Neural pathways: running without thinking

As I review my first week of non-running re-hab, I realise that today marks 76 days until TMBT. Eleven weeks, which includes at least another week of full-on physiotherapy related exercise involving Not Running. Then the ever familiar road to recovery, hopefully culminating in a pain free ultra at the end of August and a good solid attempt at the arduous climb that is the ‘short route’ of The Most Beautiful Thing distances.

kinabaluBeing told not to run, even if it’s for the long-term good, is the last thing a runner wants to hear. I had been explaining to my Pilates instructor Jayne that I was sick of the Hamster-wheel of injury, followed by time out for recovery and the never really being able to test myself for fear of re-injury. My current/ ongoing issues are the result of over-training and racing, but the underlying reasons are poor biomechanics and hip stiffness which I’ve traced back to childhood. Jayne suggested an assessment with a physiotherapist who specialises in podiatry and also Paralympic rehabilitation. OK then!

After a video assessment (walking, running, with and without shoes) and various strength and alignment exercises, some interesting issues came out which I’d never heard from previous sports injury professionals:-

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My right leg (which currently carries the afflicted Achilles tendon) is my ‘good’ leg and tracks straight with good pronation, neutral gait and no podiatry issues

My so-called ‘good leg’ on the left is rotated inwarded severely enough that I supinate and run without the use of my big toe! What?!!!!!

If I continue to run longer distances using only the smaller toes of the left foot, it’s likely I will cause stress fractures in these toes, as they are not strong enough for the duty I am giving them, which should really be harboured by the big toe and the second toe. My right leg can only do so much to compensate!

The tightness in my soleus and Piriformis started in childhood and is likely not easily or quickly correctable without suffering injuries down the leg-chain. Orthotics (practically a dirty word in my vocabulary) were suggested to correct the gait.

I can re-train my foot not to dorsi-flex when I run and to correct the S-shape I form during the foot strike (it should really be a outer heel-strike, rolling forward to toeing off diagonally, with the big toe- minimalist shoe and barefoot running fans, please look away now!). This can be done by Not Running and performing repetitive movements to create new neural pathways which the brain and thereafter the muscles, will recognise. In time, I should be able to run more efficiently, without thinking about it.

So in summary, my right side is compensating for the left and the outside of my legs are very strong compared to the inside sets of muscles which are very weak.

Things I already knew were:

  1. higharchMy Achilles is thickened and nodularised, possibly with neovascularity, that is, an increase in the number of blood-vessels in the tendon area; as my bodies attempt to get more healing blood into the area
  2. The tightness of the Achilles is what’s causing me pain and this is primarily caused by very tight calves (years of wearing very high heels won’t have helped). I need deep stretching and lots of rollering
  3. I have high arches, which are fairly rigid and don’t really want to help me out by pronating nicely through the heel-toe pattern, which allows for shock-absorption through the running gait.

Every day I must perform

3 x 15 sets of eccentric calf raises: up and down on the steps, gradually adding more weight. I do this FIVE times a day, every day. I’m currently loading with 2.5 Kg.

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2 x 100 ankle flexes with toes scrunched up. This is to train the ankle NOT to use the toes to lead the movement and to stop me dorsi-flexing thus helping me pronate, not supinate, on my left foot. I do this twice a day; which doesn’t sound like much but it takes a lot of concentration not to use the toes, keep the foot in plantar flexion and I can’t stop my mouth from pursing into a tight frown at the same time! Come ON Neural pathways – form already!

A variety of piriformis stretches including the more traditional post-run stretches as well as some moves borrowed from pilates/yoga.

After all this, there’s barely enough time for Life and Actual race training!

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So, I am breaking in my orthotics, which have been custom built to help me pronate more (!) on my left foot and help my very high foot arches to collapse in the proper way. Increasing the hours every day, I am walking in them and if there is no pain, I can attempt a run on Day 13. I’ve promised myself I will start with a 20 min jog 🙂 After that, I have to schedule an ultrasound to check on the status of the Achilles, which may or may not result in an injection to get rid of the extra blood vessels and yet another two weeks off from running, whilst the swelling recedes. I may have to have this done when I’m in the UK as the procedure is a little specialised and I’m not sure if the local hospitals have the know-how. But I will check. Another two weeks off from running……..(sigh).

Until then, building back up from a 20 minute jog into the realms of what will likely be at least 5 hours of climbing through trails and forest in Sabah, will be a challenge but I hope that my previous mileage PLUS all the swimming, cycling and other cross-training I’ve been doing- coupled with better biomechanics (not to mention my highly renowned mental determination) will allow me to have any amazing experience at TMBT in September. I hope everyone else’s training is a bit more traditional than mine.

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Mizuno Wave Run – 16K of concrete

My step-back week is currently every fourth week and involves less running, more cross-training and a long-run of 10 miles maximum. So I thought I would take the opportunity to check-out the Kuala Lumpur running scene and signed up for the Mizuno Wave 16K in Putrajaya 🙂 There’s easy access to KL (via Air Asia flights) from Miri, just over the Brunei border and Purtajaya is a separate town to the South of KL. The weekend also happened to be my 5th wedding anniversary, so my hubby and I combined a long weekend away, some nice meals, catching up with friends, sight-seeing and shopping, with the running race on Sunday.

The previous week had not gone well. During the Wednesday cross-training session, I had completed my 30 minute core/glute work-out and was merrily cycling away on the turbo trainer, when I experienced a sickening ‘pop’ in my right ankle like my Achilles had been hit with a hammer. You would have thought I’d stop immediately, right? Nope! I slowed my RPM, waited for further signs of pain but as there were none, I carried on and completed my 45 min session. It wasn’t until I dismounted that my right leg seemed locked and I couldn’t put my weight on it. After some bum-shuffling downstairs, raised leg, ice and herbal remedies plus a day in heels (I couldn’t walk in barefeet without a dull bruised feeling) followed by a day in MBT trainers where my foot felt fine but tired, I was back to normal. How? I don’t know how. But I decided to collect my tee-shirt and race-number anyway, seeing as I’d paid the entry fee. Note the personalisation of my running forum name “Nywanda”. Sure beats them trying to squeeze my very long real name on the tiny wee bib 🙂P1000661

I spent Friday traipsing about in airports and the local shopping mall – Alamanta followed by an amazing Italian dinner with champagne and a singing group performing at the table. Then on Saturday I had a massage, courtesy of the Marriott IOI resort and felt great. We walked around all day Saturday in the main shopping area, had tea round at a friends and then more shopping into the evening where we met friends for dinner. The foot didn’t feel any the worse for wear, so I decided I would try and run and if there was any pain, well, I could always walk or stop….no big deal. The main goal remains as The Most Beautiful Thing 25K (or ~30K if you believe the route map) in September, although I do have some distance races between now and then, foot health withstanding.

We had met with a very fast looking gent from Greece the day before and shared a cab back from the race-pack collection. We managed to meet up with him again prior to the start at 06:30 in Presint 2. With only 2 out of 3 toilets working near the start, I only just made it to the loo with a slightly queasy tummy before the race started. I obviously started way too far back as we all walked in formation over the start-line and the chip timing shows I have a 3.5 min deficit between gun-time and chip-time. I MUST remember this for future races and avoid weaving through the Screen%20Shot%202013-05-29%20at%204_25_58%20PMcrowd (especially as the change in direction does nothing to help my unstable ankle). The route was through a concrete jungle of government buildings including the Palace of Justice and although there were some nice views over the river and towards the bridge, I kept my eyes focussed on the camber of the road and stayed tuned in to almost every footfall. The water stations were completely overwhelmed with runners when I arrived and I ended up scrabbling for water from the wrong side of the table; there were way too many runners for that one little fold-out picnic bench and the volunteers were frantic. It was every man and women for themselves as I had to almost elbow my way back onto the course! I was a bit hacked off at the amount of “cutters” but by the second water station I had chilled out enough to concentrate on doing my own race, over the full distance and not worry about anyone taking short-cuts. (It IS one of my bug-bears though).

Due to my own sweatiness at the start, I had accidentally pressed YES when the Garmin asked me if I was indoors, so I had no GPS tracking to help with pacing. I was however wearing my heart-rate monitor so I just used that to try and keep steady- let a little rise happen on the uphills and had the following distance splits:

5K= 28.16 / 10K= 58.43 / 16K = 1.38.45 (Official results pending). I struggled a bit near the end as we came over the last bridge, I was feeling drained from having no breakfast and only 1/2 bottle of Gatorade out on the course. With heavy legs I managed a 200m surge at the end and must have passed at least 8 people including two ladies! I have noticed that not many people around my current pace bother with a sprint finish, so I was doubled up at the end whereas everyone around me looked really fresh.

I didn’t get a powerade bar which I was really in need of, just a bottle of water, a box of cereal (random!), a sachet of local brand deep-heat and a very nice shiny medal. I was careful to do some stretches and soak up some of the race atmosphere. I was especially happy to find out that our new friend had indeed been fast and come second overall! I would have congratulated him but he went off for a 12K run before prize-giving. Some folk! Well done MichaelIMG-20130612-03387

For now, I can only focus on keeping the ankle stretched and protected, as I come into the longest distance training segment leading up to the marathon in July and ultra-marathon in August. Next week all being well – 18 mile long-run, hill-work on the roads and…..a physio session.

Week 2 ultra-training: farther down the hot tarmac road

With three weeks until my next road race-training session, I was checking on my distance versus pace training. Basically I am doing no faster paced sessions due to running in the heat. I’ll have to do a couple of tune ups before the 10 Mile Mizuno Wave Run in Kuala Lumpur, otherwise I’ll not get back before the proper heat comes on at maximum (about 7.30 a.m.)

Here’s a graph of my pacing since I’ve been in Brunei which shows that over 50% of my training runs have been in the 10-11 minute mile bracket. This is all I’ve really been able to do, given that temperatures are normally around 30 degC and in excess of 90% humidity.

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According to VDOT calculations, this is actually bang on for the long easy running pace. Unfortunately, not all of these distances have been classically long runs, but it’s still early days yet and I’m happy to take a full 6 months to allow my body to heat adjust, before worrying about getting faster.

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Distances covered vary from 5K through to 15 miles, with a recent maximum of 27 Km. (I’m trying to switch over to metric in my head but I am still dumbfounded by min/Km and Km/hour. I’m OK with converting total distance though: my 1.6 times table is coming along nicely).

Some more stats from the nine weeks of running in a hot climate

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Saturday– REST

Sunday – RUN 27K (pm)

Monday – RUN 5K (am) – at MRP (marathon race-pace)

Tuesday – 30 min CIRCUITS (am) /  Massage (pm)

Wednesday – Run/BIKE/Run BRICK (pm)

Thursday – REST

Friday – Reformer Pilates (am) / Long BIKE (pm)

Every other day I’ve completed one of the following: HIIT / Glutes / 8 min workout (x 3) and practised rollering, including the piriformis stretch which I’ve been advised will help (eventually) to loosen off an area which may be linked to my on-going calf and Achilles strain. I found this guy on youtube and liked his quirky wee demo. Runners will be familiar with the last stretch, usually performed in a standing crouch position after a run.

Also have a quick look at this guy (who kinda reminded me of a Skinny Marc Jacobs in lycra 😉 ), I mean, look at his form on the rollering techniques!

http://www.youtube.com/user/WorkTheFunkOut/videos

Next week brings a long run of 30K and hopefully a return to the jungle hash, followed by a step-back week with shorter runs. Happy Days 🙂

Brunei Half Marathon

How long does it take a frequent runner to acclimatise from Scottish winter to Equatorial summer, where the mercury hits 30+ degrees? Longer than three weeks, you betcha….and here’s how I know.

The Brunei Half Marathon was entered at the start of 2013, as I rejoiced at finding a distance race in my new home country. I would run the same distance in the UK as a benchmark and then train on heart-rate until I was at a similar fitness and voila, everything would be hunky-dory. As time passed I was beginning to think we wouldn’t even make it over for the race, so 3 weeks to get used to the heat and humidity went something like:

IMG-20130318-029825K at 10:30am=beetroot and dying, 6K at 8am=still cream crackered and lung-less, 5K at 7am/5pm=almost bearable at a barely jogging pace. Longest run of 7 miles and 21 days in country …..oh, OK then.

But it wasn’t that bad. Race strategy was (a) don’t race (b) don’t exceed 175 bpm unless it’s a sprint to the loo or the final 10 metres (c) keep salted and hydrated (d) enjoy the city. I managed (nearly) all of those, slowed down when I had to, jogged all the inclines and had a tough but steady event, finishing in a not-too-slovenly 2:13:34 and I can honestly say, I was pleased with that.

Pace splits/heart-rate (the last 3 miles after the morning hotted up were very tough)

5K in 30.55 / 10K in 63.05/16K in 1.42/21K in 2.13

So roughly: 5K/5K/6K/5K in 31, 32, 39, 31 minutes, so you can see where the hills were but it was still pretty even. OK, important to me for this first hotter race but I promise the stats are over now for the descriptive and pictures.

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We stayed at The Empire Hotel in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan and I enjoyed being go-karted around between our wing and the main building. The complex is mahooosive and I look forward to a more exploratory return. I endured another highly painful foot torture-massage but felt brilliant the next morning for our 4 am start.

We arrived at the Hassanal Bolkiah stadium (named after the current Sultan of Brunei) P1000301and the place was buzzing with athlete’s, media and rows of food stalls serving rice and noodle dishes, fruit punch and water; all at 5 am. No queue for the loos and soon we were huddling behind the start-line, waiting to stride out into the dark. I opted to run with the Ipod in 1 ear and carrying an UltrAspire Handheld full of Aquarius sports drink, which is widely available in Seria. The race was sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank who have a series of marathons and half marathons throughout the Far East, including Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. We all got very nice turquoise/green tee-shirts and an over-sized mesh cap in our goody bags and can I just say that the expo and registration, although not well attended, was well organised and very friendly, with a personal smiley welcome and good-bye from their meet n greet team (this is proving typical of Brunei hospitality).

Back to the race! I was slightly taller and much paler than 90% of the participants and I felt there were at least twice as many first timers as there were regular runners (evident P1000295later when most of the 10K race was walking at the point where the half route merged). Of course this is fine until the last few miles when you’re tired and it’s hot and you’re weaving in and out of groups of walkers! I was in awe of the amount of fully clad head-to-foot in black, compression wearing folks, some with two layers on, including long sleeves and long socks. I saw one wheelchair entrant and at the 5K mark passed one single-legged blade-runner. There were a smattering of ex-pat types as well and I spotted a Dutch flag at the start-line. I tried not to stare at the Bruneian lady runners who were attempting to run in their Muslim headscarves: how hot would THAT have been (shudders). NIK6696_250_1Fair play to them! We were united in our goal though and we eased into the race start at 5.30 am and I waved at the cameras and tried to settle into a pace to the background noise of insects, feet falling on tarmac and ‘The Climb’ playing in one ear! I had opted to run in my grey/blue Nike+ Lunarglide 4s as they matched the outfit and also hadn’t done a long race; I wore the purple versions for my last half marathon. Rest of the attire was my usual garb: Nike dryfit shorts over Skins compression shorts, X-socks run (men’s version), Shockabsorber B4490 in turquoise, new BASIC charity tee-shirt, Scotland Buff, Worm sunglasses (not needed) and Lunarglides.

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At around the 5-6K mark, the sun started to come up just as we passed the large gold-domed mosque and the heat wasn’t any worse than I’d experienced over the prevailing weeks. I was drinking frequently, had a short-lived twinge right knee and had some crystallised ginger and some Neurofen stashed ‘just encase’. My fellow runners were friendly, smiled and I felt confident enough to tap a local gent on the shoulder to tell him his shoe-lace was undone. I managed to ditch a rather annoying girl who was overtaking me and then slowing in my line of sight continually, by running through the second water station. My other half was made to jog alongside me to capture these pictures at the next water-station 🙂P1000311

The cheering bands were very enthusiastic as we came through the main town and by now, there were people on their way to work and it was getting warmer with every passing minute. Then someone turned on the heat and day broke over the streets just as we made our way to the first of three substantial fly-overs. The gradient would be manageable on it’s own but the addition of the camber as well as the amalgamation of walking HM and 10Kers…it was getting tougher. My strategy was to adopt the classic hill running mentality of lift from the thigh, take very small steps and let gravity put your foot back down. Only stop running if someone walks passed you faster…so I continued, snail-like but steady, taking tiny steps, working my arms, lifting from the thigh and you know? I was passing people. No one around me was jogging the hills! The crest came in sight and I tried not to bomb down the far side as the camber was killing my right leg. Repeated this pretty much 3 times and by then the 10 Mile mark had passed, so mentally I was on my way home.

One last fly-over onto the main road and by now the sun was beating off the tarmac back at me, people were slowing, very fit triathlete looking guys were bimbling, blinded by their own sweat. The water stations were now handing out DEET cream and the flies from the drains as we re-entered the main town, were quite something else. I’d slathered on SPF30 with insect repellent incorporated and just hoped I hadn’t sweated it all off.

My heart-rate was now over 180 BPM but I felt a greater urgency- to get out of the heat! I pulled my buff off my head, wound it round my wrist and felt a momentary relief as my head literally let off steam. The last 2 miles were all about trying not to blow up, keeping form (I could feel my head roll back and my middle start to collapse a few times) and dodging slower runners and 10K walkers. I saw a smaller lady up in front who looked like she was slowing and I just aimed at catching her and passing her. P1000350This pre-occupied me as we turned for a very decent 150m straight to the line (although I almost ran into the 10K funnel because a group of guys were cheering right in the finish-stretch). Luckily the Other Half has seen me lose direction near the end of races before (!) and shouted me over to the 21Km mat. I did speed up at the end but it wasn’t a massive push. I passed the girl though 😉

I got over the mat and immediately walked up the steps whilst taking my medal, water and can of 100Plus There were 100s of runners lying out in the sun, stretching, some flaked out and I sat and drank in the rehydration and the atmosphere. I’d completed my first half marathon in the hottest and most humid P1000358conditions I’d ever experienced and I had no “issues” – blisters, bad belly, energy dip (and like the Lossie Half in February, I didn’t use carb gels, just the carb drinks and water). Although the time was nothing special (to me), it was apparently representative of the 13th place in the non-local Open Female category and although they don’t publish the full results, I reckon it was a top 30 finish. It makes me wonder what further adaptions I’ll gain in the following weeks and what I can do next time? Mind you, I quite like the feeling of constant effort, sight-seeing and not being dead at the end…….. Brunei is beautiful and friendly and I look forward to running here again 🙂

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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.

#CheerioFatty shrinkage and some runnering

In the last few weeks since blogging, I’ve been in a daze of frustrated dream-like proportion: I am standing on the side-lines of my life, watching the days whizz by whilst I am helplessly trapped into a slow-motion but parallel time-frame.Aberdeen City-20130208-02567

Time is literally running out and although I am not going to cease to be on the 15th March, I have a too long list of Things to Do and People to see. It is now 19 days until we fly to London for our onwards journey to Brunei. Take or leave a day or two for on-going Visa processing. Actually, we have been very fortunate that my husbands’ persistent following-up of the 50+ people involved in our move, has borne fruit. The other two couples who started before us, with a similar time-line are now 2-4 weeks behind. But it’s had it’s down sides, mostly that we’ve been on shorter fuses and having to make very quick decisions, rationing even our time together as we “divide and conquer” the To Do List. It will be worth it though and all thoughts pertaining to the move to the Far East will soon appear on a different blog – Brunei Banter, so have a looky there in a week or so!

Back to the matter in hand. #CheerioFatty and my ongoing crusade against injury has been going really well. I am assuming that this is nothing to do with the lower than training plan mileage (!) Or that because running is truly my one stress-buster at the moment, I am savouring every single mile, regardless of weather conditions or tiredness. Running with a permanent grin on my face is no good for my wrinkles!

Aberdeen City-20130220-02634Had a fantastic run at the Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon. I wasn’t clock watching but rather basing the whole thing on effort and heart-rate and surprised myself with a performance just outside my 2011 Personal best (PB). Why is this significant? Well, Oct 2011 was a long time ago and I haven’t really done any PB hunting since succumbing to Achilles issues in March 2012. Then PO10 hacked me right off by not recognising my PB as such, due to the half marathon course not being AIMS and classified as down-hill because it finished lower down than it started (despite several climbs through the route) and the start was greater than X away from the finish. Fercrivvensakes, what’s a girl to DO to get an official PB these days, eh? 🙂

The slow road back has been slow on purpose and so this run was a great marker for me and I wanted a jumping off point before I take that inevitable step backwards where pace is concerned. Brunei is practically on the equator and can be very humid = a tough running climate. In summary, the RAF Half Marathon was completed with

  • Less miles + less racing = similar time result under less duress
  • No pacing, either by watch or other runner(s)
  • No mid-race fuelling (usually I have 3 carb gels and a carb drink)
  • No pain, niggles or blisters

Moray-20130217-02610Surprisingly, I ran a ‘fairly’ comfortable sub-2 Half Marathon whilst trying to maintain my HR at 171 BPM which is what I’ve seen in training as my hard-maintainable effort. I achieved a time of 1.57.04 and an average HR of 175 BPM (I did up the pace in the last 3 miles and my max HR = 190 BPM). No pain in feet, calves or Achilles, no blisters, no sore stomach, dodgy guts, lungs on fire or, well, anything untowards really. The day was clear and warm for this time of year- a toasty 11 degC – and the route was pleasant and strewn with friendly club runners, first timers and a few familiar faces from JS Bridge of Don and Metro Aberdeen. Immediately after the race, I sat around in the sun feeling a bit disappointed that I was so close to a PB but that didn’t last long. I can still remember standing in the physio’s treatment room unable to lift my body up on my right ankle……that was about a year ago. Instead I stood up and cheered in the remaining runners, including sounding my favourite Barbaric YAWP for Esty, Gingerpaw (both PeeBeed) and Ultracat & Lorna. Also a first, I drove myself up to and back from Lossiemouth and stopped off at Tyrebagger forest that afternoon for a muddy trail run, just to prove to myself I wasn’t 100% knackered. Slept like a baby that night!

#CheerioFatty is ambling along and I’m maintaining the weight-loss despite what I would class as minimal mileage

last few weeks trainingWeek 4 (22/1 – 28/01) 2 lbs loss. BIKE= 28  RUN= 24

Week 5 (29/1 – 04/2) weight maintained. BIKE=0 RUN= 14

Week 6 (05/02 – 11/02) weight maintained. BIKE=9 RUN=16

Week 7 (12/02 – 18/02) 1 lb loss.BIKE=11 RUN=16

Week 8 (19/02 – 25/02) weight maintained. BIKE=17 RUN= 18

weekly distanceThat’s a grand total of one whole stone (14 lbs) since the start of the year and as previously noted, I’ll be tracking body-fat, water and lean weight from now on as moving into an equatorial environment means that hydration levels and body composition will need to be monitored whilst I make dietary and training adaptions. Well, that all sounded a bit official didn’t it? I’ve been eating out on a fairly regular basis and unfortunately, there are still a high number of convenience foods in the mix but I’m certain this is just a function of the whole short-of-time moving situation.

Additional observations

Original bra size 34D Now 32D
Original Haglofs size 40 (L) Now 36 (S)
Jeans size 30 Now 28
Zara size L/XL Now M/S

Non-desireable effects

Leg cellulite is more apparent than EVER before (Och well, it’s not what it looks like, it’s what it can do). More noticeable eye-wrinkles where cheek meets eye-socket . Knees look weirder if that’s even possible,  stomach skin has taken on a Tara Reid failed tummy-tuck appearance and that’s going to suck when I get to hotter climes and have to get it out for swimming and the like, saddle-bags look relatively bigger as the rest of my legs slim down, my nose looks flatter and the chin has taken on a Reese Witherspoon ability to burst balloons due to it’s sharpness.

All in the name of fitness 🙂

I’ve arranged to see Claire (previously of Vito-Fitness) to have my cholesterol, visceral fat and other parameters re-checked to compare to 16 months ago when I had a pre-running club assessment. And that’s about it for the pre-move MOT. Now to the rapid if desparate attempt to humidity acclimatise in the 3 weeks before the Brunei Half and the Borneo Half four weeks after that. Well, I’m not one to shun away from a cheeky challenge and I’m fully prepared to be the relatively giant white slow-thing at the back of the field. Again.

And to end, a quote from Anita Brookner “In real life, of course, it is the hare who wins. Every time. Look around you. And in any case it is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market…Hares have no time to read, they are too busy winning the game.”

New Years Food Flounce

As more details come through regarding the lock,stock n barrel move to the Far East, the likelihood of having a Goal Event or “A” Race before summer, dwindles away. However, training continues in a somewhat structured manner and if I do manage to find an outlet for the training so be it. It’s good to know that my focus for running doesn’t necessarily need to be Run Event “A” and try and achieve time/WAVA “B”. It’ll be nice to be Half Mara ready and Marathon capable, come April and the surprisingly mild weather has made long runs very pleasant, so I continue to smile whilst the Achilles holds out.

Twenty-Thirteen training started with the NYD park-run, accompanied by Hamster and donning my new Lunarglide+ 4s. OMG these are sooo different from the 3s and make my preferred model, the mark 2s, seem clunky and heavy by comparison. More importantly from my perspective, is that the 4s have no seam along the inside foot a.k.a blister sites.shoes Bonus. Hamster and I chatted  and caught up for the first 2 miles and then, at the point where my fitness fell short, I shut up and concentrated on not succumbing to my dodgy belly. A modest 25.34 which is a nice target to beat over the coming months.  I managed at rather tougher, windier 25.16 at Ediniburgh a few days later [where FiWright got awarded her 50 teeshirt but didn’t actually get given it on the day], again, succumbing to that feeling of dodgy guts. But then, I had altered my eating, so I couldn’t have expected anything else. Altered? Yeah, I was suddenly not eating chocolate :-p

Clean Eating

I have heard a lot about clean eating and experienced a week of such at the Fitcamp I attended last May www.TheCamp.co.uk . What surprised me that week was that I didn’t feel hungry. Not once. I ate all my food and I enjoyed it. I was also exercising frequently and through-out each day. Sure I was extra tired but not hungry. Two friends have also recently had a lot of success with weight control following a similar approach (take a bow LabWalker and Corrah) and I decided on Hogmanay that I would adopt a couple of new habits and carry them out for 20 days as a wee experiment.

Habit Breaking

Every year we as a nation resolve to lose weight/take up a new fitness regime/stop smoking or similar and hence the gyms are fit to burst and the streets are paved with new runners. Nicotinette sales and Slimmers World subscriptions shoot through the roof. Good luck if you ARE one of those, making and sticking to 2013 resolutions! I have never succeeded in keeping any specific New Years Resolutions but this year I thought I would make a few positive changes for a short time and see if the effects were sustainable and whether the changes could become part of my life (rather than a finite diet which can be restrictive and lead to grumpiness)

There is much myth and mire written about the 21 day habit forming theory but in reality what I need is: consistency, reward and motivation. I find that not doing too many things at once (quality over quantity) and being realistic in the approach works best. I might need to lose 20 lbs according to some BMI chart somewhere, but let’s just start with 7 lbs, shall we?

My guidelines are:

  • Drink only water or herbal tea
  • Choose the most natural food available
  • No artificial sweetners as substitute for sugars

I kept a food diary for 8 weeks; painful to fill out every day and painful to read, but it has helped me acknowledge the following “shocker”

I drank up to 30% of my total calorie intake: fruit juice, hot chocolate, coca-cola, non-alcoholic drinks when out i.e. virgin cocktails, fizzy juices like lemonade, tea with milk and sweetner, often 8 or more a day including Starbucks, Costa and other brands with full fat sweetened milk.

Not only were these drinks adding calories without filling me up or providing satiety, they were also adding E-numbers, various toxins (think aspartame et al) and elevating my sweetness signals, which if you’ve ever tried having “just one” chocolate/biscuit/slice of cake you’ll know that one begets the desire for more!

After 1 week of “clean eating” I was astounded as the scales registered over 5 lbs difference! I weighed myself at the same time, one week from initial weigh-in on Hogmanay morning (31/12/2012). If anything my exercise has been slightly down this passed week. We’ll see how the next 2 weeks go but I am quite hopeful that I will be below my lowest running weight and as I write, I am just 3 lbs above it.

Consistency- just do the three things above

Motivation – to drop below my lowest weight recorded since I started running in June 2009 (bearing in mind I didn’t actually lose any weight, although I lost bulk, until February 2011 !!!)

Reward – a lighter me running around, putting less pressure on my knees, ankles, feet, joints, ligaments and that all important Achilles tendon. I may have bought myself a new swimmer as well 😉

Restaurants

In my day to day business and social life, I tend to eat out quite a lot. At least 3 times a week. Instead of avoiding the situation I’ve decided to become a pain in the backside, in order to be Good to myself and not let someone else’s menu dictate portion size and content. Be a pain, why not? It’s your body and chefs don’t usually mind making small changes especially if it saves them money because you’re leaving things off or out. I’ve had chefs come over and make suggestions as to how they could decrease the fat or calorie content of their dishes for me (when I’ve been bothered to ask and I’ve known the establishment pretty well).

  1. Make protein the focus of the meal. I go for baked fish or grilled skinless chicken
  2. Ask for no bread and take the sauce on the side
  3. Substitute salad for any creamy side dishes containing mayo. You can usually have this instead of chips/mash
  4. Only drink water
  5. If you must have a starter, ask if the soup is non-cream or ask for a salad
  6. If you must have a dessert, ask for sorbet or fresh fruit salad (no cream)

Travel

I can’t see myself as a good “Mom” who always has an apple or healthy snack squirreled away in my sensible handbag but I can say that faced with one of the denizens of unhealthy travel eating – the petrol station – I can note that they have very little which might qualify as clean food. However (as I told myself last week) DON’T PANIC! Do the best with what’s available and that goes for buffets, set menus and the like. I opted for a black tea (no milk or sugar) and a plain oaty porridge pot. OK, carbs yes but not full of junk….and it was one little pot of porridge in a week full of fruit and water and good clean eating. I always thought it was weird that folk would come spiraling off a diet after eating one of something they deemed as bad and then just restart the following Monday. No, darnit, keep going. I am not fretting about it but I am still concerned that unless you want a plastic cheese sandwich (their only non-mayo option), there’s not much for the weary, hungry traveler who doesn’t want pies, crisps and chocolate. Maybe I should’ve packed something in that sensible bag eh?

booksSo bearing all that in mind, the couple of long runs have been tough due to a lack of carbs and general stodge to draw from. I re-read various parts in the Allen Carr Easy-weigh book and also Fit B*tch in the Kitch which centred on the fact that milk is designed to fatten up baby calves and cereal is used to fatten up livestock. So for the moment, cereal is off the breakfast list (Carr advocates fruit and fruit only).books2 I use coconut, soya, rice and other milk substitutes as well as soya yoghurt so without milk in my numerous cups of tea, I’m quite low on dairy at the moment too. I wouldn’t be adverse to protein for breakfast tho! I’ll not lie, I did find a 14 mile LSR on Halva and Yerba Mate tea a little tough but it’ll take some time for my body to get used to this. Halva is my carb-gel substitute for longer runs and it is yum-tastic and you don’t need much to satisfy a little hunger pang.

[I’m a bit worried about having a carb fest or eating any carbohydrate foods incase I slump into a coma an hour afterwards!]

Summary

01 – 07 Jan

20.4 miles run

5.4 lbs lost

Some useful links

HABITS http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/how-long-to-form-a-habit.php

YERBA MATE TEA http://www.selfridges.com/en/Food-Wine/Categories/Shop-Food/Tea-coffee/Tea/Yerba-mate-tea_554-3002133-YERBAMATE/?cm_mmc=SEO-_-google-_-googleshopping-_-Teapigs&_$ja=tsid:32977%7Ccc:%7Cprd:12641253%7Ccat:Food+%26+Wine+%3E+Categories+%3E+Shop+Food+%3E+Tea+%26+coffee+%3E+Tea

HALVA http://www.dvah.co.uk/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=2147494253

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:-

ChartImg

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? 🙂

SKIN_PACK_12_hi_37474

Ultra-running at a blistering pace

The 2012 Glen Ogle Ultra: I’ve been putting this off, writing about it I mean. But for the last week or three I just keep going over this overdue account late at night so I just need to write it and move on.

The short story is that I made a mistake. And as a consequence I went through the most horrendous racing experience of my life (to date). This from the girl who completed over 36 miles with chronic heaving diahorrhea. The worst part was that it was completely avoidable and utterly my own fault. And I have been a little angry with myself in the last few weeks. In order to get over it I’ve decided that another ultra is in order; to prove to myself that I have learned from the recent and can convert to a more enjoyable experience. Perhaps famous last words, but here’s how www.go33ultra.com went.

First timers raise their hands, Andy, Lee and I take a rare chance to be at the front

Our B&B near Strathyre, was lovely but apparently we were their last guests before shutting up shop for the winter and they made no bones about not being able to do an early brekkie. I was actually thinking WTF as my mouth made the very accommodating words of “NO bother, don’t worry about me”, thus I was faced with a non-ideal bowl of rice-crispies laden with sugar and a flask labelled “Mike” as I grumped about the diningroom, wondering why Mike was getting a flask and I wasn’t, I finally realised it said milk. The cheese croissants (random!) were later fed to some enthusiastic ducks on the far side of Loch Tay, can’t think of anything I would less like to eat during a run! I managed to drink some Devon custard before the off and into the frosty darkness we drove. The previous night we had (ahem) been introduced to the countryside by way of trying to find an ATM and frustratingly had a 20 mile round trip, such is the remoteness of Strathyre. At least we could buy a few jars for Andy and enjoy a cracking Alf Tucker Fish n chips for dinner! Eventually.

Race outfit was somewhat similar to last years:2 x Nike Lunarglides (1 pair for Check-point 3 drop bag), 3 x X-socks run (1 pair for CP3, 1 spare for rucksack, 1 to wear),INOV-8 Gaiters, Haglofs boxers, Haglofs Intense full length tights, B4490,Ice-breaker 200 light, long sleeve top, Gore Magnitude AS vest, Nairn orange buff, Ben Fogle buff worn as hat, Montane Featherlite waterproof carried in rucksack, Salomon XA20 rucksack, UltrAspire hand-held (CP4 drop bag) Rucksack contents: peanut butter/jam tortilla, banana, 6 cherry mule kick gels, 1 soya milk, 1 Litre of water+electrolyte, waterproof, spare socks plus emergency kit: caffeine gel, ibuprofen, paracetemol, vaseline, micropore tape, electrolyte tab, safety pins, spare lace, blister plasters, Blackberry, TOILET ROLL (in capitals cos, well, y’know I didn’t take this with me at Speyside Way due to the amount of toilets en route and of course the worst happened. Never tempt the Kazzy-Gods!).

A Kara chocolate coconut milk filled UltrAspite handheld waited for me at CP4, for the final stretch home along with my ipod. Various food in the drop bags but I didn’t think I’d need it and had the equivalent of a teddy bears picnic last year.

I was late getting to the bag drop because for some reason we parked at the finish and then had to jog up the road laden with drop bags and excess warm clothing. I muttered the infamous grumble about not needing an early morning yomp before a 33 mile run. Grumpy b*gger! Race briefing and a walk down to a new start-point further down the glen where a tonne of logging had been carried out. Lee and Andy and I said our goodbyes and we all started with big smiles but, tragically, I hadn’t bothered to tighten my laces and got distracted within the first few minutes when my Garmin Forerunner pinged out of it’s velcro strap AGAIN, this time, the pin was lost in the dirt and I threw the contraption into the rucksack. Oh well, I didn’t really need to know my pace and mileage, did I?

Caught up to Andy and we trudged up and around the forest and down towards the road crossing as George (D33 RD) biked passed and said a few words of encouragement. Unfortunately the Demons had already dropped in to say “Oooh this uphill part is tougher than last year and you’re not really enjoying this are you?”. I agreed with them and threw all ideas about pacing out the window, to concentrate on trying to enjoy things. Andy advised that an easy out and focussed return might do the trick and I stuck my new race plan back in the faces of the ne-ersayers. CP1 passed and we were on the recognisable cycle path into the wood, where dear old Raymondo (Ray McCurdy, marathon 100-club and infamous ultra-runner) asked us if we’d done 4 miles yet; we told him “about 6” and he trundled on as we stopped for a gel-break. The gels and water were going down fine and the going was easy. Passed a group of 3 just as the rain started “OK, who’s brought the brolly?” I managed as we cat n moused them for several miles up the Serpentine and onto the old railway.

Still feeling good but I think Andy’s knee started playing up before CP2 and he urged me to go on but no, I was fine doing what we were doing and I had the added benefit of a captive audience for discussions on small holdings on the West coast, farming and other nonsense. To shut me up (possibly), Andy gave me a taste of his newly bottled mountain stream water and wow, it was fantastic (and we’d only seen the one lone sheep on the higher ground so it was possibly sharn free!)

The field was very sparse now with a few runners in the distance and a few well behind. Usual protocol of thumbs up and OK? to those we left behind and well dones to those who went on ahead. Passing on the right please!

CP2 and I wrestled a choc milk out of my drop-bag and we crossed the road to be met by my OH (the photographer), so we hammed it up a little for the camera’s. Safe to say I was in good spirits and more than a little concerned for Andy’s leg but we were on a down-hill loop before hitting the main climbs of the day.  I ate my peanut butter n jam tortilla and was really pleased that the gel every 5 miles, vanilla fudge inbetween and this, had worked out so well. Andy said this hurt his knee more on descents but I secretly enjoyed burdening the quads for a change, on the downs. I was still wary of my achilles being less than perfect so now automatically try and protect it. We had jumped a huge puddle (the main gate was later opened) and we saw the lead runner return down the hill, a good 7-8 miles in front already! A couple of ladies went by and having heard our chat, asked where I was from- turns out one was from Cromarty on the Black Isle which is the across the Firth neighbour to my home-town and I was amazed that my accent is still recognisable after all these years 🙂

Came alongside the gentleman from last year who was having a pukey time of it and managed to tap a couple of lumps of crystallised ginger- he was in much better fettle this year and surprised I remembered him. I never forget a ‘whitey’, me.

Soon the hills that I had promised Andy, were upon us and I made some short sharp shrift of the first few, overtaking a couple of groups but took a latrine excursion at the top of the first blip and saw Andy coming so we had a quick chat and agreed to meet up at CP3 as I was planning to change my shoes. Slow n steady passed the half way point and down towards some hill-walkers and my pre-checkpoint choc milk, which I’d stashed at the big puddle/gate. Where’s my frikkin milk!?? A change of marshall meant that the carton had been moved but luckily the OH had recognised it and removed it from the verge. YUM!

Back down and across the road to a large gathering of runners and volunteers! This was where I was surprised with blisters you would not want to see, ever, let alone during a race with 13+ miles to go. “Do you want to burst them?” said Karen- as I stared in amazement wondering how this could happen and with no indication or pain, I remembered the ibuprofen I had taken “just incase” after breakfast. Two or three people were discussing the best approach to dealing with blisters when Rob came in about and went oooh, you’ve got feet just like mine. I’m assuming he meant the purple half toe-nails. It was little consolation as I now had to get my feet into trainers and get offski after 15 mins of ershing about but not really achieving anything. The route was now mostly flat and down and I had hoped to make up some good time given how fresh I felt (lungs/legs/digestive tract). My energy levels were high. “I’ll see how I go, I don’t usually burst blisters” I said and went on my way. No pain, no presence and I passed Andy, then another gent, then caught the group of three and 4 or 5 miles (approx) seemed to go passed very fast and I was on the windy snake, heavily descending into the cycle track.

And then the ibuprofen ran out.

And then the blisters started digging daggers into the sides of both feet. It became impossible to run without pain.

So I ran on the outside edges of my feet. Walking hurt more so I had to maintain The Zombie Jog (thinking about patenting the term). Uphills hurt worst and every undulation seemed like a mini-tragedy. I was sure the group of three would have caught up with me and I was trying to subdue the ows but soon enough I was a hybrid of Monica Seles meets The Living Dead and if ever there was a time for someone to pop up with a race stat of how far to CP4, it would have been welcomed in these next few miles. But I was still moving forward and although I was being Drama Queen extraordinaire I managed to improve to only 98% pathetic when I saw some marshalls jog towards me. I’d put in my earplugs with no music, to drown out the sounds of my own misfortune. Here I am, with a blue sign growing out of my head (fairly painful in itself) and with a wee tear balanced on my cheek, Aw! The picture beneath was a happy me at the same point last year.

.

My time at CP4 was part bravery, part gratitude and a smidge of impatience thrown in as I asked if there were any 1st aiders present (no) and then stared in wonderment at an attempt to cut a roll of sticky plasters with a dinner knife. OH raked around in the 1st aid kit and found the scissors and the patching up began. The ladies were stars and obviously used to spaced out grumpy ultra-runners descending on them with demands. They assessed that I’d had my allotment of ibupforen but could have paracetemol so I downed those and after 10 mins of feet out and fixer-uppering I was back on the road having miraculously not rescinded any places. I had dumped the rucksack, grabbed the UltrAspire handheld and my ipod but I couldn’t meet OH eyes and I all but ignored Lee’s wife. Well, I wasn’t (ahem) feeling that sociable with 6-7 miles to go and limited drug relief to get me there. Later he would tell me that he had never seen me so miserable during my running career to date and didn’t suggest dropping out incase I used the last of my remaining energy to pummel him. Which in fairness I probably would have.

All hands on deck for the Nywanda Blister Lollapalooza

Andy and I had discussed finish line tactics – an over the top dip for the line, maybe a John Travolta disco-dance, muddy commando crawl….I’d already used up a highland dance (Easter Eigg hillrace) but at this point was preparing to just scream a yell of frustration once the race was complete. I kept this at the forefront of my mind, every step took me closer to The Yell. Strange motivation but it kept me moving, that and a timely blast of Survivor EOTT on a blind corner!

I saw the sign for Rob Roy’s grave and knew that there was only a matter of a few miles left. The undulations which last year had been chewed up in late-race vigour were now a hatful of hate and just when I’d decided that another cry was on order (my ipod had been accidentally turned on in my rucksack and was now out of battery), my race angel was spotted!

In tough races I’ve always had a race Angel- another competitor who has helped me through and generally just given the support (sometimes unintentionally) to Keep on Keeping on. I spied a red rucksack going round the corner and despite the pain, I found a new steady plod in the hope of catching up 🙂

Round the corner, there was Al (a sports psychologist-therapist) who had been struggling with sore hamstrings and had decided to minimise pain and take a few photos. I explained my predicament and apologised in advance for any grunting etc. We kept each other company towards the finish and I hoped I didn’t hold him back although maybe he just seemed in better nick than he was. By now my left quad and knee were aching possibly as a result of running several miles only on the outside of my foot and it really hurt, despite the painkillers. I worried about doing lasting damage but returned quickly to the matter in hand. Just Finish. We managed to chat back and forth and it certainly passed the time. I am very grateful for this and hope I perhaps helped cajole him along somewhat. After some hard fought miles the shoogly bridge was upon us and I mustered a smile for the camera.

Al finished just in front and I didn’t sound my mighty yawp, I slowly wandered around the muddy finish area, trying not to cry. When Mike asked me to not forget my finishers goody bag, I just stood there, glaikit and droll, feeling like someone had replaced my feet with red hot pokers inside cement blocks and was not fully capable of making a decision. I think I wanted to lie down but knew I might provoke a first aid crisis rather than a few pointed fingers for eccentricity. I managed to shake Al’s hand then I got my Fetch Hoody and went to the car. I told the OH that I wanted to make like Deitrich and Be alone. So I sat there sobbing and peeling the socks from my feet in a painfully slow cautionary fashion.

Then I remained in the passenger seat and waited for the crying to stop. I was conscious that I should get my fat-ass over to the finish to see Andy come through but I just couldn’t. I knew I couldn’t muster the Nywanda Grin this time. So I just sat there. Doing nothing.

Eventually I snapped out of it just as Andy came strolling round the side of the car brandishing an array of blister compeeds in mock-chastisement! I showed him my swollen fluid and blood filled feet and he was fairly unimpressed; probably because he had endured an injury from mile 12 and had still finished in high spirits. Applause for that man!

But hey, I finished the race. Another Ultramarathon. Not in great style but more learnings and here they are in re-cap form:-

  • Do NOT take pain-killers before you feel pain as they could actually mask the on-set of preventable injuries
  • Bind blisters as soon as they’re apparent and don’t ignore hot-spots
  • Check and double check electronic equipment and have a back-up if time, pace, distance and music is important to you
  • Do what you can, when you can and don’t worry about what you look or sound like
  • Be kind to marshalls, spectators and fellow runners. Volunteer for a marshalling spot and be extra patient with less than charming runners- you never know what they might be going through or have gone through to get to that point. NEVER suggest they DNF unless they are bleeding from the eyes and get a medical person to verify if necessary. Your suggestion might be the straw on the camels back; it takes a lot of mental focus to keep going when you’re hurt
  • Accept that the duration is irrelevant in comparison to your journey and that it might be different every time, regardless of training, prep and best intentions

The positives:

  • Hydration and nutrition was spot on. No dodgy tummy or otherwise so very pleased
  • Motivation under duress was flailing but adequate; I got me round
  • Scottish country-side still looks freakin AWESOME even when you’re suffering 🙂
  • I managed some race banter and encouragement to others
  • I ran most of the hills and felt good about it at the time
  • Got to run with Andy properly. This was very important to me as it was his testament  before the Benbecula Half Marathon in 2010 which lead to me returning to complete the Heb 3 in 2011 and really got me into West Coast running, which has ultimately brought me the most happiness in my running life to date. Thanks Mr O.

I write this now, having taken over 3 weeks to get around to it. Seems like aaaages ago now, but had to commit this to blog because I am determined to finish the year on a more positive note and am therefore heading out for another longish jaunt in a few weeks time. http://shop.sand-baggers.com/winter-ultra–10k-2012—race-entry-1560-p.asp I have never run on the West Highland Way and I’m determined to brave the oncoming weather front, the ascents of the Mamores and the exposure of Rannoch Moor to complete my 4th ultra before year end AND I have even found a very mad mountain buddy to accompany me!  I couldn’t depart these shores without a shotty on the Devil’s Staircase!! In all honesty, this one scares me a little but I’m learning so much from all these experiences that I’m absolutely positive it’ll help whenever I finally actually get my act together. When will that be? Who knows, but I have to keep trying and one of these days, I’ll get it right. Onwards and upwards. Let’s get it on!