Seeking asylum in the hills & transcendence on the trails

Ultra distance

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)


The Highland Fling 2011 – night before

Big race tomorrow. The Montane Highland Fling. Not got a lot to say about it following the GEDM sickness fiasco. Yes, I’m nervous something happens again before the start line.

Anyway, I’ll post up race results / report sometime next week. My sister most likely will be tweeting some race updates. Feel free to follow her here or my own account here.

So, it’s early to bed for me. I’ll leave you with some pics of the area from last week’s training run (excuse the poor quality – rubbish camera, and I don’t like to stop for long).

Night.

**See race report here**

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Running, racing, sickness and sadness

I understand now. I must be a bit of a drama queen. That’s obviously the reason I haven’t written anything for a while. Last post I did was the night before my big race – the one I had put a huge amount of effort into preparing for (The GEDM). Other than a knee injury the week before the preparation had been meticulous and my training relentless. Long runs, nutrition, weights, hydration, clothing, checkpoint times, target pace….the list goes on. I was so ready for it.

Headed off to bed night before the race at 10pm, breakfast plan all sorted, clothes prepared, support bag and instructions all organised – family had been briefed (and were excited about the race). Then at about 2am I was dragged out of my running dreams into a bit of a nightmare by the pain that was building in my stomach. read on


The night before the race – GEDM ultra

Not much to say really. 56 mile race tomorrow. Haven’t run all week due to injury. Will run and finish tomorrow though. Slightly apprehensive about it due to the knee but keen to get going.

I have a good team behind me (my family) so it’s another mini-adventure

My sister @lilacswizzle will be doing some twitter updates, other than that I’ll see you in Edinburgh 😉


No Knee Never

On Saturday night following a 35miler my right knee was troubling me. Sharp pain down the right side of my knee-cap. I went through my normal post-run recovery – the right food at the right times, plenty of fluids, ice pack on my knee etc.  Throughout the night the pain in my knee kept me up. I took painkillers, applied ibuprofen gel and desperately tried to sleep convinced that it would be fine in the morning. It wasn’t great when I got up. But moving it certainly helped. Sunday was a rest day anyway, so with luck I’d be fine by Monday. As I’m tapering the training a little for the race on Saturday and with sore knee in mind I decided before bed to ignore the #444alarm for once and sleep a bit longer. Figured I could do a lunchtime run and all would be good.

Lunchtime came and I was convinced that after a few hundred metres it would ease off and the world would continue spinning. It didn’t.

So, tonight instead of running and swimming I’m heading into town to see a man who I’m hoping can do something for me. Either way – I’ll be on that start-line on Saturday.

Fingers crossed.


Thursday training – West Highland ‘No’ Way

I had big plans for Thursday. Needed to use some holiday so thought it would be a good idea to get a tough session in before next weeks race. Would give me plenty time for recovery too.

So throughout Wednesday I formulated a plan. With us now officially in BST and with a week of half-decent weather behind us I thought it would be good to run part of the West Highland Way – the 53-mile Highland Fling route from Milngavie to Tyndrum read on


Race recovery week

Well, following my first race on the 19th March – the D33, plan was to have a lighter training week than normal. Whilst I generally run at least those distances at the weekend I did feel pretty tired all week – felt like I was wearing someone else’s legs for a while. It did stress me out a little but I guess it’s another lesson learned – racing is harder than training (doh!).

So, this week, I cut the mileage a little read on


Deeside D33 Ultra – blue skies and burning thighs

Thought I’d write-up my first race of the year – the D33 ultra in Aberdeen. Got up there Friday afternoon after a long drive and checked into the hotel. Then headed straight out to find Duthie Park – the race registration and start. read on


First race of the year – D33 Ultra marathon

First race of the season is finally upon me. A relatively short ultra at 33miles. Training has been going well and the thought of getting out there with like-minded people is giving me some pretty active butterflies. I’m not exactly a seasoned-pro when it comes to ultra races, but hopefully this is the first of many this year. Two more to follow soon….confirmed races.

Race strategy will be to do my very best not to get carried away for the first 20K. I have a bad habit of getting too excited with other runners about and passing people when I really shouldn’t.  I  just want to enjoy this run without pushing too hard and potentially burning out. So, expectations aren’t high in terms of time / placing. Just want to take in some new surroundings, maybe chat with a few people and enjoy the first of many races this year.

So, if you’re out and about in Aberdeen at all on Saturday, the race starts at 9.00am, Duthie Park. Tweet me if you want to say hello (@pyllon) and maybe we can do the old fashioned face-to-face thing. Keep your fingers crossed for fair weather.

Woooohooooo!!


Saturday snow – marathon

Saturday was meant to be my last long’ish run before Race day 1 next Saturday – a short ultra. So, plan was at least a few hours at a relatively decent pace. It’s been a heavy week of running and that would put a tidy lid on a successful week. Woke up to this however… read on


Top training week

Just a very quick post full of Friday wishes. Sadly I have to work today (I normally cram a full working week into 4 days), I’ve done that already but my employer feels that there’s obviously more to give. This week has been a cracker in terms of training. I still have a longish run to do tomorrow but I’m already up at 115K for the week, 3 x swimming / 2 x weights sessions and a couple of spins. It takes a lot of organisation (and washing powder) to fit all that into 5 days.

My slippers - beaten up running shoes

Next week will be a little different with my first race on Saturday (details here). A little tapering of the training is necessary I think. I’m extremely excited about the race and cannot wait to get going. Some of my family are coming up to watch, so also a good opportunity to spend some quality time with them pre and post race.

Anyway, I said it would be short – hope you are winding down for the weekend after a fruitful week. Have a good one 😉


Cheap running shoes?

I’ve been putting in the miles of late in preparation for a few races – averaging between 100 – 150K per week. Body is holding up well – trouble is, I’m going through running shoes fairly quickly, particularly the lightweight shoes that I love to run in. These racing flats are used on the early morning training runs as well as the long weekend slogs.

So, I finally thought it would be wise to also introduce a more ‘traditional’ running shoe into my week. If I could find a reasonably lightweight neutral shoe it might also be better for some of the more straightforward trails (with the more aggressive /grippy sole).

Now, the manufacturers are constantly revising and ‘improving’ their offerings. New soles, new materials, new colourways. BUT, the models that came out 2 or 3 years ago were ‘cutting edge’ so surely they can’t all-of-a-sudden be useless? Can they? Read on


Spring Saturday 70 (26/02/11)

Following a good day of training on Friday I decided before bed to complete a long run in the morning. Plan in my head was a 70K road run. Figured if I got up at around my normal time – fuelled up on porridge and honey, I could be out the door before 7.00am and be back around lunchtime to enjoy the rest of the day. The 4.44am alarm went off as normal and after a couple of ‘snoozes’ I was burning my mouth on some hot porridge in a dark unheated house. Other than the breakfast related huffing and puffing it was silent and still – I guess everyone was were where they should be on a Saturday morning – in bed.

Next up, hydration – bladder was filled but annoyingly I was running low on energy powder so dropped a ‘Zero’ electrolyte tab in to top it up. The financial excesses of Christmas had meant I’d only ordered more on Friday (payday) – it’s all so expensive and there were no guarantees that the postman would turn up. So, energy for the run was:

– 3 x Mule Bar Cherry energy gels

– 2 x Mule Bar energy bars

– 1 x Eat Natural bar

All packed into my OMM last drop with waterproof jacket, spare hat and gloves, phone and bank card in a (now busted) Haglofs Watatait (grrr – will be speaking to them!). I’d forgotten to get money out the bank but the card was there for emergencies. So, with the orange glow of the streetlights guiding me to the front door I stepped out in my Nike Lunaracers and pressed start on my watch. I’ve been getting a little bit of stick for running these kind of distances in such lightweight flats. Not entirely sure why? They just work for me – granted at times like any other runner my knees get a little sore but I suspect it’s the cycling that does just as much in terms of irritation. My running style is something that I’ve been working on for the last 6 months and its made a huge difference to my overall efficiency – this is maybe why I can get away with racing shoes.

Nike Lunaracer

Within an hour the sun was up and the world was awaking. It’s quite nice being completely in a world of my own and seeing tiny snippets of people’s lives as they get up to enjoy their weekend, work or regret what they did last night. I had a couple of loops in mind to make up the distance. One that’s about 40K another that’s 50K. So I figured if I added at least 15K up front I’d have enough room to up-it at the end should i need to.

First 1:20hr went smoothly – deliberately trying to keep things slow. First gel of the day was squeezed as the paper / milk boys were dropping the last of their orders just before 8.30am. The Cherry bombs are pretty good – not as gloopy as some of the others. Kinda like an over-cooked fruit compote.

Then came across a cycle path (Cycle network 7) and figured I should at least add a few k’s down that – got to be better than the additional effort of avoiding traffic / hungover pedestrians. Surroundings were pretty pleasant and to my huge surprise the big yellow star came out and the sky turned blue – like proper light blue!! Just continued running tbh – I went through about 3k where the inside of my ankle was painful – almost like i was going to get cramp (which I don’t often suffer) but through gritted teeth it wore off. At about 35K I was conscious that I was probably running short on fluid – I spotted a handy ‘Shop this way’ sign for the cyclists and found a Tesco petrol station – perfect! Chocolate bar consumed whilst re-filling my bladder and I was off again. Figured I’d keep going to 42K and turn around and that would take me home in the target 70K. 42K is almost a milestone for obvious reasons – it does feel a bit of a random one though.

I guess psychologically the return should be easier – you can fall into the trap of thinking about the parts that you know will be a struggle but by keeping the milestones small and regular it’s possible to put it to the back of your mind (for the most part). I have a general rule of not thinking about hot baths or warm food unless I’m within 10K of being home!

As it was getting later there were lots more people around – other runners and cyclists. Never quite understand why so many won’t return a nod or hello. It’s not a big ask. We’re all out enjoying the day, doing what we love and you’d think there would be an obvious connection. Maybe just ‘unrbanites’ these days?

At 60K I joined another path and spotted a runner about 50m in front. He was fairly shifting but feeling good I thought I’d have a go. Not entirely sure why or the point of it but in a second I was committed. Chased him, but he was going faster than I first thought. Took me 1K to get level and pass him – then the sudden realisation that I’d have to keep going at a ridiculous pace “why oh why did I do it?” Huge mistake. By 65K he was gone but so were my legs as were any remaining fluids. 5K in under 18mins at that stage was pretty stupid and now I was looking at every puddle with intent……”hmm, that one doesn’t look too dirty.”

So, struggled up the road and finally turned into my street at 72K (and missing 4,500 calories). The next 30mins are usually pretty painful and that’s exactly what they were. But I was soon in a bath with a bowl of pasta, a protein shake and a couple of pints of water with fruit juice. Recovery went well and by later in the night I didn’t feel like I’d been out. Some long compression socks overnight and I woke up fresh as a daisy!

A good day on my feet.