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. The rest of the month saw many, many training runs on the West Highland Way, ahead of the big adventure that loomed in June, and many a brilliant day out with friends. FEBRUARY The start of the racing season! February saw a very, very muddy run round Devilla Forest at the annual 15k hosted by the Carnegie Harriers. It was no where near as cold as the previous year, but it was much MUCH muddier. I had a great race, knocked a good few minutes off my time and got absolutely caked in mud. Thanks to Bob Marshall for his awesome photos Muddy harriers. My socks started off with bright orange in them… MARCH It was finally time to kick start the Ultra season! My winter training had gone pretty well up until now, but I’d put my back out at work in the week leading up to the D33 and was pretty worried right up until the morning of the race that I wouldn’t be able to run. However everything seemed fine on race morning and I ended up having a storming race, taking 25 minutes off my time from the previous year finishing in 4 hours 39 minutes and 9th female overall. Possibly about to fall over, but job done! Photo – Fiona Rennie The Alloa Half marathon was the weekend after the D33 and I wasn’t feeling quite 100% recovered, but I was ready to give it a good shot. It turned out to be a roasting day which was a bit of a shock to the system after a long slog through the winter training, but I managed to have a pretty good run and match my PB of 1 hour 37 minutes, even though I stopped to fix my shoe and sock after the first few miles. I have big plans for that race next year, but we’ll see how winter training goes before I set any goals! APRIL I had a bit of downtime at the beginning of April when Craig and I went to Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia. We had an amazing yet harrowing experience which really opened my eyes to a lot of horrible things which have happened during my lifetime. Definitely something I will never forget. When we arrived home it was pretty much straight back to it and down to London for the marathon. What an experience! I never got round to writing a blog post about it as I couldn’t really put it into words; the whole experience was just phenomenal! I had a pretty good race and even though I wanted to take my time and enjoy it (and also save my legs for the Highland Fling race the following weekend!) I got a bit carried away and swept along with the crowds and finished in a comfortable 3 hours 56 minutes. The following weekend arrived and it was time for the first big race of the year; The Highland Fling, a 53 mile race along the first part of the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum. I had been on this route so many times so far this year and was more than ready for this race… except I was now regretting going that little bit too fast at London and REALLY felt it in my legs on certain sections of the course. However I was delighted with my time of 10 hours 36 minutes and my overall performance and now felt more than ready for the big one which was now just 6 weeks away! A few of the WCH runners ready to get going! Thans to Lucja Leonard for the photos en route and the awesome support! Just outside Beinglas and feeling strong! Photo – Clark Hamilton MAY With just a few weeks left until the West Highland Way race, May was full of last minute training, preparation and planning for the race. I’d never felt stronger or been leaner and I was more than ready to get going! Churning out the kettlebell swings. JUNE It was finally here, the race I had thought about every single day since I been selected the previous December, the iconic West Highland Way race. I won’t go into great detail as it’s all in the race report, but I will say that it’s something I’ve thought about every single day since and something I will never forget. Never did I think I’d be capable of doing something like that, and it’s given me the courage to try just about anything. JULY July was a month of complete downtime. Craig and I jetted off to Canada for just under 3 weeks and travelled from Vancouver to Calagry and over to Toronto and had the most amazing experience. I did pop on my trainers once or twice and ran around the amazing scenery, but it was mostly about relaxing and spending quality time with my awesome other half. AUGUST Back to it! It was time for the final race of the Triple Crown series (all 3 races on the West Highland Way in the same year) at the Devil O’ The Highlands. After a bit too much downtime on holiday I wasn’t quite sure how this race was going to pan out, but after toeing the start line with the speedy ultra girls, my competitive hat was firmly on and I gave it my all. I had an awesome race and finished 9th lady overall in 7 hours and 47 minutes taking 43 minutes of the previous years time! Pretending I ran all the way up the staircase! Photo – Josh Hewitson SEPTEMBER Another month, another big race! I’d heard great things about the Glenmore races, which are run by the awesome BAM racing and decided to give the 12 hour race a go. A few guys from my running club had signed up for the 24 hour race, but I kept my (almost) sensible head on and decided against it this time around. The weather was stunning, the location was amazing and I was delighted to blag my first podium position at an ultra, finishing 3rd lady overall in the 12 hour race! Sun burnt and delighted. 2 weeks later, I was toeing the start line of the River Ayr Way Ultra. I thought I’d have 3 weeks in between races, but I got my dates wrong! Oh well! It was a new race to me so I was excited about a day out with the Wee County Harrier ladies. It turned out to be another stunner of a day for racing and the course and organisation were fantastic, I’ll definitely be doing it again. I was pretty shattered and had a lazy few last miles, chatting away to new friends that I’d made along the route, but I somehow still finished 3rd lady! Pretty sure the shoes were dark purple when I started! Coming in to the first water station. Going too fast!!! OCTOBER More downtime which meant more travelling! This time it was off to the Faroe Islands for some hiking and photography. I thoroughly recommend a visit, it’s stunning! I’ll just let that mess with your heads for a little while… NOVEMBER It was finally time for the last race of the season and I had a bee in my bonnet. Glen Ogle was my very first Ultra in 2013 and I have ran it every year since, so my 4th time running it I was DETERMINED to finish in under 5 hours. I was delighted to finish in 4 hours and 54 minutes feeling strong and happy! I was going to call it quits with Glen Ogle as soon as I got under 5 hours, but I’ll need to go back next year and do my 5th race on the course to earn my BAM pot! Cold and chilly Wee County Harriers Heading up the main road at the start. Photo – Alison Downey And with that, another racing year comes to a close! I couldn’t sum it up in just a few words as I’ve crammed so much in and had the most amazing time in doing so. 2017 is going to have to be pretty spectacular if it wants to beat this one! See you on the flip side!

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. 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! Winter training is something I struggle with. I hate dark mornings, I hate it when it gets dark really early in the evening and I’m pretty much walking to and from work in the dark. I hate getting home and then having to scrape myself off the couch to get back out for a run when it’s freezing/raining/windy/dark. I finish work early on a Friday and I throw myself into my training when I still have sunlight and then fit in a long run and/or a hill run at the weekend, but the rest of the week is a slog. Focus on the outcome, not the obstacles. However, I do it because once I’m out I love it. The “I can’t” or “I don’t want to” is all mental and to be able to reach your goals, these need to be pushed aside. I’ve decided to give the Marcothon another go this year; a personal challenge where you run for at least 3 miles or 25 minutes every day in December and 9 days in, so far so good. December is a hard to month to really commit to training, what with nights out, it being the end of the season and most big races are out the way and also (of course!) Christmas. I’ve failed twice before, the first year I was loaded with the cold and had the sense to stop and the following year was the year of my appendix fiasco. So fingers crossed for the rest of this month! Running goals aside, travelling the world is another (long term!) goal. It’ll take some time, but we’re doing not too bad so far! Beautiful Toronto. The new year brings a new training programme and new races to try and of course, new countries to travel to, but I’ll leave that for another post! I haven’t booked in for many races yet as my big goal of 2017 is to complete a triathlon in the latter part of the year, but the start of the year will hopefully include the mud fest that is the Devilla 15k, the Glentress marathon, the Alloa Half marathon, the Cateran 55 mile ultra and the Great Glen Ultra in July. And by then I hope to be a lot better at not falling off my bike and have got over my fear of open water swimming. Both things that are pretty essential to being able to complete my first triathlon! The 2016 goal. Don’t think I’ll ever stop dreaming about it 🙂 And so the year comes to an end. I’m not sure how 2017 can top this year but I’m sure it’ll be just as epic! Good luck with your winter training 🙂

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 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!). Cold and chilly Wee County Harriers It was very chilly but dry and looked like it could be a great day for racing. I drove up to Killin, registered and met up my fellow Wee County Harriers and ultra buddies for a catch up before the race started. After a quick race briefing we were off and up the main road and on to the trails. My leg felt good and I felt full of energy after a week of enforced rest, so I trotted off up the trails chatting to Lucja as we headed up the first climb in the forest. I tried to keep my breathing steady but my pace to a run and soon I was feeling the effects of wearing so many layers. Off came the gloves and the arm sleeves, my long sleeves were pushed up as I found myself at the top of the hill and on my way along through the top of the forest and down to the first check point. Once over the main road I found myself trotting along the cycle path on my own as the pack of runners had spread out. The gradual decline of the slope helped me pick up my pace as I ran along to the pace of my music and I found myself banking a few 7:xx minute miles on the way down to the second check point. I was feeling strong and enjoying a play list Jemma had put together for a race a while back, smiling as I danced my way over the pine needles to Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September”. Good times. Heading up the main road at the start. Photo – Alison Downey The road section which leads you out towards Balquhidder and back round towards Strathyre is usually where I have started to find things a bit tough, but today I felt strong; both mentally and physically and I wasn’t going to let it beat me. I remembered to eat (not the most nutritious, but fizzy strawberry laces and babybel worked for me today) and drink plenty, pushed myself up the road climbs on the way back to Strathyre and gave a good go of the hills after Strathyre but conceded and power marched up to the top, hands on thighs and trying to remember how to breathe. Up, up and up. I forgot how long this hill went on for. I decided to push a bit more; run 30 steps and walk 20, up to the top and then over and down, down, down all the way back to Kingshouse where I could freewheel for a bit. Once back on the cycle path after Kingshouse I had a quick watch check. I was coming up for 24 miles and I was still well under 4 hours, I was still on target and feeling not too bad. Back into the check point and over to pick up my bag helped by Amanda who gave me a telling off for still having snacks on me and not taking the contents of my drop bag. Whoops! Always guilty of not eating enough!! I forced another few jelly sweets in my mouth, glugged down the remains of my bottle of lucozade and then was into the last section of the race and back up the quad zapping zigzags to the cycle path. This part of the route will never get easier and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to run it. I ran a zig and power marched a zag all the way to the top, gave myself a shake and then increased the pace trying to push myself all the way up to the check point at the top of the path. My legs were tiring and even though it’s not much of an incline, it’s a long and steady increase over 3 miles which at 28 miles into a race was quite a slog. I reached the check point, very briefly stopped for my cheese and had a quick chat with a few runners I had been leap frogging since the beginning of the race. Back over the road, up into the forest and then I grinned with delight as I knew what lay ahead; 3 miles of down and unlike last year no aches or pains that were going to slow me down. One day I’ll learn the right time to look at the camera and not at my feet!! Photo – Gordon Donnachie I bolted down the last hill, made the sharp right turn and pushed along the flat path back towards Killin. This path is always longer that I remember it being, but before long I could see the bridge marking the end of the trail, I made the sharp left turn back onto the main road in Killin and back over the Falls of Dochart and towards Breadalbane Park and the finish line. I could hear the cheers and cow bells as I made my way around the perimeter of the park and towards the finish archway. Yeeeeesssssss!!! Sub 5!! Absolutely freaking delighted!!!! Ruth was at the finish line handing out medals and her fantastic hugs. Jeni Rees-Jenkins had finished just ahead of me and it was so lovely to see her and congratulate her on her epic achievement of having ran 5000km (so far!) this year, all in aid of raising awareness and donations for MND (here’s a link to her justgiving site, the woman is incredible and made of strong stuff! Jeni’s Justgiving page.) After a quick shower it was back to the village hall to congratulate everyone on an amazing run and season finisher (especially Jo who smashed it once again and finished 3rd lady!) and of course fill our faces with cake, courtesy of the ladies of Cancer Research UK. Delicious. And with that, another racing year has come to an end and what a race to finish it with! Huge thanks again to Bill, Mike and Cat for all their hard work and to all the volunteers who helped on race day. I partied my socks off at the SUMS awards last weekend which was a great way to finish the season, let my hair down and have a great night out with some great friends. Ultra partying with Jeni at the SUMS awards. The best way to end the season! Here’s to winter training!

River Ayr Way Ultra race report

The River Ayr Way Challenge TIME: 7 Hours 03 Minutes and 21 Seconds OVERALL : 20th/70 finishers (2 DNF) GENDER: 3rd/16 females I entered the River Ayr Way race in a total moment of madness. I’d heard really good things about the race from a couple of club mates who ran it last year, and then when I discovered they were going back this year to run the relay I thought I might as well stick in a last minute entry and join them for a lovely day out and run an ultra I’d never done before. Silly, silly decision. I manged to write the dates down wrong in my diary and only discovered the week before Glenmore that the RAW race was actually only 2 weeks after Glenmore, not 3 as I had initially thought. But never mind, the season is coming to an end and it was a pretty quiet race, so I thought I might as well give it a bash and at least enjoy a nice day out with my Wee County Harrier ladies. A 9am race start meant we didn’t have to set off too early, and after meeting and splitting between 2 cars we were on our way down the road to Glenbuck where the race began. As mentioned, I’ve never ran this race before and started to have a panic the night before about getting lost. I printed out the map, stuck it all together and it pretty much covered the length of my living room! Apart from the Cateran, I’ve never ran an ultra somewhere I don’t know like the back of my hand, or that has so many people running you’re guaranteed never to be on your own. This had neither! The Wee County ladies. The runners all met near Glenbuck Dam, which was in the middle of nowhere. With no toilets! Never mind, nothing else to do but get running! This race is a little different from any other Ultra I have competed in, in that it is supported by the council. The entry fee was next to nothing and yet we still got fully stocked check points that had water, juice, sweets, fresh fruit, cereal bars etc etc. Your own drop bags were almost not necessary! As well as 4 fully stocked check points there were countless water stations along the way. Amazing! Just before 9am there was a quick race briefing and then we were off! I’d been warned not to set off too fast as although it is pretty flat for the first 10 miles or so, running on the grass would take it’s toll on the legs so to take it easy. Well, that didn’t happen! My biggest downfall when it comes to ultras is getting ridiculously carried away at the start and paying for it early on, having a low for a couple of miles in the first 20 miles, but then picking up again and managing a strong finish. I always wonder what would happen if I started just that little bit slower. My main worry is that I won’t be able to pull it back towards the end, but I’ll leave that wonder for another day. Today was not the day of starting slowly… The route runs along beside the road for the first few miles, on an embankment where there once was a railway. I was happily running along on my own for a while and about 4 miles in I caught up with Sean McMinn. We ran pretty much the first half of the race together and it was good to chat and take my mind of some of the tougher parts of the races (massive steps over high bridges and running through fields of knee length grass). There were one or two sections where I would probably have gone the wrong way had I been on my own (coming out of Catrine after the bridge crossing there was no race route sign post, and then the road leading up to the water treatment plant where the RAW goes off on a small path to the right, I carried on up the road for a few hundred meters!). However, the route was absolutely stunning. The weather was perfect and I was really enjoying myself. Coming in to the first water station. Going too fast!!! Having blasted through the first half of the race, I slowed down quite a bit coming into check point 2. I spent a good few minutes here, refilling my bottles and eating properly (no more Glenmore moments thank you!) and then headed off up the hill on my own with my ipod and a sandwich. The next few miles wound around fields, through a forest section and then on to the only part of the route I disliked. We had to run across a main road and then follow it for nearly a mile down to Failford. Despite plenty fluorescent “Caution Runner” signs and us running as far in to the side of the road as possible, people we still flying along this road and at one point I had to jump into a ditch off the road as a car travelling way too fast beeped at me and refused to swerve slightly out for me. Hence the grumpy face as I came into the next water station: Not a happy runner after jumping to a ditch! Photo – Zander Beggs The route then got back on to forest trails and we were running right beside the river for a few miles. I caught up with another runner (Gordon Halliday) here who wasn’t sure which way the route was meant to go and ended up running with him all the way to the finish. There were a few points we probably could have pushed on slightly faster, but neither of really wanted to in the heat, so took our time enjoying the trails and chatting about all the other races we had completed that year so far. Turns out Gordon was one of the few nutters who had completed the double Cateran both this year and last year. I contemplated trying it next year, but very quickly reminded myself that was in fact a very silly plan and I would regret it if I did! The weather was still beautiful and I was drinking a lot. Tailwind was definitely working for my today and I was feeling the benefits of it (whereas at Glenmore I just hadn’t been enjoying it). I had a quick catch up with the WCH ladies at checkpoint 3 where they were waiting for the next relay changeover, stocked up on fresh fruit and white chocolate mice and then it was on to the last section of the race. After a mile or so on tarmac, a few miles through fields and a bit of a detour right down on the river bank when we weren’t quite sure which way the route went (turns out we went the wrong way, but our technical detour was way more fun than a million stairs anyway!), we were then on to the last few miles of the race. The route followed a rather muddy path high above the river and at one point we found ourselves squelching up a very muddy hill and nearly losing some shoes! The forest then spat us out to check point 4 and the final few miles followed the road back towards Ayr. Tarmac was not my friend at this point and my legs were starting to really tire after 2 ultras a fortnight apart, so I just took my time and slowed to a walk every so often. Not knowing how far we had to go probably slowed us down more than had we known there was just over 2 miles to go, but soon we were following a main road for a couple of hundred meters before dropping back down to follow the river and into the last mile. That last mile went on for quite some time! Gordon suddenly sped up when he spotted someone catching up from behind which spurred me on to push right to the finish line as well! The route zigzagged back over the river, along the river bank on the opposite side, past the University and finally onto the running track at the Dam park stadium for a lap of the track and round towards the finish line. The clock had just ticked over 7 hours but time hadn’t been a issue today, finishing without illness or injury had been my main concern. Pretty sure the shoes were dark purple when I started! The goody bag was amazing! A lovely purple technical t shirt, a medal, a wee whisky and a hip flask along with a folder full of maps and information about walking routes and wildlife in East Ayrshire. Awesome goodies! The next few hours were spent chilling, catching up with friends and cheering in the ladies when they finished their relays. The weather was perfect and the drive home was full of high spirited chatter about how much we had all enjoyed our day. It may not have been a race that was part of the initial plan for the year, but I’m glad I did it and I’ll definitely be back! Now that the ultra year is coming to an end I need to start thinking about what races I’d like to enter next year. I know for a fact I’m going to try a few more that I haven’t ran before (the Great Glen being the big one for the year) and I’d love to go back and do the Cateran 55 again. I’ve just bought a road bike, so I’m hoping a triathlon will be part of the pipe dream, but after a bit of a tumble a few weeks ago I need to get the confidence back and get back out there! 5 weeks until the last race of the season which will be Glen Ogle round 4. The race that holds a special place in my heart as it was my first ultra, but also because I am SO determined to run it in under 5 hours. Let’s just see what the legs have left after such a huge year I guess! Happy running 🙂