Friday, July 25, 2008

An update on various things

Well, I'm finally back on line. We haven't had any internet access for the last week as our neighbours were getting trees felled and one of the contactors cut through our phone line. So if you have been looking in anxiously looking for an update, please accept my apologies - although if you were that concerned you could always have called me on my mobile or sent a text :)

To move on to the serious stuff, I'd like to thank everyone who commented on my last posting about the 24 hour race. There was some really useful advice, and I appreciated everyone's comments. Getting to the point right away, I've decided not to do it. Not because I'm worried about failing, or my lack of motivation, but quite simply because I don't think I'm in good enough shape at the moment to do a run of this length and difficulty. I had 3 easy weeks running before the WHW, and in the 4 weeks since then I haven't done a great deal at all. That's 7 weeks of poor training - not the ideal preparation for a 24 hour race. I realised when I went out last Sunday for a 12 mile run that I wasn't ready for it - the last few miles were a real struggle, especially going up the hill at the end. My struggle was also due to a problem I'm having with my left knee - I can run for quite a few miles and then it gets sore, particularly going up or down hill. From scanning the internet it sounds like classic ITB symptoms, so I suspect a visit to Trevor (my physio) is on the card for early next week. If anyone has any positive stories about ITB or knee injuries in general then please let me know. If they are negative then I'd appreciate if you would keep them to yourself. The last thing I need right now is more doom and gloom.

I've been on holiday the last 2 weeks and it has turned into a bit of a golfing break. I was at Birkdale last Thursday and Saturday for the Open, then golfed with John K at Troon on Monday and with Allybea (her first time) at Muthill on Wednesday. We also managed a couple of visits to driving ranges. I only play between 6 and 10 games of golf a year, but played a lot more when I was in my teens and at one stage had a handicap of 8. I don't think I could ever get back down to that level, but am pretty sure I could get down to 12 or so if I played more regularly. That might have to be my backup plan if my knee doesn't get any better.

I don't really know whether to run over the weekend or not. My knee feels ok at the moment, but it may be better to give it a proper rest, particularly as there are no big races coming up for the next few weeks. I'll just wait and see how I feel.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Should I do the 24 hour race at Perth?

The 24 hour race at Perth has now been officially launched. Full details can be found here . It takes place on Saturday 13th / Sunday 14th September, round a 2.38km cycle track on the North Inch in Perth.

I don't know whether to do it or not. On the positive side:
1. I've always fancied doing a 24 hour race, but the WHW race has been my big event of the last few years so I haven't been able to fit one in. As I didn't finish this year's WHW race - how it still hurts to write that - this would be a good year to do a 24 hour race.
2. Logistically it couldn't be easier. Perth is only half an hour up the road and a number of people have already offered to help out with backup.
3. It would give me a target to aim for and help me get running again. Since the WHW I've been struggling to get motivated - having this event should help me get my running shoes on and get back out the door.

On the negative side:
1. As I said above, I'm still struggling with my motivation for running. I am concerned that I wouldn't be able to raise myself to the level needed to train for something like this, so soon after the WHW disappointment.
2. My body may benefit more from having a relatively easy few months running, then coming back stronger next year.
3. To push myself through the undoubted pain of a 24 hour race is going to take a lot of mental strength. Am I ready to do that?

All comments and advice are welcome - as long as you don't get upset if I don't listen or take any of the advice :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A run home from work

On Friday night I decided to try and run home from work, or at least run as far as I could manage. I work in the centre of Edinburgh and live in south Perthshire, which I reckoned would be around 50 miles. My planned route was to head straight out the A8 past the airport, across the footbridge over the motorway, down towards Broxburn, up the back road to Winchburgh, onto the canal path past Winchburgh, Linlithgow and Polmont, then off the canal and down the road to Falkirk, into Larbert, up the back road to Stirling service station, through Stirling city centre, through Cornton, through Bridge of Allan, through Dunblane, then up the back road to Braco past Kinbuck. I had a number of 'escape points' - I could get a train at Linlithgow, Polmont, Falkirk or Larbert if I didn't feel like doing any more, and my car was parked in Dunblane.

The first few hours went quite well. I covered about 6 miles an hour for the first 16 miles, then stopped for 20 minutes for a bowl of soup and coffee in a nice bistro just on the canal before Linlithgow. Despite the fact that a) it was Friday night b) I was smelly and sweaty and c) it was almost full of people having supper, they made me very welcome. I reached the centre of Falkirk (26 miles) in a bit under 5 hours. A lot of drunk people were coming out of the pubs and I received some encouraging comments from a few young ladies - thanks girls, I think I have nice legs as well - then I reached Stirling service station a couple of hours later. On arriving there I was really disappointed that they didn't have any soup and left there on a bit of a low, still feeling hungry. The centre of Stirling had even more drunk people than Falkirk, although once again no-one gave me any bother. Even the police didn't take the slightest bit of interest in me, although I suspect there had a few more issues to deal with on a Friday night and it was quite reassuring to know they were around.

After 8 hours running I reached Bridge of Allan station. I was starting to feel a bit cold and hungry, it was around 2 am in the morning, and my car was parked at Dunblane, only half an hour up the road. I had done enough. I arrived at the car in Dunblane at 2.30 am and called it a day. I had been running for 8 hours 31 minutes and had covered 44 miles. Apart from a bit of a niggle behind my left knee my legs were not too bad, and I'm sure could have seen me through the 10 miles back to the house. Mentally, however, I had had enough. To run for that length of time on that type of route is hard going.

Before Friday's run I had planned to do the 24 hour race at Perth on 13 September, but I am not sure now whether I will do it or not. I had forgotten how difficult it is to run for that length of time on the roads, and going round and round a 2.1 km loop on tarmac for a full 24 hours will be mentally challenging, to say the least. As I approached Dunblane on Friday night (or more accurately Saturday morning) the thought going through my head was 'why exactly am I doing this?' I still haven't really been able to answer that question.

Before signing off I would just like to pass on my congratulations to my wife allybea, who organised a hugely successful Crieff 10k on Sunday. She would be the first to say that it was a great team effort, with everyone from the club playing their part, but she had the overall responsibility for the whole thing and deserve fantastic credit putting on such a good event. There have been a lot of nice comments about the race on various forums and blogs, so it is good to know that the runners appreciate the effort that was put in. Her full race report can be found here:

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Stonehaven half marathon

I'm not long back from Stonehaven where I took part in today's half marathon. Stonehaven is a seaside town a bit south of Aberdeen, but to get there you have to drive up the A90. So what, I hear you ask? Well, never in my life have I seen so many speed cameras as we passed today on the A90 from Dundee onwards. There must have been one every couple of miles. And to make things worse, occasionally the road speed changes from 70mph to 50mph, in a blatant attempt to catch you out and raise more money for the exchequer. Now I don't have much sympathy for people who speed on our roads, but I get totally hacked off with speed cameras being used like this. If the objective really is to reduce people's speed, why not set up average speed cameras, which a a lot fairer and a lot more successful in reducing speed? Probably because they don't generate the same level of revenue.

Before you think that my angry tone suggests I was caught out by one or more of these cameras, I should quickly point out that I was not driving today. My main role in the car was to act as Chief Speed Camera Spotter, and to shout THERE'S ONE in enough time for Phil T to make sure he was safely within the speed limit - which of course he always was.

Anyway, time to get off my soap box and talk about the race. It was hard, but not as hard as the Heaven and Hell half marathon which I did in April. Today I finished in 1 hour 29 minutes and 39 seconds, and think I just made it into the top 30. Phil T was delighted to finish in 1.31.14, a couple of places behind. In many ways I was jealous of his run. After I slogged up the hills for the first 4 miles or so, I knew I would be round about the hour and a half, so worked really hard the whole way round to try and beat the 90 minute target. That meant the 2nd half of the course was a really painful struggle, particularly over the last few miles when my legs were reluctant to move as quickly as my brain wanted them to move, and I had to dig really deep to keep it going. The only time I felt confident of making it when I came into the park and saw the finish banner a 100 yards or so in front of me. Phil T on the other hand set off at a relatively gentle pace, had no great worries about his time (he has had a knee injury and is just getting back to form), and felt so good at 7 miles that he speeded up for the second half, passing a lot of runners on route. He crossed the line saying what a great run it was, while I was lay on the grass coughing, spluttering and trying not to be sick.

After a drink of water, a shower and then a coffee, I was able to reflect on the fact that this was a really good, well organised half marathon. Sure, it was hard, but very enjoyable nevertheless. I would certainly recommend it, and will hopefully be back some time in the future.

Late addition: I've just updated my race records and noticed that today was my 80th half marathon. All but 8 of them have been below 1.30. So it probably was worthwhile pushing myself hard for that second half of the course :)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

More than a one trick pony

Many readers of this blog will think I do nothing except run. It may therefore be a bit of a surprise to read that I played a round of golf on Wednesday night, and actually played well. It was my first game of golf since 2nd January, so when I turned up at Auchterarder Golf Club (a club I am hoping to join) I had little expectation of producing a good performance. It was however a lovely night, warm and still, so if nothing else I was looking forward to getting out and having a good catch up with my friend Keith.

There is probably nothing more boring in the world than reading a blow by blow account of someone's round of golf. "I hit a good drive down the right of the first, then I hit a 5 iron just short of the green, then I pitched on to the green, then I left my putt a yard short, yawn, yawn..." I am the first to admit that type of report doesn't make good reading, so I'll spare you any of the boring detail (except for mentioning my 7 iron tee shot at the par 3 12th, which I almost holed...) Suffice to say that I played out of my skin. I hardly hit a bad shot all night, beat Keith 7&6 (if you don't understand golf that means I was 7 holes ahead with 6 to play), and I played the 2nd 9 holes in 38 (which is only 5 over par, not bad for someone who hasn't played since 2nd January). I loved it. There are some great feelings in sport - one is obviously finishing a WHW race (although I have to think back a bit to remember that feeling), another is setting a personal best time at any distance (ditto), but hitting a great drive right down the middle of the fairway ranks right up there. And I did it time after time after time. Superb.

I also did some running this week. On Wednesday night I went to the picturesque village of Bridge of Earn, just outside Perth, for the 5 mile 'Brig Bash' race. I ran quite well and was pleased to finish 30-somethingth in a time of 31 minutes 47 seconds. It is quite a long time since I have run at that fast a pace, and I had forgotten that amazing feeling where you think that you can't run another step, that you are right at the edge of your running capabilities, and that there is no way you will be able to keep that pace going for the remaining 2 miles. Then you pass someone, realise everyone is feeling exactly the same, and by some miracle you actually manage to speed up. Although it is incredibly painful at the time, going through that type of experience is probably one of the reasons why I enjoy running so much - it is a brilliant feeling to push yourself beyond the point you thought you could cope with.

I'm racing again tomorrow, at the Stonehaven half marathon. It's a new race for me and I'm looking forward to it, possibly because it is advertised as one of Scotland's toughest half marathons. I like tough half marathons, so it should suit me fine. Phil T from the club is running as well so that should keep both of us on our toes. I'll report back in due course.