Sunday, February 24, 2008


For a bit of fun John K and I are having a wee competition this year over a number of races. Yesterday was the second race in our series, the National Cross Country championship at Falkirk. I had won the first event (the Nigel Barge 10k at the start of January), but John has been training well since then and probably went into yesterday's race as the slight favourite. However favourites don't always win (just ask Chelsea, ha ha), and although I didn't mention it to John beforehand, I was hoping my national cross country experience might work in my favour: yesterday was my 15th National XC, while John had not run one before.

At 12k the National is the longest cross country race of the year. Each 4k lap is a challenge in its own right, but seems to get more difficult as the race goes on. I started well and felt good throughout the first lap, and was not concerned at all to be a few places behind John as the first lap ended. I passed him not long into the 2nd lap, just at the muddiest part of the course, and by the end of that lap I was still feeling good and had opened up a lead of around 20 seconds. Unfortunately the 3rd lap was horrible. I had a bit of a stitch, really struggled on the tough windy section over the golf course, and was passed by quite a few people who I had hoped to beat. I had very little left in my legs as I crossed the finish line in a time of 48.31. Despite my last lap woes John wasn't able to close the gap, and finished about 25 seconds behind. 2-0.

The results came out today and show that I finished 213th from 398 finishers. For the second year in a row I have failed to achieve my goal of a top half finish in the National XC. Disappointing, but no great surprise. It just means I'll have to keep it as one of my targets for 2009.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Training or racing?

Back on my soapbox again. This week's blogs (Marco, pacepusher, Thomas, John) have been full of comments about the 'race' last week from the Drovers Inn to Kingshouse - loads of comments about beating so and so, finishing in x position, and so on. I raised this before in a previous posting, but I'm not sure anyone paid the slightest bit of notice. So I'll raise it again and see if I get a reaction this time:

1. We are still in February.
2. The race does not take place until 21 June, almost 4 months away.
3. IMHO one of the benefits of the long training runs are to get replicate race conditions. I did Saturday's run in 5 hours 36 minutes. In last year's race I was 6 hours 50 minutes for the same section, and finished in 21 hours 11 minutes. So last Saturday I was not replicating race conditions.
4. I've checked back at the 2000 race results (it's the only one I have to hand). Wim Eskamp ran a new record that year of 16 hours 26 minutes. He covered the section from Inverarnan to Kingshouse in 5 hours 15 minutes - slower than quite a few people ran the same section on Saturday.
5. Which means a few people were running faster than 16.26 race pace. Did they appreciate they were running that quickly?
6. Running 95 miles is quite different from running 31 miles. We are training for a 95 mile race, not running a series of WHW races over shorter distances.
7. Over the years I've seen many runners who were in great shape in March but then picked up injuries. Many didn't make it to the start line; others did but underperformed.

Of course, everyone has their own training plans which need to take account of their personal circumstances. There are many different ways to run this race successfully, and I would never presume to tell people that one way was better than another way. There are almost as many training theories as there are runners. Some of the group will have realistic expectations of a 20 hour performances, and will find Saturday's training pace very easy. Others will find the pace comfortable for 30 miles, but may struggle as the distances increase.

So in summary, I'm not trying to tell anyone how to train, but I just think we all need to be quite careful about how we approach these long training runs. I'll certainly be having a good think about it, and suspect I'll give the 29 March long run a miss. I have a marathon the week before, and in any event I feel that March is a bit early in my training programme to be doing 42 miles. I'll also be treating the Highland Fling Race on 26 April with a bit of caution - a 53 mile race is a tough undertaking in its own right, and it only leaves 8 weeks recovery time until the full race.

Having said all that, I'll be giving it everything tomorrow at the National XC. Particularly if I see John K just in front with a lap to go :)

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Anyone remember 'The Bluebells'? They had a few hits, including one called 'I'm Falling', which went like this:

I'm falling down again
I been falling on down again
I been falling on down again
Falling on down
I been falling on down again
I been falling on down again
Falling on down

Why am I telling you this, I hear you ask? Unfortunately it sums up yesterday's run only too well. We ran from Beinglas Farm to Kingshouse, a total of 31 miles. After 19 miles, as we approached Bridge of Orchy station, I hit a stone and as Debbie so eloquently describes on her blog, went "ar*e over elbow". John's description is a bit more pastor-like: "Ian had a nasty fall along this bit". They were both right. It was bl**dy sore. I scraped both elbows, both knees, underneath my eye, and was covered in muck. Fortunately there was no lasting damage, unlike my last serious fall in 2002 when I fractured and dislocated my shoulder. On the negative side I'm going to look some state when I go into work tomorrow with a black eye.

Anyway, I picked myself up, gave myself a bit of a clean, and ran the remaining 12 miles to the finish. It wasn't my best run ever, and I felt the pace was a bit fast for most of it. I did the route in 5 hours 36 minutes - in last year's race it took me about 6 hours 50 minutes, so it shows how hard we were pushing. Maybe that's why I tripped.

Other blogs describe yesterday's run a lot more positively than I have. Lesson to self: you can't run brilliantly every week. I'm just hoping this was my bad week, and it all comes right at next week's National Cross Country.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

National Old Gits Cross Country Championship

Yesterday was the National Masters and Mistresses XC championship. To take part you needed to be an old git (over 35) and be a member of scottishathletics. As I am both I thought I would give it a go. No-one else from Strathearn Harriers fancied the long journey to Irvine Moor, so I was the club's sole representative. That took the pressure off a bit, and meant I could just run round and enjoy it.

Of course, it didn't work out like that. I started off at a sensible pace, but half way round the first lap I began to get a bit twitchy about a few of the people who were in front of me. That kept me working, and I'm pleased to say I caught all of them on the 3rd and final lap. To Erwin, Connell, Robert and Hugh: many thanks - you dragged me round. And I loved passing you all, even though I didn't mention it at the time :) My times for each lap were quite consistent, and my strength from some of the recent endurance work meant that I passed a lot of people on Lap 3. I finished in 99th place out of 198 finshers, scraping into the top half of the field by the skin of my teeth, in a time of 39 minutes and 53 seconds. It was a good performance. My only regret was that John K had not entered, as I think that I was running well enough to have beaten him and go further ahead in our series. Never mind - roll on the National XC at Falkirk in 2 weeks time. John, I'm ready for you :)

This afternoon I went out on my own and did the 'Tour of Strathearn'. It's supposed to be a 20 mile run from Crieff, up and along the hills to Comrie on the south side of the main road, then up and over the northern hills back to Loch Turret, and back down the hill to Crieff for the last 5 miles. I got a bit lost early on so added an extra mile, which meant I did 21 miles in total. I could have done without that extra mile with a few to go, I can assure you. Anyway it's a cracking run, and I wonder if we should do it as a WHW training run in a couple of months? Perhaps we could do it twice, making it a tough 40 miler? Guys, you would all be very welcome and I'm sure allybea would provide us all with coffee at the end (as well as a pair of stripy socks for Debbie). Just accept that you might have a bit of a wait for the shower :)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Running with the fast guys

On Friday I bumped into Liam, who told me that a few of the guys from Central were planning on doing a long run on the WHW on Saturday. Perfect, I thought - I had planned to do a 20 mile run on my own, so to do it with a few others would be so much better.

What I hadn't taken into account was the fact that all the Central guys were quite fast, and it would be a sprint for more or less the full 19 miles. We started out at Milngavie at 10am, and 1 hour 42 minutes later arrived at Drymen. Had it been the race we would probably have been in the lead - my previous fastest to Drymen was about 1.52. We continued at a 'challenging' pace all the way through the forest to Conic Hill. As we got near the top of the hill, the drop in temperature meant that the slush had turned into ice, and the mild rain had turned into a snow blizzard. I put my foot in a deep puddle, and both calves cramped. For a few seconds it was agony before it loosened off. After that it was a really struggle making my way down the steep slope into Balmaha car park, trying to avoid the ice, and I was pretty relieved to get down (slowly) without further mishap.

Although I was a bit stiff last night, I felt good this morning and took the dog for an easy 5 mile run. It was then on to Murrayfield for the rugby. Scotland lost 27-6 to France. Despite the result it was an excellent day, and we enjoyed the hospitality to the full.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lucy is 3 today

Lucy, my younger labrador, is 3 today, so happy birthday Lucy. Before anyone asks we didn't name her after Lucy Colquhoun, the WHW ladies record holder - we didn't know Lucy Colquhoun then and I just liked the name.

After a few days of moaning about sore quads, and trying to work out if walking in high heels really did make them feel better (I'm kidding, honest, but it was a good tip Debs), I managed to get out a couple of runs yesterday and today. Last night was windy, with a capital 'W' (which means it was Windy I suppose, rather than windy :). A few times I thought I was going to get blown over, or hit by an escaped wheelie bin, but I made it back safely having done a 6 mile loop round Edinburgh's south side. Today I did a more gentle 4 mile run along the Union canal. I'm beginning to feel like a runner again.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, it's a 20 mile on the WHW with some of the guys from Central (Milngavie to Balmaha is planned), hopefully followed by a run with the club early on Sunday morning. Then it's off to Murrayfield on Sunday for the Scotland v France match. Should be a good weekend.