Sunday, 2 April 2017

Another weekend, another long run!

photo courtesy of Bob Marshall
I love that I can write that sort of title again :)  At the start of this year I had a notion I would write a post every month or so, but I've not quite managed it - been a wee bit busy with this thing called training!  Yes, back out there on a regular basis doing the planned sessions, and in the main nailing them and feeling good - I am hugely grateful to so many people for their support over the past couple of years, some are more aware than others of the stuff I've been dealing with, but your support and encouragement has been really appreciated.
Yesterday was the John Muir Ultra Trail Race - 50km over varied terrain along the East Lothian coast from Port Seton to Foxlake just outside Dunbar. 
There was a 4 hour cutoff to get to the half way point at the RNLI shed at North Berwick and I worked hard from the start making it with half an hour to spare!  I was absolutely delighted, I felt that I was running hard but wasn't dead on my feet as I was aware I still had another 25km (ish) to go and needed to keep something in the tank... unfortunately I didn't leave as much as I'd like in the tank and between miles 20-22 (ish) I really struggled with the mud and cambered/slippy trail.  It's a shame as it was beautiful but I really struggled here.  My left hamstring did it's usual and started to seize up resulting in a pretty much non responsive left let which made running the really narrow paths difficult, at one point I was trying to run a narrow path alongside a field and was staggering like a drunk!  I was also petrified of putting my foot down a rabbit hole and twisting an ankle!  The terrain was testing, there was tarmac, trail, very narrow trail, soft sand, a grand wee run at North Berwick across the hard packed wet sand, farm roads, grass, woodland trail covered in needles/leaves, you name it they laid it on for us, even laid on fantastic weather!  The winds of the past few days disappeared - though they're back again today - and the sun came out :-)
We drove down to Foxlake straight after work on Friday, meeting up with Amanda and Tim and enjoying Donald & Elaine's hospitality for an hour before dinner.  A quiet evening listening to the rugby and an early bed.  6am alarm, breakfast, kit organised and registration - nice to see so many friendly faces!  8am prompt the buses left to take us to Port Seton, a visit to the conveniences, catching up with more friends, a thorough and amusing race brief from the RD, some group photos and then we were off!
I won't deny it was tough in places, it was, but I am pleased with the fact that I could keep shuffling on and motivate myself to keep moving forward, finishing 7h52mins after I'd started which is a bit slower than I'd like, but apart from the dead leg, I felt good, strong and compos mentis.  A chocolate milk, a quick shower and change of clothes, a ginger beer, wee drive down to Dunbar Harbour then a bottle of pink cava shared with Elaine while we giggled at the mixup over her and Donald's results!  John and I wandered across to the Volunteer Arms for a pint and some food and they joined us for a pint later, then we wandered stiffly back to our vans, just before the rain started!  It was heavy but we woke to blue skies and sunshine again today.  I have tired legs today but nothing is 'broken' big muscles are tired and a wee bit tender to touch but otherwise I feel great and so pleased to have got that run under my belt!  It's the longest and strongest I've run for almost 2 years and what it means in my head is too difficult to put into words, but if you've been out for a while with injuries/health stuff and sometimes question if you'll ever get back to it you'll understand.
TO top it off, the sun is still shining and the first laundry of the year is blowing outside in the sunshine (it's the little things...)
What it says :-)

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Forward progress & Fun with Friends

This weekend was the annual West Highland Way training weekend and it also marked the end of the second month of my training programme, both events worthy of recording.
As always the WHW weekend was based in The Oak Tree Inn at Balmaha and a motley crew of regulars and newbies turned up to enjoy the exercise, the company and the hospitality.  Some folk arrived Friday night, some came Saturday morning and stayed overnight and some just rocked up Saturday morning, ran and enjoyed the company and post run soup then headed home.  The full run is out to Inversnaid and back which is 30 miles though there were many variations and distances on the day.  For many people this is their first long run of the year and for some, it's  their first sojourn onto the WHW.
I'd a 10mile run on my programme but went to Rowardennan with Julie where we turned for home. Unfortunately at about 11miles we had to slow to a walk as Julie suffered cramping and we were lucky that Lorna was passing and offered us a lift back just as the watch ticked over the 13mile mark!  I was happy though with a wee bit further than planned, some good climbing and no ill effects.
A long hot shower, then as John had also returned from his run, we headed down to the pub for some food and to catch up with everyone's tales of their adventures and their hopes and plans for the coming year.
Afternoon rolled into evening and then it was dinner time, and proseeco and giggles later we were getting gently ushered out the door - oops! I can't remember the last time we were in a pub til closing time!  Great evening catching up with friends, a good sleep, nice breakfast and after a wee walk to say cheerio to Karen & George and Donald we headed home.  Tired but giggling as we remembered some of the conversations from last night!
This weekend is always special as it reminds me of the fun to be had when spending time in the company of friends, you meet on the trails and then again over a bowl of soup or a drink and for me it marks the start of the year for real.
As I said at the beginning I have now completed the second month of my training programme and am feeling quite proud of that achievement, I've managed all the workouts, some better than others and have been enjoying the discipline and the routine.  I'm also sticking to my healthy eating and this is paying dividends too as my weight is slowly starting to come down,  both of these factors are helping me to stay positive and stick at it.  Here's to February and whatever it brings! (Hopefully some snow!)

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Happy New Year!

I was looking back through the Facebook memories thing this morning and came across this in a blog entry I wrote in 2013...I still feel the same way! 
In 2013/14 I achieved the goals I set myself then various health stuff kicked in and it all went downhill and the last 18-24 months have been pretty crap, and only made bearable thanks to the love/friendship/support from some very special people. It's back on the straight and narrow now, the eating is back on track and the running and training are back underway too. I've got goals to achieve this year and I'm going to do my damndest to nail them. I'm pleased that whilst I put on a couple of pounds while on holiday it was only a couple of pounds and I'd managed to lose 6.5lbs before we went away so am still on a nett loss.

I think we still had a good time over the festive season with enough indulgence to make us feel that we'd not been deprived, but definitely nothing like the gross over indulgence we used to undertake - for no reason other than I think we were conditioned to believe that that was what you did... in the same way as the hundreds of people who flock to the supermarkets on Xmas eve and Hogmanay and panic buy as if the end of the world was nigh - the shops are only closed for 2 days!! So, if there's a moral to this post it is this - in the same way as we are conditioned to overeat and drink in December - how many times do you hear - 'oh well just the one then it is Christmas' or similar excuses from people who can't say no thanks? - We can also condition ourselves to make healthier choices, to get up out of our chairs, to park a little bit further away from the door of the shops, to drink more water etc etc...
None of these things cost us much time but they will make a difference to our health.
So a toast to all my healthy friends, and a 'come on what's stopping you?' to the rest... you decide which category suits you xx

Sunday, 17 July 2016

It's nearly always worth it...

It was Clyde Stride weekend this weekend.  This 40mile run from Partick railway station in Glasgow to New Lanark was my first ultra in 2011 and I will never forget the sense of achievement when I finished, albeit second last and after most of the folk had gone home, packed up.  In 2012, I ran leg 4 of the relay with some work colleagues and the last 3 years we have taken part in a marshalling role.  I love watching the finishers come through the 'hole in the wall' it is extra special when they are first timers as it brings back happy memories of how it feels to achieve something bigger than you've ever done before.
The past 3 years we have stayed over on the Saturday night in the wee row Youth Hostel and had a fab post race party. It gives us all a chance to chill/unwind over a plate of Dave W's awesome chicken curry, socialise and stay up late!  Last night was no exception and after curry, much gin and giggles it was 1am before John and I headed up the stairs.  We had agreed that today's training would be a hill climb and he had suggested The Cobbler - I like this climb, but didn't fancy the drive home afterwards, so inspired by Ross and Norrie doing it twice yesterday(!!!) I suggested Ben Ledi which is a bit more local, therefore an easier drive home.
This morning we were a little sleepy and after a coffee and goodbyes to the others who were up and about, John and I headed towards Callander.  We stopped at Dobbies for breakfast - very good and great value - and at this point I was NOT feeling the love!  I wanted to go home to bed!
Thankfully John turned a deaf ear to my gentle whining and soon we were getting kitted up in the car park and off we went- straight up then up some more!  Two miles of continuous climbing before we reached the saddle where it was blowy but we still managed a wee jog.  After the first mile we were in the thick, wet cloud so visibility wasn't great and it just got foggier and drizzling until we reached the cross barely visible through the mist.  A wee bit more climbing and we were at the summit, we didn't hang about, just time for a few daft photos
The Top!
then it was about turn back the way we came.  I was a bit worried about this, as on the way up there were some stretches of scree and bog and I was happy enough climbing up but not looking forward to going down... I took my time but managed well, much better than I feared, I had no 'wobbles' I didn't slip and by the time I got into my stride, coped even on the bits where it was blowing a gale!  I was delighted when I got to the steps as I was able to come down them 'normally' and got a huge boost to my confidence and less pain in my leg!
We even managed to jog down once on the path proper and with a mile to go, we came back out of the cloud again and could see where we were going.  Wee trot back to the car and job done!  So, I too got the same sense of achievement as the folk yesterday even though I'd only gone 5.5miles (and climbed 2707 ft!) and it was definitely worth it!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

It's been a while

I haven't been on here since September last year, I've thought about popping back but then I've thought "what's the point?"  I've not had much to write about... In retrospect that's a bit harsh on myself and on the folks who have been there in the past 9 months to listen when I've  moaned or to stay quiet when it was best to say nothing.  Who have been there with a reassuring word or a hug.  It's been a funny old time with a couple of fairly significant health issues to deal with and regular periods of self doubt...
I am sitting here full of pizza and wine (not really full of wine, just 1 glass) and recovering from the weekend.  It was WHW weekend this weekend past, John was running and he did brilliantly!  He was crewed by me, Amanda & Clark and between us we did a damn fine job finishing with a 2 hour  10min PB for John and a healthy, unbroken runner 😊 Result! 
I'm sure in due course he will write it up himself so I will say no more other than it was a blast!
It was a fantastic weekend, wonderful weather and surrounded by friends old and new.  Many of whom achieved their dreams, some like me last year, who didn't but who will hopefully recover over the next few months.
I was in a wee bit of a 'post race blues slump' last night when Cat (or Mike) posted the marshall's brief for the Great Glen race in 10 days time and the buzz was back!
In the past 3 weeks I've had good news on the health front which means I have no more excuses ;-) So now, I'm sitting here with goals in place and plans afoot, who knows I might even post some more ramblings on here...
Thank you to the wonderful ultra family for helping me get my head back on

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Life is for Living!

It's been a long time since I have been here - I've not been back since my failed attempt at the WHW race in June...
There has been lots of stuff to deal with, not just that I wasn't able to finish the race, and it's way too much to go into in detail.  However, hopefully things are on the up again and although I'm still banned from lifting any heavy weights or circuit training, I am allowed to run 'gently' I guess lumbering slowly along counts as gently!  I've had setbacks and injuries before and come back from them, stronger and wiser.  It's a wee bit different this time around as nothing hurts I don't have an 'injury' per se... just some bloody inconvenient blood clots in my Retinal vein :-(
However, I was back at the hospital on Monday for a checkup and there's a treatment plan in place so here's to moving forward and taking each day as it comes.  I was browsing earlier and came across a Huffington Post blog from a young woman who died this morning of bowel cancer at the age of 36!  Things like that make you stop a minute, take stock and give thanks for you what you have, even though it's maybe not all that you would like to have.  She wrote a final post to be published after her death and these words touched me.  I'm sorry if you find them a bit cheesy, but I thought they were worthy of note...

"Embrace your loved one and if they cannot embrace you back, find someone who will. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Don't settle for less. Find a job you enjoy, but don't become a slave to it. You will not have 'I wish I'd worked more' on your headstone. Dance, laugh and eat with your friends. True, honest, strong friendships are an utter blessing and a choice we get to make, rather than have to share a loyalty with because there happens to be link through blood. Choose wisely then treasure them with all the love you can muster. Surround yourself with beautiful things. Life has a lot of grey and sadness - look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it."
Charley Kittley 16:09:15

Thursday, 18 June 2015

50 weeks ago...

At 1am on Saturday 5 July I lined up in the dark for my longest race to date, the Great Glen Ultra - 72 (3?) undulating and stunning miles from Fort William to Inverness.  John's parting words were 'be good if you could get home before it gets dark'.
21hours and 51minutes later - before it got dark, I crossed the finish line in the Bught Park to the most amazing welcome from a surprisingly large crowd of fellow runners and supporters.  I will never forget it, not least because I managed to run all the way around the track, but mainly because I didn't expect so many people to be there.  I had been at the back of the pack for most of the duration - criss crossing with the legend that is Ray for a fair bit of the course from Laggan to Drumnadrochit.  Then after a wee strop at the checkpoint, thanks in the main, to the amazing George Reid, I made it up that feckin great hill and then plodded my way home.
When I finished John said to me 'could you do another 20 miles?'  I nodded and said I think so but slowly, 'that's ok' says he 'you'd have another 13 hours'.
I had always thought that the West Highland Way race was beyond the grasp of an ageing and decrepit - ok not quite, but rapidly falling to bits, wummin of a certain age and whilst I loved being part of the crew last year and supporting John the year before, I'd never thought of giving it a go.  Not seriously.
Long story short, I thought about it a lot over the next few months - mainly in the why not vein, and the if you don't do it now, you're not getting any younger vein.. Come November I filled in my details and submitted my application for WHW 2015!
8 December I'd just got into work when my phone buzzed, a very excited David Meldrum "You might want to go check FB" it said, followed shortly thereafter by one from Amanda Hamilton - yep I'd been one of the lucky ones, I'd got a coveted place, as had David and Amanda.
Fast Forward Fifty weeks and I will be on the start line at Milngavie station tomorrow night (another 1am start) There have been a fair few miles, in all sorts of weather - well you have to train for all eventualities and "there will be weather" on all sorts of terrain in some beautiful parts of Scotland, a fair few tears and a couple of health scares along the way, but my stuff is almost packed, my plan is almost complete and I am looking forward to crawling/stumbling that last mile of tarmac from Braveheart carpark to the Leisure Centre sometime on Sunday morning.
Thank you all for the messages of support, encouragement and Good Luck in the past few days and indeed over the course of this year, I hope to see most of you over the weekend. 
To those of you who are also running, Good Luck, have a great race. 
To those who are marshalling - thank you - we couldn't do it without you. 
To those whose journey to the start line was thwarted by illness or injury - commiserations, the trails will be there for you another year. 
To the Committee who gave me this chance by putting my name into the ballot so it could be drawn out - thank you.  Also for the hours of time you put into the organisation of the race each year...
To those who have inspired me and supported me in countless ways - HUGE thanks you really are the best.
God I know, it sounds like an Oscar speech :-)
The inimitable George posted something on facebook which I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing as it sums the whole thing up perfectly:
"Looking forward to seeing the family and biggest support crew I have ever known."