Sunday, June 29, 2008

One week on

I have been quite overwhelmed by the number of comments, emails, phone calls and other messages I have received since dropping out of the WHW race. Thank you to everyone for your support - it has greatly helped me get over the disappointment, and to put things in a bit of perspective. I enjoyed catching up with the gang at the barbeque yesterday and despite the showers I thought it was a great day, even if the WHW race did tend to dominate the discussion somewhat!

I haven't done much running this week, although I did turn up at the 2 mile race at the Meadows on Wednesday night. 2 miles is not my distance at the best of times, but I thought it was a good chance to blow the cobwebs away so slogged my way round to finish in 12.37. It was a struggle - 2 mile races always are - but, unlike last weekend, at least I managed to finish. The only other run I did was a steady 4 miler today, but I'm hoping to feel a bit more motivated next week and run more often. Depending on how things go I might even go up to Stonehaven with a few people from the club for the half marathon next Sunday.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I'm gutted. Yesterday I dropped out of the West Highland Way race after 27 miles, at Rowardennan. I hadn't been feeling good from the start - during the 1st section my stomach had been sore, and I had to stop for the toilet in the bushes, then I felt incredibly tired all the way from Drymen to Balmaha. I kept trying to tell myself that this was normal, that this was how it always felt, but deep down I knew something wasn't right at all. I came into Balmaha and was in a right state - with the benefit of hindsight this was where I should have sat down, taken a few minutes to pull myself together, and told myself to forget about times, targets and so on. Instead I rushed to the toilet (again), grabbed a soup and a coffee from the backup team, and headed out in a worse state than I had come in - in less time in total than I stopped last year. I didn't feel any better heading up towards Rowardennan, and by the time I was a few miles short of there I was really stuggling, and having to walk most of the path. I kept telling myself that there were always bad patches, that it would get better, that I just needed to get some food in me, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was not looking good. Alex Simpson passed and tried his best to get me going, but it was no use. By the time I reached the road at Rowardennan I knew I was done. I reached the car a few minutes later and sat down, hoping for a miraculous recovery. Unfortunately it didn't happen, and after 10 minutes or so I accepted it was just not going to be my day. I walked back to the checkpoint and handed in my tag. Race over. I was absolutely gutted.

I wanted to watch the rest of the race, as did allybea and George, so we dropped Sandy off at Milngavie and drove up to Auchtertyre Farm. After that we headed to Bridge of Orchy for a while, then Kingshouse, and finally to Fort William for the finish. I found it fascinating to see how everyone was doing - I've never seen the leaders before, so it was really interesting to see how they looked at the various stages. Jens Lukas was first finished just after 6pm, in a time of 17.06. We also saw Phil M finish in 7th position in an absolutely incredible time of 19.14, and John K sprint to the line in 11th position to dip under the 20 hour mark in 19.59 - brilliant performances from them both.

The prize giving today was quite difficult. I was delighted to see so many friends receive their goblets, but it was hard knowing my name was not going to be on the list and on more than a few occasions I felt close to tears. I spoke to Dave and Thomas, who had both dropped out at Kingshouse, and I think we shared the same feelings - delighted for those who had done it, but so disappointed that we were not amongst them. I felt the same driving down the road, and on a few occasions I had to wipe the tears away from eyes so I could see where I was going. Already I've had many supportive comments and messages - people have told me that I did the right thing, that they are pleased I took the sensible option, and that I would have done myself more long term harm had I carried on, and so on. I appreciate the comments, and they are all reassuring words, but to be honest it doesn't mask the pain or the disappointment: this was my main running target for the year, and I have failed to complete it. It will take me a while to get over that.

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's nearly time

Just a very quick note to wish everyone good luck for the West Highland Way race. As I write this the start is less than 8 hours away, and I'm sure everyone running and supporting is feeling nervous, excited, apprehensive, terrified, or a combination of all of these. At this stage I'm just looking forward to getting going and giving it my best shot.

My final message to everyone would be this: it is a personal challenge, and the most important thing is to finish within the time limit. It will hurt, you will feel exhausted at stages, and there will be points where you will wonder why you are doing it, but it is a wonderful event and we are all privileged to be able to take part. Good luck, and I look forward to sharing another fantastic race experience with so many great friends.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

5 sleeps to go

Well, only 5 sleeps to go to the BIG one - the 2008 WHW race. I've done this race a few times now, and you would think I would be a lot more relaxed and able to take it all in my stride. Sadly, I'm not. I still get ridiculously nervous, worry every time I walk along the road in case I injure my foot, and panic in case ill people come near me and pass on their germs. Last Friday I got on the train home from work and sat in an empty seat. When I looked up, I noticed the guy opposite had a bit of a red nose, and shortly afterwards he sneezed. That was just too much for me, so I got up and moved through to the next carriage, finding a seat with no-one nearby.

I'm working until Wednesday, then taking Thursday and Friday off on holiday. My plan is to have a gentle 5 run tomorrow (Monday) and a very easy 4 mile run on Wednesday. I'll try and get my race haircut tomorrow - probably a No.3 all over - as I like my hair to be really short for this race: it could be worth a few minutes off my time. On both Thursday and Friday I'll try and have a long lie, doing very little except pack my kit for the race and think through my race strategy. From 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon I expect to be pacing around like a bear at the zoo, driving the family nuts with my nervous chatter and inane drivel. And then it will be time to go.

I am fascinated to see how all of the group I have trained with get on. Many are first timers and have no idea of what lies ahead. Others have done it before and should have a better idea. There were some fantastic performances in the Highland Fling - can these be replicated in the full race? Not long till we find out...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

They are all going mad

I am getting more and more worried about the mental state of some of my fellow WHW'ers. Have a quick skim through some of the WHW blogs and you will come across a completely obscure WHW diagram (Thomas), a most bizarre interpretation of Big Brother in which people go out running (Neal), and a recording of a story called 'Braggity Rabbit & Slo Mo Turtle' (John). When you combine that with Dave's ongoing pirate saga, Brian's desire to blog in pirate language, and Murdo's wife's very odd dreams, it is clearly becoming more and more of a madhouse with each passing day. Just as you thought it couldn't get worse, listen to this: Debbie and Marco have bought a caravan, and are planning on bringing it to my house for the WHW post race barbeque. This race can certainly do funny things to people.

I, of course, am remaining as sane and normal as ever. No emotional rollercoaster for me - I'm just getting on with things in my usual calm and collected way. It's only a race, after all.....

Friday, June 06, 2008


I've been tagged by allybea, which means I need to answer the questions that have been set. I'll try my best.

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?
I was just about to attempt my first WHW race. With the benefit of hindsight I was hopelessly underprepared, had no idea about what lay ahead, and on the day I dropped out at Tyndrum. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I actually carried a spare pair of shoes in my backpack all the way from Rowardennan to Beinglas Farm. Today's first timers don't know how lucky they are having access to such high quality advice from the likes of me :) However every cloud has a silver lining: the failed attempt was a great learning experience for my successful attempts in later years, and as a bonus I ran some fast race times later that year, no doubt a result of all the training I did for the WHW race (for example Irvine 10k in 36.23; a club 5k in 17.41; the Glasgow half marathon in 1.20; and the Inverclyde marathon in 2.56.)

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?
Best - I have great memories of many races. Every WHW finish is great, particularly last year when I ran a PB; all 5 of my sub 3 hour marathons were fantastic experiences, but Zurich last year was particularly good as I didn't think I would ever run a sub 3 marathon again; I was on a high for days after my 1.17 half marathon at Ayr in 1996; and I was chuffed to bits to beat the hour (59.07) at the Round Cumbrae race in 1996, probably because I had gone to Millport for my summer holidays for about 10 years as a boy.
Worst - I try and put the bad runs out of my mind, so I'm struggling to think of too many. One sticks in my mind, however, from the beginning of May in 2002. Allybea was away, and I took the boys to my parents' house in Kilbarchan and went out for a quick 4 mile run. About half way round I tripped, landed hard on the pavement, and dislocated and fractured my right shoulder. It was excrutiatingly painful and I spent the night in hospital in Paisley. Even worse, I damaged a nerve in my right hand, and couldn't write for 3 months. Not a great running experience.

3. Why do you run?
I love being able to compete against others and against myself. I love feeling fit. I love the cameraderie amongst runners - particularly the WHW runners, many of whom have become my closest friends. I love doing things other people consider unachievable at best and insane at worst. I love being able to eat and drink whatever I want. I love the feeling of release I get from running, whether it is through towns or through some of the world's best scenery.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?
This is a hard one. There was a saying in the original scottishathletics business plan which I found quite inspiring - "the only limits are self imposed". In terms of general sports advice, I'll never forget the time when, 18 years of age, I was standing with a friend in the clubhouse at Old Ranfurly Golf Club, watching the pouring rain outside, and considering whether to go out or whether to give up and head back home. One of the older members came up and asked us if we were going to play. When we told him we weren't sure, he came back with the unforgettable line "Well boys, just remember that a faint heart never fucked a pig". He had a point. We played.

Worst advice - in 2000, I had a pain in my foot for a long time after the WHW race. My physio was convinced it was a stress fracture. I knew it wasn't - it only hurt some of the time, and I was convinced that a stress fracture would hurt all of the time (obviously having a much better knowledge of sports injuries than senior members of the medical profession). After a few months of no progress at all I was sent for an MRI scan - I'm not wanting to make any political comment here, but there are times where private medical insurance can be of great benefit - and guess what the MRI scan showed? No stress fracture. The (now ex) physio was embarrassed, but once he realised it wasn't a fracture he was able to treat it properly, and I was running again a few weeks later.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.
Here's a selection:
Despite looking in my late 20s, I'm actually 42. Last week at Sainsburys the checkout boy asked me if I was over 18 (honestly!)
In first year at secondary school I played Oliver in the school production. For the next 3 years peope used to shout Aw-lee-ver whenever they saw me in the playground, which was hugely annoying. 30 years later, I still remember the words to all the songs.
In my teens golf and football were my main sports. I managed to get my golf handicap down to 8 at one stage, although now I struggle to play to 18. In football I played in a school team that won the U16 Scottish Cup.
I worked for two summers as an auxiliary nurse in the Western Infirmary, Glasgow.
I love karaoke and think I am great. Not everyone agrees.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Still around

After making a great song and dance about people not updating their blogs, I've now left mine lying for over a week without a hint of some new and exciting story. I haven't even responded to allybea's tag. I can only apologise, and offer the somewhat pathetic excuse that I have been 'too busy', along with the fact that I've been struggling to think of any decent advice that anyone has ever given me, or think of something about me that would surprise people - or at least something that I can write about on a public forum. No doubt I'll come up with something soon, in which case I will respond properly. So keep watching.

I have entered my WHW taper phase, but it didn't stop me doing a 20 mile Tour of Strathearn run in the scorching heat (22 degrees) on Saturday, or running in the Auchterarder 10k tonight. I like the Auchterarder 10k - it is not an officially permitted race, which means very few people know about it, which in turn means I have a much better chance than normal of winning a prize. And win a prize I did - I was 3rd vet (6th overall) in a time of 39 minutes and 21 seconds, for which I received a fairly hideous medal. That doesn't matter: I've never been one for prizes, medals and so on - experiences and memories are much more important in my book, and after all how will I ever forget the experience just after the half way point where I thought my bottom was going to explode into the surrounding countryside, or that feeling of how I was about to be sick after crossing the finishing line? Fortunately neither of these things actually happened, although it was a close run thing, I can assure you, particularly the exploding bottom scenario. As you might have guessed it was a tough course - downhill for the first half, which lulls you in to a false sense of security, then uphill for the second half - so I was quite pleased with my run, although I would have been even more pleased if I hadn't been overtaken by a clubmate in the last 100 metres.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that we had an incredible turnout of 17 runners from my club, Strathearn Harriers. I didn't know most of them, which shows how out of touch I am at the moment, but it was definitely a record turnout for a club championship counter. Well done to everyone for making the effort. A few years ago the club had only 17 members in total, so it shows how well things are progressing.

And yes, allybea, I got another t-shirt :)