“Strong winds are expected to hit much of Scotland this weekend with the arrival of Storm Hannah.” (Herald Scotland, 25/04/2019).
That’s not the weather report you want to see when you’re planning to run a 53 mile cross country ultra from 6am on the Saturday morning. However up until now the sun had always shined on Jonny Fling, no matter what the weather report said, so all would be alright on the day…wouldn’t it?
Somehow it was the end of April and Fling time again. How had that happened? Since my great run at Falkirk (also in pretty awful weather) in February, training had been up and down. My foot had hurt post-race so I’d had a bit of recovery from that, then I got the cold, followed by a horrific bout of sinusitis which knocked me for six, followed by ANOTHER cold… and then finally when training was almost back on track it somehow became time to taper for the race. Not ideal, but with the mantra of “what will be will be” going around and around in my brain and reminding myself that yes a good race could happen, but it was all just a warm up for the West Highland Way in June , I got around to planning, prepping, stressing, and eating before I was ready to hit the hay for my pre race 3 or 4 hours sleep. A bit more stressing came with the horrific weather forecast and 3 or 4 kit choice changes were made before I decided just to be brave and go with a skort but layer up with arm sleeves, a long sleeved top and swapped my lighter jacket for my OMM and thicker gloves. After all skin is waterproof, isn’t it? Continue reading →
I’m ridiculously late in writing this report for no reason apart from laziness! Work, training and sleep have taken control of my life again, and sitting staring at a laptop after a long day just hasn’t appealed to me. But excuses out the way, here we go!!
After running this race last year and finally getting a decent sub 4 hour time, I was desperate to go back and give it another go. I loved everything about the route, even the 2 laps didn’t put me off as I was desperate to push harder the second time round this year and finish stronger than last year. The day started as all big race mornings do; wake before my alarm, force in breakfast, fix my silly race day hairdo, put on my kit, mascara and Vaseline and then sort out my attitude. I’ve been told more than once this year that I need to have more faith in myself and push myself to my limit, even if it means reaching the ultimate pain barrier. My training had been somewhat lackluster since the Devil O’the Highlands race and I wasn’t sure what I had left to give come race day. I confided in my running friends about my doubts and they gave me all the positive words I needed to hear; all the miles were in my legs, the rest would have done me good and all I had to do was get my head in the right place.
After registering, pinning on my number and sorting out my final kit choice (nothing new there!) I had half an hour or so to plan out the race in my head. I was feeling tired and under trained, but this was a great course so I felt another sub 4 hour time was possible. I decided to try and keep up with Derek and Andy for the first lap and see how I felt by the time I got back to Aberfeldy after the first lap knowing that Derek would be hoping for under 3 hours 40 mins, and Andy usually runs great negative splits. After last years disaster of nearly missing the start of the race we headed round to the start line with time to spare for well wishes, hugs and of course – photos!
I set off near the back of the pack to try and keep my first few miles at a steady pace, but before I knew it I was towards the front and running steady splits of just over 8 minute miles. I kept up with Derek for the majority of the first lap and we chatted away to a guy who had run 109 marathons. Really puts my moaning to shame!! I had a minor panic I was flying off too quickly but felt good, so just kept it up. Powered by magical blue powerade and shot bloks, I was really enjoying myself and feeling ridiculously powerful. Before I knew it, I was running through the castle grounds and tackling the hill for the first time with the words “Wee County Harriers don’t walk up hills!” running through my head. Thanks coaches!!!
The run back in to Aberfeldy is mostly downhill and I picked the pace back up quite a lot. Over the bridge and past the field and lap one was done.
As I passed the marshal at the end of the first lap, he informed me I was currently 3rd lady. I have no idea how that had happened as I’ve never placed in a race before, but it scared me a little as I knew my competitive mode would kick in now and I might push off round the second lap too quickly. I had just passed a girl from Carnegie so knew she would be hot on my heels but tried not to look back too often as it’d throw me off my stride. The miles continued to to tick by, my legs tiring a bit but no major niggles to speak of so I felt no reason to slow down too much. Around mile 18 I finally conceded and put in my head phones as I had a guy running right behind me and he had an annoyingly slappy footed run. Normally I’d make up a song to sing along with something that annoyed me, but not today. I couldn’t get away from him fast enough!!
As I came through the castle grounds for a second time, I managed to look back along the route and found there was no one in sight behind me. Feeling a bit achy I decided to power shuffle up the hill the second time round and found I felt a bit wobbly and dehydrated and started zig-zagging up the road to the top of the hill. Luckily there was a water stop a top of the hill – definitely in the right place at the right time. I quickly found my pace again and flew round the last 4 miles of the course, occasionally glancing back to see if anyone was near me.
Lap 2 splits; 8:25, 8:36, 8:36, 8:46, 8:48, 8:38, 8:39, 8:36, 9:59 (walking up the hill!), 8:42, 9:01, 8:49, 8:35
As I came back into Aberfeldy for the second time, I finally spotted someone catching up on me. Not knowing if they were male or female I picked up the pace, flew over the bridge for the final time and back into the field to the finish line. A new marathon time of 3:41:34 (13 minutes off my previous attempt!), 3rd lady overall and 1st senior lady! No idea how that happened… obviously all the speedies were doing something else this weekend!!
I crossed the line, hugged everyone in sight and continued to be majorly confused that I’d placed first in my category. My brother in law Stuart asked me if I was crying, but no – I was just a tad snotty!!
I walked about in a bewildered daze until I was told it was time to go home, still not quite believing what had just happened. I was quite tired during the second lap, and I did give up a bit on the hill so what am I capable of for London next year? Where are my limits?! I’m quite excited to see what will happen next year!!
It’ll probably be a long time, if ever, that I place in a race again so I’m quite happily still basking in my glory just now. And I have taken over the top shelf with my trophies and demoted Craig’s to the second shelf….. ( as I only have some of them for the year as he gets to keep his forever, so I think it’s fair!!!)
I wasn’t planning on running this race! I had originally put my name down but then after my exploding appendix fiasco I had decided I probably wasn’t strong enough. However last Wednesday there was a last minute drop out and after a desperate plea on facebook from my coach, I decided I could at least give it a bash – but ONLY if it was leg 1 of the race (see lasts years race report to find out why I’ll probably never do leg 2 again)!
The Devil’s Burdens is an annual event held by Fife AC in late January and usually our first club event of the year. Last year we had terrible weather, I was shattered and could hardly shift my legs up the hill and after a freezing 2 hours in the hills and face planting into a bog I had reservations about ever running that particular leg again, but I knew I wanted to try other sections; preferably ones that didn’t involve near vertical climbs up the side of a mountain! So this year, luckily, the person who pulled out had been down to run leg 1 of the course and having had my eyes on this particular section after last years event, I was more than up for giving it a bash.
This year there had been some slight changes to the course. Leg 1 was still a single runner and leg 2 still a pair and were both following the same route as last time, but this year to try and solve parking dilemmas and mad dashes round to the start of leg 4, leg 3 was now slightly longer and run in a pair and leg 4 started much closer to the original starting point meaning the leg 4 runner could just stay at the start and be ready without the stress! If you are interested in having a look at the course routes they can be found here.
After meeting at the local leisure centre, our 2 teams bundled into 3 cars and set off on the 45 minute journey through to Falkland in Fife. Falkland is a beautiful small town full of lovely old building and narrow winding roads but unfortunately is not the ideal starting location for hundreds of runners along with their cars and families in tow…just getting into the town was hard enough never mind finding a parking space! However, we eventually found somewhere safe to leave the car (not exactly a parking space, but it would do!), got registered and made it into the village hall in time for the race briefing. The R.D took to the stage to go over the rules and one which was emphasised again and again was that “all runners must wear full body cover, or at least have it with you, at all times; even those running leg 1”. Damn.. I had planned to wear shorts and long socks seeing as leg 1 wasn’t exactly on the hill but he had said that any team failing to follow these rules would be automatically disqualified. I wasn’t going to let my team down, so after a super quick change into leggings and minor panic trying to get my number pinned on, I was legging it down to the start line (which is a good 5 minutes away from the village hall!) with just enough time to get my breath back and calm down before the race started. Once at the start line I found myself surrounded by runners who were built of pretty much nothing (hill runners are a breed I am yet to fully understand) but also wearing close to nothing. Shorts and a vest top? Not even with long socks or a long sleeved base layer? How on earth was that full body cover?! Some did have waist packs but the majority didn’t. If they were indeed carrying extra layers, they must have had them packed away pretty cleverly; I wasn’t even going to ask where they might be!
Bang on 9.30am and we were off. The pack spread out quickly and I found myself quite far up the field. No, no, no.. this wasn’t the plan! I was meant to hold back for the first mile or so and see how things were going! We turned off the tarmac and onto a frozen farm track that I had to navigate carefully so as not to go over my ankle.This lead onto a forest trail which was the perfect running surface but by now I’d trundling along so quickly I was roasting! Cue much faffing about trying to get my jacket off and tie it round my waist whilst keeping my speed up and not veering off the path into a tree. Chaos. We then hit a small hill and I used this to slow my pace and get into a good rhythm, except 2 minutes later I found myself flying back down the other side of the hill and speeding up once again. By now we were just over 2 miles in and despite noticing another hill just ahead I decided to push on a try and keep the pace up as I was still overtaking people. Up the hill, people were slowing right down and I pushed on by them, knowing there would be a downhill soon and as soon as it arrived I opened up and again and flew down the hill towards the control point. 2 card stamps meant a little wait as the there were a few people in front of me and they weren’t quite sure which box to stamp, and then it was back down the forest trails avoiding huge iced over puddles and more frozen muddy paths towards the change over point. I successfully navigated my way along the side of the very icy cycle track, only once getting whacked in the arm by a gorse bush, and bounced through the field to hand over my check card to Gordon and David ahead of schedule. Job done!
Leg 2 was up and over West Lomond so we estimated around an hour and a half for Gordon and David to run the next leg. We bundled into Scott’s car and made our way round to Strathmiglo but once there realised we still had plenty of time until they’d be there, so carried on along the road to a cafe for coffee, bacon rolls and cake. All of us, even though I was the only one who had done work so far! Soon enough it was time to get going and ready to send off our next, now fully fuelled, pair. The end of leg 2/beginning of leg 3 is at the bottom of a very steep hill. As the runners come down, a fair share of them will take a tumble into the bracken and mud in front of the crowd which has gathered at the bottom of the hill. One lady fell and somehow managed a forwards roll, a backwards roll and then a quick bow to show she was OK which got a huge cheer from the crowd below. Rather them than me!! Gordon and David arrived and after a super quick change over we watched Scott and Derek disappear back up the hill (nearly on their hands and knees it’s that steep!) and then another quick dash back to the car to get Stephen back to Falkland for leg 4.The start of the final leg is in the middle of a forest so after having trouble finding parking and then walking for a good 10 minutes up to the change over point, we arrived to find Scott an Derek already there and waiting for us!! Note for next year – leave the leg 4 runner behind in Falkland, no matter how much they want a bacon roll!!
We walked back through Falkland and round to the finish line where not too long after Stephen finished his leg and we celebrated with a cup of green soup and a buttered roll, all kindly supplied by Fife AC. Once both teams were finished we decided not to stick around in the stinky hall for the prize giving, but to make our way down the road for a well earned drink and catch up. Another fantastic team day out and for once, no one got lost! Only a few minor injuries (gorse bush, cuts from ice, sore bums from slips), 12 smiling faces and everyone raring to do it again next year and already fighting over what leg they’re not doing again. Unsurprisingly, leg 2 was mentioned as not a favourite once again. I wonder who we can trick into running it next year….
Although it’s tough, it’s definitely a beautiful race. The weather this year was prefect and I was told from the top of the Lomonds you could see over to the snow covered mountains in the Southern Highlands. There are still plenty of pictures to go up, but here are a few of the official ones so you can see for yourselves just how stunning this race is! Official photos.
I hope to see a few of you there next year. I’m going to go for leg 3 I think!
I’ve had a fantastic summer so far. 3 weeks of sailing around the Baltic sea with Craig and my family and managing to visit Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden, as well as many islands in between in that time….I’ve now come back to reality with a bump.
My plans for the next few weeks were originally:
– Get back to training asap after doing very little while away
– Run the Highland Perthshire marathon in September as a long training run
– Try and beat my PB at the Stirling 10K (which would mean a PB in every distance this year!)
– Run the Clyde Stride 40 mile ultra at the end of September.
However, for a while now I’ve not been feeling the drive to run the Clyde Stride. When I think about how excited I was before Glen Ogle or Strathearn, I realise I’m not getting the same feeling about this race. Whether it’s because I haven’t managed to go and run any of the route in advance or because I’ve done very few miles in the past month, I just wasn’t looking forward to it. So instead of running a race I wasn’t particularly feeling up for, I decided (with very little persuasion from Jemma!) to sign up for the Loch Ness marathon and see if I can break the elusive 4 hour barrier time before the year is out.
I’m much more excited about running Loch Ness again as now I know the course and I know where the hills are. I know not to go out too fast on the first downhill section and also not the give up on the nasty hill around 19 miles in. I know to take more gels and carry some paracetamol in case my knee starts to hurt again. Running a marathon in under 4 hours is my ultimate goal for the rest of this year. After taking 12 minutes off my time at the tricky Strathearn marathon, I feel I should be more than capable of it on this course, but after swanning around on holiday for weeks, has all my hard work and training taken a back seat?
With 4 weeks of hard work ahead of me, it’s time to really put some effort in.
This Sunday coming is the day I should be running my first marathon of the year. A race I entered almost as soon as it was open with high hopes of a distance PB and a more comfortable run that my last attempt, which was at the Loch Ness Marathon back in September last year. The Lochaber marathon is an out and back race on a relatively flat route and after the ups and downs and inbetweens of Loch Ness, I had really been looking forward to see what I was capable of. But after my rather shaky start to the year, I made the heart wrenching decision to pull out. I knew it was the right decision as I hadn’t been able to train properly, but the stubborn part of me was very reluctant to accept I wasn’t capable of doing it. In the state I was in I would have been lucky to complete the first 10k of it!
However, now that race day looms and I’m feeling much better and have a good few miles clocked in my fresh legs, I’m inwardly very jealous of everyone going up to the race. I know I’m still nowhere near marathon ready but now that I’m running well again, part of me wishes I’d still given it a go. The very silly part of me of course – I know I’d do more damage than good running on untrained legs, but still….. you know how it is.
The past few weeks have seen my return to running with a grin on my face. Not just a grin, but an elated , Cheshire cat type beam from ear to ear.
And, well whatever this is…
The above was taken at our club time trail on Tuesday. A 3 mile sprint around the Gartmorn dam, a beautiful – if somewhat muddy, circular loop where our club does loads of training. My splits for which were all under 8 minutes and my overall time being 22:35. I couldn’t be happier with that time, and if that’s how I’m starting my comeback I’m hoping at the next time trial I can slash at least another 30 seconds off that!
Thursdays training was one of my favourite pyramid set – 3 mins, 4 mins, 5 mins, 6 mins, 5 mins, 4 mins, 3 mins, following the old wagon way down to Tillicoultry and then, yep you guessed it, back UP again. I felt like I had so much power during this session which is something I haven’t felt since the beginning of December. I even managed a sprint up the last hill in the last minute of the last set – something I couldn’t have even dreamed of a few weeks ago!
So now the countdown is on until my next few events. Starting with sweeping the first 2 legs of the Hoka Highland Fling in 3 weeks – something that has just been finalised tonight and I couldn’t be more excited about! Then I have the Loch Leven Half at the beginning of May which is a race that I HAVE to run this year as it was my first ever DNS last year. Following that Jemma and I are running the Mull of Kintyre half at the end of May – one of the most beautiful in the U.K and then, in 10 weeks time, it’s marathon time again. The Strathearn marathon which will now be my first marathon of the year and my now ‘A’ race of the year. Training is well under way and if I manage to run it like I’m running just now, I’ll be elated and have a fantastic race.
Bring on the hours of running ahead.