Sunday, September 30, 2007

A terrible shock

It was a great shock to hear earlier today about the tragic and premature death of one of my old Troon clubmates, Fergie MacDonald. Fergie died following an accident in his hotel during an exchange trip to Troon's twin town of Villneuve-sur-Lot. He was a great club member - a real larger than life individual - and it seems very hard to believe he is no longer with us. He will be sadly missed.

My thoughts are with his wife and family at this very difficult time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I was stewarding today at the Stirling 10k. It was a good race but the weather was awful for standing about - torrential rain the whole time. I quite like running in these conditions, and was a bit disappointed I hadn't entered. Still, I went out an 8 mile run when I got home and felt great, managing to do it at 6.59 pace, despite the hills. Maybe I'm starting to get the benefit of my long run on Friday.

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

A hard week's training and a very hard run

This has been a tough week. The Loch Ness Marathon is just a bit more than 3 weeks away, and at the start of the week I was very aware that I needed to do a lot more training than I had in the previous few weeks. To be frank, the last few weeks have been fairly dismal, due to my hamstring injury and a general lack of motivation. I was keen to sort that out and make sure I did at least 50 miles running this week.

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


Today was the Comrie Hills relay, a race organised by my club, Strathearn Harriers. Each team requires 5 runners to run the 4 legs - leg 2, the roughest section, has to be run by 2 runners who are required to stay together. Like most hill races the course is not marked and runners are expected either to recce the route beforehand or to use their navigational skills. There are 11 checkpoints in total, all of which the teams are required to pass through and register.

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

Glasgow half marathon

Well, it went ok - in fact it went quite well, considering how disrupted my build up was. I finished in 1 hour 28 minutes and 33 seconds. That was more than 2 minutes faster than last year, and comfortably below the one and a half hour psychological barrier. It was a perfect day for distance running - cool and overcast, with only a light wind - and for a change I set off at a sensible pace. I was through 3 miles in just over 20 minutes, then had my only difficult section going along Paisley Road West, just before Bellahouston Park. After that I got stronger as the race went on, and passed a lot of people over the last few miles. It was nice to finish quickly, feeling good.

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

A painful fall

In 2002 I had quite a bad fall when I was out running, dislocating and fracturing my right shoulder. On Thursday night I was running down the steep track towards Comrie when I tripped over some tree roots. It was a really odd sensation. As soon as I tripped I had an incredible flashback to the fall 5 years ago. I lay on the ground and felt a very familiar pain in my shoulder (although it was my left one this time), and immediately wondered if I had done the same thing again. I got up and moved my arm about a bit. Although sore, it wasn't the excruciating pain I had the last time so it was clear I hadn't done the same damage. It was however quite painful when driving home, and for most of yesterday I found it very hard to move. My left leg was also quite badly bruised at a couple of points.

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.
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
It sounds an incredible event. Maybe I'll do it one day?