Thursday 29 May 2008

So many queens, so much drama

The WHW race clan has one queen that rules the roost of all drama. Mark Hamilton alias Drama Queen. But over the last few months there has been many a drama princess fighting for the top position of queen bee. But who else would complete a 95 mile trail race, after fracturing their ankle within the first five miles? Mark we all bow to your superior queenliness. I have read and heard about various ailments that have threatened many participants finishing (and starting ability!). There's been bums falling off, sprains, tears, falls, tendinitis, fatigue, man-flu and cantbebotheredtraining-itus. There's been bonking, chaffing, burning, bruising and blisters. We've covered every bodily pain from glutes, hamstrings, ankles, knees, quads, calves all the way up to shoulders and neck.

Apart the usual I-pushed-myself-too-far aches and pains, I have remained to stay relatively injury free. That is until last night. Yes, three weeks before the race. My foot feels like it's cracked down the middle. How's that for drama? Mark, do you need an apprentice?

To cast your mind back, Saturday's devils route was the best run of the year. And then on Monday I went for a brisked walk on the WHW. After a few hours I noticed a sharp pain down the front of my foot. I put it down to overuse or having my laces too tight, so didn't think too much of it.

Last night I organised a WHW training group the dark! Apart from my brief stints on the back-roads of Alexandria during the winter, I had very limited experience of running in poor lighting.

The others out on the night adventure were Sonic (of course), John K, Thomas, Neal, Davie, Mike T, Graeme R, Sharon (my support runner) and Murray (Sonic's support runner)

I felt great when I started. A few days rest always does the world of good. Sharon and I - for some reason unbeknown to us - ended up at the front of the pack. We made our excuses, because nature called, and dropped back leaving the boys to head off in the dark and mist.

After about two miles my foot ached and by the time I hit the road into Drymen I was swearing like a drunken sailor. Ideally I should have pulled out, but when you're stuck mid-route in the dark and pouring rain, the only option is to push on.

It's the bone on the mid-front of my foot. Any advice anyone? Anything? I'll try anything.
We finished in 2:15, which is nothing to be snuffed at. That would be a perfect time for race day. I just need to sort out the foot situation. After driving home, I could barely walk to the house. And today I'm walking like I've got a club foot. Not pretty. I'm trying not to panic about it, so I'm focusing on staying positive. I've got a great Devils run under my belt. And injury is just your body's way of saying you need a rest. Right?

Sonic and I were planning on running from Drymen to Beinglas on Saturday, but that's been shelved until further notice. I'll be dusting down my bike for the weekend. Looks like it's going to be perfect conditions for cycling.

Although I did have my camera last night, my thoughts were elsewhere. I've nicked these pictures from John's blog. Hope you don't mind JK?

The West Highland Way Witches

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Pictures from the Women's 10K

Davie Hall kindly sent me some pictures that he took at the race last Sunday.

On a scale of one - Amy Winehouse, how scary do I look?

Monday 26 May 2008

Slow coach to Balmaha and back

I opted for the ye olde fashioned way and went for a WALK on the West Highland Way. 'Twas a glorious bank holiday Monday, so the perfect excuse to pack light and take in a leisurely stroll in the Scottish countryside.

I parked my car in Drymen and headed over to Balmaha. I knew walking was going to be challenging enough - it's amazing how slow and monotonous it is now. But the out and back nearly sent me over. I really enjoyed the route to Balmaha, but I was over it by the time I had come up and over Conic Hill for the second time.

My quads hurt a little on the steep steps down from Conic Hill, but other than that I wasn't really suffering from Saturday's run. I was tempted to pack my trekking poles for situations like this, but I knew Sonic would be horrified. I think he's still recovering from seeing me running on Saturday with a donut water bottle. But that's nothing. Wait until his family disown him when his picture appears in Rangers News! Lomond Mountain Rescue were helping walkers from the Rangers Charity Foundations (apparently it's a real charity) up Ben Lomond yesterday. The crew were all posing with the Scottish Cup ill-informed that the photographer was from Rangers News. My brother's going to frame it, as he thinks there's hope for him yet. Davie - think you need to have a word.

A little note of big congratulations. Caroline for a stonkin' PB in Edinburgh Marathon. Caroline was gunning for sub 4:10, but nailed 3:54! John K was aiming for sub 1:27 in the Kirkcudbright Half Marathon and finished in 1:25. Ian B was looking for new t-shirts, so ran the Stornoway Marathon AND the Edinburgh Marathon the day after.

Saturday 24 May 2008

Better the Devil you know

...And the Devil was my first ultra. June 2007 seems so long ago. After dossing about on the Internet, I stumbled across the site for the Devil o' the Highlands. After sending Sonic the link under the title "fancy this", I proceeded with - we've run marathons, how hard can 43 miles be? How naive was I? Click here for my report on last year's race.

So, today was the Devil o' the Highlands - take two.

After spending the night on Bridge of Orchy - caravan trip take two - we arrived in Tyndrum shortly after 6am. Sonic was supporting me again and was delighted to be up so early. Especially when we were being attack by midges. And boy do they like Sonic.

The usually uneventful road to Bridge of Orchy was very dramatic. Firstly I was attacked by a sheepdog, which had me pinned against a fence. Snarling and barking with its front legs down, there was no way it was letting m past. I suppose it didn't help that I was screaming like a big girl. Thankfully the farmer appeared with his other sheepdogs and went completely mental at it. Strangely enough he didn't even acknowledge the fact that I was there. I wasn't bothered though, as I was out of there.

Then I was faced with the next drama - a huge herd of highland cows directly in my path. I was absolutely terrified. I know, I'm a big kiff. I was convinced the ones with horns were bulls. Thanks Brian for telling us the charging bull story. On my approach, the wee coos were scuttling all over the place. All I needed one of those massive beasts to get all protective. They were making lots of noises, so I convinced they were devising a plan to kill me. In the end, I opted on a complete detour up and round the field. Think I need to get a bit braver for race day. The last thing I need is extra distance. Especially through marshy fields.

I was relieved to get to Bridge of Orchy. I dumped my rucksack with Sonic and headed up the hills. It always feels fabulous to lose the weight off my back. I covered the section in my fastest time. Sonic even noticed and warned me to cool it.

Over Rannoch Moor there was a strong head wind. The morning had the potential to be quite muggy, so the cool wind was quite refreshing. I felt really strong all the way over and didn't walk once. I would rather stay slow and steady, rather than do the whole stop/start strategy.

I arrived at the ski centre in 3.15 hrs. Sonic informed me that Mags and Eric (WHW runners) were also out training. Mags had started at Bridge of Orchy and was behind me. Eric had started at Tyndrum before 6am and was in front of me.

The WHW is quite lonely first thing in morning, but leaving Kingshouse just after 9.30 was like trying to get along Buchanan Street. It was after breakfast, so there were hoards of people heading over to the Devil's staircase. I met Sonic again at the bottom - who supplied me with energy bars and juice for the journey to Kinlochleven. The staircase was its usually stomping slog. It was really quick chilly, which was a welcomed relief. At the top I screamed out a very loud "woohoo", only to run over the brow to see a group of tourists staring at me in bemusement.

I felt the road into Kinlochleven was tougher than normal. The steep descents were playing havoc with my quads. I met Sonic at the checkpoint. Thankfully he didn't tell me I was running three minutes behind my Devil's race time. Eric had arrived before me. I didn't get a chance to chat with him, as I was trying to limit my stops to two minutes max. Sonic had bought me a bottle of real coke - something I haven't drank since I was a child. Alyson Macpherson had told me that this gives her a real boost during the race. Wow was she right. It was an instant pick me up. 250ml and I was born again.

I always think the Devil's route is a game of two halves. The first 30 miles and then from Lairig Mor into Fort William. The ascent out of Kinlochleven can zap everything, but I felt great. I chatted to a few folks as I passed them on the way up. One chap even asked if I was "training for that crazy race?". The whole way over to Lundavra I mentally repeated "steady breathing. Slow jog". Sometimes I can get quite stressed and tense when I'm tired, which is a vicious circle. The calmer I feel, the better I run. I kept the pace steady and my body relaxed. The only real low point I had in the day, was a sugar-slump about half a mile from Lundarva. That was easily sorted with another dose of coke and a small bag of jelly babies. I practically flew all the way to Fort William. I was hyper and cheerily greeted everyone I passed. They must have thought I was mental - especially when the asked where I started or far I'd come. I covered the last few miles in 8m/m. I felt great and didn't have any aches and pains. Sonic was waiting for me at the Braveheart Carpark - along with Eric's support. Another swig of coke and I sprinted the way into Fort William.

I finished in 8.37, which is over 12 minutes faster than my Devil's race time. I wasn't really bothered about time. OK, maybe a little. My main focus was to finish strong, which I did. I had a great run and enjoyed every minute of it. At the end of last year's race I was an emotional and physical wreck for the last ten miles, as I've never experienced so much pain. To be fair, I didn't train properly. This year, I'm much better prepared. The next time I start this route, I'll have 53 miles in my legs.

Main points from today

1) Injinji socks are the best.
2) Coke rocks!
3) Two minutes at each checkpoint is suffice. I'd much rather walk and refuel.
4) Soaking my buff in water and wearing it round my neck really kept my head cool.
5) I ate three SIS Go bars, two gels and a 100g bag of jelly babies.
6) I drank three litres of diluting juice with Nunn tablets. And 600ml of coke.
7) I had two bottles 5 hour energy.
8) I look forward to the day when I can go to the toilets at Fort William's Morrison without fearing my own reflection in the mirror.

Times from the run:

Meeting point arrival time (depart time)
Bridge of Orchy 1.10 (1.11)
Victoria Bridge 1.44 (1.46)
Glencoe ski centre 3.15
Kingshouse 3.25 (3.28)
Devil's Staircase 4.02 (4.03)
Kinlochleven 5.31 (5.33)
Lundavra 7.13 (7.15)
Braveheart carpark 8.29
End of Way sign 8.37

Big thanks to Sonic for being fabulous support. I couldn't have done it without him.

Things you see when you don't have a camera: Two well-groomed girls walking on Lairig Mor. Both wearing skirts and knee high boots and carrying shopping bags. WTF?

Wednesday 21 May 2008

The unplanned 10K

I'm so over Sunday's race. I'm not going to dwell on it anymore. I'm not even bothered. I've soooooooo moved on. I've built that bridge and got over it. And just to prove it, I decided to do it again ;-)

To be fair it wasn't my intention. The only tactic I had in mind for today's training run was to reset my Garmin after a one mile warm-up. This is only because I have started going off too fast recently, as I don't want to lower my average pace. I have realised this is extremely daft, hence my decision to reset. So out with one daft idea and in with a new one. I felt quite good and the faster pace felt really comfortable, so I though it would a "good" idea to run the 10K distance to compare Sunday's performance. Tim - please don't berate me. I know it was neither big nor clever.

I headed along Paisley Road West, past Bellahouston Park. This is the Glasgow half route and few people realise that it's a steady incline the whole way. I felt I was going faster than I probably was. It evens out at the other side of the park, so I picked up the pace towards Shawlands. My aim was to keep under 7.30 m/m, but there were a few hills that slowed me down.

I finished the 6.25 mile route in 46:25. Over a minute and half faster than Sunday's "race". Surely if I can run this in a training run, I should get at least 45 something in race conditions? In hindsight I should have saved today's effort and ran Helensburgh10K tomorrow. I'll only be there to support, as I'm having two rest days before Saturday's epic adventure. Good luck to everyone running.

Spilts from the unplanned 10K. 8.01, 7.44, 7.43, 7.23, 7.21, 7.02, 6.44. Shame it doesn't count though. No official time. No PB. No medal. Just sore legs and knowing smile.

Tuesday 20 May 2008

Dawsholm hill reps

Woohoo! Got my mojo back. Last week was one big low point. I don't know whether it was back-to-back speed sessions or generally feeling a bit lousy, but every run was awful. Thankfully, I knew from this morning that I was back on track. Tonight, even from the word go my legs felt lighter and my breathing was fine.

For obvious reasons, Sonic bowed out from tonight's club training. Although when I went to my pilates class at lunchtime, I glanced out of the window to see him bouncing along on the treadmill. Some people never learn.

Tonight was hill reps - which is probably my favourite rep session. I don't have any stats, but we did 8 x Dawsholm hills. It's a steady incline for about 200-300m. There's usual lots of dodgy people in cars hanging out. You know, tokers, doggers and rent boys. It's always an experience. And if you manage to miss the culture, there's a high probability that you could be taken out by a boy racer or an Arctic lorry leaving the depot. Plenty to keep you on your toes.

As most folks are either running Helensburgh on Thursday or had just done the women's 10K, the focus was on style rather than speed. I had a great run and feel much happier and more positive.

If it's good enough for Geb

You know how I love my step reps? Well so does Haile Gebreselassie. Here's a snippet from this month's Runner's World:

STEP UP For endurance, you need strength in your legs and lungs. Try this two-birds-with-one-stone solution: "Find a staircase with 25 or more steps," says Steve Braco, director of athletics at the Athletics Association of Wales. "Start off running to the top one step at a time, then walking back down. The next phase is two steps at a time, again walking down, and final phase is two steps up, single steps down, running up and down. With each phase, start on five sets and build up to 10."

I'll be trying this approach next time I head over the Bonhill Bridge. Could be a certifiable offense though.

Sunday 18 May 2008

Women's 10K

Well, today was a harsh reminder that I simply can't do everything. I started off well, but wilted after the third mile. Struggled a bit in the middle, but managed to recover. I'm not one for rhyming off excuses, so I'm not going to. I'm not even going to say I used it as a training run, as I really did give it my best shot. All's not lost though, as it was my fastest Women's 10K. I'm not going to dwell on it though, as on the grand scale of things it's so not important.

Unofficial time was 47.57. I've run faster 10Ks in training runs!

Splits 7.15, 7.21, 7.31, 8.00, 8.07 (see what I mean?) 7.37, 7.16 (average 7.38)

Well done to all the Garscube gals. There were some storming PBs in there. Big congrats to Caroline - who took 1 min and 20 secs off her PB. Even after the Troon 10K last week and a WHW run yesterday. I take it back, Caroline, go for Edinburgh. You've definitely got your mojo back!

Friday 16 May 2008

While the cat's away...

Sonic is away on his sailing jaunt, so I've got an empty for five whole days. Well he said he'd be back on Monday. Maybe Sunday or possibly Tuesday.

Sonic, his brother (not-so-Sonic) and three of their pals are taking part in the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Challenge. Basically it's an adventure race for teams of sailors and fell runners. The race starts in Oban with a short hill run, then you sail to Salen on Mull, run over Ben More, sail to Craighouse on Jura, run the Paps, Sail to Arran, run Goat Fell, then sail to Troon. No problem, yeah? Sounds like a boy's jolly to me.

He texted me on the first night to say he was feeling queasy...and they hadn't even started sailing yet. Doesn't really bode well, does it? His regular texts attempt to assure me that he's having a great time, but it sounds like he's trying to hard. Like when your Granny gives you a dodgy jumper for Christmas. Anyway, it sounds like hell on earth to me. Sailing involves water, so it's ruled out for me. Besides I'm relishing the opportunity to have sole responsibility of the remote control.

On a plus side, there's a new blog...and it's even updated. Click here. Sounds like their having a ball, yeah?

Anyway, when the cat's away...the mouse goes shopping! Then's there's the girlie lunch, movies with my Sis, Women's 10K and girls' night out on Sunday. I'll be burning my bra by Monday ;-)

Later, troops.

Thursday 15 May 2008

The calm before the storm

Since last night's intervals, my hamstrings have been playing up. Think it could have been the step reps on Monday. A feeble attempt at using Sonic's massage stick (oh er, Mrs!) confirmed that the backs of my legs were a lumpy bumpy mess. It was like rolling it across a washing board.

I was hoping my lunchtime yoga was going to help sort them out. Every week, the wee yoga man asked it anyone has any aches and pains. Every week his question is met with silence. Before I could stop myself I squealed "where would you like me to start?". I managed to retract it by brushing it off as usually runners' pains. It was, after all, not an injury.

My legs felt a bit better, so I headed up to Garscube training. I went out for a short warm-up and didn't think my legs were loosening. I was tempted to jump back in the car and disappear, but I was spotted. There was no going back.

The 5.5 mile wasn't the best, but I survived. I just treated it as an easy pre-race run. The route was pretty simple: Maryhill, Kelvin Walkway, Botanics, GWR, Anniesland, top gate and down to the bridge. Finished in 45:00. Splits were 8.29, 8.20, 8.45, 8.22, 8.40, 7.20 (average 8.27)

Wednesday 14 May 2008

One minute intervals

Another glorious day in the west of Scotland. My lunchtime stroll was even more glorious after the realisation that half of the shellsuit fraternity were in Manchester. Glasgow was a quiet place today. JK - the fact that the streets and shops were quieter than normal today, is the height of my football knowledge.

Even though I have worked in the newspaper industry for the best part of ten years, I have never read a football report. Not something I'm particularly proud. We printed 10,000 Rangers posters to distribute with the with paper in Manchester. On inspection, I'm glad I stopped myself from spurting out "Does Ally McCoist STILL play for Rangers?". Doh

Well, the streets of Glasgow may have been quiet, but the streets of Balloch were packed. I went out for my interval run around 6.30. Obviously this was pre-football loitering time. Gangs of lads with bags full of cans and clinking bottles en route to their pals' house and smokers hanging outside pubs. Thankfully it wasn't as bad as the time I collided with a ned outside Ibrox! ;-)

Despite the visual entertainment, I managed my one minutes intervals on my 4.5 mile. My legs felt shocking to start, but that's probably because I wasn't taking the time to warm-up properly.
Finished in 33.36. Splits were 8.15, 7.59, 7.49, 7.43 and 7.16.

This is quite an action-packed weekend, so there's a few people I would like to send my best wishes to: Firstly to Sonic and his pals, who are sailing/running in the Scottish Three Peaks Challenge. Happy spewing, chaps! Then there's Silke who's running her first marathon in Germany. The folks from the WHW clan who are running Friday and Saturday. Brian and Dave on the Malborough Downs Challenge. And last but not least, everyone participating in the Glasgow Women's 10K on Sunday. Good luck everyone!

Tuesday 13 May 2008

The short report

Another low-mileage speed session tonight. Short reps were on the Garscube schedule. The length of short, medium and long reps really depends on which coach you're out with. It could be anything from 50-650 metres. We were lumbered with Jill - just kidding, poppet. Jill and I spend a lot time mocking each other, so it's always a riot. I got the upper hand when she took us on a detour over a grassy field and she ended up face down. You can't buy that kind of entertainment. Yikes. Best be nice, as she's on my support team for the WHWR.

Tonight's session was brilliant. We headed up to Dawsholm Park. Unfortunately, Maryhill Harriers had the same idea. As we were doing our 150(ish) sprints we had to dodge out the way of their long circuits. Sonic will be happy to learn that the super-fast guy who runs with his dog had decided to train with Maryhill.

After seven sets were jogged round the trails for a mile or so, before hitting some steps. Yippee a few step reps. My fave. Then we headed along to the Kelvin Walkway from from downhill 100m sprints. So all in all a great variation of short reps on a glorious sunny night. I've got no idea of times and distance, as I just set my Garmin to go. 4.6 miles all in.

Monday 12 May 2008

Bonhill step reps

This week I plan on cutting back on the mileage, but keeping up the speed work. The main focus being the Glasgow Women's 10K on Sunday. I know, on the grand scale of things, a meagre six miles should be the least of my worries. But it's an important event for me. It's the reason behind my pavement pounding debut many years ago, so it's kinda like my birthday. Mind you if the temperatures rise, I could be tempted to throw in the towel and join the crew on the WHW ;-) Did I tell you I'm not good with heat?

The plan for today was to join some Garscube folks for mile reps at Clydebank Business Park, but as the day went on my enthusiasm dipped. Sonic was easily coaxed into heading home and doing something locally. I did promise him a nice dinner afterwards. The way to man's heart n'dat. Especially when we worked out that he's consuming 4000-5000 calories per day just now.

I decided to go for the step reps next to the Bonhill Bridge. I wanted to do something short and sharp, as I fear my fast-twitch muscles have gone into hibernation after all the long runs on the WHW. Mountain goat Marco headed for the hills. Shock! Horror! He did try to get me to join him, by trying to tell me that Pappert Hill wasn't that hilly. Mmm the clue's in the name.

Step reps circuits: 1.19, 1.20, 1.18, 1.18, 1.16, 1.16, 1.15, 1.14. I know that means nothing to you, but it's just for my records. Obviously I felt stronger as the reps went on. My legs even felt lighter on the cool-down home.

This picture was taken in January, in case you think I live in a different climate zone. Basically you zoom (ish) up one side, it plateaus at the top, down the steps at the other side and then a 100m (ish) dash back to the start. Did you get that?

Sunday 11 May 2008

Race blunders

After reading Davie Bell's blog and giggling at his drama of turning up at the Highland Fling (53 mile trail race) without his trail shoes. Oh and turning up at last year's Great Scottish Run without his shorts, I wondered if anyone else has some comedy moments from racing and training?

My comedy moment (well, it's only funny now) happened during last year's Paris Marathon. As the temperatures hit 30 degrees as I was severely over-heating. At one of the water stops, I grabbed a bottle of water and proceeded to pour the contents all over me. Only to discover I was pouring a clear energy drink all over me. Yes, liquid sugar. Doh! The stewards were staring at me in total disbelief. I had to complete the remaining miles feeling like a real-life jelly baby.

Saturday 10 May 2008

Kingshouse to Fort William

Even though I ran this section last Sunday, I wanted to give it another bash on fresh(er) legs. It is my favourite section after all, so I always welcome the opportunity to run on it.

As always, the adventure starts with the journey. En route to Kingshouse we had to take a massive detour, as the A82 on the lochside was closed. We were turned back just before Ardlui because an inconsiderate Royal Mail driver had decided to nose-dive his van into the loch. Sitting at 90 degrees, held up by a telegraph pole, the emergency services had informed us the road would be closed for a couple of hours.

We arrived at Kingshouse slightly exhausted, irritable and way behind scheduled. Setting off at 10.30, the heat quickly toke it's toll. On the ascent of the Devil's Staircase I was wishing the weather forecast was right, as a little shower would have been very refreshing.

Sonic had packed extra light, with only a water bottle and some jelly babies? Guess who's race strategy he was copying? I was a tad envious, as my back was on fire with a backpack. That was short-lived though, as he scrambled about trying to find water from streams that had dried up.

My quads ached a little on the descent into Kinlochleven, but they felt much better than they had all week.

There was a cross-bike race taken place around Kinlochleven and the bikes threw up lost of dust as they passed. As if my mouth wasn't drive enough. At least the stinging eyes took the focus off my quads.

The ascent out of Kinlochleven was it's usual evil self. I managed to take out my discomfort by snarling at grown-men on bikes, who didn't even acknowledge that we'd stepped off the path to let them pass.

The route to Lundarva was pretty uneventful. Thankfully it was a little cooler than anticipated. Even from there to Fort William was OK. I was determined to stay positive after the "Bermuda Triangle". It wasn't going to suck me in again. Lots of positive chat was required. The track down to the town was a little uncomfortable. But hey, I need to train my quads. Although Sonic was laughing at the little voice behind him whimpering "I really don't think I should be doing seven minute miles" ;-)

We finished in 4:43, which was 10 minutes ahead of last week's run. Kinlochleven 1:43, out 1:51, Lundarva 3.26 and to the beautiful end of Way sign 4:43. Total distance 23.3. Ascent 933m. Average pace 12.10.

We celebrated a great run (and not falling out!) with a night at the Clachaig Inn. After a hearty feast of burger 'n' chips and far to much beer, we were spent by 10pm. That's the party animals in us.

Friday 9 May 2008

Runners are different...

In 1999, Adidas produced some of the best ads ever made.

Thursday 8 May 2008

Seven miles of torture

Well tonight's run was definitely an experience. And not one I'd like to repeat. I don't know whether is was the heat (have I told you I'm rubbish in heat?), the hills (Sonic was in charge of the route), fatigue or general tiredness from last weekend's run, but it was a struggle from word go. I'm really putting most of it down to the heat. Considering I was raised in desert climates, I really go to pieces in anything over 16 degrees. Marathon de Sable is definitely off the cards for me. Given this was the first hot run of the year, I think the hills were a cruel twist. By the time I dragged myself round, I finished harbouring murderous thoughts...namely for the route master ;-)

For the sake of consistency...7.29m took 1:03:03 (average 8.44). Maryhill, Rannoch, Boclair, Milngavie, Mosshead, Stockiemuir, Drymen, Canniesburn, Maxwell and home. 8.31, 8.58, 8.57, 8.33, 8.18, 9.07, 7.34

Now delete and destroy.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Still recovering...

I've felt a little worn out over the last couple of days. A little bit sore, a little tired and a whole lot grumpy. I could have cried off going for a run tonight, but I managed to talk myself in to it. Only on the basis that I need to be more prepared to run when I'm tired and achy. Although a four-miler at recovery pace would be a drop in the ocean.

I went out on the Balloch four-mile route, aiming for a maximum of 9m/miles. Closer to 10 m/miles if need be. I felt pretty shocking. And the heat didn't help. I'm all for a bit of sunshine, but I wish I could turn it off when I got for a run. Not sure if going for run was beneficial. My quads are still tender. Maybe another rest day would have been better, but we'll see. Splits were 8.47, 8.50, 8.59 and 8.59.

Monday 5 May 2008

See you on the other side

'Twas the morning after the night before. Well, not quite morning, as I was yanked out of bed at 4am. Surely that's the middle of the night? When I got to the top of stairs I was contemplating whether it would be less painful throwing myself down - rather than walking down. I decided on the latter and stumbled down like I'd just been shot. Needless to say, my quads were a little on the tender side. Nothing to too dramatic though, just the usual aches and pains.

Anyway, it was time to see if from the other side of the race and return the supporting favour. As you will probably know, I was up at this ridiculous hour (and on a bank holiday Monday!) to chase Sonic and Neal around the WHW. After spending an hour running around organising everything for Sonic, my legs had loosened up quite nicely.

The chaps set off at 6am sharp. The sprint-position start was comical, but not entirely unjustified.
I drove off - with enough food and gear to last a month - to meet them at Carbeth Huts. Although I'm quite familiar with the WHW, I was pretty clueless about how to reach the meeting points on the road. It was a bit a learning experience for me too. I heard the boys chitter-chatter for about half a mile before they appeared flying round the corner. They claimed to be ahead of schedule because they met another runner and "just had to put him in the ground". A mindset that probably didn't bode well for another 50 miles.

On to Beech Trees Inn, where they stopped for a snack and fluid top-up. I'd sorted everything in the boot and had a feast set up on the parcel self. I felt like Silke. But much less pleasant. I got to Drymen well before time. I was trying to be super-efficient, but managed to park in the wrong place. I didn't realise there was a small path at the opposite side to the gate. As I was standing on the road - camera at the ready - I had to scuttle back to car to race to the top when they arrived. Another top-up (and bewildered discussion about Highland Fling participants times) and they were off to Balmaha.

I bought some papers and sat in Balmaha carpark for an hour. The sun was coming through nicely now, so it was the perfect day to spend supporting. Plus I was super-smug that my part of the WHW trilogy was done and dusted. The guys appeared and in good spirits - which means they still had enough wit to mock me. Threats of eating their supplies soon sent them on their way.
En route to Rowardenan I nearly crashed the car whilst rubber-necking to see if I could catch a sight of them. I decided to stop at Sallochy Bay to take pictures of them passing. What an experience that was. It was like a gypsy campsite. If Shameless had a camping trip. ..that would be it. Again a lay out some food supplies on the parcel shelf. It was like a mobile tuck shop. Shameless must have thought the "Tali van" (no offense to my ancestors in-law) had made a special detour.

Neal arrived shortly after 10am, with a very pale-faced Sonic on tow. He was muttering and spluttering about feeling awful, which is really not like him. Not that he doesn't milk an illness, it's just that he knows it's useless trying to milk it with me ;-) After about 10 minutes they decided to push on the Rowardenan and then make decision from there on in. As Peter (Neal's father-in-law) was meeting us they, the guys had the chance to split up if need be. They trotted off and I jumped in the car to drive away, then I caught sight of Marco being held up by a tree and watering the roots with his projectile vomiting. There was a lot of fluid coming up. I was guessing that the cold coffee, banana milk and salty energy drink wasn't a good combo. You'd think, eh? Well, whatever came up did the trick as he was fine coming into Rowardenan. I felt more sick pacing up and down the carpark waiting for him to appear.

The set off to take on the notorious lochside, and we set off on the long journey to really only travel a short distance.

At Beinglas, a little support network had gathered. Thomas and Silke had stopped by on their way back from St Fillins and JK and Katrina just happened to be, erm, no way near the area. JK had treated his wife to lunch at Drover's Inn and then subtly dropped in the "did I forget to mention...". I'm sure the guys were delighted to see everyone out to cheer them on. We had brought up all the stuff from the car, so they could take whatever they needed. Of course, Neal had decided he wanted to change his shoes and socks and sent me back for them. Given the state of my legs, running back to the car is probably the nicest thing I've done all year;-) They hung about for far too long. Sonic said it was because they felt guilty about shooting off so quickly. Uh hum. Likely story. Later they told me the gathering at Beinglas was the highlight of the day.

Thomas joined them for a few miles. Watching three pairs of Skins compression shorts leaving the campsite was quite comical. Especially considering they're marketed as a prevention for sporting injuries...and all three of them were hobbling in pain.

We met them at Derrydarroch and then again the A82 crossover - this part was all too familiar to me. I was glad I was the one taking the pictures this time. Tom made his excuses to bow out, whilst Sonic had a bonding moment with a packet of babywipes. I nearly got taken out by a truck running over the road to get said babywipes.
At Auchentyre Farm, Peter and I popped in for a coffee. Actually it would be a crime to call it coffee, but I needed my caffeine fix. I was a little anxious as the guys seemed to be taking longer than expected or maybe I was just over-generous about their predicted arrival time. I walked to the end of the track to watch for them coming through the gate. And then there they were, strolling along. The caught sight of me with the camera and, ta da, there was a burst of enthusiastic running. Me thinks they were at it folks. To be fair, only a few miles from the end and everything had taking it's toll. I was really pleased they had stuck by each other through thick and thin. Given how competitive they both are, I thought this was a quite big.

Again they tried to stop for too long, but I shooed them on. As we drove by I was hanging out the window shouting promises of beer if they finished under 11 hours. I think Peter was slightly mortified by my behaviour. Hey you got to be a runner to appreciate the motivators. Especially the one when I was standing in front of Brodies screaming "you've got four minutes" down the track. Every biker in the Green Welly carpark, must have thought: Four minutes for what?

They finished - in scourching heat - in 10:57:06. They were my heroes for the day. That was until they started their moaning and cheek in the traffic jam on the way home. Especially when they were sending me on trips to the boot to get their supplies. I was over it by then ;-)

Sunday 4 May 2008

Kinghouse to Fort William

After a great night's sleep, I was woken at 5am to the sound of torrential rain and howling winds. Oh joy. I thought I was really lucky yesterday to escape the forecast. Actually yesterday was glorious, until I sat in the car and there was a downpour. How's that for good timing?

Thankfully by the time I set off at 8am the weather had cleared. Don't get me wrong, I love running in the rain. I'll take rain over heat any day. But raining when I'm running at a slow pace on steep ascents is just unnecessary and downright cruel.

My legs were a little stiff for the first half mile, but then warmed up OK. I felt my breathing was difficult over of the first three miles to the bottom of the devil's staircase. Excuse this, but I felt like there was something to cough up. Ian - there may be reports of you on Way today ;-) I always find my breathing suffers the most when I tired. I would have mugged a walker for a menthol sweet. Note to self: pack menthol sweets for race day.

I was relieved to get to the Devil's Staircase, so I could start walking. I actually always welcome the ascent. The slog from Kingshouse is one of my least favourite parts. Even though the Kinghouse to Fort William section is my favourite part of the WHW.

Up and over the summit, I felt great all the way to Kinlochleven. The track down into the town has been completely flattened. Even more so since I last did the route five weeks ago. It's more like a road now. Made from some gravel that kicks up into your shoes. The steep descents are also quite slippy. Heaven help the cyclist (you know the ones who ignore the "cyclists dismount" signs) who tear down into some walkers.

I reached the ascent out of Kinlochleven five minutes faster than the previous run. I really expected yesterday's run to have taken it's toll. Actually I was looking at running today 20-30 minutes slower. So I pleased at how good I felt. Had another Go Bar on the way up to Lairig Mor. Again, so chewy I got some mileage out of it. I passed four blokes on the way up. One of them got quite competitive, left his pals and started upping the pace behind me. Aye that'll be right. I put him in his place when I picked up and took off at the summit. That's the martyr in me. I could have done with a short breather first, but needs must. Passed (and startled) lots of walkers on the way over. There was even a large group of Spanish (I think!) folks cheering me on with one woman shouting and giggling "we be your support". That's the best thing about the WHW, it's one big global party.

Got to Lundarva, still feeling good. And then as if by magic, started to fade a bit. Nothing to dramatic though. There's just something about this section. That's why I call Lundarva the Bermuda Triangle - because of it's soul sucking ability. Generally my legs felt OK, but my quads were aching a bit. And I knew I was cultivating a few nasty blisters under my damp socks. It was a just a game of peaks and troughs to the end. Through the forest I passed two (army-type) blokes that I passed yesterday on the road to Tyndrum. I don't know who was more shocked to see who. The must have covered a lot of ground in a very short time. Bet they were gutted to see a girl in pigtails pip them to the post again ;-)

As usual the road to Fort William took what was left of me. Finished the whole route in 4:52 (1.47 to Kinlochleven, 1.55 on ascent out, 3.34 to Lundarva and 4.52 to the end). Only one minute faster than March's run, but much better than expected.

I hope I don't have to run when supporting Sonic and Neal tomorrow. Mind you, I couldn't catch up with them even if I was in peak condition. Well, maybe after Beinglas. I'm really looking forward to helping them out tomorrow. Sonic was fabulous as support for me over the weekend. Just a shame he's running the race too. Not much chance of me getting him pregnant...

Saturday 3 May 2008

Beinglas to Kingshouse

Sonic and I have a new toy to play with. Now, lower your eyebrow we've bought something much worse. A caravan. So far everyone's initial reactions have been: WTF? You bought what? I'm sure my family will add this to the long list of reasons why they should disown us. We both agree they're the curse of the road and there's nothing worse than been stuck behind one, but it'll be great for WHW runs and hill walking.

We picked it up last Sunday and our first gypsy road trip started on Friday. We are truly clueless, so I'm sure it will be a learning experience. On the day we got it, Sonic managed to step inside (when it wasn't connected) and tip the whole thing over. Not to worry at least when he was towing it he said he'd "notice if it came off"? Comforting, eh? To be fair he's a dab-hand. A natural gypsy. Even agreeing to have a towbar fitted to his (pride and joy) car was a big step. Mind you, my little Aygo would struggle to pull a dead cat.

Anyway, after a few heated discussions, we agreed to park up at Bridge of Orchy last night. I was running from Beinglas to Kingshouse today.

Started at the campsite at 10am. Sonic went on to meet me at Derrydarroch to take all my layers off me. Although it was a dull day, it was boiling. I was practically fainting when I met him. He was laughing at my big red face and my timed tinkering round the coos.

Onwards I passed loads of walkers. My third favourite pastime (after running and hillwalking) is scaring trekkers on the WHW. I know I should whistle or at least plod, but it's so much fun. This is day four for most walkers, so it's quite comical to see how many couples have fallen out. I felt really great all the way to Tyndrum. I managed to sneak up on Sonic, who was reading a paper in the car, as he didn't expect me to arrive so early.

Quick pip stop to change me socks - which were slipping - and grabbed some more fluids and a Go Sports bar. I tried the bars as pre-London breakfast. Although they're not exactly tasty, they did the trick. I really struggle to eat on runs. And after runs too. Even after London, I couldn't eat until 11pm and even then, I think it was the beer munchies. I ate the bar on the trot. There's a lot of chewing in them, so took me most of the hill out of Tyndrum.

Set out on a good pace to Bridge of Orchy - helped with a nice tail wind. I had a Hammer gel at the next stop. Read on the WHW forum that a lot of people swear by them, so I ordered them online. Jeez they taste awful. It was like swallowing flavoured tar. Again, if it does the trick. Dropped my pack with Sonic, who was going to top up the fluids and give it back to me at Victoria Bridge. I was planning on not stopping at any checkpoints over the weekend.
Stomped up the hill and practically flew down the other side. I was amazed to see a huge gathering of cars and people at the other side. When I met up with Sonic he looked less than amused by the crowd. He wished me luck and warned than there was a Mormon gathering and they were taking over the area. And he was right. There were hundreds - and I really mean hundreds - of people coming from Rannoch Moor. All wearing hankies on their heads and pushing jittery prams across the cobbled Drover's Road...all coming in the opposite direction. I don't know if I was more annoyed about them being in the way or the fact that I couldn't walk on the hills, as I had to save face. I suppose it just spoiled the tranquil solitude of the Moors.

I kept a really good pace even on the ascent out the moors and again blasted down the otherside to the ski centre. I was very conscious of ensuring there was enough in me for tomorrow's run, but I felt brilliant. I had no low points and really enjoyed every minute. Sometimes I think half the battle is taking advantage of a peaks and talking yourself out of the troughs. Positive chat is a wonderful thing.
I finished the whole route in 6:00:31. Was really hoping for under six hours, but hey ho, next time. Last time I did this section (as part of the WHW training run in February) it took 6.05, but I stopped my Garmin at pip and pee stops. Today's time was from start to finish.
Beinglas to Derrydarroch 0.37 (0.37) to Tyndrum 2.31 (1.54) to Bridge or Orchy 3.45 (1.11) to Victoria Bridge 4.24 (44) Kingshouse 6.00 (1.36)

Friday 2 May 2008

I'm not bitter...honest

Just checked out the weather forecast for the weekend. I'm covering the north sections of the West Highland Way on Saturday and Sunday. Sonic's supporting me. And I'm supporting him on his Highland Fling run with Neal on Monday. Who's got the short stick?

Switched at birth