The Deer Runner

The Deer Runner

Monday, 30 April 2012

15th week done

The Fling. In 2010 this was my first ultra. Athough I didn't know what I was in for and didn't know the route, I had a pretty good day until I reached Bienglas Farm where my right knee packed up. Downhill running was out, in fact walking downhill was a struggle and I had to walk the last four miles to the finish line.
Two years on and I was back, determined to complete the run  comfortably and use it as part of my build up to the full race in June.

On Friday afternoon the family drove south through the pouring rain to the Premier Inn at Bearsden. I knew the weather forecast was good for Saturday, but it was hard to believe with rain still falling in the evening.
We ate at the Burnbrae restaurant with haggis neeps and tatties being my choice of fuel.
An early night was on the cards but in the early hours of the morning I awoke feeling queasy. I thought it was pre race nerves but looking back my stomach was not right on race day.

At half five the alarm went off, it was time to get ready and try to eat breakfast. All I could manage was an Aberdeen roll, a chocolate milk shake and muller rice. Not the best way to fuel an ultra and this would be the trend for the rest of the day.

Milngavie Station at half six was busy with runners chatting, warming up, leaving drop bags and waiting for the start of the MV40 age group at seven o'clock. We put my drop bags into the respective cars and had some time for photos before the call to start.

Off we went, a glorious day for my fifth ultra race. My plan was to finish at Tyndrum feeling as fit and fresh as possible, as if I still had 42 miles to go to complete the full whw. With this in mind I started at the back and took it real easy, through Mugdock Park in the beautiful morning sun with the snow capped hills in the distance. I chatted to Bill whom I met at the D33, it was good speaking to him again, I also had the company of Charles, another whw race entrant. This passed the time and before long I found myself alone on the road section to Drymen. I was surprised at this but enjoyed the solitude all the same.

Through the checkpoint I ran, no need for water at this stage. I was eight minutes down compared to my time two years ago. If I could stay injury free till Beinglas, the last section is where I would make up time.
Onward to Conic Hill through what used to be forest, now just piles and piles of timber. Words of encouargement and clapping from foreign tourists rang out at this section, this is a great ultra. On the track to the hill is where I was passed by the Senior leaders who started an hour later. The stoney path up Conic is where I really had to think about my right ankle, one wrong step and it was all over. I was determined to clear Conic Hill with no injury so I had to take my time and  be sure footed. Viewing Loch Lomond from the top of Conic Hill is breathtaking and a highlight of the race for me. Carefully I made my way down to the checkpoint at Balmaha where I met my support. All I could consume was a chocolate milk and half a muller rice, opting to carry a few gourmet mini bananas and a quick exit. I arranged to meet my family at Rowardennan, knowing I wasn't fueling up properly.

I kept a steady pace and felt okay on this section, passed by my support on the road who gave encouragement from the car. I ran alone on this leg and was passed by a lot of senior and relay runners which can be disheartening. On this section two workmates were at one of the car parks, I was so much into the zone and concentrating on checkpoint Rowardennan I didn't stop, something I regretted later as it seemed like bad manners. On approach to Rowardennan I came accross a fallen runner waiting for medical assistance. Unfortunately this can happen to any one of us and I wish the runner a speedy recovery.
Checkpoint Rowardennan was as busy as ever but I easily found my family, ate half a muller rice, took a few snaps, said goodbye till the end of the race and moved on towards Inversnaid.

Once again I was mostly alone on the forest track and being passed by quicker runners. Fatigue started to creep into my legs and I knew the lochside assault course was coming up, something I wasn't looking forward to. As the path narrowed and started twisting around trees and skirting the loch I perked up and actually enjoyed the change from running, I was passed by only one runner leading to Inversnaid.
At this checkpoint all I could take was a bottle of flat coke, I left the rest of the food but took a mars bar for the next leg to Beinglas Farm.

On this section we are still at the lochside but the trail gets even more technical where you have to scramble over rocks and tree roots. Here, rather than constantly having to step aside to let faster runners through I decided to keep pace with them. This wasn't the training run I had planned as I got embroilled with the quick pace. Ahead I could see a runner getting assistance, he had gone over his ankle and landed on the grass verge. He dusted himself down, said he was fine and ran on ahead of me for about 5 minutes before pulling up in pain. Having done exactly the same thing five weeks before I knew what he was going through. At the lochside after Inversnaid it was as remote as the Fling gets so I stopped to give assistance. I carry a knee support on ultras so this was used as an ankle support. Once going again it was plain to see he was in a lot of pain trying to run. We were quite a distance from the next checkpoint at Beinglas so I decided to stay and assist. To be honest the walk / run from lochside to Beinglas Farm gave me a chance to recover and get ready for the last 12 miles to Tyndrum. After pain killers were offered by a fellow runner the pace picked up and we both ran into the Beinglas checkpoint. Still feeling queasy, I ate an Aberdeen roll and drank another bottle of flat coke before taking a mars bar for the final leg to Tyndrum. I was thanked and shook hands with the injured runner and left the checkpoint in pretty good shape. This was not the last I saw of him, after getting strong pain killers he passed me at Crainlarich and put in a great time considering the circumstances.

In the evening sunshine the scenery was spectacular, rushing waterfalls, barren landscape and snow peaked mountains. Although my stomach was playing up, I was thankful I could still run with no joint pain whatsoever, a first for me after 40 miles in an ultra race. Two years ago the roller coaster trail through Crainlarich forest was torture for my right knee, but not this time. I relished being able to run downhill in the forest and before long crossed the A82 with four flat miles to go. I call my family from here, advising a finish of around half seven. I pass Auchtertyre where families are sitting outside enjoying the evening before crossing under the A82 once more. This is the last couple of miles, time to put on my mp3 player and play the one and only tune of the day, I usually play this tune after training, running and coming to the end of an ultra. I enter Tyndrum and finish the race with a time 12.24.06.
My family missed me finishing as I gave them a misleading time but I'm not too bothered as I know they will be there for me at Fort William in June. The bottle of beer served by George went down a treat. Thanks to John Duncan and the marshals for organising such a great race.

Mp3 tune - "An Ending" by Brian Eno.
Thurs 2 miles  Sat 53 mles 12.24.06  Weekly total 55 miles.

Monday, 23 April 2012

14th week done.

I intended doing some hill walking over the weekend as part of my Fling taper. This didn't materialise due to work commitments, in fact I did not get out on Saturday at all. I did manage to squeeze in a 10 mile run on Sunday at the Braes. The trails were thick mud after heavy rain lately, made even worse by getting churned up by mountain bikes. It was an average run, the last one before this weekends race. I was not going to push myself or do anything stupid at this stage, so I took my time and enjoyed the scenery.

This week I will get in a hill walk up Bennachie, probably Wednesday evening after work and thats it, no more running until Saturday 7 am at Milngavie. I still have to get organised, buy and pack the food, pack my kit (including wet weather by the looks of it) and focus on the race. I can't believe the Fling is almost here, I am a wee bit apprehensive.

Good luck to everyone taking part in the Highland Fling and I look forward chatting to runners on Saturday.

Sun 10.11 miles 1.43.14  Weekly total 31 miles.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Jitters

The alarm went off at five on Tuesday morning. There was no way I was getting out of a warm bed to run eight miles before work, the wind driven rain and hail was beating off the bedroom window. This meant all weekday training would be done during the evenings, so once again I carried my running kit to work. The bad weather cleared away by evening, I stopped off at Methlick on the way home from work and ran the Braes of Gight. It was a beautiful night, the run went well where I had another encounter with a Deer, this time a young buck. As the light was fading I bacame aware of something ahead by the side of the forest track. With his back towards me he had no idea I was there, somehow not hearing my footfalls approachingI quietly stood about 10 feet away watching him graze before he finally looked up and got the fright of his life. Jumping and leaping away he began barking in alarm before finding higher ground and watching me run past. This is the sort of experience that makes me love running in the countryside.

Mile splits were done around Dyce after work on Wednesday. I'm not going to list the times any more as they are nothing special, I just can't keep a "fast" pace, preferring to just plod on until the session is completed.

Tonight was Kirkhill Forest again. After heavy rain lately the going was very slippery, even with trail shoes. It was an average run, starting off feeling a bit tired but finishing okay.

My focus is now turning towards the Fling, a race in which I have been a bit blazay. Treating it as a mere training run before the whw in June, I have not paid it a lot of attention until now. It deserves far more respect, something I have not given it since signing up, probably due to focusing on the whw race in June.
It is now on my radar and my thoughts are going back to 2010 where this was my first ultra race. I had a good run until Beinglas Farm where my right knee packed up, something which has become a habit during ultra races. I completed the race but with a time I know I can better.

I now wonder if I have done enough training, enough miles, enough hill work. This is the pre race jitters and they have arrived early. I need to settle myself down, not do anything stupid, focus on the Fling and get myself to the start line in as best possible shape I can, both physically and mentally.

Tues 8 miles  Wed 7 miles  Thurs 6 miles.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

13th week done

I wasn't  feeling right this week which resulted in a lack of motivation and a mixed bag of training runs.
This is very unusual for me, especially with the Fling being less than two weeks away. It started on Tuesday when I couldn't get up for the early morning run, this meant I had to lug my kit to work and run in the evening, something I couldn't be bothered with. I ended up doing 8 miles in Kirkhill Forest but it took 2 or 3 miles before I got into some sort of stride. Another evening run on Wednesday, this time round the roads of Deershire. This was supposed to be 7 miles but was cut short to 5 miles due to almost being caught short. I knew something was not quite right.

A night out on Saturday meant the weekend back to back runs had to be brought forward. With three hours to run on Friday I had no choice but tackle it before work. I got up at half three and drove to work, parked up at five and began my city run. This is a training run I have done a couple of times before and is one of my favourites, running round Aberdeen watching the city wake up and start another day. It's still dark as I leave the Industrial Estate which is deserted and quiet apart from the bird song which is starting up. I'm in full winter kit as it's only 2 degrees c, that's what the car told me anyway. There are a few cars on the go, commuters that start their jobs early. I run through stoneywood, down muggiemoss road and head for the coast. Shutters are rolled up, doors unlocked, bundles of papers lifted in, trays of rolls delivered, sandwich vans filled up as businesses get ready to serve the North East. I cross the boulevard and head to the harbour where oilrig supply ships are moored, their diesel engines exhausting into the cold air. I have to take care crossing the roads which are much busier now. On Union Street and Broad Street I run past queuing people at bus stops, waiting slilently for their transport to work. I'm now on the return leg, heading back to Dyce and the weather takes a turn for the worse as I run up Midstocket Road. A short blizzard is endured before bright sunshine breaks through, talk about four seasons in one day. Springhill Road takes me to the Howes which just happens to be a childhood haunt of mine. This is the best part of the run as the Howes Road is closed to traffic. Back to Dyce via Stoneywood completes the run, plenty of time for a shower before starting work. I must admit though, my legs were rather sore that day.

With no time to travel, Saturdays run was done on the roads round Deershire. Once again the weather was cold, I'm getting fed up training in winter kit. I did 13 miles before returning home to refill the water bottle and get a bite to eat. I then went back out for another 8 miles. It was a battle of wills to drag myself back out as I was wet and getting cold, but this is all part of my training in keeping out of the comfort zone.

It's an easy week this week according to my training plan which is handy as I need to taper for the Fling. Hopefully I have done enough to have a comfortable race.

Mp3 of the week - Podcast 13.
Tues 8 miles  Wed 5 miles  Fri 17.17 miles 2.50.53  Sat 21.01 miles 3.29.15  Weekly total 51 miles.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

12th week done

A score to settle. Back to Bennachie today to do the same route that was cut short two weeks ago. The weather was a bit bleak, overcast with drizzle now and again. Parking at the Rowantree car park 0815, I set off on the track round to the Back o Bennachie. After half a mile I startled a grazing deer which was only about ten feet away from me. I don't know who got the biggest scare but the deer effortlessly took off into the woods, if only I could cover the ground with such power and grace! With the recent snow thawing there was a lot of water flowing down the muddy track, it wasn't long before my shoes and socks were soaked through.

I ran / walked up onto the plateau then down onto the Gordon Way, bypassing my water spring this time as the cooler temperature meant I was drinking less. Taking in the scenery going up Mill Stone Hill, I looked back over the forest covering the valley. Patches of mist rose from the trees, it looked like a serial arsonist was on the loose. I stopped briefly for a drink at the top and headed down the other side towards my nemesis from two weeks before. Taking it real easy I walked most of the descent as the rocks were wet, concentrating on giving my right foot a flat surface to land on. It was a relief to reach the road without incident, I could relax for the next road section to Pitfichie Forest and Cairn William.

The road section was almost 3 miles, then I tried to find the route into Pitfichie Forest. Before today, the only time I had run to Cairn William was a hill race a few years ago. I couldn't remember the way, and the track I suspected was the route was marked private. I decided to go up the track anyway which turned out to be correct. I then lost my way once again and ended up climbing fallen trees and squelching through bog. Although this wasn't the race route I eventually reached the base of Cairn William and almost went over my right ankle twice in 5 minutes. I needed a break and stopped here to to eat and drink before the acsent.

The track on Cairn William is mostly made for mountain bikes, it is rutted and and full of stones which meant I had to take extra care with the weak ankle. After zig zagging up the track I reached the top, the hill race directs you back down through the heather but this was something I could not risk today. I had no choice but to go back the way I came.

Back I went, over Mill Stone Hill then climbed the last hill of the day to Mither Tap. To be honest the legs were now shot, I was out of food and water, not wanting to take the detour and refill at my spring. Eventually I reached the peak and descended to Rowantree car park once more.

I was glad to get this run done without incident but I have lost confidence running offroad as I had to concentrate at all times where the right foot was landing, this can be tiresome. With less than three weeks till the Fling I really need to get some strength into the ankle and will have to start using the balance board, although I probably won't.
Mp3 of the week - podcast 12.

Sat 7 miles  Sun 25 miles 5.47.23  Weekly total 55 miles.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


A cruel trick from mother nature threw most of Scotland back into the depths of winter after record March temperatures. Deep and drifting snow blew into Deershire on Monday. Although this should have been a day of rest, I had to collect my car from New Deer and decided to do a 3 mile run to get it. Making my way through the blizzard, it was a surreal run in the bright evening light which I really enjoyed.

Tuesday morning and I was up early for a 5 miler. The snow was as deep as ever so I had to run in the tyre tracks of early morning commuters. The roads were quiet due to the school holidays, I had to step off the road only a couple of times to let cars pass. On one section of road there had been no vehicles through at all so I took great delight running through the fresh snow.

Wednesday was 5 x mile splits which I did on the disused railway after work -
1) 8.12
2) 9.25
3) 8.10
4) 9.52
5) 7.55
6) 9.33
7) 7.52
8) 9.30
9) 8.10

Tonight I did 6 miles after work, taking in some offroad sections alongside the river Don. I am still aware of the sprained ankle and concentrated on landing my right foot on level ground. I felt quite tired on this run and put it down to training five days in a row.

I'm not sure where Iam going to run this weekend or whether it will be on or off road, I'll just take it as it comes.
Mon 03 miles  Tues 05 miles Wed 9.13 miles 1.20.01  Thurs 6.13 miles 1.00.15

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Week 11 (back to running)

After the ankle sprain last weekend no milage was done through the week. A session was done at the gym on Wednesday night, a feeble attempt to build up some core strength. It's not my favourite place, I prefer being out in the fresh air rather than a stuffy room, soaking in sweat and watching the One Show, waiting for time to slowly tick past and make it a "decent" session. I let things go this week, injury being a good excuse for long lie ins, poor diet and alcohol consumtion. The alarm bells started ringing when Friday mornings weekly weigh in saw me put on 4 lbs. I'm not one for diversity when unable to run, the push bike does nothing for me and I don't like swimming so I have to get back to running as soon as possible.

Looking back, I realise another stupid mistake was made when I went over my ankle. I was running off the steep hill, trying to keep a good pace even when the surface was quite hazardous. Why? Its only numbers, mile splits, pace, time taken, distance run, for me its only numbers. I should have walked off the hill, nice and steady, sure footed. The extra 5/10/15 minutes taken would not have mattered, especially during a training run. My aim for the WHW race is to enjoy the whole occasion and experience. Time does not matter, as long as I finish under the time limit. I need to back off and not worry too much about times, I want to enjoy the experience without worrying what time I complete the run as once the finish line is crossed all I have is a number.

So Sunday morning and the training plan says 26 miles, hmm a Marathon with a recovering ankle. Now, the sensible side of me says "No", ease back into running and take things nice and easy. The reckless side says "Go For It", four weeks to the Highland Fling and the long runs must be done.

The reckless side won, Twenty Six miles it was, run mostly on road so I could look after the ankle. I took the phone just incase I needed rescued by the Mrs. The chosen route today just happened to be my last long run done last year before the Cateran. A dull and windy day running on the North East roads meant my mp3 player was used from start to finish. Podcasts 10 and 11 were listened to, thanks John for taking the time and trouble recording these, 2 hours 20 minutes of good advice is much appreciated and helped pass the time. I completed what turned out to be quite a dull run without incident.

Last weekend was a bit of a setback and I needed to complete this long run today to get my confidence back. I don't know when I will be able to head off road again, Thursday evenings are usually on trails but if I go over my ankle again I can wave goodbye to the Highland Fling.
Mp3 of the week, downloaded but not on my player yet - "Run to the Hills" Iron Maiden.
The numbers? Sun 26.53 miles 4.28.50  Weekly total 26.53 miles.