Thursday, 31 March 2011

Gail's Anglo-Celtic Plate report


At the end of 2010 my plan for next year was to train hard for London. Then I got the call from Adrian to say I’d been selected for Scotland again in the Anglo Celtic Plate, which would take place 3 weeks before London. I couldn’t say no. It’s an honour to be selected to run for your country and I had unfinished business with the 100K. And it was in Perth, on my doorstep. How could I say no?. I also felt in my heart of hearts that it was likely to be the last time I would be selected for Scotland.

So I focused on the 100K for from December. I trained harder than I ever had before, doing my highest mileage and back to back long runs, or long runs on a Friday and Sunday, with a race in between. I’d never done back to backs before and they were tough, physically and mentally. And if they were good enough for Richie, they were good enough for me. By the time of the race I felt as fit as I’d ever felt to do a 100K race. I wanted to get sub 9 hours and I wanted a PB. There was nothing I could do about any other runners’ performance so I just concentrated on doing what I could do for myself. Bearing in mind I was running for a team and I wanted to do my best for the team too. I hoped that with more runners in the race this time it would pull me on and help me get the most out of myself.

I didn’t feel too bad in the build up to the race. Plenty distractions like Lynsey’s birthday, supporting Steven and my pals running the D33. Then the proper taper week before the race. I hate it. Too much time to think. Too much time to eat. Too much time to get grumpy. I didn’t feel too nervous till the Saturday night when the distractions had gone and all I had to look forward to was getting up at some ungodly hour of the morning. I wasn’t even hungry for my mega carbo-loading meal the night before. That’s unheard of for me. I think I was making Steven nervous.

Anyway, after a fairly fitful night of catnapping I got up at 4.50am – that’ll be in the middle of the night, and had a decent bowl of cereal – again not hungry for. Then got organised to leave. Normally before ultras I spend ages attending to my feet – previously covering them in ££s worth of compeeds or taping them up as I have a terrible problem with blisters. But this year my feet had been good on training runs with just smothering them in Vaseline, so that’s what I did. As we drove to Perth the light was coming up. By the time we arrived, about 6.20am it was very misty but light enough to see. I saw Ken and Sue, who had slept, or rather tried to sleep in the tent overnight. They were chirpy as usual. Then Izzy appeared and give me a big hug. It was great to see her in good spirits. Then I started to see the rest of the team and support. Debbie looked pretty nervous. Sharon was positively chipper. I met Craig and Thomas for the 1st time and it was good to catch up with familiar faces from previous ultras and ACPs. There was a great expectant atmosphere with all the Anglo Celtic teams setting up their pitches with their flags. I left Steven to sort out all our “stuff” and there wasn’t long to get ready, but long enough. After a quick team photo (we’ll need to airbrush Izzy in later) we were off.

I was planning just to run as I felt. Comfortable for as long as possible. Maybe aim for 8 min mile pace which equated to 11.50 min laps. If I was quicker and comfortable I wasn’t going to slow down. If I was slower I wasn’t going to panic. I certainly wasn’t going to chase anyone. There were far too many good runners in the field to do that and I was going to run my own race. I ran the 1st couple of laps close to Sharon and Izzy, with Debbie and Pauline not far behind. Then I settled down for a few laps to run and have a good chat with Sharon. Now I know why Debbie loves her as a training partner. It passed the time well and was a good distraction from the next 8 hours which were looming ahead. Sharon said at one point to go ahead. I had no desire, intention or ability to go ahead! I was quite comfortable thank you very much! After a while Sharon held back and the rest of the race I pretty much ran on my own.

I had decided to change my fueling strategy for this race. I’d had problems with being sick in previous races and wanted to try and take in as much energy as possible early doors. In the past I’ve relied on gels at the beginning of the race then tried to eat later, which has been difficult to stomache. This time I wanted to try the opposite. After the 1st hour I planned to eat a bit of nutrigrain bar with jam – to make it moist and easier to go down. After 5 laps I passed through the checkpoint where Steven was waiting for me with the said nutrigain bar. “do you want it now?” he shouted. “No” I shouted as I ran past “I’ll take it after the 1st hour”. “That is an hour, you muppet” he shouted back as I sped off into the distance. How time flies when you’re having fun! From then on I tried to stick to my eating plan of drinking a few sips of Go every lap with a bit of banana or nutrigrain bar every ½ hour. I did OK for the 1st 3 hours, had a gel, then just shouted out what I fancied, when I fancied it after that. I thought I stuck fairly well to my plan. Steven may disagree. I had quite a few gels, closer to half hourly, compared to hourly in the past. I had a slimfast over 2 laps. The caffeine gels kicked in pretty well. I had quite a bit of flat coke which went down well. I did dry heave a few times towards the end of the race, but there was no real threat of actually being sick.

I passed though the marathon distance at 3 hrs 27 and the 50K at 4hr 07 which I was really pleased about. That gave me a boost.

As the race progressed I heard that Sharon had had to drop out because of stomach problems. I was so disappointed for her as I knew she’d be gutted. It’s not something you have any control over. I had been wondering where she was as I genuinely expected her to be the 1st Scottish lady in the race. I lapped Debbie at one point but never saw Izzy at all. She was either keeping and maintaining her distance or just plain avoiding me! In the latter stages of the race, maybe with 10-12 laps to go I was slowing down. Just so tired. Then Debbie came flying passed me. I wanted a bit of whatever she had just had. I could summon no response whatsoever. She was getting further and further away from me and all I could think of was I wonder how many laps it will take before she catches me. I was resigned to it. But I wasn’t giving up. I was pleased for her and thought you go for it girl. I just need to keep going. And by the way, where is Izzy? She must be out there somewhere but I’m not going to turn round. If she’s on my tail I’ll hear her Stevie shout his encouraging words. Every lap I did, I thought of Izzy as I ran over the “HBT” written in sand on the ground and “Go Izzy”. I pretended I was running for HBT and that it was meant for me!.

After a few laps I saw Debbie in the distance and I was catching her. There was no race for position in the full race as the Welsh and English ladies were flying, but I began to think about the Scottish Championship title. And I had a time to chase. I knew a PB was a possibility if I could keep going but I had to maintain my position to retain my title. I had won it last year but really by default. I wanted to earn it this year. I was so tired I was having to stop and walk to take my gels but I kept moving. Steven would say all the right things to motivate me to start running again. Tommy was at the start line telling me how many laps I had to go. So important at this stage to be able to count down and pull the finish in. Pauline, on the run was brilliant, telling me how well I was doing, and just saying all the right things at the right time. You’d think she’d been there and done it before….. So selfless when running her own race. All the other runners were so encouraging to each other. It was great to see the guys push on and lap me for the hundredth time it felt. But they never failed to encourage you. The 50 K runners gave us a boost as they joined us. They were allowed to lap us and seemed impressed by the efforts of the 100K runners. I kept looking out for Lynne in the 50K but only saw her before she started and after she finished her race. I thought she’s been kidding me on that she ran it but I guess the photos show otherwise! As I passed through the checkpoint yet again and it was great to see Lynne, Morna and Judith holding up their prizes after they’d finished. And they stayed on to cheer the rest of us on to our finish.

As I got to the last 4 laps I hoped I could get by on flat coke and planned to try and not stop at all from now on. I knew I wasn’t going fast but I was moving forward. 2 laps to go and Steven and Scott were shouting at me – “less than a 5K to go!” I thought of my sister Lesley and the rest of the family with whom I’m doing the 5K Race for Life in June. I’ll bet they wouldn’t be thinking “ONLY 5K to go”. But I was! Keep going. The quicker you get to the finish, the quicker it will all be over. I can get my PB. I can retain the Championship title, but only if I keep going. Last lap and half way round Scott appears like a mad man waving the Saltire, shouting encouragement. It was brilliant. Coming into the home straight I saw Mum and Dad with Lynsey and Craig just arriving. I shouted to them that I was finishing. I was handed the Saltire by Val and ran the next 100 yards to cross the finish line with a big smile on my face. I’d done it. I’d achieved everything I’d wanted to and I was done. No need to do it again thank you very much!

I could hardly walk the second I’d crossed the line but what did that matter? It was one of my best running achievements and it would take a while to wipe the grin off my face.

I was so pleased to see Izzy follow closely behind with a smile on her face too, and Debbie next with a smile of relief me thinks. The guys had a great result too and it wasn’t just Adrian who was emotional during the presentation. I felt heart sorry for Sharon and also for Paul who hadn’t had a good run. It’s inevitable that some people will have insurmountable problems during an ultra. We’ve all been there. We just never know whose turn it will be next. Their time will come soon, I’m sure.

As usual, like the Oscars, we couldn’t do it without our support. Val – El Capitano, great job keeping us under control, Ken and Sue deserve a knighthood and dameship in my opinion, Scott, John (my official photographer) Fiona, Gillian and Steven (who already is a Saint). Massive thanks. Also to those who supported on the sideline and in the race- Stevie, Pauline, Helena, Angus, Lynne, Simon, Morna, Judith, Phil Alan. Team mates and their partners etc etc the list goes on. And of course Adrian and his crew.

Fab day. Not in a hurry to do it again!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

STOP PRESS - A top class male athlete runs the ladies only Smokies 10!

After about three weeks of just slightly more than zilch running I had a very gentle run up and down the hills and mud of the clubs Festive Forest at Blairadam which was postponed from December on the 26th February, it gave my duff Achilles tendon a good stretch without aggravating it, I went to the club training last week and gave a gentle effort to the sessions, my tendon was still tight, I ran cautiously but giving it a wee test, it feels loads better but I don’t want to undo any healing by battering out at the Smokies 10 also I wasn’t sure of my fitness since I’ve also had a wee chesty cough which I thought was perfect timing, if I wasn’t running due to a wee injury I might as well not be running with a wee illness at the same time, two birds with one stone so to speak.

I set off happy that what ever happened during the race it would still be better than last years painful plod with a bad back slightly spaced out on painkillers.(Last year's report) I kept a short easy stride so as not to stress my tendon but felt I was working with a slightly higher leg turnover then my usual. I then got an image in my head of William Sichel with his easy, economical and very effective style. That’s it, I thought, I’ll do William. So I focussed on my form, keeping my posture upright and relaxed, an easy short stride with minimal movement. I didn’t push the effort but concentrated on the cadence. I’ve used this technique of adopting the style of a top runner before, many years ago while running The Two Bridges I had the long loping legs of Liz McColgan, I didn’t bother with her humfy shoulders though. It was working well until I caught my shuffle butt reflection in a bus shelter at Bo’ness and that spoiled my delusion! There are no bus shelters on the Smokies 10 route so it worked beautifully, a good steady 10 miles without stressing myself, doubt I could keep it up for another 990 miles though!

Afterwards the tea, rolls and cakes were in abundance and the goody bag was of its usual high standard, a wee bottle of wine, t-shirt, shower gel, cereal bar, crisps and a bottle of water always good value with an entry fee of around £12. I also had the bonus of a technical t-shirt as a spot prize. Pauline said that this was her 20th Smokies, I have missed a few so I think it was my 18th. A visit to Arbroath isn’t complete until we’ve stopped at the fish shop to buy Smokies for tea, a great day out.

I hope Mr Sichel doesn’t have a patent on his style, I think I’ll do a William again.