Monday, March 31, 2008

Review of the first quarter - a mixed bag

Today is 31 March, the end of the first quarter of 2008. In the 13 weeks of the year I've run 523 miles, an average of just over 40 miles a week, compared with my 519 miles for the same period last year. I'm sure the purists/pedants would point out that this is a leap year, so there was actually one day less in 2007, but the main point is that I've run very similar mileage. I've completed 7 races: some good (the Inverness half marathon, the Nigel Barge 10k and the national vets cross country), some average (the Lairig Mor and the national cross country) and some not so good (the Dumfries marathon and our club's new year handicap). I dropped out of the Livingston cross country.

So it's been a bit of a mixed bag so far, with my running lacking any real consistency. I suppose that was inevitable: I have been really busy at work since starting a new job at the end of November, and have been even busier since taking on the interim chair of sportscotland role in February. On the positive side, work and the sportscotland role have been great, and I'm hanging on in there with my training for another West Highland Way race - even if I am struggling to keep up with some of the 'young turks' (and some not quite so young turks) who are going to the regular training runs.

As ever, the next couple of months are going to be crucial in the WHW build up. At the end of April there is the Highland Fling, a 53 mile race from Milngavie to Fort William. In May I'm planning on doing a 2 day run from Balmaha to Fort William with a few of the guys, then do the Stornoway marathon the following week. Before that it is the Troon 10k, probably my best chance this year of getting that sub 38 minute time.

I was through in Edinburgh yesterday for the World Cross Country championships. It was a great event, a fantastic showcase of distance running, and quite incredible to see the speed some of these guys (and girls) can run. The conditions - wet, windy and muddy - should have suited athletes from the northern hemisphere, but the African countries dominated all 4 races. The best British finisher, Liz Yelling, was 15th in the Senior Women's race. With the noteable exception of Paula Radcliffe, it is obvious that a huge amount of work is required if British (and European) endurance runners are to compete again successfully at the very top level.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Dumfries marathon

Today I ran the Dumfries marathon in 3 hours 19 minutes and 5 seconds, finishing 19th. I've run faster (not least my 2.59 this time last year at Zurich) but at the end of the day I can't really complain about my time - I've also run slower marathons on more than a few occasions. My legs were really sore after about 10 miles today. Don't know what the problem was, but I couldn't get in to a fluent stride pattern at all - so I was quite pleased at being able to dig in and still get below 3.20, especially as I have been busy at work and with sportscotland stuff over the last couple of months. But that sounds a bit like making excuses, and as I said on an earlier post (and which David Waterman reiterated on his excellent blog ) there is no point in making excuses when it comes to our running. I did the best I could, and felt really strong at the end, passing the first lady with about half a mile to go. Hopefully that augers well for the West Highland Way.

That's me up to 61 marathons and ultras (45 marathons, 16 ultras), although that pales into insignficance compared to Steve Edwards, who passed me today around the 11 mile mark on his way to completing his 450th marathon. He finished today's race in 3.10 and I think his average time for all his marathons is 3.18. An incredible athlete. More details about Steve are here: (or else put Steve Edwards into Google and see what comes up).

Finally congratulations to Troon's Charlie Martin (one of my ex clubmates), who passed me today at the 17 mile marker as though he was out for a 2 mile sprint. Charlie took 5 minutes out me in the last 9 miles, and finished in an impressive 3.14. I tried to stay with him, but he was motoring and just pulled away. It's looking good for his Zurich Ironman in July.

Friday, March 21, 2008

My recent medical

Before I start this post, I just wanted to highlight an anonymous comment on my posting of Wednesday 5th March, where I was bemoaning the fact that I never appear in myRace magazine. According to the man (or perhaps woman) who didn't even have the b*lls to leave his (or her) name, "the truest characters of ignorance are vanity, and pride and arrogance.” I'm not 100% sure what this actually means, or how it relates to my posting, but as I am just about to write something that will inevitably sound arrogant I just thought I would mention it upfront. And if I could take this chance to pass on my own words of wisdom to the anonymous poster: "to leave abusive anonymous comments on someone's blog is the act of an ignorant tosser".

Anyway, to my story. I'm trying to take out an insurance policy at the moment, and the insurers insisted that I go for a medical before they were prepared to take me on to their books. After arriving at the hospital I had to have the few hairs on my chest shaved (and it is still itchy - glad I don't need to shave my legs on a regular basis), and various devices stuck to my chest. I then had to walk at what was described as a brisk pace on the treadmill for 9 minutes while my heart rate and various other things were recorded.

It wasn't particularly difficult. After 9 minutes the lady doing the test looked at her readings and asked me if I would mind doing a further 3 minutes at a much higher setting. That was no great problem, although I did sweat a bit more at the higher tempo. I then had to lie still for a few minutes while various other readings were taken.

After about 10 minutes I was called through to see the consultant to discuss the results. My resting pulse had been measured at 40, which he described as 'remarkable'. He also told me that one of their standard tests was to measure the time it took for the heart rate to return to 100 after the initial 9 minutes of walking. In my case my heart rate hadn't ever reached 100 - the maximum it had reached was 92 - which was why I had been asked to do the extra 3 minutes at the higher setting. Even then it returned to 100 within 50 seconds, a result that the consultant described as 'amazing'.

My point here is not to highlight how wonderful I am - which I am sure you all know anyway, including Mr (or Mrs) Anonymous - but to point out what a difference running makes to our level of fitness. We all know this intuitively, but it is very reassuring to have it confirmed by an objective fitness test. So the message is clear. Keep running - it's good for you. And if you take out an insurance policy, ask for a discount in the premium to reflect your considerably higher level of fitness (and consequently lower level of risk to the insurance company) than Mr and Mrs Average. They will almost certainly refuse, but it will give you a great chance to brag to someone else about how fit you are :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lairig Mor race

Yesterday was the annual Lairig Mor race, a low key event organised by Lochaber Athletic Club. The route starts at Mamore Lodge above Kinlochleven, joins the West Highland Way path after about a mile, then follows the WHW route all the way into Fort William Leisure Centre. The total distance is 14 miles.

I did this race last year for the first time and really enjoyed it. It's a good chance to have a fast run on the last section of the WHW - by the time I get to this bit during the race I've already run 80 miles or so, and am normally starting to feel a bit tired. To add to the excitement John K was running as well, so it was a 'counter' in our own race series. The pressure was on - although before giving you the result I should point out a few small things. I had run a hard half marathon at Inverness last week. I have a full marathon next week. I was suffering from a stinking cold. I had been away on business for a few nights during the week. I had also been out at a number of dinners. I had eaten a bacon roll just 3 hours before the race. The weather was too sunny and made it hard to see. I didn't do a proper warm up. The path was too stony. I was wearing new shorts which I wasn't used to. I hadn't drunk enough water before the race. Apart from that I felt fine, and wouldn't want anyone to think I was making excuses.

As you may have guessed already, John hammered me. To be honest I was pleased enough with my time of 1 hour 49 minutes and 8 seconds, which was about half a minute faster than last year and included a 2 minute stop in the middle of nowhere to deal with an urgent 'call of nature'. (Incidentally I just hope it rains heavily in the next few days and washes it all away. I wouldn't want any WHW walker to come across it by mistake). I ran with John for the first mile before watching him pull off into the distance. No problem, I thought: plenty of time to pick things up in the middle and later sections of the race. The gap between us got wider and wider, and after 4 miles or so he was completely out of sight, never to be seen again. At the finish I discovered he had finished in the superb time of 1 hour 43 minutes and 7 seconds, a full 6 minutes in front of me. The man is on fire at the moment. Thomas was even quicker, finishing very high up the field in 1 hour 38 minutes. So now it's back to 2-1 in my series with John, with the next event being the Highland Fling on 26th April.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Inverness half marathon

I don't have a lot of time to blog tonight, but just a quick note to say that I ran today's Inverness half marathon in 1 hour 24 minutes and 30 seconds, finishing in 59th place out of 1,053 finishers. I ran very well and was delighted with my time, which was 15 seconds faster than last year. Kim ran 1.25, Simon 1.27, Tim 1.33, Anne 1.45, and Kate 2.01. Full results can be found here at the race website:

Congratulations to a number of friends who had PBs at the Balloch to Clydebank half marathon - Marco (1.16), John M (1.24) and Debbie (1.42). Well done to you all.

Finally well done to Scotland on their superb 15-9 win agaist Engalnd yesterday in the RBS 6 Nations. We were there, and while it may not have been the bet game of rugby ever played, it was hugely exciting and great to see a Scotland win. All in all it's been a good weekend.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A new myRace - will I be in this time?

A new myRace magazine is out - will I be in this time? I very much doubt it. Bookies were offering better odds on Celtic beating Barcelona in the Champions League. Still, I'll trudge up to my local running shop tomorrow to buy the March/April edition, more in hope than expectation. No doubt I'll look through all the pages carefully, only to be disappointed once again and feel I've wasted another £3.50. I've heard that I'll be quoted in Debbie's bugbears article, but it's just not the same as being in a picture. I'll let you know if I'm wrong, but suffice to say I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I had to laugh

I entered 'London Marathon' on Youtube to see what came up. The very first entry was called 'Flora London Marathon 2007' and had been described by the person posting as
"A hopefully inspirational video about the 2007 Flora London Marathon and a recognition of what makes it great".
All very serious and worthy stuff, until someone left the following comment. I've quoted it word for word, so apologies for the poor spelling:
"pease of piss try ultramarathons hard as hell ".
Although I appreciate that it isn't clever to leave comments like that, it did make me laugh :)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Are we obsessed with targets?

Are we, the running community, obsessed with targets? Surely not! But....

My mileage wasn't great in January - new job, rubbish weather, various other excuses - so at the start of February I decided I would like to run 200 miles in the month. The month started off very well: I managed to get quite a lot of running done in the first 3 weeks, including a couple of long WHW runs, so it looked as though 200 miles would be no problem at all. Last week's National XC champs reduced my mileage a bit, but hey, it was a good quality workout and well worth doing, so it shouldn't have given me any problems.

Anyway, by last Sunday I had run 180 miles. There were still 5 days to go. Reaching 200 miles should have been "shootie-in", to use the old Scottish expression. However, there were a few potential pitfalls on the horizon. Wednesday - a board meeting; likely to last all day. I'm always tired after these board meetings and don't particularly feel like going out for a run. Thursday - a dinner at night at Celtic Park, and a lunchtime meeting. Getting a run in might be tricky. Friday - an awards lunch. I would have liked to be able to have a few glasses of wine, wind down towards the weekend, and not have to worry about running at all.

Well, the week started badly and I didn't run at all on Monday. I can't really remember why- think I had a lunchtime meeting and at night I was working until late, so I just ran out of time. 20 more miles were still required. Tuesday was better - despite the 70 mile per hour winds I forced myself out a run after work, up and round Arthur's Seat. At one stage I had to look at the wall to make sure I was actually moving forward, so strong was the wind. Despite that I did 10 miles, so only 10 to go. Wednesday - as predicted, too tired after the board meeting. No run. Mileage - 0; 10 still needed. On Thursday I only had three quarters of an hour to do anything at lunchtime, but forced myself out for a 3 mile blast round the Meadows. Although I would have prefrred to do more, I quite enjoyed it, and felt it was a hard and worthwhile session (miles 2 and 3 around 6.30 pace, if anyone is interested). But still 7 miles to go, and only a day to do it. My plans for the relaxed lunch were not looking good.

And so to Friday. I went to the Finance Director of the Year Awards Lunch, but nursed a single glass of wine for the entire meal. Admirable self control, if I may say so. In case anyone is wondering, I didn't win the FD of the Year award, but in my defence I should point out I am no longer a Finance Director, and haven't been one since November. I wouldn't have wanted the publicity anyway. But I digress. After work, while others were heading out to Edinburgh's pubs, clubs and restaurants, I stuck on my running stuff, headed through Bruntsfield, Morningside, past the Kings Building at Edinburgh Uni, back down through the Grange, round the Meadows, and back to the office. No prizes for guessing the mileage - 7. So I reached my target of 200.

In many ways I think this is quite sad. Would it really have made any difference if I had only done 193, or even 199? When I got home last night I was greatly amused to read Tim's blog and find an article called 'Stupid Bl*&dy Targets'. It's at Have a read - it gives details of Tim's attempts to reach his 200 mile target in February. It shows that I'm not alone in setting targets, and there are probably more target obsessed nutters out there than we care to admit.

I should finish by mentioning my run today, as it was superb. I did a 9 mile loop which starts and finishes at the house, but incorporates a good number of the local hills, including a 2 mile climb to the finish. Despite my usual steady start, I did the full run in under 7 minute mile pace, and felt really good. It was the first time this year I have run in shorts, apart from races. Am I coming in to a bit of form, just in time for next week's Inverness half marathon?