Harris Half Marathon – archive 2012

The last outing in the Heb 3 series was the Half Marathon, Tarbert, Isle of Harris. Find out more about the Heb 3 from the Stornoway Running Club website. In 2011, I completed Benbecula, Skye and Harris and got this lovely scoop for my efforts. DSC_0147The main issue (apart from hills, wind, 13.1 miles….) is that the travel requires some pre-organising and commitment, especially the wee country roads drive across to and through Skye, which we did  a couple of times for these and the Uist Hill Races. Plenty ferry’s from Uig to Tarbert, Harris and to Lochmaddy, North Uist for the commute across causeways to Benbecula and there’s transport laid on to take you to and from the races, although camping and B&Bs/hotels are viable options (look out for runner’s discounted rooms/meals).

Sadly in 2012, I only made the Benbecula and Harris races due to injury and road blockages on the morning of the Skye half. But 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, apparently.

Did I mention that the Outer Hebrides are thee most beautiful places in the world 😉 There’s no home-land bias here, I’m an ‘Eastie Beastie’ myself being from Easter Ross, but wow! I waiver between telling anyone who’ll listen about the islands to keeping complete schtum for fear of over-crowding. The scenery can be tear-evoking and certainly removes some of the sting from the wind, the rain, the gradients……..

This particular half marathon is a hilly route with high chance of a head-wind and no shelter what-so-ever.

DSC_06412012 was no exception – about 100 of us were bussed out passed Skeabost and I was lucky enough to be distracted from my travel-sickness through chatting to a gent about this years Cape Wrath Challenge (thanks Mr). We huddled at the start and eased into an uphill struggle against the wind. Not just any wind, a Galeforce 7 which would see many of the hills unrunnable as we struggled to make our trainers meet the ground before they were whipped away.

My running style, such as it is, became bent over as I leaned into the wind to balance myself. This was actually a neat trick until my back started to complain about the S-shape curve it was holding in the very open sections.

I’ll admit, I echoed a mad-man’s cackle at the sheer stupidity of trying to make haste against the elements. I pushed and pushed, sometimes with very little forward momentum and the overall effort was literally unsurpassed in any previous race. I literally had nothing left at the end and had to just let gravity take me for the steep descent into the ferry terminal.DSC_0834

This was all further compounded by the fact that I’d beaten last years time(!) AND everyone else was about 10 minutes off their normal time (which means this was likely a best performance for me). I hated parts of it (because I was under-trained and it was hard) but I also loved the route’s scenery, the camaraderie that you get during the Hebridean series; like a really exclusive gang, respectful of each other regardless of ability, conjoined in our love for the islands and individually touched by how special the Outer Hebrides are. I’d consider everyone a friend when you’re out there and you don’t compete per se, you encourage and commiserate and you get invited for a ceilidh, porridge and offered a nights kip from people you have literally known for 2 hours during a race. Hell yeah! Don’t mention the drinking at the Hebridean Hotel which continues all the way back on the late night ferry!

Then there’s the ever present Jim Bruce from SRAC, notable by his grey pony-tail (see below gallery) and the super sub-set of exclusive Heb 5 individuals, who have completed all 5 races in one year- Barra, Benbecula, Stornoway, Skye and Harris (not necessarily in that order!) and get a special gaelic mention on their series tee-shirt “rinn mise na coig” meaning, I did the five. There are other island halfs if you can’t get to these ones which take place May through July; Isle of Coll, Mull, Berneray to Lochmaddy “two islands” half and there are rumours of an Isle of Lewis Marathon coming soon 🙂

Take it from someone who has made the pilgrimage for two consecutive years- it’s worth it and you won’t regret anything about the experience, so bring your best camera and prepare to eat a lot of cake and sandwiches.

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Christmas week training

So week 2 flew in, as the mayhem of DIY and no working shower at home, melded into the zone of Living Primarilly on Chocolate. Bang goes my easy-diet theory and there appears to be a lot more vegetarian junk food available this year. At least it meant I visited the gym a bit more, to deal with my ever-cumbersome long hair (the over the bath shower head just doeasn’t cut it). The_FabsSeriously, I should just go short. I know I suit it and it would make more sense in the grand scheme of things…….but with an average of 79% humidity(!) I could end up with a Beatles haircut circa 1960s. Men don’t appreciate the nuances of hair maintenance and just how much extra time this could add on to my daily get-ready-for-work routine.

However, the training seems to have gone well. Attempting to run “only” 7 miles in week one was futile and after 8.5 miles (broken up with a cuppa at the gym, with Hamster) at 10.20 min/mile, I realised I would have to concentrate to achieve the required distance at a slow enough pace. Week 2 was slightly worse: 9 miles almost exactly but at 10.05 pace. Although this might not seem particularly speedy, my vdot calcs give me a LSR of 10:40-11.05. However, if I don’t pace-watch, my comfortable pace appears to be 9.45. Go figure. Will I lose out on the benefits of fat-burning if I run too fast or is it just that I’ll be knackered and not able to give my other sessions a decent bash? Time will tell and we’ll see what 11 miles in week three, will bring. I may have an option to have Hamster shouting me back, although as a much speedier runner than I, the slow pace might cause him slow-form injury e.g. if you force yourself to run slower than your own easy pace, you can sometimes cause an injury by a change in form and I’ve often suffered sore toes when forcing a very slow run and haven’t found it particularly easy to change to smaller shorter strides (because I just speed up…). Gah, etc.

The Intervals have thus far proved very manageable. In week 1 my heart-rate went through the roof at 174 BPM after the last 2 (of 6). However this week, my HR levelled at 164 BPM max for the last 3 of 8. I forgot my ipod, which is usually a good companion on the treadmill, but found I was totally “zoned” by the 5th rep! Eager to see what 10 x 400m will bring.

John using the auto-tracker viewing Jupiter near Monymusk

John using the auto-tracker viewing Jupiter near Monymusk

I filed this session under “going great guns” especially having sat eating chocolate round my Aunty Deirdre’s the previous day; enjoying the company so much but took the opportunity to look through Uncle John’s telescope and saw 4 of Jupiters moons, plus 2 distinct planet bands and some incredible detailed moon craters! Astronomy is the new Sega (possibly). But I digress >>>

So, as we near the end of the month, with my two weeks of structured training, my expenditure looks like this:-

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I would hope to increase the bike and swim time and next months donut will probably show intervals versus long runs versus easy run commutes.

Week 2 also saw me show up for my first volunteering stint at park-run. I’d been getting a tad hacked off with emailing the RDs and finding there were no slots left on the weeks I could manage because I had been “too late” to volunteer. It now seems there is a problem with my yahoo e-mail which kicks back an undeliverable from the park-run address. Weird as it’s the same Nywanda address I use for all my on-line ordering and that seems to work fine. I still haven’t done registration, so I’ve put my hat in for that in a few weeks time and then I will have done every position, including race director. Puts me in good stead for maybe cajoling interest in a Bandar Seri Brunei PR event 😉 I will have to do RD and back-up timer duties again though, to make sure I know how to load the software etc as Hamster did it for me last time :-OP100007hamster b

Talking of park-run: FiWright gets her “50” teeshirt this Saturday and I hope to attend my 4th PR location (others so far are Glasgow Strathclyde and Belfast Victoria) by running Ediniburgh next weekend to see her receive this recognition and also run at Aberdeen this Tuesday for the NYD event. No PB attempt for me but it’ll be nice to see where I’m at on an eighty% effort (wind & rain dependant). Park run is so good for gauging progress and I haven’t run it since August(!!) when I got a long overdue sub 25 min 5K (and yeah, I know, I really should be loads under that, yet I just can’t find the motivation to get into the hurt-zone). www.parkrun.org.uk

P.S. Still no sign of the Salomon back-pack or purple Nike Lunarglide+ 4s I ordered direct from the manufacturer 😦

Interim running and a squibbly lens

This weekends run took in some nice wee hills round the local hill range known as Bennachie, where I did a New Years’ run almost 3 years ago, to celebrate being sober at Hogmanay for the first time since my early teens 😉

Ah, sobriety ties nicely with running and training; so what if I have to be on-the-wagon for Hoggers. It’s nice to be able to remember everything and then drive home at the end of the night. I’m not sure where this year’s Xmas and New Years day routes will take me: last year I made my way round a country road which normally would be too treacherous with 60 mph traffic. It was great being out there, practically on my own. New Years day I went to the local park and saw a purple-legged runner in shorts, despite the snow. Happy times.

My ‘point and press’ approach to photography has been getting me down a bit; the camera on the phone is good but not responsive enough and I’ve missed mony a scrumptious sunset or cloud pattern fiddling about (accidentally) with autotag. So I am hoping I will find a small but decent /proper camera in my Xmas stocking this year (although the official line is not to buy anything or if you have to, buy something consumable, so we have less to pack and move. I am looking forward to back-to-back bubble baths, eating chocolate and drinking tea in order to use up this prophetic bounty).

I’ve also been doing some town running and capturing things from around the city which I thought were interesting and which the ordinary man might not look at twice. A lot more journeys a la pied due to being a one car family at the moment, so when OH is in the office and I’m not, I have taken to packing a bum-bag and just getting on with my business. It sure beats traffic queues and parking issues both figuratively and sometimes literally. I even interviewed a potential employee in my running gear!

As Xmas approaches, so too does the decision on whether to start a training regime knowing that I will likely be living in another country by the end of it. I have an entry for the Brass Monkey half, which will more likely be a Fetch-fest social than an actual realistic attempt at a PB. I also have an entry for Lochaber marathon which Ms Jupp kinda made me enter on the premise that I could jog round and eat sarnies at the back with her. However, we’ll likely be gone by March so that is another (insert entry fee) which I won’t see again but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do some training. Well, so long as the achilles doesn’t get any more painful, I might well start a 16 week programme and try and get my weight down a bit. This is the best time of year for me because I don’t eat turkey dinners and I don’t like a lot of stuff like Xmas pudding or mince pies 😉

A couple of new additions to the Nywanda catalogue of sports goods (yes, yes, I really should get round to proper reviews, I know, I know…..). The X-bionic range continues to be a favourite; not exactly flattering unless you’ve got washboard abs but you actually notice the difference in temperature regulation which is brilliant for someone like me who is prone to over-heating but then cooling rapidly as soon as I stop. I am loving the padded shoulder area of the Trekking top and I get a really decent fit from the men’s small.

With new seasonal colours and an ever-expanding and (to me) at times confusing range of INOV-8s, I’ve actually sniffed out a bargain replacement pair of Roclites for £25 which are the exact same model I first bought in complete ignorance of the brand in 2009, but which worked out brilliantly – see Teal 282s above.inov8shoe2 I say confusing for the barefoot/ road range with the transitional 4-0 arrows but then some of the F-lites are 2 arrows but the road shoes are called barefoot and some are transitional and I’m not even aspiring to become a forefoot striker (implode), ah, frak it, I went for the Purple Ones 😉

The 2013 edition of the Salomon S-Lab 12 set is out and they’ve slashed 40g from the weight AND added new features. All of which means the “bog standard” 12 is now discounted and voila, Trekinn will soon be furnishing me with an upgrade from the XA20 which has done me proud on longer runs, but which is becoming a bit tattered around the zip. I am very excited about this but will not be “breaking it out” until I have relocated. Something to look forward to. In the meantime, I am chucking out and rehoming any/all winter running gear and excess rucksacks. How many fleeces does one girl need? 🙂

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Beyond 26.2 – a 3rd attempt at ultras

This is my 5th marathon, counting ultras and I can tell you one thing – I seem to ALWAYS acquire a cold of some description in the week prior to the event!

I assume it’s a function of increasing mileage and then tapering – the latter allowing your body to start recovering but also being susceptible to the coughs n sneezes of others.

This time I’ve been really going for the prevention method – avoiding snotty children (sorry family!), washing hands more, taking echinacea and high dose Vit C, sleeping more when I can…..still, with a week to go my throat got scratchy and now I can’t reach the top notes of Boston’s More than A Feeling- a sure fire sign that my vocal chords, lungs and throat are at less than their best. Still if it doesn’t go into my chest I will be waking early, in four sleeps time, to start my quest to complete the Glen Ogle Ultramarathon #2. But it’s not a repeat of last year!

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Last year there were two tiny tarsals of contention; the 33 mile route was going to be shorter than advertised and, during the event, some perceived ambiguous directions lead to some people doing a shorter route and some doubling back once realising the mistake and ending up doing more. Me? I did the ‘correct route’ after dithering at the arrow until the next set of runners came along and we decided by majority which way to go (and we cheated and asked a local dog-walker) but all this arose from each of us having given our route maps away NOTE: carry map at all times. I ended up with roughly 31.5 miles on the clock with just under 6 hours of running time and about 30 mins of check-pointing.

This year we are assured the distance will be nearer 33 but in re-aligning the route, it seems the organisers have thrown in another hill, just for good measure! So unfortunately, the performances for the same race year on year will not be comparable. I quite like a year on year comparison; weather aside, it’s nice to see yourself as the main variable and in that way, progress can be gauged. Got a feeling this year will be a tad tougher.

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However, this race will be very different from last years for all sorts of reasons…..at one stage I did want to consider it as a race but after the Speyside Way, I’m going to be very pleased to finish with no use of pain killers, no dodgy tummy and a successful eating/ fuelling strategy! Those are my success criteria. I won’t leave the GPS at home BUT I won’t be eye-balling it. (Plus I’ve only just found out how to extend the battery life so it might actually last the whole route this year!)

I’ve also just received a new ipod Nano – 8Gb beauty in exchange for my very old and recalled model a 2Gb Nano 2005 model (apparently it did some electrical melting act on lots of people over in Japan so Apple re-called and offered refurbs/ exchanges….) my poor unit had obviously succumbed to too many rainy runs stuffed inside a non waterproof pocket. Either that or too many Dire Straits tunes! I received a complete replacement. BONUS! I’ll be loading up some ear-buzz for when the going gets tough.

I had a wee shot at making some flapjacks, just so I know exactly what went into them. They were “alright” but not so more-ish that they would tempt me through a period of running induced nausea. I may have to resort to the peanut butter drink again.

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I’ve had an acupuncture session already this week and the right plantar and achilles are questionable read: painful under manipulation. But I have worked out a very nice flat footed strategy which got me through SSW OK. One more session on Thursday night and then it’s all digits crossed and a strong mental resolve to complete the journey in the least painful way possible.

The Glen Ogle will be my last event of the year and sadly, maybe my last UK event for quite some time 😦 I have some tentative bookings for next year but given that I might have to cough for a 5 time-zone flight to get to them, in all likelihood, they might not happen.

But there will be “other” events to consider.

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Until then, I’ll be looking forward to some freezing cold Scottish country-side running and to re-enact www.GO33ultra.com in much the same way as this:-

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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?

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 🙂

Ultramarathon drop-bag palaver

FIRSTLY: Wow, big shock that right-to-die activist and victim of stroke induced locked-in syndrome, Tony Nicklinson has passed away just days after losing his high court appeal, to end his own life. Whether you agree with the decision or his rights, it is indisputable that Tony’s situation was an awful circumstance. His case (amongst others) has certainly spurned me on to raise more funds for BASIC www.basiccharity.org.uk and I thank all my sponsors to date.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/22/tony-nicklinson-dies-right-to-die?newsfeed=true

So, trepidation concerning completing the Speyside Way ultrmarathon this weekend, has been replaced with utmost resolve to cover the ground any way I can and to the very best of my abilities. I’ve gone through pre-race planning that would scare even the most detail driven project manager and have arrived at this conclusion –>> it’s all about the drop-bags!

Start HANDHELD 1, electrolyte tab, 3 gels, refill at 5 miles
CP1 RUCKSACK (put empty HH1 inside), flat coke, popcorn bar, choc milk, CLIF bar, mobile phone, 3 gels, banana, IBU
CP2 leave RUCKSACK, change shoes/socks, HANDHELD 2, eat sarnie, gels into vest, small pocket into vest pocket
Fochabers leave HANDHELD 2 with hubby, fill HH1 with carb drink
Spey Bay Drink sweet tea, HH2 filled with coconut water, 3 gels
Finish Eat whatever I can manage

And the fuelling of course!

For the above to happen I need to set my Salomon rucksack up as my Checkpoint 1 (CP1) drop-bag and have a largish drop-bag for CP2 since my rucksack and changed out of shoes, need to go back in it.

This is my first foray into carrying less and using Ultraspire hand-helds; I usually have a rucksack filled with a kit list and water reserve that would fear you! This time I will be leaving out: full waterproofs, OS map, first aid kit, toilet-roll, food for me plus 4 virtual friends and will instead be replacing it with, a paclite jacket in both drop bags, scaled down 1st aid kit of ‘just’ ibuprofen, micropore tape, spare shoelace, safety pins and paracetemol. As for TP, I’ll take ‘some’ but as there are six public toilets en route I’m hoping I can manage to stifle the call of nature, to coincide with proper facilities. Time will tell if this approach pays off. The weather forecast is for intermittent showers but so long as my feet stay dry, I’ll be relatively happy 🙂

[Later……] a pit-stop to Cotswalds (extra large stuff sac), Fjallraven tee and technical shorts (non-ultra related), Peckhams (dairy free choc drops, yoghurt covered popsorn bar, spelt bagels), ASDA (coke, little bananas) and then realising I’d have to go to Tesco at the other side of town because ASDA is, well, “rubbish” for things off the beaten track like: soya choc milk in wee cartons, crystallised ginger, Kara coconut milk, somehow some raisin n biscuit Yorkies got in there………. 🙂

Aaaaaaand relaaaaaaaaax! It’s 22:36 and the drop bags are packed, my personal support stuff is labelled and everything is in order for the off, straight from work tomorrow. We’re staying overnight with a friend, close to the registration town of Buckie where we have been promised porridge AND poached eggs on toast for brekkie on race day. Food n drink; the important nutritional and hydration parts are sorted. Mental prep and motivation are two for two. Now all that’s left is the physical bit: to run.

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