“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 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!
2013 was a successful running year for me which gave me high hopes for 2014. Ending the year on a bit of a low with a brutal cold which saw some of my end of year goals go out of the window, I was determined to have a strong 2014 and become the best version of myself to date. Well, I did that in many ways but the year definitely did not come without some speed bumps and hurdles along the way. Like many other runners, I like to have a little look back over the year that was and see where I can possibly make improvements for an exciting and strong 2015.
On January the 2nd I kick started my year by running up Dumyat with some club mates. I struggled and felt horrific the entire time I was out but put it down to still getting over the cold. It was freezing, slippy and very muddy but it was the perfect way to start a new year.
At the end of January I took part in the Devil’s Burden; an annual event held by Fife A.C where teams of 6 run up and over the Lomond Hills, stamping orienteering type cards along the way and having tons of muddy and cold fun. I still wasn’t feeling right at the end of January but had put it down to some medication I had been taking. I couldn’t let my team down so I plodded along and struggled through the steepest, coldest and toughest 6miles of my life but at the end of it I couldn’t wait to do it again! Definitely one of my favourite events of the year and even though I’ll just be supporting my club this year, I can’t wait to go back and soak up the atmosphere.
In February I was still feeling weak and tired and after one too many awful training sessions which saw me close to tears with frustration I eventually got a blood test and found out I was highly anaemic. Finally there was a solution to the problem and once I’d been on a course of iron tablets for a few weeks I was literally bouncing back. I’d never felt stronger and began to wonder how long it had been an under lying problem? However, the solution had come just a little too late and I’d already pulled out of a few upcoming events knowing that I was under trained and wouldn’t perform 100% on the day. One event that I did take part in was the Devilla 15k at the beginning of the month and even though I was tired and struggled quite a bit, it was a lot of muddy fun and a great day out with my club mates. I can’t wait to give it another go in February!
March was a quiet month for me as I continued to support my club mates at events and train hard to get my strength back. I loved cycling around Alloa and supporting everyone during the Alloa half marathon – best Wee County cheer leader by far!
At the end of April, Jemma and I had agreed to help out at the Highland Fling and ended up sweeping the first 27 miles of the race. We had an amazing day out and got to catch up with loads of friends. Unfortunately I won’t get to take part next year as I managed to secure a place in the London marathon, but I’ll definitely be there in 2016!!
May saw the beginning of my comeback as I smashed my half marathon P.B and took nearly 3 minutes off my time at the Loch Leven Half Marathon. I felt amazingly strong and couldn’t believe the difference in how I felt compared to just a few months back when running up a tiny incline had me feeling drained.
At the end of May, Jemma and I travelled to Campbeltown to take part in the Mull of Kintyre half marathon – by far the most beautiful race I have ever ran. Definitely one for your bucket list but also one to make a weekend of as it takes forever to get there!
In June I had my second pop at the marathon distance and despite the ridiculously hot weather, had a fantastic race at the Strathearn Marathon. I had high hopes for a P.B and was unbelievably chuffed with a time of 4:05:05. I was sunburnt and my feet were agony, but I couldn’t have been more pleased with my run.
July saw me having a bit of a break from running and swanning off to sail around the Baltic with Craig and my parents for 3 weeks. I got to visit Estonia, Russia, Finland, the Aland Islands and Sweden and do a bit of swimming in the Baltic sea. Too hot to run, honestly!
September saw my return to the racing season after a summer of swanning around and I really pushed the boat out with 4 races in 4 weeks. Not something I’d do again as by the end of the month I was shattered, but something worked as I got a P.B in both my 10k and marathon distance, bringing my 10k P.B to 45:55 and my marathon time to 3:54:55. I also gave the Loch Ness Marathon another go, but I was far too tired and hadn’t fuelled properly so didn’t enjoy it much. You live and learn!
In October I decided to try something different when Kat talked me into trying an Aquathlon. I’ve been wanting to give triathlon a go, so thought this was the perfect way to ease my way in. We had a fantastic day out and did really well for my first attempt. Definitely going to give it another go next year and maybe even try some open water swimming!
In November I got to give the G033 another bash with the added excitement of the course being reversed this year. We had another great day out and there was no rain this year which made such a huge difference! I didn’t have the best race but still managed a P.B and can’t wait to give it another try next year.
Well. December has been a complete flop. I managed 2 days of the Marcothon then ended up in hospital when my appendix not only decided to burst, but then leave my abdomen quite infected post operation. December has been a complete wipe out where I have spent the majority of it lying either in a hospital bed hooked up to antibiotics or lying on the couch full of antibiotics. However I am definitely on the mend and I’m ready to try my first easy jog this weekend.
However, even though my running year came to an abrupt end and had a bit of a faltered start I still managed to do enough during the year to win my running club Grand Prix and also come joint first in the most improved runners league. I am so pleased with this and makes me think that once I’m back to full fitness I can have an awesome year of racing in 2015.
I’m not 100% yet but I’m definitely getting there and I’m ready to get going again and start planning 2015. There are quite a few races I’m hoping to get a place in, but the ones I have already secured a place in are my priorities just now. I would also like to get under 45 mins for my 10k and slightly faster at both my half and marathon times, but I guess with distance training I can’t expect speed to come as well. Although who knows… things seem to have worked out not badly this year!
I hope everyone has a fabulous new year, whatever you’re doing and all the best for 2015.
This year the Hartley Cup was held in Anstruther and hosted by the Anster Haddies. After having such an enjoyable time last year, I signed up again to give it a second go and have another fab day out with my running club The Wee County Harriers. This annual event which is hosted and attended by smallish clubs from around Scotland is, just like most other events in the racing calendar, getting more and more popular and the years go on. This year around 52 teams entered, consisting of male, female and mixed teams. Knowing we didn’t have enough fast males there to keep up with the competition (and they are FAST!), we decided to enter 3 mixed teams and a ladies team.
Once again my training for speed has been somewhat minimal to nonexistent of late – with 3 marathons and an ultra under my belt in the last 6 months something had to give! But in saying that I did mange to pull off a mile PB at the last club time trial, taking 20 seconds off my mile time, so being the fastest lady who was going on the day, I somehow ended up on the fastest team, again. Err.. no pressure then! (My team was made up of 4 guys who all have 5:xx minute mile times and me with my pb sitting at 6:25 on the flat. I was well and truly out of my depth!)
Last year our first mixed team had placed 3rd over all but this year there were a lot more teams and runners so we had no idea of the level of competition. The course this year was the perfect cross county course – wet grass, mud and a few steep ups and downs. The route was just over a mile long and was mostly on grass playing fields, going around the perimeter of a pitch, looping back the way you came in, then going around another field, over a hill and across a car park then across the grass which had a few hidden ditches, up a concrete slope and into yet another field which we again ran the perimeter of and then back down a super steep grass hill that catapulted you back to the start line. With there being so many of us, the start was staggered into the men starting first, followed a minute later by the ladies followed another minute later by the mixed teams.
Our race plan was simple – Go, run, don’t fall, stop, rest, go again. And don’t fall. Easier said than done!
We sent John out first to get us a good lead. The course was just slightly over a mile long and John flew round in 5:42 or thereabouts. Even on a hilly, grassy, wet course there is no slowing this guy down!! Stephen was next for our team and after another super speedy lap of just over 6 minutes it was my turn. All I can say is thank goodness for trail shoes as there were people slipping everywhere! There’s not much to report about my lap as is was over so quickly except it hurt. A lot! This is such a fun event and a brilliant day out, but still you want to do your best for your team so the pressure is still there (maybe just for me, but I find it helped a bit!). I bounded around the top field, down the steep hill and back round to the start line (in a time of 7:04 which I was pretty pleased with on such a grassy, undulating course!) where I tagged Stewart and off he went on another speedy lap to then pass on to coach Gordon to bring finish up the first round. We had no idea where we were sitting in the rankings as there were so many people flying by, but fingers crossed we were doing O.K…
I can’t remember much about the second round apart from having to keep times for a bit and struggling to press stop watch buttons and write things down as my fingers had gone numb. Everyone was running well and the atmosphere was amazing. So many people had shown up to cheer everyone on and they were all so supportive. Our team all had another great run on lap 2 with times being a few seconds faster or slower than our first lap times and everyone having a really good time (except possibly the guy who face planted in the mud in front of me and I practically stood on – sorry about that!). Once all our teams were in we went back to the community center for yet another wonderful post race spread. The ONLY bad thing I could say about this was the size of the room vs. the number of runners. You just couldn’t get moving and then trying to get back out the room with a plate of food in one hand and a hot cup of tea in the other wasn’t much fun. However the selection of sandwiches and cakes were second to none and there was still plenty to go round even though we were in a lot later than others. Well done Anster Haddies!
We only JUST missed out on a top 3 placing with just over a minute between 3rd, 4th and 5th place. Never mind, there’s always next year! With prize giving over, we all climbed back into the car and sleepily made our way home from the East Neuk. It is a long and tiring day out considering we only ran 2 miles each, but it’s 2 of the best miles and some that I look forward to every year.
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 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 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!
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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!