Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Gore Tex and Testosterone - OMM 2011

Warning: this could be a long one and there are going to be a lot of boring notes for my own benefit, so feel free to get a cup of tea and have a sit down, or just skip to the bottom to see how it all panned out.

The title comes from a comment my partner run2thehills (or Ian) made on the Friday night as we had a quiet beer before an early night - never had so much technical clothing been seen in one place before, or so it seemed. I slept OK but the alarm came all too early, and by the time we'd got properly awake and packed away the (wet) tent, we were rushing for the 7:20 bus to the start. Well, actually the 7:20 bus to St Fillans from where there was still a 1.5km hike up a hill to the start, which was not without incident; about half way up the track a look of horror appeared on Ian's face as he realised he'd left the tent poles on the bus. Fortunately, the guys right behind us had picked them up so disaster averted.

We milled around the start in the drizzle for a wee while until our time was called up then proceeded to the gate, dibbed the dibber and were given the maps. Follow the link below to see the map and also our route if you can figure out the complexities of route gadget:

Control 1 CH Re-entrant
Of course it was a re-entrant. Where else would it be? Actually this one was easy enough (except for almost being disqualified because our first plan was to follow the track, completely ignoring the huge purple "out-of-bounds" line that we'd have crossed) - the alternative direct approach looked too steep and bouldery for so early in the day.

Control 2 CC Hill top
Route choice here was simple and fairly uneventful, using the rivers as "hand rails" to keep us right - probably got too high too early on the first hill so had to drop down between the hills but not a bad effort and no drama - from what I remember, the weather was light drizzle and nothing to worry about at this point.

Control 3 DI Lochan
The choice of route here was fine, but the longer distance between the points made life a bit more difficult and we thought we'd gone further than we actually had. Hence, following the wrong stream to the wrong lochan and the wrong control point. At least we were able to get a fix on position when we saw the radio marshal's tent and found it relatively easy to then find the right lochan and the right control, despite poor visibility and worsening weather.

Control 4 CS Re-entrant
Looking back now, I think we made the wrong choice by going round the East of the first hill rather than the West, and as we came round the hill, kept going too much North and not enough West (it didn't help that visibility continued to be poor). As a result we ended up East of the hill we wanted to be on and had to backtrack a bit. (Note to self: need to concentrate on looking at the compass a bit more) At least the weather wasn't too bad.

Control 5 DB Re-entrant
The more or less direct route seemed like the best and turned out to be pretty good. Poor judgement of distance led to a bit of doubt but at least we could see the lochan below the point and the top of the hill so were able to use those to check our position and find the control without too much worry. I think it was around here that Ian looked a bit rough for a minute or two - some extra food and energy drink seemed to get him over the worst of it. (note to self and anyone else who's still listening: keep eating and drinking, you need the energy!)

Control 6 AQ Northern Hill
We now had a choice to make - never easy, especially when a bit tired and stuck out on a hill, but we chose our four points and set off for the first one. A few other teams were headed in the same direction, so it can't have been too bad a choice, and it was quite an easy one to find.

Control 7 BP Hill Top
BP! Bloody BP. Still not exactly sure where we went wrong here but this one took a long time to find. I think we followed the wrong stream up from the barely existent path so were too far East of where we should be and spent some time trying different hills (which don't seem to appear on the map for some reason?) before we found the right one. We were not the only team who struggled here which was sort of reassuring. Again, the weather was worsening at this point and my mood darkened a bit at this point. Believe it or not, I'd been having fun up til then.

Control 8 DA Re-entrant (shallow)
Heading North from BP, we crossed an area of "peat hags" where we both sank up to our knees - thighs in Ian's case at which point I feared he wasn't going to get out. We probably hit the worst of the weather as we worked our way round the hill and the boulder field trying to find this one. Very cold rain being driven into our faces by the wind made it all a bit unpleasant. I think it was here I realised we were really doing something crazy. Normal people simply wouldn't be out on the hills on a day like this, and even slightly crazy people would at least be following paths and trying to stay in the more sheltered valleys, so why were we scrambling around on the exposed faces of a bloody big hill? No, I don't really know the answer either. In any case, we realised we'd gone a wee bit too far round, then cut back a bit too quickly and hit the wrong stream and the wrong control point. A couple of other teams were looking a bit lost, but we refocussed and realised we just needed to get a bit further North to find the right point.

Control 9 DG Re-entrant
Oooh, a path - easy to find, fairly easy to follow, and fairly easy to know when to leave the path for the re-entrant. Job done, no problem there.

Control 10 DK Western Stream, Bend
Briefly considered staying high along the ridge before dropping down directly to the control but decided to drop down into the valley early and use the marked path - it was nice to drop below the cloud level (yes, we could see again) but the path was basically a stream. Still, a useful navigation aid which we just followed round until we could see the stream where the control was placed. Nae bother!

Control 11 DJ Stream Junction
An unmarked footbridge allowed us to cut the corner here, but it was wet wet wet as we turned into Glen Almond and followed the river along to the next bridge. At least the control point at the river near the woods was easy to find and we saw a wee bit of blue sky for the first (and last) time that day.

Control 12 BI Stream
The map said "optional taped path through forestry" but in truth it should have been "mandatory taped path around forestry". Not that it mattered. We were now part of a crocodile of teams making for the next control point so just followed on until we got there. Not very exciting, but that was OK.

Control 13 AG Road Bend and Finish
From control 12, it was just a case of drop down to the road, then follow the road past the final control and on to the finish. Easy going, but the rain was back on, the sky was getting gloomy, and I felt thoroughly soaked.

As far as I can figure out, water was seeping in everywhere - somehow bypassing my waterproofs, possibly by means of capillary action. It had been raining most of the day and the ground was absolutely sodden so it wasn't really a surprise. We managed to get the tent up (still a bit damp from the previous night), and get sleeping bags out. My blizzard bag still felt a bit damp on the inside but it did offer a degree of warmth so I stuck my legs inside - probably a mistake since that got the inside of the bag wetter. We needed water to cook dinner so I went off to the river but started shaking so that the kettle lid was clattering as I walked. Not a good sign but the food helped warm me up and it was time for bed. Unfortunately, I didn't really have any dry stuff - my balloon bed was damp which made it difficult to slide the balloons in so I ended up with a really badly prepared bed which was less comfortable and, more importantly, less warm. Basically I spent most of the night shivering and by the time that the piper woke the camp at 6am, I wasn't too happy, especially as my gout was flaring up. Heading back into the hills feeling cold with a sore foot didn't seem like a good idea, but I was getting more reluctant to bail out as time went by. Ian, on the other hand, was reluctant to be up in the hills with a blue-nosed potential hypothermia case so we came to the decision that our race was run. I managed to blag a lift back to camp where I had a long days waiting, first for Ian, then for Jim who was giving us a lift home.

So, disappointed not to finish the event, especially when it came down to poor kit choices and poor kit management, but lots to think about for future events, of which I'm sure there will be many.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

New Kit

So, the next bit of my slightly unorthodox sleeping system for the OMM arrived today from Initial impressions - it packs very small and lightweight but I need to practise tying knots a bit more. Time will tell if this is crazy or not!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Holiday Runnings

Whilst planing to visit my sister in law down in Yorkshire we decided to have a look around for any local races to run and plumped for the Spires & Steeples Challenge, a 26 mile run from Lincoln to Sleaford on Sunday. But then, Vikki decided she quite liked the whole parkrun thing, so we pencilled in a visit to Hull on Saturday morning, and then we found out there was an orienteering event on Saturday afternoon which might make for a fun family activity. It was looking like a very busy, active weekend.

As it turned out, Amy and Dave (who had agreed to look after the kids during much of this nonsense) arrived at East Park in Hull, only about a minute before the parkrun was due to start by which time I'd decided I couldn't really be bothered running so I mucked about with the kids and cheered when Vikki went past.

We all went up to the orienteering event in the afternoon which was jolly good fun - we did a couple of the available courses to rack up about 3km of running and about 1km of wondering around undergrowth thanks to a navigation error. Lachlan did one of the courses with us while the others mucked about and then everyone went for ice creams :-)

At some point on Saturday it also occurred to me that I possibly hadn't trained enough to run 26 miles and hadn't actually thought at all about what I might eat/drink during the run. Not exactly ideal preparation.

We had to get up early on Sunday to drive to the end (right past the start) so we could get a bus to the start so that we could then run to the end and then drive back to where we'd come from (right past the start point of the run again) which all seemed terribly complicated but was probably the easiest way of doing things, despite the worry of getting stuck behind a lorry on the way. After the bus ride (on which we chatted to someone who had done even less training than me), we found ourselves at Lincoln Castle, shivering in the cold, although it was fairly obvious it was going to get warmer later, and after some milling around it was time to set off over the cobbles and down the imaginatively entitled "Steep Hill". We set off a bit fast (the "plan" was to run around 10m/m pace to finish under 4:30) but it felt good and we were keeping pace with "100 mara Andy" and his mate, "Salomon Guy", although we did get slowed down slightly by "farty woman" until the path widened and we skipped past her. The route passed through a number of nice little villages, separated mainly by turnip fields, and it was a pleasant run with Vikki and me sticking together, but I started to feel a bit sore in the legs around mile 15 (at which point there also seemed to be an awful lot of stiles to climb) and was obviously slowing a bit by 17 where my pace was in the 10s and 11s. It became a bit of a struggle from then on, and when I realised that 4:30 wasn't on, I slowed to a walk for the last few miles - a part of me felt I should push a bit harder but the rest of me just wanted to enjoy a walk in the sun with the wife, and to make sure I didn't overdo it and hurt anything.

In the end we trotted over the line after about 4:49 which wasn't too bad for 25 and a half miles, all things considered. Yes, 25 and a half miles by my garmin, so not actually a marathon. To be fair, the organisers never referred to it as a marathon and pointed out it was a non-timed event, but someone had entered it on Fetch as a 26.2. In fact, the organisers route notes had it down as 26.75 miles, but I think that just came from totting up each sections mileage which was rounded to the nearest quarter so there was a bit of a discrepancy there. Not a problem as far as I'm concerned but a wee warning to any marathon chasers out there. The "hot and cold snacks, including soup" available for a small charge at the finish turned out to be soup and bread, but it was good soup so I won't complain.

Overall, it was a good day out. Nice weather, good company, nice route, well signposted and marshalled so little danger of getting lost. Slightly disappointed with my fitness but looking forward to the mile this weekend, and then the OMM after that. Hopefully, the DOMS will have passed by then.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Monday, 10 October 2011

Bennachie Hill Race 2011

"Oktoberrunfest" part 2 was the Bennachie Hill Race, 8 tough miles over one of North East Scotland's finest hills. Vikki and I started together but, as expected, I was slightly quicker to the top of the first climb only for her to pass me on the approach to Oxen Craig and then bomb ahead in pursuit of Rebecca (who narrowly beat her in the end). The weather held out and I was able to enjoy the views and spot some of the towns and villages (ok, so maybe that means I wasn't going quickly enough) as I ran across to Craigshannoch and then towards Mither Tap, where I caught up with John just as we began the long descent down the Maiden Causeway. I skipped past him and sped off down the hill, managing to overtake a few other runners including Cosmic Pauline. All too soon though, the course flattens out as it goes back through the forest and it felt like running through treacle. I think I was passed by a couple of people but overtook a couple on this section, so not too bad on balance, and I still had something left to pick up the pace after the final turn and overtake another bloke within sight of the finish. Crossed the line unhurt, with a smile on my face, and beat last years time by a couple of minutes, so very happy with my run. And very happy with the tea and cakes afterwards. Thanks very much to all the marshals and race organisers etc who put on a very enjoyable event. Congratulations to Mike on clinching the SRC Club Championship, and thank you to John and Rebecca for their company on the drive. Also good to see Neil, Gary, and Jim.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Stoney Stomp 2011

Ah, you can't beat a good stomp. For this year's Stoney Stomp, we agreed that Vikki would take the kids round the 5K route and I'd do the 7 mile run. I was hoping for a decent time - under an hour and preferably a PB - and started at a decent pace with Dod and Rhino powering up the hill ahead of me. Craig soon picked up the pace and went past me before the first corner and it wasn't too long before Rich and then John caught me and zoomed ahead. That left me running pretty much on my own for most of the race, with two younger guys behind who never really looked like catching me, and a lady in red in front who was never in danger of me catching her. I got a lovely surprise at the point where the 5k course rejoins the 7m one as I got there just before the rest of the family who gave me a wee cheer which propelled me up the final hill and towards the finish. The last mile (almost) of this race is downhill and it's always a blast - getting close to 6min/mile pace (hey, that's fast for me, ok?). After the finish Rich and I headed back up the course to walk in with your respective families, then hung about for a bit to see Rhino get her prize. The ceilidh in the evening was very much a family affair with lots of kids running around and having a great laugh. I don't think Magnus really got the proper steps but with a smile like this, it didn't really matter......
What a fun day!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Trains and Training in Sunny Staffs.

I'm not sure quite how it happened, but our holiday somehow became dominated by trains...

I may blog in more detail (or not, who knows?) but basically our holiday went something like:
Saturday - travelling in car, no trains involved.
Sunday - Great Hucklow Fell Race followed by a trip on the Churnet Valley Railway RailAleTrail
Monday - Went to visit Buxton and Poole's Cavern, lovely wee town with a nice park which had a miniature railway (on which we had a wee ride)
Tuesday - great fun at Alton Towers on all the big rides. Let's face it though, a rollercoaster is basically a variety of train (especially the Runaway Mine Train), as is the monorail that takes you to and from the car park.
Wednesday - visited Dovedale and went for a wee run. No trains involved.
Thursday - Alton Towers water park. Good but overcrowded and overpriced, I felt. Train count - nil.
Friday - Lovely visit to Rudyard Lake, complete with trip on a mini steam train. Followed by a jolly wee run down the Staffordshire Way.
Saturday - Back home, no trains.

OK, so maybe not that many trains, but it seemed like a lot to me. In any case, it was much fun and we had great weather, lots of decent food and far too much to drink. I'll maybe post some of the better pictures if I get round to it.

In other blob news, in order to try and attract a younger readership I've added Lachlan and Calum as authors of this blog so there might be some more regular posts. I plan to check everything they add before it gets published but don't want to censor them too much so no idea how it'll work out.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

LAMM 2011 - Beinn Dearg

Thursday lunchtime last week, and the old F5 key took a bit of a bashing as I kept refreshing the LAMM web page to find out where I was going for the weekend. I'd more or less worked out that it had to be out near Ullapool or Gairloch based on the travel times, but it was great to get that confirmed and spend some time checking out maps and photos of the Beinn Dearg area - very excited by that point.

And it was a great weekend. I managed not to be too traumatised by the inevitable childbirth stories on the car trips and the girls were great travelling companions - thanks so much to Fiona for doing all the driving. Still, it's a long and winding road and I was glad when we reached the campsite and even happier to find M1nty who already had the tent up meaning that there wasn't much for me to do except register, buy a spork (I'd managed to forget mine) from the shop that sold everything you could need, and go for food and beer before bed.

We were woken by the sound of a piper in the morning and after breakfast, it was off to the bus to be taken to our starting point. I'm planning a longer blog post with more analysis, route details, lessons learned etc (as much for my future reference as for anyone else to read, but some might find it interesting) so for now, I'll just say that we set off for what turned out to be a tough, demanding, but highly rewarding day in the hills. There seemed like a lot of steep climbs, difficult terrain, river crossings etc., but the pay off was some fabulous views, a Munro (Seana Bhraigh) to be bagged, the company of a good friend and brief chats with many nice people. Throughout the day, I took on the role of navigator and marched off through the heather with map in hand and M1nty following a few steps behind. I think he was suffering more than I realised at the time, but kept pushing himself on - a great effort. By the time we were heading for the last couple of checkpoints - with mid-camp in sight - the weather turned against us and I made a couple of navigational errors, so we were delighted to get to the finish and get the tent up. My feet were cold and wet so I got into my sleeping bag as quickly as possible to warm up and then didn't get up until the next morning (cooking was done in the porch of the tent, greetings to Rhino and Fiona were done by shouting through the tent wall, and thankfully I didn't need to go to the loo so was able to stay cozy).

My bladder finally needed some attention at about 4am on Sunday so I was up early and got the water for cooking breakfast while the sun was still low in the sky but it was a beautiful dawn. At 5am, Martin (event organiser) started telling everyone about the sunrise (through a megaphone) and soon heads were popping out of tents and massive queues were forming for the toilets. Breakfast was cooked, the tent was struck, bags were repacked and we were away soon after 6:30, ready for another long day of scouring hill tops for orange flags - or so it seemed. After the first wee (relatively) climb, M1nty admitted that he was struggling with the terrain and wasn't sure how long he was going to be able to continue. We had a short break to talk it over and decided to continue, taking advantage of a path round the hill which was slightly longer but still got us to the first cp in good time. That was followed by a couple of km on a good track (we actually ran a bit here) before another steep climb and then I made a mistake which meant we overshot the cp. At this point, M1nty decided he really wasn't going to manage to complete the day - from a guy who has completed two 50+ mile races this year and who has shown his strength and determination many times, I knew it must have been a hard decision for him, but it was the sensible option so we plotted a route that would take us down a track to the road and back to the event centre - it continued to be a pleasant trip with chat and some lovely views of An Teallach. We were passed by a few pairs from the score class, including two lovely old ladies who I think had a combined age of 133!

Back at base, we did what we do best and tucked into some food and a couple of pints of beer until the prize giving - something I often don't get to see in races! As the prizes were being handed out, Liz and Jo finished strongly - they'd made up a few places from their position on Saturday and did brilliantly for a couple who claimed to have almost no idea how to use a compass. M1nty decided to go and thumb a lift to Inverness so we said our farewells, he set off, and the three of us who were left had some more beer, took down the tents and waited for Rhino and Fi to finish. They managed to stay out in the hills just long enough to get us worried, but just in time to get photos taken before the flags were removed. They'd had a tough time looking for one of the controls and were tired and a bit emotional but soon, we were on our way home.

So, strictly speaking, another dnf, but the way I see it, it was a fine weekend out in the hills, surrounded by stunning scenery, and in the company of good friends, and it just doesn't get much better than that!

(Pictures on this page courtesy of M1nty - my pictures here)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Cateran Trail Ultra 2011

After a DNF at the Highland Fling a few weeks back, I was looking forward to this weekend with the usual mixture of excitement and nerves, but raised to the power of e. However, I knew the cut-off times were more generous for this one and when Karen told me "Just finish - don't worry how long it takes", I was determined to do just that, even if it meant walking most of the course.

mrs s had said she would run with me, at least for the first bit, so we set off together and soon found ourselves in a sort of spread out group with Jonathan, Minty and Karin, who was joined by hubby Bill at Glenisla. Soph, Jon and Adrian were never too far away either but Dave K seemed in a bit more of a hurry and pushed ahead.
Glenisla also marked our venture into the unknown as we'd never been on any of the course after that before - it was quite fun not knowing what was coming round the next corner, although it was mainly cows, sheep, cow poo or sheep poo. Somewhere around here we also caught up with Neil and had a good blether with him.

The run down to Alyth was fairly uneventful except for starting to feel a bit tired, and hearing much shouting up ahead as Soph caught up with flip. Jonathan and Minty reached the check point at Alyth and shot through quite quickly, whereas I wanted to take a bit of time to slurp down a Muller Rice, so I suppose this was the point where I knew mrs s was going to stick with me as she waited also when she could easily have gone on. We also got an update on Mike and Andy who were in 4th and 5th at the time.

When George and the legend that is "Razor" McCurdy arrived at the check point I knew it was time to get going and we set off with flip for company - sadly, he was struggling a bit and we pushed on ahead towards Blairgowrie. Not very far ahead it turned out as he caught us up again when we stopped for a couple of minutes to take photos at the wooden spider web in the woods. At the other side of the woods, we started the long tarred descent into Blairgowrie - fun and fast on fresh legs, but not so easy on my tired pins so it was a relief to get down to the bottom and escorted across the road to "Happy Checkpoint". Another shortish break there and we were off again, back on the Cateran trail proper and starting to head North, towards the finish.

For most of the section to Bridge of Cally, we could see George and Ray, Soph and the McKendricks somewhere ahead of us so we were in lukewarm pursuit mode. We took a slight wrong route past a farm where the correct path was between two fields but we went down the edge and had to climb over a barbed wire fence. I didn't notice at the time, but I now have a nasty cut across the back of my calf. We caught up with Soph and jogged along with her, chatting away so much that I didn't see a stone sticking out of the path - before I knew it I was falling but pulled off a neat forward roll and sat up thinking "Game Over". A few seconds later, I was back on my feet and we were running down the track - it turned out that the pain wasn't anywhere near as bad as I had thought it was going to be, and the adrenalin kick was brilliant.

At BofC, I had to laugh when Jane offered us some flapjacks - they were made following the brilliant recipe that Vikki uses but unfortunately I'd already had my fill of them for the day so had to refuse. Carolyn was there as well with the news that Dave had lost some time due to a wee detour but was still going strong about 10 minutes ahead, Minty and Jonathan were still together a bit further ahead and that Mike and Andy had been 3rd and 4th. I had a Muller Rice to eat, but mrs s didn't want to waste too much time, so I decided to eat it on the move since there was a bit of uphill coming anyway.

The weather was starting to turn a bit nasty (down to the fact that flip had pulled out of the race) but we walked and jogged on through the drizzle, looking out for the point where Mike had gone wrong last year. We were generally trailing Jon Cornall at this point but went past him on a sharp little incline and realised we could now see the McKendricks and George and Ray up ahead and we slowly overhauled them which felt like we were making good progress. George told us that he'd got a text from Mike who had finished in 3rd place which was great news. The weather continued to worsen as we reached Kirkmichael where we passed Dave having a short stop under an umbrella with Carolyn. No such luxury for us so onward, ever onward on the short trip to Enochdhu with only a brief stop to put on waterproofs since it was chucking it down now.

Enochdhu was the last checkpoint - we'd been looking forward to it because mrs s had a can of gin and tonic in it, kindly donated by George who had a few of his own in different drop bags. It tasted great and knowing we only had sixish miles left, we set off up into the woods, and up towards the pass at An Lairig. We had George's company for much of this section which he told us was one of the most scenic parts of the course - not that we could see very much as we were up into the clag and if it hadn't been for the thought of finishing, it could have been pretty miserable. Dave passed us again, looking strong, mrs s was detailed to check the bothy for dead bodies but found none, and eventually the path levelled out and then started to go down. The steep path down was wet and treacherously muddy - it could have been great fun on a clear day with fresher legs but I took it fairly cautiously to avoid any mishaps. Once under the cloud level, we could see the roof of the hotel (a truly heart warming site) and knew the finish was close. mrs s was running ahead a bit - I came round a corner to see her waving at me to hurry up and shouting "They're all waiting at the hotel". Sure enough, I could make out people and hear a few shouts of encouragement so I picked up the pace a bit (the increased arm action caused drops of water to fly off my gloves, it was so damned wet) and we held hands down to the final gate and through the finish line in front of the hotel, straight into the arms of Karen.

It was such a good feeling to finish and to see so many friends. There were congratulations and handshakes and hugs and people taking photos, and then we were ushered into the bar so that we could start the recovery process....where there was another huge round of applause, and many more congratulations, not only from friends and other people involved in the race, but also from complete strangers who happened to be in the hotel that evening. I don't think I'm the only one who felt slightly overwhelmed by it all - it really was quite touching.
After a hot shower, it was time for a few drinks and the presentations - every finisher got a fantastic engraved quaich to go with the high quality goody bags that were handed out at registration - then food and more drinks and chat until tiredness finally got the better of us and we headed for bed.

What a great weekend! Huge thanks to Karen for putting on a fabulous wee race, and thanks to all the marshals and support crew for helping with drop bags, dispensing hugs, offering advice and encouragement, stopping traffic, and generally looking after all us runners. You guys were all brilliant. I also want to say thanks to the owners and staff at the Spittal hotel who were so accommodating to a huge bunch of smelly, wet, tired runners. But most of all, thanks to mrs s for running with me and keeping me going whenever I got a bit low - I'm not sure I could have done it without you, babe.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

April and the Fling

Overall, April was a pretty good month for running and running related activities - the Dunnottar Composter Challenge was hard work but a lot of fun and Balmoral was a good day out with a decent enough 5K time for me :)

But really, April was always going to be about the 53 mile Highland Fling and unfortunately it didn't exactly go to plan. I felt pretty good at the start and trotted along chatting to Mark and enjoying the scenery (I hadn't been on this bit of the WHW for twenty+ years so it was sort of new) which was good except that I totally forgot M1nty's advice and was running a wee bit quicker than I'd planned. Approaching the checkpoint at Drymen, I started to feel a bit uncomfortable in the stomach region so I stopped in the woods to try and clear things out a bit - it helped a bit but I still felt a bit iffy as I headed towards Conic hill and Mark went off ahead of me. The trek up the hill was pleasant enough but I still didn't feel great at Balmaha where I picked up food and headed for the loo again. For the next section, eating was a bit of a struggle, guts felt sore, legs felt tired, and the heat was increasing. As a result, my pace was decreasing steadily - running slower and less often. When I finally reached the "2km to Rowardennan" sign (which always feels like 5km to Rowardennan) and checked my watch it was getting near 2pm which meant it was going to be tough to reach Bein Glas before the 6pm gate (and very tough to reach the finish any time close to the cut off at 9pm). I decided to have a short break at the checkpoint to see how I felt, chatted to mates, then went off to the loo before making a decision. When I realised it felt sore to jog back across the car park from the toilets, I knew I'd had enough for the day, handed my chip to the marshal and pulled out of the race for my first ever DNF :(

hp gave me a lift round to the finish at By The Way in Tyndrum where we checked in to our respective living quarters and watched the finishers coming in. It was strange, feeling genuinely delighted for everyone else who did brilliantly to complete the course on a hot, hot day (many in fantastic times) but at the same time so disappointed that I wasn't still out running and crossing that line myself.

Lessons learned?
Train harder. Eat/drink safer (i.e. nothing different) in the run up (I had to visit the toilet 3 times before the race even started which was a bad sign). Slow down at the start, even if it feels easier to run with someone else. Take ginger? MTFU? Hopefully, the Cateran next weekend will be a better run.

Despite the race not going as planned, I did have a good weekend so here are some good things:
  • nice meal on Friday with old and new friends - good to meet Fenland Runner and Lapsed Athlete
  • great to see mr and mrs M1nty and chill with them before the race
  • running and chatting with Mark over the very pleasant first section
  • enjoyed seeing some of the relay runners go past and watching them bound down Conic Hill - watching good hill runners going down hill fast is always a pleasure
  • finding out Top Dogs got a prize in the relay
  • seeing everybody finishing - so pleased for you all
  • getting my bum pinched by a cheeky wee lady
  • fish and chips and beer at the Real Food Cafe
  • beer and crisps at Paddys - great company, lots of laughs and sitting in the "king's chair"
The plan for May is somewhat similar to April - a bit of training, a couple of short races, and an attempt at the longest race of my life. But this time, I'm even more determined to finish - and I've got 2 hours longer. It should be a snip ;)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The Short And The Long Of It

The short was this weekend's 5K at Balmoral, a race I only decided to do because we persuaded the kids to do the 1.5K and I thought I'd do a race I hadn't done before. Unfortunately we cocked up our timing slightly, and thanks to having to follow a snake of cars into the car park, I ended up more or less throwing the boys over a barrier into the start area as the gun went to signify the start of their race. They both got going and soon reappeared, a bit more red in the face, and doing OK - new PBs for them both so they ought to be pleased.

Then we met up with the rest of the crew, got out the blanket, chairs, tent, food etc and went into full blether and faff mode. I almost forgot that I was there to run, but soon enough the girls race was out of the way and it was time to get warmed up for the 5K. The plan was to run fast but try and stay relaxed and controlled to reduce the risk of injury or strain and I hoped to get round in about 23min (or closer to 22 and beat the mrs if at all possible). I felt it went OK, reasonably steady pace for the first mile or so (slight slow down at the wee hill) and still felt pretty good as I went past all the supporters at about half way, but couldn't find enough extra pace for the last mile or so and finished in 23:26. Slightly slower than I'd have liked but not too bad really.

After the 5K, there was plenty of time for more chat, yelling at kids, and general tomfoolery before the 10K and a bit of supporting. Some great running, great to see so many Stonehaven runners doing well and top performances from Fetchies. Well done to all.

Overall it was a good day out - a good run and great to see so many friends and so many of them beating PBs and having great runs. Unfortunately, the trip home was tedious in the extreme. After the walk to the car park (which took a long time thanks to three pairs of tired wee legs), I was hoping to scoot out through Easter Balmoral and take the hopefully quieter South Deeside Rd, at least as far as Ballater, but for some reason, we were instructed to turn the other way out of the car park and sit in the queue of traffic heading back towards the castle and then out via the main exit and onto the North Deeside Rd which was a solid queue of traffic. Not happy about that at all, but I'm guessing the organisers have some reason for doing it that way.

In any case it was a relief to get home and head out to get some take away beer and curry.

So, the 5K was the short. The long comes next week at the Highland Fling, which will be a completely different kettle of fish. Wish me luck. I think I'll need it.

Some pictures from Balmoral here

Monday, 21 March 2011

Another year older....

...but still no wiser, it seems.

Yes, it was my birthday last week and as a special present, my pal Dod held a wee race at the weekend. He called it the D33 aka The Jam Sandwich Race, but we all know that really it was the Shanksi Birthday Bash. He even managed to get heaps of wonderful people to come along: club mates, Fetchies, and all sorts of top quality distance runners.

He was even good enough to give me a nice simple job to do - get a photo of all the Stonehaven runners, preferably in club tops, before the start. Of course, I failed miserably with that one - there was far too much hand-shaking, hugging, and general faffing to be done, and it would have been like herding cats anyway. In any case there are some great photos in the collections here, here and here, and in several other places if you look hard enough.

The first half of the race went well: I ran with Dave_K for most of it and it went pretty much to plan, a very enjoyable just under 10:00/mile which was about the same pace as last year and felt good. It was nice to catch up with mrs s at the half way point - we'd had her in our sights a few times but despite me waving, she hadn't looked back. Refuelling was a tub of Muller Rice (which went down well) and some cold pizza (which I took one bite of and ditched the rest), and then Dave and I set off again at a very slightly reduced pace.

A couple of miles in we hit the wee climb up to the main road at Crathes and Dave pulled ahead as I slowed to a walk. Soon after, it was like the wheels fell off my running and I was finding it difficult to keep a half-decent pace going. Like last year, the 3 miles between Crathes and Drumoak seemed to go on and on for ever - it was nice to see Angus who did his best to raise my spirits but I was starting to feel tired and sore and having difficulty keeping any food or drink down (I think I might have neglected to eat for too long after the turn, but can't remember for sure) so it was tough going. A few folks passed me as I headed for home; very pleased to see Pdoll going strong but disappointed at that point to realise my chances of getting in in under 6 hours had completely disappeared. Still, I was on for a PB so kept going with a run/walk (too much walking). It was good to see Craig and Alex and to have a quick chat with them, but largely wanted to focus, keep my own company and just get to the finish. Which I did, eventually, and was delighted to see mrs s and the kids waiting for me, and to get beer and a medal from Dod. Once again, we had personalised beer from Brewdog, but this year, the medals were hand crafted by our friend Annette at Best race medals ever!

I wasn't exactly sure of my time, mainly because I'd been relying on my phone for timing and pace information which was a bit stupid since I have difficulty reading the screen in daylight, but I was confident I'd beaten last years time, and thus made lots of betting Fetchies happy :)

Once I was able to walk again, we drove round to the Inn at the Park for a quick drink and a catch up before heading for home, food, a shower, and then back out to the pub for drinks.

Looking back, it was a top weekend and fantastic to see so many friends out enjoying themselves in the Aberdeen sunshine (and the Stonehaven pub light). I'm slightly disappointed with my time and the way my running fell to pieces a bit on the second half. I think I can do better so it's time for some quality training in the lead up to the Fling. I also need to have a rethink about eating and drinking - I've been using nuun tablets in my water but really wasn't enjoying the taste and might go for straight water plus electrolyte tablets that can just be necked rather than having them dissolved in the water.

Thanks again to Dod for putting on another great race and to all the marshalls and other helpers who made the race possible, and to everyone who ran and made it a grand day out, and also to everyone who came along to the pub and had a drink and a laugh and made it such a nice weekend. Cheers guys, you're all very special people. In more than one sense of the word.

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Two things are upsetting me about British Pie Week:

1) I only heard about it today, at the very end of the week, and have been unable to participate fully in any extra pastry encased food consumption.

2) It really should have been organised to coincide with Pi Day. I know that this year's arrangements could have potentially led to 8 full days of pi(e) related gluttony, but I just feel that Pie Week should include Pi Day.

In any case, I shall have to remember to buy a circular pie for my afternoon snack tomorrow.