Thursday, 16 December 2010

Still plodding on

I haven’t written anything for a while only ‘cause I haven’t done much that warrants writing about really. In November I did the Keithothon aka the original Marcothon just because I was running anyway, I only had a couple of days that I had to make an effort to go out the door, I wasn’t doing big miles so I didn’t find it too hard to complete. The hardest day was the Sunday after Glen Clova Half Marathon, I had quite a wee struggle during the race and just after half way I just felt empty, no reserves at all, and even a wee bit light headed at the end although I had eaten plenty before hand. After finishing I stopped to talk to a couple of guys I was running with but I thought I was going to faint so took a wee jog up the car park to keep my blood circulating, I got shouted at! “Don’t you know when to stop!” I just laughed, I didn’t want to explain I wasn’t showing off just trying not to faint!” I did feel a bit better after a big slab of Gordon’s Rocky Road. Then the Marcothon started, again I wasn’t planning big miles and with the snow it just added to the challenge, at first I was like a wee kid, loving it, kicking along in a wee half inch, then a couple of inches then this is getting seriously deep, every day I went out along my 5 mile Torryburn route, I took my camera, photos this is my routine run of the mill, at least once a week, all seasons, all weathers tootle but I never get fed up with it. The harder the conditions got the more I revelled in it, I couldn’t get to work for the first time ever. My car was off the road, purely my fault, I didn’t clear the snow from the roof, it was frozen on and I couldn’t reach but after a short trip it melted enough to send an avalanche down my windscreen and my bonnet take my wipers with it. The whole thingy under the bonnet needed replace. £174, I’ll get a step ladder and a pick axe next time!
Yesterday I started Christmas shopping, I’m not worried about being behind, I’ll get there in the end. Still managing the Marcothon, I’m not superstitious but the only day I’ve fallen was the 13th, it was quite a sair yin, I hit the ice hard and had to walk a few minutes waiting for the light-headedness and queasiness to pass, but I didn’t cheat, I stopped my watch while I walked.

In October I had a bit of a wobble with the thought of a hard winter but do you know what, the thought of something is worse than it actually happening. I didn’t feel the need to fill the freezer with bread, I’m still running. Winter – nae bother, there is more to come, that‘s ok, do your worst. The more challenging things become the more I’m thinking “BRING IT ON!”

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Just a four and half hour run in my comfort zone… well, it was raining!

I had Friday off work and I wasn’t going to waste it doing mundane stuff, Pete and Erin had made their own plans for the day so I made some myself. On Thursday I thought about going off for a run on the WHW but the forecast wasn’t good but that didn’t bother me. I’ve done the Devil’s Staircase in the dark with torrential rain and accompanying thunder and lightning and that didn’t worry me, well, Pauline is a wee half inch taller so if anybody was gonna get zapped it wiznae me! So some heavy drizzle in daylight wouldn’t put me off.

So when I got up on Friday and looked out the window, ok, it was raining but it wasn’t a howling gale, I’ll go. It took a bit of time for me to get ready, make some pieces and a flask and to decide what rainjacket to wear, (went for the Montane with the hood) I didn’t get to Rowardennan until just before noon. I had no goals, it wasn’t a training run just an afternoon on the WHW for its therapeutic qualities. If the NHS could bottle the WHW into tablet form it would half its waiting list!

As soon as I opened the car door and got a whiff of wet forest I knew I made the right choice for the day, the makers of air fresheners haven’t a clue!

I started very gently, my back’s been bad and still a bit tight, I did do an easy nine miles on Monday but felt like a big fat lumbering heifer. I headed towards Balmaha, the trees had laid a comfy carpet of gold for me, and branches still clung on to some of their treasure. I revelled in this autumnal beauty. I took loads of photos but they didn’t do justice to what I saw, it was a driech day but still the colours were rich.

I ran past an empty Police mini bus, wondering what they were up to, a mile or so later I met four big burly officers walking a wee cute Spaniel??? I thought that didn’t fit the usual profile of a big fierce polis pooch! It must have other qualities, if it was a sniffer dog I hoped that they didn’t put it to work, it would’ve drowned!

I had hoped to get up Conic hill, the view is worth the climb but today it wasn’t going to be such a reward and I had to keep my eye on the time, I wanted to back to Rowardennan by 5.00pm, it won’t be dark but on a dull wet day like this it won’t be very bright either. So I decided to make the marker post half way on the hill my turn around point. On the way back I shouldn’t have been surprised by the size that the puddles had grown going by the amount of rain that was bouncing off my bonce, I had a fair bit of wading but at least it wasn’t knickers deep, yes, I’ve been there and at Salochy! Ok, it doesn’t have to be a tsunami for a short arse like me to be knicker deep but shoosh! don’t tell Auntie Val I was out on my own, I got such a talking to for going out at the beginning of the year on my tod, I can just hear Val’s concerned tones “Those wet leaves covering the boulder steps! You could slip and do yourself an injury!” Well, I did do the Eeek! face once, but being a short arse with a low centre of gravity and some arm waving I was fine. I wasn't the only nutsy out, there was someone water skiing! Check my blurry photo!

I did do a bit of thinking while I was there, and plans are over-rated, what’s for me won’t go by me and winter, bring it on, I can do layers!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

I'm ok

Well, it’s Sunday, I’m on the wine but tonight is no rant from a miserable moo! Although I’ve done naff all running this week, my back has been bad, muscle spasm and the tingly pain down my left leg but I managed a sair sack o’ tatties five miler yesterday round my Crombie Point, Torryburn route. Looking across to the Ochils, the sky was clear blue and the hills had a dusting of snow, beautiful, which reminded me of a solo run I had at the beginning of the year on the WHW from Bridge of Orchy down to the Crianlarich fence and back. The Monarch and his Kingdom

Along the shore I looked back towards the Pentlands but they were dark and brooding, Grangemouth had it’s Lowrysque qualities, I was listening to an old Runrig, BBC Session Live, Glasgow ’96 and The Times They Are A Changin’ stuck a chord and I don’t just mean the seasons, although I think that the thought of a hard winter has been getting me down, I’ve worn at least one layer of long sleeves all summer as it is and the memory of last year brittle cold hasn’t faded. I embrace 80’s chic and have a selection of legwarmers at the ready!

A lot of folks are planning next years races and apart from entering the WHW race which along with Pauline I have no doubt of getting in although it is a ballot, I am a perennial optimist, Pauline will get in being a previous winner and me because I done over five. Apart from that I haven’t a Scooby what I’ll be doing and that makes me feel uneasy, I like to know what’s ahead and next year won’t give me that luxury.

Yesteday Erin and I had a lazy afternoon with Mum. Demi, my nine year old niece didn’t come, neither did Pauline, both of them having a cold and with Mum having just had her first cycle of chemo, her immune system was at zero so they did the sensible but not happy thing and stayed away. Saturday has always been Grandma day, Erin and Demi dropped off, Pauline and I going off for a long run, Mum always made a big pot of soup for when we got back.
A Grandma sandwich

Yesterday when I was running I remembered something I wrote to Mum when she was still in Australia and wasn’t sure if I’d ever see her again but I would had sold my soul, pawned Pete and Erin if necessary, although we were in constant contact by phone, it was still hard to say some stuff. I sent a card “Remember you are your daughter’s mother, and when the going get tough, the tough hold their head up so they can spit the bastard in the eye!” That was the first time I’ve ever used sweary words in front of my Mum but I think it warranted it. I had looked the Grim Reaper in the face in 2005 and spat in his eye and that was what I was referring to.

Last night I trawled through my blog reading my ramblings on the run I had at the end of January and some others, I am bloody privileged and I won’t forget it. I have had a good year and it’s time I went back out on my comfort zone. A six hour dander on the West Highland Way is what I need and as soon as I can fit it in I’ll be there.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

I didn’t mean to have such an aggressive rant on my blog last week as I’m not an aggressive person, and normally when I drink I’m a sleepy drunk no a fightin’ one! I now look at it like I was a lioness protecting her own rather than the “What are you lookin’ at!” chip on shoulder.

But hey ho, it’s a long time since I’ve been bother by other people’s opinions so I don’t really know why I was so defensive.

I think I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated since the Perth 24 hour, I know I have nothing to prove but I know I can do better, even a fortnight afterwards I’ve been looking for another one but apart from travelling to foreign fields it’s a no go.

I have felt a bit low over the last week, but I yesterday I bounced back, I was running my usual five mile Crombie Point, Torryburn route along the Forth shore, my hamstrings are tight, my left Achilles is giving me a bit of grief, I felt like a big fat sack o’ tatties. The sun was shining, looking over to Grangemouth, the white fluffy smoke headed straight up, no wind, not what you rate as picturesque as anywhere on the West Highland Way but I always think it has L.S. Lowry qualities. I was listening to Runrig’s Long Distance, an album I haven’t listened to in ages and just recently stuck it on my ipod. It’s a salve for a weary soul, especially Hearts of Olden Glory it brought a lump to my throat as I ran but my head was up, I felt proud of who I am and my heritage. This was not an easy run but I still felt privileged I have not forgotten how lucky I am.

I am writing this also under the influence, not quite a whole bottle of wine but I’m working on it.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A bottle of wine made me say this

A few of my friends have been extremely honest on their blogs lately. I have never been dishonest but I have kept stuff to myself. Like for instance my husband has been suffering from ME for the last seventeen years. Yes we live on Incapacity Benefit, we are not benefit cheats, although ME sufferers are apparently a prime suspect for it.

Some folks tend to judge people by their employment, I am not embarrassed of my job but I know the narrow minded do this. I know that by the rolling of the eyes and rudeness of people I come across at work. I am a Tesco checkout chick, I make stuff go beep so I must be thick.

We live in a small flat, I drive a six year old Fiat but both are paid for, we own naebudy nuthin!

I am extremely proud of my achievements, lately I have had a bit of media attention, and there is more in the pipeline. I feel a wee bit self conscious, but when I came out of hospital after having the brain haemorrhage the most common comment I came across was “Oh, I knew somebody that had a brain haemorrhage but they died!” That did bugger all for my confidence! But now I feel the more folk that know there is life after such a trauma the better. So if somebody you know is in the same predicament you can say “I know some one who had one and they are doing bloody brilliantly!”

I have written this under the influence of a bottle of wine but I stand by it, I am flaming well proud of what I have achieved and I’m not finished yet, I plan a hell of a lot more!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Monster fun

Loch Ness marathon is a special race for me, not just because I’ve ran every one, running it in 2005 six months after having a brain haemorrhage was a big tick in the box of my recovery. This year was no less special; it still reaffirms how lucky I am to be here and have the health to run.

I put no pressure on myself to run a fast time ( fast for me) it was a month after the 24 hour race at Perth and that had taken a lot out of me, I felt my muscles have recovered but my reserves are still low, my batteries are on a trickle charge with still a fair bit to go. At Perth I went through the marathon in 4 hours 21 mins so just to be ahead of that will do me fine.

Breakfast at the B&B was at 6.00am, four hours before the race so I thought I’d be adventurous and have the cooked one after my big bowl of porridge, but not too adventurous, it was the veggie option.

The bus journey was long and uneventful but nice to sit and blether with Pauline, Julie and Marcus, the bus stopped near the start, we got ready to get off then it moved on for about half a mile before letting us off. As we tried to walk up towards the start two volunteers with our health and safety their priority, were having a very hard job trying to hold the runners back until all the buses had gone past. King Cnut had more success! I hope this hasn’t put them off volunteering again, there nothing grumpier than a pre-race runner bursting for a pee!

The Pipe Band marching through the runners just before the start always brings a lump to my throat as I remember the apprehension I felt when they came through in 2005 then the elation I had at the finish.

Then we were off, I ran the first three miles or so with Grant from Fife AC who was having an easy start, he has also ran every Loch Ness, he told me that Collette, who I know from the Glenrothes 50km has also ran them all too and when she goes home to Ireland, Dublin Marathon at the end of the month will be her 200th marathon. (Congratulations Collette xx) When Grant commented on the pace, I thought it was a bit quick for me, even though it’s all down hill for the first few miles, I let him go on. I was feeling fine; my muscles were fresh having only done a handful of five mile runs and one nine mile run since the 24 hour race but I knew this wouldn’t last. At 13 miles I looked at my watch for the first time and I was surprised it was just before 2 hours. I had no push for the wee hills earlier and just eased myself up them, my quads were starting to hurt and felt empty.

Although I carried a couple of gels I also had a couple of mouthfuls of Lucozade at every station but the Fifer in me thought what a waste, it’s a pity the bottles aren’t half the size, even that would’ve been too much. That stuff is too concentrated and just sits like a brick in the guts if you drink too much. I thought Nessie is going to be flipping out the Loch like a dolphin on such a sugar rush once all that wasted Lucozade runs down into the loch! I had considered pointing at the loch and shouting “Look there’s Nessie!” but I chickened out, folk would’ve know for sure that I’m nuts!

At around sixteen miles I found a new best friend, I was chatting to guy who now lives in London but hails from the Black Isle, I said my first marathon was at the Black Isle in 1992 which is no more. I pointed to the pins holding my number and told him I still use the same ones that I used then. He then asked if it was me that had a wee story in the race magazine and when I said “Yeah” He replied “You look a lot younger than in the photo!”

The support at Dores was phenomenal; they were so noisy and enthusiastic and lifted the spirit of every runner going through. I kept glancing behind on the wee climb out of Dores getting a last look at the cracking view down the Loch before it disappeared, a tonic for a tired body. My quads weren’t screaming at me but were shouting loud and abusively, I am good at listening to my body but I told them to shut up and get on with it. At the hill at 18 miles I started to feel better, I think the change to a shorter stride and slower pace was more to my liking. I wouldn’t call it a comfort zone but a zone I’m used to, running slow, staying relaxed, keeping a good posture no matter how sore and tired I am but I had wished I’d brought some painkillers with me. Mentally I’m always good and 26.2 miles isn’t scary for me but there is no such thing as an easy marathon no matter how many or how far your previous adventures have been.

On the long down hill I let gravity work its magic pulling me down closer to the finish. I tried to push on but I had nothing left. You could hear the finish from the other side of the river, just along and over the bridge; I was looking forward to the new finish, no more plodding up and round the stadium with the sharp turn to the finish, just straight along. Once over the bridge I tried to wind it up a bit but my legs weren’t playing, they’d had enough. I managed to keep a little energy for some fun at the finish, I’d remembered a video Mel, another Carnegie Crazy… err… I mean Carnegie Harrier had posted on facebook of her finish at Stirling 10km, it was lovely and made me smile and I jokingly asked if I could borrow it for Loch Ness. As Bryan Burnett shouted my name I thought yeah, let’s go for it. I raised my arms over my head and gave huge waves and blew kisses to the crowd, but on my rush for the line I forgot to high five some one in the crowd, oops, I’m sure Mel won’t give me a row for not getting it right!

Although I was awfy tired and awfy sair it didn’t detract from the sheer pleasure I get from running Loch Ness, I even manage to finish within my goal, 4hrs 14mins although that wasn’t really important. I’m alive and kicking having monster fun.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Perth Ultra Fest 24 hour 2010 – I’m not stopping!

Caution – some readers may find some parts of this report might put them off their cup of tea and Hobnob and there is strong language in the middle.

Pauline was struggling with the decision of whether to run or not, after the long flight back from Australia her knee was not right. It was improving but not fast enough and if she started there was no question of DNF, it would’ve been 24 hours no matter what. I didn’t try to sway her against running but when she made her decision not to run I was relieved. I have seen her push herself to destruction before. The small consolation, she would channel all her disappointment into my support. I would be running for both of us. No pressure then!

Although my running was fine, I hadn’t been focussing on this race at all. I knew at the beginning of the year that the Perth Ultra Fest was happening with the possibility of it being an International event with a wee chance of representing Scotland again. I planned to run the 24 hour race anyway. It wasn’t until the end of July that I knew what vest I was wearing and it was a boot up the bum to get some quality and quantity into my training before a wee taper.

Doing support at a 24 hour event was new for Pauline and on Thursday evening we spent a couple of hours going over my race plan. The motivation started as soon as she picked my up on Saturday morning, she pointed over to a big sunflower growing in my neighbour’s garden. “That’s how I want you to be, tall, straight and strong with your head up to the sun.” I gave it a bit of thought, “Hmm? Yeah, that’s a good one, I can do sunflower!”

I didn’t need much faffing before the start, I was ready to go once I’d put my number on and the chip on my shoe, a couple of photos (
and at 10.00am we were off. Soon settled down into my groove, it was going to be warm, I took off the t-shirt from under my vest, there was a novelty, it’s not often I run with just one layer, I hate being cold and rarely run at a pace to break sweat especially with something this long.

At 12 noon the 50km and 100km started and they whooshed past loads and always with lovely encouragement, Scott made me laugh, he gave me a round of applause every time he lapped me. I went through the marathon in 4hrs 21mins, a nice steady start, then 50km in 5hrs 15mins, it was a wee bit slower than my 2008 splits but that was ok, my plan was to take it easy in the heat and save myself for when it cooled down.

I could feel the toes next to my big toes on both feet getting hot and decided to change my socks to thinner ones. Pauline got the bag with my spare shoes and socks ready for the next lap. There was the start of a couple of blisters on my toes so lots of Body Glide around my tootsies then on with flesh socks but I was staying with the same shoes. I was half way round the next lap when I glanced down at my feet. What a numpty!! I was wearing odd shoes! They were the same make and model except that the pair I was racing in I’d only ran about 40 miles in, the others I used for training, and were quite grubby with loads of miles in them, I considered just leaving them since my “racing” shoe was the one with the chip on it but I was hoping to run another 90 miles so I thought it would be better to wear out my shoes evenly and decided to changed back. There was a lot of hee haws from support when I next went round and announced that I wanted to change just one shoe.

I settled back down until around 40 odd miles when I felt a wee bit chafing between my butt cheeks, which was a bit surprising, I don’t normally chafe at all, anywhere, except under my bra where I take the pre-emptive action of a wee bit of micro-pore tape. It must be the heat, I was also covered in salt, I felt quite manky, I’m not normally this sweaty but it was soon sorted with a wee freshen with a flannel round my face, neck and arms and a wet wipe and a dollop of Vaseline between my butt cheeks (sorry if that’s too much information… but I did warn you!)

I was refreshed and back into my groove knocking out consistent laps, not that I could tell from my watch, I never look it, I always run to my body and its built in metronome, I was wearing it as a fourth lap counter, just back up for the chip on my shoe (dodgy and totally untrustworthy) a lap counter (give me a thumbs up from a cheery face with a clip board any day) and Pauline (totally trustworthy) There was a couple of anomalies with my laps and it was always the chip that was duff.

The sun went down, the temperature cooled and the youngsters that had appeared were having fun with the glow sticks that were marking the path in the dark, it didn’t worry me, I had done a few laps by then and knew the surface well, on one lap there were a few of the kids on the path, I yelled “COMING THROUGH!” They promptly moved, I thanked them and a second later one was running beside me and asked how many laps I had to do until I was finished. “Dunno, it’s as many as I can do in 24 hours!” I replied, next came the usual questions, “When do you stop to sleep and eat?” He was awe stuck when I replied “I don’t!” he wished me well. The entertainment came to end when the Police arrived and told them it was bed time.

By lap 46 (109km/67miles) I was equal to my time in 2008, Pauline and I were doing the COME ON! ALRIGHT! shout. A wee tradition we now have which started at Perth last time Perth 2008 report I felt strong and pulled in the splits until I was 7 minutes ahead, all I had to do was maintain and I’d have a PB. Seemples!
Not so seemples, with around eight hours to go my stomach started giving me grief, I had some crystallised ginger which usually helps but not this time, my guts continued to bubble and boil like a witch’s cauldron. I burped and boaked to no avail, this was going to be a long night, I wondered why it was called the dry boak, my eyes were watering, my nose running and I was spitting plenty slavers, but no matter how many times my tummy muscles heaved I just wasn’t producing the nice big splatter with the diced carrots. Pauline tried to motivate me, I was going really slow and had lost my advantage, she shouted “COME ON!” I answered “FUCK OFF!” she pulled the earphone from my lug, “COME ON!” “FUCK OFF!” she tried a third time, “COME ON!” right in my ear, I’m nothing if not determined, I wasn’t in the mood to play. “FUCK OFF!” This was the first time ever in my life that I’ve sworn at Pauline. When I’ve supported Pauline during her moments of stress in races she has been insulting but never once did she swear at me, I have raised the bar in twinny tantrums.

A wee while later I had a fashion diva strop when Pauline tried to make me wear her Granny mac, she argued it will keep me warm, I disagreed, plastic only keeps you warm if the heat is there in the first place, I felt so cold that a corpse would’ve had a higher core temperature. She took it away and came back with my fleece blanket, that was better and at least I wore it with the panache of a pashmina and not a burka!
This photo isn't out of focus I really was that fuzzy!
Eventually, after a couple of hours I managed to spew, after all that effort I wasn’t impressed, “Is that it?” I thought. I’m afraid my puke protocol was lacking, I didn’t move over onto the grass, and left my wee splatter right in the middle of the path. I apologised and warned the relay team when I next came round “Try not to slide on the spew in the middle of the path up there!”

I can’t say I was running on empty ‘cause I wasn’t even running, it took all my focus just to stroll/stagger forward, every lap the benches on the far side were trying to seduce me into lying down but I knew that if I sat down even for a minute it would be game over, I was going so slow but I knew that if I stopped I’d go light headed and my legs would seize. It was going to be a very very long night, when I went through race control, everyone was encouraging me, but I could see by their faces they were thinking “God, you look like shit!” If anyone had actually said that to me I would’ve taken it as a very flattering compliment, I felt a hell of a lot worse! Andy Smith looked me in the eye and said something encouraging; I eyeballed him back and said “I’m not stopping!” I think I said that to everyone that looked concerned.

The sky slowly lightened, that mean bugger aka Pauline took Blanky away from me and gave me Sue’s Harriers jacket and told me to move and swing my arms! I felt colder with just the jacket which was on top of a fleece, my vest, a long sleeved top and a short sleeved top! The only way to generate heat was to move forward as fast as I could go. I was trying, honest! Occasionally my blisters would remind me they were there, I didn’t mind a wee bit of blister pain, it’s only skin, sharp and superficial and distracted me from the pain in my guts.
Pauline was shouting at me to run, she counted out ten paces of running to ten paces of walking, when I was out of ear shot I modified it to ten paces run/twenty paces walk. I had a stitch on both sides and in the middle when I was running (I didn’t know that was possible), it eased when I walked, I felt as though I’d been Claymore-d across the guts. Eventually I extended my running paces to my walking paces, I warmed up, went though 100 miles, (earlier I didn’t think that that was going to happen) lost the jacket, lost the fleece. I was moving forward with the pride of a Rampant Lion, time also moved on, neither of us were fast but both consistent.

The end was in sight, John gave me a wee stick with my race number on it, Pauline gave me my Saltire, I was to run ever step until the hooter sounded. I went past Aileen, she was ahead of me by several laps “Run with me, let’s finish together!” but her legs were stuck in her pace, I ran up the wee hill through the gap in the wall, Pauline was now allowed to trail me to supervise my collapse at the end.
There was William ahead. Pauline shouted “Runner coming through!” There was a proper gent with a sense of humour; William Sichel holder of 32 World, British and Scottish records, with a smile on his face, raised his arms in a “We’re not worthy” salute as I (me!!! a wee bauchle of a Fife wife) went by!!!!! The highlight of my twenty four hours!

The hooter sounded, I was between benches on the far side, Pauline planted my wee stick into the ground, I walked on towards the bench ahead, “I’ll have you now, ya tease!” I lay on the bench with my feet on the bucket, I had stopped. Lots of deep breathes, I wondered when my legs would get the message, they were still jumping about. Val appeared and with both Pauline’s and Val’s assistance I manage to walk back to the Scottish camp, Gail and Helena came up to watch the finish of the 24 hour and hugged the life out of me.

It was over, more deep breathes, this was one of the most painful 24 hours of my life, and without the support of everyone there I doubt I would have managed to do what I did. I would like to thank everyone personally but that will take too long, so to ever race official that gave up their time. Thank You. To every supporter there. Thank You. To the Scottish team. Thank You. To Pauline to say Thank You is inadequate and a box of Thorntons doesn’t make the apology but that will have to do. To Fabienne and Julie, your kindness and tender care will never be forgotten as you got my battered body out of its manky race clothes and into warm, clean and dry clothes. Thank You. To Lorna who gave up her cosy jacket to some random in need just before the prize giving when I was shaking with cold like an old washing machine on fast spin. Thank You.

Running round in circles is quite different to the adventure of a trail race but there is still a tangible magic there, what is beautiful is the way every runner supported each other, nobody past anyone without some words of encouragement, I knew ever time Chris Carver lapped me by his cadence, it was so fast. I was so pleased for Chris that he had won, there’s a guy that’s had more than his fair share of battles, a most deserved win.

This was just my third 24 hour race and it was the least distance I’ve had but I’m not disappointed, I still have a lot to learn, what I achieved in this race is not visible on a result sheet. I knew I was a tough burd before but I found a new depth within myself, although I’ve never experienced gut problems like this before my head stayed up not once did my posture crumple or did I wish I was elsewhere, I wasn’t the bonniest sunflower in the field, I swayed in the breeze but I did not break! My strength was honed and tempered beyond what I knew before, and that will stay with me always to take towards future challenges. 200km may be beyond me but it’s my goal and I’m hanging on to it, that’s for the future to know and for me to find out. One thing I know for sure is that I am capable of going further than I’ve gone before.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A few changes for Perth

I’d like to start with saying thank you all for the kind words I’ve received regarding my last post, whether on the post, emails and messages through facebook, it does help knowing I’ve so many friends hold us in their thoughts. Thank You xx

Mum is a fighter, it’s a family trait, our family is riddled with strong women with attitude, one very inspirational lady was Mum’s Auntie Madge, she died in her ninetieth year after fighting ailing health and several strokes, her final words were “Get me up!”

You can see where I get my strength and stunning good looks from.
The bad news for Perth is that Pauline has withdrawn, she has a problem with the back of her knee, it was after the long flights back from Australia, she felt it as soon as she got off the plane at Edinburgh and was initially worried it was a DVT but her Doctor reassured her it wasn’t.

The even worse news is that she is going to channel all her disappointment and frustration into doing my support.

The slightly better news is that the new IAU/IAAF feeding guidelines are in place and she won’t have the length of a feed zone to boot my butt!

The “oh dear!” news is that I have had a sore throat since Sunday and I hope it doesn’t develop into a gunky chest like the WHW race. But Pauline has told me she has already disregarded this piece of information. I have gold, silver and bronze goals, 200km (Gotta aim high!) A PB - anything over 187.449km (116 miles) or better than Keswick last year 172.820km (107 miles)

If the shit hits the fan and I have a horrible race as long as I don’t look like this I’ll be happy!
photo from Brive by Alan Young

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Perth in perspective

I’ve been trying to focus on the 24 hour race at Perth but it hasn’t been easy, my running has been fine, thoroughly enjoyed it as always.
I’ll let an email I sent to a good friend I don’t see very often explain.

Hi ?????,

Sorry I've been awfy slow in replying, and awfy sad to hear you and ????? are splitting up especially with being together for such a long time but always look forward with your head up that way you can see all the good stuff ahead.

One reason I've been slow in replying is I got some sad news too, it's my Mum, she has cancer, it was very sudden and a shock.
How long have you got? I'll give you the whole story.

Nearly three years ago an old friend of Mum and Dad's, Crawford, (he and Dad had been pals since school) had emigrated to Australia around 1970 with his family and he came back to Scotland for a last visit and looked up Mum and Dad not knowing Dad had died. But rewind back to the 50's Mum had gone out with Crawford but had split up when he went off to do his National Service.
They got on really well and kept in touch after he went back to Oz, then Sept' 2008 Mum and her brother went out for a holiday and they became a couple. He came over in Jan' 2009 for six months then last August they headed back to Oz for six months, it was quite hard saying bye at the airport, I've never not had my Mum close by and we were always round at hers a couple of times a week but I was happy for her, they were like giggling teenagers together having a lot of laughs, and how many folk do you know in their early seventies having so much fun! But at the beginning of this year, just before they were due to come back Crawford was diagnosed with Leukaemia so Mum had her visa extended, Crawford responded well to treatment and is now in remission and the plan was to come home in August. Mum started to feel not well in May, it was the Monday before the WHW Mum told me it was cancer and they were doing tests on how far it had gone. (So that was one of the reasons I had such an enjoyable WHW, running 95 miles with a wee chest infection was easy compared to the battle facing Mum.)
The results were not good the cancer is in her bones, so treatment is to be prolonging rather than curing. It has been so hard knowing Mum was miles and miles away and I couldn't do anything for her. But after radiotherapy, the first part of her treatment in Oz Pauline went out for less than a week and escorted them home. They've been back just over a week now, Mum looks fine but is very tired, but she's still fighting, laughed at her chasing a cat out of the garden at the weekend, she hates them shitting in her flowerbeds! Not that her garden is looking too good at the minute, but I am being supervised, it won't take too long to get it back to its former glory! I feel so much better having her home and that I can do stuff. She starts chemo next week I think, that's going to be rough. But you know me, I'm a tough dude and I'll do what I can to give my Mum the best care and laughs.

On the racing front... let me think... oh yeah, a big one! It hasn't been at the forefront of my mind but on the day I will do my best. It's at the Perth Ultrafest. The Six Nations 24 hour Championship AND in a Scotland vest next weekend. So if you're at a loose end between 10.00am 4th Sept and 10.00am 5th Sept come along to the Inches with your Saltire and shouty voice, I'll need all the help I can get! Pauline should be running too but has had a few wee problems, after the long flight home she's had a problem with her knee, and is not sure about running, but if she starts she will finish, no half measures.

I'll finish with a wee quote from Rosie Swale Pope - Just a Little Run Around the World (a story of her 5 year run round the world raising awareness for prostate cancer after losing her husband.)

Never miss the chance to be happy.

Fiona xxx

Thinking of my race next week, I will still be giving it my all, if I have to run until the blood seeps though my shoes, or my quads turn to concrete or I spew my guts, there’s nothing new there, this is all stuff I’ve ran with in the past and they haven’t stopped me before and if something new adds to the challenge I’m sure I’ll deal with it. Another quote from Rosie – Yesterdays hardship is today’s anaesthetic.

I will have an intense 24 hours, I will get sore and I will get tired but at the end I’ll get to lie down, sleep and recover, and with that thought it will be easy. I am not disregarding how hard a race of this stature is I’m just comparing it to the battle ahead of my Mum and many others.

I know Mum is proud of me as all Mums are but it’ll do no harm to make her smile even wider. I will be going in fighting not just for my country but for my Mum too. On the outside I’m a wee Fife wife, on the inside I am not just one warrior, I have the strength and heart of a whole legion.

Here’s my song for this years race.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Tour of Fife 2010

This is a cracking series of races taking in road, trail, beach, hill and a short but nosebleed steep uphill time trial (the drive up to the car park at the finish is in second gear!) This was my seventh tour and I love it, it’s the only time I ever start and finish every race as fast as I can go! (Ok, stop rolling around laughing at the thought of me going fast, compared to my usual race pace its blistering!)

Stage One – Teddy Bear 5 mile Road Race
Sunday 25th July
Position 125 Time 41.44mins

An out and back “lollipop” route on road with a teeny wee undulation from Giffordtown. The sun was shining, it was a perfect day for a run. This race had mile markers, I had a quick time check at the first mile, 8.10 oo-er missus! Lesley went past me, I said “So far so good!” One more mile and there goes my delusion of speed, the lead guys had been round the lollipop and were heading back. I concentrated on breathing deep and even, visualising air going in down past my belly button and keeping good posture, at around 3 miles Lesley was walking, I didn’t care that she might still have the Clyde Stride in her legs or that she was clutching her side with a stitch as I ran past I shouted “Four letters! TTFU!” She laughed, there’s no sympathy ever given or accepted between ultra runners. I belted down the little decline pushing on in the sunshine, I didn’t feel too hot just solar powered, muscles lovely and warm. I didn’t lose control of my breathing in the last mile but it was every orifice for its self! Laughed at a photo at the finish, I looked like my Uncle Brian he’s 70! The last time I resembled him it was in a photo taken in the last hour of a 24 hour race!
Uncle Brian

Stage Two – Loopy Loch Trail Race 6.5 miles
Monday 26th July
Position 129 Time 55.31mins - Overall Position 121 Time 1.37.15

Two loops round Loch Ore at Lochore Meadows, I was feeling a bit rough, over celebrated yesterdays first stage, my hangover wasn’t as big as an elephants arse on racing bike but I was still a bit queasy come race time also I must have slept in a crumpled heap last night, I had a crick in my neck which was fine as long as I didn’t look over my shoulder, never do that in a race anyway except at the top of Loch Lomond in the West Highland Way race and there I pause briefly to take in the stunning view down the loch. I set off at a go for it and see what happens pace, if I spew so be it. My stomach settled after a load of burps, Lesley sprinted off never too be seen again. It was a flat loop with a couple of wee undulations, just after halfway in the first loop a couple of guys went past me then seemed to slow down boxing me in, harrumph! I pushed past them and kept up the effort. Just after the start of the second lap the wind had picked up and was right in your face, I tried to tuck in behind the girl in front but she was useless, too skinny, where’s a wide bloke when you want one? I wasn’t struggling but it was a bloody hard effort, I was wondering if I’d overcooked the pace, another thought gave me a wee giggle to myself, it’s quite common for the date to change during my races so how am I meant to know how to pace six and a half miles! So told myself just to keep running like my arse is on fire and I’ll soon be finished.

Stage Three – Lomond Lungbuster Hill Race 4.5miles/697 ft climb
Tuesday 27th July
Position 125 Time 45.42mins Overall Position 117 Time 2.22.57

I was looking forward to this one, a wee bit of a shake up for the road running racing snakes, although the “proper” hill runners dismiss West Lomond as a pimple it’s still a hands on thighs slog on the steep path to the top. It was another lovely night, a wee bit chilly on the way out with a strong wind in our faces, kept a good strong pace on the rough path, I was well chuffed I made it up the incline to the bottom of the hill before the leaders had made the top and descended round the long way back to the path. With my hands on thighs I pushed up to the top, taking a quick glance at the view before heading down, the descent isn’t scary, not for short arses with a low centre of gravity anyway. I worked hard to maintain the pace I picked up on the way back, I even managed a sub 8 min mile with gravity assistance picking up a few places too.

Wednesday 28th July – A rest day but went for a nice easy 40 minutes just to keep the legs ticking over.

Stage Four – Chariots of Fire Beach Race 4-ish miles
Thursday 29th July
Position 129 Time 37.24mins Overall Position 117 Time 3.00.21

West Sands at St. Andrews is a long beach, and feels even longer on the way back although it’s a straight out and back route. First you’re on firm sand then sinky wet sand where footprints at least three or four inches deep, eventually you’re on soft dry sand before turning and heading back, this year it was a wee bit longer than usual to make up for last year being a wee bit shorter! It was a lovely sunny night, the wind wasn’t too strong but I doubt St Andrews is ever calm and, of course, it was behind us on the way out and in our faces on the way back. It was just a slog, pushing hard all the way but feeling like I was going nowhere, I past Lesley having a wee walk on the soft sand, I gave her the usual encouragement “TTFU!” Looking towards the Finish the big Tour of Fife feathers are a teeny weeny dot in the distance that never got any closer. Back on to the firm sand I breathe hard and push hard to the end, I was breathing so hard I didn’t hear Pauline’s warning or Lesley sprint up behind me and take me on the line! We went for a post race paddle but that North Sea is freezing I got an ice-cream headache in my feet and ankles! I was shivering just watching the hard core nutters swimming! The beach race was the hardest so far for me, I didn’t move up any places but that will soon change.

Stage Five – The Up Hell Time Trial 2.25km/754 ft climb
Friday 30th July
Position 114 Time 16.51mins Overall Position 114 Time 3.17.12

This is my favourite, it’s billed as the Alpe d’Huez of the Tour and I love it! It’s short and brutal, just you against the hill and it can psych you out if you let it, I’m sure some of the racing snakes are quaking in their high tech racing flats that weigh about the same as an empty Mars Bar wrapper! Speed isn’t the only requirement, this race favours the carcass haulers and I’ve got medals in that category! After driving up to the car park at the radio masts on East Lomond it takes a good twenty five minutes to walk down to the start. The runners are set off at 30 second intervals and Pauline and I are off first. 5 4 3 2 1 Go! Push, push, push! I’m working on breathing, a good leg turnover and pumping arms finding a rhythm. There’s plenty encouragement from the runners coming down the hill for their race, I can’t look at them; I’m focussing only in the road in front. I loved Mel’s comment “You’re looking smooth!” She might be lying but I take that one with me repeating in my head “Keep smooth!” (Mel had also brought face paint, “Yeah, I’ll have some warrior stripes!”) At around a third of the way up a young lad is playing Highland Cathedral on the pipes, I take the inspiration and breathe. Half way, is that all? I’ve been running in the red zone since the start, its short I can do it! Push, push, push. I look up to where the ground meets the sky, my lungs and legs are screaming at me. Push, push, push! I know the horizon is not the finish. There’s another cruel crank in gradient. My lower back joins in the screaming match. “Shut up and shift!” My body doesn’t shut up but it doesn’t slow down either. Push, push, push all the way to the line.

I have a wee cough, a wee boak and try to get my lungs back in my chest. No time to waste recovering, Pauline’s at the car and getting ready, I join her putting on some warm clothes with a King of the Mountains top on over my fleece, Pauline wears a green sprinters jersey and gives Lesley the yellow leaders jersey and I also have a Saltire pinned to my shoulders and wear a devilish fleece hat. We get armed, my weapons of choice, a pot, a wooden spoon and a whistle. A wee thought crosses my mind, if anyone hasn’t seen a mountain stage of the Tour de France they’ll wonder what the hell is going on! We make as much noise as possible with shouts of “ALLEZ, ALLEZ, ALLEZ!” in between whistle blows, drowning out the screams of the other runners bodies so they can push on to the finish. The Devil gave his all to “inspire” as well. I did pick up a few places too, there was no doubt in my mind that I would.

Stage Six – The Twisted Chicken Run 5½-ish miles
Saturday 31st July
Position 116 Time 51.21mins Overall Position 110 Time 4.08.33

The last day, a bit sad there won’t be another stage tomorrow I’m getting the hang of running like my arse is on fire and as other runners were starting to feel fatigue my endurance was kicking in I’m sure I would’ve picked up some more places if the race continued for a few more days, but I was also a wee bit relieved that I don’t have to run like my arse is on fire again until the next Tour. A lot of fun was to had too with the feeling of “last day of term” I had fairly enjoyed my flounce over Conic Hill in a tutu during the Highland Fling relay and Pauline had seen some fluorescent green tutus in a the fancy dress shop in Dunfermline so I bought a couple for us and some bright orange ribbon, made and sewed on some bows, I showed them to the girls at the beginning of the Tour and wondered if any of them wanted to join us in a bit of fun on the last day. So seven tutus and fourteen metres of orange ribbon sewed into sixty three bows later, (no one can say I don’t take my job of club clothing secretary seriously) we were ready for the last race. The route for today was a mystery until we saw a map in the hall at Strathmiglo. Similar to last years Chicken run but with the added fun of bits of leg four in the Devils Burden Relay, loads of up hill (those with gizmos said there was more climbing than the Time Trial!) but this time we got to go weeeee all the way back down before heading into the wind on the long path past the chickens. Sweat was trickling down my face, a fly stuck to my cheek, I swatted it away, oh no, I’ve smeared my warrior stripes! I was along side Bob Thornton, what a gent, he told me to tuck in behind, I hung on to him until the right turn and last climb. (Bob is one of just three who has run every stage of every Tour.) Then a final descent down the side of the field and a sprint finish to be rewarded with a Fife AC famous cake fest.
Another brilliant Tour with the tough races, lots of banter and camaraderie you only find amongst like minded crazy runners. Big thanks to Brian and all his helpers, he’s got a year now to work out the devilish escapades for next year and I know I won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to, Pete, Gillian and facebook friends for the photos.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Tour of Fife race plan

The Tour starts on Sunday, six stages starting with a “nice and gentle” Teddy Bear 5 mile road race!

My race plan is as usual.

I’m not gonna run hard, I’ve had a slow recovery from running the WHW race in over 30hours with a wee chest infection.

I’m not gonna run hard, I don’t do short n’ fast, it’ll be a shock to my system.

I’m not gonna run hard, I’ve done no speed work.

I’m not gonna run hard, this is not my distance, I don’t put my shoes on for anything less than a marathon.

I’m not gonna run hard, I’m only doing this for the cakes on the last day.

I’m not gonna run hard, I’ve got a big race coming up soon.

I’m not gonna run hard, AYE RIGHT!

It’ll be the usual Highland Charge in lycra with no tactics other than getting to the finish of each stage as fast as my short fat ploddy legs can go. Brilliant fun! Not running hard!!!
photo from Fife AC website of last years first stage

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

WHW Race 2010 Gently Does It

I had a few wee problems at the beginning of the year, nothing much but enough to curtail speed work, not that I’ve ever been accused of speed! I was managing long runs but they were even slow for me, not that that worried me; I was out and running on the most beautiful part of the world. I did quite a few training runs on the WHW on my own and thoroughly enjoyed the solitude and scenery all to myself.

This years race did seem to sneak up on me, I was focusing on doing Pauline’s support in the 24 hour World Championships in France at the beginning of May and then Sue’s in the Heart of Scotland 100 at the end of May. Then I thought “Jings, it’s my turn!” and got my head in focus, the body will just have to do. Pauline and I were both running again this year but not together this time.

On Friday did the hard bit of just lying around waiting for Val and Lesley to pick me up at 9.00pm, I was well impressed, it didn’t take them long to get my mountain of gear packed into Lesley’s wee car. We were soon in Milngavie, I registered, weighed in and just sat and waited until the start, it was lovely to catch up with old faces and meet new ones. Before the start there was a minute of respectful applause for those that we have lost then Gilian sent us on our way. A deep breath to clear the lump in my throat, the thought of finishing without a hug from Dario was hard to contemplate.

I set off nice and easy, I always feel a little uncomfortable at the beginning; it’s this tapering nonsense of loafing about for a week just stuffing my face that does it. But on Monday before the race I developed a sore throat, and over the next couple of days a tickly cough, I was checking my resting pulse every morning and it was 52 instead of its usual 48, not a lot of difference so I wasn’t too worried. Now that I was running my chest felt raw and sore, and the cold air was catching my breath, was it just because it was so cold or was I going to have problems? On the positive, this was the WHW and not the Tour of Fife, although breathing is useful, it’s not necessary to turn my lungs inside out breathing as hard as I can, just minimum effort required for a very long time! I considered taking some painkillers but if I did I wouldn’t be able to take any later so didn’t bother, also never told my support, well, would you? I didn’t think that mentioning I had chest pain or trying to mollify them by saying, it’s ok, nothing serious, just my breathing tubes would be greeted with “Och, you’ll be fine!” The rule for support of If you can’t say anything positive don’t say anything at all. also goes for runners too.

Dawn arrived early with it being a clear night and the views of the sun rising were stunning, tinges of pink promising a cracking day. At the top of Conic hill I had a shadow, I’ve never had one here during the race before! Coming down I was with Chris Moon, glad to see him back for a second goblet, but he’d taken a bad fall earlier and landed hard on his quad, sadly he had to call it a day.

On the descent, I phoned Val and Lesley, “Get the kettle on!” I was having my first cup of coffee in a month, I was looking forward to it, but when writing my race plan for this year I had considered leaving it until later but I’m a stickler for tradition, so much so I’ve used the same set of safety pins for my race numbers since my first marathon (Black Isle 1992) and I’ve started every WHW in the same long sleeve thermal top, and I’ve finished most of them still wearing it too! (Minger!)

I walked through Balmaha eating my rice pudding with Lesley beside me carrying my mug of coffee until I was ready for it. I didn’t rush it she was still with me as I climbed Fort hill, at the top there was Stan in an official capacity “What’s your number?” With a big cheery grin I replied “No 2” (Thanks). Then he proceeded to reprimand Lesley for being a pacer. “No, I’m just carrying this spoon and waiting for the mug!” She protested. I took a last big mouthful of coffee and handed it over then set off on to one of my favourite parts of the route, it had now warmed up, my chest had eased, and I had settled down, it’s a bit of a bugger when you need 20 miles to get into your stride!

At Rowardennan I changed from my road shoes to trail ones, another tradition for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the Loch Lomond side with its rough path, it’s all part of the adventure, it was a beautiful day, I had company from time to time, enjoying the blether but also the solitude when I was on my own. At the top of the wee climb at the end of loch where you get a cracking view I stopped and turned round for a few moments, I gave a great big two armed wave, this is an angel’s playground and that who I was waving too.

At Beinglas I had a wee deviation from tradition, see, I am open to change when it makes sense. I had phoned ahead and Val and Lesley were ready for me. I was going back to my road shoes, the path was so dry and hard with no give in it at all. Then off I tootled with happy feet towards Auchtertyre, I knew I was down on my time, even the slowest predicted time. When Gilian sent us on our way I started my watch then promptly turned it round to time of day and paid no attention to it at all, although I’d asked Val and Lesley if I was ahead or behind and I had no doubt on what day I’d finish! I had given support a time sheet with my splits from 2007 (PB) 2008 (a bit slower) 2009 (loads slower) and thought I’d be somewhere within the realms of all three, but that was not important, I was here and enjoying my day, and it was a cracker, the sunshine, the cooling breeze, the route, the views, the inspiration. I’m sure Dario has had a word with the high heid yin to give us such a perfect day. I never stop celebrating being alive and the WHW is my biggest party.

Keith gave me a wee panic when he asked if I thought we’d make the cut off at Auchtertyre. What!!! I hadn’t given it a thought and wasn’t worried about it but had to give it a big bit of concentration, me and sums are a bit useless but me, sums and running are mission impossible but looking at the time of day and knowing we had until 4.00pm to get there I could work out we’d be fine and told him so. Keith and George, two uber dudes who attempted running from Fort William to Mingavie then running back, the heat on Friday slowed them down and decided they wouldn’t have enough time to get to the start in time for a wee regroup, small rest and prepare for the start of the race so using common sense!!!! stopped at Rowardennan, they went on to finish the race in just over 31 hours.

At Auchtertyre there was a shift change for support, Sue, Gillian and Robin were taking over, Val and Lesley shot off to Fort William in time to see Richie finish. Sue has supported both Pauline and I loads of times and was generous with her expertise practising her needlework helping Keith deal with a blister. Robin the raw recruit this year held out my baked tattie on a plate with a fork, I just lifted the tattie carefully so as not to lose any cheese from it leaving Robin holding the accoutrements I only do table manners when I’ve got a table, (but that’s ok Robin, Gillian did the same thing last year in her first year of support). I thoroughly enjoyed my tattie and must say so the next time I’m in the Real Food CafĂ©.

At Tyndrum I was pleased that Gillian was able to join me, she’s been injured and was doubtful about being able to run, we trotted on blethering as much as we were running. This was the only section I felt it warm, although the wind was still fairly strong, I pushed my sleeves up and for a short time only wore one layer on my top half.

At Bridge of Orchy there had been a mishap with my hot chocolate, it was knocked over while they were waiting for me, “Aw! Ok, I’ll just have my rice pudding then!” Disappointed I walked up the hill with Sue, then Robin came sprinting up breathing hard with a fresh mug, he must’ve put in an effort equivalent of the Tour of Fife’s Up Hill Time Trial, wow, what brilliant support I’ve got! As Robin went to hand it over my wicked sense of humour kicked in, “Naw, it’s alright thanks I wasnae gonna bother wi’ hot chocolate now!” A millisecond later, “Just kiddin’!” In case he made me wear it.

Sue and I were reaching the end of the trees when her phone rang, Richie’s won! Brilliant news, just what we wanted to hear to put a spring in our step, the next thing to lift the spirits was a Magnificent Saltire at the top of the hill. A couple of photos and jelly babies from Murdo then we headed down the hill, it was great to have Sue’s company over Rannoch Moor, she too had been doubtful of being able to run and I’d mentally prepared only to have Robin run with me from Glencoe so it was a bonus having Gillian earlier and Sue with me on another of my favourite bits. Heading up to Peter Flemings Memorial it was time for a body check, starting at the bottom. Feet? A couple of hot spots but for around 70 miles that was ok. Legs? A bit sore but moving fluidly. Stomach? Fine, still managing to shovel grub in like the stoker of a steam engine. Chest? Ok as long as I didn’t breathe hard. Physically I was still good, but best of all, my head was in a happy place, and that can make all the difference, my body wasn’t trashed but even if it was my heart and mind are good I knew I’d be able to drag my carcass forever if necessary or for at least 35 hours. I know how lucky I am that I’m in a position to be here, doing a challenge of my own choice. Life can throw up challenges so much tougher so being here is a privilege.

At the Glencoe Ski Centre Robin was ready to go with me, I spent my longest stop here, 13 minutes, Sue moved seamlessly from support runner to foot doctor, helping me change socks. I put tights on over my Skins, and my blue fleece and Saltire buff, another tradition for the Devil’s Staircase since my PB in 2007, I ate some pasta, had coffee and swapped the sun glasses for the clear lenses to keep the wind out of my face then Robin and I were off into the magical light of the sun going down, casting hues of pink on the Bookle (Buachaille Etive Mor, but it ain’t Sunday yet!) We went past a guy leaning into and talking to the folks in a car on the road down from the Ski Centre, I didn’t realise it was my favourite pirate until we were passing him, but now with the motion control of the Titanic, I was impossible of change speed or direction I just had a hurried few words as I careered by. Had I known he was considering calling a halt to his WHW I would have given him an earful and if possible dragged him up the Devil, but everyone makes their own mind up and I doubt I would of made a difference but I still feel guilty for going straight by, we saw a yellow top following us after the Devil and I was falsely reassured it was Dave.

Robin was brilliant as running support, instinctively doing the right thing; I didn’t have to shout at him at all! It didn’t take too long until we were at the faff of the weigh in at Kinlochleven, I wasn’t too concerned about my weight, I don’t mean to be blasĂ© about the scary stuff of hyponatraemia etc, I’m aware of the symptoms and my weight never varied more than a kilo. I drank my mug of Oxo and took my ham and cheese roll and a bottle of flat coke, my stomach was fine but now it was a bit tired too and I didn’t start eating my roll until Robin and I had got the monster climb out of Kinlochleven over with, I nibbled it slowly over the next couple of miles, in the past at this point I’ve eaten too fast and then felt sick. The tiredness was starting to show, “I’m fed up with all these stones!” although I still had a happy head, Lairig Mor in the dark doesn’t make me skip with joy!

It wasn’t dark for much longer; I watched the second dawn rise during my race. I wasn’t as talkative with Robin as I was with Gillian and Sue, but Robin’s a fine wee blether and his race tales was lovely, I didn’t hallucinate but I thought my ears were when he said something like it’s not far to wonderbra! He was actually calling Lundavra wonderbra, but I just thought ma lugs were tired too!

My chest was now a bit gunky, my voice was rough and croaky and when I coughed I sounded like I was on forty fags a day and I was coughing up a bit of phlegm and that was giving me the boak! Robin being a proper gent with a proper handkerchief would ask “Was that a hanky?” when I blew my nose. “Nah, just a snot rocket!” lucky for him I was following. If you want to be a real ultra runner you have to forget all the manners your mother taught you and go Neanderthal, eating with your bare hands, pooing in the woods and blowing your nose without the aid of a hanky.

Last year I had a sticky out bottom lip at Lundavra when I was given coffee instead of the hot chocolate I’d been looking forward to after asking for it at Kinlochleven, so this year I’d put on my diva demand list just to ask me at Kinlochleven what I’d like to drink, but when Sue asked I was in don’t know mode, so just said surprise me. What a genius that woman! At Lundavra I got a Mocha, the kick of coffee and the comfort of chocolate, perfect. I’ll remember that for future, if I can’t make my mind up just have both! (Wonder if it’ll work for when I’m shoe shopping.)

It was just a case of plod on now, Gillian and Sue were going to park the car at the Leisure Centre and then walk out to meet me, lovely, a full escort home. Robin and I negotiated the stiles, the steps and steep ups and downs of the woods, just before the last steep climb onto the wide forest track down to Fort William a cheery face appeared, Stevie, John K’s support, (but he was my support first, running a bit with me in 2006) it does give a boost when someone makes an effort just to see how you’re fairing. It didn’t feel too torturous coming down the wide descent, Sue and Gillian had found us and Stevie said cheerio, and headed back to the campsite. The last mile, normally I put in the effort of a sprint but why change the pace of the last 94 miles, so just ran it nice and steady, savouring success. 30 hours 45 minutes, slower than I had thought I’d be but do I care.
The prize giving was still special and I thought the new tradition of the first winner presenting the last winner with their goblet brought all the runners full circle and symbolic of a family hug.

A excerpt from my 2008 race tale - Hang on while I swap my race buff for the headscarf with the dangly coins and stare into my crystal ball I can sense this family getting bigger, I see another Carnegie Harrier sipping from a crystal goblet. Peter Humphreys this is your destiny.

Pete is sipping from a goblet, finishing in under 22 hours, excellent for his first time, why I bring this up is because he started his WHW life as support, and I can see more of my supporters sipping from fine crystal in the future, just a word of warning, 8 out of 10 support end up with their own goblets! Just saying thank you to Val, Lesley, Gillian, Sue and Robin just doesn’t seem adequate. You are a very special bunch that makes this adventure possible, are doing anything next June 18th?

Monday, 28 June 2010

A Pride of Rampant Lions

My WHW report is work in progress but I write as slow as I run but here’s a cracking report from Gail’s Anglo-Celtic 100km


2010 was to be the year I got my own back on the WHW. Alas, I was selected to represent Scotland in the Anglo Celtic plate, which, as luck would have it (or was it an English conspiracy?.....hush my mouth…) landed on the same day.

It didn’t take long to decide that I would prefer to represent my country. I may not have that opportunity again, and the WHW wasn’t going anywhere.

So I trained hard on the roads, harder than I’d trained before. I did loads of build up races which helped my speed and boosted my confidence. I had run Keswick in a PB, for the 1st time breaking 9 hours last September. This was a hilly course and I hoped I could do better on the flat, scenic Boddington course. I wanted a PB and thought 8.45 was a reasonable target. Then I heard the British qualifying time was 8.39. So why not go for that. In the past I’ve always covered the 1st half in about 4 hours and the 2nd in 5 hours. I was going to try and start a bit slower in the hope that I wouldn’t burn out so soon. I knew it would slow drastically in the 2nd half, but I hoped it would be later on in the race, where I’d have more in the bank and be able to hold on for longer.

All my training had gone to plan. I doubted towards the last couple of weeks before the race whether I’d done enough mileage. But that’s not an unusual feeling before any ultra. We travelled down to Boddington in a hire car. Steven and I picked it up in Kirkcaldy, drove to Bellshill to pick up Grant, then onto Abington to collect Issy. En route we hit terrible traffic and got lost in Bellshill. A potential 6 hour journey was more like 8 ½ hours. Not the greatest preparation the day before the race. On arrival, Steven, Grant and I had a quick recce of the race route in the car before going straight to the pre-race briefing. The race organiser seemed to take great pleasure in telling us that Scotland was the only complete ladies team, and all we had to do was finish. I’m sure as a UKA official he is meant to be impartial, but my ar*e!....

I went to bed, not thinking this is in the bag, but rather I’ve got 62 miles to run tomorrow and if I don’t I’ve LOST the ACP for Scotland. No pressure then! I slept quite well and turned up for the race not feeling too bad. The nerves kicked in when we arrived at Boddington Manor. Everyone appeared to be the same. Grant was super confident despite having a back problem for weeks. Scott didn’t complain of anything but I knew he was nervous about a foot/ankle problem he’d had recently. I was glad he was there – good friend and clubmate, and his Dad. I knew how important it was for him to represent his country for the 1st (and I’m sure not the last) time. Issy and Nathalie were also on edge – Issy always questioning her fitness and Nathalie running for Scotland for the 1st time. Les was an old hand but had a problem with his back.

We all had our own goals and before we knew it we were off. We ran alongside runners doing the marathon and the 50K. This was great as there was plenty to watch and think about. And it always surprises me how you can lap people running the marathon! Always gives you a boost. We were to run 28 laps of a 3.5km loop. It was very scenic and flat and myself, Natalie and Issy all settled in and ran together at roughly 8 min mile pace for the 1st few laps. I had a good blether with Natalie for a while then she broke away. I was happy to plod on at my own pace and felt quite comfortable. Issy fell back and it was difficult when I lapped her, to see she was having trouble early doors. Grant lapped me after about 6-7 laps I think, up with the “fast boys”. Scott lapped me later and I could tell he wasn’t comfortable. He told me his legs were very heavy. But on we went. I felt fairly comfortable for the 1st half of the race, going through 50K at about 4 hrs 07. This was all par for the course. I knew I’d thrown in 2 or 3 fast laps early on but felt OK and was running steady now. It was all time in the bank. I lapped Issy again and she was really struggling. I really thought she was going to pull out. This put extra pressure on to finish as 2 runners were required to count for the team. I was delighted to hear on the next lap that she was still in the race.

Update from the WHW – Richie was in the lead at Bridge of Orchy. This was what I wanted to hear and it gave me a wee boost and spring in my step. Unfortunately, not long past the half way mark I started to feel sick. In spectacular form, at the next drinks station I vomited my guts up. Always nice in front of a crowd. I didn’t know what I could take till Margaret, Les Hill’s wife came to the rescue with some flat coke. It went down well, then I was off again. It wasn’t long before I felt the same way again. I knew I was in deficit and my pace was slowing all the time. At the start of the race, because of the new rules where your support can’t run with you for any distance – they can only move 1 meter from the drinks station, I was struggling to get hold of my drinks as I ran through. One thing I really wanted to do in this race was not walk. However once the vomiting started I had no option. I had to stop every lap to walk, refuel as best I could and vomit when the need arose. And it was oh so difficult to get moving again. I perfected the mega slow shuffle to make it look like I was running – debatable I’m sure. But I was sent off with a flee in my ear each time and told to keep moving. I did my best and did in fact keep running for the rest of the lap, only walking at the drinks station. I always vomited in front of an audience at the drinks station though– such an attention seeker!

I was counting down the laps and was told on 2 separate laps that I had 9 to go. The lap counters were at the opposite side of the lap to the drinks station and our support, so it was not easy to verify this. It sorted itself out but I was not impressed when I was told I had 3 laps to go as I entered my final lap. The lap keepers were shouted at accordingly and they confirmed I was right. Thank the Lord!

I was so desperate to finish. I had been desperate for the past 2 hours. It’s not easy running 30 miles with nothing in the tank. But I had to finish. I couldn’t lose the ACP. If I had to walk or crawl I would. My hoped for times had long gone. I knew I wasn’t going to get a PB or even sub 9 hours but that didn’t matter. I just wanted to finish. I’d seen loads of people drop out. I wasn’t going to be one of them. I’d been lapped by Scott twice but then unlapped myself. I knew from our support he was having mega problems with his legs but he was still going. So was Issy despite feeling rubbish from 90 minutes into the race, Nathalie was now having problems with her hip I think, but was still running. Grant’s back was giving him problems and he was way down on his hoped for time and Les’s back had gone. But everyone was gutting it out to the end.

I have to admit to walking some of the last lap – when no one was looking! I started running before I approached the lap timers and ran towards the manor. I saw Steven who gave me the Saltire to run with till the finish. I held it with pride as I crossed the line with great relief. I was greeted by Scott’s Dad, John who gave me the biggest hug. I don’t think he thought I was going to let go! Then Steven got the same. Relief at finishing, joy at winning the ACP and I came in 3rd in the British 100K championships to boot! Now I’d stopped running, could I have something to eat now please?!! Thank you to Scott’s friend’s for buying me a ham roll and a cup of tea!

Then I heard the news I’d been hoping for, Richie had just won the WHW!!! With tears welling up I shouted to Scott to give him the news. He felt the same. So many hundreds of miles away Richie had made our day!

Within the next 90 minutes the whole Scottish team was home. We had all gutted it out with our own personal battles on the day. None of us had done what we wanted time wise but we had all achieved in our own ways. Another one put down to experience. Yet another character building race.

I don’t know why I was sick. Not a problem normally for me during ultras. Maybe it was the heat. It certainly was hot at times. I didn’t feel I was sweating much, but did feel I was overheating, and regularly had to throw bottles of water over myself. The long journey down to Boddington the day before maybe didn’t help. But I can’t think of anything else.

Boddington was tough. It was a challenge for Steven to go down as team manager. Experienced as he is at supporting, managing a team is a whole new responsiblilty. He didn’t just have to look after me, but the whole team. The new rules where you can only move 1 meter from the drinks station was hard for all the support. I was certainly conscious of the fact I was barking demands from a distance. I knew this was required but I felt very demanding and there wasn’t much time for please or thank you. So I’ll say it now! – Thank you to Steven, who did a sterling job for me personally and for the whole team, and to all the other support and runners in Team Scotland – for emotional and physical support. For Margaret and Les a special thanks for the flat coke, which will now be an essential part of my supplies in future ultras!

As I ran this race I thought, well at least I’ll not have to do 100K again as I’ll not get selected again, but like the WHW last year, me and the 100K now have unresolved issues. See you in Perth!

Gail Murdoch
June 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Sue's report from the Heart of Scotland 100

Heart of Scotland 100 Report
Sue Walker 1st and 6th June 2010
104.44 miles and 13,200 feet according to the website.
108.4 miles and 15,200 feet climbing according to Sports Tracks and 2 x Garmins

Where to begin? Well, the real beginning is back in 1909! Baden Powell had started scouts and held the first scout rally in Chrystal Palace. A group of girls gatecrashed the event and caught his eye. He told them that Scouting was for boys. They complained and asked him for something for the girls and so in 1910, Girl Guides was started. Fast forward, 100 years, it is the centenary for Girlguiding and I’m county commissioner for Girlguiding Fife. I hear about a 100 mile event taking place in Scotland and I’m intrigued. It’s too close to the West Highland Way for the other ultra runners in the club, but it’s got a firm hook in me. I make enquires about entering and am told I need to have completed a 50 mile event to qualify. Despite a knee problem the fortnight before, I managed to get around Rotherham in October, finishing in 12:30 ish and that’s qualification done. Qualifying ticked off; I now enter the event and break the news to one and all!

As part of my preparation I enter the Glasgow to Edinburgh double marathon (55 miles) followed by the Deeside 33. Unfortunately, the incessant flatness of the canal tow paths brings on an ITB problem which puts me out of the D33. After some brutal massage and stretching, the ITB eases enough for me to resume training and I recce more sections of the route, concentrating on those sections I expect to do in the dark.

The route is incredible. The event starts and finishes in Dunkeld. From Dunkeld, you run over to Kirkmichael, then round the back of Ben Vuirich via Daldhu and Shingag to reach Blair Atholl. From there, via the falls of Bruar, you head North along the old A9 before cutting across to Kinloch Rannoch via Loch Errochty. After breakfast in Kinloch Rannoch, you head via the sides of Schielhallion up to Pheiginn Bothy and then Fortingall, Aberfeldy, the Hermitage and back to Dunkeld. All in all, it’s an official 104.44 miles with 13,000 feet of climbing.

I chose to start at 10am with the Walkers – how apt! - giving myself the full 48 hours to complete the event, though I really am targeting a pre darkness finish on the Sunday (36 hours). I plan to run the flats and down hills where possible and walk the hills. I set my watch alarm to remind me to eat and drink something every 30 minutes. My challenge is to finish this event. I’ve put together a pacing schedule to help my supporters but in fairness, all I want to do is rise to the challenge and complete it. There will be no heroic sprints at the start but hopefully no major slumps either. Nice and steady is the way to go. I’ve checked in with LDWA and they are happy for me to have running support provided they don’t get in the way and are self sufficient. All systems go then, and Ken, Fiona and Pauline travel up to support over the weekend.

It felt very odd to be gathered in the busy square in Dunkeld and not know another soul! Very different from most races in Scotland where I would expect to see club mates and friends from other clubs. After a few rousing tunes from the Vale of Atholl pipe band, we were off to Loch Ordie. This first checkpoint was not accessible to supporters. I assumed that the checkpoint would be based on a 4x4 vehicle with maybe water and jelly babies on offer. Not at all. There was a 15’ square marquee pitched with sandwiches, and biscuits and apologies for only having bottled water to drink. Off I went to Kirkmichael, allegedly past some Ospreys but I didn’t see anything. The route to Kirkmichael was greatly improved since my last visit in the snow in February. The landowner had cut a path in the heather, built a new gate in the deer fence and created a new path down to the Cateran Trail. There were even way markers. The first village hall stop and my chance to meet the support team was Kirkmichael. On the drop down to the Cateran trail track, I met Helena and Gail complete with route finding GPS – well it was a navigational challenge! I stopped at the hall and had my route card punched and popped in to see what type of food was on offer. A vast array of sandwiches, crisps, custard, rice pudding and clootie dumpling! I was even offered a strawberry by Marie Dokes’ husband. Marvellous! Off we trotted, the happy Carnegie Harriers - me, Helena, and Steven. Gail played leapfrog with the car and caught us later. Steven stayed with me for a good while before returning back to Enochdhu for the promised lift home. Thanks for the company everyone, I enjoyed it.

Daldhu was 20 miles in and was again a marquee check point offering salad and quiche and tea, coffee and puddings. Quiche went down well but I couldn’t quite appreciate the salads. Off again, in drizzle now to Shinagag, passing several Duke of Edinburgh expeditioners on the way. Navigation wasn’t too difficult though crossing the broken bridge over the ravine was challenging. I opted to scramble across the burn instead as I thought any falls would be gentler! It was easier though wet! On the way into Shinagag check point, I got a text from my eldest daughter Kathy. She’d threatened to send me texts containing the words of songs. Her idea was that I’d get the words in my head, sing the song, and generally be distracted from any aches and pains. First up was ging gang gooly, gooly, gooly gooly whatsa ging gang goo, ging gang goo……….(sing along now!)

From Shinagag the route headed across the moors for a mile or so on some easy tracks before descending for a good couple of miles into Blair Atholl. Beans on toast on offer here but I settle for a couple of slices of toast and some running company with Pauline. We were chatting so much along the river path that we nearly missed the route. I switched back to concentrate mode and enjoyed this very scenic section with several follies on the way. At Calvine, I tried a plate of cold pasta but decided against it eating some sultanas instead. Ken then kept me company along the flat, old A9 section to head into Dalnacardoch. A quick cup of soup and a sandwich later, I stopped at the car to put blister plasters on some hot spots and dress up for the weather. It was properly dark now, and the rain was starting in earnest. Fiona was chumming me on this section while Ken and Pauline were heading off to get some sleep in Kinloch Rannoch. In the end, it was far too wet for them to put up the tent and they dosed uncomfortably in the car instead. Meanwhile, Fiona and I trudged along the tarmac road for a couple of miles before going cross county at Maud Loch heading to Errochty Dam. I had reccied all of this section so I knew roughly where I was meant to go even if I couldn’t see any landmarks. Some very helpful marshal had placed red and white hazard tape at intervals along the route. That was a very welcome confidence booster. When we reached Errochty Dam, there was a kit check. I got off lightly by being asked to show my compass which was tied to the front of my rucksack and in regular use. Others had to show their bivvy bag or first aid kit, usually from the bottom of the rucksack. The weather by now was truly foul and a great number of people pulled out here. Marshalls were advising people to proceed only if they felt strong enough and were well enough equipped for poor conditions. Luckily Fiona and I were so we carried on. When we left the lochside path, we had a couple of miles to go on rough, boggy terrain before reaching an unmanned checkpoint. We got stuck behind a small group. The lead walker had clearly reccied the route and was rallying his small group. He didn’t seem too pleased to have us tuck in behind but equally, didn’t move aside to let us pass. He made sure everyone knew that he knew where he was going and we all reached the flashing red light marking the self checker at the same time. After that, Fiona and I left the group behind and we made our way uphill for another mile. A deer fence had recently been installed and the ground underfoot was churned up and ankle sucking mud. It seemed to take forever – during which time day broke and the rain stopped - before we reached the top of the col. Apparently, we were then meant to descend on faint path for 0.75 miles on initial bearing 140°, later bending round to 175o, to reach track beside the main burn (track not shown on OS map) and cairn. I covered this section in daylight in a recce when the ground was snow covered, and then again in daylight on the event, and on neither occasion did I find the faint path on the bearing and nor did I find the first cairn. After a bit of stumbling about (with no one in front to follow!) we tucked behind some other walkers till we found the large cairn and after that the descent in KR was straightforward. I realised on arrival that I was a bit ahead of schedule but planned to press on anyway. I put dry socks on from my drop bag but didn’t bother changing shoes as I knew I still had another 7 miles of bog to go. Robin from Perth had offered to come up for 5am to chum me on this section. Luckily, he decided to get there early and was ready to go with me after breakfast. We must have been on our way by 4.15 ish. Again, I had reccied this next section over the flanks of Schielhallion and more or less knew what was coming. It was a hard slog over burns, bog and heather. When I sunk 18” into a drainage ditch, (and had to crawl out fulfilling my promise to run, walk or crawl the route!), Robin picked the way for me calling out when he spotted another drainage ditch. Pheiginn Bothy was warm and welcoming with a log fire and candles burning on the mantelpiece but I managed not to linger. Another steady descent to the flat road section to Fortingall and Ken and the crew met me at Keltneybridge for a shoe change and I switched from trails to road shoes. There was still a climb to go out of Aberfeldy but I knew the running surface was fine from here. At Fortingall village hall, the LDWA checkpoint staff apologised to me for not being well enough manned up to provide waitress service!!!!. Pauline was chumming me on this section and we soon crossed the narrow suspension bridge and headed into the Tay forest. When I arrived at the next checkpoint, the Sunday papers were waiting along with tea, coffee and sandwiches. As the marshal clipped my tally card, he said, ‘so you’re Sue Walker’. I was a bit puzzled but headed off. A mere 150 yards down the hill, I saw the reason for his comment. There was my sister Trish and daughter, Lizzy, together with a guiding friend Helen with a poster attached to a tree. The poster had been made to support me by Helen’s brownies in Rosyth. I saw the poster another 3 or 4 times over the next few miles. What a fantastic boost. Pauline, ’encouraged’ me to trot along the riverside path into Aberfeldy. It is a very scenic, flat path but the miles seemed to elongate. I had to stop to take some paracetamol as I had a pain in my knee. Even worse, though, was the toothache I was experiencing. That forced me to inhale paracetamol every 4 hours till I finished. (Wisdom teeth are all getting extracted in mid June and I sorely need it). At least the pain in my jaw was distracting me from running aches. Then we crossed over General Wade’s bridge and into the Scout and Guide hall in Aberfeldy - very apt given the cause and the company I had (Fiona and Pauline had been in Helen’s guide unit at one point and Val was a Queen’s Guide!)

Val chummed me from Aberfeldy up that endless climb on forest tracks to Loch Kinnard. My tummy was a bit upset here so Val didn’t have the cheeriest of running companions then. Once at Loch Kinnard, I knew the worst of the climbs were over. The remaining 10 or so miles was lumpy rather than hilly though the pace was fairly slow. We bumped into WHW runner Andy Cole on the forest tracks. He was keeping things nice and steady in preparation for this year’s WHW. Pauline and Ken drove on ahead to Dunkeld and walked back through the Hermitage to meet Fiona and me and escort us in. We must have looked a very odd posse as we made our approach to Dunkeld. The sun was out, kids were playing tennis in the park as we crossed under the A9 and finally crossed the bridge and ran into the square in Dunkeld. As I entered the Drill hall in Dunkeld to surrender my tally for the final time, the tally clipper rang a hand bell and everyone present gave me a round of applause. What a welcome for each finisher. Robin and his wife Ann had come out to Dunkeld from Scone to see me finish, and the sense of relief and achievement when I finished was immense.

I really can’t thank my fantastic runner supporters enough – Ken, Fiona, Pauline, Gail, Helena, Steven, Robin and Val; my sister Trish and daughter Lizzy and Helen and her brownies for their support en route.
When I eventually downloaded Garmin info (I used my own and Pauline’s and recharged them in between), I covered 108.4 miles and 15,200 feet of climb in a time of 32:23. I started just before 10am on Saturday and finished well before dark on Sunday at 6:20pm.

I didn’t manage to get my report finished quickly, as after a couple of days R&R, I then mucked in with all the final preparations for our guide camp. I’m back now from a weekend of celebrations with 2000 members of Girlguiding Fife, including 400 campers. We had a ball.

Thank you to everyone for their support – both practically, via messages and by sponsoring me on my just giving site,here

On the run I ate jam sandwiches, marmite rolls, quiche, Tuc biscuits, jaffa cakes, fruit pastilles, custard, rice crispie cake, rice pudding, mints, sultanas, maltesers, tablet, porridge. I drank Nunn juice, tea, coffee and soup.

Sue Walker June 2010