Sunday, 21 February 2010

You spin me right round baby, right round.

A few months ago when I found out that Draycote Water 35 mile race (7 laps of a 5 mile loop round a reservoir) had been cancelled, I thought “Bummer, it’s a great kick start to the years running” So what can we do that’s similar, and the idea of using the loop at Perth Inches seemed good. I knew the lap well; it was used for the 24 hour race in 2008. The plan was 6 hours or 35 miles whatever came first.

So on the weekend that Draycote would have been on nine of us stood at 9.00am ready to run to our own agenda, Ken and Sue had arrived earlier and had already done a few laps. I knew today was going to be a tough run, this last fortnight I’ve just not felt 100% neither ill nor injured just like a sack of tatties on legs, running has felt harder than it should, and my hamstrings have felt tight, I put it down to three long WHW runs on consecutive weekends and a having a cold. I just need a good stretch and some warm weather.

Although the pace of the group wasn’t fast, I felt I was working a bit more than I should be at the start of a 6 hour run, Pauline left the group after having a 2 mile warm up, her plan was a 14 mile tempo then continue steady for a further 19 miles, Sue and I stayed together for the first hour, I nipped into the loo and then tried to settle into a comfortable pace on my own. I never really found comfortable but after two hours I started to find relaxed. It was perfect day, although pretty cold and frosty but with no wind and bright sunshine, on the river side of the lozenge shaped loop you were running into the sun and when it’s in your eyes it’s natural to dip your head, but your shoulders follow and you end up running in a crumpled heap, not good posture. So I’d lift my face up to the sun, close my eyes briefly, my shoulders would roll back, my ribcage lift, my hips come forward and I’d float… not too sure if a sack o’ tatties floats but that was my mental image and I was holding on to it.

The park was busy, lots of dog walkers, pram pushers, toddlers on bikes. On the grass there was a lot to watch through out the day, in the morning a British Military Fitness session, the shouty bloke in army breeks invited me and Sue to join, I replied. “Well, if you’re still here when I’ve finished my six hour run, I’ll join you!” I don’t think he believed me. There was a rugby match, some runners doing speed work and loads of other runners doing their own thing. Time and laps moved on, the sun move round the sky, Ken, Sue and Jon waved cheerio having completed what they’d planned. George aka Loon Dod had blasting a few laps in shorts and vest, Karen was just finishing and going for a shower, Pauline and Pete had lapped me a couple of times, I hadn’t seen Alyson, we were on the same lap but she was always around half a lap ahead. Just before George and Karen left, a woman had handed them a bag of freshly baked warm muffins, well, that’s the first time I tried a muffin while running, it went down nicely, I think I’ll put them on my grub list for future races.

(Stop press – just had an email from Robin who appeared at the end of our run, he had an inkling who may have made the muffins, he was right. Karen Walters, thank you so much, they were delicious and all gone before we headed home.)

I could see Alyson in front now but she nipped into the loo with around one hour still to go, she caught up with me and we ran the last three laps together, it was great to have company and blether at the end. Both Pete and Pauline stopped at 35 miles. Alyson and I were just a few minutes over the six hours with 22 laps and 32 ½ miles, I was pleased to get over 30 miles since this was my first long run on tarmac since Loch Ness Marathon last October.

When I got home, the door was locked, brilliant, the house to myself. I’d just got up the stairs and my dream of a peaceful soak was shattered. Erin and her friend Denise who’s staying for a sleepover have just come in. Erin had bought a hamster. What! Aren’t there regulations against minors buying livestock? That was a surprise, she’s never said she wanted a hamster, but she’d said she’d texted her Dad and since he hadn’t replied “No!” she took that as a yes. (Pete’s phone was switched off!) “But we don’t have a cage, didn’t they ask you that in the pet shop.” I asked. Erin rolled her eyes and said “Doh! They did ask and I said yes!” Which was followed with “Would you please go up the loft and get the old fish tank down, we could put him in there just now?” Hmm! Just what I needed to loosen off my legs after a 32 miles run and over half an hour in the car, climbing a ladder is not usually part of my post run ritual! Eventually, I left them to sort out the wee guy and I headed to the bathroom when Denise pipes up, “In Store have Hamster starter homes for £10.“ I’m persuaded into having a quick shower so we can head back into Dunfermline and buy the cage. I pulled up outside the shop with five minutes to spare before it shuts. I gave Erin £20 and sat in the car, they were soon back carrying boxes, I was given my change, £1.50, they’d bought the other cage, it was so much nicer and ball for him as well! I’ve been diddled again!

Back home and after a bit of hamster house building I can finally settle down to my usual post run ritual of pizza and wine and to reflect on my quarter day run. It was interesting in the last few laps finding out how Alyson had coped with today’s run since she hasn’t done this kind of thing before, all her training and ultras have usually been on trails, a journey, and had found today fairly tough mentally, it would have been so easy to stop but she would’ve beaten herself up about it later if she had and was pleased that she’d kept going. On our last lap I asked if she could imagine running this lap for 24 hours instead of just 6? “No!” was her reply, I laughed and said “Me neither, well, not today anyway!” It’s just your mind that sets the limits; it’s what you choose for that day. Even when running round a small lap, you do still have a journey of sorts, it just one within yourself where you find hidden strength.

Setting your goal and aiming for it is half the battle, believing in yourself and holding on to that believe no matter how hard the journey becomes, the battle is won.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Conic hill, so good we did it twice.

On Thursday, Pauline and I were wondering what to do on Saturday; she wanted a longish run since she hasn’t had one in ages, where as I’d taken myself off for a couple of cracking runs on the WHW the last two weekends, there was a Glee club outing happening, it was a bit longer than we'd planned but we could go if she fancied it.
9.00am. Drymen car park, and a dozen runners were preparing for the off, I got a few admiring comments for my gaiters, even from the guys! There was a few faces I didn’t know but that was soon sorted with a few introductions, I was looking forward to a run with company and a wee blether but as soon as we set off, I thought “Well, I’ll just see you later!” I run no ones pace but my own and wasn’t going to get dragged along. Silke and I soon settled into the same pace, it wasn’t long before Marco and Thomas whizzed past, they were just doing a “wee” fast one, over Conic hill and back.
I enjoyed my run with Silke, although I wasn’t feeling as sprightly as I could’ve, I think the remnants of last weeks long run and cold were still in my system but running tired is no bad thing training for ultra. (Please remind me not to stand next to Silke again, I look like a hobbit!)

We were about 20 minutes away from Rowardennan when Thomas appeared, he was doing a wee bit extra while waiting to pick up Silke as she was stopping here. I went into the hotel, the speedier runners were tucking into bowls of soup and cups of tea. There were more runners inside than you shake a Garmin at, George and Karen and another group had run down from Beinn Glas and were having something to eat before heading back. I just nipped to the loo (very civilised) before heading back, I didn’t want to sit down beside a roaring log fire and get comfy cause I would struggle to get going again and it would give the faster runners something to chase on the way back. Pauline came back with me but it wasn’t too long before Ellen, Donald and Janet caught us up, (the even faster ones had had their soup and left just as I got to the hotel) Donald and Janet soon pulled away but Ellen and Pauline stayed with me. I wasn’t really struggling, I just wasn’t going very fast. (Not that I’ve ever been accused of speed anyway!)

At the bottom of Conic hill the conversation was on the exploits of some WHW runners pushing the boundaries even further, like George’s recent back to front winter WHW and Keith not stopping at the end of last years race and carrying on up the Great Glen to Inverness. How long will it be before these achievements seem normal? I smiled at Pauline’s comment “Well, between the three of us we’ve got eighteen goblets, how many miles is that?”

I was glad to get up and over Conic hill again, I perked up a bit back on the forest track, I was into the last hour of running, it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been out for, the last hour is always good, well, you can always run just one hour!
This was quite a tough run (30 miles on not the most runnable sections) on one of my favourite bits of the WHW. Come to think of it, all 95 miles are my favourite bit! Hmm… but I do prefer Lairig Mor in daylight without eighty odd miles in my legs! But there again that’s what makes it soooo special!

Monday, 1 February 2010

The Monarch and his kingdom

I didn’t know what to expect on this run since I’ve had a cold all week and didn’t run Wednesday or Thursday and felt sluggish on my easy five miles on Friday, but Saturday’s weather forecast was for cold, bright and sunny, I wasn’t going to waste a cracking day plodding round a wee route at home. The plan was Bridge of Orchy to the deer fence at Crianlarich and back, last weeks run started and finished at Crianlarich so I thought it would be good if I could link the two runs.
I decided on a just run and see approach, no pressure, if I was struggling I’d just turn round earlier. I felt ok to start and took it gently, but within 10 minutes I stopped to take photos of icicles, and when I got to the frozen waterfall, I thought “Sod the distance, today is too spectacular to waste just pushing on with my eyes watching the ground!” So I scrambled down to the river for a few photos and just enjoyed being there. As I climbed back on the path, two walkers came towards me; with the sun in my eyes they were just silhouettes, it was Ann and hubby, her wee brother was in my class at primary school! So stopped to blether for a bit, they walk the WHW every Easter and today they were doing an out and back from Tyndrum, they had watched The Adventure Show and thoroughly enjoyed it, I told them my plan for today but wasn’t too worried how far I got. Said cheerio and headed on towards Tyndrum, I’d just emerged from the tunnel under the railway line to meet another bunch of cheery walkers; this sunshine certainly makes folk happy.
There were patches of ice and lumps of frozen snow on the path, it was mostly fairly easy to get round apart from an occasional bit where I did a wee bit of arm waving. I took a bit of time picking my way across the water heading down past Tyndrum, although freezing wet feet were not on my to do list, neither was slipping and cracking my skull, I’m a lot more wary on dodgy terrain when I’m running alone. I made it over and then remembered to breathe, skull intact and dry tootsies. Bonus!
My next stop was for a scramble up the lumpy grassy slope to get a photo of the frozen Loch of the Lost Sword, I was having to faff about with my camera batteries, with it being so cold I had to keep putting them in my glove to bring them back to life.
Back on the path I trotted on through Auchtertyre, I crossed the road to climb the hill to the rollercoaster, I checked my watch and tried to work out if I had time to get to the Crianlarich deer fence, I’d had a lot of “time out” taking photos. My original turnaround time of 1.30pm was approaching but I was happy to extend it to 2.00pm, there was nothing really to hold me to a strict timetable except I was to pick up my daughter at her pals house at around 7-ish and that there was a pizza and a bottle of wine waiting for me at home.

It was freezing, the sun never penetrated the trees and there was a lot of old frozen snow and ice to watch out for on the ups and downs but I’ve always thought this bit fun, that’s why I call it the rollercoaster! I pushed on. Two young lads with big rucksacks were lumbering down towards me, I stopped again for another wee blether, they asked me about the WHW race and I asked them if they were camping, they said yes, it was my turn to ask a daft question, “Was it cold at night?” They ask me how far away Auchertyre was. I asked how far away the deer fence was. They said about 15 minute, brilliant, I’ll bash on. Tagged the fence at about 2.10pm with a running time of 3.01hrs, I was well pleased I’d reached my goal, all I had to do now was not to stop on the way back and I’d be back at the car by about 5.15pm. I enjoyed my second go on the rollercoaster, and back on the road towards Achtertyre, as I caught up with the young lads; one shouted “Here’s that mad runner again!” Hee hee, I thought, that’s a bit pot and kettle; I’m not the one sleeping under flimsy nylon in freezing conditions. But apart from the cold they were amazed at how the terrain and scenery constantly changed and were enjoying their walk.

I started to have a wee struggle after Achtertyre and the climb out of Tyndrum was just a slog, it was time for some Mad Aussie inspiration. “Come on Fiona TTFU!” With Keith’s accent, it worked a treat.

The light was starting to go, the few wee clouds were turning pink, I headed down to the tunnel under the railway and met Ann and hubby at just about the same point as this morning, they too had had a brilliant day, I perked up a little knowing I was in my last hour of running, then met the cheery bunch again, they were also heading back to Tyndrum. The sun had gone and it was starting to get dark, so I pushed on playing the let’s see if I can get back to the car without getting my torch out game. My legs were a bit sore and tired now but I was pleased they were also still loose and strong so I pushed on. (Later at home when I checked my watch, I’d been consistent with my split times out and back except the Tyndrum - Bridge of Orchy comparison, on the way back I was 9 minutes quicker than on my way out! I was running easy at the start but wine and pizza has some pulling power!)

I was heading down to the Bridge, it wasn’t totally dark but the light had all but gone, I heard something to my right, I looked across and stopped dead in my tracks, not more then 10 yards away stood a magnificent beast with a royal set of antlers, we stood still, staring at each other for what seemed ages until I was dismissed from his presence. Wow! I briefly thought about hauling out my camera but he’d be gone before I’d manage. I just enjoyed the privilege of my Monarch moment.
What a finale to a day with no expectations, as long as I remain upright the WHW will always be a source of joy!