Monday, 26 April 2010

I'm Not A Runner, I'm A Very Naughty Boy

Well I didn't half blow that one!

There's nothing like that horrible feeling of grinding to a halt halfway up Loch Lomond.

Like a novice i stuck two fingers up to a mega miles training week only 2 weeks ago and stepped on the gas just before Balmaha, racing with Thomas the crazy German who was running a blinder. About 5 miles later I discovered the tank was empty. By the time i got to Rowardennan (27 miles) the gods of the quads had declared "let there be mush" and my quads were mush. I hastily made some foot repairs at the checkpoint, tried to revive myself with the contents of my drop bag and pushed on determined to work through the bad patch. I was glad to see the back of the very runnable first half of the race and felt sure that i could click into my rythmn on the rougher sections of Loch Lomondside but it wasn't to be. I was struggling to keep up with some of the supervets from the earlier start and by the time I reached Inversnaid (34 miles) i had decided to jog it in to Beinglas and call it a day. It wasn't a day for toughing it out, i've done plenty of that over the last few weeks, and i didn't want to risk pushing on to possible injury either.

In the back of my mind i think i knew this was going to happen and the reasons are pretty obvious, so no point in getting hung-up on it.

Apart from my DNF I really enjoyed the day, it was great to see so many friends and i even survived the pub with some dodgy weejies from Garscube and all their trophies followed by a night at the ceilidh with a subversive bloke!

Well done to everyone who ran it and thanks to Murdo and Ellen for making it possible and to those who marshalled and gave encouragement. On to the next one!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Run Like Fun

Victor and I are in the car park at Milngavie station (again). I've managed to convince him this is the ultimate training run. He's going to thank me for the rest of the year (maybe even the rest of his life) for the incredible fitness benefits this one is going to bring.

A quick comparison of the weight of our rucksacks reveals Victors is about double the weight of mine, i can't believe he's not cut the end off his toothbrush, is carrying enough toothpaste to clean his teeth for a month and has enough food for us both until a week on Tuesday. He realises his mistake and promptly decides to leave his toilet bag, smoking jacket, slippers and some food behind.

I've done this before, made all these mistakes with kit and have got it down to a T.

1x sawn off toothbrush
6x slithers of toothpaste
3x dods of shower gel
1x pair of socks
1x pair of running shorts
1x w/proof jacket
1x w/proof trousers
1x spare hat
surgical tape
pen knife
cash/credit card
1x copy of "The Lore of Running" for technical reference (had you there)
Enough food/drink to last to the next shop/pub

This is going to get us up the West Highland Way and back over 4 days, stopping at Tyndrum, Fort William, back to Tyndrum then to Milngavie.

It poured with rain all the way to Drymen and as we discussed how we could tell by the cloud formations, wind direction and using our highly tuned sense of nature and the outdoors that the rain was on for the day it cleared up and the sun came out. Magic! Victor even took his shirt off to try and scare off the hoards of walkers out for the Easter break. It didn't work though. We had such fun tippy-toeing along behind them, shouting "good morning" and watching them almost crumple in fright under the weight of all that kit they were lugging to Conic Hill base camp ready for the final ascent. Some of them were even doing it without oxygen.

We made our first pit stop at Rowardennen, it was much warmer weather than we were used to so we quickly chugged a Coke and inhaled a scone and set off up the loch. The recent snow had also made the paths as wet and muddy as i'd ever seen them which made the going underfoot a bit harder, but the sun was warm, the sky blue and it was a pleasure to be out there. When i was up, Victor was down and vice versa so between us we managed a nice steady pace up to Tyndrum and into the Real Food cafe for fish cake suppers. By this time it had become quite overcast and was a good bit cooler so we shivered as we ate quickly then after a quick shop at the garage for breakfast we reached the By The Way hostel. What a welcome we got there too! The couple who were managing it were quite taken with our adventure and we chatted for a while then shower, more food and bed. 53 miles done.

Apart from the guy on the bottom bunk watching films on his laptop till late and Victor telling him to put it off or die, i had a good nights sleep (managing not to fall out of the top bunk, seriously its dangerous up there especially when you thrash about in your sleep like i do). We awoke to a torrential downpour of the stair-rod variety, had some porridge whilst listening to the walkers talking about changes of plan and how it was "life threatening to go out in that" and "its best to have a rest day" so got out and running before they started to convince us. As always it was ok once we got going but stopping wasn't an option because we got very cold very quickly, which also made us run a bit harder than we should have, so when we saw the Kingshouse hotel in the distance we had no hesitation in agreeing on a food stop for 20 minutes. 30+ minutes later we left puddles on the floor and wet seats in the posh bar as we went through the ritual 5 mins of pain, working the stiffness out of the legs and getting back into the long-distance running rythmn.
The rain carried on relentlessly as we ran down into Kinlochleven and up over the Lairigmor with the wind picking up quite ominously, that was the last thing we wanted for the journey back. By the time we got to Morrisons in the Fort we had taken on the homeless jakey look; soaking wet, unshaven, smelly and snottery as we squelched, stiff-legged around the aisles trying to work out if we craved pasta, potatoes or crisps or all three. 42 miles done.

I must admit as we ran into Fort William my legs were trashed, every step was pain and the thought of turning around and repeating those 2 days was really daunting. That's the start of the mind games. Your brain is telling you it's not sensible to keep going, all these tweaks and niggles are surely going to become tears and twangs, it's not sensible to continue without support in these conditions, in this condition. But it is. That's the whole point. You've got to go beyond, to show yourself its possible to push further than you think, in the words of the great metal songsmith and slayer of dragons Ronnie James Dio, "we're a ship without a storm..." and a storm is what we seek to toughen ourselves up for the mighty hurricane of the West Highland Way Race.

Sitting at breakfast in the b&b after an uncomfortable nights sleep tossing and turning with my knees, hips and quads waking me up throbbing in pain, Victor was glazing over as i told him (yet again) how we would emerge back in Milngavie as strong as the Mighty Thor. I think he had just had enough of running in the pishing rain  and going down that bloody track again and anyway 95 miles in 2 days was good enough going without having to do it all again and listen to some nut talking about slaying dragons in his head...

So i made a major concession. Will it impact on me psychologically as i stare down the demons who have come to sabotage my dreams, to steal my spirit and send me a slavering, bonking wreck to the leisure centre to think again?? Maybe.

I had agreed to let Flora, our b and b owner give us a lift to the Braveheart car park to avoid running the 2 miles of pavement hell in Fort Bill. It was lashing with rain as we headed towards Lundavra, the path had now become a river and i was really starting to think this was a bit dodgy. If you'd tipped a bucket of water over my head i wouldn't have been any wetter and it was really cold too. We were glad to get into the Copie in Kinlochleven for a brief heat and some bits of food. As we sheltered amongst the shopping trolleys slurping down chocolate milk we came up with a brilliant idea for a race. Get this, The West Highland Way 100 (ish) start in Fort Bill, climb the Ben then down to Milngavie. About 19 000+ feet of ascent and imagine running those gnarly boulders on the loch-side with almost 70 miles in the legs then all that runnable stuff from Drymen to the finish to really challenge you, and of course the cheering crowds as you near the finish, Ultra Tour Du Milngavie(UTMG) anybody??

Renewed with the mystical powers of flavoured milk we galloped up the climb from Kinlochleven and back down to Kingshouse, wading rivers which hadn't existed on the way up and deciding to keep running all the way to Tyndrum in case we stopped and lost the will to start again. Rannoch Moor was murder and i was bonking by Inveroran so grabbed a can of Coke at the hotel which saw me through to Tyndrum. We were a sorry state when we reached the bunkhouse, so much so that when we arrived the nice couple from the other night made us tea and biscuits and told us stories about boy scout walkers wading through water up to their waists on the lochside the flooding was so bad. It was at this point that Victor decided he'd had enough, he was going to run the 5 miles down to Crianlarich then get the bus or train from there. I tried to convince him that he'd be ok once he got going but i knew it was his decision and wouldnt be a good idea to twist his arm into doing something that might end in injury or something. 42 miles done.

I was up at 5.30am and wide awake eating scones and jam and trying to remove an ingrown toenail with my penknife having had another uncomfortable nights tossing and turning. Victor woke up in a completely different frame of mind not quite ready for his day of leisure yet, as i contemplated staring the demons and dragons in the eye. I had to kick his butt out the door by 6.30am because i knew i had a good 12+ hours in front of me and after what was now 10 minutes or so of coaxing the stiffness out of the legs we ran well through Auchtertyre Farm, over the roller coaster and Victor down to the road in Crianlarich as i carried on to Beinglas. I stopped to buy some biscuits and a coffee then it was head down and onto the lochside. That jumble of rocks was made even more challenging because it had all become so slippery and my legs seemed to be lagging a few seconds behind my brain but absorbing as it was it took my mind off things until i emerged at Inversnaid in the sunshine, feeling like Robinson Crusoe washed up on a desert island after floating about in the ocean for a week. I didn't want to frighten the tourists so kept going passing more walkers now as the nicer weather brought them back out. Soon i was at Rowardennen again and had been craving Coke and a scone and as i waited at the bar i felt a tap on my shoulder, it was a walker i had met a few days previously "you made it back!" he said and we chatted a bit then i sat in the sun, drank my Coke and resolved to not stop until The Beech Tree 20 miles further on and give myself 15 minutes to refuel then on to Milngavie, always good to have a plan!
I was nicely into my stride as i rounded a corner and came face to face with Peter, one of my clubmates on a training run to Beinglas. It was good to chat and it gave me a big lift to see a familiar face. I pushed on through heavy showers of rain then warm sunshine, through Balmaha, over Conic Hill and past Drymen fighting demons all the way to the Beech Tree. 15 minutes was the deal and i was off again along those torturous cycle paths thinking about William Sichel and his 1000 mile run and how this was childs play in comparison, only 190 miles in 4 days, i should be fresh as a daisy! I wasn't though as i trundled into Milngavie, dragons slayed and demons drowned in chocolate milk.

I couldn't resist rounding the weeks mileage up to 200 by jogging round the Edinburgh Parkrun 5k a few days later and now just over 2 weeks later i'm wondering how this is going to effect my run at this weekends Highland Fling?? Only one way to find out...

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

How Late It Was, How Late - The Hardmoors 55

I thought I'd better post this before the Fling and all the other races are on top of me! It's a bit of a hasty report that I posted on the club forum after the race but it does the job. I was meaning to add a bit more detail to it but ended up running loads of miles instead...

This was the first running of the Hardmoors 55 race, a counter in the Runfurther UK Ultra series. A late change to the course to avoid a few extra road crossings meant it was only 54 miles, but a tough and eventful 54 miles it turned out to be.

The route follows the first half of The 110 mile Cleveland Way in the North Yorks National Park from Helmsley to Guisborough and has about 9000 feet of ascent thrown in.

Not really knowing the route at all, I decided to stick with a local runner who set off like a rocket at a much faster pace than I felt comfortable with. This tactic seemed to be working out ok until the first main checkpoint at 22 miles when I lost sight of him and took a wrong turning, losing about 10 mins before getting back on track again. By 25 miles I was starting to really feel the effects of the faster pace and also running on the exposed moors in strong winds and driving rain was taking its toll.

I decided to ease off the pace and take it nice and steady to the next checkpoint at 42 miles then get some food in me and hammer the pace to the finish. By the time I reached the village hall at Kildale (42 miles) I needed food quickly and devoured my Tuc biscuits and coke, grabbed some fruit pastilles and headed back out determined to make up some lost places.

I ran hard up to Captain Cooks monument seeing no-one then headed for the steep climb up Roseberry Topping which was a spur off the main route so I might see some of the runners ahead of me as the route returns back on itself. Sure enough when I got to the turn the leader came through the gate closely followed by the 2nd placed runner and as I approached the top of the hill 3rd place came running down towards me. I was only a few minutes behind him and when I got back to the gate checked my watch to see I was about 18 minutes behind the first two. Time to blast to the finish I thought!

After a mile or so I caught the 3rd placed runner but he wasn't keen on giving up his place easily so we battled through the slippy, muddy track for a few minutes before I managed to lose him on the winding forest trail down to Guisborough. After what seemed an age I reached the disused railway which meant I was a mile from the finish and after glancing over my shoulder too many times to see if I was being caught I arrived at the rugby club finish and crashed through the door. Hang on! No signs of a race finish here, just guys in blazers looking at me a bit strangely! I went back outside and caught sight of a course marker further down the path so I ran towards it then saw the flags marking the finish at the CRICKET club! Ahhh yes! Well I managed to finish in 3rd place in 9 hours 11 mins so was delighted with that.

The stormy weather meant only 41 of about 75 starters finished the race, a thoroughly enjoyable route and it's got me thinking about the full 110 mile race next year...!!