Monday, 30 December 2013

And now the end is near...

As December draws to a close, so too does 2013, it's been quite a year! 
I think I've blogged about most of the ups and downs that this year has thrown at us so won't go over it all again, but if I'd to sum it up, I'd say it's been a pretty good year. 
There have been lots of new friends this year, too many to mention here, but you all know who you are - most of you turn up at various places around the country to either run a few miles, or quaff a few pints, or if we plan it properly, do both!
Last year's marcothon facebook community spawned the D33 training group which in turn morphed into the Ultra Dafties and Sunday Social(ites) and it kinda went from there...
We've also lost a few friends this year too, mostly too young and this reiterates to me that we don't know what is around the corner, so live for today and carpe those diems every chance you get.
 
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the highway - at least that was the intention, but my original 2013 running goals were usurped by illness and whilst at the time I was absolutely gutted, I recovered and went on to tackle some previously unconsidered challenges, all of which I managed to succeed in and have an absolute blast along the way!
I've loved, I've laughed and cried - and for me the tears have been sad in Boston but mostly of joy.  Few of us have gotten through the year without an injury or disappointment along the way, but we are in the main a resilient bunch, we do get knocked down (and bruised!) and we do get back up again and we help each other as best we can.  If you're reading this and you're currently 'on the bench' then take strength from Nelson Mandela:

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

 I've managed to tick off a few things on my bucket list along the way though there are still plenty in the bucket, and I for one am looking forward to 2014 and the challenges it will bring.
Apologies to Frank Sinatra for the quotes, but to finish with another one...

The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!

I was about to finish there, but one of my new friends of 2013 has just posted on facebook, and I think that this is absolutely wonderful so I hope she won't mind me sharing this with you - her timing could not have been more perfect! Thank You Michele xxx
(sorry for the huge images but I wanted you to be able to read them)




Thursday, 5 December 2013

November...

I guess it followed October, but it wheeched past almost as quickly!  What did we do in November?  Not a huge amount of running, I should have done the Glen Ogle ultra, but my month of one wee sniffle/illness after another that was October culminated in a stonker of 3 days off in bed and feeling miserable at the end of the month, so although feeling better by Nov 2nd I knew I wasn't fit to run 33miles on some tough terrain.  We did however head up to support and dressed in many layers to ward off the foul weather, we rung the cow bells and handed out haribos to the hardy souls who competed.  Another great BaM event which as usual culminated in a fine wee 'evening in the pub'!
The following day dawned bright, warm(ish) and sunny, complete contrast to the day before, and as I had entered months ago and was feeling reasonably ok, we headed down to Strathaven for the Run with the Wind 10k. Dougie who had run his first ultra at Glen Ogle was going to try for a wee gentle leg stretch and so I asked him to pace me round (BIG mistake!!!)  I didn't realise that he couldn't pace... that aside, it was a great day out, I didn't get a PB but I did get fastest 10k so far for the year, and the sun shone on us.  It is an undulating course, which I will definitely go back and do again, well done Striders for putting on another great race.
The following week was the Jimmy Irvine 10k at Bellahouston park and we were both entered - again months ago, so John agreed that he thought he was fit enough to pace me round -  now he CAN pace - he does it brilliantly!  I took another minute off my time, so again no PB but an improvement for the year and still not 100% fit, happy with that.  Not such good weather this time, heavy rain at the start and a strong wind to contend with.  That was it then, I had said I was going to rest in November but I have agreed to be a guinea pig so we headed up to Abertay university day after Jimmy Irvine to undertake some interesting and tough tests.  So, while I rested as in didn't do much running, I've been training and have been thoroughly enjoying the change and the company - John has been doing the training with me.
Before we knew it, it was December 1st and of course that signals the start of the annual funfest that is Marcothon along with almost 1600 other hardy souls we are out running every day :-) whatever the weather - and today we have had weather!  It was also the opening for entries of the Glenmore 24 (G24)  This has been to date the most memorable running experience I have ever had, I loved it so much that when I finished in September I made the commitment that next year I was going for the 24hours.  I was fortunate to get a place and I am excited already - even though there's the small matter of  the D33, G2E, Big Sur Marathon and Great Glen Ultra to get through before then! (busy year next year!)
Last night I took a wee bit of a tumble and banged my knee - however,


I still completed my run and I was able to get out again tonight, thought it's a bit achy now and I'm hoping it doesn't interfere with our plans for the rest of this week - we're on holiday so as long as I stay in one piece and John's achilles continues to heal, we've got a few miles planned over the next few days.
Before we know it, it will be 2014 and then it's the frenzy of entering the D33 :-)

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

October...

Where did it go?  I can't believe that it's 5 weeks since Loch Ness.  In that time I have attempted and DNF'd Amsterdam marathon, DNS'd Glen Ogle and made a feeble attempt at Run with the Wind 10km.  All the time I have been competing with some nasty viral thing which I thought was a head cold that I'd come down with straight after Loch Ness :-(
Maybe it's just my old body reminding me that it's no longer young and while I'm reasonably fit for an old bird, I needed some R&R and was maybe attempting too much.  I don't know about you, but once a race is over and the euphoria dies down, usually a day or two - or in the case of post G24, a week :-)  then I tend to think I'm ready to move on to the next target - I forget I need recovery time.  However, those are not grumbles and moans they're just the way it is, I was particularly unwell last Tuesday night/ Wednesday and so I stayed home from work and slept lots which seemed to help.  I knew I wasn't up to a 33 mile run on Saturday, but we still managed to get togged up in our foul weather gear and spend 6 hours in the rain/sleet/cold ringing cowbells and cheering on the runners!  Sunday dawned a beautiful day so I decided to give the 10k a go - heartfelt thanks to Dougie for agreeing to chum me round as his recovery run after his first Ultra at Glen Ogle!
However... it's not a negative post, in the space of 8 weeks I
completed the Devil O' The Highlands an hour ahead of schedule
ran 50.36miles in 12 hours at Glenmore24
got a new PB at Loch Ness marathon
got a season's best time for 10 at Run with the Wind...

and yep still I'm grumbling :-D  we're never happy huh?  On the plus side, I think I have finally cleared the virus out my system, I feel better this past 3 days than I have felt for ages, I am back on a training plan and I have set my goals for 2014 and entered races.

one more race this year then is time for marcothon!  Bring on the Winter training! 
 (oh and am about to take part in some trials... more of that to come)


Monday, 30 September 2013

Loch Ness Marathon 2013

Bling...
 Will I?  Won't I? Should I?  Shouldn't I?  Can I really be bothered?  All of those questions were going through  my head for 2 weeks after Glenmore.  I don't know if I was just tired, or whether it was just the slump after having such a phenomenal experience at the G24 Trail Race but I really didn't want to go to Loch Ness.  It was probably exacerbated by the fact that John is still suffering with his achilles injury and there was no way he was going to get to race - He got the great news last Wednesday that he had secured a place in next year's Boston marathon, but he had hoped to get a good time at Loch Ness to improve his starting postition... he's not been able to run properly since July and although he's putting a brave face on it ( most of the time ), you cen tell he's hurting :-(
I was also, I think, feeling a wee bit guilty that I'd had a good couple of months running when he wasn't able to and whilst he's a great supporter, I still know that he'd rather be running!

As last week wore on, I guess I made up my mind that I'd go - we decided to wait til mid week and see how his leg was, before deciding as we'd had a great wee day out to Cumbrae last weekend and had taken the ferry over from Largs, run round the island, 10miles, then got the ferry back.  He didn't seem to have too much of a reaction so was hopeful that he'd be fit enough to pace me round even though he couldn't race for himself.  Our accomodation was booked and paid for so I would have lost the money had we not gone and we decided on Thursday that we'd go and chatting on facebook to a friend who was doing Loch Ness as her first marathon almost got me excited about it...

We headed up the road on Saturday morning leaving in a real Autumn mist, but it cleared by the time we got to Aviemore where we couldn't get into our venue of choice for lunch so made do with a second rate offering in another establishment - to which I probably won't return.
A horrendous traffic jam getting into the city, caused by a broken down car held us up for a good 40minutes, but we got to Bught park in glorious sunshine and registered and picked up our numbers.  Caught up with Fiona and Pauline, Ailsa and Krysia as we wandered about then headed to our guesthouse then out to dinner.  I slept well on Saturday night, though I dreamt that John wasn't going to run with me as planned, and true enough when he got up his achilles was grumbling - I blame the traffic jam and sitting with his foot in one place for so long :-(  We had an early breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage & tomato - John also had mushrooms and beans :-)  Many of the other runners were tucking into porridge and banana or toast, and were giving us some strange looks, but each to their own!
Just like New York and Niagara Falls marathons, you get bussed to the start so it was off early to get the buses, a wee jog along the road and John knew that it wasn't a day for a run, so a quick reorganising of the stuff that he'd been taking in his bag and we headed across to the buses.  On the way we bumped into the lovely Emma so I had company on the journey to the start - you're an hour and a bit to Fort Augustus then up the hill to the start line - this has to be the most spectacular start line of my 15 marathons - eat your heart out NYC!
start line
A quick hug and a hello with the superfast couple that is Owen and Lindsy then Emma and I met Audrey and we got into the start corral.  Secret here is to huddle in and keep warm, it wasn't cold, it was a bit windy being on top of the mountain though!
The race started and we were off - it's quite something to cross the start mats and have the pipe band playing on either side of the road :-)
The first 5 miles is pretty much all downhill, and we went off way too fast!  Even though I know not to and would remind anyone that, I still did it!  Faster than I have ever run in my life!  Crazy!  But I was loving it!  We were very quickly on the sheltered side of the mountain and the wind disappeared, the sun was out and it was really warm, but it was such a glorious morning to be out running!  Some awesome downhills meant I managed to motor on and was through the 10mile and half marathon mark faster than I've ever been before.  I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I am the most awful pacer ever!  I just can't do it :-(  My strategy, such as it was, was to be disciplined and run/walk and I managed this well until about mile 15 when the run intervals got a wee bit shorter, but I did still manage to keep the walk intervals to 30seconds and was recovering fine in that time.  The famous 'monster hill' is at mile 18 and the signs before it are amusing but the hill itself isn't so bad, it's just a long, long uphill, the hills between miles 5 and 7 are much steeper though shorter.  I coped well with the hills, keeping my run/walk going and 'ultra marching' when necessary - I was surprised at how many people I passed who were running albeit slowly up the hills when I was doing my 'ultra march' but I felt strong and managed to keep it going.  Up the hill at mile 19 and I could feel a butterfly in my left calf muscle - the muscle was twitching but wasn't sore, just 'fluttering'.  Some nice downhill stretches to keep me going and a best ever time for 20miles as well.  I was feeling confident that I was going to get a new PB - I was hoping to go under 5hours for the first time ever, my PB being 5:02:38 and doing the sums in my head I felt I was maybe going to get about 4:57ish.  At mile 22 a lady in front of me stopped dead - her right calf was completely solid and poor soul, she couldn't move, she couldn't put her foot down, she couldn't walk never mind run!  Then, at mile 23 the butterfly returned wearing pit boots and he brought his friend with him!  Both calves were twitching and cramping!  I was terrified that I was going to suffer the same fate as the poor woman I'd seen up the road and I was determined to keep on moving I wasn't going to have to pull up - even if it did mean no PB :-(
It was good to see John at this point as felt better for shouting to him that it was "fkn sore!"  The last 2 miles really were run as hard as I could in short bursts then slow down to try to prevent the cramp seizing!  Along the riverside and over the bridge then the last turn of the course, a sharp left onto some cobbles wasn't pretty and the first of a few involuntary squeals and perhaps a wee sweary word were uttered.  All the way along here I was checking my watch and trying to do the sums, was I going to make it?  I knew it wasn't all that far to the finish but it seemed like a long, long way and a couple of times I did have to stop for a second to squeeze my left leg to keep it moving, at this point I reckoned I'd no chance of a good time any more.  Past the last marshalls and there's the big inflatable Nessie, this is about 200m or so from the finish and I could see the clock which said 5:02:something so I knew it would be close because that was the gun time and the chip time would be a wee bit faster.  I pushed even harder at this point - not for the time now, but because there was a  bloke in front of me!  A much younger bloke at that, and those of you who know me well, know that I can't help it, I have to try my hardest to pass him - I don't know why, I can't help it but by god it doesn't half spur you on when you think that there's nothing left :-)  In the end I did beat him by a good few seconds, and his pal :-)
John thought I'd got under 5, but my Garmin said 5:00:06 so I wasn't convinced, but I did know I'd got a new PB regardless!  In the end my time was 5:00:01 which has amused John as he's been teasing me about 2 seconds ever since but I'm not upset about it, there were lots of places I could have saved those 2 seconds - I had to stop for a pee and couldn't 'go' any faster!  I maybe could have kept running instead of stopping to rub my calf but I was so terrified of a total seizure!  I should have pushed past some folk that I stopped behind for a second or two... and so you can go on and on, but at the end of the day, I got a new PB and I'm in one piece today, so my 15th marathon was, in my book, a success.
This is not the most flattering race photo (are any of them?) but I'm quite proud of it, I was hurting like hell and I think possibly squealing again at this point - or uttering an expletive (or both) but I was still working as hard as I could.
Ouch!!!
 
 


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

What did you eat?

OK I will start this post by saying, that this is a very very personal choice, and is no way intended to be controversial so I have no intention of entering into debate about it.  I am writing it because a few friends are aware of my choice to try to live a low carb lifestyle, and have asked me to write about my fuelling for my race at Glenmore.  If you are reading this, then chances are that you already know that this weekend I ran a 12 hour race, and am absolutely delighted that I managed 50.36 miles!  So, it comes with the caveat that it worked for me, I am not advocating it for anybody else :-)

I have been trying to follow a low carb lifestyle since January 2012 and I think making a pretty good job of it - most of the time... yes there are times when we all have 'wee wobbles' but get back on it again and off we go.  The main reasons for this are to help with weight loss and to teach my body to burn fat for fuel, not to rely on carbs/sugar for fuel.
I ran a 43mile ultra at the beginning of August and fuelled on hard boiled eggs (3) organic baby food (2 pouches) yoghurt pouches (4) a couple of spoonfuls of rice pudding (to keep John happy) and an energy gel.  I drank an electrolyte drink and water from my hydration pack, 2 cans of espresso shot coffee drink and a can of Gin and tonic with cucumber.
John also runs and also eats low carb - he'll eat what's put in front of him :-) wasn't at all convinced beforehand that this type of fuelling would work, but he conceded afterwards that I must have got it pretty well right as I was at no time stressed, was lucid and put in a good performance.
So, to this weekend... Saturday's race wasn't starting til 12 noon which was good in that it gave more time to be up and awake before eating, I was always one of those folk who had to eat within half an hour of getting out of bed, or I was a mega grump, until I did a zero carb week a couple of weeks ago, since then I have hardly ever felt hungry but I wanted to make sure I'd had something substantial before I set off, so at 9.30am I had a large sirloin steak, 2 fried eggs and some strong black coffee - ACE!
(I'm not sure if I would want to eat that at 5.30am for an early morning race but will need to work on that one)
The race was a lap race, this meant that I didn't need to carry anything and could graze from my support table every lap.  It was 4 miles a lap and after settling into a rythm of about 55-65min a lap from lap 5 onwards I ate (in total):  half a hard boiled egg, 1.5 babybel cheese, 1 peperami, 1 pouch of babyfood - (apple, banana and pear I think), a 10cal jelly tub, half a banana (1/3 of which went in the bushes) a handful of blueberries ( a couple at a time), 1 espresso shots coffee can, 1 G&T, 1 can of 'fat' ginger beer and a few sips of water & electrolyte drink.  Yep that really is all in 12 hours...
At NO point in the race did I have an energy slump, neither physical nor mental and can honestly say I enjoyed every single minute of it.  It is probably the best race I have ever run and I felt amazing, mentally I was totally in control the whole time, and physically I felt like I could have just kept on going.
I'm not sure where this sits in terms of advice but can only speak from my own experience and I have never, ever felt this good.

Monday, 9 September 2013

One more off the Bucket List!

Most of us have one, we don't all own up to it, or share it, but most of us have things we want to do in/with our lives...
Since I started this running malarkey, I have always wanted to see if I could
a) run for 12 hours
b) run 50miles or more

This weekend I was lucky enough to achieve both!  I was fortunate to get a place in this year's Glenmore24 hour trail race, a fantastic event organised by Bill Heirs and Mike Adams, widely known as BaM, ably supported by a fantastic race crew.

There are 2 events, the 24 hour race and a 12 hour race, both of which start at noon on the Saturday of race weekend.  As you might be able to workout for yourself, the 12 hour finishes at Midnight and the 24 hour at 12 noon on the Sunday.  Format is that you run a 4mile loop around Glenmore forest, varied and undulating terrain I think is a fair description, as often as you can in 11/23 hours, then with 1 hour the small loop is opened.  When runners finish the loop they're on after this point, they don't go back out into the forest but stay on the small loop until the time is up.
I entered this race after the disappointment of being ill in April and unable to run the Fling, and wasn't sure how I'd cope with the lap running, as opposed to point to point, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a beautiful route, there was stony 'rooty' trail, then smooth forest road, there were steep uphills and a phenomenal downhill, there were stunning views of the forest and Loch Morlich, huge fat slugs and toads in the road when it rained at night, the biggest ants I have ever seen, the cheeriest marshalls manning the water station just past half way, the ever-smiling Ada with her helpers and the clock, registering every lap (not a job I fancy! Way too much responsibility and hard sums!!) and awesome support from all the supporters camped in the field as well as the other runners out on the course.  Maybe you've kinda got the gist by now, but I had an absolutely brilliant time :-)
We drove up to Glenmore on Friday after work and pitched our tent in the Hayfield, then we pitched another 2 tents which we were loaning to friends for the event.  Once we had organised our accomodation we took our chairs and John took his sweeties and his carry out and we joined fellow runners and friends in the 'cinema' to watch the latest Anton Kupricka film, the film itself wasn't outstanding but the giggles and tears of laughter (or induced by the smoke from the bonfire) made for an enjoyable evening, we headed off to bed at a reasonable hour.  The rain was of monsoon proprotions during the night but it didn't prevent me sleeping although I dreamt that I'd forgotten to pick up my shoes before leaving the house, half-woke and convinced myself it was ok, I could run in my new ones which I'd worn to travel up the road in, then just after 6 woke again and told my long suffering and still half sleeping hubby that I'd forgotten my shoes but it didn't matter... (and no I'd not been drinking the previous evening...) 
The field was like a marsh as we sploshed our way to the well appointed portaloos - ladies and gents(!)  and it looked like it was going to be another wet ultra for me - both my previous ones this year have been in pretty hellish weather...
A wee hour snoozing then it was time to get up and make coffee/breakfast.  No porridge for me this time, I'd decided to try something different and had sirloin steak and fried eggs.
As we enjoyed our breakfast, the rain eased a little and as others started to rouse and go about their business, the conversation turned to the forecast being that the rain was to stop by about 10am.  True enough, the sky started to brighten and by 10ish, the sun was out and the rain had stopped.  I picked up my number and vest from Ada at the registration tent, then we had a wee mooch around the x-bionic 'shop' and I treated myself :-)  I had pre-ordered some 'bionic pants' for both John and myself but I also splurged on a new running bag/vest...
Soon it was time to get kit sorted, number pinned on and then it was the race briefing.  By this time we were enjoying glorious warm sunshine and the first point Bill made was "there's some flooding on the course so you're going to get wet feet"  He wasn't joking either!
12 noon and the horn went, the race was underway!  It was a bit surreal to be heading off on a long run with no bag on my back, no gel in my pocket, nothing, however as we passed our support tables every 4 miles it was the potentially running equivalent of the all-you-can-eat-buffet (however I hardly ate anything but that's another conversation for another day... steak and eggs is definitely the way forward for me now!)

Ok I'm conscious I'm starting to ramble a bit here so I will try really hard not to give you a lap by lap account, suffice to say that I ran the first four laps too fast - but fortunately didn't suffer in the long term - even though I saw a facebook post from John which said at 2 hours in I was going too fast and it wouldn't be pretty 10 hours later - glad on this occasion to have proved him wrong - my theory such as it was being that if I could gain some time in first few hours it would hopefully be in the bank if the wheels started to fall off later.  My ultimate goal was to see if I could get to 50miles, but I was happy to accept anything over 44miles as that was a PB.  The weather was stunning, really hot for first few hours, course was beautiful and the banter and support out on the course was fab ( I think I've maybe said this already...)
I managed to settle myself after about 4 laps and was happy by then that if I could do a lap an hour I should manage 12 laps (48miles) so might just make the magic number.  It's weird and I don't know if others felt the same, but 2 things really struck me, I didn't really feel like I was going round and round, and I also wasn't really aware of the passage of time.  Starting at noon meant that race time/real time were pretty much the same but I had no real concept of  the rest of the world, the time didn't mean anything, for me it was just about ticking off the laps.  I think I was pretty consistent with my lap times and it certainly felt good, at no point at all did I have a slump of any sort, neither mental nor physical, I just enjoyed myself, I exchanged pleasantries with fellow runners when I saw them, I was happy with my own company when there were no others around - bear in mind that the 24 hour runners were doing the same course, and I expected to see more people than I did but there were some long gaps when there was nobody else in sight.
After 9 laps it was time for headtorches as it was almost dark by then, at the same time David Ross asked if he could keep me company for a lap, it was great to have him to blether with and the extra light just to build my confidence running in the dark, having been round the course a few times already, it wasn't too different trying to navigate in the dark, it almost seemed easier at times, as you didn't see the up hills, you just felt them!  Next lap I ran on my own and that was the only rain, I was up at the top of the hill when the heaven's opened, it got quite cold as I got wet and the toads came out to enjoy a soaking but it made for an interesting run downhill trying not to stand on them and not knowing if it was a toad or a stone on the path, I'm sure one of them jumped against my leg as I definitely got something cold, wet, and solid splat against my left leg as I ran down the last hill (fortunately had my calf guards on so didn't get a slimey leg!)
I was absolutely elated when I ran through the arch at the end of lap 11 as this was me into PB territory and still had time to go around again :-)  I stopped to change back into my vest and put my jacket on and David asked if he could join me again, so off we went on lap 12 - it's hard to explain but lap 12 had such a magic ring to it :-)  Stopping at the water station to say thanks again to Alice and Julie, I finished Alice's G&T in preference to water or energy drink then off I went again on the last big climb of the night, last run down and past the tiny wee bit of the route where you could meet runners heading out on the loop, there were still the 24hour folk passing and there were still calls of 'well done' and 'good job' going in  both directions :-)
Last pass under the arch, last wave from Ada and it was onto the short loop, manned by George and his crew.  This loop was round the outside of the campsite and apparently 0.22 of a mile in length, it had the horrid wee uphill and then a steep wee downhill then round we went again, and again, and...
I couldn't believe how competitive I felt at this point, I remember John saying to me when I'd done 12 laps that that was me at 48miles and still had 35minutes so I could do it if I pushed hard, and boy did I push hard!  After one lap of this course it was off with my jacket and back into vest and shorts - almost midnight and I'm racing round a field in the dark as hard as I can in vest and shorts???? (at my age??)
What a buzz!  Everytime you reached the bottom of the wee hill you had to shout out your number so that it could be recorded, then with 10mins to go George handed each runner as they passed, a tent peg with a label with your number on it.  The instruction was that when the horn sounded the end of the race you had to put the peg into the ground beside the marking tape, and I remember thinking 'what are you giving that to me now for I am going round at least twice more' :-)
Then the countdown started, less than 5 minutes, less than 2 minutes, 1 minute to go, 5,4,3,2,1!  I pushed the peg into the grass near the top of the wee hill and Jenni who was just behind me called to me, a quick congratulatory hug and we headed down to meet our folks.  John had come over to the finish to meet me, so after a few hugs and well dones from/to other finishers, we went back to the tent so I could get a jacket and trousers, we sat by our table for about 5mins or so watching the 24 hour hardies continuing on their way, and admiring the incredible display of stars in the inky black sky then made our way over to the big tent to join others and get a warming cup of tea and a seat.  I was in a funny place at this point as I was delighted I'd run for the 12 hours, delighted I'd definitely got a new PB, but at the same time just a little bit disappointed as I thought I had managed 49miles and odds, my watch hadn't started bang on the start so I knew it wasn't going to be accurate but didn't know how close or far off I was...
The gazebo was adorned with banners and balloons and at about 20 past midnight the assembled company burst into a rendition of Happy Birthday for Victoria Shanks from Stonehaven (who celebrated her 40th birthday by running 100 miles!) She declined the offer to carry her birthday balloon on her next lap but did wear her badge and stopped long enough to blow out her candles and take a piece of cake!
A wee while sitting/standing/stretching and blethering then off to bed for a few hours.  Shivering and chittering I eventually fell asleep and slept until just after 5am.  I got up, dressed and headed out to see how the all-nighters were doing, had a cup of tea and a chat with some friends then went back to the tent as John was getting up.  After breakfast and catch up we supported our friends who were still out and John took over support for Noanie to allow David an hour or so's well deserved sleep.  Noanie is an absolute phenomenon, who went on to smash the Ladies course record by running 126.2 miles but it is her story to tell and all I will say is WOW!
Sitting in the sun supporting the finish of the 24 hour race was great fun, these runners too, many of whom were on their last legs, were going through the same as I 12 hours earlier, you could see them pushing harder and harder to get as many short loops in as they could - our brain does weird things to us...

I think this is probably more than enough, there are lots and lots more memories and tales and reminiscences, but to sum it up, it was absolutely definitely the best race of my life.  I watched some wonderful friends achieve incredible distances in the 24hour race, I shared a great 12 hour race with other friends, some of whom have run further in other races, some like me who had reached new heights, but all of whom gave their all on the day/night.  The icing on the cake for me was when we got our official results at the prizegiving and I had run 50.36 miles :-)  I'd done it!  I'd ticked off 2 bucket list goals in one go!!
We spent a great weekend in a lovely place with friends and made new ones, witnessed all sorts of feats of human endeavour, shared smiles, tears, elation and disappointment and had an absolute ball!


vest and medal

 beer

Sunday, 4 August 2013

'I couldn't find you, you're not on the last page...'

One of the nicest things my husband has ever said to me!

This might sound a little strange but it has topped off a fantastic weekend for me :-)
Yesterday I ran the Devil O' the Highlands 43 mile Footrace from Tyndrum to Fort William.  An undulating route which climbs from the start, and keeps on climbing!  Over 6000 feet of ups and downs across some of Scotland's most beautiful countryside in what can only be described as 'challenging' weather.  When the results were published today I wasn't on the last page :-)

A little bit of background... last year I wanted to take part in this race but I got injured in May after the Women's 10K and couldn't get the distance training in on time, so had to withdraw my entry.  However John indulged me and we went up to Glencoe the night before the race and stayed overnight in a Hobbit house at the ski centre, had a lovely meal in the Kingshouse Hotel, enjoyed an impromptu jam session and then on Saturday morning, ran up and over the hill with two large flags and a supply of jelly babies to support the runners at about 16miles.  We have since become good friends with many of those whom we spoke to, photographed and shared jelly babies with - that's the beauty of the running community :-)

This year, my goal was to complete the Highland Fling, however on returning from Boston, we both had nasty chest infections, so neither of us were able to toe the start line... Topped up on antibiotics we still managed to go and support our friends and it was lovely to be part of such a great event.  Bitterly disappoined at missing my race of the year, for which I had trained all winter, I sent an email to the Devil crew, the race was already full, but they operate a reserve list.  I heard nothing for a few weeks, and then got an email saying I was on the list. Not long after I broke a wisdom tooth and developed another really nasty infection which completely floored me, so in all, I missed about 9 weeks of training and had resigned myself to not being able to take part this year either.  Checking the reserve list, there wasn't much movement for a few weeks and then there was a wee bit of activity so I started to swither about whether I could up my training in time or whether I should withdraw?  2 weeks ago after much ummin and ahing, I decided to do a run on part of the course and then I would categorically make up my mind whether to hope I moved further up the list or not.  Long story short, on the Saturday I wasn't going, I was fed up and full of doubt, John convinced me I should go so we got up at 5am and headed off, not particularly well prepared for a long run but off to give it a go... I was to run from Tyndrum where the race starts, to Kinlochleven, about 30miles into the race and the start of the last big climb.  Cutting the story even shorter, it was a scorcher of a day, I've never seen the sky up there so cloudless, there was NO water on the mountains, but I had a brilliant day out and completed the run in just shy of 7 and half hours.  First thing I said to John when I met him at the finish was "I'm still not doing the race"  He asked if I thought I could have gone up over the hill to the end, and I said yes so we then had a lengthy debate as to whether or not I should hold off on withdrawing my entry.  When we got home that evening we looked at previous results, and my garmin data for the day, I reckoned I could do the run in about 7hours if it was a race, and we agreed that I'd need to do that in order to finish within the 12 hours. Then a friend messaged me telling me I was no. 37!! Soon followed  by an email offering me the place, and true enough my name was on the start list!  I really didn't know what to do... I spoke to a couple of friends who said I should do it, and asked my very experienced ultra running friend Karen, her advice.  She said if my head was in the right place, I'd be fine, I had plenty training from earlier in the year and that I should go for it.  So on Monday I accepted the place.  12 days til race day!

Hurried arrangements were made for a place to camp at By The Way for the night before, then at the last minute wonderful friends offered us a room in their cabin - fortuitous indeed, given the monsoon rain that fell on Friday night.  We drove up to Tyndrum and shared a lovely dinner with Bob and Amanda, Said hi to Jenni, Rob & Jo, then walked over to the pub for an hour and met George & Karen, Noanie, Sarah and a few other running acquaintances.
Saturday morning 4am, alarm goes off... no major queues for the loo, no fighting over the kitchen, breakfasts made and eaten - except for me, first time ever I've not been able to eat before a race!  Registration was between 0430 and 0530 at the Green Welly, we headed over in the car and got there about 5ish - I honestly can't remember what time it was!  Collected number and T Shirt, said hello to a few other friends, one last visit to the loo and then race briefing.  Soon as Gary was finished I wanted to go outside as was too warm in the building in my waterproof jacket - that would be the jacket I'd hoped to carry in my bag not wear!  It was freezing outside, blowing a gale and raining heavily.  The huddle of runners trying to shelter in vain grew ever bigger and before long we were all heading to the start and then it was 3,2,1 and we were off.  The route starts straight up a hill and I was determined I wasn't going to run up it as with no warmup it is a calf killer, a few hardy souls sprinted off, but it was reassuring that a large contingent seemed happy to march smartly up the slope, I fell in at the back and settled down.  I was convinced I would be the last finisher but I was quite happy about that, as long as the sweepers weren't breathing down my neck.  They were great, I only heard their voices once and they kept a respectful distance as I slowly eased in to my run/walk pattern, it was still p'ing down and blowing a hoolie!
Checkpoint 1:  Bridge of Orchy - 6miles into the race, I reckoned 1h30 was as slow as I could afford to be and I think it was about 1h20 when I got there, it's a lovely run along the side of Ben Dorain, but I had slipped going up onto a large rock and my foot slipped downwards putting a lot of strain on my achilles/lower calf, I was a bit worried as the pain was shooting under my foot and I was getting a fluttering in my mid calf - I remember thinking 'I can't pull out at Bridge of Orchy, I have to keep going even if it means the rest of my races this year are out the window'... John was waiting for me and I took a drink and a babybel from him and set off to climb the first proper climb of the day.  There is no official time taken at this checkpoint, it's just a check that everyone is through in one piece.  I was pleased with my climb and was soon up at Murdo's mount and then running down to Inveroran.  This isn't an official checkpoint, but John was there to meet me and David Meldrum was there too, it was nice to see them, I took a sandwich to walk with, and drank some coke.  Off down the road to Victoria Bridge then the climb up to Glencoe.  I was still in last place at this point but comfortable having had a good run down off the hill.
The journey up Telford's parliamentary road to Ba' Bridge and then across Glencoe is undulating (ok lots of ups and downs!) so I marched up the hills and ran on the downs and the flats, again I felt like I was strong and coping well, the sandwich went in the bushes for the wildlife as it was just too hard to eat, but I had my first pouch of organic baby food and it went down fine.



Checkpoint 2:  Glencoe ski centre - about 18miles.  4h04m.  I had a fab run down into the checkpoint, there was a beautiful full rainbow and it looked like we were going to run under it.  I passed about 10 people though they didn't stop here so they passed me back.  Sarah Self, David Mooney & David Meldrum were here with John, I ate a boiled egg and I think I'd an espresso shot (can't remember) then set off down the road to cross the main A82 and into Kingshouse.  The group I passed on the run down to the checkpoint had stopped here for a cup of tea/refuel and I passed them again.  By now the weather had got even worse, wild headwinds and driving rain blowing right up the glen into our faces.  A tough run along the road in the wind, then a wee climb up the hill before the trail descends again to parallel the main road in the approach to Altna Feadh.  David Mooney was waiting with John at the start of the Devil's staircase, I picked up a gel from them and a bottle of irn bru, assured them I didn't need a change of clothes, I was soaked but warm and had no chafing issues, was delighted to report that nobody had passed me back and by this time I'd passed another couple.and it was off up 'The Staircase'.  This is a mighty climb, it just goes up and up, then there's a cheeky wee false summit about 200m from the top, but I climbed well and didn't stop at all, passing some walkers who were finding it tougher than I was.  At the top I stopped for a few seconds and raised my irn bru to the cairn in a toast - 'made it' :-)
Of course, what goes up must come down and down you go, all the way to sea level in Kinlochleven.  When I'd been up a fortnight ago, it was hot and dry, so the run down was tough but I'd felt reasonably confident about my footing, yesterday was a completely different story - the water was roaring down the hillside in all the burns and gullies, and places I'd hopped and skipped down were now slippery slopes that I took more cautiously.  It's deceptive too because although it's a big downhill, there are some sneaky 'ups' in it, however I got onto the road to the Alcan works and that's the start of a non stop descent to the river, across the mdf bridge and along past some houses, then back into the woodland and up to the road.  

photo thanks to Dave & Julie
Checkpoint 3:  Kinlochleven - almost 30 miles, 6h55m (bang on target) John and David Mooney were here again and we were joined by David's girlfriend Julie (wonderwoman) Docherty who had run from Glencoe to Kinlochleven supporting a friend Katy.  I'd another boiled egg here and a can of Gin & Tonic! It was delicious!!  I also ate a couple of spoonfuls of rice pudding - John was sure I wasn't eating enough although I felt fine, I'd had a pouch of yoghurt on the way down the staircase and was feeling in great fettle, I also took a banana which I nibbled half of as I checked in and out of the checkpoint and walked along the road to the start of the climb.  Here I met George & Karen so quick hugs and reassurances that I was looking great and it was across the road and ready to tackle the third and toughest climb of the day.  It is a tough climb, relentless upward slope and some big stone steps all of which take their toll on you, respect to all the runners who ran WHW in June, it's 83miles into their race!
Eventually you get to the top and I was delighted to discover that my legs were still happy to run on the flats and downs and even on some of the gentler ups.  At no point so far had I suffered any slumps in my energy levels and it was great to get a break from the relentless rythm of climbing.  By now the weather could be best described as FOUL!  The wind was blowing from all directions and of course the Lairig is a pass - a valley - so it's like a wind tunnel, I don't think the rain stopped at all up here, I just think it's ferocity varied!  There was water running across the paths, some of the times it was calf deep, but I just ran right through the middle of it, I don't bother trying to skirt round it and it's quite refreshing on hot tired feet :-)  After about an hour I could see a saltire fluttering in the distance and a mile or so later at the top of the hill, there was Jeff from the Wilderness Rescue team with his supply of drinks and his camera.  A welcome sight indeed!  A quick cup of irnbru and a few cheery words then off I went.  In the distance I could see the ruined cottage which is a landmark I love as I try to imagine what it was like to live up there in the middle of nowhere, I ran up there in May with John so it was familiar territory and similar weather so I kind of felt I was on the home stretch.  The next few miles passed and soon I was running down into Lundavra and there he was again, my amazing supporter, with hot coffee, a puff of my inhaler and words of encouragement about how brilliantly I was doing - 7 miles to go and I had 2h40m to get in under the 12 hours.  I remember excitedly telling him that STILL nobody had passed me - this meant I wasn't last! 
A climb out of Lundavra made all the more interesting as the sandy soil was gloopy, sticky mud but I managed to get up the hill and along the wee track on the side of it without incident and was able to run down to the gate then into the woods.  Through the woods which in places were as dark as night and disappointingly unable to get a good run down due to the slippery conditions, then back up the other side and at long last the horrid, horrid wee climb up to the Fire Road.  The Fire Road marks the end of the trail and is a fabulous couple of miles of downhill on a fairly good surface.  I was really pleased with my performance here as I settled into a nice steady rythm and was able to keep it going all the way down, I passed a couple of guys here and my wonderful friend Bob.  I had a few pangs of guilt here because I'd been joking on Wednesday with him that if there was the remotes possibility of me catching up with him we'd cross the line 'oldies' together - I asked if he was ok, and he said yes but he could only walk, 'can you not jog with me?' No he replied on you go I'll see you at the finish.
At the bottom of the hill the Run Route sign pointed left and there at the end of the road was John again - this was a HUGE surprise as I didn't expect to see him there and it was lovely to see the huge grin on his face when he realised I'd passed the guys who'd been ahead of me earlier - that was, it I was at Braveheart car park 1 mile to go and it wasn't quite 11hours!  I was going to be in under the 12 hours and I wasn't going to be last!  I was on a real high and he topped it off by telling me our friend Noanie had had a storming run to finish 3rd female!  If ever I needed something to push me on to the end that was it :-)
I ran/walked in a steady 50/50 rythm to the end of the houses, then I saw Karen across the road, waving like a true daftie and shouting encouragement, I could feel myself starting to well up and I shouted back to her 'I think I'm going to cry!'  I kept on running and as I rounded the corner I was met with a wall of cheering and a crowd of our friends all whooping and hollering!  I found myself somehow managing to run just a wee bit faster as the line approached - not quite a sprint finish but it felt like it - and the most amazing sense of elation and emotions overwhelmed me - I genuinely could not believe I'd done it!  It wasn't about the distance, it was about not being last and about having passed people and never being overtaken and about feeling strong and healthy at the finish and having wonderful friends to support me/us and I flung my arms round John's neck sobbing!  But they were happy tears!  A few friends have told me that everyone joined in :-)  It was amazing!  Oh and the bloody rain stopped about 3miles from the end!
photo thanks to Fiona Rennie
Finish: Fort William - 43 miles 11h08m42s
So there you go, I did the Devil and I wasn't last and when the results were published today, John couldn't find me because I wasn't on the last page...
I can't put into words what that means, but I'm sure there are some of you who will understand :-)

footnote (no pun intended - no blisters, no chafing, no injuries, just a sore big toe from stubbing it on a rock!)

Friday, 21 June 2013

It's Here!

It's finally here!

It seems to have been a long time in the planning, but today is the day... well it's the very early hours of tomorrow really - 1am - but because of registration etc beforehand, in my head the race starts Friday night.  All the past months of training, planning and worrying are hopefully stored in the bank and it's now into relentless forward motion mode for the next 2 days!

I am working this morning, John has the day off and will hopefully catch some extra sleep, I've been awake since 0430 so will try to get  a nap this afternoon, our kitchen floor is covered in boxes of food, first aid kit, clothes, shoes, drugs, (all of which are readily available over the counter!) the only thing I haven't got organised is my own stuff, but that's minimal in comparison so should only take half an hour this evening...

We have hired a small camper for the weekend and our friends James, Sarah and George will be travelling with me at various stages of the journey, I am not going into any detail, John has it all planned - he's good at logistics :-) and I'm sure it will come into some of his future blogs so I won't duplicate stuff.  Everybody knows their role and also thanks to the goodwill (and commercial savvy?) there will be early morning rolls on offer too in the wee sma' hours - thank you to the Beech Tree Inn and the Oak Tree Inn, it really is appreciated.
Just in case you've missed the excitement and hype of the past few months in friends' blogs or on facebook, this is what it's all about http://www.westhighlandwayrace.org/

I think the expectation is that about 180 starters will head under the famous underpass and up the steps at 1am on 22 June and all hopefully arrive in Fort William, 96miles and anything up to 35 hours later.
I wish them all a safe, and injury free race, can't wait to see you all pick up your crystal goblets at Sunday's prizegiving!

I guess I should go now and try and get my day into some sort of semblance of normal as I'm working til lunchtime but think will find it very, very hard to concentrate...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Friday, 17 May 2013

Back Running - at last! Hoorah!!

It seems like it was ages - ok it was ages it was 3 weeks...
However, Saturday 2nd May I managed to run/walk 2.5miles - up the Devil's Staircase in Kinlochleven - John was doing a long run that day - Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven, so I drove to the end to pick him up and decided to try a wee run while I was waiting.  It took me 20minutes to get up to meet him with 4 cough-stops, but only 9:30 to fly back down the hill, in my element, with no coughing :-)
Then on Sunday 3rd May we popped through to Chatelherault for the Sunday Social, a mottley crew who meet at random, run round the trails in various social or anti-social groups depending on your speed then all meet for coffee, cake, soup, breakfast etc and a good old blether.  I did 8km that day and ran on the hills which pleased me - less coughing though still had a rattle.  Best laugh of the day was the cakes hanging in the trees - One of our crew had been round the course earlier to hang cakes in the trees every half mile, to motivate another of our crew to make it round the course - not that she can't make it round but it added an incentive with a difference!  Only problem is that she is about 5'4" and he is about 6'4" (all measurements are approximate!) so I untied the cakes for her but when I got to the last one I had found a conveniently long stick to which I tied the last cake and ran home with it over my shoulder - to add a further incentive...
Another 5miles in my legs with lots of laughs!  Monday 4th May was our local holiday so we headed up to the West Highland Way again as John wanted to do another long run.  This time he did a cracking run from Tyndrum to Lundavra (ryhmes with wunder bra...)  I drove to Lundavra - that is an interesting exercise in itself, then I ran 4miles out to meet him and 4 miles back with him - it was ACE!! It had p'd down with rain all weekend and the path was running like a river, I crowned myself Queen of the Burn Runners lol!  It was fab, my cough was pretty much away and my legs were happy to be running again, it's tough terrain up there, but even on a dreich day, the views are still spectacular.  John posted some photos on his blog which will give you an idea of the day :-)
I didn't do any more running that week, I was saving myself for the weekend - Kintyre Way Ultra Relay - 67 miles from Tarbert to Campbeltown.
Friday night we finished work sharp and drove down, met our friends for dinner, lovely food if terribly slow service... again John has beaten me to it and written a great blog so pop back over for a look :-) if you follow the link above just read the Wee Ultra Run post...
Saturday morning bright and early, 5am(!) up to get John organised then head down to see our friend David set off on the first leg.  The weather wasn't bright it was p'ing down (again) but the smiles of the runners brightened up the morning gloom.  Alastair had unfortunately picked up an injury during the week so was unable to run so David did the second leg as well.  He arrived at the checkpoint like a drowned rat but with a grin of a cheshire cat!  His first experience of the ultra world and he had had an absolute ball!
Margaret took over to run leg 3 and she got lucky, the rain stopped!  9.5miles later she came storming up the hill to Tayinloan with an equally large grin and tales of water "up to here"!!  James set off up the hill towards the windfarm and over the top to the other side of the peninsula, he ran 15miles then Sheela took over.  6 scrambly miles later - and the rain had started again when she was about half an hour away - she also arrived smiling - at least I think it was a smile not a grimace!  Then at last 10 hours after I got up, it was my turn!  Up the farm road in the torrential rain and through the lovely mucky puddles, the wind battering the rain into my face, and loving it!  After about 1km I came to a big gate, and nearly burst into tears, I couldn't open it!  My gloves were sodden already and the bolt on the gate was really stiff, I couldn't get a grip on the bolt that would slide it open... at last I got it open and remembered to close it behind me.  Up and up and up and up and so it went for 4km - it was a bit more sheltered as we got into the forest, but still torrential rain.
Crested the top of the hill and time for the first downhill - the bits I like best, guess what?  A headwind that felt like someone was holding me still by putting their hand on my head and holding me in the one place - it was tough!  It's a lovely run down to Loch Lussa and at this point the rain had eased a little so the next couple of kilometres were almost pleasant.
Round the loch and then on the other side - and I quote from the race instructions.. you are now on an undulating tarmac road - tarmac yes, undulating? Eh naw.... bloody hilly!! Oh and also torrential rain and hail and winds again - but I was loving it :-)
I had anticipated it would have taken me 3h20-3h30 to finish the leg so I was absolutely delighted to get to the finish in 3h04 - and the rain stopped!  It was great to see Margaret and Alastair, David and John waiting for me at the start of the town, really gave me a wee boost to push for the finish.  This was a great race, fab people, lots of laughs, and a free feed in the hall at the end.  Best of all, my legs were tired but my lungs were in good nick. 
I got back to fitcamp on Monday evening for the first in 5 weeks, tired legs, but happy to be back in the zone, I had intended going Wednesday too but unfortunately work got in the way :-(  Last night I went to a 10k race, 63min, not my fastest but definitely not my slowest, and given how tired my legs still were I'm fairly happy with the result.  Made it along to fitcamp at 6:15 this morning so now my quads are NOT speaking to me!  Tomorrow we're heading off to Glenshee to support friends running the Cateran Ultra, so more later...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Fling...

 
Saturday 27 April 2013 6am
This date has been indelibly stamped on my brain since one evening last September, the eve of the Toronto waterfront marathon to be exact.  I was sitting in our rented apartment in Toronto, idly browsing facebook and keeping up with friends back here at home when up popped the notification that "The Fling" was open...
The Fling or to give it it's Sunday name, the Hoka Highland Fling 53 Mile Ultra Race is a well respected ultra race held on the last Saturday in April, following the first 'half' of the West Highland Way.  John was meant to run this in 2011 but got injured and so we were asked to help out marshalling at one of the checkpoints, we had a great day and I got the ultra bug that day.  Even though I never really believed that I was capable of running those sorts of distances on that kind of terrain, a wee fire had been kindled deep down inside.
2012 John entered again and had a great race finishing in just over 12hrs, I took part in the relay race with my fellow Runtime Error friends and then spent the next few months wondering if, just if, just maybe, I could do it.  I hadn't actually got round to thinking about it seriously until that night in Toronto and then it was all done in seconds.  Went something like this:  Me - "John do you think I could do The Fling?"
John - "Yes"
Me - "are you sure"
John - "Yes don't see why not"
then the curse that is Entry Central - akin to Amazon one-click shopping, the deed was done, the entry is processed before you have time to change your mind!
The rest as they say is history - most of you will know of the runs we did in training some good, some not so good, some awesome, but all completed, good hard, tough training miles into our legs, our lungs, and most importantly for me, our heads.
By the time we left for Boston 2 weeks ago, I was ready for my biggest challenge to date, I was confident I could do the miles, my only concern was that I might not be fast enough to make the cutoff at Beinglas Farm in time to be allowed to continue.  However I was determined I was going to give it my all and I was going to get to that gate on time.
It was unfortunately not to be :-(
John has blogged about his race in Boston and how he didn't get the time he was after and indeed didn't feel 100%, it now seems that he was brewing the lurgy, some kind soul passed on their bugs to us and by the Wednesday after Boston he had a horrid cough which then developed into a full blown sinus/chest thing :-(  I started feeling grotty on the Friday we got home but put it down to jetlag and travelling and getting over the trauma of the bombings, however by Tuesday afternoon I knew it was the same thing and subsequently have been off work since Wednesday.
Ever hopeful John kept trying to hold on to the tenuous hope that he might be better by Saturday, by Thursday evening I knew that my race was scuppered and yes I was devastated, I went to bed feeling very sorry for myself and just wanting to cry and moan that it was SO UNFAIR!!  The biggest race of my life to date, all the hard work I'd put in to get fit for it and now it wasn't going to happen!  All because somebody gave us a bug :-(   As I said in a recent post - I know that in the light of the atrocities we witnessed in Boston, this is not really a big deal, but yes at that moment in time and to me it was the biggest deal and it hurt like hell!
Friday morning John conceded that nope he wasn't well enough either and so the decision was made we would both be a DNS.
I really wanted to go through to registration on Friday evening to say hi to friends and to pick up my car pass which you pay for over and above your entry and which allows entry to the Beinglas checkpoint.  I wanted to go out on Saturday and support our friends and it's a good place to see people, so we went through to Milngavie on Friday evening, caught up with some friends, got some much appreciated hugs and words of sympathy then came home to get ready for an early start.
Saturday dawned bright and fair, yet again it was perfect Fling weather, bright and sunny, not too warm, and not too windy.  A quick coffee and pack some stuff and we were ready to head out, first stop Balmaha.  We got to Balmaha just as the first runners were passing through, as always, the checkpoints run like clockwork, runners arrive, get their drop bags, get their water topped up if required, some stop for a chat with their support crews, others just fly on through.  Our friend Sarah was in full flow calling out the runner's numbers to the bag crew, so much so that she didn't even see us there :-)  We waited for our friends to all get through then headed to the Oak Tree inn for breakfast.  After our own refuelling stop it was on up the road to Rowardennan, this is the end of the road and also the busiest checkpoint in terms of traffic as it's a relay changeover point as well.  Another friend Alan was working the bag crew here under the experienced and watchful eye of Mrs Mac :-)
Caught up with 'our team' again, saw them all through, and then we drove up to Beinglas.  This is a really interesting place to see the runners as it's after the most technical and demanding stage of the course, it's 40miles in and it's the toughest clamberiest (I know I made it up) part of the route, but what a sense of achievement when you do it!  Listening to the comments of runners coming in was at times highly amusing as there are many who run this race who have no idea of the route, and there were a lot of folk who seemed to be at the end of their reserves and were mentally fatigued by what they'd just been through.  Again there's an opportunity for runners to rest, feed, or pick up and go whatever suits them, the team who mans this checkpoint is great, they are all very experienced and they know to watch for wobbly runners or those who are a bit green around the edges, making sure they sit down, get a drink, food etc.  Here too the guys from the Wilderness Response Team offer their assistance.
Next stop for John and I was Tyndrum - the end of the line, we knew when we were at Beinglas that the leaders had finished and that new course records had been set - perhaps in some part due to the new paths that have been laid this Spring, perhaps just due to faster runners...
We got the last parking spot in the carpark at the Real Food Cafe, wandered down to the finish line - it wasn't there??? Spotted a sign and followed it round and there was a fantastic finish chute and marquees for runners to get massages, hot soup, shelter, warm showers - Wow!  The old finish was ace but this was Awesome!  It was busy and we caught up with Sarah and David Ross who had been bag man at Inversnaid and was now at finish helping out.  More welcome hugs :-)  All of 'our team' finished with spectacular times, all smiling and it was great to be there to cheer them in.  
There is no denying that it was the absolute pits not being able to run yesterday but being there and seeing our friends achieve the dream we had all shared and trained hard for over the winter helped to ease the pain a little.  I'm not going to list them all here, they  know who they are, and if you follow us on facebook there's a fair chance you know who they are too - suffice to say they are all Awesome!! Absolutely amazing and each with their own stories to tell.  There will be other Flings and we will run them, but 2013 wasn't to be for us but I am so happy for those it happened for.
Lastly, events like this don't happen by magic, Johnny Fling puts in a power of work organising this event every year, ably assisted by a great team of 80 volunteers.  To all of them thank you xxx

Friday, 19 April 2013

Boston 2013

 A full frontage of a pub 100m from the finish line, decorated to celebrate the arrival of thousands of runners to takepart in the 117th Boston marathon.

You will I am sure be aware that there was a lot of excitement in the Munro household, and in our wider circle of friends about our trip to Boston.  John has worked so hard for the last 6 years to earn his place on the start line, and on 9 April, we set off on what was to become a far more epic adventure than we could ever have imagined... 
Before we left, John blogged about his journey to the start line, it's well worth a read!
We flew to Iceland on 9 April with Icelandair and enjoyed a stopover in Keflavik - not the most exciting place we've ever visited, but ideal for spending the day at the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa.  We had a lovely day there, sun was shining, air temperatures were freezing, but the water was extremely warm and pleasant.  The silica and algae skin treatments were lovely and John enjoyed the dried fish crisps - I didn't!
After a very relaxing day, onwards to Logan International Airport where we met James and Sheela who had flown in from Heathrow. 
We did lots of touristy things and I could write them all down in order, but they pale into insignificance in the light of the tragic events which since unfolded.  Suffice to say that we loved our time in Boston, it's a nice city, it has friendly people, lovely places to eat, plenty to keep the tourists busy, and if you're a shopper, plenty of opportunity for that too.  (oh and fabulous salads in the Cheesecake Factory)
I posted many photographs on facebook showing what we were up to, so I'm sure you've seen them all already :-) However the main reason for the trip was The Marathon, the city was building up nicely with banners and bunting and windows decorated like the one above.  The runners coming is a huge event each April for Boston and all the Towns on the 26.2 mile route in from Hopkinton.

You are all I know, aware of the atrociticies which took place at the finish line on Monday 15 April, we had many friends running in the race, all of whom are thankfully safe and well, only two of them were unable to complete the course, being stopped a mile before the finish and walked to safety by race officials and police.  All the rest were safely through the finish line before the bombs went off. 
There has been 24/7 coverage of the events on Global News networks, much of which I'm sure you've seen/heard/read, and I don't intend to add anything to this other than to say that both John and I were there when the bombs went off, and are extremely fortunate that events transpired in such a way that we were both clear of the blasts and were able to meet up with each other shortly after the explosions.  I have no desire to go into details but will say it was without doubt the scariest half hour of my life until I was able to spot him in the crowd, hug him and shed the first of many tears.  We made our way home, walking the mile back to our apartment amongst crowds of similarly confused runners/supporters who at that time had no clue what had happened.  My phone was going crazy with texts from friends and family asking if we were ok -  these people were of course, following the news and knew what was happening in much greater detail than we did.  Our journey home had the soundtrack of wailing sirens from emergency service vehicles.  Boston Uni Med Centre was at the end of our street, and many of the ambulances were taking the same route as we were.  The rest of the details you know, 3 people were killed and now I think in the region of 180 people seriously injured by the bombs.
There were no post race celebrations on Monday night - we had planned to meet up with our Canadian friends, but it didn't seem appropriate so we stayed close to home, and spent the evening catching up with all the messages from friends and family, reassuring everyone that we were safe and well.
On Tuesday morning we left Boston, James and Sheela headed North to Rockport for a couple of days, and John and I headed South to Cape Cod and a couple of days in Provincetown.  We had a wonderful couple of nights in 8Dyer Hotel Frank is the perfect host, the rooms are fabulous and the lounge/lobby area are comfortable, welcoming and perfect for relaxing in.  Breakfasts are amazing :-)
Provincetown and the beaches are beautiful, we went to Race Point beach yesterday on our way home and spotted the waterspouts of whales!  We then meandered up the road towards Boston, stopping at Chatham for lunch then Plymouth to see 'the rock' glad we didn't spend a day visiting that tourist attraction!  Of course, if you go to Provincetown you'll learn that the Pilgrims actually landed there first and there is a memorial tower here commerating this event.  We arrived at Logan International Airport just before 6pm, plenty of time to check in, get something to eat and board our 9.30pm flight.  There was as you can imagine a vastly increased police presence and extra security checks to be gone through, but apart from some nasty turbulence during the first couple of hours it was a reasonable flight and we got home just before 12 noon.

I'm sorry this isn't the blow by blow account of all the fun times we had, the things we saw, the wonderful and exciting atmosphere at the 5k race on Sunday and the Marathon itself on Monday, but I'm sure you'll understand why...
To all of you who texted or sent facebook messages asking after us, to those of you who followed John and James' wee stick men live online on Monday, to all of you we count as friends, heartfelt thanks for your thoughts and messages of concern.  To all the fellow runners, citizens of Boston, complete strangers, who smiled, spoke a few quiet words or shared a handshake in fellowship, thank you.  Maybe over time, I will write some more about it but until then, if you're a runner keep on running, if your not, then support and encourage those you love who do run xx

 

Saturday, 30 March 2013

I Told You So!

and so he did.... at least 7 times before bedtime last night!

Yesterday was the first day of our 4 day Easter weekend, and I decided to do my long run of the weekend rather than put it off until today.  Couldn't do it tomorrow (Sunday) as we are going to go up to Perth to watch the Anglo Celtic Plate 50km and 100km races and to support friends.  If I put it off until Monday then it's into next week's running so doesn't count apparently ;-)
So, up nice and early - who needs an alarm when the daylight is creeping round the edges of the curtains at 5:30am?  Up at about 20 past 6 and downstairs to put the porridge on.  I had sort of planned to run from Milngavie to about the foot of Conic Hill and back as I was looking for 24 miles but John who is now officially tapering for Boston in 2 weeks, decided he'd like to run with me but he wasn't enamoured with Milngavie out and back as he's done it a few times recently... I let him coerce me into running from Balmaha to potentially past Rowardennan and back!  I have done this once before way back at the start of my WHW running adventures in February 2011 and it nearly killed me that day!  I have since run twice from Drymen to Rowardennan on my own, once as a practice and once as the second leg of the Hoka Highland Fling relay last April.  I did much better on those two occasions than the first time I'm glad to report.  So I wasn't too phased about it, other than when we were driving towards Buchlyvie and it started to snow - we left the house in sunshine!  I realised that I hadn't brought any spikes for my shoes so had a wee panic that there might be snow or ice to contend with - I have real issues with icy roads :-(
Fortunately it was but a passing flurry and we arrived at Balmaha in dry if cold conditions.  A quick visit to the facilities at the Oak Tree Inn and we headed off down the path along the lochside.  First set of steps - god how I hate those stone steps that litter this route - and an unscheduled stop as I thought I was suffering from a leaky bladder... quick recycling of a zip bag as a precautionary measure and we were on our way.  The first 3miles were AWFUL!!!! This is where the I told you sos started.... you see I had done my usual 3 fitcamp sessions this week, Mon, Wed, Thurs and they were all tough!  However on Thursday I had a rare chance to get to the treadmill at lunchtime and decided to do a wee interval session which I thorougly enjoyed but which was the fastest running I've ever done... so.... as you can guess my legs were screaming!!!  Hey ho... At mile 3 John suggested that I decide whether I wanted to turn back - how dare he??  I said no I might not do 12 miles out and back but I would definitely go to Rowardennan and probably turn back there.
Now it usually takes 40min to an hour for me to warm up on this sort of terrain at my plodding pace, so things started to get better and even the 'dreaded steps' that I have had nightmares in the past about weren't nearly as bad as I remembered them... I even got a row for running down the path at 9:30 pace!  Though I don't think I was going that fast!
We got to Rowardennan and stopped to use the facilities and I changed my shirt there as I was too warm in 2 long sleeve tops as the sun had come out, so I swapped one for a short sleeve T and then proceeded to be quite cold on the way back when the sun disappeared and the wind blew in off the Loch!  Typical!
I'm still not getting the feeding 100% right, but I am getting better as I did say at the hour and 2 hour mark that I needed to eat something so that's progress :-)
John was running up all the big hills like some sort of Ibex or other fleet footed mountain climber - it was truly a sight to behold and at one point I stopped to watch him and wanted to woop and holler but didn't as I was worried he'd think there was something wrong and think he'd to come back to get me :-)
I much much prefer to run this route in one direction only as I think it's much tougher coming back the way - there are some big climbs on this section - cumulative climbing was 451metres - that's adding up all the Ups - so it's no wonder my poor legs were dead by the last hill... he only told me so another twice on the route, then another time in the pub when our friend Bob had the audacity to agree! Then I think it was another 4 or 5 times before bedtime LOL!
As I came back into Balmaha I met Karl Zeiner and Debbie Brupacher, they are running the full WHW on 3 days and various friends from our facebook community have joined them for part of it - we met some of them at Balmaha as they'd stopped for a break and were heading on to Rowardennan where there was a previously-planted car to drive back to Balmaha for some food at the Oak Tree, then back to Milngavie to pick up various other cars and head home.  Others are meeting them today to run some of the next part and yet more tomorrow I think.  Yes I was pretty gubbed at the end, and I'd only got 15 (tough) miles instead of 24 (gentler) miles, but as my wee mouse at the top of this post reminds me it didn't kill me, or to quote John in a recent post I'm not dead yet!!
So tomorrow will be a day of cheering and flag waving and watch the real big guns fight to keep the AC Plate in Scottish hands, Monday will be our fitcamp anniversary so I'll be heading to the morning camp, and that gives us the rest of our day off to do something - or not as the fancy takes us.  Then it will be one more week at work then we're off :-)
Happy Easter everyone  xxx