Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review of 2012

As we approach the end of another year - they seem to go by quicker each year, which I'm sure is a sign of old age - I thought I'd stick down a few thoughts on my 2012 experiences, running or otherwise. Some of you who know me well may be surprised that I have any running experiences to write about at all. But I've looked back on my detailed records and see that I've completed 17 races this year: 2 ultras (Cateran and Devil O' The Highlands), 3 marathons (Blackpool, Strathearn and Loch Ness), 2 half marathons (Alloa and the Antonine Trail), 2 10ks (Round the Houses and Crieff), and 8 other races of various distances and terrains, including one of my favourites, the National Cross Country Championships, which I did for the 19th time. I've run over 1,500 miles (it's 1,552 at the moment with a day still to go). While that is quite a bit lower than my normal 2,000, it isn't too bad when I look at what else I've had on. However it would be fair to say that it wasn't a year of much quality. I moaned all the way up the Devil O' The Highlands, I wasn't much better during the second half of the Cateran, I got fed up at the Blackpool and Loch Ness Marathons and I only ran 2 races where I came home feeling I had run well and had a good day out. So in the spirit of being positive, I'm going to concentrate on these 2 and put the others down to experience.

The first of these, and the winner of the award for 'My favourite race of the year' goes to the Strathearn Marathon. This was a superb new marathon that took place in early June, on a wonderful course from Cultybraggan outside Comrie, through the back roads of Strathearn to Crieff, then back along to Comrie. The course was challenging (in a hilly sort of way) but really scenic and enjoyable; the organisation by Phil T and his team from Strathearn Harriers was superb in every respect. I ran well throughout and was delighted with my finishing time of 3.33, which put me quite high up the field. This race should be on everyone's 'must do' list.

The second race I enjoyed was another new one, the Antonine Trail half marathon, which took place in October. It started beside Croy Railway Station and went along paths, across trails, through muddy fields, through a couple of towns, along the canal, up some very big hills, through more muddy fields and back to where it started at Croy station. It had a bit of everything. I got slightly lost at one point and even if I hadn't the race would still have been closer to 14 miles, but that neither of those things detracted at all from what was a brilliant and enjoyable event.

It was a busy year for me in lots of other ways. At work, we did 2 mergers which took up a lot of my time. I'm very pleased that both are going really well and have added some great people to our firm. I was appointed Chairman of scottishathletics at the end of April, stepping down from the sportscotland board at the same time. Things have gone well there too since I've taken over, and I've hugely enjoyed my involvement so far - there is a great team in place and it's going to be an exciting few years to be involved in the sport. I was appointed to the board of SAMH (the Scottish Association of Mental Health) towards the end of the year; already I have found it really interesting and I'm hoping that I will be able to make a positive contribution to their work over the next few years. And there was the organisation of the West Highland Way Race, which took place in the middle of June. It was disappointing from a personal perspective to see Sandra drop out around the half way point, and the weather was as bad as I have ever known it which didn't make it pleasant for anyone. However the race as a whole went very well, not least Terry Conway's amazing performance where he ran a record time of 15 hours 39 minutes. I saw every finisher come in to Fort William Leisure Centre over a period of 19 or so hours, and it was incredible to witness the emotion of every one of them on achieving their goal, then see them receive their goblet at the prizegiving. If you made it well done; if not then I'm sure you will have learned a lot that will help you finish in future.

I can't write a blog on 2012 without mentioning the Olympics. We were lucky enough to get tickets for the last night of the athletics, and saw Mo Farah's 5k win and the Jamaican world record in the 4 x 100m relay. It is an experience we will never forget, as was the marathon the following day. What an honour to be there and witness it live. The whole Olympic and Paralympic experience was incredible - our television never moved from the BBC for the whle time, and I don't think I've ever watched as much television.

So, what about 2013? I'm determined to get a bit more focused on my running, and try and get my times back down a bit to closer to where I used to be. For that reason I've decided not to do any ultras next year; I'm sure the break from them will do me good. I have a place in the London Marathon on 21 April; I will use the training I've done during December for the Marcothon as a base, and try and train for London in a planned and structured way. I feel I should be capable of getting down to below 3.20, but time will tell if that is too ambitious. We're also planning on doing the Dublin Marathon in October. I'd like to get my 10k time down to closer to 40 minutes, and get back below 1.30 for the half marathon. I have a place in the Great North Run later in the year and am hoping that will be my 100th half marathon; at the moment I've done 93, so need to do fit in another 6 half marathons before September.

May I wish you all the very best for a happy and successful 2013.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Going back to the start

I dropped out the Glen Ogle 33 yesterday after 4 miles. An embarrassing performance. A little more than 24 hours on, I'm feeling it was a pretty defining moment in my running career. I stopped because I seriously couldn't be bothered - one of the most classic cases of CBA you are likely to see. I can't remember feeling quite like that before. So what now? For the last few years I've been busier and busier at work, at my voluntary work (Scottish Athletics chairman, West Highland Way Race Director) and at home, and I don't think I can do the running at anything like the same level as I used to. I really enjoy doing all the work and non work things but my running is suffering. It's very frustrating. Maybe I need to accept I'm now an 'administrator', rather than 'runner'. Doesn't sit entirely comfortably, though. I've decided to step away from running ultras for a while (at least for a year) and see if I can get back to some decent times at 5k, 10k, half marathon and maybe even marathon. And then if I get a bit more time (i.e. if I win the lottery and can retire) I'm sure I'll feel a lot more motivated and might be able to come back to the ultras. Let's see how it goes. One thing is for sure; at the moment it isn't happening on the running front.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Summer is here!

I love this time of year. We've had fantastic weather for the last couple of weeks, it's been getting lighter in the morning and at night, and now that the clocks have changed it will get even better. I couldn't believe how good it was last week to be back out running in summer gear. Long may it continue.

Since the Blackpool Marathon a couple of weeks ago I've done 2 more races. Last Sunday I went through to the half marathon at Alloa, and yesterday I went to Grangemouth for the 'Round The Houses' 10k. The target at Alloa was to try and help Sandra get a PB which I'm delighted to say was achieved: she crossed the line in 1.41.30, which was 75 seconds better than her previous best time. She had hoped to go for a PB at Grangemouth too, but had a bit of a niggle in her hamstring last week and decided not to risk it. We went through to Grangemouth anyway and I ran, pushing myself fairly hard all the way round but finishing in a slightly disappointing 43.13. I have meant to do this race for ages, especially as I used to live in Falkirk, but it always seemed to clash with marathon training or some other long run. I'm glad that I've now done it; it is a long established race and very well organised by Falkirk Victoria Harriers, with an excellent finish in Grangemouth Stadium.

Things continue to be busy with work, WHW race organisation and life in general. This is the last week of our financial year, which is always a busy one. On top of that I have a couple of dinners on Tuesday and Thursday night, followed by a long WHW training run on Saturday, and then a trip with Gordon to the Newcastle v Liverpool game on Sunday. I've really enjoyed the Newcastle games this season. They have done better than anyone would have imagined, and at the moment are sitting in 6th place in the Premier League with 50 points, the same number as Chelsea and 8 ahead of Liverpool. We've seen some great games and had some great days out. We're going to renew our season tickets for next season, so hopefully it will be more of the same.

Last Monday night was the West Highland Way Training and Inspiration night in Edinburgh. There must have been more than 100 people there, which was a brilliant turnout, and I really enjoyed hearing the advice from all the speakers, Ken and Sue Walker, Dr Chris Ellis, Adrian Stott, and Dr Andrew Murray. It's also a great chance to have a chat with people who are doing the race, particularly those who are doing it for the first time, and to pass on some hopefully useful hints and tips. There is no doubt that the period from now until the end of May is the crucial one for those training for the race - it's now the time to get in some long training days and some serious time on the feet. I'm doing the Cateran Trail race in the middle of May so really need to start taking some of my own advice and get out there for a few long runs!

I've just heard the forecast and it is predicting a high in Edinburgh today of 19 degrees. 19 degrees in March, incredible! Better go and pack my running stuff and make sure I get out a run at lunchtime...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Blackpool Marathon

It's been ages since I last blogged. In fact I can't even remember the last time. But on Saturday JK threw down the gauntlet while wishing me luck for the following day's Blackpool Marathon, asking if there was a chance he might read about it on my blog. Why not, I thought? So here goes.

Firstly, the facts. I finished the Blackpool Marathon in 3 hours 38 minutes 43 seconds. It was my first road marathon for well over a year, and now I remember why I haven't done one in all that time. I didn't really enjoy it. The course was unbelievably flat: we started on the promenade, outside the Hilton hotel, headed south for about 4 miles, past the Pleasure Beach, before turning round and coming back north by the same flat boring road. Just after the Blackpool Tower we went on to the pedestrian bit of the prom (taking great care to avoid a huge dog poo) and headed north past the start, then kept going north for another 3 miles, before turning round and came back down to the start. That took us to 13 miles, and the half marathoners (including Sandra) were allowed to stop. The unfortunates (including me) who had chosen the full marathon had to do the whole thing all over again.

I started the race quite well, covering the first 3 miles in about 22 minutes and feeling generally good. Beforehand I had been a bit worried about my left heel which had been causing me a few problems, but it seemed to be fine. By mile 4, however, my legs were starting to feel the effects of the relentness flat pounding, and I was struggling to run with any fluency at all. I stopped after about 8 miles to go to the toilet and that improved things a bit; the break from the constant running clearly did me good, and I managed to pick the pace up a bit. I caught up again with Sandra (she had passed when I stopped for the toilet) and then passed her, she hung on and passed me again with about 2 miles to go (for her) but I overtook and stayed in front of her from there to the half way point. I was through the half way in about 1.42; Sandra finished the half marathon in 1.42.46, which was two (yes, two) seconds outside her PB. Great performance from her, and she finished 10th lady overall and 3rd female vet.

I'm afraid I lost interest after that. By 15 miles I was feeling a bit bored with the whole thing, and by 18 miles I was completely fed up with it. My slowing mile splits reflected this lack of enthusiasm; I noticed one particular mile took me very close to 10 minutes. Not good. My right groin was hurting as well. I continued to shuffle along to the top end of the prom, walking from time to time and watching a depressing number of people go past me, until I got to mile 24 and realised I had only 2 more miles of this tedium to go. Oddly, I seemed to pick up the pace after that and started passing people again; maybe it was the fear of failing to get under 3.40 that kept me going, or maybe I was just desperate to get it finished, who knows? I ran the last 2 miles relatively strongly, beating the 3.40 barrier with more than a minute to spare, and headed across the road to the hotel for a shower. Job done, but not very well.

I've given the race quite a bit of thought throughout today. Less than 5 years ago I was able to go to Zurch and run a marathon in 2.59; yesterday I struggled to get below 3.40. That is quite a deterioration. What has happened?

A few things, I think. I'm nowhere near as fit as I was. For the last year or so I've been unable to get my 5k time below 20 minutes, a time I used to be able to do with some ease. I can't get close at the moment to a 40 minute 10k, or a 1.30 half marathon. So I shouldn't be too surprised by my marathon time yesterday; the signs have been there for a while. For the last 4 years I've been really busy at work, which I'm sure has had an impact on the quality of my training. I'm still getting out there running, but I don't think I'm training at anything like the level of intensity I used to. Perhaps even more importantly, I've not been motivated enough to go out and do the hard work required to get better times. At the moment I finding it more enjoyable to go out running with Sandra, hopefully helping her with her West Highland Way training and improving her times at other distances.

I think I just have to accept that it is not possible to do everything, accept that I'm busy, and focus on enjoying the running I'm able to do. Another good race at some point would be nice, though. I might even blog about it if it ever happens...