Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Highland Fling

"Ding, ding, the Highland Fling,
The Highland Fling, the Highland Fling
Ding ding, the Highland Fling
The Highland Fling for me"

Yesterday I took part in 'The Highland Fling', a 53 mile trail race on the southern section of the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum. With the benefit of hindsight I think I ran well, finishing 17th in a time of 10 hours 39 minutes. That was my fastest time ever for that section. Below I've jotted down the key highlights of the day.

3.30am - alarm went off and I got up. Spent next hour rushing around checking I had everything I needed. Decided to have a boiled egg for breakfast, but ran out of time and didn't get a chance to have it.

4.30am - Liz and Phil picked me up.

5.30am - we arrived at Milngavie station. It was a lot busier than last year, when only 17 people took part in the inaugural event - this year there were more than 70.

6.00am - race started. Still quite cool. Ran most of the first section with John K and Allan M. Reached Drymen in 1 hour 50 minutes, which was fast.

9.10am - arrived at the first checkpoint at Balmaha. Time was 3 hours 10 minutes - my fastest ever time to reach there. John kept saying how good he felt. I was a bit worried it was too fast, but felt ok so decided not to panic.

10.42 am - reached Rowardennan in 4 hours 42 minutes, which was fast. I had fallen a bit behind John on this section, but was quite pleased about that as I felt he was going a touch faster than I wanted to run. I forced down a rice pudding and banana, although my stomach didn't feel great - no surprise there. Liz did a superb job as support person, towelling me down and spraying on my suntan lotion. It was starting to get hot.

12.13pm - arrived at Inversnaid (6 hours 13 mins), having had a very good section. Tim, who was taking the times, made me a coffee. However I had to rush off when 4 other runners arrived, including Rosie Bell from Strathaven and Hugh Kerr from Central, as I didn't want them to get in front of me.

1.57pm - reached Beinglas Farm (7 hours 57 mins). Before the race I reckoned if I was away from Beinglas in 8 hours I would be doing well, so I was still very much on schedule. I had passed a couple of people on the difficult section north of Inversnaid, including Erwin from Helensburgh. At Beinglas it was about 3 more miles to the next checkpoint at Derrydarroch. I covered that part really well and passed another couple of runners who were struggling. As I arrived at the checkpoint at Derrydarroch I was surprised to see John K, as I thought he would be much further in front. I think he was surprised to see me too. He left the checkpoint 4 minutes in front of me - not an insurmountable gap at that stage, particularly as everyone would be starting to tire.

2.54pm (8 hours 54 mins) - went through the A82 underpass feeling good, and came out the other side feeling terrible. For the next 45 minutes or so I had terrible cramp. At one stage I could not move at all as my legs seized up in about 5 places at the same time. I tried to eat and drink as much as possible: 2 gels, a scone, some Lucozade sport, some water and some jelly babies, but despite my best efforts I couldn't get rid of the cramp. I even had cramp in my arms. At least 2 other runners passed me, which was irritating, but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. After what seemed like hours of suffering I met a support person for another runner who gave me some crisps. I don't know whether the crisps made a difference, or whether it was the other food kicking in, but eventually the cramp went away just before I crossed the A82 for the second time. What a relief to be able to run again.

4.03pm (10 hours 3 minutes) - crossed A82 for the 2nd time. As the cramp had gone, and I had walked so much of the previous section, I felt really fresh and strong. I fairly motored passed Auchentyre wigwams and up towards Tyndrum. I passed the 2 people who had overtaken me on the previous section - one of the girls had a really sore knee, but she had kept going well, even though she was found the downhill sections really painful. Just after coming into the forest before Tyndrum I passed someone else, then managed to trip and had my first fall of the day. I shouted a few well chosen words, picked myself up, and powered towards the finish, determined to stay in front of the person I had just passed. I succeeded, but only just. I'm not sure I needed a sprint finish at that stage.

4.39 (10 hours 39 minutes) - finished. I felt really good at the end - seemed to have got over the cramp and was running strongly. I found out that Debbie C had finished 6 minutes earlier (in a time of 10.33) and John K was only 3 minutes in front (10.36). I congratulated both of them, although felt a bit gutted as I reckon the cramp had cost me at least 10 minutes on the section above Crianlarich. Still, that's life, and overall I can't really complain about my time.

Phil finished in 12 hours 24 minutes. He felt he ran the first 20 miles too fast, but overall was quite pleased with his performance.

Anyone interested in reading more about this fantastic event, and looking at some photos, should have a look at John K's blog:

Race results can be found here:

Many thanks to Murdo, Ellen and all the other helpers for putting on such a high quality event.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

This week's training

An amazing thing happened on Thursday night. I actually made it along to a Central AC training session - I'm almost positive that's the first time that's happened this year. I was one of the first to arrive and we did a decent warm up, then some 'diagonals' on the football pitch, then a warm down. I quite enjoyed it, although it was a bit disconcerting to be lapped during the warm up by Robert Russell, even though he is an ex Scottish National XC champion, and won last Sunday's Grangemouth 10k.

As well as going to the Central training, this week I've managed a fantastic run round Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, another good run round the south side of Edinburgh, a lunchtime run along the canal and past Firhill in Glasgow, and a 20 mile run today round Strathearn. I guess you could say I get about a bit. Today's run round Strathearn was really good. I ran with the 2 Phils (Phil T and Phil M), both of whom are 1) Strathearn Harriers 2) experienced hill runners and 3) to be honest, a lot more comfortable on the hills than I am. We started somewhere near the Glenturret distillery, headed through Crieff, over some hills to a wildlife park near Comrie, through Comrie, and back over some even steeper hills passing a resevoir before returning to our starting point. For the vast majority of the run I has a fantastic view of the two Phils' backs, and I had no idea where I was. I tried to pretend that I was feeling great, and that it made more sense for me to sit behind them a bit, but I don't think either of the Phils was fooled for a minute. The only consolation was the time - Phil T had told me before the run that 3 hours was a good time for the route and that today he expected 3 hours 20 to be more likely. We finished in 2 hours 51 minutes, having run the last 2 (downhill) miles in something close to 12 minutes.

This is a big weekend for long distance runners, with both the London and Lochaber marathons taking place tomorrow. I know a number of people who are taking part, so good luck to all of them. They'll be hoping the conditions are better than Rotterdam last Sunday or Boston last Monday. At Rotterdam the temperature reached 34 degrees, and eventually the officials decided to close the route because so many runners were passing out due to the extreme heat. Boston was the complete opposite, with very heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 50 mph. The winning time at Boston was 2 hours 14 minutes. While I may think that was not too bad a time at all, and I would probably be quite pleased with it, it should be pointed out that it was was the slowest winning time for something like 30 years. The women didn't fare much better, with the first lady something like 2 hours 34 minutes - not great by international standards.

The forecast for London is for the temparature to reach 23 degrees. No doubt Brendan Foster, Steve Cram et al on the BBC will say something like "absolutely ideal conditions for marathon running", but the reality is that these temparatures are far too hot, especially if you have spent a winter training in Scotland in average temperatures of around 5 degrees. It would definitely kill me. I have never run particularly well at London - I've done it 7 times (1992, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002) and my best is a not so great 3 hours 7 minutes. Almost every year I've found it too warm. Tomorrow I'll be sitting in front of the television, hopefully eating a couple of bacon and sausage rolls, knowing full well that it just isn't the kind of event where I could expect to run well. Won't stop me wishing I was there, however....

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Number 2 in the Scottish rankings

Uk Athletics operate a ranking scheme for all events and distances known as the 'Power of 10' rankings. This can be found at the link below:

As of today (Sunday 15th April), I'm ranked number 2 in Scotland for the marathon! It won't last beyond next weekend, when the London and Lochaber marathons take place, but for the time being I'm going to savour it. I've e-mailed the compilers and asked them to fix my club - at the moment they have me down as belonging to Arbroath and District AC, but that is actually the other Ian Beattie - hopefully it will be fixed soon.

To access it go into the link above, select 'Scotland' for the region and 'marathon' for the event.

Ian - Ranked No 2 in Scotland for the Marathon as at 15 April 2007

Back on the West Highland Way

It's only 10 weeks to go until the West Highland Way race on 23rd June. That means it is time to start increasing the mileage, focusing more specifically now on long, steady off-road runs, a lot of which will be on the WHW route itself.

Yesterday I met up with Ellen, Debbie, Aileen, Mags, George, Bobby, Alasdair and Karen at the car park at Bridge of Orchy, setting out for Fort William around 8.30am. Weatherwise it was a brilliant day. If anything, it was a touch too warm at some sections, although it seems a bit churlish to complain about the heat in Scotland in the middle of April. We took the first couple of sections to Kingshouse relatively easily, but worked a bit harder up and down the Devil's Staircase to Kinlochleven. By this stage we had split into 3 groups - Debbie, Aileen and I had pushed on a bit at the front; Ellen and Mags were working away steadily not far behind; and then George, Bobby, Alasdair and Karen were just behind them. The last group (the 'Troonies') are training for the Devil O' The Highlands Footrace on 9th June, and were only going as far as Kinlochleven.

I arrived in Fort William 7 hours and 32 minutes after setting out. This was probably a bit faster than I had planned to run, but was about 8 minutes behind Debbie, who had pushed on very strongly towards the top end of the Lairig Mor. I suffered a bit from cramp on the last sections, probably as a result of the heat, and although it was never enough to stop me running it did slow me down at quite a few points. It's something I'll have to have a think about - it does cost a bit of time when it happens, and I'm sure it can be avoided by eating and drinking the right things. If there are any nutritionists out there with any advice, please get in touch!

We had plenty of time to get a coffee at the local Morrisons - I even had time for a shower at the Fort William Leisure Centre, which meant I wasn't as smelly as the others - before we headed back to Bridge of Orchy on the 5.40 train. All in all a great day out, and one which should set us up nicely for the 53 mile Highland Fling race from Milngavie to Tyndrum in a couple of weeks time. Bring it on!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sub 3 hour marathon - so what?

Tonight is confession time. I am not good at celebrating success. Once I have achieved something that I have been aiming for, such as my sub 3 hour marathon last weekend, my reaction tends to be: well, I'm glad that's done, but what is my next target?

I'm sure it is a flaw in my personality, and one which I know frustrates my wife enormously. I had exactly the same feeling many years ago when I received my exam results at school, the same when I passed my driving test, the same again when I received my final results at university, and I have had the same feeling on many other occasions since. I just don't seem to be able to do anything about it - it's just seems to be something I am stuck with.

In terms of last week's run, why do I not feel more delighted with it? I started running seriously towards the end of 1990, and managed my first sub 3 hour marathon at Inverclyde in August 1991, when I finished in 2.59. At that time I thought it would be the first of many sub 3s, but despite a lot of attempts I did not manage it again until 1996, when I ran 2.56 at Crossmichael. This was followed by a 2.57 in 1997 at Nottingham, and then a 2.56 in 1998 at Inverclyde. Since then the closest I have come was a 3.02 at Loch Ness in 2002, and a 3.03 at Leicester in 2003. As it had been almost 9 years since my last sub 3, I had my doubts whether I would ever achieve it again, although it was interesting to have a look back at what I wrote at the end of December 2006, when I was setting my targets for this year:

Marathon: pb - 2.56 (in 1998); last year's best - 3.18; 2007 target - 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.

Having now done it, I can't help thinking it wasn't as difficult a goal as I have been making it out to be. In fact, in general I don't think I have run marathons as well as I have been capable of - in far too many races I have probably been a bit apprehensive about the distance, and held back rather than push myself to the limit. Of the 42 road marathons I've now done (I've also done 15 ultras and non road marathons, so my official 'total' is 57), my times have been in the following categories:

Less than 3 hours - 5
Between 3 hours and 3.04.59 - 3
Between 3 hours 5 and 3.09.59 - 13
Between 3 hours 10 and 3.14.59 - 3
Between 3 hours 15 and 3.19.59 - 9
Between 3 hours 20 and 3.24.59 - 3
Between 3 hours 25 and 3.29.59 - 2
More than 3 hours 30 - 4

So there you are. Sorry it's all a bit deep and analytical tonight, but you've probably sensed that I'm on a bit of a down at the moment. My mood hasn't been helped by the fact that I've picked up another of these bl**dy viruses that is going around which has meant that, for the last few days a) I've been feeling lousy and b) I haven't been able to run. I guess the break from running will do me no harm at all, and should mean my body gets a chance to recover properly from last week's marathon. That's the theory, but in practice it is still very frustrating. At least we have a long training run planned on the WHW for next Saturday, and then it's the Highland Fling on 28th April. I'm looking forward to both of them. After all, there's no point in looking back when you can look forward instead...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Zurich Marathon

I'm sitting here in our hotel reception area in Zurich, trying to get a grip of the Swiss keyboard which has some of the keys in strange places. A few hours ago I finished the Zurich marathon in 2 hours 59 minutes and 40 seconds, finishing in 373rd place out of 4,642 finishers.

I was really pleased with my run. My plan was to stay close to the 3 hour pacer, but right from the start he went off more quickly than I wanted to run so I let him go. The race gave official times for the quarter, half, three quarter and full marathon distance, and I was through the quarter marathon point (slightly more than 10.5 k) in 44.51. At that stage I wouldn't have given myself much chance of beating 3 hours, and the 3 hour pacemaker (with his yellow balloon high in the air) must have been about a minute and a half in front. I surprised myself by picking up the pace, and by the half marathon distance (1.29.10) I had caught the pacemaker and his group, and was going well. I stayed with him (and the rest of the group, which was quite large) until the three quarter marathon point (just less than 32k) which I went through in 2.14.08. At that stage I was feeling good and knew I was on for sub 3 hours if I could hold it together. For some stupid reason I pushed on in front of the group at the 35k point, and by 36k they had come back and passed. I started to struggle badly, and went through a very poor section from about 36 to 39k. I was pretty sure at that point that my chances of sub 3 had gone, but as I checked my watch going through 39k I realised I could still do it if I was able to up the pace a bit. The last 3k were, as you would expect, very painful, but I was absolutely determined and as I came up the final straight I knew I was going to do it. I crossed the line in 2.59.40. I had done it - absolutely thrilled to bits - my first sub 3 hour marathon since 1998, and the first time I have done it in a big city race.

I have to say that the course and the organisation at Zurich were fantastic. The race started at 8.30am, so it didn't get too warm - I think the temperature ranged from about 9 to 14 degrees, which was ideal for running. The course went out and back along the lake, so there was hardly a hill on it. I received a text about 20 minutes after finishing, giving me my official time and splits. All in all a brilliant event, which I would highly recommend. It obviously helps when you run well :)