Four weeks of baseline training

So, this one time at run-camp, I got this injury and…wait, no wait! Where are you going? What do you mean you’ve heard this one a thousand times, ad-lib to fade?

Alrighty, let’s not dwell on the how, for now. Let’s launch right back into the what have I been up to the last few weeks. Well, I’m still not logging my miles or anything as I was before, so I’ve not cool diagrams or analysis to show you. Most of my time futering about with the phone Apps is divided between Instagram (my new pet and I love it so much, oh come here for a hug ye wee lovely thing ūüôā ) and the MyFitnessPal App, which is under-written by Under Armour I think. It is helping me to kick my own fat ass into some semblance of a body that can do runnering without wobbling more than a weeble mating with Mr. Blobby. It’s working, I tell you. And then I post a picture of my lovelier self (sometimes even without the FaceBeauty filter) on to said¬†Instagram. And the fairground ride goes round and round…….

[Coughs. Regroups]

I committed to completing four weeks of basic training before doing anything else. Except, OK, I have entered some races but that’s by-the-by and totally necessary for motivation. Yes, I am still lying to myself. Ok……

I have started a training programme and committed to repeating th20160105_110325e first two weeks twice, to make sure my injuries do not flare up. There! That’s truthful. I don’t even know where I found the plan – it’s a page torn from a magazine from aaaages ago and it appears to be a 13 week programme for an off-road marathon. The good thing is, the sessions are mostly in time not distance and this works well for training in the heat where you just can’t expect to run at anything like the same speed as in¬†the average UK ambient. Ok I’m sort of laughing at this statement as it is still snowing in places back home and everyone is moaning about weather and using the dread-mill. But at least this will improve. The¬†heat¬†here never ever goes away, so my usual training temperature is 24-30 degC and yes, that includes the lowest¬†level I can get the gym to, even if I put the air-con on for hours beforehand. As far as excuses for training slow go, this is possibly a very good one. But I’m still working hard. My heart-rate is pretty high (160 BPM upwards), even at conversational type pace, since the bodies main job during any exertion is to try and cool itself.

This training cycle is roughly this:

Monday – 30 minutes easy [treadmill, practising getting my cadence up OR chatty beach run 5K with the girls]

Tuesday Р20 mins easy (run or turbo) plus strength routine and core exercises [hard day, lots of exercise ball, weighted twists focussing on back, hips, core. Always happy to finish]

Wednesday – 10 mins warm-up, 10-20 mins tempo OR 1 minute hard, two mins easy x 6, 15 mins warm-down [dreadmill, reaching the dizzying heights of 10 kph for the tempo or 12 kph for the hard bit]

Thursday Р15 mins W/U, 4-6 x 400m fast reps with 4 minute walked recovery intervals [dreadmill, more dizzying heights of 11.2 kph for the reps]

FridayREST

Saturday – 10 mins W/U, 1 minute fast, 2 minutes steady x 5 reps, 10 mins W/D

Sunday – 30 building to 50 mins easy. Just whatever I can manage, usually on the beach.

So I’m really doing no more than 5 or 6 K at a time. This is week four and at the end of the week I’ll do a little review before starting the next four weeks. I’m drinking my protein shakes like a good girl and staying hydrated. In fact I’m better hydrated when I get off the treadmill than before I go on. I probably need to look at that as I still can’t get above 47% hydrated according to the Tanita scales. An that is all. Check out my Instagram feed if you want more pictures ūüėČ Aye. Don’t all rush at once ūüėÄ ūüėÄ

 

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Extra Zeds – back to back long runs

I really need more sleep. This week I’ve been forced to remember how difficult it is to do back to back runs and exist in the land of the living. A couple of days¬†I have¬†found beforeHarrisHalfmyself¬†sitting in front of the laptop with my eye-balls rolling back in my head, fighting to stay awake. If I loiter anywhere for too long, I find my body starts to shutdown and urges me to catch a few zeds! Pass the Yerba Mat√© …….Zzzzzzz

All quite normal as I am asking my body to run between 3 and 4 hours, followed by 2 hours with only 10 hours sleep in-between. When I write it like that, it seems ludicrous! But this is what week 3, 4 & 5¬†has entailed, so¬†just as well I’m facing a step-back week where my longest run will barely be in double figure mileage.

As a reward for the longer runs, I treated myself to an aromatherapy 90 minute massage to pummel out those weary muscles. And some new ‘incentives’ from Sportpursuit. I’m so good to myself, you’d think I’d try harder.

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So this is what I’ve been up to over the¬†last¬†few¬†weeks,¬†working towards¬†The Mauritius Marathon, which will be my longest training run for the¬†Speyside way ultramarathon¬†in August¬†and¬†The Most Beautiful Thing in September.

Week 3: Long run 27K, 2 x 5Ks, jungle hash, HIIT and reformer Pilates

P1000465Week 4: back to back runs of 5 miles, 9 miles,10 miles (38K) plus HIIT and Pilates.

One of these runs was run along the beach wearing full length Salomon EXO compression tights. Although I’m sure my legs liked the additional support it was WAY too hot and the extra burden of running in sand and having to navigate beach debris and river inlets meant it felt a lot longer than it was. My Achilles was really stiff afterwards but following the piriformis exercises, I had absolutely no repercussions for my 10 miler the next day ūüôā

Week 5: back to back runs of 5 miles, 18 miles, 5 miles (45K) plus HIIT and Pilates

and then this coming week is a step-back or drop-down week,¬†with a cheeky wee 10 mile race called the¬†Mizuno Wave Run¬†near Kuala Lumpur. I have so far been really impressed by the organisation, local hospitality and excellent quality of race goodies provided by the Far East’s Road racing circuit. Let’s hope this one maintains the standard.¬†I need to get back to the jungle hash though, as the terrain training will really benefit the hillier part of SSW as well as the overall conditions of TMBT.

Week 6 – 3 miles /10 mile race/3 miles (26K) and the shorter runs will be more or lessi_love_plodding_along_mug-rfbae3764c5024b4eb8602fbdb84a62b3_x7jgr_8byvr_152 ‘speed work’ involving 400m reps with short intervals. I can’t really expect my legs to like upping the pace even for these short runs but it’ll be good for them to have a change from all the plodding. If I don’t watch out I’ll be growing donkey-ears ūüôā

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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 Рa 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 ūüė¶ 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 ūüôā

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 ūüėČ 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 caf√©. 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

Brunei Half Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P1000309 P1000310

At around the 5-6K mark, the sun started to come up just as we passed the large gold-domed mosque and the heat wasn’t any worse than I’d experienced over the prevailing weeks. I was drinking frequently, had a short-lived twinge right knee and had some crystallised ginger and some Neurofen stashed ‘just encase’. My fellow runners were friendly, smiled and I felt confident enough to tap a local gent on the shoulder to tell him his shoe-lace was undone. I managed to ditch a rather annoying girl who was overtaking me and then slowing in my line of sight continually, by running through the second water station. My other half was made to jog alongside me to capture these pictures at the next water-station ūüôāP1000311

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

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

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

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

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My Nutty Salty Balls: high calorie blogging

Food. Food is very rarely just fuel, it’s quite an emotional facet of life:our best friend and sometimes a bit of a Frenemy!¬†Like most people, I¬†celebrate by eating,¬†some¬†mope and comfort eat or abstain altogether,¬†I have been known to “overeat”.¬†¬†My working days¬†were moulded by the ritual of coffee breaks and by the etiquette of taking lunch. Going without it or not eating enough of the right stuff,¬†is not a great idea. I’ve done that too. Sometimes food defines us –¬†vegetarianism, veganism, fruititarians, people on the “face type” diet’. For others, it¬†‘confines’ for health reasons¬†– coeliacs, diabetics, intolerences and allergies. It certainly makes life interesting and as an erstwhile distance runner, I’m always on the quest for palatable energy whilst avoiding tummy issues (ahem!). Of course, food is an industry whether it’s the growing, sourcing, preparing, eating¬†or writing about it¬†ūüôā

So! How fantastic to be emptying the food cupboards, in preparation for renting the house out and finding all sorts of wonderful and out-of-date dried goods, cans, spices and basically just ingredients to experiement with.

DRUM ROLL! Where chemistry and imagination meet a 10-year amalgamation of ingredients, there are bound to be some new “species” of food types created. The fact that I am a trained chef AND a chemist should not deter anyone from trying out their own concoctions! I should probably insert some kind of disclaimer about the recipes herein, but…….

Aberdeen City-20130222-02692I posted a picture of my’ alternative to wheaty buttery¬†flapjacks’ on FB a few weeks back and after a threat and a couple of nudges, I produced a few of my “nutty balls” (cue numerous childish innuendo) and even organised an exchange on the¬†Formartine & Buchan Way (a popular local distance runners route) with some friends. Dodgy passing of tin-foiled balls were followed by texts saying yum-yum-what’s the recipe? and I didn’t really know what the recipe was. Cos it was basically just a whole heap of “stuff” in random quantities and, like the best nights out always being the unplanned ones, I hadn’t recorded any details. Bad scientist, no method, no utensil list.

So…………………..

My Nutty BallsAberdeen City-20130224-02714

Blast¬†some popped popcorn &¬†rice cakes with the hand-mixer, then add room temperature crunchy peanut butter (I used no salt, no sugar organic Whole Earth brand), add some runny hunny (preferrably acacia or off the comb). Keep adding and tasting until (1) it’s yummy and (2) all the dry stuff sticks together. Form into mitt-sizes balls and leave in the fridge overnight. Then wrap a few balls up in foil, stick in your run-bag and hand them out to grateful friends when you meet them out and about. I got a little sick on eating more-than-my-fair share but have learned my lesson and they really are an excellent alternative to flapjacks or carb gels, both of which I have problems stomaching for any length of time.

PopCoNuts

A variation on the theme and this time, with added flavour balancing to knock out some of the sweetness from the last lot, in the shape of cracked pepper and salt! I’m not talking vast quantities, season to taste, being the operative phrase.

  • 50g plain popcorn (popped,stale & mashed down)
  • 50g dessicated coconut (vintage from 2008 or in date, if you prefer)
  • Honey, melted in micro¬†– or if you wanna make the balls¬†vegan, use algave nectar (from a flower nae from a bee)
  • Golden syrup melted in micro
  • Cinnamon, ground black pepper and table salt

TIP: Mix the salt in with the syrup after it’s come out of the micro, for better distribution when adding¬†into the dry ingredients. It’s simple really and you can add any dried fruit or seeds as required. I’ve made a nice spicy batch with carob, sugared ginger and a hint of nutmeg. Go mental, get designing….and remember to share with and experiment on running friends.

I was however a bit miffed to see that popcorn use is ‘in vogue’ and Grazia mag have listed a popcorn biscuit in their latest issue. Pah! I was there first, eh?

And a link for an article about whether we should/ shouldn’t eat before a long run HERE

Lastly, a wee gallery of other stuff I regularly eat which doesn’t seem to mess with exercise done immediately before or after. Try Dole fruit sachets (Ella Oragnics¬†are good too) for upt to 25g of easy-carry, easy-quaff carbs, with no additive nonsense.

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 ūüė¶ 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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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 ūüôā

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 ūüė¶ 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 ūüôā

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.

Ultramarathon drop-bag palaver

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

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

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

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

And the fuelling of course!

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

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

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

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

Half Marathon Nemesis – Nairn

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

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

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

I can never ‘just’ smile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally! A Nairn Half Medal and roadrunners buff

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

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

More Speyside Way

Another day off work and a stark contrast to the previous downpour- a random scorcher, which saw me reaching for the SPF 30. I drove up to SpeyBay and was immediately struck by the over-crowding at the WDCS, so the initial plan of running SpeyBay to Fochabers and back was slightly blighted, so I picked up a map and continued along the coast to Port Gordon, further along the SSW

http://www.wdcs.org/connect/wildlife_centre/find_us.php

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A couple of miles West¬†to SpeyBay and once there I realised I was over dressed and overladen. Still, I’m working on the premise that if I’m carrying extra weight and running in a veritable ‘sauna suit’, come race day I will feel fresher and springier having become conditioned to being hot n heavy (well, I’m not sure it works quite like that, but….)

GEAR:Nike Lunarglide 2+, Haglofs full length intense tights, X-sock run sky run (worn inside out), Haglofs boxers, shockabsorber B4490, Rabs ultrasilk tee, Gore orange AS vest, Cosmics buff, white woodworm glasses, Garmin 205, Salomon XA 20, 1.5 Litres water + 2 electrolyte High5 zeros, 2 popcorn/yoghurt bars, cherry mulekick gels, usual rucksack stuff: 1st aid kit, TP (in waterproof wrapper), vaseline, mobile phone, hat, spare fleece, waterproof trousers and jacket(!!), OS map

The route from PortGordon was somewhat flat and although I stuck to the road and didn’t go on the disused railway I reckoned I’ll need the new scenery on the day, to keep me distracted from the pain of having done 31 miles at that stage! I wore road shoes as I’m more and more inclined to think I’ll get benefit from their support more than I’ll benefit from the grip of off-road shoes (I won’t be going SO fast, that I need rugged lugged soles to gain time).

Forest between SSW and main road, towards Fochabers from SpeyBay

Spey Bay was absolutely crammed full of bird-watchers, dolphin spotters and Grandparents with grandchildren, so I passed through quickly and promised myself an ice cold cocoa-cola at the visitors centre cafe on the way back. There were a few walkers on the main path and I met a dozen or so at about half way.

That wee sign indicated the narrow path……

Apparently there were literally hundreds of ramblers in Fochabers that day and they had dispersed to various wooded walks up and down the SSW. This group were very gracious and moved onto the more rocky side of the path, to let me passed. [I always get the feeling that I’m running on the more overgrown/ rocky side but if I swap to the other furrow, the original side looks better!]

The route was variable, from open landrover track (sometimes with deep furrows), to tow-path single file type paths but overall it was quite flat and pleasant through trees and with the Spey wide and majestic on the right.

As I neared Fochabers (and under the bridge I negotiated a digger and workies as well as very gnarly paths ribboned with tree roots), I was starting to feel the pace and the heat of the day and encountered quite¬†a few cars around the main park, about 1/2 mile from town. The paths were hooching with walkers; anyone would think it was a public pathway ūüôā¬†I ran into the town square and made my way towards the local supermarket and running shop for a break, before returning the way I came. The local Co-op did not have such a thing as chocolate soya milk, which I’d got into my head that I “needed”. I opted to go for an ice cold coke.

View up Fochabers high Street- Outrun green sign just visible on right

Scarlett was in the local running shop Out run¬†and introduced me to her friend as “a proper runner”. Dunno about that! They both remarked that I was over-dressed and that my bag weighed a tonne. Yep. We had a chat and again, I was offered all sorts of help- tea, toilet, lifts to Buckie (soooo tempting) and the unexpected advice that my shoes were way too loose. I gave my usual response, that my feet swell and I get blisters etc etc. However, I kept the shoe laced tight and once I left, I adjusted the right so it was same pressure on the premise I could always stop and undo them but guess what? Scarlett was right! The tighter tied shoes made my feet feel a lot lighter somehow and I didn’t suffer from cut off circulation or blisters. Folks- trust the experts! I will definitely wear my shoes tied up to the final hole and tighter than before. (Oh and the shop stocks X-Bionic, including the latest Fennec tops which looks well lush….but I digress)

I had to negotiate several long strands of slow moving groups before heading back out of the town. Now you might have laughed at me buying an OS map for this route but I “did” manage to get lost and go off down a dead end on the way back….so if you see this bothy, turn back, you’re no longer on the SSW!

Fishing bothy. NOT on the speyside way

I met the walkers again, not a moment too soon as I had literally just finished, er, “using the outside latrine”……suddenly there were plenty school kids who didn’t want to budge over and I put a wee burn on, down in the 08:30 minute mile mark as I approached Spey Bay. I enjoyed a slice of Soreen loaf and a bottle of cooling water as I made my way back to Portgordon on warm-down for a total of 16.34 miles. A quick clothes change and I started the long but pleasant drive back to Aberdeen.

I’m leaving the Portgordon to Buckie miles for race day. My return to the town of my childhood will no doubt be an emotional one but I can’t wait to see it and run in (yes, not hobble, run) to the finish after the gruelling hill of the High Street!