How to feel like you’ve done stuff when you haven’t done anything

This is how my running life goes: doldrums and procrastination, some good bits, loads of race entries followed by almost as many DNSs. My eyes are way bigger than my stomach, legs, lungs, non-injury periods.

And somehow (presumably because I have so much money, hope and enthusiasm) I still keep entering races, year after year. Just encase 😉

June 2015 – The Heb 3 Half marathons series, including Benbecula, Skye and Barra. Yeah Baby!

3 x 13.1 miles or thereabouts, with hills, headwinds, banter galore and quite possibly a stupidly short tartan running kilt. In a four week period. No chance of a possible injury there then! A shot at the new local park-run route which is actually in a park (faints off to the side to visually underline this) means I’ll get a 5K in the inbetween week and/or the inaugural Tomintoul whiskey 10K and who doesn’t like one of those?

July – I have planned a day-long mimble around MacRitchie reservoir trails in Singapore, with Brian, one of my MBA buddies. Why? Because it will be awesome trail training for BU50K, it’s the location of the TNF100 Singapore so a decent chance to find out what the expected technicality of these North Face events is and there are opporchancities for shopping and visiting some mates.[I am sure that Hokas or recovery flip-flops are welcome in all Orchard Road boutiques].

August – Borneo Ultra 50K aka BU50K. Or is it TMBT 55K? I’ve definitely entered one and they start from same place on same day and will require cheat-sticks, climbing on hands and knees as well as a healthy smattering of Dr. Doolittle syndrome “Please Mister snake, please do not wake up now as I stumble through the undergrowth”. Yes, I tend to verbalise my fear of biting and sucking animals. I’ll have 12-15 hours to perfect my communication. This is my “A” race for the year, in line with that whole forty year old birthday landmark.

September – no events planned but since BU50K is the last weekend in Aug, I’ll probably be recovering in matching air-boots and stretching my quads out on a vice in preparation for………

October – Climbathon International Trail event. Different terrain from the above but still Malaysia’s finest attempt to crush my knee cartilage into vampire-meets-sunshine dust in the foothill of Mt Kinabalu: the 20th highest mountain in The World. Should be great funishment and I can celebrity spot the sky-runners in the elite race while I organise the straight jacket and fire up the O2 tent for ‘after’

November – Beirut Marathon. More a ‘why not?’, than a ‘why’ scenario. A bronze medal event in Lebanon over a more traditional forum. I blame Carrie and Homeland for my slight but ongoing obsession with the Northern part of the Middle-East. I wouldn’t say no to toe-ing the line in Jordan and Jeruslam too. Pass the headscarf……

The Mighty Jeff Ooi RD of KL Tasek Perdana 12 hour ultra fame, has just announced a 16 hour event happening sometime near the end of the year. Might be a great time to try and breach the 100K mark whilst eating twice my body-weight in noodles. But it all depends on ^^^^ and whether I can put one foot in front of the other without wincing, yelping or puking (the Holy Trinity of pain definitions).

At the moment, I’d be extremely happy with an enjoyable half marathon around the Outer Hebridean island of Benbecula. So many entries but it’s still one race at a time. Let’s hope I can keep a decent start and finish statistic.

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The long yawn of Interim

So, like, where the frak have I been, eh?

Nowhere special (drags toe of shoe back and forth along the dusty pebble-path….). Just ‘around’, being all introverted and cannae-be-ershty. Plus I was like working and everything.

But now I am back and not working and wondering where the start of this new phase of blogging should be and what was the last thing I did of any substance anyway?

I was actually in a fantastic ‘ramping up’ phase heading towards some great unknowns: The Mauritius Marathon, The Speyside Way Ultra-marathon, The Most Beautiful Thing jungle-traily thing with nose-bleed ascents/descents and my first 12 hour event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There was a lot of eventing going on. That was in 2013! What happened in 2014?? Do we even care?

I remember getting to the end of the year and just feeling beat. 2014 was full of a lot of planning followed by a lot of DNS, either through lack of preparation or niggles, lethargy, life-stuff getting in the way of living.

But now it’s 2015, so time to draw the line in the sand (…………….) and start fresh!

Recap 2013

Longest race: KL Tasek Perdana Ultra – 66 Km (ca. 9 hours, not 12)

Best finish position: 3rd Lady KL Ultra, 17th overall TMBT (25 Km category)

Marathon – YES – Mauritius

Ultra-marathon – YES – Speyside (60K), KL (66K)

PBs – No (unless you count new distances, which I don’t due to the mad terrain being non-repeatable and therefore unchallengable in PB territory)

New terrain – jungle hashing, jungle hill Check-point event, looped time event

Recap 2014

Longest race: Berlin Marathon (42 Km)

Best finish position: none to speak of, glad to not DNF, feet condition was decent after Berlin

Marathon – YES – Berlin, Germany (World Marathon Major). Deferred a ballot place for New York Marathon

Ultra-marathon – NO – DNS at Tarawera 85K, Titi 50K

PBs – No

New terrain – No

2014 was a pretty poor year all in all; running just didn’t happen much once work started and I never really got into a groove with embracing the early morning cooler times or getting out straight from the office. I was in a FUNK.

So what’s planned for 2015?

JUNE/UK. Another crack at the spectacular Heb 3 Half marathon race series in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. I completed Benbecula, Harris and Skye in 2011 and the former two in 2012 (missing out on Skye due to a flooded road out of Achultibuie). Got an elusive place in Barrathon (it sells out in minutes) and plan to run Benbecula and Skye again to make the series.

AUGUST/MALAYSIA. Borneo 50K in the Northern Malaysian state of Sabah. This is a similar route and terrain to the TMBT and it will be a 12-15 hour event, all things being equal. Through jungle and remote villages, perhaps in the dark. With trekking poles this time. This is my 40th birthday event so I am going to enjoy it thoroughly and training has begun in earnest but will definitely rely on me getting back to the jungle hash on Labi road and maybe finding some long run buddies for off-road treks.

It would be nice to look towards a marathon near the end of the year but it really depends on how the old injury sites respond to training and how well I can motivate myself to do long runs. [I’m classing anything over 2 hours as long run territory]

More on that later. Maps, pictures and race reports may be retroactively inserted but one of my non-work goals is to keep up to date with things on Blog Island. At least until I get distracted again. [By the way, how good was that Maleficent movie? Man, I just loved Angelina in those horns………]

Harris Half Marathon – archive 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nairn Half Marathon – 7 days to go

Day 7

Sunday – My last training session before attempting to run the Nairn Half Marathon. Nairn has long stood as a running nemesis; my first half marathon and I finished in last place (2 hrs 42 mins) and had a thoroughly miserable time back in 2010. I had hoped to revisit it at some stage and although not ideally placed in this years calendar, I decided to “go for it” and wipe the previous experience 100% into the annals of history. So after discussing possible sites for the session with Marion, I headed out to our agreed location- the disused railway. As I embarked on the  longish tempo run with a race pace and sub race pace section, I was advised that the Dyce Half Marathon was being run and there will still runners on the line. I had totally forgotten it was on as it was held in July last year. I kinda had a crappy run at it too after a night of upset stomach and guts and then developing a lush set of blood blisters during the run (2 hrs 6 mins). So I set off for 4 miles out at ~9.30 m/m and made sure I said well done to the tail-end runners. It was truly warm in the wooded areas, with a nice refreshing breeze passed Kennedy’s yard. I got to my turn point having finished ¾ of my juice, took a gel and then set- off for my RP-5% section. Twenty minutes flew passed and I was ahead of pace and felt tired but good. I jogged for about 30 seconds and finished the rest of the Gatorade then set off for twenty minutes at RP. Of course, it felt relatively sustainable coming after the faster section and save for a fairly smelly dead bunny on the track and the humidity, I had a cracking run. A real confidence booster! I treated myself to a hot bath that night, after a super cold leg shower.

Day 6

Monday –I was originally planning to attend British Military Fitness class but had the chance to try my hand at badminton, with folk from work. I booked a court at the Woodbank facility (£4 for an hour- a bargain) but found that the work had decided to go somewhere else. Last minute, my brother stepped in and we arranged to have a knock about to work up a sweat. I dug my old warped Carlton racket out and wished I hadn’t as the handle badly needs re-strapped and the suede coloured my hand a bright blue. Also it meant I had to try and scab a lift or get public transport and I ended up ehading out to catch the No. 19. The local bus company had decided to switch around bus-stops and services, so as I waited at the designated place I saw the bus I wanted drive right passed and the driver shaking his head as I tried to flag it. To avoid lateness I started running (in my work gear, two bags and racket) and managed to overtake the bus at the traffic lights. Since none of the new stops had been marked up with the bus numbers, I was slightly confuddled about where to get on and (stupidly) decided I’d just run back up the bus lane towards the oncoming number 19! It stopped (randomly at the No 1 stop), I got on and dished a plate of sarcasm to the driver with a side order of red faced sweat. Once aboard, I did enjoy catching up with a colleague from yore, so was pretty happy again once I reached the sports centre. My badminton game was gash but I did get a good sweat on and was even getting a few well placed shuttles passed my bro, who is a bit of a competitive beast at badders and tends to slam shots to the deck every chance he gets. There weren’t many rallys! I enjoyed it though and requirement for new racket aside, I think I’ll revisit badminton again.

Injury sites: I was a bit worried about my right foot as I was slamming it down quite forcefully on the forehand and overhead shots. A quick jump on the powerplate and the vibration did highlight that left calf and right plantar were indeed “sore”. Soreness on known problems sites….that’s OK. I can deal with that.

Day 5

Tuesday – BMF on a very soggy park due to the thunder, lightening and torrential rain from the night before. I again forgot to choose my INOV-8s, which would make a lot more sense as we spend 95% of our time running on and getting down and up from muddy grass! I jogged down from work to my brothers flat and we drove to the park because he said he had the CBAs. Once there, a new instructor offered a very different workout and I struggled with quite a few elements including being the second last pairing to be sent off on a circuit therefore having to hold a full plank for what seemed like hours! My usual hold points – shocking press-ups, complete inability to support myself as the front of a wheelbarrow, inability to crouch n run up a hill in the monkey, bear or crab positions. Very frustrating as I have made no progress on these elements since I started BMF at end of May. However my wall squats and step ups were good (although I got told off for taking a walking run-up to stepping onto the concrete blocks. Oops). I’m starting to recognize a few faces now so it’s a bit more friendly. I doubt that the girl who was paired me for the hill reps will be in a hurry to pair with me again, sorry Lady, I was trying, honest!

Injury sites: Plantar was sore and my back was also very knotted, with bingo-wings (triceps) and rib area and hips sore. Presumably I did some proper muscle depletion during BMF. Hope it builds back up before Saturday.

Day 4

Wednesday – my usual long slow run in the morning was cancelled by the other party, which was a blessing really. I had a long lie til 10am! Bliss! So no 8 mile jog/walk and this is good because I find I do get sore after a slower cadence run. When I say sore, I mean just an uncomfortable bruised feeling which doesn’t last long but is there all the same. Instead I decided to do some of the lesser known fitness art-form I like to call “dancing to cheesey pop in your own living-room” as a warm-up to a pilates DVD, courtesy of Darcy Bussell. After 30 mins I changed my mind again and gave the local beauty place a call and booked a back, shoulder and neck massage. Thanks Abz-olute beauty. Whilst out, the postman with the inconsistent delivery time decided to try and deliver my Velcro Garmin Strap. How naff! Now I have to try and collect before Friday evening. The rest of the afternoon I did that undesirable but necessary exercise known as housework. I also rustled up an apple crumble and spicy tomato sauce for hubby’s dinner, as I was going out to Wagamama with a martial arts practitioner. Very nice it was too. I wore some high-heeled Fornarina boots, so as a precaution I strapped my right foot with micro porous tape around the arch and went to bed with it on. Felt fine in the morning.

Day 3

Thursday – Acupuncture day! I got an unfortunate text on Tuesday to say that Dr Shu –  the lady who has been treating me with acupuncture for my calf and Achilles strain – had broken her leg whilst running off a hill and wanted to cancel my appointment! Nooooo! I wished her well and asked her for a referral as I had the Half Marathon coming up. Thankfully, she said she would keep the appointment although it might take her longer than an hour as she’d have to take it slowly. I was SO relieved.

Not my actual foot

The acupuncture session are now forming part of my strategy for avoiding overstrain and I am relying particularly on this session to make sure that any niggles or tightness I have picked up are ironed out before trying to run. I feel good going into the session and will ask her to pin the right Achilles and plantar fascia as well as the usual glute and calf areas. Chinese medicine actually rocks and all cynicism I had about it has completely dissipated since I underwent treatment in May with immediate and effective results.

Day 2

More resting, an unfortunate dodgy stomach as well as a super-tight left calf. Acupuncture was sore around the right plantar fascia and the rigorous massage lead to what felt like a calf strain which I was assured would be better the next day, so as precaution I put the Natures Kiss cream on it and applied the compresssports calf guards! However, the next day it was right as rain. The dodgy tummy was a worry though however I applied the dairy free choc milk and kept to bland foods through the day and packed ready for the journey to Inverness. What to wear? Red/black or turquoise and white?

Race Day – well, we’ll see what eventuates. The weather forecast is now for 20% chance of rain but 21 degC!!! and windy, so not ideal on the circular route along the coast. However I am looking forward to catching up with some family and a few friends who will be running or coming along to support. Now remember, when you see my red face coming into the playing fields- shout LOUD but don’t look too closely.

Benbecula Half Marathon

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

The finishing strait

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

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

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