Monday, 29 November 2010

Me and my girl

Sunday morning, 7:00am, the first footprints on the West Highland Way and me and my girl spend 2 1/2 glorious hours running through the trails and woods.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

An evening run

I had a hard few weeks with work. Clients were being overly demanding, staff were stressed and we were all working flat out. Tonight's run therefore was more for my head than my body.

I set off out of the door and turned up the road heading towards the woods that skirt around the golf course. The sky was still light and clear although the sun was starting to dip and a slight chill forced me to set off at a brisk pace to warm up. My legs felt great and the immediate release out into the fresh air felt good.

The first 1/4 mile is uphill and is always a a bit of a shock to my system as it wakes up to the realisation that it is going running but tonight felt comfortable from the start. I turned at the top of the road and joined the woodland path as it wound its way through the trees, my feet hardly making a sound on the soft earth but my thoughts still wrestling with the issues of the day and the problems of tomorrow. I disturbed a small deer who looked as shocked as me as I rounded a corner and it bounded away effortlessly as if teasing me to chase it.

My breathing was coming easily and steady as I sped along the path by the small loch, my legs had found a rythm now and I started to look around and take in my surroundings in the fading light.

The next two miles were all woodland path, a few steep climbs and one or two descents didn't disrupt my rythym and I kept pushing on, the sound of my breathing and footsteps accompanied by the evening birdsong as they found a roost for the night. There was no-one else around tonight, the usual dog walkers were done for the day and the golfers ensconsed at the 19th hole and I revelled in the glorious isolation as my mind started to clear and focus on the here and now.

I left the woods and turned onto the country lane that leads me further out on my route, a stiff climb up to Baldernock Church and I was breathing hard but clear and strong. My arms working as hard as my legs as I pushed to the top of the hill and headed out along quiet farm roads. I kept glancing over my shoulder to watch the sun as it began to disappear behind the distant hills in a final burst of orange and I returned to my rythym, strong and steady.

Cows glanced up from the adjacent fields to see me run by, expressionless and unimpressed, they returned to their grazing and I turned the corner to start the climb to my turnaround point. The road climbs steeply before giving way to a farm track and I am pushing hard now, legs are starting to hurt and my breathing is getting faster but it feels good; no, it feels great! I push on, harder still as I see the small cairn on top of the hill getting closer. The sun is now just a faint red glow behind my left shoulder but there is still enough light in the sky to make out the path and I bound over the small puddles left by the previous days rain as climb higher and higher before finally arriving at the cairn.

I stand there breathing hard, sweat pouring down my face and look around me to take in the view before darkness fully takes hold. Ben Lomond in the distance one way and the lights of Glasgow the other. Finally, as the sound of my breathes subsides, I am left with complete stillness, there is not a sound to be heard and the breeze that had chilled me when I set off is now completely gone.

I am conscious however of the fading light so I turn and set off back down the path I have just come up. My pace getting faster and faster as gravity takes hold and I am just barely able to make out my footing in the darkness. Onto the road now and throwing caution to the wind I speed up faster still, my legs shuddering with each footfall and my arms flailing like a windmill as I eventually reach the level once more and return to my rythym.

I decide to stay on the road all the way back as darkness has now descended and the woodland path is not a sensible option. The road rollercoasters up and down and I push on hard, totally absorbed now in the act of running. The darkness having robbed me of my sight, I am totally tuned in to what I am doing. Legs are hurting but going strong, breathing is fast but clear, arms pumping as I climb and relaxing as I descend and my mind in its own place, at peace yet completely absorbed.

As I approach the top of my road, the streetlights break my focus and I ease back and jog the last few yards back to my front door. 11 miles done and I am elated, tired and completely stress free.

That's why I run!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


See me eh? two posts within a week.

Saturday saw me at the start line for the 41 mile River Ayr Way (RAW) Challenge. Feeling particularly unprepared, I decided to set off at a nice steady 9min mile pace and see how long I could keep it going for. I had set myself a 7hrs 30min target which seemed reasonable if not too challenging.
The first few miles went by ok and I was running comfortably right on pace. This was my first time on the route and I was pleasantly surprised by how scenic it was. It starts with a lot of open farmland and rough grazing and then as it gets closer in towards the coast, there is a lot of natural woodland and some beautiful trails along the rivers edge.
I kept a nice even pace and despite one minor naivigation hic-cup I was feeling pretty happy about how things were going. In a bid to try and stave off my dreaded cramp problems, I had decided to drink an isotonic fluid rather than water and so I topped up with my individual sachets of High 5 at various stages along the way. I am please to say that I didn't experience any cramp whatsoever - so a bit of a result there!
I went through the marathon in 4hrs 15mins and although going ok I was starting to feel the effects of my lack of training miles. Still, I seemed to be picking off other runners now and again so I was still feeling remarkably upbeat.
By about 31 miles, I started to struggle and over the next mile or so my pace dropped and was interspersed with the occassional walk. I managed to adopt a nice little routine of running 200 steps and then walking 100 and so on. I kept a close eye on my Garmin and just focussed on ticking off the next mile, then the next one and then the next one. This worked really well and my overall pace settled out at about 10:30 and gradually he miles ticked by until I found myself on the long road section by Auchencruive.
By now I knew I was going to make it and so ditched the number counting and pressed on as best I could. I managed to pass another couple of runners in the lat mile or so and crossed the line in 7hrs 11mins.
Overall I was pretty pleased with my performance, not exactly a contender but I think I finished about 35th out of around 80 starters so I'm happy with that.
This was also the last race in the SUMS (Scottish Ultra Marathon Series) and with me now having 4 races completed my name appears in 37th place overall and 10th Male Vet.

So what next? I'm going to ease back a bit over the next few weeks and enjoy some nice easy running. I've got the Saab Salomon Turbo X run in Mugdock Park in a couple of weeks which is a bit of a novelty event run through mud, rivers, steep hils and trails and although 10 miles it is more about the enjoyment rather than a time.

October sees the entries for next years WHW Race opening but my main focus on next year will be on the UTMB. I am hoping to get a ballot place in the January draw so in anticipation, I need to start getting some time in the hills!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Where the hell have you been!

I have not disappeared off the face of the planet - I am alive and well and active, I just don't seem to have had time to put much of my life down on "paper" as it were.

Anyway, this is just a brief note by way of a catch up but I promise to be slightly more proactive in the blogging stakes.

Much has happened since the WHW Race in June. Still on a high, I had two fabulous weeks in France, resting, drinking large amounts of wine and I even managed 3 runs. A week after I got back I was on the starting line for the Clydestride and finished in just over 7 hours but was once again plagued with cramp from about 30 miles onwards. Not sure what I'm doing wrong here as I was eating "S" Caps like sweeties but they didn't seem tobe making a difference.

Bit of a rest through August having had to pull out of the Speyside Way due to other commitments but then completed my 21st running of the Glasgow Half Marathon in a time of 1hr 34mins. I has set off on a sub 1hr 30min pace but after about 3 miles I realised it wasn't going to happen to eased off and came in 3 mins slower than last year. I'm sure I've got a sub 1:30 half in me if only I got round to training for one!

My planned 4th run at the Longmynd Hike was scuppered due to an over subscribed entry and the usual woeful race admin not sending me the email alert to let me know entries were open. As a last minute decision, I have therefore decided to run the River Ayr Way Race (RAW) tomorrow which will give me 4 counting events for the SUMS (Scottish Ultra Marathon Series). I feel particularly undertrained for 41 miles but I plan to set off really gently and plod round in somewhere near 7hours 30mins.

That's you pretty much up to date. It feels good to be back in blog land so watch this space!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

WHW Race Report

So there I was, lined up on the start line outside Milngavie Train Station for the 3rd year in a row, ready to start the journey to Fort William, 95 miles away in what I hoped would be less than a day. After a short briefing and a speech by Adrian Stott, the horn sounded and we were off into the dark of Mugdock Park.

My preparation had been about the same as previous years with me just coming under 1,000 miles for the year to date and managing my last long run 3 weeks before the race. The main difference this year was that I had managed to stay injury free so far and, other than the remains of a lingering cold, I was feeling pretty good.

The first few miles ticked away easily under remarkably light skies for 2:00am in the morning and I got to Drymen in just over 2hours exactly as planned. I met Eve and Cameron who would be my back up until Rowardennan and after a quick rice pudding and some words of encouragement I was off heading towards Conic Hill.

By now; 3:00am; it was light enough to turn my head torch off and I chatted away to some other runners as we headed through the forrest and caught our first sight of Conic Hill silhoueted against the skyline. I took it nice and steady up and over and got to Balmaha feeling good although the thighs felt the effects of the 20 miles covered so far. Another quick pit stop and I was away.

I have always hated this section to Rowardenan. I don't know why because it is stunning running alongside the loch as the sun comes up and there water is as smooth as glass. There is a lot of climbing on this section which surprises a lot of people and so my plan today was to take my time, just think about the 10 feet in front of me and try to find a rythym that I could keep up. It seemed to work as I came into Rowardennan fairly unscathed and met Eve and Cameron for the last time. Well, I should say I met Eve as Cameron was fast asleep in the car and it seemed unfair to wake him. They were going to go home after this, hand over to my second team and then, after a couple of hours rest come up and see me into Bridge of Orchy before going on up to Fort William for the finish.

The midges chased me out of Rowardennan and I started the long drag up the hill by the lochside trying to walk hard on the climbs and run everything else. In contrast to the previous section, I really like the stretch coming into Inversnaid and I was enjoying myself on the twists and turns along the water's edge and before long I arrived at the hotel and picked up my drop bag. It's always difficult trying to decide what to put in a drop bag as you tend to be making them up 24 hours before you need them and you need to anticipate what you'll want to eat and drink. As it turned out, my fruit bowl and mars bar was a winning choice and I devoured the lot, thanked the check point marshalls and set off.

By now the sun was up and we could see the hills across the loch being bathed in sunshine. I could tell it was going to be warm but for the moment, I remained in the cool shade of the trees and I skipped along over the roots and rocks that form this stretch up to Bein Glas Farm. This is the stretch that I had been hit with cramp during the Highland Fling and so I was very wary and nervous that the same thing would happen again. As it turned out, I didn't experience any cramp all day!

I arrived at Bein Glas on schedule but now starting to tire and met my 2nd support crew of Alistair, Donald, David and Pete (2 brothers, father and father-in-law). I asked for my hat, sun cream and a lucozade alert - none of which they had. It must be said, that they weren't on my list for that pit stop but I'm allowed to change my mind! After a quick dash back to the car, Donald arrived with the request and suitably attired, I set off once more.

It was now starting to get warm and I could feel the affects of the 40 miles covered so far and plodded along the route to Derrydaroch struggling to keep some pace going on anything but the longer descents. After climbing up the other side of the main road onto the "coo poo" path I managed to rally a bit and trotted through the gate and into the forrest above Crianlarich. The field was well spread out by this time and only occassionally did I get sight of other runners in front and I was playing yo-yo with a couple of guys as we went over the roller coaster of the hills through the forrest.

I came out onto the main road and managed to trot into Auchtertyre feeling OK. After being weighed (2kg down) I met my crew and tried to find something to eat. It is usually at this point that my stomach objects to anything going in and I really couldn't face eating anything. In the end I opted for a pork pie!

The next stretch to Tyndrum is only three miles but over that stretch I felt as though someone had pulled a plug and all my energy just drained out. I went from feeling fairly positive going into Auchtertyre to complete and utter exhaustion and depression by the time I got to Tyndrum. I sat down outside Brodies Store and for the first time that day, felt that maybe I couldn't actually do this. If I closed my eyes I would have been asleep instantly and I felt I didn't have the strength to stand-up let alone run. My team rallied round and we decided that I needed to try and eat something so after a few minutes I got up and accompanied by a marmalade roll, headed slowly up the hill out of Tyndrum. Over the next few minutes I slowly munched my way through this roll and plodded, head bowed, along the path. It is only through experience of running ultras that you get to know what your body can do and that if you have a bad spell, the best thing to do is to just keep moving forward and you'll come out of it. Sure enough, by the time I went under the railway line 2 miles along the path, I was feeling so much better and actually managed to run the whole section from there into Bridge of Orchy. I passed a few others along here including one chap who was running the whole way with his dog!

I finally arrved at Bridge of Orchy and, much to the surprise of my support crew, I was smiling! Eve and Cameron had arrived 5 minutes earlier so it was great to see them as well and I took a seat and topped up my supplies. The plan from here was that I would run over the hill to Victoria Bridge and Alistair would join me for the run across Rannoch Moor, however, after checking with the Marshalls, we were told that as I was still within 4 hours of the leaders I wouldn't be allowed a support runner until the White Corries. I was OK with this but I was more disappointed for Alistair who had been looking forward to his first chance to get out onto the route that day.

Up and over the hill out of Bridge of Orchy and after a quick hello the my crew at Victoria Bridge I set off across Rannoch Moor. My feet were starting to hurt by now as the route was so dry the paths were rock hard and my trail shoes were struggling to absorb the continued pounding and rocky nature of the trail. I plodded across the Moor constantly searching out the smoother side of the path and trying to keep sipping water from my camelback. The sun was high in the sky and the strong wind had been a constant companion now for the last few hours. It was helping to keep me cool but had the effect of speeding up the dehydration process many time over. Despite wearing sunglasses, it aslo seemed to be trying to dry out my contact lenses and the vision in my right eye was anything but 20:20.
I climbed out of the far end of the Moor and found Donald had run up from the checkpoint to meet me and run the last mile or so down the hill. My feet struggled to find a comfortable spot and each footfall was met with a wince as the previous 70 miles were now taking their toll.
I collapsed into the chair at the White Corries and forced down some soup and half an energy bar. As I sat there I spotted John Kynaston and Andy Cole heading out, both looking strong and steady. Alistair had decided to run the next section to the bottom of the Devils Staircase with me and so we set off slowly down the steep hill towards the Kinsghouse Hotel before the frustrating up and down path that seems to serve no other purpose than to add to my mounting woes. Running when I could and walking hard we reached Altnafeidh and Donald took over to accompany me up and over the Devils Staircase. Progress was slow but steady and after only two brief stops we finally reached to the top with stunning views in every direction. Despite the struggle up the hill, I would rather have gone back down and done it again than head off on the never ending descent into Kinlochleven. Resigned to my fate, we set off and I decided to try breaking into a run to see how my legs felt. They felt OK! This was a surprise, so we kept running and remarkably I seemed able to keep a steady pace going the whole way down to the fire road. As soon as we reached this road, we stepped it up and kept a good pace going all the way down into Kinlochleven, completing one of my strongest stages so far. Quite where it came from I don't know but it seemed to disappear just as quickly as soon as we reached the checkpoint and once again, I collapsed into the waiting chair, exhausted.
I was weighed again here and found that I had dropped 5kg; one more than I was allowed but after a quick "re-weigh" it seemed that we had misread the scales and I had actually only dropped 4kg! - It seemed I was allowed to carry on.
Alistair and I set off on the next stage and we plodded our way up the climb out of Kinlochleven and up onto the Larig Mhor. We were passed by three of four other people on the climb who all seemed to have far more in their legs than me. Reaching the top, the wind had now died down and the sun was staring to set, I was still able to marvel at the views all around. This stretch has been one of my least favourites in the past because you are able to see the trail winding away in the distance for what looks like forever and the conditions under foot are probably the worst on the whole WHW. The path is covered in fist sized rocks that shift and roll under each footstep. Bad enough on fresh legs and walking boots but a nightmare on trashed legs, blistered feet and trainers.
The one upside of this however is that you can start to sense that you are close to the finish - just 13 miles to go and it's all over and there is the faintest of magnetic pulls forcing you forward towards Fort William. It was a case of head down and crack on and we managed to run every downhill and several of the flat sections all the way into Lundavra. The path along here is surrounded on both sides with large rocks that are covered in black and white moss and lichen. The fading light, my lack of sleep and exhaustion and my dried out contact lenses meant that everyone of these rocks took on a new persona. I saw countless sheep (there were none) a white landrover (there wasn't one), a team of dwarf american footballers (now it was getting weird!) and countless faces. I decided to keep these images to myself to avoid worrying Alistair but it certainly kept up the interest as the stage went on.
We had planned a quick stop at Lundavra but by now I had realised that if we pushed on hard, we had a chance of getting in under my pb of 23hrs:30mins so we stopped long enough for Donald to join us and then it was off on the last stage.
As we reached the forrest we decided to put on the head torches and as in previous years, Donald led off, I was behind him and Alistair brought up the rear. We pushed on as hard as we dared through the darkness with me stumbling over rocks and roots as my legs struggled to co-ordinate with the terrain. Eventually we emerged from the forrest and onto the fire road for the final 2 or 3 miles in to the finish. The time was still possible but it was going to be tight so gingerly, I tried out a run once more and to my surprise found a new level of energy. The pace remained solid all the way down the road and we passed Andy Cole about a mile before Braveheart Carpark going steady and on course for his first sub 24 hours.
I kept looking at my watch and each time I increased the pace. This was crazy; I had just run 93 miles, an hour or so earlier I could barely walk and yet here we were stomping along at an ever increasing pace and feeling strong and totally focussed.
Braveheart carpark arrived and as we ran through the rest of my crew were waiting to see us. Cameron was going to join us for the run in and I shouted at him that he better be feeling fast because we were shifting!
Onto the road and the pace picked up again, a quick glance at the watch told me we had about 7 minutes to spare and I looked ahead desparate to see the 30mph sign that marks your arrival into the town. Finally it came into view and I kicked for home. Cameron had dropped off by now and I was flying flat out towards the Leisure Centre, with one eye on my watch. I passed three other runners as I sprinted into the carpark and shouted an apology at them as I sped past before bursting through the doors in a time of 23hours 25 mins!
It was a fantastic moment and I was elated and exhausted in equal measures. I shook Donald and Alistairs hand to thank them for their efforts which seemed like a wholly inadequate gesture but was as much as I could manage.
The prize giving the next day was excellent and gave an opportunity to catch up with other runners and for each one to receive their goblet in front of their peers. The new race committee have done a fantastic job in keeping the race going and maintaining the WHW Family feel - so well done to them all.
As before, my support crews were fantastic and so thanks to Eve, Cameron, Pete, David, Donald & Alistair - keep your diaries clear for next June!

Monday, 21 June 2010

WHW Race 2010

(Coming into Bridge of Orchy - 60 miles: picture by Davy Hall)
A brief post to say that I finished the Race in 23hours 25mins - 5 mins inside my PB.

I realised coming into Lundavra with 7 miles to go that it was going to be close and so we pushed on hard through the forrest finishing with a mad 6 minute mile pace charge along the road out of Braveheart carpark.

Thanks to all my support crew and especially Alistair and Donald for pushing me on over the last few stages.

A stunning day with breathtaking views from start to finish - never have I seen Scotland looking better.

Full report to follow

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

It's The Final, "sniff" Countdown!

I've got a cold - normally that's no big deal. Take some lemsip and just ride it out; it'll be gone in a few days. The trouble is that in 3 days time, I'm running a 95 mile ultra marathon through some of Scotlands finest but toughest scenery!

It's not a big cold, just a runny nose and a bit of sore throat but not the kind of pre-race build up I was hoping for. The plan was to run an easy 5 miles or so tonight to keep the legs ticking over and to gather my thoughts for the big day but I think it best if I stay indoors and keep popping the Echinachia (?)

I ran a strong race in the Milngavie & Bearsden 10k at the weekend finishing in 42mins 45secs; 10 seconds faster than last year and good enough for 10th place and now am trying to rest the legs and get my head ready for this weekend.

I try to avoid too many detailed race plans as I tend to find that, on the day, I race as I feel irrespective of what I've written down, but there is a need to have some form of strategy and plan so; in no particular order, here are my intentions:

  • I'd like to get inside 23 hours - last year I ran 23:30 and 24:45 the year before so I know sub 23 is in me. It would be nice to finish on the same day I started.
  • My pace chart shows me setting off slower than last year until about Auchtertyre when I start to overtake my timings. I need to average 14.5min/mile overall to hit sub 23.
  • I need to try and avoid the cramp that has plagued me in the last two Highland Fling races (but not in the WHW?) so regular "s" caps, soup and some ready salted crisps on stand-by. The forecast looks like its could be hot so plenty of water as well.
  • I want my suppport runners to push me on a bit harder in the later stages (Donald, Alistair - are you reading this?). Particularly along the larig mhor and down into Frt William.
  • If I can take 1 minute off each pit stop, I'll gain an extra 10 mins without any running!
  • Patience - this is very important as it's going to be a long day. I know there will be times when I get downhearted but I also know that these moments pass and I just need to keep presssing on.
  • Enjoy it!
  • Stay positive as this helps to keep the mind and body going.
  • Don't stop - sometimes easier said than done but the bottom line for this race is to keeping moving forward, keep putting one foot in front of the other and no matter what else happens, I will finish!

So there we go, the final run in to my 3rd WHW Race and I'm still nervous, exited and worried but I can't wait to get back out there again and put my body and mind on the line and, with the help of my fantastic support crew, experience another amazing journey to Fort William.

Pass the Lemsip..............

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

70 Wild Miles 'n stuff

It's been a while since I put pen to paper (so to speak) so I thought I'd provide a quick update of what's been going on.

A few weeks ago, myself and a couple of pals spent a very pleasant few days biking in the Vercors in south east France courtesy of the extremely laid back Phil Smith at Gastrobiking

The idea is to climb a few cols have some cake, descend a few cols, have some more cake and ride back to base before having yet more cake - oh, and a few glasses of wine. If you fancy some fantastic riding over some of the "Tour" routes in glorious weather, Phil is your man.

Back home and into some serious training to get ready for the WHW race, I managed some good runs and did my final long session a week ago from Tyndrum to the White Corries and back. 36 miles, under 11 min mile pace and feeling good at the end.

Last weekend saw me and two pals team up once more for 70 Wild Miles. A team triathlon event organised by Click Sargent based in and around Glen Coe. The event consist of a 43 mile bike ride from the White Corries to Taynuilt. This is followed by a 10 mile Kayak up Loch Etive and then a 12 mile run up Glen Etive. Not surprisingly, I did the run section and our team came 2nd overall in the team event - a fanatstic result. Personally I ran OK but struggled in the heat and didn't feel quite as strong as I would have hoped but still managed to record the 5th fastest run of the day!

Me approaching the finish

Graeme "TM" Busby (Kayak), Me, Peter "Boris" Gorrie (Bike)

Not bad for a bunch of old guys in their 40's!

So the focus is now very much on the WHW Race which is now less than 2 weeks away. The training is done and all I can do now is to try and rest up and get my head togther for what will be a very long day. As always, the plan is just to finish but I do have a schedule for a sub-23 hour which it would be great to get near. More on my pre-race thoughts on a later post.

I have one more race before the WHW Race which is this weekends local 10k. Part of the Bearsden and Milngavie Highland Games. I have run this the last few years and it is hilly wee course that catches a lot of people out. I always get to the start line saying that I'll take it easy with the following weekends race in mind but as soon as the gun goes off, the red mist descends and I charge off at a ridiculous speed which sees me gasping and panting after two miles. Still - it's all good training.

So that brings you up to date - a bit of a brief summary really but duty calls and there is business to be done. I'll post next week prior to my main event of the year.

Friday, 30 April 2010

If you want to get a head................

Get a hat!

Ultra running trend setter Andy Cole has taken sartorial elegance to a new level by sporting a very fetching flat cap during his outings into the wilds of the British countryside. Andy claims it has numerous benefits including thermal, waterproof and UV protection qualities as well as being rather dashing!

This got me thinking as to what other types of headwear may be suitable for my own race calendar this year. There is clearly a desire to gain some technical advantage by the correct selection of headwear but perhaps we should go further and try and celebrate and embrace the cultural associations that go along with the relevant race.
Here are some suggestions:

The Mighty Deerstalker - bit of an obvious one here and, considering the type of race, of no practical use other than allowing you to blend in with the other 999 people wearing the same thing.

The Highland Fling - This race presents a number of options, some of which are perhaps more obvious than others. The race is understandably proud of it's Scottish roots and and prides itself on its informal approach so I would suggest the following:

Note the extended peak and rear neck protection to prevent excessive exposure to the frequently experienced suuny conditions on this race.

The red "bobble" providing easy identification for waiting support crews and the added ability to blend in seamlessly with the groups of young chaps enjoying the outdoor camping life at Salloch Bay.

West Highland Way Race - a surprising selection for this race but one which I think you will agree is perfect for any prevailing weather conditions that you may experience:

The wide brim provides excellent protection from rain, hail, sleet, snow and sun - all of which can be experienced within the duration of the race. Perhaps, it's biggest benefit however; and I'm quite pleased with this; is midge protection! Anyone who has experienced the joy of passing through Balmaha or Rowardennan in the wee small hours of mid-summer morning will appreciate the benefit that this form of fashion accessory will provide

Clydestride - this is a new race that follows the clyde walkway from Partick in the west end of Glasgow to New Lanark. The race presents some notable cultural challenges and the ability to blend in with ones environment should be considered a high priority when passing through the East End of Glasgow. I think I have come up with the ideal solution however that provides both practical and cultural solutions:

It is imperative however that when sporting this particular fashion accessory you ensure that your camelback is refilled with the appropriate isotonic replacement drink of choice. I understand that Achilles Heel and Run-4-it are able to order in the requisite quantites of Buckfast.

Finally, some local jargon may assist your passage through this tricky race route with phrases such as:
"How you, ya fanny, geez a sook o yer ginger!" or "I can see yer baws in they shorts!"

Speyside Way Race - this is my first venture onto this race and one I am very much looking forward to. The choice of hat is a tricky one but given the nature of the location I would sugest the following as an ideal choice:

There is ample space to attach your flies as one of the principal rules of this race is that you must catch your own food en-route. The welcome waters of the river spey will give ample opportunity to ensure a plentiful supply of salmon although the accompanying Ghillie may be deemed to be illegal support on this particular event.

So there you have it - your perfect hat choice for this seasons races. Whilst I cannot hope to follow in the fashionable steps of Andy Cole, I hope I have gone some way towards helping my fellow runners in this difficult process.

On a final note, should your budget not stretch to race-specific head gear and you are looking for one hat that can cover every eventuality, I can do no better than suggest this:

I know - there's no need to thank me.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Montane Highland Fling

Saturday saw me running my third consecutive Highland Fling and my fastest yet (by a whole 6 minutes!)

I set off in the second wave consisting of all the male vets. The older vets and ladies had set off an hour earlier and the young guys were to set off an hour after me. I had no real race plan other than the loose targets in my previous post, but as I headed out of Milngavie and through the woods I felt comfortable and was looking forward to the day ahead.

My early pace was a bit quicker than planned and I reached Drymen in just under two hours. I ran straight through and as I joined the forest drive at the top of the path I was joined ny Ian Rae and Keith Hughes. We chatted away with some good banter all the way up conic hill at a pace that was a bit quicker than I had planned but the company was good and the running felt fine.

Keith picked up his drop bag at Balmaha and kept walking whereas I stopped to eat and had a quick chat with Ian Beattie. I thought that would be the last I saw of Keith but we kept crossing each other all the way to Beinglas.

I always hate the section from Balmaha to Rowardennan and I was determined this year to try and get there feeling ok. I kept the head down and plodded on and about 2 miles before I got there I was passed by the eventual race leader who had started an hour after me! Rowardennan arrived and whilst I wasn't feeling great I was OK and after a quick refuel I was on my way again.

I quite enjoy the lochside section and despite the growing fatigue, I kept a steady pace and arrived at Inversnaid tired but pleased to be 33 miles in with 20 to go.

I suffered my first batch of cramp as I stepped over the rocks and roots of the next section and cried out in pain as a knot the size of a golf ball formed in my right hamstring. I managed to stretch it out and I was able to get going again but I was concerned that this was the start of a repeat of last year. I had been taking "s" caps regularly so far but the clear skies and warm sun meant I had been sweating hard and clearly hadn't been replacing enough salt.

The cramp seemed to stay away however and I plodded on towards Beinglas where I would meet up with Pete (my father-in-law) and my two boys. This gives me a huge mental boost and allowed me to swap my long sleeved Helly Hansen top for a short sleeved one. I left Beinglas feeling ok but very wary about the constant flickering of my hamstrings, calfs and quads all of which threatened to go into a cramping spasm any moment.

13 miles to go now so I knew I was going to make it. I had been on my 11 hour schedule up till now but I knew from past experience that this next section is where the wheels can come off - and they did. The threatened cramps now started to appear and I had to adopt a curious straight legged shuffle to avoid too many bouts. I had been running with a guy called Liam since Beinglas and we had chatted away quite happily. As I started to slow up Liam pulled away and I thought he had gone for good but as I turned a corner I saw him lying on the grass by the side of the track trying to stretch out a cramping muscle. I clearly wasn't the only one suffering today!

Up and over the roller coaster hills above Crianlarich and I'm telling myself that I'm almost home - "just a 10k to go - come on Graeme!" I push on, running when I can, walking when I can't and have a brief strong spell coming out of the woods and into Auchtertyre. I meet my support crew briefly and then decide to push on and give it all I've got to the finish in Tyndrum.

I emerge out of the woods into Tyndrum and can see the finish arch ahead. As I pass the piper 100 yards from the finish, I have to stop again to stretch out my cramping muscles but then finish with a smile in 11 hours 16 mins in 113th place (out of about 350)

As I sup my cold bottle of Coors and chat to many familiar faces waiting at the finish, the memories of the pain and suffering are already starting to fade but then I look across the road to the West Highland Way path as it heads up the valley towards Bridge of Orchy and think to myself "only another 42 miles to go!"

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Pre-Fling Thoughts

Saturday sees me taking part in my first Ultra of the season with the Montane Highland Fling. A 53 mile trail race following the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum. I'm starting to get that wonderful pre-race feeling of exitement, fear and anticipation as the day gets closer.
I don't have a particularly detailed race plan but given that this is my 3rd running of the event I have had a chance to consider some problems that have dogged me in the past and hopefully, I will avoid on the day. So, in no particular order, here are some thoughts, targets etc.
  • Start off slow
  • Take "s" caps every hour to prevent a repeat of last years cramp
  • Drink a little and often
  • Eat a little and often
  • Get to Rowardennan feeling good (never managed this so far!)
  • If I have to walk; walk fast!
  • My main goal is just to finish, but I would like to get close to 11 hours and so my splits would work out roughly: Drymen 2hrs, Balmaha 3hrs 15 mins, Rowardennan 5hrs, Inversnaid 6hrs 40mins, Beinglas 8hrs 25mins, Auchtertyre 10hrs 25mins, Tyndrum 11hrs.
  • Enjoy the event

That's kind of it really. I don't want to overanalyse every aspect of the race as I'd rather just set off and deal with how I feel on the day. There has been a lot of talk on various blogs about different pace strategies with scatter graphs, percentages, in depth analysis and comments. I'm sure this is all very important and interesting if you're up there contesting the podium positions but for all the rest of us it all seems a bit anal and unnecessary. Just get your gear on and go and run and don't forget to smile occassionally, it definately helps.

So for everyone else who is running on Saturday - the best of luck and don't eat all the stovies at the finish before I get there. If you're not running - get your gutties on and get out there, you've got just over 12 months to be ready!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Up till that point I had been feeling pretty pleased with myself!

Easter Sunday brought the usual family commitments what with hiding easter eggs, finding easter eggs, not finding the easter eggs that I had hidden half an hour before and preparing for a meal time visit from my parents, so my long run had to be squeezed in to it's usual early morning slot.
I decided to drive up to Gartmore and run from there over to Balmaha and back. A total of 20 miles with the added bonus of a couple trips up and over Conic Hill. I set off at 7:00am and was feeling quite spritely as I trotted along the road and then up through the forest behind Drymen before the first ascent of Conic Hill. One or two little patches of snow left but nothing much and I slid my way down the wet grass before the lovely little downhill section through the trees to the car park at Blamaha.
I arrived in good shape having really enjoyed the run so far and munched on a Hot Cross Bun and Jam (it was Easter after all!) before heading back from whence I came.
The second ascent of Conic Hill was a breeze and I was up and over dancing my way down the river bed that masquerades as a footpath on the other side of the hill. By the time I got to the bottom, I decided to step up the pace as I was feeling comfortable and wanted to push myself a bit. I continued this pace all the way down to Drymen, passing hoards of walkers going the opposite way with a cheery, "morning!", "morning!", "hiya!", "morning!", "morning!"
I crossed the main road at Drymen and was heading across the field to join the road back to Gartmore when I spotted Ritchie Cunningham and another runner coming in the opposite direction. We stopped for a quick chat:

R - "Hi, have you been far?"

Me - "No just over to Balmaha and back but I'm going really well today. How about you, where are you heading?"

R - "Tyndrum"

Me - "Whoa , good for you"

R - "Then Fort William tomorrow"

Me - " Really?!"

R - "Then back again over the next two days"

Me - " "

R - "See you then, have a good run"

Me - "Yeah, you too"

So there you go - just when I was starting to feel like I was going well, along comes Ritchie to put it all into perspective - Thanks Ritchie!

Not too dispondent, I pushed on and finished my last couple of miles at breakneck speed before reaching my car and heading home. I did console myself however with the thought that as I was sitting there supping my first of several glasses of Tempranillo later that day, Ritchie would have been battling with the cow shit just past Derrydaroch - at that brief moment I did feel slightly more pleased with myself!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Mighty Deerstalker

Saturday saw my fourth running of this slightly off-the-wall event based at Traquair in the Scottish Borders. A beautiful sunny day meant that the start was delayed by 20 mins to ensure we experienced some night time running later in the race so at 5:45pm 1,500 of us set off up the grassy avenue of Traquair House and within 100 yards encountered the hay bale hurdle - the first of many obstacles we were to encounter.
Having run this several times before, I knew the key was to start fast to ensure you didn't get caught up in the bottleneck of runners formed at some of the later obstacles. I was feeling good and ran the first section well and comfortably (I think someone had been dredging the "pond" as what had previously been a waist high water feature was now chest high!). Up the long climb before a mad descent down the mountainbike trail of hairpins and jumps and through the forest into the catch nets by the road.

After a spectaular head over heels just before the nets I was laughing with guy behind me when this picture was taken.
Onwards and along by the river before descending into said river for 300 yards of upstream wading before emerging onto the muddy bank and heading for the main climb of the day up the scree covered side of the hill. Over the top and over a log bridge before once again, plunging down hill through the forrest in the fading light. One particular section of muddy bank was so steep, they provided ropes to help you down - I preferred the "bum-slide" method!

Another river crossing:

and then back through Innerleithen and the finish at Traquair (with a few more tunnels / rivers etc. just for fun!)

I finished 92nd out of about 1500 but to be honest, the placing and time is irrelevant. I was running well within myself and just set out to enjoy the day. It's a great atmosphere and a really fun event and so there is no pressure on you for times or pb's.

I changed into some dry clothes and shivered my way through an excellent plate of haggis neeps 'n tatties before getting back into my car for the journey home. As I left the field I looked up to see a trail of head torches still snaking their way up the hill I had battled with 1.5 hours earlier. There would be some very weary, wet and cold stragglers out there for a while yet. See you next year!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Sticks and Stones (twice)

My first ultra of the season is now only 5 weeks away and I'm starting to panic! I've been putting in some regular sessions but nothing of any great distance so, yesterday, I decided to take a day off and run out from Rowardennan to Beinglas Farm and back - a distance of 28 miles.
I have run this section many times before and so I knew what the stretch from Inversnaid to the top of the loch was like but I've never done an out and back over it. The run out was fine and I was skipping over the rocks, roots and trees quite happily although feeling the effects by the time I reached the Doune Bothy. A quick stop at Beinglas Farm for a pot of beans and I turned and headed back the way I had come.
It puts a whole different perspective on this stretch running it backwards (not literally!) and the constant clambering up and down and around was starting to take its toll on my weary legs so I was delighted to see the Inversnaild Hotel coming into view once more. Another brief stop and a marmalade roll (food of the gods) and I set off on the last stretch along the lochside to Rowardennan. I'll not pretend it was easy - coz it wasn't. I was relieved to finally emerge back in the car park 5hrs 50 mins after I left with some concerns over my ability to do the same again plus another 25 miles in a few weeks time - still a complete lack of preparation, ability and talent has never stopped me before!

My legs feel ok today which is just as well as Saturday sees me running my first race of the year - The Mighty Deerstalker. This will be the fourth time I've run this race and I know some people don't like it but 2,000 of us seem to turn up each year so they must be doing something right! It's billed as 10k and a bit but that "bit" is actually another 5k. The route takes in river crossings, tree bridges, culverts and lots of mud and is timed so that the later stages are run in the dark. All good wholesome fun!
The last few years, the whole family have come along to support and we've stayed in a local hotel afterwards. This year however - as my dog has very selfishly broken her leg and is confined to her crate, I'm going down with my eldest son and one of his pals and driving home after the finish - That post race beer may have to wait slightly longer this year!

Friday, 12 February 2010

My feet are a pain in the arse!

No, I really mean my feet are an actual pain in the arse! I have discovered over the years that in certain biomechanical areas, I was not designed for running. There has been much talk over recent months about the return to "barefoot" running as this was how we are meant to run - back to our pre-historic roots of chasing antelope until they fall over!!!

I would contest this however as my own personal experience suggests some form of full enclosure, bomb proof cushioning is the only way forward.

I have always been blessed (cursed?) with big flat feet. I remember fondly getting my first pair of Doc Martins (8 holes - I wasn't allowed the 13 hole ones :( ) when I was a spotty 13 year old in 2nd year at school and at size 11, it prompted my new nick name of "Angle Bracket Reid". Not exactly snappy and cool but none the less, descriptive and, when coupled with my Levis which had been taken in to allow people to see how much change I had in my pocket, frighteningly accurate!

My feet haven't actually got any bigger since then. I still have size 11's but over the years, anything that once resembled some form of arch has been gradually beaten down to leave me with the fine specemins I have today.

For the most part, my running is largely unaffected by this attribute, indeed, small holes and gulleys are easily bridged and I was able to run across the surface of the recent deep snow without the thigh deep immersions of my running buddies. However, as the distances increase and my fatigue grows I find the effort of lifting my feet over rocks and boulders harder and harder until I find myself tripping and stubbing my toes continuously.

This is where the whole barefoot running thing falls apart for me and what I need is something more suited to my needs;

Alternatively, I could look at another pastime where my feet are consideed to be an asset. So watch this space. If you tune in to the winter olympics over the next week or so and hear talk of the introduction of barefoot ski-jumping in 2014 - you'll know where it came from!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Doing my S.U.M.S.

Just when I though my plans for the year were sorted along comes Murdo and introduces the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series. A series of 9 scottish ultra marathons including 2 new events and one resurrected event.
The scoring requires runners to complete at least 4 of the races and prizes will be awarded to the overall series winners after the last race - the River Ayr Way.
Now I'm already signed up for two of the races - The Highland Fling and the West Highland Way Race but I am keen to do 2 more to feature in the series rankings.
I have decided therefore to do:
The Clyde Stride - a 40 mile race following the new clyde walkway from Partick to Lanark. This is only 4 weeks after the West Highland Way Race so if last year is anything to go by, I wont exactly be springing along.
The Speyside Way Race - This was apparantly last run in 2005 and ties in nicely with my plans to run this route anyway. The race is only 35 miles which, as far as i am aware, is less than the full speyside way but looks like being a great race none the less. This is on 28th August and as this is usually quite a quite month for me, it fills the gap quite nicely.
So at the moment, my race plans for this year are now:
March - the Mighty Deerstalker
April - The Highland Fling
May - Cycling trip to France
June - 70 Wild Miles and the West Highland Way Race
July - The Clyde Stride
August - The Speyside Way Race
September - Glasgow half marathon
October - Longmynd Hike

Looks like a full year with 5 ultras and few 10ks and other half marathons scattered around in there.
Training is going OK at the moment - no huge mileage but what I am doing I feel good about. I did an 18 miler on Sunday morning and finished strongly feeling good. The plan is step up this weekend and put in a 25 and then keep the momentum going through Feb.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

What's Occuring?

Well, 2009 has now been and gone, I managed just over 1500 miles again for the year - not as much as many of my other running colleagues but enough to let me complete the various challenges I had in 2009.

So which races did i do last year?


Wuthering Hike (32 miles) - this was my first attempt at this and in some challenging weather I manged to finish in a very slow time due to some slight navigational errors which saw me add an extra couple of miles on to the route!

The following week I ran in The Mighty Deerstalker - this is billed as a 10k but it is actually abouy 9 miles and includes river crossings, swamps, log bridges and much more. I know some people don't like this event but I do and have signed up again for this year.


This month I ran the Highland Fling (54 miles) - my time of 11hrs 42 mins was very disappointing and I suffered terribly with cramp throughout most of the race. It is still a great race however and I am signed up for next year.


I had a quiet May and only ran the Helensburgh 10k. It was a very fast flat course and I ran 40mins 26secs which I was delighted with. I was also pleased that I was up the next morning at 6:00am to meet Mark Hamilton & Ellen McVey in Tyndrum to run the 35 miles to Kinshouse and back!


This is the busiest month on the year and it started with 70 Wild Miles which is team triathlon. I joined up with a couple of friends and did the final run leg of 13 miles. It was a really fun event and we're doing it again this year. The following week was my local 10k which is on a tough, hilly course and managed to beat my previous years time by 15 seconds to come home in 42mins 52 secs. One week later was the main event of the year with my second running of the West Highland Way Race (95miles) I had a great run and took over an hour of the previous years time to finish in 23 hours 30 mins. I'm going for sub 23hours this year!


I took some time out this month to go on holiday and nurse some injuries picked up during the previous month.


I decided to run the Helensburgh half marathon this month for the first time in 20 years. It was really hot day and I struggled from very eraly on to finish in 1 hour 38mins (faster than 20 years ago though!)


This is the month of the Glasgow Half Marathon which I now completed around 20 times. I had a brilliant run here and finished in 1 hour 31 mins. I'd love to get under 1 Hour 30mins again so maybe this is the year! The following week I ran the Saab Salomon Tubo X race in Mugdock Park. A 10 mile run through the trails and swamp. It is very much a fun event and I loved it.


I ran the Longmynd Hike (50 miles) for the third time this year and despite horrendous weather for the first half of the race managed to take 20mins off my PB to finish in 11 housr 25mins.

That was the end of my racing for the year and after some big mileage in the first half of November I've been pretty lazy up till Christmas. The snowy weather is proving challenging at the moment. It's ok if you can get off-road but the pavements are dreadful and it makes for some hard running.

I ran to work yesterday in -11 degrees. When I ran home, my eyebrows and eyelashes had frosted up!

So what of my plans this year? As always, it depends on what I can fit around my work and family commitments but my race plans at the moment are:
The Mighty Deerstalker
The Highland Fling
70 Wild Miles
WHW Race
Longmynd Hike
I'll do some 10ks and Half marathons as well.
I'd also like to do a couple of hill races this year and I had mentioned in a previous post about running the official Long Distance Footpaths (WHW, Speyside way, Great Glen Way, Southern Upland way) I'm not sure how these will all fit into my diary but we'll see as the year progresses.
So that kind of brings things to a close. I've got out of the way of blogging recently but I'd like to get back into a more regular routine so watch this space