Thursday, December 31, 2009

What are the plans for 2010?

There are just a few hours to go in 2009 and I've been looking ahead to next year, trying to work out what I'm going to do with my running. I think I'll keep my targets quite simple:

1. To enjoy my running (most important).
2. To beat 1 hour 30 minutes for a half marathon.
3. To beat 40 minutes for a 10k.
4. To finish the West Highland Way race...
5. ... in a time under 22 hours if at all possible.
6. And to run 2,000 miles.

That's it. I'm also going to try and cut down on my coffee consumption, and to have more days every month where I don't drink any alcohol than those I do. I'm also going to try and fit in a regular sports massage, and eat more fruit and vegetables.

I've had a look at various websites aover the holiday period and I've decided that my plan is to run in the following races in 2010:

16th - Jack Crawford 10k, Bishopbriggs.
17th - Scottish Vets Relay at Strathclyde Park, 3.8 miles per leg (assuming we can get a team together from the club).

20th - National Cross Country at Falkirk, 7.5 miles (a classic - wouldn't miss it - if you get the chance this is well worth doing for the experience).

14th - Inverness half marathon. I've done it every year since 1994 with only one exception, so it would be a shame to miss it - in fact I entered it earlier today.

24th - The Highland Fling, 53 miles. A race I've never missed - I filled out my form today and wrote the cheque which is just waiting to be posted.

1st - Kintyre Relay - I'm hoping to get a team together from the club; how many we can round up will determine how far we all have to run. If there are 6 of us it will work out at a reasonable 11 miles each; if there are only 2 of us it might be a more difficult session..
5th (?) - Troon 10k - my old club and a brilliant 10k. It's a bit of a trek from Edinburgh but well worth the effort.
15th - Cateran Trail, 55 miles - another one I enjoyed last year and I've entered the 2010 race today.
30th - Mull of Kintyre half marathon. This race was number 2 in the 'Runner's World' top races of 2009, so it seemed like a must do event. Guess what? I entered it today. It's been an expensive day.

19th - West Highland Way Race, 95 miles. The biggie. Looking forward to it already. Wearing my organisers' hat, just hope everything goes ok.

Recovery month (although I have to admit that I'm eyeing up I'm the Harris half marathon on the 10th...)

21st - Coll half marathon. Phil and I did this a couple of years ago and it was a great weekend. This time I'm planning on going with allybea, but I think it might be a B&B this time rather than wild camping...

4th - Dingle Ultramarathon, 50 miles. This looks like a good one - a lovely part of Ireland, and there is also a marathon and half marathon the same day. Hoping to head over there with allybea and the doctors.

3rd - Loch Ness Marathon - I've only missed one since it started in 2002 so need to do it in 2010. Definitely my favourite marathon.

7th (?) - Strathaven 10k - a classic. And Lee would not be happy of it wasn't in my plans, so I better make sure it is included.

That's all for the moment. I'm looking forward to it already. In addition to the above I'll need to fit in a few training runs for the West Highland Way, a few speedy races (5ks and 10ks) and a few other bits and pieces, such as island half marathons. Looks like it will be an interesting year.

Before signing off, I would like to wish all my readers (!) the very best wishes for 2010. I hope you all have a great year, and achieve all of your goals.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My review of 2009

Since I've started writing this blog, I've written a 'Review of the Year' post which has looked back at my running year. I've been planning to do the 2009 review for a few weeks, but every time I've sat down to do it I've not been able to find the appropriate words, and have put it off till later. This time I'll try and make a better attempt... here goes...

2009 will be remembered by me, and by many of the readers of this blog, as the year we lost a very close friend as a result of Dario's tragic death on 12 July. There were many lovely tributes to Dario at the time, not least the very moving and appropriate tribute at the end of the Adventure Show. The love, support and kindness shown at that time was a great comfort and strength to us all, demonstrating what a fantastic group of people make up the West Highland Way 'family'; I feel privileged to be a part of that group.

Nearly 6 months on, I still feel a huge sense of loss. I feel it every time I come out of my drive and look across the fields to Blackford where Dario and Gilian lived; I feel it when I am sitting on the train in the morning on my way to work, which was a time Dario often phoned; I feel it on days like today when I am out a long run: and I feel it when I think of some of the races and runs we used to do, such as the 24 hour race at Perth. I even feel it when I pour myself a whisky, particularly a Glengoyne. At the moment I am writing these words with tears streaming down my face but the pain I feel must be nothing compared to Gilian, especially at times like Christmas. My thoughts are with her. I hope she is able to take some comfort from the love and support of the WHW family.

But life goes on. Dario would have wanted that. Karen D has taken over the organisation of the Cateran Trail, and I'm sure she will make an excellent job of it. The WHW race committee will ensure that the 2010 race goes ahead, hopefully to the same high standard as the races that preceeded it. And we will all continue to run, to set our various targets, and to try and run further, faster, and in more obscure places.

So what happened in terms of my running in 2009? At the start of the year I set a few targets, which are shown below (in italics), along with a comment on whether I achieved it or not:

1. To finish the WHW race;
ACHIEVED. I finished in 23 hours 11 minutes. Not my fastest time by 2 hours, but given last year's DNF I ran more conservatively and was delighted to finish. One of the highlights was finishing and seeing Keith Hughes at FW Leisure Centre, wondering why he looked so cheery, then finding out that he was about to keep running a further 73 miles up the Great Glen Way to Inverness! Nutter.

2. To finish the 'Big 3' WHW races (the Highland Fling, the WHW race, the Devil O' The Highlands);
ACHIEVED. I had a very poor run in the Fling (loads of cramp) and suffered a bit over the latter stages of the Devil, but at least I finished all 3 races. I suppose that in itself is an achievement, although I wasn't overly happy with my performance in any of the races.

3. To complete 5 ultras (including a 24 hour race);
ACHIEVED. I did 7 ultras: the 3 WHW races (WHW, Fling and Devil), the Glasgow to Edinburgh race along the canal (54 miles), the Cateran Trail (55 miles - brilliant event - highly recommended), the River Ayr Way (40 miles - a bit boring and hard to follow the route at some bits), and the Tooting 24 hour race (which I ran 100km and then stopped after 12 hours 28 minutes - don't think I'll be back in a hurry). I was really pleased to do 7 ultras, which a few years ago I would have considered impossible. Howwever there is no doubt that my times suffered from doing so many. It was a year of quantity rather than quality.

4. To run at least 25 races;
NOT ACHIEVED. I only ran 20 races this year: 7 ultras, 1 marathon (Loch Ness), 3 half marathons (Inverness, Edinburgh and Kilmacolm), 4 10ks (Nigel Barge, Troon, Milngavie and Strathaven) plus 5 other races (Glen Lednock 8.5 miles, Brig Bash 5 miles, 2 cross countries and the Morrisons Academy 5k). That means I've now done 485 races in total,including 74 marathons / ultras, 86 half marathons and 94 10ks. With a bit of luck I should run my 500th race in 2010, and might even run my 100th 10k.

5. To run 5 new races;
ACHIEVED. I did 7 new races: the Glasgow to Edinburgh, Cateran Trail, River Ayr, Tooting 24 hour, Kilmacolm half marathon, Run With The Wind 10k at Strathaven, and the Glen Lednock road race.

6. To run a race on a Scottish island I haven't visited before;
NOT ACHIEVED. I didn't really plan this very well - doing so many ultras meant there was not much time left to visit a new Scottish island. Maybe next year.

7. To beat 40 minutes for a 10k;
ACHIEVED (just...). On 1 November I headed south to Strathaven, having failed to beat 40 minutes in my previous 3 10ks, and knowing this was the last chance I would have in 2009. I had also heard that the course was a bit downhill but I didn't care about that - a sub 40 would be a sub 40. Well, I pushed my body to the limit and was overjoyed to cross the line with a comfortable 6 seconds to spare. Definitely one of the highs of the year.

8. To beat 1 hour 30 minutes for a half marathon;
ACHIEVED. I ran 1.29 on an icy cold March day in Inverness - and then had a 6 hour drive home via Aberdeen as I thought (wrongly) that the A9 was closed. I also beat 1.30 at Kilmacolm, but I have to be honest and point out that my sub 1.30 there was more to do with a short course than my performance.

9. To finish in the top half of the field in the National XC;
NOT ACHIEVED. I missed this by miles; well, by at least a minute, which in cross country terms is a lot. It is a tough target - I have to be running really well to make the top half of the National XC, and haven't achieved it for a few years - so this target may be dropped going forward.

10. To run 2,000 miles.
ACHIEVED. Today I did a 13 mile run in the snow and ice, which took me to 2,001 miles for the year with 4 days to spare. Although I am the first to admit that this is a pretty meaningless target, it does have the positive effect of forcing me out the door in the cold December days and nights, when I might be tempted not to bother. For that reason alone it is worthwhile.

So in summary, 7 targets were achieved and 3 were not achieved. At the end of the day, however, it doesn't really matter. 2009 has been a tragic year, but I want to finish on a positive note, with a reflection on Dario. Dario loved running; running in general and the West Highland Way Race in particular. At Dario's funeral Eilish said we should all remember one positive memory of Dario. More than any other memory, I remember the way that Dario had time for everyone who took part, whether they were at the front, the middle or the back of the field, and made everyone feel part of the family. To me, that is what makes the WHW race special and unique. Like any family there are many differences betweem its members, but everyone is linked by their involvement in this special event. It would be a fitting legacy to Dario if this continues to develop in the years ahead.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Running without a purpose

Unfortunately I seem to have lost my running mojo. Up until the end of November things were ok, but as soon as we moved into the darkest month I have had no enthusiasm for running at all. My training diary for December reads as follows:

1st - no run.
2nd - no run.
3rd - no run.
4th - a very poor quality 4 mile jog round Glasgow first thing in the morning (after attending the Sunday Mail Sports Awards the night before).
5th - an even worse 3 mile run in Crieff with the dog (with a break for a rest at the half way point).

There seems to be nothing in the tank at the moment. I pack my running stuff each day and carry it in to work, then carry it home at the end of the day, unused. On Wednesday I had planned to run after work. I even made it to the changing area and had started getting changed before a voice in my head said "Fuck this, you don't really want to go out there in the cold and the pissing rain, do you?". I agreed with the voice, put my shirt back on, and headed home. Not good.

So what is going on? I am not the biggest fan of the winter, but I can usually force myself out the door for a run, regardless of the weather. I've been busy at work and busy with various sportscotland events, but I am normally able to organise my days in such a way that I can fit a run in at some point. Not at the moment, it would seem. And the less I run, the more fed up I become, and the less I feel like running. It's a vicious circle.

So far this year I have run a total of 1,879 miles, so have only 121 to go to reach my normal target of 2,000 miles. Not that it matters a jot, of course, but it would be nice to get there. I have done 20 races, a few less than normal, but that total includes 7 ultras and a marathon which is quite a few more than I have done in a single year before.

I think I need to work out a more structured plan for next year. My next marathon will be my 75th marathon/ultra, and my 50th actual marathon, so I'd like to do a good one, possibly around the end of March. That means a) finding the right event and b) starting to train a lot harder than I have been training recently, including sessions like fartlek, intervals and other forms of speedwork. The thought of it at the moment is horrible, but hopefully my enthusiasm will return at some stage. I also need to think about my club. Strathearn Harriers is a small club, and I find it almost impossible to get there during the week. Not many of the members have the same running ambitions as I have. Should I look for a club in Edinburgh, which I can go to more regularly after finishing work? Would that help? It would certainly be good to be part of a club who were keen on taking part in the various cross country events, for example.

And of course there are the big events next year like the Highland Fling, the Cateran Trail and the West Highland Way race. The only one I have entered so far is the WHW and I'm not sure about the others yet - I am trying to work out a sensible running plan for 2010 before committing to any other long races. The only certainty at the moment is that I will not be back in Tooting for the 24 hour track race.

Maybe I'll go out for a run tomorrow and the magic will have returned. But at the moment I doubt it.