Sunday, June 24, 2007

The West Highland Way race

I'm not long back from Fort William. I completed the 95 mile West Highland Way race in a new personal best time of 21 hours 11 minutes, finishing 11th out of 104 starters and 76 finishers.

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

My poem

Alison has posted a poem on her blog, to much acclaim. I thought I would do one as well. Mine is called 'The West Highland Way Race - A Runner's Perspective'. I hope you enjoy it.

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

Feeling good on a Monday

I am not normally at my best on a Monday. In fact it would be fair to say that my usual Monday demeanour lies somewhere between 'very grumpy' and 'extremely p*ss*d off with life in general'. As I've felt like this on Mondays for the last 20 years or so (probably ever since I started work), I've become fairly used to it. My workmates are also used to it, to the point where they go out of their way to avoid scheduling meetings with me until later in the week.

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

The Weather

Dario, the WHW race organiser, has put a post on the WHW bulletin board which suggests the weather next Saturday could be similar to 2005 - i.e. very warm and humid, with the potential for thunder and flash floods. As you would imagine these conditions can be difficult to run in, with a need to take on plenty of fluid, while making sure you don't take on too much. I don't particularly like running in the heat. My ideal weather would be a temperature of around 14 degrees, dull and overcast, with a light south westerly wind. I've had a look at the Met Office long term forecast which says the following:

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

Short of time

It's 10.45pm, I'm tired and need to get to bed. I didn't get a chance to blog last night so here is a very quick update:

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

Lang Toon 10k, Auchterarder

It's not like me to post during the week, as I normally don't have time. However I felt I had to let everyone know that I ran the Lang Toon 10k in Auchterarder tonight, finishing in (wait for it) 2nd place overall and 1st vet! My time was 38.37 - perhaps not quite as fast as I had hoped, but against that it was a tough, hilly course with most of the uphills in the 2nd half. Needless to say it was not a quality field, but to be fair neither was the heptathlon in the 2000 Olympics, and I've never heard Denise Lewis complain about her gold medal :)

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

Time for the tapering to begin

There is now less than 3 weeks to go until 'The Race', so I am hoping I have done most of the hard work and can begin to taper down. For those of you who are not runners and may not have heard about the concept of tapering, it describes where you reduce the amount of mileage and the intensity of training, with an aim of ensuring that your body is completely fresh for the big day. That sounds easy in principle, but in practice it is a bit more difficult. The main difficulty I find is that my body initially enjoys the fact it is not working as hard as it is used to, so tends to go in to 'shut-down' mode. That can make easy runs feel quite hard, which in turn can make me think that I have lost all of the fitness I have spent the last 6 months or so developing. All complete rubbish, of course, but it does have a tendancy to cause a degree of panic to set in. An unwelcome consequence of this is that I am liable to spend the next 2 and a half weeks moaning to everyone I meet about my non-existent injuries and illnesses - this includes (but is by no means limited to) my family, my workmates, other WHW runners, and in fact just about anyone who is unfortunate enough to have to listen to me. It all gets quite pathetic, to be honest - for example, if I happen to be sitting beside someone on the train who sneezes, then I am likely to move seat. After all, you just can't risk catching their cold, can you?

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 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?