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!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Monday, 9 March 2009

Inverness HM – Birthday Run – 2 new PBs

8th of March is Tom’s birthday and this one was special! He was about to enter the M45 age group.

So we decided to pick a nice race that we could both run on the day and maybe, maybe he could get a good position in his new age group. Well I was hoping for a win to be honest. And to get the only slight disappointment of the weekend out of the way, this was not to be. Instead he came 2nd in his new M45 group as “his” prize was snatched up by someone else. But not to worry, we both came home with new PBs and Thomas also with a few other presents! :-)

We picked Inverness as we quite like it up there and would be able to stay in a friend’s flat until Monday. So after a leisurely drive up north and a stop in the as usual overcrowded Mountain CafĂ© in Aviemore, we found out that the race route actually passed the flat we were staying in. So we drove along the route a bit and realized that this was NOT a flat race at all. In fact there were quite a few uphills in admittedly nice surroundings. Well, as this was just a run out of my general training and my actual 10-week EDI Marathon training plan has not even started yet, I was initially just hoping to get under 2hours. My PB was 1:55:29 from Glasgow last year. Seeing the route I thought that might be slightly difficult.

I woke up the next morning to snow showers! Horizontal snow and sleet showers in fact. We set off to the sports centre to register fairly early due to announced road closures. I was getting cold just by waiting in the sports hall and the closer it got to the starting time people put layers upon layers, some even pinned their numbers to their goretex jackets! Nobody really wanted to leave the hall but eventually the organizers threw us out to get the race started. For me leaving that sports hall was probably the toughest bit. I would have never even contemplated going for a run in this weather and here I was just in a thin layer trying to run a HM! “Character building” as the newspaper stated today and I think I have done well just by going to the start.

Thomas had put “no pressure at all” on me by telling me to “get him a PB for his birthday”! And I should take risks and start fast as long as it was flat so I would not lose too much time on the uphills! Well, I set off just being glad to get moving and felt surprisingly fine. I had a few mile splits in my head, under 9min/m to stay under 2hrs, 8:45 to get near to 1:55 and 8:23 to get under 1:50. Arriving at the first mile marker my watch showed 8:00 and I was shocked. That was way too fast. Crossing the bridge and turning against the strong headwind soon sorted this out and the next mile was somewhere near 8:30, much better I thought, just try to keep it up on the flat stretches. I unfortunately don’t have the exact splits as in the end my hands were so cold that I could not operate my watch properly and somehow pressed a few buttons and the data got lost. I just know that when the first uphill stretch started I had a mile with 9:11 that really messed up the time and another one with 9min. I did also have a lot of fast ones between 8:15 and 8:30 and when I reached the point where I knew it was downhill or flat from now on after mile 9 I knew I could beat my PB. I even briefly dreamt of getting under 1:50 reaching mile 12 near 1:42/1:43 but that proved impossible with again strong headwinds on the last mile and by then icy cold hands. I had taken off my gloves after mile2 but by now was unable to get them back on as my fingers were useless. I overtook a few runners/walkers and tried to stick with one guy, but the way to the finish did stretch quite a bit.
In the end I just thought keep running and try not to collapse before the finish and eventually crossed the line in a chip time of 1:51:39! 3min 50sec of my previous time! And 21st in my age group (M40)! Incredible! Thomas took 30sec of his PB finishing in 1:18:31 in 16th position overall and 2nd M45. So well done to him and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

We went out for a nice meal in the evening and then drove back via the east side of Loch Ness towards Fort Augustus this morning checking out the Loch Ness Marathon route and onwards to Fort William. Now while this is a spectacularly scenic route, this one is really hilly! I guess compared to this even the Inverness HM route seems “flat” in the end. Not a marathon that I will enter in a hurry!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Tyndrum-Kingshouse Hotel

What a great run I had today on the WHW - and as a surprise even company!
I had planned to run just from Tyndrum to KHH by myself instead of like the main group from the Drover's. That would give me a distance of 30K, plenty for my training calendar.

So Thomas and I dropped the car off at KHH and thanks to John and him taking care of the important transport issue got a lift down to the start. That way I could access all my dry clothes after my return as I was going to have to wait for a couple of hours until everyone else would arrive. I found out that I would have company in the van as George - Ian's friend and support runner - wanted to do a shorter distance as well. I was a bit worried that I would keep him back or be out of my depth to keep up with him, but it turned out to be a great run in great company and the time flew by.

He started to run up the hill behind Tyndrum and I tried to keep up but then remembered that Thomas had told me to walk it and I just admitted there and then that I would have to walk the uphills. And that was fine. So from then on we walked the uphills and occasionally when it wasn't as steep George would encourage me to run slowly. That way I did run a few bits that I would have walked. We kept quite a good pace going on the straights and downhills, again slightly faster than I would have run, but I felt comfortable with it. As George knows the route very well he kept telling me about the bits that were due to come and how we would run or walk them and that was helpful.

He has so much experience in running and supporting and kept telling me all these interesting stories that before I knew it we had reached Bridge of Orchy in 1h10min, much faster than I had expected. I even forgot to take on my first gel after 30min and took it eventually in BoO after a short toilet stop.
I kept sipping away at my Lucozade and thought that I was drinking quite well, but it turned out later that I had only taken on just over 500mls the whole time! Ups, I need to watch my fluid intake I guess. I had a few jelly babies and "Vital" biscuits going uphill behind BoO and took another gel near the Forrest Lodge and that was me. Probably not quite enough if I had to keep going after KHH, but it was o.k. today. We reached the top of Rannoch Mor and started our downhill. This felt really good and we came to just above Blackrock Cottage at 3h31min and we thought, well can we make it under 3h45min? We then started to charge down the hill but the hotel looked closer than it actually was. But George kept the pace going and I felt good and just kept sprinting along and we arrived at the KHH carpark after 3h42min! Great!

We got ourselves dried off and warmed up in the Lounge looking out for other runners. The first runner home from the main group was Marco. I then met little Cairn for the 1st time who was out for his 1st support drive with Debbie and we all headed into the bar. The pea soup and chips were good!
Thomas had a good run as well so all in all a great day out for both of us.