Thursday 13 December 2012

Kahtoola MICROspikes Vs Yaktrak Pro

With The Marcothon, comes challenging weather. Guaranteed.  I think it's more to do with it being December, rather than something personal though.  Although this year I was prepared with Kahtoolas and Yaktraks at the ready.
I've been asked a few times by non-gripper-owning runners which of the two I would recommend, so I thought I'd post my verdict.
Yaktrak Pro

What they say:  The Yaktrax Pro is ideal for the person needing increased durability while working, running or enjoying outdoor activities on ice or packed snow during the winter months. It is equipped with a removable performance strap that was designed for stability.  Yaktrax Pro are made from natural rubber with 1.4mm high- strength abrasion resistant coils made from 70% recycled metal.

My verdict: The pros
  • Yaktrax Pro are light weight, from 145gm - 155gm depending on size.
  • Easily transportable: You can roll them up and stick them in your pocket, belt or simply carry them.
  • Fairly inexpensive and can be purchased from as low as £10 online - depending on demand.
  • Great for walking too, so can double up for everyday use during icy conditions.
  • Perfect for pavement pounding or for thin layers of ice
The cons
  • They are quite tricky to put on - especially when balancing on one leg using cold hands.
  • I've heard quite a few reports of Yaktraks breaking/snapping. 
  • I've also heard quite a few reports about them slipping or falling off - hasn't happened to me though.
  • Off-road, they are OK, but not great. You still have more confidence, you need to keep your wits.
  • Plus, the coils can become chocked with grass and mud - which makes them less efficient.
Kahtoola MICROspikes®

What they say:   Just think – a pocket-sized ice traction system that makes any terrain, any time of year, possible. Kahtoola MICROspikes® Traction System aren’t just spikes that dig in – they’re your passport to anywhere adventure takes you. When you don’t need a full-on crampon the MICROspikes® Traction System will get you where you need to go with ease and precision. The  slip-on lets you travel safely and quickly across ice, scree, snow-covered driveways, wet rocks and anywhere else you just need a little more traction.

My verdict: The pros
  • I feel 100% confident wearing Kahtoolas - even running downhill on ice.
  • You can run.  Like properly run.  No slippling or worrying about slipping.
  • Off-road, they are far superior than Yaktraks.
  • They slip on with ease.  And stay on, very securely.
  • I've only heard good reports about Kahtoolas - and no products faults.
  • They made running on thick ice an absolute joy - honest!
The cons
  • They are a bit too aggressive for pavements or thin ice. I liken it to running in a down jacket, when all your need is a long sleeve tee.  They perform better on harsher ground.
  • You need a back pack to transport them on a run. You could stick them in jacket pockets, but you'll be rattling about like the ghost of Christmas past!
  • They're not exactly cheap, retailing at around £45-£50.

In summary:  I would use (and recommend) both.  They are well worth the investment.  You can't put a price on safety and staying injury free - and off the treadmill!  If you can only choose one or the other, then it's best decide on where you will do most of your winter running. 

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Also available in white

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I've signed up for the Montane Lakeland 100 in July 2013.  I will have mentioned before that I have zero navigational skills and a like to recce courses that require such skills.  One less (major) thing to worry about on race day.  Plus, I think if you get lost in a ultra race, you've only got yourself to blame.

My lovely sponsor the sent me a pair of Drymax Maximum Protection Running socks to try, so I thought I'd put them to a proper test and saved them for my first Lakeland 100 training run.  As you will see from the before and after pictures, I certainly put them through the wringer!  See below for the science bit and my thoughts.

Lakeland 100 training Episode one:  The GM an I were going to join the organised recce run that was planned for Saturday afternoon.  I would have liked to have met up for fellow race runners, but we decided against because 1) The main priority of the trip was to learn the route 2) I would have blindly followed the runners in front, therefore not concentrating on the track 3) The organised run was leaving later in the afternoon, with the aim of giving runners experience of night running  4) So, we would need to go back and run the sections in daylight 5) If you're running in the dark, you could be anywhere and I wanted to experience the views 6) With a fairly lengthy journey either side of the run, it would be midnight by the time we got home. All reasons to go at it alone.

After much debating, we decided on the sections from Braithwaite to Dalemain.  Estimated mileage 26.  Our total mileage? 29. Of course there was always going to be a few detours. We left Glasgow at 6am and arrived at Dalemain House just before 8am and took a taxi back the 19 road miles to Braithwaite. The biggest shocker of the day was the £60 taxi fare! But hey, we were at the start of the section and we HAD to run the course to get back to the car.  We packed emergency taxi money just in case though!

I did carry a map, but to be honest if could have been a map for the Inca Trail for all I knew.  Thankfully, the route descriptions - the step-by-step guide - which are downloadable from the race website are top-notch.   Prior to the trip I watched JK's Lakeland videos, which I must say were invaluable.  Not for directions, but for reassurance we were on the right route.  Although I was fairly disappointed not to see the caretaker from Dave's school ;-)

The weather forecast was for heavy rain - all day - and it did not disappoint. It tipped.  And after a few hours the initial euphoria wore off and we were left soaking and shivering.  My hands wouldn't work, my brain became defunct and we became pretty lackadaisical about following the route description.

AVOID Gowbarrow Fell!
On the last section - from Dockray to Dalemain - we saw the sign for Gowbarrow Fell.  Recalling the name from the route sheets we started stomping up the steep hill.  It's funny how when you're not quite sure that you're going in the right direction, you look for signs to make things fit.  Like a kid trying to squeeze together jigsaw pieces.  It just didn't seem right.  And when I saw the Cairn at the top, I knew it was just a hill walk, not part of the route.

Of couse backtracking on the description, it clearly states: "AVOID left permissive path to Gowbarrow Fell". Lesson learned.  Although best make mistakes on a training run, and not in the race. 

Back down the hill and back on track.  Thankfully the route took us through some gorgeous woods and contoured around Gowbarrow with the most amazing views over Ullswater - which certainly lightened the mood. It's truly magical.  Even in the rain and mist.  I think the backdrop, coupled with recognising the (reassuring) points from JK's videos - certainly perked us up a bit. When we hit the old ruins and made the required right turn, I ran down to Swinburn’s Park with the same excitement as my number being called in Argos. I never thought simply going to the right way could feel so amazing!

The adventure wasn't quite over though, as we had to negotiate a few shoe-sucking muddy fields and then got lost in Dacre trying to find the route passed the castle. 

Eventually we made it back to Dalemain House in a total time of 5:48.  That wasn't too bad considering we had to follow a map into the unknown and take a few detours. I absolutely loved the route and even now, I'm still on a bit of a high from the run.

I think it took us longer to get changed into dry clothes that it did to drive back to Glasgow. I'm sure the passing tradesmen were slightly suspicious of steamed-up Mini in an empty carpark with wet clothes being disgarded out the windows and doors!

I'll be honest, I not sure I would fork out £22 for a pair of socks.  It's right up there with £60 taxi fares!  However I do think - with most things in life - you get what you pay for.   I've made no secret that my feet have been causing me problems this year.  There's not been a race where my feet haven't let me down, so I'm willing to try anything.  Any pay anything!

Here's the science bit...Maximum Protection Running socks are made using the patented Blister Guard® system. This system incorporates Friction Free® Profilen® fibers throughout the entire foot area of the sock. Profilen’s chemical name is Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PTFE has the lowest Coefficient of Friction of any solid material.

That was as clear as mud to me too.  Just skip the rest and watch the video at the bottom.
Why we get blisters: Feet get hot and perspire, causing socks to become wet. Moisture significantly increases friction (stickiness) between socks and skin. The higher the friction, the greater the chance of getting blisters. Higher friction limits skin surface movement, yet still allows inner tissue movement causing a shearing effect. This physically separates the two layers which fill with fluid, forming a blister.

Their Blister Guard® System:  Drymax Maximum Protection Running socks were designed to prevent blisters during triathlons, marathons and ultra-long distance runs. In addition, they will help people who are just prone to getting blisters.   Profilen and Drymax fibers blended together provide Maximum Protection for your feet. This scientific approach keeps feet dry and the friction between the skin and sock low. Runners who wear Maximum Protection Running socks will have cooler, drier, more comfortable feet, while significantly lowering the chance of getting blisters. They possess top mesh air panels which release heat and sweat vapor out of the top of the sock and shoe.

The proof  of the pudding...After nearly six hours in the pouring rain, I can report that my feet were comfortable the whole day.  No hot spots and no blisters.  So yeah, you get what you pay for.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Marcothon 2012

It's that time again, folks!  The 4th Marcothon is underway.

The rules are simply, you must run every day in DECEMBER. 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. See website for full details.

A bit of history: This all started in 2009, when Marco challenged himself to run every day in November. I decided to follow suit and run every day in December. I posted the challenge – and dubbed it the Marcothon - on my blog and before I knew it there was a group of runners equally eager to embrace the winter conditions of December 2009. In 2010, the group was added to Facebook and attracted over 500 runners from across the globe. Last year, we nearly hit 1000!

It's not a competition. Just a personal challenge or an incentive to burn off some beer and turkey dinners. So, who’s up for it the Marcothon 2012?  Sign up on Facebook.

Thursday 1 November 2012

The Wooden Spoon in the Toon

As I write this, I'm regretting the fact that I posted about my Newcastle Town Moor Marathon adventure - then I wouldn't feel obliged to report back on it.

I'll keep it brief.  I didn't quite go to plan, but I still got a PB.  Granted I haven't done a marathon for nearly five years, but when I set my previous best in London 2008 I had a really good run and was elated to finish in 3:31:00.

The race is 5 x 5+ mile lapped course on - not surprisingly - Newcastle's Town Moor.  I started out at 7:30m/m pace, which I was fairly confident of maintaining.  Unfortunately - as with all races - external factors can play a major part.  I didn't really mind the muck or and nasty grassy hill section, but the wind was really frustrating.  The Moor must be the windiest place in the earth.  I had read that on quite a few of the race reviews, so I knew it was quite an exposed course.

No toilet mishaps this time - honest!
I wanted to chuck it after the second lap - and that was before I dropped pace.  My heart just wasn't in it. I couldn't shake the negative thoughts and the devil my shoulder was telling me stop. My mojo has hitched a ride with the wind, but after some TTFU self-chat I decided just to go for the finish and forget time. I think lapping the chap who was pushing his disabled son in a jogging buggy gave me the royal kick up the butt I needed.  Plus after bullying and training (from scratch!) two of my friends at work to do the Loch Ness Marathon a few weeks earlier, I could hardly go back and tell them I DNF-d because I couldn't be ar&ed!

At the end of the forth lap I was half-expecting Sonic to go tearing passed me, so was quite relieved to make it without getting lapped.

I stopped to drink some Coke and then left to start my final lap.  I was trying to find out from the supporters who was leading the race, but was met by a head shakes and blank expressions. Then I saw Sonic standing in his civvies, as he'd pulled out because of his hamstring injury - or sense!  Then I REALLY wanted to pull up, but forced myself to keep going - even with the voices in my head saying: "Stop. Turn back.  You could be heading home now..."

Anyway, the voices lost and I finished 4th lady (1st vet) and 20th overall in 3:28Full results here.  Sonic is really kicking himself, as when he pulled up he was in third position and the guy in fourth went on to win it!

Although it has its challenges, it's a great race.  Really friendly.  And the marshals on the course were fantastic - all five times that I saw them.  I was glad I was running and not standing out there though!

1st 2.54.34 Steve Middleton M35 Thirsk & Sowerby Harriers

2nd 2.55.08 Richard Parker M45 Tynedale Harriers
3rd 2.59.34 Steven Prentice M35 North East Marathon Club

13th 3.14.51 Ann Hood FSNR UK Netrunner
18th  3.24.21 Andrea Dennison F45 Bingley Harriers
19th 3.25.17 Pauline Aitchson F40 Wooler Running Club

Thursday 18 October 2012

A marathon cool down

Prior to the 24-hour race I signed up Sonic and I for a marathon in Newcastle on October 28.  Actually it was ananniversary gift from me to mark another year of wedded bliss.  Don't tsk, he gave me a pair of swimming goggles and some anti-fog spray.  Merely following instructions when I emailed and web link with the titles "please can I have this?"  Who says romance is dead? :-)

My approach to the marathon was simple:  If I can do it, great.  If I can't, there will be no love lost.  I've said it before, I don't do races as training runs so intend to give me my all.  I just don't know how much all I have left. 

I know I'm lucky to bounce back quickly from races (it's a girl thing), but it's still been a bit of a bumpy road.   I was in a bit of a state after Poland, but I've also been worse.   I few days of shuffling and wailing and a few good bottles of red and I was back on the recovery track. 

After a week of casual runs, I added in some sessions and tempos.  The latter were a suck-it-and-see for the pending marathon.  I skipped the Thursday night club training in favour of a 13 miler, with eight miles at my goal marathon pace.  I wasn't expecting much, but the stars must have aligned for me. You know one of the those runs that gives you a right ol' confidence boost?  I felt on top of the world.  It didn't last.

I'd semi-volunteered myself to run a leg of the McAndrew Road Relays on the Saturday.  My words were "if you need a counter to make up a team".  On the assumption that nothing gung-ho was required, I went hell-for-leather in the gym on Friday.  Then Captain Maz text to say I was in the Vets A team.  Deep joy.  Any dilly-dallying would be totally frowned upon.

Image pinched from Gordon C on Flickr
 The McAndrew is only a teeny weeny 3.25 miles, but it's nasty.  And as with most of these club events, the competition is fierce.  I knew I was biting off my that I could chew - even before I took into account a pretty hard week - but I felt ok.  Until the last hill, which nearly floored me. 

I wasn't entirely sure I was actually moving forward, but I was pretty sure I've only ever made those sounds during childbirth.   It was certainly the closest I've ever been to seeing stars (or a close up of the pavement!)  in a race!

Anyway, we won the first vets team prize.  More down to my other two teams mates - Jill and Gail - than my heaving performance.  Full results here.

The next day (Sunday) I had planned to run 20mile easy with the Gibbering Midget. had been swotting up on nutrition, basically looking at ways to improve my racing food strategy. I've been reading about the importance of training your body to use fat stores, rather than carbohydrate. Obviously I'm not qualified to write about it, so please google it or have look over Barry Murray's article: Fat Adaptation and Fuel Efficiency or Running on Empty by Running Times

In preparation, I had an early dinner on the Saturday night and went out on empty on Sunday morning.  Thankfully the GM decided to join me in the experiment.  To be honest, I was pretty goosed before embarking on the glycogen depletion adventure, so it was my smartest move.  It wasn't pretty and it certainly wasn't enjoyable.  In fact it's probably in my top ten less favourite runs ever.  The GM wasn't much better.  We were totally wasted.  In fact I could drop the "gibbering" from her nickname, as there was certainly no sparkling chat exchanged.  I tripped three times.  On a pavement!  Two of them were belters.  The last couple of miles I had to make a concerted effort to focus and pick up my feet properly.  I must have been trotting through the streets of Milngavie like a stoned dressage horse.

Classic GM-ism though:  We had to do a wee bit of jiggery pokery to make up the run to 20 miles, so I took her round the houses in Bearsden.  Trying to assess her bearings she said: "I know where I am, this is the road to Canesten roundabout".  I had to remind her that the roundabout is called Cannisburn and Canesten is in fact a treatment for thrush! We were practically rolling about the pavements in stitches! Certainly brightened a dark hour.
I was completely destroyed after the run and it took me a good few days to get over the shock.  I guess it will takes months of work to get my body to function on something other that Mrs Tilly and Midget Gems.

Thankfully I had an even better marathon tempo run last Thursday and Sundays going-for-depletion 20-miler was  better (certainly not great!) than the week before. 

So, next weekend we're heading down for the Newcastle Town Moor Marathon - along with Mrs Tilly and Midget Gems!  With a very exposed course of 5 x 5+ mile laps (I know! I know! It's a form of self-harming!) it's not ideal, but the timing of the events and the logistics work.   I would have preferred to run the Liverpool Marathon with the gang of Garscube runners who ran last Sunday, but I'm glad of the extra two weeks.

Here's a little bit of harsh motivation for anyone who's struggling in a race.  This is fellow Garscube, Katie White WINNING her first ever marathon in 3:01 - after breaking her ankle at mile five. Respect!! Also huge congratulations to  Gail for a fabulous third place finish.  

Sunday 23 September 2012

IAU 24 hour world champs: The good, the bad and the ugly.

I'll spare you the lap-by-lap or hour-by-hour breakdown.  Not only because it will tips us both over, but mainly because all the miles and hours merge into one.  Especially now it's two weeks later and I've missed the window of opportunity to bore you to death with race details.

At the opening ceremony. Photo by Rory at ULTRARace
In summary, it started well, got better and then when rapidly downhill from about 21 hours.  I thought it would be good to summarise into good, bad and ugly categories.


Being selected to represent Great Britain was an honour and privilege.  It's been my main focus since the lovely Richard Brown planted the seed after the Commonwealth 24 hour.  I never really got to grips with running for Scotland, so joining the GB team hadn't even entered my crazy thoughts.

The kit bag.  Ah, the kit bag.  So wonderful that I had to take a snap of the goodies in all its glory.  It was like Christmas when it arrived.   

The matching accessories.  Of course all of that lovely - and free! - kit gave me a pass to spend my well-earned cash on other things.  So much so, that I thought I might need post race therapy for a spending addiction.  There were matching trainers, socks, arm sleeves, caps, buffs, base layers, hair accessories and even a shoulder bag. Not too mention brand new toiletries and first aid supplies.

Team spirit.  The troops may dispute this, but we gelled so well as a team.  Task in hand aside, it was just a bloody weekend.  Lots of laughs - and tears! - and amazing support.

Pre-race status:  I had worked hard this year. Punching above my weight with the boys with the jet propelled legs at lunchtime sessions.  I've done a lot of speed work and and lot more long runs.  Going into the race, I was definitely the fittest and strongest I've ever been.  Now, of course, I'm back to square one.  Funny how we train for months and months, just to go out and destroy ourselves.

The weather was perfect.  I started my usual panic watching about a month before the race.  That's quite fanatical, even for me. The Polish weather is quite erratic. Jumping from 18 degrees one day to 30 the next.  Thankfully, someone was looking after usand race day was the optimum temperature of around 16 degrees.  Perfect vest wearing conditions.  Even the night temperature was comfortable.   Although I didn't get to try any of my matching accessories.  Hey ho, my post trip washing has never been so light, as I wore one race set and same track suit for four days! 

I really liked the course.  I know it was only my second 24-hour race, so I've not got much to compare it too.   I know quite a few athletes has issues with it.  I'm sure I could come up with a few, but the pros outweigh the cons.

Prizes:  I was the second counter in the ladies' team which took world bronze and European silver

I set three new Scottish Records. 100 miles (15:48) 200km (20:51) - I broke my own record by an hour and a half  - and the 24 hour record 135 miles/217kms.

Photo by Rory at ULTRARace
World-class:  It was simply amazing running in the same the circles (quite literally) as some of the best 24 hour runners.  Mike Morton was truly magnificent.  Our very own Emily Gelder (who won the ladies bronze) was outstanding.  As she lapped me again and again she was very chipper and supportive.  She did tell me she was "getting in the miles early" and she slows towards the end.  I never at any point saw any sign of slowing. 

Team tips:  I'm a bit wet behind the ears when it comes to 24 hour running - having only done one before - so it was great to get some valuable advice from some of the pros.  Emily gave me some sound race nutritional advice, which I'm keen to try out.  And JP gave me some footcare and muscle strengthening tips.

Sonic's support station was outstanding as always.  Apparently the team managers were delighted he was part of the crew as no one else could understand what the Gibbering Midget and I were saying!   Also big thanks to Sir Richard, Adrian, Eleanor and Guy.


I live in a street full of curtain twitchers (yes, that's you Gary).  Take the wheely bin in a pyjamas and everyone sees you.  Leave the house in GB tracksuit and there's not a soul in sight! :-) Although arriving at Edinburgh Airport in fancy dress certainly attracted a lot of attention.  When the GM nipped off to the ladies for a pre-flight "make sure" a nice lady in the queue behind me squealed "oooh are you back already?".  As I was explaining we were off to Poland for a race, it suddenly dawned on me that she thought we were coming back from the Paralympics!!  And that's how you deflate one's ego.   Lord knows what she would have made of it if she saw us on the return journey.

As I said, I liked the course, but the downside was the lighting.  The park lamps didn't provide sufficient lighting.  Especially for tired runners on uneven and cobbled surface.  There was a dip at the far end of the course, that I managed to overstep quite a few times. 

My quads ached from about 16 hours and left knee went a few hours later, forcing me to walk for the last three hours.  I need to work on getting past 21 hours without something falling apart. 

Even by standards, my eating was atrocious. After the first 7/8 hours, I couldn't stomach anything. Although I have learned that soya chocolate milk is a great choice.

We lost out of the World Silver and the European Gold by a mere 42 metres!!  What is 42 metres between three runners, over 24 hours and hundred of kilometres?  The difference between gold and silver, that's what.  To be fair, the French team worked really hard in the last hour to get it.  And I blame myself for letting them take it. 
I need to work on my 24 hour mindset and my self-imposed limitations.  I am just so used to running for a set distance, rather than a set time.  This time I was going for 140 miles, but would have been happy with anything above 132.  Once I knew I was going to break the Scottish record - with lots of time to spare - did I allow myself to take the foot off the gas? At the time, I know I worked as hard as could.   But now, I can't help but thinking I should have push myself harder.   I suppose hindsight is not always a wonderful thing.


My feet were a riot. Not surprising though, as - if anything - my feet were always going to let me down. I'd thought ahead though as bought a pair of trainers which were 2.5 sizes too big (great idea) and some bunion plasters for my usual hot spots (even better idea). In the latter stages of the race - after my knee - had gone I felt a stone in my shoe. I couldn't work out how a stone had got into my shoe, but stopped to take it out. Only to discover the stone in my shoe was in fact my big toe nail. As it was still attached to a bit of skin  my only option was to tape it back for the duration of the race. My lord it was agony though. And then an hour later the same thing happened with my other big toe nail.

The portoloos on the course were pretty rank.  Event portoloos are frightening at the best of times - I much prefer to go al fresco - but add in 250 athletes who will no doubt have some stomach issues at some point in the race, and you can just imagine.  During the hours of blackness, they were pitch black inside.  An athlete who had a problem with their aim in the dark had crapped on the shelf next to the towel bowl.  Of course on my next visit I used the shelf to help lower myself onto the seat and put my hand in human excrement!! Not my own I should add. That was my lowest ebb.  Seriously, I couldn't think of anything worse.  Apart from actually sh*tting myself that is.  Every time I think of it, it sends shivers down my body!

There was high drama after the event, when the awards' presentation was moved and dragged on for hours.  I won't go into details, because I'm sure the organisers have had their fair share of grief.  They did try their best to calm the situation by feeding us dinner, but I couldn't eat because the roof of mouth hurt so much, the GM was vomiting and the rest of the crew fell asleep at the table.  Anyway it was nearly 7pm (the race finished at noon!) before we got back to the hotel.

I had a quick shower then fell asleep mid text sending.  I woke up a few hours later bursting for the loo.  It probably took me the best part of 15 minutes to get to the toilet, but I couldn't bend my knees or hamstrings, so ending up peeing down the back of my pyjamas.

And that, folks, is why ultramarathon running is not an Olympic sport. 
Can you imagine Wills and Kate cheering on Team GB at that?

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Monday 27 August 2012

Entry list for the IAU 24H World and European Championships

Entry list has been posted on the IAU website.  269 athletes from 35 countries.

Click here for entry list.

Thursday 23 August 2012

The (running) Tour of Arran

OK, I lied.  I said I wasn't going to do anymore long training runs, didn't I?  Well, an opportunity came up that I couldn't resist.  In fact, it was to be my longest training ever.  For years, I've wanted to run the 56 mile circular route around the Isle of Arran.  And after the Gibbering Midget's episode at the ACP, I had a willing accomplish.  It was to be more of a personal achievement, rather than a training run.

We took the 7am ferry from Ardrossan and arrived in Arran at 8am.  We packed some clothes in a dry sack and hide it in some bushes (hoping they would still be there on the return) and off we went.

We decided to go clockwise, because for some reason that seemed logical.  The first 20 miles were mostly up hill in the pouring rain.  The roads had turned into rivers, which gave us more of indication of the gradient we were covering.  Like the gasping wasn't enough!

Then the mist came in and we couldn't see further than our feet.  Running on country roads, we had a few hairy moments with on coming vehicles.  Thankfully it was fairly warm and by late morning it started to clear up.  Then the sun came out and we were overheating...and wished the rain would start again! Typical, eh.

The views were absolutely phenomenal.  And the hills were so cheeky they were downright offensive :-) 
Quick look on Garmin Connect prior to day out  - obviously from those who had cycled, not run the route - and the recorded profile was about 1000m up and 1000m down. I kid you not, I barely remember any downhill bits.  Apart from the steep downhill passed Lochranza at about 44 miles, but by that point our quads, feet and toes were so trashed, there were no benefits to be reaped.  

Arran is often referred to as "Scotland in miniature", which I can concur.   Rain, rolling hills,  irate drivers, lush mountains, glorious coastline, cheery farmers, midge bites, an unhealthy supply of Mrs Tilly fudge and midget gems, burned shoulders...finished off with a pint of Tennents Extra Cold.  You don't get more Scottish than that.

Being the height of tourist season on the island, it was quite comical seeing the same people throughout the day. There were quite a few double takes at the main tourist villages as we passed through. People were obviously driving around the island and passing us en route. Again and again. We were certainly the village idiots for the day.

A fabulous day out.  Possibly about five miles too long though. Never before I have actually had a "finishing line" in view and had to take a gel to get me there.  I thought I was going to keel over on the road. Although when we discovered we were going to tip under the nine hour mark, we were doing 7m/m for the final mile along the promenade.   Or maybe that was just a will to get it over with.
Garmin connect info. 55.55 miles. Average 9:42 m/m (including walking/eating breaks)

This picture was supposed to be of us in front of the ferry, but the kind lady who took it had obviously spent the afternoon in a beer garden.  I gave up the idea after having to explain a few times not to put her finger over the lens :-)

So, that's it. Another big tick. I just need to convince the GM to go for the anti-clockwise tour next summer.

Friday 10 August 2012

Lucky Devil

I was a bit on the fence as to whether the 43 mile Devil o' the Highlands race was a good or bad idea with the 24 hour race being only five weeks away, but I just love the race.  It was my first ultra and will always be my favourite.  It's by covers the best sections of the West Highland Way and has to be 43 of the most beautiful miles in the world.

Race summary: 43 miles from Tyndrum to Fort William. 6 hours and 54 minutes.  First lady.  9th overall (137 starters).  Garmin Connect info here  Back up by the super-slick Sonic.

Start of the Devil o' the Highlands 43 mile Footrace.  Saturday, August 4 at 6am in Tyndrum

Bridge of Orchy 6.6 miles

This year's race was pretty hot and humid. My weather app flashing up "feels like 25 degrees" and "97% humidity". You might know that I'm a bit of a jessie in anything above 14 degrees, so it wasn't ideal.
Still, the views were absolutely spectacular.

Picture by Helen Munro
The flip side to that were the midges. The worst I have ever known. Around Victoria Bridge was like a thick fog of the pesky feckers. They were in my ears, mouth, ears and glued to skin. Still, the runners certainly had the easier option.  Support looked like a fate worse than death.

I'll spare you mile-by-mile breakdown, but they just zipped by, which I think is always a good sign of running well.  I worked with the hills - just slowly chipping away - and the only real walking breaks I had were the three main peaks - Bridge of Orchy, Devil's Staircase and out of Kinlochleven,

Glencoe Ski Centre - photo by Duncan
It started to heat up as early as 7am, but it didn't really effect me until around Kingshouse.  Then it hit me like a tonne of bricks.  Thankfully Sonic had made an (unscheduled) stop on the Devils and was on hand with the "gay pink water bottle"

I soaked my arms and face in every stream I found and took comfort in the fact I was passing runners who looked as equally hot as me.  I know I have a tendency to overreact a bit, so I needed the reassurance it wasn't just me!

I felt like I was dragging a bit from the Devils staircase ascent to a few miles over the Larig Mor.  I was still on target for a PB, but slowing over 10 miles was eating into that target.

Last year I had Helen Lees at my side on Lairig Mor, which really pushed me.  People were telling me I had a good lead, so I suppose I didn't have the same drive. 

A few miles across Lairig Mor a little breeze picked up - which, in turn, really picked me up and I started making up for lost time. 

Leaving Lundarva
 Of course no race would complete without a mishap.  I tripped and skint both knees and hands and managed to hit my arm off a rock.  The bruising is quite spectacular - even by my standard of mishaps. To be honest - at the time - it looked worse than it felt.  Or maybe experience has made me immune to tumbles.

Passing through Lundarva (35 miles) I felt good.  Still a bit toasty, but nothing like a felt a few miles earlier.  I ran straight through, as I was meeting Sonic on the hill for my last section supplies.
Sonic was at the top gate taking pictures - hence why I was running up the hill :-) From behind the zoom lens I heard Sonic shouting "What the f*%k have you done this time" as he caught sight of my bloody knees.  I told him to ignore them, as I wasn't assessing the damage until the end.   We both knew I was behind schedule, but I knew if I maintained the same effort I'd be ok for a PB. 

It was a strange race experience 1) I loved every minute of it, even the nasty bits, but usually by about 3/4 of the way in to a race - regardless of the distance - I start willing it to be over.  On Saturday, I was just really happy to be where I was - even in the final few miles.  I think not being on a canal helped.  2) I barely spoke to anyone. Usually you can get a good chat going on a ultra, but just a few niceties when I passed other runners.  Probably just as well, as I pretty much lost my voice by Victoria Bridge.  I don't know whether it was the humidity or coughing up midges, but that's never happened to me before 3) The strangest thing though - excuse this - but I didn't pee until I was 30+ miles down.  Anyone who has ever trained with me knows I've not go the strongest of bladders and I can barely last a few miles. 
Anyway, I finished first lady in 6:54:06 in a new PB - of just under three minutes.  To be honest, I was hoping for nearer 6:40, but a PB's a PB. And I'm delighted to have won. 
Bridesmaid no more!!
This was my 5th DOTH race finish. Previous race reports 2007:  3rd lady in 8:48  2009:  2nd lady in 7:08
 2010:  3rd lady in 7:23 2011:  2nd lady in 6:56
I was even more delighted for the Crazy German who won his first race in an amazing time of 5:36!  The CG is testament to the fact that determination conquers adversity.  Although - on paper - the odds were in his favour, he'd just thrashed a 100K two weeks prior to the race.  But the CG really wanted the win, more than anyone out there.  As my wee Granny would say, "where there a will, there's a way"... and where there's a German, there will always be craziness.

After the race, it was nice to lie about and enjoy the sunshine and congratulate the runners coming through.  When I finished I was sparked out on the grass when a Japanese tourist casually skulked over took a picture of a me and strolled away again.  Bizarre!
1st Male: Thomas Loehndorf: 5hrs 36 mins 17 secs 2nd Male: Casey Morgan : 5hrs 55 mins 47 sec 
3rd Male: Craig Cunningham : 6hrs 21 mins 27 secs
1st Male Vet: Robert Soutar : 6hrs 21mins 28secs
1st Male Super Vet: Graham Harcus: 7hrs 09 mins 47 secs

1st Female Debbie Martin-Consani: 6hrs 54mins 06secs
2nd Female Hazel Dean: 7hrs 23mins 45secs
3rd Female Michelle Heatherington : 7hrs 23 mins 54 secs
1st Female Vet Melanie Sinclair : 7hrs 57 mins 34 secs
1st Female Super Vet: Louise Burt: 7hrs 25 mins 59 secs

The gals: L to R - Hazel, me and Michelle

Thanks for Garry, Gemma and marshalls for putting on another great race.  Big thanks to Sonic for fantastic back up.  Although, just for the record, it wasn't me who left the top off the fizzy water... :-)

Friday 3 August 2012

A 5K best and a GB vest

It's been a long time coming...but I can FINALLY announce that I have been selected to represent Great Britain and Norther Ireland at the 9th IAU 24hr World Championship in Katowice, Poland on September 8-9, 2012.   To say I'm excited is an understatement.  Who wouldn't be?  I mean, have you seen the GB tracksuit ;-) Of course it's a great honour and a privilidge too!

Click here UK Athletics announcement here

General information about the race course


The race starts at noon on Saturday, September 8. No prizes for guessing when it finishes!
The course situated in Park Śląski in Chorzów (there will be prizes for pronouncing that correctly!) which is close to Katowice city centre.
The distance of the loops is 1.554,56m. Approximately ;-)
Elevation profile is + 6.4 meters and - 6.4 meters

Squad in full:



I feel I have put enough miles in my legs this year and doing much more at this stage would tip me over to the darkside of overtrained.  I don't plan on grinding out anymore more long/slow runs, so I'm just concentrating on fitness and speed.

I've been working fairly hard this year on speed.  Still at the cow's tail of the boys-with-the-jet-propelled legs at the lunchtime group, but it's taking them that little bit longer before they're completely out of sight. 

Before the trip to Poland takes the zip out of my legs, I thought I'd squeeze in a 5K Parkrun. I like the Parkrun in Strathclyde Park, because it's flat and got great PB potential - Although it's quite exposed to wind.  I had a good run a finished with a new PB  in 20:42 (ave 6:36m/m) and second female.

This Saturday, I'll be lining up for my 5th Devil o' the Highlands race.  I only secured a place two days ago, after being on the waiting list for a couple of months.  I thought I was going to have to go out and shoot myself a German!  Yes, the man who wonders why his name is prefixed with "crazy" is also running.

I've taking the day off work today to prepare for the race - facial, hair treatment, fake tan, defluffing :-)  I'm sure even Lizzy Hawker takes her racing so seriously.  I have, however, put lock laces in my Tempos for the final section.  To me, that's fighting talk!  Good luck to everyone running.

I would also like to congratulate everyone who ran in MONTANE Lakeland 100 and Lakeland 50.  Well done to Terry Conway who smashed his own record in 19:50 - over two hours ahead of second place.  Terry pulled out of last weekend 100K.  As I always say, everything happens for a reason.  I guess Terry will know the reason now.  Also huge congratulations to Scott Bradley, Dave TromanJK and Andy Cole.

Tuesday 31 July 2012

Anglo Celtic Plate 2012: A sunbathers' perspective

As per my previous posting, I bowed out of participating in the Anglo Celtic Plate 100K...which turned our to wisest decision I've ever made.  The weather forecast predicted a warm day for the race, but the forecast fell short by quite a few degrees.  I would have been burst. 

Plus, I could put my non-participation to good use by providing long overdue support for Sonic.  He had worked really hard - following months of injury - to secure a place on the Scotland team.  I've said it before, but Sonic is really slick on support, so his long-term injury came in quite handy for me last year ;-)  Actually, he only thought he was injured.  I just gave him a swift kick to the achilles every night, to keep him on back up :-) Kidding, obviously.  Anyway, he'd set the support standard and after last month's epic adventure he'd already raised the bar.

We flew down to Cardiff on Thursday, along with the Crazy Germans, the Gibbering Midget and Matt Williamson (the runner, not the designer).  We booked a seven-seater - dubbed the happy bus - for the weekend.  It was just that, seven seats.  No luggage space.  For runners who make Coleen Rooney look like a light packer  - The CG even had a whisk for heavens sake - this was the catalyst of the comical weekend.  Unsquashed running legs and drivering visibility are overrated anyway.

Friday evening was spent doing the Tesco dash and on Saturday morning we went down to have a look at the course.  The boys went for a run and the girls opted for the happy bus tour.  I wasn't long before the boys passed us though, as we were stuck behind a herd of cows sh*tting all over the road - with the GM dry boaking in the passenger seat. 

After depositing the divas back at the hotel, Mrs Crazy German and I went out for a leisurely 18-miler.  We did an out and back on a lovely coastal path and then a random out and back on the circuit of the race course. It was most enjoyable, although we did feel guilty moaning about the heat...considering the pending drama.  I did get to try out my new UltrAspire TWITCH Bottle Waist Pack - awesome! - but I'll save that for another post.

On return to the hotel we discovered that the maid had tidied the Crazy Germans' room and had cleared out all the empty water bottles he had packed and carried from home. So Mrs Crazy German and I went on another Tesco dash to purchase bottles that met CGs very specific requirements. 

Race morning arrived - along with blue skies and blinding sunshine.  After we set up the Scotland camp, the runners were called to the start...and so it began.  32 laps of a two mile country road loop.

There were a total of 33 starters, including 23 internationals - with teams from England, Scotland, Wales and one from Ireland.

The first few laps were pretty easy, so we checked supplies and sorted buckets and sponges (which was the best idea ever!) and chatted with other teams.  We ended up adopting the Irish team, which consisted of one sole runner, Keith Whyte and one super-support, John Collins.

Although the forecast was for 21 degrees, I think it was closer to 26/27 in the sun - and there was no shelter/shade.  By mid-morning I expected the feed stations  to look like scene from Dawn of the Dead, but the runners really held it together.  There were, obviously, a lot of issues from overheating, salt loss and cramping, but there wasn't a single tantrum.  Although I have learnt that the CG can only speak German in races, so maybe there were a few cross words.  For a while, Irish John actually thought they were speaking Gaelic!

From the outset, there was a battle between between Keith Whyte (Ireland) and Allen Smalls (England), which lasted the duration. In the gals race, Emily Gelder, winner of the last two ACP events started like meant business and by half-way had a clear lead and was on target for 7.5 hours.  Second and third position was anyone's for the taking.

The Crazy German led team Scotland from the start, followed by Sonic, Matt and Gareth. And that was the order for the entire race.  There was a bit more leap-frogging in the girls team. 

The Gibbering Midget was struggling to get into it from the first few laps.  She tried to quit on three occasions, but we managed to patch her up and send her out again, before she finally called time at 40 miles.  More deflated, than broken.  My sparkling motivation chat had run it's course, without even so much as a spat from the GM.  Although she did call me "Deborah" more times than I've even been called my Sunday name in my life.   I guess that's when I knew her word was final.

Click here for race pictures

Later it became apparent that Izzy Knox - with boyfriend Stevie on support -  was going to be first Scottish gal.  The Izzy and Stevie show was worth the visit to Wales alone!  There's certainly no messing about with Stevie.  A policeman by day, he'd set up his support station like a F1 pit stop and was barking orders/demands - Move in to me. Hat off. Drink this. Eat that. Slow down.  - as Izzy approached. Izzy followed these orders quite willingly, although with a fair amount of back-chat. It was fantastic viewing.  Kind of like the ultra-running equivalent of Super Nanny tricks for taming wild children.  I felt a bit of an amateur in comparison, with my camera and £2 Tesco folding crate of supplies.

Although each of the nine runners had their designated support, it was pretty much all hands of deck.  Every time a runner came through there was a swarm of attendants trying in vain to ease the discomfort and cool their frazzled heads.  Water was becoming sparse - and disgustingly warm - and we were just grabbing what we could.  Bottles were cooling in buckets alongside sponges that had be used to wash down half the field! At the time, we adopted was what-they-don't-know-won't-hurt-them approach.  Dishing out supplies, hugs and high fives and wiping away sweat, tears and snotters, I probably had more DNA on me than an ten dollar whore!  It's not a sport for the precious. 

Adrian Stott was the Scotland Team Manager and he just oozes experience as he jots down lap times and stats and analyses splits, pace and positions. I don't really do numbers, so even counting laps was taxing my brain. Adrian has even advanced his technological skills and was updating the virtual crowds on Twitter. Although his tweet to the masses stating that Sharon was "looking hot" evoked a few sniggers.

All our runners looked fantastic and they all dealt with the race in their own way.  Both Sonic and Matt were very relaxed and barely said a word. The CG flew past shouting in German (wearing a Scotland vest), Izzy was a bit more vocal and came out with some really random (but hilarious) stuff.  I forgot to ask her why she wanted to know how far away Essex was anyway.  Gail was always very smiley, Sandra is a wee tough cookie and lost so much salt her black tights became white.  I'm not sure she will forgive for putting a wet hotel flannel on her head and sending her out again..

...and Gail's glory lap
Gareth, celebrating Sonic's glory lap
Gareth has had a fantastic year since he shook up the sharp end at the D33 in March. Well, he took out Grant Jeans.  He's been a littel demon, but you can only get away with so much and he started to flag as the race went on.  Fair play to him, because he really knuckled down to just grinding it out.  His hamstring was playing up and he starting stopping for a  bit longer every time he came round.  At one point he sat and drank a full cup of coffee, lapping up the rays for the what seemed like an hour.   I honestly thought he was done, but we all did a double take when he put down his empty mug and casually got up and started running again.  He did a couple of laps with Sonic - including the glory lap - and then did a few laps with Gail - including her glory lap - and then just jogged around and finished his own race.  Considerably slower than expected, but what a trooper.  He genuinely just looked happy to be there.  Although we kept sponging him down to cool him...until he told Sonic on his final lap "you run it first and keep them away from me with those bloody sponges"  Apparently he loves the heat and we were ruining the experience for him.  He was just too nice to say! 

Huge congratulations (and respect!) to 26 runners who completed, let alone achieved a little bit of greatness. Especially to those in the open race. Why anyone would "volunteer" for that is beyond me.   The conditions were really tough - especially for my fair-skinned Celtic compatriots who were frying.  Some of the English team seemed to be getting more bronzed with every lap.  Except for Marcus Scotney who is really a Scot in an English vest :-) Keith Whyte should have one a special award just for his sunburn.  The arm sleeves he wore - to keep him cool - throughout the race left their mark.  He was burned in a reverse t-shirt style. Only an Irish man could go home with an inside out tan :-)

Very well done to Sonic on both his Scotland team and 100K debut.  7:51 is a fantastic time.  Not quite sure it's worthy of the 3D TV he treated himself to though... 

Mick McGeoch wrote a fantastic race report, which can be viewed HERE. Scroll to the bottom of the page.

Keith Whyte - UltraRunning Ireland; Ireland 7:16:42
Allen Smalls - Colchester; England 7:25.04
Craig Holgate - Ely Runners; England 7:26.12
Thomas Loehndorf - Greenock Glenpark; Scotland 7:28.32
Marcus Scotney - Road Runners Club; England 7:40.27
Marco Consani - Garscube; Scotland 7:51.28
Matthew Williamson - Bellahouston; Scotland 7:55.54
Emily Gelder - Dulwich Runners; Wales 8:05.07
Paul Fernandez - Abingdon Amblers; England 8:15.19
Isobel Wykes - Truro RC; England 8:45.09
Jason Scanlon - Pontypridd; Wales 8:50.22
Jen Salter  - Les Croupiers; Wales 8:56:05
Isobel Knox  -Hunters Bog Trotters; Scotland 9:13:12
Sean McCormack - Abergele; Wales 9:18:19
Gail Murdoch - Carnegie; Scotland 9:25:57
Scottish 100K champs. R-L, CG 1st Sonic 2nd and Matt 3rd
Karen Hathaway - Road Runners; England 9:33:13
Ian Coldicott - Skipton AC 9:39:20
Gareth Mayze - Tenotdale; Scotland 9:39:34
Helen James - Barrow Runners 9:47:46
Sandra Bowers  -Winchester; Scotland 9:48:58
Jeremy Mower - Gloucester ; Wales 10:09:06
Karen Galpin - Almost Athletes; England 10:16:35
Heather Foundling-Hawker  - Road Runners; England 10:51:29
David King  -South West Vets 11:00:08
Francois-Xavier Faure - France 11:31:20
Stuart Wilkie - Hogweed Trotters 11:40:48

Male International Teams
England Smalls 7:25:04; Holgate 7:26:12; Scotney 7:40:27 22:31:43
Scotland Loehndorf 7:28:32; Consani 7:51:28; Williamson 7:55:54 23:15:54
Wales Scanlon 8:50:22; McCormack 9:18:19; Mower 10:09:06 28:17:47

Ladies International Teams
Wales Gelder 8:05:07; Salter 8:56:05 17:01:12
England Wykes 8:45:09; Hathaway 9:33:13 18:18:22
Scotland Knox 9:13:12; Murdoch 9:25:57 18:39:09

Race Stats: 33 starters, 26 finishers