Christmas week training

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

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

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

John using the auto-tracker viewing Jupiter near Monymusk

John using the auto-tracker viewing Jupiter near Monymusk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Phase 1- we are leeeeft off

OK, so I’ve started with week 1 of a marathon training regime. I’ve taken a huge cauldron called, erm, MS Excel and applied a modicum of David Kheul along with some VDots, previous experience and my own brand of cross-training and voila; I should be good to crank out a decent 26.2-er in April sometime! Of course, that’s taking into account that I will be starting a new job, life and the acclimitisation which goes with it around about March time, but hey-ho, let’s see how we go. You neeever know what delays might (and usually do) occur with the whole Visa and life lobotomy known as Ex-pat relocation.

It’s been good actually getting into ther swing of things when I’m off work and everyone else is a little distracted with last minute Crimbo shopping (did mine in November blah-blah) and buying loads of food they’ll never eat. It’s simple for us this year as we’re all going out to a hotel for food so I haven’t had to go to Tesco’s and play mario-kart with the usual crowds.

So week 1 started with a bit of retrospect and a nod to the ever present achilles issue. I’m going to keep reminding myself about it even though my first inclination is to shut up about it forever, deal with the pain and only worry if I collapse at the side of the road unable to stand-up. That’s why I kinda liked the look of this graph, which shows my recent reinterpretation of training equalling” just running”. Not anymore!monthly

So the scores on the doors are two phases –  endurance and stamina – with 7 weeks of each plus a mini-downturn week in the middle of each phase and a low week between phases. Long runs build up then knock back every 4th week. Intervals in phase 1 are replaced by tempo runs at RP-5% in phase 2. My cross-training will be swimming, cycling and circuits incorporating weights. I am really enjoying being in the pool and looking forward to a more regular weekly meeting. Who can argue with the no-impact aspect and a lovely sauna afterwards?

Santa has also been directed to the www.sportpursuit.com sale for one of their turbo trainers so we can turn the old heavy lead mountain bike into an exercise machine for those blustery nights when the short trip to the gym seems too far!

tough mudder I’ve also been volunteered into the work’s Tough Mudder team; at the very least I will use my training background (ahem) to help the newbie runners to get in shape prior to the August event in Edinburgh. Again- signing up for something when I’ll be living 10 time-zones away just seems crazy but I don’t have any doubt that my enthusiasm, motivational techniques (I am both good cop and bad cop depending on the audiences needs) and love of a good training plan, will be welcomed by the Women’s Team 😉

I’m sure they’ll all hate me before long as I’ve already scheduled some time trials on trail to sort the ladies from the ladettes. Hopefully their weekly 3 miler can count as my easy-run, at least for the first few weeks!

Interim running and a squibbly lens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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!

Beyond 26.2 – a 3rd attempt at ultras

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there will be “other” events to consider.

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

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Two weeks to Glen Ogle Ultra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myself, Anna & my sister Iona finish Kinord 10K

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

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

Recovering and racing between Ultras

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

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

NTS Crathes Castle Half Marathon

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

Baxters River Ness 10K

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

The new Flying Scotsman?

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

My first cycle (with my new hard-tail)

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

Some bike info:

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

** OK….maybe not!

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

Riverside trail run

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

Where the wind blows…….

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

A wee hidey hut – can you see the seat?

Fall running with a Fell-runner

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Vrackie in the background

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

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

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

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

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

Ultra-running- the Speyside Way Splash

Race selection background

See my aforementioned blog regarding my reasons to run and also, bear in mind that I did no running training from February to April this year due to a calf tear and achilles injury, resumed running < 3 miles per day in May after loads of physio and acupuncture, kept mileage to a minimum incorporating Kenyan hills and tempo runs whilst continuing core and strength exercising, “conquered” a couple of half marathons during the Heb 3 series, ran Nairn half the weekend before SSW ultra and my longest single run was 15 miles, over Ben Aigan twice with a few broken up longer runs as part of my SSW recces. Was I stupid to attempt this race? Possibly, although I don’t think it’s stupid to try your best. Despite my mileage being less than ideal, my brain was in full ultra mode and I felt ready for this event.

Stats

Miles run = 36.9 (including toilet detours), Time taken = 7 hrs 29 mins 11 seconds.

Spilts

The details: 10.32, 10.20, 10.46, 10.29, 10.07, 10.20, 10.23, 10.13, 10.43 (WC1), 9.26, 9.30, 19.34 (CP1/WC2), 15.21 (WC3), 27.09, 28.43, 16.25 (WC4), 9.28, 11.31, 11.14, 11.51, 12.23, 11.39, 12.08, 10.31, 23.04 (CP2, last solid food eaten), 10.05, 13.15 (WC5), 11.16, 12.08, 11.54, 14.36 (WC6), 12.26, 12.56, 12.04, 12.02, 11.29

Equipment list

Bodyglide, X-socks Run Sky (2 off), Shockabsorber B4490, Haglofs boxers, Haglofs intense shorts, Icebreaker 200 series light long sleeve merino wool shirt,  Gore Magnitude AS vest, Buff buff, UltrAspire pocket handhelds (2 off), Salomon XA20 rucksack with Camelbak 2 Litres bladder, Nike Lunarglide 2+ (2 off), CompresSports calf guards, INOV-8 Gaiters

Food

Mule Kicks Cherry & Himalayan salt gels, bananas, organic crunchy peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich, crystallised ginger, oatmeal CLIF bars (hardly any of this got eaten)

Drink

Organic chocolate soya milk, flat cocoa-cola, coconut water, Kara coconut milk drink, water with electrolyte tablets, water (all of this got drunk)

Race Account

We were expecting rain for the start of the race but even the torrent experienced driving through the early a.m. country roads to Buckie, didn’t prepare us for the river which met us at the start of the Speyside Way Ultra in Ballindalloch. I don’t mind the rain because you can only get “so” wet and being a slightly oversized distance runner, I often benefit from the cooling effects of the colder weather 🙂

I had decided to wear road shoes for the ultra quite a few weeks earlier, because the support would benefit me more than the extra grip from offroad shoes, however, I was fretting a little and doubting my choice. Within the first few strides my feet were completely soaked so I just had to grin and bear it; we were all in the same boat.

I felt relaxed at the start, exchanging a few words with some Cape Wrathers and spotting Andy before the off which was nice. I settled in behind two gents who were holding a full blown conversation about how to dry out their tent and I was soon in a small group who were to remain together for the best part of the day. I knew the first 10 miles of the route so I concentrated on not going too quickly and staying ‘safe’ by lifting my knees and not striding boldly through puddles but rather watching the feet in front to gauge depth of water. I did occasionally get to look up and, despite the rain, the farmland around us looked stunning.

Everything was going pretty well until around mile 8 and I started to feel a bit burbly in my tummy. A different kind of sweat came on and I wondered if I could hold on until the visitor centre toilets at Aberlour? Nope, I took a few minutes scanning around and made the first of several horrendous heaving toilet stops which were to be the real dampener on an otherwise tremendous experience. I’ll keep the details to myself but on this occasion I managed to avoid exposure to any other runners. I had to go again almost immediately but made it back onto the path in front of a running couple. Felt much better afterwards and certainly picked up the pace a little, as I’d hoped to keep my splits around 10.30 minute/mile until CP1. Then my Garmin came apart at the top strap pin! Luckily I saw it just as it happened and I ran the rest of the way to Craigellachie with the pin in my hand. Good job hubby was on hand to fix the Garmin whilst I did a sprint to the loos! I grabbed my ipod, a banana and swapped the UltrAspire handheld for my rucksack. Feet didn’t feel blistered and had actually reached a warm n happy stasis, as I started the climb towards Ben Aigan.

On the tarmac and runners were coming out in dribs n drabs, a combination of those who had spent a good time at the CheckPoint and the likes of me, who had bustled through, wary that time was draining away. [I say that because I had received the promise of more sponsorship if I came home in under 7 hrs 30 and my time target was sub 7, so I was hopeful of securing the extra cash for BASIC]. But more tummy issues and I had to just keep on keeping on. Surprisingly, I was still on target for sub 7 when I came into Fochabers, as I’d factored in spending way longer at the checkpoints and taking pictures/ tweeting. I elected to not take my phone with me from my first drop bag!

Before this stage was the hilliest part of the route, a great trail section where I had a bit of an epiphany regarding my childhood, got all emotional which I partly attributed to hormones(!) and partly because it’s just so damn mystical in the forest and on hills at the best of times and some of the scenes were postcard perfect. This was definitely the best if not the toughest running of the day and I enjoyed those miles the most. Masochist? Moi?

I knew the route until the right turn at Bridgeton farm. A long unrelenting straight on the main road lay ahead and I had a brief stop to ask about water stations and the two girls I spoke to were also running low on water. The rain had stopped and the day was warming up. My bladder/electrolyte hadn’t been full when I started but I really could have done with more fluid as I needed to compensate for the extra loo stops. Och well, on I went and someone remarked that I was “brave to run on the hills”….erm, I didn’t really count all up gradient as hills to be honest as I was now having to run when I could and use my loo stops as rest stops- you do what you can, don’t you? So on I went and I cat n moused a few people but by now I was starting to feel a bit spaced and was grateful to see Checkpoint 2 at the top of a very steep brae. Somehow I had marked my drop-bag with 56 instead of 65 (I am NOT a morning person I tell you!) and once I opened it, it was all I could do to peel the sodden Nike’s and socks off my feet, wipe the mud from my skin as best I could, apply vaseline and clean socks n shoes. The blister sites looked white but I couldn’t tell if they were blisters or just wrinkly wet feet. I wasn’t fancying any of the food but I exchanged the rucksack for a handheld containing coconut water and that seemed to go down very well.

Off towards Fochabers and I had a brief pick up in energy before I was in the bushes again….into the cricket green where the travelling folks had set up camp and I passed my hubby, pal and her baby with no time to spare for chatting, I felt I had to keep going and asked for a Neurofen to be ready for me at Spey Bay 😦 I had decided not to eat anything solid from then on because it seemed to have dire effects and I knew I had plenty fat reserves to tap into if needed.

The rain was off  and I was beginning to dry out. The gnarly tree trunks which patterned the next few miles of path were familiar to me but required concentration, so much so that I seemed to catch two gents who I hadn’t seen for some time. But no! some poor bloke had to see me squat minutes later and I blushingly asked if he had any spare TP. Ah camaraderie eh? I also got more ‘donations’ from two rather surprised hikers about a mile out from Spey Bay. A really gracious couple of runners who were sticking to a very successful walk-run strategy, let me passed as the day became a little warmer and I rolled my sleeves up for the final 1/6 of the race. It was definitely The Best Toilet In Scotland when I dashed into the Whale and Dolphin Centre to use the lavvies just before the final water station. I had a bit of grump because no one could find the Neurofen I had put in the car 1st aid kit and instead had procured two evil looking red tablets from somewhere. Nope, I couldn’t risk the unknown painkillers so the feet just had to be forgotten about for the next 5 or so miles. Grrrrr.

My time target was gone and I was just plugging away doing whatever I could as I hit the trails before the disused railwayline. The forest smelled beautiful and my stomach stayed put. It felt steady and I probably had some sort of zombie-rhythm going on but it was very slow; I kept the gent in front in my sights and slowly crept up on him and two others as we came into Port Gordon; so unfair because he had a cut leg and had clearly taken a fall somewhere in the forest. As I passed a very tired runner, I felt very guilty as I realised I had been staring at his backside for the last 10 minutes, so I had a quick chat with him and realised he was one of the tent-gents from the original chatty group. I followed the marshal who pointed us onto the shingly track but was surprised to be running towards a car parked across the path; the occupants were completely oblivious to the race going on around them, reading the paper and eating safties! It was kinda funny, especially given that I hadn’t eaten anything since Fochabers and was now relying on chocolate coconut milk for sustenance. It more of less worked but my stomach was starting to do a refuser even for the milk, about a mile away from Buckie and I couldn’t do anything with the pace as I felt the first stabs of cramp threaten my left calf. But this was my old town and the familiar sights and knowledge of the route came to my aid once again.

Och I shouldn’t complain really, I’ve felt worse at the end of half marathons(!) – I was relatively strong (perhaps having benefited from the slower pace and multiple stops) no wobbly legs, no tears as I crossed the burn and ran along the Yardie, even managing to maintain some sort of running motion back towards the finish. I tried to smile, I really did, it was part grimace part elation. Despite not thinking sub 7.30 was possible with 2.5 miles to go, I managed to scrape in with 49 seconds to spare!

However this account might read, I can honestly recommend this race to anyone thinking about upping their distance. Even in inclement weather this event is a well oiled machine regarding marshaling, signage, water stops, goodies and the overall organisation including facebook page for motivation, pictures and weather updates. I really enjoyed preparing for the race and will definitely make the pilgrimage back at some stage because it is just a stunning part of the country, with a great mix of wee towns, fields, track, forest, hills, windy woods and roads, the magnificance of the Spey river, bridges, sheep, cows, travellers, hikers…..and the odd ultra runner 🙂

After-thoughts

Nice to (re) meet: Sarah the race director, The dashing marshal who almost got flattened with a sweaty hug from me on Ben Aigan, all the lovely marshals and by-standers who took time to clap, shout and encourage, the living legend and inspiration extraordinaire that is _andy, my new mate with the gadgets Nick, Good looking Tommy, Fabulous Norma and her brilliant race chat and racing pooch, author and super-distance mogul Andrew Murray who shook my hand at the finish, all my fellow runners. My personal supporters Linda and wee Oliver (The Ver) who didn’t bat an eye at my grumpy demeanour at Fochabers and of course, my dutiful and utterly amazing husband who clearly sees the best in me, having experienced some of the worst during these longer races.

Ultra running and the girl from Buckie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS “Actual” race blog to follow 🙂