Not the West Highland Way – Race Report (June 2015)
It’s been a while.
It was a race I hadn’t really planned to do with the IAU WorldTrail Champs being only a few weeks earlier. Lots of sensible reasons not to. But racing isn’t as cold as that for me. Things aren’t black and white.
I don’t race to strict heart rate zones. Sometimes I run sections hard because it feels good. Sometimes I slow because I feel like it, and I can (or simply that I have to). Sometimes I make mistakes. Other times it comes good. It’s a race. Not a time trial. And sometimes you make racing decisions that you’ll live with, good or bad. (more…)
First week in Flagstaff AZ
After a fairly lengthy journey via Philadelphia and an overnight in Phoenix I arrived at Flagstaff ‘basecamp’ this time last week. Not really a holiday believe it or not but a chance to get away from everything and train for a few weeks in new surroundings and maybe with some other runners.
Flagstaff is in Northern Arizona so much cooler than the likes of Phoenix. It sits near the southwestern edge of the Colorado plateau and is home to the biggest Ponderosa Forest in the US (so they tell me). I can confirm there are a lot of trees! The town itself sits at over 2,100m above sea-level, something that the locals seem proud of and I imagine helps to attract a lot of athletes to the area for training. (more…)
West Highland Way Race – 2014 (report)
I’ll keep it brief, since it’s been a while since the race.
This time it felt different. Circumstances meant I couldn’t focus so much on the race due to work, certainly not at the same level as the year before. That said, when I could finally confirm I was doing it (last minute) I had trained well and was feeling strong.
Chat before the race was all about Robbie Britton – ‘2013 Ultra-runner of the Year’ in the @ukrunrambles initiative. He’d be fast. He’d run the first sections at record pace and I’d never be able to stick with him. In truth I was happy to hear those statements and to get the chance to see up-close what the hype was all about. Talent and potential don’t account for everything that’s needed in a 100 mile race and where I may be lacking in those I make up in other ways. (more…)
The Altra Zero Drop – Lone Peak 1.5 (review)
So, the dark nights are actually drawing in. Scrap that. They’ve already drawn in. It’ll be dark, cold and wet runs for the foreseeable future. Not all doom and gloom though, it’s a chance to dig out those merino baselayers, re-proof the gore-tex and get muddy / snowy. Maybe even squeeze in some time to write up some kit reviews! So, let’s start with some footwear.
Altra have recently launched their zero drop shoes in the UK. (more…)
West Highland Way Race Report – 2012
The ‘Big One’
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.
D33 DNF and Highland Fling Fun – 2012 races
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 Wasdale Warriors – running in the Lakes
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…)
GO33 Ultra Race Report (2011)
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!
Brecon Beacons Ultra – 19th November 2011
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.
It stayed dry on the West Highland Way
….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…)
Running in Lake District – Coledale Horseshoe
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…)
RAW River Ayr Way Ultra – race report 2011
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.
Last of the SUMS – River Ayr Way Ultra
Well, I can’t believe it’s the September weekend already! It’s crazy just how quick this year has passed. We haven’t exactly had a summer to remember in Scotland but I guess we’re used to it.
Tomorrow is the final race in the Scottish Ultra Marathon series (SUMS) – The River Ayr Way Challenge (RAW). 41ish miles (more…)
The Speyside Way Ultra – Race Report 2011
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…)
Running in Good Company
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.
Keen? A lightweight minimalist trail runner – Review
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…)
Post race blues?
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…)
West Highland Way Race Report – 2011
The West Highland Way Race 2011
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…)
West Highland Way Race – it’s here!
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!
The support of an ultra runner
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…)
The Cateran Ultramarathon – race report
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…)
The night before – Cateran Trail ultramarathon race
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.
Running on Empty
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…)
My first Highland Fling (2011 Ultra)
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)