Saturday, 31 October 2009

A wee WHW run

Had a lovely wee run on the WHW today and mostly on my own with the scenery all to myself . This month Pauline has been concentrating on road speed (while I’ve been concentrating on having a fat lazy chocolate and wine fest!) she did a hard session yesterday and is planning a long run tomorrow so she was happy to fling me out at Drymen. After having an easy month I took it at a nice gentle pace towards Conic hill, before reaching the hill a breeze swirled around me, I thought “Ooww, ma bum’s freezing!” then “Ooww ma bum’s wet!” Aw naw! A bladder malfunction and not of the old lady Tena moment variety before you jump to conclusions, my drinks bladder was leaking, my knickers were full of diluted ginger beer. I took off my backpack and checked out my bladder, I hadn’t screwed the lid on properly. Doh, what a numpty! Oh well, a sticky cold butt for me for the rest of the run then. Yeech!
I loved the colours of today’s run, all autumnal and a rainbow, but I never got any rain and I had a shadow a few times too. Pauline was meeting me at Balmaha, I tried phoning her on my way down but just got the polite wumin saying “the person you are calling is unavailable” so carried on down to find Pauline sitting in the car reading her mag and listening to her music, she was disappointed that she didn’t get to walk up to meet me, she did keep me company until the start of the climb out of Balmaha, I did suggest that she’d get some good photos at the top of the climb but there was a bit of a bus trip of folk on the way out of Balmaha so she just said I’ll just drive to Rowardennan and see you there.
The section between Balmaha and Rowardennan is one of my favourite bits of the WHW and I was happy trotting along today but one of the thoughts I had today was that on this run my Achilles tendons were a bit tight my hamstrings felt a bit tight too and I was glad that I was stopping at Rowardennan, just a piddly wee bit of the WHW. How the hell do I manage to run the whole flaming way in June? Because I choose too! That’s why.
Pauline was trotting out from Rowardennan to meet me looking for about an hours run and sure enough there she was after I’d got to the top of the steep, steep climb just after the university field station, she was faffing about taking a photo of a fallen tree, some how I knew she’d be there (nothing to do with going down the hill meant that you had to climb back up). We had a lovely wee run back to the car, then a flask of oxo, a couple of cheese pieces, a happy heart being back on the whw. Headed home for wine and pizza.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A Monster Fun Run

I knew Loch Ness marathon was going to be a fortnight after the 24 hour race but that didn’t deter me from entering it. It’s a cracking run in smashing scenery and I’ve done every one since it started so I couldn’t let that go. I didn’t run at all for a week after Keswick, then just a couple of easy five or six milers just to make sure there were no lasting damage, just very flat batteries. Loch Ness was just going to be a pleasant trot round with no pressure of going for a time, I took my bumbag loaded with wee Mars bars, a rice krispie square and a gel (a token gesture that this was a race), extra hat and gloves, (with running a slower pace I didn’t want to get cold) and my camera, (any excuse to stop).
There was a wee problem with the buses, three didn’t turn up and one broke down, so me and a couple of hundred other runners ended up having to stand all the way to the start once we got shared out onto the rest of the buses. The start was was delayed by nearly an hour, it didn’t bother me at all but I think it might have messed up some folks race plan who had timed their eating precisely for a 10.00am start. I gave a rueful smile when I handed my bag over to be placed into the van that would take all baggage back to the finish; I was relieved I’d emptied my water bottle before hand, with the skills of proper airport baggage handlers; they were lobbing the bags in like shot putters doing a time trial!

The pipe band marched through the runners then we were off into the sunshine and scenery. I felt just a wee bit of an ache in my left knee and my ankles which I have never had before, my muscles didn’t have any bounce in them at all but apart from that I was perfectly fine enjoying my run. Another reason why I enjoy this race so much is that it brings back loads of childhood memories, the field with the static caravans used to be a small campsite.

We spend all our summer holidays swimming in the loch, dangling on tree swings and Nessie hunting. I remember one year being taken over the loch in a wee boat to visit a Nessie Hunter that was living in a wee shed for the summer near Urquhart Castle, I don’t remember much about him except he had freckles, long ginger hair and big fluffy orange sideburns (It was very early seventies!) it wasn’t ‘til years later I found out it was BBC’s news correspondent Nicholas Witchell, he’s even published a book about his Nessie research. I’ll need to read it some day.
Enough happy memories, time to get back to some happy running, and I certainly did that, the support at Dores was great; the crowds were as loud as the supporters on a Tour de France mountain stage. At the drink station, in preparation for the long slog of a hill I took a couple of paracetamol, ate a Mars Bar and drank a fair bit of Lucozade, which is something I usually find makes my tummy a bit yeechy but today it went down nicely.

As the miles clocked up I actually felt better, I was in my happy plod for days pace and at 20 miles I got a real buzz from the thought “ The last time I had 6 miles to go I’d already run 101 miles and that was just a fortnight ago!” I found that hard to believe and I’d done it!!! I had another thought. “There are no limits!” and thoroughly enjoyed my run into the finish. Pauline missed me finishing, my fault though, I’d predicted a finishing time somewhere between 4½ and 5 hours, but was pleasantly surprised to finish in 4.15 hours, I must be recovering from Keswick better than I thought.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Gail's report from the Commonwealth Championship 100km


I was always planning to go down to Keswick to support our 24 hour runners, but when I was selected to run in the 100K race (6 weeks before the event!- plenty time to prepare then…) I was so pleased to be going down as part of the running team. To be taking part in such a big event and running for Scotland again. Who couldn’t be chuffed to bits. As part of 4 runners in the 100K ladies team, I was the slowest on paper. I hadn’t even run the qualifying guideline of sub 9 hours, and in the overall rankings I was very low indeed. I was going down to Keswick with a few goals. Firstly I wanted to enjoy more of a 100K than I’d enjoyed before i.e. more than 4 hours. I didn’t want to be last. And if the team did win a medal I wanted to be a counter in the team. I wasn’t going for a time as I knew the course was hard and hilly and a PB was unlikely. The 9 hour time was more of a benchmark than a goal.

We arrived in Keswick on the Wednesday night, attended the opening ceremony on the Thursday morning. We then went along to Fitz Park to see the build up and start of the 24 hour race. The atmosphere was great. After a few hours Steven + I went to recce the 100K course and had a wee half hour jog on the course. We then went back to see how the 24 hour runners were getting on. Lynne was wobbling a bit, but the rest were OK. She soon recovered and they all seemed settled into the race into the evening. It was great to have the opportunity to support them, but I was aware I shouldn’t overdo it. Very difficult not to get wrapped up in it though. I was quite happy jogging back and forward. Much better than standing still. After our dinner, I went back to the B+B to get a good night’s sleep while Steven went back to support overnight. So much for a good night’s sleep! I hardly slept a wink thinking about everyone else in the park. I kept phoning for updates. Finding out they were going through really difficult patches didn’t help me sleep at all. After breakfast, we headed back down to the park to watch the last few hours of the race. Richie was in a bad way and had made the decision to stop till the end of the race. His tank was completely empty. Fiona was in walk mode now, Lynne was run/ walking and Pauline looked the strongest. The last hour was amazing as Pauline looked like there was an outside possibility she could make 200K by the end of the race. We were all doubtful but Sue was not going to miss the opportunity to push Pauline as hard as possible to achieve this. I’ve never seen anyone push themselves like it and the last lap was quite the most remarkable thing I think I’ve ever seen. To run the fastest lap of the race after 24 hours. Everyone was screaming at her. I was running along trying to keep up with her, screaming at her, with tears streaming down my face. “Where’s the 200K marker?” she was shouting at Steven. She passed it and kept going till a minute or so later and the hooter went and it was all over. It is the best finish to a race I have ever seen and I was so glad to witness it and be part of it.

And what an inspiration to go into the 100K with. I slept well that night. I was so knackered from the night before. I had been quite relaxed about my race until the Friday night when I began to get a bit irritable and uptight. I was nervous the next morning and strangely emotional. This doesn’t usually happen to me. Must be Lynne rubbing off on me! It was great to see people come down to the start of my race – Simon, Lynne, Sue + Ken, and Steven and Val were still around before they headed up to the support point at the lake. A few hugs later and we were off. It wasn’t long before we hit the hills. I knew they were coming and was prepared to take it as easy as possible. I settled into 2nd last place very easily and didn’t try to chase anyone, despite them all pulling away from me. After a mile or so I got chatting to a Canadian girl, Laurie. She was the only person I really talked to in the race. We passed each other a few times then settled down when we got to the end of the lake. It was good to see Steven + Val. I felt more secure knowing they were close if I had any problems. Then I got into a rhythm going up and down the lake. It was also great to know Simon + Lynne were up the other end of the lake to support me. Especially when they must have been exhausted themselves. Then as time went on Ken + Sue appeared on the loop and supported me for several loops as they walked the length of the lake. Then the dulcet tones of “Happy Birthday to you” could be heard in the distance. The twins had arrived! Then seeing Richie at the other end. It was great to have everyone there supporting us all. After 5 laps of the lakeside I was beginning to tire. But hey, I’d got a lot further than in my previous 100Ks before feeling too bad. I was determined not to walk at the feeding stations unless absolutely necessary. I couldn’t wait till the last lap so I’d be homeward bound. The race had changed over a few hours from Izzy being in front, to Sandra, then me, positions changing all the time, but as time went on they seemed to be having more trouble than me. Lucy was looking strong and it was good to be able to watch the race unfold as she moved into third position. Everybody was so supportive of each other, men and women, no matter how they felt. We really were a good team. The girls knew I was on for a possible sub 9 hours, in the later stages, and they were shouting at me and willing me to do it.

I walked at one feeding station to drink my Ensure plus – otherwise I’d have worn it rather than swallowed it, and walked for about 20 seconds at 85K just really to gather myself before the final push home. I was knackered but knew I could keep going and after all, it was meant to be downhill all the way home, with just a few wee hills on the way. Well, how wrong was I? These “wee hills” were more like mountains and they just kept coming. When I hit the final big hill I decided walking would possibly preserve some energy and I’d be just as fast. I even had my hands on me knees at one point. Had I entered the hill race by mistake? I saw Murray at 95 K, a very welcome sight. I’d have one gel (which had been doing me well all day), some water then I’d kick for home. Instead, I had 1 mouthful of gel and vomited it all up. But I felt better for it and left with my bottle of water, hoping I wasn’t going to have a nightmare last section. But tired as I was, I kept the pace going. I ran down the main road knowing it was all downhill from now on. I could smell the finish. Thoughts of Pauline’s finish flashed through my mind. I knew sub 9 hours was possible. I wanted it so badly. I entered the park, Ken was shouting at me, gave me the saltire, where was the finish? Did I have to run all the way round the park? No, just to the red flags he shouted. My head said go for the sprint finish, my legs said bugger off! I almost fell over the line, into Simon’s arms for hug then promptly vomited again! – NOT Simon’s fault! I guess I did push myself a bit!...

Then I saw everyone there looking so pleased for me, hugs galore. Who’d have thought it? Sub 9 hours on that course, yeehaa! What a day, what a weekend, what a birthday! Not bad for an old woman! (and I’d finally got the qualifying guideline to be at Keswick!) I feel now that I justified my selection into the team. And we got a silver team medal! Previous 100Ks had been dominated by being miserable for the last 5 hours and saying I never wanted to do it again. This time I never really had any major low points in comparison. Or maybe I’ve just forgotten them already….. Not long after I finished I knew I’d want to do another. I felt much more experienced going into this race and felt I ran it sensibly. I witnessed Lucy having a good run, and Izzy and Sandra have bad days at the office. We’ve all been there with the bad runs, but all had great days too. We just seem to take it in turns. All the great performances are inspirational, but equally so are the gutsy ones to get to the end.

It was a tremendous weekend. Special for the Carnegie team – the runners and the support. So good to share it with such good friends. And to make a lot more friends besides. The runners are nothing on their own. Never more will you see that, than in ultra running. Can’t wait to do it all again.

Gail Murdoch 2009