Wednesday, 28 June 2017

WEST HIGHLAND WAY RACE 2017

After 7 months of training the WHW weekend had arrived, 96 miles with 15000ft of elevation to negotiate to collect goblet number three. Race prep had been structured well and my race crew of Mark and Duncan from the last two attempts were alongside me again to assist me along the way. We had also been given a big boys toy car for the weekend for the lads to have fun with courtesy of Evans Halshaw.



Having struggled a little in the last few months with a sore left foot and an on and off hip niggle I knew my ultimate goal of an 18 hour finish was going to be a big ask but I wrote the plan for that with other contingencies if I was off the pace. On Thursday I had a tight right hamstring but I just put it down to resting with only a few miles ran in the week leading up to the start but come 1am on Saturday morning standing on the start line I was still massaging and stretching it to get it loosened. I said to Mark it would probably ease of after a few miles but it turned out it was 41 miles at Beinglas till it eased off and then I suspect the damage for compensating had been done and now the plan had been ripped up and just finishing was the new target.

At Auchtertyre Farm I was 1.5kg under my starting weight and realised I hadn't been drinking enough so had a mullerrice and a bottle of water here and asked the lads to meet me again at Tyndrum for another snack and juice.

Photo by Chuck Gordon at Tyndrum
The blue skies at Tyndrum were to be the last I would observe for the rest of the race as the weather decided to take a turn for the worse. As I approached the last climb on Rannoch Moor a topless *male* relay runner came past me asking how far to Glencoe and I replied it was about 2 miles from where we were, 1 mile to the top of the climb and 1 mile downhill. I thought to myself he must have been feeling the heat and in all fairness it was actually great running weather but just as I got to the top of the climb a rather ominous breeze hit me and then I got drenched with hailstones and rain. This had an amazing effect on me as the cold took an instant hold and I felt my body start to slow right down. By the time I got to the checkpoint I was shivering and honestly didn't know where I was.

It is at this point a good crew are worth their weight in gold and Mark and Duncan got me straight in the motor, gear changed and thoroughly heated up. Mark even disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a half litre of milky hot coffee which went down a treat. As I set off again the first thoughts of a DNF set in. The lads stopped at Kingshouse to double check I was fine but I was shivering so they made me sit in the motor again till this wore off. Although I lost about 40 minutes here it was the best thing to do and after exiting Kingshouse I had a great shift over the Devils Staircase and down in to Kinlochleven and the final checkpoint. Final weigh in and I was good to go, although had to change pack here as it was now mandatory full waterproof kit.

The climb up on to Lairig Moor was as quick as I have ever done but the joy of that was to be short lived as once up there it was absolutely howling. Head first into a the wind and driving rain there was nothing for it head down and move. There was hardly a part for the next 6 miles where you were not going through water so much so my toes began to feel freezing. At this point when every bit of me was soaked and even my sealskin waterproof gloves were squelching my mind began to wander and a funny thought came to me which I just couldn't stop thinking about * *what good will that foil blanket do me now** I just laughed out loud, f**k the blanket the only thing saving me now will be speed as I cannot afford to get any colder. I just legged it as fast as possible to get to Lundavra, meet the crew and change gear. I didn't pause my watch here as I was just letting it go from start to finish but I am going to try and calculate my final split without the stop in the vehicle again as I did cover the final section quickly when actually moving.

Lundavra to the finish was rather uneventful, although I was pleased they have altered the descent to the small wooden bridge in the forest section as I have slipped down that a few times. My last 3 miles were the fastest of the day so still had something left in the old legs. Finish time at the Leisure Centre was 21hrs 10minutes, slower than expected but a finish nonetheless.

That one was for you DAD.

WHW RACE - Strava details




That is 3 starts and 3 finishes so think I will let it rest at that for a while and try and get some speed back in my legs.

Many thanks to to Mark and Duncan for sterling support throughout, without them I would have been out at Glencoe. To James Stewart and Rob Soutar, cheers guys your support has been immense.

To Ian/Sean/Adrian/John and the cast of hundreds of marshalls on the WHW crew thank your for putting on another great race.

To my long suffering wife and son thanks for putting up with my falling asleep at 6pm on a Sunday evening after getting up at 4:30am on my Sunday days off to get my long training runs in, you will be rewarded with a holiday which may or may not involve a race!!!!


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

WHW TAPER TIME

So six months of all out training and the taper has begun towards next weekends 2017 'A' Race, the West Highland Way Race. It has been a quick 6 months and I cannot say I have enjoyed it all, in fact it just shows how precious life is and how we should all get out there and live for the moment as life is such a cruel thing at time.

In my last blog I reported how a great friend and long time running mentor had died suddenly and how I was wearing my old club vest in his memory for the rest of the year. Well it turned out I was going to get hit with another shock when on the 27th March my dad died suddenly. To say this was a shock would be an understatement as there had been no indication of any problems and he was actually active till the end, so much so that it was on a group ride with friends out on his road bike he had a heart attack which took him instantly. He was half way up the Crow Road climbing the Campsie Fells at the time and the only positive thought I could put on it at the time was at least he was doing something he enjoyed and he suffered no pain.




It is times like that when friends rally round and the support we all received was tremendous and I would like to say a big thanks everyone who contacted me with kind wishes and thoughts. On the Sunday after my dads death we had arranged a group run and Alex Potter mentioned a song that had touched him in similar circumstances and when I got home he had sent it to me on itunes so I thought I would share it with you all as if I am crying you all may as well join in.





Training continued on and my appetite for running slowly filtered back and with the support of Michael, Rob, Alex , Mark and James I now think I am as fit as I should be for the race so hopefully I can do myself justice with a great WHW race and I suppose I don't need to say it but 'this one is for you dad'.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

WEST HIGHLAND WAY RACE TRAINING UPDATE

Time is now closing in on the West Highland Way Race start with 13 weeks to go till the big day. December and January were great training months with great weather apart from the odd wet day. My first block of training through Christmas and New Year led me nicely up to the Dubai Marathon on Friday 20th January.

Being a loving family guy I had managed to squeeze the marathon in on the way to Phuket for my summer 2016 holiday, I know it was late but better late than never. So a few days relaxing at the Atlantis Palm hotel with a few easy runs to acclimatize and catch up with family. One thing I had to compromise on when booking was Linda said her and Andrew didn't care how far away from the marathon start the hotel was that was where they were staying so I had to get up a little earlier than I had really wanted to get to the start at 6.30am.



You could not get a more relaxed or easy marathon to get to the start line and I kid you not the taxi dropped me 200 metres from the start line, in fact it was a longer walk to the toilets. Michael had messaged me that he was approaching from the other side of the start line and quickly we had met up and headed for the starting pens. Unlike Berlin it was apparent we were in for a bit of a messy start as a few not so svelte runners pushed their way as near the start tape as they could. Not to worry I wasn't chasing the world record today but this did cause a problem for a certain elite runner who I had to vault over a few seconds after the start.

The race itself was rather uneventful although a bit warmer than last year at the start and really hot on the return section once the sun broke through the early morning haze. It was remarkable the amount of elite runners walking back to the finish having totally blown up enroute, gives you a good feeling to know you have paced it sensibly when you see the mess of some of them. Janet had kindly offered to hand us our drinks bottles as her and Michaels hotel was at the 13/22 mile point in the race and I was certainly in need of my tailwind on the return stretch.



We both had good runs with Michael slowing slightly more than me in the final 2 miles fighting cramp, I crossed the line in 2:57:31 and Michael 2:57:44. At the finish we were approached by a gentleman complimenting us on our running vests which he had spied, turns out he is the boss of Frontrunner, the company I use for all my t-shirts hats and buffs. With the time only now being 9:35 am I reckoned I could still make breakfast at the hotel and with the taxi rank being exactly where I had been dropped earlier I was back in the hotel 20 minutes later and Linda and Andrew were at a table waiting for me. I managed to have a recovery scoff and then conked out on a sunlounger.




After a relaxing week in Phuket with a few recovery runs thrown in it was back home with the next race up the Kirkintilloch 12.5km, an annual test of how good the winter training has gone. As this was a long run day I tied this in with a 10km warm up over to the start and a 10km warm down after the race. Training must be going ok as I was 20 seconds faster than last year and felt comfortable all the way even in rather blustery conditions. This all lead on nicely to 4 weeks of mile building for the Loch Katrine Marathon on Sunday 19th March.

The build up to Loch Katrine had been good but an ongoing niggle in my shoulder seemed to move downwards to my glute and hamstring but I have been managing it with stretching and rolling. Training partner Rob had also been beset with injury and was on the comeback from broken ribs so we had had a good few weekend runs looking forward to this race. Raceday itself and the weather was not looking too promising but by the time we got to LK it looked like we were going to have pleasant conditions, a little wind but nothing to seriously hamper the run.

I don't know what was going on
I will not go in to too much detail but this is a race which soon finds out if you are below par or not and after about 5 miles with my right leg constantly pinging away I sussed I couldn't maintain the pace required to stick with Rob and the other lad he was chasing and had to ease off and let them surge ahead in the hope I would reel them in later. Sadly this wasn't the case and I gradually lost time on them on the return leg after the turn at Stronachlachar. Rob went on to win in 2:58 and I came in 4th in 3:07 a full 13 minutes down on my winning time 2 years ago. Now is the time to get the leg seen to with bigger targets ahead, so physio this week to get it sorted.

Many thanks and lots of praise again to Audrey McIntosh and the full support crew at this running festival, such a great event from the 10k, half and full marathon. If you haven't done any of the races before stick it in your diary for next year, you will not be disappointed : LOCH KATRINE MARATHON

Sadly on the Thursday before the race I attended the funeral of great friend and running club colleague Kenny McVey who had died suddenly after a short illness. This had come as a great shock to all of us at Victoria Park City of Glasgow and I had spoken to him a couple of days before his death regarding upcoming races. Kenny was the first person I had contact with when I joined the club and I will always remember with fondness his tales when out running on our Sunday morning runs from the Allander Sports Centre. One thing he always wanted was the club to retain the original hooped vest the club had before the Victoria Park AC merger with City of Glasgow a few years back so in memory of him I decided I will be wearing my hooped jersey for the rest of the season and Sunday was the first outing.


Me and Kenny

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

THE BELATED BERLIN AND LOCH RANNOCH MARATHON BLOG AND MORE!!!!!

You know you have lapsed a bit in the blogging stakes when you come to do a review of the year and the last report was 5 months ago so I will try and be brief and catch up in as few paragraphs as possible. I like to do report on races I have done to give as much information to others who are thinking about entering the same races a little insight on what to expect.

After the John Lucas 50 Mile next up was the Berlin Marathon where I was again meeting Michael for another jolly around a city. We had both targeted this as a possible sub 2:50 and for me this was the years 'A' race having taken a step away from the ultras for the year. Unfortunately we had both been having back problems and it was apparent as the race fastly approached that it was just going to be a set off and see how it goes day. My problems got so bad I finally gave in and sought help from Matt Williamson, a fellow ultra runner and highly recommended physio. The diagnosis was actually not too bad but the fix was not going to happen in time for Berlin, in fact the fix is still ongoing but gradually I am feeling like a runner again and many thanks to Matt for getting to the root of a 3 year problem.

So the brief report of Berlin is it is a marvellous race in a beautifully friendly city with top notch organisation. From arriving at the airport to negotiating the train system it was a great weekend, and we even managed to get Andrew entered in the kids race on the Saturday which he loved.



Andrew in his Barcelona running gear catching the German tri lad finishing 4th
Myself and Michael had a couple of early morning runs before race day taking the opportunity to send a few selfies and the rest of the days were spent sightseeing, eating and drinking.



Linda and Andrew had a great time chasing German pokeman whilst touring Checkpoint Charlie and then onto Berlin Zoo whilst I discovered a love for alcohol free lager.




The race itself went fine and due to some great German efficiency the starting pens had the correct people in the allocated expected finish times and at no time from the start did you feel as if you were being held back by slower runners. Those who run London for example will understand what I mean here and it does make for an more even paced relaxed start. The course itself is almost flat and we ran together till just after half way when I pulled ahead of Michael. Now at no point did I see him pass me nor does he have any recollection of passing me from then but at 40km where we had planned to see Linda , Janet and Andrew where they would have juice for us if required Janet took a photo and remarkably we were almost next to each other without knowing it.

He's beside you!!!

I grabbed a bottle of coke from Linda here and downed it and glanced to my right with Michael asking 'where did you come from?'


I asked if he was feeling good and fancied pushing it and as usual was told to go do one so off I plodded with little under 2km to go. Similar to London when Big Ben fails to get much bigger as you approach it the Brandenburg Gate seemed a long way off as you approach it but once under it a couple of hundred metre with throngs of cheering support you cruise down to the finish line. I finished in 2:57:23 and Michael 2:57:40 , both satisfied considering how our training had been going.

Slightly burst we headed for post race nutrition and hydration.


The general consensus is Berlin is a great marathon and a smashing city for a family break too, only downside would be the race entry fee which I believe is now about £120.

So next up was the Loch Rannoch Marathon which I had only entered as I was driving Catherine, and Holly up for the full marathon and Collette for the half marathon and thought why not enter the full bhuna it has been weeks since I raced. The weather was a bit blowy but not unexpected for Perthshire in October.



The girls were all sporting their new team vests for the race, so easily seen enroute. The half marathon runners are meant to be bussed out to halfway before the full marathon starts but the buses were late arriving so the marathon started on time with the half runners still in Kinloch Rannoch. My legs felt fine till about 12 miles when I just started feeling sluggish and Berlin kicked in. Just before halfway 2 big coaches were blocking the road and we had to divert onto the verge to pass them as the disembarking half runners made their way to the start. This meant the return leg along the other side of the loch was going to be lonely as I had been expecting to be chasing down half marathon runners but as they hadn't started obviously no company to be had and the water stops unmanned. It got a bit blowy and wet on the return and I certainly felt myself slow down but held it together enough to finish in 3:00:06. All the ladies had great runs and were delighted with their finishing times and Holly completed her charity fundraising marathon.

Bus problems aside this would also make my list of recommended marathons.

That brought the marathon count for the year to six, quite a bit for a rest year but they have all been fun and times have all been consistent although no PBs broke.


Final race of the year is the Glen Ogle 33 , my 6th year of running it and remaining an ever present. I always find the new start tough on this with a lack of energy going uphill for the first 4 miles but normally get a second wind coming down. The weather gods were kind this year although a bit cold for my liking but nothing to worry about.

Sharing a few miles with Euan Craig




 Mostly the run went fine sharing a few downhill miles with Euan Craig (no relation) till he ran away from me and it was great to see all the cheery marshalls and share a hug or two. I felt a bit lethargic on the return up the cycle path and just eased off to a comfortable pace and kept it all together to finish without doing any damage. 10 minutes slower than previously but no complaints as it has been a great year of steady running.

Plans for 2017

With all that done and dusted my hope now was securing a place for the West Highland Way Race 2017 and luckily it was confirmed in the 1st week of December I had been successful. Having completed the race twice previously I have a good idea of the training involved as can be seen from the tab at the top for my previous training schedules but I am really taking this next attempt seriously and will embark on some more structured training than before. I have already started this and am on about week 7 of it with the first 'B' race of the year 2 weeks away at the Dubai Marathon on the 20th January. The second 'B' race will be the Highland Fling in April all structured towards the 'A' race for the year in June, Milngavie to Fort William 95 miles of fun. There are a few other races in between the main races but I will be treating them all as training and will build them in to the plan.

Sadly I have declined my London Marathon pacing slot for this year as it is the week before the Fling and my new found sensible head ruled the pacing out but hopefully I will return next year although if something does go awry I do have a good for age slot which can be deferred right up till race day.

So that is us all caught up and I will not leave it as long from on in, monthly updates will be appearing with hopefully the Dubai report at the end of January.

Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year and look forward to catching up throughout the year.