It’s almost D33 Day!

50000000

My first ultra of the season is fast approaching! My mind is buzzing with how I plan to run it, how I think my body will react, what/when to eat and drink and very importantly… what to wear!! I’ve been keeping a close eye on the 5 day weather forecast and so far so good – but then again, no weather report told me we were getting 3 inches of snow last week, so I definitely won’t hold my breath and will prepare to expect a medley of four seasons in one day.

My training is all done, my legs are feeling good and I completed my final pre-race run on Tuesday at training feeling positive and ever so slightly competitive. How will race day pan out for me? Will my little legs carry me the distance? So far I have planned the following;

FOOD – During my ultras and training runs up until now, I have always craved sweet stuff early on and then more savoury stuff later in the race, so with this in mind I will pack a bit of everything in my drops bags and also carry some stuff with me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to run with a race belt or not, so I think I’ll run with my one bottle belt instead of my Camelbak and then I can refill it at the checkpoints if need be. Better safe than sorry! I will definitely have my pockets crammed with sour haribo sweets – A saviour late in a race for me on more than one occasion!

CLOTHES – I’m hoping it’ll be dry, but as this is North East Scotland in early March, I can only cross my fingers and hope for the best. My shoes (brooks adrenaline gts), socks (long stripy mega bright club socks), calf sleeves, buff, gloves and running skirt are all definite, but the number of layers on my top half could vary from 1 to 4 or 5, so again I’ll judge it on the morning of the race. I’ll only take my jacket if it’s tipping it down, but that decision I may live to regret…

RACE STRATEGY – No idea yet! I’ll be treating it as a long training run for both the London marathon in April and the Cateran 55 in May. If I can run all 33 miles comfortably then I might be able to pick up the pace at London. If things start to hurt, I’ll know I went out too fast and will know to start the Cateran much, much slower. Either way it’ll be faster than Glen Ogle as there are no hills. I’ll keep my goal times to myself just now and I’ll let you know whether or not I made them when I write my race report in a few days time!

GOALS –
1) Don’t get injured!!! Too many big races in the next few months and I’d be devastated if I had to pull out of anything!
2) Finish with a smile. This won’t be hard – it’s hard to wipe the smile off my face recently. I’m lucky to be back running so quickly so I take nothing for granted now!
3) Run the majority of the route. It’s only 7 miles more than a marathon and if I can do that at a fair pace then I can hopefully do 33 if I dial it back ever so slightly… I hope!
4) Remain positive!!! Your mind plays a big part in running and finishing big races. I will NOT give in to negative thoughts this weekend. I’ve got this!

31 years old and I still hate packing.
31 years old and I still hate packing.

So that’s about it! As soon as I finish work tomorrow I’ll be on the road North to prepare for ultra number 3. Ultra runner extraordinaire Rhona is very kindly letting us stay with her for the weekend so I’ll no doubt be picking her brain from the moment I arrive tomorrow for hints and tips on how to approach this race as she’s running it for the 4th time this year!

See you on the flip side!

3 weeks to go….

As I watched the rain batter off the windows and pavements on Sunday afternoon, I started to regret that I hadn’t leapt out of bed at the crack of dawn and got my long run miles in before the worst of the weather had arrived. After having a lazy morning, I was dressed and ready to go by 12.30pm kitted out for the elements in an outfit that included 2 long sleeved layers over a vest, gloves, waterproof jacket and 2 buffs… And then I sat back down on the couch. I put off heading out for another half hour or so and then when I eventually did head out, the heavens opened and I couldn’t see the road ahead for fat drops of rain bouncing everywhere. So I promptly turned on my heel and went home. 0.2 miles later.

As I stepped back into the house, my husband Craig just burst out laughing. “You clearly don’t want to do this today, so why are you making yourself suffer?” he asked. I mumbled something about long miles and big races, but I knew I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to head out just then, so I had a cup of tea and waited for the worst of the weather to pass – however long that would take.

I’d been feeling pretty miserable all week. I don’t know if it was a combination of high mileage, back to back weekend runs, not being as social as I normally am or just the rubbish weather but most of my runs that week had felt like a chore which is odd for me. Usually if I don’t feel in the mood for a training run, I won’t go. However with so many big races ahead in the next few months and the fact I’m still trying to get back to full fitness means I have been pushing myself a bit more than normal over the last month or so. I promised myself if my training ever got to this stage I would stop and take a break, but with a mere 3 weeks until the D33 I’ve now opted for the grin and bear it option. There’s no winging it in these races!

Training last week consisted of some yoga on Monday, a speed session of 8×4 minute sprints on Tuesday with a few miles before and after training, a 3 mile lunch run and a 4 mile steady evening run on Wednesday, a ridiculously cold hill run on Friday (see elevation below!) and a 15 mile slog in the rain on Sunday.

A 'wee daunder' up the hills apparently. It nearly broke me!
A ‘wee daunder’ up the hills apparently. It nearly broke me!

Most of the training was enjoyable, but when I got to Friday I was exhausted but had already agreed to go running in the hills with some club mates. By Friday afternoon on a normal week I’m usually pretty tired but today I had pretty much no motivation and just about mustered a smile or two on the way there. I had stupidly asked if there was still snow on hills, only to be told “not much!” which to me meant shorts weather. Oh how wrong I was! Luckily I had long socks and calf sleeves on so it was only really my thighs and knees that were exposed to the elements, but it was cold. SO COLD! And it snowed. Not just normal soft snow that lands gently around you and muffles your footsteps but horizontal snow. Snow that went across the way… and straight into my ear!!! I was so glad to get off the hills that day…

I've just seen what we're about to scale...
I’ve just seen what we’re about to scale…
This is apparently part of a race route. Screw ever doing that race!!
This is apparently part of a race route. Screw ever doing that race!!
Gordon bounded to the top and got photos of us all trying to remember how to walk and breath at the same time.
Gordon bounded to the top and got photos of us all trying to remember how to walk and breath at the same time.
I think that's a feeble attempt at a thumbs up.
I think that’s a feeble attempt at a thumbs up.
The views from the first climb were pretty nice. That's the river Forth and Edinburgh in the distance.
The views from the first climb were pretty nice. That’s the river Forth and Edinburgh in the distance.
And then we got to this...
And then we got to this…

My legs were pretty heavy the next day and I’m sure the weather at the summit had something to do with how I’m feeling this week, but I’m glad I went as it just proves to me how much my strength is improving. This time last year I would never have made it up the first incline, never mind the scramble up the side of the hill. However I’d definitely rethink my wardrobe choices for the next one…

So, along came Sunday which usually I look forward to as it means catching up with friends and bagging my big miles for the week. However this week I couldn’t make the early run with everyone so I set out to clock the miles alone. And I really did feel lonely!! My ear was still sore and my legs were heavy but I eventually gave it a second attempt at heading out and luckily a few miles in the rain started to ease off and I could actually take my hood down. I had planned to do 20 miles but not feeling 100% I scaled it back and headed home after 15 with just a slight niggle in my hip. This wee I have developed yet another cold so my weekly mileage so far in a big fat 0, but fingers crossed it has clears soon as I’m hoping to get one last long run in at the weekend and then the tapering begins. Hoorah!

Hope you’re all feeling a bit brighter than me!

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…

10360410_10153076054142556_8291162099972898879_n

1509926_10153109098222556_2466776991905635494_n

10410241_10153076054092556_4175813498882719676_n

10530858_10153109098032556_318816174421520308_n

10576961_10153109098407556_7791477395651326268_n

10959910_10153109097792556_4929482104150500699_n

10984130_10153109097687556_7896638309267049569_n

10993389_10153109098102556_5843355781273224285_n

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.

RACE REPORT – Glen Ogle 33m Ultra

Glen Ogle 2014

Official time: 5 hours 41 minutes 18 seconds

Overall: 113th/237 finishers (4th out of 12 senior ladies)

Medal : Yes, (same design as last year) and an awesome Tshirt as well

Before I get started, I’d like to apologise for the fact that my blog seems to just be a steady stream of race reports recently. The plan was always to update it more often with training/life/etc as well… but the whole life/work/training/sleeping balance has been way off recently. However, I plan to rectify that asap!

The only thing worth drinking after an ultra marathon!
The only thing worth drinking after an ultra marathon!

The Glen Ogle ultra was my first attempt at racing distances over 26.2m around this time last year. I had done all the training for Loch Ness and keeping the miles ticking over until race day 6 weeks later had been pretty easy and enjoyable. I had no major injuries and my legs were feeling good come race day. Fast forward a year and it’s take 2 of the same events, but stick the Jedburgh half, a cold and a sore hip into the mix and you can just about imagine how I felt as I rocked up to the start line this year.

I had been looking forward to the race for months. I put my name down as soon as entries opened and then with so much other stuff to focus on in my racing calendar (including my 45 min 10k and sub 4 hour marathon!), completely forget to get excited about it until about a week before race day! On the Friday evening before the race, Jemma made the 300 odd mile journey down from Ness in the Isle of Lewis to meet me in the central belt and not 10 minutes after she had got off the coach, we were stuffing out faces with pizza and catching up on wedding planning gossip. Priorities first of course! After filling our faces with a substantial number of carbs, we headed back to mine where we sorted our drop bags and kit and after some cheesy tv we headed off to catch z’s and prepare for the super early start the next day.

My perfect pre race dinner!
My perfect pre race dinner!
Taking way less than I did last year! Did't even eat all this, but the coke was definitely a saviour!
Taking way less than I did last year! Once again didn’t eat even half of it, but the coke was definitely a saviour!

My alarm went off just before 5am and after having an amazing breakfast of porridge with nutella and blueberries and a vast amount of coffee, we were in the car and on the road over to Killin. This year there had been a slight adjustment to the route at the last minute meaning we were no longer starting in Strathyre and were going to do the route in reverse with a little bit extra added on at the end. This meant all my lovely down hills near the end were going to be up hills near the end and vice versa… nothing like a last minute shake up to keep the mind alert 30 odd miles later! After registering and meeting up with the other Wee County Harriers, we had a quick briefing from Bill and Mike and before we knew it, we were walking round to the very narrow trail where the race would begin. The weather was very, very mild and any worries of a repeat of last years weather eased off and I decided to run in a long sleeved top with just a t shirt underneath. Jemma was so confident about good weather she didn’t even take her jacket with her!

10685578_10152604319043411_896620487000092674_n

The first few miles were very stop/start as we tried to find our pace while avoiding puddles and having to run along a very narrow track. Soon enough we were spat out onto a road for a few hundred metres before taking a sharp left and beginning a short climb into the bottom of the forest loop which we had met at about 17 miles when the route was the other way around last year. The positive thing about this would be that one of the worst climbs was out the way within the first 4 miles! I ran with Kirsty, trying to slow our pace down and not set off too quickly on fresh legs or get carried away too early on. We were having so much fun, walking the steep climbs and flying down the descents and having a good chat the whole way round. We passed through the first check point and began our descent down the cycle path towards Lochearnhead, forcing down a gel at 6 miles and keeping the pace steady and consistent. The weather looked like it really was going to stay in our favour and I had to take my long sleeved top and buff off as I was already getting too hot!

Spotting the camera from afar.
Spotting the camera from afar.

As we approached the very steep descent on the zig zags just as we came into Lochearnhead, I felt a horrible twinge in my back and began to panic. This was too early for things like this to be happening!! I hoped it was just because I had quite a lot of water in my pack and it was slightly heavier than usual, so I decided to empty some of the weight out as we continued to fly along the cycle track and immediately noticed a difference. Fingers crossed I wouldn’t come to regret that decision later on in the race!! Kirsty was looking a lot stronger than I felt, so I made the decision at that point to push her on if the time came where I needed to pull back. She kept saying she was going to stay with me, so we pushed on and continued to enjoy the run.

Trying hard not to step on the poor photographers head as he lay in the middle of the track :) Photo - Ross Lawrie
Trying hard not to step on the poor photographers head as he lay in the middle of the track 🙂 Photo – Ross Lawrie

We passed through check point 2 and once again didn’t stop. I forced a few shot bloks in my mouth and we decided to walk the next few hills and shake out our legs a bit. The next few miles were the ups and down round to Balquhidder which was the point where I had wanted to quit last year as my whole body had gone numb from the cold. This year we were just over 13 miles in and feeling warm (and dry!) and still pretty fresh, so it felt good to be able to push through and conquer our demons. We ran on, all the way round to just before we got to Strathyre where we clocked a hill and both gave a little yell of delight as we were both in need a walk! The constant pavement pounding was beginning to make my back hurt again and we were starting to tire a bit. However we knew that Richard from out club was waiting, camera in hand, to cheer us on in Strathyre, so we flew over the shoogly bridge with our arms in the air and cheered at him as we ran by.

Dressed slightly differently from last years picture in this exact spot! Are we sure this is November? Photo - Richard O'Grady
Dressed slightly differently from last years picture in this exact spot! Are we sure this is November? Photo – Richard O’Grady

This was where the finish line had been last year, so it took a bit of effort to push past where we had stopped last time, knowing we were just over half way and had a huge climb ahead as we entered the second forest. We were ushered across the road by John Munro who was a vision in head to toe high vis and were all laughs and jokes until we hit the climb. The route had been slightly altered at this section as well and as we gritted our teeth and shuffled up the hill. I felt like there was someone behind me pulling me backwards again – It was just so steep!! We walked all the way up to the top, hands on thighs and leaning forward trying to catch our breath remembering that once this was out the way there was a lovely 2-3 mile downhill run all the way back to check point 3. Cue photo opportunity with a genuine smile…

Photo - Amanda Hamilton
Photo – Amanda Hamilton

We stopped briefly at checkpoint 3 to pick up some coke and a few jaffa cakes and within 2 minutes we were back on the path back to Killin. This is the point where my mind started to play mental games with me and I gave in to it. I needed to go to the loo and Kirsty said she’d walk on so I could catch her up, but I felt like I was holding her back so I told her just to push on and I’d try and catch her eventually. I was glad I did tell her to go on and she ended up smashing her last years time by 9 minutes, but once on my own, I really started to struggle. The climb back out of Lochearnhead killed my already trashed quads and the zig zags felt steeper than ever before. Once at the top I tried to keep my head up and look ahead and ran to a set of gates before letting myself walk again. I pulled out my ipod and an upbeat playlist helped me push to the top of the cycle path and road crossing back to the forest. On entering the final check point I was handed my drop bag by the ever super cheery marshals and quizzed about my socks once again. Noanie and Bill ushered me across the road and after being told I only had 4 and a bit miles to go, I decided to really dig deep and go for it. The wonderful Ruth Howie got the crowd cheering as I passed by the snack van and they made such a racket I felt like I’d finished – what a fabulous sound! Just before I started my descent back into the forest the amazing Robin Wombill told me I had a fabulous smile and grinning from ear to ear, I flew round the next 2 miles of the forest track feeling like I had a second wind and it was time to finish this race with power. I looked at my watch for the first time in hours and realised I’d passed the distance of last year course and was still under the time it’d had taken me to do that, so even though I was feeling a lot sorer I was actually performing (albeit just slightly!) better. I got to the bottom of the forest track, turned left back onto the main road and followed the road over the Falls of Dochart and back down the high street towards the finish line in the sports field. Through both utter fatigue and it not being that well signposted, I couldn’t for the life of me tell where I was meant to go to get to the finishers arch, until I saw a High Vis clad figure that was Angela, waving her arms in the air and jumping up and down to get my attention. I squelched over the grass, grinned and punched the air as I fell over the line and collected my second Glen Ogle medal.

Job done.
Job done.

Once we had cheered everyone in, we headed to the Inn at Strathyre for our soup and a drink where we caught up with various people before heading home for plenty of good food and some well deserved drinks. I know I wasn’t feeling 100% on race day and it showed in my results, but it just shows that you can’t work for so many different goals in one year and expect a good outcome in all of them. My speed will take a back seat next year as I want to focus on distance and power and with my eyes on the D33, Cateran 55 and DOTH next year as well as Glen Ogle round 3…something will have to give for a while. It’ll probably be my knees, but we’ll see!

Elated we got cider instead of beer this year! And I've sill got high hopes of my mug shot making the bottle next year...
Elated we got cider instead of beer this year! And I’ve sill got high hopes of my mug shot making the bottle next year…