Sunday, May 31, 2009

What a great weekend

It has been a brilliant weekend. The sun has been shining - how unusual is that - and I've been for a couple of runs on the West Highland Way, sandwiched by a trip to Hampden on Saturday for the Scottish Cup final.

On Friday night a crowd of us met for a night run along the WHW from Milngavie to Balmaha. We met up at the car park in Balmaha where John left his minibus, then I drove us all back down the road. We dropped Dario and Sue at the Beech Tree Inn - they were doing a shorter run - then started running from Milngavie about quarter to 11, just as it was getting dark.

I'm not sure there is any real benefit to be gained for the race from running in the dark, but that didn't matter at all. It was something different and great fun; and a really good chance to catch up again with a few of the guys. We didn't push particularly hard and arrived in Balmaha at around 2.30 am, having been running for 3 hours 42 minutes. My headtorch worked very well and I had no problems following the path at any stage. By the time we arrived back at Milngavie around 3 am it was starting to get light, and when I finally made it to bed just before 5 am it was broad daylight.

So on to Saturday. I got up about 11 am having had a few hours sleep and started to get ready for the Homecoming Scottish Cup final. My team, Falkirk, were playing Rangers, and as Falkirk don't get to too many finals it was a game we could not miss. Allybea, son No 3, WHW Race Director Dario and I arrived at Hampden more in hope than expectation. Unfortunately the result didn't go our way - Falkirk played really well but were a bit unlucky to lose 1-0. The atmosphere at Hampden was fantastic, and the fact Falkirk were far and away the better team made it an excellent day out, despite the result.

As today was the last day of May, and as it is now less than 3 weeks until the WHW race, I was keen to get another decent run in on the WHW route. It was yet another glorious day and the hour drive to Tyndrum - with the car roof down and the Pogues' album Rum, Sodomy & the Lash playing - was an absolute pleasure. My car is made for days like today. It is not so good when it is icy, but that is long forgotten when summer finally arrives and the sun comes out. Anyway, just before I started running from Tyndrum I noticed that the temperature was 24 degrees. That is hotter than I am comfortable with, and I knew it would make it a hard run, but at least I would be running at a relaxed pace, unlike those poor souls doing the Edinburgh Marathon.

I reached Bridge of Orchy in exactly an hour, stopped for a couple of minutes at the hotel, then ran back in almost the same time (well okay, I was a couple of minutes slower, but on a day like this the 2 minutes didn't really matter). I felt good and enjoyed the run. I got a bit hot towards the end, not helped by the fact that my water had heated up inside the bottle and was almost impossible to drink. However I made it in one piece, and after a quick stop to try out my Magic Mug at the Good Food Stop (it worked - I got my free coffee) I put the roof down and headed back down the road.

All in all, a great weekend.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cateran Trail

Yesterday I took part in the Cateran Trail race, a 55 mile run starting and finishing at Spittal of Glenshee. I finished in 11 hours 34 minutes, right in the middle of the field in 10th position. The weather was awful for most of the day, but despite that it was a first class event, in some lovely countryside (when we were able to see it), and very well organised by Dario and his team.

I set out at a very cautious pace, aware that I had gone off too fast in the recent Highland Fling and that it was only 5 weeks until the WHW race. This proved to be a sensible strategy, as I felt really good for most of the run and seemed to get stronger as the race went on. The last couple of sections were without doubt the hardest of the whole course. It was quite tricky coming across the hill into Kirkmichael, partly because it was so muddy and slippy, and then the last section from Enockdhu to Spittal of Glenshee was a killer, incorporating a climb of around 1,400 feet to the highest point before dropping steeply down to the finish at the Spittal of Glenshee hotel. The weather on that section was terrible: a strong wind and really heavy rain, turning into sleet near the high point of the route. I was glad I had made the decision early on to put on my tracksters - my legs would have been absolutely frozen if I had been running in shorts.

Another difficulty was the number of stiles which needed to be climbed throughout the route. Some of these were huge, and although they did not present much of a problem in the early stages (apart from the fact they were very slippy), they were much more difficult to negotiate later on with my legs starting to tire and my muscles showing some signs of cramp. There was even a stile about half a mile from the finish. I was cursing race organiser Dario at that point, I have to admit.

So, another ultra completed - my 3rd of the year so far - and a very enjoyable one at that. Many thanks to Esther, who not only did my backup throughout the race but also provided me with accommodation in Alyth on Friday night. It was greatly appreciated.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I like racing. It doesn't matter how far up or down the field I am, I always enjoy the whole racing experience and find that I push myself a lot harder in a race than I would if I just went out to do a training run. This week I have done 2 races, the Troon 10k on Wednesday night (organised by one of my previous clubs, Troon Tortoises), then the Glen Lednock 8.5 mile road race earlier today. That makes it a total of 9 races so far this year.

Wednesday in Troon was a wild night. When we turned right towards the sea at the 8km point, the rain was so torrential and right into our faces that it was a struggle to see where we were going. Then the last km up the prom was a case of splashing through the puddles and trying to avoid the deepest ones. Despite the foul weather I thoroughly enjoyed the race and was really glad I made the long trip through from my work in Edinburgh. I was even happy enough with my finishing time of 40.38 - my days of being upset at being over 40 minutes for a 10k are long gone, I think :) Well done to all the guys from Troon Tortoises: as usual, the organisation was excellent, and I would make special mention of the on-course marshalling, which was as good as I have seen in any race. It was my 91st completed 10k, so I'm into the home straight as I head towards the magic 100.

Today was the Glen Lednock 8.5 mile road race, a new event which starts in Comrie (which is only 12 miles from my house, so this is one of my local races). The route heads right up Glen Lednock to the Ben Chonzie car park, then turns round and comes back the same way. The first half is almost all uphill, but as it is an out and back route we had the benefit of the hills all the way back. It was quite a small field - only 39 took part - and I finished 6th overall in a time of 57.22, having been almost 4 minutes faster for the 2nd half. Like Troon it was a really enjoyable, well organised event, and I'm sure the numbers will grow in future years as more people get to hear about it.

I'm now intending to have an easy week (at least in terms of my running) before the 55 mile Cateran Trail race next Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing the Cateran Trail route, most of which I have not been on before, although my plan is to run at a sensible pace throughout, not push things too hard, and to use it as a long training run for the WHW race in June.