Monday 27 July 2009

From the House of Kings to the Fort of Bill

On Saturday I did the last long run on the West Highland Way before race day.

To save time and repetition I should just say...

For training run report, see JK's blog
For training run pictures, see JK's blog
For training run vidoe, see JK's blog

Famed for his regular and thorough updates, John the blog is always first on the case. When I first met JK, I knew so much about his life and hugely popular blog, that I didn't know whether to shake his hand or curtsy. Of course now he's my buddy, I just mock him for his spreadsheets and having way too much time on his hands. Although I think it's down to being more disciplined than most bloggers. JK pretty much eats, sleeps and breaths the West Highland Way race and has the full backing of his long suffering wife. At the post-race presentation, I moaned: "Now we've got to endure the post-race analysis" she replied: "I've told John he's got four weeks and then I don't want to hear about it". FOUR WEEKS?? Now I refer to her as Saint Katrina.

Well if you haven't already followed the links to JK's blog, then I best give you my account of the run. Although I've pinched the visuals from his blog :-)

The original plan was to run from Kingshouse to Fort William (my favourite stages) with JK and his two pals, Stevie and Chris. There was a bit of a debate about doing earlier sections - to cut out some of the travelling - but I was adamant that I wanted to do the latter stages as I think do the final sections would be make for better race prep. Anyway I managed to convince them to stick with the plan, so we only had to deal with the small matter of car sharig, pick-ups, bus tickets and dog sitting. Sometimes these training runs are a logistical (and expensive) nightmare. A 200+ mile trip to run 24 miles! Oh well, you can't beat training on the course, can you?

JK, of course, came armed with his laminated spreadsheet of times/splits/pace for each mini-section (remember how I mentioned too much time?). My plan was much less structured. I would run on the runable bits and walk on the steep bits. Genius, eh. I really didn't think I could keep up with their 4:15 schedule. I honestly didn't expect to see them after we left Kingshouse.

(JK, me, Chris and Stevie - picture stolen from JK)

I was very pleased to find the pace was fine. Apart from the steep ascents - where my leg length became I disadvantage - I kept up quite comfortably until Kinlochleven. I told them to push on up Lairig Mor and I would meet them at the end. Pretty soon JK and Stevie became dots in the distance, but I could see Chris' red t-shirt the whole way. Everytime I closed the gap, we would hit a hill and his six-foot legs would be carry him over. I'm not a very competitive person, but I kept imaging it was a female race participant in the race. The t-shirt wasn't quite a red rag to a bull, but I was pretty sure I wanted to catch him. Without racing, of course.

There were loads of hikers out on the trail. I think most groups start at the weekend/Monday, so by the following weekend they're doing the final section. Given that, Lairig Mor is always busy on the Saturday. I passed two (possibly) Dutch trekkers who informed me (in their best broken-English) that the two runners in front had asked them to give me a message but the couldn't understand what they were saying, I was slightly concerned but pushed on. Five minutes later I passed a groups of lads who had stopped for their lunch. One asked if I was Debs and when I confusingly replied yes, they all stood up and shouted "Go, Debs!" The laugh really spurred me on, thanks JK.

I finally caught up with a lost Chris coming out of the woods before the descent to Fort William. I think he was starting to wilt, but was still in good spirits. We covered the last few miles together - with me gibbering and frequently informing him "not long to go". When we passed through the Braveheart carpark and hit the pavement, he started to slow. Why does hitting the hard surface always make you feel like someone has just whacked the back on your knees?

I finished in 4:14:07 which is was absolutely delighted with. I never thought I could keep up with JK's schedule. Turns out he couldn't stick with it, as finished in 3:57 with Stevie a few minutes behind him. And Chris a minute behind me. Great performances all round, me thinks. Looking back on last year's training report, the fastest I have ever done this section (as a stand-alone run) was 4:43.

Check out JK's video for the finishing footage. Obviously I didn't realise the finish was being filmed. I thought JK was taking a picture. I look at bit of idiot jumping about, but hey ho, at least I could still jump about.

We had an hour and half to kill before getting the bus back to Kingshouse. Plenty of time for some well-deserved ice cream (or a feast for a family of four for Stevie) and post-run chat.

Monday 20 July 2009

From 5K to more on the Way

Quick running update...

Saturday: I got a PB in the Glasgow Parkrun 5K :-) Just a piddly 23:32, but a PB's a PB. As Sharon would say "I don't have a fifth gear", so short speedy races are not for me. But I must say, I really enjoyed it. Even the nasty hills. When I told Sonic of my enjoyment he informed that I "didn't work hard enough". Probably wise words, but I like to come away on a high rather than having my eyes hanging out of my head.

Sunday: I went on a run with Sonic on the Kilpartick hills. Yes, me running on hills. With Sonic. And we didn't even fall out once. Even despite the fact that his course description could be deemed as false advertising. What was billed as a scenic "trail" route was in fact knee-deep in sodden wet grass. I'm sure the views were amazing, but we chose a really wet day and I could barely see my feet.

Tuesday: Mile reps round Knightswood Park. 6.38, 6.31, 6.30 (with 2-3 min recoveries)

Thursday: 6m club run. It was on the Kelvin Walkway and then on to Great Western Road. Enough said.

Saturday: This was to be my longest run in preparation for the Devil O' the Highlands. A nice 35 miles from Bridge of Orchy to Fort William. I didn't have any times in my head, I just wanted to get the miles in my legs. No pressure, so I just went out and ran how I felt. It seemed to work, as I felt brilliant the whole way. The weather was perfect for me - wet and wild ;-) Bit treacherous on some of the descents though - especially the Devil's Staircase, which had turned into a river. And it was mighty chilly at the tops. I finished in 6:30:56, which is not too shabby. I felt really strong at the end and even managed the last few miles in 7:30m/m. What started out as a day of jogging, turned into a race against the clock. It's been a real confidence booster. I'm still on a high. All I need to do is add on another 6/7 miles, throw in some race day adrenaline, mix with a dollop of healthy competition and I should be aiming for 7hr 30 mins on race day, don't you think?

Sonic did a stirling job as support. He was great. No stopping and messing about, just a quick drop off and pick up. That's the way it should be on shorter distance ultra marathons (now that's an oxymoron). I didn't take on a lot of food and drink, but what I did have was perfect. Two GO bars, two gels, 100g of jelly babies and some dilluting juice with Nunn tablets.

Thursday 16 July 2009

He was the greatest. The best in fact.

It's taken me a couple of days to mentally compose my "goodbye" to one of the best people I have met along my journey of life.

It was a year ago today that I posted the entry "Oi, Dario! Where's my goblet". A year ago since he jokingly imposed my lifetime ban for having a "support" runner. But five days since Dario's life was cut short. Turns out the man with the biggest heart, had a heart that failed him. The Daddy of the West Highland Way Race left us on the hills of Lochnagar - surrounded by the friends who loved him.

Like everyone who met him, he had a huge impact on my life. The race really gets under your skin. I often think it's a cult. And now the head of the "family" has gone, everyone has been left lost and heartbroken.

Seems like only yesterday that he was sitting on my sofa laughing at my attempts at balancing on a gym ball. Despite my promises, I never did learn to kneel on it. Only yesterday that he made the special effort to make and present Cairn with his own little "goblet". Only yesterday that he left me in charge of his Buggyfit stand at a show, when I'd never done Buggyfit in my life! I have so many fond memories of Dario. It's heartbreaking to think there is no tomorrow.

Last Friday he had asked Marco to help me put on four stone, so he could beat me in the Devil's race. I promptly replied with he'd have to cut off my legs too. I'd do anything to see his wee stumpy legs running passed and hear his infectious laugh.

Here's the picture I took of him in last year's Devils. I remember having to push him on, as he wanted to stop for a chat. And boy could he chat.

Not only is his departure a huge lose to the running community, but the telecoms industry could be in danger too :-) If BT said it's good talk, Dario thought it was great to talk. I doubt anyone had a converstaion with Dario that lasted less than an hour. He was like a little fish-wife - always too willing to tell you things you know he shouldn't. I always ended a conversation with Dario and went straight on the phone to Sonic with "you'll never guess what..."

Every time I step foot on the WHW I will have a moment for Dario. I'm sure he'll be looking down on us all. And if he's wearing one of his usually ghastly-bright ensembles, chances are we'll see him.

Dario, I'll miss you buddy. See you at the Devil's race in three weeks. Don't be getting cocky though - make sure you stay behind me :-) xx

Friday 10 July 2009

You'd think I would know better

Yesterday I went to Achilles Heel to pick up the new Asics Trabucos I ordered. I'm not entirely sure I have done the mileage in my last ones, but when I saw that the new version are pink I just HAD to have them. Plus I knew that at few more long training runs in the soon to be RIP-Trabucos and it would be game-over. So best to break in the new ones and have the better cushioning for the big race. Right? Oh and they're pink and lovely too :-)

So while I was in the store, I had a bit of time to kill as I was waiting for Sonic to finish with his sports' massage - administered by the wee-but-brutal, Christine. I spotted the Nike Lunar. I've read a bit about them in Runner's World and I know there are representatives from Nike coming along to showcase them at the Parkrun tomorrow. I was intrigued.

Now you'd think with a honours degree, post-graduate diploma, professional qualifications and 10 years in experience in MARKETING that I might have wised-up to gimmicky products. Nope, not me. I bought a pair. In my defense I'm genetically programmed to like new shoes. And gimmicky shoes? That's a little bit of heaven, that is. They are so light and comfortable they're like walking in bouncy slippers. I'll be trying them out in tomorrow's 5K. Watch this space.

Just in case you think I'm all-the-gear-no-idea, I went along to club training after my spending spree. I must thank Big Stevie for choosing the route along the canal and onto to the million-miles long Alderman Road. Regular readers will probably know that my least favourite routes are the canal and the Kelvin Walkway. I call them the al fresco treadmill - as the scenery doesn't change and they go on forever. I don't know whether my runs this week have taken their toll, but I felt like we were running faster than we were. As I made a song and dance about splits in my last blog entry, I'd better post them: Seven miles in total 8.46, 8.29, 8.19, 8.07, 8.16, 8.21, 8.15.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

On the way to a good 5K?

Last night I had a great run. You know one of those runs when everything comes together? I could have easily been talked out of it, but I soldiered on knowing that I would feel better for it afterwards. What was supposed to be a tempo run was in danger of becoming an easy/steady, but I managed to get in the way of it.

Following a tip from Rachel, I did a one mile warm-up (9.30m/m) and then re-set my watch and went for it. I often found that I would go out too fast, to keep my average pace down. I didn't really have a goal pace in mind, I just wanted to push it for six miles. I was consistently ticking off 7+m/m, so felt great. I felt lighter and faster than I have done for months. I wasn't even completely spent when I finished. I couldn't wait to plug my watch in and check out the splits. But then I soon discovered that a certain person borrowed my Garmin for a certain long-distance race and decided to change all the settings and turn off the autolaps. And said certain person neglected to mention it or even change it back. So when I downloaded the data to SportTracks, all I could get was the summary details. I could say I was slightly completely fizzing, but that would be shallow and over-reactive...Anyway, the average pace for the six miles was 7:35m/m. Fizz. Fizz.

I plan on doing my second ever 5K on Saturday. The Parkrun 5K in Pollok Park, Glasgow. My one and only 5K was back in 2005. A blistering hot JogScotland Glasgow Green effort. Sharon beat me by one second because I had to stop to tie my lace. Nowadays she would have to stop for full outfit change, if I were to have chance of passing her. I can't find the results anywhere but I think it was 24 minutes something. Needless to say, it was such a torturous experience it has taken me four years to forget. Anyway, I digress...last night I wanted to run 3.1m (of my 6m) at a swift-for-me pace to get an idea of a time for Saturday. I covered the fairly hilly distance in 23:30. I would be quite happy with a repeat performance, but would love it if it started with 22. Watch this space.

Today, Sonic was going for an early morning run with John the Jogger - which meant I was up too. It felt like such a long morning that by 10am I think I'd already had breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a break from staring at my computer screen - and to keep me out of the fridge - I took Cairn for a seven-mile run in the Baby Jogger.

The Baby Jogger is getting much easier. The first few attempts were so brutal, it was nearly flung on the "useless must-have purchases" dump. But I'm glad I stuck with it, as I actually quite enjoy it now. I really think it's helping with my speed and strength. It's a tough session, especially on the hilly country roads I usually frequent. I definitely get a few double-takes from the local farmers. Although it's (obviously) a slower pace (today averaged 9:15m/m) it's a great all over workout. And I'm forced to maintain proper running posture - straight, lean and feet turning underneath your body - so that's a bonus too. If anyone wants to try something out their comfort zone, I've got a baby jogger you can borrow. Baby not included.

Monday 6 July 2009

The big day is looming

Just over a month until my big race. That means I've got less than two weeks before the tapering should officially begin. I know I haven't done anywhere near as much training as a should have, but considering the obstacles I'm feeling quite positive. And considering the distinct lack of training I did for this race first time around, I'm feeling quite confident too. Really I've only had three months of (totally unstructured) training, but I've trained more on the course. Last time I had a good endurance base, but the terrain knocked it out of me. So who knows?

When I signed up for the 43-miler my main aim was just to get back in shape and complete the race. Now I'm back to 8st2 (114lb), glad to welcome the return of my 25" waist and slip quite easily into my pre-pregnancy jeans, I'm happy to say it's been worth it. And now that I'm getting in some good long-runs at a fairly reasonable pace, I may have to raise the bar a little.

I did a 28-miler on the West Highland Way before I went to Rome. I survived. And I didn't have any aches or pains the day after. Double bonus.

I was full of good intentions (well, I packed my gear) of running in Rome, but I never quite got round to it. There was just to much to do and see in the limited time we had. Lots of sight-seeing (I've definitely had my quota of old bricks) and shopping (Sonic was over it by day two). Thankfully there was mutual admiration for eating.

I did a 20-miler the morning after we got home. I used the cycle route round Helensburgh and back via Dumbarton. The first seven or so miles of the circuit is a relentless incline - which completely kills my thighs. I was agony by mile 12. By 16 miles, my calves started to ache as my altered running style was having a knock-on effect. I have never been so glad to get home in my life. I collapsed a whimpering wreck on the living room floor. I vaguely remember Sonic standing over me asking if I "wanted a leg massage" and his kind jester being met with shrieks of "DON'T TOUCH ME! DON'T EVEN LOOK AT ME!". Thankfully the drama was over quite quickly.

Last week I did a good short rep session on Tuesday and went to club training on Thursday night. As I've been out of the whole club scene for the best part of a year, I'm not quite sure where I sit. The packs have changed and I don't know what other member's paces are like. Plus, I've got no idea how I run compared to other people these days. I tried to go out with the lower packs (or the "less able" as Jill calls them) but when I heard the Geordie shrieks of Coach Lesley "Debbie, get back here!", I had to do the walk of shame back. I was then teamed up with Emma, Anna, Neil and another chap, who's name escapes me. Considering how hot it was, I was a bit concerned about running out of my comfort zone. The route was a six-miler along the Kelvin Walkway and through the west end. I wasn't sure I would be able to keep up, but I managed it. I didn't have it in me for the final kick, so I was deserted in the last 100m. I'm not sure I enjoyed, but I definitely pushed myself more than I have done of late. I know I always moan when the temperature heats up a bit, but I honestly looked like my head was going to burst when we were finished. I swear you could have seen my big purple face from space.

Friday and Saturday I just did five and four miles (respectively) on the treadmill. I'm not sure treadmill running counts as proper training, but it was better than nothing. The treadmill was one of my random must-have purchases a few months ago. I get these things in my head and I've just GOT to have something. In reality could probably count on my fingers how many times I've used it. It has been a bit of a waste of money so far, so hopefully I'll get more use out of it at some point. On that note, the next must-have purchase will be a netbook. Sonic has told me I can't buy one just because "they're cute". Apparently. Anyway, I managed to knock over Cairn's swing and smash the keyboard on my laplap (which was carelessly placed on the floor), so a netbook is a definite must-have :-)

Yesterday, I was back on the West Highland Way. Tyndrum to Kingshouse. I had a pretty good run all in all. Bit hot for my liking, but not too draining. Got to Glencoe in 2:57, fairly comfortable. Well apart from tearing down the hill into Glencoe, as I was super-keen to get in under three hours. After a cool-down run down to Kingshouse, I cooled-off in the River next to the hotel. So there we were: Me fully-clothed sitting in the water, Sonic standing with his jeans rolled up...and Cairn in his pram pulling his sun-hat over his face. Poor kid - mortified by his parents again.