The long yawn of Interim

So, like, where the frak have I been, eh?

Nowhere special (drags toe of shoe back and forth along the dusty pebble-path….). Just ‘around’, being all introverted and cannae-be-ershty. Plus I was like working and everything.

But now I am back and not working and wondering where the start of this new phase of blogging should be and what was the last thing I did of any substance anyway?

I was actually in a fantastic ‘ramping up’ phase heading towards some great unknowns: The Mauritius Marathon, The Speyside Way Ultra-marathon, The Most Beautiful Thing jungle-traily thing with nose-bleed ascents/descents and my first 12 hour event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There was a lot of eventing going on. That was in 2013! What happened in 2014?? Do we even care?

I remember getting to the end of the year and just feeling beat. 2014 was full of a lot of planning followed by a lot of DNS, either through lack of preparation or niggles, lethargy, life-stuff getting in the way of living.

But now it’s 2015, so time to draw the line in the sand (…………….) and start fresh!

Recap 2013

Longest race: KL Tasek Perdana Ultra – 66 Km (ca. 9 hours, not 12)

Best finish position: 3rd Lady KL Ultra, 17th overall TMBT (25 Km category)

Marathon – YES – Mauritius

Ultra-marathon – YES – Speyside (60K), KL (66K)

PBs – No (unless you count new distances, which I don’t due to the mad terrain being non-repeatable and therefore unchallengable in PB territory)

New terrain – jungle hashing, jungle hill Check-point event, looped time event

Recap 2014

Longest race: Berlin Marathon (42 Km)

Best finish position: none to speak of, glad to not DNF, feet condition was decent after Berlin

Marathon – YES – Berlin, Germany (World Marathon Major). Deferred a ballot place for New York Marathon

Ultra-marathon – NO – DNS at Tarawera 85K, Titi 50K

PBs – No

New terrain – No

2014 was a pretty poor year all in all; running just didn’t happen much once work started and I never really got into a groove with embracing the early morning cooler times or getting out straight from the office. I was in a FUNK.

So what’s planned for 2015?

JUNE/UK. Another crack at the spectacular Heb 3 Half marathon race series in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. I completed Benbecula, Harris and Skye in 2011 and the former two in 2012 (missing out on Skye due to a flooded road out of Achultibuie). Got an elusive place in Barrathon (it sells out in minutes) and plan to run Benbecula and Skye again to make the series.

AUGUST/MALAYSIA. Borneo 50K in the Northern Malaysian state of Sabah. This is a similar route and terrain to the TMBT and it will be a 12-15 hour event, all things being equal. Through jungle and remote villages, perhaps in the dark. With trekking poles this time. This is my 40th birthday event so I am going to enjoy it thoroughly and training has begun in earnest but will definitely rely on me getting back to the jungle hash on Labi road and maybe finding some long run buddies for off-road treks.

It would be nice to look towards a marathon near the end of the year but it really depends on how the old injury sites respond to training and how well I can motivate myself to do long runs. [I’m classing anything over 2 hours as long run territory]

More on that later. Maps, pictures and race reports may be retroactively inserted but one of my non-work goals is to keep up to date with things on Blog Island. At least until I get distracted again. [By the way, how good was that Maleficent movie? Man, I just loved Angelina in those horns………]

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Two weeks to Glen Ogle Ultra

The longer runs are behind me and I’m now counting down to the Glen Ogle Ultramarathon at start of November.

What have I been up to? Well, worrying about injury sites and sliding into very cold shallow baths immediately after long runs to try and stave off micro-tears and calm hot spots. A visit to the acupuncture lady was sore and my calves seem tighter than ever. I’m also beginning to start to think about fretting over what food I’ll take with me this year, following my overall fuelling disaster at the Speyside Way. Well, I say disaster: I *did* finish but I wouldn’t want to go through anything like that in a few weeks time. Our hotel is booked and I’ll be meeting up with Andy Grumpy runner (a total misnomer as he is ace craik & has the same give-it-a-go attitude as moi) as well as PC Helen, she of West coast photography, amongst other returnees and Fetchies. My 3rd ultra is looming- whoda thunk it?

Despite the on-set of winter weather and the temperatures cruising into the single figures, training levels have been generally good…until this week when work hours reached an all-time high just as weekly mileage crept up towards 35 miles. I’m currently so over-allocated with projects I need to clone myself immediately and start both of us working the night-shift. Spose it’s a good ‘problem’ to have but it’s definitely not sustainable and we all know which is more important. I’m also behind with things like hair-cut, expense claims, car faffage….anyway, running = >>>

On advice from physio at the start of the year when the achilles was more like an a-kill-ease, I’ve been following a 4 – 5 week periodisation; weeks ramp up in mileage and duration and then drop right back before re-starting the ramp up. So far so good but there *have* been bruised feelings over the old injury areas in the last few tempo runs and I need to eek out these legs and feet for just a few more weeks and then through the race-day itself. I’m going easy now 🙂

Some nice snaps from around and abouts, taken with the Whiteberry

A couple of wee stints at marshalling and racering here and there, not all-out and always without GPS. I don’t really want the feedback or pressure to push at the moment, just running at what my legs and lungs will find comfortable/sustainable: Proms 3K = 14:44 (+2 secs from Dec 11), Park-run = 29:12 (Claire’s parkrun PB which she then smashed the following week without me, about 5 mins outside my best), Kinord 10K = 62 mins, OK let’s delve a wee bit into that one……I had sent an event link to my BiL as he wanted to get back into racing after a season off from triathlon. I had just finished a week of travel and catch up, 11 hours in the office every day and home-work at night. Boo! Energy levels were bottoming out off the back of non-existent lunchbreaks topped up with meals out with friends at night. Tuesday -The Colemans, Wednesday – The Stronachs, Thursday – The Nolans plus 2 week old baby. Havoc! The weekend came and I just wanted bed, more bed and feet up. OK, go on then, I’ll do a 10K! I do looooove the fact that I have the Choice to just do a 10K at almost the drop of a hat. In the past I would have needed to train towards this as a main event and I feel grateful for that, it’s easy to forget sometimes and just move straight to the “ooh what time did I get?”, which is why the Garmin has been left at home for races and really only using the MotoACTV as a MP3 and distance recorder on longer runs.

This gathering was crawling with local hill-running talent and I sheepishly rocked up and said Hi to some Cosmics, who all informed me that Tuesday sessions had started again and basically, if I could run today without any pain I should get my lardy butt back to training. Well, they didn’t say lardy. That’s my terminology and I DO feel very tubby right now even though the long runs have been enjoyable. I should go back after the ultra 🙂

The short of it, I found it tough going to 5K (my warm-up involved standing around in a hoody drinking Powerade), with some proper technical down-hill bursts strewn with trip hazards, but I was loving it and working hard in the mid to back-pack. Then a bliddy stone in the left shoe jammed under the arch, so stopped after the marshall and had to houdini my INOV8 which was triple tied and compacted with mud throughout the laces. By the time I started up again I had received a flood of lactic and at least 10 runners had passed 😦 I tried to get steady and overtook one or two but stopped again about a click later to scoof some juice at the water station. Then the single track made passing all but impossible, a few gracious runners who heard my porno breathing stepped aside. I was flying and loving it again by 8K and all too soon I was running towards my niece Anna who’s only 21/2, cuter than cute and I asked her to wait for me and run in at the end. So we did!

Myself, Anna & my sister Iona finish Kinord 10K

A beautiful end to a tough wee race. To be honest I would have liked to have gone on for a few miles once I’d crossed the line, as I felt properly warmed up and that’s the difference between having speed training in you and having the endurance slow running in the bank. I was careful though and didn’t turn an ankle, slip on the bridges (I’d been prior warned by Pauline Cosmic) or hurt anything. Nice one! Very happy and even got a spot prize. Nice event Dinnet folkies! Nice work Cosmics too, Team prize, Rob winning outright and Matt giving a gut busting PB performance on “that” course which was even a tad longer than 10K 😉 Happy daze. So good to see a few faces from the West Coast hill-running scene and a couple of other local runners, the friendliness reminds me why I love running and smaller events are always decent about post race grub (puts the bigger events with extortionate entry fees, to shame). Funds from todays race went towards maintaining the local hall;hopefully the gazillions of cakes and sandwiches my family as a whole managed to put away didn’t deplete the donations too much. And I don’t think that todays run did anything detrimental in the lead up to the ultramarathon.

Apart from all that, I’ve been re-reading Dean Karnazes latest book and laughing my head off, watching the new Dallas and laughing my head off, watching Rylan on X-Factor and laughing my head off, downloading Samantha Ronson/ Conor Maynard/ Of Monsters and men/ Emmylou Harris, sending food back in restaurants, devising a 2013 global strategy for the service line I head up (not laughing my head off) and buying a few bits n pieces, including a new ‘lid’ and super lumen lights for the bike 🙂 Loving my Ben Fogle buff (to be worn at the Glen Ogle geddit?), Marni jellies and Rodial scary sounding Dragons blood face juice. All this outdoor running can take it’s toll!

Recovering and racing between Ultras

It’s been five weeks since the Speyside Way ultra (36.5 miles) and I’ve taken part in two races – the Crathes Castle Half Marathon (3 weeks after) and the Baxters River Ness 10K (5 weeks after), with results you might expect from a few months of back-to-back runs: slow and somewhat painful. DOMS after both events felt like my quads had been severly shortened over-night, so the mutliple daily journeys down the 3 flights of stairs in my townhouse have been time consuming.

But the runs themselves were splendid for many reasons and if nothing else, it was worth it for the unusually decent technical tee-shirts (decent sizing,colours & quality, not covered in sponsors logos) and the catch up with a few buddies.

NTS Crathes Castle Half Marathon

Finish target: 2:11:00. Actual finish time: 2:13:40. A hot day and I set off ‘self-pacing’ with no Garmin and no real pressure other than to finish and see if I came in somewhere around 2 hrs 11(a 10 minute mile). I knew the course to be fairly flat, with some off-road and I had a magic p*ss-about run there last year, involving karaoke guess the song title quizzes, piggy-backs, interviewing charity runners and general cajouling of the back-of-packers, as I buddied someone round the route for their first half marathon in 17 years! I know I can run without the over-analysis of pace feedback but was alas caught out with a desperate charge to a discrete area for emergency proceedings before the first water station! Disappointed that I AGAIN did not seem capable of controlling my body through eating/ drinking food which would not upset me during a run 😦

Baxters River Ness 10K

Time target: sub 55 mins. Actual time: 53.16. Another hot day and I wasn’t “bovvered” about time but hoped to come in comfortably under 55.02, which is what I ran in Southport in February with excrutiating pain, at the start of the injury which was to become The  Achilles Issue – enough that I had to walk at the 8K mark. As my only opportunity to run a 10K before year end, I thought I’d see what I could do and put in a mad mile split at the start and the end. Because I felt I could 🙂 Pleased that I can churn out this time without speed training and that sub-55 is something I can expect of myself nowadays. 10Ks are so weird right now though – the first 2 miles kinda hurt (sorry legs, I hadn’t given you enough running in the last 2 weeks) and I was feeling much better by mile 5 and then of course, it was all over! Inverness was buzzing due to the Marathon and it was weird seeing the count-up miles on Ness walk, where the two courses synched. I felt I should have been running the longer distance this year but I don’t fancy the course much at all. Ambiguous as ever, me!

The new Flying Scotsman?

A BRILLIANT run by Aberdeen’s very own Ben Hukins who literally threw himself over the line in a chariots-of-fire Eric Liddell pose and then collapsed in a valiant heap having finished second in the Loch Ness Marathon in under 2 hrs 30 mins. Amazing to see an athlete able to expend every single last ounce of effort and I believe he was OK a few minutes later (I felt too much like a car-crash oggler to stay around watching him sprawl). An inspirational run and this gent seems to be equally excellent across all distances from 5K to 26.2. Liam-Kerry came in for a triumphant 3rd place and winner of “everything” (practically) in the MV40 cat this year. Go Fetchie! We cleared off earlier than intended as one of the cats has been off-colour but managed to bump into Claire (PB), Esther (PB), Carol (SB), DQ and was delighted to hear that Fi blasted over 20 minutes off last years time with a GFA performance and a new PB with 3 hrs 40! That’ll be my last trip to Inverness for running this year and for a good while to come.

My first cycle (with my new hard-tail)

After months of deliberating between the cycle to work scheme and the fact that I have a bike shaped object in the garage (knackered gears, pink and silver, made from lead, slower than a sloth on pot), I eventually took my pennies and found the most amount of bike for the money. I had help from various MTB-ers and my BiL who is a decent triathlete and they all agreed, this Revolution Triad 1.0 (Edinburgh bike Co-ops own brand) was the mutts nuts. Plus I thought it looked cool and was in fact NOT a girls bike (thank-you Baddiel and Newman) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nCKYEM8qRc

Some bike info:

  • RockShox Solo Air-sprung Tora fork with PopLoc
  • Shimano Alivio 27-spd with Deore front and SLX rear mechs
  • Avid Juicy 3 hydraulic disc brakes
  • 13.79kg / 30.4lb
  • Multi-coloured spokey-dokeys **

** OK….maybe not!

I am very excited to be embracing a complementary outdoor activity to the current runnering exploits, albeit the dark nights are upon us. Leg strengthening and all that. Plus it’s something I can do with hubby. We decided to break the new toy in on a modest blast out the old railway and I had good fun experimenting with seat height and gear combinations (27 gears, would that be right?), especially once I got on the Big Cog and seemed to stretch away from the other half with relative ease. I had to get the buff on as the black flies were out by the time we returned. Unfortunately the light faded and went completely before we got back to the car-park, so a mile was cycled in the complete darkness(!) Yes, I will fit the lights for the next night outing but I was so eager to get out and didn’t think we’d be out for over an hour. So ten miles on the clock (as I discovered literally, when I couldn’t get my Garmin to log my pace on the next run, only to realise that I was still in bike mode). I will try not to go on about the bike too much but I think it will start to feature more and more in my life over the next few months. Please: don’t let me get ensconced with carbon this and ceramic that…it’s so easy to get sucked into a new world and my Wiggle connections are already Gold status through running J Here’s to the next outing. And maintaining focus…..

Riverside trail run

Talking of which, a couple of recent training runs after some particularly bad storms in the local areas, coupled with Noah-esque rainfall. I did get a nice breather on the top path on my local trail run through clearing some hefty tree limbs off the path and rolling them garde-loo style over the barrier and down towards the River. The day was so beautiful, as is often the case after Mother Nature has cleared her throat.

Where the wind blows…….

I came across a delightful little “hidey-hut” complete with tied down branches and a stone seat. How come this survived the storm but the streets were littered with leaves, branches and even huge trees with roots ripped from the Earth? I guess it’s the Chinese proverb of the mighty oak versus the weeping willow: sometimes it’s easier to roll with the punches and be subservient to might, rather than trying to stand-up to the elements. There’s a lesson there http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Oak_and_the_Reed

A wee hidey hut – can you see the seat?

Fall running with a Fell-runner

You would think that if you were going to rise at the arse end of dawn and drive two and a half hours to do a run, that it would be fairly important to remember to bring your running shoes?

Well, no: don’t remember to pack your running shoes (choosing from a wide selection of INOV-8 Roclite’s talons and GTX versions……) and don’t even risk it and turn back once you do remember, for fear of being late. Just resign yourself to wearing your Salomon XA “shoes” which are ½ size too big and are generally reserved for kicking about in because they hurt your feet to run in.

So that was the great start to the day, rising at 6 a.m. eating a bagel with jam and promising to eat more on the way down but not managing to. Journey planning and not using the Google map print outs and then losing faith in your ability to follow road signs, thus using the Satnav (which just confirmed you were right).

However, I arrived in Pitlochry ahead of schedule so I drove around the town and finally parked up and used the loo in the local Co-op. My knee was stupidly stiff from all the gear changing (mad other side of the road driving to avoid road-works and ramps) and I generally just felt a bit radge. I unpacked my rucksack and futered until nearer 10 a.m. and then I texted my running partner to inform her where I was. Was it lucky that I had passed on my car reggy, as she had forgotten her phone and wasn’t it also lucky that she had a spare pair of offroad Salomon S-Labs in my exact size? Indeed!

I met the dogs (3 off) and we drove to a small forest carpark off an estate beside Moulin. A slight splash of rain and a brief tryst with a couple who didn’t like dogs (isn’t it great how pets always know which people hate them and then overcompensate trying to win them over?) and we were off up the burnside path. I soon had to adopt a walk due to well, not being very fit and actually I felt a bit white n weak, information I quickly passed on incase I passed out. This nausea disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and later, I put this down to having not eaten enough before setting off. But it was nice terrain and we chatted when the ascent wasn’t too arduous – thankfully the route was between two hills and not up the local hill Ben Vrackie. Maybe next time!

Ben Vrackie in the background

The moors offered a rocky descent and I really enjoyed the views as well as the chance to do some running (as opposed to bimbling or walking). I usually let my mind wander when I’m out in the country so it was a different experience to be running with someone else and a small dog. The dog had this endearing way of tripod-running by folding a hind-leg up towards the belly and hopping quickly with the remaining foot. As the sheep covered moors faded into farm-land, we took a path onto a country road and headed towards the River Tummel.

The weather stayed dry and the scenery was stunning, everywhere we went there were picture opportunities but I tried to commit most to memory and minimised the use of the phone camera! [Yep, these pics really are taken with my whiteberry].The road running was slightly jarring in the off-road shoes but it was a treat to get a “free trial” of broken in trail shoes and I have apparently been wearing the wrong size. these fitted perfectly and my feet only really hurt near the end of the run, when we returned to Pitlochry via the A947 pavements. The next part of the route was on woodland trail which skirted the river and dipped and fell alongside some beautiful water features. This was the time I felt the best during the run and managed to open up a few times, although I was tracking the run via the Motorola MotoACTV on a clip and had stuffed it into my waistpack, so had no idea of pace or distance at that point. We veered in to view a local spot where legend had it that Rob Roy leapt to escape pursuers; but on trying to google it for more info, I couldn’t find anything on tinternet, so it presumably can’t be that well known a legend! Hmmm maybe it wasn’t Rob Roy……

It was during this final stage of the trail run, on undulating ground, that I realised I was running low on water and was feeling tired and hungry. Whilst viewing a local bungee jump point I unfortunately let my own feet get caught up with some gnarly tree-trunks and I took a flyer (without a bungee). Landing on my knee and hand, I ungracefully rolled sidewards but got up with only an “Oof” to draw attention to my plight. I guess falling is all part of running and my run-partner waited unperturbed whilst I recomposed myself for the return leg into Pitlochry. Some more chat about whether training with less water might break me of my “comfort blanket” (I tend to carry water with me for anything over a 10K and anytime I haven’t I’ve always felt my performance was impaired……)

The conversation went back and forth, with me gleaning lots of tips and interesting factoids, no more so than that the sheer nature of hill and fell-running can mean that those athletes who undertake the challenge and travel far and wide, can be somewhat solitary by nature. And private. I think that this aspect of the hills and running there, is what appeals to me (because it certainly isn’t the talent I have for covering the terrain with speed or dexterity). You can’t hide from the land, the elements, the effort required to pass over the Earth and you don’t need to be anything other than what or who you are. Because the hills don’t really care! There aren’t many things you can say that of, in life and living in society can require a certain pantomime. The one characteristic which I really wasn’t prepared for was the lack of an ego, something which is normally associated with talent and achievement. I don’t think I have ever met someone with so little concern for anything other than doing the best that can be done and avoiding the hamster-wheel of commodity living. Probably the most admirable trait I’ve seen in anyone because I know it’s one I’ll never achieve. Even this blog is a token of crass look-at-me-ism and for that I do apologise. However, as the day progressed, I did take heed of the fact that I have still been running a relatively short period of time and that trail running is not easy! I know I am often too judgemental of myself and frustrated, nae, embarassed by my lack of prowess. Running is very enjoyable regardless of ability and I assume that is why a world-class fell and sky-runner was willing to give up a day of her life to (a) a charity auction resulting in (b) a bimble about with a sloth-paced stranger 🙂 Afterwards we reached Pitlochry (running between the tourists, in front of whiskey shops, tartan shops, tea-rooms), we drove back to the car-park, changed and picked up the other car and the dogs who had remained behind. We found a small teashop (which wasn’t jam-packed with retired tourists) and I asked them for “something chocolate” and was presented with my full order: “lashings” of tea, orange juice, water and a huge slice of chocolate crispy! It was much needed and sustained me until the real meal of the day: chicken pie at the Lairhillock Restaurant. We parted after a quick hello to the dogs (I soooo want a furry running partner), who were going to get a walk up Ben Vrackie that afternoon and me? I headed home via a lovely detour, which saw me breathing in as I drove passed an articulated lorry on a single track road, with me on balanced on the sloped side(!). Memories in place, managed to not be too Fan-Girl (I hope) and a resolve to chill out a little bit about what should or shouldn’t be happening in my So Called Running. I’ve a lot to be grateful for and days like today make the crappy ones fade. Happy and looking for pins to deflate my own sense of self-importance 😉

Next long run will be Bennachie range Gordon Trail, back via Oxen Craig. Hills but on my own and in my own shoes.

Ultra running and the girl from Buckie

Long ago through the mists of time, Nywanda moved to a Morrissey town on the North East coast of Banff-Shire, from her childhood home (on the East coast of Ross-Shire).

As the eldest child of a single parent family and having previously attended an Academy and therefore sporting a “posh” accent, notwithstanding the complete inability to comprehend the local Buchan dialect, it’s safe to say that the years spent as a teen in this town, were not the happiest.

Question: did anyone actually ‘like’ their teenage years? Well, well done you if you did!

To be blunt, I frikkin HATED the place and my time there. Of course it’s not really the place or the people or any one thing but a set of circumstances which collided and caused several pivitol critical path events to occur. To say I survived is probably true; but I got out just in time and by that I mean, things might have been very different if I’d stuck around. And not in a good way.

The reason I write this for posterity in the main blog is to contextualise my recent entry and completion of the Spey-side way ultra which culminates in a couple of miles coastal run, passed my childhood home in Harbour Head Buckpool and into the town of Buckie. The registration and post-race catering were also held in Buckie Community High School; somewhere I had not set foot in since summer of 1992……to be honest, I ran this race not just for the achievement of completing a darn long run but also so I could return to Buckie under a positive guise and (hopefully)in a triumphant manner. I had visualised running up that hill towards the line for months and months, over and over. So, as a cathartic means of putting some long lurking demons to bed it was quite suprising that I didn’t really realise that’s why I was doing it until about mile 14 on race-day!

As I plugged in my ipod at Check-point 1 and settled into a maintenance paced jog up the tarmac roads towards Ben Aigan hill, the ghosts of a past which I have tried so very hard to NOT let define me, came to a fore. As I walked and jogged and eventually eased into the down-hill Ben Aigen section of the Speyside Way, I found myself overcome with memories and actual sobs sounded out and tears came. I suppose if anyone had seen me, they might have thought I was just struggling with the distance. In truth, I was venting a lot of history and dead-weight I’d been carrying around in very heavy bags labelled “guilt” and “regret”.

This happened one further time as I started down towards the Boat O Brig spur- an involuntary sob and a few stray tears. By the time I was in sight of the marshall (whom I just wanted to hug and hug, such was my lifted mood) I was feeling so happy. Just so very very content. I stopped and had a quick chat with him and he said I was looking well. Of course I did! I’d somehow just disintegrated a large chunk of ill-feeling which had been burbling away in the background for more than 20 years!

After this, I was more or less completely free to enjoy the race, suffer the sore belly and all the other experiences which come with ultra-running. But it was such a strange feeling. My teenage life seemed to have lifted, almost like I’d forgiven myself and separated that person from the person I am now. I know people say we are the sum of our experiences and I’d really tried to see my Buckie-youth positively, but it can be really difficult and I’d never fully managed to move on.

A few hours later, I neared the finish with a loiter on the pavement by my old house in Buckpool. I could see into (what was) the kitchen and there were people sitting there; the light from the window of what would have been my old bedroom, outlined the dark bodies of the people: obviously they’d knocked through and made one big room.

A boarded up Harbour Head-thankfully lived in again in 2012

I’m glad the house is still there and that it’s been changed. As said, it’s not the house or the people or the place and it’s not even my experiences and what went on IN that house, back in my teenage years. It’s my own willingness to forgive and forget. I looked in that house and suprisingly and honestly felt nothing. I took one last look and then got my head down for the mile or so to the end of the Speyside way and the completion of the ultramarathon. My smile at the finish stood for so many things. I was very happy I’d completed a 36.5 mile ultramarathon but also, I felt consciously free-er than I have done in a very long time. The days afterwards were spent in a kind of slow motion relaxed “daze”. I thought I was tired and felt less alert because of the exertion but as the days go by, I am more inclined to think that this is what “less stressed” is. I think I have come to accept the fact that this is what my life feels like without those heavy bags from the past. It’s amazing what 36.5 miles of self-absorption therapy can do.

PS “Actual” race blog to follow 🙂

Half Marathon Nemesis – Nairn

On Friday we headed North via Fochabers Chip shop, [forget the deep fried mars bar handle, they have thee best chips] for a tough-of-the-track style pie supper and checked into our favourite rest place in Inverness, the Glen Druidh Hotel http://www.cozzee-nessie-bed.co.uk/ which is amok with wildlife. I had a relatively early night and slept well after quaffing litres of electrolyte drink in preparation for a scorching race-day heatwave. Indeed we woke through the night and had to open more windows. The hazey har that greeted us in the morning confirmed the weather forecast, so I ditched the red and black outfit in favour of, yep, my “usual” halgofs intense cream vest and skins/Nike baggy shorts combo, same stuff I wore at the Benbecula half marathon.

Adrenalin was making my hands a bit shaky at breakfast; it dawned on me that I would be re-running my first half marathon again. Nairn in 2010 was my first ever 13 mile run, having only completed 12 miles the previous week and it wasn’t pleasant. I nearly got overtaken by a pipeband on the final straight and the high winds and undulating course made it a really naff experience. I have of course run hillier, windier and faster half marathon times since, but Nairn represented a special demon for me and I wanted to anihilate it today.

Pre-race I kept up the fluids and soaked up the heat and atmosphere of the MacCallan sponsored Highland Games. I also bumped into Marion’s husband Iain (bib 94), a very accomplished club runner who works in the same office as I do. Here we are at the start and I’m alleviating pre-race nerves with a bit of banter. Without warning we were off!

I can never ‘just’ smile

Iain went passed me as we left the grass loop and I tried to settle into a sensible pace, carrying a full carb drink, 3 gels and a neurofen, just encase. I opted to leave the ipod behind as it was just too hot to contemplate wearing anything extra. Moving

through the first few miles I noticed David, a local Fetch Everyone forumite and we ran together whilst catching up and comparing injuries. I was a little ahead of myself at this point as we got up the hill and into the 3rd mile in 26.20. David moved off at the water station whereas I slowed, took gel and 3 cups of water. I was really sweating by this point and experiencing that lovely stinging sensation underneath my sunspecs as the sweat poured down my face. I decided I would try and keep David in my sights but my pace was feeling uncomfortable and I took the pragmatic approach to keep an even effort and conserve energy until within striking distance of water stations.

I re-caught David for a little bit and told him he was looking comfortable and he really was. Then we hit a hump-back bridge. A complete Saint had put out a walk-through makeshift hose shower and I gratefully loitered through that as the second water station allowed me another 3 cups of water. I walked through mile 6 in 52.40. Next came a cooler flattish section through the woods where we managed to pass a few folk. The run out to the turnpoint and back was blisteringly hot and I was wilting and not experiencing that homeward bound feeling that I get once I know I’ve completed more than 50% of the race. I had nearly finished my carb drink too (this usually lasts me the whole half distance).

Hats off the to the gent at the next water station who grappled around for a bottle of water for me. I probably seemed ungrateful as I mumbled about needing it to take my gel and neurofen with. SORRY! As we headed out into the wind, which didn’t cool much and just held us back, I noticed the pace really dropping off so I stopped looking at the Garmin and just got my head down. I took the meltlet as my left toes were feeling a bit bruised. But the effort was steady and gradually, eventually, runner’s started being passed by David and then about 50 yards behind, by me. There were some really scary looking weavers and as I saw the ambulance driving towards us, I knew someone somewhere was seriously struggling! I exchanged a few words with runners as I passed them; most said they were ‘done’ or ‘spent’. Even club runners were walking and we all seemed to be on the maintenance shuffle.

“In the heat, you race for place and not for time” and whoever said that (or similar) must surely have had today’s race in mind!

Luckily I had grabbed another water bottle and used someones discarded bottle to soak myself with and was honestly, as well hydrated as I could have been – over 3 Litres of water drunk and no need to use the loo. As we came into the town I met with David once again and we decided that a 10 minute mile was alright, considering 😉 We started passing a few folk and asked them to stay with us, in an end of tough race cameraderie. We were both in relatively good shape, notably because D was well under his normal RP and I had been making-like-a-camel and waterboarding for the entire race. I was certainly in much better condition than when I last ran this part of thr course!! Before long we were on the final prom home and swatting wayward kids out of the way and shouting ahead “excuse me”. Loads of well done’s from finished runners and I got a little burn on, pun intended, targetting a lady who was struggling up ahead. Sorry lady but thanks for keeping me going.

As I heaved into the playing field I was hopeful that no one would re-pass me and they didn’t. I followed the yellow line around the outside of the track, swerved the picniccers sitting inside it and was so thankful to hear my name called out of over the tannoy. I clicked the Garmin off at 2:04:53.

That time might not be much to write home about but after speaking to Maureen, one of the other veteran prize winners from the Heb 3 series, she said she was faster on those far hillier courses than she was today. Well done lady- she picked up another prize despite the weather and relative slow time. A couple of other runners said they were 8-10 minutes off recent half times, so all in all, I’m pleased with todays performance. I did manage to Hang Tough, felt OK at the end and I’m pleased I put the Nairn Demons to rest. I enjoyed catching up with Iain (1:48), David (just a few seconds behind me) and a couple of other local and Heb 3 runners after the race and drank down another Litre of fluid and scoffed crisps and mars bar. I also managed to see a few of the local attractions, like the pipe bands.

And so, I can safely say that the Nairn Half is no longer my running nemesis. I was a bit disappointed back in 2010 not to have got a medal for finishing my first half but this year, a medal and a cool orange buff courtesy of the local running club were in the goody bag. Thanks Nairn. I got a nice, albeit patchy sun-tan too 😉 Now, where can I find a flattish, drizzly half marathon??

Finally! A Nairn Half Medal and roadrunners buff

http://www.nairnroadrunners.co.uk/14401/index.html

Official result 121/184 runners, in 2 hrs 4 mins and 58 seconds

Nairn Half Marathon – 7 days to go

Day 7

Sunday – My last training session before attempting to run the Nairn Half Marathon. Nairn has long stood as a running nemesis; my first half marathon and I finished in last place (2 hrs 42 mins) and had a thoroughly miserable time back in 2010. I had hoped to revisit it at some stage and although not ideally placed in this years calendar, I decided to “go for it” and wipe the previous experience 100% into the annals of history. So after discussing possible sites for the session with Marion, I headed out to our agreed location- the disused railway. As I embarked on the  longish tempo run with a race pace and sub race pace section, I was advised that the Dyce Half Marathon was being run and there will still runners on the line. I had totally forgotten it was on as it was held in July last year. I kinda had a crappy run at it too after a night of upset stomach and guts and then developing a lush set of blood blisters during the run (2 hrs 6 mins). So I set off for 4 miles out at ~9.30 m/m and made sure I said well done to the tail-end runners. It was truly warm in the wooded areas, with a nice refreshing breeze passed Kennedy’s yard. I got to my turn point having finished ¾ of my juice, took a gel and then set- off for my RP-5% section. Twenty minutes flew passed and I was ahead of pace and felt tired but good. I jogged for about 30 seconds and finished the rest of the Gatorade then set off for twenty minutes at RP. Of course, it felt relatively sustainable coming after the faster section and save for a fairly smelly dead bunny on the track and the humidity, I had a cracking run. A real confidence booster! I treated myself to a hot bath that night, after a super cold leg shower.

Day 6

Monday –I was originally planning to attend British Military Fitness class but had the chance to try my hand at badminton, with folk from work. I booked a court at the Woodbank facility (£4 for an hour- a bargain) but found that the work had decided to go somewhere else. Last minute, my brother stepped in and we arranged to have a knock about to work up a sweat. I dug my old warped Carlton racket out and wished I hadn’t as the handle badly needs re-strapped and the suede coloured my hand a bright blue. Also it meant I had to try and scab a lift or get public transport and I ended up ehading out to catch the No. 19. The local bus company had decided to switch around bus-stops and services, so as I waited at the designated place I saw the bus I wanted drive right passed and the driver shaking his head as I tried to flag it. To avoid lateness I started running (in my work gear, two bags and racket) and managed to overtake the bus at the traffic lights. Since none of the new stops had been marked up with the bus numbers, I was slightly confuddled about where to get on and (stupidly) decided I’d just run back up the bus lane towards the oncoming number 19! It stopped (randomly at the No 1 stop), I got on and dished a plate of sarcasm to the driver with a side order of red faced sweat. Once aboard, I did enjoy catching up with a colleague from yore, so was pretty happy again once I reached the sports centre. My badminton game was gash but I did get a good sweat on and was even getting a few well placed shuttles passed my bro, who is a bit of a competitive beast at badders and tends to slam shots to the deck every chance he gets. There weren’t many rallys! I enjoyed it though and requirement for new racket aside, I think I’ll revisit badminton again.

Injury sites: I was a bit worried about my right foot as I was slamming it down quite forcefully on the forehand and overhead shots. A quick jump on the powerplate and the vibration did highlight that left calf and right plantar were indeed “sore”. Soreness on known problems sites….that’s OK. I can deal with that.

Day 5

Tuesday – BMF on a very soggy park due to the thunder, lightening and torrential rain from the night before. I again forgot to choose my INOV-8s, which would make a lot more sense as we spend 95% of our time running on and getting down and up from muddy grass! I jogged down from work to my brothers flat and we drove to the park because he said he had the CBAs. Once there, a new instructor offered a very different workout and I struggled with quite a few elements including being the second last pairing to be sent off on a circuit therefore having to hold a full plank for what seemed like hours! My usual hold points – shocking press-ups, complete inability to support myself as the front of a wheelbarrow, inability to crouch n run up a hill in the monkey, bear or crab positions. Very frustrating as I have made no progress on these elements since I started BMF at end of May. However my wall squats and step ups were good (although I got told off for taking a walking run-up to stepping onto the concrete blocks. Oops). I’m starting to recognize a few faces now so it’s a bit more friendly. I doubt that the girl who was paired me for the hill reps will be in a hurry to pair with me again, sorry Lady, I was trying, honest!

Injury sites: Plantar was sore and my back was also very knotted, with bingo-wings (triceps) and rib area and hips sore. Presumably I did some proper muscle depletion during BMF. Hope it builds back up before Saturday.

Day 4

Wednesday – my usual long slow run in the morning was cancelled by the other party, which was a blessing really. I had a long lie til 10am! Bliss! So no 8 mile jog/walk and this is good because I find I do get sore after a slower cadence run. When I say sore, I mean just an uncomfortable bruised feeling which doesn’t last long but is there all the same. Instead I decided to do some of the lesser known fitness art-form I like to call “dancing to cheesey pop in your own living-room” as a warm-up to a pilates DVD, courtesy of Darcy Bussell. After 30 mins I changed my mind again and gave the local beauty place a call and booked a back, shoulder and neck massage. Thanks Abz-olute beauty. Whilst out, the postman with the inconsistent delivery time decided to try and deliver my Velcro Garmin Strap. How naff! Now I have to try and collect before Friday evening. The rest of the afternoon I did that undesirable but necessary exercise known as housework. I also rustled up an apple crumble and spicy tomato sauce for hubby’s dinner, as I was going out to Wagamama with a martial arts practitioner. Very nice it was too. I wore some high-heeled Fornarina boots, so as a precaution I strapped my right foot with micro porous tape around the arch and went to bed with it on. Felt fine in the morning.

Day 3

Thursday – Acupuncture day! I got an unfortunate text on Tuesday to say that Dr Shu –  the lady who has been treating me with acupuncture for my calf and Achilles strain – had broken her leg whilst running off a hill and wanted to cancel my appointment! Nooooo! I wished her well and asked her for a referral as I had the Half Marathon coming up. Thankfully, she said she would keep the appointment although it might take her longer than an hour as she’d have to take it slowly. I was SO relieved.

Not my actual foot

The acupuncture session are now forming part of my strategy for avoiding overstrain and I am relying particularly on this session to make sure that any niggles or tightness I have picked up are ironed out before trying to run. I feel good going into the session and will ask her to pin the right Achilles and plantar fascia as well as the usual glute and calf areas. Chinese medicine actually rocks and all cynicism I had about it has completely dissipated since I underwent treatment in May with immediate and effective results.

Day 2

More resting, an unfortunate dodgy stomach as well as a super-tight left calf. Acupuncture was sore around the right plantar fascia and the rigorous massage lead to what felt like a calf strain which I was assured would be better the next day, so as precaution I put the Natures Kiss cream on it and applied the compresssports calf guards! However, the next day it was right as rain. The dodgy tummy was a worry though however I applied the dairy free choc milk and kept to bland foods through the day and packed ready for the journey to Inverness. What to wear? Red/black or turquoise and white?

Race Day – well, we’ll see what eventuates. The weather forecast is now for 20% chance of rain but 21 degC!!! and windy, so not ideal on the circular route along the coast. However I am looking forward to catching up with some family and a few friends who will be running or coming along to support. Now remember, when you see my red face coming into the playing fields- shout LOUD but don’t look too closely.