Sunday, 24 January 2016

The long and the short.

Thanks to Sarah Self for posting in the Ultra Dafties facebook group the link for The Winter Wonder Run, a no frills race organised by the North East Marathon Club on the Town Moor, Newcastle. I was looking for an early race and this fitted the bill, a 3.77mile lap with a six hour time limit, it was up to the individual to do as much or as little as they wanted as long as it was full loops.  

So after a planned wee break from running at the end of December, (it’s nice to take time out occasionally for no other reason other than to feel raring to go at the start of a new year). The week before the race Pauline and I went for our first long run since Glen Ogle 33, the fourteen miles felt a bit of a slog, but no worries, no pressure, we were aiming to do eight laps whatever the time, just a fine steady wee ultra.

Then the thing that made the weekend special, Sharon Gaytor invited us to stay with her and Bill the night before, we hadn’t seen Sharon in ages, it was lovely to catch up and the bonus of staying with a runner, (besides talking running all night) we had pasta for tea and there was no hassle finding the venue as we just followed their camper-van in the morning. It was freezing cold, minus three when we left but the sun eventually got up too, it was bright and clear and the sun eventually raised the temperature up to a balmy two degrees! 

I was dressed for it though, two pair of tights with my kilt to keep my bum warm, a cosy fleece over my thermal top, I was surprised my vest fitted over that! Woolly hat and gloves, and after a couple of laps I stuck a peaked Buff under the woolly hat to keep the sun out my eyes and freezing wind out my face.

photo from Phil Owen
There was quite a lot of icy patches on the route, but it was flat and it’s fine running on ice as long as you don’t push it, change direction or speed but after a few laps there was a skim of water covering the ice so I moved on the rutted grass verges, they were marginally less slidey. After the third lap I was on my own, everyone running their own pace so I plugged my playlist in, just the one ear, I’m not anti-social, although it felt a bit wrong listening to music in a “short” race. I placed a bag beside the table at race HQ with a selection of stuff to pick up as well as an extra  jacket if needed but with it being so cold all I had was two gels, a wee Yazoo milkshake and 300mls of water, there was hot water available but I didn’t bother stopping to make a hot cuppa.

It’s a lovely concept for a race, stick a number on and do what suits within the time limit, there were over fifty runners, the majority doing a marathon, a fair few getting a long half marathon, six of us making an ultra with two doing nine laps. Pauline and I finished our eight laps eleven minutes apart with just enough time to do one more lap if we wanted to push it, but with a three hour drive home up the A1 to consider, a smidge over thirty miles was far enough for the first ultra of the year.  I was pleased I managed a steady pace throughout and a it was a great reminder for running constant on the flat, good practice for Perth at the end of March.

Six days later I was standing on the start line for the Bucklyvie 10km, I was meant to have an easy-ish run with some folk from work, not runners but fit with youth on their side. In the build up to Christmas they put off entering until it was too late and was full… (not to worry I’ve now suggested we do the Donkey Brae in August instead “Mmwwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!” )  So anyhoo I was heading over to Buchlyvie Fiona-nae-pals but Pauline came to watch and keep me company, she wasn’t jealous at all not running but did say it felt funny being at a race without either running or marshaling.   After a longish warm up, I knew it wasn’t going to be a easy run, but an excellent exercise in the push-hard-on-tired-legs category. Also after years of perfecting my ultra-shuffle to the extent I can practically tie both my shoes with one lace trying to get a little leg lift and length in my stride is flamin’ hard work but ultra runners benefit from speed work too!

Time wise it wasn’t anything special but a great quality run with a lovely goodie bag, and to show my appreciation for Pauline’s company I gave her my orange from it, not giving away the cosy beanie though!

I haven’t covered a lot of miles for January but what I’ve done has been quality, a great start for the year, hopefully February will follow in the same vein, my next race is the club’s Devilla 15km now what can I do the week before…

Friday, 15 January 2016

Donna, you were right!

At the end of 2014 Donna Macpherson said “You’re going to take 2015 by the baws and rock it!”

Well, I’ve had a brilliant year, a wheen o’ races, loads more than I usually do in a year, a few were shorter than my normal so it was fine to stick them in, although any before June were purely training but with sticking a number on my front I have a couple of rules for training races, no walking in a marathon and push the last hour. Most races were just because I could fit them in and enjoy them, time pretty irrelevant, although it was great fun running like my arse was on fire for the short ones, and it was a bit of a bonus for the Quiraing 10k and the Donkey Brae (7 miles-ish) I was pretty close to PBs I set around twenty years ago!

2015 Races

January     Buchlyvie 10km
February    Devilla Forest 15km
March        Smokies 10
                  Borders Marathon
                  Loch Katrine Marathon
April           Highland Fling
June           Skye Half
                  West Highland Way
July             Fort William Marathon
August        Donkey Brae
                  Quiraing 10km
September Glenmore 24
                  Loch Ness Marathon
October       Loch Rannoch Marathon
November   Glen Ogle 33
December   Carnegie Harriers Festive Forest

The highlight of the year still puts a smile on my face when I think of it. Auchtertyre checkpoint, 51 miles in the West Highland Way Race, I was sitting in a foldy chair eating mashed tatties, shouting at Pauline who was doing a rubbish job of finding a specific pair of socks I wanted. I was giggling inside and I tried to keep it off my face, my crew know I don’t do hang about, but I was savouring just sitting there waiting for Pauline, I was only halfway-ish for this year’s race but I’d just completed 1000 WHW Race miles! Mad! (Just looking at the all time results there’s only been seven that’s done that and I’m one of them!) Thoroughly enjoyed all 95 miles, although Lairig Mor was cold and wet I was buzzing the whole way, the West Highland Way Race for me will always be a celebration of life, the love and support of the family and the majestic scenery as the journey unfolds.  I ended up settling for a different pair of socks but the ones I wanted eventually turned up, I had them in a zip-lock bag along with a fleece and an extra pair of tights marked Glencoe, not the bag marked socks! Oops, my specific packing wasn’t as perfect as I thought!

Then the Glenmore 24, I focusing on getting the best distance I possibly could, it was important for me to prove to myself I was back to full strength and health,  although you still need a fair bit of luck there is no hiding in a 24 hour race. Finishing with 107.35 miles, 4th from 28 ladies and 12th overall from 88 runners also comparing the distance with all my other 24 hour races, it’s right in the middle, so I felt I had achieved what I set out to do.

On the medical front I feel the healing in my mouth has plateaued out, I had hoped the sensitivity would have settled down a bit more and not remaining so severe but I manage, my weight is stable and a lot of people have commented on how my speech has improved.  I still have check ups every three months and the consultant is happy with me and although I’m still  a wee while away from the magic five years he did say that to go over two years with no recurrence is quite significant, he also proudly told me he is now running up to 5km, so I congratulated him on that.

Looking forward to this year I’m hoping to complete my 100th race of marathon distance or over and it would be lovely if it happened at Glenmore, so plans are in place and races entered, and the first one is this weekend, thanks to Sarah Self for post the details in the Ultra Dafties facebook group, Pauline and I are heading south of the border for the Winter Wonder Run. A low key race on a 3.77 mile lap at Town Moor, Newcastle, with a maximum of six hours, only full laps are counted so seven laps is a marathon and eight an ultra, depending on the weather, I’m planning on making it an ultra but whatever distance I do it’s an early quality training run. An extra wee bonus is we are staying with Sharon Gayter the night before and it will be lovely to have a catch up

Next up will be the D33 and thanks to the generosity of Lorna Sinclair, she has gifted me her free place that she won in the raffle at the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series Award night but can’t go and George has allowed it. The next few races hopefully will go according to the plan, 100km at Perth, the Highland Fling, my twelfth West Highland Way (it would've be nice if this was my 100th but only if it happened naturally without having to cram in some stupid stuff)  then Fort William Marathon.  I’m not one to knock out races just to log the numbers but I’m liking the challenge of making Glenmore 24 even more special. After Glenmore, I plan to keep my Loch Ness Marathon ever present streak going and after that probably Glen Ogle 33, some may say I sticking to the same old, same old but I love these races so much I don't feel the need to head to pastures new.

One more special event I’m looking forward to in April is Ally K Runs Skye to maggie's, Pauline and I are his support runners and I’m hoping the weather will be kinder than his Skye run in 2014. The future isn’t guaranteed for anyone and plans are never set in stone, I may end up with the luxury of a running injury, yep, it is a luxury to have the health and fitness to sustain a sport related problem and although frustrating, as far as I’m aware, plantar fasciitis or any other running related injury is not fatal!  However the year unfolds, I know one thing for sure, I will enjoy all the runs and races I can.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Knitted WHW Hat

After seeing the post for a Christmas sale of WHW clothing on the facebook page using this picture
it gave me the idea of knitting myself a hat with the WHW thistle on it, so I took my old magnet off the fridge and used it to work out a thistle that would be a good size on a hat done with double knitting wool.

A wee practice square to see what it would look like then added the celtic knot pattern just because I like it. I used size 9 needles so it was a nice snug fit, (circumference 18 inches) so if you want it bigger, use size 8 needles or add an extra celtic knot pattern it's an 8 stitch repeat, or do your own thing and just have the thistle on its own. 

Cast on 100 stitches, starting with a purl row work stocking stitch for 23 rows (or if you don't like the roll brim just do a ribbed one, rib 19 row then st st for 4 more rows if you want a turn up) then follow grid for 15 rows,  I did 5 repeats of knot either side of the thistle. I had a 2 stitch gap between the thistle and celtic knot.

After pattern I did 21 rows in stocking stitch, add more if you wish.

Shaping the top
Row 1 K1, K2 tog, K7, repeat to end
Row 2 and alternate rows Purl
Row 3 K1, then K2tog, K6 to end
Row 5 K1, then K2tog, K5 to end
Row 7 K1, then K2tog, K4 to end
Row 9 K1, then K2tog, K3 to end
Row 11 K1, then K2tog, K2 to end
Row 13 K1, then K2tog, K1 to end
Row15 K2 tog to end
Row 16 Purl
thread wool through remaining 12 stitches and fasten off.
Make a pompom if you want.

A wee update - 

The Great Glen edition, after Helen asked if I did it on four needles, I hadn't, the purple one was on two needles but I thought I'd have a go, so got myself some size 4mm double pointed needles  ( I tend to knit in old money since most of my needles were my Grandma's, it's a lovely thought that most of my knitting is done on needles that my baby stuff and kid jumpers were done on.)

I didn't bother with starting with a purl row since it's all done in knit, the brim still rolled up nicely and it's a tiny wee bit bigger than the purple one done on slightly smaller needles.