That’s what you call it right? When you’re looking to put some gloss on the latest failure?
Well, since the West Highland Way race end of June, my character has come on leaps and bounds.
First up was a Bob Graham Round attempt on the 6th July, 2 weeks after the race. So, no real time for resting, training or tapering. My fault – I knew it was tight but really wanted to try as I had the opportunity to do it with a friend and some other fantastic runners and support. For anyone not familiar with a BGR it’s pretty straightforward: you have 42 Lake District peaks to top in 24 hrs. You set out from Keswick and tackle each of the fells in a specific order, ensuring you return to Keswick not a minute over the 24hrs – doing so is classed as a success. There’s no race, no fanfare just a daunting 26,000ft of ascent along 66 miles of Lakeland terrain (amongst other things). One of those being the weather. Turns out the 6th was one of the worst days I remember from any summer. We had planned a 6pm start and looking back, the signs were all there – it was wet, it was windy and looked ominous. (more…)
Can’t believe I’m writing my report already. It’s done. It’s gone for another year and already I’m dreading the long wait for its return. I love the West Highland Way race. There, I said it. There is always a drama, there are times when you’d choose to be anywhere else in the world but for now at least, it feels like a home-race.
I won’t go in to all the details – there are a lot of other reports for you to get through and you’ve probably heard most of the same stuff from me for a while. In short, training had been good, taper was pretty straightforward and I was more organised than the year before thanks to all we had learned on my first WHW race. I arrived in Milngavie feeling good but perhaps not as confident as I had hoped having pulled out of the Cateran Ultra after 20 miles or so due to stomach problems. It was an emotional exit having won it the year before and had been extra stoked by the fantastic line-up of talent on the day. It wasn’t to be though – so had to try to put it to the back of my mind.
First race of the season was the D33 in Aberdeen (March 17th). Just 12 months before, it was the first ultra I’d ever run and I was excited to see if I was now running better after a full season of racing. Turns out the second time at the race was no less significant but for different reasons entirely. As the title suggests this is the first race I’ve DNF’d. The dreaded stomach issues were with me the night before and didn’t get much better after breakfast. I thought I’d be fine when I started running so stuck very much with the plan and set out at a decent pace. The pressure / pain in my stomach wouldn’t shift however and after 20 miles or so, I couldn’t race any longer – I couldn’t chase the 2 in front and I couldn’t hold off those behind. (more…)
The New Balance Minimus MT-00
I’ve been a fan of the Minimus MT-10 for a while. From the first time I ditched the socks and took off onto a Lakeland trail I had a really good feeling about them. Yeah, that day the trails were smooth, the ground was dry and I was basking in an unexpected week of British sunshine before the official start of winter. Good times. Since then I have had them back home on some rougher (and wetter) Scottish trails where they’ve performed well although with a couple of small issues (details to follow).
Overall the MT-00 is lighter and a touch more ‘minimal’ than its older brother. As the name suggests, it’s a zero-drop shoe vs. the previous 4mm drop on the MT-10. Not a huge difference in the grand scheme of things – it’s the weight difference that feels more drastic than the differential balancing.The NB designers have clearly gone crazy with a scalpel and removed most of the rubber from between the circular pods making the sole not only lighter but much more flexible. As the pods appear much more pronounced as a result of the cut-back’s, they feel grippier too – the MT-10’s had very little on wet grass / mud. The rubber compound also feels different – they’re definitely stickier, making them at home over rocks and hard trails. They also feel decent on the road although I think they’d wear super-quick vs some of the other barefoot road shoes (like the New Balance MR-00). (more…)
The vivobarefoot Ultra
Now, this is a no-nonsense shoe in terms of build. It has no midsole, no arch support, it’s zero-drop and maybe has 4-6mm of ‘puncture resistant’ material to protect those soft ultra feet. The upper has holes all over and the laces are elastic. So, all in all, not your regular running shoe.
Vivobarefoot pitch this as an ‘amphibious’ off-road barefoot shoe. This I think is what has destined them for the sale rack (not that I’m complaining). It didn’t review particularly well when launched and in my view that’s because it doesn’t really belong anywhere near a trail. (more…)
Well, it’s been a while. It’s February already so I guess it’s time to crawl out of my cardboard box, escape the warm corner of the shed and dust off those well worked 2011 reptilian running legs.
2011 was a cracker. 2012 is gonna be even better!
Last weekend I met up with some fine people in the Lakes to run over some hills, eat, sleep and run some more. That was the plan anyway, and that’s pretty much what happened. (more…)
Weather – perfect
Turnout – excellent
Scenery – stunning
Pretty much all the ingredients were there for a great race through the Glen and back. Due to the higher than expected numbers the route was changed at the start which meant a couple of extra up’s and down’s on some forest track. Better than the planned road start any day!
I have a place at the Beacons Ultra on the 19th November if anyone fancies it? Entry closed weeks ago as it’s a pretty popular race. I’m not going to be able to make it now. Looks like a cracking race. Entry was £40 – yours for £35. Just give me a shout if you fancy it. Go on!!
Nice way to finish the season.
Well, look what arrived the other day!
It’s not really that exciting is it? Well, it doesn’t really matter what it is or what’s inside the box. Not that I don’t care. I do. A lot. It’s the trophy for finishing 3rd in this year’s Scottish Ultra Marathon Series.
Whilst I was well-beaten to 1st and 2nd, I guess it is an achievement considering the strength, experience and talent of the other competitors. I dare say I probably had a bit of luck along the way, although I have worked hard for it, completing 6 races and running as hard as I could in each one. More than acceptable in Season 1.
It’s just that the way I was presented it, was much more important to me than the accolade itself. There was no presentation, no clapping and no champagne.
It was given to me by the most important man that’s ever been in my life. My Dad. And, he shook my hand and said “Well done Son.” Does it really get any better than that? For me, no, I don’t think it does. I’ve had such incredible support from my Dad (and the rest of my family) all my life and trying not to let them down is something that courses through me, and always will. I guess the ‘white box’ was an opportunity for him to let me know that I’m doing ok – making every stride of each race (occasionally in the wrong direction), every 4.30am training run, every sickly energy gel, bout of cramp and lost toenail more than worthwhile. I’d do it all over again (except quicker!) for another one of those.
So, thank you SUMS – it was an awesome 2011.
Let’s just wait and see 🙂
….and it wasn’t even Highland Fling Day!
Had a cracking run last Friday. Weather (from nowhere) turned, and it was a fantastic blue-sky day for running across some familiar but inspiring trails.
I parked up in Drymen, and took the WHW over Conic Hill to Balmaha. From there it was on to my most dreaded section of WHW to Rowardennan. I don’t really know why – the trail itself is good, the views are great. It just always feels much longer than it is whenever I’ve run it (and particularly in a race).
At Rowardennan there was something missing (other than the wee toilets – what happened to them?). Took me a while to work it out…..Midges! No midges and the sun was out – all very strange. From there I headed up Ben Lomond.
Being a Friday the Ben wasn’t too busy, passing only a few walkers on the way up. Being the closest Munro to Glasgow it does get it’s fair share of visitors ‘fae the toon’. On a clear day though it does have some spectacular views from the top. (more…)
After the River Ayr Way race, it was home for a bath and some food, then pack some stuff for a few days in the Lake District with family.
We were so lucky with the weather and managed a few decent walks as well as some time relaxing and reading.
I also managed to get few runs in. The Coledale Horseshoe looked good on paper and didn’t disappoint. The route starts in Braithwaite. You can park beside the school easy enough (particularly if it’s before sun-up!).
Follow the road towards Cockermouth, passing a couple of paths both sides of the road to a small car park on the left (I guess you might be able to park there – it’s small though and probably fills up quick). The Grisedale path is marked and immediately starts with some fairly steep steps. Me being me, I blindly took the other path for a mile until I realised I’d gone the wrong way. Turns out it was worth it anyway as the sun delivered a morning treat.
Grisedale Pike is pretty runnable although steep in parts and rocky underfoot, making a mis-judged step a potential sore-one. Near the top it’s hands on thighs stuff for a while.
From there I headed on over an ‘unamed peak’ (according to the guidebook) to Hopegill Head – again all runnable.
Then a quick left over Sand Hill and onto the saddle of Coledale Hause. From there it’s a really pleasant trail until you reach a junction. I chose to go right first and head up onto Grassmoor for some amazing views over Loweswater, Crummock Water and Buttermere. (more…)
I’ll keep it short.
Weather turned out pretty decent following the heavy rain on the Friday. Arrived at Glenbuck in plenty of time, registered and chatted to some friendly faces. Got ready to race – warmed up, then just hung about until they finally managed to gather everyone and start the race around 20mins late.
I was supposed to race the Devil ‘o the Highlands a few weeks before this but stomach problems meant that I couldn’t start. Was pretty gutted. Felt like I’d run out of luck as I’d had gastroenteritis just before GEDM earlier in the year.
So, next thing to focus on was the Speyside Ultra (part of the SUMS series). My folks had booked a cottage up in Buckie so we were all looking forward to a mini-break. My training since missing the Devil had gone pretty well and into race week I tapered and increased the carb intake from the middle of the week. On Thursday it appeared to strike again and I had the worst stomach (I won’t go into details) and the realisation that as well as an underlying issue I must be doing this to myself. I think I know what it is now so if anything, that’s a step forward (and another post). I couldn’t drive up on the Thursday as planned as I needed to be near a toilet so I set out on the 4.5hr drive on Friday with a decent supply of immodium.
The rest of the day was spent trying to get sorted – boiled rice, bananas, trip to the chemist. It wasn’t great and the stress of trying to get myself fit for the race probably wasn’t helping. (more…)
A pleasant change.
On Sunday I did something I haven’t really done before. I ran with someone! Well, not just ‘someone’, but the one and only John Kynaston. We live only a few minutes apart and arranged to meet up early Sunday morning. We headed up onto the Braes (Gleniffer) chatting our way through 11miles of up’s and down’s. John has such an obvious passion for running and his ultra experience is remarkable. It was a real pleasure to listen to some of his stories and his general thoughts on running. I was just disappointed when it was over.
It was a fitting end to a hard week of training and hope to do it again soon.
If you don’t already follow it, check out John’s blog here – it’s one of the best.
Taper-time now. Have a good week.
Like many other runners I have a somewhat unhealthy interest in shoes. My casual trainer ‘collection’ for years has been spilling out of the wardrobe. Whilst I don’t own lots of running shoes I am obsessed with finding the perfect shoe as well as having options for various conditions, distances and terrain for both racing and training. (more…)
Thought it about time I actually posted something. Been keeping my head down after the WHW race. It’s been a strange month and I’ve had a few injury concerns, but building back up to peak training weeks.
First things first – a question!
Post race blues – is this a recognised condition?
It doesn’t seem to be talked about much. Maybe it isn’t real? Or maybe it doesn’t affect the full-time athletes as much as there is no ‘normal’ to return to after the event. Most of us anyway have to return to our normal day-to-day working lives only days after a lengthy physical event like the West Highland Way race. I was back in work a couple of days after and whilst I expected it to be ok (at least for the first few hours) I wasn’t really prepared for the slump that followed.
I know it was only a race but I did learn a lot about myself and where I want to head. (more…)
Where to start? It’s such a long race, and so much happens over 95 miles (or more). This was my first long ultra in my first season racing. It wasn’t in the plan for this year but I couldn’t resist when the opportunity arose.
Anyway – get on with it.
We arrived at Milngavie just after 11.00pm and the car-park was almost full. It had rained in Glasgow all day. Heavily. But as we walked up to register in the church hall it stopped and almost felt warm. There was an atmosphere around the place of nervousness, excitement and anticipation – what would lie ahead for all runners and support teams?
I registered without any hassle – “enjoy it” was the parting remark. Hmmmm. Off to be weighed and within minutes we were back in the car with almost 2 hours to kill. This was tough. I was desperate to just get going. To finally forget about the tedious planning and prep of food, drinks, times, meeting points, sleep times, clothes, blah, blah, blah. I was desperate to get on with the running bit – to finally feel my legs moving under me and some wind in my face after a week-long taper. I hadn’t run more than 5 miles at a time over the last week and wanted to be reassured that I’d still remember how!
I sat in the front seat of the car – my crew left me alone with my thoughts. They sat on some deck-chairs and drank tea in a carpark close to midnight – the whole thing was bizarre. I felt pretty confident, just ached for the clock to get closer to 12.30 and I could commence the pre-race sock / running shoe ritual.
There was a race briefing 20 mins before the start. There were so many people around I couldn’t really hear what was being said. Next thing I knew I was saying my goodbye’s to my Support and making my way to the front of the startline. It was quite a sight – 150 or so runners all ready to do battle with whatever the WHW would throw at them over the next day. (more…)
Well, can’t believe it. The #WHWrace is actually here! In about 11hours, 160 or so runners will leave Milngavie in the hope of conquering Scotland’s famous trail all the way to Fort William.
It’s looking like it’s going to be a wet race. It hasn’t really stopped all day, so another clothes change might be required! I guess that’s the beauty of a challenge like this – you could know the course like the back of your hand, have trained impeccably, prepared 15 food options but ultimately there’s a huge “Unknown” on the trail for most people……a stomach that gives up holding food, a trip and fall, blistering, a tendon snap….the “Unknown” can strike at any time – and that’s part of the buzz. Getting through it.
Despite being a very late entrant I’ve been keen to get going for the last few days. Yes, I would have changed my training, yes I could be better prepared but I’m feeling good and (so far) am glad to be part of it.
Good luck to all the runners and support teams – it’s such a commitment from everyone and I hope you find what you’re looking for from it.
My sister will be doing twitter updates as usual (@lilacswizzle). Heck, she might even pass on some messages if you keep them clean! My sister is heading up my support crew with my folks so if you see them have a chat – they like to talk!
GUEST POST by my sister Nicola!!!
A day in the life of an ultra marathon support person……
On Saturday 21st May my brother raced his third ever ultra marathon, The Cateran Trail 55 and until a few months ago I must admit I had never really heard much about ultras, SUMS, Jezz Bragg etc etc. I mean it was only last year that the boy actually starting running seriously (and did a few 10k races). (more…)
This was a race I had never planned to do. It was only a few days after the Highland Fling that my sister asked me what the next race was going to be “there’s the Cateran run but I guess it’s only a few weeks away – too soon probably.”
Without meaning it, a small seed had been planted and as I started to recover from the Fling I looked into the race details…. (more…)
Just a quick post. All settled in Hotel, about 20mins drive away. Registered already and can’t wait to get started.
My sis will be tweeting updates @lilacswizzle
Thanks for all your support.
Friday was my last opportunity for a long training run before the Cateran Trail Ultramarathon next Saturday.
I’ve started to mix up my longer runs meaning I generally now include 2 x types of long runs in my training. Both very different and both much debated / discussed by the running community. (more…)
I had run / cycled / walked quite a bit of the West Highland Way in the past and on the Saturday before the Fling I wanted to get one final long run in. As some of you will know I had to miss the GEDM race a few weeks before due to sickness and it had knocked my confidence quite a bit, especially as the training had suffered. So I decided I needed a decent long run and a week before the race seemed a good time to try out some of the course. It would hopefully (read on)