Wednesday 29 February 2012

From pot-hunting to potholing

On Friday I took the day off work - yes, I'm slowly using up my annual leave quota on training - to run along the Glasgow-Edinburgh Ultramarathon route with the Gibbering Midget. A day off work has to warrant something substantial, so we decided on Kirkintilloch to Edinburgh, which we calculated (in that I mean, we guessed) would be in the region of 47 miles. Give or take a mile or so.

You know I love a good recce, so it was nice to cover the course and iron out any navigational issues and meet the nasty bits in person. The change from the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal in Falkrik is pretty straight forward, so that's sorted. The "horror hill" shortly after, is in fact a slope which goes along a little bit longer than you'd like, but nothing to get anxious about. Then there's two tunnels. Granted, I wasn't aware there were two. First one. No problem. Enough to knock your Garmin signal, but not enough to justify a headtorch. The second one: FFS! It's not a tunnel, it's a 600m long CAVE!!

Personally, I don't think anyone should be underground ever. Well, except when you're dead. Even at that, I've told my family I will come back and haunt them if they put me in the ground. But I digress. Speluncaphobia is the fear of caving. I'm not sure how to pronounce it, but I'm pretty sure I have it. Call is caving, potholing or spelunking (as it's called stateside), it scares the living daylights out of me. Even watching someone on TV crawling through tunnel, in the name of extreme sports, makes me want to vomit.

Apparently it's called the Hallglen tunnel, but known locally as the "dark tunnel". The rat's playground (that's just an assumption) is darker than dark, with a slippy cobble stoned narrow path. And the echos and sound of dripping water, weren't exactly comforting. You would have thought I would have sprinted through, but I was resigned to a pathetic jogging shuffle, while I whimpered and clutched onto the handrail. I wasn't sure whether it was getting darker or I was passing out. The GM skipped on, totally unfazed. Although on the previous run we had to do a two-mile detour as her fear of heights wouldn't allow her to climb an out-of-use bridge, so we are now quits. Although I think I take the drama queen prize.

Other than that, it's a lovely route. Way nicer than I expected it to be. More trails than tarmac. It was a gorgeous, fresh day, which always helps. Although when we stopped to replenish supplies half-way at Linlithgow we chilled down really quickly.

The closer we got to Edinburgh, the less responsive the walkers/cyclists were. What is it with east coasters? The GM used this as an excuse to greet everyone super enthusiastically - in the style of the Mad Hatter. Hey, it passed the miles. Although one poor girl, in sunglasses that enveloped her face, thought she was about to be mugged.

At approximate 47 miles (plus a mile or so, as I forgot to start my watch again at Linlithgow) we reached the end of the canal Edinburgh. The finish of the race. Feeling pretty good, we managed to muster up the energy to run another mile or two to the Haymarket Bar for a well-deserved refreshment before getting the train back to Glasgow.

All in all a great day out, with an average pace of 8:49m/m. A logistical dream too: Get up, go for a run and get the train back. Simples. Although after nearly 50 miles of running and pint of beer, we giggled and gibbered the whole journey home - much to the delight of the rush hour commuters. Personally I think the GM's anouncement that she was going to have twins and call them Eccle and Fechan was HILARIOUS :-)

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Pot-hunting? Never even crossed my mind

After a few weeks of hard training, I had scheduled in a lower-mileage weekend. Sonic was running the Scottish National Cross Country Championships on Saturday afternoon in Falkirk, so I had the morning slot. I had been meaning to try out the Parkrun in Strathclyde Park since it started, but didn't want to "waste" a whole day just running 5K.

The timing fitted perfectly and I wanted to use a shorter distance race to gauge where my fitness is at. I have been really disciplined (and most chuffed with the results!) with my speed sessions this year. I've been training alongside the boys with the jet-propelled legs at lunchtimes. I've been following Mark Johnston's training schedule (loosely) for over a year, but generally did the sessions by myself. My New Year's resolution was to stop wimping out. Granted, those jet-propelled legs are dots in the horizon shortly after kick-off, but I can hang on to the stragglers.

By mid-week the forecast predicted snow and 50mph winds, so I started to back track on my 5K race decision. After a visit to Sweatshop for new road shoes, the lovely Gavin managed to find a pair of last season's super-zippy Adidas Tempos for much cheapness. So I saw that as a sign.

At the start line, I knew it wasn't competitive race when I was the most naked runner there. During the winter months I expose very little flesh in my Burka-style ensembles, but this time I was bravely sporting a vest and capri tights. Despite the freezing conditions I was still expecting a gal, who weighs less than my three-year-old son, to appear beside me in nothing more than a bikini. But, no, the whippets were all limbering up for the Nationals. Result.

I can't really say much about the race. Given the short distance, 5Ks are pretty uneventful. In short, it was great. I loved it. I finished in 21.25 (average pace 6:53m/m) and the best bit was I was first lady! I was certainly as pleased as punch. I put it down to bikini-clad being Falkirk bound, but hey ho. A win is a win :-) First and foremost, I was really pleased to get a PB.

Here's a little video by the mad Andrew Scott. Something tells me he wasn't taking the race as serious as I was.

Just for the sake of balance, I did a steady 20-miler on Sunday.

Friday 17 February 2012

Hoka: Don't knock them 'til you've tried them.

That should be their marketing strapline. The first time I saw someone wearing a pair of Hoka was in the Alps and I nearly died laughing. His shoes were the size of newborn babies. So radically different and in such garish colours, he didn't exactly blend in. Since then I've heard them referred to ridiculous/daft, along with the words never and ever. I'll have to admit, it took me a long time to get over the hilarity of them. Even when Richie rolled up to the 24-hour race a few months agao, there was wave of pointing and giggling from the Scotland camp.

Anyway, you know I'm a complete sucker and it would only be a matter of time until I succumb to something new. Although I bought the Bondi B, which I consider to be a much more "toned down" version of their original shoe. Less like the Tweenies and more like a road shoe.

Sonic took great pleasure in mocking my latest random purchase. Although I think he finds it moderately less embarrassing than my winter running gear and ear muff combo. Personally I find that serves dual purpose. They keep my ears warm on frosty days AND they mortify my husband. Double bonus.

Here's something to illustrate the comparison...

...after seeing my Hoka, the Crazy German has made the leap. Wonder how long it will take Sonic to follow suit... :-)

With an RRP of £125, they're not exactly cheap - Although, let's be honest, you don't get much change from £100 for trainers these day - So, I'm saving them for times when I need something special. The thinking behind this purchase, would be to use them on the epic races like the 145m Grand Union Canal Race and for my next 24-hour (you knew I was going to succumb that that never-ever too!) race. Of course, I would need to try them out and break them in.

I have to admit I was slightly nervous about launching them on the streets of Glasgow. It's not a city for the faint-hearted, so my Tweenie shoes were in danger in attracting some unwanted attention. They were almost rendered nocturnal.

They do feel strange at first. Very bouncy. I was more conscious of every step, which I put down to being a little bit taller. They're so light. So light, that when the box arrived, I thought it was empty. After a few tentative miles, I was loving them. Although I still think they will take a bit of getting used to.

My second run (last Sunday) was in daylight. A nice 10-miler around the west end. I was watching people eyes to see if they would dart to my shoes. Like the attraction of person with their zipper down. But nothing. I think I can away with these. Although I did have to adopt the dance-like-you-need-to-pee tactic at the traffic lights to ensure no one's eyes became fixated on my feet.

Let's just say so far, so good. I've been converted. I'm eating my words. Or choking on my chuckles.

Here's the science bit:

Rolling: Hoka OneOne running shoes utilise a unique rolling motion to deliver superior underfoot performance. The sole features a 50% rockering profile to provide a smooth, energy efficient stride transition from the heel strike through to the push off from the forefoot. It is this progressive motion that propels you forward with each and every strike of the foot.

Oversized: Hoka OneOne running shoes are the only shoes of their kind to make use of unique oversized technology. Using up to 2.5x the volume of EVA in the midsole compared to standard running shoes, they offer outstanding impact absorption and a highly comfortable underfoot feel. This oversized approach to design ensures a natural stride whether on smooth road surfaces or the most uneven trails.

Control: Hoka OneOne running shoes feature a unique patented bucket seat design. This is recessed between 20mm to 30mm into the midsole so that the heel is firmly supported allowing for precision striking and optimum stabilisation of the foot. The recessed nature of the bucket seat also ensures that there is still a superior level of responsiveness between the foot and the ground, despite the high level of cushioning.

Stability: Hoka OneOne shoes aren’t just oversized in terms of height and cushioning; they also utilise a 35% wider platform that is designed to enhance underfoot stability. This profile works to counteract the height ensuring that you are comfortable and confident with every strike. All of our uppers are engineered with flexible, reinforced sidewalls, precision fit and close lacing systems to enhance the feeling of stability and support.

Grip: All Hoka OneOne shoes are designed to synchronise with the terrain on which you are running. That is why they feature a wide variety of tactile lug constructions with a selection of depth profiles best suited to the terrain in question. The midsole is also designed with grip in mind allowing for the correct amount of deformation, so as to provide constant contact with the ground.

Lightweight: Hoka OneOne running shoes are engineered with weight in mind. All individual shoes are considered first class in their respective categories. Being so lightweight they help to alleviate fatigue over longer distances and are ideal for those who crave high-levels of performance without being weighed down.

I bought my Hoka Bondi B from Pete Bland Sports. They're on offer just now for £110, including delivery. I ordered them in my usual running shoe size, but had to exchange them for the half size up. That's a personal thing though, as I like room for expansion.

Anyway, Time to Fly. Yeah, they're best to stick with that strapline.

Friday 10 February 2012

Trip to the seaside

One of the best things about running is the view. And it doesn't necessarily need to be picturesque or scenic. Rural or urban, I just like looking at things. I've lost count of the amount of times I've stopped in my tracks to browse in a shop window or to check out the menu of a restaurant. Of course, when I'm out of town or off road I do love a "wow-wee moment" when you take in your surroundings.

But, my favourite is house spotting. I just love looking at houses. Not the modern ones, that are dated by the time the owners get the keys, but the ones with real character.

Last weekend, Sonic, Cairn and I went to Bournemouth to visit BrotherSonic and the gorgeous Gillian. That was like a wow-wee house spotting session. Lovely thatched roof cottages, Victorian townhouses and contemporary apartments. Unlike Glasgow, property is referred to as condos or villa. No maisonettes or end terraces for the affluent folks of Dorset :-) It was like house spotting heaven.

After taking Friday off work to do a 37-miler with the Gibbering Midget - to bring my mileage up to 120 over eight days - I was aiming to have a "normal person's" weekend. Sonic and BrotherSonic, on the other hand, were doing the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon on the Sunday.

The relaxing Saturday started with a visit to the shore. Their apartment looks over Boscombe Pier - so very handy for a seaside jaunt. Also very handy for quick retreat when Cairn was caught by a wave shortly after this picture was taken.

Then it was a vist to Farmer Palmer's Farmpark

So the kids could burn off some steam....

When we originally planned the trip, I was going to do the half-marathon, but I wimped out. To be honest, after being out on the course, I knew I'd the made the right decision. It was a little cheeky to say the least. Undulating doesn't even scratch the surface. The guys did really well though. Sonic finished 6th in a time of 1:18.38 (he may have mentioned a few times that he beat Jez Bragg's time from last year's race by a few seconds). BrotherSonic smashed his PB by over five minutes to finish in 1.26.58 - on a course which is certainly not a PB course.

On Sunday afternoon the urge to run on Sunday was too great. It's such a gorgeous place, it would be rude not too. On Sunday afternoon I did a leisurely 12-miler along Bournemouth promenade with a loop around Sandbanks. Jeezo that was extreme house spotting! It's the fourth most expensive place to live in the world, so you can just imagine. It was even worth the trip just to look in the estate agents' window. It's a good job it was closed, as I was practically drooling all down it. I've now got my eye on my dream home. A bargain a £7.7m. Think I might need to curtail my random purchases and shoe fetish for that.

Sandbanks is a peninsula which is only one square kilometre, so I think it would make the perfect 24-hour race route! Although I might have a bit of a creek in my neck with all the noseying I'd be doing.