Wednesday 26 August 2009

Chickened out

I was considering going out for another run at lunchtime today, but I just couldn't talk myself into it. The 99% effort required to get out the door, could not be coaxed. I did, however, go to the gym. 30 mins on the elliptical trainer and then a bit of half-hearted weights.

Whilst on the trainer there was a rather large chap on the machine next to me, who clearly didn't know there was a fine line between macho and heart failure. He was really going at it. Had it right up on level 12, compared to my feeble level 7. He was gasping, going purple and was sweating all over the place. I mean POURING sweat. To make matters worse his ipod was up so loud I could hear the hissing of his music - which is probably my number one bug bear. If it wasn't so comical I would have pushed him off.

Just looking round the gym you can spot the difference between men and women. The guys are on the cusp of personal injury and the gals think a hard-core work out is walking on a treadmill. Now, I'm all for physical exercise for health reasons, but there's got to be a sensible approach to it. This is not a funny story, so try not to laugh. Little super-endurance runner, Sharon, is very much an early morning runner. So much so, that she is a regular sight for the local workies. One white-van man was so inspired by her he told her he was taking up running because of her. Anyway he started out on a treadmill. And died on the bloody thing. I kid you not. I said don't laugh!

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Spring chickens

In preparation for the aforementioned decider long run, I went for a sports massage on Friday. Aileen put me in touch with her physio: a Polish chap, Janek, based at Green's. This is one of the reasons that I felt bad passing Aileen in the Devil's race. After feeling a few aches and pains last week I decided a return visit to Janek - and his unnatural obsession with Deep Heat - was much needed. Given his profession he's very knowledgeable on effects of long-distance running on your muscles. He kindly insinuated that Aileen and I weren't exactly running on young muscles. When I informed him in my best Glasgow accent "Aye, we no spring chickens" and had to explain the expression. He joked in his best Polish accent "OK, so I tell Aileen: Debbie says you are not spring chicken". Noooooooo!!

On Saturday morning I felt semi geared-up for a 20-mile run. I've spent the last few weeks cutting back on breastfeeding and Saturday morning was my last stint with the breast pump. Yippee! I've had a love-hate relationship with the god-awful contraption. Although it's been a saviour (especially when wine has been involved) I'll be happy never to hear the groaning sound ever again. I'm sure Sonic will miss those romantic evening/morning of me curled up in my PJs, linked up to a breast pump. Sexy, eh? Now that Cairn is seven months, is at nursery most days and (more importantly) has two teeth, it was time to call it a day. Not bad considering I swore I was only doing it for 12 weeks. So far (maybe coincidentally) it has paid off, as Cairn hasn't been sick once.

So off I went with my freshly-squeezed boobs and my not-so-fresh legs. I opted (for reason which escape me) to do the route over to Helensburgh and back through Dalreoch. Rule one of long runs: Don't incorporate too many tough hills. Rule two: Don't ignore rule one. My legs still felt light and springy, but my knee was threatening to call it a day. After numerous stops to stretch and a panic call to Sonic, I actually made it round. Apart from my knee, I generally felt quite good. I averaged 8:29 m/m for the route. I was glad it was over though, but happy I can see a marathon in my sights. And if I play my cards right over the next few weeks, possibly a PB.

In true Debs' ying 'n' yang style, I undid all the good with a visit to the curry buffet at the Killermont Polo Club. Sonic treated his WHW support crew as a thank you. As it's next to our running club, I've passed it loads of times and been dying to try it out. I would highly recommend it. The unlimited buffet is great for runners. And Cairn liked the ice-cream.

On Sunday I went over to Strathaven to watch some of the 50 mile road race. Bit of a wasted journey really, as everyone I went to see pulled out. I suppose I leant from their mistakes though. As Sharon said: "Anything over marathon distance on road, is just no right". I agree. Although a chat with Ian got me thinking about round Arran race. Think it's about 54 (very f-king undulating) miles. But I think it would be more of a achievement for runners. Kind of like I ran the WHW in one go. I think saying "I ran round Arran" makes more sense than saying "I ran round Strathaven". I would like to organise a race one day, so maybe this could be it.

Today, I went out at lunchtime for a wee jaunt. It was one of those days when getting out of the door was 99% of the battle. I hummed and hawed for about an hour, but eventually made it out. 100m along the street and I felt like I was reborn. I jogged along the Clyde for a few miles and then did some 450m reps over and round the bridges over the Clyde. The Jamaica bridge and the, erm, one next to the Jamaica Bridge. By jeez is in windy done by the water. 1.45, 1.43, 1.42, 1.43, 1.43. I guess (unlike Caster Semenya) I won't be getting whisked away for a gender test. Even with the return of my wee boobs.

Friday 21 August 2009

Me? Fickle?

As previously mentioned, races for the rest of the year are kind of up in the air. I lacked direction, so I signed up for the Paisley 10K (August 30) and the Great Scottish Run half-marathon (Sept 5). Two small problems: I have a wedding the day before the 10K and I haven't done any speed training. Oh well I can do them for 1) to continue my winning streak on more medals than Sonic 2) just for fun 3) as speed training for an Autumn marathon.

Which brings me nicely on to my next subject. Autumn marathon choice. I WAS thinking Loch Ness on October 4. But now I'm drawn towards Dublin on October 26. Has anyone done either or, even better, both? I mean both, as in, to compare. I'm not considering doing both.

Mind you, after this weekend's long-run, I may can the whole idea altogether. My left knee seems very weak, like it might give way sometime. It's not an injury per se, but I concerned that it may turn into one. But should I really stop running on the basis that I many get injured? Doubt it.

Last night I tried out my super new training with a club run. It's great to go along on Thursday's, as pushing myself against other people is the main thing my training "plan" lacks.

Coach Lesley put me in charge of a pack which consisted of Emma, Anna, Alan, Dermot and Gary. Bit of a mix bag. Emma and Anna are going places, Dermot's trying to get back there and Alan's a seasoned runner. Gary's not built like your typical runner (yet) but he's got serious strength in his legs. I've watched him over the last few weeks. I probably expend as much energy shaking my head as he does powering all the streets. As most of our club runs are round Bearsden, there's always some nasty hills. It's no secret to anyone that he dislikes hills. But his method of stomping up them as fast as possible is suicidal. My attempts at advicing him how to run up and down hills fell of deaf eyes. Wathching him bounding up the hill next to Emma made me giggle. Next to Emma's petite frame and daintly stride he looked like Shrek. One day he'll get it and he will leave us all speechless. Until then I can't decide whether he's fiercly competitive or he just wants it over with as quickly as possible.

My knee was a bit touch and go from about three miles. My legs are still a bit tired and they wouldn't let me attack the hills. I even had to walk for a few seconds on Pendicle. I got a bit of a scare when my knee went from underneath me in the last mile, but it doesn't feel any worse or better.

I know this is a bit w*nky, but here's a wee story about yours truly in our local paper. Thank Davie Hall for being my PR man. The reported never contacted me. See if you can spot the mistakes.

Thursday 20 August 2009

When your mojo ups and leaves...

..I often find a new pair of shoes will entice it back.

This time I actually needed a new pair of road shoes. Although I record my miles on SportTrack, I don't keep a note of what shoes I'm wearing. I presumed (possibly, maybe) my shoes were passed their 500 miles. Plus they look a bit dirty :-)

Yesterday I went off to Achilles Heel on a shoe-buying adventure. I did toy with the idea of going out with Sonic's lunchtime crew for a rep session, but my adductors have been playing up since I went out with Cairn in the baby jogger on Monday. The coach of Sonic's gang - Mark Johnston - has always been very encouraging, even though he knows I'll definitely fall behind. I must admit I do feel quite intimidated by the prospect, especially when they refer to themselves as "the fast guys". Maybe next week I'll bite the bullet.

Anyway, back to important things. Shoe shopping. After my last sports' massage from the wee-but-mighty Christine, she had suggested that I might want to up the support in my shoes to accommodate the higher mileage. I have been running in the Saucony Guide for a few years now. I've previously tried the Brooks GTS and the Asics Kayana. I'm a big fan of the Saucony, so Christine had suggested trying out the Omni. At Achilles Heel they take shoe choice very seriously. After trying on various models and sizes and parading about the store with my trousers rolled up, I settled on the Hurricane. The most expensive out of the range. At £95 I think they're the most expensive trainers I've ever bought. I tried on last season's discounted Hurricane 10, but I'd already fallen in the love with the shiny blue Hurricane 11.

From now on, I'm going to make a note of the miles in my trainers. I think fluttering between road, trail and lightweights requires a bit of monitoring. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have laughed when I found Sonic taking pictures of his shoes for his SportTracks records.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Hands-up who has anorexia athletica

Click on image below.

(Daily Mail. August 19, 2009)

Monday 17 August 2009

What next?

The countdown clock above is still set for the Devil's race. Mainly because Sonic put it on for me and I don't know how to change it, but also because I'm not sure what to do next. The plan was to wait and see what kind of state the race left me in. I'm glad to report that all is well. I went over my ankle (just a weakness) a few hours after the race, but it was OK after a couple of days. My legs and joints felt a bit stiff and weak, but two miles on the treadmill on Wednesday and I felt much better. On Thursday I did a hilly nine miles with Sonic. We were going to go to the club on Thursday night, but when I heard the planned route for the tempo run I bowed out. My knees felt really stiff, so I took Friday and Saturday off.

Yesterday I did the Achilles Heel Bella 5K. It's one the key races in Garscube's Summer League. I've pretty much missed most the season, so I'm having the cram-run the last few races. After my buddy's 40th birthday party on Saturday night (and a few too many grape juices) I wasn't in the best shape for a 5K. But after Sonic did the talking-through-Cairn thing:"look at your Mum, Cairn. Isn't she a drunken bum?" I had to save face and turn up for the race. Remarkably I felt better than I deserved too. Despite the strong winds and the overwhelming urge to throw up wine, I actually got a PB. 23:05. Don't laugh OK. I'm not cut-out to be a short-distance runner! But boy was I glad it was only 5K.

So what next, indeed? I'm thinking about the Loch Ness Marathon in October. I can still apply for a club place up until September 12. I haven't done any marathon specific training, so I'm not holding out for a PB. But somewhere close to my 3:31 would be nice...but I'm undecided. Possibly the River Ayr Way Race? But I'm not sure I have the inclination to run another 40m+ race. Especially on a route I can potentially to get lost on. I'm still not sure whether I can be bothered with the Great Scottish Run half-marathon either. I'm going to try an 18-20 road run at the weekend and take it from there.

Monday 10 August 2009

Devil's race report + video and photos

This was my big race of the year. What I thought was an over-ambitious goal to shift the baby weight turned out to be the race of my life.

The Scottish ultra-running scene has become very popular over the last few years and is now hugely competitive. When I signed up for the Devil o' the Highlands (43 with 6200ft of ascent) my main goal was to complete rather than compete. If I got a PB, bonus. If I got under eight hours, double-bonus.

My training had gone better than expected and I actually felt stronger and faster than I left it last year. I didn't have a race plan per se. I was just going to go with the flow. I had a general idea of when I would like to get to checkpoints, but I never put a schedule together. It was all about running to effort level and comfort.

Sonic and Cairn were my support for the day. After my long training run a few weeks ago, I knew Sonic was going to be ace. Cairn, on the other hand, was a bit of an amateur :-) The plan was not to stop. Just a run-through-drop-of-an-pick-up.

The race kicked-off at 6am. The start of an ultra-marathon is so civilised. There's no scramble to get to the front. No elbowing and frantic sprints. The "gun" goes off and everyone saunters up the hill chatting away.

I chatted with JK and Ian as the field started to divide. After a mile or so, JK pushed on and I ran with Ian for a while before settling into my own pace. I stayed in third female position, but could see the first and second not far in front. It was way too early to start "racing", so I wasn't even remotely bothered about where I was placed in the field.

I arrived at Bridge of Orchy in (approx) 55 minutes, grabbed a gel and a bottle of Lucozade and headed up the hill. I met Sonic again at Victoria Bridge and took my backpack for Rannoch Moor. The long incline on the Drover's Road usually kills my thighs, but I felt great. I had a few low points over the next few miles, but started to pick-up (with the help of gel with caffeine) as I headed out of the Moors. Murdo was waiting at the top, so it was nice to see a friendly. Even nicer when he informed me JK wasn't too far in front :-)

The descent down to the ski centre is one of my favourite bits. The steep free fall on the rocky path is almost like brain training. Unfortunately/fortunately my feet work faster than my brain, so there's generally a few stumbles. Maybe I should contact Nintendo about a brain trainging game for the DS.

I arrived at the first official checkpoint - the glencoe ski centre - in 2:42. I couldn't say it was ahead of schedule, because I didn't have a schedule. But it was faster than I expected. When I met up with Sonic in Kingshouse, he seemed slightly concerned about my speedy arrival. Neal, Caroline, Chris and Davie H were also there and had chalked a welcome message on the ground, which unfortunately my brain couldn't process. Sonic had to explain it. Thanks for the thought guys. And thanks Sue for the banner.

In my head, Kingshouse was when the race should REALLY start. 19 miles in with two main sections to go. I still felt strong, but was looking forward to the walk up the Devil's Staircase. On the way up I spotted Aileen (2nd female) zig-zagging her way up. I remember saying to Sonic during one of his WHWR training runs that it was great when he was wearing a white t-shirt, as I could see him coming miles away. Probably not so good when your colour choice spurs on your nearest rival. Sorry, Aileen. It gave me a real boost. I had a self-motivating chat with myself and shouted out "OK, let's go!"...only to discover my nearest rival was about three feet away from me. Doh! I tried to hum and cough to disguise my outburst, but he must of thought I was a bit mental. After an introduction I chatted to Richard most of the way up. Only on a ultra-run would you not blink an eye stomping up a hill with a guy wearing a vest, cycling shorts and knee-length compression socks :-)

At the top of the Devil's Staircase Neal, Caroline and Chris were there cheering me on again. I was looking forward the descent, as it's one of my strengths. The no-fear factor really helps. Richard informed me he was going to push-on and wished me well. I watched him for a minute or so, humouring him. I wasn't out to compete with boys, but I knew I had to put him in his place. After passing and widening the gap I heard him shouting "you must be better on trails than me". Mmm you'd think.

Arriving in Kinlochleven, I heard Sonic shouting "Two minutes. Second lady is two minutes in front". It was great to see John and Lesley there and looking so excited. Making the 200 mile trip to come out and support me was really appreciated. Thanks guys. Good job I was doing well or they might have asked me for the petrol money.

I passed Aileen who had stopped at the Kinlochleven checkpoint to refuel. I felt a bit of a fraud as Aileen ran a storming 95-race only five weeks previous. After many words of encouragement from the gathering crowds, I grabbed my backpack and headed up to Lairig Mor. There were two male runners behind me on the ascent. I was slightly conscious of the fact that my compression tights are pretty transparent when I bend over, but the hands-on-knees technique always helps with the steep ascent. Sorry guys, but it was a case of victory over modesty.

Although Lairig Mor is a beautiful section, it is notorious for its soul-sucking ability. It's the Bermuda Triangle of the WHW. As suspected I had a few low-points, which were unexplainable. I still had energy, no aches or pains and the weather was favourable. I had many serious chats with myself. This time out of ear-shot. I tried to eat some jelly babies (which I usually swear by) but they were making me gag. I couldn't even drink the juice in my hydration pack as it tasted too sweet. From a girl who takes five sweeteners in coffee, that was not the norm.

I perked up a lot when I caught and passed another runner (again, spurred on by his white t-shirt). On the flats I could see Aileen. There was enough of a gap, but I knew I couldn't slack off.

When I arrived at Lundarva, I was delighted to dump the backpack and change into my lovely Nike Lunaglide. I had collected a bit of gravel in my trail shoes and was glad to shake it off. I had invested in some lock laces before the race and the change over was super-slick. I took a bottle of coke and my new found spring in my step and started on the last section. It was bang on six hours, so I knew I was well within my 7:30 hour dream target.

The shoe change was a brilliant plan. The lightness meant I could mentally and physically change gear. I could run up the hills that I would have more than likely walked up. I passed lots of trekkers who were all cheering me on. Onwards and upwards through the forestry I was on a total high. Not just because of my time, but mostly because it was nearly over.

When I hit the track to embark on the last three miles that's when my lightweight trainers came into play. There was no pressure for time, so I didn't blast it. As I passed through the gates to the Braveheart carpark, Sonic, John and Lesley were screaming at me. I vaguely remember John shouting that I looked strong and to push it. Turning the corner to roadside in 7:01 I was on the home straight. After passing the 30mph sign (the most beautiful signpost in the world) I reached the houses on the outskirt of the town. At the small incline I slowed to fix my hat and wipe the snotters from my nose (hey, I knew there would be cameras) and picked up the pace for my grand finale.

I could hear everyone cheering and I saw Sonic and Cairn waiting at the finish line. It was 10 seconds of my life that I will never forget. I finished in 7:08:59. Second lady and 16th overall. Only one minute slower than the previous ladies record! I can't even put into words how pleased I am. The response I've had since has been pretty overwhelming. Especially as most people were as shocked as I was.

Thanks to Sonic for being so fabulous. I really think the support can make or break a good race time and he was amazing. Thanks to John, Lesley, Sharon, Davie B, George (I was in the bushes!!), Davie H, Jim R, Neal, Caroline, Chris, Adrian and Murdo for your cheers, pictures and videos. And everyone else who was out supporting.

Special congratulations to JK for a fabulous time of 6:55, Silke for completing her first ultra in 9:22, Ian for banking another ultra-marathon, Helen for breaking the ladies record, Aileen for a PB by nearly one hour, Karen for a fab PB and for putting up with George the whole way and to George and Richie for being super-fast as always.

During the race I ran with a small picture of Dario pinned to my top. I joked about pinning in to my bum, so he didn't finish in front of me :-) I'm sure he was watching over us all. When the sun threaten to hinder performances, there was drizzle and cool breeze to save the day. After the awards' presentation we were in the hotel having a celebratory beer when Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run came over the speakers - the song played at Dario's funeral. I'd like to believe it was a sign.

Here's the race video - directed by Sonic the Maccer. It's worth watching just to see the finish. I've only watched it about 100 times already.

Monday 3 August 2009

Buggies, books and back to bloody work!

Whilst flicking though this monht's Runner's World (I'm a self-confessed flicker of magazines) I came across this Q&A.

Q) Does pushing my child in a jogging buggy offer any additional training benefits?

A) Absolutely, because it's more challenging, especially if you're running uphill. Studies have shown that you can burn up to 20 per cent more calories (depending on the weight on your child) while pushing a jogging buddy at any given pace. You'll work your cardiovascular system harder, and pushing the buggy will strengthen several muscle groups - especially the pecs, triceps, deltoids, quads and hamstring.

See! It is tough work. I still maintain that the baby jogger has really help me get back my fitness and speed.

I wish I had more time to read magazines properly. We've got subscriptions to Runner's world, Running Fitness and My Race. I have pile of unread/half-read copies filed under "maybe one day", but will inevitably end up in the recycle bin. Some still in the packaging. Don't be alarmed though, as we have two subscriptions to Runner's World. Yes, one of us was supposed to cancel (think it was me) but then who would get first dibs at reading? Our postman must think we're a bit mental.

We've also got a whole library collection of running books. We're both reading quite a few at the same time. I think there might be a couple that I've read cover-to-cover, but mostly I just dip and flick. The best thing: Two runners + one house = I get to buy the books I want to read as gifts. Result. Right now I'm reading Dean Karnazes 50/50 (a gift I bought for Sonic). It's one of the many books on my bedside table that I'm half-way though.

Thankfully I get more time to run than I do to read.

Monday: 4.5m of one minute intervals (34:11 ave pace 8:02)
Tuesday: 6.5 easy/steady - hips started to ache (ave 8:02)
Wednesday: Rest day due to achy hips
Thursday: Brutal 7.5m club run. Coach Lesley sent us over every hill in Bearsden. Loved it (1hr:2 ave 8:24)
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Hilly 7 miles with Baby Jogger (ave 8:43)

So tomorrow, I'm back to work in the office. It will be Cairn's first full-day at nursery. He was in for a few hours for few days last week and got on great. He's such a happy wee chappy and loves being round other kids, so I know he will love it. Note the self-assuring chat. I'm not totally over-joyed about leaving him with strangers, but I was really comforted during my visits to see the set up and goings-on. Plus - selfish I know - I like working. I wouldn't feel like a proper person if I didn't work. I take my hat off to full-time Mums and can totally understand why women break their hearts when they HAVE to go back to work. The nursery is only five minutes aways from my office (and Sonic's office is just round the corner from mine) so I'm also comforted by the fact that he's so close. Cairn that is, not Sonic :-) Shame the city-centre location doesn't come with a comforting price-tag. But I'm sure it will be worth every penny. Plus, it's the perfect excuse to hold off for baby number two.