Friday, 21 May 2010

Well Done Lachlan

Well done to Lachlan today. He was taking part in the K'Nex Challenge which he and a classmate qualified for by winning a heat at the school. Today they came 5th out of over 90 teams competing and will go on to the Grampian Area Final.

What makes me most proud of Lachlan is that he is working in a team, not something that comes naturally to him at all. I hope it's a good sign for the future.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Highland Fling 3 - finishing up

I quite fancied a beer and stovies but the signs made it clear they were for the ultra runners only (and even they didn't all get stovies) so I settled for coke and crisps from the shop and waited to see who would appear. I was delighted to see santababy finishing in a fantastic time, crying with the emotion of it all, then finding her composure, discovering her son had come to see her, and losing it all again. Great to see Robbo come home and a smiling supernormal and bouncytime.

The finish area was starting to get busy and I can't really remember who I saw when, but there was a really good feeling in the air. I got a text from Ann to say mrs s had been spotted crossing the road, then a text from mrs s reading "Wigwams " so I knew she was just about there and then she called to see if I would keep her company for a bit, so I jogged back down the track against the trickle of tired runners heading the other way. I passed a confused Dod and Lintie, Sophster (missed her flare at the finish unfortunately) and GraemeC, then met mrs s and headed back to the finish where she helped herself to a well-deserved sit down and gave me her free beer (thanks ). I remember seeing MikeR, _andy, Rob MacSunday all finish (I like the flag Rob - nice touch) and pestomum completing her team's race before I went back down the route again to see who else was on the way. Really pleased to see M1nty heading towards the finish and looking strong and determined - I hope the high-five made up for not seeing him cross the line. I met Andrinne soon after so turned and headed for the finish line again where we could finally collect our team goody bag. We stayed to see flip and Dave K finish, then mrs s was going white so we decided to get some food from the Real Food Cafe which was excellent as usual.

We ate, we showered, then off to Paddy's for drinks followed by a stroll up to the ceilidh where we drank and chatted (I seem to remember laughing a lot) and danced a bit until it was time to hobble back to the hotel.

Strangely enough, enthusiasm for Devil reps with Dod and Lintie had waned over night (I think I'd have been up for it but we needed to get home ) but everyone enjoyed a hearty breakfast as more chat was chatted before multiple good-byes were said, and everyone went their separate ways.

It was a splendid weekend spent in the company of a very special group of friends. I'll be looking forward to the next time we all get together, whenever that might be. A few people have asked if I'll run the whole Fling next year. I have other ideas about what I really want to do next year, but they don't preclude running in the Fling and I'm pretty sure I'll be involved one way or another. I'm still concerned about the cut-off time so feel that waiting another year (and getting another hour if the current system continues) might be the best option, so I may well be looking for a relay team again next year (there was a drunken discussion about a 4 Ia(i)ns team) but who knows?

So, I'm off to sign up for a "how to write less and say more" course. Well done to everybody involved - the ultra runners, the relay runners, the marshalls, the supporters, the organisers - you're all brilliant.

Highland Fling 2 - the actual running bit

Yes, there was running involved, lots of it, although more by some than by others.

There was a good atmosphere at Milngavie as 6am approached with everyone arriving and getting ready to set off. mrs s managed to miss the Fetch photo call and Murdo's briefing while in the loo, but other than that, everything was fine and we headed towards the tunnel. Almost before I knew what was going on, the whistle went and all the runners streamed up the steps and away.

I was planning to go back to the hotel to finish packing but ended up blethering to M1nty and Mrs Minty, Llamadance, flip, and Dave K so before I knew it, it was approaching 7, Murdo was giving another briefing and we were heading for the underpass again. I went up the steps to get a couple of photos and then saw MikeR and _andy so said hello to them as the whistle went and the next lot of runners set off. I was determined to get back to the hotel this time, but stopped to wish Simon good luck and then met Dogtanian before I got away. It was great to see everyone, but I really wanted to get the hotel sorted out and get up to Drymen to see how things were going up there.

At Drymen, we found the first problem with the new chip timing system. Basically, you can't look over the marshalls' shoulders to figure out who has been and gone and who is still coming, but I was fairly sure nobody I knew would have been there before me, so I took a stroll down across the field, and saw Robbo7777 (joking about his best side as usual) and then santababy who gave me a great big hug. It was great to see Sophster, supernormal, and bouncytime all looking happy and running well. I got all the way across the field and then spotted Dod and Lintie coming down the road which got me slightly worried as I expected mrs s to be with them. But she wasn't far behind and had made two new friends (what are the chances?), so I ran back over the field with mrs s, Anna, and Denise, stepped right in the muddy bit, then waved them off at the checkpoint and jumped back in the car, so I could get down to Milngavie for the 9am relay start. Yes, my morning was all a bit mad and involved far too much rushing around.

Thankfully, Ann had registered for the team and was ready with timing chip and sash, and as a bonus I was able to hang out with the Twa Drams & A Piece of Cake team after our first leg runners set off. We went to Costa No-Coffee-For-Another-Ten-Minutes, drank tea, ate croissants, and had a nice wee blether. A little bit of me was starting to worry because their whole team was there and mine wasn't, but I knew I could rely on Andrinne to get run2thehills from Stonehaven to Rowardennan in time. So then back to Drymen, parked in the car park (without sliding around like a mad thing this time), changed into running gear, and up to the check point. Ann arrived just after 11 as expected, and I finally had to do some running. Yep, a page and a half of nonsense bloggage, and I've finally started to run.

As I ran along the road and turned onto the trail, I could just make out a couple of runners up ahead, but no sign of anyone behind. I wondered if I might catch up, but was well prepared for a steady solo run with just nature and my own thoughts for company. As it happened, there were quite a few walkers on the route who were friendly and wished me luck. The last time I'd been on that path, it was covered in snow - not as scenic this time, but much easier going and I was able to follow the proper path so no dodgy river crossings this time. As I reached the bridge that marks the start of Conic Hill, I heard my phone and smiled, knowing that would be mrs s at Rowardennan. I checked while I walked and sure enough, Rowardennan and a smiley face. I sent a quick text to my team to let them know I was on the hill, then got down to the serious business of marching up the hill and enjoying the views When I reached the top of the path, I could see that I'd gained on the runners in front (still no sign of anyone behind) and that they were very tentatively making their way down and I decided to go for a fairly quick descent. The spirit of Dod reminded me that the grassy surface to the right of the path would be my friend here, and so it was, up to the point where my foot slid in the mud and I had to put my hand down to avert disaster. I passed the two other runners (and a dozen or so walkers) with a cheery smile - I was really enjoying myself and in what felt like no time at all, I was passing another runner and heading in to the car park at Balmaha to see Ann with her camera and the Donoghues having a picnic.

At this point, I was feeling pretty good and felt my pace had been OK so I was happy just to keep on plodding away on my own, past the beach etc. Then when I reached Cashel, a woman in a Harmeny vest passed me - I've no idea how long she'd been tailing me, but it was the first sign that my pace was probably slipping. Just before I hit the next hill, my phone went again and I thought "that'll be mrs s at Inversnaid. Good stuff" but then it went again which confused me. Turned out the first one was a message of support from josieT which was nice to receive. I looked back along the path, I noticed that the two ladies I'd passed on Conic Hill were not far behind. I had slowed down a fair bit, so tried to push on a bit for a couple of miles. The two women caught me up and spoke for a wee bit and then IanS joined us and we exchanged a few words before he moved on ahead. My legs were hurting by this point so it was with relief that I saw the 2km to Rowardennan sign. It felt like a long 2km but it wasn't too long before I was past the hotel (the beer and food being consumed in the beer garden looked great) and heading towards the changeover at the entrance to the car park (and realising I was a little outside my hoped for 3 hours). Except it wasn't there. It was at the far end of the car park this year, but run2thehills was there and ready to go. I passed over the sash and the chip and wished him luck.
"2 hours 15? 2 and a half?" he said.
"I had you down for about 3", I replied.
"Seriously. But go prove me wrong!"
I'd warned him about how difficult that section gets, but at that point, I don't think he'd fully appreciated what he was facing.

Andrinne drove me back to Drymen to pick up my car (I felt like being sick but managed to keep it together), then we headed in convoy up the other side of the Loch. I was really pleased that I saw Johnny "Sticky" Budden (Link (roll over me to see where I go)), but I'm not sure if he appreciated a strange bloke yelling encouragement out of a car, and I think Andrinne must have wondered what the hell was going on. It was decided that Andrinne was going to go to Bein Glas and see halfpint and get ready for her final leg while I went on to the finish to see what was happening there. Meanwhile Ann was getting mobile on her bike and checking out where people were on the course.

There's more drama and high emotion to come, but I'll leave that for another post because I've rambled on longer than intended again. Succinctness is not my forte, it would seem. Running's not really my forte either, but I'm reasonably pleased with my efforts on Saturday and I enjoyed it, especially the descent of Conic Hill (even though I probably should have taken it a bit easier).

Highland Fling 1 - not the ideal preparation

(Another copy of a Fetch blog post)


I often get nervous before races - not about the running, but more about getting to the start, finding a car park, somehwere to stay, etc, etc. So, captaining a relay team for a race on the other side of the country while my mrs was to be running a 53 mile ultra might not have seemed like the best plan. Nevertheless, the organisation went pretty well, and despite having to make a late substitution because of halfpint's injury, we were all ready, everyone knew where they had to be at roughly what time, and had organised transport, accommodation, and (where necessary) child minding.

And then a volcano erupted in Iceland. And our babysitters are stuck in Malta. So I go back to full scale worry mode - plans B, D, E are formulated, evaluated and rejected. Substitute runners, babysitters, and accommodation are tentatively sounded out before plan F is decided on which involved a switch to leg 4 for me, Ian and Andrinne having to get up early, and halfpint having to tie our kids to a tree in Tyndrum while waiting for mrs s to finish. Not ideal, but a plan that would work, and an end to the panic and the worry and the not knowing.

So there we are on Friday morning, getting packed, dividing food into drop-bags for mrs s and generally getting ready for a weekend of running and listening to moaning kids when the call comes in. The in-laws are flying back in the middle of the night. Suddenly, alternatives are available, reality shifts again, and new plans are formed. We take the kids to Milngavie, the in-laws meet us there at stupid o'clock am, after they land in Glasgow, they take the kids away, and everything else reverts to plan A. My brain just about explodes but we have a plan, the school bell is ringing and it's time to rock and roll. Or something like that.

The car journey was great - we had a few phone calls to let us know that the flight would be earlier, then later, then roughly the same time again. Littlest shanksi took a dislike to the fair city of Perth and showed his feelings through the medium of vomit. But, before you could say "are we there yet" 32 times, we were in Milngavie and at the restaurant, and everyone was there and there were hugs and kisses and "Happy St George's Day" wishes and "Shut the Englander up" requests and beer and pasta and olives and the kids were actually quite well behaved and we were having a good time.

We left the party a bit early because we expected to be awakened early and headed to the hotel where the staff were being as friendly and helpful as they were last year and assured us we'd be able to make our breakfasts in the morning etc. And so to bed, not entirely sure if we'd be woken by an alarm clock or a phone call, but knowing it would be early in either case. It turned out to be the alarm - no call from the in-laws, maybe they'd been delayed a wee bit, but sure they'd be in touch soon. In any case, time for mrs s to get up and get her breakfast and any last minute preparations. Still no call, I'm getting a little bit worried again, as I was expecting a text from the airport. And then "We're in the car park". Except they're not. Eek. What's gone wrong. They've ended up at the wrong hotel, but it's OK because it's only 5 minutes away, and the reason they didn't call earlier is that they've been sitting there for an hour and a half so we could get a decent amount of sleep. How brilliant are they?

And finally, the kids are being bundled half-asleep into the in-laws car and they're setting off up the road, mrs s has porridge inside her, her drop bags are looking good, flip and santababy have been spotted getting ready, Dod and Lintie have texted to say they're on their way and did mrs s need a lift (not needed, but thank you), and we've picked up a hitch-hiker in the shape of JenJ and are off to the station. The hotel room still needs to be cleared, but I've plenty of time to do that later. The important thing is that it's race day, mrs s is in plenty time for the 6 o'clock start, the kids are in safe (but other) hands, and I can relax for a bit and enjoy the day.

Sorry, but as ever I've rambled on in my usual way, and haven't even got to the running bit yet. And there are tales of meeting Fetchies and drinking and dancing to come as well, so stay tuned - but don't hold your breath, it takes me ages to get going on these things.

And then I have trouble stopping, obviously!

Thanks for listening.

Assuming you have been.

Half the West Highland Way in a Oner!

2010-04-24 Highland Fling

Last weekend, Vikki and I took part in the Highland Fling 53 mile ultra race. The following is Vikki's blog as previously posted on Fetch (so you don't need to read it if you've seen it there :).

My 3 blogs will follow here soon....


This race has been a long time coming. A wee bit of background: shanksi found out about this race last year and suggested we form a relay team to run it in 2009. I said yes, as long as I could do the easiest bit (ie first leg). We did the race and really enjoyed it, although shanksi had a bit of a mare on leg 3. We went to the ceilidh early and left as the ultra runners were arriving. Stayed in the Wigwams.

This time I thought I would go for the whole thing . The training runs we did were superb and I kept up my miles and felt ready for it. The D33 was a great training run. I was actually following a training schedule for Edinburgh marathon in May and adding more miles in and doing some back-to-back long runs on Loon Dod's advice.
As the day approached we had a slight hiccup in the plans cos my folks got stuck in Malta due to the volcano. If you want the details on that read shanksi's blog. We had to take the kids to Milngavie with us on the Friday which was alright and they enjoyed the meal at the Italian restaurant. I felt we couldn't get in with the Fetchie chat as we were dealing with them which was a shame. We all went to bed at 10pm and set the alarm for 4:30am
My folks arrived and took the kids home for us and I am so grateful, they are stars!
Met up with all the fetchies at the start and soon we were off. My plan had been to stay in sight of LD and Lintie for at least the 1st leg so I wouldn't get lost but they went too quick for me! I ended up running with lizogical and two non fetch ladies called Anna and Denise. I was telling them both about Fetch and hopefully they will join. The first leg seemed to fly by and we didn't get lost . Met shanksi at Drymen which was nice and then my sister rang me on my mobile; I actually had to say "I'm in the middle of a race!" while running past a marshal laughing at me. So on to Conic Hill. It seemed further away than on our training run. Not sure if that was because I was running slower? It all looked a bit different without the snow. Climbing the hill was so much easier and I caught up with LD and Lintie there. I absolutely loved bombing down the other side and it was just so much better than our dreaded icy training run. Next stop Balmaha. Met bouncytime looking strong and she left not long after I arrived. The marshals were great with the drop bags, I liked that they asked for your number then had them ready to had to you. I stopped for the toilet (so civilised using a proper flushing toilet rather than a bush!). Then on to Rowardennan. I remembered it was still hilly and just walked quickly up the hills. Saw Soph, can't remember exactly where, (my brain has gone). Rowardennan came and I stopped for toilet again and my running mates pushed on instead so I did the next bit on my own. It was much harder on my own and I was very pleased to catch Anna and Denise up. Next stop was Inversnaid. Everything was going well and Anna and I stopped for the loo again (sorry for this!) but Denise was feeling really strong and pushed on without us. Anna and I stuck together and helped each other through the next lochside section which has all the rocks and ladders and bits where you think you might fall in. Some of the fast guys were passing us here and even they were chatting and saying well done. It was such a friendly race
I felt Bein Glas was a long time coming but I was still feeling good. Anna and I got chatting about all sorts, even politics . We were so pleased to see Bein Glas and I was happy to see halfpint with my cuppa tea Also saw Soph again fiddling with her feet. I had a tin of gin n tonic in my drop bag but didn't feel the need so I gave it to halfpint to look after and she was a mate and didn't drink it! I had it on Sunday night.
Last section was in sight, only 12ish miles to Tyndrum but v hilly. I'd done this section a few times in training but never after 40 miles. The hills felt longer than I remembered and I walked quite slowly up them. I was still managing to run the flat bits and downhill. Anna was getting a wee bit weary and said I should go on without her which I relunctantly did. For the first 6 miles of the last leg I was still ok but then starting feeling sick and I ran out of water . One of the worst parts of the course was the bit with the coos. They were totally blocking the path and they had their calves too so I walked very slowly past them on a ledge. How very dare they! Now in to the final 6 miles in the forest bit I couldn't believe how steep both the ups and downs were. I had sore thighs and in the end was only managing to run the downs. Sophster and GraemeC1983 caught me up and were great to chat to for a while til they got ahead. I loved hearing Soph's crazy singing and shouting echoing round the woods. Anna's Mum (who'd been a star supporting her daughter everywhere) appeared and offered me some water which saved me so big thanks to Anna's Mum Eve. I got to the wigwams hurrah! Texted shanksi. Then phoned shanksi cos I thought it would be nice to have him run me in. Spotted him with a mile to go and we jog-walked the rest together. I managed to sprint the very last bit to the line and it was wonderful to hear everyone calling my name and clapping. Finished in 12 hours 45 mins which I am very very pleased with as I had been telling everyone who asked 13 hours. Big hugs from Loon Dod, Lintie, santababy, halfpint, Sophster and loads more

Saw more folk come in, MikeR, DaveK, M1nty, Hendo, flip, Andrinne from shanksi's relay team. Rob MacSunday, Pestomum, Bonsim007, and _andy not in that order! Was lovely to see Robbo7777 waited to give me a hug before dashing off.

Didn't get any stovies as they'd run out . So we went to the Real Food cafe for lovely fish n chips and free tea with Ribenaface, Julesy, Run2theHills, halfpint, LorraineS, IanS and loads more sorry if I miss anyone's name out. Then back to Tyndrum Lodge to finally get a shower and change in to my party dress. Met up with everyone in Paddy's Bar. Had to get a lift out of my seat by shanksi and R2H as my legs had seized up. Went to the ceilidh and immediatley had a second tea of chicken curry . Actually got up to dance at the end and sing along with Flower of Scotland etc which made me lose my voice the next day. Was a great day and fun night and I finally crawled in to bed at 2am Can't wait for next year! Everyone did so well and you should all be proud. What a wonderful race with the friendliest people and the most beautiful scenery And Denise has joined Fetch as UltraDenise