Don’t give up if you fall at the first hurdle

Every race can’t run smoothly and last weekend I discovered that the hard way.

I’d had a pretty good start to the year at the Devilla 15k on the 19th February. As usual it attracted hundreds of runners, keen to kick start their racing season with a wonderful mud bath and as always it didn’t disappoint! Not the muddiest I’ve seen it in the 5 years I’ve been taking part, but definitely a competitor for the top spot in places. The race started bang on time and I’d tried to sneak my way up the field in order to get ahead of the masses before the bottleneck about 2 miles in. Unfortunately I was still further back than I thought and again slowed to a shuffle though the narrow sections of the trail as the crowds went single file through the bogs. Anyone who did try to overtake in this section usually ended up face planting deep into the mud or losing a shoe in the deeper sections of the bog, so I decided to hang fire and wait until the trails to open up again before trying to pick up some speed. This is much easier said than done when your shoes are caked in mud and you’re carrying the extra weight of the mud. The track was much slippier than usual due to the forestry commission having done some tree felling recently and I found myself having to work a lot harder in places that are usually pretty simple trails.

A mud bath the whole way round. I was so focused on not falling over I didn’t even see Patricia! Photo – Patricia Carvalho

The hill just after the half way section was again a nice little sting in the tail and once over the top, although struggling to sort out my breathing, I felt pretty good and plodded on round the last section of the course. The ‘bridge’ had been fixed this year (a plank of wood over a ditch) which took off the extra 0.3 of a mile that had been added on last year and I finally managed to run up the slippy hill on the other side. It has only taken me 5 years to get some traction!! There was no water feature to clean our shoes in this year, so it was another heavy footed plod until the mud fell off. The last couple of miles were probably my strongest as I picked up the pace to chase a PB and managed to take 4 minutes off my 2015 time (last years doesn’t count as the course was longer).

1 km to go, not feeling photogenic! Phtoto – Derek Fish

I was slightly disappointed when I crossed the line as I would have liked to have finished closer to 1 hour 10 minutes, but it’s a PB so I’ll take it and come back stronger (and wiser) next year.

The following weekend I headed down to Peebles for the Glentress marathon. I should have read all the warning signs and stayed in bed as from the minute I got up things didn’t go to plan. The weather had been atrocious with Storm Doris bringing heavy snow and high winds during the week and come Saturday, this snow had become slush turning the trails into rivers and knee deep, freezing puddles. I didn’t have my usual pre-race excitement and I felt a bit deflated and tired on the drive down. The nerves I usually get before I race which kick start the adrenaline just weren’t there and as lovely as it was to see loads of friends I hadn’t seen in ages, the thought of 2 loops of a cold, hilly course were just not appealing to me in the slightest.

The race started and within half a mile we on the trails. Up, up, up… OK, this was killing me. My heart rate was all over the place and I was regretting having put my jacket on 2 minutes before we started as I was absolutely roasting! The trail narrowed and took a sharp turn to the left where a lot of people started power walking and I fell in line behind them, but very quickly returned to open trails and a slight descent which saw my quickest mile of the race (7:53, says it all!). From mile 4 the trails went up for what seemed like forever and as we climbed higher and higher it got even colder and slushier and I wasn’t in a good place. I’d left my racing head at home and for the first time ever I knew I was definitely not going to finish the race. I’ve had quite a few lows in ultra marathons where I’ve wanted to quit, but have always come out the other side of the low and gone on to have an enjoyable race. The further I went in this race the more I knew I wouldn’t be doing a second lap. More hills, more slush, more river like trails. I was miserable. Donnie Campbell flew past me when I was about 10 miles in having started the half marathon half an hour after me. This made me even more miserable as he was travelling nearly twice my speed and would be finished his race way before I’d even completed one lap.

I should probably have turned around right about now…

I finally started coming back down hill (after about 10 miles of climbing!) and found the steep descents and my choice of footwear did not agree. I had no traction what so ever and the boggy churned up, knee deep, slush filled trails and my Brooks Cascadias did not get on. I slid my way down the steep hills, teetered along the edge of the trails letting the faster runners by and just after the 11 mile mark I hit the ground with an almighty crack as I slipped on a snow covered rock and smashed my knee off it. There were swear words, there were tears (which is also a first for me during a race!), there was a moment of bent over dry heaving as the pain swirled through my body and I felt like I was going to keel off the trail and throw up and then there was a mile of limping as I tired to get the end of the first loop. My first DNF.

Not exaggerating when I said pretty much 10 miles of climbing!

The race conditions saw quite a few pull out after the first loop and as disappointed as I was I knew another lap would not have been beneficial. Especially my knee now looked like it had 2 knee caps and was a lovely shade of reds and purples!

A week later and my bad race has been put behind me and I’m ready to take the next step in my training. I have recently signed up to Neil MacNicol’s coaching programme and I’m hoping that with a bit of guidance and a specific plan to follow (which includes a shed load of my detested speed work!) I will see changes in my training, racing and also my recovery. With only 10 weeks until the Cateran, it’s time to get the head down, forget the bad and focus on what’s ahead.

Here we go again

My first blog of 2017. Whoops! After a few false starts at attempting to write a new post, I am fully back with a bang and ready to update more often (promise!), follow a training programme (half promise) and give all my races and training my all in 2017.

At the start of the year my first draft of a blog post began with “I don’t actually have that many races booked for the year…”. I scrapped that soon after when I realised that I may not have many (in that I’m not doing 10k every weekend like I used to), but the races I am taking on are beasts. And not just Ultra marathons anymore. 2017 is the year I will dip my toe into the world of multi sport races and I am one click away from entering my first. Not just a wee one, but a half ironman distance event. Well, why not? All I have to do is learn not to fall off my bike! I know that’s a lot easier said than done, but I have a few Sportive events planned before the tri, along with plenty open water swimming with a few people how I have asked, coerced, begged into taking me with them. However that part can wait until the slightly warmer months, for now I will concentrate on the running and reminding myself how to run fast (I’ve been saying that for a year and I’m still waiting on full speed returning!!).

Winter training has seen a lot of climbing hills in the snow!

Racing season starts tomorrow with The Devilla 15km mud fest. It’ll be the 4th time I’ve ran this race and I’m expecting some brilliant boggy fun. Last year I felt good, but I probably set off a bit fast in order to get to the narrow trail section ahead of the masses and I imagine this year will be no different but I’m hoping (due to actually doing a bit more speed work over the winter season) I can maintain my pace for a little bit longer this year. I love starting the season with this race as it’s a great off road race to gauge how winter training is going and also to see how the competition has been getting on over the winter months! 😉

My winter training has mostly been going well. I have the odd bad few days when I just want to crash and sleep forever, but I’m up on last years mileage for this time of year and although it hasn’t been as consistent my strength training is still going strong. I think I felt slightly better overall about myself this time last year, but as my mile splits are coming back down, even just on easy runs and I’m managing to do more hill reps per session I’m guessing I’m getting stronger overall, I just don’t feel I look like I am. I am, however, still failing to drag myself out of bed for morning training and then having to play catch up for the rest of the week. Give me light mornings and I’ll be out there, but for now I might as well admit defeat and enjoy the extra hour in bed!

I struggle to get up for work when it’s still dark, but I’ll happily scrape myself out of bed at 6am to run up the hills come the weekend!

I have just under 3 months until my first ultra of the year and if training all goes to plan, I’m hoping for a really good race. The first time I ran the Cateran 55 mile ultra it was my first attempt at that distance, not too long after appendix surgery and it really was quite a challenge. I’m hoping that with thousands more miles in my legs and a lot more experience of running distance races, I can have a strong and positive race and a solid PB.

They made me do it…

So, here’s to tomorrow and the next block of training (and blogging!). Good luck and enjoy!

2016 – A year of adventure, thousands of miles and a million more smiles.

I can’t actually believe I’m sitting writing yet another yearly review. They say that time goes by more quickly as you get older, and I don’t exactly class myself as old yet but that year seriously flew by and yet I managed to fit so much in. As has become customary, here’s a wee look back at another fantastic year.

JANUARY

The year started with the annual plod up the Ochil hills with some running club buddies on the 2nd of January. It was cold and misty but as an annual tradition to kick start the year, we braved the elements and had a great day out.


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Goals

Everyone needs a goal or a target. Whether it’s work related, sport specific or just something personal, it’s always good to have something to work towards.

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Now that 2016 is coming to an end, the goals for 2017 are being set. I’ve had an incredible year and to be honest, I’m not quite sure how I can top it but I need to keep focused and the best way to do that is to set new targets. And then plan to absolutely annihilate them. I’ll leave the 2016 review for another post, but I still struggle to get my head round what a magical year it was. I get a real shiver down my spine when I think about what has been accomplished and I wish I could go back and do it all over again!
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Glen Ogle 33 2016 – RACE REPORT

GLEN OGLE 33M ULTRA MARATHON 2016

TIME: 4 Hours 54 Minutes and 39 Seconds

Overall position 56th/349 finishers

11th/154 females

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Glen Ogle round 4. My last ultra/race of 2016 and a bee in my bonnet to finally push under 5 hours was the motivation I needed to get me round this race. I’d been ready for weeks, had felt good and confident when training and was ready for it until an almost race ending act of carelessness the weekend before race day. A round of Footgolf at Palacerigg with my friends had been a great experience, but as I’m the worst footballer in the world, 18 holes of toe punting the ball around lead to a ridiculously sore vastus medialis and lots of hobbling around in the lead up to race day. Not ideal, but I’m stubborn if not determined and nothing would see me pulling out of this race (within reason of course!).
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