The Deer Runner

The Deer Runner

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Roller Coaster

This will be my last post for 2016 so will use it as a review as well as a look ahead to 2017.

Running wise, 2016 was a bit of a roller coaster where I am sitting typing this with a twisted ankle. My weak right ankle managed to find the only water filled pothole for miles during day six of Marcothon.  In and over it went with what felt very much like tearing and it was a limp home.  This was the same ankle that put me out for two months last year.  I had a pipe dream of doing something special as I approached my 50th birthday.  I was toying with the idea of doing a winter West Highland Way over a couple of days but with my ankle in recovery I doubt if I'll manage to pull that off. 

My 2016 running calendar finished off with a nice surprise, I had forgotten I entered the Glen Ogle Ultra, not realising until the Friday before.  It was a mad panic packing then driving down on the day to take part.  This was a week after Jedburgh which was still in my legs.  I deliberately ran out too fast then paid for it on the way back with lots of runners passing me by on the way up Glen Ogle.      It was a great day out with good company, running the last few miles with Sharon.  Unfortunately I couldn't stay for the caleigh as I had the Fraserburgh Half marathon the next day. 

The Broch half marathon was my last event of the year and having run two ultras the week before I wasn't expecting anywhere near my PB of 1.45.  It was a nice clear day where I went out and gave it my all, not quite under the 2 hours I was after but happy with 2.05.

I can't post about 2016 without noting my WHW dnf.  I read my blog post again before typing this.  Its true to say I have not been at my fittest throughout the year, a distinct lack of training hampered me in a few races including the WHW.  I am going to take it on again but not next year, I'll aim for 2018 and there is a reason for this.  I'm going to take on my personal challenge, East to West Scotland.  As you may know from previous posts, this has been in my head for a few years now. Turning 50 has made me determined to make this happen next year.  I've yet to do the logistics but I have kept my running diary clear during summer to accommodate this.

So 2017 will look like this -

March 11th - D33.
March 18th - Hardmoors 55.
April 29th - Highland Fling.
May 13th - Cateran 55.
Summer - Personal challenge.
Late August - Speyside Way Race.
September 2nd - Glenmore 24.
October - Jedburgh Ultra (running or marshalling).
November - Glen Ogle 33.

I may add extra events, depending how it goes and availability.

So Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all, I'll start posting again in January.

Week ending 6th Nov - Sat 33, Sun 13.  Weekly total 46 miles.
Week ending 13th Nov - Mon 3, Fri 3.  Weekly total 6 miles.
Week ending 20th Nov - Mon 3, Fri 3, Sun 8.  Weekly total 14 miles.
Week ending 27th Nov - Mon 3, Fri 3, Sat 18.  Weekly total 24 miles.
Week ending 4th Dec - Thurs 3, Fri 3, Sat 8, Sun 3.  Weekly total 17 miles.
Week ending 11th Dec - Mon 3, Tues 3.  Weekly total 6 miles.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra

Please accept my apologies, I've neglected my blog for far too long.  To be honest, there's not much to report between events.  It's the usual story, not putting in the training then a suffer fest.

29th October - Jedburgh 3 Peaks.  I took another Friday off work, this time to make my way to Jedburgh for the 3 peaks ultra marathon. You may recall - Lynne, Skye and I marshalled at this event last year, marshals are offered a place for the event a year after.

On the way down I passed the Eildons, the hill range the ultra is named after.  They didn't look too bad, but they would give me a kick up the backside next day.

I arrived at the registration car park late afternoon and with nothing planned volunteered to help set up registration.  I left at eight to make up drop bags and consume a fish supper.  With no TV signal, I hit the sack, hoping for a good nights sleep.

At six my alarm went off, not long after Richard arrived after driving up from Leeds, a late entrant to the race.  It was good to catch up with my WHW support runner before making our way to race briefing.  It was short and straight to the point, basically "Don't be a dick".

The running field were taken to the start line across the road.  A squirrel dancing to YMCA, backed up by a couple of unicorns ensured a warm up before starting the race.  At eight we were off, running through the main street of Jedburgh which was closed by police.

It wasn't long before we were running into the borders countryside, bridges, streams, rivers, trails and woods.  I settled into the run, not really knowing how to pace it or how I'd get on.  I was wearing Hoka Speedgoat trail shoes, only their second outing.  The trail was very muddy in places where the Speedgoats held up rather well.  They weren't as sure footed as my Saucony Xodus trail shoes but they offered more cushioning for road sections.

Maxton, first (and fourth) checkpoint.  All was going well, I downed a milk shake, can of coke, bag of crisps and a couple of mini rolls before being spotted by John and harassed to leave the checkpoint, old habits die hard.  This next section quite literally blew me away, wooden walkways skirted the river tweed with sun kissed tree canopies of green through to gold reflected off the water.  The trail followed the meandering river before skirting a golf course and making it's way to the hills.

Rhymers Stone, checkpoint two.  Another milk shake, can of coke and bag of crisps before heading up.  The first Eildon was steep, steeper than it looked from a distance.  After eighteen miles and a lack of hill work I had to take a couple of breathers on the way up.  The views were incredible on such a clear day, I paused at the top of all three peaks to soak up the view, and get my breath back.

Bowden, checkpoint three.  Don't take things too seriously.  After the hills we made our way to Bowden where Noanie and Angela had a special treat for runners.  Tape guided runners into and onto the play park, a mini assault course allowed runners to stretch their muscles before sliding down the chute, a brilliant and bonkers addition to the race.

Now back to the Tweed and onto the riverside trail once more, the light changed, later in the day the scenery was even more picturesque, if that's possible.  I decided I'm coming back, back to catch this magical glimpse of autumn.

Maxton, checkpoint four.  I was pooped, with 10 miles to go.  I sat down to drink a milk shake and coke, no food now.  Lorna and John were having none of it, up I got and shuffled out of the checkpoint for the last stretch back to Jedburgh.

Even though we were returning on the same trail, it felt different, as if running it for the first time. My legs were sore and tired but I managed to run most of the way back.  At the road crossing was a bonus watering station, with three miles to go a scoof of coke was just what I needed to get to the finish.

Down the leaf carpeted tree lined avenue I ran, back into Jedburgh, along the main street, up the grass bank and across the line, 8 hours 20 minutes after leaving.  I was done in, I lay down on the grass to recover before making my way back to registration for coffee and soup.

Unfortunately I didn't make it to the bar that evening, after getting back to the camper it took me 3 hours to finish a bottle of beer and with no appetite I retired to bed missing the celebrations.

Now it's time to thank Angela and Noanie, for organising a race with passion and compassion, reminding us not to take things too seriously, and hosting an ultra in one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland.  Thank you to the team of marshals and helpers, the amount of people willing to volunteer shows how popular this event is.  Roll on next year, do I marshal or run?  That's the question.

Week ending 9th Oct - Mon 3, Wed 3, Sat 6.  Weekly total 12 miles.
Week ending 16th Oct - Wed 2, Sun 11.  Weekly total 13 miles.
Week ending 23rd Oct - Mon 3, Wed 3, Sat 15.  Weekly total 21 miles.
Week ending 30th Oct - Mon 3, Sat 38.  Weekly total 41 miles.


Saturday, 1 October 2016

Marathon de Ben Nevis

Double Lairig Mor and more.

I regularly checked the weather forecast the week leading to the race.  It wasn't good, with a "be aware" heavy rain forecast for Fort William I had second thoughts about making my way west for this race.  Being Aberdonian, the thought of squandering the entrance fee on a no show didn't sit comfortably.  I took the Friday off work to prepare, then left a glorious sunny day for the murky west.

The forecast was spot on, heavy rain as I checked in to the Glen Nevis camp site and made my way to Fort William for registration.  A technical hitch meant registration took longer than planned, then it was time for a fish supper and return to the camp site.

Wind driven rain hammered off the camper all night making me question why on earth I was here and about to run a mountain ultra in such conditions.

The alarm goes off at five, barely audible above the sound of heavy rain.  After some breakfast I get kitted out in full waterproofs as it's a mile walk to race start at Braveheart car park.  It's dark, I need the head torch as I walk along the road.  There's a gazebo, a few runners are taking shelter, I join them in an effort to keep warm before race start.

It's obvious participation numbers are down and there's news from race organisers.  The river crossing is in spate, although they are confident getting runners across with the aid of a rope and marshals wearing dry suits, in the event of an emergency runners (and riders as this is also a cycling event) may become stranded.  The race will now be an out and back with the half way point at the end of Loch Eilde Mor.  I have no problem with this, it's the race directors decision and I don't fancy a swim.

Lets talk about Lairig Mor though, as we'll be running it twice today.  It's a bit like Marmite, runners either love it or hate it.  It also just happens to be the last 15 mile section of the West Highland Way Race. During the last six years of ultra running I've covered the Lairig Mor only three times, one Glee training run in daylight and two sleep deprived dark stumbles at the end of the West Highland Way Race.  I must admit, I'm not relishing the thought of doing the Lairig twice today.

I remove my waterproof trousers and pack them away as I'm wearing running leggings underneath.  At seven we are off, runners surge ahead up the forest track, I employ my run 30 walk 30 method and soon reach the turn off heading towards Lundavra.  A few of us run together along the trail, avoiding the deep puddles and unaware that all the streams will be in spate ahead.  Rain, driven by the wind, feels like needles on my face, this saps energy making it a tough day at the office as we try and keep up a good pace.

The first checkpoint is at Lundavra, the marshal is sheltering behind the information board.  We dib in, I don't have a drop bag here so just carry on.  There's the first of many deep streams ahead with a photographer strategically placed for action shots.  A runner ahead veers off to the left in an attempt to find a narrow crossing, I decide to go splashing through giving the photographer the shot he has been waiting for.  Little did we know, this type of stream crossing would be the order of the day, keeping feet dry would be impossible.

I'm wearing my Saucony Xodus goretex shoes rather than Hokas.  I have sacrificed cushioning for grip and begin to regret my decision.  Yes, I have lots of grip in the wet conditions and the goretex outer seems to keep my feet warm despite countless dunks in streams, but I begin to get a pain in my heel, as if someone is sticking a hot needle in it.  The streams cool the feet every now and then meaning I can ignore the pain and carry on, hoping it doesn't get worse.

There's a lot of walkers on the trail today, well wrapped up in the foul conditions, making their way to Fort Willam and complete the West Highland Way.  I reach the turn off for Kinlochleven and stay on track for Mamore Lodge where checkpoint two is located.  It's a great view down to Kinlochleven and the sea loch, even on a dreich day like this.

I dib in, there's drop bags in the back of the van.  I'm about to tuck in when a runner comes over to chat.  It's Jeni and she says she is out of the race.  "Injured?" I ask.  "Nah, I just can't be bothered" is the reply from Jeni.  "Well you can't pull out with CBA, particularly after speaking to me as I've a reputation to keep up".

And so we team up, the half way turn around should be eight miles ahead (it ended up shorter).  The track climbs and it's not long before we meet and congratulate the race leader on his way back.  "He's only 12 miles ahead", I amusingly remark.

"Well done" is dished out as runners return, the trail follows the loch, we are both looking for the half way checkpoint which eventually arrives after 18 miles.  A land rover is parked by a ruin with two marshals and the dib machine.  There's no drop bags here, they are all back at Mamore lodge.  Blast, I was looking forward to a can of coke, but no worries, I have a couple bars of chocolate in reserve.

And so it's time to get back to Fort William.  Jeni keeps a good pace on the flat sections which stops me walking.  We encourage runners who still have to reach half way, the first of the mountain bikers also pass by on their way to the turn around point.

We arrive back at Mamore Lodge, there's a barbecue on the go.  I down a can of coke and pick at a few biscuits before we head back onto Lairig Mor.  We head back to Fort Bill with the wind and rain in our faces once more.  Through the deep streams once again, we walk the uphills and run the flat and downhills.

The heel pain has relocated to my calf and now the Achilles tendon is beginning to protest.  Jeni is keeping up a good pace, I consider just walking back but carry on regardless.  At every stream crossing I briefly stop and keep my right foot submerged in the freezing water to numb my foot.

Neil and a few runners catch up, there's good banter as we all reach Lundavra and dib in once more. We are now on the last section with only six miles to go.  Cyclists pass fast, we have to step aside at the single track sections to let them through.  We pass and will some walkers on who are almost at their destination as we run through the forest.

We are now on the forest track, I ignore the Achilles tendon pain as we are only 3 miles from Braveheart car park.  I apologise and have to take a couple of walking breaks as the track levels out, the conditions today have made this a tough race.

Seven hours, fifty four minutes and 37 seconds after setting off we arrive back at Braveheart car park, cross the finish line and dib in.  At 36.33 miles it's a bit shorter than the official 42 mile route but it feels like more.

I'd like to thank the race organisers for continuing to hold the race in such difficult circumstances.  I'd also like to thank the marshals and volunteers for looking after runners and riders in challenging conditions.  Thanks to Jeni for the company and keeping a good pace, I was really chuffed getting in under 8 hours.  
Week ending 25th Sept.  Mon 3, Sat 36.  Weekly total 39 miles.
Thurs 3, Sat 8.  Weekly total 11 miles.          


Friday, 23 September 2016

A new local event.

Can't spend too much time on this post as I'm currently trying to get ready for the Marathon de Ben Nevis, and yes, I've left it late to get organised once again.

Last week was the inaugural Hatton to Peterhead 10 mile race.  I spotted this while browsing The Running Shop website where I just happened to click on events.

This race was organised by Peterhead Athletics Club and involved a wee bus run from Peterhead to the start at Hatton, I do like a bus trip to the start of a race.

The weather was perfect, bright and sunny with a brisk following wind.  I haven't run a road race for a long time, probably the Fraserburgh half marathon.  I had no idea what pace to run and forgot to charge my Suunto which didn't help.  I would just have to wing it and try to hit it just right.

I didn't take anything to eat or drink, there was a water station after 5 miles.

We walked to the start on the outskirts of Hatton.  Quiet back roads to Peterhead is the route, after a quick chat to Neil who was marshalling the race started at 1100.

The first two miles were slight uphill, nothing too steep.  The rest of the route was fairly flat with a couple of undulating sections but I was able to run all of it, passing a couple of runners walking the latter hills.

I crossed the line in around 1 hour 23 minutes and something seconds.  40th out of 75 starters I was pretty happy with that.

A medal, bottle of water and slices of orange were dished out at the finish line.  There were refreshments available back at registration, about 1 km walk from the finish but I had things to do so did not attend.

All in all a pleasant and well run event, hopefully they will add it to the calendar next year.

Right, I'm off, Fort William here I come.

Week ending 11th Sept - Mon 3.  Weekly total 3 miles.
Mon 3, Tues 3, Sat 7, Sun 10.  Weekly total 23 miles

Sunday, 11 September 2016


It's yet another race I'm unprepared for.  Lynne and I are off work, getting the camper ready and making our way to Glenmore via the supermarket for supplies.  We arrive at the hayfield at five, park up and I head straight to registration.  Julie asks if I'm doing 12 or 24 as there's been a computer glitch and it's not listed.  I momentarily consider the 12 before admitting to the 24.  "No choice then" says Julie, you're doing the 24.

We are early this year and get to choose our spot, the hayfield is considered before heading to the same spot we were at last year.  This is a handy area, right next to the steps leading to the car park and perfect for grabbing sustenance on every lap.

The party theme this year is superheros and princesses.  I'm afraid my lack of organisation means we don't have outfits for the party so we both have a couple of drinks and play cards in the camper, how unsociable is that.

Saturday is bright and sunny, the highland scenery is at it's best.  We prepare my aid station under the camper awning, I make my way to race briefing and a talk from Sean the medic which is just as well, I remove rings from my fingers.

At 12 we are off so it's now time to talk tactics.  If you've read my previous two G24 race reports you'll be well acquainted with my method of reaching 100 miles.  For those who have not, I'll post it again.  The loop is 4 miles, multiplied by 24 hours equals 96 miles, one loop per hour is not enough.
I have to do an extra loop to reach 100 miles which I like to do in the first 6 hours.  This means I then have 18 hours at one loop per hour and voila, 100 miles.  Simples eh?  Well no, not quite.

I'm after my third 100 mile G24 in a row.  there's no reason I can't manage using my tried and tested method.  I start off doing 45 minute laps, a bit quicker than my planned 50 minute laps but it's okay, I'll settle for this just now.

Lynne is supporting alone and is surprised to see me every 45 minutes.  I chat with various runners, we support and encourage each other around the course.  The midges are out in force, especially at the half way water station.  I drink water with a sprinkling of midges at this station every lap to stay hydrated.  Back at the camper, I have some coke and a snack which will keep me going till around 1730 when I'll have something more substantial to eat.

All is going to plan, at 1720 I have completed 7 laps and stop at the van.  I have soup, a tuna sandwich and coke before setting off again.  It's 1740 which means I now have a 20 minute buffer to the hour.  One lap an hour takes me to the target of 100 miles.

The sun goes down fighting, giving a magnificent glow on Loch Morlich and the surrounding forest. On the next lap, I'll take my head torch as I don't want to get caught out without a beam in the dark.  I'm averaging around 55 minute laps and keep telling myself to slow it down a bit, take some slower laps, take a breather.

On the dusk round I chat with another runner from Aberdeenshire, commenting on how we both leave our head torches off till the very last minute.  The two mile checkpoint has become midge Armageddon, the marquee is lit where thousands of the blighters are swarming, kudos to the marshals who take it in shifts and endure the biting to see to the runners.

My head is not in a good place, Lynne has retreated inside the camper due to the midge.  It looks comfortable and cosy, I begin to wish I was in the 12 hour race instead so I can wash up, have a beer and get a good nights sleep.  This thought is very tempting but I continue on knowing if I get into the early hours of the morning I have broken the back of the race and should get it done.

After lap 11 it's time for more soup and pick at some snacks.  Lynne is going to turn in which is fine by me, she is driving tomorrow.  We lay out all I will need through the night, I'll knock on the door first light for breakfast.

This paragraph is about bodily functions, so if you're eating or squeamish, jump to the next paragraph.  The twelves are finishing up, loud music is playing from the party tent which keeps everyone going. I'm not feeling too good and take the opportunity to visit the portaloo.  Off I go on lap 14, still not 100 percent but trying to convince myself all is well.  I've slowed down a lot on this lap, I concentrate on reaching the half way checkpoint so I can have a sip of water.  I usually run / walk the uphill section but this time I'm forced to walk it.  At the top I can't get running again, then with minimal warning I throw up at the side of the track.  It happens so fast I am shocked, I have never been sick at any race, even outwith running I do all I can to prevent being sick.  I shuffle and walk off the hill and back to the camper.  I look at what I have been eating, no wonder I've managed to decorate the heather.  Take a plastic bag, put in broccoli and Stilton soup, Tuna sandwiches, quorn mini eggs, boiled eggs, quorn sausages, mini chocolate rolls, coke and milk.  Shoogle the mix together for the next 12 hours then pour it over the heather.  How not to fuel an ultra marathon.

I sit at the camper awning - cold, shivering and feeling quite demoralised.  I look at my mud covered calf muscles, peppered with midges they begin to spasm in the torch light.  The time buffer I have built up is ebbing away.  Right, I can sit here feeling sorry for myself or I can attempt to keep going.  I can't stomach any food or coke so I take a drink of water, change my top and put on a rain jacket for an extra layer.  I'm going to walk a round to see how long it takes.  I still have a 40 minute buffer to the hour so off I go on lap 15 in an attempt to rescue my race.  It's a steady walk, all the sections I've been running seem to take forever.  I try to run but feel completely washed out, it's no use, keep walking.  On walking up the hill I make my decision, I'm stopping after this lap.  At the 2 mile water station I collect my cup and walk on after thanking the marshals.  I walk the downhill too, stumbling and almost going over my ankle.  I reach the camper and look at my watch, 1 hour 10 minutes to walk a lap but I don't have the energy for this.  The buffer has been cut  to 20 minutes, I'm still on track for 100 miles but I need to fuel it.  I look at the spread of food but can't stomach any of it.

My mind is made up, I walk over the finish line to complete lap 15 and total 60 miles.  Gavin and Bill are at the finish who ask if I want to take a seat or take a sleep to recover before deciding to withdraw.  Thanks guys but my mind is made up, my number is put into the fire, I thank the timing marshals and return to the van.

I'm back at the finish, ready to cheer the runners around the short lap.  This has to be the best finish to any running race on the planet.  Again and again the runners are cheered as they complete the short lap.  24 hour runners arrive to the air horn as they complete 100 miles and join in the madness that is the short lap.  Some runners are fast, some walking, some limping but all have done their bit to reach this ending.  At 1200 the air horn blasts an end to the Glenmore 24 2016.

So, am I disappointed with my result?  Not in the slightest.  The advantage of the Glenmore 12 and 24 races is entrants can run as much or as little as they like, it's entirely up to the runner what distance they want to complete.  This makes it an excellent choice for anyone wanting to do their first ultra which just happens to be easy on the support.  I'll take my 60 miles, thank you very much.

I'd like to thank BAM racing and all the volunteers, marshals and medic who helped make this happen, a unique event in the Cairngorms.  Roll on next year, hopefully I'll get another 100 then.
Mon 3, Sat/Sun 60.  Weekly total 63 miles.  

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Stumbling along

Speyside Way Ultra 2016 - Trained? Nope.  Mentally prepared ? Nope.  Organised ? Nope. Caught up and chatted with various runners? Yep. Dodgy stomach? Yep.  In the portaloo while runners have started and gone?  Yep.  Chatting to medic sweeper? Yep.  Still confident of putting in a good time? Pfft yep.  Beautiful scenery? Yep.  Eating and drinking well? Nope.  Consistent running? Nope.  Ben Aigen taking it's toll? Yep.  Lots of walking? Yep. Keeping positive? Nope.  A grind to the end? Yep. Personal worst? Yep.  Amazing race and organisation? Yep.  Thanks to Sarah Louise Grigor and the team for an amazing ultra?  Absolutely.

Glenmore 24 this weekend, lets see what that brings.

Week ending 31st July - Thurs 3, Fri 3, Sun 15.  Weekly total 21 miles.
Week ending 07th Aug - Mon 3, Tues 3, Thurs 3, Fri 10, Sat 10, Sun 3.  Weekly total 32 miles.
Week ending 14th Aug - Mon 8, Tues 3, Wed 3, Thurs 3, Fri 3.  Weekly total 20 miles.
Week Ending 21st Aug - Mon 3, Tues 3, Sat 37.  Weekly total 43 miles.
Mon 3, Thurs 3, Fri 3, Sun 4.  Weekly total 13 miles.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Press the reset button.

I was determined to get back to proper training and managed a couple of recovery runs the week after the West Highland Way.  A family holiday to Germany was next at the beginning of July.  I packed some running gear but prioritised family time, I wasn't too bothered about running on holiday managing a grand total of 8 miles over two weeks.

Once home it was time to get organised.  I planned to run home from work every day which would give a solid midweek 15 miles and do a long run at the weekend.  I entered one of my local races, the Speyside Ultra, giving me just over four weeks to prepare, then the wheels came off.  After Wednesday I have been floored by a chest infection where running will have to be postponed for at least a week.

Once fit enough I'm going to start an ultra training program as soon as possible.  Usually I have a race target when completing a program, this one will see me peak around December / January where Scottish ultras have their winter lull.  I'm not sure what I'll do at this time of year, whether it's an event or on my own, I'll decide once the training begins.

Week ending 26th June - Tues 3, Sat 6.  Weekly total 9 miles.
Week ending 03rd July - 0 miles.
Week ending 10th July - Wed 6.  Weekly total 6 miles.
Week ending 17th July - Tues 2.  Weekly total 2 miles.
Mon 3, Tues 3, Wed 3.  Weekly total 9 miles.

Friday, 24 June 2016

West Highland Way Race 2016

The calm lasted till Friday morning.  Even with a day off work I struggled to get ready, only just realising the mammoth task of making soup, packing the camper and deciding what to wear for the race.  I wanted to run as light as possible, carry all the mandatory items in my trail shorts pockets and carry a bottle of water in my hand.  It just didn't work so I resorted to my trusty North Face back pack with double bottle holder.  Despite what  I felt was a monkey clinging to my back, this would be a good move for the conditions coming up.

The east coast is wet, rain batters off the camper van as I get it packed for the adventure ahead.  First collect Skye from school then Lynne and my mum from Bucksburn before heading south.  Lynne is driving as I relax in the back of the camper.  We stop at Finavon for something to eat before making our way to Milgavie.  The weather eventually improves, tee shirt weather is reported from Richard my support runner who is waiting at the train station car park.

We arrive on schedule, around 2200 with plenty of parking spaces, things seem quieter than usual.  A quick introduction, team Chalmers is complete.  I'm beginning to get a bit nervous now, registration is as quick and efficient as ever where I weigh in at 84.4 kg.  There's time for a coffee and some lovely home made cracknell made by Linda-Jo my work colleague.  I have more cracknell in my drop bags for Rowardennan and Inversnaid.

It's 1230 am and time for the race briefing, team Chalmers listen before it's hug time (shake hands for Richard) and they make their way up to the High Street to spectate.  Richard will drive to Fort William and catch a train to Tyndrum in the morning.  It now dawns on me the task ahead, I've been here before but in much better shape.  I make my way to the back and wait for the countdown.

0100 and we're off, a blaze of light from head torches (apart from mine because I'm Aberdonian) makes it's way through the shopping precinct cheered on by a large crowd, the atmosphere is amazing.  It doesn't take long to leave the streetlights behind and run through Mugdock Park.

There's not a lot of chat so it's head down and get on with settling into a steady pace.  The night is perfect for running with a full yellow moon looking over us.  I'm the number collector.  Sticky numbers have been supplied to the runners, a film crew is here this year to record an episode of the Adventure Show.  I have three that have fallen from runners but they will be way ahead.  There's no way I'll be able to return them so into my pocket they go ready for the checkpoint bin.

It's the railway track gate section and I'm a bit grumpy.  One runner is following very close to me, I open the gate and turn round to hold it open.  He grabs the gate without a word, passes me, opens the next one across the track and lets it slam shut as I reach it.  This is not what the West Highland Way Race is about.  I try to not let it get to me, so at the next gate I hold it open for a runner who is about 20 second behind me and get a thank you, that's better.

I almost take a wrong turn, there's two runners ahead, we are alerted by another runner advising to turn left, "It's This Way" he shouts back.  Onto the road to Drymen, it's so light I switch off my head torch.  There's footsteps behind, it's John who took a wrong turn with a group, realised their mistake, and ended up behind the sweepers.  We chat for a short while before John runs on to a great finish.

Through the forest and onto the trail to Conic Hill, a Cuckoo can be heard in the distance.  So far I've been running mostly alone, not by choice mind you, no-one seems to be running at my pace.  I walk all the uphills, wanting to save my energy for later on.

First climb of the day, Conic Hill.  It's getting light now although the sun is still to make an appearance.  From the path I can see a Scout Group on the summit, waiting for the sunrise on this, the longest weekend day of the year.  There's a camera ahead, one camera man and a presenter, fame at last I think but they wait till I'm past before continuing and filming, ah well, they've probably interviewed heaps of runners before me.

I carefully make my way down Conic, keeping my quads fresh for other descents later in the race.  There's a runner ahead, says she is pulling out a Balmaha as her knee has packed in.  I encourage her to take some time and think about it, she might recover and be able to continue.

The camper is at the checkpoint, I slide open the door where my crew are having breakfast, good timing.  I steal Lynnes toast and my mums coffee, I'm struggling with my appetite already as that's all I have.

I leave the checkpoint in confusion, do I follow the Fling route into the trees or make my way to the shore of Loch Lomond like the past?  I don't want to go off route.  A runner passes me, on her way to the loch so that's where I head.  I always struggle at this section between Balmaha and Rowardennan, today is no exception.  The steep uphills take their toll, I'm not in any better shape than the Fling and I've another 42 miles to go after Tyndrum, the first negative thought of the day enters my head.

The Scottish midge, their reputation goes before them.  With a muggy cloudy start to the day, conditions are prefect for the blighters.  They get everywhere - mouth, throat, nose, ears and eyes.  I take off my buff and wipe them from my face and arms every 10 seconds but they have reinforcements.

I reach Rowardennan, Stan greets me,  my drop is handed over, then there's a massive swarm round my head, millions of midges.  Midge repellent is administered by the marshals, gallons of it. There's a bench inside the toilet block where the midges reduce to their hundreds, I can just about attempt the contents of my drop bag.  I have a Deet egg, Deet flavoured crisps and a Deet coke before I am forced by the swarm to leave.

I'm on my own, Stan says there's a marshal guiding runners onto the low path.  The turn-off is further along the track than I thought, the poor marshal guiding runners onto the track must have drawn the short straw, standing in a midge maelstrom and still smiling through the net.

This is uncharted territory for me, the new low path to Inversnaid.  It's undulating and seems to go on and on.  I can't help but think how much easier the higher land rover track is and how much this lower route will add to my time.  Then the beauty shines through, it's the bird life I notice first as I skirt the loch.  A loud Blue Tit chick screeches at it's mother who frantically stuffs food into it's mouth, it doesn't silence the chick for long.  A gaggle of geese float majestically on the loch, seamlessly changing direction at once.  Narrow wooden bridges transverses rocky streams, the Ben Lomond water just about to reach it's destination.  Eventually the lower track turns back inland and climbs where I re-join the original route.  There'e still a bit to go to Inversnaid, I can see hydro pipes at the other side of the loch and I know Inversnaid is on the opposite side.  Eventually the next checkpoint comes into view where I am efficiently handed my drop bag and refilled with water.  I drop a Nun tablet into one of my two bottles, I'm back to using Nun tablets after a lull due to the heat.

I don't eat much, a bite of a cheese sandwich and a few crisps, scoof of coke then it's time to meet my crew at Bienglas Farm.  The more I run the technical section the longer it seems.  I catch up on a couple of runners who are chatting to each other then I fall into step, I want to try and conserve energy and they are keeping a good steady pace.  There are a lot of walkers on the trail who obligingly step aside and let runners through.

I've cleared Loch Lomond now and enter the mid-day sun.  There's no shade, the trees have been left behind.  I can't believe the temperature, it must be in the twenties, not only that but heat seams to be reflecting off the rocky trail and back up to my face.  I start the climb up to Darios Post, it's like hiking abroad.  I'm breathing hard, concentrating on one step at a time, someone is at the post watching.  I reach the post, say hello to the spectator then soak up the veiw of Loch Lomond, I probably won't see it again till 2017.

I'm not feeling great, I have a headache and I feel dizzy, then I realise I don't have anything on my head.  I move the buff from my wrist to my head, the heat of the material makes me feel worse but I need protection from the sun.  I need a stream and I need it quick, five minutes later I arrive at one, take the buff off my head and submerge it in the water.  I put the buff on my head without wringing it, the relief is instant as cool water lowers the temperature of my head and flows down my back.

I make it to Bienglas Farm, pretty exhausted I meet all my crew, including Richard who has been collected from Tyndrum railway station.  I take my first seat of the day, on a boulder which just about topples back into the ditch but I keep my balance.  My support are very attentive, it's good to see them although Richard can't join me until after the next checkpoint.  The heat has taken a lot out of me so I take a while to drink coke and pick at a few things.  Richard fills my water bottles, I don't drop a Nun tablet in this time.  It's time to leave, I advise my crew I'm going to take it real easy on this section, not because I want to but because I need to.  Another runners crew soaks my buff in water just as I leave the checkpoint which is much appreciated.

The heat is relentless, there's no shade.  I have a system to keep my head cool. Take the wet buff and put it on letting it flop back down the neck.  My head is cooled as drops of water go down my back.  Once the top part is dry, turn it over so the head is cooled and the water drops down to my back once more.  Doing this system means a wet buff lasts around 15 minutes before it's completely dry and I need to find a stream again.

There's plenty of streams with clear pools of water on this part of the way.  It's so hot I'm tempted to go and sit in one of the pools.  I consider stopping to dip my feet in a pool but decide against it, relying on the wet buff to cool me down.

I now start my run 30 walk 30 method, it's early in the race to begin this which shows how unfit I am, probably more unfit than when I did the Highland Fling.  Negative thoughts are entering my head so I shoo them away and concentrate on reaching Auchtertyre.

The pedestrian tunnel and I can hardly crouch down.  Then it's the climb up to the track to cow pat alley.  I'm struggling on the hills, there's no escaping that fact.  Once on the flat it's back to 30 / 30 again, through a remarkably dry CPA and down I go.  My left foot kicks a stone, my right tries to come to the rescue, also kicks a stone and it's time for a push up in the dirt.  I get up, pride makes me run on and I give myself a quick check.  Other than a dirty shirt and few minor scrapes I am fine.

Donald is ahead, he is supporting Norma Bone who would go on to be the oldest female finisher of the WHW race, a great result.  I chat to Donald for a while then make my way over the roller coaster section.  My pace is slow, I want to get this hilly section over and done with so I can run on the flat again.  I can hear traffic so I must be nearing the road, it's motorbikes I mostly hear, riders giving it all on such a beautiful day.

Once across the road I run walk into Auchtertyre checkpoint where Richard is waiting.  He fetches my weigh in card, time to squash the scales.  80.4kg, I've lost 4 kg and am advised to watch my hydration and drink to thirst.  I take a seat in the camp chair, I feel about as exhausted as I normally do at this point running the Fling.  Ma Chalmers has made sarnies, egg and tuna.  I eat half and have a cup of home made lentil soup then spill it on the ground.  A change of socks is required here, a couple of hot spots have been making their presence felt.  Richard is all set to go, I half joking ask if he likes walking.  Little do I know, we will mostly be walking.

I've been looking forward to running (walking) with Richard, I've never had a support runner start this early in the race.  We make our way towards Tyndrum, I'm unable to keep a steady pace.  We run slowly for as far as I can before my exhausted mind takes over and forces me to walk.  Chat is easy, we talk about the race last year when Angela and I were supporting Richard.  Fiona is ahead, eating mashed tatties as she goes.  I comment on how tough the day has been.  "It's only tough if you think it's tough" the master says, who is well on her way to collect her twelfth goblet.  Such positivity is something I have still to learn.  As we shuffle / walk along the trail I realise how well I trained and ran the race in 2013 as I am well behind that schedule.
George and Karen are at Tyndrum so it's a quick hello, shake hands and a hug before continuing.    We are on the motorway section, the sun is still hot despite it being late afternoon.  My buff still needs soaked in streams which are few and far between here.  It seems longer than I remember which shows what state of mind I am in.  Each bend completed reveals another long straight and I begin to get frustrated.  I apologise to Richard for walking most of the time, I should be fitter and able to keep a steady running pace.  He says he doesn't mind and is enjoying being on the Scottish trails again.

Bridge of Orchy, I head straight to the hotel car park, I'll dab my race chip on the way out.  The car park is bathed in sun, I take a seat in the heat and consume half a sandwich and soup.  On the way out I have a couple of scoofs of coke and head to Hamish, the timing chip marshal.  He says I'm looking good but I don't feel it.  Richard and I make for Jelly Baby Hill.

It's a bit of a climb, once again we are behind Fiona.  There's flags at the summit, I can hear the Star Wars theme tune being played on a whistle.  Murdo is here on his yearly vigil handing jelly babies out to runners.  I accept mine and move on to the downhill leading to Inveroran.  The evening is bathed in sunlight, scenery spectacular but I'm not really in a good place.  We are stepping and stumbling down the rocky descent getting passed by other runners when a sudden urge takes over.  I've had enough.  I've had enough of the stumbling and shuffling and general negativity.  Richard is about 20 yard ahead and I let go.  I'm going to go flat out.  Off I go, striding out, each footstep landing perfectly on this boulder or that.  Richard, hearing my footsteps behind speeds up, probably thankful he can run again.  I pass him by and let fly.  There's a runner and support ahead, I pass them at full pelt, they comment on me having a second wind and the magic of Murdos jelly babies.  Faster I go, I don't want this exhilaration to end.  Richard says we need to send Murdos jelly babies for drug testing.  The end of the downhill is near but I'm not finished yet and I know I'm going to pay for this later on.  Full stride now, I'm going flat out with the sun on my face and wind in my hair on a beautiful Scottish evening, I can hear Richards footsteps close behind.  Once on the level I walk alongside Richard, it takes a long time for my heart rate to recover.  Little did I know it at the time, that descent would be the highlight of my WHW 2016 race.

It's now evening and the sun is still doing it's best to overheat me.  We walk the long gradient onto Rannoch Moor.  It's far longer than I remember and in my negative state I start to get annoyed at the trail, annoyed at the distances involved, annoyed at my exhaustion.  Once on the flat it's time for the 30 / 30 method which works quite well for a while before fatigue shows up again.  The sun dips behind the hills and the temperature begins to drop.  There's a bit of a breeze, on the one hand I'm grateful for respite from the sun, on the other I don't recognise my core temperature drop.  We are walking into Glencoe now, my legs have nothing more to offer than a stumble over the rocky trail.

We are nearing the checkpoint, Richard runs ahead to alert Lynne, Heather and Skye.  I reach Glencoe in a bad way, probably worse than I did during the 2012 race.  I don't go straight to the van, Richard brings my request for a coke as I make my way to the facilities.  I'm hoping to get composed before seeing my support.

I bump into Lois on the way back who remarks how good I am looking with the last two sections to go,  looks can be deceiving as I am exhausted.  I'm still in a tee-shirt and begin to cool.  I put on a puffer jacket and sit in the front of the van with my legs covered.  I start to shiver uncontrollably and request a hot cup of tea, I don't need anything else.  I sit sipping the tea, the mug cupped in my hands.  My crew are concerned as I drink the tea, I watch the surface ripple in circles due to the shakes.  I can see the devils staircase out the van window, menacing and taunting in the fading light.  I inform my crew I need a 15 minute nap and drift in and out of sleep for the next 10 minutes.  It doesn't revive me, in fact it does quite the opposite.  I take another look at the hills ahead, I don't want to be a casualty or have to be rescued from the hills, I've been in this game long enough to know when my race is over and when to pull the plug.  "I'm sorry, it's a DNF folks" I announce, the words taste bitter.  There's some discussion where Richard offers to walk me to the finish but I don't think I can even make it up over the Devils.

My chip and tag are cut off and handed to the marshals.  The engine is started and the van makes it's way to Fort William.  Along the access road we drive slow, passing runners about to enter their second night with their support.  Half asleep I wish them well and wave through the window.

So where did it go wrong?  The answer is contained right here in this blog.  Lack of running and practically no hill training.  No preparation, leaving it till the Friday to start packing and thinking about getting into race mode.  An attempt to get through by experience alone which just isn't enough.

Every cloud has a silver lining as they say.  If I had completed the race, I might have thought such a low training regime was an acceptable way to prepare for a big event and stumble along not training properly.  As it is, I have been given a kick up the backside.  I need to take my ultra running seriously and put the miles in for events.  I need ultra running in my life, I have to make room for it, I have to force myself to get out the door and get back into shape.  I'll be back.

I'd like to thank Ian Beattie and all who organise and put on Scotlands number one ultra running event.  I'd also like to thank all the marshals, volunteers, medics, photographers and anyone else who helped stage this iconic race, even though I didn't see you all.

Most of all I'd like to thank team Chalmers (Lynne, Mum, Skye) for feeding and hydrating me and for just being there at the checkpoints.  Thanks to Richard, who drove all the way from Leeds to support and run with me, it was much appreciated.

Tues 3, Sat 71.  Weekly total 74 miles.              

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Weeks 22 and 23.

Thought I'd better post an update before the West Highland Way race this weekend.  There's not a lot to report to be honest.  I sacrificed training for quality time, spending the weekends with my family rather than spending hours pounding the trails.

A weekend in Amsterdam gave plenty of places to run and even though I packed running gear I did not venture out at all.  On the other hand we did walk a lot, as you do when on a city break, so if time on feet counts towards training for the WHW then I don't feel so bad.

This past weekend was another one with zero miles.  Eight on Saturday and eight on Sunday was the intention but once again I settled for family time.  A weekend in the camper with a leisurely 8 mile cycle kicked off taper week leaving a couple of three miles leading to the race.

So, after having personal worst times in all races this year, doing the least amount of training I have ever done and having such a leisurely taper, panic will surely set in.  Well it hasn't.  I'm remarkably calm as I type this.  I still have to shop, look out my gear, pack and do a lot of organising but I feel laid back. This doesn't mean I am underestimating the task ahead, I just think I will be able to take things as it comes.

I would like to complete the race in around 30 hours, anything under would be a bonus and I would certainly be delighted with a finish.

I have taken Friday off to rest and prepare before picking up my ever suffering support, "team Chalmers".  I recon we should arrive at Milngavie around 10 o'clock which should be perfect timing to register and calm the nerves.

I have a support runner, Richard whom I supported last year is making his way north.  He will park his car at Fort William before catching the train to Tyndrum and be ready to accompany me from Auchtertyre.  This is much appreciated and shows the WHW spirit, a good turn deserves another.

So here's to the race this weekend, the main aim will be to enjoy ourselves with like minded runners and crew, if I can recreate the feeling and atmosphere I felt at the Cateran then it will be job done.

Week ending 5th June.  Tues 3.  Weekly total 3 miles.
Week ending 12th June.  Tues 3, Fri 3.  Weekly total 6 miles.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Weeks 19,20 and 21

The Cateran trail marker post emblems contain a red heart.  Whoever dreamt of creating this route through such a beautiful and diverse part of Scotland must have known they were onto something good.  It's not as popular as the West Highland Way or possibly the Great Glen Way but in a way this just adds to the charm.  The same can be said of the Cateran Ultra races, with a choice of 55 or 110 miles over a long weekend, this is a special festival organised and run by a dedicated and hard working team.

Gulabin Lodge was race head quarters with a field containing marquee and camping area.  There was food for runners, registration pasta dishes and pizza on Friday with breakfast and main course dishes cooked by Helen and Sandra on Saturday.

My entry in the WHW Race this year meant the 110 was out, so I had to settle for the 55.  I took the Friday off work to pack the camper and head to Spittal.  I arrived in time to see the 110 runners depart at 1600 then helped assemble the marquee.  After volunteering for kitchen duties I prepared for the race ahead and had an early night.

The alarm went off at 0530, I immediately hit the snooze button and fell asleep.  I woke with a start at 0620, blast, the race kicks off at 0700.  I got dressed quick and was having my breakfast when a call was shouted out for race briefing.  I grabbed my toast and dropped off my drop bags and completely missed the briefing.  Oh well, it was a clear cold morning, time to check on the 110 race progress. Bad news, my Cateran training buddy Alyson pulled out of the race with an injury.

Time for a walk, we all followed Karen across the road, over a style to the start at the bridge.  I stayed at the back, right at the back.  At 0700 we were off,  the field of runners left at a very quick pace.
Unexpectedly, I was left right at the back and alone, except for a Kiwi and a Scot about one hundred yards behind.  This was a new experience for me, I've never been in the vicinity of sweepers before.  It was something I found disconcerting, hearing their chat behind as I settled into the race.

I could see runners ahead, I was about 1 minute behind.  The group ahead entered the field and followed the Land Rover track.  Some have done that in the past, not realising the route turns left and follows the fence line up a steep hill to the next style.  The group were way ahead, so I turned left and followed the trail thinking I'll cheekily make it to the style before them.  On reaching the style I noticed the group had carried on past the track that leads to the style.  I yelled for the group to stop and turn back before continuing along the trail.

The group caught up, and passed me by.  Dalnagar castle checkpoint passed, then I found myself alongside Patricia, one of the Fling photographers.  Chat made the road section fly by, we turned onto the first big climb of the day.  I held the gate open for some runners then was perturbed to find the sweepers Keith and Ian come through.  I thought to myself "are the majority of runners this year going too fast"?

Huge styles, some of the biggest on the route were here, runners ahead didn't know the gates were unlocked and queued to go over the styles.  I took great delight in opening the gates as runners found themselves balanced at the top of styles, this happened on more than one occasion.

We were on the trails running toward Loch Shandra, there was some screaming ahead as runners got their feet wet going through the boggy section.  A group of us approached, I opted for the "sod it, run straight through" method and just about fell on my backside in the slippery mud.

At the loch I chatted with an American, on his holidays all the way from Minnesota if I remember correctly.  Glenisla checkpoint appeared where I needed to use the facilities.  After a quick bite to eat I left the checkpoint where one drop bag was left for the runner bringing up the rear.

I climbed the steep hill out of the checkpoint expecting to see runners ahead but they were gone.  I put my head down and concentrated on keeping a steady pace.  I caught up and passed some runners after the farms and found myself alone for most of this section to Alyth.  The day turned out to be a cracker, with clear views for miles from the trail.  Through Alyth, house windows were open with inhabitants playing loud music as I headed towards the checkpoint at the Den.

The sun was shining, the grass looked comfy, it took all my willpower to keep standing and ate a little of the contents of my drop bag before heading off toward Blairgowrie.

More good chat with runners on the uphill, we were making our way to the forest where we bumped into Alan, the first 110 runner I came across.  I stayed alongside Alan through the forest, getting news of the events of the night before and reminiscing about the 110 race the previous year, he was having a great race and running strong.

After the forest I said farewell and told Alan I would see him at the end.  As I ran ahead a thought came to mind.  I ran the second half of the 110 race with Alan last year and thoroughly enjoyed the company.  I wasn't having a particularly good run today, I'm going to run the rest of the race with Alan once more.  We ran down the hill and into Blairgowrie checkpoint together.

Couldn't eat.  Forced down my boiled egg, scoffed some coke and milk shake then rounded up Alan before thanking the Minions and leaving for Bridge of Cally.

We walked up the hill towards the fruit factory in the company of another runner (I'm sorry, I can't remember the name) then skirted the fields before making our way up to the bog section.  It wasn't bog, in fact this was the driest conditions I've seen the Cateran.

Bridge of Cally checkpoint and I felt like crap.  Liquids only, I couldn't face any food.  We left for the long march up through the forest with the late afternoon sun bathing the trail.  Alan was running well considering the distance he had covered.  Runners passed, some straight through, others chatted for a while before leaving and running ahead.

I ran ahead of Alan for a while before waiting for him to catch up, when he did he was with Lois.  All three of us crossed what was usually another bog section which was remarkably dry.  Beautiful scenery, bright evening sun, good company, all three of us running, a thought suddenly entered my head, one that's never happened in a race before.  I didn't want the race to end.  I didn't care about times or crossing the finish line, this was turning out to be the perfect ultra on my favourite trail.

There was a foot bath, Wilson was manning the foot spa, a fight against some tree attacking fungus.  It was not far after this when Alan came out with a suggestion.  He was at it again, he wanted a finish line display like the one last year.  I refused, explaining I felt like an imposter having not done 110 miles this year but Alan was adamant.  Aeroplanes, arms wide we would put on a display, Alan and his ice man George.

Kirkmichael has an unmanned checkpoint where everything is finished apart from cola bottles, we each took a handful then made our way to Enochdu, the final checkpoint.

Alan and his support offered food, I opted for creamed rice, something I can usually scoff by the tin but not now.  Two forkfuls and that was it, back to coke and milkshake.

It was on the long uphill towards the hills where we planned our finish line display.  We would start on the finish home straight, Alan in front of me, before breaking, one to the right and one to the left, criss crossing all the way to the finish line for a man hug and shake hands,

Runners were scattered across the trail to the last climb of the day.  Good company and chat with Linda helps the time pass.  The finish could be seen from the top of the hill, still bathed in sun.  Down the rocky trail we went before running over the hump back bridge and taking up action stations.

Alan first, then me, arms out wide before the squadron leader gave the order to break, one to the right and one to the left.  We twisted and turned, meeting for the man hug and handshake before crossing the Cateran finish line once more.      

I'd like to thank Karen, George, Mike, the marshals, volunteers and cooks for their hard work in holding the best ultra event in Scotland, all under difficult circumstances.  As I posted on Facebook, you are all superstars.

Week ending 15th May.  Mon 3, Tues 3, Wed 3, Sat 55.  Weekly total 64 miles.
Week ending 22nd May.  Sun 4.  Weekly total 4 miles.
Mon 3, Tues 5, Sat 13, Sun 20.  Weekly total 41 miles.  



Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Weeks 17 and 18

The Highland Fling.  I've already posted how low my training has been and how I'm not expecting much from races this year.  The Highland Fling was no exception, so before I go into the race report I'll let you know my fifth Highland Fling was the slowest by a long way.  This is turning out to be a year of PW's.

I took the Friday before off so I could prepare the camper van.  A stop off for fuel (for the camper van and me) was in order before making my way to Tyndrum.  It took a while to pack and I still had my drop bags to do so I stopped off at Loch Dochart to boil some eggs and pack food.  It was a beautiful late afternoon which gave a good sign of nice weather for the race ahead.

With Tyndrum camp sites full I had previously requested an overnight stop in the Green Welly Car Park.  A quick response said this would be fine, however there were plenty of spaces to stop in the tourist car park where I stayed for the duration of the race.  A fish supper was consumed while watching a film before I turned in for the night, I had an early bus to catch.

I do like a bus ride before a race, this was another stroke of genius from the race organisers.  Camp at the finish and then jump on the 0345 bus to Milngavie, just in time to start the race at 0600.  The railway station car park was a hive of activity, it also had the aroma of deep heat mixed with tiger balm.  Drop bags were dropped, registration was done, number pinned on which left only one thing, the usual long queue for the loo, only this time there were no queues.  Race organisers had supplied enough portaloos to service a music festival, something I'm sure most ultra runners are grateful for before a big race.

0600 and we were off, cheered through the streets and onto the West Highland Way once more.  The morning was cool but it didn't take long to warm up.  I took things real easy, good chat with Norrie made the miles fly by before he ran ahead then it was time to pack away my jacket, the rest of the race would be tee shirt weather.  With snow experienced only days earlier, I had full waterproofs in my rucksack, needless to say all stayed packed away for the duration of the race.

I took a refill of water at Drymen and headed for the first hill of the day, the iconic Conic.  I felt okay going through the forest, chatting to Ian and some others before going up hill.  Half way up I suddenly realised, apart from my two Cateran outings, I had hardly completed any hill work during 2016. This was going to be a big factor in my PW fling, I was going to struggle.  Of course, on such a sunny day the view over Loch Lomond was at it's best with snow capped mountains in the distance.   I descended as quick as possible to the checkpoint at Balmaha.

With not being in great shape I packed more food than usual in each of my drop bags.  There would be no run through strategy today, I just wasn't fit enough.  I chatted to Angela for a while before departing around 20 minutes later having consumed most of my food.

The short steep climb out of Balmaha was a wake up call, my legs were feeling weak already, I began to doubt I would see this race through to the end.  Up and down I went with my heart rate all over the place, I just couldn't get into any rhythm.  It was between Balmaha and Rowardennan I spotted Fiona ahead.  Right, I thought.  I'll tag along behind Fiona knowing a good steady pace will be run which was just what I needed.  Like a stalker I followed or ran beside Fiona all the way to Rowardennan which did indeed sort out my pace.  A runner who was following me said thanks for keeping a good steady pace, I was quick to shift the praise over to Fiona.

Rowardennan was a long pit stop where I had to use the facilities, I estimate about half an hour here before leaving for Inversnaid.

This section now has a choice of two routes, the Fling required the traditional forest track but the full WHW in June will take the lochside track.  I tried to look out for the lower track but didn't see where to turn off, I'll need to do some homework before June.

In years gone by I have used my run 30 walk 30 method for the long uphill land rover track but not this year, I settled for walking all the uphill sections.  On the loch side path to Inversnaid I seemed to have a bit of a headache, I just couldn't put a finger on it.  It may have been dehydration on such a fine day but I was drinking to thirst.  I gave myself a reminder to take a couple of paracetamol at the checkpoint.

Inversnaid was another 20 minute stop before hitting the technical trail.  I usually relish this section but not today, it seemed to go on for miles.  It was a long time before I reached Darios post and left the loch behind.  Bienglas Farm couldn't come quick enough where I needed another long stop.

The last section and home straight, I knew I would finish the race, I also knew I would get in well after 13 hours.  As I walked the uphill parts of the trail, I was passed by countless runners, there was nothing I could do but concentrate on my own pace to get in.  The last of the up hills at the roller coaster section completely wiped me out although I was able to let go going downhill and made up a few places.  Once on the flat and with three miles to go I was able to keep running, something I was most surprised at given the struggle so far.  Once at the river section and approaching the piper I tried to resist the urge to walk, unsuccessfully.  I walked at the barrier section before being encouraged to run then entered the best finish straight in ultra running.  The red carpet led the way home and across the line to complete my fifth Highland Fling.

There was a lot of online praise for the Race Organiser John Duncan and his team, deservedly so. Time to add mine.

Every year some great touches and tweaks are added to this excellent race, here is my experience of Fling organisation and hospitality -

An early morning bus to the start.
Well laid out drop bag organisation.
Fast and efficient registration.
Heaps of portaloos, at the start and throughout the race.
Marshals at every road crossing on route.
Service and being waited upon at every checkpoint.
Great pictures by professional and amateur photographers.
A brilliant home straight.
A seating recovery area just over the finish line.
Tea, coffee, soup and rolls.
A dedicated shower trailer.

And that's without experiencing the ceilidh.

So thanks once again John and everyone involved for providing a top class race, the best in the country.

Photograph by Patricia Carvalho Photography
Week ending 1st May.  Wed 3, Sat 53, Sun 3.  Weekly total 59 miles.
Wed 3, Sat 6, Sun 14.  Weekly total 23 miles.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Week 16

Some ramblings before the Fling.  It's Thursday night and true to form I still have to get ready for this weekends ultra, the famous Highland Fling.  Skye and Lynne have other plans this weekend so I'm going solo on this event for the first time.  I am staying in Tyndrum Friday night / Saturday morning and catching the 0345 bus to Milngavie.

Mileage is well down but there's a couple of reasons for this.  Late finishes at work makes it impractical to run home, even though it's only three miles.  Lift offers from a colleague have been too convenient meaning midweek runs are down.  I've also been running with Lynne at the weekend, enjoying the company and helping increase Lynnes mileage.  On Sunday we completed 9 miles, Lynnes longest run yet.  I should have continued and put higher training miles in but I was content and called it tapering for the Fling.

Niggles - the calf is still making it's presence felt.  I didn't manage to get an appointment with the physio so I'm going to have to "wing it" as they say.  On the same leg I feel like I have shin splints, and with such low training I have no idea where that came from.

I better get ready, the forecast is cold so it looks like I'll have to be prepared and pack winter kit.

Mon 3, Tues 3, Sun 9.  Weekly total 15 miles.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Weeks 14 and 15

My Facebook news feed highlighted the More Mile R66 cushioned running shoes.  With the marketing statement saying "More Mile’s R66 Running Shoe offers superior cushioning to ensure all day distance comfort" and austerity forcing cutbacks, at £29.99 a pair I just had to give them a try.

On arrival, I was surprised just how lightweight the shoes were, to the point of being suspicious of receiving an empty shoe box through the post.  The black and white range is a good looking shoe which wouldn't be out of place wearing as an everyday trainer.  Knowing they are road shoes I was hoping they would be suitable for trail as well.  One look at the sole quashed that idea unless the surface is hard packed and dry, the tread is very shallow and a mostly smooth underside means sticking to the road.  More Mile do a trail shoe (Cheviot) which I may try in future.  

I took a chance and ordered my usual size 9 which is just bordering on being tight at the toes so I would definitely order a half or full size larger next time, particularly if they are being used as marketed for long runs.

Putting them on, the back of the shoe was very shallow.  It felt as if they may slip off my feet but they stayed in place for the duration of the run.  Although classed as superior cushioning, the sole felt very firm.  I have used them for all my 3 mile runs home from work and to be honest I would be wary of putting in high miles but may start using them for 8 to 10 mile outings.

What they will be perfect for is short breaks and holidays, the kind where luggage space is at a premium and I need a casual shoe that can double as a running shoe.

Training wise, after the Cateran runs I have trailed off a bit.  I did a Saturday night run round the outskirts of Aberdeen in foul weather, eventually finding myself on the AWPR development site at Kirkhill Forest by accident.  To say it was a mud bath is an understatement, it was very eerie passing all the earth moving machinery, sitting idle waiting for their operators to return.

I still have a niggle with my calf and with the Fling approaching a visit to the physio may be in order.

Week ending 10th April.  Mon 3, Tues 3, Thurs 3, Fri 3, Sat 19, Sun 8.  Weekly total 39 miles.
Mon 3, Tues 3, Wed 3, Thurs 3, Fri 3, Sun 8.  Weekly total 23 miles. 


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Weeks 12 and 13

I returned to the Cateran trail twice this past week, the first time since completing the DC110 last year.  As reported in earlier posts, I don't feel as fit as I have in previous years.  This didn't stop me replying to Alyson, who posted on Facebook she was doing a night run on the Cateran trail and was looking for company.  I needed a reason to do some high miles and where better than the "special trail".

This was my third year in a row where I trained overnight on the Cateran, this may well become a yearly visit for me.  I was thinking of organising and posting myself before Alyson saved me the bother, I had no hesitation in replying and participating in the run.

I won't go too much into detail - we left Blairgowrie at 2200 hours on a clear mild spring moonlit night.  One of the reasons for liking this part of the trail is the night time view over Perthshire and it did not disappoint.  The moon was diffused behind clouds, below were the orange glow of various towns, a tower in the distance was lit by red lights and acted as a landmark till clear of Alyth.  The training run felt good, so good I started to name it "The Perfect Run".  I felt strong, not out of breath, heart rate zone good, almost like floating across the trail.  I knew it wouldn't last but made the most of it while it while I could.

There were a couple of reasons why this was labelled a perfect run.  First of all, great company, Alyson, a fellow DC110 runner and previous training partner helped the miles go by.  Secondly, we had Duncan as support.  I'm not used to support during long training runs but having Duncan meant a far lighter load to carry and reassurance if anything was to go wrong.

A second night time sortie was organised, the same route with Alyson and Karen.  On leaving for Spittal, I realised my Hokas were in poor shape.  On my previous run, the insoles parted company with the bottom of the shoe.  My back up and even older Hokas with lack of tread were not suitable for the Cateran "bog"sections.  This left me with my relatively untested and un-cushioned Saucony Xodus for the run.  I was a bit apprehensive using these as quite a few miles of the Cateran are on road.

I needn't have worried, the shoes performed admirably.  Although a bit hard on road, the trade off was worth it for secure grip in the muddy sections.  After years of using Hokas could this be a swing away from thick cushioned shoes?  Maybe not, I've ordered a pair of More Mile R66 shoes, I'll give a review when they arrive.

It was another spectacular nigh time Cateran run, this time in clear frosty conditions.  The company of Alyson and Karen made the miles fly past.  The forest trail above Loch Shandra was severely churned up by forestry machinery making progress difficult, hopefully this won't be the case in May.

After two night time jaunts on the Cateran my training is now back on track.  It's up to me to keep the momentum going and do the required training before my next event, The Highland Fling.

Week ending March 27th - Tues 3, Fri/Sat 32, Sun 5.  Weekly total 40 miles.
Thurs/Fri 32, Sun 6.  Weekly total 38 miles.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Week 11

For the time being I have no car.  This is a good thing as I work only three miles from my house. Lynne drops me off in the morning and I run home after work.  This forces me to do the midweek miles regardless of the weather.

I opted for an urban long run this weekend, a 24 mile circular route round Aberdeen.  I could have headed for the hills but decided on a relatively flat session after the D33 last week.  Once again I ran out of steam half way through the run, it didn't finish very well with me walk / running back to Bucksburn.  I don't think I am as fit as I should be, once I get to the latter stages of a long run my heart rate tends to rise significantly.

Although I'm not doing the double Cateran this year, I am heading out for a night training run next week.  I still need my Cateran fix and experience the awe-sum Perthshire hills at night.

Mon 3, Tues 3, Wed 3, Thurs 3, Fri 3, Sat 24, Sun 2.  Weekly total 41 miles.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Week 10

D33 race report.

No, I don’t want another f**king energy sweet!  It was the 2011 D33, my youngest brothers’ first ultra and only my second.  Badly paced, we both made the newbie error of running out too fast and blowing up on the way back.  With eight miles to go spirits were low, to keep us going all I had was a packet of energy sweets.  Every ten minutes or so I would hand out one of the sweets, rationed to see us through to the finish.  It was during one of the sweetie offerings my brother blurted the now ridiculed sentence above.  Five years later I didn't expect to make the same mistake again.

Saturday 12th March, time for my first ultra of the year.  The weather wasn't too bad although rain was forecast later on.  I wore a teeshirt with breathable jacket and opted for a waist bottle belt.  I packed a cheese sandwich, crisps, boiled eggs and double decker in a half way drop bag and put a Mrs Tillys fudge in my pocket.  First mistake of the day, I thought the fudge bar would see me through to half way.
I met and chatted before the race with Gary, an ex work colleague.  At kick off, Gary joined the crowd farther forward than me.  I joined about half way which turned out to be my second mistake of the day.

We were sent on our way, once the field thinned out I checked my watch for pace.  9.20 minute miles, the pace was way too quick. I didn't train enough for this.  Another mistake, I did not slow down.
All was okay though, I chatted to some familiar runners including Fiona and Neil.  

Photo by Fiona Rennie

Checkpoint 1 came and went.  I didn't stop, preferring to push on nibbling on the fudge bar. 

This will go down as the year of the squashed frogs, there were a good few on the road and I wondered if they had been flatted by runners or vehicles.

The run out was steady, then time to applaud the returning runners, starting with the elite who were flying.  Cheered through Crathes and restored railway, this was where I began to feel the lack of training, chickens were about to come home to roost.

I began to feel numb but still ran stubbornly on at the same pace, willing for the half way turn around.  I arrived at the checkpoint and obtained my drop bag, this was going to be the magic potion that would allow me to continue at the same pace, so I thought.

It was time to visit the freebee table.  Result, there was a couple of bottles of coke.  I gulped back a cup, binned the cheese sandwiches, greedily scoffed a packet of crisps as fast as possible, peeled and ate one of the two eggs and walked out of the checkpoint.  I peeled the second egg and proceeded to run and eat it at the same time.  This wasn't fun, try it some time.  The dry egg slowly tried to choke me as I fought for breath with the effort of running.  I had to stop and gulp water before trying to continue.
It wasn't happening, I couldn't get back into rhythm.  I checked my watch, 11 minute miles, that’s all I could muster.  My target of under 5 hours 30 minutes went out the window.  It was a sneaky target that wormed it’s way into my head anyway.

It was time for damage limitation.  I tried to concentrate and keep a steady pace but it got slower and slower.  By Drumoak I was doing 12 minute miles, I needed to take a breather and began to walk.  As runners passed me by, I began to realise what was wrong.  I hit the wall. 

All I could do was continue and wait till the half time food supplied energy.  Needless to say, it never arrived.  The following miles were a “run” walk to the next checkpoint.  I felt tired and just wanted to lie down and sleep, as if this was the last section of the WHW race.   Eventually I arrived at checkpoint 3, time for another visit to the freebee table.  I downed a lucozade sport and chatted to Hamish before shuffling on, only eight miles to go.

By Peterculter I resigned myself to walking in before there was a familiar voice behind.  Norrie just happened to be having an off day as well so we hooked up and run / walked all the way to Garthdee. 
The finish line beckoned so we managed to run the last couple of miles, Norrie slightly quicker than me.  I was relieved to make it back to the Duthie Park and over the finish line to collect my sixth D33 medal.

So what went wrong?  Lack of training, pace, fuelling and mind set.  I should know better.

I’d like to thank George, Karen and the marshals for organising yet another amazing D33 ultra, Aberdeens premier running event.

Tues 10, Sat 33.  Weekly total 43 miles.    

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Week 9

I mud tested the Saucony Xodus 6 Goretex trail shoes the other day.  I took them on my usual Braes training route which was drier than normal.  On the few muddy sections they performed admirably, I've forgotten how decent grip gives so much confidence, especially on side slopes.  The fit is good with no need for me to go a half or full size up from 9.  The downside is cushioning, I've gotten way too used to Hokas over the years so anything else seems bone jarring on a hard surface.
It's difficult to find a race where I can put them to good use, all races I have entered contain road sections or hard compacted trails.

Training is still not happening, this time I completed some midweek runs then completely junked the weekend outings.  My head is not in run mode, the D33 is looming and confidence is low.  There's a choice of ways to look at this, I'm either seriously under trained or well rested, I'll pretend it's the latter.

The usual calf niggle is shadowing me, unable to shake it off I've carried this coming up for two years.  I can say with certainty, there won't be any PB's for me so I'm just going to go, enjoy the race and try to finish without injury.  Hopefully, by taking part on Saturday I will get my mojo back and manage some serious training.

Tues 3, Thurs 4, Fri 3.  Weekly total 10 miles.


Sunday, 28 February 2016

Weeks 6,7 & 8

It's been a downward spiral these past few weeks.  I have not been in running mode and junked practically all midweek running.  By the time I got home from work it was cold and dark where I had no inclination to head out and run on country roads.  In years gone by, a steely determination would see me complete a training program whatever the weather or how I was feeling.  This is probably the one thing that's got me through a lot of ultra events.  With grit absent I am concerned and with my first race two weeks away (the D33) I'm seriously questioning my fitness.

In desperation I headed out to my North Sea route.  I definitely wasn't fit enough for the full Aberdeen to Peterhead 37 miles so I cut it short, catching the bus from Peterhead to Newburgh instead.

I've blogged this part of the world a couple of times before but there was a section of coast still not covered, between Collieston and Whinnyfold.

Saturday 27th Feb, I parked in Peterhead and caught the number 63 bus to Newburgh.

I got off at the first stop just inside the village and headed north.

Forvie nature reserve was as spectacular as ever with the stunning Hackley Bay.

A beautiful day with clear views across the bay to Aberdeen.

Uncharted territory for me, the coast path from Collieston climbed out of the car park.

A great view back towards Collieston.

This was difficult terrain, muddy sheep tracks made for slippery progress.

With steep 45 degree grass slopes and cliffs extreme caution was required.

Some slopes showed signs of land slips, on some sections I had to resort to clinging to the barbed wire fence.

Old Slains Castle soon came into view with a spectacular setting for the house nearby.

At Slains I had a choice, take the farm track to the road to Whinnyfold or continue the precarious journey along the coast.  I had enough of the exhausting slippery trail and settled on the farm track.  After half a mile I realised it was taking me back towards Collieston, I had no choice but turn back and join the coast once more, it was going to be a long day.

The trail didn't improve, in fact it got worse.  I regretted my choice of Hokas for the day, they don't cope with mud very well.

This turned out to be a muddy hike, with 22 minute miles at one point.

On the plus side, I didn't meet a single person between Collieston and Whinnyfold.  It was about as remote as the North East can get, the solitude was amazing.

Eventually, Whinnyfold came into view.

It was good to get onto the beach at Cruden Bay but the slippery trail had taken it's toll, I was exhausted.

It was time for some lunch at Cruden Bay in the warm sun.  I still had around 11 miles to go to Peterhead.

I've photographed this coast before but make no apology for posting more images, the scenery was simply stunning.

The terrain had taken it's toll, a relatively short 23 miles felt like much more.  Good training for the Cateran and WHW races I suppose.  I'm not so sure about the D33 in two weeks time though, it could be ugly.

Week ending 14th Feb - Thurs 3, Sat 10, Sun 16.  Weekly total 29 miles.
Week ending 21st Feb - Thurs 1, Sat 12, Sun 10.  Weekly total 23 miles.
Sat 23,  Weekly total 23 miles.