Thursday 31 May 2012

Run, fun, sun...and what's to come.

When I first set up the countdown above above we were well into triple figures and it seemed like such a long way away.   I can hardly believe it's this weekend.  I think I'm ready for it.  Well, I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be.  I'm just looking forward to getting started now.  Before I drown in race admin...and spend anymore money.  With flights, hotels, car hire, airport parking, I'm sure we would have been cheaper with a week in the med.  And that's before I even bought a whole new outfit (obviously!) and the race supplies. 

I have a few minor worries.  One being navigation.  Or more so my lack of navigational skills.  I've poured over the maps and try to pin-point areas where I could wander, in the hope that Sonic can meet me and guide me through. And the lovely Drew Sheffield went out and videoed the whole 1.5 mile deviation at the 100K mark.

I'm not overly concerned about the distance.  That would be ridiculous, as the challenge is the reason why I signed up in the first place. To be honest, I'm not even sure what the distance is.  The race info states 145 miles, but that's only if I can learn to walk on water.  This Garmin info tallies it up to 149.4 miles. On the grand scale of things, four miles is a drop in the ocean.  Although, I guess on Sunday morning it will be more like a bullet in the kneecaps.

I'm confident that I've put in enough training.  But you never know if it's the right training until the day.  Or in this case, the next day.  The proof is in the pudding, after all. 

Since my last running post, I used the 10K race as the start of the hard week as the build up for the race. Lots of miles on tired legs.  Two weeks taper is not ideal for me, but in order to fit in my beloved Women's 10K it was just something I had to work with.

After doing back-to-back steady runs and speed sessions during the week, I did a 45 mile run with the GM.  An out and back on the Forth and Clyde canal.  The way out was straight into a head wind, so the return journey was much more enjoyable.  I did have a slight scare when my right knee just collapsed as we were nearing 40 miles.  It was a really weird sensation like my knee cap was cramping/spasming.  Bizarre.  But after a mile of walk/jog is was completely fine, although it did play on my mind a bit.

Then that evening we were off to Callander for the club training (er, eating and drinking with a bit running thrown in) weekend.  I managed to abstain the grape juice until I squeezed in another 20 miler the next morning - rounding up another 100+ mile week.  It such an amazing place to run.  Just a simply out and back from Callander to Aberfoyle, on a glorious fresh morning.

Then came the heat wave. 

I love the Scottish summer.  It's my favourite day of the year :-) 

Except this year, we were blessed with more than a whole week.  Although I may have whined a bit after my run and my face looked like a Ribena berry, it was good acclimatising for this weekend's race.  I had a mild fear about running in temperatures I hadn't had a chance to train in.  So last week involved plodding out lots of below par miles. 

On Sunday, we were through in our fair Capital city as Sonic and my Brother were running the Edinburgh Marathon.  Apparently, Sonic was going to "jog round in under three hours".  If you're like me and a sub:three is only a pipe dream, then you might think this sounds a bit w*nky.  Personally, I knew it was never going to happen.   Boys + race + competitive streak does not equal "jogging round".  And guess what, when he went flying past me at mile 10 I knew I was right.

He went on to finish in 22nd place in a super swift PB time of 2:44.   It was good day in the office for the other half of the Bromance, as the Crazy German finish in 2:42! 

My Brother (right) and his friend Alistair finished in 4:50 in not only their first marathon, but their first ever race - raising £2000 for the Children's Hospice Association of Scotland.  And they're still speaking to me, which is a bonus.  I was really impressed they were still running - and smiling - on the finishing straight.

Well done to everyone who ran to complete or PB.  It was a lovely day for the crowds, but not so great for running.    Although I'm sure the great medal made it all worth while.

Until you see the reverse...Oops! :-)

Anyway, I'm off to start on the packing.  I've got the outfit sorted, but I'm torn on the shoes.  I think I'll go for Hoka, but might be swayed to Brooks Adrenaline.  Then again, Sports Direct sent me a lovely new pair of Nike LunarSwift running shoes to try out. Some runners are chatting about trail shoes, so maybe my inov 8 Roclite. And one is contemplating racers, but even I draw the line at that.  Oh dear...what's a girl to do? Eh, pack them all of course.  What's a heavy suitcase to the athlete supreme who can jog out a 2:44 marathon ;-)

Cairn using his time constructively

Monday 28 May 2012

In the good books

Although I've probably read most of the top-rated running books, I think it's good to look outside the sport for tips on ways to develop and improve.  Here are four of my latest finds from three (wildly different) triathletes and one table tennis player. Yes, really, a table tennis player.

I would highly recommend the following - in no particular order - for different reasons:  Chris McCormack for determination and self belief, Chrissie Wellington  for unleashing her amazing talent, Bounce for proof that hard work wins hands-down every time and Dick Hoyt for inspiration, love and family.

I'm Here to Win by Chris "Macca" McCormack.  It's a big of a stretch to say I read this, as I actually listened to the audio version.  This is a fantastic read - eh, listen - as Macca's no bullsh*t approach to racing and his and the never-say-die dedication puts a little fire in your belly.  He beat the odds to win the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii for - twice! Macca's journey to athletic greatness is more than just one of physical perseverance.   He could have made a career out of rubbing people up the wrong way with his cockiness, but there's no shame in wanting to win.  He had dedicated his life to it after all. I flitted over his Ironman training plans suggestions, but his advice on nutrition, hydration and discipline are valuable to anyone participating in an endurance sport - at any level.

Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed.  Thanks to the lovely Tori (who I spent the first 10 miles of the G2E race chatting with) for this recommendation.   Bounce, written by a Commonwealth tennis table champion and Olympian, is a very interesting and thought-provoking read.  It basically argues that natural talent is of low importance, and that success can only be achieve though "purposeful practice" - actually 10,000 hours (approximately 10 years) of purposeful practice. The end result of this is practice is often mistaken for natural talent, when in fact the trait most high achievers have in common is a willingness to work harder than their peers and a belief that this hard work will drive greater improvement and success - not a belief in their fixed superiority.   This might sound dramatic, but this book has kind of lifted my self-imposed glass ceiling.  I'm the first to admit that I wasn't blessed with any natural flare or gift, but I work bloody hard.

"A cutting edge dissection – and ultimate destruction – of the myth of innate talent in the pursuit of excellence.  Read this book now – before it’s too late." Mark Thomas - Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at University College London.

A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington.  This is one of the very few books that I have pre-ordered on Amazon, and I started reading it as soon as it dropped though my letterbox.  In a nut shell, this about a girl-next-door from Norfolk who became the world champion in the fiercest of all sporting events.  In 2007, Chrissie shocked the triathlon world by winning the World Championship in Hawaii - as a rookie and completely unknown to the press.  This is a great read, even if you're not even into sports. It's generally just a good story of a journey that takes you around the world from her childhood in England, to to the mountains of Nepal, to the oceans of New Zealand, and the trails of Argentina.  Battling with anorexia, to training with a controversial coach and using sports as an opportunity to help improve people's lives - it's a must read.

If you ever need a kick up the ass, then Devoted by Dick Hoyt is the one for you.  This was another pre-ordered book, which I bought on a whim on Amazon Recommends.  It's the story of Team Hoyt and is nothing short of amazing.  I deft anyone to watch this video and not shed a tear. Not from sadness.  On the contrary, you will be moved by the pure joy. 

Rick, the eldest son of  Dick and Judy Hoyt, was born in 1962. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick's brain during his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy and his parents were advised to institutionalise him and "forget about him". But Rick's parents refused. Determined to give their son every opportunity that normal children had, they made sure to include Rick in everything they did, especially with their other two sons.  Although Rick couldn't walk or talk, he was quite astute and they fought to integrate Rick into the public school system, pushing administrators to see beyond Rick's physical limitations.

To help Rick communicate, in 1972, they worked with a group of engineers at Turfs University to built an interactive computer.  Rick could select letters by tapping his head against a piece attached to his wheelchair. In 1975, at the age of 13, Rick was finally admitted into public school. After high school, Rick attended Boston University and after nine years he graduated with a degree in Special Education in 1993.

In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralysed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. That night, Rick told his father: "Dad, when I'm running, it feels like I'm not handicapped."

This was just the beginning, as they have since competed in over 1,000 events  including 70+ marathons - (Their marathon PB is 2:40:47!), duathlons and triathlons (six of them being Ironman competitions). Also adding to their list of achievements, Dick and Rick biked and ran across the U.S. in 1992, completing a full 3,735 miles in 45 days.

In a triathlon, Dick will pull Rick in a boat with a bungee cord attached to a vest around his waist and to the front of the boat for the swimming stage. For the biking stage, Rick will ride a special two-seater bicycle, and then Dick will push Rick in his custom made running chair.
Affectionately known worldwide as Team Hoyt, they are as devoted as ever, continuing to inspire millions and embodying their trademark motto of Yes, you can.

Monday 14 May 2012

10 out of 10

Yesterday I toed the line for my annual 10K.  Yep, the last 10K I did was the same event last year.  And the year before that. And that. It's safe to say it's not my preferred distance.  But the Ignis Asset Management Women's 10K is by far my favourite race.  I love it.  Makes me proud to be a Weejie :-) And a burd.

 I know it would be easier doing a cut 'n' paste of the same race report each year, but I can't speak highly enough of this race.  It's magical.  And for once, Glasgow ladies are drinking in a different kind of spirit :-)  It's the catalyst for so many Scottish club runners, but attracts hoards of first-timers and charity runners.  Participants come in all ages and (quite literally) shapes and sizes.  Sonic hit the nail on the head when we arrived with "You know on paper, 10,000 women in lycra should be a dream come true.  It's just a shame it's in Glasgow"

This year was my 10th in a row. Considering my big race is just over two weeks away, the timing threw a big spanner in the training schedule, but I wouldn't miss it for the world. I'd crawl round on my hands and knees if I had to.

For once, I actually prepared for this and made the race a key event for 2012. Although I had to realistic about the respect I could dedicate to the distance, as there were quite a few 100+ mile week in the build-up. Although thanks to MJ the Messiah's lunchtime training sessions, I was confident a PB was on the cards.   Even the race conditions of  heavy rain and crazy-forced winds, didn't dampen my spirits.  There was a whole lot of fire in my belly.

The Garscube B team.  Jill, the GM, me and Maz

I managed to scrape in a PB - by 2.5 minutes! - to finish in 43.27 (ave 6.57m/m).   Overall position was 78th out of 8000+.  I not only made the first page of the Evening Times' results pullout, but I made the first column.  Woohoo.  OK, my name my be squeezed on the very last line, but it's still the same column as Freya Murray...who was first in a mere 10 minutes faster. 

Well done to everyone.  See you there next year. Same time, same place.  Although Sonic might send me some links for women-only races in Sweden, Holland, Brazil... :-)

Friday 11 May 2012

Podding whilst plodding

Running podcasts have come a long way since I first dabbled with the concept a few years ago. Initially I found them quite annoying, frustrating and even a little bit dull. I guess there's a lot more choice now - maybe it's the new blogging - and little more sophiscated than someone gasping down your ears and dishing out training advice.

I've always liked to listen to something when I out for a long run or recovery jog - usually music or the radio. I've even listened to a few books. Now I'm hooked on two podcasts series.

Firstly, the more general Talk Ultra, which is presented by Ian Corless and Ian Sharman and available free from iTunes every fortnight

It's really high-kicking stuff. The presenters themselves have a wicked collection of ultra-running accolades - the Sharman of the Ians ran 12:44 for a 100-miler. Which is rediculous! Coupled with conversations with the highest calibre of ultra-runners, it's pretty serious. If anything - and this is not a criticism - some of them are just too good to be entertaining. Factual and inspiring, yes, but sometime it's a little hard to relate to some sh*t-hot American talking about wheatgerm shots, organic puffs and mountains in their back garden when I chewing on Tesco Value Midget Gems (which incidentally, rock!) and dodging the junkies in Partick.

It is truly fantastic that they have - just for fun - pulled together amazing content and advice from the legends and elites, which you can enjoy at your leisure for free. Although so far I've found a few new additions to my bucket list.

Then on the same theme, but with slightly different feel, there's JK's West Highland Way Race Podcasts.  I like the light-hearted and homely contrast.  I'm definitely more of a spit 'n' sawdust pub, rather than a plush wine bar kinda gal. And when I buy newspapers at the weekend I buy the Daily Mail (her Majesty's finest - obviously!) and a rag for some dumming down.   Now, I'm not suggesting that JK's Podcasts are the audio equivalent to a red-top journalism.  On the contrary.  But I do think they'd get the people's choice award.  Mike Raffen summed it up the tone when asked in his interview about a running mantra he confessed to writing "Don't be a dick" on his hand. Can you imagine the sports' global superstars toeing a start line with that little inked reminder :-)  According to google translate, Kilian's mantra would be "No seas un pene"
It's simply runners of all abilities talking about their love (and fear!) of running and racing – regardless of how fast/slow/long they run.  It's not necessarily just for runners either.  It's for anyone who’s interested or involved in ultra-running – even from the sidelines.   And not just West Highland Way running either. OK, there’s a bias (the clue's in the name), but that’s becoming more slight as we move through the episodes. You don't even need to live anywhere near the West Highland Way or have any inclination to ever step foot on it.

There's lots of little gems of downright hilarity, along with lots of analytical wisdom and insights from those who have been there, done that and got the crystal goblet.  Granted, my opinion might be a little biased as I know most (actually, I think, all) of the runners/supporters/organisers featured.  Some bits are laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Often not the best when listening while running in public places.

Whether you need a big dollop of Fiona/Pauline spirit and enthusiasm, want to hear Sonic and the Crazy German splashing about in puddles, the domestic disturbance that is Lee and Dave (Lee is the domestic and Dave is disturbed) or advice from stalwart Duncan Watston on how to run 95 miles on a digestive biscuit and water from steams. Things are a bit more sophisticated since he set the ball in motion back in 1985, but to hear him utter "so, I gave up whisky" is worth it for the comedy value.

There are interviews with first-timers, multiple goblet holders, nutritional and medical advice, dealing with DOMS and injury, tips on gear and training, breaking through the pain barrier, coming out the other side, the magic of the course, back-up pointers and blogpost of the week.

From ultra-running's finest to ultra-running's funniest, both podcasts get a thumbs up from me.  Just be careful where you listen to them.  I was on a country road mindlessly absorbing the inspirational chat between Dr Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell when I pracitcally dived into a hedge.  Forgetting of course the interview was conducted in a moving vehicle - with passing traffic - and I wasn't actually in danger of being moved off the road.

The West Highland Way Race podcast MP3 versions are available here or you can download them from iTunes.

Episode 15 features yours truly. Although don't expect too much.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Double (tummy!) touble

At the peak of training, prior to taper, I like to get in a couple of days of intense training. Well, when I say intense, I mean jogging and eating sugary treats for a long time. But the kind of training that makes you welcome taper with open arms - and battered feet.

Usually my race plans coincide with the GM's and we've had some cracking back-to-back runs. This year, we seem to be going our separate (race) ways. We're on a break and seeing other people :-) Or not as the case may be, as I was on my tod for my double, as The GM prepared her race face for Saturday's Highland Fling.

Last week, I took Thursday and Friday off work. The plan for day one was to get the first train to Edinburgh and run back to Glasgow. 55 miles + plus a mile or so at either end. I'll spare you the graphics, but I'd had stomach problems for a few days. Great for racing weight, but not so great for epic training. I really shouldn't have done it, but I never have the "put off 'til tomorrow" option.

From the off, I was gradually draining what little reserves I had and after 34 miles I was ready for chucking in the towel. Of course I made this decision after I'd passed numerous train stations and was now stuck in no-mans-land. So I back-tracked for three miles to Falkirk train station. 37 miles in the bank, but still deflated and gutted. Although I allow a little leeway in training plans, I really beat myself if I feel I've somehow "quit". After holding down a sandwich on the train (and I little bit of chastising myself), I decided I was going run the five miles home from Glasgow city centre. Taking my daily total to 42. Why? Because I'm just bloody stupid that way.

Then there was Friday's planned 25-mile run. A roller coaster of nausea, bonking, dizziness and brief moments of feeling pretty damn good - considering. Miles 1-15 were uneventful, 15-20 were an absolute disgrace and then 20-25 were great. Go figure. It just shows you can push your body through tough times. The two days left me with a bit of a confidence crisis, but in hindsight running on empty, feeling nauseous, burst and vacant was probably the best possible training for the GUCR. I am forever harping on about simulating race conditions after all. On a positive note, I was running so conservatively (that's upbeat for slow) that my legs didn't feel any effects.

On Saturday, Sonic and I were on Crazy German duty at the Highland Fling. Actually Sonic was on back-up and Cairn and I just tagged along for the social.

His German-style race tantrums have been well-publicised by his long-suffering wife and back-up crew. Mrs Crazy German has even went to the extreme to avoid such tantrums by signing up to ultra-races herself. Although her participation in the this year's WHWR back-fired when the Crazy German decided to withdraw his application.
I was thoroughly disappointed that he was on his best behaviour. I even gave him a free card to have as many hissy fits as he wanted. After all, what goes on the course, stays on the course. But nada. He was courteous and polite, for the whole 2.7 seconds he was at each checkpoint. Just look at the picture. The cheer comes so naturally...

What an awesome race it was to be. Click here for full results. Huge congratulations to everyone involved, especially John Duncan the new race director.

The Crazy German finished 7th with a cracking PB (and no dramas!) in 8:02. The GM ran an absolute blinder and was third female in a razor sharp time of 8:38. Mrs JK ran her first ultra and was third FV50 - AND wrote her first blog post. Mrs Crazy German ran a superb race in preparation for a great WHWR.