Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I got to hold an Olympic gold medal!!!!

I was lucky enough to be at the Scottish olympic medal winners' press conference earlier today and met Chris Hoy and Ross Edgar, our 2 medal winning cyclists. I even got to hold one of Chris Hoy's gold medals and Ross Edgar's silver medal! These guys are fantastic - the best performers in the world in their sport, but still so modest, approachable and completely down to earth. They are a huge inspiration to me, and I am sure to everyone else with an interest in sport. Many congratulations to them - they fully deserve the tremendous reception they have had from the Scottish and British public.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A good weekend but a rubbish run

At the weekend I went to Coll for the half marathon. For those not familiar with the geography of the Scottish islands, Coll is part of the Inner Hebrides, and is about a 3 hour boat journey from Oban. Unfortunately only one boat a day goes there and on a Saturday it leaves Oban at 7am, which meant I had to leave the house at 4.20am. I picked Phil T up on route and we arrived in Oban with plenty of time to spare. At the terminal we met Peter Duggan, his aunt and his cousin, all of whom had family connections with Coll. We ended up spending a lot of time with them over the weekend and very much enjoyed their company.

As Coll has a population of 180 and only one hotel with 6 rooms, we had little choice but to camp in a field behind the church. And it was windy. Very windy. I hadn't felt wind like that since I was on Lewis in May for the Stornoway marathon. It must be an island thing. At least it was dry when we were putting up the tents, although that was to change later.

The half marathon started at 3pm and followed a circular route round the island's only real road. I felt good for the first 6 miles or so and was tucked in just behind Phil, wondering when I was going to make my move. At 7 miles the road disappeared and we ran across a sandy path for a couple of miles, before joining another road back to the village. It was at that point the wheels fell off in terms of my run. Within the space of a few minutes I had to stop to go to the toilet in the sand dunes (never a good experience), the rain had started, and my legs had begun to feel like lead. The rain got heavier and heavier, and was right into my face for the last 4 miles. I just got slower and slower, eventually finishing in my 2nd worst half marathon time ever of 1.35. (The worst was in 1990, just after I had started running, and was also 1.35, so Saturday was very close to a Personal Worst). Phil was stronger and passed a few people to finish in an excellent 3rd place, in just over 1.30.

It was a half mile walk in the pouring rain back to the hotel for a shower, and by the time I got there I was absolutely frozen. The rain continued to get heavier and the wind just got worse and worse. It was a relief to see our tents still standing, although 2 girls beside us were not so fortunate: their tent blew away and they ended up sleeping in the church. At night we got another soaking heading up to the village hall for the ceilidh, then soaked yet again on our way back to the tent. All in all it was pretty miserable.

Eventually the rain stopped and the wind died down allowing me to get some sleep, albeit not of the highest quality. Sunday was a lot better weatherwise and we enjoyed a very pleasant breakfast in the local cafe and a walk along the shore, before heading back on the 2.20pm boat. I finally made it home by about 7.30pm.

On reflection it was a long way to go for a half marathon, particularly as I didn't run well. It was really interesting to see Coll, a place I had not visited before, but we were just unlucky with the weather - definitely not ideal for wild camping, and we would have been much better off staying in the hotel or a B&B. I would certainly go back to Coll again at some point, although perhaps I will leave it for a few years, and I would make sure that I spent more time beforehand checking the forecast :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Amazing stats

I'm a boring accountant and therefore I like my stats. Normally I try and keep them to myself for fear of sending my readers to sleep, but I thought it was worth sharing these ones from Saturday's run, courtesy of my GPS:

Miles - 53.4
Calories - 7,110

Wow. That seems like a lot of calories. From looking at the scales before and after Saturday's run, it seems to equate to a weight loss of around half a stone, which I'm pleased to say hasn't reappeared yet. And as an added bonus my trousers now feel a lot more comfortable around the waist, which could save me the hassle and cost of buying a new suit. Isn't ultra running wonderful? I'm surprised more people don't do it :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sorting out some unfinished business

A few weeks ago you may remember I attempted to run home from my office in Edinburgh to my house, on a Friday night after work. I made it to my car at Dunblane - 44 miles all in - but didn't do the last 9 miles or so for a few reasons: my knee was a bit sore, I was cold, I was bored, it was 2.30am, the car was parked at Dunblane, and so on. No-one made any comments about not finishing the full run except my 10 year old son, who said "Dad, why did you not do it all?" That has been echoing round my head for a few weeks, so I decided I needed to "do it all", and set a target of running the full distance from my house to my office. Yesterday was the day to do it.

I left the house at 7.20 am. For the first time in my life I ran with a radio, which was absolutely brilliant and certainly helped pass the long hours listening to the Olympics. I ran down into Braco, along the back road to Dunblane, through Cornton and Stirling, along the back road to Larbert, through Falkirk, along the canal path past Linlithgow and Winchburgh, onto the road past the Glenmorangie factory at Broxburn, over the M9 footbridge, past Edinburgh airport, past RBS's HQ, and then right along the A8 to the centre of Edinburgh. I stopped a few times to get something to eat, and completed the full 53.4 miles in 10 hours 47 minutes, including my breaks. Apart from 2 quite bad spells of cramp the run went very well, although there isn't really anything interesting to report about it. I just did it. I found out that I could walk at a reasonable pace when I had cramp and not lose too much time, a lesson that I'll need to remember in the future.

Another reason for doing the long run yesterday was as a trial to see whether the 24 hour race on 13th/14th September is on. I'm coming to the conclusion that the answer is yes. I'm sure it will hurt, probably a lot more than the WHW race, but I think I can do it. My body feels surprisingly good today, which is very encouraging, and suggests I am getting back into reasonable shape. All being well, I'll enter this week.

Just a few of other things I wanted to comment on. Last week Allybea and I backed up Dario in the Devil O'The Highlands Footrace, a 43 mile race from Tyndrum to Fort William on the WHW. He finished in 10 hours 45 minutes, which was well ahead of his expectations. Well done Dario. Jez Bragg won the race in a phenominal time of 5 hours 22 minutes - that's 3 hours 15 minute marathon pace. Incredible. And finally well done to the British team at the Olympics, who at the time of writing doing are up to 3rd place in the medal table with 11 golds. It would be great to see athletics add to that tally.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A long injury free run at last. Woo hoo!

I returned to the North Inch at Perth today to the scene of the 24 hour race on 13 September. I wanted to see if I could have a run of at least 2 hours, at 24 hour race pace, and finish because I wanted to rather than my knee was forcing me to. And guess what? It happened just as I had hoped! Allybea came up with my and gave me water after every lap (2.38 km/1.48 m). I covered 4 laps in the first hour, 4 in the second, then an extra 2 in the next half hour for good measure. 10 laps/approx 15 miles in 2 and a half hours. And, even better, no problems with my knee.

So the 24 hour race is still possible. If I can get 2 decent weeks training and have no adverse effects, then I'll do it. Even though I felt I was going really slowly today, I was still averaging 6 miles an hour, a lot faster than the pace I would expect to average over a full day. That is encouraging - it means I would be able to build in a reasonable stop every couple of hours, and still be covering a fair amount of distance.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Last night I was reading the WHW forum and saw a post from Gaynor Prior, who ran in this year's WHW race, saying that one of her backup team Rob was running from Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG) and that he was now into Scotland. I followed the links to his run and found that he had just reached Dunblane. Dunblane is only 10 miles away from where I live, and when I looked at his route plan I saw that today's run would come right past the front of out house! I didn't know when he would leave Dunblane, but figured if I drove left the house at 9 and drove south towards Dunblane I would have a good chance of seeing him. I could then find out if he fancied any company, drive back to the house, and if he wanted company run with him for a bit as he headed north.

Well, almost as soon as I had driven out of the drive I saw a cyclist with a high visibility vest, a runner, and then another cyclist coming along the road. I guessed it was probably Rob, and this was confirmed when I rolled down my window and shouted 'Are you Rob?' I think he was a bit surprised anyone knew him, but was happy for me to join him for a while. He had left Dunblane at 7.30 and was looking really strong. I turned the car round and headed home, quickly threw on my running stuff, jumped in the car and drove a mile or so towards Crieff until I passed the group again. I then dumped my car in a lay-by and joined him on the run.

What an absolutely incredible experience it was. Rob was a first class guy, great company, and I just asked questions about the run for more or less the whole way into Crieff. This was his 13th day, and he hoped to reach John O'Groats in 18 days. He looked great - the pace for the 6 miles I ran with him was between 8 and a half and 9 minute miles, which was quite incredible considering he has been doing around 50 miles a day for the last 12 days. His support was superbly well organised. Every 10 minutes or so Sue, one of the 2 support people on bikes, would cycle a few yards in front, stop, and hand Rob something to eat or a drink. She would then drop back to her position at the rear. About 2 minutes later she would cycle in front again and collect the plastic drink container. Rob didn't need to ask - it just all happened automatically. It was hugely impressive teamwork. The ultra running world in the UK is a small one, so I wasn't surprised to find out that I had seen Rob before, both at the WHW and at this year's Dumfries Marathon, when he finished 2nd in a PB of 2.53 despite being at a wedding the day before and fully partaking in the celebrations. (Sometimes I wonder if we all take our training too seriously - maybe we are better just doing what we fancy, and not bothering about our eating drinking and so on? Just a thought....)

I ran with Rob into the centre of Crieff - 6 miles for me, which was probably enough given the problems I've been having with my knee - and wished him all the best for the rest of his run. He was heading to Pitlochry today, then on to Aviemore tomorrow. I'll be watching with great interest to see how he gets on, but have absolutely no doubts that he'll make it - his physical strength, willpower and organisation are quite incredible. Rob, good luck - I'll be thinking about you.

Details of Rob's progress can be followed here: