Monday, 26 December 2011


So with 2012 approaching very fast, a quick recap of 2011 before my full attention is needed for the New Year.

I had a great year running wise, with new PBs in 5M, 10K, HM and Marathon, but what was more important was getting under sub 1:50 for the HM and sub 4:00 for the Marathon for the first time. I had worked hard for this in the past couple of years and finally achieved it and it felt great!

Thomas also had a great year so on the supporting side it was a good year too, really. Well, if I leave aside his dramatic delayed finish at the Fling and his knee operation! But running for Scotland in the 100K, a new sub-18 WHW PB and a fantastic 2nd place in the Devil were brilliant highlights for me too. And worth all the hard support work.

There were a few club races, club outings to Glen Massan and to the Bute Highland Games, lots of long runs at the weekend with the girls and more recently the XC relays and individual races with a Bronze medal in the West District for the Glenpark Lady Vets.

On a more personal level, we had lots of visitors and it was nice to welcome friends and family into our home and spend a wee while together. This was one reason I did not even think of running any ultra race this year as I knew I would not have the time or wish to put in enough training. Family occasions in Germany including my parents Golden Wedding and my nephew’s 1st day at school were memorable occasions. Back here there were more memorable occasions to attend, including Lee and Dave’s engagement and Helen and Richie’s wedding.

There was not much inline skating this year as once I knew we were not going to the Berlin Marathon there was not much point putting skating before running. This will be tackled again next year though as my eyes are set on a new PB with my new racing skates!

Finished the year off with an ultra in fact, the Yamaa Trust Winter Ultra, 28M to set myself up for 2012! The Marcothon was also taken up to get my mind focussed on one thing and one thing only! RUNNING! :-)

Why? Because in 2012 I will attempt the West-Highland-Way Race, 154Km or 95M from Milngavie to Fort William, a route that took us 6 days when we walked it nearly 7 years ago for our honeymoon. I am slowly getting excited though most days I try to push it out of my head that my name is on the start list. But I know once 2012 has begun, I will become focussed – and scared …! Of course I have a great source of advice available 24/7. There is just the small matter of adjusting the pace and weekly miles to my level in order not to freak me out completely!

I will also do the Fling and the Devil and hope to complete the Triple Crown. In fact I am really looking forward to the Devil’s as my brother and his family will be here and will be supporting me. For the WHW Race I have a superb support team in place with Katrina and Nancy doing the 1st night shift and Yvonne and Heather from Glenpark doing the 2nd one. I will do the Fling with drop bags, looking forward to it already as there are also 2 Glenpark relay teams and Katrina running her 1st ultra!

So, once I have finished this week’s work, we will see the New Year in with a run on the Gleniffer Braes in great company. I will then head off to Germany for a week for my niece’s 18th. When I am back the Ultra-year will begin in earnest! Bring it on!

I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year, may you take on your dreams, and may some of them come true!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

How did that happen?!

Did I not see it coming? Where were the signs to warn me?

But it is true. I must admit it. I have indeed applied for a place in next year’s WHW Race!

All I know is that I already had a very experienced support team in place before I even knew if I was going to enter. And there it starts, I can’t possibly disappoint them already, can I?

Well, I think I saw it coming though. The signs were there at this year’s race. Maybe even at last year’s. Having supported Thomas together with Nancy for the past 4 years I was very certain in the first 2 years that I was never going to try myself. Having done the Devil and then the Fling, by the time his 3rd attempt was near (and he was injured pre-race and all the drama around that), I was ready to just “take his place” and finally get that goblet, but luckily he did that himself. Not that I would have been allowed into the race at that stage but the first temptation was there. Then when everyone was getting ready to start at midnight in Milngavie this year, and I saw the first-timers, this thought crept into my head: I just wonder if I could do it too?! And throughout the weekend when you support and talk to others while waiting, I noticed that I did not categorically deny any comments that saw me running the following year. Big mistake!

So a few weeks after the race (with a 2nd goblet in the cabinet) at a post-race get-together Nancy and Katrina decided they were going to be my support team for next year’s WHWR. Being super experienced, they were ready to go! Oh, wait, I don’t even know if I am going to enter!

A few months down the line, I decided I was definitely going to do the Fling and the Devils in 2012. So if I was training for the Fling anyway, why not try and give the WHWR a go? And that is where I am at. I will be giving it a go. If I get a place, I will have a great support team and all I have to do is get the training done.

And that is where my 2 questionmarks are: I know how much time on feet it takes to train for the WHW Race. I always think I am not that kind of runner who has to go out running all the time. I can easily go without it. I am more a “runner by default”. If I was in Germany I would probably be part of an inline skating club and skate throughout the year with a bit of running as cross training. But that’s not possible here so I took up running. I am not addicted or hooked though and especially after work I find it difficult to motivate myself. I do enjoy reaching certain running goals though such as my PBs this year (having reached my target times I can lay those to rest now) and I really love being out on the trails, walking or running. So I know that if I get a place, I will have a training plan that I will follow and I will get ready for the challenge. And that will hopefully give us 2 new goblets making it 4 in total, enough for a small dinner party! J

My 2nd questionmark is Thomas. How will he get on without Nancy and myself? I have “offered” him Nancy so he would have at least 1 support crew member who he is used to (and who knows his “race behaviour”), but Nancy and Katrina are all set to support me together. I don’t want to leave him without his usual support crew and decrease his chances on a great race. But then again, a change in support crew might just be what he needs for a really great race! Who knows?!

And yes, there is a 3rd one. It is literally my Achilles. I have had an ongoing niggle for over 1 year now. I have seen the physio, the podiatrist etc and it does not seem to be too bad. “Mild tendinopathy” is the verdict. But I need to wait and see how it reacts to the increased mileage. It hasn’t stopped me from running a marathon so why not do nearly 4 marathons in a row then?!

So, now all I need is an actual place in the race. Let’s wait and see.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

My PB season

This year was all about getting new PBs for my HM and Marathon. Not only PBs but in fact breaking through "the wall" of 1:50 and 4:00 respectively.

This has been a goal for a couple of years but until this season I had never managed. So I set my goal to finally get my 1st sub 1:50 HM and 1st sub 4:00 Marathon. I did not plan to run any ultras as I knew I did not have the time to train enough and previously failed in getting PBs "alongside". So I focussed on my training plans for the desired times and mainly trained with the girls from the club who do their long runs very early at the weekend. So early that when I come back Thomas is still asleep!

I ran the Balloch to Clydebank HM at the beginning of the season and managed a PB of 1:51:18, still not under 1:50 though it was just the start of the season and not my "target" race. My first target was the Edinburgh Marathon and on the way I did the Women's 10K and got a new PB (by 15sec) of 48:40. Since last year I have had a few 10K races under 50min so that is well within my ability now and previously was a big goal. When the Edinburgh Marathon came the conditions on the last miles were really difficult against the wind but I somehow managed to finally get under 4:00 and clocked a time of 3:55:33. I am still very proud of this everytime I look at my medal where I of course had my time put on!
Then came a lazy time before picking up the training again for my next target race, the HM at the Great Scottish Run.

I was getting a bit worried that I had picked this one as my target race as the route has a few inclines but at the time of entering as an "early bird" together with the Women's 10K it seemed like a good idea.

The day was perfect for running if not a bit on the warm side. The hoses were very welcome at the later stages. I started off with Andreas, a friend from Kenilworth runners who previously ran a sub 1:50. We went off fast up the hill and in fact I lost sight of him early on as he is strong on inclines. My target was to run sub 5:10min/Km which would get me to 1:49. But as it turned out the first few km were all under 5:00 min, some even under 4:45 up the incline. By KM 4 I had stitches on both sides. I managed to catch up with Andreas coming off the Kingston Bridge but I felt I had gone off too fast. In fact I thought I had blown it because of this. But I kept running alongside Andreas and we were still around 5min/km. When we reached Bellahouston Park he announced he was now dropping back to 6min/km and good luck! No time to be annoyed though and I thought at least I had "time to spare" for the next inclines to come in Pollok park. And there were quite a few I must have erased from my memory before the race.
I set my target at keeping my steady pace in the knowledge that even if I was slower up the inclines (which I was a couple of times) I would still get my sub 1:50. As long as I could keep my pace. It was getting tough as it was getting warmer. I was overtaken by a much faster clubmate who cheered me on and when I realized there were only 3K to go I knew my sub 1:50 was well possible. That kept my momentum going. I had visualized crossing the line with a 1:48 on the official time clock and as I approached the finish I saw exactly that (as I had started later). Only my own chip time would record 1:47:20! I could not believe it and was very happy! I guess if I had not pushed it at the beginning I might have missed my goal. So thank you Andreas!

So what next? I should be on my inline skates as I type to try and break my Inline Marathon PB in Berlin next week. My target was sub 1:40 on my new racing skates! But the trip got cancelled as Thomas will have a knee operation instead on his torn left cartiledge. So my running and skating season has come to an end early and I can relax and be lazy for a while. Not for too long though as the preparation for 2012 will start. But that will be another post!

I am very happy with this season and have reached important milestones for me. I don't feel I have to "hunt" these target times any longer and can relax in the knowledge that I managed to achieve my goals this year.

Monday, 8 August 2011

DOTH 2011

I was not going to blog about this one but when Tim asked me at the prize-giving if another report can be expected of how difficult it is to support Thomas, I thought I’d better set the record straight!

I had set him the “small task” of getting a “podium spot” considering in what great shape he was up to 2 weeks before the race. Then we went to Germany for one week for my parents’ Golden Wedding which turned out to be a physically and emotionally draining trip due to other family issues. The Golden Wedding itself went well though! So by the time we were back home Thomas had 1 week to recover and get ready for the Devil’s.

I had not mentioned a “podium spot” again and was just hoping he could get to his target of sub 6 hours, whatever the position. We drove up to Tyndrum on Friday after work, got into our B&B and met up with Marco & Debbie and Team Kynaston. We were hoping John would have an enjoyable race but it was not to be. When John asked Thomas what his goal was, a few Hmms and Ahas were heard when he said he was going for a sub 6 schedule. Well, he not only proved that that was realistic but in fact exceeded his own best expectations in the end! And that is amazing in itself as he usually knows very well what he can do and what his best result might be. He also had told me that Matt was the favourite and the one to beat.

After a fairly good night’s sleep we headed over to the start and before I knew it the race was on its way. Waiting in Bridge of Orchy did not take too long as Thomas arrived in the lead bang on his schedule. So I knew he must be feeling good and was excited seeing him in the lead closely followed by Paul Hart. I heard other people saying, bloody hell there is the first runner already, and felt quite proud that I was supporting him! (photo above by Suse Hutch)

I had to dash off quickly to Inverornan where he was storming down the hill. I had a brief chat with Bill, who had been airlifted out of Rowardennan during the Fling and is now back running up to 10M again and planning his next season of ultras already! Great recovery! Then I really had to speed to Victoria Bridge, jump out of the car, get the refill ready. I had to enrol a few innocent bystanders, Muriel on this occasion, as I was lacking 2 more hands to offer him a bit of solid food. Paul Hart overtook him here but further along on Rannoch Moor he was back in the lead.

On to Glencoe where Peter was joining me as 2nd support crew member. He had told him to be there for 8:15am. At 8:05 he was storming down the hill, 10min ahead of schedule with Peter arriving just in time to refill his bottle. Again 2 innocent bystanders were helping out (Thanks again! Also for the photos Suse.) Before we knew it he was through and we were running up to the car park to get to the bottom of the staircase in time. A speedy refill and refuel, no time for talking and on to Kinlochleven. It was getting rather warm, great for us but maybe not so great for the runners. We met Matt’s partner again who was fighting her own battle looking after his leaking water bladder (which we tried to repair with all sorts incl tape and Compeed) and driving a car that was slowly but surely overheating itself!

Before long Thomas came into sight, still leading though saying that Matt was closing in. It’s your day! Go for it! I shouted and off he went. But sure enough Matt was not far behind now and Paul seemed to stop for a bit longer at the car. We found out later that he dropped out here. On to Lundavra and Peter and I were keeping our hopes up that Thomas would still be going through first though we also thought it would be difficult.

We had just arrived at Lundavra when we spotted the first runner. But it was not Thomas. It was Matt. We cheered him on (“You are going fast!”) and whispered “Too fast”! and offered him water as his support was not there. But he was fine and looked strong. Thomas arrived only 3-4min after him. He was asking if anyone was behind him but we really did not know. So off he went after Matt. When we walked down to the car we saw Matt’s support running up and we told her she had missed him. She tried to speed after him and was out of sight, her car literally abandoned at the bottom of the hill, doors wide open, bonnet open, steam coming out … We had visions of her trying to catch Matt until Fort William, but luckily he spotted her and told her he did not need anything.

Then we arrived at the finish and waited for the winner! Could it be Thomas?

Then we saw Matt coming towards the finish crossing the line only 10min out of record pace. Well done! He is such a nice guy and great runner that our very slight disappointment could not last long. Congratulations to him!

Thomas followed only 3min later and was very happy crossing the finish line. The time is fantastic, much faster than he would have guessed himself and a fantastic 2nd place. I was very excited for him and very proud of him for such a great performance!

So how to sum up what might have been my last official WHW support duty for a while?

It was a delight to support him! He was on his best behaviour. In fact he had his best run ever and his best result ever. He was flying through the support “stops”. He took on his task of a podium spot and delivered! So no complaints from my side, apart from the small issue of 3 minutes … :-)

Monday, 20 June 2011

Team Tam’s WHW 2011

“We” came 4th in 17h:54min, a new PB by nearly an hour! Very happy at the finish, not so happy for nearly 18 long hours!

Before I go on I want to say that I am so proud of Thomas’ performance. Absolutely fantastic and I am so pleased that he got to his “sub 18-hour” target on legs that were not on their best behaviour from early on and in weather that caused 3 stops of 5-8min each, 2 for shoe changes and 1 for a clothes change.

And he was not on his best behaviour either, let me tell you! In fact it was very difficult to support him this year. I will spare you the details, but Nancy and I were seriously discussing that maybe it was time he found himself a new support team for future races as this was no fun for us and we were dreading each support stop, not knowing what he would come up with! At one point he accused Nancy of spraying the Midge Repellant right into his mouth! When all she did was spray it onto his legs and he happened to bend down a bit. Maybe she did just to shut him up?! As soon as he was out of sight we burst into hysterical laughter. Nancy was more forgiving though and once again I have to thank her for keeping everything calm and on the move.

People asked me at the prizegiving if I “enjoyed supporting him” as he did so well etc. And how do you explain that even though the result is amazing, he was not cruising to the finish but his run was a difficult battle and I have no clue out of what depth he pulled out the strength to keep going and finish within his target despite all the difficulties.

We watched Kate (the lady’s winner by only a few minutes) battling through her run from early on as she and Thomas stayed close to each other until the bottom of the Devil’s staircase. And you would not think that with her winning she could have had a “bad run”. But she did and at some point she asked her support team “How do you pull nothing out of nowhere?!” And that sums it up! She did and others will have done the same to get to the finish. And I am in awe and unless I had watched it with my own eyes I would not believe it. Into what energy do they tap in? Physically and mentally? I have no idea how it works but it does!

Back to Thomas’ run and he had complained that his legs weren’t having a good day after Balmaha. And that’s what I call the ultra-running lottery! You train and train and everything is going well with no injuries, you did not pick up any last-minute virus and you are ready to start. And you start, but what’s that? It does not seem to be your best day. And it is not like you could say, o there is another race in a few months I’ll have another go then. No, this is the day you have waited for for 1 year, the day you have prepared yourself for physically and emotionally. And I must admit I was frustrated myself when he told me in Balmaha that his legs were not in as good a shape as he had hoped. How he still got “his time” I really don’t know.

He arrived in Tyndrum 15min behind his schedule, but by Bridge of Orchy he was back on schedule and looking suddenly strong coming into Victoria Bridge and off onto Rannoch Moor. At the ski centre he was still on schedule for his 17:50 time but his legs were feeling worse again. He left in 6th position but on his way to the bottom of the Devil’s staircase he lost 20min. Surely that was not a good sign. The weather was terrible by now and he put gloves on. We drove round to Kinlochleven and waited for him. I was outside the Community Centre looking up onto the road as the minutes ticked by. The American Mark in 3rd position had left 25 min ago and no one else had turned up yet. Suddenly I saw Thomas red jacket and there he was in 4th position, only 5min behind his schedule! I was suddenly so excited. He came inside, got weighed, changed all of his top clothing, had soup and a coffee and left 10min later when Craig Cunningham (in 4th up to then) had just come in. Go Thomas go we shouted and left for our last stop in Lundavra. We saw the American come through and his team inquiring if we were with runner Nr 4 and where he was. We really did not know but they seemed quite confident that their runner would “cruise it home” in 3rd anyway. Thomas only arrived 12min behind him at Lundavra right on his schedule and must have gained quite a bit of time on Mark. We did not know where No 5 and 6 were, if they were closing in or not so told Thomas to not slow down and go for his sub-18! As it turned out there was nobody else behind Thomas for over an hour as both of them had got into difficulties. So onto the finish. We had just missed the exciting battle between Richie and the Flying Dutchman but to all our excitement Richie won in 16:24 for the 2nd time in a row! Fantastic!

Everyone was waiting for the 3rd runner home. Apart from Mark’s team, people were still hoping Thomas might have caught the American. But right enough Mark had maintained his pace and arrived 12 min in front of Thomas. The clock was then ticking and 17:50 passed and I was getting nervous. Would he make his sub-18? But sure enough he did and arrived in 17:54. What a performance! One that makes the hell called support worth going through! :-)

I think the only way I can get out of supporting him next year is by entering the race myself! Surely that is taking it a bit too far, isn’t it?!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Less than 1 week to go ...

... until this year’s WHW Race! This is going to be my 4th year supporting Thomas and for the first time in 4 years I am still pretty calm. For the 1st time in 4 years we have not had any injury scares in the last month before the race or any forced rest periods and desperate visits to the physio. I know though that Marco is going through this just now so I really hope that he will be ok on race day.

There was a short episode of PRT – Pre-Race-Tension as Thomas has named it :-), but it seems to have passed again as I decided to take a step back from any questions that were deemed too inquisitive. Innocent ones such as how many kcal are in your new gels? What kind of electrolyte mix is in there etc? But I know my role, follow the given schedule exactly, it is “easy” as “everything will be on there” – and then of course still be prepared for all the things he wants that he has not put on his schedule! Or any other surprises that he might throw at us!

This year for the 1st time I am much more relaxed when I look at the Goblet that he won last year. All the pressure from the previous 3 years is away, he finished once before and we know he can do it. I also know that there are so many factors that will influence his race on the day. And a lot of things can still go wrong before he hopefully reaches the Leisure Centre and brings home his 2nd goblet.

And over the next few days my excitement will no doubt grow until everyone is gathered in Milngavie. There are quite a few friends running, hoping for a great race, a new PB, that first goblet, or a new addition to a goblet collection. I can’t wait to see how you are all getting on and hope that you will have a good race. And I really want to wish Caroline good luck! I am so excited for her and can’t wait to see her finishing.

Best of luck to all of you running, supporting, marshalling and of course organizing!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Edinburgh Marathon 2011

I got on the club bus at 7am and we drove through to Edinburgh. I got a lot of stick for the tattoo that I had put onto my arm with my target time of 3:55 and the mile splits! (You can take it off again!) Would they be laughing on our return journey?

But to be honest I did not look at it too often, in fact I only saw a few mile marker along the route and I did not really pace myself consistently. The race started off very well by being stung by a wasp on my shoulder just 4 minutes before we set off! It had got into my bin bag and I was frantically trying to get it off. I got very strange looks. A girl next to me asked me if I was allergic and I should go and see a First Aider! As if I would waste months of training now! I did chuckle to myself over the first mile though thinking about the misfortunes that could lead to someone being stopped right at the start.

So off we went and I knew I was setting off a bit faster than my splits but it was downhill for a bit and Thomas had left clear instructions to use these to go faster! So when I finally saw a marker at mile 5 I was 2min ahead of schedule. Not to worry I told myself just keep going for now. By mile 8 I noticed it was getting a bit more difficult though and other instructions came into my head. “You need to feel fresh at half way point”. Now that sounded a bit unrealistic already. By mile 11 I thought I had blown it and gone off too fast but told myself to keep going for now until half way. That would maybe give me the best chance of a sub 4 knowing that there would be strong winds on my way back to the finish . And I thought I would have at least tried to give it my best shot. So I crossed the half way at 1:54, 3min ahead of schedule.

Just how do you know you are giving your best, everything you have without blowing it by going off too fast?

I had started to feel a bit sick and my breathing was a bit too laboured for it to be sustainable for the rest of the distance. I had taken one gel after 1 hour and had 2 more for later. But every time I took on water and later Lucozade my stomach did not feel right. I had started pouring water over my arms and head as I was quite hot. I was now running along the long road out to the stately home and I could see the fast guys coming back looking exhausted battling with the wind, some were walking.
And I was getting increasingly pessimistic. I knew I was slowing, I felt sick and the wind would surely stop me from getting my PB and sub-4. It is here where I started to push myself along by setting small goals. Don’t walk until you are on your return leg. Don’t take the next gel until mile 17. Keep it up until the turning point that seemed so far away. I could have cried but knew it would not help and I still had to get back to the finish. I was going to give up road races and turn to the trails where times don’t matter (for me). But on I ran. Do not use the Portaloo. You do not need to use the toilet. Then finally I was on my return leg. Look forward to the inclines, you can walk then. But they then did not seem steep enough to walk so I kept running. Picking off a few people at times who were walking. Shouting a few hellos to clubmates running in the other direction or the relay.

Then I was near mile 20 and the countdown began. This is where the wind really hit but I knew I had a few minutes to spare and still get under 4 hours. So on I went, telling myself my legs were still ok, nausea is only temporary and not serious, keep running, you have done double that distance in the past, another mile to the last gel, no more fluids not to upset my stomach further, just water over my head and arms. The last miles passed somehow, I was still not walking and by now was not going to! Only a cramp could have stopped me now but luckily the left calf just sent warning signs. I was in my zone with no energy left to high5 anyone or look anywhere apart from straight ahead. Luckily the finish came earlier this year, the crowds were great, the club’s supporters in place and I ran to the finish. And cried! Of course. I was so exhausted and so happy that I had done it.

It has been 2 years in the making and I finally ran my “sub-4” marathon. I finished the Edinburgh Marathon in 3:55:33, my new PB! But boy did I have to work for it. I think it has been the toughest race so far for me, it felt even harder than the Fling last year.

My next marathon is Berlin. I will try to get a new PB! Sub 1:40! Yes, correct, sub 1:40 but back on my inline skates!