Monday, 22 December 2008

21st December 2008

I was going to blog about my training run on the WHW with Jon Cornall and Jan. How great it was to run from Drymen to Balmaha and back, i.e. crossing Conic Hill twice! It was hard but very enjoyable despite the terrible weather when I set off with the car. I came home and Thomas was so glad that I had another “moment” out on the hills that would keep me motivated for my challenge next year and give me confidence.

But life can change in a split second and it was a phone call in the afternoon that turned our life upside down. Tom’s father called to tell us that his mum had died unexpectedly. So instead of preparing to celebrate Christmas here in Scotland we are packing our bags to fly to Germany on Christmas Eve to be with his father and sisters and their families. I do hope and pray that Thomas will find strength and motivation during this difficult time through his running.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

WHW-training run: Beinglas-Inversnaid and back

Today was my 2nd run on the WHW within 1 week. This time it was a run organized by John Kynaston with 35(!) runners turning up, including all the fast ones! It was a glorious winter day, very cold, but sunny and lots of snow on the hills. The Loch looked fantastic with the sunshine - though you really had to concentrate on the path in front of you due to the rather icy conditions.

The pace was pretty quick right from the start and people seemed to also run the uphills in the beginning. The group spread out and I dropped back and back and eventually settled into a pace with Sue. I had met her at Eddie's HM and she had joined the run today with her friend Mandy who has entered the Devil for next year as well. Unfortunately we were a bit slow on the icy bits trying to be really careful not to slip. We walked across the bolder parts and lost sight of Mandy & Co quite quickly. But I had a great time chatting with Sue along the way and admiring the views in between. I had hoped though for her sake that maybe Mandy and some of the other runners ahead of us would wait for her at Inversnaid so she could have a faster run back. But they were all on their way back by the time we got there... I kept thinking she did after all join the run to meet people who had actually run the WHW Race and I was obviously not one of them. I tried to pass on some of Tom's insights though and introduced her to "Mud socks". She was great company and said she did not mind! Thanks!
3 miles before Beinglas I insisted Sue should head off as she wanted to run to Derrydaroch which I hadn't planned to do anyway. I actually caught up with someone else on this part, Rab from Dundee. He picked up a few injuries along the route involving his Achilles tendon and hamstring. He was swearing after slipping yet again when I approached from behind and we ran/walked the last half mile together. He headed back straight after arriving at the Drover's Inn and I hope he is all right getting his injuries sorted! He managed to finish this year's WHWRace despite also being injured.

I did really enjoy my run in great weather, scenery and company, but I also realized that this is indeed the faster group. The pace is fast, there is no hanging about and everyone seemed to try and get to Inversnaid as quickly as possible. So, I don't think I will be there next time. I would probably arrive in Drymen by the time they were all back at the Beechtree Inn or somewhere close! We also have our Christmas Night out from work the day before so I'll probably prefer to have a lie in. For next year I might come along to the training runs with Thomas but do my own bit, some out and backs maybe along the same route so I can at least say hi while everyone is flying past me or if there is a support vehicle I might ask for a lift. But well done to all of you ultra-runners today. I am clearly a long way off!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

1st Training Run on the WHW

Today was my 1st training run on the WHW, from Milngavie to Drymen, about 12 miles. The “Glee Club” (organized by Mark Hamilton) was running from Milngavie to Drymen and back. I thought as a starter just out to Drymen would be enough so organized a lift back from Janet, Jon Cornall’s wife who was supporting.
I was slightly nervous before, though I was hoping that I would be able to keep up. I had a bit of a problem with my Achilles tendon the week before, it had come out of the blue with no previous problems. So I did not run for a few days, took a few Ibuprofen, used friction massage and tried to do a short run on Friday before. As this went o.k. I decided to go for the Sunday run.
And I had no problems at all, at least not with my Achilles tendon. My Trabuccos proved to be a great choice, they are really comfortable and together with the debris socks did not give me any blisters. It started to rain when we left the car park but then we had long spells of blue sky and sunshine – and lots of rainbows whenever another shower came our way. I stayed at the end with Mags, Marie (Davie Bell’s sister-in-law and support runner), Jon Cornall and Jim.
Thomas “ran away”, no he didn’t really, he just ran ahead with a few of the others and then kept coming back or wait to “check up on me”. There were about 15 runners altogether. The faster bunch was out of sight most of the time. There were LOTS OF puddles, actually they were like mini-lochs and in the beginning I did try to avoid them, but eventually gave up. These were not only puddles or streams of water but MUD-holes. Luckily I saw Jon’s lower leg disappear in one of them and just managed to jump across, but I could not avoid all of them. I could have done with a pair of these fishing trousers! At one point my feet were freezing, but they actually did warm up again.
I started to struggle a bit just after the Beech Tree Inn (yes, I know it is not that far!), Thomas had come back by that time and thought it was just one of my “mental blocks” where I think I am tired but I am actually not!! Easy for him to say. Anyway I fell back a bit (yes further) until Mags thought that the pace was a bit too fast for her as well. So we ran together and sent Thomas on his way to catch up with some of the others. But then all these lovely inclines appeared where you can walk on the tarmac road towards Drymen. I really like these bits! So the slow bunch (yes, Thomas was part of it) got together again and we arrived at the Pottery Bar after 2h:30min, only 5 or 10min after the rest of the group. So I was actually quite pleased with my run and I did enjoy it. What I even enjoyed more though was my carrot cake, coffee and the lift back to Milngavie in the car!!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Lochaber HM

Who said that the Lochaber HM was a flat course??!
Well, Thomas did! But I guess only to persuade me to have a go at beating my PB. Once the weather forecast looked really promising, Tom's "injury" was miraculously cured and the HM in Lochaber was on again! I hadn't really trained at all, in fact my last long run was the Glasgow HM 2 months ago (my "cross training" was the roller blading for the Cologne Marathon 4 weeks ago)and then I started back 2-3 weeks ago with no longer than 10K runs and these 2 club speed sessions recently.
Still I thought that out of nowhere a PB might be possible on a flat course - well, it was not. And I think that it was better this way as I might have drawn my wrong conclusions otherwise. First of all the course was anything but flat, in fact it was rather up and down with a (short) killer ascent in the last mile. I went off too fast with an 8:34 mile (my PB in Glasgow of 1:55:29 has an 8:48 average) and I thought to myself, great, you are on course for a PB! :-) next mile was 8:49 and then it got worse from there on with all miles being over 9min and the slowest 10:09. I did the first half in 1:00:29 and my finish time was 2:02:59. There were 2 girls I kept overtaking, then they overtook me and so on, until I eventually stayed with one of them who had also tried to get under 2:00. She was from Lochaber and knew everyone en route. People were handing her jelly babies and I just held my hand open and got some as well! I am sure they helped me to keep going as I was really struggling. I had stitches right and then left, my right calf was tightening and I found it difficult to even lift my legs to get up and down these kerbs (and there were a lot). But after the last steep incline in mile 12 I managed to leave the nice Lochaber runner and push past 2 other runners to arrive at the finish all smiling. I had decided fairly early on that this was not a PB day or course for me but just a long training run amidst the most amazing scenery and in glorious sunshine and autumn gold!

And amazing it was! The weather was so perfect that it was one of those rare beautiful days in Scotland that make up for all the bad weather we get. If you can be out on a day like this, you would not want to be anywhere else! The top of the hills were covered with snow, it was clear and crisp but not too cold, there was no wind, Ben Nevis was without a cloud and the views across the Loch out on the road towards Mallaig were just breathtaking. The spot for the half way turn around point was so beautiful that I could have just said down and watched.

We had driven up the day before and had a nice 3-hour hill walk near Bridge of Orchy, also in great weather. Not something I would normally do before a HM. But it was going to be a relaxed weekend, wasn't it?! So I thought and did all the things you should not do before a race. Carboloading?! Why not eat fish, crepes with cheese and spinach and have a glass of wine? We stayed in a great B&B (Lime Tree just at the roundabout when you enter FW) and had the perfect breakfast though. American pancakes with maple syrup - delicious! I must admit none of the above excuses did Thomas any harm (though he stayed clear of any alcohol and ate all the potatoes). He surprised me with a great time, a new PB by over 2min 22sec in 1:18:56. He came in 4th position and won the 1st male vet prize in his age group (40-49) - so very well done!! I had seen him en route when he was in 7th position and looking strong. So even the fall off the stile on our walk yesterday did him no harm! The most inspirational guy though was Hugh Turner who won his age group in 2:29:41 - his age group being the Male 80 and above!!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

2nd club speed session

Tonight was my 2nd club run - another speed session! It was the same distance and the same intervals as last week. Only tonight it felt easier, maybe because I knew what was coming. And tonight I was not the slowest, so I guess there is hope for me!
And I actually enjoyed the session, have I mentioned that?!
The only downside was that Thomas only did the warm up due to his injury from last week. So he really has to be careful and is now not too keen on these speed sessions.
I might do my 1st club race on Saturday, the Colin Shields Road Race, but only if we are not away for the weekend. If the weather is nice we might head off for a long walk in the autumn gold (there is hoping). The Lochaber HM in Fort William was originally on the programme, but has to be scrapped due to Tom's injury.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

My life as a reluctant runner

There it is. I have said it. I am a runner. Well, maybe if I repeat it a few more times, I will convince myself eventually…
Maybe I should look at the start list of the Devil every day to see my name there – that should get me to believe that I ‘d better consider myself a runner. Why else would I have entered an ultra run?!
And why would I have applied for membership at a running club if it wasn’t for running?
Well, maybe it is because I was threatened with divorce proceedings if I didn’t?
No, no, that is just a joke. Though Thomas seems rather happy that I am on “the” Devil’s list. It would be even better if I wasn’t such a slow runner though, he reckons. No, again not true. Really.
I am still reluctant to give up my “supporting role” though. Is this not what I am supposed to do?!
Yeah, as if!
Seriously, I still see the main objective of next year (as far as running is concerned) to help Thomas achieve his dream and FINISH the WHW Race. But it looks as if along the lines I have turned into a runner myself, setting myself small goals over the years with the occasional 10K, then my 1st HM in 2006, 2nd one in 2007 and then my 1st Marathon earlier this year. And now I actually enjoy running along trails and am looking forward to the 1st training run on the WHW with the “real runners” in November! How did this happen?
I still don’t like running in horizontal rain though and I always look forward to the end of the run when it is time to stretch, but maybe with time this will also change?!
You have probably noticed that my attitude towards my own running abilities is rather negative. It is all in my head, my husband tells me. I am usually quite a positive and optimistic person, but not when it comes to judging my own running capacities. Strange that.
Maybe the speed sessions in the club will help. Apropos speed session. This is where the problem starts. Thomas has picked up yet another injury during the one and only speed session last week. There is a collision of interest now. I think these sessions will be good for me, but it looks as if they are not for him. Looks like a short career in the club for him. The 10K Kilmacolm race did not happen because of this injury. But I hear there is a HM in Lochaber on Sunday?!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

My 1st club run ...

Tonight Tom and I went for our 1st club run with Greenock Glenpark Harriers - a speed session! Halfway through I wished I had never encouraged Thomas to go along to the club - or at least not volunteered to tag along myself.

The run was 9.2 miles long - longer than I usually "run" - you probably can't even call it that after what I have seen tonight. And to my excuse I have not been running regularly for a few weeks now.
So the 2M "warmup" was at a faster pace than I usually "run" at. Needless to say I was at the back. But I was in good company - a nurse I had worked with at Inverclyde 9 years ago! This was her 1st speed session also, her HM time being similar to mine. So I tried to stay with her during the speed intervals. We were of course the slowest group. The intervals were long, very long and very very long! (800m, 1200m, 1600m=1mile) 2 of each and then the 2M run back to the club...
I have never done so much speed work in my life. They probably wondered why I was there, but luckily Thomas was in good form and ran with the fast group - that was reason enough to hand me an application form for membership as well at the end of the night!

What next? Well, there is a 10K race in Kilmacolm on Sunday and Thomas wants to enter....

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

COLOGNE MARATHON – 2:48:15 for Tom and 2:04:17 for me

Well, how brilliantly did Thomas run??!! A new PB of 2:48:15, breaking the 2:50 marker and getting not only among the first 100, but into 65th position!
Superb! Even more superb if you consider the weather conditions, a lot of rain (o.k.) and strong winds (not o.k.).
So while I knew he was fit, the weather forecast put doubt onto his target time. We had enrolled the support of my nephew & his girl-friend to hand Thomas the right drinks at the right time – and that also threatened his time at one point! Unfortunately they got lost and missed him at a crucial point between KM24 and KM35. But despite all this he got under 2:50. The evening was spent celebrating in a local brewery …

My own race on Inline-skates did not go according to plan. I was hoping to get under 2:00, in fact I joined a pace-line for 1:50, but because of the bad weather the decision was made by the group before the start to go for safety first and not think about the time. The main aim was to stay together in the group, for everyone to arrive in one piece and still enjoy the race. The slippery roads and obstacles like tram rails, road bends etc would not allow a fast pace.
So we headed off, there were 2 other skaters from Glasgow in my group of 7 and we all did in fact enjoy the thrill of skating in a pace-line, benefitting from the slip stream of the person in front of you, being pulled or even pushed if you were about to lose contact to the person in front, being cheered along by Samba bands, spectators, loud music etc.
We finished in 2:04:17 (386th from 1484 finishers), a PB for me by 4min but still not under 2:00 as hoped. Looks like unfinished business, but with my plan to concentrate on running I am not sure if I will skate another marathon soon – maybe if I can be guaranteed a dry and sunny day in Berlin next year?! Luckily the other 2 Glasgow skaters enjoyed their weekend in Cologne, especially the local beer and food after the race!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Glenpark Harriers – here we come!

Tom has been headhunted off the esplanade while out on one of his training runs to join the Greenock Glenpark Harriers Running Club! The story behind this is actually a bit more complicated – if you want to find out the details, read on!

For a while now, in fact since the WHW-DNF, I have been trying to encourage Thomas to join a running club. I thought it might be good for his training, especially over the winter, structured speed training and general social aspect etc.
He has been quite reluctant as he does his “own thing” training wise and does not want to be roped into frequent races etc. Even over a year ago I had met a nurse I knew from Inverclyde A&E at Tesco, who had joined Glenpark Harriers and she had tried to get both of us into the club, but apart from looking at the website we did not take it further.
Then on Saturday on the train when I read the Greenock Telegraph on my way to Glasgow, there was an article about the Harriers and how they had done at the Great Scottish Run. It was talking about Alan O’Rourke who “had brought them home” in a time of 1:23 and I was thinking, well Thomas was faster than him, he should really join them and get home “first”.
When I came back Thomas had been out on his long run with a few speed intervals. He had noticed a runner trying to keep up with him but apparently Tom got faster and faster and the guy could not keep up. On his return lap, this guy actually stopped him asking if he had “a few minutes”, was he already in a club, he should join the Glenpark Harriers and there would be a 4K race at the Esplanade the following week. Guess who he was? Alan O’Rourke of course. How many signs do you need?? :-)

I have decided to tag along when (and if!) Tom goes for his first training session with them after the Cologne Marathon. This is actually quite a life changing moment for me. Up to now, even after doing my 1st Marathon and a few HM, I have not really considered myself a “runner”.
In fact I have used running to stay fit, trying my luck at a few longer distances, but in my heart I have always been a “skater”. Unfortunately especially over the past 2 months the weather has been so bad that serious training on skates was impossible. I have had to realize that I will not be able to progress and get faster times on skates while living in Scotland.
After the Cologne Marathon where I will try once more to get under 2:00 (and will in fact very ambitiously join the 1:50 pace line with 2 fellow Scottish Skaters), I will therefore hang up my skates and exchange them for running shoes. I can join my skater friends on dry days during spring and summer as part of the occasional cross training, but I will not try to do any serious training. Instead I will concentrate on running – and so I should with the DOTH coming up next year and my name on the starters’ list!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

3 PBs, 2 new DOTH applicants, 1 new dress - a great day!

Today I ran a new PB in the Half Marathon at the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow! It was not only a PB, but I managed to get under the (for me) magical 2 hours on a rather hilly course. I finished in 1:55:21 and took 7 min of last year's time. And for the 1st time in my life I ran with mile splits instead of Km splits - what a revelation! Instead of counting to 21 and working out if you will make your target time, you only have to count to 13 and you are there! Psychologically it worked really well for me. Maybe it just means that I have been in Britain too long!

There was a PB for Thomas (1:21) - very well done! He is in great shape and preparing to beat his Marathon PB in Cologne and get under his magical time of 2:50. The 3rd PB came from our friend Andreas who now lives in England and runs with Kennilworth Running Club (1:56). For him it was also the 1st time under 2:00. He is preparing for Chicago and hopes to get under 4:00 there. We run similar times, the only difference is that he is at least 3 stones overweight and used to be a very fit Munro bagger when he was still living in Scotland a few years ago. Thomas keeps pushing him to loose weight and to try and chase him as his fitness is actually quite good (better than mine). But he still manages fairly good times for his weight, I think.

As we were all on a high after the run, Thomas brought up the subject of the DOTH 2009 (Devil o' the Highlands) again. He has been trying to get me to send off my application for at least 2 weeks now. He who never likes to do any admin work, form filling etc actually printed out an application form for me, filled it in as much as he could, put the address and stamp on the envelope and presented it to me. Well after I hadn't done anything with it he finally sent off his application last week. I secretly thought to wait and see what the HM would be like, maybe even wait for the 1st training run on the WHW. I did enjoy my little run from Kingshouse to KLL a few weeks ago and kept thinking about it. As we were relaxing in Starbucks after the HM and celebrating our new PBs I had a brilliant idea. We have now presented Andreas with his 40th birthday present (which we were still looking for until today). It will be a weekend at the Kingshouse Hotel next August and (hopefully) the entry to the DOTH 2009! Before he left up north today to bag 4 Munros tomorrow he was presented with his application form and just had to sign it. The plan is for the two of us to run and finish it together!

On our way back to the car park at Cambridge Street, conveniently at the opposite side of the city, where we wanted to get changed before heading to Starbucks I even managed to drag Thomas into a shop! He normally resists all my attempts of getting him to go shopping unless the shop is a running or an outdoors shop. Well, as we had to walk up Buchanan Street anyway and I had done so well (!!), he did not have the heart to resist a little detour into Karen Millen. I had seen and tried a really nice purple cocktail dress last week that I wanted him to "see". The shop assistant looked a bit worried as we walked in with our foils wrapped around us, but luckily my size was still there and Thomas liked the initial look, so she put it away for me to try it after I got changed and cleaned up. After the coffee we went back and I paraded the dress which Thomas agreed was a perfect fit and looked really nice. So out I came with a new dress, which will have its premiere at my grandmother's 90th birthday party in 3 weeks. I can't wait!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

My 1st time!

1 day after Tom's great run in the DOTH I decided to finally have a go at running on the WHW myself. For my debut I chose the section from the Kingshouse Hotel to Kinlochleven. That would have been my support route if Thomas had not dropped out a Blackrock Cottage in the WHWRace - so a bit of unfinished business ...

I was a bit apprehensive as I did not really want to get my new shiny yellow Trabuccos all muddy but I was reassured by my husband that they would get mainly wet on this part of the route. So I had no further excuse and set off in pouring rain. On the first stretch to the bottom of the staircase I tried to avoid all the puddles but soon the whole trail became a stream and I gave up and ran right through. My socks and shoes were soon completely wet and I found out how useful all these small holes around the shoes are, the water seemed to quickly ran out again and just left me with wet socks. I walked all the uphill bits and ran on the straights/downhills whereever possible.

Despite the rain the sun came through some clouds and Glencoe looked fabulous in the mixture of cloud, rain and sunshine. I overtook a few walkers which felt good and arrived at the bottom of the staircase after 39min. I knew from the training runs that that was an acceptable time and felt quite pleased with myself. Thomas & Dirk were there to check on my progress and then headed off to KLL to the indoor climbing wall.

I walked up the staircase overtaking a few walkers again and had amazing views towards Glencoe. I arrived at the top after 22min. I then started the downhill into KLL and had forgotten that there were still a few uphills on route which again I walked in a brisk strike. The running got easier once I arrived at the track. It was so steep at times that it felt as if I could not have stopped even if I had wanted to! By this time it was pouring down again and I was completely soaked. But I really enjoyed my run and kept smiling until I arrived in KLL.

Thomas could not believe his eyes when I arrived after 2:02 hrs. I was only 5min slower from the bottom of the staircase into KLL than he was the day before in the race. I was well pleased and had a bright grin on my face. He now has great hopes that I might enter the DOTH 2009! But I still maintain that my legs are not made for long distance running ... I have also picked up a terrible cold which I blame on getting soaked at the weekend. I am sure I will find more excuses for not entering the DOTH next year as time goes by .... My debut run was great fun though ...

Sunday, 10 August 2008

He ran like the devil!

What a great race for Thomas and what an excellent time! He finished the DOTH in 6hrs:34min and arrived in 10th position. He managed to achieve his targets of a Top Ten Finish and to stay under 7hrs. Last year he would have been second with this time! But this year was a very fast race and the first five runners were all under 6 hrs beating the existing record! But what is much more important is the fact that Thomas really enjoyed this run. He felt good with no major injury concerns and just went out there to have a great race. He has beaten his demons of the WHWRace-DNF and was able to feel how it should be if a race is going well. I am very pleased for him.

On the support side, this was also a fast and at times hectic race due to the rather short intervals we had in between support stops. As my parents had to pull out from their visit we employed the help of a friend (Dirk) at short notice. Nancy, our well experienced Fling and WHW support crew member had other commitments so I had a first-time supporter in my crew. But it worked very well, he even enjoyed it despite the rain and the midges (yes they are still out there!) and he might volunteer again for future races. The worst stop was the one at Blackrock Cottage. Not only because it brought back bad memories of the WHW race for me as this was where it was all over for Thomas in June. We had to leave the car at the ski lift station and carry our stuff down and then heat our water for the soup in pouring rain waiting for Tom to arrive. Good time keeping was needed as he was already ahead of his schedule and the soup should not be too hot but also not too cold and of course the bits of pasta should be well soaked and not crispy ...

Well, this would have been o.k. if there was not the need for an urgent toilet call just 10min before the water should have been started to be heated. And if the toilet facilities at the lift had been open. I dropped the first-time supporter off at Blackrock Cottage with the gear, drove back to the Kingshouse Hotel where we were staying, ran up to our room, back down, up to the ski lift with the car and a jog down to Blackrock Cottage again. Dirk had it all under control (and passed his support crew "test"). And the soup was just perfect when our runner arrived. It could have all been more relaxed if we had known that the support crew did not have to be at the checkpoint. We could have leisurely prepared everything in our dry hotel room at the Kingshouse - well next time!

We managed to get to Lundavra as well and then dashed to Fort William where I thought we might see the winner arriving, but no chance. With a winning time of 5:22 we were far too late. We just managed to see George Cairns arrive in third position at 5:47. I chatted to a few people I knew from the WHW runs until Thomas arrived at the finish. We then waited for Davie Bell to finish and of course the amazing First Lady Sharon (Debbie's support runner) who finished in 7:12. Very well done. We stayed for the prize giving ceremony where even I won a prize! A spot-prize of Thorlo running socks! No excuse now!
Me, Tom & Dirk

Tom, Sharon with her winner's trophy, Davie

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

The Devil is approaching fast!

After 9 days in our self-constructed "training-camp" in Germany, Tom is as ready as he can get for the Devil at this stage. Before we left he was in excellent shape as his chronic hamstring injury had all but disappeared with a 3-week course of the homoeopathic remedy Ruta Grav. Even the planned visit to an orthopaedic specialist was cancelled as he was back doing speed work for the first time in a year. His running looked really relaxed and we both had great hopes for the Devil.

But then there was the small matter of a visit to our families ...

We both initially enjoyed running and skating in great weather until the sun became nearly unbearable. Thomas is now well prepared for blazing sunshine - if he will ever be able to make use of this kind of training here in Scotland remains doubtful... But who knows, there might be a heatwave approaching at the weekend.

Lots of BBQs and delicious Italian ice-cream took their toll on the scales. Then we had to entertain all our nephews and nieces. And it was on one of our outings to an outdoor adventure ground that Thomas pulled another little muscle yet again! And strained his Achilles tendons! We did have great fun though:
Tom and one of his sisters, niece & nephews

We also met a complete new edition to my brother's family, my new nephew and godson Simon born 2 weeks ago. That meant a few interrupted nights by demands for feeding and his older brother's talkative streak at 3AM.

We also met my parents briefly on Saturday for yet another ice-cream and I hope that it is just a coincidence that only 24h later my mother was ill with severe gastroenteritis... Unfortunately it looks as if she is still too ill to travel and they won't make it to Scotland. Well, there goes my scare tactic for the Devil.

So, all in all not the best preparation training wise, but if fun, family, friends and food count, Thomas is well prepared. We are both looking forward to the race and to meeting up with a lot of fellow runners and supporters.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Scare tactics for the Devil

The good news is that it looks as if Thomas is going to make the start of the Devil. He is easing himself back into running and training slowly and hopes to be o.k. for the Devil.
Even though the Triple Crown contest is not for him - now that he DNF the WHW-Race - a good and enjoyable Devil’s run should bring back a lot of motivation and fun into his running.

So in order to avoid further disappointment (for him) I decided to employ scare tactics.
I have enlisted the help of my parents and my mother in particular. They are due to visit us for a long weekend at the time of the Devil. They have now been upgraded to support crew members. Surely the sight of his mother-in-law will make Tom NOT want to stop at a checkpoint but will just make him run away from it as fast as he can. Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents dearly, but the positions of mother-in-law/son-in-law seem to come with certain tensions. Well, I hope to make good use of them and get Thomas to the finish. Maybe even in a great time?! I am sure my mother won’t mind. They think he is mad anyway.
By the way, we will all be staying at the Kingshouse Hotel for 2 nights and hope to celebrate a FINISH on Saturday night in family unity!

The other part of the pre-Devil and in fact pre-WHWR 2009 preparation is hopefully a visit to an orthopaedic specialist when we are in Germany at the end of July.
He mainly deals with pretty serious runners and comes highly recommended… The chronic hamstring injury Thomas has been nursing since August last year when he was training for the Berlin Marathon is surely not helping any long-term training plan.

From finding out if it maybe was a tiny muscle tear with ongoing scar tissue, a tendon problem or maybe even is a sciatic nerve problem with pressure on the nerve in the hamstring region, any second/third/fourth opinion will help. Though it doesn’t hinder his running as such, speed work is impossible. After seeing a couple of physios over the past 6 months, having acupuncture and even using homoeopathy (Ruta Grav 30c if anyone is interested), this is just another angle.
I have a few other people I could send him to including a retired GP who now does hypno-healing! Well so far he has resisted any of these weirder suggestions.

Watch the space!

Friday, 27 June 2008

Tom's 110K on WHW-Race Day 2008

What went wrong for Thomas on the 21st of June 2008? After 10 months of intense preparation for the Big Day, why did it not all come together for him as it did for his running friends, Davie, Neal, Brian, Tim and John – who all had a great race and finished in remarkable times? This is my humble attempt to analyse the day and the weeks and months that led up to it.

Our support team was ready to go, everything was organized and we could not wait until the race started. We had planned a few surprises along the way for our hero, some music, flags and even a short cheerleader dance. On the day we realized that this was actually a very calm and almost unspectacular race, not like some of the city marathons where you have supporters do all sorts of crazy things. So we only used the music once. Thomas was very nervous the whole week before. He had not slept properly for at least 5 nights and was getting desperate. But of course the nearer the day was, the more difficult it got. And trying to stay up at night and sleep into the day does not really work either. Constant blogging, another round of the DVD from 2005 did not really clear his head either. He did ask me a few days before if I thought he could do it. And I said yes. I was sure if his hamstrings were o.k. (which I thought they would be) and he did not pick up any more serious injury on the way, then he would finish, even if we walked to the end. Like Debbie and Marco did. But little did I know that there is a state when even walking is not an option.

Anyway, finally the race started and we headed off to our first support stop at the Beechtree Inn. The night was perfect, cold, no midges (though they surely came out later), the moon beautiful as we waited for the first runner to arrive. It was in fact a spectacular sight when eventually you could see this snake of head-torches in the far distance, moving forward and eventually shining into your eyes so that you could not make out the individual runner. I was worried already at the Beechtree Inn and in hindsight I was right to be. At least 20 runners had passed and no sight of Thomas yet. I actually thought I had missed him in the dark though that was not possible as we were positioned at the gate and would have seen him. He was already 5min behind his schedule, but when he arrived he said he enjoyed the scenery and I felt reassured. Though of course he never mentioned anything about his running.

Just before Drymen the same thing happened. Lots of people went past, including those who I would have expected to be behind Thomas. But when he arrived with Ian and John I felt better and thought he was sticking to the experienced WHW runners and that could only be good.

Waiting for him in Rowardennan we cheered on a few runners including Marco. Leaving Rowardennan he asked me in which position he was and I said I did not know, but I thought it might be 4th, but in fact he was 1st to leave then … He also mentioned that his shins were sore… I hope you did not try to catch the runner in front of you! Sorry for the wrong info.
We also saw Ian and I briefly spoke to him after I realized he had stopped. We saw Allybea and her support friend packing up and I remember thinking how sad this must be – not knowing then that in a few hours we would have to do the same! When Thomas arrived the midges were out in full force and he was fidgeting, not wanting to stand still while I tried to restock his running belt. I broke the zip of the belt pocket and I think he wanted to kill me then. We quickly got another belt out of the car though this was one he did not like too much and I was really SORRY!

In Beinglas we realized Thomas was further behind his schedule and he admitted then that he was not feeling great. He sat down for the 1st time, but did not stay long. We packed our things and went to the A82 underpass when we realized we had accidentally packed someone else’s 2 bottles that had been placed on the bench filled with some smoothie like drink and probably water. We felt so bad that we sent the car back hoping that the runner had not arrived yet and was not looking for his drinks. While the car was turning and I stayed at the underpass I saw the same bottle type in a car boot and quickly asked the guy if he was looking for 2 missing bottles. He was and the mistake was quickly sorted. Luckily they had had spare drinks at Beinglas and the runner did not suffer. Puhh!

At Auchtertyre Thomas had gained a few minutes but was really following his schedule B by now. He expressed the wish to have porridge then and as you know there is not much time between Auchtertyre and Tyndrum. So we quickly made our way to Tyndrum, bought porridge oats and started cooking. Nancy against her Scottish nature even agreed to prepare the porridge with milk and honey much to the bemusement of some bystanders. Totally the supporter she told them, if my man wants porridge he gets porridge. So really pleased with ourselves that we had managed to get some porridge ready in this short spell of time, we awaited Tom’s arrival. When he came across and we offered him his porridge, all he said was, I don’t want it …. And ran on….

At Bridge of Orchy we positioned ourselves on the bridge and thought he could sit on the wall if he wanted to sit though he had not made much use of the chair up to now. He arrived and of course asked for the chair that was not there. If I had known how crap he was feeling I would have run back to the car to get it, but instead I said, you won’t get a chair here. How mean was I? Terrible. We met him again at the hotel where he sat in the car and then just before Victoria Bridge where we briefly thought of sending someone to run with him for company. But normally he enjoys running this section on his own anyway and as there were only 2 support runners Thomas said to “save ourselves” for later.

So off we went to Kingshouse, now excited that we were soon to start running ourselves. I ate the cold porridge to get some energy into me and got changed into my running gear. I waited for him at the checkpoint when Nancy came up and said that we had got a phone call from Thomas and he wanted us to meet him at Blackrock Cottage as he was in trouble. I got really worried then and thought if he can’t make it to Kingshouse himself, how bad must he be? So I sped off with the car after we had thrown everything that we had put out for him back into the car. I expected him to wait for us at the cottage, but instead I saw him walking down the path very slowly. So I ran up to him just when Davie Bell overtook him. At that point Thomas said his legs were on fire. He could not coordinate them any longer. We sat him in the car and told him to rest, maybe even try and get some sleep as we had enough time. But he found it really hard to just close his eyes and rest. He was very uncomfortable. He started to describe how he had struggled the whole day, how he felt his legs were completely empty and he could not even start to think about continuing. We still thought that it was a good rest that was needed. Eating and drinking wise he seemed to be o.k. He had consumed various things, energy and electrolyte providing – though he thinks maybe too much. I don’t agree there, but it was certainly not a lack of fuel that caused his problem. He did complain of diarrhoea though. We thought after a good rest we could walk to the Kingshouse checkpoint, have another rest and then walk to the bottom of the staircase where we could assess the situation again. But it was not to be. Thomas could not get his legs moving again.

I found this the most difficult support task. When do you know that it is indeed time to stop and pull out of the race and when do you need to kick your runner out of the car and tell him to walk on?? I was so glad to have had friends there to help. Three of us took it in turns to sit with Thomas in the car and assess how he was, physically and mentally. Waiting outside for a decision to be taken I was shivering and actually feeling sick. He had come so far, after all the training, was it really over? After Nancy and then Holger had spent a while with him, Holger came out of the car and said that Thomas was definitely pulling out. And he seemed to have made his peace with it. I went back to the car myself and we hugged, tears running down my face. There were a few tears in Tom’s eyes as well but he really seemed very calm and almost relieved. Tim Downie passed the car and told Thomas he could always walk back, but of course we had just established that even walking was no option.
I handed back the racetag at Kingshouse, Thomas stayed in the car and we headed to our cottage that was on the Lundavra Road where we wanted to relax after the race…

We all went to bed early and had a good night’s sleep. The next morning we asked Thomas if he really wanted to go to the prize-giving, but he was sure he did. He was keen to congratulate his friends for their finish. So we headed to FW and into the Nevis Centre. When we entered I could see Thomas wiping away tears and I quickly went into the toilet myself as again I was dwelling up.
And this is where I was even more proud of him. What strength he has shown to actually attend the ceremony, to face everyone he trained with, everyone who knew about his predicted times and maybe had mocked him, the new-comer, the 1st-timer?! But it was overwhelming to see and feel the support he got, the hugs and handshakes, the encouraging words. As much as it was important for him to face this, to help him get over this disappointment eventually , it was equally important to feel that he was still part of the gang, even though he “DNF”. To hear people say that they knew he could do better and that it must have just not been “his day”.

And this is what it comes down to I think. It was not his day. As sad as it is after months of training, as perfect as the day was for running, it was not “his day”. Right from the start he realized it, but tried to struggle on. I think the fact that he even got to 110KM under these circumstances is amazing. I am very proud of him. For trying to battle on, but even more for being so strong to pull out when he did and how he did it, with so much dignity, calm and inner peace, so little drama. He just knew he had reached a physical limit on the day. Someone said to him, maybe he would come back next year with enough mental strength to finish. I don’t think that he lacked any mental strength on the day. In fact it was his mental strength that got him to Blackrock Cottage.
But maybe next year (if he does enter the WHWRace 2009), he also will be lucky and have “his day” on actual race day. Maybe he will not struggle with a chronic hamstring injury for months, maybe he will not be as nervous as this year and sleep better, maybe his training schedule will be different so that he can peak when he should. And maybe with regards to the support crew, we will be more honest with each other. Maybe he will tell us as soon as he feels bad so we can rethink our strategy, can tell him to rest longer, walk more and start walking/running with him sooner. And even though I said I didn’t know if I wanted to go through all that training/preparation again next year, I also know that this is now “unfinished business”, a big dream that has not come true, but in fact is within his reach. A challenge that is still out there. I know how much it meant to him. So I am ready to do it all over again. I might even join some of the training runs as a runner myself…