Saturday, May 28, 2011


I've just read Debs' excellent summary of her May running, and shamelessly have stolen her idea of giving a quick summary as a way of getting round my pathetic lack of blogging. So here goes.

The Fling took place on 30 April and once again I had a bit of a nightmare - in fact even more of a nightmare - than the last few years. Perhaps not surprisingly I suffered a bit of 'Couldn't Be Arsed' syndrom and didn't do much running for the first 2 weeks in May. The big exception to that was a long trip down the coast on the Wednesday after the Fling to my old home town of Troon for the 10k. There were a few reasons for going all that distance for a 10k: it's organised by my old club, it's a brilliant course and route, and all aspects of the organisation are superb, in fact as good as I've seen at any race I've done, anywhere. If you are looking for a fast, high quality 10k and can make it down to Ayrshire, then this is the one to do. I can't recommend it highly enough. Even the wind was the right way round this year, behind us just when we needed it on the last km up the prom.

The main reason for going though was that it was my 100th 10k. I ran a lot better than I expected and finished in 41.41, a time I was more than happy with. Now, I accept it's still quite a bit away from the sub 40s I used to be able to bash out with great regularity, but the fact that I still had the Fling miles in my legs it gave me a lot of hope there are better times to come, especially if I focus a bit more on speed in my training.

Most of my other runners were focused around Sandra's West Highland Way training. Last week we did 2 days on the route itself - on Day 1 Sandra ran from Balmaha to Tyndrum, then from Tyndrum to Fort William on Day 2. I followed the same kind of pattern on both days: dropped her at the start, ran up the route a bit, ran back to meet her and then back to (or a bit beyond) the car, then did it all again. I found it incredibly enjoyable, completely pressure free running, and ended up doing some decent and quality mileage - about 17 on Day 1 and 21 on Day 2, which worked out at half of what Sandra had done. As reported on Sandra's blog the weather was not great, particularly on Day 2, but it didn't really detract at all from what was an excellent 2 days.

Last night we met a group at Balmaha at 10.30pm for our annual 'WHW Headtorch Run' We've done this for a few years now and when Richie e-mailed at the start of the week to see if we were up for it again I was delighted. As well as being an opportunity to do something a bit different with a good group of friends, it was a good chance for Sandra to try out her headtorch on a section of the route where she'll definitely need it on race day.

We left Milngavie just after 11pm and had an enjoyable, although pretty uneventful, run up to Drymen and then on up through the forest. Not long after passing the car park at Garadhban forest I had a call from Richie, who was a bit ahead, saying the route was completely blocked with trees and that it was a nightmare to get through. He recommended giving it a miss and taking the diversion, which unfortunately meant turning back, down a back road into Drymen, the right along the main road to Balmaha. Sandra and I decided to take his advice and headed towards the road. Keith went on but took a wrong turn and finished up on the road, a bit in front of us. The rest made it through but with some impressive cuts, scrapes and bruises. Although it wasn't what we had planned, it didn't detract from the night and we ended up doing around 20 miles, pretty much what we had expected to do. We just hadn't wanted to be on the road that much, but hey ho. There were signs saying the trees should be cleared by 10 June, so here's hoping there are no delays - the race would be a nightmare if that section was still in its current state.

So that's about it for my May running. We had a lovely training run round Glenartney with Phil when we were out there one Sunday. I've run to and from work a couple of times a week, often heading along the canal and River of Leith walkway to make it a decent run. We're doing the Dundlane Hydro 7.5 mile road race tomorrow, a race I've never done before and one that I'm looking forward to. My mileage this month is looking very low after the poor first 2 weeks - only about 120 so far - but I'm not concerned about that at all, and would rather get some more fast(er) work done at the moment than concentrate on mileage. Over the last couple of weeks we've spent a bit of time helping out at races: we were at the Scottish 5K championships at Granton helping Adrian (where it was torrential rain and pretty cold), and then marshalling at last week's Cateran Trail race (where it was torrential rain and pretty cold). There's also been quite a bit of work in pulling everything together for the WHW race, so things haven't been quiet.

Less than 3 weeks to go now to the WHW. Bring it on!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Ding ding the Highland Fling (or 'That was a Helluva Long Way')

Yesterday was the Highland Fling. 53 miles up the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum. I finished in 12 hours 24 minutes. Not a great time, and my worst of all 6 Flings I have done, but I got there. Eventually.

It was a very hot day. I didn't start too fast and rached Drymen in 1.55, which felt sensible. As I made my way down Conic Hill with a few other 7am starters, we were passed by the first 3 runners from the 8am start. I had been running at that stage for 3 hours 10 minutes, so it only took the leaders 2 hours 10 mins to catch me. The 3 of them (Jez plus 2 others who I didn't recognise) came down the hill like it was a hill race. One minute we heard them approach from behind, and the next they were disappearing further and further away down the hill. It was incredible to see.

I descended at a much more sensible (girly) pace and made it into Balmaha at about 3 hours 20 mins. Quick stop, then off again up the loch. Quite a number of the 8am starters passed me at this bit, including Neal who passed not long before Rowardennan. It was starting to get really hot and I wasn't feeling very comfortable, but was pleased to reach the half way point in just over 5 hours. Some of the Harmeny relay runners had a chat with me there as I sorted out my drinks, but I wasn't at my most chatty. Apologies to you all for my grumpiness.

It was a long slog to Inversnaid, getting hotter and hotter, and then I had the usual slog scrambling over the rocks at the top half of Loch Lomond. I felt very emotional when I reached Dario's post - the first time I had seen it - but I was well behind schedule, and even more so as I came down the hill towards Beinglas Farm. As I got nearer the bottom I saw DQ who told me Sandra had fallen and had had to pull out. That was worrying, and more so as she wasn't there when I arrived at the checkpoint. Neil MacR told me that she had had a very heavy fall but seemed ok now; a few minutes later Sandra appeared, bandaged from head to toe, but in reasonably positive spirits considering the fall she had had. At that stage I had serious thoughts of pulling out too but decided to tough it out. Reluctantly I left the checkpoint and headed slowly up the hill towards Derrydarroch.

After a few minutes I met Gavin McK, who seemed to be struggling at that stage too. We ran (or more accurately walked) together for a while before he managed to get himself going again. I kept telling myself to keep moving forward and eventually got to Derrydarroch, then the underpass, then passed the cows, then reached Bogle Glen, and eventually I found myself crossing the A82 again with just over 3 miles to go. The last few miles were no easier than the previous 20, but I kept running when I could and walking when I couldn't. Eventually I reached the wood at Tyndrum and ran slowly to the end, crossing the line in 12.24.

I went right away for a shower, as I was starting to feel a bit cold. The facilities at By The Way were excellent - the shower was superb - and I though it was a much better finishing point, not least because it was about a quarter of a mile before the previous one!

Andy Cole offered us a lift back to Milngavie - thanks Andy, it was greatly appreciated - and we arrived back at the car just before 10. A quick coffee and something to eat at Macdonalds, then the drive back through to Edinburgh. I had to stop at one stage and stretch my legs as cramp was coming on, but we made it home without further mishap.

Sandra's feeling a bit sore today, but hopefully she hasn't done any long term damage and will be running again before too long. From my point of view I'm just glad I won't need to cover that bit of the WHW again for a while. It's a beautiful route, but I'm not sure I was able to fully appreciate it yesterday.

A huge thanks to everyone involved in the organisation of yesterday's event. There is so much work put in by so many people, and it is all appreciated. A special thanks however to the main organisers, Murdo, Ellen and Tim. And finally an apology to anyone who chose yesterday for a quiet walk on the WHW, and found themselves having to step continually to the side of the path to let around 400 runners past. Apart from one walker who greeted me with a 'Oh for God's sake, we're allowed to be on this route too you know', everyone was very pleasant and encouraging.