Friday 30 December 2011

Happy Old Year

As I might not get another year like it, I thought I'd best write it all down. And possibly frame it!

Anglo Celtic Plate 100K: I was lucky enough to be selected to run on the Scotland team. I'll never forget my first Scotland vest, and I'll never forget this race. It was probably the hardest race I've ever done, but it was great to try a classic distance and push myself out of my comfort zone. I just missed my sub:9 hour goal, but was happy to finish in 9:03. Maybe that's just the incentive I need to give the distance another bash.

Highland Fling 53 miles: I wasn't holding out much hope for this race, as it was only a matter of weeks after the 100K. Plus, I hadn't really done that much hill and trail training, as I was predominately focusing on road. I was fairly relaxed about the race and went out with the suck-it-and-see attitude. I followed splits (devised by Sonic) that had me running 10 minutes slower in the first section than the previous year. It started rusty, came together in middle and fell apart at the end. I was delighted to finish second female in 9.39. As the event doubled as the UK Ultra trail championship, I also went home with that silver medal. And the bronze team medal. One event, four medals and a new PB. Not bad for a day's work. Sonic is now my official split co-ordinator :-)

West Highland Way Race: This was my key race for the year and I was ecstatic to achieve my dream sub:20 hour goal. 19:39 to be exact. I finished third female and 13th overall. After three WHW races, I vowed not to sign up for next year's. Not because I didn't enjoy it, because I did. OK, maybe enjoy isn't the right word, but you get the gist. I just want to try something new. I'll always be happy with my time, but I know I'll go back and try it again some day.

Clyde Stride 40:
Probably not my wisest move just four weeks after the WHW, but I signed up with a view to completing four of the races in the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series (SUMS). It was a bit up and down. Some parts I felt great and in others I was burst. All in all a good race and I finished second behind Lucy Colquhoun in 5:56. My main goal was sub:6 so no grumbles from me.

Devil o' the Highlands (43 miles): This was my first ultra back in 2007, so it's always been quite special. Although, to be honest, this year I was only in it for the SUMS point. As it turned out, it was by far my best race of the year. You know when people talk about how some races just "click" or "come together on the day"? Well, this one did. I finished second behind Lucy (who incidentally smashed the course record by over an hour!) in 6:56. Again, my ultimate goal was sub:7.

SUMS award: Guess what? I finished second behind Lucy :-) Julie once hit the nail on the head when she said "if she wasn't so nice, you'd hate her". Wise Julie also said, "finishing second to Lucy is a win", so I'll take it.

Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Running Championships: I guess you'll know I ran on the Scotland team at the 24 hour race, because I haven't shut up about it. I finished 4th female. 1st for Scotland (overall). Broke the Scottish 200k record and was part of the team that took bronze. It was worth the destruction.

Sponsorship: After the Highland Fling I was contacted by Montane, as they wanted to give me some shiny new gear as a way of saying congratulations for being 2nd in their sponsored race. Result! Then a few months later they asked me to come on board as their first ultra-running female sponsored athlete.

Garscube Harriers' Meritorious Award: I won the award a few years ago and I was honoured enough to receive it again. As far as I can see by the listing on the trophy, I'm the only member to have won the award twice.

International Association of Ultra Runners Athlete of the Year nomination: It's a pretty safe bet that the uber-awesome Miss Hawker will walk away with this one, but I'm still in shock about making the shortlist.

Well tomorrow's the last day. And there will be nearly 1000 nutters (including those who haven't fessed up to bowing out) celebrating their last run. It will be a fabulous end to an amazing year. Although I have to do a 5k first. Yikes.

Happy New Year everyone.

Thursday 22 December 2011

The final countdown

The end of the Marcothon is nigh. I can't believe we're on day 22 already. Apart from a couple of hangover torture miles, there's been a limited amount of whining from me. Well, in my humble opinion. In fact, compared to last year, it's been relatively easy. Even the hurricane didn't faze me. I did, however, consider dusting off the treadmill in the garage, but thought it would be less painful to take my chances with the Bawbag. The police car that tailed me for about a mile of said run was probably a sign that I should have got the duster out. Or the flattened coke can that flew at me like a frisbee. Thankfully my ninja-like skills saved me from death by coke can decapitation.

After the hurricane, we had ice. Then a big dump of snow, which eventually turned to ice. Last weekend brought glorious winter sunshine and now we have rain. I'm pretty sure we could change the Marcothon to some kind of multi-activity event or a Decathlon.

The photo was taken on Sunday down Ayrshire way on my last run with the GM for 2011. It was a glorious day, so crisp and clear. Very icy though, so the kahtoolas came in really handy. Tomorrow, I drop the GM off at the airport so she can fly to sunny climates for a romantic festive holiday in South Africa. Jealous much? She's so psyched, she could probably fly there herself.

The support on Facebook continues to be overwhelming. People who have signed away 31 consecutive days and run the risk of falling out with their spouses/partners/families on Christmas day and they probably don't know where the event name came from. Incidentally it's an abbreviation of Martin-Consani:-) Obviously I'm joking, but it's clever, he? ;-) Some folks might even think it's a memorial race!

We've also had another wee bit of publicity. Ruth Walker from the Scotland on Sunday is an enthusiastic recruit. Click on image right.

We had a kind invitation from one of the organisers of the parkrun in Falkirk to attend their 5k on New Year's Eve which went something like... "I know you have probably had many requests for what I am about to ask, but here goes..."... ha ha you wouldn't believe how many requests we've had... That's poetic license by the way, Dave. So we've decided to make this the grand finale and have tried to encourage as many Marcothoners along as possible. Given the logistics, it seems to be the most central. Well, for those living in Scotland.

Hope you all have a fabulous Christmas.

Here's a special sing out from Cairn and Lucy. Yes, there's no end to the talents of the world's bronze medal holder. And when I picked her up en route to the party, she appeared with a homemade Christmas cake too.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

IAU Athlete of the Year Nomination

The Marcothon is a great thing, but the messages/notifications have clogged up my personal email account. So much so that I missed an email from Nadeem Khan from the International Association of Ultrarunner (IAU) to say I had made the shortlist for Ahtlete of the Year. I didn't even know until Richie text me to mockingly ask for my autograph. I thought it was strange that I hadn't been notified...and trawled through my email to find it was sent last week. Doh!

I'm still getting over the shock, but this year just keeps getting better. See below (or click on this link) for info.

List of Athletes of the Year Nominated for 2011

2011 was an outstanding year for ultrarunning as it was evident from the performances of our athletes. The following athletes have made the nomination list that has been forwarded to the Member Federations and the IAU Executive Council to be voted on. The results will be announced in the third week of January 2012.

They will select their top 3 athletes (male and female) and these top 3 athletes will receive points (5 points for 1st, 3 points for 2nd, 1 point for 3rd) and the overall score for each athlete will be compiled.

Congratulations to all the nominated athletes!

Nadeem Khan
Director of Communications

Nominees for Athletes of the Year Award 2011

Men (in alphabetical order):

Eliot Kiplagat Biwott KEN 1st 50km World Trophy Final 2:54:53
Patrick Bringer FRA 3rd Trail World Championships 6:47:50
Giorgio Calcaterra ITA 1st World 100km Championships 6:27:32
Erik Clavery FRA 1st Trail World Championships 6:39:07
Ivan Cudin ITA 1st Spartathlon 2011 22:57:40
Andrew Henshaw USA 3rd World 100km Championships 6:44:35
Kaito Iwayama JPN 3rd World Trophy Final 2:59:12
Kilian Jornet ESP 1st Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc 20:36 :00
Rainer Wilfried Koch GER 1st Los Angeles to New York 522:55:56
Jason Loutitt CAN 2nd Trail World Championships 6:40:32
Andras Low HUN 25th Ultrabalaton 212km 25:53:05
Ian Sharman GBR1st Rocky Racoon 100 Miles 12:44
Pieter Vermeesch BEL 2nd 50km World Trophy Final 2:57:23
Michael Wardian USA 2nd World 100km Championships 6:42:49

Women (in alphabetical order):

Lindsay Anne Van Aswergen RSA 3rd 100km World Championships 7:42:05
Meghan Arbogast USA 5th 100km World Champs (World’s Age Best) 7:51:10
Marina Bychkova RUS 1st 100km World Champss 7:27:29
Monica Carlin ITA 1st 100km del Passatore 7:45:28
Lucy Colquhoun GBR 3rd Trail World Champss 7:57:20
Angela Gargano ITA 1st 12 Hour Belgrade 96km
Maud Gobert FRA 1st Trail World Champss 7:41:31
Emma Gooderham GBR 1st 50km World Trophy Final 3:17:30
Anna Grundahl SWE 1st 24 Hour Bronholm 221.681km
Susan Harrison GBR 2nd 50km World Trophy Final 3:25:05
Lizzie Hawker GBR World’s Best 24 Hours Outdoors 247.06km
Sumie Inagaki JPN World’s Best 24 Hours Indoors 240.631km
Mami Kudo JPN World’s Best 48 Hours Outdoors 368.687km
Szilvia Lubics HUN 1st Spartathlon 2011 29:07:45
Debbie Martin-Consani GBR 5th 24 Hr Commonwealth Champs 208.057km
Cecilia Mora ITA 2nd Trail World Champss 7:50:02
Kami Semick USA 3rd Comrades Marathon 6:26:25
Joanna Zakrzewski GBR 2nd 100km World Champs 7:41:06 & 3rd 50km World Trophy 3:26:37

Do I feel like a fraud? Hell yeah, have you seen who's on the list? But hey, I'm the happiest little fraud in the world :-) By the way, I was fourth in the Commonwealth Champs (not 5th) but I doubt that would make a difference. I'm off to frame my email... :-)

Tuesday 6 December 2011

The four seasons fun run

The Gibbering Midget and I decided to get in a long run (35-40 miles) before the winter set in. I'm not sure why, to be honest. Even when we were firming up plans last week, neither of us could think of a logical reason as to why we were doing it, or who's daft idea it was in the first place. Although the smart man's money is on it being mine. I think it stems from last year's month-long ice rink leading to no speed or long runs and then having to crank up the miles from January to run the 100K in March. This year, I'd like to keep ticking over. I'm not even convincing myself here...

Anyway we're not sensible enough to back down, so plans were made. We were to start at mine in Glasgow, head over to Balloch, then on to the West Highland Way to Milngavie and back to the start. A nice 37 miles circuit, with a bit of everything - roads, hills and trail. On paper, perfect. Although it's all runable so it's pretty unrelentless at points.

Of course, it was pitch black when we started at 7am on Saturday morning. We toyed with the idea of taking the canal path to Dumbarton - which would involve headtorches - but I wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea, so we decided to grin and bare the pavement alongside the street-lit dual carriageway of the A82. At least I thought we had made the decision. It later transpires that the GM had two buffs over her ears and had no idea what I was asking her and just nodded in agreement!

The first 10 miles were character building to say the least. It was dark and sub zero with a ice cold wind. And then the sleety rain started. Add in dirty spray from the passing lorries and buses and it was a a brutal experience. My legs were so wet and frozen, they could barely move. It was really just heads down and move forward for about 90 minutes. Thankfully, in our heads, we knew this was always going to be the nastiest part. It's a grim prospect even on the nicest of days.

After huddling in a bus shelter to refuel, we headed over the Balloch horseshoe to Croftamie. In true Scottish weather style, the sun came out revealing breathtaking views over to the snow-capped Ben Lomond. And then, of course, the grey clouds appeared and it p*ssed of rain again.

When we hit the West Highland Way, I was starting to wilt. I can't quite put my finger on it as to how I felt. It wasn't fatigue, fuelling issues or muscle pain, I just felt flat. I've felt the same for a few weeks. Just flat.

Wading through ankle deep ice cold water for a few miles didn't really help either. It was completely flooded around Beech Trees. And there was no point pussyfooting around the edges, as wet feet were inevitable. For fellow WHW runers who haven't been on the Way for a while - like me! - then there's been some resurfacing around the bottom of Dumgoyach. That's the nasty muddy bit between Carbeth and Beech Trees. And there a new lane which bypasses the farm. The WHW is turning into a cycle path and I'm not sure I like it. The mental gates were bad enough. Anyway, I bet Rosie Bell wishes this was done last year, as she wouldn't have lost her kneecap during the Fling. Still officially the worst running injury/accident I've ever seen.

After the magical powers of a Red Bull shot at Carbeth Huts, I started to perk up for the last four miles on trail. Believe it or not, we were actually blinded by the sun heading through Mugdock Park.

Then we stopped at Milngavie for some Coke before heading on the five miles home. We were still in really good spirits and just as things were looking up for the final stint, the hailstones started. Remember how I said the route had a bit of everything...? Road, trail, hills, wind, rain, sleet, hail, floods, sunshine and rainbows.

My Sunday run for the Marcothon was rusty to say the least. I managed a spaced-out 3.5 miles and that's only because I misjudge the distance of the route. Now that we have the snow and ice here, I'm glad I got that long run in after all.

Congratulations to everyone who got a place in the West Highland Way Race. I feel a bit like Cinderella not going to the ball, but I'm really looking forward to trying something new. Plus, even if I never did it again, I'll always be pleased with my time from this year. I'll be there for the race though - Sonic's on back-up payback time!

Friday 2 December 2011

Poll for Marcothon Tshirt

The lovely Lee Maclean is trying to organise dri fit Tshirts for participants - who will, of course, be finishers. Could you please let me know of this is something that you would like to purchase. Vote on poll below please.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Poxy plans and the Marcothon

One sure way of getting out of a 10K race, is your Son breaking out with chicken pox. I was supposed to be in Bournemouth over the weekend, visiting Brother Sonic and the gorgeous Gillian. And, of course, running the Boscombe 10K. Unfortunately the nursery called on Thursday morning to say Cairn had spots that were spreading like wildfire. He was sent packing along with two of his chums.

Last year we applied for the same race, but then the flights became crazy expensive, so we decided to bank the trip and do the 10K in East Kilbride on the same day. That was to be the first day of the terrible winter weather, so that idea was canned.

Next year I'm not making any plans for the last weekend in November. It's doomed.

All was not lost though, as I finally got stuck into that house spring clean that I've been talking about since, erm, spring. Anything to stop me overdosing on the Disney Channel. And my Mum took wee poxy for a few hours on Sunday morning, so I could run with the GM. Call it respite. For him.

Given the weather forecast, I thought we'd need full waterproofs and bricks in our shoes, but we were pleasantly surprised. Don't get me wrong, it was bloody awful. Just not as bloody awful as we expected it to be. At one point I was quite toasty and even contemplated removing some layers...until some t*sser purposely drove through a massive puddle and cover us in a tidal wave of icy cold water. I was so angry, I even used the c-word. Even though the industry I work in, being called a c-word is actually a term of endearment!

So, this week (Thursday, December 1) sees the start of the Marcothon. Nearly December and no sign of snow/ice yet. Touch wood. There are over 500 recuits on Facebook. Apparently there are lots of followers on Twitter too. Although I don't really understand Twitter, so you'll have to advise me on that.

Here are a few of my favourite posts on Marcothon Facebook page:

"The event of the year is back. Can't wait" Graeme Lawson, "Even If I have to limp it" Need Neilson, "Oh dear god, not again! What am I saying? Of course we're in" Sweatshop Glasgow, "Defo! Bring on the snow, none of this warm autumnal nonsense" Toby Messenger, "Great idea. I'm keen" Andrew Murray, "A fun idea. Got to give it a go" Tony Gilmour, "Discussed this with the wife who said it was a good idea as I might even lose some weight" James Savage, "In 24 years of running, I've never run7 days/wk so this should be interesting" Zoe Thornburgh, "It was a great incentive last year and met so many people. Looking forward to giving it a god again this year" Fiona Macdonald, "Third attempt. No excuses. I will finish the Marcothon" Norman Mcneill, "Last year if helped me regain my fitness and set a new half-marathon PB" Harvey Whittington "Will help me get my butt out there in what is normally a cold dark month" Ian Beattie, "Christmas day is brilliant to run. I do it every year and love it. It's so quiet it's as if you own the city" Leanne Hamilton, "Can't wait for this. I start a new job with a long commute and it's exactly what I need to avoid picking up bad habits" Lucy Blake, "Hell's teeth. If you lot are, I are" Rich McLeod, "It's December, must be Marcotime" Stan Bland, "Can't wait to go for runs in snow after nights of Christmas partying" Niall Mcleod, "It's just the challenge I need to get back to the discipline of running regular again" Kirsty Davies Snare, "As a non-runner just now sounds like a great challenge to get me running again" Alan Lindsay, "Why not? Except for business, Christmas events, two children and bad weather...I don't have any ideas why this wouldn't work" Harald Jasser, "We have a whole batch of runners from Forward Fitness Glasgow doing it" Elle Morrison, "Delighted to report the cast and crew of Batman Live the World Arena Tour are signing up in aid of Luekaemia and Lymphonoma Research" John Conroy

There's also a nice wee bit in the Scottish Running Guide.

Not long now, folks. I've got my Kahtoolas ready. Last year, I managed to get my hands (well, feet) on a pair the day before the ice melted.

At £45 they're not exactly cheap, but I found a very similar alternative on ebay for less that £12. I bought a pair for my Mum and Sister - for just generally getting about on the ice - and they look like a pretty good deal to me.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

A girlie weekend

Last Saturday morning, I met with the Garscube gals (and two token chaps) for a 10-mile trail run around Mugdock Park.

I probably only make club training about twice a month on average, so it was nice to catch up with some old faces and meet some new ones. Although I always feel like the new girl these days.

The run was due to start at 8:30, but there were a few minor delays. The carpark to the visitor centre was closed, so we abandoned cars outside. Then it was open, so we all moved. Then two gals were running late after an alarm malfunction - that wouldn't happen on JK's shift :-) Then we had to wait for a few to use the powder room. I decided against it as I'm so used to peeing outdoors these days, that I don't feel the need for a "make sure". Actually, I'll stick my neck out and say I actually prefer al fresco peeing over public facilities. It's also quite liberating :-) Just as well really, as I can barely make it round six miles these days.

The lovely Karen Mac was official tour guide for the day. Thankfully, as I had no idea where we were. And having to watch my footwork meant that I wouldn't be able to retrace my steps for re-run of the route in future.

We all stayed together, so it was nice to chat to people I wouldn't normally get a chance to. A people chain of beautifully co-ordinated outfits (again, you wouldn't ge that on JK's shift) all zig-zagging though knee-deep muddy fields. Although I'm not convinced it was just mud in parts! There was lots of Squelching, shrieking and whooping.

It was jam-packed 10 miler - hills, fields, fence hopping, mud, streams, road, trail, more mud - and lots of water!

An off- road run that doesn't require an outfit change before getting in the car or pre-washing your socks, isn't quite an off-road run.

On the Sunday, I went for a hilly 14-mile road run with the Gibbering Midget - thanks to my wonderful Mum's babysitting services. The difference with running hills on the road, is you've just got to man-up and run up 'em. There's no plodding and admiring the views like you do when you're off road. Although the last hill nearly had me on my knees, it was a grand day out.

Friday 18 November 2011

Something worth sharing

Compiled by Julie, self-confessed "watcher of the trails" this is a lovely thought-provoking and inspiring list of observations...just in case you're not an avid reader of the WHWR blogroll, here it is...

In no particular order, these are the things I've learnt from runners and running.

Falling over hurts.
Getting back up hurts more.
Getting back up and running again hurts less.
Everybody has bad days and bad races.
Upright, outside and running is a damn good place to be.
Running through puddles doesn't stop being fun past the age of 5.
Ex-boyfriends are like jellyfish.
Good shoes are not a luxury.
Midgies are evil.

Sore legs are not a reason not to go running.
Don't ask an ultra runner to decide if you're hurt or have a whingery. They don't understand hurt.
The human body is capable of impossible things.
Running 3 minutes for the first time is harder than running 30 minutes for the first time.
Rain is a reason to go out running, not a reason to stay in.
It doesn't matter how long or short you run; sooner or later your bowels will catch you out.
Runners want other runners to do well.
The inside seam of your leggings will give way at the furthest point from home.
Only normal people have ten toenails.

It's possible to start running with tears pouring down your face.
It's not possible to keep crying when you're running.
Learning to stretch is not optional.
Being hugged by a hot and sweaty friend at the end of their race is wonderful.
A race has a winner but never a loser.
Never say never again.
Adrenalin and joy will keep you awake for a whole weekend.
Running is addictive.
Despite being an incredibly selfish sport (in terms of time and effort committed to training and racing), ultra runners are generous and open-hearted. Mostly. I'm sure there must be the odd bad egg.
A mile is a very long way.
Second place to Lucy counts as a win.

Legends work in supermarkets.
True love will climb Conic Hill to deliver blueberries.
Your soulmate will walk you across the Lharig Mor in the dark and cold.

It helps to be able to see where your feet are going.
Stopping and restarting is much harder than keeping going.
Here's to the Dreamers - God bless us all!
Run as fast as you can for as long as you can may work for Stu Mills; for most of us, negative splits are the way to go.
The longer the race, the less you compete against others and more against yourself.
A good support crew is priceless.
Too much water is more lethal than too little.
Some people race and some people run.
Being sick when you run is not a big deal, continuing to be sick when you stop is.

There is at least one person who can run 90 miles on a broken ankle.
There is at least one person who can run 15 miles while having a heart attack.
Runners don't stop because they get old.
Sometimes you run away, sometimes you run home, and sometimes you run in circles.
Jelly babies are a recognised food group.
Dates and crisps are not.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you'll get to the end.
There are more uses for vaseline than you really want to think about.
Ultra runners have an inordinate capacity for food and alcohol.

Hazel McFarlane runs ultras. She's also blind.
Only yoofs and wannabe rappers have white trainers.
The body can't remember pain. The mind will rationalise it.
There will always be someone who can run faster or further than you.
But maybe not both.
And maybe not today.
Finishing last is better than not starting.

Always run from the heart.
No regrets.

Sunday 13 November 2011

The long and short of it.

I have been running. Honest. Unfortunately my enthusiasm for blogging has gone into hiding with my mojo for running. Only one post in October - and even that was a picture of a pot of urine.

So, here goes. I took 10 days rest after the 24-hour race - enforced rest, as I was destroyed. I went out for my first run on the second day of holiday in Madeira. It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't awful either. Nothing hurt, but nothing moved properly. More like arms and legs flapping in robotic motions. It got better as the days went on and I managed four runs over the week. Given that Madeira was unseasonable hot, I had to get up and get back before the sun came up. It was tough enough, without adding 30 degrees to the equation.

And hilly! Wow, it's a hilly place. And I'm not talking about the mountains, just the roads. I'm sure even my car could get up those inclines.

Madeira is really beautiful, and staying five-star was total bliss. Although I'm not sure the hotel were quite prepared for the en slot of Cairn. He doesn't come with volume control. Or how much Sonic can actually eat from the buffet breakfast. Still we managed to bring down the average age of the island quite significantly.

Sonic managed to get in some hill reps with a heavy pack...

If you're bored, the holiday snaps are on flickr. Click here.

I'm back to running six days a week - Friday is my rest day - and doing two speed sessions. It's coming back slowly, but surely. Some days I feel great and other days are just plain rotten. Most days, my heart's really not it.

Last weekend I had two good runs. One on the Kilpatrick Hills with the GM and Mr and Mrs Pacepushers. Despite having the frozen car, it was a glorious morning. Really crisp and clear - just the way I like it. It was great to get my trail shoes on again, as the last time I was off-road was the Devils race in August.

Moving forward, I doing a 10K at the end of the month in Bournemouth. That will be, erm, interesting. Over the last few years, the only 10K I've done it the Glasgow Women's 10K and that always falls just after the Highland Fling.

My plans for 2012 are still a bit up in the air. I've decided against doing the West Highland Way Race again this year. Three goblets is surfice for the time being. I've got a place on the Grand Union Canal Race in June. That's 145 mile from Birmingham to London on the - yes, you've guessed it - the Grand Union Canal. This has come as a bit of shocker to my club mates, as I'm usually the first to whine when club runs are on the Forth and Clyde Canal. I've been known to liken it to treadmill running. Anyway, I now just remind them that what I've mentally endured this year with lapped running, the canal is a joy!

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Marcothon 2011

Can you believe it's November already? That's exactly one calendar month to the start of the third Marcothon.

There are already 300+ people signed up on Facebook from all over the world - and it's growing daily.

The rules are simply, you must run every day in DECEMBER (any other month doesn't count). Minimum of three miles or 25 minutes – which ever comes first. The challenge starts on December 1 and finishes on December 31. And yes, that includes Christmas Day.

It's not a competition. Just a personal challenge or an incentive to burn off a few mince pies. So, who’s up for it the Marcothon 2011?

Thursday 13 October 2011

Don't try this at home, folks

Following my recent race report, I've been accused of making the 24-hour sound "quite nice". In reality, the aftermath was much less pleasant than the event itself.

When I finished the race, I was congratulated by an official from UKA ...only to be informed that I was selected for random drug testing. I thought this would have been a simple affair. Wrong. I was whisked off to a campervan, where I had to be helped up the two steps. Sonic was required to join me as my official witness. I had to fill in numerous forms, sign confessions, declare all medical consumption and wear surgical gloves to open and close various tubs and tubes. Then the representative had to escort me in the portaloo to watch me wee. Quite literally watch me. I would have been mortified, but I was totally passed caring. At first I thought I was going to have stage fright or be too dehydrated to perform, but when it started flowing I didn't think I would stop. So I was standing squealing and cursing as the tub overflowed and covered my clothes. After wearing the same pants and tights for 24 hours, I doubt it would have made any difference.

Anyway the result was so horrifying it deserved a picture for the blog. This is quite special, don't you think? More water, less coke maybe?

(Yes, this was my first post-race pee!)

After my ordeal was over and I was seated and covered in a blanket to control the shivering, I watched the GM violently puke in a bucket before her lifeless body we carted off to the hotel. She has turned a cartoon-style colour of green. I thought it was quite comical that Val and Sue (team Scotland volunteers) had to strip her and put her in the bath. Until of course Sonic had to get me out of the bath, dry me and put my underwear on. Ah, the romance.

After I was escorted to bed and slept for about 20 mins (damn that adrenaline!) - and the majority of that was spent trying to turn over - we went out for nice Italian meal. It more a case of devouring every carb on the menu. We were so scooped, we couldn't even finish a GLASS of wine. I've never been know not to finish a BOTTLE of wine.

And this, dear reader, is the classy restaurant exit of the international athletes...

That evening my calves and ankles became one - and ballooned quite specularly. Sonic woke at 3am to find me clutching the door frame of the bathroom and wailing about how it took me 30 minutes to get there. I needed assistance for quite a few days and got lots of bizarre looks when shuffling about the streets.

My legs took about a week to resume normal shape and my "cankles" were the joke of the office for a few days. Thankfully, they took pity on me and published a nice story. I think the Editor felt obliged :-)

Friday 30 September 2011

Last arrow in my quiver

"It'll be FUN!" That's what the chipper Canadian girl said as we waited outside the portaloos before the start of the 24-hour race at Commonwealth Championships. As the GM and I looked at each other, she finished: "FUN stands for F**king Unbelievably Nasty". And that statement became the event strap line.

Ultrarunning isn't fun. You don't play ultra-running like you play football or hockey. It's all about the journey. And if the journey is blessed with a scenic backdrop, then it's a litle more pleasant.

On Thursday, when we made the trip down to Llandudno, North Wales the views across the hills and open water were spectacular. So why did I travel 300 miles - to an area I instantly fell in love with - to run a one kilometre loop around a central reservation in a housing estate? Two reasons really 1) I actually wanted to run a 24-hour race 2) I had the honour of being selected for the Scotland team.

In summary: I finished 4th lady with 208.57 kilometres (or short of 130 miles in my speak). 1st lady being the global phenomenon that is Lizzie Hawker, who broke the world record. I was first Scot - and that includes all the boys - and broke the Scottish 200K record. Together with the Gibbering Midget (who broke the Scottish 100m record) and Pauline Walker (who retains her 24-hour record) we took bronze for the ladies team.

Click here for full results

Team Scotland: The before, the after and the happily-ever-after...

Sharon AKA the Gibbering Midget (204km), me (208km) and Pauline (193km)

Jk put together a fantastic video of the race. See below. Lucky for you and me, that saves me writing a real race report :-) Let's be honest, 24-hours around a 1K loop is never going to be a right riveting read.

Some things I noted...

Blast Off: The race goes off too fast - even if, from the outside, it looks ridiculously slow. Australian, Jo Blake went off like sh*t off a shovel (as my Granny would say) and left me feeling way out of my depth. The uber-experienced, William Sichel told me that the race completely changes after four hours, and he was so right. I have never seen the wheels far off anyone like that before. And by hour 12 it was a whole different set-up. Although the neightbourhood had started to resemble a scene from Dawn of the Dead. Given the average age of a Llandudno resident, this probably wasn't out of the norm.

Walking isn't cheating: It's planning. Towards the end I was walking way faster than I could possibly run. I ran for the first 50 miles and then played some games: I'd run for 20 minutes and then walk for two minutes. Then I would run 3/4 laps to the feed station and then walk to the top corner. Later in the race it was run for 100 counts, walk for 50. And in the last hour - when my calves had exploded and my hip flexors had their own pulse - I just gave up all hope of running.

The laps weren't that bad. Actually they didn't bother me at all. Mainly because the race is about time, not distance. The clock that didn't move on the other hand...aaahh! It was a LONG 24-hours. If a marathon is a games of two halves: 20 miles and then the last six, then this race is certainly 20 hours and then the final four.

Lapping, not napping. I've never been one for faffing about at checkpoints. The longest I stopped for was to put my calf guards on. Although with Fiona Rennie within earshot screaming "keep moving!" there was little danger of over staying my welcome.

Who's where?: I had no idea where I was in terms of position, so I relied on Sonic for information. I seemed to spend a few hours at a time playing catch up an individual runner - but never the same one. It was good though, as I pretty much got to know everyone in the field. Well, apart from the unsociable ones. I ran a good bit with Sharon Gaytor, before she pulled away. Her race didn't quite so to plan and I caught her a few hours later. Sonic was on hand to give me the required information: "Come one, you're going to catch Sharon Gaytor on the next lap. She's totally burst" I had to giggle and point out that her husband was standing right next to him. With absolutely no one else about. I don't think they were bessie mates after that.

Some blether on the weather: To be fair, we were really lucky. Not a drop of rain. It was fairly breezy though. And muggy. One straight was warm with a tailwind and the other was straight into a headwind. It was essentially blowing hot and cold every three/four minutes for 24 hours! Although I'd packed for all eventualities, I wore just my vest the whole time.

Keeping the points in check: When you're used to fuelling at 10 mile section points, seeing the feed station every kilometre throws you a bit. Sonic was even coming behind the tent to see if I needed anything, so I was seeing him every three minutes! I kept telling him to go and sit down. At one point I felt like I'd taking in too much, so tried to stick to every five miles (I still can't work kilometres!) It will probably come as now surprise to you that my food intake was pretty poor. I had a few bit of tablet, a couple of sandwiches, handful of sweets, two Goodness Shakes...and then mainly survived of coke. I've learned that I can take Gu gels, as I long as I throw them back and take a gulp of coke. We came home on Monday with so much stuff, I'm sorted for Halloween. Although Sonic's been trick or treating all week!

It kinda hurt. But as I sit here almost a week later, I've forgotten all the nasty stuff. Yes, it's like childbirth. And as with childbirth, it's going to take all the king's horses and all the king's men to put me back together again. But hey, it's the best time to happen. I'm not only done in, I'm done. That's all from me this year, folks. The quiver's empty.

I'm off on holiday on Monday - to Madeira. I had a big f**k-it moment when I booked it, and we're going five-star. Before we go, we're off to Inverness for the Loch Ness Marathon this weekend. Cairn's taking one for the team and doing the Wee Nessie again.


HUGE thanks to Sonic for putting up with me for the whole 24-hours. Considering how short the laps are, it must be been pretty relentless. I thought I was on my best behaviour, but he had a different opinion. I guess there were a few diva moments then.

Thanks to Team Scotland - Adrian, Mike, Val, Sue, Ken, Fiona, Les, Tim, JK and anyone else who chipped it. Also, thanks to the organisers, lap counters and everyone who came out to cheer us on (an up!). The support was amazing - especially the random strangers who got caught up in the excitement. I lost count of the amount of times I heard gasps of: "They're do what?"

Saturday 10 September 2011

You get what you pay for

It's been a while since I bought a useless random purchase. Recently I've been thinking of investing in step machine/staircase/stepper (delete as appropriate). My useless random way of thinking, is that I could condition my legs for the hills without the need for hills and/or childcare. Simples? Advice anyone?

I'm really looking for a backup plan in case we get another winter like last. Long suffering readers of this blog, may recall that winter on the hills is not a good combination for me.

Anyway, this hasn't gone further than my crazy thoughts and quick look through the wonder and joy that it Amazon.

First to note is that such a machine isn't as readily available as they once were during the height of the craze. Secondly, the extremes are quick comical. Yes, you do get what you pay for.

How about the StairMaster Stepmill Stepper. Yours for a mere £7194.

I've got one of these in the house already. It's just not motorised. One end of the extreme. It's not really in my budget. Especially considering - let's be honest - I'd barely use it. It would be more cost effective to march up and down the stairs in my office building.

Then there's this budget contraption. The Sitting Stepper - Personal Portable Mini Step Up Exerciser, retailing at £8.99.

Surely they've got a cheek adding "exerciser" into the product name?

The latter is hilarious. What a great cardio workout from the comfort of your sofa. I can sonic's face now. I could even do it at work. You know how I'm always moaning about time constraints. A wee Loch Lomond screensaver on my PC and I'd be half way up Conic Hill.

Yep, I'm still looking....

Thursday 8 September 2011


Well, that's my last weekend of training done and dusted. Signed off with two very pleasant 20-milers.

On Saturday morning I met with the GM, Emma and Nicola who are training for Berlin and Chester marathon (respectively). Yes, I managed to drag three childless gals out for an early start. Well, with the exception of the GM, who makes larks look like students.

A dull, but flat, out-and-back on the canal. We stayed together for the first few miles and then Emma and Nicola pushed on to do a 13-mile marathon tempo. Thus reminding me why I'm too lazy to run marathons. The GM and I just stayed in our steady groove. With another 20 miler looming, we didn't have the luxury of going all out. That was our excuse and we were sticking to it.

I was so nice to have the GM back in action - and injury free - and it was good to have a proper chat about plans and strategies for the 24 hour race. Although we spent more time discussing outfits for the closing celebration party.

The most entertaining thing about hanging out with the Gibbering Midget, is that she gibbers so much that nothing goes round the brain first. Like when discussing nutrition for the race, she duly informed me she's "right fond of the coke just now". Not quite as priceless as the time she annouced to a packed train "Since the WHWR, I just can't stop bonking. I was even bonking going round Tesco the other day". You could have heard a pin drop. Even over my snorting.

On Sunday morning, I had arrange for Cairn to go to my Mum's for a few hours and I ran the 20-miler down Ayshire way. A very late start for the GM and I, at a very civilised 9am.

I know sometimes the untrained eye can get the GM and I mixed up, but when we rolled up in the matching cars (yes, same make, model and colour) pink Adidas tees, nike sleeves, Gore visor and Brooks Adrenaline trainers, we can't quite understand why. The only difference was I'd swapped the Nathan bottle belt - which I'd used the day before - for a back pack.

So, that's it. No more big runs left. Just a 15-miler this Saturday. I wonder what complaints taperitus will throw at me.

I've got my post-race active recovery sorted out. Treated myself to a new road bike. It was in the sale, so it was practically free. Hopefully I should have it by the end of the week.

My Ironman quest starts next month. I might have made a dent in it by 2020.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Wednesday 31 August 2011

The torture tour of Glasgow

Appropriate training for a 24-hour race is a wide open to debate. As with all ultra-running training it's very much a personal thing. It's not as if you can google a tried and tested training schedule, download it, stick it on your fridge and get cracking. Believe me, I tried it. My three back-to-back long runs plan came from some random forum on some random website about some random guy who had run some random 24-hour race. To me it seemed like a good idea, so I pinched it. I don't even think I read anymore of the discussion on the matter. That was weekend training part one.

Weekend training part two was a plan devised in my own crazy thoughts. I may have mentioned it once or twice before, but I don't like surprises. Ignorance is never blissful. So I thought it would be a good idea (remember it's personal thing) to schedule in a 24-hour WALK. I ran this idea passed a few people. Everyone seemed intrigued, but no one said it seemed logical. Team selector and uber experienced ultra-runner Adrian Stott, even called on the guidance of William Sichel for his thoughts. He said it wasn't necessary, but could see my reasoning. There was a lot of chat on the damage that it could cause to my heels, which I didn't take as serious as I should have.

The original plan was to take the ferry over and walk around the Isle of Arran (55 miles) with the GM - who's also on the team for the 24-hour race. But then the GM got injured and that was knocked on the head. Unfortunately it wasn't knocked out of my head. A plan's a plan. Although without my trusty sidekick, a nice scenic route and the sense of achievement, I started to back track a little. I wasn't brave enough to walk round the island alone and I certainly wasn't comfortable with trawling the streets of Glasgow on my tod in the wee small hours.

So the torture tour started at 6am, just before a beautiful sunrise. I wasn't going to be rigid with plans, times or distances, as I was just going to see how it went. It was all about time of foot. Ok, I was back-tracking a lot.

I won't bore you with the details of where I walked, as I've tried to erase it from my mind, but it started on a loop round Milngavie then covered the west end, southside, out to Braehead, back through the city centre and back round the west end.

Throughout the day, all was going well. Although walking routes you tend to run takes FOREVER. Maybe popping into shops when something caught my eye didn't help. Although it was nice to finally get round to browsing in Run Urban, the new running shop on the southside. Plus it gave me a goal to walk the 23 miles (via the long way) to get there.

After about 30 miles the thunder and heavy rain started. I love running in the rain, but I don't share the same enthusiasm for walking in it. Then my heels started to rub and blister. I generally don't heel strike when I run, so the different walking action was taking it's toll on my feet and hips. And it was helluva lonely out there.

I decided to cap it at 50 miles. The idea of walking into the night - in Glasgow! - was not very appealing. 50 miles or 16:30 hours on foot was a good start. Plus, I helped with the economy. The good thing about urban walking is that you don't need to carry too much in supplies. Just me, my gadgets and some extra clothing. En route I purchased Meal Deals from Tesco and Sainsburys, sweets and juice from Asda, coffee from Costa and to finish off the culinary tour, a pizza from Morrisons. I should be a secret shopper. I had to run for a mile or so to get to Morrisons before it closed. The jogging motion felt soooo good and all the discomforted instantly disappeared. That's a good sign after 16 hours. Although after being on the go for so long, I would highly recommend avoiding the self-checkout tills. It nearly got a good kick.

To be honest, I didn't think walking 50 miles could hurt so much. My hips ached and I'd suddenly developed "cankles". But hey, no running all weekend. Although being a sofa athlete and watching various races unfold was just as exhausting. Well done to Matt, Paul and Lucy for the top three at Speyside. Huge congratulations to everyone who conquered and fought well at the UTMB. That looked epic and provided edge-of-the-seat drama for a couple of days. Then Mo Farah narrowly missing out on gold at the World Championship 10,000 nearly tipped me over.

Every picture tells a story and this one is filled with emotion.

So, what's your picture story, Richie? Is this how babies are made? After a top 50 finish in the UTMB as well. Now that's endurance :-) Congratulations guys!!

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Exciting news!

Do you like the new logo on the right? Well, I love it. I was absolutely delighted - and even more shocked! - when MONTANE asked me to be their first female ultra-running sponsored athlete.

When I stopped jumping up and down and shrieking I answered their initial interview questions for their website and marketing material.

Click here to read the interview

Before the news had time to go to my head, I had to get training for the 24-hour race. It started the weekend after the Devils with an 18-mile road run with the lovely Emma. Great company, but let's just say I've had easier runs. An out-and-back on the Clyde Stride route, right through the Pipeband Championships at Glasgow Green. The only time I like the sound of bagpipes is during a race, because it signifies the end or at least the end of a mile. Any other time, I fail to understand how it can be called a "musical" instrument.

Last weekend, I took Friday off work - which is a shame because I LOVE, LOVE my job* - to get in some long runs. I remember when days off were about colossal hangovers and shopping and sunny days were about more than the sheer excitement of getting as much washing on the line as possible. All part of the ageing process, I think.

Anyway, I did 20 miles on Friday morning. 20 miles on Friday afternoon. And another 20 miles on Saturday morning. All on road and on the dullest of routes. All in all, I was pretty pleased with the runs. And even more pleased to have finished three long runs before noon on Saturday. Trainers away and the weekend was all mine. I took Cairn to the park, did some shopping, made homemade seafood for dinner and settled down to watch X Factor with some vino. On any other day, this would have been my idea of heaven. Another part of the ageing process, I think. But after the over-exertion I couldn't really face food even left half a glass of wine. Granted I'd had two glasses prior to my early retirement, but still, It's unheard of.

On Sunday my legs felt fine, but my body felt like someone had sucked out my soul. Combination of many miles, wine and the possibility of some germs, courtesy of Cairn. He's had some kind of lurgy for the passed couple of weeks. Snotty nose and raspy throat. The nursery called me on Wednesday afternoon asking me to pick him as he had a "raging fever". I called the doctor's surgery en route to collect him for an emergency appointment. He looked pretty sorry for himself when I picked up him, but then went skipping into the surgery and proceeded to entertain the packed waiting room with renditions of "Old McDonald Had a Farm". When called for the appointment, the doctor looked over her glasses and said: "Is this the emergency appointment?". I did stutter something about it be billed to me differently, but I guess I'm now on his file as "includes neurotic Mother". You gotta love kids. He was back at nursery the next day.

So far this week has been a bit stop-start, but I think I'm back on track. Last couple of weeks of training before - guess what? - tapering again.

Very best of luck to everyone taking part in the UTMB this weekend. JK set up a site to follow friends of the WHWR throughout the races. Click here.

* I've recently found out that my Editor's wife has discovered my blog :-)

Friday 12 August 2011

Let the devil take the hindmost

Saturday saw me lining up for my fourth Devil o' the Highlands. It was to be my fifth ultra in just over four months. Not a big ask for some of the nutters I know, but for me it was out of my comfort zone.

I managed to secure a last minute place in the race. Basically just for the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series points. I guess that makes me a pot-hunter :-)

There was no real opportunity to train for this. Ever since my 100K race in March, my sequence has been race, recover, taper, repeat.

Friday wasn't the pre-race preparation and restful day I was hoping for. Flat tyre, poorly child, Sonic trailed dog sh*t through the house and although I'd planned a day off work, that was knocked on the head. And I still had to pack, drop Cairn off at my Mum's (early start, busy roads/checkpoints and the midge fest that is the highlands, is not the best place for a two-year-old) and travel up to Tyndrum.

Sonic (still injured and resigned to back up again, much to his delight) and I were staying in a Hiker's Hut (emphasis on the "hut") at Pinetrees Caravan Park. Tyndrum was pretty jammed-packed, but I'd managed to get a cancellation. Last minute was certainly the theme for this race. All for an extra hour in bed no stress travelling to the race start. I do get quite freaked before races. I'm a space cadet at the best of times, but pre-race I'm pretty vacant and walk about like a startled rabbit. I suppose it's my way of dealing with nerves. Not having the journey was one less thing to tighten my strings.

I was up at 4am for porridge and coffee, dressed and off to registration and race briefing. It was wasn't long before we congregated round at Brodie's Store ready for the start at 6am. And then we were off...

I ran with JK for the first few sections. Actually, by his own omission, he attached himself to me like an umbilical cord. It was great though, as I haven't really had the chance to run with him much this year. The miles just zipped passed. As planned, I just kept to my own pace and let others go tearing off. I did have a silent giggle watching people pelting up the hills.

JK was running without a watch, so I tried to make a conscious effort not to mention time or pace. I did slip up on the approach to BoO by airing my disbelief that it wasn't even 7am. Although I'm pretty sure he could see the screen on my Garmin, if he wanted to. They're not exactly the daintiest of watches.

Before long, we had reached the first support point at Bridge of Orchy. I planned to just pick up some tablet to eat heading up the hill, which I did. I always walk most this section, safe in the knowledge that we would soon pass the people who had chosen not too. Which we did.

The lovely Davie was on snapper duty at the top of the Orchy Hills and I joked that I was still trying to shake JK off. I really enjoyed the descent into Inveronan. The last time I was on this hill was after 60+ miles and my glutes weren't happy about the downhill pounding.

Heading round to Victoria Bridge, JK informed me that Sonic was going to meet us at the gate. Just as well, as I would have been in panic mode looking for him. Well, panic mode looking for my supplies.

In this race, in that location at this time of year, the runners get a better deal. The midges were awful. You know it's bad when they annoy you while running. I picked up some fluid, a gel and some sweets - which I didn't touch, but carried for the next 30 miles.

Moving on, I nearly tripped over Helen Lees who had stopped to tie her shoe lace. It took me a few miles to discover why. I was carrying twins :-)

It was such a lovely morning and Rannoch Mor was glorious. We caught up with a few runners over the six mile stretch and started to gain on the gals who were sitting in 3rd and 4th position. I wasn't even remotely bothered, as I was sticking to my plan. My plan was based on staying comfortable, not time. Last year in this section, I felt awful. This year was a different story. I'm not quite sure where I was getting the energy from.

We caught up with the GM just before the descent into Glencoe and I ran with her down to the ski centre. That was the last I saw of JK. Maybe it was the GM's mooning that tipped him over ;-)

The GM stopped to meet up her support and I pushed on to Kingshouse, where I had arranged to meet Sonic. I think even he was surprised to see me coming down in second place. I moved on quickly as nature was calling. Rannoch Mor is so exposed that there's no where to hide. I was now is urgent need of a hiding place.

As usual the section to the Devil's Staircase was trickier than I remember. The whole race is based on going up to come back down, so why do I always resent it so much on these three miles?

It was starting to heat up as I stomped up the hill. Norry was soon to overtake me. Giving the way he ascends, he'd be better off walking the race. I overtook another few runners on the way down to Kinlochleven - including Norry. I must have been quite sneaky, as he nearly shot out of his skin when I passed. I think I had the same response when Helen appeared by my side just before the town.

With Sonic on super-slick support, I was in and out of Kinlochleven in no time. JK's daughters later joked that Sonic had laid out all my food, drink and gear and all I picked up was a jelly bean :-) Actually it was a gel. I still had a full supply of jelly beans.

At the top of the last killer ascent, Helen and I were neck-and-neck. We were passing quite a few walkers and one lady asked Helen is she wanted a plaster for a her knee, to which she replied it was a just a graze and didn't hurt. I hadn't noticed, and I don't think she even realised that she would later need stitches. She was starting to mirror my moves, so I was having flashbacks from the WHWR with Adam. I know in a shorter distance on any other terrain, Helen would whip my ass. She even looks like a good runner. But in this race, I was going to have to rely on the miles in my legs to pull away. Of course, the miles in my legs could also go against me.

I started to build some distance, but there wasn't much in it. Although I felt good on Lairig Mor, the heat was starting to get to me. I was stumbling on the rocky path. As soon as the sun went behind the clouds and the breeze picked up, I felt reborn.

I was probably only a few minutes ahead of Helen at Lundarva and moved in and out swiftly. I saved my precious Coke for this checkpoint, which went down a treat. I passed a chap from Helensburgh, who looked burst. Looking back on the race splits, you'll see why. I was going to tell him I remember him for missing the start and racing to catch up at the Rouken Glen x-country, but thought it wasn't the time for humour or chit chat.

I knew I would have to work hard to get under 7 hours. That was all I was looking for after all. I felt pretty light and pushed on the hills. Thankfully the conservative start had left a bit in the tank. The newly cleared forest adds to the competition in this race, as runners can now see each other. As I hit the trail, I looked back and say Helen. It was just what I needed. I quite literally flew down the track, watching every minute tick by.

I saw the lovely Mrs JK just before Braveheart Carpark. I think I might have gasped something incoherent. By the time I hit the carpark I knew the sub 7 was a sitter, so I was more comfortable. I even had a few walking breaks. Hey, you've got to save yourself for the final sprint. Plus, sort you hair and wipe away the boggies for the pictures ;-)

I finished second lady (13th overall) in 6:56:35. Considering it was my 5th ultra this year, it was by the far the best I've ever felt in a race. Just one of those lucky days when it all comes together, I guess. I progressively moved up the field leg position at the three checkpoints were 23rd, 12th to 10th.

So for a last minute entry, it came with lots of benefits 1) Second lady - and my fourth podium finish in the race 2) A personal best 3) New club record 4) New ladies record for the Triple Crown and 5) I'm now leading the SUMS overall - for now! All in a day's work.

Click here for full reults. Huge congratulations to everyone who finished. Special mentions to Matt Williamson who was 1st (told you so, Matt), the Crazy German 2nd and the amazing Lucy Colquhoun who was third overall, 1st lady and smashed the ladies record by 64 minutes to finish in 5:47. Lucy was so far ahead that trekkers kept telling me I was leading :-) I don't think they believed anyone was that fast when I corrected them. Even Sonic thought she might have pulled out.

Thanks to Garry and Gemma for putting on a great race (and giving me a late place) and all the stewards on the day. Standing on the A82 on a sunny Saturday morning has got be over and above the call of duty. Thanks also to the lovely the man from the Wilderness Response Team who gave me water on Lairig Mor. I wasn't until after the race that the reality of cheery chap manning a tuck shop on remote Lairig Mor sunk in. Somehow in the heat of the day, that seemed pretty normal. Thanks to JK, Davie, Julie and Suse for the pictures and Team Kynaston for the videos. Thanks to JK for "keeping me honest" at the start and Helen for pushing me for the sub:7.

Huge thanks to Sonic for his superb back-up - again! Even after months of injury and no running he's been much more sane and tolerable than I would ever be. Although when I'm feeling a little low or flat, I buy new shoes. He bought a sports car! I'm holding out for an injury some time soon.

So, that's it. I've hung up my trail shoes for the rest of the year. I've been lucky enough to be selected for the Scotland 24-hour race team at the Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Running Championship in Wales next month. I'll be pavement pounding for the next weeks. Recover, taper, race...and then it's all over,

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Forget raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens....

...these are a few of my favourite (ultra-running) things...

Hydration packs: If you're anything like me, you'll probably have a collection of backpacks and bottle belts. All with pros and cons, but your "perfect solution" hasn't been invented yet. The Nathan Trail Mix Bottle Belt is as close as I've got to my perfect solution. I've worn in on various training runs and races - including two 95-milers - and not have a bit of bother with it.

My latest "perfect solution" purchase is The North Face Women's Enduro Boa. Once you get over the initial shock of paying for it - retails at a healthy £85 - you will realise it's not your run-of-the-mill pack. I find it hard to find rucksacks to fit me (resulting in some serious abrasion) because I have narrow shoulders and zero boobage, but this fits like a glove and redistributes the weight just right. Plus the anti-slosh control (which essentially means there's internal wiring, controlled by a knob, which tightens the bladder) so no more annoying sound. The downside is the exterior storage pocket is made of mesh, so useless if it rains.

Waterproofs/windproofs: I've never been a fan of running jackets, but the man from Montane convinced me otherwise. As the title sponsor of the Montane Highland Fling, they sent me a box of goodies for being second lady. I know the Montane Featherlite range is highly rated among the hill running fraternity and now I know why. As the name suggest, it weighs next to nothing and takes up next to no space. Previously it was the rustle-factor that put me off waterproofs, but this is the same as a long sleeve - with added benefits

For the feet: I've dabbled with a few trail shoe brands over the years - including Brooks, Saucony and Asics - but I'm now a firm Inov-8 convert. Now I run in Roclite 275 GTX. They are lightweight (my old Asics Trabucos were like bricks) and provide good underfoot cushioning. The negatives are (in my opinion: the fabric tends to "burst" well before the end of the shoes shelf life; they ain't cheap; and I don't really see the need for Goretex (which adds to the expense) in trail running shoes. If it's wet, your feet will get wet anyway; And unlike bigger brands, don't change their products/colours often. Do you have any idea how troublesome it is to get gear to go with green shoes? Think pink and blue, Mr Inov-8 please.

I ordered Injinji socks from the US and few years ago, but thankfully you can now get them in the UK. I wear them on long runs and races and think they help a great deal. There's a little pocket for each toe, which eliminates skin on skin contact between your toes to prevent blisters from developing.

My latest little diamond of a find, was Flexitol Blistop. It was specifically designed to protect the feet from blisters and sprays on a like transparent second skin. After reading a review in Running Fitness, I used this for the first time on the West Highland Way Race. Anyone who was there (or has read my race report) will know how wet the conditions were. Sometimes it was like wading through rivers. My feet really only blister when they're wet. And in same spots over and over again. Well, I sprayed this very liberally (best to do it outside, as it's potent) and only got one small blister. I didn't get any on the Clyde Stride. When I say liberally, I mean the packaging says it provides 42 applications, but only TWO for me. It's worth it not to have problems with your feet during a race.

I may have fallen out of love with them a little bit earlier in the year, but I still rate lock laces for comfort and ease of changing shoes. Just don't wear them on a hilly run in the rain, as they allow wet feet too much movement. The result is very bashed toes. I'll stick with them in my road shoes in future.

I DO believe the hype about compression gear. I like Skins, 2XU and New Balance have a nice new range. I just wish someone would come out with something a little more girlie. Raidlight have got the right idea - their ladies range comes in nice girlie colours with lovely flower motifs. I know that sounds really lame, but it's quite boring when everything looks the same. Only problem is that even their smallest size tights are quite baggy. I like lots of support.

Love or loathe them, arm sleeves are the best things ever invented. Well, in my world they are. They're perfect for Spring and Autumn, when it's too cold not to start with sleeves and too warm to keep them on. Plus, you're not in and out of your rucksack on a long run, when the weather turns. I really like these sleeves by 1000 Mile as they've got the thumb holes. There's something quite strangely comforting about thumb holes, isn't there?

The gadgets: Although I love them, I don't have much luck with ipods. Actually, I think this I'm on my 6th or 7th. I doubt it will be my last, but so far it's the best. It's tiny, clips onto my waistband and has a multi-touch display and an inbuilt radio. I do like listening to the radio, especially in the morning.

My luck with Garmins, is not too dissimilar to that of the ipod. I've had a few Garmin Forerunner 205, but upgraded to the 310xt last year. It's fairly similar to the 205, but with a longer battery life - approx 18 hours, not the 20 hours it promotes. The best thing about this 310xt is it's ability to get a signal. Great for me, as a lot of my runs start in built up areas. Previously I could spend 10 minutes loitering on street corners outside my office. I was once propositioned on a dark winter's morning. How do think I paid for the upgrade? Just kidding :-)

Food on the go: I know this is very much a personal choice and what works for you might differ from run to run. I find it quite difficult to eat during races, but this is what works for me on runs. Wine gums are my sweet of choice just now. I used to opt for jelly babies, but went off them after a while. I'm also partial to a Midget Gems and Skittles. All of which are hard to eat on road runs and races, but great for a munch whilst stomping up a hill.
I also like gold old Scottish tablet. I tried it for a first time couple of years ago and thought it had magical powers. After I introduced the GM to wonder drug, she had to go one step further a discover Mrs Tilly Vanilla Fudge and Tablet. I kid you not, after 22 years of friendship, this is by far my favourite thing about the GM :-) Now we start most training runs with:..."just you, me and Mrs T".

When it comes to fluids, unfortunately I'm not a "could-murder-a-glass-of-water" kind of gal. Truth to be told, I rarely drink water. Ever. On runs I prefer sport drinks such as Lucozade or Powerade (whatever happens to be on offer when I do the shopping) and dilluting Ribena.

For a quick fix I like flat coke - sometimes with gas for a good burp :-) and for an even quicker fix, a Red Bull Shot. Looking back at this list, I feel suitable ashamed. What a load of rubbish. The funniest thing is going to do the shopping pre-race day and getting some really strange looks at the the supermarket checkout. Especially when you throw in a couple of Slimfast Shakes for emergencies.

My legs have threatened to cramp in a few races this year. All hot races. Zero Sport Hydration Salts are an anti cramp formula of electrolyte tabs and magnesium. They're tasteless, so you can pop thme in water or your sports drink.

From the medical cabinet...I have been regularly using (not just when needs must!) the same sports therapist for the last couple of years. He advocates pre-race deep tissue massages and applying Deep Heat prior to long runs and races. These days people smell me before they see me. And if, heaven forbid, you're in the same car as me, as you'll be breathing out of your eyes! For pain relief I like Nurofen Express. Gaviscon double action for indigestion, Sudocream to prevent skin abrasion and Resolve Extra for stomach issues (and hangovers!).

My nearest and dearest know I'm quite fanatical about suncream. I think it's stupid and childish knowingly let yourself get burnt. Especially when you know how much your skin can take. After spending 18 years in desert climates, my skin has had enough abuse for one lifetime. These days, I've been know to put protection on my skin when's raining...just in case. Let's be honest, in Scotland the weather is pretty changeable. Anyway, Banana Boat Sport is fabulous. It's non-sticky and sinks in within seconds, so there's no mess. It's also waterproof and lasts all day.

Last but not least, my other favourite ultra-running things are Mark Johnston's evil speed sessions and Nathalie Jones' nutritional plans. And, of course, the Ambassador of Deep Heat's (AKA Jan Mieszkowski) deep tissue massage.

Anyway, I've been meaning to write this blog report/list for ages, so here it is. If anyone has done something or would like to do something similar, please let me know as I would like post a link.