Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I want to be an ultra runner, so I need to run ultras...

I had a crap run on Saturday at the Highland Fling. I finished in 11 hours 47 minutes, my worst time out of the 5 races. I didn't feel good for most of the race, being sick a lot in the early stages, but I managed to keep it together reasonably well until the top of Loch Lomond. Then the wheels fell off. I had cramp, was sick, bored, scunnered, fed up, and wanted to pack it in. It was a horribly long last 15 miles. But I got there in the end - although I don't think I looked at my best when I came over the line or for the rest of the evening.

On Saturday afternoon and night I had more or less resigned myself to withdrawing from this year's WHW race. I've found every long run a struggle this year and it hasn't been enjoyable. "Covering old ground slower than before" was a perfect description from Geraldine. It's not a great place to be; I think the volume of ultras over the last couple of years has probably taken its toll on my body. So what should I do? I resolved to make no firm decision before Wednesday, but to think things through in some detail before deciding.

In the few days since Saturday I've spoken to a few people about it and have now reached my decision: I'm going to do the WHW race. I think I have to accept it won't be my fastest time, but I'm sure that I'm still capable of getting to FW in 24 hours or so, which would be fine. The decision was helped by the reaction of some of the guys at the sportscotland board meeting earlier today. They were hugely complementary about the fact I had just run 53 miles, and the time was pretty irrelevant from their point of view. I suspect we all get a bit caught up in all the great times from others in the race and it diminishes the sense of achievement in finishing - but at the end of the day we all have to set our own targets and goals. As I said last year before the WHW race - it's my race, no-one elses.

There is also the Dario factor. Dario's death continues to cast a long shadow for many of us who knew him well, and has certainly made it harder for me to find the motivation to push myself through tough events like this. Last year, and the year before, and the year before that, I would have been on the phone to Dario after my Fling run, talking it through in detail, analysing the various stages, and looking for things I could have done differently. By the end of the call everything would have been sorted out and I would have been back on track, keen and ready to take on the WHW challenge. I miss these chats, and know others do too. But I think Dario would have wanted me to run this year's race, and would have encouraged me to do so.

So, assuming my body doesn't give up on me, I'll be lining up again at the underpass at Milngavie Station just before 1.00 am on 19 June. And hopefully I'll be bringing home my 9th goblet on the Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another poo story

I've been inundated with requests to tell another story about jobbies. So here goes.

I was out running the other night with the dog on the on the King's and Queen's Courses at Gleneagles. It was superb. Not a golfer around - it was after 7 pm and everyone at Gleneagles would have been in one of the expensive bars (£14.50 for a G&T, would you believe). It was a pleasant, sunny evening, albeit a bit cold. I had beautiful lush, well manicured fairways to run on (I tried to stay off the greens and tees); and I was running with a dog who was completely in her element as she ran up, down and across the various holes. A better run it is hard to imagine.

After a while the dog needed a poo, so she stopped beside one of the tees to do her stuff. I'm a good dog owner and always carry poo bags to lift her poo. I absolutely detest dog owners who leave it lying. There is no excuse. These people should have their dogs taken off them, given to a better owner, then forced to clean dog poo from pavements every day until they have understood the error of their ways. I'm no lily-livered liberal when it comes to dog poo, am I Mr Subversive Runner?

Anyway I lifted the poo and, not wanting to leave it in one of Gleneagles' posh bins, decided to carry it back to the car to dispose of it elsewhere. So I'm running along quite happily, loving my run, poo bag in hand and not a care in the world. Then I realised the poo bag didn't feel quite right. I looked down and saw that the bag had burst. A significant amount of poo was now spread all over my shorts, top and bumbag, and there was also some on my hand. Fortunately the remainder was still in the bag - another few minutes and it would all have been on me. So in that respect I was quite lucky.

I took immediate action. I ran into the rough, found some large tufts of grass, and wiped as much as I could off my shorts, top, bumbag and hand. That got rid of a lot of it. Then I put the remainder in to another poo bag and, just to be safe, into a third. You may think that was shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted, but I thought it was a sensible precaution. Then I continued my run, thankfully with no further leakages.

When I reached the car (Alison's car, fortunately, rather than mine) it was difficult to put on my seatbelt without it touching the poo on my shorts and top. But at least I tried. When I got home, all my clothes went straight in the wash. Normally I would wear my shorts for at least a couple of runs, but on this occasion that didn't seem appropriate.

There is a lesson to be learned from this story. Don't try and save money buying cheap poo bags. It's a false economy.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Take after each loose bowel movement"

My stats for the week read as follows:

Number of runs - 1 (10k);
Number of visits to the toilet - thousands;
Number of solid jobbies produced on visits to the toilet - nil.

You can probably guess what kind of week I've had. It's been a week where I've had a horrible bug, making me feel sick most of the time, making me need to rush to the toilet on frequent occasions, and where I've been unable to face any food. Brilliant; just what an ultra marathon runner needs, especially when there is a 53 mile race in less than a week. Had I drunk from any of the streams during my WHW run last weekend I would have blamed that, but it seems quite a few people have been suffering from similar symptons this week (including a few people in the office, my mum, and from the sounds of it mrs pacepusher, who was trying to walk the Great Glen Way).

Anyway it seems to have gone now and I was able to run today for the first time this week. I took part in the 'Bridge of Allan Toughest 10k'. I have to say that I don't like events billing themselves as 'the toughest' anything. How do they know? Have they run every other event on the calendar to make that judgement? I would rather call it 'Bridge of Allan Quite Tough Slightly Less Than 10k' - there was a general consensus amongst the GPS owners that the course was not quite the full length. Despite that it was a really enjoyable event - there were a few 'interesting' hills, it was well organised, and the facilties at the start and finish at Bridge of Allan Sports Club were excellent. We got a huge goody bag, a burger and a carton of milk. Great value. Dr Phil finished 5th and first vet, so well done to him, and he took away a very nice Saucony running top. I finished in a time of 44.28; not great, but not bad considering it was my first run of the week. Most importantly I enjoyed it and feel like a runner again, rather than someone who won't go more than 100 metres away from a toilet.

Time to change the subject. Most of my readers will be aware that this was a historic week in British politics - the first time there had been a live debate between the leaders of the 3 main parties. It took place on Thursday night. I thought the 3 leaders were distinctly unimpressive. I like politics, but I'm finding myself increasingly disillusioned with all of the main parties at the moment. I think the system in Scotland is much better, where no single party holds a majority so the parties have to reach some kind of consensus to get things done. The SNP have worked out what they need to do to get things like budgets approved, and I think the country is being governed better for having input from parties across the political spectrum.

Anyway, in case you are remotely interested, here are my main beefs with the current lot:

1. Don't promise in your manifesto that you aren't going to do something (like raise tax rates) and then do it anyway, a few years down the line when you think people have forgotten about the manifesto. That's breaking a promise, and means that I can't believe a word you say this time around.

2. Don't say that your plan is "to offer every citizen in this country the chance to make decisions in their local community". What a load of pish. How is that going to work? Let's think of an example. Cameron says he wants to give parents the chance to sack teachers. So wee Jimmy gets a row from his teacher, and his parent takes the huff and decides he or she wants to have the teacher sacked. So no teacher will risk giving any child a row in case their parents object and try to get them sacked. I can see that will improve the standard of education in this country - NOT. I wonder if the Subversive Runner would like us all to have the right to sack him because we weren't happy with the way he was putting out a fire? Of course not. We don't know enough about it to make decisions like that. What a stupid idea, Davey C. Is it beyond your intellectual abilities to think things through a bit further?

3. I'm getting bored by the bankers being blamed for everything under the sun. Ok, they messed up. But it's time to get over it. Bankers get bonuses. It may not be fair but who said life was fair? Public sector workers get great pensions, unlike anyone else, and I don't see people moaning about that (although I think they should, and the government should be looking at the whole issue of the public sector pay as an area to reduce cost).

4. I'm also completely bored by the response of the 3 leaders to the expenses scandal. Each one of them knows that MPs have historically used their expenses to make up for the fact that they will not get paid as much as they do in the jobs they did before they were MPs. But not one of the leaders has come out and said that - instead they feign anger and disgust, despite being been part of the same corrupt process for the last 10 or 20 years. In my view the problem is that MPs are not paid enough to attract enough people of genuine talent. I'd get rid of half of them and pay the remaining ones more. That way we might get a bit more quality.

There, rant over. I'll be glad when the election is decided.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Just a quick post to say I ran the Deeside Way 33 mile ultra yesterday and finished in 4 hours 37 minutes, in 21st place from 89 finishers. It was a really good event; a nice course, good weather, and the usual friendly atmosphere before, during and after the race. Well done to George Reid and everyone else involved in the organisation.

I was quite pleased with my run. The toughest bit was probably the 3 miles before the halfway turning point, when my hamstring felt a bit tight, but after turning I seemed to get a second lease of life and pushed on well. As usual the last 6 miles or so felt quite hard, but I didn't slow down and felt reasonably strong as I crossed the finish line in Duthie Park. Perhaps surprisingly it's the first time I've ever done a race in Aberdeen.

There were 2 other runners from Strathearn Harriers, Graham and Kenny, who were both doing their first ever ultra. It was good to see them both finish, particularly as they had smiles on their faces and within minutes of finishing were talking about "the next time". That's always a positive sign.

I managed a steady run this morning with the dog, so hopefully haven't done too much damage to my legs from yesterday's efforts. After all it's only 3 weeks until the next one, the Highland Fling on 24 April...

Friday, April 02, 2010

Running for 20 years

Tomorrow is the Deeside Way 33 mile ultra. It will be a big day for me: the 20th anniversary of the day I realised I had turned into an unfit, overweight 24 year old slob, and started running in an attempt to do something about it. That was on the 3rd of April 1990, just a few days after we had moved to Troon. Prior to that I had run a couple of marathons in the mid 1980s (Glasgow in 1984 and 1985), but hadn't done anything in the intervening years, a fact you could tell very easily by looking at me. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I enjoyed getting back in to the running and feeling fitter, lost 3 stone in 2 months, did a half marathon in June of that year, joined Troon Tortoises in the October, and have never really looked back since. I'm now approaching my 500th race (488 completed so far); I've run well over 30,000 miles, with every one of them recorded in my training diary; I've been a member of 5 different running clubs in the 20 year period; and assuming I finish tomorrow it will be my 75th completed marathon/ultramarathon. I've also met a huge number of great people, many of whom I consider to be very close friends. A lot of them will be running tomorrow so it will be a great chance to catch up, even if a 0530 departure time on Easter Saturday morning may not be everyone's idea of the perfect way to spend a holiday weekend.

Despite the fact we are now into April and the clocks have gone forward, we had another heavy snowfall this week. I'm hoping that's the last of the year's snow as I'm completely fed up with it now. I was out a run on Tuesday lunchtime and it's a long time since I've been as cold as I was that day. It was absolutely freezing with horizontal rain and a biting wind, all very unpleasant. To add to my misery I couldn't get the car out the drive (again) and needed to get a lift to and from the station. Bring on the better weather.

On the whole March was a good month in terms of my running. I managed a total of 213 miles (making it 573 for the year), including 2 half marathons in successive weeks and a 38 mile run on the WHW. I also succeeded in my 'more non alcohol days than alcohol days' challenge for the 3rd successive month, yet again by a 16-15 margin. Although that may sound close it wasn't really - I was 15-10 ahead after 25 days, so was able to have a few more 'relaxed' days as I approached the end of the month. To be honest 16-15 is ideal - what would the point be in achieving it by a bigger margin?

Good luck to everyone running tomorrow, especially Graham and Kenny from Strathearn Harriers who (I think) are taking part in their first ever ultra. I'll try and post some thoughts about the race over the weekend.