Friday 29 April 2011

Chip off the old block

You're right, Richie, Cairn's working on the spreadsheets.

Good luck to everyone running the Highland Fling tomorrow.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

118: Got my number

Seen as I've been assigned such a comedy race number, it would be rude not to partake in Saturday's Highland Fling. I've had a few good runs over the last week and a few stinkers too. I've got no idea how my legs will be, but I'm really looking forward to it. Sonic has had to pull-out - see his blog for details - so some one's got to take one for the team. Cairn's not quite ready for his first ultra yet. Although he did manage a couple of miles on the Kilpatrick Hills on Easter Sunday. We're not pushy parents, he's just not up for being strapped in his back pack for too long.

Cairn's quads must have been sore, as he was using JK's descending the Devil's Staircase approach.

On another note: At Garscube Harriers' AGM I was awarded with the club's "Most Meritorious Performance" Award...for the second time. I also won it in 2008. It came as a massive shock, as the engraved names would suggest that no one has won it twice.

So I'm now officially resting for the Fling. Last run tomorrow. This year, I'll be following a race plan and splits devised by Sonic, instead of my usual lets-just-wing-it strategy. So, this year my plan is to get to Drymen 10 minutes SLOWER than last year. Nervous about that? You bet he is :-)

Thursday 21 April 2011

To fling or not to fling, that is the question

I'm torn on this one. Do I do the 53 mile Highland Fling next weekend? Obviously my head wants to do it, but my body is dragging on the idea some what. I know it's a bit of an ask considering the 100K was only five minutes ago - a race, which incidentally, pretty much broke me - but it ranks pretty high on the wish list.

I'm sure I've recovered or at least on the mend. With less than five weeks between races, there's about a 20 minute window for training in between recovering from one race and tapering for the next next. With this in mind, I probably tried to get back into running quicker than my legs would have liked. I attempted my first run four days after the race. Officially the most ungraceful run ever. I liken it to drinking a bottle of wine and trying to run for a bus. My arms and legs felt like they weren't connected to my body and my eyes were rattling about in my head. And I don't know where to begin with the aches and pains. My calves were a mess. I lasted four miles and walked the last one. Broken. And back to square one.

After that I took another few days off and started back on the Monday. A easy week and then a cracking run on the West Highland Way. I wasn't sure if my legs were up for it, but it was so good to be back on the trails that I loved every minute of it. Twice up and down Conic Hill gave my quads a good kickin' too. It had only been two months since my last real off-road run, but it's amazing how quickly you become un-hill-fit.

Last week, I did my first speed session and it wasn't as nasty as i anticipated. If anything, it was just what I needed. That coupled with a great 18-mile run on Kilpatrick Hills on Friday and my mojo is resumed.

So, as it stands, I'm about 80% sure I'm doing the Fling.

This year - the UK's biggest ultra - will be the UKA Trail Championships and the Scottish Ultra Trail Championships. Looking at the starters list, the men's field is quite spectacular. It will be really interesting to see this one unfold. The Highland Fling is the perfect race to separate the men from the boys, so to speak. It's long enough that you can't wing on marathon training. It's short enough that you can't rely on luck and good fuelling. Hilly enough to knee-cap and road runner and flat enough to disadvantage the mountain-goats.

Friday 1 April 2011

Anglo-Celtic Plate 2011 (100K)

I've spent most of this week trying to compose this post, so I'm just going to summarise some thoughts and lessons learned - otherwise it could take me longer to write than actually run. You would have thought I would have had loads more time on my hands this week, but in reality it's just taking that bit longer to do basic tasks. Starting with 20 minutes to get down the stairs on Monday morning.

Well, I survived. Just. My hips have just about forgiven me and my calves have almost stopped screaming. In a nutshell, it was tough. Really tough. Although I'm still traumatised, I'm elated. I'm glad I pushed myself to try something new and it was an honour to wear the Scotland vest.

I finished in 9:03:09 which is an average pace of 8:44m/m

Click here for 50K and 100K results

You could skip the drivel and just click on JK's video below, it's much more entertaining. Don't forget the tea and biscuits though, as it's 35 minutes long.

Pre-race: I didn't taper as much as I should have, mainly because this race wasn't the be-all and end-all of 2011. I'm still not sure of my race plans, but I don't like to put all my eggs in one basket. Like most long-distance races, the training takes over your life, but when it comes to crunch time you always think it's never enough.

Expectations: Non really. As it was my first 100K on the road, the jury was out. 100K veterans are fairly keen to tell you their horror stories, which not only involve pain and fatigue, but tears and lots of vomit. I thought physically I could hold it together, but it was the mental aspect that I was most concerned about. My dream time was sub:9, but realistically I was hoping for 9-10 hours. I'm less analytical than may better half - who is still scrutinising D33 splits - but the Crazy (Scottish) German sent me a link to for a race time predictor based on my 2008 marathon time. I'd like to think I could better that now, but I based it on fact rather than fantasy.

Competitors: Although I was told I "looked nervous" quite a few times on race morning, I think I was more overwhelmed than anything. Looking at the starters list from other teams (I resisted the temptation to google them, as to not freak out), I knew I would probably come in last of the country runners, so I just concentrated on running my own race.

Course: 42 laps of a very flat 1.5mile loop in North Inch Park. In hindsight, I learned that laps aren't actually that bad. I'm not saying it didn't do my head in. Far from it. But it didn't really take it's toll until I was 30 laps down. Although Adrian informed us at the pre-race briefing that counting laps was just mental torture, I just couldn't help it.

Conditions: Perfect. We couldn't have asked for a better day. Glorious, fresh and sunny. The flip-side to the rare sight of spring, was that families, dog walkers, skaters and cyclists were out in the hoards. There was even a football and rugby game going on in the middle of the course. It was like running in a goldfish bowl, with nowhere to hide. I even saw one of the English girls getting hit square-on by a rugby ball. Thankfully most people were really courteous and accommodating - or maybe it was fear of the snottering zombies coming anywhere near their kids.

Pacing: Started out very conservative, running with the uber-experienced, Pauline Walker at the back of the pack for about the first couple of hours. I pushed on and started picking off a runners in the open race. I haven't seen the splits yet, but from the laps times that Sonic supplied, I was steady at the start, picked it up in the middle and then the wheels started to come off in the last 10 laps. I wasn't alone, as I was passing runners who had lapped me a few times at the start. During the last five laps, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get sub:9, so lost my drive and just concentrated on finishing. If only I knew how close I would be to it. To be honest, at the time, I gave what I had.

Pauline is the Scottish 24-hour record holder (130+ miles!) and nothing sort of phenomenal. Where most runners fell across the finish line like something from Dawn of the Dead, she crossed and sauntered along like she had just strolled out of Marks and Spencer.

Food: I still can't get my food right. Even more so on a race that requires a bit more constant effort. I managed two bars of tablet and then would only consider coke and sports drink after a few hours. Sonic tried to get me to eat a sandwich, which I spat out in front of a horrified family. Actually the vast majority of the things he gave me, ended up in the bin. I ran out of energy after about five hours and just got through on determination.

This isn't something I've ever suffered from. My legs didn't cramp, but my calves were pulsing for the last couple of hours and I keep expecting them to spasm. It wasn't sore, just concerning. Actually my legs felt OK most of the time. I was trying to pull myself together by reminding myself of this. Pete - there was a lot of foul language and warrior talk.

The finish: This probably ranks has one of the happiest moments in my life. Not for the achievement, but for the total relief.

Team Scotland: The guys did really well. Craig Stewart won the race and helped secured the first team prize. As I was lapped quite frequently by all five guys, I can safety say they are all awesome. In the girls team is was no surprise that Gail Murdoch was first, with a massive PB to boot. Followed by Izzy Knox and then me. The Gibbering Midget had to pull-out after falling ill, which was awful. After training with her for the last few months, it was so sad to see her so upset. She's a real trooper though, so watch out for some unfinished business on the Highland Fling later this month.

And now to the thank you bit. There are so many people, I don't know where to start. Thanks for to the organisers and timekeepers, especially Val and Adrian. Thanks to everyone who came out to support and pick me up, especially JK, Katrina, the Pacepushers, Lady Sadie, Davie, Tim and Izzy. Huge thanks to JK for the video, which is the perfect keep-sake.

My biggest thank you is to Sonic for his top-notch back-up and for the support during training. Apparently back-up is "way harder than running". With short laps, I'm sure it's pretty relentless. I hope holding in that pee for nine hours doesn't cause any lasting damage, Sonic. Although I'm sure that's dramatic license. I've seen the video, remember :-)