Monday, December 31, 2007
1. West Highland Way race - to set a new PB, which means beating my 2007 time of 21 hours 11 minutes.
2. Marathon - to beat 3 hours 10 minutes. Last year's 2.59 was great, but it was probably a bit of a "one-off" (he says hoping that it wasn't a 'one-off'). I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself by setting a sub 3 hour target, so anything under 3.10 would be a good result.
3. Half marathon - to beat 1 hour 26 minutes. That will be tough, but should give me a focus in the early part of the year leading up to Inverness.
4. 10k - to beat 38 minutes. I didn't achieve this one in 2007, so it needs to be carried forward to 2008.
5. National XC - to finish in the top half - same reason as 4 above.
6. To run 2,000 miles. I accept that this target doesn't mean very much, but it helps me get my running shoes on when it's a cold and dark November evening. For that reason, it stays as a target.
10 other running related things I'd like to do in 2008 but which aren't formal targets:
1. To beat John K in every race we do.
2. To beat Kim T in every race we do.
3. To finish in the top 20 in the WHW race - haven't been outside it so far, but it's getting harder and harder as the field gets bigger.
4. To win the Strathearn Harriers club championship.
5. To run at least 5 marathons and ultras.
6. To run at least 25 races in total.
7. To run at least 5 'new' races, i.e. races I haven't done before.
8. To persuade enough Strathearn Harriers to enter a team for the Round Arran Relay in July (come on guys, great event, we could make a weekend of it - only needs me plus another 5 - can even be a mixed team).
9. To learn how to navigate properly, so I can do some of the fantastic hill races that are on the fixture list.
10. To try a few new malt whiskies (possibly not running related, but I was struggling for a 10th...)
Friday, December 28, 2007
Target No 1. West Highland Way: anything under 21 hours 39 mins. While I would love to beat 21 hours, I think that is probably a bit too aspirational to be my target. So I'll settle for beating my pb. Having said that anything under 22 hours would be great and under 23 hours would be pretty good as well.
My time in this year's WHW race was 21 hours 11 minutes, so my most important target for the year was achieved!!!!! Perhaps sub 21 is possible after all? It might have happened this year without the diversion just after Drymen, so who knows...
Target No 2. National XC championship: to make the top half of the field. Although it may not sound it, this will be quite a hard one to do.
Prophetic words indeed. On 10th February I ran as hard as I could round the 3 lap Falkirk course, then was gutted to see the results the following day and find out I had finished 210th from the 413 finishers. If I had been 4 places further up the field I would have made it - 5 seconds was the margin between success and failure. So near and yet so far.
Target No 3. Marathon: under 3 hours 10 mins. Call me a dreamer, but I actually believe that I still have another sub 3 hour marathon in me, although only if I give up all the ultra running and make a sub 3 hour marathon my main goal for the year. Realistically, that isn't going to happen, so I would be delighted with anything under 3.10.
My dream came true, at Zurich on 1 April, and it came true without giving up all the ultra running. I ran a near perfect marathon to finish in 2 hours 59 minutes and 41 seconds. My pacing was perfect, the weather was perfect, the organisation was perfect, the course was perfect - in fact everything about the day was perfect. I thought a sub 3 hour time was slipping away from me at 39k, but I managed to rally over the last 3k and finished with 19 seconds to spare. In my other marathon I also beat my 3.10 target, finishing Loch Ness at the beginning of October in 3 hours 5 minutes. All in all, an excellent year for my marathon performances, and it looks as though I will finish 104th in the Scottish rankings for 2007.
Target No 4. Half marathon: 1.26 or better. My best chance is probably at Inverness in March, as the WHW training tends to take over after that. I achieved this target on 11th March when I ran 1.24.45 at Inverness. I was pleased with all my half marathon perfomances this year - comfortably under the hour and a half in all of them, with 1.28 at Islay in August (and a prize for being 2nd MV40), 1.28 at Glasgow in September (when I was just coming back from an injury), and then 1.27 at Aviemore in October (a week after the Loch Ness marathon).
Target No 5. 10k: sub 38 minutes. A secondary target here is to beat 40 minutes in all races.
Failed this one. I didn't manage to get under 38 minutes, and I finished Irvine in a disappointing 41.40 after picking up a hamstring injury at the 8k mark. Best perfomances were 38.40 at the Nigel Barge in early January, then 38.37 (2nd overall and first vet) on a hilly Auchterarder course in May. I was a bit unfortunate to miss the Troon 10k with an injury and then miss the Strathaven 10k with a heavy cold - both of these courses presented opportunities for fast times.
Target No 6. Overall - to run 2,000 miles in the year.
This is a pretty meaningless target, to be honest, but I'm glad to say I have achieved it - I have already run 2,038 miles with a few days still to go.
So in summary I achieved 4 of my 6 running targets. As the main 3 targets were the WHW, the marathon and the half marathon, I think it is fair to say that it was a very satisfactory year. In total I have run 27 races: 2 ultras (the West Highland Way and the Highland Fling), 2 marathons (Zurich and Loch Ness), 4 half marathons (Inverness, Islay, Glasgow and Aviemore), 3 10ks (Nigel Barge, Auchterarder, Irvine), 1 5k (Broadwood), 4 other road races (the Brig Bash, the Round Arran Relay first leg north, the Sheriffmuir Challenge, and the Allan Scally) and 11 other 'off road' races (7 cross countries, the Comrie Hills relay, the Comrie fun run, the Knock hill race and the Lairig Mor race). 11 of the 27 have been 'new' races, i.e. races I haven't done before, which is a much higher percentage than normal - definitely one of the advantages of moving house and joining a new running club!
I hope to bring the year's racing to an end with the Kilbarchan Hogmanay handicap on 31 December. Before then, I'll try and set my targets for 2008.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
We reached the cafe in Drymen in a fast 1.59, then came back in an even faster 1.52. 25 and a half miles in total. All in all a great session.
John K has already posted an excellent report and video clips:
and I'm sure Marco and Debbie will have something to say in due course:
and maybe even Tim, but he hasn't blogged for ages :)
Friday, December 21, 2007
1. I'm on holiday now for the next 2 weeks, so should have a bit more time to blog, run and generally relax.
2. Tomorrow is the traditional West Highland Way pre Christmas run from Milngavie to Drymen. It's about 25 miles all in, with a stop at Drymen for a coffee and a scone. I'm looking forward to it. I think there will be about 20 people there so should be a good day out. The forecast isn't great, but that doesn't really matter. I'll report later.
3. If all goes well I'll reach 2,000 running miles tomorrow. It should happen in the muddy field just before the road at Drymen. I've done 1,988 miles so far, so 12 to go.
4. I had an interesting run on Wednesday night. Had a dinner in South Queensferry and was staying there overnight, so before the dinner went out a run over the Forth Road Bridge to Fife, under the bridge, back along the other side, round South Quensferry and back to the hotel. I hadn't run over the bridge since the 1999 Edinburgh marathon, so it was a bit different. It was also absolutely freezing.
5. I have a heavy cold (probably as a result of 4 above). Hopefully tomorrow's run will help it go away.
6. I was walking through Edinburgh about 5pm tonight. Think I was the only person in the city who hadn't been out at a Christmas lunch.
7. Last weekend I fixed a fence to stop a horse coming in to our garden. More details on allybea's blog www.allybea.blogspot.com
8. I plan to write a review of 2007 soon, including details of whether I met my targets or not. Look out for it. I'll also have to set my 2008 targets, so that's something to look forward to as well.
9. I've only one more race in 2007, which is the Kilbarchan AC 11 mile Hogmanay handicap. I've been invited along as a guest by John K. I'm hoping to thank him for his kind invitation by beating him convincingly. I used to live in Kilbarchan so it will bring back some memories.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
It was a cold, wet and windy day. I felt sorry for the spectators and marshalls, but most of them seemed to be very experienced cross country watchers and were well wrapped up. By the time our race was due, at 2.30, the weather had become even worse. I set off at a good pace and managed to keep it going for most of the route, passing one of the Central runners I had been chasing with a couple of hundred metres to go. I finished in just under 40 minutes (official time of 39.53), in 130th position out of 247 finishers - a much improved performance. It was my 27th race of the year. Strathearn Harriers finished 15th team overall and 13th masters team.
By the time I had showered and changed, the rain had turned into snow and I had to drive home in a blizzard. Within an hour there was quite thick snow lying on our driveway. Winter has definitely arrived.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Joe Calzaghe Age: 35 Nationality: Welsh Sport: Boxing
2007 highlight: Becoming undisputed world champion
Lewis Hamilton Age: 22 Nationality: English Sport: Formula One
2007 highlight: World titlerunner-up in rookie season
Ricky Hatton Age: 29 Nationality: English Sport: Boxing
2007 highlight: Las Vegas showdown v Floyd Mayweather
Andy Murray Age: 20 Nationality: Scottish Sport: Tennis
2007 highlight: Breaking into the world top 10
Christine Ohuruogu Age: 23 Nationality: English Sport: Athletics
2007 highlight: World 400m champion
Paula Radcliffe Age: 33 Nationality: English Sport: Athletics
2007 highlight: Mother of all wins
Jason Robinson Age: 33 Nationality: English Sport: Rugby union
2007 highlight: Helping England to Rugby World Cup final
Justin Rose Age: 27 Nationality: English Sport: Golf
2007 highlight: European Order of Merit winner
James Toseland Age: 27 Nationality: English Sport: Motorcycling
2007 highlight: Second World Superbikes title
Jonny WilkinsonAge: 27 Nationality: English Sport: Rugby union
2007 highlight: Helping England to Rugby World Cup final.
Now, I don't want to appear critical of any of the individuals on the list, all of whom are outstanding athletes in their own right. My complaint is more about the lack of depth in the nominations. For example, 2 English rugby players, members of a team which finished second in the world cup; a Scottish tennis player who has been injured for a large part of the year (but admittedly does have great potential); a motorcyclist who I have to admit I haven't heard of; a racing driver who finished 2nd in the world championship, despite looking odds on to win with 2 races left; a golfer who shows a lot of promise and won the European Order of Merit, but hasn't really made the big breakthrough yet; and 2 boxers, one of whom is fighting on Saturday night for a world title. And that only leaves the 2 athletes. I think Paula Radcliffe is great. Her New York marathon win was outstanding. I'm sure she would be the first to agree, however, that winning a New York marathon is not nearly the same as winning an Olympic title - with that in mind I really hope Paula wins the 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Which leaves Christine Ohuruogu. She won the 400m at the World Championships, only a month after completing a year long suspension for missing 3 drugs tests. She has been given a hammering in the press, who view her with great suspicion. But let look at the facts. The UK triathlete, Tim Don, committed the same offence and was given a 3 month ban. Like Ohuruogu, the BOA decided that on appeal they would not apply their lifetime Olympic ban because of the circumstances. There has been very little in the press about Tim Don, but a hell of a lot about Christine Ohurougu. I am completely against drugs in sport, but Ohurougu has never failed a drugs test - she did not comply with the drug testing procedures, and paid a heavy penalty.
At the end of the day, I think that Christine Ohurougu is the only one of the nominees who deserves to win the 2007 award. It will not happen, however. The British public, fueled by a hostile press, are not convinced by her. Unfortunately it will be awarded to a rookie motor racing driver who is a great prospect, but who couldn't quite hold his nerve to win the world championship when he was in pole position. The fact that his team were fined $100m during the season for cheating will be ignored. Hypocrisy or what?
Saturday, December 01, 2007
About 20 runners turned up. After being reminded by the organiser that it was a time trial and not a race (yeah right), we set off. I was in second place in the early stages, but was finding it quite hard and a couple of people came past me after a mile or so. I was through 2 miles in 12.58, just under 6.30 pace, then speeded up a bit as we got the benefit of the wind on the way back in. I caught one of the guys in front with about half a mile to go - he had stopped and was walking - and finished 3rd in 22.43. That worked out at an average pace of 6.25 - not a bad workout for a Saturday morning. I'll try and go back, and would recommend it to others as a worthwhile training session. Maybe we can get a few from the club to go along? After all it is a time trial, not a race :)
Sunday, November 25, 2007
My time was 39 minutes 22 seconds for the 8,800 metres (just under 5 and a half miles). My clubmate Phil had been out at a party last night, actually stopped to be sick at one point during the race, and still managed to beat me by around 15 seconds. Not good.
Maybe I just need to have a bit of a rest and let this cold work its way through my system. I reckon I still need to so another 122 miles to get to 2,000 for the year - even with a bit of a break this week I should still be able to do it relatively comfortably, as long as I don't pick up any stupid injuries. So it's a plan - an easy week this week. We'll see....
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I arrived at Tyndrum just before 12, had a quick bowl of soup in the Green Welly, then headed south along the WHW towards Crianlarich. It was a good day for a run - the colours were lovely, and the hills around Crianlarich looked fantastic with a light covering of snow from about 2,000 feet. There were very few people about, although I did surprise one elderly walker when I came round the corner to find him doing the toilet at the side of the path :) After a bit more than an hour I reached the deer gate at the Bogle Glen and decided to head right down the hill into Crianlarich, before turning round and coming back the same way. I reached the turning point (exactly 7 miles) in 1 hour 13 minutes, then came back slightly faster. I saw quite a few deer, all of which were considerably larger than the deer that live round about us. Wonder why that is? Are they different types of deer? Please leave a comment if you know the answer.
Anyway, I worked hard all the way back - it's a different type of running on that terrain compared to the roads, and it takes a wee while for your legs to get used to it again. There was even a snow shower at one stage, and it got quite cold at the higher points with the biting wind. I arrived back at Tyndrum just before 3, had a panini for lunch in the Green Welly, had a look in their whisky shop (and noticed they had a 43 year old Bowmore for sale with a price tag of £495 - gosh), then enjoyed the fantastic drive home through Crianlarich, along to Lochearnhead, along the length of the loch to St Fillans, on to Comrie, over the hill and home. It's one of my favourite drives. All in all a cracking day out, which has reminded me once again what a brilliant place Scotland is, and how lucky we are to have such fabulous scenery right on our doorstep.
ps - after finishing this post I've just noticed that my previous one was saying how lousy I felt because of my stinking cold. I'm sure you've probably guessed, but I do feel a lot better. I still have a bit of a cough, and I didn't sound great today when I stopped running (but then again, I never do), but I'm definitely feeling a lot better. Unfortunately I seem to have passed it on to allybea, who isn't particularly pleased to have inherited it :(
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Exciting news - I've joined Facebook, and been made a 'Father Figure' in the West Highland Way family. I'm very honoured about that, even though I have to admit that I don't have a clue what I am doing. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it eventually. In the meantime if anyone has sent me a Facebook message or has written on my wall (what is that all about?), and I haven't replied, it is simply because I don't know what to do yet.
Incidentally, I've just realised I haven't said anything so far on my blog about Glasgow being awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Games. What a great result - I was absolutely delighted when I heard the news last Friday. It's a fantastic opportunity for Glasgow, and for the whole of Scotland, to leave a sporting legacy for the Scottish people. Hopefully it's an opportunity we'll take.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Good luck to Scotland in the football this afternoon against Italy. If we win we're through to Euro 2008 - what an incredible achievement that would be in a group with France and Italy. If it's a draw we still have a slight chance (but we would be relying on Ukraine to beat France on Wednesday night), and if we lose then we're out. I have to say it is irritating me that both of the hosts, Austria and Switzerland, have been given automatic qualification, leaving only 14 other available places. Both of these countries would be unlikely to qualify from their own efforts, so why should they get an automatic place? I think it is time to scrap that rule, and make the hosts qualify like everybody else.
Friday, November 02, 2007
1. Seeing the sub 3 hour runners being called 'fun runners' or 'joggers' by Brendan Foster during his London Marathon commentary. These guys and girls have trained hard - at least Steve Cram recognises that. Why don't you do it yourself one year, Bren?
2. The aggressively feminist atmosphere at 'women only' races - woe betide any man who happens to venture too close to the course.
3. Short courses - if it's advertised as a 10k, make sure it is 10k. That shouldn't be too hard a concept, should it?
4. People shouting 'you're looking good' when you have 5 miles to go in a marathon and hit the wall 3 miles earlier. Let's be honest - I'm not looking good. So don't lie to me.
5. Being overtaken by a woman (full stop). But it's even worse when it is being filmed by a TV camera crew.
6. Old runners moaning about the lack of veterans' prizes - especially when they are the only person in their age category.
7. People who start on the front line of every race, even when they're not that good. It tends to happen in bigger events like the Glagow half marathon, and you spend the first mile weaving your way round them. There are normally signs at the start which indicate your estimated time. So here's a tip: if you think the race will take you 2 hours, why don't you line up beside the sign that says '2 hours'? That way you won't annoy all the faster runners who pass you in the first mile.
8. Daft excuses for poor performances, such as 'my horse wasn't feeling well' or 'I did a long training run yesterday and was still tired'. That's was your own fault, you fool - have an easy day before a race, like the rest of us.
9. Hearing the excuse that 'I don't run because it's boring' - especially when the person telling you this is one of the most boring people on the entire planet.
10. People who write to Runner's World to complain about being unsuccessful in the London Marathon ballot. If you're that keen to run a marathon, why don't you get a charity place or do one of the 30 other marathons in the UK?
11. Spitting into the wind during a race, and watching it come back and land on your face.
12. Someone else spitting into the wind during a race, and watching it come back and land on your face.
13. A half marathon marshall telling you to stop and wait for the traffic to go past. Yeah, that will be right. Did no-one explain that this is a road race? The cars are supposed to stop for the runners, not the other way round.
14. Club committee meetings where the most trivial issues generate 2 hours of debate. I don't care if the coffee at the 10k should cost 75p or £1 - just decide and move on please.
15. Rivals speeding up when you overtake them..
16. ..then slowing down again when they realise you are too strong.
17. People with no knowledge of running saying 'Paula Radcliffe is a quitter'. Come back and give us your opinion when you have run a 2.15 marathon and won a world championship, all right?
18. Portaloos at the East District relays. What's that all about? Way too civilised. What's wrong with the bushes, Alex?
19. Golfers who shout 'Don't you know this is private property?' Yes we do but read the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and see who is entitled to be there, before you start shouting.
20. AGMs of Scottish Athletics Limited. I don't want to give up my Saturday to listen to 2 delegates having a fight about a chair.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Still, it was nice when it lasted. Just have to run a bit faster next year :)
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I got up early this morning, having had the benefit of the extra hour due to the clocks changing, and went along to the Strathearn Harriers session at 8.15am in Crieff. There were 10 of us altogether, a record turnout, and we had a very pleasant off road run at a a nice and easy pace. This was just what I needed as I haven't been feeling great for the last few days. Towards the end of the run the conversation turned to the subject of 'junk miles' (see definition above). It got me thinking. As we approach the end of the year I suppose I could be accused of running some 'junk miles', particularly as I try and chase a target such as 2,000 miles for the year. (Incidentally after today I'm sitting at 1,739 miles, with just over 2 months to go). On the other hand an easy session is not necessarily 'junk' and can be worthwhile, particularly when you are feeling tired and your body needs a chance to recover. In these situations I often find it is better to go for a 4 or 5 mile jog with the dog than to do nothing at all - at least it keeps my legs turning over, and I often feel better for having been out. So, having thought about it in detail, I don't think I am generally guilty of running 'junk miles', although I do have some very easy recovery sessions when I feel I need them.
Glad I've got that off my chest. What else has been happening?
I was at the Rangers v Barcelona Champions League match on Tuesday night. Rangers defended well and deserved their point, although I don't think they will win the Champions League. Barcelona looked different class.
After work on Friday I ran round Arthur's Seat, just before it became dark. The views across Edinburgh were superb. It is one of my favourite runs.
This afternoon was the Strathearn Harriers golf day at St Fillans Golf Club. Our team was last in the 'Texas Scramble' competition, but despite that it was a great day out on a very scenic course.
Finally, winter has now arrived here in Scotland. For the next few months it will be dark more often than it is light, it will be a lot colder, and it generally be unpleasant when out running. Hard as it may seem, fellow runners, try not to despair. Remember that all the hard work put in during the winter will produce better performances next spring and summer.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I suppose my body probably needs a bit of a rest after quite a long and hard year. So far this year I've done 2 ultras, 2 marathons and 4 half marathons. Once we reach Christmas I'll start thinking more seriously about next year's WHW (and I'll also write my review of the year and announce the winners of my running awards, so keep an eye out for that) but at the moment I feel as though I am just treading water.
Yesterday was the first East League cross country meeting at Broxburn. There were 9 of us in total from Strathearn Harriers, which was a great turn-out. I think I finished about half way up (or down) the field, around 10 seconds behind Phil M. He built up quite a lead on the first leg, and even though I closed quite a lot on the second leg (reducing the gap from about 30 seconds to 12 seconds) I just couldn't catch him. Still, I'm 3 years older, and our winter club championship is based on age adjusted times, so I'm confident I might end up just in front of him on an 'age adjusted' basis. Having said that I'm not sure I'll be ahead of some of our 'older' members (or perhaps 'less youthful' is a more tactful description), such as Gordon - we'll just need to wait and see when the results and age adjusted times are published.
Finally congratulations to Kim who finished today's Amsterdam Marathon in a time of 3 hours 9 minutes. This was only her second marathon, with her previous one being at Loch Ness in 2002 where she finished in 4.01. From looking at the results I think she finished as 28th lady. Given the quality of the field - the first lady was a Kenyan who ran 2.28 - that's an excellent performance.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
As the course was a distance of 4k, is it reasonable to multiply these times by 2.5 to get a 10k equivalent road time? Looking at the evidence, I think it is. Robert's 'converted' 10k time works out at 30.32, and Ali's works out at 30.45. Robert recently won the Stirling 10k in a time of 30.47 - it's close enough to his time on Saturday to suggest my method works quite well.
That means my '10k equivalent' time on Saturday was 39.02 - probably about right given the way I ran, and the fact it was only 6 days after a marathon. On that basis I can conclude it was a reasonable performance: not fantastic, but ok. As for the other guys, Digby's time works out at a '10k equivalent' of 36.17, Simon's at 37.50, and Colin's at 35.45.
There is another cross country this Saturday, with the first East League meeting taking place at Broxburn. I ran there last year: I'm pleased to say it was a traditional cross country course with mud, steep hills, and a biting cold wind. It looks like there will be a good turnout from Strathearn Harriers. I'm looking forward to it already :)
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Talking of allybea, she was so inspired by the marathon last week that she has decided to take the plunge again herself, and has entered the 2008 London marathon! More information on how she came to this monumentous decision is provided on her blog, as well as a great report of her previous marathon in New York:
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that her entry is accepted. I might even enter it myself, if I can get another entry form before Friday's deadline.
I've had a busy weekend. Yesterday I ran for Strathearn in the East District Cross Country Relay championships at Dunfermline. Each leg was 4,000m over an undulating parkland course, a distance which I find incredibly difficult because of my complete lack of speed. Despite my involvement we did pretty well, finishing in 20th position overall in just under an hour. Not too surprisingly I was the slowest of the 4 with a time of 15.37. Digby did 14.31, Simon did 15.08, and Colin was the fastest with 14.18. Well done guys. Central had an amazing day, winning all 4 relays (men, women, young males and young females), and picking up a few seconds and thirds as well. It just shows what an incredible depth of talent they have within the club.
Today I headed off early for the Aviemore half marathon. I wouldn't normally do a half marathon just one week after a full marathon, but Aviemore is a pretty special event and I didn't think I could miss it. The event website gives an excellent description of the course:
A spectacular, scenic half marathon course on road and excellent forest
tracks starting in the shadow of the Cairngorm Mountains, around
breathtaking Loch Morlich, through stunning Glenmore Forest Park
and Rothiemurchus Estate, crossing the River Spey and finishing
in the new Aviemore Centre.
Sounds great, doesn't it? I can guarantee you it is every bit as good as it sounds. This is, in my humble opinion, the best half marathon in Scotland, and I'd be surprised if there were many better anywhere in the world. It's that good.
We were fortunate that conditions were just about perfect for running, and the views across the loch to the Cairngorms were indeed spectacular. My time was also a pleasant surprise. Despite last week's marathon and yesterday's cross country, I finished high up the field in 1 hour 27 minutes and 31 seconds, almost 2 minutes faster than last year. I think the scenery must have inspired me.
Finally, it's going to be a late night tonight, as Channel 5 are showing their highlights programme of last week's Loch Ness marathon from 12.10am to 1.05am. I just hope it is worth staying up to watch it.
Monday, October 08, 2007
We left home about half 3 on Saturday afternoon and, like most of the popluation of the world, were very surprised that England had beaten Australia in the rugby before we reached Crieff. Picked up Liz and Shelagh, and headed north. Stopped for soup at the House of Bruar (highly recommended), and arrived at registration at the Sports Centre around 6.30. Met up with Phil, Liz, Duncan and Keri, collected number and chip, said hello to Adrian at his Run and Become stall, then headed off to Pizza Express beside Inverness Station. I had a nightmare trying to get parked, but on our 3rd time round the city centre we managed to find a car park. We had a pleasant meal in Pizza Express, the only complaint being that there were too many mushrooms in the mushroom pasta, then headed north to our B&Bs at Muir of Ord. Headed to bed about 11pm. The first time marathons (Liz and Shelagh) were definitely more nervous than the anyone else.
The next morning we got up shortly before 7 am for our pre race breakfast. The textbooks say that, prior to a marathon, you should eat a high carbohydrate breakfast of porridge followed by wholemeal toast with honey. They are wrong. What you should have is this: 2 slices of bacon, a sausage, 2 poached eggs, a tomato, and some haggis, accompanied by a couple of slices of toast and some coffee. It was superb. I have learned my lesson. In future, before a marathon, I will try and make sure I have a full Scottish breakfast.
We were a bit tight for time, and made the bus with only seconds to spare, having met up with John K and John McL. It took about an hour for the bus to get from the Sports Centre in Inverness to the race start just past Whitebridge, then I had 45 minutes or so to go to the toilet, stretch, go to the toilet again, put on some vaseline, go to the toilet again, put my bag in the baggage lorry, go the toilet for a last time, and then head up the road to the start. I didn't bother with the mass warm up. A pipe band came right through the middle of the waiting runners playing some inspiring Scottish music (always a nice touch, I think), and then at 10am exactly we were ready to go.
I set off at a good pace, and noticed I was through 2 miles in a fast 13.11. The first few miles are downhill, and I knew if I was to have any chance at all of beating 3 hours I needed to make a good start. I was pleased that my breakfast seemed to have settled well, and in general I felt good. I was through 5 miles in 33.16 - still a bit fast - and kept going well until about 8 miles. Just before 9 miles I saw Phil M, who had cycled in from Inverness to support his wife Liz. Phil, apologies for my grumpiness, but I was going through a bit of a bad patch - it was nothing personal, honestly. If it is any consolation I was even more grumpy when I saw Gus and Jean a couple of miles further on, and positively rude when I saw Simon about 14 miles. Anyway, I went through 10 miles in 1.07.16, but was starting to find it hard going and slowed a bit before the half way, which I reached in 1.29.10. It wasn't getting any easier, and by the time I reached 15 miles in 1.42.36 I knew I wasn't going to beat 3 hours. A Channel 5 motor bike and camera appeared in front of me. I thought that was great - I do like being on the TV - but then realised it was only because I was running beside the 2nd lady. Much to my annoyance she shot away from me at a great pace, right in front of the camera, but if you see this happening on TV please make a note this: I overtook her again at the big hill outside Dores at 17 miles and never saw her again. So there. Just a pity the cameras didn't capture that. The hill caused me to slow a bit, although not too much, and I went through 20 miles in 2.19.38. I don't think anyone passed me all the way up, which pleased me no end. After that it got even more difficult - I suppose the last 6 miles of a marathon always are - and I was pleased when I finally reached the houses just coming in to Inverness. A couple more painful miles and I was into the city centre, over the bridge, heading up towards the stadium, and through 25 miles in 2.56.50. I worked hard over the last mile and just managed to get over the line under 3.06, recording an actual time of 3.05.54. Of the 44 road marathons I have done it was my 11th fastest. It is also worth noting it was my 60th race of marathon distance or longer.
Other performances were as follows: John McL ran a PB of 3.06; Phil finished in 3.13, John K did 3.15, Bobby M did 3.19, Duncan did 3.26, Tim did 3.41, Ellen did 3.47, Liz (in her first marathon) did 4.24, and Shelagh (also in her first marathon) did 4.29. Keri did the 10k in just under an hour. It was a perfect day for running, but it is definitely one of the tougher marathon courses. So well done to everyone. I'm looking forward to next year already.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
It was the 24th time the great man has set a world record, and I was fortunate enough to see one of them. In 2003 I was doing some work for UK Athletics in Birmingham, and I was invited along to the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix meeting that night at the National Indoor Arena. Gebrselassie set a new 2 mile world indoor record of 8 minutes 4.69 seconds. I felt priviliged to have seen it. If I remember correctly there was also a women's pole vault world record that night from Svetlana Feofanova of 4.77m. It was quite an occasion.
(PS Just in case anyone is wondering, I checked both these records on the internet just before typing this. Did you really think I remembered them? How sad do you think I am?)
I think I'll settle for something a bit slower on Sunday.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
We should be back in time to see the Scotland v Argentina game in the quarter final of the rugby world cup. I don't fancy Scotland's chances at all, but it would be great to be proved wrong. What price on a 'Super Sunday' double of a sub 3 hour marathon for me and a Scotland victory in the rugby? If that comes off I might even be tempted to open the bottle of champagne that has been chilling in the fridge for the last couple of months :)
Sunday, September 30, 2007
My thoughts are with his wife and family at this very difficult time.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
This looks like being a busy week. I'm going to the rugby on Tuesday night with friends (Scotland v Romania), then it's the Camanachd Cup Final on Saturday (shinty - it's the 100th Cananachd Cup Final - Fort William v Inveraray), then the rugby again on Sunday (Scotland v the All Blacks). All of them are hospitality events, which doesn't auger well for my training. I'll have to be pretty disciplined the rest of the time as I'd like to do another 50 miles this week. That would set me up nicely for the marathon, and would hopefully leave me in shape to give a sub 3 hour attempt my best shot.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I'm pleased to say that, so far, I have stuck to my plan. I did a hard 8 mile run on Monday, followed by another hard 7 on Tuesday, then two relatively easy 5s on Wednesday and Thursday. However I knew I needed to do a 20 miler at some point if I was to be in good shape for Loch Ness. Today was the day for doing it, as I was on holiday - number 2 son was moving into his halls of residence at Glasgow university in the late afternoon, and I had taken the day off to help him move.
I set out around 1.00pm, and headed along the back roads towards Comrie. I had felt sluggish all morning - getting in from a dinner at 1am last night might not have been the best preparation, although I made sure I stayed away from the drink - but despite that I made a good start. The first few miles were downhill but I knew it wouldn't last and, sure enough, at 5 miles I hit a major climb. It was a real struggle to get up and over the hill, but I made it, then worked well on the descent down to the river. I reached Comrie (10 miles) in just under 1.15, and was going quite well. The next few miles, however, on the road back towards Braco, were an absolute killer. The road just kept going up and up and up. I've driven that section many times and never noticed it being especially hilly, but I learned all about it today - in fact I looked at the map afterwards and reckoned I must have climbed around 160m in a 2 mile stretch.
After what seemed like hours I reached the top of the hill, having run around 16 miles, but I was starting to find it hard going. I was a bit dehydrated, and my water had run out. I stopped to fill up my water bottle at a farm around 18 miles (many thanks to the farmer's wife - she even asked if I would prefer bottled or tap water). I pushed as hard as I could down the hill to 20 miles, then somehow made it up the hill for the last 2 miles back to my house. It was a real struggle. At the end I was completely shattered - it was probably one of the hardest training runs I have ever done. Or maybe they always feel like that when they are still fresh in your memory?
Well, it's now a few hours since I've finished my 22 mile run. Number 2 son is in his new accommodation. I've had a fish supper for my tea, washed down by a very pleasant bottle of Pino Grigio (goes well with fish, I'm told). And you know what? Today's run doesn't seem so bad after all!
Sunday, September 09, 2007
As you may have guessed from the title of this blog, we won. On paper we were by no means the strongest side, but a number of the good teams (including Central, Carnethy and Highland Hillrunners) went seriously off course on Leg 1. This meant we had a lead of almost 20 minutes over these teams at the end of the first stage. Colin, our first leg runner, came in to the first changeover point in the lead, with Fife 2nd and 3rd, then Phil and Simon ran a stormer on Leg 2 and extended our lead to 1 minute and 40 seconds. Fife had a couple of really good runners on leg 3, and by the time I took over from Digby on leg 4 I was in 3rd position, about 5 minutes behind the leader and 3 minutes behind the runner in 2nd place. As well as trying to catch the people in front, I was a bit concerned about some of the faster runners who were coming from behind, such as this year's WHW winner Adrian Davies. Whatever happened I knew I would have to run a good leg if we were to stay in the medal hunt.
I started off at a good pace but felt it hard going up the hills, particularly heading up to the monument. At that stage the route doubles back down the same path and I saw the 2nd Fife runner, who I reckoned was still 3 minutes in front of me. The runner behind was nowhere to be seen. I continued to work away for the rest of the route, made sure I didn't miss any checkpoints, and crossed the line in a time of 51.30 for the leg (total team time 3.43.00), which I assumed had given us 3rd place. I was very surprised when someone told me that we were actually first - it turned out the 2 Fife runners had taken a wrong turning. So we retained our title: 2 Comrie Hills relays and 2 Strathearn Harriers victories. The Strathean team also won the prize for the first mixed team.
It was an excellent event, with a really good barbeque afterwards. Many thanks to everyone involved in the organisation. Hopefully the teams who went off course will come back next year, better prepared - the result certainly highlights the importance of knowing the proper route in hill events such as this.
I'm sure there will be full results and a race report on the Strathearn website in due course:
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Phil managed to cross the line just a shade under 1.25, as did Kim, which was a big PB for her. Two really good performances, which suggest they are both in good shape for their forthcoming marathons. George was delighted to get under 1.35, a lot quicker than last year. The other 2 Strathearn Harriers, Liz and Shelagh, finished in 1.46 and 1.54 respectively, which they were both happy with. All in all a good day out.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
After work yesterday I went out for an easy run to see how it felt. I didn't really notice the pain in my shoulder and was able to run pretty much as normal. I had another physiotherapy session with Trevor last night, and my hamstring has also improved a lot. I've therefore decided to do the Glasgow half marathon tomorrow. I'm not looking for or expecting a fantastic time, but will be quite happy just to enjoy it and get round at a steady pace. I'm hoping my shoulder is fully recovered for my golf day at Millport next Friday.
There are a few other points worth mentioning. The entries for the 2008 West Highland Way race only opened about 2 weeks ago, and the race is full already. John Kynaston has a posting on his blog which shows all the entrants, along with their 2007 time and their personal best time for the race if they have done it before. http://www.kynaston.co.uk/blog/08race01.htm
From the looks of it there are only 7 of the 150 entrants who have a faster time than my best, although there are a number of very good runners who have not done it before, such as Jens Lukas who finished 2nd in last week's Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) race. Talking of the TMB, many congratulations to those who completed either the 163km route (Murdo McEwan, Jim Drummond) or the 85km route (Hugh Kerr, Cameron Campbell). Hugh has written a fantastic report on his race experience, which can be found on the Central AC website http://www.centralathletics.co.uk/Forum/index.php?topic=372.0
It sounds an incredible event. Maybe I'll do it one day?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Anyway, back to my hamstring. It was really sore on Thursday and I hobbled about for most of the day, being particularly grumpy. On Friday I went to see my physio, Trevor, who was reasonably optimistic about it. That cheered me up a bit. He did a lot of work on it and told me to stretch it every day, which I have done. At the weekend I did a couple of long walks and it felt not too bad. It has continued to improve each day since.
When I arrived home from work tonight, on a bit of a high from the success of the British women in the 400m at the World Championships, I decided to try a run. I headed down to Braco, parked the car, and set off at a gentle pace along the main road. To my great delight it felt fine! I ended up running for 6 miles (as measured on my new GPS) at a steady pace throughout, and I'm pleased to say I had no problems. Although it was a bit stiff again after my shower, it loosened off when I took the dogs out a walk across the moor. I'll try another gentle run tomorrow and see how it is, then hopefully go back and see Trevor again on Friday.
All going well, I might even be able to do the Glasgow half marathon this Sunday. I don't think I'll be able to run flat out, but I would be quite happy if I was able to trot round at a steady pace. I always enjoy the Glasgow race - this will be my 17th Great Scottish Run - and if I'm fit enough to cover 13 miles, I'll definitely go along.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
So what made the difference? I changed quite a lot in this year's race plan. Some of the changes will have helped and others won't, but I thought it might be interesting to write down the main changes I made. I've outlined these in a bit of detail below, in no particular order of importance.
1. Cut down the time stopped at checkpoints: I reckon I took more than an hour off my time because of a change in my "checkpoint strategy". I was determined to spend as little time stopped as possible, so rather than sit and have a cup of soup or coffee at the checkpoint, I took it with me in a paper cup and drank it while walking. I encouraged my backup team to push me out of the checkpoint as quickly as possible, and not let me hang around. It put a bit more pressure on them and meant I was a bit grumpier at most of the checkpoints, but it definitely made a difference to my time.
2. New shoes: in October I bought a pair of specialist trail shoes, Innov8 Roclite 315s, and used them for all my long training runs and for the race itself. In previous years I had used a pair of Sauconys, which were basically a road shoe with a reasonably thick sole. I think it helped having trail shoes - I certainly felt I had a better grip on sections like Conic Hill, and also felt more comfortable going over some of the rocky parts of the route.
3. New bumbag and backpack: I bought a much lighter bumbag and backpack. In earlier years my bumbag and backpack had been quite big and fairly annoying at points, but this year they were both much better.
4. Keeping a blog: writing the blog meant I stayed a lot more focused on the race. It was also great reading other people's blogs, such as John K and my wife, and these helped me feel really motivated.
5. Competition: there were a number of people who I had trained with over the months prior to the race who I knew had the potential to record very good times. John had beaten me by 4 minutes in the Highland Fling, and Hugh wasn't far behind me in the same race, so I knew they would both be there or thereabouts. There were also other competitors like Peter and Mark who had shown in training that they were in good shape. I have to say that I'm a very competitive person (!) and I was keen to finish as high up the field as possible. On the day John and I raced each other all the way to the foot of the Devil's Staircase - he was between 5 and 10 minutes in front of me all the way to Tyndrum, and very close to me going over Rannoch Moor. The fact he was around certainly helped drag me to a faster pace on various stages.
6. Succeed tablets: for quite a few years I have had problems with cramp which has slowed me down considerably. It happened again in the Highland Fling race in April, and I reckon it cost me around 15 minutes as my movement was restricted to a slow walk until the cramp went away. After the Fling I decided to try 'Succeed' tablets, following positive recommendations from a number of other runners. These tablets are designed to provide additional sodium chloride and replace lost electrolytes. I tried them out in training and they were great - no cramp at all. During the race I took them every 90 minutes and was pleased that I had no problems at all with cramp at any stage.
7. Sleeping: with the race starting at 1am, it is difficult to make sure you don't turn up at the start line feeling tired. This year, unlike previous years, my sleeping worked out well. I took both the Thursday and Friday off work. On the Wednesday night I went to bed about midnight and didn't get up until around 11am - 11 hours sleep in total, a lot more than I would normally get. On the Thursday night I did exactly the same, and got another 11 hours sleep. It meant I had had 22 hours sleep over 2 nights - the equivalent of 3 'normal' nights. Apart from a short half hour spell going up Conic Hill at around 4am, I didn't feel tired at all throughout the race.
8. Quality long runs with good company: from December onwards, a crowd of us met fairly regularly (at least once a month) to do long training runs on the WHW. Although we had some awful weather (particularly during the 2 day run in May), these training runs were great fun. Everyone got on well, it was great to meet some new people, and it meant that the training was really enjoyable rather than a chore.
Hopefully this will help anyone who is thinking of doing the race for the first time. Who knows, we might even meet up during one of the long training runs!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
The event was based at Clyde FC's Broadwood Stadium. It's the first time I've been there and I have to say I was really impressed with it. As well as the all seated football ground (which I think has a capacity of around 7,000), it also has a leisure complex, all weather football pitches, and a gymnastics academy. It's the ideal type of community facility, and I would like to see other towns do a similar thing, such as Ayr or Paisley for example. But that would require a bit of imagination to be shown by the various councils, which means it is most unlikely to happen.
But I digress. The race itself was billed as a fun run, with the emphasis on taking part and no prizes for the winners. The gun was fired and, as is often the case, some of the juniors shot off at a respectable pace for a 400m race, but far too fast a pace for a 5k. After about a kilometre the course went round a sharp bend, and I was able to count that I was in 22nd position. Although I caught a few people over the next kilometre or so - mostly youngsters who had gone off too fast - it wasn't easy. I felt as though I was working as hard as I possibly could, but didn't seem to be going very quickly.
After much huffing and puffing I was pleased to pass the 4k marker and see the stadium in the distance. I kept pushing as hard as I could, but despite my best efforts someone just caught me in the last 50 metres. I finished in a time of 19.29, in 15th position from 147 finishers. The time wasn't great - my PB for 5k is 17.41, which puts it in some perspective - but a number of people commented that their times were a bit slower than they had hoped for. I think that possibly reflected the fact the course was a bit twisty in places with a few sharp turns. These do tend to slow you down a bit, and mean you can't get any real momentum. On the other hand the course was probably fine, and we might just have been making excuses for a poor run....
My thanks go to the organisers, Kirkintilloch Olympians. The name puzzles me - I would be interested to know whether they have ever had any Olympians within the club, or whether it is just a bit of wishful thinking on their part. They certainly did well in issuing the results so promptly - although results issuing is not an Olympic event, unfortunately - and these have been posted already on their website at the following address:
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Race / number of times run
Loch Rannoch 4
Irvine Valley 3
Balloch to Clydebank 1
Edinburgh Forthside 1
Glen Clova 1
Loch Leven 1
My times have been in the following ranges:
Under 1.20 - 4
1.20 to 1.22 - 20
1.23 to 1.24 - 21
1.25 to 1.27 - 14
1.28 to 1.30 - 9
Over 1.30 - 7
I think that is enough statistics for the night. At my current rate and all being well, I should reach 100 in approximately 6 years, which will be 2013 - hopefully just before the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
It was a great day out - a very friendly, well organised event and a pleasant (although tough) route. The race starts from Bowmore in the centre of the island, heads out for 6 miles or so along the back road to Port Ellen, cuts across towards the airport, then heads back into Bowmore along the main road. There was a fierce wind into our faces on the way out which, as is often the case, didn't seem so strong when it was behind us on the way back in. The route was reasonably undulating in places, so I was pleased to finish in 11th place in a time of 1.28.25. Phil finished close behind in 1.29.54, in 14th place.
The prizegiving was just amazing. The room appeared to be full of bottles, half bottles and miniatures of the sponsor's first class products. There was a huge spread of sandwiches, cakes and crisps, and bottle after bottle of Ardbeg were opened to satisfy the thirst of all the competitors. Prizes were awarded to the first 6 men and women, the first 6 veteran men and women, the first 6 supervet men and women, the first 3 locals, and the first 2 teams. I was lucky enough to finish second vet 40 and picked up a very nice trophy and half bottle of Glenmorangie. Phil finished 4th vet in the same category.
We headed back on the 3.30pm boat from Port Askaig, arriving in Kennacraig just before 6pm. A fine day was made even better by our excellent fish and chips in Tyndrum. I finally arrived home just after 9pm, more than 17 hours after setting out. Despite the long journey I hope more people from the club will be keen to do it next year and we can make it an overnight stay - the post race ceilidh in Bowmore Hall sounds like an event not to be missed!
Since I last blogged, I've also taken part in the Comrie Fun Run. This low key event took place on Thursday night on the hills behind Comrie, and was part of our club championship, as well as being one of the 'Comrie Fortnight' events. The term 'fun run' definitely understates the difficulty of this race - there is a lot of climbing in the first 2 miles, and almost all of the route is on trails or through fields. A few runners took the wrong route and were disqualified, but I finished in 3rd place, just losing out in a sprint finish with Phil. Still, it's helped consolidate my lead in the Strathearn Harriers club championship, on which more details can be found here:
Final thing to report (at least on the running front) is the fact that I returned to the West Highland Way a week back on Friday for a long training running. I had planned to get the bus from Fort William down to Kingshouse, then run the 23 miles back along the WHW to Fort William. However the bus timetable seemed to have changed (and Citylink's website had not been updated, which was most annoying) so I had to make a last minute change to my plans. As an alternative I ran from Fort William to Kinlochleven, had some soup in Kinlochleven, and ran back the same way. I covered 30 miles in total, which was a bit further than I had originally planned, but I really enjoyed getting back out onto the route and managed the extra distance without any great problem.
The Edinburgh Festival has now started, so running in the centre of the city will be a bit of a nightmare for the next 3 weeks. I'll try and find some new, quieter routes, and if I manage to find any I'll let you know.
Monday, July 23, 2007
I covered the section in 76 minutes 20 seconds - quite a lot slower than I did the same leg in 1996 (69.06), 2001 (71.55) and 2002 (74.16). Against that, however, it was my longest run since the WHW, and I ran reasonably cautiously throughout. All in all it was a good day out. Central's A team won - the team prizes were the most hideous t-shirts you could ever imagine - and it was great to be back across in Arran for the first time in a couple of years.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I thought it was quite odd that it took about 2 and a half weeks from the race for them to fall off. Is this a normal pattern? If any chiropodists are reading, please feel free to comment.
The timing went something like this:
Race day - toe nails take a battering;
First week after race - feet generally quite sensitive; toe nails look past their best;
Second week after race - feet starting to improve but toenails look beyond redemption;
Two and a half weeks after race - toenails fall off and are placed in drawer.
I doubt I will lose 3 toenails at next years WHW race - mainly because I don't have 3 left to lose. I have only 2 left.
Anyway, I'm pleased to say that my loss of tailnails has not prevented me from getting back into some running. At the weekend I did a couple of 10 mile runs, both of which were very hilly and tough but most enjoyable nonetheless. Our club hosted the Famous Grouse 10k at Crieff on Sunday. I wasn't able to run in it because I was helping - in fact would you believe I was given 2 jobs to do? My first job was to direct the cars into the car park before the race, then after that I had to steward at a junction around the 1k and 9k mark. I hope you will forgive my lack of modesty in saying I thought I did both jobs very well. No-one hit the wall on their way into the car park (which, given the tightness of the space, was a remarkable achievement), and no-one went off course at my junction. However, I am sad to report that one runner did go off course just after my junction. I'm sure I told him to "Go down the hill and keep to the right", but he thought I said "Go down the hill and take a right". That meant instead of following the route to the finish he turned right onto a path along the banks of the River Earn. Somewhat amusingly (but not for him I'm sure) he kept going along this path for about a kilometre, and then met the race coming in the opposite direction. It must have added at least 2 kilometres to his run, and moved him from a very good finishing position to a position somewhere in the middle of the field. Thankfully he was ok about it, and will hopefully come back next year and run the proper route.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
I started at a reasonably steady pace and was through the first mile in 6.38, feeling very comfortable. I speeded up to covered mile 2 in 6.10, then did miles 3 and 4 at an average pace of just under 6.20. I did the last mile in 6.29 or so to record an overall time of 31 minutes 56 seconds.
I was really pleased with my time, and was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt pretty good throughout. Hopefully I'll have 'earned' a few club championship points :)
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Ian's 2007 West Highland Way Race Story
The Friday before the race is always a difficult day. This year I woke up around 11am, having slept since about midnight the night before. 11 hours sleep, same as the day before – that was pretty good compared with previous years, and I was pleased. I walked the dogs and spoke to John. He seemed nervous too, but was looking forward to it. Friday afternoon dragged by, as expected. I packed my bags late in the afternoon, checked them about half a dozen times to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, then had a huge dinner of ravioli and baked potatoes around 8pm. At 9.30pm we packed the car, and finally at 10.30pm it was time to head to Milngavie. At last.
As I drove down the A80 I felt quite tired. I kept telling myself that I had had enough sleep, but my tiredness was a bit concerning. I was really glad to reach Milngavie at about 11.30pm. I spoke to some of the friends I had trained with for the previous 7 months or so – John, Ellen, Mark, Iain, Iain, Alan, and many others. Everyone seemed to know me from the 2005 race DVD. They also knew Alison from her blog. We soon met up with George and Bobby, who along with Alison would be doing my backup again. I registered, checked my back pack and bumbag, had a coffee, went to the toilet, talked to some more people, went to the toilet again, tried to get in to the briefing but found it full, went to the toilet yet again, and finally made my way to the start line. It was 12.55am. The race would start in 5 minutes.
At 1am we were off. I was near the front of the field, which was where I wanted to be. Almost immediately Mark Collins came alongside me and we ran together. Like others we missed one of the early paths but got back on the proper route very quickly. As I reached Carbeth I checked my watch – 36 minutes – a bit on the fast side but generally on target. Mark and I continued to run together all the way to Drymen. The diversion on the Gartness road was no problem, and I arrived at Drymen in 1.54. That was my fastest race time for that section, but was in line with my plan. I knew I needed to run a bit faster than previous years in the early stages if I wanted to beat my best time of 21.39.
A key part of my race plan was to cut down on my stop times, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and walked along the route with it. Mark and I were still together. We reached the car park at the Garadhban Forest, and to my great surprise a few people in official looking jackets told us to head down the road and follow the diversion. That didn’t seem right to me. I had spoken to Dario the day before, and he had told me that there were no diversions at all – that had been confirmed by the WHW rangers. So why were these people telling us to go a different route? I thought about saying no, but the full group of runners were starting to head down the road, so I just followed as well. It left me disorientated – I hadn’t been on the alternative route before, and didn’t know where I was going. After 25 minutes or so we rejoined the main path, but there was no doubt we had added some extra distance. I was not happy about it at all.
As I headed towards Conic Hill, still annoyed by the detour, there was some heavy rain. It was not at all pleasant. It was gloomy, and I tripped at least 5 times before I reached the top of the hill. I was going through a really bad patch, and before I knew it a runner had caught up with me. It was John. Despite being caught I was pleased to have some company, and my mood improved. We ran into Balmaha together. I stopped for something to eat and was away within 5 minutes or so, but John had stopped for even less time and was now in front. In training runs he had been stronger than I was on the section to Rowardennan, so I didn’t expect to see him until quite a bit later. That was exactly how it turned out. I covered the section from Balmaha to Rowardennan in 1.29, exactly on schedule. I had another quick stop, thanked Bobby as I wouldn’t see him again, then set out for Inversnaid. I was starting to feel good, and just worked away, reaching Inversnaid in something like 1.27 for the section. The next bit to Beinglas Farm is tough, but again I felt quite good. Alison said later that I had looked awful at Beinglas, but looks can be deceptive and I actually felt quite good, certainly a lot better than I had felt at that point in previous years. I was told that John was somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes in front of me – not a problem at all at this relatively early stage in the race, particularly if I could start picking up time from here on in, in the later sections where I was usually strong. I passed through the checkpoint at Derrydarroch without stopping at all, and heard that John was only now 5 minutes in front. That was fine. I was a bit nervous approaching the section over the hill above Crianlarich, as I had suffered badly from cramp the last few times I had done it, including a really bad patch in this year's Highland Fling race. I had been taking electrolyte tablets every 90 minutes, however, and that was making a big difference. As it turned out I had no cramp at all for the whole day. I will certainly use the tablets again in future.
I ran fairly strongly over the hill and in to Auchtertyre, and saw John leave just as I arrived. That meant I was still only 5 minutes behind. Mark ran with me for a bit, but I was feeling really good and pushed on hard, only stopping at Tyndrum to collect a cup of soup which I drank walking up the hill. I was away from Tyndrum in 11.16. That was pretty much on schedule, with some of my best stages still to come.
As I headed up the hill and away from Tyndrum I could see a runner ahead which I thought was John. It was, and I eventually caught him on the long gradual downhill track. We chatted a bit – he was still enjoying every minute of the run, which I found a bit strange – then I went in front. I thought that was probably it, but to my surprise he came past me again about a minute later, running really well, and opened up a bit of a gap. When he started walking I passed him again, and this continued all the way to the railway bridge a few miles before Bridge of Orchy. John then shot off like he was running a half marathon, and reached Bridge of Orchy a few minutes in front of me. He was taking shorter stops, so by the time I left Bridge of Orchy the gap was probably 10 minutes again. All of which meant I had made no progress at all on closing the gap on him.
I took a soup with me when I left Bridge of Orchy and walked quickly up the hill. I was determined to push really hard all the way to Kingshouse, as I felt I had underperformed on this section in previous years. I ran hard up the hill from Forest Lodge, and came within 20 yards of John. He then ran away from me before stopping to walk, at which point I closed the gap to about 20 yards again. And so this went on, all the way to Kingshouse. Despite not being able to get in front of John I was running well and feeling strong. I had a 9 minute stop at Kingshouse, changed my socks and top, put on tracksters (as it was starting to get quite cold), and left. My watch showed that I was running faster than I had run before – when I ran my best time of 21.39 in 2003 I had left Kingshouse at 15.57. Today it was 15.31, so I was 26 minutes ahead and looking good for a PB.
I knew John had left Kingshouse 9 minutes in front of me, so I was a bit surprised to pass him before we had reached the Devil’s Staircase. He was starting to find it tough, and the gap between us widened as I headed up and over the hill. I felt better than normal coming down into Kinlochleven and covered the section in a good time of 2.10. I was feeling confident about my time, so didn’t hang around Kinlochleven and headed off as quickly as possible, stopping only to eat a pot of Muller rice and to take a tablet that was supposed to prevent me from feeling sick. The Lairgmor came and went, and I passed Iain Ridgway just before the turn. He had been having terrible stomach problems, but despite that was determined to keep going and was still running all of the hills.
Soon I reached Lundavra and Duncan’s bonfire. George hadn’t been feeling good so decided to go back in the car with Alison, leaving me to cover the last section on my own. That wasn’t a problem at all, as I was feeling good. I looked at my watch – I reckoned I would have to cover the last section in something like 1.15 to get under 21 hours. I didn’t think it was possible. The last section seemed quicker without the trees, and before I knew it I was climbing over the stile and looking down at Glen Nevis campsite. The time on the clock was 20.30. I had covered the last section in 28 minutes before, but not when I had just run 92 miles – 40 minutes or so was more realistic. I headed down the hill, running for as long as I could, but having to stop every 10 minutes or so for a quick walk. Alison and George met me at the Braveheart carpark. There was only a mile or so to go. The job was nearly done. It was a brilliant feeling running through Fort William in broad daylight, and I felt absolutely delighted when I entered the leisure centre in a new personal best time of 21 hours 11 minutes.
I had a shower, then a fantastic massage. We headed back to the Travel Inn, and Alison and I were able to go for a drink before closing time. That's the first time I’ve run quickly enough for us to be able to do that.
John finished in 22 hours 45 minutes, a brilliant performance, and under his target of 23 hours. There are a lot more details about it on his blog, including a fantastic video diary. It’s well worth a look.
There are a lot of people I need to thank. First of all Alison, George and Bobby, who for the seventh consecutive year provided me with backup support of the highest quality. They do a fantastic job for me, are the envy of many other runners who can only imagine getting such quality support, and I am lucky to have them. Secondly I need to thank Dario, the race co-ordinator. He puts in a huge amount of work to make this far and away the best race in the UK. Without his expertise, knowledge and enthusiasm the event could not take place. I and all the other runners are hugely grateful to him. Thirdly, thanks to the runners with whom I have trained for the last year and who have become such great friends: John, Ellen, Phil, Murdo, Hugh, Adrian, Davie, Mark, Mark, Joe, Alan, and Peter, to name but a few. I'm sure there are many others.
Next year’s race takes place on Saturday 21 June 2008. The Travel Inn in Fort William is booked. I'm looking forward to it already.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
It's a very difficult event to describe. In summary, I didn't feel too good in the early stages, particularly when I got caught in really heavy rain going up Conic Hill about 4am, but I seemed to get stronger after that. My best sections were definitely from Derrydarroch (43 miles) onwards - after that I just felt I ran better and better. It was hugely satisfying to arrive in Fort William in broad daylight, and Alison and I even made it to the pub in time for last orders.
All in all a remarkable day. Congratulations to everyone else who competed it - particularly close friends like John, Ellen and Phil.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
On 23 June it's the West Highland Way Race
To do it you need to be strong
I think I'll go at a pretty slow pace
Because it's 95 miles long.
We start at Milngavie station
At 1 o'clock in the morning
We carry the hopes of a nation
And the forecast is a storm warning.
In a few hours I reach the bonnie banks
Where there's sure to be some midgies
To the route designer - I give you thanks
For building all those bridges.
Then I get to Inversnaid
Where I'm feeling past my best
The hotel is doing a roaring trade
But I could certainly do with a rest.
Tyndrum comes and goes
Then Bridge of Orchy, and Inveroran
At Ba Bridge a strong wind blows
And the rain is absolutely pourin'.
At last - The Devil's Staircase
A tough and painful climb
I know then that I'm in a race
And trying to achieve a good time.
At Kinlochleven I'm nearly there
Only 15 more painful miles
Just 2 problems: what clothes should I wear?
And how do I get over those stiles?
Finally I reach the end of the track
I've made it - achieved my goal
My feet are sore, my toe-nails black
The race has taken its toll.
At certain points I felt really good
At others really low
Thanks to my backup team for all my food
And thanks to Dario.
Monday, June 18, 2007
But today an incredible thing happened. As I headed into work I felt good, and it was a Monday. Knowing how things usually turn out, I kept expecting to descend into my normal grumpiness at some point in the day. But it didn't happen. I actually felt good all day. I was even heard to crack a few jokes, and to tell a couple of my workmates to cheer up, and point out to them that no-one wanted to see their greetin' faces in our ever so happy workplace. Someone muttered something about pots and kettles, which I found amusing. Nothing seemed able to spoil my mood.
So what brought on this remarkable transformation? I can only assume that my greatly reduced running over the weekend (5 miles in total) has left me feeling a lot fresher which, in turn, has left me feeling a lot less grumpy. There seems no other logical explanation.
Obviously it won't last. In fact after the WHW race I'll be REALLY tired, which will make me even more grumpy than normal. I think we just need to look on today as a pretty amazing one-off, never to be repeated.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
UK Outlook for Thursday 21 Jun 2007 to Saturday 30 Jun 2007:
Low pressure will bring an unsettled start with showers, heavy and thundery in places and also some longer spells of rain, consequently limited sunny intervals. The low is likely to move east of the UK by Saturday allowing some dry and sunny intervals to develop although there will still be some showers.
That doesn't sound too bad, although at this stage the forecast is very general and a lot can change. The 5 day forecast should be available tomorrow.
In the week just passed I've been out running 4 times, as planned, running for about 5 miles on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I'm feeling quite good and intend to take both Thursday and Friday as holidays, really just to give myself a chance to prepare properly and relax before the weekend. Most of the runners I've spoken to are feeling nervous, but looking forward to getting on with the race.
Finally, my wife Alison has set up a blog to record her experiences of being a backup person in the WHW race. She has received some fantastic feedback on it. You can find it here:
Monday, June 11, 2007
1. I did a 6 mile run in the hills around Comrie with the Strathearn Harriers last Thursday night. The run was nice and gentle, but my legs were stiff after the 10k race the night before, particularly my left hamstring.
2. On Friday lunchtime I managed to fit in an easy 4 mile from Tollcross pool, where I had been attending the Scottish Schools Swimming championships. I could still feel my hamstring, although it didn't really bother me at all when running.
3. On Saturday I was backing up a friend, Bobby, in the Devil O'The Highlands Footrace, a 43 mile race from Tyndrum to Fort William along the West Highland Way. Despite the fierce temperatures he did fantastically well, finishing 10th overall (and first supervet) in a time of 7 hours 57 minutes. It felt a bit strange being a backup person rather than runner, but I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
4. I didn't run at all yesterday, but went out for a steady 5 miles in Edinburgh after work tonight. Felt ok, despite having to play my favourite game of 'avoid the holidaymaker'.
5. Just over 11 days to go to the start of the race. My plan is to do easy runs only from here on in, running on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
6. Goodnight. I'm off to bed.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
For someone who hasn't had much (or indeed any) practice, I thought I handled the prizegiving pretty well. I went up to the front at the right times, smiled, and remembered to thank the man who gave me my medals. I even had my photo taken for the local paper, the Strathearn Herald.
One final point before going to bed, which may be of interest to some: tonight's race saw me pass 1,000 running miles for the year.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Anyway, back to this week's training. I didn't feel great in the early part of the week (see paragraph above), and then yesterday my back was really sore (see paragraph above again). It didn't stop me going out today with a few of the guys from my club Strathearn Harriers (I said I'd do a link to their website, which can be found at www.strathearnharriers.org.uk) for a 31 and a half mile run around the Comrie and Crieff area. It was a hard run, mostly off-road, which took us 5 and a half hours. It was a shame the weather was so poor, as this meant we were unable to see any of the fantastic views from the top of the hills, but we all ran reasonably well and felt quite good at the end.
Finally, an appeal to all readers of my blog. Did any of you send flowers to my wife this week? She received a lovely delivery from M&S on Friday, but there was no label to say who they were from. It's put us in a bit of a dilemma - we aren't able to thank anyone, as we don't know who they are from, but we don't want the sender to think we are being bad mannered by not thanking them. So, if the sender is reading this: 1) thank you very much, and 2) could you let us know who you are?
Sunday, May 27, 2007
After an eternity I came to Linlithgow, and thought very seriously about packing it in and getting the train back from there. By that stage I had covered about 18 miles and was feeling cold. I had done enough, but for some odd reason that I still don't understand I carried on towards Polmont. The 3 hour mark arrived with my GPS showing I had run about 20.6 miles, so I guess I must have been about half way between Linlithgow and Polmont. I have to say that I really don't remember much about it, as just about every bit of that section looked much the same.
Incredibly the same thing happened to me at Polmont. I had made up my mind to stop and get the train from there, or so I thought. For some stupid reason I ran on past the station exit and continued towards Falkirk. Eventually I came off the canal, headed down the hill into Falkirk, ran passed Callendar Park, and pushed really hard to try and catch the 8.37pm train.
I finally arrived at Falkirk Grahamston, having covered the 26.1 miles in 3 hours 46 minutes. It had felt much, much longer. I missed the train by 2 minutes, and had to wait a full 28 minutes for the next one. By the time it arrived I was frozen. That kind of summed up my day.