Friday, 24 May 2013

London Marathon pleasure and study horror (in that order)

As the title suggests, and as the London Marathon was over a month ago, I am in the depths of study hell. Should I be posting on my blog the day before my first exam (of about 10 over 10 days)? Probably not, but I need to shed some stress...I'm going mad sitting studying all day: every single hour of every single day. And when I sleep, I dream of drug names (the good, medicine kind (; ) and processes contributing to blood coagulation or cancer development...

...I have been doing my best (and as I keep reminding myself, that is genuinely all a person can do) but, that said, I still don't know how things will go. Watch this space, I guess. I did sign up for this, after all!

But, on a nicer note, I did have an absolutely amazing time at the London Marathon back in April. I ran for Macmillan and could not have asked for better support from my amazing friends and family. Or from the Macmillan team, to be honest. Definitely an amazing charity whose work deserves to be supported.

My training was fraught with injury - 2 weeks off (completely - I mean COMPLETELY unable to run) with a hamstring problem, then 2/3 weeks recovering from some weird agony along the outer edge of my foot (stress fracture???). I had managed 23 miles off-road in the snowy hills of Aviemore on that foot problem which I don't think helped matters. I had done a few 15milers too, but nothing constituting marathon training.

Some photos of myself and my "cycle-mates" on our amazing run in Aviemore...

My lack of training didn't seem to matter though. Never before have I been so impressed with the atmosphere ANYWHERE! I don't say to be offensive, as the people who cheer and support in ultras are wonderful and make the race worth doing. Same with the Loch Ness Marathon supporters in the wee villages and city centre. But London is on another level. I didn't see a break in the crowds once in the whole 26.2miles. And people just shout your name, clap for you, cheer, hold up funny really was such an experience. I don't think I stopped smiling the whole way round!

A race report wouldn't really consist of much, other than I found it quite difficult to eat from about 18miles onwards. Those of you who read this blog will know I usually have no problem stuffing my face during races (it has been commented on before!!) but I think I was going a bit faster than I should have been given my lack of proper training. Maybe that was why. I felt a bit sick at one point and also think I was drinking too much water so I cut back towards the end. Spending a good portion of my run thinking about the homeostatic mechanisms in my body which are altered when I run and how I could restore normal balance is something I didn't think I would ever do, but there you go...

On the plus side, no injury pain. The only thing which really hurt (and this is the only real problem I ever have in races) is the ball of my foot. I get a horrible pain there, probably pressure induced, when I run for long periods of time. Afterwards its all swollen and bright red.

So yes, after no injuries, lots of smiles, a little physiology revision and amazing crowds I finished in 3hours 34mins. A new pb by about 2 mins. And I loved every minute of it (: I was happy to see, too, that may splits weren't really too bad. For someone who doesn't look at a watch whilst running I must have quite a good internal body clock!!

Oh, and I forgot to mention I was wearing a tutu and supporting my lovely country (:

Monday, 25 February 2013

February 2013

It seems my posts from now on may end up being a month apart...but quality over quantity hopefully!

Since my last post I have been busy as usual, but still keeping plenty of time to run and spin. The weather has been awful though - so cold. I suffer from Reynauds which means that I'm ok when I'm running, but once I'm finished running and my body cools down, I suffer massive vasoconstriction and  lose all circulation in my fingers (palm up) and toes. It doesn't sound serious, but it can be pretty uncomfortable...

Pretty gross really! In addition, the routes I run are very muddy, and running in the mud is incredibly difficult. I don't think I ever quite appreciated it, as running on bridleways isn't half as bad. I don't think I will ever do fell running - it's so frustrating pushing as hard as you can and not getting anywhere! Plus there are a lot of horses in Cambridgeshire who seem to just destroy any trace of a footpath. For example, mid way through my 14miler on the Inknield Way...

So, I think I have pretty much settled into my yearly training plan. 
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 5.5/6m (fast...think I can include some small sprints in this if I can motivate myself) + spin
Wednesday - freestyle...varies each week, just what I can fit in as Weds are my busiest day
Thursday - 7-9m (steady) + spin
Friday - Rest
Saturday - long
Sunday - Cycle 

I know it doesn't seem like I'm going to be cranking massive mileages but it is what I can manage, and moreover it's what I WANT to do. I don't love running so much that I want to spend all my free time running (although that's slightly different when I'm home in Scotland) plus, as I mentioned in my last post I am seriously respectful of my body now and it really isn't healthy to be pushing it hard every day. My poor joints won't thank me when I'm 50...although maybe my heart will (:

In February my long runs have been 11.5miles, then I got ill for a week and missed my long run, 13.9miles and 14.5miles. This week I will be back in Glasgow so plan on doing a nice easy 15miler somewhere to round off the month. I have been quite happy with my runs, except times perhaps - like I say the mud and slippy conditions underfoot have added a bit of time onto them. Interestingly I have been using my Nike+ again and am laughing at the paces of my usual routes...I tend not to keep a very uniform pace through my runs!!

To be fair, I do know what the big dip at the end is...I come off the hard surface onto a really slippery bridleway and have to really take care not to go over on my ankle, then after about 1/2mile I hit another road. My long runs are slightly more uniform...luckily!

Something else which I have been looking at this month too is new running headphones. I don't always run with headphones, especially as I sometimes have Derek cycling alongside or am just enjoying being out in the country, but I do love to listen to music. I had a pair of Sennheiser PMX80 until recently...
...but unfortunately after many years of being battered and used one of the ears stopped working. I was really impressed with them but when I looked on amazon to get another pair, they weren't being sold anymore and had received not so great reviews. I'm surprised, and it made me a bit sceptical about believing some of the other headphone reviews. I thought about running with my old Sonys for a while but they are over the ear (i.e. DJ style) ones and I don't like running on the road with them. I eventually settled on these Sennheiser/Adidas MX685 ones:

So far I haven't been disappointed. I wondered about the wee bit on the top but it actually hooks quite well into your ear and holds the headphones in place, despite the constant jiggling around. I listen to loads of dance music with heavy bass and the headphones seem to convey that pretty well only gripe is that they don't go up very loud....well, in the house they do but outside it doesn't seem so loud. This could, of course, be my 5+ year old ipod nano packing up on me. Either way, its probably best for my ears if I don't have the music up too loud. I have been listening to quite a lot of new tunes recently and think I have some perfect playlists for these wee sprints I try to do on my 6miler.

I think I will save that for another post though...

Monday, 21 January 2013

A round up of 2012

So, always a little late, but I thought I would do a little overview of 2012 and talk about some goals for 2013.

2012 was a bit of a mixed year for me, some very, very good times, some not so good times. I'd rather talk about the positive though! After Rutland Marathon I took it easy and had a few weeks of simple 7,8,9 mile runs, amounting to 62miles in November. Plus I did a lot of spin - I absolutely love spin and swear my running has benefited no end from it. In December I started to build my mileage back up, long runs of 9 and 10 miles, then a longer run of 18miles at the end of the year, plus plenty of spin.

The 18 mile route was from Pitlochry out west across the river and then back. It was a really cold day and threatened to rain the whole time but very luckily it never did! We did the run/cycle in about 3 hours (+a lunch break). I like this photo from the day: (very threatening!)

The day before that Derek, his brother and I went a walk near Glenmore in the Cairngorms. The snow was quite heavy and the path had been snowed over, so at the advice of another walker we hiked up one of the hills and scrambled to the top to see the view below, which was phenomenal:

Since the start of JAnuary, I have been running 3-4 times per week (depending on what I can manage with Uni), spinning twice a week and maybe doing a cycle or a walk at the weekend as well. My long runs have been 10.5, 8.5 and 11.5miles and I'm trying to do a fast weekly run of over 6miles. Studying physiology has really taught me the importance of allowing my muscles to rest and become stronger, so I actively take rest days now. I do think I am getting faster...on the flat certainly. I was also really relieved when I came home to Glasgow a few times since Rutland and all my runs were very hilly (I basically tried to find any hill I could and incorporate it into my run!). I coped really well and it's nice to see that Cambridge hasn't sapped the stamina out of me!

Personally, 2012 was a really hard year. I was incredibly homesick and it led me to being in a really bad place for a while. If I hadn't had D's support and been able to keep up running and going away to the Peaks/Essex/Surrey etc I don't think I would have coped as well. I realised something towards the end of the year though - I am almost half way through my course. The course is very hard, it's very intensive and I forget that sometimes. The fact I can still keep up my running, am getting stronger and am still doing well on the course is something I really need to remember and be proud of. We plan on moving back once I'm done, and at that time I won't have the same chance to do long runs on the flat, or nip to London or the Peaks for a wee weekend away (running or otherwise!) so I may as well make the most of it. I love the gym I've joined and, like I say, the spin classes are fab. I have invested in a pair of clip-in shoes which make the class a lot more of a challenge! I'm certainly working all my leg muscles (hamstrings included!) now. I also got a road bike and plan to continue cycling in and out of town come the better weather.

So 2012 was a good year marathon wise - Loch Ness in 3h39 and Rutland in 3h41 (in horrible conditions!). The Devil was probably the highlight for me, which I finished amazingly in 8h30 feeling really great.
And our run/cycles in the Peak district were another highlight - I love it up there and it's very handy for us.

Cycling-wise, Glen Affric was definitely the high point. A great 2 days cycling from Beauly to Kyle of Lochalsh (despite my complaints hiking over the boggy grass!).

So for 2013 I have decided to focus on marathons. I am really, really gutted as I won't be able to run the Devil this year ): I misread times and have booked to go away on holiday the day before the Devil. Of course I am not complaining about going on holiday! And at the end of the day I had a great Devil race last year and maybe taking a year out means I can get sub 8h30 in 2014 (:

Marathon wise I was lucky to get a good for age place in the London marathon - I am SO excited about it! I hear it's just one of those things runners have to experience and I can't wait to run it. It will be my 11th marathon and I am running it for MacMillan, making a provisional goal to finish it in 3h30. I will soon enter Loch Ness (beginning of October - wouldn't miss that for anything!) and have also entered Snowdonia marathon at the end of October. I know its ages away but I have always wanted to do it...and this way we have a perfect excuse to go across for the weekend and scout out the route before October! I am debating doing another marathon - maybe the South Downs marathon in June. However, I have been reading about the Lochalsh Dirty 30 - a road/trail 30 miles in Skye on the same day as South Downs. I am in a bit of a pickle about what to do! I would really like to do another ultra (30 miles is just an ultra!) but maybe I should stick to my plan of races in England!? We will see.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Rutland Water Marathon 2012

So this morning I undertook my tenth ever marathon at Rutland Water. I entered this last minute and it was mainly to get my 10 while still 25 goal which I'd arbitrarily decided on after Loch Ness! I was also curious to see how my legs would fare doing 2 marathons just a month apart...if I would be stronger the second time etc. I was also excited to run somewhere different.

On the run up to this race my long runs since Loch Ness had been:
7miles fast, 14miles fast, 13.8miles slow, 12miles fast.

The marathon is basically a lap of the Rutland Water resevoir near Oakham in Leicestershire, with 2 laps of the peninsula in the middle. I had my doubts when the comments mentioned it was "hilly"...but it actually turned out to be a pretty undulating route the whole way...which was tough in the last few miles.

Overall, the race had its pros, but I would say the cons outweighed them in the end. More to follow.

Was out the door by 7.45am and arrived at the car park at 8.30am. I was a bit annoyed that we had to pay for parking given that the whole car park wasn't even in use. From the car park it was a 20min walk to the start line and it was absolutely freezing. My hands and toes were numb by the time I got to the start line. It was about 3*C and had been raining all morning. We were at the start to register, as I had entered late. By the time I got my number and paid (£35 - DEFINITELY NOT WORTH IT, another gripe) the guy was announcing 30secs until the start. There were still flocks of people coming from the car park and even when we started Derek said people were still arriving at the start.

I started quite far back, I think there were about 400 people running. As we started though I began to move forward and kept a steady pace most of the way. Just over 7 miles I checked my phone which said 10am. I was managing to drink my lucozade and kept really well hydrated. Just about 6 miles it started raining though and didn't stop again. I got soaked through (despite wearing my waterproof jacket) and gradually lost all feeling in my fingers and toes. I found I was overtaking people quite a lot of the way and about 7 miles a marshall told me I was 5th female which was quite surprising.

I continued to run strong and took a gel from the water station at about 10miles and 16miles. These gels were much better and I found them much easier to take than those in Loch Ness. I passed a woman who was wearing barely any clothes, she must have been freezing! About 19miles I passed a second woman who I had been running behind for a while. She said something about me being behind her for ages and I chatted to her a bit. It was her first marathon. There were quite a few hills after that so I pushed on ahead and passed some men as well.

The last 5 miles were really tough. It was raining heavily now and I was so so cold. It was also quite hilly - there were a few uphill slogs in the last couple of miles which slowed me down quite a bit. The path was very flooded as well and I was having to trudge through quite a few puddles, plus numerous cattle grids. There was also a bit of a lack of support towards the end, where the support had been quite good earlier. I eventually saw the finish in sight and picked the pace up, finishing in 3h41mins. There were a few people at the finish but most people just finished and then left as it was so dreich.  I was SO cold, we just got a coffee and then left.

So, not a fantastic time but good for the conditions I felt. I think I may have been 3rd female which is also quite good. The goody bag was very sparse though, with a technical vest that didn't even have the race name on it. And there was no medal. So for £35 you get very, very little for your money, considering you have to pay for parking too. Oh, and there were no professional photographers either, so no mementos of the day. On the plus side, the marshals (possibly military/RAF folks) were helpful and friendly. Where support existed too that was good. And the course was fairly pretty, though nothing to "write home" about.

I wouldn't do this race again and wouldn't really recommend it to be honest, which is the first time I have said that about a race. Considering the entry fee for Loch Ness is about the same you get so much more for your money, plus a friendlier, better organised, better supported race. For my tenth marathon though it was certainly an experience, and my legs aren't too stiff now which I'm pleased about. If photos become available online I will post some.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Loch Ness Marathon 2012

A little belated but below follows a report of my 2012 Loch Ness Marathon experience. Again, an absolutely fantastic race with phenomenal support en route. This year I finished in 3h39mins, 3 mins slower than last year (strangely) but I did manage to raise some money for Scottish veterans' Residencies and had a great day overall.

My longer (some not so long!) training runs for this had been as follows since the Devil:

w/c 13/8: 5.5miles (then 10m cycle)
w/c 20/8: 8miles fast + 15.5m run in Peak district
w/c 27/8: 6.7m fast + 14m fast
w/c 3/9: 6.7m fast + 12.2m
w/c 10/9: 6.7m + 5.5m easy
w/c 17/9: 6.7m fast, 2x5m hilly + 9m fast

Then, of course, I got ill the week before the marathon! Nothing serious, a small cold, but enough so I did no training for the week before. In addition to all of the above I have been doing 2 spin classes a week, again amazing marathon training, pushing the lactate threshold enormously!!


The morning of the marathon I'd slept well and had a big breakfast. The buses were as exciting as ever to the start. I didn't think the people around me really wanted to talk (as opposed to last year when I was chatting away to the guy next to me) but as we reached the start line we started having a bit of a chat. A few folks were shocked when I said this was my 5th time running Loch made me feel a bit shocked myself given I'm only 25...and that got me thinking (more on that later). We had a good chat and tried to calm one another down a bit. I always get nervous before marathons, I don't know why! One of the guys was meant to be running this as his first marathon with his wife but she got ill so he was nervous to be running alone. I tried to encourage him but he obviously didn't need it as he bombed past me and waved about 10miles into it and I didn't see him again!

The start as usual was a stramash of people eating, chatting, peeing in bushes...always interesting. The pipe band were excellent, and the lady on the stage at the start line instructing people in warm up exercises was funny. That was until the couple in front of me started doing the leg flick one and spraying water up into my face over and over. I lined up in the 3h45 area and made a pack with myself that I wasn't going to try and hold back on this, and to try and beat last year. Though I knew that would be hard as last years 3h36 just seemed to be a fluke.

Started strong and all went well (great crouds, especially the MacMillan supporters) until I got to the first lucozade stand and realised all they had was energy gels. I have never had gel before and I wasn't sure how I would take to them. Turns out they are pretty horrible and I wouldn't chose them again, serves me right for not reading the race details carefully and presuming things would never change - I'm a lucozade girl! So I think that early incident threw me and I panicked a little - I wasn't getting sugar in as I normally would on a run and had only brought enough nuts and cereal bars to last me to Dores. So a quick text to Derek who was armed and ready at Dores with lucozade. The desperation was obviously showing in my face, haha.

Of course, I was running pretty fast and making sure I kept going even when I wanted to stop, and I started to feel sick. I blame the energy gels. The lucozade Derek gave me too was fizzy which I don't think went down well in my stomach as I got cramp coming out of Dores. I managed to keep running the whole way which  always makes you feel good, but I did slow down enormously and I blame that for the extra 3 mins. Running in Cambridge I'm obviously not managing as well as I could be on the hills when I'm tired, though managing on hills in general fine (with frequent trips to Essex/Peak District for long runs).

I started to feel better about 22miles but by then I had added quite a lot of time onto my race. I picked the pace back up again and cranked up the beats, doing the last 4 miles pretty fast (in about 30mins). As I said, the crowds were just fantastic round the finish and lining the river, thank you so much for being so encouraging. Susie from SVR also shouted some encouragement and it was lovely to see her and SVR support at the finish line, which I crossed in 3h39m (and 20s or something like that).

I was tired at the end but I did feel like I had a little fuel left in the tank. I think that if I'd had appropriate sustenance and also done one or two longer training runs I could have broken 3h36. But I really enjoyed the day and a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me! It means a lot that I have your support (:

And now what? ...................................

Well, I have a place in London marathon next year (good for age), which I am very excited about. I will aim to do the Devil and Loch Ness again next year and also a half marathon somewhere where I will aim to beat my pb. This year though....that's another question!

Speaking to the folks on the bus made me think. I have done 9 marathons now. I thought it would be amazing for london to be my 10th, but then I saw another marathon I quite fancy doing on 4th November at Rutland Water : Rutland Water Marathon

That got me thinking, I could do Rutland, get experience of a race down in England and have done 10 marathons before my 26th birthday (end of the year). Then I could aim for 3h30 at London, which may be possible with good training. I am also running London for MacMillan, and what better incentive to raise as much money as possible than aiming to set a new pb! So I think that is the plan for now. I did a fast, hilly 14miles (1h45) yesterday and I think that is going to be my tactic for now - faster and hillier runs. I love heading out and just plodding along but the faster, shorter runs are really tough and I think they pay off enormously during races.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Devil o the Highlands 2012

Well, I did it! Another year, another Devil. And seems my worries with regards to my training were unfounded...

My parents, Derek and I went up to Tyndrum on the Friday afternoon. We stayed at the Lodge Hotel which I was pleased to see was right next to the start line! Had a nice meal in the bar and then, as per tradition, a bag of chips afterwards (excellent chips, a must everytime we are in Tyndrum!). I went to sleep about 10.30pm and slept soundly until 4.30am. When I woke I could hear the cars starting to arrive at the Green Welly stop. The hotel owner had kindly left me a breakfast out the night before, and I just needed to heat up my porridge, so I had a good breakfast too. After my tossing and turning whilst ill the night before the Fling I had been worried I wouldn't sleep before the Devil but it was a huge confidence boost to wake feeling quite fresh. I packed my stuff and met Richard, who was "sharing" my support crew. We had a chat and started off the race together.

 It was such a nice morning and I started feeling really good. The run to BoO was fun. Richard and I chatted to a few other runners which helped the time pass and before I knew it we were at BoO, greeted by plenty of midges! I had forgotten how bad they can be, there aren't any in England! We didn't stop here as I thought it would be nicer for my support crew to have a wee lie in and breakfast before meeting me. Got through and headed up the hill at about 7.05am. Now, this was really the point I think I started putting myself at an advantage. I had a roll and jam on the way up the hill. I know 7miles is perhaps a bit early to start eating in a race (especially as I only had breakfast 2 hours ago!!) but I was feeling a bit peckish. This eating was something I kept up through the whole day and something I really put my good time down to. Coming down into Inveroran I was chatting to a man who had fallen on this section last year. He was going really slowly and was obviously really conscious of falling was making me a bit paranoid too! Going over Rannoch Moor Richard and I were in a massive group, which was really nice. I had lots of water and some sweets here and kept on running towards the Scottish flags at the top! Thanks so much to the ladies with the flags handing out the jelly babies. I absolutely love the photo one of them took!

Arrived in Glencoe at the back of 9am and was happy to see my support crew waiting for us. Had a sandwich and some fruit here plus lots of was really starting to get hot. I was there for about 10mins and my dad ran the next section with us which was fun. Got to the bottom of the Devil's staircase where my dad rejoined my mum and Derek joined Richard and I for the next part. I put on lots of suncream here then continued on my merry way. I was feeling great going up the staircase and ended up pushing ahead of Richard, who was struggling a bit with the heat. He made it clear he wanted me to push on but I felt a bit sad we wouldn't be running together anymore. Derek and I overtook a few people on the way up to the top and then again on the way down the other side. I don't like overtaking people and always make sure I at least say hi, how you doing or something when I do. I ate some more sandwiches and lots of water and lucozade on the way down. I was a wee bit unsteady on my feet just because of the rough ground but Derek told me to save my muscles and not to hold back too much on the I ended up flying down into Kinlochleven and getting a stitch!!! I got there about 11.20am which was way faster than I had intended. In fact, about an hour beforehand I had said to Derek that someone’s estimation of me reaching Kinloch by 11.20am was insane...Something I should point out is that I don’t wear a watch running at all and only really ask for the time at checkpoints, so that was sheer coincidence!!

I arrived before my crew had noticed me and 2 other support crew very kindly gave me water despite my insistence that I’d just wait for them to walk up the road. So if you ever read this, thanks very much to the man and woman in the orange and black tops who were supporting and gave me water!! Here I had some pasta and a more fruit plus half a bottle of full fat Coke which I’d been excited about for miles!! I only ever drink it when I’m running and it always tastes fab. I was there for about ten mins and then trotted off again – myself, for the first time. I’d tucked a banana in by bumbag but it came flying out and some kind passers by picked it up for me. In retrospect it was a stupid idea to take the banana...I carried it for about an hour after that then shoved it into my bag and carried it to the end where it pressed into the small of my back for about an hour and a half leaving me with a bruise!! The climb out of Kinloch wasn’t as bad as I’d thought and I felt strong all the way to the top despite the heat. I saw someone had fallen and cut his head. I stopped to offer what I had in my first aid kit but he was being tended to and him and another runner told me to keep going. I hope he was ok. Across the Moor I ate more sandwiches and sweets, plus lots of water and some Irn Bru kindly donated by the wilderness response team. Thanks guys for the support! I was overwhelmed on this section how many walkers gave words of encouragement...more than I can remember any other year. Thanks to everyone who did. One man said to me that I was looking really strong and there were lots of weary looking runners ahead. I didn’t get encouraged by the latter but did feel quite positive that I looked strong, so pushed onwards. I ended up chatting to a lady (I’m sorry I never caught your name) who was running in a blue top. We chatted together for a while about work and races etc which was nice. Had a few photos snapped too by the wilderness team:

Again, I was feeling strong so we ran together for a while but she stopped at one point and wanted to walk, so I pressed on. I never really know how far it is to lundavra but I started to feel a bit weary so put my headphones on for about 20mins. That was 4/5 songs of total motivation and kept me running most of the way to Lundavra, where my support crew were waiting. Again, I stopped for about 5/10mins...mainly to clear stones out my shoe (thanks to John Kynaston for helping me with that!!) and for some more pasta and fruit. I had a wee chat to my mum and dad, but they told me to push on. Derek ran the last part with me as I know I always struggle with this bit. I hoped Richard wasn’t too far behind and found out later he was only 20 or so minutes behind.

 I was still running the downhills and flats but walking more and more of the uphills. I was also losing my appetite though still really thirsy...or maybe I was just full up from eating so much!!! I stuck to lucozade from now on (tried some sweets but they made me feel a bit sick) and kept on running when I could. Derek and I chatted about stuff and the time did fly past, though I could feel myself getting a bit more tired and more negative. Derek said he was surprised how negative I became within the last 3 miles...I’m not sure how psychological that is, I’m always dreading the last part of this race. My legs were really ok considering and I wasn’t in any great pain so tried to just “fall” down the fire road to the braveheart car park. But I really wasn’t feeling good at this point and had stopped talking. Derek, my absolute trooper of a husband, was doing his best to cheer me up but he said at one point “man, this is a really long downhill, it goes on forever!” which was NOT the right thing to say at that point in time!!! He did remedy the situation later though by telling me about Boris Johnson getting stuck on a zip wire which made me laugh a lot. Sad as it sounds I think that boosted my spirits a bit and I picked the pace right up. As I did so I got this sharp pain inside my right foot...the formation and bursting of a blister!! Argh! It was really sore but I decided then (after checking it wasn’t anything worse) that what was the point in stopping. So I pulled my laces really tight so my shoes wouldn’t slip and just headed for the finish as fast as I could. Derek later told me he couldn’t believe how much faster I went at the end which made me quite proud! As I approached the finish I asked him to run ahead and make sure my mum and dad were there (I still had no idea what time it was but wanted to make sure they didn’t miss it) but he replied “I can’t!” which elicited a chuckle from those around us. He fell a bit behind me and I pushed onto the finish, finishing the 43miles in 8hours and 30mins.

 I was very happy indeed! 15mins faster than last year. Thanks to the crowds at the end for cheering and thanks so much to all involved in organising it. I had a fab day and will definitely aim for the 10th anniversary run next year. I am a little worried that I won’t be able to beat that time, but I guess there is always room for improvement...and as long as I enjoy the day then I’m happy. Derek did point something out though – he says I stop at checkpoints a lot longer than everyone else which I guess is sort of true! I’d say I had about 30mins of stops in total...I guess if I cut out the stops I could be quicker, but then I wouldn’t have been able to refuel as well so it’s a delicate balance. Plus I like spending time with my support crew, even if it is just some words of encouragement.

Either way, it’s very reassuring to know that I can train for those races even down in the flattest part of the country. It certainly is quality over quantity and I have no doubt that the spin classes have helped my quads cope with the downhills! My legs have been a bit stiff yesterday and today but they are easing off, so I will swim and spin later this week. Poor Derek’s legs are shattered but he did so well to run the 2 sections (about 14miles!) he ran when he’s not run in years! I really appreciated the company, and a huge thanks to my support crew (Derek and my parents). They mean the world to me, they are so supportive and I love spending time with them like this. All in all a fab day...I hope everyone who ran enjoyed it as much as I did (:

Sunday, 29 July 2012

29/7/12 - Where has the time gone? (A Pre-Devil update)

Starting with the usual "It's been so long", I am writing this post in high spirits looking ahead to next weekend's Devil race. My training certainly hasn't been as good as it was in previous years (I only started to build it up mid June), which I can only attribute to practicality issues. Living in the south east of England has been the biggest Achilles heel to my running this past year. Whilst there are real benefits to living here (i.e. the weather is undoubtedly much better than Glasgow), I do feel it has knocked my training off and I don't know if I'm coping well with all this fe*king flatness (as Father Jack might say). This here is the best typical run that I do midweek, and one which I add to for long runs:
Given the y axis is in feet you can see it isn't really a patch on the elevation I have done up until just now. My only saving grace is that I generally travel away from Cambridge for my long runs, so those have at least provided a bit more of a challenge. My longest run in preparation for the Devil has been a 26miler which I did in the Peak District, which was a fantastic trip away. This run below was terrific, with over 1800ft of ascent, which I felt gave me a good challenge, and which I ran in about 5hours 30, including about 45mins of breaks (mostly getting lost/map reading/eating):
Another longer run which I did was down in Surrey, up one of the highest peaks in the south east, Leith Hill. This was about 18miles of undulating terrain which was quite difficult to run on (I was with 2 mountain bikers, and the tracks were very much for them more than me as a mere runner!):
Those, plus a couple of 10-15milers have been the main long run training I've done for the Devil. My shorter runs have been flat and fast, plus I have done A LOT of spinning. I only do 2 spin classes a week, but they are 1 hour of flat out effort (if you do them properly), so I count those as better cardio training than my runs. Plus I don't really have time for much more at this point. Another thing which stilted my training slightly was becoming ill at the end of June. I came down with a virus (quite similar to May) which had me exhausted. I am still feeling the effects of it, I am still really tired but am trying to get on with my runs, as I feel they lift my spirits enormously. Hence the reason I still want to do the Devil. I have the trip all planned, staying in Tyndrum on Friday night with my support crew and very much looking forward to the day. I don't have definite goals in mind (if I can get under 9 hours I would be very happy indeed) other than to try and enjoy it and stay healthy/eat throughout. One of the biggest lessons I've learned living down here is that I should enjoy every chance I get to run at home in Scotland...I know I will move back again within the near future but in the meantime these trips are golden opportunities to enjoy myself up there!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

13/5/12 - An Update

I thought my blog deserved a wee update since I'm on the road to recovery. It turns out I caught a virus the Thursday before the Fling. I got worse over the weekend and was pretty floored for the following week. The doctor thought it might have been glandular fever but luckily it started to clear up the week after my first symptoms. The only thing I have noticed is that I've been unbelievably tired the last few weeks. A friend of mine had the same virus a while ago and told me that he was wiped out for a few weeks afterwards, so I think it's maybe the same thing. The last run I did was (stupidly) a run the day after the Fling...but I was really feeling awful and didn't make it further than about 4 miles. It wasn't until Tuesday just past that I exercised again. I went to a spin class which was sooo tough! I think a combination of the instructor who is notorious for his difficult routines and the post-viral fatigue...I took Wednesday to rest and then cycled into Uni on Thursday and Friday. That's about a 15mile round trip, flat, but nonetheless...I tried to run on Friday morning and did about 3.5miles. I felt really bad afterwards, tired and starving. To be honest it was a real confidence knock feeling so bad. I think not doing the Fling has had a bit of a psychological effect on me...and staying down in Cambridge has really had an effect on my running. I feel as though I'm only half as fit as I was this time last year, and I think not being able to run on hills is really taking its toll on me. I'm hoping I will be back in scotland soon enough. For all I do feel my cycling has vastly improved, I'd rather be running well any day. So, today I thought I would take another shot at the running, and did an easy 8 miler in about 1hr 10mins. Derek cycled with me. It was actually fine and the sun was shining, which was nice. This week I'm just going to take it easy and cycle into town most days with some spin on Tuesday and Thursday, and a midweek run. On the plus side, all this cycling has made me quite appreciate good bikes(not to the level of my cycling friends, mind you) so I have been looking at getting a road bike which is quite exciting. I love the way you can really build your speed by focusing your strength on things like using your hamstrings as well as your quads. I like building speed when I'm tootling along on the road and I think a road bike would be awesome. Anyway better get to bed now...we have been looking at planning a cycle up north for mid June so it's quite exciting arranging that. In addition I'm planning a few long runs on WHW and more runs on the routes down here for July in the run up to the Devil. Things to look forward to.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

My Fling Disappointment

Well, I guess it's not actually a disappointment, more like a non-starter. I had been up in Inverness last weekend and decided to spend the week chilling out in Glasgow before the Fling. On Thursday I began to feel weird, was exhausted and dizzy. Yesterday I could feel a sore throat starting so used the Vicks first defence and it did go away into the day. I went to bed quite early last night but tossed and turned all night. When I eventually did get up at 4.30am my throat was really sore, along with a headache. It was quite a tough decision, as a few asprin may have sorted me out, but I thought about it and realised that there was no point in running for the sake of running. I wanted to enjoy it and I really didn't feel I had the energy to finish the 50miles, especially after barely sleeping. So, I have a heavy heart today but hopefully I made the right choice. I'm heading back down south tomorrow and am hoping I feel a bit better later so I could do a wee run over Conic Hill tomorrow with my friend. So looking ahead to the future I have one ultra and one marathon planned. I may also enter the GSR half. I was looking at the Strathearn marathon at the beginning of June, although I'm not sure what will happen with Uni yet so I'm probably safer to wait until closer the time before entering. Oh well, hope everybody running the Fling has a truly great day. It's certainly the weather for it.

Friday, 13 April 2012

My cycling weeks!

Thought I would write another update whilst I have the time, mainly to talk a little about the cycle which I did a week ago across Glen Affric. It was truly spectacular! Derek and I had been up in Inverness for the last part of the Easter week anyway, so our friends came up to join us on the Thursday and on the Friday morning we got the train to Beauly. From there we cycled on the road to the wee car park at the start of the glen. We were taking our time, the boys taking lots of photos with their new cameras. Luckily the weather held up and it actually got quite warm, despite there still being snow on the hills.

Once we got to the car park it was then off road for the next 15 or so miles. Started off ok, a little rocky but ended up getting quite rough. Had to stop and push the bike a few times. Luckily the sun was shining and we met another cyclist en route who ended up following our (not so wonderful) navigation skills to find the hostel.

The hostel is a wee shack basically, in the middle of nowhere.
Glen Affric Hostel Website

That night was their first night open since September of last year...and due to the snow they had no gas, so everything - hot water, cooking, heating - was to be done on gas stove. I alsmot didn't go because of this but it ended up being fine. Luckily the cyclists arrived first, about 6.30pm, followed by about 15 walkers. So I got the shower first ;D The lady in charge of the hostel couldn't have been nicer, and she sat playing board games with us as we had a few wee drams into the evening. It did get really cold during the night but overall I'd highly recommend the hostel. One day I'd like to run from Beauly to the hostel, stay over then continue to Kyle the next day. We'll see!

All in all Day 1 ended up being about 38 miles.

Day 2 my friend decided that we should do some real off road cycling, so we tramped across a bog for about 40minutes until we came across a really narrow muddy path which came and went. It seemed we climbed quite far, though slowly. We had a train to catch from Kyle of Lochalsh at 5pm so we were a bit worried about catching that too. Our worries were further provoked when the path winded down to very little, and headed up a huge mountain. We had climbed quite far up but getting to the top was really steep. A quick stop for lunch at the top and we headed down the other side. Views down into the valley were fantastic though. I am not great on a bike so didn't bike any of the narrow path with steep drops at the side (funnily enough!) so this section was basically about 10 miles and I pretty much hiked the whole way, hoisting the bike alongside. Once we got to the road at Invershiel we has about 1.5 hours to do the 15miles to Kyle. Sounds like a lot of time, I know, but it had started raining heavily and we had the mountain bikes, so not ideal for road cycling!

Needless to say we flew along as fast as we could and ended up making it to Kyle with plenty of time to spare. It's funny how the spin classes I've been going to really come into their own...I felt so strong at the end of this cycle, despite REALLY pushing that 15 miles on road to the station. My energy dipped so low at one point I had to stop, cram about 15 chewy sweets down my throat and continue....that really is physiology at its best...I was full of energy some 3/4 mins later!!

So day 2 was about 26 miles, 10 off road, 16 on road. Very hard too. I tried to plot this on mapmyrun but not a chance. I think there was about 500/600m of elevation which was tough.

Here are some pics from the trip...

The nicer off road part of day 1, just after the car park

Stopping for a snack!

Cycling uphill

Our hostel

The steep part of day 2...doesn't actually look that steep though, but it was!! I think I'm bossing the guys about ;)

On the descent

Overall a great trip which I would definitely do again. A good work out for my arms too - they were aching like crazy on Sunday!

Now, the plan is really to try and cool down before the Fling. I know my long runs haven't really been up to scratch, so I'm planning to just run the Fling to enjoy being at home on familiar ground. If I get under 12 hours, I'd be elated. If not, hey ho. Since 2/4/12, my workouts have been:

Wed 4/4: 6.8miles, 55mins - easy run to check my legs were ok after the 32miler.
Fri 6/4: 38mile on + off road cycle, Beauly-Glen Affric
Sat 7/4: 26mile on + off road cycle, Glen Affric-Kyle
Mon 9/4: 8.8miles, 1h25mins - easy run with my friend (who I cycled with)...both of us decided to cut the run short due to very heavy legs!!
Tues 10/4: Spin, 1 hour - tough resistance work
Thurs 12/4: Spin, 1hour - quite tough interval training

I was a wee bit shocked to see I've only done 3 runs in 12 days!! But a lot of cycling which I consider just as tough (if not tougher) cardiovascular exercise as running, without the impact. I'm planning on doing a long run tomorrow...easy 13-15miler on hills...then a few runs/spins next week including about 8 miles at the weekend. Luckily we are in Inverness for the weekend so can do a nice run out by Nairnside from Derek's parent's house.

I have been incredibly busy at Uni and working in the hospital these past few weeks and will be next I'm really looking at quality over quantity for the next 2 weeks. I want to start the Fling feeling as fresh as possible. That's the plan, anyway!!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Update - 02/04/12

Again, it's been a few months since my last post. What news? Well, I decided to enter the Fling. It's insane when I think about after last years race...driving back home in the car saying that I would not do it again...then a few months ago suddenly thinking "I really, really want to do this". Is that an addiction?? Whatever it is, it got me sending off my application form. My friend who I ran with last year is planning on doing it again too which is fantastic, as I don't think I could have gotten through it last year without him.

So in my training for the Fling I have done a few long runs where and when I can. I have found some long distance paths south of Cambridge - the Harcamlow Way and the Icknield way. These are drivable and are quite undulating, which is good. Plus they have some really nice scenery. This is the Icknield Way:

This website gives a nice review of parts of the Harcamlow Way, the areas where I run being from photos 1-18. The mounds are very interesting!
Harcamlow Way
The added advantage is that this route goes past Wimpole hall, which is a lovely place with cafes and shops:

My long runs then have been:
11/2/12: 15 miles, 2h10mins
20/2/12: 7.9miles, 55mins - easy but fast, just to get a run in.
25/2/12: 20miles, 3h20mins (in the snow so very tough!)
1/3/12: 8.1miles, ~1h (trying to do a fast 10miler but path wasn't long enough!)
6/3/12: 8.2miles, 1h 5mins - fast, hilly run.
10/3/12: 27.1miles, 4h 50mins - really hurt my shin half way through this, so finished strong but was terrified it was shin splints. Cleared up within a week though doing no running, was soooooo pleased!
24/3/12: 11.5miles, 1h35mins - lovely run in the sunshine.
1/4/12: ~32miles, ~6hours (incl. breaks) - run home to Balmaha and back to Beech Tree.

In between these runs I've been doing lots of spin and a few cycles. The spin classes last 1 hour and are soo hard. I do them once, sometimes twice a week and I hurt after the first few. I think I've got better as time has gone on though. It's tricky as there is a technique involved...keeping your upper body still whilst in 3 positions - sitting, "hovering" and standing is harder than you might think!! It's also a nice break from the impact of running. The wee scare with the shin made me terrified. I've done the anatomy of the whole body and it's crazy how fragile we actually are. I want to keep running for as long as I can, and I think at this stage I will be building my muscles well, which works in my favour...but I will also be doing my joints in. So taking a day or two a week doing low impact work is a nice peace of mind.

I also have a regular 6.75mile run which, though completely flat, is a really good test of how I'm feeling. On my "slow" days I do it in about 1hour. On my faster days I do it in 50 or so mins. It's a nice challenge as I don't really do 10k runs or anything.

Coming back to Scotland has been great too, as I've been getting used to the hills again. Even if I do do hilly routes down there, they just aren't the same as what it's like running here. My run on Sunday on Conic Hill was really great. Despite feeling a bit rubbish at the start, I kept well fuelled (egg sarnies and flapjacks!) and I actually felt a lot better towards the end. I had meant to go a bit farther but had arranged to be picked up from the Beech Tree and didn't want to keep anyone waiting for me. So I actually finished this run in about 6 hours which I thought was a good time considering I went up and down Conic Hill twice (although technically not the whole way into Balmaha)...the profile looked a bit like this:

I also met Silke on the route as I was running past Drymen, she was on her way back. I have never met her before, only spoken to her on the blog a few times so that was lovely. I was running part of the route with Derek and Alistair cycling. It's funny the number of comments we get from passers by...along the lines of "you chose the hard way!" with reference to me running.

I also meant to say about the run/cycle we all did at New Year. We ran across Rannoch Moor which was just fantastic. At one point a wee Robin came onto my hand to eat some seeds! And then on the way back at Inveroran there were so many deer...just at twilight they all came out and were trying to eat from our hands! It was amazing. I have photos but haven't been able to get them off my phone yet but will try and do so soon.

Anyway I have been typing this post for about 3 hours intermittently whilst watching a it probably makes no sense. I am trying to construct a spreadsheet of my runs as it's a lot easier to update (and keep safe!) than my written diary....

As usual, watch this space!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A belated Happy New Year and update

All my posts seem to start out by saying "it's been so long since I posted last...blah blah" so I won't start this one like that...although the sentiment is there.

Well, a new year and a completely new life for me! I must say it has been very difficult to adjust to how different things are down in Cambridge. I would never have thought that moving a mere few hundred miles away would be so different, but it is. Firstly my running took a bit of a I've said before, it'sincredibly flat down here, I have to drive to find hills...and our village is surrounded by 60-limit roads without pavements, so running is a bit of a problem. Nonetheless I have tried to keep at it. I now do 1 or 2 fast runs 4-6miles during the week and drive somewhere to do a longer, hilly run at the weekend. Over the last few weeks my runs have been increasing from 7/8miles by about 2 miles/week. In between I swim, go to the gym and do spin classes.

It doesn't feel like much, but it's the best it can be just now. I certainly feel fit - my arms especially! I've lost a bit of weight and my "easy" pace has significantly increased. The other day I did 5 miles easy-ish...turns out I was about 7min/mile! For some that's slow...for me it's pretty fast! Every cloud, and all that...

Over Christmas I did a lot of runs - notably a few 12-15milers out on WHW and one 18miler across rannoch moor. That was fun. Added to that, my new running partners. At home (Glasgow), my "running friend", G, (he knows who he is) is training for his first marathon so anytime I'm back we tootle off out together. He has done a 1h30 half marathon so I'm sure he will do just fine in his first marathon. More interestingly, though, Derek has started running with me down here! I never thought I'd see the day. I must say, it's great fun, even if the distances have been a bit shorter and paces a bit slower. I think he is realising that cycling isn't the bee-all-and-end-all ;)

So 2011 for me was all about the Fling, the Devil and Loch Ness. 12h5mins, 8hr45mins and 3h35mins...all PBs for me. I also ran the Cateran trail over 2 days, had some fantastic runs in the Lake district and a whole lot more. I'm hoping that 2012 will be just as exciting. I don't want to compare, as I think that being down here will severely hinder my training. I just want to do some races and enjoy them. I never run with a watch anyway (didn't even have one on the Fling...) I have entered the Devil so far, but plan to enter Loch Ness and, if the training seems like it will go ok, the Fling too.

Of course, personally I have issues going on in my life right now. I left a job to go back into academia, and that alone brings problems. We will need to see how that pans out. At the back of my mind I have "back up" plans...for example, I was thinking of entering the Strathearn marathon in June (I love Perthshire) and also (perhaps more daringly!) the Reykjavik marathon in August. We went there for our honeymoon and I've been looking for a reason to go back! But of course, this all depends on what happens, where we end up at that time, etc.

I must say, 2011 was a fantastic year for me...both in terms of running and other areas of my life. 2012 has started off quite difficult so far, with some uncertainty. But things are looking up and hopefully 2012 will be fab too...

Just in case, here's my "this is what it's all about" photo from 2011...

Friday, 7 October 2011

2/10/11 - Loch Ness Marathon

And a new pb!

I'm very proud to say that the Loch Ness Marathon this year was the best one so far, despite the shoddy weather at the start. In the weeks leading up to the marathon I had done quite a few runs - maybe 3/4 times a week, ranging from faster 5-15miles. I must say that, in retrospect, all the runs were pretty fast. I think because it is so much flatter down here that I am inclined to run faster to feel I'm getting a better work out...Mind you, I have still managed to get in a few hill sprints by driving to a local town (the hilliest for miles!)

So the day of the marathon I got to the start in plenty of time. I was suprised there were still people walking to the bus as it was due to leave...On the way to the start I chatted to a guy from England who now lives in Scotland. It was his first marathon and we had a nice chat, although we got separated at the queue for the toilets and I didn't see him again. I hope he had a good run!

The start was wet and cold and I just wanted to get going. When we eventually set off I got positively soaked. The first few miles were ok, though I really could feel the effects of not having run on hills for 3 or so weeks. And about 5 miles into the race something really weird happened - I was absolutely starving! It has only happened once before - during the Devil race this year. I wonder if there is an optimum speed to be running at where your body is actively burning calories but hsn't quite moved onto fat yet??? Anyway, all I had to eat was some cashews and raisins so I munched these down, keeping some for later. I felt I was going to need them later! I wasn't aiming for a time - as close to 3h50 as possible, last year was 3h52.

The next few miles passed quite quickly but I felt I might have been losing time. I was listening to podcasts which is always good for distracting you. When the rain cleared though the views were fantastic. I felt so happy to be back in Scotland - I would love to move back here and will be once my course is done! For another year the crowd in Dores was just phenomenal. It felt like another finish line! I was mentally prepared for the hike out of Dores and it didn't feel as bad as it has done in previous years. On one of the hills I saw John Kynaston which was lovely. He said something along the lines of I was doing well, and that made me think I might still be on track for my time, so thank you to him!

I was tailing a guy between miles 21-24 and I think him pushing ahead kept me pushing ahead too...not that I'm competitive! I offered him a cashew nut at one point so that made sure it was a friendly rivalry ;) During the last 2 miles the guy seemed to find a spurt of energy and ended up ahead of me. Not by much, mind you. I decided that, whatever my time I should keep going and just enjoy it. I wasn't really hurting, though I could feel tightness in my calves and my feet were sore. I think I need new running shoes...

The last mile, the crowds were phenomenal. It was great and I'm so grateful to everyone who clapped, cheered, shouted etc. I smiled at everyone who did and I hope that showed my gratitude enough! When I ran into the home straight and saw the timer say 3h37m30s I was absolutely overjoyed. I pushed it hard to ensure I got under 3h38 mins (forgetting my chip time was faster still!). My ultimate time was 3h36m45s or thereabouts - beating my previous pb of 3h50m by quite some time.

Overall, a terrific run and I am so glad I made the trip up for it. I missed my Uni photograph to drive to the airport - that's commitment!! A photo from the finish (I support MacMillan cancer support through giving monthly so thought it would be lovely to wear the tshirt for running):

Now? Well, what now indeed. For the first time in a while I think I have no more races lined up. I am, of course, wanting to do the Devil race again next year. Only issue is I will be busy till late on the Friday and am going to have to make a crazy trip up to Tyndrum. Is it doable? Who knows. I will also enter Loch Ness again, just because I love it! And most likely the GSR too...although maybe could exchange that for a half in the lake district...any recommendations welcome!

And, of course, the question fling or not to fling? Last year I said I enjoyed the fling up to 43miles, then it went downhill. Maybe 43miles is my maximum running distance?? But, having said that I did enjoy the challenge and it would give me something to work towards in the new year. Only issue, of course, is that it falls during study time for exams. Is it wise to run an ultra when you are probably in lectures and meant to be studying on the weekends? I don't know! It's something I will consider.

In the meantime, I will continue my runs in Cambridge and continue to find new routes! I will report on my findings.

Monday, 12 September 2011

12/9/11 - GSR and a well needed update

Again, it has been a while since I posted. Seems life takes over all the time...

As I sit here I am down in Cambridge...moved down at the weekend. Was incredibly sad to be leaving Glasgow but let's not go into that. I know that I'm taking a big leap so let's just hope it pays off!

So now, my main gripe about being down here (besides the obvious) is how flat it is. I can't honestly beleive it - it's so different from my normal runs on WHW and around Mugdock at home. I have done the run into Cambridge centre twice. Once along cycle route 51 (11.75miles out and back) and then today I went into Cambridge along the new guided busway path and back via cycle route 51 (13.25miles). I'm seeing what run will be best for cycling/running into Uni and thinking that, although it's on minor roads, cycle route 51 would be best. Despite the busway being an awesome running track, it is very exposed (almost got blown off my feet today!) and I don't think it would be nice on a blustery day.

So what else has been happening...did the Great Scottish Run on 4th September in 1hour 43 mins, which I was over the moon about. A new PB for me...over 1.5mins faster than my previous half time which is quite good going considering I have had roughly the same half marathon time between 2007-2011!! A tiny race report...

I started off the run myself after having cheered my dad off on the 10k (which he did in an excellent 1hr 1min despite very little training!). Again, the start was really crowded. I know a lot of people don't like it but I actually love the buzz...although I'm conscious I look like a show-off running past everyone to push ahead, but hey.

The whole run went surprisingly well. I am pretty bad at pacing myself over halfs...hence 4 years worth of times between 1hr 47-1hr 52! I normally begin flagging around Pollock park but luckily this didn't happen this year. I remembered back to last year...I did the GSR with my knees all bandaged up since I had been having SERIOUS knee problems after wearing those stupid motto - if it isn't broken, don't try to fix it!!!

So yes I ended up maintaining a fairly good pace. I did slow down a little in the middle but only because I was concerned I was going to flag at the end. But it didn't happen - I kept going strong and was still smiling at the end...

Always missing my "fans"!!

So yes, was very pleased with the GSR.

My next plans? Well, I have a place for Loch Ness which I am dying to take up, but problem is I have induction at University until 2.30pm on Saturday 1st...which means it would be incredibly tight getting up to Inverness for Sunday morning. I am contemplating driving to the airport and getting a flight up at 4.20pm...too tight??? Maybe.

Other options? Well I have been looking at runs down here. Norfolk marathon looks ok, as do a few others but none have really taken my fancy enormously. If I don't do Loch Ness I will try for another half this year...maybe sub 1hr 43? Miracles do happen...

I just need to find some good hills to train on...this is my first challenge!! (:

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Saturday 6/8 - Devil o' the Highlands 2011

Well, once again it has been a while! Another year, another Devil race completed. This one in a significantly better time than last year! I finished this year's race in 8 hours 46 mins, which was a good 30mins faster than last year. Also, surprisingly, my legs weren't too sore the next day and are pretty much back to normal today.

As always, full race report below.

My mum, dad, Derek and I drove up to Tyndrum. We ended up leaving quite late and didn't arrive until 8pm. We were staying in a wee B&B just outside the centre so drove into the village for some chips when we arrived. I went to sleep at 10pm but didn't sleep well at all that night. I tossed and turned and barely slept I'd felt when the alarm went off at 4.50am. I ate my cold porridge which I'd made the night before (never again) and dad drove me to the start. I was so tired it was unreal. I think I also looked the most unprofessional runner there with my GAP fleecy on and hood up!

Dad waited with me at the start which was really good of him and I felt fine once the race started at 6am. First section to Bridge of Orchy was uneventful...only become eventful when the midges started closing in as I approached B.o.O! Jeez, they were everywhere! Got in at 7.10am.

No one waiting for me at dad was meant to be running rannoch moor with me so I wasn't expecting to see them until about 7.40am at Victoria Bridge. Up and over the hill was fine but it all went wrong when I got to Victoria Bridge at 7.35am. I'd kept my support crew informed that I was a little early but they still weren't there. I ran on to the house at the gate, as I thought they may be there, but no one was and I had no phone signal. I was in 2 minds over whether to keep going, but I knew my dad REALLY wanted to run this section and I'd been looking forward to the my water was low.

So I bit the bullet and ran back towards Inveroran. Took about 5 mins before I had signal, when I saw loads of missed calls. A lot of runners asking if I was ok, thanks for that. Turns out Derek and my mum had left late because they'd had a full cooked breakfast. Needless to say I was not impressed! In fact I started crying! Sad, I know, but it was definitely the combination of missing them, not being able to run with dad, adding time onto my race by going back and also being short of water. I dried my eyes up and told them I'd get them at the Ski Club.

I'd added more than 10mins onto my time so I went quite fast to try and make it up. Consequently my legs became quite tight mid way across this section. My dad had ran up from the Ski Club and came down the hill with me which was nice. I had some fruit and wanted to push on. He ran the next section with me too, to the bottom of the Devil's staircase. The terrain was tricky and he hadn't really run much on that ground before. He took a little tumble at one point and his poor hand got bloody. Stopped for a while to bandage him back up (many thanks to the kind passing walker who gave us a plaster!). I was actually quite surpirsed that no runners asked if he was ok. I've seen people who've fallen on races before and I've always stopped to check they are ok, even if they have people with them. Oh well.

Got to the bottom of the staircase and Derek did the next bit with me (in his football boots - I tell you my family and I running are probably the most unprofessional things you've seen!!) It was getting hot but felt strong up the staircase. A lady at the top offered me some sweets which was lovely of her...I offered her some of my licquorice allsorts which I was munching on but she politely declined and took a photo instead:

In Kinlochleven about 11.40am. Had some pasta and fruit. Strangely, I was actually starving! I don't usually get hungry during races but I was really hungry today so enjoyed a good lunch there. Derek did a bit of the hill out of Kinloch with me but he wanted to go back to Lundavra with my parents so I bid him farewell and continued myself. I'd been passing/passed by a woman with gold earrings most of the way so far and had been enjoyed having her company (even if we weren't talking much). We both struggled a bit on the hill coming out of Kinloch but I found a spurt of energy at the end and continued on. She asked me for the time at one point and seemed surprised I didn't run with a watch (she actually said "good on you" !!) I don't know, running with a watch is way too restrictive. I run for the love of the run, not to break records and put myself under pressure.

So to Lundavra I felt great. Overtook quite a few folks but always said hi and got lovely smiles from them. Again, dad ran from Lundavra to the Braveheart car park with me. I really don't like what they've done with the trees in this section - it's very disheartening. Despite dad's fall earlier and his little training he did really well - espeically since he doesn't normally run off road. I really appreciated having him there.

The downhill was a struggle. My right hip was hurting (I have weak hips) but I kept going. I figured what was the point in stopping - it would just be harder to start again. I even ran the little uphills which I was pleased about. Dad said he didn't want to "take my glory" crossing the finish line so he stopped and let me run on. I finished about 2.45pm and crossed the finish line to none of my family watching...they had all been in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill perusing the clothing. !!!!

They ran out when they saw me obviously and dad was only a few mins behind me. My mother in law got a photo of me recrossing the finish line with dad.

I must say, they were a very laid back support crew!! But I was so grateful to them for being there for me (most of the time!) and for running with me.

I had a really good day and was really pleased with my time.

So, what next? Well, I have the Great Scottish Run on 5th September which I'm aiming to do for the fun of it. I also have Loch Ness again but this is posing a little problem, as I am actually moving to Cambridge at the start of September to study at the Uni. Derek is already working down there. We aren't sure how feasible it's going to be to get up to Inverness for the weekend but I'm sure we will.

Where there's a will, there's a way! (:

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Well, I managed it. Managed is definitely the operative word! Yesterday I started the Highland Fling in Milngavie at 6am, and arrived in Tyndrum at about 6.08pm. I say "approximately" because I really didn't care much about the time towards the end, I was just happy to finish! I didn't even clock at first and had to be escorted over in that direction - I just wanted water!

I'll give a really brief summary, because unfortunately it's straight back into the studying today so I don't have much time to spare.

Luckily I got a long lie and didn't actually get up until about 5am. Richard, who was running the race too, had stayed at mine the night before so we both went to the start together. I always get really nervous at the start of races so it was great to have a friend there.

The first part to Drymen was pretty uneventful. We weren't at the start but defintely weren't at the end which was reassuring! Richard ran the race last year and said he started way too fast and suffered later, so was trying to pace himself better. I presume that made my pace the perfect one?? En route we ran alongside a guy who was running with Penny the dog. That was adorable - the dog seemed to be having so much fun! Got to Drymen about 8am.

My inner thigh was starting to hurt as we headed up towards Conic Hill. I think it was probably due to lack of training, if I'm honest. I barely did any long runs before this and really relied on that 30/20 miles back to back in March. But I ate a cereal bar and pushed on. Stayed strong going up Conic Hill but coming down was a nightmare! I remembered the previous time I slipped onto my bum going down, so I took it really slow. Richard sped off ahead...obviously a hill pro. Someone coming up told me to be careful and stick to the grass as several runners had fallen already, that was reassuring!! In Balmaha had some cashew nuts and plenty of water. It was starting to get hot. After being nagged by the marshalls to keep on moving (it was like school!) we headed off about 9.40am.

Next section to Rowardennan was alright, but my thigh was really hurting on the uphills. I kept trying to eat cereal bars and nuts. Derek came out to meet us on the way to Rowardennan which was cool. Had some full fat Coke when I arrived which was just AMAZING. I was craving it so badly. It's always Coke I crave when I'm running! Had a little pasta too. I think it was about 11.05am we took off from there.

The next part was me into fairly unknown territory. I'd only done this section once walking years ago and once cycling - not really taking account of the terrain either time. The big hills made for good cycling though and so this part was good for walking/running. I was surprised we were both still running, and together - I thought Richard would have been ahead by now. But we were both still gabbing's amazing how much you really appreciate the little things when out running...the sound of the water, birds singing, the cool breeze etc. It was really uplifting. Arrived in Inversnaid about 12.50pm.

At Inversnaid it was beginning to get really hot. I was so thirsty but conscious not to drink too much and get a stitch. I had some more pasta (and empathised with the runner complaining that he REALLY didn't want to eat his pasta!) and had some nuts. I was really wanting more Coke but unfortunately hadn't put any in my drop bag. The highlight of our "lunch" was the guy who came over complaining about electrolytes. Filling his waterbottle with Lucozade claiming that if he didn't see another isotonic drink again it would be too soon. Didn't really want to leave Inversnaid but had to. So after a relatively long break we kept plodding on.

This next section Richard was dreading, as was I, having taken AGES to do it on the bike (and stopping for a little sulk in the middle). It actually went surprisingly well considering! We were overtaken a few times by guys who looked pretty elite...and I managed to keep up with them until we got out of the scrambly bit! Felt quite pleased with myself. It wasn't as bad as either of us thought. I was conscious though that my stomach was rumbling...I really was hungry but just didn't fancy anything I had. Kept drinking water then, after many "are we there yet" style complaints to Richard we finally arrived at Bein Glas about 3pm. My parents were there with Derek which was great. They'd brought some sarnies so I had half an avocado sandwich. I forced down some nuts and lucozade and then we kept moving.

It was really this point that it all went a bit pear-shaped. We were both starting to feel really sluggish. My leg pain had gone but was replaced with a kind of tiredness. Both of our feet hurt too - I thought I was getting a blister on the inside of my right foot. We walked quite a lot of the way and I kept on thinking that our 6pm time was defintely out. Richard had finished in 12h20mins last year and I think he thought we might be slower than that. I wasn't sad at that fact, but after feeling so good up to Bein Glas I just felt that since not finishing wasn't on the cards anymore, I should really push it. Unfortunately I just had nothing left to push at that point. Annoyingly my upper arms were really sore (WHY?!?) too.

So we walked, with little spurts of running. When we reached the bridge under the road we passed a guy getting a massage...we watched enviously then plodded on. A girl who we'd seen falling at Balmaha earlier was also there...she looked really tired and covered in cuts, the poor thing. In the forest we both had a capri sun and, maybe it was the capri sun or maybe it was Derek meeting us on his bike, but we both decided that we should just go for it. I was trying to calculate how far we had to go and was disappointed when Derek shattered my dreams with his "5 miles" remark. We soon passed another runner who said it was 6km from there, and that we were doing about 8min/km at that point. I think Richard and I both thought "what the hey" at that point and just went for it. We ran pretty much the rest of the way. Apparently we passed a tv presenter - Muriel Gray - who I never recognised, but she was really cheery and encouraging!

So when we saw the piper towards the finish line we both sped up as best we could and crossed the line together at a fair old lick. About 6.08pm.

What a great feeling, I tell you. I think I felt more proud about my time at the Devil, but certainly the pride in finishing a 50+ mile race is phenomenal. My mum, dad and Derek being at the end was great and I even enjoyed a little of the beer provided - what a great idea!

Overall I thought it was a fantastic race - so well organised. A huge thanks to the marshalls at the checkpoints, en route and at the finish. What bright, kind and bubbly people. And I said a huge thanks to Richard - he kept me going when I may not have otherwise! I think running with someone defintely made that a good race...I don'd know if I would have enjoyed it doing it myself.

The one thing I will say though is that I don't know if I really liked that length of race. I really loved the Devil - it was almost the perfect challenge of distance running, beautiful country side and just manageable with my level of training. But I don't know if I liked just "doing a distance for the sake of it" kind of thing and thats what I felt I was doing towards the end of the Fling.

Anyhoo, more contemplation later. My legs are wasted today but thankfully no worse than they were after the Devil. My upper body is a lot sorer though and my heart rate is still very high. I think it will be a gentle month for me as I prepare for my exams and my wedding.

In a sentence...the Fling was the most endurance-testing thing I have done so far, but I am happy as larry that I finished and still buzzing today (:

Sunday, 20 March 2011

A Long Needed Update - 20/3/11

I can't believe it's almost a quarter of the way through 2011...seems like only a few weeks ago I was updating with photos of the Turbo X! I kept on meaning to take time to update the blog - especially around Christmas time but there was always something getting in the way. I think the fact I haven't raced since the Turbo X has also contributed.

In terms of my own life it has been a turbulent few months. My other half and I, who were both on fixed term contracts at work, got our contracts extended which has been fantastic. Although there are other things looming around the corner now...maybe even a change of location...I foresee it will be another turbulent few months ahead (: And of course there is the wedding. After being nagged supremely I have started to get the ball rolling now and have, with my mum's help, done quite a lot. All we really need to do now are things like flowers, table decorations etc. I call this the last minute stuff but maybe for a wedding at the start of June that's not really a good thing!! We haven't arranged much for the honeymoon yet and are considering just staying in Scotland/UK. We are planning on getting a house/flat when we get married so I, personally, would rather save our money for that.

Oh, and of course, me being me I have an final exam for my Advanced Chemistry course a few days before my wedding...hence I foresee stress a-hoy for me and all those around me (:

Now onto the important stuff...

My running, funnily enough, hasn't taken a nose-dive because of my studies until now. Since the start of the year I have really built my training up well and it's only just now that I am starting to feel the pressure of "having" to train for a race verses the studying I know I should be spending my time doing. I have been running 3/4 times a week and also doing a LOT of cross training - plenty of swimming (50-80 lengths a time) and some muscle conditioning. In a short summary, my long runs have been:

1/1/11: 7.6miles, 1hr 10mins, run in Inverness with Derek
9/1/11: 9.75miles, 1hr 35mins, run to Beech Tree from home
16/1/11: 10.7miles, 1hr 30mins, a road run with my new Garmin ( - weighs a tonne!)
22/1/11: 12.1miles, 1hr 37mins, really hilly run followed by another 4 miles next day
29/1/11: 11.25miles, 1hr 54, Drymen - Balmaha via road & back via Conic Hill
6/2/11: 10.4miles, 1hr 38mins, run out from Stockiemuir to Killearn
14/2/11: 16.7miles, 2hr 23mins, canal run (flat though legs v sore at end!)
20/2/11: 17.2miles, 2hr 30mins, home to Balmaha (excl. Conic Hill)
27/2/11: 13.75miles, 2hr 5mins, ** The most interesting run I've done in ages! Home & Mugdock: First got stuck in a lot of mud, then slashed my leg open, then nearly hit by stupid woman in car, then stopped for a chat to a cyclist, then saw an amazing traffic jam out at Mugdock, of all places!! **

This month has been interesting. Derek and I went to Bridge of Cally at the start of the month then I ran the Cateran trail in 2 days (with him cycling/dragging his bike through mud-clogged fields behind me). Over the 2 days we did:

5/3/11: 29.5miles, ~6hrs (+ stops), B.o.Cally > Kirkton of Glenisla
6/3/11: 20miles, ~4hrs 15mins (+ stops), K.o.Glenisla > B.o.Cally

I must say it didn't really feel like a long training run, I think mainly because I did have to stop quite a lot and wait for Derek. The trail really wasn't meant to be cycled. I was also surprised how empty it was. Massive stretches of just the two of us. We did enjoy it and had great weather. Despite my legs not hurting straight after it, my legs really felt heavy for the rest of the week. So my run the week after was:

13/3/11: 9.85miles (though I'm making it up to 10 due to the hilliness!), 1hr 16mins 50secs, decided to challenge myself and try to race this route. It was SO hilly, but despite that I thought the 1hr 17min 10 mile was pretty good!! My last 10mile race in Toronto was 1hr 20mins. I was v chuffed!


And that brings us to today. I had planned to run from Rowardennan to Bienglas Farm, however a combination of the weather, my not feeling so great and also my guilt over needing to study has meant I have cancelled this run. I do feel guilty, like I haven't really done enough for the Fling. However I didn't do a lot for the Devil due to my toe fracture and still managed well.

My studying is really my priority and if running has to take a back-seat, I'm ok with that. I am concerned about the Fling and actually part of me is thinking of drpping out, as I don't like this unsupported idea. I am thinking though that will they really bother if Derek drives out and meets me during it? I'm unsure, so may email and ask. I think it;s a silly idea for a race and didn't actually know that when I signed up for it (otherwise I wouldn't have). I'm not planning on racing it, but it certainly keeps morale high seeing a friendly face waiting for you when you are feeling low.

So the next few weeks will really be study-central and running is going to be pushed aside. I want to do as well as possible in this exam as part of my future will depend on it.

What a very melodramatic end to this post (: