Borneo Half Marathon – the Unoffical Night Run

The Borneo Half Marathon was due to take place on May 5th in Kota Kinabalu (KK), in the Malaysian State of Sabah – to the North East of Brunei. However the race was cancelled (I’m not getting paranoid yet, but this is becoming a familiar story in my race calendar) due to local elections. Like many of the runners, we had non-refundable air and hotel bookings so decided to go anyway and a few ladies from Panaga were also due to run, so we all made our various routes towards Sabah; ours being an early morning drive across the southern border to Miri, Sarawak and a flight with AirAsia. [I sat beside a tiny ultrarunner who had previously competed the HongKong 100K- he and his friend ogled my Dean Karnazes book ‘Ultramarathonman”].

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KK will be the stepping off point for the TMBT in September, so we checked into the Hyatt Regency which was very plush and had lovely seaview rooms, delicious buffet lunch with traditional drum and dancer display and a luxurious spa.

There had been talk about meeting up for an unofficial night-run round the proposed routes and I quite fancied that, so I took my stuff and kept an eye on the website for further updates. Meantime, the Brunei ladies all met up at the race expo which was in this huge shopping mall called Suriah Sabah – a monstrous L-shaped multi-layered complex with higher end shops like Coach and Levi through to local style supermarkets and cafes in the basement.

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We bumped into lots of other runners, since we all seemed to have had the same idea of changing into our race tee-shirts. I got directions to the local outdoor survival shop from one gent and bought a snakebite kit and a small torch.

We spoke to a couple from Taiwan, whilst I was buying my very bright Adidas race leggings (as per the cover of last months Runner’s World magazine) and Wan (spelling?) had studied a year at Herriot-Watt and he and his girlfriend Avalyn (sp?) would be running the full marathon that night. There were various rumours about start-times for FM/HM but my plan was to just turn up at 21:30 and use the course map to navigate round. Wan thought 9pm, others were going for 10.30pm. Hmmmmm

Back near the hotel, Liz, Rachel and Marie ‘s other halves had ‘forced’ my OH to drink beer and therefore, I knew I was on my own for the race (the ladies had all had a run and were looking forward to a nice dinner/drinking in an actual pub, since Brunei is a dry country). I decided I would get a taxi but luckily, a local runner Hazazi offered to give me a lift. Well now, my Mum would have a hairy fit if she knew I was accepting a lift to a remote location in a foreign town and country, from someone I had met only days previously through FaceBook (!!) but I went with my gut and runners are usually a genuine, friendly bunch, so I said OK and we headed out to the Lika Stadium at 08:40pm.

Hazazi was meeting numerous friends and I was introduced as we started amassing in the car-park near the would-be start. The KK runners were handing out red bicycle lights for clipping on, as we would be running on open busy roads, in the dark. I had worn reflective, bright clothing and we would be running in groups for safety. So it was not to be a race. I hoped there would be some people at my pace, although I didn’t care about time I just wanted to complete the distance as a training run.

After some discrepancy in start-times, with foreigners who didn’t know the route being paired up with cyclists, I discovered the half runners had left already and the next bacth wouldn’t be going until 10:30 😦 Luckily someone let me use their phone and I rang OH to tell him I would get a lift home. Hazazi was looking after the orphaned Scottish girl and would also give me a lift back to town; how nice was that? Especially as he was due to run the 10K so would be waiting for hours…….so we agreed that I would run with him to the 5K turnaround point which was roughly at a Shell petrol station (an unofficial toilet/water station).

We started off in 2s and 3s and ran towards the sea, via some roundabouts, it was vaguely down-hill so I noted that for the return, as the course was a ‘lollipop’ (out and back route with a loop at mid-way). I was at conversational pace for the first few Ks which were along the coast-line but eventually H urged me on, so I tried to catch up with one of his friends Jasmie who was just ahead. I ran with him for a few more roundabouts and then another friend, Burn, appeared from an impromptu toilet-stop, so the three of us started a slight ascent on the main carriageway towards the University, where the hill-challenge lay. borneo water stationLuckily there were some volunteer water stations which also had 100Plus dotted along the course, some with tables, others from the back of a truck! So many thanks to everyone who manned these. The race might have been at night but it was still melting hot. I know now to just watch my heart-rate and slow down if it gets high, regardless of pace. We were pretty steady, speaking in clips and taking turns running on the outside. I was sweeping the hand-held torch I’d picked up in the outdoor shop, in our paths when the street light waned and occasionally swept it along the tree-line. The frogs were really loud! I held my precious electrolyte drink in the UltrAspire Handheld which is fast becoming my new race-buddy, despite saying after the Crathes Half 2012 that it was too heavy for just a half marathon (when I’m presumably meant to be running fast as opposed to an ultra-distance where I’m just bimbling along “enduring”).

borneo halfJasmie fell back a bit, so I was running now with Burn, who told me he had completed the TMBT 25K option last year and was moving up to 50Ks in September. Interesting, so I started asking a few questions and, well, we had a little race up the hill ! I wanted to see if I still remembered how to run a proper gradient as I hadn’t done so for a few months since I left Scotland. As we came through the campus, we hit the first of 3 inclines. Burn had a slight advantage in that he knew where we were going and how long the hills were whereas I was just striding with my head down; we both notably picked up the pace up-hill and I started to breathe hard for the first time. I was glad when we crested the top of the hill and then……suddenly we were lost! Looking back at the route map, it seems we should have gone right at the University but I think we went left and up another hill. Burn asked a passing student but we had no idea which right turn to take. J had easily caught up by then (humph! all our hard work on the hill was lost) and we all agreed that it would be better to do too far than be under 21Km, so we eased down towards the far right turn, knowing that what goes down must come up. I let gravity take me and coasted down but I think this is where the other two suffered the most- downhill hates quads, luckily I am poorly developed in that area 🙂

bim route half

Another ramp up, turning us back onto our original route and we were passed the half way mark and on our way home. I suggested we took a short walk to allow J to join us (and to get a breather) but after a minute or 2, Burn had had enough and we started jogging again and enjoyed the downhill we had previously attacked! We didn’t wait for Jasmie but Burn assured me that he knew the way alright and I gently reminded him that I did not (ie stay with me please).

By now the full marathon guys and gals who had set off at 9pm, were starting to come up towards us. I asked what the Malay for “Well done” was but was too chicken to say it, so just clapped or gave some encouragement in English. Everyone was so smiley and happy, like any run, some were struggling, some were coasting; we all waved.

I was glad to see the Shell garage as we excused ourselves amongst folks who were gathering on the pavements, probably wondering what was going on. Cars were tooting and shouting at us and we got a few more water stations before the final roundabout.

I was pushing quite hard now as my heart-rate had been slowly rising from mile 10 and I felt the lethargy of my 6am start, flight, expo. The last food I had eaten, being 8 hours previous, was a distant memory and hunger started itching at me to finish! We both speeded up and as I mounted the pavement over the last bridge I felt something go click in my right ankle. “No! The Achilles site, please don’t let it be the Achilles”. I didn’t want to sustain an injury on such an optional non-race as tonight (or at any other time for that matter) but there was no further pain and less than a mile to go……then suddenly we were finished! Only 12.65 miles. I said to Burn “I need to go on and complete the half marathon distance”, he understood and ran with me- a few laps around the complex until my Garmin said 13.11 miles. DONE!

Then I rested. I thanked Burn profusely for running with me (he looked like he could have sprinted off at any moment) and whilst I was topping up on cooler water at the running clubs’ van, Jasmie came in and had some pictures taken with Burn, Hazazis and a few others. Thank God no one wanted my picture as I felt quite gash, queasy and like I wanted to lie down. Of course I couldn’t, but I sat on the grass until we were ready to go. I felt very tired and light-headed and sick with hunger. I thanked Hazazis for everything – basically I probably wouldn’t have gone if he hadn’t offered me that lift – and made my way to the hotel-room. Luckily my OH hadn’t stayed out drinking so he got me some full fat coke and a huge bag of crisps from the mini-bar 😉 I collapsed into bed after a quick shower.

IMG-20130513-03254Next morning I went for a full-body massage and asked for them to be careful around the Achilles area. Time will tell what’s actually happened there. I felt yet again much better and had some delicious noodles for brunch at the Mosaic café. Spoke with another few runners in the distinctive race tee-shirt and felt pleased to be able to say “I ran it”. I also got a little present for my efforts – a Suunto Vector watch –  to help me with my hiller running and it includes a temperature gauge as well as altimeter. I’m looking forward to using it in the jungle hash.

We were also fair chuffed to get to Miri and find that the car was in one piece. The OH took another opportunity to stock up on beer before we crossed the border. So, another hot  race experience, in another part of the world. Unfortunately I can’t make the re-scheduled date as I’ll be in the UK (running) but I WILL be back to KK for the trail event in September and hopefully a few recce runs with my new Malaysian buddies before then.

Distance: 13.11 miles / Time: 2:23:50 / Race-pack contents: Newton technical tee-shirt, Newton sports socks, PowerBar, various money-off tokens / Race shoes: Purple Nike Lunarglide+ 4 / Race cothes: Adidas capris, 2XU socks (bought at the expo), Black Ron Hill reflective Fetch Everyone vest, Black Fetch buff

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When the rain comes

It’s raining today; how I miss this weather and I want to shove on my trainers and get out in it, get soaked through, feel that fresh and salty wash down my face and enjoy the cooling effects. But there will be no running in the rain today. The rain is torrential and my windscreen wipers barely blink fast enough to keep visibility up. Then comes the thunder, loud enough to crack park benches and then too, cIMG-20130330-03089omes the fizzle of lightening- so severe that there are warning sirens sounding, telling people to get inside and particularly away from open spaces. No, the rain will not be a running friend for me over here. In other news, the weather is normally too hot to go without sunblock Factor 30 (bearing in mind, I’m not exactly Scottish blue-skinned, having earned my sock n vest lines on the West coast last year). The humidity makes consuming Oxygen very tough and I run with a gawping fish mouth, valiantly sucking at air but gaining little for my efforts. Its anoxic exercise at best and completely knackering at worst.

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The one dry piece of teeshirt after a 5K run

And the efforts have been monumental. Try three miles in 32 degC with your heart-rate hammering at 181 bpm! Now I’m not the fittest person out there but, for context, a sub-8 minute mile back in the UK requires the same effort as a 10+ minute mile in Brunei going on heart-rate comparison. Not that really worries me. It’s to be expected and I will get better as I acclimate.

But there are other things that nag me. Apart from the SPF, there’s insect repellent to wear – DEET on any available flesh and remember, don’t wipe your forehead with your hand once the rivers of perspiration start- as that’ll clean the DEET off and will sting your eyes once the sweat carries the chemical there. So running vests are great for keeping as cool as possible but also highly likely to return two outcomes- sunburn and/or insect bites. I’ve experienced a couple of sand-fly bites on each hand.IMG-20130404-03114 I was bitten on the Monday evening but the bites didn’t swell until Wednesday lunchtime. My hand was puffed up and tight, pulsing red and white and the bite sites were yellow and puss-filled, requiring both anti-histamine and topical antibiotic cream. Prevention being less itchy….I am also swatting Buddhist principles to one side and if something flies, buzzes and could remotely bite me, I am squishing first and asking for forgiveness later. There are mosquito repellent plug-ins in the bedroom and living-room and the air-con is kept at goose-bump level. I sleep with full length pyjamas and my ears beneath the covers (even though it’s too hot), which I haven’t done since the farm days, when there would be ear-wigs in the bed room during summer. I will no longer laugh at (German) tourists who wear both socks and open toed sandals; keeping the feet protected from the sun and the biters, is essential. I wish I had brought more long sleeved tee-shirts.

Humidity is constantly 80% +/- 5%.....

Humidity is constantly 80% +/- 5%…..making things a bit ickier and warmer than temperature alone might suggest

But running continues- of course it does! From my fool-hardy 5K on that first Monday morning, wearing a too thick tee-shirt, buff over my head, out and back on the main road at 10:30 a.m. thinking to myself that if this was how it was going to be, that I would never manage……P1000388to starting out earlier and earlier or leaving the run until an hour before sundown and running the gauntlet with the Biters. That’s when people run, there are so many runners here, both ex-pat and local, 7 am or 5pm. The ex-pats Panaga club has a group called the Panas Runners who go for a beach run on Mondays and Fridays and also have a session on Wednesdays, although I don’t think you get to go to that until you can keep up with the main group on the beach-runs. The first Monday I ran up the beach for 1.5 miles and luckily had some buddies who were happy with a 10+ min/mile. P1000489The beach is compact and more importantly, flat with no camber issues although there is a varying degree of litter- both natural (logs, Shells, crabs and crab-mounds) and man-made (bottles, plastic tubs). There’s a light breeze as well which although not temperature cool, does have a cooling effect. To get off the beach there is a scramble up a steep concrete sea-wall, drop down on the otherside onto long grass near some nodding donkey oil-wells and then a fairly quick section along a sandy trail onto the Jalan Utara to avoid lingering in Biter territory near stagnant waters. The route continues down passed the Lapan Puluh apaP1000437rtment and onto the cycle-paths, which weave their way through the Shell housing camp and back towards the Panaga club. That route is about 4 miles and there is some shade on the return journey from the canopy which intersperses all the housing in sections F9 and beyond. The Friday runs are a variation on this by heading firstly down passed the school, onto the cycle-paths and down towards F1 and the roundabout towards the town of Kuala Belait (KB). Across through sector E1 and then onto the beach, this time running up towards the Panaga club – always with the sun behind you. The sun-sets are really beautiful here.P1000460 The sun seems to set almost within minutes and the sea and beach turn from yellow to red and then it’s night. Like a light-switch. The mornings are the reverse, although I have only seen the sunrise once during the Brunei Half Marathon….seconds after lights-on, someone turns the heat on too and that murky bathwater feel becomes over-whelming, forcing blood to the surface of my skin and the heart-rate goes up and up and up. And that’s how running is now. Slower than normal but not the slowest I’ve ever been 😉 I have a new set of base-lines to improve upon and any previous times and efforts are not forgotten but are meaningless in this context. I still strive for fitness, for improvement and for running to be more fluid, easier on the lungs and not so exhausting. I am enjoying it despite these so-called frustrations and I look forward to chipping away at my pace, upping the mileage and lowering my heart-rate a beat at a time.

NEXT UP- The Borneo Half Marathon, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, which will now be run at midnight on 4th/5th May due to clashes with the local election voting!

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.”

Fall running with a Fell-runner

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Vrackie in the background

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

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

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

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

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

Benbecula Half Marathon

I completed the Heb 3 last year; Benbecula, Skye and Harris. Loved the experience, met loads of other runners and got some good chats along the way (the usual back of the pack cameraderie). I managed to scoop the FV35 in 2011 (there were only two of us in it) but I relished the prize and promised I would return, better trained, thinner, all the stuff you normally swear you’ll do.I didn’t. Four months on from the December marathon and I was up one serious calf strain and an achilles issue. I had managed to get to where I could run 7.5 mile route on trail but was in no way distance or speed trained. BUT since we were heading up to the islands anyway, it seemed rude not to at least try and get round.I forgot my Garmin last year so this time I thought I would start out and see how far I could get with the promise that if anything hurt I would pull up and walk or DNF. My old buddy from last year Philip, was there dressed in a woolly jumper again (even though it was warm n sunny). We set off into the headwind and everything went well, 5K in 27 mins, 10K in 55 mins, 10 miles in 91 mins. The wind was a real struggle and unfortunately, there wasn’t a recoup of the wind behind as by then the route was well away from the coastline. Well, it got properly tough around 9 miles but I held on, overtaking a few here and there, managed a gel and knew that it was roughly flat and down-hill from the last water station at mile 11. I took a walk through the station, downed two cups of water and staved off a stitch as I pushed through the glue that was my untrained legs in the final few miles. As I crossed the final main road, I saw another lady running for Vatersay crossing behind me and decided I would try and stay in front of her. Pace felt like 12 min miles but the Garmin said ~8.35. The heat and wind had sapped a few runners, one who I urged to “stay with me” but he said he had nothing left.

The finishing strait

No pick up for a sprint finish, Phil finished 30 secs in front (last year I was only 3 secs behind him). I gave myself a break, knowing I was still under treatment for injuries and hadn’t run further than 8 miles all year.However, I got two surprises: One – my finish time was sub-2 and running a half in 1.58.22 was not far outside my 2011 PB. Two – there were 5 runners in my age category and I had passed the second one in the last mile, the lady from Vatersay, so I managed to pick up the FV35 prize again.

Good effort by me (not up for the false modesty) and a great indicator that I’m not too far off form and that with a return to full fitness and some specific training, my Half marathon PB WILL die this year.Our summer holiday continued to Harris, Lewis, St. Kilda and onto the mainland to Achiltibuie. However, we didn’t make it back down to Skye the following weekend so my hopes of perhaps completing the Heb 3 series again were totally dashed. But I was happy with the race and the outcome. Benbecula is an idyllic place to holiday, walk, bike and run and I feel very lucky to have been part of this event again.

http://runbenbecula.btck.co.uk/HalfMarathon/HalfMarathon2012