challenging event, was a huge step up for me. A 400km plus 11000m of ascent over rough terrain self navigated race is not an easy race to train for. With my first ultra just two years ago and my longest stage race 3 days, plus very little fell running experience I knew this was going to be a big challenge. Add into this my irregular shift work as an Emergency department doctor and locum GP, plus my need to take care of my two sons and any kind of regular training schedule was going to be difficult.

I hadnt really considered a coach until I mentioned to my friend Dion Leonardthat I was training for a tough multistage ultra race in the Scottish Highlands and he asked me how my training was going. When I told him that I was just ‘trying to run as much as possible’ – he told me that that wouldn’t do at all and I had better talk to his wife Lucja Leonard.

Lucja was up for a challenge. She was especially interested in working out ways to get enough training in around a complicated and busy schedule. As an elite ultra runner herself as well as working a full time job, running a side business in running tours in Edinburgh, coaching and supporting her ultra-running husband Dion, Lucja knows all about schedule juggling.

She listened to all my constraints carefully on the telephone – understanding immediately all the issues. Then she outlined the first few weeks of a training schedule on a shared online document. These included variations on hill repeats, speed work as well as strength training workouts and long slow runs, adding depth and breadth to my previous diet of mostly all long slow runs, and allowed me to incorporate existing sessions that I did such as yoga or swims. This remained flexible and regularly tweaked depending on how I got on and unforeseen new commitments/fatigue.

She was not phased by some erratic compliance on my part, and very positive about ensuring enough recovery time for niggles or fatigue.

Having Lucja there on email or on the phone if needed gave me the kick I needed to do the sort of training that I’d probably felt I should be doing but didnt know quite how or how much and would tend to avoid. But I soon noticed the benefits of the variation – especially the hill and strength training.

Lucja got me to the start line fit, but not only that I completed the race which had a 40% DNF rate, and finished as third placed female!

I can highly recommend Lucja as coach and cant thank her enough for all her help and support.