Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back running again

Last Wednesday night I did the Irvine 10k. I had been hoping for a sub 38 minute performance, and still had an outside chance of achieving it as I passed the 8k marker and overtook the first lady. Then my hamstring went. Not just a little, but it went completely, bringing me to a complete stop. I could only shuffle in, finishing in a new personal worst time of 41 minutes and 40 seconds. As you might guess I was pretty hacked off about it - so hacked off, to be honest, that I just couldn't face recording the details here on my blog. Hence the lengthy gap since my last post. (Incidentally, on the Sunday before Irvine I did a local 11 mile race, the Sheriffmuir Challenge, which I haven't written about it either. I finished just over 1 hour 15 minutes, which was fine, especially as I had been out for a 14 mile run the day before).

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

2007 WHW race - things I did differently

As some of you will know I did this year's WHW race in a new PB of 21 hours 11 minutes. Before that my best time had been in 2003 when I recorded 21.39, although I have always felt I had a big advantage that year because I wasn't working for the 6 months from mid December to mid June, and consequently had a lot of extra time to train. I've also had 4 finshes of 22 hours something, and one of 24.50 in 2001, the year I was working in London.

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

Why is it so hard to run a fast 5k?

Tonight, for some strange reason, I decided to go to Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld to take part in the inaugural Broadwood 5k. I find 5k a very difficult distance to run, and knew it would be hard. I don't really have the natural speed in my legs for 5k running, and added to that I had done a really hard and fast 10 mile run round Edinburgh last night. Despite all that, I felt it would be a good race, which would hopefully give me be a good workout before next week's 10k at Irvine. And so it proved.

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

Some half marathon stats

Saturday at Islay was my 75th half marathon. Interestingly (at least for me, and for anyone else who is interested in statistics) all of these have been in Scotland. I've done some half marathons quite a number of times, and in fact have only done 27 different races, as follows:

Race / number of times run
Glasgow 13
Inverness 13
Alloa 4
Arran 4
Ayr 4
Loch Rannoch 4
Lochaber 4
Falkirk 3
Irvine Valley 3
Stranraer 3
Helensburgh 2
Inverclyde 2
Oban 2
Aviemore 1
Balloch to Clydebank 1
Cowal 1
Dumfries 1
Dundee 1
Edinburgh Forthside 1
Glen Clova 1
Islay 1
Kirkcudbright 1
Loch Leven 1
Lochgilphead 1
Monklands 1
Mull 1
Newcastle 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

Day trip to Islay

Yesterday I left the house in the dark just before 4am, picked up Phil from the top of his driveway, and headed for the 7am ferry from Kennacraig to Port Ellen in Islay. We were doing a day trip to the Ardbeg Islay Half Marathon, an event I had never done before but had always had a notion to do.

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.