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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West Highland Way Race- A training update.

So my plan to write up all my training week by week fell flat on its face. Mainly because a lot of the training was in the dark, in the rain, on the pavement… and I really didn’t think it made very entertaining reading. However, now that my wonderful Exercise to Music course is out the way (which I passed by the way…woohoo!) and the clocks have gone forward, I’m more compelled to get out and run in the mornings and after work…. even when it’s raining!

The main point is that training is going well. After a fantastic run at the D33 and a pretty strong run at Alloa the following week, and with only a few aches and pains and creaky joins I’m feeling slightly more confident about everything. My only worry is how quickly time is passing; less than 3 months until race day now!!

Running the Pentland Skyline route above the clouds. 18 miles of hills.... feed me now!
Running the Pentland Skyline route above the clouds. 18 miles of hills…. feed me now!

Although I haven’t been updating the blog much with my training, I keep a note of everything online and I’m pleased with how consistent my training has been. But I won’t lie; It’s tough. Knowing the long term goal is fast approaching is more than enough motivation to get me moving, but it’s definitely a mental challenge as well as a physical one. My body has never known this many miles so early on in the year – it’s the beginning of April and I’m already over 600 for the year. Add in all the extra strength classes, core and spin training I’m doing and my body has developed muscles in places I never knew I had muscles. And it hurts. Clicking the submit button on my application just over 6 months ago now seems like a life time ago and yes I knew what I was getting myself into when I did it and it was the kick up the bum to knock my training up a gear but I don’t think I realised how mentally tough it would be. My running friends are amazing and tracking their progress online and seeing how well they are doing at races spurs me on to give my everything as well, but once home I just want to sleep. I went out on a rare night out with Craig and my friends on Friday for a meal and to the cinema, and not even half an hour into the film and I was asleep…. I’m amazing company just now!

It's not all bad with scenery like this!
It’s not all bad with scenery like this!
Churning out the kettlebell swings.
Churning out the kettlebell swings.

My family are more than supportive although they think I’m totally daft. My brother Duncan and my sister-in-law Jemma are both running the Highland Fling at the end of this month, and understand my obsession for running but the rest think I’ve totally lost it. My ever-patient husband Craig understands my passion for running but as he’s not a runner himself he does question my sanity when he sees me hobbling around the house daily, grumbling to myself and scraping myself out of bed at silly o’clock to go to the gym.

Why do we do it?

The dream of being part of the West Highland Way family has been deeply embedded in my mind since I first heard about it 5 or 6 years ago. When I first started running someone mentioned that people actually ran the whole of the West Highland Way and I scoffed – the way people do when I tell them that that is now my plan, and I asked all the questions people now ask me; where do you stop to sleep? How many days will it take, 4 or 5? And the biggy – Why?! I still don’t know the answer to the last question and I’m sure I’ll question myself many times as I stumble across the hard parts of the course, doubting my ability to finish. Through every big race I have ran that eventually made me decide I could actually try and race the whole of the West Highland Way, especially the Devil O’The Highlands last August, I have had a major low point where I question what on earth I’m actually doing. But at the other side of the low, there is always the most amazing Ultra High, where you feel brilliant and know you have the strength to finish. When I do finish the WHW race, (if everything goes to plan!) and I am awarded my goblet…..I’m sure I’ll have the answer. We need to remind ourselves we do this because we want to. No one is making us, and in the end all the training will pay off. And then I can rest. 🙂

At the top of the Devil's staircase in the snow. The run that had 4 seasons in one day!
At the top of the Devil’s staircase in the snow. The run that had 4 seasons in one day!

For now the training continues and I’m having one last big push until we go on holiday on Friday and then I’ll reel the miles in before London (which I will just bimble around) and the Fling (where I don’t have a time in mind but hope for a strong race). I can’t wait to spend a few non-running days with my husband and (hopefully) get some sunshine. We’re off to Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro with a few days in Norway either side… so no doubt we’ll be marching miles every day to see all the amazing sights, but I can’t wait.

Remembering I do this because I can and because I want to.
Remembering I do this because I can and because I want to.

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73 days……

And so another year has come to pass…

It’s the 31st of December 2015. Where has my year gone?! I’m sure I’m not the only one asking this question, but this year has seriously flown by. And like many others, with what seems to have become a bit of a tradition, I like to look back on my year of running and see how much I have learned and achieved in my on going quest and battle with running. Here are some highlights from my year;

JANUARY

Lots of sleeping and relaxing with my pup Skye.
Lots of sleeping and relaxing with my pup Skye.

It was a slow start to the year for me, but after plenty of rest being looked after by Skye the wonder pup (and of course my amazing husband, but Skye was pretty much glued to my side from the minute I got home!), I was given the nod to get back to running so started the year (cautiously) helping my team mates out at theDevil’s Burden relay races in Fife. We had amazing day out! Somehow I ended up on the guys team (again! Are you trying to tell me something here guys?!) and we had a hilarious morning dashing all the place, trying to be in the right place at the right time… and failing miserably! Just what I needed to get my running back on track.

A slightly warmer team.
A slightly warmer team.

FEBRUARY
Feeling slightly stronger, I decided to give the Devilla 15k run another go. I wasn’t expecting much but as it’s our neighbouring clubs event, we always go through en masse to show our support. We had tons of muddy fun and I managed to take a few minutes off last years time, even though the course was a mile and a bit longer!

Biggest club turn out we've ever had at an event I think!
Biggest club turn out we’ve ever had at an event I think!

Last few kilometres and the focus face is on...
Last few kilometres and the focus face is on…

The rest of the month was spent finding my feet on the trails again. Mainly the wonderful West Highland Way. Such a beautiful place, but especially in winter.

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MARCH
I had been looking forward to March for a long time as I was especially looking forward to running the D33 for the first time. I had entered on New Years eve and I know a few of my friends were a bit sceptical that I’d be ready to push my body to such a distance so early on in the year, but I was desperate to get back to racing properly and I knew I felt good come race day. Jemma and I stayed with Rhona and her husband in Stonehaven the night before and we were raring to go and kick start the Ultra season. I had a fantastic race and finished in just over 5 hours. I loved this race and I am definitely going back this year for another go and to try and break the 5 hours barrier.

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APRIL
April was a quiet month for me racing wise. I decided to give a 10k race another go seeing as I hadn’t raced once since September the previous year and entered the Round the Houses 10k in Grangemouth. The route is very flat and very fast and I had a great race taking over a minute off my 10k personal best and setting a new time of 44:51! I worked hard and felt horrific when I crossed the line, mainly through lack of speed work prior to the race! But I was happy to be chipping away at my time again.

I spent many hours training on the Cateran trail for my race in May and had great fun in the process. I met the lovely Claire for the first time and had an amazing day out running over to the Spittal of Glenshee and falling in a river in the process!

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I deferred my London Marathon place until 2016 and ended up going up to marshal and support my friends running the Hoka Highland Fling on the West Highland Way. I had a fantastic day, meeting loads of new people and giving my friends the cheers and support they deserved. Everyone ran so well and made me even more excited about running this race in 2016!

I finished the month with an amazing trip to Paris with Craig. Just what was needed to recharge the batteries before the last term of the year at work.

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MAY
This was it. My biggest race so far and the one that every mile I had run up until now was going towards. The Cateran 55 mile Ultra Marathon and I won’t deny it, I was petrified! I was really excited and the whole weekend was wonderful. The new race H.Q at Gulabin lodge was perfect – right on the finish line, lovely warm showers, comfortable beds and amazing food courtesy of Sandra and Helen. The race was amazing and even though I’m sure I went through many a dark patch, I can only see the positives of the race when I think back. I completed the race in 11 hours and 30 minutes and I was absolutely elated and also amazed that my body is actually capable of doing these things!

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JUNE
In June I ran the amazing Strathearn marathon for the second time along with Jemma and was delighted for her when she got a new marathon PB, along with having an amazing day out in beautiful sunny Perthshire. I love this race, even though it’s definitely not an easy race, and it was lovely to run with Jemma and catch up on all the wedding preparation chat. I also adore these finishing pictures.

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The following week, I had a weekend off running and had an enjoyable booze filled weekend at Fyne Fest with Jemma, Rhona and Graeme. Pub quizes, beer tokens, skanking and flower crowns. Amazing.

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At the end of June I helped marshal at the West Highland Way race and got a real insight into the running of it. Standing at a road crossing through the night guiding runners across, then up to Bridge of Orchy the following day to help runners check in when they got there. I was absolutely shattered on the drive home, just from standing about all weekend. Next year it’s my turn to run it. What on earth have I got myself into!

Next year it's our turn!
Next year it’s our turn!

AUGUST
At the beginning of August I ran my hardest race to date. 12 miles shorter in distance than the Cateran, but so much harder. The 43 mile Devil O’The Highlands has been re branded and taken over by John Duncan of Highland Fling fame, and it lived up to it’s expectations! I had the most amazing day and finished the race in just over 8 and a half hours. Brilliant race, I can’t big it up enough!

Photo - Fiona Rennie
Photo – Fiona Rennie
My little brother surprising me on the finish line. So delighted to see him!
My little brother surprising me on the finish line. So delighted to see him!

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SEPTEMBER
After my legs had recovered from the Devil, I decided it was time to get back to road racing and try and get some time off my marathon time. Last year I had finally got a sub 4 marathon time at the Highland Perthshire Marathon, so I decided to go back and try again. Another amazing race, feeling so strong the whole way round and a new marathon time of 3:41:54. I also got my first podium placing! I came 3rd lady overall and 1st senior lady. I’m pretty sure it won’t happen again any time soon, but I’m still on cloud 9 from it!

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At the end of the month my friend Kirsty asked me if I fancied running the Strathcarron 10k. Again I hadn’t been training for speed, but I had been bashing out the hill reps and feeling strong after the marathon so I gave it a go. It was a scorching day but I gave it my everything and took another 30 seconds off my 10k time finishing in 44:17. I never thought I’d get so close to 44 minutes and I’m hoping late next year I can finally get under the 44 minute mark.

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OCTOBER
I hadn’t raced a half marathon since the Loch Leven Half marathon in May 2014. When the Neil McCover half came round again, I was looking forward to really pushing myself and seeing if I could get a PB in the only distance left to better in the year. I have no idea what happened, but I had another fantastic race and managed to take 9 minutes off my time, finishing in 1:37:26. Whose legs are these?! I was elated!

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NOVEMBER
And finally it was time for the last race of the year. Glen Ogle round 3, and I was looking forward to finishing the season with a bang. I had another great race and amazing day out with 20+ of my team mates. I love the race and will definitely be back for round 4 next year and hopefully finally get under 5 hours. 1 minute over is just annoying!!

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And so the year draws to a close. I’ve had a phenomenal year and I owe thanks to so many people for their support, for getting me back on my feet, for inspiring me and for not letting me quit. Next year is the big year and I have so many hours to put in before I’m even close to being ready, but I know they’ve all got my back.

Here’s to your health. Happy New Year!!!

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Return of the Mac(kay)…

Whoops! Once again quite a while has flown by since I wittered about anything in particular! Work has been crazy. Budget cuts to school swimming funding has meant I have been flapping about like hyper chicken for the past few weeks trying to put something in place for after the summer holidays to ensure that; a) the kids in Clackmannanshire still get swimming lessons, even after the funding has run out, b) those who can’t afford group swimming lessons or private lessons will still be able to take part and c) I still have a job come next year….

Running the Strathearn marathon with Jemma and having a tad too much fun...
Running the Strathearn marathon with Jemma and having a tad too much fun…

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So that aside, I have been trying not stress but obviously that’s easier said than done. I’ve been trying to give my all at training and get out for as many long runs as possible, but I felt that recovery from the Cateran took a lot longer than I thought it would have. I paced Jemma to a P.B at the Stratheran marathon, got a personal best for a mile at a club time trial and have been continuing to up my weekly mileage, but it wasn’t coming as easily as I thought it might have done. After feeling like I was getting head spins far too often at work and my heart rate was straight up after just a warm up at training, I decided to go and get my bloods checked again, and low and behold my ferritin has dropped once again. I think I’m going to have a proper look at my diet this time round and make sure I’m getting enough iron naturally, along with taking the supplements again for the next few months and monitor my training carefully to see how I’m feeling after high mileage weeks.

Rannoch moor, pretty yet terrifying...
Rannoch moor, pretty yet terrifying…

The next big race on the calendar is the Devil O’the Highlands on the 1st of August, which covers the second half of the West Highland Way from Tyndrum up to Fort William (42 miles) and I have high hopes for it. I’ve got 3 weeks off of work, starting tomorrow, which begins with celebrating my little brother and Jemma’s wedding up in Arisaig and once the partying and celebrations are over I’m going full out hardcore training for this race. Races are for racing, and as of last weekend my mind has been made up about the long term goal. The saying goes “all roads lead to Milngavie” in the Ultra community, and after marshaling and supporting my friends Graeme, Alan and Rhona at the West Highland Way race last weekend, I have decided my goal is to try and get a place and run the race in 2016. All ultra races are a stepping stone up to this iconic race and after feeling pretty strong after 55 miles, I know that with another year of full on training under my belt I could possibly be ready to toe the start line with some Ultra legends this time next year.

Supporting and marshaling at the West Highland way with my WCH buddies.
Supporting and marshaling at the West Highland Way race with my WCH buddies.

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I know this isn’t a decision I can just make on a whim, and I will think very carefully about whether or not I’m ready for it when the ballot opens in November. By the time it comes round I will have ran 6 or 7 marathons and 8 ultras, so I can only get stronger and more clued up as I continue to churn out the miles and learn from the best. It’ll definitely be an eye opener running the Devil in August as I’m yet to set foot on the second half of the West Highland Way – hopefully I’ll manage a few recce runs before race day, but I’m sure there will still be some surprises on race day!

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Until next time (which won’t be as long, I promise). It’s now time to go be a bridesmaid and party the next few days away up on the West coast. When I return, beast mode will well and truly be activated.

Devilla 15k Race Report and updated training blurb…

I seem to be quite behind with everything so far this year. I think I left my brain in the hospital!

Official Time: 1 hour 15 minutes 47 seconds
Overall: 228 out of 508
Gender: 40 out of 204

Following the epic start to the racing season which was the Devil’s Burden hill race, the next event on the calendar was the Devilla 15k – a trail race around Devilla forest which is an amazing setting for a race and just 10 minutes up the road from us. Race day had an electric atmosphere, the weather was crisp, cold and beautiful and we had a 30 strong team of Wee County Harriers through to support our neighbouring club’s fantastic event.

Biggest club turn out we've ever had at an event I think!
Biggest club turn out we’ve ever had at an event I think!

This year the course had been meticulously checked and was extremely well marshalled after last years mishap of the course being “sabotaged” and ending up being nearly 2 miles short. Just before the race started we found as many WCH runners as possible and gathered together for a pre-race snap. This shows just how much our wee club has expanded recently and it only continues to grow!

I hadn’t yet decided how I was going to run this race. My legs were feeling slightly heavy from a hard week of training and the 30 mile training run we had done the previous weekend but mentally I was feeling strong and ready to take on whatever this race had to throw at me. This was another of my fail races from last year and I was determined to beat my abysmal time, even though I had an extra 2 or so miles to run. Last year I was running with practically no iron in my blood and my legs had pretty much no oxygen and every step had been a chore, but this year was different. This year I was determined to enjoy every step and finish with everything I had still had left in my legs and a smile on my face. Luckily it was much drier this year so the smiling wasn’t a problem! There were a few hair raising moments with icy patches and frozen mud which caused me to almost go over on my ankle more than once, but I somehow got round injury free!

I managed to keep quite an even pace for the first few miles, only slowing right down on the narrow sections where we shuffled along in single file until the path opened up again. Even the nasty hill at the half way point didn’t slow me down and I was pushing to get up to the top as quickly as I could for 2 main reasons. 1 being I could see two guys from the club up ahead and I was making up time on the hills and getting closer and closer to them and 2, there was a guy running beside me who would not stop burping!! Almost as off-putting as the guy who ran beside me and kept talking to himself in the 3rd person at a marathon a few months ago! Nearing the top of the hill I passed another 3 men (always a good feeling!) and rounding the corner and going on to the downhill I let my legs freewheel and got past another 2. Still gaining on, but not quite catching my team mates and knowing there was another narrow section ahead, I decided to hold back through this section and save my energy for the last 5k back through the forest. Once again this section was totally different from last year – it had been a total mud bath then and even trail shoes made no difference! This year it was still frozen over and although a bit technical, much easier to run on! The path eventually opened up and suddenly out of nowhere, 2 of my team mates flew by me! Nooooo, I had been doing so well not to let anyone catch me so far! The 2 I had gained on were still in my sight though and in the last 2k I was running side by side with them. But then they saw me and took off again. Damn, so close!

The last few kilometres are mostly downhill, but by now my hamstrings had tightened up and I couldn’t widen my stride so I just plodded as fast as I could round to the finish line. Job done, and 4 minutes faster than my previous attempt. That’ll do for now!

Last few kilometres and the focus face is on...
Last few kilometres and the focus face is on…

Onto the training side of things – I have been having SO much fun on my training runs recently. Weekend expeditions out to the West Highland Way with my running club friends have provided hours of crucial training for my upcoming ultras – The D33 in March,The Cateran 55 in May and the Devil of the Highlands in August. Along with a couple of marathons in the middle (London in April and Strathearn in June) and my brother and Jemma’s wedding in July, it’s one hell of a busy year!

But when weekends look like this, there’s no time to feel tired…

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Even when you fall over and scrape your knee off a rock, there’s no reason to stop smiling!

Happy training everyone.

Photo thanks to Gordon McNeil, Derek Fish and David Neill.