Monday, 28 December 2009

2010 - Explore your limits!

This will be the motto for my New Year. O.k. I have “borrowed” it from the UTMB website, but only because I have in fact applied for a place in the CCC! OMG! I must be as crazy as my husband! But admittedly this was my idea.
We have already booked a week’s holiday near Chamonix for the time of the UTMB to soak in the atmosphere and explore what looks like stunning scenery. And we were talking about walking the Mont Blanc Circuit one day. So I thought, why not entering the CCC and try to walk/run half of it together in the allowed time. We would be part of the race and could make good use of the aid and feeding stations. And if we happen to be timed out (i.e. if I am too slow) we would try and walk the rest together on our own. So it is about a big joint adventure on beautiful mountain trails in hopefully good weather!

If that is not enough to test my limits, I have also entered the Devil O The Highlands again. Rather than trying to improve my time to near 9hours I might just take it easy as the CCC will only be a few weeks later.

Then I also find my name on the Fling’s entry list. I am not sure if I will be ready for it but it gives me something to aim for. I would like to do it “unsupported” with drop bags.

For May 2010 we have planned a 3-day run/walk along the WHW. This will coincide with being the last long training run for Thomas before the WHW Race and it also happens to be the weekend of the Edinburgh Marathon. So he will definitely have no chance to run that one! We have booked 2 overnight stays and will use the drop bag service from AMS. This 3-day run will also be to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. When we walked the WHW in 2005 for our honeymoon, we had said that we should do it every 5 years as we both enjoyed it so much. Little did I know then that only 3 years later I would practically live on the WHW, spending hours on it, day and night, either waiting in some lay-by or even running half of it myself! So the usual 5-7 day walk was no option…

I have not entered any “shorter” races like marathons, HM or 10Ks yet. I do tend to get caught up in training plans for weeks or months and I want to try and avoid it next year. I’d rather see how my running is coming along and maybe enter one or the other race on the way, but I don’t want to focus on these. Although I was quite pleased with my HM and Marathon times for 2009, I did not achieve my targets of getting under 1:50 or under 4:00. I was close and the courses/conditions were difficult so I was happy with what I achieved, but I’d rather not focus so much on these times.

What else will be happening in the crazy German’s house? More crazy Germans are due to arrive in July for 2 weeks! They are Tom’s sisters and cousin and families – 12 altogether! We have booked a nice converted stable near Glen Affric. We are hoping to get enough “free time” away from all the crazy kids to run up and down those Munros!

For now though we are looking forward to a week’s skiing in Austria, in Obergurgl, at the end of January. Let’s hope all bones and joints will be fine afterwards!
I wish you all an exciting New Year and happy & injury-free running!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

This is how our Christmas Eve looks! We will soon get to open our presents (according to German tradition this happens on Christmas Eve). I am just waiting for Thomas to come home from work.
So have a MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone and a happy & healthy New Year 2010!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Wilson Trophy Race

Today saw me running in the Wilson Trophy Club Race, a 4.5M handicap race above the Greenock Cut, true cross-country style.
To cut a long story short, I just managed not to come last! Well I started 9 min later than the first runner and knew that this was rather optimistic, especially as the girl I started with has brilliant race times that I could just dream of. Anyway, we started with horizontal sleat into our faces - a very painful free facial massage! Up the hill the wind was in our back and we had to watch all those icy bits. Thomas was marshalling and taking photos and by the time I reached him I had already been overtaken by quite a few. There were 2 laps and soon the rest of the field stormed past. Coming to the turning point I thought I was last and the marshal confirmed it and packed up his cone and ran back with me. But then there was someone else appearing, so I knew I was not last after all. I just hoped to keep him off so I would not embarass Thomas too much and have the Loehndorf name on the bottom of a race result list! Well, if I think about it: still better than a DNF! :-)
Anyway, then I saw someone in front at the bottom of a hill just before the steep hill up to the finish. So I closed in on him and managed to overtake him on that last steep bit - et voila: I was only third last!
I did enjoy the race though and loved the route so I did not care that my handicap had not been quite right (my excuse anyway...).

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Trabuco Christening

Today I finally christened my new trabucos. Reluctantly I must admit, but I could not postpone it any longer. It had to be done. But I did get a photo with them all clean and shiny before I took them out. I joined the club's "easy" off road run again. 5-6 miles round the reservoirs high above Greenock. It was a great day, dry, you could even call it sunny.
On Thursday I had done the hill reps with the club in pouring rain. So I guess you could call that a bit more regular running again. Last week I had been in London at a conference, but also meeting my sister and visiting friends. It was great. The only downside was that I missed the club's annual prizegiving. Thomas did attend his 1st club prizegiving though. And he came home with 2 prizes! One for the fastest HM and one for the fastest marathon. Maybe next year he will bring home a goblet?! I live in hope.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

I am back ...

... in my running shoes! After many weeks (I think in fact it might be a couple of months now) of not running (skating instead and then "recovering" or being lazy, holidays) I went out with the club today for an "easy" run in the hills above the Greenock cut. I had been out twice at the waterfront for very short runs lately, just to get myself into the running motion again. Then I had planned to do the Diet Coke version of the Glee Club run yesterday, but as Thomas has been (and still is!) working we had to cancel. So off I went on my own to join the Sunday stroll. Well, there probably is no "stroll" when a club goes for a run, so off we went into the hills and onto a course that will be the Xmas race course. I had thought of putting my new Trabuccos on, but then decided against it and used my old black running shoes. Good choice as we went through numerous bogs. Then suddenly I heard, we'll do a time trial for the 2nd loop of the course! Time trial?! It is a Sunday stroll! Luckily someone had a hangover and I managed not to come in last, sneeking in just before her. At the end of the 5-6M I was knackered, feeling sick, covered in mud and some scratches after a fall, but I felt like a cross-country runner and was very happy!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

NEPAL 2009

We have returned from our trip to Nepal where we joined a trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary.
The trip was organized by Mountain Kingdoms UK (formerly known as Himalayan Kingdoms), there were 12 people in our group led by KC, a Sherpa by profession who had won the international Sherpa of the Year Award a few years ago. He was indeed a great leader assisted by 3 other local guides and 10 porters.

The trek as such was superb. The scenery is difficult to put into words, the size of the mountains, the vastness and the beauty of it. I am hoping to put a little film clip together and will post it here to give you an impression. For now there will be a link to some photos on facebook at the end.

Our highest overnight point was 4130m, the Annapurna Base Camp or “ABC”. The trek started at around 1000m, but instead of gradually going higher, the trek leads through lots of small villages that are reached by going up and down all the time. There are a lot of “staircases”, built into the mountainside, that let the Devil’s staircase look like a walk in the park.
On one morning alone we climbed 2500 steps up to reach a village, not to mention 2500 down in the afternoon and – yes!, up again the next day! It was harder than I thought though I did not have any big problems with the altitude.

After 6 days into the trek Thomas was known as – yes, “crazy German”! Where have we heard that before? While everyone of the group was glad to have reached the Machapuchare Base Camp at 3700m for an overnight stay for acclimatization purposes, he decided to go for a run! He returned after 1 hour stating that he had actually ran up to ABC at 4130m and back again in 59min! The uphill alone would take us 2 hours of slow walking the following day. Realizing that most people might not believe him, he had scratched our initials into a big boulder up at ABC!

A few days later he and 3 others of the group wanted a “fast day” so we split into 2 groups. The fastest and fittest Sherpa was sent with them (Phuri, he recently summited his 1st 8000m mountain, Manaslu) and only Thomas could keep up with him!
Anyway, not to bore you with any more of the details of our trip, here is a summary:

- Spending a whole day and night at ABC amongst some of the highest mountains on earth and watching a magnificent sunrise
- Walking through sub-tropical forest for days in sunshine and bamboo forest until around 3000m.
- Being invited by Phuri Sherpa after the trek to meet his family in Kathmandu. Thomas & I were given typical Sherpa food and saw how he lived.

- Kathmandu (KTM): a city that seems to have descended into chaos and corruption over the past few years according to the locals. It is unbelievably noisy, dusty and dirty.
- Mt Everest flight: great views over the whole Himalayan range, but unfortunately no close up views of Everest as expected. I did see the cloud shrouded top though!
- I must have brought a bug with me as I have been off work since Monday with N&D. Slowly recovering though.

A trek worth doing and thoroughly recommendable! 2009

Monday, 21 September 2009

Berlin Marathon rocks!

What an incredible weekend we had in Berlin with great PBs all around and what a finish to a season that has not gone too well for Thomas. It was just perfect with great weather (too hot for some), blue skies and sunshine all the time.

I am still looking at my watch where I have saved my finish time just to make sure it is actually true! But it is official. My chip time for the Inline Marathon is 1:41:41. Never in my wildest dreams did I think of a time like this. I considered 1:45 well out of my reach. After failing to beat 2 hours three years in a row, mainly due to bad weather, I had joined the 1:50 paceline which I thought ambitious but not impossible in dry weather conditions.

The paceline is organized by Experts-In-Speed and the 130 participants met up 5 hours before the start to be divided into the groups and practise. There was already an electric atmosphere in front of the Brandenburg Gate in glorious sunshine. I met up with my 2 fellow Scottish skaters, Don who would be in my paceline and Marcello who was going for 1:35. Unfortunately our group was very big with 20 people of very different ability. There were 3 "pacers" or guides, but it became clear that it would be very difficult to keep the group together. There were 3 fairly small girls just behind the leading guide as well as others whose technique did not look great and the group kept falling apart. So much for drafting. We changed the order around with Don & I among the first 6 and it worked much better. It is all about keeping the rhythm of the skater in front, keeping only a small distance so you benefit from the drafting and trusting them that they will warn you about obstacles, bends etc. We then had a discussion about the aims of each of us, i.e. just staying together as a group without being too focussed on the time or going for the time no matter what. The guides tried to persuade 2 people to join the slower group but they wanted to stick with us. There were 6 of us who wanted to go for the time and I was certainly up for it and did not want to hang about.

So we left it at that and all met up again 30min before the start at 3.30PM. We got into our starter block and the 3 slower girls were gathering around the leading guide and I was getting concerned that they would just line up behind her and break up the whole paceline again. So I said to Don to stick closely behind me and I would try and get us into a good position. This was the time to throw your towel onto your sun-lounger! I am German after all. The other faster guys were also keen to get organized and as the start approached and we were trying to sort out our formation I actually ended up in 2nd position just behind the leading guide. Perfect! I could even still see some of the road in front of me which helps to reduce the risk of falls. Don was right behind me and off we went. What came were the craziest 5K I have ever skated. Imagine 7000(!) skaters trying to get away and jostling for positions. There was so much pushing and crossing of all the other skaters around us that I just tried to hang on to the leading guide who was trying to get us out of this crowd and into a bit more space. Only 200m after the start the message came "Don fell" which I had not noticed as he had lost contact with me when it all started. He would get up again and try to join the group or get into the next one, I was sure. So on we went at some speed. In the first sharp right bend we lost 2 more people and the group had already divided itself into 6 at the front and the rest had either fallen or split into 2 other groups.
Don managed to get under 1:50 and arrived in 1:48 having been picked up by a different paceline-group. He was delighted. He is in the M70 group by the way!! And one of the few Inline Instructors in Scotland.
I was still in 2nd position where I stayed most of the time able to copy the guide's rhythm perfectly. The rest were happy in their positions so we did not change much until half way point when we noticed we were actually going much faster. We crossed the HM point at 49min! Our guide was getting tired and we took turns at the front and I was still feeling great. When I was at the front I was actually ordered to slow down as we were loosing a couple of people. This kept happening, some getting tired, wanting to slow down a bit, the rest still feeling strong. When I was back in 2nd position the 3rd guy kept loosing contact so I stretched my arm backwards a lot to pull him in again. I was so enjoying the skate that it is very difficult to describe. The speed, the excitement, the concentration, and all that in glorious sunshine feeling the wind in your face.
The decision was made to stay in this smaller group even if we had to slow down a bit but we knew the time would be good anyway. And this is what it is about.
You work together in your group and benefit from each other. The group at the start had been too big and inhomogeneous to get this group feeling but the six of us at the front had now worked together since the start. So we finished it together and I just could not believe my time. It is incredible! Especially knowing I could have gone even faster and probably get under 1:40. It is like trying for a sub 4hour marathon as a runner, knowing on a brilliant day it might be 3:55-3:50 and suddenly finishing in 3:35.
Where did it come from? I really don't know. My endurance must have been really good still from all the running. I only went back to skating 4 weeks ago. And I was going to hang up my skates if I had got to sub 1:50 and concentrate on my running. Now I suddenly see that I can go much faster, maybe I should try for a 1:35 next year? What if I get faster skates with bigger wheels? It is certainly a good time to stop skating for the winter - on an incredible unexpected high!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Ben Nevis Race Pictures

As promised here is a link to our Ben Nevis Race Pictures
Warning: there is loads of them ;-)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Spectating at the Ben Nevis Race

Well, at least that was the plan! But for once the weather forecast was right and the rain just kept pouring and pouring. Nevertheless we left early on Saturday morning for Fort William hoping that it might get better.
We set off from the Youth Hostel towards the Green Wall, as advised by Bob Allison, for the best viewpoint just below the small Loch. We arrived a bit early, i.e. 12.45 with the race starting at 13.00 and nearly got blown off the path by the mountain rescue helicopter that was dropping crew members off onto the path for the race. Reaching our "viewpoint" it also became clear that today there was no view. You could hardly make out the contours of the Green Wall, never mind any runners coming down it later on.
And it also turned out that Tom's 10-year-old Goretex jacket had reached the end of its goretex life and had become completely waterlogged causing him to be very cold indeed. So we decided to turn around and see the runners coming through further down the path. We actually picked a good spot where they all had to cross a small stream. Thomas took lots of photos with the camera sticking out from a plastic bag that was over his head! Most of the runners though did not even look up even when we called out their numbers and in some cases even their names! I guess they were just keeping their heads down and trying to get on with their task. It was a very wet one! Well done to everyone who was brave enough to start the race on Saturday.
We saw a few familiar faces, Sarah Ridgway and surprisingly George Cairns only 1 week after the UTMB. Bob Allison, Jim Alexander and Karen from Strathearn Harriers who ran the Fling this year, Jean and Angus Bowman.
We went straight to our B&B to get dried off and later had a very nice meal in the Lime Tree restaurant. The next morning the weather had not changed and we nearly went straight home. Not before checking out Nevis Sport though.
And surprise, surprise the horizontal rain turned into drizzle and Thomas could not resist to run from the Braveheart Car Park to Kinlochleven. I drove round and made my way up to the Lairig Mor from the other side. We then ran down into Kinlochleven together and I enjoyed my 1st run since the Devil very much! The rain had stopped and there were even a few sunny spells at the end!

There will be a link to a lot of photos once they are all uploaded. Those who would like the original size please send us your email. Sorry Bob but yours are all out of focus :-(

Friday, 28 August 2009

What next?

I am back on my skates - yeah!

Having completed my 1st ultra I have bathed in my glory ever since and not run at all!

This is why I call myself a reluctant runner. I don't "need" to run, I am quite happy if I don't. I recovered fairly quickly, but realized that it was only a few weeks to go until my Berlin Skate Marathon and I had only been on skates 3 times this year due to all the running. So 4 days after the Devil I was back for a short skating session and have been skating ever since as long as I have got time and the weather is good enough. This is the downside of skating, you can't do it in bad weather so not a sport recommended for Scotland.

I was then off to Germany for a week where I had 2 great skates in glorious sunshine with stops at a beer garden! I visited friends and family, followed by a weekend in London for the Christening of my god-daughter. I also met up with one of my friends in Germany who has been bravely battling breast cancer over the past 7 months with chemotherapy, an operation and then radiotherapy. Now there is a "race" for which you need all the physical and mental determination imaginable.

I am hoping to finally get under 2 hours in the Marathon, I have tried 3 times but each time it was raining and you were just glad to arrive at the finish in one piece. So there are 3 other Glasgow skaters going and we have joined a pace-line for a 1:50 finish. Quite ambitious, but if it is dry it might just be possible. Fitness wise I should be o.k. but I still have to train up some of my muscle groups that are needed for the skating.

I have also decided not to run the HM in Glasgow because I realized that there was no way I could fit in enough running at the same time. As I was hoping for a PB (incidentally also sub 1:50 :-) ) I would have had to do some serious sessions. So just now it is all about skating. I hope to reach my dream time so that I can lay the skating to rest a bit and just do it for fun and cross training during the summer and not with a time target in my mind.

Instead of the HM we will go up to Fort William to watch the Ben Nevis Race - something I have wanted to do for the past 2 years but it always clashes with the HM. I just can't imagine how these guys are getting up and down there so fast, so I must see for myself.

After Berlin I will take up running again and hope to get some experience in cross country running later in the year with the club. I am also looking forward to a few trail runs, maybe as part of the training runs. But I won't plan too much ahead and enter races early on in the next year as I get too entangled in training plans etc. I want to just "go with the flow", run and see where it leads me.

In my euphoria after the Devil I was going to go for the "triple crown"! I quickly came back to reality and realized that it involves sooo much training! So I will definitely not even attempt to get into the WHWR next year. Also I guess there will be a very large number of previous runners who want to do it next year in memory of Dario. And so they should. And I would not want to take away a place. And of course I just have to be there when Thomas gets to the finish line. I think I will deserve that moment as much as he does!

But if you look closely you will (soon - hopefully) find my name on the entry list of next year's Devil! The race and route is too nice to be missed! Maybe I can even get under 9 hours?!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

My 1st Ultra-Race

The "Devil o' the Highlands" 2009 - a 43 Mile (68km) footrace

Where do I start? Maybe at the end!

I finished! And Andreas, who I was running with the whole time, finished too!

And we exceeded all our expectations. If you read my pre-race blog, you will know that apart from finishing my target was to get just under 10:00. When we did our training run it was a hot day and Andreas had struggled. But I was not too keen to try for a sub 10 on my own and decided to run at least the 1st half with him and see. But as I somehow suspected, it turned out to be the other way round on the day. The weather conditions were perfect yesterday, dry, overcast and rain only at the end for a short time, and Andreas felt great the whole way. He pulled me along and through my difficult patches and we both finished after 9hours 22min and 59sec. In 78th/79th position from 100 starters. Absolutely b***** brilliant!
(Please note Thomas thought a sub 9:30 might be “in me” at some point, but even he was surprised to see us both do so well.) I think it is only slowly sinking in that I have in fact done this, though every time I try to get up I am reminded of my first ultra marathon yesterday…

Here is the longer version if you are interested.

During the past few days before the race I was convinced I was finally getting the swine flu myself as not only patients but a staff member had been affected as well. Then during my last short run on Wednesday a pain started in the back of my left knee and my right ITB made itself known after many years of silence. “It’s all in your head”, my husband confidently diagnosed and he was right. Yesterday my sore throat was gone and my legs, knees and toes were fine.

We stayed in the Kingshouse Hotel the night before and made our way to the start. Thomas had filled my rucksack with 800ml of electrolyte and we only noticed the night before that it was not our usual flavour (Tropical) but Lemon & Lime. Arrggh. I took a few sips before the start, but must have been drinking too much as it was empty just behind BoO. We had not planned to refill until Victoria Bridge. I had also felt this slightly sick feeling in my stomach the day before and put it down to nervousness, but I think I was starting to develop an acid problem and some inflammation in my stomach probably due to feeling under stress. Anyway I only realized this today when I woke up early and the same sick feeling was there again and intermittently today. (No, I am not pregnant!) If I had clicked yesterday, I could have just taken some antacids, but I blamed it on the gels/electrolyte drink (Lime & Lemon clearly did not help) though previously I have not had problems with gels or other sweets like jelly babies.
But it is good news in a way as I was thinking how could you run further than this if you are unable to take food/drinks on board? Not that I want to run further than this at the moment, but just in case …. :-)

Back to the race. We set off and from the start walked all the uphills, initially looking behind us a few times as the sweeper guy seemed very close! We started to talk to a few people and introduced ourselves which was nice as we kept seeing quite a bit of each other. There was Jon Cornall at the start and I wished him luck. He wanted to stay under 10h but quickly disappeared into the distance. We overtook him on the Devil’s Staircase, which was a big surprise to me. Then we met Karin who was out to do her 1st ultra as well. She was running all the uphills but remained in our proximity as we kept bumping into each other. Her longest run had been 26M and she had never been further than Kinlochleven. We overtook her on the downhill into Kinlochleven and she finished 22min behind us and was delighted. Then we got talking to Fletcher who had done the race a few times and we lost sight of him on Rannoch Moor but must have overtaken him in Kinlochleven as he finished a few minutes behind us. We got talking to Malcolm and Shan when crossing the Rannoch Moor, again both had done the race and were going for a 9-9.30 time. We were concerned then as this was not our plan, but they encouraged us and said, if you just continue to go at the same pace as now and walk all the uphills and can keep it going after Kinlochleven, you will get there in under 9:30. Well we did not quite believe it and lost sight of them on the downhill into Kingshouse, but thanks guys you were spot on! At that time we did not know yet that our strongest sections would indeed be the last two.

Time passed quickly and before we knew it we were at Kingshouse. I did not feel too great with this sick feeling in my stomach and was developing aversions to the gels and jelly babies but just continued to take them anyway. I did swap to plain water though from then on. Probably not the best idea either as towards the end I was feeling cramps coming on but they never developed into anything serious.

I had stopped at the bottom of the staircase to change my T-shirt and Andreas walked on as last time I had to wait for him at the top. Yesterday he had to wait as I could not catch up with him on the uphill. At the top one of the twins (I think Fiona) was there with her Ipod playing bagpipes and I paused and looked back and thought of Dario. The downhill into Kinlochleven passed quickly as we met Karen and George and kept running with them. I chatted to Karen about various things and before I knew it we were in Kinlochleven. Andreas and George had gone ahead slightly and I think Thomas was concerned when he arrived on his own! I had ordered a soup as I thought a change to something salty might be good. It went down well, but the portion was rather small! I asked for more and I think Thomas felt bad when he had to tell me that was it. He also told me off for not drinking enough and not taking enough gels as I had a couple left. To be honest I had been too busy chatting with Karen apart from the fact that I just could not stomach them anymore. And gathering from the numerous toilet stops I had throughout (5) I think I must have been well hydrated.

There was a big crowd of supporters in Kinlochleven and it felt great. Suddenly we felt we were in the middle of the race and not somewhere at the end. Apart from our own support crew we saw Jan waiting for Jon, Mandy’s support crew, and Caroline & Neal & Harvey were there as well greeting us. At this point we were slightly ahead of our 10:00 schedule and we left Kinlochleven feeling great. I felt the soup had done wonders and what followed was my best stretch of the whole race. I did not feel sick and we just kept going at the same pace as before. I eventually met Jeff in the middle of the Lhairig Mor, one of the remote rescue medics with whom I had exchanged emails as he wanted me to help out at some of the recent races as medical back up. Which I had to decline as I was either support crew or running it myself. We caught up with Mandy just before Lundavra and reached Lundavra much earlier than expected on a high. In fact some of the photos show me in a state of madness frantically waving at everyone that I have told Thomas not to put them on the web.

The surprise was to be greeted by Marie and Stevie from our running club (they were supposed to be Thomas support crew but had decided to come up anyway). Andreas changed into dry shoes as I promised him a “forest track” soon, but my memory must have been disturbed as it took a long while to reach the forest and it must have been the muddiest section of the whole race, especially as it started to rain very heavily. Today he threw out both of the pairs he wore yesterday! I briefly thought about changing my shoes/socks as I had noticed a blister but luckily Nancy, my blister expert, advised against it. She was right as I forgot all about it until the end when we continued. Thomas offered me more “homemade soup” and it tasted like a potato based soup that went down well again. He had felt so bad that there was only a small amount of soup in Kinlochleven that he went into Fort William to hunt for soup. (Welcome to the life of the support crew!) He could not get parked at Nevis Sport or the WHW finish to get soup from the cafĂ© and nearly ran out of time to get to Lundavra and decided to make up his own soup. He crunched up the Pringles (Cheese&Onion) we had in the car, poured warm water over them, dissolved them, mixed some milk into it and presented it to me as “home-made” soup. Well, it tasted good!

Unfortunately I started to feel slightly sick again and we lost contact to Mandy and Karen and George somewhere in the forest. But what became clear was that we were definitely heading towards a sub 10. And it would be even very close to 9:30. I said to Andreas to go ahead and get there under 9:30. But he said he would not without me. At the Braveheart car park Stevie, Marie and Thomas were waiting and Stevie shouted, maybe you can get under 9:30. How far is it? Andreas shouted back. Less than 1 mile. It was 9:15 on my watch and so I tried my best and we were running all the way back to the finish at quite a good pace and crossed the finish line after 9:22. As JK remarked I was rather emotional and again some of the photos should not be published but I blame it on the endorphins!

Lots of hugs and congratulations from everyone waiting for us – it was a great feeling!

Thanks to everyone who came to support me, my crew, Nancy, Thomas of course (though there is room for improvements on the supporting side :-) but I guess there won’t be many opportunities for him to try), our friends John & Colette, Marie & Stevie and everyone of the WHW Family who wished me luck and cheered me on. It was so important and really appreciated! The company of the other runners along the way was great and I must say I don’t know if I could have done it without the company of Andreas.

Some photos follow though they are censored!

Friday, 31 July 2009

Not long now ...

No, not long, only 8 days and a few hours …

Today was my last long run, up to Loch Thom from our house, 25K and 200m elevation. Thomas had drafted a plan for my final 2 weeks and I have tried to stick with it. At the weekend we will do some walks, we are planning to take the 9-year-old son of friends up Ben Lomond (weather permitting) to bag his first ever Munro (or hill for that matter), followed by 2 or 3 shorter runs until Wednesday.

The last 2 weeks have been a bit like an emotional rollercoaster with Dario’s death and then his funeral. A lot of other things were going on at the same time at work, with family and friends. So I have not had too much time to get nervous yet. I am sure though that this will come. I am usually nervous before any race or more serious training run, so my 1st ultra should not be any different.
I am looking forward to the whole experience though. My main goal is to finish and if nothing untoward happens that should be possible. My next goal then is to get under 10 hours which could just be manageable given the training run recently though 10:30 is more realistic. Thomas thinks I could get to 9:30 or less but I really just want to enjoy the whole experience and find out what it is all about. If I pushed too hard I might end up not finishing at all or very late so I think I will just take it easy. And I think I will run with Andreas and try to stear us both towards a sub 10:00 finish. And I will try and agree with him beforehand that if one of us struggles, the other one should go on.
Thomas is very keen for me to run on my own, but I’d feel a bit mean then. And who knows he might be stronger than me in the end and pass me with a large grin on his face as to my arrogance of thinking I am that much faster. Anyway, we will see on the day.

It will be interesting to see if any special remembrance moment will take place for Dario before, during or after the race. He should have been bib number one. The funeral last week was very emotional but such a tribute to him. So many people had turned up, some from very far. Beforehand I was a bit worried that it might be weird to meet all the WHW runners and supporters at such a sad moment. Usually when we meet it is at the prime of everyone’s physical and mental fitness helping each other to achieve (mostly) something quite extra-ordinary like the WHW Race. It is about breaking the boundaries of your usual limitations.
But it is something else to then be confronted with the ultimate limitation of life itself, death. And such an untimely death it was.
But it did not feel weird at all. In fact I felt such a bond of united grief and sadness that again supported each other through the day and made it possible to share not only the grief but also the celebration of his life. It gave the feeling of “belonging” to this rather special WHW Family.

And I guess this is just another great tribute of what Dario has actually achieved through his WHW Race.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

50K Training Run

Last Saturday saw me completing my first 50K (or 31M) training run. I ran from Tyndrum to Kinlochleven and up onto the Lairig Mor to complete the 50K distance and get the last steep climb in as well to be better prepared for the Devil's race in a few weeks.

Unfortunately when we got home on Sunday evening we got the very sad news that Dario, the WHW Race director, had died near the summit of Lochnagar while out with a group of friends also training for the Devil's. We were both stunned and still are. What a tragic loss. I did not feel like writing up the usual blog. Our thoughts have been with his wife, his immediate family, close friends and especially those who were with him on Sunday. I have been reading all the moving tributes and feel somehow connected through the grief and tears of everyone else.

Though we don't have a goblet to raise in his memory, we have remembered him in our own way. I only got to know him through Thomas 2 years ago when he signed up for his 1st WHWR. At the post-race BBQ only a few weeks ago we briefly talked about the Devil's and he said that he, too, liked the 2nd part of the WHW best. So I thought that I might blog after all since it is this 2nd part of the WHW that I ran on at the weekend. I will just link to our photostream at the end which has a lot of nice photos from this part of the route. It shows the WHW in all its glory, in beautiful sunshine and clear views.

We set off from Gourock by ferry to avoid the Golf traffic. We, that was Andreas, a friend who I will run with in the race and who had never ran on trails before (!) and Thomas as our support. Thomas has a lot to learn as a supporter, he was not the cheerist one you could have, in fact he was the opposite! This did not improve after our first lengthy stop in Bridge of Orchy, 13min! Andreas decided on a full gear change and announcesd later he wanted to change his socks at every meeting point. I quickly put an end to this, but could not avoid another long stop of 17min at Kingshouse. It was very hot crossing the Rannoch Moor, but the views were just fabulous. The same at the Devil's staircase. Thomas came up to meet us at the highest point off Rannoch Moor. He took most of the photos and came up to meet us above Kinlochleven as well. We then decided to walk up to the Lairig Mor to do the climb as well as completing 50K in total. This was quite hard, but we were glad we did it and now know how it will feel in a few weeks time. It took us 6:45 to reach Kinlochleven, including over 36min stoppage time. (1:13 to BoO, 40min to Victoria, 1:54 to Kingshouse, 45min to Altnafeadh, 1:33 to Kinlochleven incl 25min for the staircase)

This was one of those rare days out when the weather and the views were just perfect.

Hard to believe that only 24 hours later the WHW family would loose one of its greatest gems.

Rest in peace Dario!

Here are the photos.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Thomas' WHW Race 2009

The short version: Thomas had another DNF, this time he got to the Kingshouse Hotel and had to pull out after 115km, i.e. 2 km further than last year! :-) All the drama and tears had been shed during the week before the race when he realized that due to injury problems there was a big chance that he would not even get to the Beechtree Inn.

The long version starts 3 weeks before the race when - despite a plan of running the Edinburgh Marathon at a slower pace – he could not resist the temptation and arrived at the finish after 2:50 claiming he had felt good all the way and his legs were fine. Only afterwards he could not get back into running properly due to very sore quads. Visits to the sport masseur and the physio kept his hopes up for a speedy recovery, but it was just not happening. Then he picked up a calf strain just by getting up from the table one week before the race and in desperation arranged a last minute visit to the physio for Thursday night, i.e. 36hrs before the start of the race.
In hindsight he should have never started, but we both thought, why not trying to see how far he will get. Maybe, just maybe there might be a miracle and after nearly 3 weeks of total rest everything will fall into place if only his calf is holding up. I tried to prepare myself for the high chance of him pulling out, but was still thinking he could do it. I thought there was a 20% chance of finishing and the crucial moments would be the first 2 stops after the Beechtree, Drymen and then Balmaha. As I am the more optimistic person, I tried to encourage him to give it a go even if it meant stopping after 10 or 20km.
I think deep down he knew it was a long shot and was getting more and more frustrated. So much so that he reached a very low point on the Monday before the race and I was getting really worried. Tears were shed there and then, but we also decided that he could not lose anything by trying. It would probably be worse to call it off and then thinking maybe I could have done it and never knowing.

So we prepared and left for Milngavie and I nearly crashed my new car when a deer decided to run into it on the way to the start. It did make contact with the side of the car but the impact was not too hard as the deer disappeared into the woods again and I stopped to get over the shock and let the others check out the car for any damage! It was o.k. Someone did not want Thomas to run this race I joked while Nancy was thinking of venison steak …

We were so glad when Thomas ran through our first meeting point just after the Beechtree and then Drymen and then Balmaha. I was getting my hopes up, topping him up with Ibuprofen and Paracetamol at regular intervals without exceeding the allowed dose or causing him stomach problems. We decided not to try any stronger pain killers just those that will reduce some inflammation and pain to keep him going. When he ran into Rowardennan with Marco and Sharon I was getting really excited. He then left Rowardennan with Sharon and I hoped that she would keep his mind of his pain by blethering away – which I know she can do! (She can also run very well and indeed won the lady’s title in this year’s race – amazing!)

Then came the long way to Carmyle Cottage and we saw various runners come through, Marco still looking strong, then Sharon (and I asked her where Thomas was and she said he had struggled a bit but was not too far behind), then John (and he seemed a bit more concerned about Thomas and all the pain he was in, which made me worry as John is usually more optimistic than that). Eventually he arrived and we sent him away with some more pain killers (and he did briefly ask if we were not giving him too much Ibuprofen – ever the doubter!). I reassured him he was in the safe hands of a nurse and a doctor and we were keeping an eye on the Ibuprofen intervals!
We saw him at the A82 crossing just before Auchtertyre when he decided to have a sock and shoe change there and then by the road side when it was the only time we did not get the chair out of the car. Nancy also applied a few small Compeeds to various toes and he only had a very brief stop for weighing at the actual wigwams then.
So before we knew it we were in Tyndrum and it looked as if the race was actually on. Yes he seemed to be in a lot of pain in his quads that decided to make themselves noticed again, his calves were sore but the actual calf strain was not getting worse. I bought a new supply of water as we had thought we would wait with making up more electrolyte solution until Tyndrum. I then briefly met him just behind Tyndrum near the railway underpath to give him his goretex jacket as it started to rain. He of course told me off and asked me how I got there and I should conserve my energy as I might need it for being his support runner for the later stages. It is actually very easy to get there from the layby, but I took it as a good sign and started to get excited. When we reached Bridge of Orchy I asked the marshal if a support runner was allowed for the Rannoch Moore and he said yes so I was getting really excited but also worried now about myself and if I had eaten enough throughout the night etc. I changed into my running gear, prepared my backpack, had soup and custard and a gel and could not wait for Thomas to arrive to tell him the good news. He would only need to go to the Victoria Bridge on his own and then I would join him and we would finish this race together. That was the plan!

We sent him off to the Inveroran Hotel and waited for him to come down and I eventually saw him through the binoculars. But what I saw was shocking and heartbreaking at the same time. Tears came to my eyes when I saw him walking down. He looked as if he was in a lot of pain. And I said to Nancy, just look at him, is this really worth it? When he reached us, we sat him down in the chair and I encouraged him to get to Victoria Bridge where I would wait for him and then we could continue together. And he got back up from the chair and reached Victoria Bridge when we started our adventure across the moor.

I had thought that I would be his support runner, i.e. we would walk the uphills and then run on the flat and the downhills. For Rannoch I thought – as I knew he was in pain- we would walk up to the top of the moor, give him a chance to recover and then run into Kingshouse together. Well, what came was the slowest walk I have ever done in my life. By the time I realized that this was not a walking pace that could bring us to Fort William in time, Nancy had left Victoria Bridge and we decided we might as well walk towards Kingshouse rather than turning back to Victoria.

I literally had to pull Thomas up the inclines by walking in front of him and just keep the motion of walking going. We were surrounded by beautiful scenery and the sun even came out and we tried to stop occasionally to take all this in. At the same time we had to keep moving as Thomas was getting cold (in the afternoon sun) despite wearing gloves, a woollen hat and full raingear to protect him from the light wind. This was worrying.
There was a huge gap in the field behind Thomas and we spent a long time seeing no other runner. But then they all arrived to overtake us, one by one. A lot of familiar faces, most of them tried to encourage Thomas to just keep going, one or two warned him to be sensible though, to listen to his body, not to cause more harm. And whenever they had passed we would continue our discussions about our options and the philosophy of it all. Even Jens (who was waiting for Maya at Blackrock Cottage) made a last attempt to encourage Thomas by advising him not to take a long break at Kingshouse as he might not get going again and to try the running motion against the pain as this might numb it eventually. Thomas tried to explain to me that he had run through his pain for a long time already and that it did not work, but he did give it a last go much to the cheers of Jens and other supporters gathered at the Cottage. We only got to the A82 crossing when the running motion had to stop again.

We had also been overtaken by Kenny Valentine (3rd in the Double Marathon). This was his 1st time but he also had an injury problem just before the race, trying to compensate with cross-training. His quads were giving him huge problems and he had them bandaged up. Passing us he said he was just going to walk it now, his target time long gone. He also said to Thomas they both had to come back next year as they knew they could do better. We wished him good luck and off he went disappearing quickly into the distance as his “shuffling” was much faster than Thomas’. Unfortunately when we reached Kingshouse he was also still there and he had had a terrible time walking the last bit into the KH checkpoint. He also decided that he had to pull out there and then.

It took us 4 hours to walk from the Victoria Bridge into Kingshouse!
After resting in the car and having a coffee the decision to pull out was final and Nancy went to the checkpoint to let the marshals know.

We drove to Fort William and were all feeling o.k. in fact. We checked into the hotel just in time to book the last table in the restaurant, had a shower and then took up Thomas’ offer to have a really nice meal. He did not feel like eating and wanted to rest with his feet up, but he would pay. So needless to say we ordered the most expensive dish on the menu (we did not want to but the fillet beef steak just caught our eye!), had an aperitif, wine and a dessert. We felt we deserved it!

So how do I feel about it all?
When we were walking across the moor a lot of things were going through my head. I started to hate ultra-running before I even have completed my first one. All this training, all the support, all the organization – and then something goes wrong just before the race or in the race and everything falls apart.
You are left so frustrated even as a mere observer or supporter. And I did suggest to Thomas while we were crawling along, maybe he should give the WHWRace a rest for a year, not to try it again next year. But what did he say? “But why not? I enjoy it so much and I know I can do it.” So I had to come out with the truth that I did not think I could go through with it again as part of the support crew. That it is emotionally draining to follow your runner’s progress, never mind the physical tiredness and getting everything ready etc, hoping, getting excited and then having to accept a DNF for whatever reason.
Yesterday afternoon I suggested I was going to follow his progress next year from home via his tracker (Are they going to use them?) and he should find a different crew, maybe his running club mates, maybe the guys would be different. I really could not see myself doing it all over again, but then again: if and when he succeeds I really want to be there. Now that does not sound right either, does it? So the verdict remains open on this one.

And then I had a really crazy idea! Maybe I should get us this goblet! Maybe I should have a go? I should try for myself and see what it is all about! What was wrong in my mind?! And then Thomas said if you want to do it next year I will support you! Ha, then he’ll see what it is like to be on the other side! I did ponder over it, the wine in the evening did not help to bring me back to reality, but it turns out Thomas really wants to do it again next year and does not want to be part of a support crew …

Yesterday I did not want to go to the prize giving or the BBQ, but today I went along with Thomas. For him it was never a question. He wanted to be there to see all his running friends, congratulate them and hear how it all went. And I am glad I did go. I felt much better this morning after a night’s rest and it was great to see so many succeeding in their goals, some exceeding them, and also meet those who were very disappointed. It is a great community and it feels special to be part of it. And yes, I will join Thomas at the BBQ and guess what? I am the driver!

Thomas will now take enough time out to let his body recover. This is the plan. We have learned that there is a point where your body tells you that you have overdone it. And it is important to respect your body, to look after it and not exploit it even if your cardiovascular fitness or endurance would allow you to do more.
He will not start a race again when he is injured or when the training has had major flaws, certainly not an ultra race which deserves all the respect in the world and a body that is 100% fit.
If he is not in top form by 8th of August he will not start the DOTH. But this is o.k. As big as these races are, they should not take over your life. It is about enjoying the journey and sometimes there is a diversion or a detour before you eventually reach your goal – or you might end up in a cul-de-sac (?DNF) for a while.
This year it was all about trying, against all odds, and learning that yes, you can push your body, up to 115km in fact, despite training problems, injury; with determination and a big effort you can make 115km, but there is a point when you have to stop.

Walking this fine line between pushing and stopping is very very difficult, but I am amazed how well Thomas knows his body and how well he copes with his cul-de-sacs, better than I do, it seems!

It was courageous for him to start this year’s race (some would call it plain stupid), but for him this year it was the right decision to try. We have both learned a lot from it.

“Better failing while trying then not trying for fear of failing."

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

10 days to go to the WHWR 2009!

We have tried very hard this year to keep it very low key. Last year the build up was crazy (well, what do you expect from a crazy German?). This year we have already had quite a few running highlights and the WHWR was only one of many events on the programme (though admittedly the biggest). Thomas has been in great shape so far. I have tried to blank out the upcoming WHWR and now it is only 10 days to go.
Our support strategy has been simplified this year with gels as the main source of food and a few other options such as soup or the odd sandwich if required. There will only be Nancy and myself as support with me being the runner (or walker) if required at a later stage. We have booked a nice B&B in Fort William (and I am already looking forward to Sunday’s breakfast with pancakes and strawberries – they were delicious when we stayed there before Eddie’s Half). We will only stay for one night and Thomas will be off from the Wednesday before the race to turn around his sleeping rhythm and relax. At least that was the plan…

We had a nice weekend in Edinburgh with great results for both of us in the marathon. And Thomas keeps telling me he felt fine when re ran and was not pushing it. I do believe him. But now his quads are complaining and seize up as soon as he runs more than 3-4K! He is kicking himself telling me he should have run with me. But that did not work either as last year when he ran my 1st marathon with me he was complaining that my slow pace caused his legs to be sore and heavy for quite some time afterwards….

So when I left for Germany last week to spend a long weekend with my family and especially my sister (we were going to an open air concert on Saturday) I thought I left him at home to get on with his planned runs. But when I came back I was greeted by a very long face! He had not run at all due to his quads seizing up.

So 10 days before the run we are at another low. Will he even be ready to start (I think yes!), will his muscles seize up before the Carbeth huts? We will find out, though I don’t think so! His legs need a good rest and they are forcing it on him. Though not planned he is doing a 100% taper, probably not the best idea but there are people who suggest just that…
So between warming his muscles with a microwavable cushion, stretching, then massaging with all sorts of lotions and potions and then icing them, he keeps himself busy. And I am nearly going crazy myself. Where is the icing cushion, where is this cream and that lotion, where is the Ibuprofen? When I get home from work I am not the most patient person, having used all my patience for my patients! :-) But I will need just that if I want to get through the next week!

And it is this time that I hate most about ultra-running. It is bad enough if you train for a marathon and get ill or injured before, but training for months, preparing yourself for an ultra-race and then facing a DNS or DNF is so frustrating. Even just contemplating it is annoying enough and I am getting fed up with this cycle of preparation, training, pre-race taper. I wish it was Sunday 12:00 on 21/6/09 and I knew Thomas had finished and we were waiting for the presentation to begin …

Monday, 1 June 2009

Edinburgh Marathon 2009

Scorching heat, no wind, no shade, overstretched first aid stations, water stations without water - this sums up some of the drama of yesterday's Edinburgh Marathon.

Amongst all this I somehow managed to finish my 2nd marathon in 4:02:44. It is hard to describe what I felt when I crossed that finish line. I was so exhausted and felt worse than after my 1st marathon and somehow I felt the achievement was bigger - to have finished at all and to be so close to my 4-hour mark. And I wasn't even disappointed that I had not broken the 4 hours, I just could not believe that I was so close at all. In short I was and am very happy with my time and I shed a few tears while I was stretching and trying to recover enough to join the queue for my goodie bag!

Here are the details:
10k: 00:53:21
Half: 01:56:21
30k: 02:48:20
Marathon: 04:02:44

At the start I met quite a few people I knew, Neal & Caroline, Glenparkers - the only person I did not see at the start was Thomas. I had lost him on the way from the hotel to the baggage trucks. And as he wanted to take it "easy" I did not think he was right at the front. But I was wrong. This is exactly where he was!
Anyway, at last the start! The first few miles passed and I kept a steady sub 9min/mile pace going. I overtook a Glenpark lady who was struggling with the heat already but as she is part of the club "AYE" (those who have run Edinburgh every year since its start) she was going to take it very easy to ensure she would finish. (She did.)

I started to feel the heat from mile 5 and was making sure I took water at every station and poured some over my head. At mile 8 the first relay changeover appeared and as the club had 2 teams running there were a lot of supporters. This cheered me on and one of the girls who had started her leg, kept me company for about 2M. Then I had to let her go as I could not keep up the pace. She told me that Thomas was going strong and 1st for the club just now. O no, I thought, he was not supposed to do this. Where is Alan who wanted to get under 3hrs for the 1st time? Near mile 10 there were supporters from the club again giving out ice lollies. What the heck, I thought, I might as well take one even if I have not tested this. I was running with 4 gels and only took water at the stations, no lucozade apart from the very end.

Somehow the HM mark appeared and I was on target with 1:56. But I started to struggle, feeling slightly sick whenever I took some water and slowing down. At the second relay changeover one of the very fit and fast Glenpark ladies had pulled out from the marathon for the first time ever and was now cheering us on.
I remember at some point seeing the road stretch in front of me for miles and found that really disheartening. But Iwas now concentrating to spot the fast runners coming back already and was hoping to see Thomas and a few others. And I actually did, one after the other. Thomas passed first looking good, then Alan (not looking good and far away from his sub3), Neal on his own (where was Lorraine who was going for 3:10?). I did not see anyone else, at least not that I noticed. By then I was concentrating on keeping it going, feeling hot, nauseous and trying to postpone the inevitable of walking. I got to the entry of Gosford park and just had to walk, but o no! That felt so much worse and I tried to keep a slow pace. Then there was a toilet stop, a bit of walking again and the first coffeine gel. I saw a few casualties at the roadside by then and had to resist the urge to offer my help. Fist aiders were already there, the runners were all conscious but totally exhausted needing water and shade and I just concentrated on the run.

The worst stretch was from around mile 18 to 21/22 when I had to take a few walking breaks in between. I really thought I might have to walk the whole way back and thought this was going to take ages. The lack of recent long runs (as expected) and the (unexpected) heat were taking their toll. It was here that the water stations for the runners going out to the park had run out of water and a girl from the club later reported that runners started to pick up water bottles thrown away by others to see if any water was left!
Getting to the relay changeover again near mile 22 I was nudged from behind after walking a bit. It was another runner from the club who just said I should keep on running, I looked o.k., he was "spent". Somehow that led me back into a running motion and I don't know how but I was able to keep this up til the end. now doing sub 10min/mile. Seeing mile 23 was such a relief and I knew then I would make it. Mile 24 took ages to appear and by mile 25 I saw I was not so far away from 4hours. Then I saw Debbie and Marco cheering me on and then Thomas before I entered the racecourse. And there it was: the finish line! What a feeling!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Support Debut

This is our new support vehicle! My new Mazda 2 TD, 3 weeks old and never been to the Highlands!

Apologies again to John M who got a lift back from FW to Tyndrum and was forced to have his (very muddy :-)) shoes (attached to his feet) placed on newspaper ...
I guess in 4 weeks time at the WHWR this will not be my priority any more! :-)
The trip up to Lundavra was rather exciting, maybe I should have gone for a 4x4?

Anyway, back to the run. I was supporting Thomas on his last long training run, the "Devil". I was able to catch up with quite a few people along the way, runners and supporters, and enjoyed the day. Here are some photos.

My problem was that I did not feel too good throughout the day and I realized that 2 weeks on I am still not 100% recovered. In fact it felt as if I was getting worse again. I tried to run quite a bit last week to have some mileage to taper down from and I ran 12M on Saturday and got soaked. Probably not the best idea ...

So then where does this leave me in 6 days' time? I have no idea really, but I have changed my goal from a sub4 hour marathon to just completing it. This is only my 2nd marathon so I guess getting round the whole distance in one piece is a good goal. Trying to beat my 1st time of 4:23 would also be good. And getting anywhere near to 4hrs would be great. Sub4 hours was possible 2 weeks ago, I doubt I will be able to do this at the moment.
In fact I have missed the 2 long training runs that I am told are important not to hit the wall etc, so I fully expect to struggle towards the end. And to be honest I have to wait and see how the week goes to decide if it is sensible to start at all...

The Edinburgh Marathon is a huge club outing with a full bus going with supporters, runners and 2 relay teams. The evening will be rounded off with a meal at a local Indian. So it would be great to run and have a PB to celebrate ... Still dreaming.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

No running and a DNS

Today is the Cateran Trail Race where Thomas was due to start. This time it is a DNS for him which probably would have been a DNF if we had not cancelled our trip to Glenspittal.
He has not been 100% for the past 10 days with headaches, increased heart rate etc. I was struck by "the virus" 2 days after the Dunfermline HM. Only I have been in bed for the past 3 days and can't remember when I have felt this ill. There was not even any thought of running, but I am now getting concerned as the Edinburgh Marathon is only 2 weeks away!
Anyway, on Friday morning when Thomas woke up yet again with headaches, dizziness and "not feeling right" we decided that it was probably not a good idea to attempt a 55M race, not even as a training run. So we called it off. A shame really as he had spent hours to prepare his route maps the day before and we had been looking forward to exploring an area of Scotland we had not visited before. But a very sensible decision to give us both the chance to fully recover and be ready for the weeks ahead.
My training plan has now fallen to pieces and I am getting worried about EDI. I should be doing my last long run tomorrow, 32K. If I can walk 6K I will be happy! But there is not much I can do just now. If I recover by Monday and get back to work I can maybe start running again. I should be able to finish the marathon even if it is not in my goal time of sub 4H. So I'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Dunfermline City Half Marathon

To cut a long story short: No PB for me today. I finished in 1:52:07. This is 30sec slower than my PB from Inverness in March and over 2 min out of my goal to get under 1:50.
Thomas ran with me to try and help me get under 1:50. He has not been feeling too well after the Fling and his return from Germany, probably a virus, (Swineflu he thinks, but as we have been briefed in detail I could just stop him from alerting NHS 24 and raising the swine flu alarm! :-) Men ...) so he offered to keep me company.
What on earth made me think that the Dunfermline Half was a good course to pick for an attempt at 1:50?? Maybe because it is called "City" HM and it is the Scottish National HM Championships where I thought you would pick a flat course? But no, wrong and wrong again! If I called Inverness HM "hilly" I do apologize now as this seemed a walk in the park in hindsight! Please see above course profile! Maybe lame excuses, I know, but I did feel I had a sub 1:50 in me before I started the race today!
The course consists of 2 laps starting and finishing in the lovely Pittencrieff Park. We started with a 5min delay as the major had a rather long speech prepared which kept on going and going. After over enthusiastic applause when everyone thought she had finished, she continued and the crowd got rather restless listening to the problems of the economic downturn and the withdrawal of sponsors! Is this what you want to hear just before a race??
Anyway, we got on our way hitting the first steep incline not far from the start. The sun was shining and it was rather hot. After 2-3M it became obvious for me that this was not my PB course. I felt really low at that point, sweating and panting away on the inclines and managing to hiss out a few swear words. Luckily only Thomas could hear them! I was so disappointed that I am sure I would not have tried to continue as strong as I could under these circumstances if Thomas hadn't been there. He kept saying don't worry this is only a training run, and a very good and hard one indeed, that will set you up nicely for Edinburgh etc. When the first water station came I was desperate for water and Thomas poured the good Highland Spring (still water this time!) right over my head! Ah, that felt great.
I kept working away and eventually we approached the park again after yet another even steeper incline. I just thought to myself how will you get up this one at the end of your next lap? I was sure I was going to walk it.
Somehow finishing the 1st lap and knowing what lay ahead helped me to focus (even though I knew it was not getting any flatter). I had also resigned myself to the fact that there was no way I could beat the 1:50 today and I just wondered if I would stay under 1:55. So the 2nd lap felt better psychologically and Thomas was pleased that I kept working at a steady effort even if the pace changed depending on the steepness of the inclines. The downhills were not helping too much as some of them were so steep that my legs just could not turn over any faster to make good use of them. But from mile 10 onwards I started to overtake a few runners on all these inclines. When I approached "Mount Everest" as one runner called it before he changed into walking mode I did think about walking too. But when I mentioned it to Thomas he just gave me a look that made me continue in my running mode. So another club runner left behind and I felt good about it! The last mile was a bit faster again as we came back into the park to the finish. I even highfived 3 kids as by then I was not bothered too much about the time and was so glad that the end was insight!
I am still right on schedule for my sub-4hour marathon which "demanded" a 1:53 HM, but as I was faster in March before I even started my marathon training I had set myself a different target. So considering the course (and the heat) I am actually quite pleased with this as a hard training run. How glad was I that Thomas had decided to coach me along anyway. Though I usually am quite happy running alone and can't chat in races anyway, his comments and support really helped me focusing. I would probably still be walking along the route now!
The race as such was in fact one of the best organized races I have done so far. It was such a friendly event with the park pavilion providing ample changing facilities, a drop bag service, a cafe and friendly marshalls along the way. A nice medal, T-Shirt, Mars bar, wine gums and water at the end were all appreciated. And as it was so warm and sunny we just sat in the park for an hour after the race enjoying a coffee and chatting to other runners. So all in all a great race as long as you know what to expect on the course!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Thomas in 7th Heaven

The headline is "borrowed" from the Glenpark club website. They were first yesterday to blog about Thomas' amazing run in the Montane Highland Fling 2009 on Saturday, 25th of April where he finished in 7th overall position and won the 2nd male vet prize with a time of 8h:20min:40sec.

If you read his contemplations before the Fling you know that he did not think he would get under the Top 10. His optimistic target was 8h:45min and his suppport schedule was geared to this. While in real life not the most optimistic person, he always seems to know what time he is capable of in races if everything is going to plan and right enough his arrival times in Drymen, Balmaha and Rowardennan were exactly on his 8:45 schedule to the minute! He arrived 8min ahead of schedule in Beinglas, was 17min ahead by the time he reached Carmyle Cottage, 22min ahead at the A82 crossing and 27min at Auchtertyre. He changed into his Glenpark shirt there and I sent him off telling him to try and catch Richie who was 2min ahead for 3rd male vet place. I found out later that Richie is nowhere near the vet category (Sorry!), but George Cairns informed me that he had just turned 40! So when I heard Thomas name being called for 2nd vet prize I was very surprised as I thought he had missed out.
This report really is a bit chaotic as there seems to be so much to write about.
Thomas looked great throughout the race but really got stronger in the 2nd half. It was such a great day for him. For me Beinglas was the most difficult support stop as expected. I carried a very heavy bag and a rucksack to the farm with any possible item he might need including 2 spare pairs of shoes, first aid box,bottles of water, soup etc. He arrived, grabbed 2 gels, a new bottle and was off again. The lady waiting for someone else just said, well it took you longer to lay it all out than his actual stop time. Thank you, at least someone is noticing!

I was busy the whole day switching between supporting and medical roles. But in fact it was very quiet on the medical side. No problems in Drymen or Balmaha, a few smaller ones at the end in Tyndrum. I removed a tick, gave out some Paracetamol, some antacids and looked at a blood blister. And of course I glanced my eye over the one guy who drew a lot of attention to himself with his face being covered in old dried blood. He had banged his head in the A82 underpath and must have had quite a laceration, but by the time he arrived the bleeding had long stopped and he really just needed a shower!
At other times I was helping out with opening beer bottles, giving out champagne, supervising kids at the walkie talkie, finding the right drop bag, ensuring no runner squeezes past without giving his race number etc. I really enjoyed the day and meeting lots of other marshals. And of course I got a brilliant Montane jacket for it!
The only time the 2 roles nearly clashed were at the finish. I had just arrived and expected Thomas to arrive any minute when I was called to see someone in the cottage. Luckily there was another medic, Donald, who was already on his way in so I left him to it. I thought if they needed extra help they would call me, which they didn't. So I was free to see Thomas crossing the finish line. Hurrah!

I saw lots of other runners finish, some after difficult runs like Marco, John and Ian, others with great times like Neal and Mike T. And also Sharon. She is such an incredible runner, never looks as if she has just run an ultra and so fast! She finished as 3rd female. Congratulations! Some never managed to cross the finish like Jon and I think Davie Bell who I last saw at Balmaha. I hope you can get over this quickly and concentrate on your goals ahead! We were thinking of you. And then we were all waiting for Caroline to finish her 1st ultra race. What a great moment that was when she approached the finish line. I was rather emotional myself, but luckily was called away to look at a very bloody and taped up toe. That certainly stopped me crying even if it brought tears into the eyes of the patient! No, it didn't actually, she was very brave!

We left Tyndrum at around 8.30PM and though I had not run at all I felt exhausted. My legs were burning and my back sore from literally standing on my feet for more than 12 hours. I had entered a 10K race for the next day (Balfron 10K) as part of my marathon preparation but it slowly dawned on me that I'd rather had a VERY long lie in! So the plan was to run a 10K race on my own along the promenade the next day with Thomas as my race official, water station and support! We woke up and watched the London Marathon and I got ready to go for a new 10K PB. I was aiming for under 50min for the 1st time. I was as nervous as in a real race and set off with a Garmin strapped to my wrist into 5k of headwind. I was working really hard and to cut a long story short managed to finish in 49min10sec! So a new "unofficial" 10K PB for me and my first time under 50min. I was very pleased with this and am on target so far for the EDI Marathon.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Round and round Cumbrae (30K)

I did my long run today instead of Sunday when we will be in Huntly for a Silver Wedding Ceilidh. As I was off and the weather promised to be sunny I headed off to Largs to catch the ferry across to Cumbrae. I had planned to run around Cumbrae twice to give me my scheduled 30K run. Those of you who have cycled around it know that one round is 10Miles. On my second round I headed across the hill from Millport down to the ferry point which is 2K shorter. So this gave me exactly 30K. It took me 3:06 with a pretty steady pace and 1:37 for the first 10M round.

While it was very sunny today the easterly wind was very strong! It pushed me along during my first 9K until I got into Millport and the headwind hit me. It was battling with the elements indeed! Millport itself was very busy with families and groups of kids, but the road around the island was very quiet, a few people pushing their bikes into the headwind as it was so strong! I stopped at the tearoom at Fintry Bay during my 2nd round as I was in desperate need of salty crisps and plain water. I feel so at home on this island not only because we got married there 4 years ago and spent 4 fabulous days on the islands with lots of our guests, but because we have walked, cycled and even skated round the island numerous times. I had never run around it though. There are lots of great memories at every corner and the scenery is just amazing. The yellow broom was out in full bloom and the smell of it is really nice. Anyway, I had a great run despite recent Achilles tendon troubles. During the past 2 weeks I have done no speed or hill sessions and have stayed on the flat. While I was very careful not to increase my weekly mileage too fast, I guess I was less careful about introducing hill runs!

10 days before the Fling peace and calm has been restored in the Loehndorf home! After last weekend's drama with Tom's painting injury we are now looking forward again to the start of the Fling. Besides my support duties for Thomas and the excitement that comes with it (!) I am getting ready for my other role as medical back-up. I have restocked my first-aid box and made sure there are enough butterfly stitches for John K and anyone else who decides to take a tumble down Conic Hill or elsewhere! With my long run done I am looking forward to a nice weekend away, a great Ceilidh and maybe a few shorter runs somewhere in Aberdeenshire. Needless to say Thomas will not do much Ceilidh dancing! I will also have to lie low for the foreseeable future regarding DIY jobs for him! I only waited 3 years for the door to be painted! :-)
(In case you are wondering, yes, I am useless at DIY myself!)

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Rowardennan-Inversnaid-Rob Roy’s Cave and back (25KM, 16Miles)

Today I went for my long run on the WHW. By Friday I was still not able to run properly so I was not sure if I would just walk the 25K or be able to run part of it. Luckily after the weather was so bad on Saturday we decided to postpone our run until today. We had actually walked to the car yesterday but the wind and rain felt so uncomfortable that we went back inside! And luckily for us today the sun was shining and we both had a brilliant day. So had hundreds of other people though – the WHW was as busy as I have never seen it, walkers, a few runners, groups of kids and teenagers, families, day tourists etc.

I had dropped Thomas off in Milngavie as he was going to run from there to Rowardennan. When I got to Rowardennan car park there was no space left! I then spotted a car that had occupied 2 spaces and the driver and his friend were just taking photos by the water. I asked politely if he could move his car so that I could park next to him. But no, this nice gentleman pointed out that there were lots of other spaces where in fact there are bolders and trees that might look like a space from the distance. “I would not say so if it was not true …” he pointed out probably having never been to Rowardennan car park before. I had though and already circled around it at least once today. I squeezed onto a grass verge hoping that the car would not get stuck in the mud afterwards. I then met these 2 gentlemen again just at the start of my run and needless to say I did not return their greeting.

Anyway, the run turned out to be great. My legs were o.k. so I could run on the flat and downhill sections and walked the uphills. The sun was shining and it felt great to be out there. The Loch was magical especially when the path came so close to the water and you could hear the water lapping against the shore. The views across to the hills were fabulous. My right Achilles region gave me some minor problems and I was trying not to walk uphill on my toes but to use my whole foot.

This was my second time on this section. Four years ago I walked it as part of our Honeymoon, then I was on my own as well as Thomas had decided at Rowardennan he could ran up Ben Lomond while I continued on the WHW. So he handed me his backpack ( it was only a daypack admittedly) and off he went. I should have realized then what I got myself into! But by then it was too late anyway!:-)

I passed Inversnaid and ran to Rob Roy’s Cave to get my 25K distance. On my way back I stopped outside Inversnaid, had a Snickers and started my run back. The Snickers was a bit too much and I was not feeling too great initially. Slowly it got better and by then I was looking out for Thomas who was going to run towards me from Rowardennan. I wanted to make sure I was not walking when he saw me! I also ran out of fluids and was really thirsty. This is the first time this happened, before I always had plenty left and got told off for not drinking enough. I reached the main forest track, had eaten both my gels and was hoping Thomas would get to me soon as he would probably have some water. 3km from the car park he appeared just when I was running a downhill part – brilliant timing! I drank some water and felt better. We finished strongly, passing Karen on her last long run before the Fling. She was on her way to Inversnaid. I arrived back at the car park after 3hrs and 50min. The Oak Tree was far too busy so we headed back home to our favourite Chinese.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Fame at last!

Thomas is becoming famous, well at least in Greenock!
(Greenock Telegraph from 30/3/2009)

My legs are still recovering from Sunday’s run – and I only did 23miles! How can you lot run again the next day? My quads are still so sore that I am only walking along the seafront at the moment and just did a 10KM walk/jog for the 1st time since Sunday. I am sure I was in more agony on Monday than a lot of the patients I saw! I should have just gone to my doctor and asked for a sickline!

Anyway, I really enjoyed the run on Sunday, the weather, the scenery, the company. By then I was still on a high and the DOMS hadn’t set in. On our way back Thomas and I had a bit of an argument as I informed him I had decided to do all my long runs for the Edinburgh marathon out on the WHW as I had enjoyed it so much. But what did he say? No, that was not a good idea as the marathon is flat and I have to do some of the long runs on a flatter surface. And I thought he wanted to get me into trail running! So now that I enjoy it I should not do it?:-)

By Monday morning I started to understand his reasons, by Tuesday even more! As I said I am still recovering and my quads have never been so sore in my life. So I guess he was right, because what is the point doing such a run every weekend and then not being able to do the rest of the programme during the week?! So I will keep to the flatter courses during the latter stages of my marathon training as I really hope to get some speed training in during the week and get a good time. For this weekend though we have compromised as he wants to get out for a long run on the WHW in preparation for the Fling. I will attempt to run/walk from Rowardennan to Inversnaid and back, that gives me my planned mileage of about 15M. Apparently even though it is up and down it is nothing compared to Sunday’s downhills. So a good gentle mix is what I should be doing. Thomas will probably run from Balmaha to Inversnaid and back.

Ah, and I have picked up a “peripheral sural neuropathy” – at least that is what my colleague and I have agreed on. BEFORE Sunday’s run (in fact while I was resting on Saturday in preparation of Sunday’s long run) my right heel started to become numb. It is still numb now and I was a bit worried on Sunday if I could run properly, but it didn’t hinder my balance. So on Tuesday when it was still there I got one of my colleagues to check it out. It seems to be only superficial, reflexes etc are all intact so I will live! Terrible hypochondriacs these doctors! I’ll just have to ignore it until it is gone, I guess.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Kingshouse to Fort William (23M, 36Km)

Yesterday was my longest run ever on the WHW. It was a great day, though today I can hardly walk …

I was expecting really bad weather having looked at the forecast all week and was preparing myself for the worst. But when we got up on Sunday morning it actually looked fine and I even packed my sunglasses! We arrived very early at 8am and waited at the small spa market next to the actual route. Nobody arrived. When I went to the toilet eventually I saw 2 people who looked like runners and it turned out they were all gathering in the big car park at the Green Welly Stop. With 3 min to spare I took the car round there for people to leave bags in the boot as I was going to support until Kingshouse.

The main group set off and I took Caroline to Bridge of Orchy where she wanted to start her run. She was joined by Ian and Phil. They set off and Debbie & Cairn arrived to support Marco. Then Lucy Colqhoun appeared with her dog and ran up the hill behind BoO. She soon came back as her dog had gone on strike. She continued on her own after dropping the dog off and was later caught by Marco & Thomas. Yes, she was caught but only because she seemed to be out for an easy long run being unaware that 2 mad men were trying to catch her on their only chance to do so. They arrived together at KH and all looked quite happy. Thomas stopped at KH having ran with Marco most of the time. This was great news as his hamstring strain seems to be settling. Before the run he was not sure if he was going to go across Rannoch but he felt good and had a great run.

I was ready to start my run after Caroline had arrived. The weather was holding nicely. We set off onto the small road behind the hotel and managed to run along the diversion that lead to the main road and onto the other side of the A82. Yes, the other side of the road! There were WHW signs there but there was hardly any path so we ended up running on the main road. We were ridiculed for this later by the WHW veteran runners for wanting to take a shortcut, avoiding the climb etc. I hope this possible confusion will be sorted until race day. Any new path building should be finished by then.

By the time we arrived at the bottom of the staircase Caroline felt really unwell. She had a good run until KH, then ate a joghurt and started to feel bad. It also turned out she had hardly drank anything since she started. That was worrying. We walked up the staircase and took a short break at the top. By that time the Gaviscon had helped the sickness and she managed to sip more water and eat. The views from the top and in fact all along the route were fantastic. On our way downhill Richie overtook us. We chatted a bit, he ran on and we continued into Kinlochleven.

There Caroline took this plastic bag out of the boot with a rather disgusting looking content. It turned out to be power food though, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. We continued up out of Kinlochleven, were overtaken again by Ritchie who had gone into the pub and made our way uphill. The first half to Lundavra was rather a lot uphill. We walked a fair bit and the path kept winding its way up and up, but then had a great 2nd part down into Lundavra. Thomas was again waiting for us. He realized at the end of the day how tiring support can be with all the driving and waiting for people to arrive etc. So well done for giving it a go. He asked me if I was going to continue as my target had been a minimum of 13M. But I was still feeling o.k. and looking forward to finishing with Caroline so off we went.
This section seemed fairly short, the forest was very enjoyable, the path was so soft underfoot compared to all the stones and small rocks before and it was a great feeling to come out at the top above FW. The highway forest track was shocking though. What are they doing up there?

Then we ran the whole way into FW which I found the hardest. I was getting tired and maybe had not eaten enough (just 4 r 5 gels and half a sandwich) and it seemed to take ages until the Brave Heart Car Park appeared. There we were greeted by Thomas, John, Neal and Harvey. Thomas told me they expected us to crawl into the car there and then, but no we ran all the way to the leisure centre. That was a great feeling both to see Caroline doing her longest ran ever, 35M, and doing my longest distance on the WHW, 23M.

So thanks to Caroline for her company and the chat along the way, a lot of talk about Africa and upcoming trips! And thanks to Thomas for swapping roles at KHH!

Monday, 23 March 2009

10 weeks to go...

10 weeks to go until my first serious race this year, the Edinburgh Marathon!

My 10-week-training-plan is starting now and I will be aiming to get under 4hrs in my 2nd marathon. Compared to last year I am already in much better shape having a lot more miles under my feet with long runs on the WHW, speed work and a couple of smaller races with new PBs. So I think I am on the right track at the moment. My plan has been modified slightly by Thomas to take into account my better fitness and maybe even get closer to 3:50 …. He is a very ambitious coach!

Also I am now an official member of the Highland Fling Crew! I have been asked to be part of the medical back-up team that Murdo hopes to station at all the checkpoints. Thomas was keen for me to do it though he did not really want to lose me as his support either. So we have come to an arrangement that we had discussed earlier. I wasn’t going to be at the Beechtree Inn this year anyway. I was also getting worried about going to Rowardennan and back because of the huge number of runners and support crews that will be out on this tiny road. So now it is final that Thomas will use the drop-bag-service (let’s hope it will work!) for Rowardennan. I will make my way to Drymen as soon as I have dropped off Thomas at the start before 7am. I will then be manning “my station” at Drymen until Thomas has passed through (so I will see a lot of you 6am starters and the faster 7am runners). I will then head to Balmaha, my next and last station where I will stay until the last runner has passed through, i.e. around 10.30/11.00am.Then I will make my way to Beinglas and just be Thomas’ supporter again until the finish unless someone needs assistance when I happen to be around. There will be a different doctor stationed at Beinglas for most of the time as well.
I am really looking forward to being involved in the Fling in a more official role. And I hope all you fit runners out there will still be in excellent shape when you pass through Balmaha.
Well then, now I don’t only have to worry about my number one runner but also about over 300 other runners! And that on my day off! :-)

Sunday, 15 March 2009

GLA-EDI-Double Marathon 14/03/08

Yesterday I was back in supporting mode when Dirk (last year’s well trained Devil supporter) and I set out to support Thomas to the finish of the 1st GLA-EDI-Double Marathon. I must admit that for the first time I think I would have preferred to be running! Not necessarily this race but in general. And Thomas only has himself to blame for this as he has infected me with the running bug.

It didn’t help either that he had been a bit tense the days before the race, realizing that the recent races had taken their toll and his legs took their time to recover especially from last week’s HM. He even took 2 whole days off running and immediately showed signs of withdrawal… He was even grumpier than usual when he had to get up early yesterday morning. He got all his gear ready and gave us – again – strict orders not to do anything that could get him disqualified. He was following the race rules by the letter after checking with the organizers in an email, i.e. carrying all your fluid supplies, only refilling at the checkpoints with whatever you leave with the organizers at the start, carrying all your compulsory gear including torch and space blanket. It turned out later that most competitors did the same with bag packs on their shoulders, but there was the odd one who did carry only a rather small bump bag getting his bottle exchanged regularly by his support at various points …

Anyway, at the start we saw Maggs who was first to register. We then saw Lucy Colquhoun and I said to Dirk, this was going to be the winner – unless Jezz Bragg was also turning up. And of course I was right, but I guess that was not hard to predict! She won the race in a great time of 6h: 50min. Though she was followed closely by Kenny V initially and then John B until just after Linlithgow when she managed to shake John off. Well done Lucy! Back to Thomas though…

We saw him for the first time just before Kirkintilloch when we were on a bridge to take photos. He was gesticulating something to us so we headed off to catch him again at Twechar just before the 1st checkpoint (CP), but he just wanted to tell us that his fellow runner was Crazy German No 2, Andre Reibig, incidentally running in long skins as well … (Note to Andre in case he reads this: Thomas is known as "Crazy German")

There we also met Debbie and Cairn, Marco who was running the first 20M of the route on his own and Kenny V’s family. Off we went to Bonnybridge where Thomas kept complaining about his sore legs and how heavy they felt. I actually expected him to stop somewhere behind Falkirk as he had said before that if his legs were not right he would not push it. Though I thought that this might not be good psychologically even if it was only meant to be a “training run”. We rushed off to the Falkirk Wheel and saw him coming up the hill when we pulled into the car park. So we sprinted across to take some photos and were greeted by a much cheerier Thomas, smiling for the first time. The reason was that friends of ours had come to the Wheel to cheer him on; well at least someone can cheer him up even if it is not me! :-)

We then decided to go to CP 3 at Linlithgow. And I am glad we did as it turned out that the energy drinks that the runners had given to the organizers at the start to be handed at the various CPs were stuck in traffic! So we double-checked with the marshals that it was o.k. for us to refill Tom’s bladder (hydration bladder that is) and when Thomas was still reluctant to let me do it after he arrived, I confirmed this with the marshall again. In the end he was in and out of the CP in no time and he was surprised how little time the refill took. By this time Thomas was in 4th place, Crazy German No2 nowhere to be seen. Thomas was about 8min behind Kenny who was in 3rd place.

At a CP:

As he seemed to be running on and did not mention stopping after 30M we decided to see him every 30-40min from now on to cheer him on and give him an update on how far to the next CP, how far in total etc as his watch had stopped working at some point. It was then that we started to tell him how far he was from 3rd place. He gained 2 min on Kenny by our next stop and another 2min by the following one. I really thought he could do it and catch him, but in the end Thomas was unable to close the remaining gap of 4min that separated him from Kenny. But as we later found out Kenny was on a mission himself. Apparently Thomas had overtaken him in the Fling last year after Inversnaid so there was no way he would let that happen again.

Our last stop was 5M from the finish and we shouted out to John who was in 2nd place “only 5M to go” and he shouted “whaat? 5M? Oh no!” We got a similar reaction from Thomas later and it turned out that they must have been given rather positive distances at the last CP so expected to be much closer to the finish … So much for the truth, but we can learn and next time we will say “just over 4M to go” …

Thomas finished in 7h: 22min and was delighted. He did not expect to finish at all and getting such a good time despite his sore legs was great news. He does not mind to be just 4min behind 3rd place and never thought that he might be so close to a “podium finish” anyway on the day. Given another day and better legs I am sure he would have been up there.

At the end of the day Thomas invited us for a meal at our favourite Chinese. It is only a 5min walk from our flat but given the circumstances we had to drive and park in front of it as he was unable to walk properly!