Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Highland Fling – A Relay Brilliant Day Out

Ages and ages ago when I was looking at my racing plan for the first part of this year, I planned my usual Lochaber marathon and the Glenrothes 50km, I dithered about the Highland Fling in the middle of them but thought that since my name’s not Richie I’d struggle to do all three. Then thought that the relay might be a way of having my cake and eating it, (I have a good relationship with food, maybe too good!) So I emailed Fabienne, the ladies captain saying if they needed some one to make up the numbers for a relay team, I’ll do it. Next thing I know is I’m team captain, yikes! Not sure about this, my leadership qualities are akin to a headless chicken but I was relieved to find out all I had to do was fill in the form and post it off. Val did a brilliant job of organising recce runs also working with Morna and a wee group discussion of who’ll do what leg and in what team since Carnegie had two ladies teams entered.

We were going to use Val and Morna’s cars so Val, just to be on the safe side added Gillian onto her car insurance for the day and phoned her insurance company and was quoted £40, “Thanks but no thanks.” the last time she added someone for a day it was only a tenner. So she went online for temporary insurance and found a quote for £17, that’s a bit better! Only thing was it’s the same company she’s insured with! £40 for a valued loyal customer and only £17 for a random punter, I think Aviva should change its name to!

Our team name was Carnegie ladies in 4 fun and I thought we should show a bit of frivolity and emailed Val, Louise and Gillian my thoughts, the replies varied from “Have you been drinking?” to along the lines of goan yersel! I was running the second leg of Drymen to Rowardennan, over Conic hill, not a munro but a hill that still deserves some respect so I thought it must be done in a pink tutu! You should’ve seen Erin’s face (my fourteen year old daughter) when I asked if I could borrow her skirt, she was fine with it when she knew she wouldn’t be with me when I was wearing it!

Pauline came along for the day, she was a possible late sub for Louise, her calf gave a wee ping on Tuesday at the club and wasn’t too sure about running. Louise was fine so Pauline took her role as Carnegie ladies in 4 fun cheer leader seriously and was dressed appropriately in a Viking style tartan bunnet wi’ horns and ginger pigtails attached, Saltire t-shirt and a wee tartan pelmet of a skirt, and wielding Fife’s version of cow bells (a pot and wooden spoon to rattle together, apparently it’s all the rage with supporters on the mountain stages of the Tour De France!)

The ultra race had started earlier with staggered starts so it was just the relay left to go.
Gillian was on the first leg, after seeing her and the rest of the relay runners off the rest of us went to Tesco’s to buy a big picnic then headed round to Drymen. It wasn’t long before Jo came in and handed over to Isobel (Carnegie Cougars, the fast team) and soon Gillian was in sight, she handed over the sash and wrist band with the chip and I was off in a flounce.
I was wondering how to pace this, just over 14 miles so I was thinking half marathon pace, hmm… when did I last race one of them? But the terrain tells you different, and it’s so ingrained in me to walk all the hills with a jam sandwich or two. Just last week I decided I needed speed work so I hope this will do for starters and ran as fast as my little fat legs could go at all times! It was a novelty (and a first) running all the way up the long forest track, skipped and bounced down to the bridge at the start of Conic hill. I had my first walk here, but did run some of the not so steep bits. I had a slight problem with my tutu, the Velcro wrist band on the chip kept catching and sticking to it, so I took off the band and jammed it into the phone pouch attached to the waist strap of my backpack. It didn’t take long to get to the top of Conic and start the descent, its ages since I’d last battered down hill as fast as gravity could drag me, I’m usually cautious here of keeping my legs intact for the seventy odd miles still to go. But as rusty as I was at descending I gave it a good go, it was dry underfoot and I was wearing new trail shoes. Confidence, it’s all about confidence. My mantra was “I’m not scared, I’m not scared!” My arms were doing semaphore sweary words and I remembered to smile at all the people on the hill.

It was now a warm sunny day and Balmaha and the surrounding area was busy with day trippers, I got quite a few comments, and lots of “You’re going well!” I thanked them and thought “Going well? Did they mean I was going well for a finely tuned and well seasoned athlete? Well, I’ve seen plenty seasons! Or did they mean I was going well for a fat burd that looks like she’s mislaid her hen party!

Halfway between Balmaha and Rowardennan Ken went past me (Carnegie Wrinklies, the old team, who’s combined ages must be approaching 250 years!) He asked wasn’t I roasting, he had to take off his thermal top on Conic. I had taken off my gloves and pushed up my sleeves earlier. He psyched me out; I took my Buff scarf off.

After the second sharp steep climb with the steps, I knew Rowardennan was less than half an hours running away. I thought half marathon pace and pushed on. I caught my right toe and assumed the Superman pose except I’m crap at flying. Phoowf! It was ok, no damage to the tutu, I was back up and running again as fast as I fell, a quick dust down and I was uninjured too! A last uneventful push into Rowardennan, zapped the chip over the pad and handed it over with the sash to Louise. Yaaay! She was wearing Pauline’s wee tartan skirt; I wasn’t the lone nutsy runner after all!

A quick change, but kept the tutu on, had a picnic sitting in the sun cheering on other relay runners then we drove round to Bhein Glas, laughed at the sign outside the Drovers. Said with feeling, it sounded like I was swearing. “NO FLING CARPARK!” That’s ok, I’ve always given that establishment a wide berth. We were allowed to park at Bhein Glas as long as we paid £5 but that was redeemable in the restaurant, that’s fine, a bit of mutual support I suppose, and I was sure I could force some beer and chips. Val got herself ready for the last leg, while Gillian and Pauline with her pot and I went up onto the path. We were there in time to cheer on some of the real runners as well as the relay runners, that’s why the relay carried a sash, in case it was hard to tell the difference. Some runners looked fresh and some looked puggled and surprisingly not all the fresh looking ones were carrying a sash and vice versa!

Louise came sprinting in and handed over to Val, now off on the glory leg. Right Louise, hurry up and get changed, it’s beer time except for Gillian since she's driving Val's car. Well, we have a fiver to spend, the chips were good and so was the Guinness, I think everyone was of the same mind that used the parking, I just felt a bit sorry for the poor stressed guy behind the bar working on his own. It took a good deal of effort to prise ourselves out of the bar, Val wouldn’t like it if she finished and we were still sitting supping pints!

Val’s cheering squad found a good position near the finish and we made a lot of noise for everyone finishing. Well, Pauline did anyway! Here’s Val coming, big cheers, I’m sure she knew where we were, so did the rest of Tyndrum!

(Something I thought I’d never hear myself say to Val.) “Right Missus, wipe the snotters from your face and we’ll get a team photo!” It was probably more sweat than snot but I’ve never been known for my tact. Splendid efforts from all in the slow team, we did not too bad at all.
What a cracking day, and great to see and congratulate loads of WHW family and those using the Highland Fling as a stepping stone for June. I’m sorry we had to leave straight after the prize giving, I would have like to blether longer but the rest of them had already gone back to the cars and I didn’t want to walk home! See you all in June though; hopefully get a chance to catch up then.

Next time I run down Conic hill it’ll be June and I won’t be dressed as a fairy but I’ll certainly descend like one. It’s now Wednesday and my quads are just starting to return to normal! Thinking ahead to next year’s relay, what am I going to wear?

Monday, 19 April 2010

Lochaber Marathon

I am pleased with my run at Lochaber, my finishing time of 4.15 was not going to break any records, (the last time I ran 4.15 for a marathon was last year at Loch Ness two weeks after doing 107 miles at the 24 hour race!) But I’m happy with it because I’m now fully recovered from all the bits of illness and injury I’ve had since the start of the year.

I was able to increase my pace from picnic pace to work as hard as I can but don’t expect miracles cause I’ve done bugger all speed work pace. (My splits were around and between 9 ½ and 10 ½ minute miles) I might be fat and slow but at least I can run consistently! Well, I might not really be that fat but I am still closer to my Christmas weight than my fighting weight, and I blame having a skinny fast twin for my Dawn French body dysmorphia! Pauline, go get yer lunch from Greggs ya scrawny git!

Lochaber marathon is a lovely route out and back along the Mallaig road and the weather was fine and sunny with a bit of a cool breeze from time to time, perfect running conditions and the view of the Ben was stunning on the way back to Fort William, sparkling snow on the summit in a crystal clear sky.

When I reached the turn around I decided to count the runners I’d pass on the way back and how many would pass me. Only one guy went by me just after the turn and I overtook 17 runners. With about one mile to go there’s a silly wee hill which can be a bit of a bugger if you’re knackered, I’d just got myself up it then I heard from about 10 yards behind a bloke coming up the hill, I didn’t look round but I had a good old laugh to myself, what an effort it must have been for him, he sounded like he was giving birth! I’m not particularly competitive against other runners but after running the last twelve miles with no one passing me I wasn’t going to let some drama queen (no offence to the real DQ) get me in the last mile. I pushed as hard as I could, he was still close behind and thought he might try for the heroic beat the girl over the finish line as we hit the grass of the shinty field, I pushed even harder for the last 100 yards and I got there first. Yaaay! Small victory, I know but it made it fun.

Well Done to Gail, second lady and with Pauline’s steady last long training run with loads of layers for her warm weather training before heading to Brive, France for the 24 hour World Championship and Linda, knocking a lump off her previous marathon time to win the 1st team prize.

All the best to Gail, Bob Allison, John Pickard and Ray McCurdy, well done for the marathon and now have less than a week for a wee taper before the Highland Fling!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Fling recce – leg 4

What an absolutely beautiful, brilliant day! Allan drove up to Beinn Glas and “Carnegie Ladies in 4 fun”(Fling relay team, Val, Loiuse, Gillian and me) got out the car, it was just before 10.00am, we faffed about a bit getting ready, it was going to be a cracking day.

Ditched the rain jacket, took off my long sleeved top and just went for one short sleeved layer!!! First time this year, (had my gloves on for a wee bit at the start though) Had a bit of a bother with my camera, it turned out the batteries were duff, they are rechargeable ones but they must be at the end of their life, gave my camera to Allan, no point carrying it if I couldnae get it to work properly, I had my phone, so did Louise but the quality on my phone isn’t so good but it’ll have to do.

Eventually after the faffing with my camera we were off up the new track from Beinn Glas, but not too bothered with it, the wee chippy stones will have bedded down by June. Started off at a lovely pace but soon Val was pushing on, this was going to be her leg in the Relay and I thought she was practicing race pace. I quipped to Gillian, “Is the Real Food Café closing half day today?” We got reprimanded for doing picnic pace. Louise ended up with the short straw and kept Val company, Gillian and I continued at picnic pace, I’ve probable still got a bit of the D33 in my legs, (my excuse for a gentle pace) besides I wasn’t wasting a smashing day pushing the pace, anyway I came to the conclusion I can only run on the WHW at WHW race pace and for some daft reason I had my backpack loaded with enough food for a full day out but only ate one wee Mars bar but drank a fair bit of the litre and a half of my diluted ginger beer, only because it was so warm!

Photo pinched from Louise, a heidless chicken going through the crack yer heid tunnel

Heading into Tyndrum I felt sweat trickle down the side of my face, that was a novelty and the first time I’ve broke sweat this year.

Allan drove to Tyndrum then ran down and back, and enjoyed his day, it’s a quality run doing the rollercoaster both ways.

When Gillian and I approached Tyndrum Louise and Val were near where near where you cross the water, we slowed when we reached them we were told “Keep going, we’ve been up to the road and just came back to see where you were!” I said “Ok, we’ll keep running until the road then!” Then out of ear shot of Val, “Well, until Val can’t see us!” But we did keep running until the road though.
When we finished I looked over to the Green Welly, I think it was bring yer bike tae Tyndrum day. I suppose it was the best day of the year so far, I have never seen so many motorbikes and leathers in my life! I have never felt so under dresses in t-shirt and lycra amongst all that protective leather!

We strolled over to the Real Food Café after a quick rub down in the loos of the Green Welly, there were signs in the lavies saying these sinks are only for washing hands and face, that’s ok ‘cause that’s all I washed!! Just as well it was a roastin’ sunny day, we sat outside for our fish and chips. On the way home we stopped in Callender for ice-cream.

I really enjoyed today, brilliant weather, a brilliant route and brilliant company. There was another reason why I thought today was so special. It was five years today that I had a brain haemorrhage; I have never lost the novelty of being glad to be alive. (Oh here she goes, harping on about her health scare again!) I make no apology for that. For one simple reason, when I came out of hospital and was taking tentative steps back to “normal” life the only comment I got was “Oh! I knew someone that had a brain haemorrhage but they died!” Well, now if you know someone who has been in the same boat you can now say “Well, I know someone that went through that and they’re doing absolutely bloody brilliantly!”

I now have a strength that I didn’t have before, there is a bit of a catch 22 going on though, the strength I had from running the WHW gave me the strength to recover but the fact I have overcome my health scare makes me feel invincible, running the WHW or a 24 hour race is easy compared several weeks in the high dependence unit of Edinburgh’s Western General.

There are no limits in life except those that we impose on ourselves. The way I see it, there are no limits only hurdles, you can get over them or kick them down, your choice. Just don’t let anything stand in the way of your goals.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Deeside 33 ½ -ish Ultra

I was looking forward to this race but with the wee bits of injury and illness I’ve had there was no racing going on for me, just a good long run on new ground and hopefully with good company too, I wasn’t disappointed, ten out of ten on both counts.

I loved the rules for the race, so refreshingly simple especially with the constraints of all the health and safety bull doo-doo that’s around nowadays!

Deeside Way Ultra Run 3rd April 2010
The concept is simple, turn up at the Duthie park car park in Aberdeen and register and run the first section of the Deeside way to Banchory, check in with marshall, turn round and run back.
Total distance out and back is 33 miles.
No entry conditions apply, if you think you can then enter and do it.
If you get half way and find you can't, phone registration with your race number tell them you are a loser and take the bus home.
Support, there is none required but if you want your mum to meet you half way with a jam sandwich then thats ok with us.
Only one checkpoint that's at half way turn around point.
You get water at checkpoint, anything else you need to carry yourself or get from your Mum.
Cut offs
This is a race for runners it's not for walkers so lets be sensible, I want to be in the pub at a reasonable hour so run as fast as you can.

Sue had entered but decided not to run so she’d brought George (Race Organiser) a letter from her Mum excusing her from the race on account of her sore leg! Ken and Sue still enjoyed their day, they’d brought their bikes and cycled the route.

After a team photo and a few words from George we were off. Settled into a nice steady pace with Mags, although we’d never spoken before I knew her from the WHW and we blethered the first few miles away, (so much so we missed a great big orange arrow painted on the road pointing up to the right), after running up a road, we weren’t confident we were on the right path, it was confirmed when we came to a T junction with no markers, not to worry, just went back the way we’d came until we saw a flight of wooden steps that took us back up onto the path. Oh well, bonus bits for us! We managed to stay on the track for the rest of the way, and a lovely route it is too.

It didn’t take too long for Grant to come loping back towards us, (winning in 3hrs 34mins) then the rest of the field were on their way back with loads of smiles, waves and words of encouragement. First Harrier I saw was Pete then I was well chuffed to see Gail sitting in first lady, she was a bit worried of completing the race, her knee’s been giving her a bit of trouble. She did finish first lady which speaks volumes for the saying “If in doubt just go for it!” Next Pauline, Andrew and Helena were quite close together.

It wasn’t too much longer until Mags and I reached the turn around checkpoint, I smiled at the lady in charge of the clipboard, when she was told I was number 36 she said, “You can’t be 36, I’ve just mark the last lady through as 36!” I looked down at the number on my vest, I know I was reading it upside down but it looked like 36 to me. She scrutinised my number and asked my name, but it took confirmation from the bloke beside her with his camera, checking back his photos to say that the other runner was number 26. I was free to carry on.

Mags and I had just left the checkpoint when I caught my left foot and down I went into the muddiest part of the whole route! I’m glad I chose a couple of wrapped chocolates instead of a jam sandwich at the checkpoints because they stayed safe and clean in my fist. Mags was great, she helped me up, went into my backpack for my wee first aid kit, found me an antiseptic wet wipe for the knuckle on my left hand, it was bleeding a fair bit, as knuckles do when you take a lump out of them. The wet wipe was about as effective as the hankie your Mum used to keep up her sleeve and spit on when you were wee, I was still covered in blood and mud so the next decent puddle I came to I gave my hands a wash.

Mags wasn’t just great company, she also gave me some of her homemade tablet and some of her isotonic juice that I hadn’t tried before, I was happy drinking my own diluted ginger beer but always willing to try something different, I asked if she had plenty for herself, when she said that the more I drank the less she’d have to carry I knew I wouldn’t be depriving her, I offered her some of my mini creme eggs, my staple diet for today, she declined since she’s had problems with her stomach in the past and she was working on eating something small every 15 minutes, a new tactic for today and so far was doing ok with it. We were working well together keeping each other on an even pace, although earlier we both had said that if either of us felt stronger they were just to push on. On the way back at no point did I feel stronger and I thought that if it wasn’t for Mags I would have let the pace go a bit. When we got to around six miles to go we decided that we’ve ran all this way together so we would finish together. I wished I’d paid more attention to landmarks on the way out so I’d have a clue on how much further to go. Then I saw a wooden sign that said Duthie 3 miles. Half an hours running and we’ll be finished. Side by side we pushed on… and on… and on… Where’s this flaming Park? Yeah, down a wee hill and we’re there.

Thanks Mags, you were a great help to me today.

A great big chocolate medal and a bottle of beer, what more could you want.

It was rounded off nicely, Sue had done a brilliant job of travel agent and booked a B&B for us all, Pete had to head back but Ken and Sue, Andrew and Helena, Gail, Pauline and myself had a meal in a lovely Italian restaurant celebrating Gail’s win, Pauline, second and Helena was first old burd, Andrew’s first ultra, (he said Lairig Ghru doesn’t count, it’s a marathon with loose change) and I suppose me bringing up the rear in a style all of my own.

After the finish when someone asked me “Where did I fall?” I pointed down my mud caked left leg and said “On that bit!” with no lasting damage, just a skint knee, a big bruise on my elbow and knuckles that look like I’ve been in a fight. So next year I have every confidence of improving my time a smidgen!