Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How hard can it be?

Hmm what to do?

My WHW dreams collapsed in February thru April, but like a glint of light I’m now left just too enticingly close with the big question.

So what happened? – Well I think I know the causes, but as always it’s not quite as mechanical and deterministic as that. Waaay back at the back end of last year, I had a series of great long runs, consistently building up the mileage and covering the route bit by bit. In December I decided to run the Marcothon (running every day in December) which at the time seemed just a swell idea. It went pretty well and I entered 2012 full of hope and ignoring a niggling pain in the left shin. It wasn’t shin splints as they are commonly understood as it tended to be sore when not running and OK or at worst bearable when running. I think because I was doing almost all my miles at night with the head torch on, my gait was becoming a bit ‘slappy’ as you cant subconsciously see your feet through your peripheral vision as they are in the shadow. Anyway, I continued training and despite an OK 30mi at the WHW training run (to be honest the shin was sore then), things started to deteriorate. Through February and march my pace slowed, recovery was harder, I trained less and my mood and motivation collapsed along with them.

Now I suffer from periods of clinical depression brought on by an ‘interesting’ medical condition and to a large extent running is a vital crutch for me, especially running long. It gives me vital confidence boost and something to be proud of with little or no outside influences, and while its great at keeping me away from the big hole, it can’t prevent the fall when I do inevitably drop into one. So as the injury prevented the running, my mood dropped, which meant less training, and further mood problems. By the end of march I was barely motivated at all and fairly ready to concede defeat on the WHW for this year, but there was still the faint glimmer of hope and I started trying to get out again at the end of March / beginning of April. Now in the movies this would have been the where the Rocky music kicks in and unrelenting training started off, but no, there was one or two more little cruel twists of fate ahead of me.

The first was I pulled my calf while out running up the Lednock circuit with the dogs. I wasn’t going fast or pushing hard, but ping it went. %^&*£$!!! Realising this could be a real issue, I started using my road bike again instead of running and around the same time, I contacted UltraFitnessTraining (William Sichel and his training adviser Shaun Brassfield-Thorpe) to see if they could help me recover and get back on track. As we discussed plans and goals via email bad luck #2 struck. We were down on holiday at the Solent at the time and I was looking at stand-up paddle boards as I used to do a lot of wave windsurfing and I quite liked the idea of them. I was squatting down looking at a particular board I quite fancied but when I stood up by back twinged. My back was bl**dy agony for ages. I’ve no idea what I did but it was sore, worst when sitting but sore, sore, sore. Ah well there goes the WHW dream again  and I have to say my delight at seeing other Harriers complete the Fling in style was tempered by a deep sense of failure at my not being there.

But with William and Shaun’s help, I’m back on track. They have got me doing strength training on the legs in the mornings a couple of times a week on days I’m running and I’m building the mileage up again, to the extent where I’ve ran more last week than the whole of April combined and my calf is getting solid and my back is almost 100% again. What I have noted is that as my legs are getting stronger, my natural cruise pace is getting faster and faster and hills are getting easier. I think this is one of the areas where I went wrong previously as I started running slower and slower trying to keep the training going, which was wrong and just made me weaker and weaker in effect.

And there lies the dilemma. If this was a few weeks on I would have no hesitation in putting my withdrawal from the WHW in. Indeed I should really have done so already, but because I’m building so well and strongly right now I’m wondering if there is indeed still half a glimmer of hope of sensibly being there in Milngavie.

Sensibly – now there is a word. Yes on paper I should just withdraw now and concentrate on the DOTH in august, but that key part of what draws me to the WHW is still there, still singing temptation to me, to stand on that start line and consider finishing. Romantic? Optimistic? Yes absolutely to both of them. Delusional? Maybe, but not psychotic by any means and I have no intention of putting myself or the race organisers at risk if I’m not ready.

So will I, or indeed should I withdraw or try to get there? Well I have set myself a couple of gates to get through over the next few weekends. If I don’t make them I sensibly withdraw and keep on heading for the DOTH. If I do make it through them, well cripes I might just make it after all.............................

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy, Smiley, Quarter WHW

Totally chuffed. That's the best way of describing how I'm feeling right now. A few weeks ago I had planned to get up onto the WHW and run up from Glencoe to Fort William, but the weather was awful and I cancelled it. Afterwards all sorts of doubts started creepig about whether I could do it anyway, blah, blah, blah, but I rescheduled for this weekend, with a slight change. The change was to run from Glencoe down to Crianlarich rather than run north. The reason behind this was because the clocks had now changed and this kept me closer to 'civilisation' if anything was to happen late on.
So Saturday morning came, up and out of the house about 7:15am for the drive to Crianlarich. Arrived there about 8:15, which gave me 15minutes to make final food / clothing selections before the bus arrived at 8:28. From there it was a gentle half hour bus trip up to the road crossing at Glencoe Ski Centre / Kingshouse. At 9:10 I was was off the bus and ready to start the run back. I'd tried to work out a reasonable plan for the day as Jo and the kids were going to come and meet me at Tyndrum later on and needed some sort of guide to help find me, so the key points as a guide were:-

Glencoe (start) 9:10 am
Inveronan Hotel 11:10am
Bridge of Orchy 11:35am
Tyndrum 1:05pm (with potential to call it a day there if not past by 2:30pm)
Crianlarich 2:35pm
That gave either 19ish miles to Tyndrum or 25ish to Crianlarich. 

So how was the running on the day? Well the weather was mild if a tad breezy as I started up the road past Blackrock Cottage.

I'm still rotten at climbing hills, but especially in the first section of a run as I'm also completely useless for the first 20-30mins, so it was a long hard slog up to the first peak beside Fleming's cairn. Once over that and heading down hill, I started to come alive and ran down past Ba Bridge in good form. I'd done most of this section a few weeks ago so I plodded along the path and down towards Forest Lodge and into virgin territory for me. On the way down past the plantation, I past two other runners walking up the way. From there on to Inveronan was nice and easy and it's an amazing place to run through. The time as I passed the hotel was 10:56am, 15mins ahead of schedule.
 I knew from my prep that there was a climb up over to Bridge of Orchy, but nothing had actually prepared me for the actuality! But up I plodded and near the top was lucky enough to see that rare and mythical creature - the Gibbering Midget bounding down the way with a group of others, with a speed and ease that made me quite envious! Soon enough though I made the top and looking back down it was quite amazing just how high the climb actually was.
Then it was downhill all the way to Bridge of Orchy, a place I've only ever passed far too fast on the A82, but a stunning place to approach from the hillside forest.
It was 11:30 as I crossed the A82 and headed up towards the station, still 5 mins ahead of schedule, but I had lost 10mins on the climb over the hill, not that the schedule was ever meant to be highly accurate! I stopped for 5mins at the steps climbing up out of the station, to have a pork pie and put a blister pad on. For some reason I seem to wear through the heel padding on my Roclites after a while,and guess what - it was today that it happened again. Never mind the Compeed took care of it and stopped any blister actually getting started.
The leg up to the watershed above Tyndrum was a bit of a drag and the only real time when I was getting tired mentally. I t was a long climb up there, relieved by listening (and laughing out loud to) 'I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue' on the Ipod. I have to admit to being passed by one of the girls and her Spaniel who had passed me going the other way above Inveronan as if I was standing still (I was walking up towards the railway underpass at this point, but so what!)
That climb from the underpass up to the upper path was really hard going. Really really hard going and very glad to reach the summit, with the faintest sign of Tyndrum in the Glen below. As I broached the summit I suddenly heard "Daddy!!! Daddy" - It was Jo and the kids on the A82 beside me driving north trying to find me. We met up down at the water treatment plant and walked together down to Brodie's Store, where I topped up on water and took on some coke and generally had a 10 minute break. There was always the possibility that I might crawl into Tyndrum on my last legs, but it was 1:10pm as I arrived at Tyndrum, having dropped another 10mins behind schedule, but feeling pretty great after the first 19miles. No way was I stopping now.
So about 1:20 I headed off across the A82 and through the sodden path and across the river crossing. Funny how I had managed to have dryish feet for 19miles but got soaked in the first town I passed through! I won't mention taking a wrong turn at the caravan park and getting lost, but I have to say heading out of Tyndrum the roots, mud and polished stones made for a short hard section. So hard in fact that I started to hallucinate, believing I met some Cowboys and Indians just outside the town!
After heading past Dalrigh it was back under the A82 and up to Auchertyre where I had asked Jo to meet up again with a tad more fluid for me (should have taken more from the beginning really). Unfortunately while I was up at the farm, they were waiting down at the A82, but neither of us had phone reception to tell each other! Ah well another 10mins waiting did no real harm and off I trotted again through the green fields and down towards the river and across the A82 (yet again).
The section from there to Crianlarich is bl$%dy hard. It's a hard, hard climb up through the forest. A real hard hard slog that starts almost immediately you cross the road. As I reached the top I passed a group of other WHW runners (George Reid from Stonehaven I think - should have stopped to say more, as that's where I stay mid-week). It was good to see they were hiking it too!! At 3:05pm I came to the junction of the WHW, Bogle Glen and the path down to Crianlarich. 
Just after that as I headed down the path to Crianlarich I met Jo and the kids who had driven along and walked up the path looking for me. A quick hug from the kids and I trotted off to finish at the car at 3:18pm; 6hrs and 8mins after I left and somewhere around 25.5miles (my Garmin ran out of battery in the last ten mins). So I was half an hour or so behind schedule, but when the stops were taken into account I was pretty spot on, and the fact they were so close actually surprised me, as apart from Rannoch Moor I hadn't run any of this route before so hadn't really a clue how hard/fast/slow each section was when I was estimating the times.

So overall amazingly happy with the day. 25ish miles in 6ish hrs and feeling great at the end of it. To be honest I could have kept on going for a good bit, especially downhill from the WHW junction above Crianlarich and reckon Beinglas would have been possible if i had wanted to / had time, but certainly Carmyle Cottage / A82 crossing was within a good striking distance. This run has given my confidence a big boost ahead of the 28mi Kinlochleven -> Tyndrum short ultra on the 3rd of December as well as a good bit of knowledge about the route and has added to my confidence that the Fling is realistic and that a full WHW is not un-achievable. Now I know the difference between 25milies and 95 miles is huge, but this run has proved the following

  • My training is working - this was a 45mile week and the recent 35mile weeks have been sustainable
  • No sign of injury or twinges (like I had at the D33 last year) and I ran comfortably the next day with no problems
  • I had no serious motivation problems on the route - in fact I was pretty happy all the way round
I know I have a bit to prove to get there but I'm pretty motivated right now and making great progress on it.

So what next? The short ultra mentioned above, I'm going to attempt the Marcothon, the WHW training weekend in January and hopefully a 35-40mile jaunt somewhere around Xmas/new year - depending on family commitments. Possibly Bridege of Orchy to Fort William, but perhaps Milngavie/ Drymen/ Balmaha up the way would be better. Oh and I better do some more hill / speed work as well I guess.

It's good to be plodding long again :-)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Back (in Black)

For me my ability to run reflects quite accurately the state of my overall holistic health, and right now I'm back and thouroghly enjoying it. So another strange bad year trying to deal with an obscure [although actually quite common, if untreated] medical issue that has been causing some fairly significant problems for me. It's been the same for 3 years now, but this year I have managed to get onto a treatment regime that is slightly controversial in some ways, but at least proven to work. Odd thing this, how some treatments get barriers put up to them despite a fair amount of evidence, but such is life.
Anyway, within a couple of weeks of starting the treatment my ability to run improved dramatically. Not just my ability to run, but my ability to recover. One of the side effects of the condition has been severe fatigue, and when I have managed to run, It's only been for 7-10 days before the chronic fatigue set in and I had to pack it in. But now I'm back to be able to run pretty regularly and starting to get to significant distances again. Within weeks I had ticked off a long run of 16miles, which from a pretty much standing start I'm well happy with and with that the thoughts, now positive, have turned to longer events again.
So I have entered the short 28mile ultra at the start of december from Kinlochleven to Tyndrum, my entry is in for the Devil O' The Highlands in august, and I'm just waiting for the Highland Fling (April) to open to enter it as well. Thats a pretty complete year if I can pull it off, but I am becoming more and more drawn to the WHW Race. It's slightly obsessional (but that is good for me tbh), and I've obviously never done anything like it before, but I am contemplating entering. Well, when I say entering, more seeking a place on the reserve list. I need to complete something like the Fling to qualify, my longest event to date being the D33, so it would be a bit ambitious to expect an entry this year, but perhaps I might be able to get a reserve place list, and if I was ready and a slot came up it would be a possibility. We shall see......

But I have managed to get out on the WHW, and plan to try and get out there once a month. I did from Glencoe down to near Forest Lodge and back a week or two ago and the whole atmosphere of the place is special. I can see why people running there so much. It really pulls at your heart. The plan this weekend was to run from Glencoe to Fort William, but torrential rain meant that discretion was the better part of valour. Hopefully I will reschedule for the 19th Nov or alternatively go Glencoe -> Tyndrum/ Crainlarich (19/25mi). The other place I've discovered is the Rob Roy Way. I started looking at it for the Glen Ogle 33, and ran the way from Strathyre to the top of Glen Ogle and back via Balquidder. Going from Lochearnhead down to Callendar was an enjoyable 15mi in the rain with a significant climb at Kingshouse. Well recommended as an alternative to the WHW.
With winter encoaching some new gear was in order. A (black) OMM waterproof top and (black) Ron Hill waterproof running trousers. Both are unbelievably good. I never thought I could run 15miles in waterproof trousers, but these are great and combined with the excellently breathable OMM top is a great combination. OK it's only a high viz combo in the snow, but somewhat smarter looking than being dressed like a giant highlighter!

So it's time to keep the mileage going, and up from the 25-35mi/week I've been doing to a bit higher. That will probably include running Aberdeen to Stonehaven (12mi) once or twice a week and a 20mi loop on the Deeside Way once a fortnight. If I can fit those in midweek, that will be a significant contribution to my mileage. Oh - and some back to backs as well.
On ward upwards and lets hope I can keep the demons at bay!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

(Walk) All Summer Long

I've not written in a while. Somewhere around the back end of May I picked up a bit a lower left leg problem. It started as being slightly sore but then escalated from there and saw most of the summer wiped out for running. The numbers say it all - May 120miles but June 57miles and July a pitiful 46miles. Not great. It wasn't helped by the fabulous Harriers away weekend at Gairloch. What a place! Friday night saw us all gathered on the beach, kids playing, adults having a wine or two around a seaweed bonfire. It's amazing what having a fire does to keep young kids occupied feeding it fuel and tending it. They kept that fire going ALL weekend.
The running was broken into two groups, the morning gentler run and the afternoon tougher run. Being slow to rise I opted for the afternoon run - what a mistake! It turned out to be a run from sea level up a munro [Siloch]. What a mistake. After a 3mile run in it started to turn into a several mile scramble up a dry stream bed over just too big boulders. I was with 4 other experienced hill runners who seemed to cruising up, followed by this panting, large excuse in a pair of road shoes. A second group was starting 30-40mins behind us, but by the first [false] summit they had caught me. I can remember standing on a ledge, on what seemed like a near vertical face watching Phil T and Will simply bound up the slope as if they were running on the flat. Truly amazing how they do that.
We all met up at the first summit for a quick photo
After making our way to the other actual summit, the mountain goats were going to ridge run across to [yet] another peak before heading straight down a scree slope and on home wards. I had decided that I was too tired for any more and that going back the way I came was the best option. On the way back Graeme Martin joined me to keep in pairs [thanks Graeme!], but have a look at this shot Phil M took of us heading down - look how steep it is!!
Anyway to cut a long story short, I eventually made it down [mainly walking] and had to give up running the last 3 miles home because of sore feet.
I have never ever done such a totally exhausting thing and slept all night on the Saturday from far too early. I have also never had such big blisters on the sole of my feet before - they covered almost the entire width of my foot in one big bulbous blister - on both feet too.
So that didn't help the sore leg much either really I suppose, but June and July were wiped out through injury. As the fitness drained away, a couple of other things I struggle with re-appeared and they all combined to make running very hard both physically and mentally. Even our holiday was doomed for running. I had taken new shoes with me - the intention being to run as regularly as I could. We only hit the biggest heat wave in New England in 30 years, and I can tell you that even attempting as big Scot to run in 110F temperatures is NOT fun. The net effect of this was that the Clyde Stride that I had entered was realistically a non-starter - which was exactly what I was!!
But in the last week or two, the injuries and things have receded enough to let me run again and want to run again. I did a leg of the (now) annual Harriers Tour de Strathearn 5x5 relay as part of 'Tony's Tigers' two weeks ago which as last year's event was a great club get together and a chance to run with people I rarely see.

Not only that, but the evening festivities at Fiona Lyle's farm, featured Storm running like the wind in the kids race - she could be really quick I think and right now she loves athletics. It's good for young girls to find a sport they enjoy I think. Will be all too easy to drop out of it as she heads into teenager-dom. Hope the Harriers junior section comes off
Sp I'm back into running regularly at night and am hoping, just hoping that the River Ayr Way will still be on if I can get my mileage up again in the short time left - here's hoping. Whilst the last two weeks have left like running with the handbrake on, it seemed to free up a bit this week and the last two runs have not only been of decent length, but enjoyable and fast-ish too.
Maybe I will get there.............
[All photos nicked / courtesy of Phil / Liz Mestecky]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alsatians Licked my Ar$#.......

Nope. Not the follow up album to Zappa's "Weasels Ripped My Flesh", but truly the most bizarre thing to happen to me while out running.
I had just started a 12mi trip around Feteresso Forest last Thursday when at the first junction after the initial rise I saw a beardy guy on a bike and his Alsatian dog coming from the other leg of the junction. I assumed that they would be heading down to the car park, so was a bit surprised when a minute later the big scary Alsatian dug was running beside me. I like dogs, [I have two], but somehow Alsatians always seem a bit more threatening when you don't know them personally [despite my wife's protestations that they are just big cuddly bears as she had two as a teenager], so it was a bit worrying having this one running right beside me. After a few yards it went off, but soon reappeared. This happened two or three times, with the owner seemingly oblivious to it. Then just after I assumed it had gone of for good I felt something strange. Couldn't quite put my finger on it so to speak, but something wasn't right. I couldn't see the dug, but something was definitely odd. After a few more yards of this I glanced back to find the dug was running just behind me which is why I couldn't see it, but I also found out why I felt something was wrong. Not only was this big scary dug running behind me, it was licking the back of my shorts as it did so and must have been there for 20-30 yards!
Cripes I've had a few slightly odd experiences while out running, but never ever have I had an Alsatian lick my butt before, and to be honest I'm not that keen on repeating the exercise. One quick loud "f**&^%% sake" later and the dug was gone. Of course during this Mr Beardy mountain biker was still oblivious to what his dog was doing and as he eventually over took me at a speed that made post office queues look fast the dog took off and ran with him for all of 50 yards before stopping. I was understandably not best inclined towards this pair now, so pushed a bit faster to get past them and thankfully never saw them again all night. What was not so good though was the largish patch on the back of my shorts where the dug was licking. It felt truly horrible, like that cold damp feeling you get when you sit on a damp bench. It took the best part of an hour before the sensation disappeared.
Anyway apart from that, and getting a bit lost [ended up in a field when I should have been in the middle of a forest], the run was pretty good and rounded out as a decent 12 and a bit miles.
For the weekend I hadn't really planned much mileage as on Saturday we were across at Oban getting the boat ready for the season. Brilliant sunny day and we all had a great day faffing around and playing in the boat and rubber dinghy. Will be good to get sailing again this year and I must get the Int Canoe ready to sail too. Managed to get out for a brief 3miler round Aberuchill with the dogs when we got home though.
On Sunday it was the Glen Lednock 8 mile road race which starts a whole 100yrds from our house. I was not for running in it in order to protect my knee from the steep downhill return leg and opted for bacon and eggs for breakfast and watching a cracking turnout of 13 Harriers take part though. Phil T was first Harrier in [4th O/A] and it was good to see him return to form after what seems to have been a testing start of the year for him. As Gregor had a birthday party to go to in the afternoon, I got the chance for an unexpected run in the afternoon. Thought about doing a last minute Crianlarich - Tyndrum and back but decided didn't quite have time for that and headed out for somewhere around 8-10 miles. Ended up doing 17 miles of the Tour De Strathearn, going Comrie up to Braefordie and along to the Turret dam. Walked/ran down from the dam to the base of the hill [knee again!] before running past the Famous Grouse [what a lovely smell from the kitchens as you go past on a Sunday] and out along Lady Mary's Walk to Strowan Road, before the perilous last few miles along the A85 to Comrie. Absolutely parched in those last few miles as I ran out of drink with 2-3 miles to go. So it was with some relief then to finish the run at the Costcutter where buying a juice, a coke and a bottle of wine allowed me to cover all possible options as far as my thirst was concerned! Good run, but I was absolutely puggled in the evening. OK - so Sunday's fueling was not exactly of the elite variety - bacon/eggs for breakfast, no lunch and only 3 coffees for drinks before my run which did not exactly set me up properly, but I was immensely knackered Sunday night.
What was more surprising is just how tired I was on Monday too. I went out for my run, but struggled even to do 3 miles. Just could not have gone further, so went home and ate a huge portion of emergency pasta in the hope that I could run decently again on Tuesday. Did it work? - Yes. I'm just back in from 8 miles round the forest, and while it was not my finest run ever, it was OK, and it was 8 miles. Conclusion? - I'm rubbish at this dietary stuff!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Running Clenched

ARRGHH! Cracking run last night - almost the exact opposite tonight, but worse.
Last night was a romp around Fetterso Forest neat Stonehaven. Brilliant, brilliant place. 8 and a bit miles through the forest tracks, some biggish climbs, the odd deer around and I even saw a pine martin in the wild, just 20 feet from me. As usual started slow and grunty on the climb from the car park into the wind, but come 4miles I started to fly [all relative of course!] and was in full fast cruise mode my 5 miles. Last 2 miles were almost reaching respectable [sub 8min] speeds. What's more knee was strong, form felt better and the hills seemed comfortable.
Today though - I had spent a bit of time working up a training plan for the River Ayr Way in September to guide me for the next 20 weeks or so. This week, even though it was the 'first' of the plan, has been a bit messed up by the emergency trip offshore at the weekend and I [foolishly] put down a 15mile run from Altens to Milltimber and back for tonight. First of many 'schoolboy errors' tonight.
They were:-
1. Stupidly I put two 'hard; sessions next to each other. Last night was fast through the forest tracks. I should have had an easy today, but no...like the prat I am I decided to run longish. To cut a long story short my ITB, which has been improving rapidly, decided to remind me it's still there and flared up about 9 miles in. Plodded on, but by 12.5 miles it was too much and it was time to call a taxi to take me the last couple of mile back to the office.
2. Having Hienz chilli baked beans last night, with salad, bran flakes for breakfast and more fruit and salad for lunch. I'll let you work out the rest, but I must have ran out the busy Deeside Way tonight with the tightest clenched buttocks in the history of Aberdeen. No where to go, not recommended and pretty stressful at times.
3. It's pretty clammy up here, and in the rush to go offshore on sunday I only packed one light running tee. That got well soaked with rain and sweat last night, and while it was dry today, by 7 miles into tonight's run I was soaked with sweat, and it was not evaporating away. Result - the tee shirt turned to sandpaper and gave me runners nipple - both sides. Lovely.

So if you can imaging me with cheeks tightly clenched, slightly worried expression on my face, checking out every clump of bushes that might offer cover while running with one knee throbbing and nipples being rubbed raw you can see why tonight was not the best. Basic, stupid mistakes, but it's what makes this lark such a challenge really and probably more of a mental exercise than it is often given credit for.
Thankfully I'm, at heart, a positive person, I can usually see the plus side of most things. OK the ITB complained, but that was on a longish run after a hard run the night before and a hard run on saturday. It's still improving though and I have no doubt I could run an easy or shortish session tomorrow if I wanted to. Likewise, I really need to layout a training plan for daily stretches and strengthening exercise, as I'm far too guilty of only doing them when I'm injured.
Ever onwards I suppose!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Just a Little Fling

Saturday was the Highland Fling 53 mile race from Milngavie up to Tyndrum. I decided after the D33 that even attempting this was not the correct thing to do. As if to reinforce that decision, the ITB I picked up at the D33 has made much running awkward lately. However and it is a big however, I got put onto a team for the Fling relay who were short of a runner or two by the ever running Ian Beattie. I am so so thankful for that call Ian 'cos I had a great time. The arrangements were tricky with me meeting Stan at the end of leg 1, to run me down to the start [and back to the car] before handing over to Liz Mestecky for leg 2 who would then hand onto Stan himself, before Sarah from the legendary Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum to complete course to Tyndrum.
So there I was lining up beside the other relay runners in an underpass an hour or three after the ultra guys had headed off. I have to say it is a strange place to start a long distance path like the WHW, but I guess it is what it is. As usual I started off slow and grunting working my way through Mugdock park at the back of the relay pack. About five minutes into the run my phone [carried for safety purpose may I add!] went off. I missed trhe call, but the voice mail was my boss saying something about incident... offshore... call please. So there I was running on the WHW for the first time ever, phoning him back and saying, "I'm running from Milngavie....[pant] can I call you later...[pant].....". Not really the usual start to a race is it? Ten minutes in began to feel decent, by twenty minutes feeling great, but the long long downhill section near Dumgoyach was not good for my ITB, so that was walked down. Fabulous feeling though as I broached that initial crest and looked out towards Glengoyne. Somewhere after the bottom of that section, I and the two girls I was following managed to 'get lost' and somehow missed the turn onto the railtrack and ended up going east up onto the main road and along there till we met the WHW again. By this point I was feeling bl*/*dy marvellous and started getting into that lovely fast cruise mode where I was running easy, yet faster than at any point before. I've kinda decided that 10Ks are not for me. It takes me 4-5miles to get warmed up and into that fast cruise mode and by that time a 10K is almost over!
The last few miles flew by as they do when I'm running well and in the groove. Was a bit surprise by the few steep hills right at the end before Drymen, but half a mile or so out, Stan met me and ran in with me up and down those last few hills to the handover with Liz. Not my best run ever, but nevertheless one of my favourites to date.
The big surprise was at the handover where apart from Liz, there were a few other Harriers there. It's so good to see unexpected faces when you finish.
After getting home to Jo and Gregor we went and picked up Storm who had been running in her first ever X-country race for the school. She finished a very respectable 61st from 119, which is brilliant. Given by the way she was struggling later on, I think she must have run her little heart out. What a superstar! It seemed a shame to drag them all over the Tyndrum, but I was keen to see the finish, meet up with our team and see if we could see Ian and Graham finish the full event. We ended up staying till nine, keeping Graham's family company while they waited for him to finish, which we did 10mins or so before the cutoff. An absolutely brilliant performance from Graham in his first Fling and he had never ran beyond 33 miles before.
What did I learn that day then?
  1. If I have any Fling / WHW ambitions I need to get out there and know the route. I managed to 'get lost' on the easiest section of the easiest section and knowing the route means also there are no surprise hills to greet you - only bl*/*dy big hills you know about already.
  2. The Fling, and by extension the WHW are brutal affairs, but achievable. Not every finisher I saw was a young racing snake by any means. If they can, I can, not because I'm competitive BTW, but because I just want to do it.
  3. Only in Scotland could we have an Ultra race sponsored partly by a chip shop [even if it is the best Chip shop in the world]
  4. Don't answer the phone during races. I missed half my weekend as I ended up sat on a special chopper out of Aberdeen on sunday morning with 2 other guys from work to see what on earth had gone wrong.
  5. Lastly and most importantly - injuries do go away. at times they feel like 'I'll never run again', but mind over matter, rest and recovery they do go away and we get to run again and in many ways that feels better than anything almost.