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 (: