February & March Summary

2 months summary rolled into 1 post. Time has flown past. It seems like only yesterday that I had completed the final race of 2011, the Speyside Way Ultramarathon. The D33 and the 2012 Scottish Ultra Marathon Series all seemed so far away. Until, that was, this Saturday past when it all started again. From now until the end of September it will be an ultra a month every 3 to 4 weeks, until I have completed all 7 of the races that I plan to do this year. This includes the 95 mile West Highland Way Race, the thought of which excites me and fills me with fear in equal quantities!

So, in terms of a summary, to cut a long story short, I ran – a lot, or at least a lot in comparison to last year, which in turn saw a significant increase on the year before. It would appear to be a continual upwards trend where my running is concerned. Having said that, I am now taking more time off to recover and especially after the longer runs. Only time will tell what kind of final mileage lies in store this year.

I ran part of The Moray Coast Trail, from Ellon to Fraserburgh along The Formartine & Buchan Way, in and around the Cairngorms and in and around Ellon while Leanne was away in Houston. All of the aforementioned runs helped prepare me for The D33 on Saturday 17th March and no doubt contributed to my PB of approximately 23 minutes.

As for the rest of the month – a frantic week of work will be followed by a week in the Cairngorms to celebrate turning 40. Where better to mark this occasion than in one of my favourite parts of Scotland.

Happy running!

The D33 Ultramarathon, 17th March 2012

New post at The Running Bug, Start As You Mean To Go On?

Those of you who follow my blog will likely be aware of my descent into panic in the week leading up to The D33 ultramarathon, the first race of the 2012 Scottish Ultra Marathon Series.

Plagued by anguish over kit choices and a shoulder injury that made running far from pleasurable, I was a bag of nerves by the time Saturday came.

In an attempt to apply a degree of logic to things, I weighed up the pros – a far greater mileage and more long runs at this point than in previous years! In panic mode, I then turned this logic on its head – had I actually overtrained???

As for the kit, it dawned on me early on Saturday that all of my training had been done in one t-shirt (washed regularly I hasten to add) which was the ‘lucky t-shirt’, bought on honeymoon in 2010 and worn in every one of my successfully completed ultras throughout 2011.

Do I stick with the ‘lucky t-shirt’ (admittedly starting to look a bit worse for wear) or do I stick with the safety of my t-shirt of choice for training. If I stick with the ‘lucky t-shirt’ when will it ever end? Will I still be running in it 10 years from now? Choices, choices!

“Don’t wear that, it’s seen better days” – the voice of reason from Mrs Mac.

I didn’t argue (not that I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, I just didn’t – just in case anyone thinks I am under the thumb. I’m not – much!)

So, training t-shirt it was then.

New Hokas or old Hokas?

Now sense should have prevailed at this point, but it didn’t. I have never been known for my patience, and especially so when new kit is concerned. Why wait to slip on those lovely new Hoka Stinson trainers.

Blisters I hear you say? Small matter of breaking them in I hear you say? (You may recall my 5 miler on the Thursday in which I ‘broke them in’, ahem!) Pah, I will take my chances. And on they went.

Every cloud has a silver lining and all that. I was so distracted by these kit choices on the morning of the event that I wasn’t overly troubled by my usual nervous throat clearing routine.

199 runners, with many familiar faces and a fair smattering of ultra newbies gathered for the 9 a.m. start of the D33 in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park.

As we started, I could finally put all those thoughts regarding kit choices, injury woes and general pre race nerves right out of my head.

The day itself started chilly, a sunny day with a slight breeze which soon gave way to what felt like a fairly hot temperature (I am sure it wasn’t all that hot, it just felt like it at the time!). Perfect weather for both spectators and marshals alike – as for runners, well that’s down to the individuals. I am sure it was fine for most but, for me, as a larger runner, I could have done with it being just a bit cooler.

With my shoulder giving me considerable grief in my pre race training runs, I had revised the aim of the day to that of finishing. A PB would be nice, but it was not essential.

I can’t recall exactly when I met up with Colin Knox – I think it might have been somewhere around the 10 to 12 mile mark. Checking mile splits at that point, we both agreed that we had gone out too hard and that we should slow the pace slightly. Regardless, we kept running at exactly the same pace! As we reached the half way point, still running together, we again assessed the situation, decided that we were likely causing problems for the second half of the race, and again agreed to slow the pace down. Other than a short refuelling walk as we left the halfway aid station, we carried on at the previous pace!

I have to laugh to myself as I look back on it now. A recipe for disaster, which we were both aware of and yet chose to ignore.

While we both did eventually slow, it was never to the extent of the previous two years running The D33 and we both crossed the line in a (Garmin) time of 5 hours 35 mins & 59 seconds, approximately 23 mins faster than my 2011 time.

The pace averaged out at approx 10 min 10 seconds per mile, which I was more than happy with on this, the first ultra of the year.

We had been promised a medal that made use of reclaimed material from Hurricane Bawbag and, true to form, The D33 medal was just that little bit different (2010 was a chocolate medal, 2011 was a slate medal). The 2012 medal was a lovely wooden affair, again produced by a local company http://www.craftrocks.co.uk/. The medal designer herself was not around to see her medals being given out as, this year, she, like so many others, was running her first ultra! Well done Annette

The medal was accompanied by a rather nice Hessian bag sponsored by www.onestopwaste.com/ and included muscle massage by race sponsor www.naturalhero.co.uk/. As always, there was a specially commissioned bottle of D33 beer produced by the local Brewdog brewery.

The out and back nature of the course, from Aberdeen’s Duthie Park to the outskirts of Banchory and back again, meant that everyone got to see each other at some point. This was good in that it permitted hurried exchanges as you said hello to friends from previous years and also in that it enabled you to measure your performance against your fellow competitors.

Overall, I was delighted. I had not expected a PB and certainly not a 23 minute one, especially given the injury woes.

As for the kit choices, they all turned out well. The t-shirt did the same job it had performed so well in training. The North Face Enduro 13 backpack was perfect to ensure I could carry the right balance of kit, nutrition and hydration.

The biggest success story of the day where kit was concerned was the Hoka Stinson Evos. After 33 miles of running, my legs were far less fatigued than normal, my feet remained blister free, my toes were no more bruised than they had been when starting out that morning, and the DOMS was far better than usual. I noticed a few other Hoka wearers on the day and the shoes certainly resulted in a few conversations on the day from curious runners.

Huge thanks as always to Race Director George Reid and all of his helpers and marshals for putting on such an excellent day.

Thanks also to Mrs Mac. Instead of enjoying a long lie on this, her first weekend at home in over a month, she rose early to take her transportationally challenged husband to the starting line and then picked him up again at the finish

Roll on the D33 2013 and also, looking to the near future, the next race in the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series, The Hoka Highland Fling.

The Art Of Tapering?

New post at The Running Bug, The Art Of Tapering? – an account of my pre races nerves, niggles and tapering woes!

Those of you with a race in the near future will likely be turning your thoughts to tapering.

What is Tapering?

“In the context of sports, tapering refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition. Tapering is customary in many endurance sports, such as the marathon, athletics and swimming. For many athletes, a significant period of tapering is essential for optimal performance. The tapering period frequently lasts as much as a week or more.”

The general idea is that you finish your period of training with a workout simulating the actual race distance and conditions and that this is immediately followed by a period of tapering. The taper is a process of winding down, reducing the extent of exercise over a period of up to 3 weeks. Medical studies suggest that the final three weeks of marathon training programs are critical to training.

“A review of fifty studies on tapering indicates that optimal levels of muscle glycogen, enzymes, antioxidants, and hormones, which are significantly depleted by intense endurance training, are achieved during a taper.”

(Information from Wikipedia)

Useful Links

I have included some links that may prove useful for anyone with an impending race. I would suggest that these are excellent sources of reference and should be read by anyone who has a race to prepare for. Having read the information, it is then down to seeing what works for you. Unfortunately, tapering, whilst theoretically straightforward, is often practically quite different – or at least it is where I am concerned.

Tapering & Me!

In a nutshell, the idea is that you run less and rest more. Sounds good! – or at least it does in principal!

If this is the part where you expect me to tell you how I followed the recommended 3 week taper to the letter and combined it with a few days of carb loading so that I ended up on the starting line brimming with energy and raring to go – stop now or forever be disillusioned!

My first taper was for The Edinburgh Marathon back in 2009, my first marathon. I followed the suggested 3 week taper. I followed the suggested approach to carb loading in the final few days leading up to the Marathon. Come the day of the marathon, I found myself on the line, ready to go – unfortunately feeling rusty, lethargic, and bloated. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I felt like the Michelin Man! (In all honesty, the Michelin Man to the right looks far fitter than I felt that day)

That was the first and last time that I followed the recommended approach to tapering and carb loading!

Speaking with friends who also ran that day, many of them for the first time, there was similar disillusionment with the traditional 3 week taper. It appears that I wasn’t the only one who got it ‘wrong’.

So, beware – it is not a one size fits all approach and should be approached with caution. I think the main thing is to do what feels right. Listen to your body, and obviously to consider at all times that this is intended as a wind down period so that you are in the best possible shape on the big day.

If there is one thing that I have learnt about tapering, it is that it fairly highlights any niggles you have and this is also something to beware of. I can’t recall where I first read that but I have to agree with it. While you are in the full on training stage, punishing the body week in, week out, it is only natural to feel tired and/or sore. When you still get those feelings having backed off from training, that is when the mind goes in to overdrive – am I injured, how bad is it, will it be sorted in time for the race, and so on. My advice to you is ‘Don’t Panic!’

I am writing this the day before The D33, the first of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series races for 2012. I have spent the past week panicking! Everything from illness concerns, injury concerns and kit concerns has gone through my head this past week.

The extent of my ‘tapering’ was that, for the first time in a month, I did not run in excess of 20 miles. Last weekend I started my taper with runs of 10 and 12 miles respectively. I reached these arbitrary distances as a result of a quick poll on Facebook amongst friends who are also running tomorrow. With responses ranging from Munro bagging to 5 mile runs, I plumped for what I saw as the middle ground.

Unfortunately, things did not go to plan! Neither run felt particularly good.

The main problem was the throbbing pain in my right shoulder. You would think that this would have little bearing on your ability to run. Unfortunately, it prevented me from swinging my arm naturally, something that was essential to running with any ounce of speed! I tried running with my right arm hanging by my side – this didn’t help in the slightest. Fortunately the trail was quiet – no one was around to witness my attempt at a zombie run. By the time I returned from my run on Saturday I was fairly despondent. Less than a week to go and I was injured.

Now normally I would be clueless as to when I had incurred the injury. That was not the case on this occasion. I thought back to my descent from the trails around the Lairig Ghru less than a week earlier, arms windmilling as I tried to descend with even the smallest element of control (fail!). This was most definitely when I had done the shoulder some damage.

Bugger!

The Sunday run went marginally better, but only because the sharp pain in my shoulder was replaced with a numbness from mile 8 onwards. On top of that, I was distracted by the heat which was most unexpected, offering the potential of starting the years tan!

One thing that I was reminded of which again put me off ‘tapering’ was that I usually feel pretty ropey in the first few miles of any run, up until the point where everything settles down and I just get on with it.

When I am running shorter distances, that point of contentment appears to come relatively late in the run and, as a result, I do the whole over-analysis of what went wrong/where/how etc.

The Final Countdown

The return of Mrs Mac from a month away working in Houston certainly got the week off to a good start.

On the Monday neither I nor Mrs Mac felt 100%. I thought long and hard about what they say about planes, people, recycled air and germs.

At that point, I wrote off my impending race. I was almost certain that I was in for a dose of the flu. My tendency to fear the worst kicked into overdrive!

All things considered, I decided I would be on the start line, regardless of how poorly I felt. This was, after all, the first race of the season and I would be there, flu or no flu.

On Tuesday I felt fine – or at least health wise I did. So that will be the no flu option then. Ahem – Panic over!

I ran for just 3 miles on Tuesday evening but it was enough to highlight that the shoulder injury was still with me.

Bugger! (Panic resumed)

On Wednesday, my new Hoka Stinson Evo trainers arrived. (Panic momentarily forgotten)

Now any sane person would probably discount the thought of running 33 miles in brand new shoes. You should ***never*** run in brand new shoes.

With this in mind, I ran just under 5 miles on Thursday evening. I now, ahem, consider the shoes to be broken in and will toe the line in the Stinsons on Saturday morning.

On the plus side, the Hokas felt lush.

On the down side, there’s still no sign of a let up in the shoulder injury.

Bugger! (Panic resumed)

So, a day until the D33, the first of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series races, and I know that I will not be 100% when I reach the start line. I had hoped to attain a new PB. I have revised this. I only want to finish, anything else is a bonus.

I have not, however, sunk into the depths of despair. Thinking back to this time last year, my longest (and only) long run had been 18 miles. Thanks in part to the mild weather, I have racked up a good few long runs with the longest being 30 miles. In 2010 and 2011 my January & February mileage was 210 and 201 miles respectively. In 2012 I racked up 335 miles – which, in panic mode, leads me to consider ‘have I overtrained?’ (arrrgghhhh! I just can’t win!)

It’s like race day but amplified – you know the feeling where the hours are counting down, the nerves are kicking in, and you just want to get started – the way I feel now is like that, only I started 7 days too early and maintained it for the best part of the week! (Who am I kidding, I am still panicking – I will still be panicking until about an hour in to the run when hopefully everything will start to settle down and I once again attain that point of contentment.)

All things considered, I should feel better prepared and, with this in mind, I have to ask myself, why but why have I spent the last week panicking!

The weird thing is that I think the successes of last year are partly to blame. The logical way of looking at things would be to take the experiences of last year and to take this as proof that I can complete my ultramarathons. I have, however, taken the successes of last year and turned them into a stick with which to beat myself! What if I can’t do them, what if I get a DNF, what if I don’t get a PB, what if my miles are slower and not, as you would expect one year on, faster.

Only time will tell how tomorrow, and indeed the rest of the 2012 season, will turn out. The main thing that I need to do is to keep some perspective on what’s important and to try and enjoy the races, to learn from them, and to try and better my previous performances if at all possible but to work within whatever set of circumstances I happen to find myself in on the day!

Best of luck to all those running this weekend and especially to those who will be with me at the D33. I hope that your race day build up is considerably less stressful than mine!

A Podcast Moment

Having been listening to more running related podcasts, I thought I would share this gem with you as it may well strike a chord with a number of Running Bug members. It was a US based podcast and the presenters were interviewing someone who had lost a lot of weight but was, like myself, still classed as ‘heavy’ in comparison to a typical ultra runner. If I recall correctly, the guy in question was now approximately 16 stone, having started at 28 stone, an amazing amount of weight loss.

“think running an ultramarathon is tough? Tough is walking into a meeting hoping that the chairs dont have arms, tough is walking on to a plane and seeing in people’s faces the worry about ‘is this guy sitting next to me’.”

Hopefully I will not need to dig deep this coming Saturday, but if I do, then this is one that I can certainly give some consideration to. I was really touched to hear the above in the interview.

At the end of the day, I choose to put myself through the ringer in my ultramarathons. I know that there will very likely be low points and yet I choose to make these testing times part of my life. When I heard the above it certainly put things into perspective and it made me think long and hard about just how judgemental people, myself included, can be.

New Gear

One of the benefits of Leanne’s month working in Houston is that I now have a good supply of Succeed S Caps and also a couple of pairs of super warm North Face sleeves.

On the Hoka One One front, the new 2012 range of shoes were released last week and my pair of Stinson Evo B Hokas arrived yesterday, just in time for this weekends forthcoming D33 race, the 1st race in the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series.

A race report will follow shortly.

Best of luck to all those running in the D33.

Cairngorm Weekend & A Triple Countdown

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Cairngorm Weekend & A Triple Countdown‘.

Saturday morning started off sunny enough, or at least it did for the first 3 miles. With the prospect of a long day ahead, I did not think twice and stopped to pull on my trusty The North Face Triumph jacket. If ever a product was aptly named, it was the Triumph. Super lightweight and extremely packable, it is the kind of jacket that happily sits in your pack until those rare days when it really is needed. Today was one of those days.

My plan had been to run from Coylumbridge, where I was staying for the weekend along with some of Mrs Macs family, up and in to The Lairig Ghru. I walked The Lairig Ghru in 2005 and then had a partial foray from Braemar as far as the Devil’s Point in 2006. Both visits preceded my interest in ultra running and, as such, I felt that a return to the Lairig Ghru was long overdue.

I had spent a great deal of time pouring over maps on the Friday evening, formulating a number of different options for the following day. As it was, I ended up following an entirely different route! Approaching the 5 mile mark, the weather was quickly deteriorating. The rain, by now bordering on torrential, was starting to take on a more snow like quality. That alone would have been tolerable. However, as I ascended towards The Lairig Ghru, the wind was increasing in it’s ferocity, by now to the point that I couldn’t even hear the music in my headphones.

Looking ahead, I could see only the most unwelcoming of grey skies. Today was most definitely not the day for a run in The Lairig Ghru and, given that most of my preferred route options also involved bagging some Munros and taking in the views, I questioned the sensibility of continuing on. Today I would be lucky to see the trail, never mind the stunning views that the mountains of The Cairngorms can offer.

I hummed and hawed and even took some photos, quickly wiping the sleety rain from the lens of my iPhone.

Sense prevailed.

I turned and started to descend. 5 miles of uphill slog soon gave way to a cracking bit of descent and, as far as payback goes, it does not get much better than this; rocky, rooty, singletrack that eventually opens out into wider forest trail.

A quick text to the in-laws let them know of the change in plans. If anything did go wrong, I certainly did not want them to be looking in the wrong place!

I set off in the direction of Loch an Eilein, a route quite familiar to me.

Just as an aside, this route makes for some excellent biking. The route lends itself to building up a fair speed and there are a number of burns that just have to be cycled, usually resulting in a good soaking from the spray.

Running the route meant I actually got to take in a bit more of my surroundings than usual and stayed drier than normal!

As I ran around Loch an Eilein I passed a turnoff that takes you out and around Loch Gamha. Generally I miss this bit out but I figured that it would add on approximately 1 mile to today’s route and would make for a good change in scenery.

As it was, I ended up going wrong somewhere and ended up instead heading westwards in the forests around Inshriach. (This might sound daft but I came across a couple who had done exactly the same thing!) I finally popped out of the forest somewhere just above Loch Insh, some 7 miles south of Aviemore. I stuck to the quiet B970 road on the return to Aviemore, for fear of once more going astray!

Now, whenever I hear the word Inshriach, it is usually quickly followed by the words cake and shop! Described by The Observer’s Dan Lepard as “one of Britain’s Best Cake Shops”, the Inshriach Nursey & Cake Shop just happens to be on the B970.

As I ran past the entrance I did an automatic left turn. I was approximately 18 miles into the run by this point and figured that there was no harm in stopping for some coffee and cake.

The cakes alone should be enough to tempt you but, just in case you need any more convincing, I should also mention the view. The majority of customers sit along the back wall, facing out onto a variety of bird feeders. The number of birds there is quite astounding. What’s even more astounding is that any of them can take off after gorging themselves on what’s on offer! While I was there I was fortunate enough to see a woodpecker as well as all manner of smaller birds. There were no squirrels on this occasion but the birds, only a couple of feet from my position at the window, more than entertained me.

Leaving the cake shop was difficult! Not only was I enjoying the view but my muscles were also starting to seize up. I soon got back into the running and finished off not long after, back in Coylumbridge, with a total of 22 miles. Not a bad day. Not the anticipated location or mileage but I did get some great hill training in, covered some new ground, and had the added bonus of coffee and cake.

Funnily enough, cake also featured in the excellent Talk Ultra podcast that I spent a large part of the run listening to. The cake element came in an interview with Salomon athlete Anna Frost. Normally I listen to trance music while running but, on this occasion, I decided to catch up on my podcasts. It seemed quite appropriate to be tuned into a running podcast while out on the trail and I enjoyed the ‘company’ of human voices!

Saturday evening consisted of an excellent meal at The Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore before returning to our accommodation in Coylumbridge. Sitting at the window, making the most of the starry Cairngorm view, I was fortunate enough to see something fairly sizeable shooting southwards through the sky. It turns out that I was not alone in my observations and the meteorite made quite an impact (no pun intended) on the following days news.

Waking early on Sunday morning, I was aware that we would be departing around lunchtime and, as such, threw on some running kit and headed out the door.

I ran up towards The Lairig Ghru, covering the 5 miles of uphill yet again. What a difference a day makes. Whilst not exactly blue skies, the weather was a considerable improvement on the previous day and would have been sufficient to entice me further up in to The Lairig Ghru had I not been due to return home.

Tired legs soon gave way to reckless abandonment as I ran/fell/plummeted down the first 2 miles of the trail. With arms swinging like windmills, my hands were trying in vain to act like wind paddles and provide at least a degree of stability and control. My attempts were doomed to failure. It was all I could do not to go over my ankle, almost coming a cropper on two occasions in a fashion that would have seen a very early end to the season through injury.

If Carlsberg made trails, they would surely lay claim to this one. My eyes remained glued to the trail before me, whilst also trying to ensure that I didn’t wipe out on any low branches. As I arrived at the bottom of the first two miles of downhill I stopped for breath and checked the Garmin. I had hit just over 7 minute miles. If only I could run that fast on the flat!

Arriving back in Coylumbridge 10 miles later, I was happy in the knowledge that I had squeezed the most out of my weekend in the Cairngorms.

I have a week in the Cairngorms at the end of March to look forward to so I will be back on the trail there soon.

Countdown!

It’s countdown time, or, to be more specific, triple countdown time. Firstly, I am counting down the days to the return of Mrs Mac after a month without her thanks to time spent in Houston with work.

The second countdown is for the first ultra of the year, The D33 an out and back from Aberdeen to Banchory on the 17th March.

The final countdown is to my 40th at the end of the month. The ‘blow’ of turning 40 is slightly softened by the change of status that 40 years affords, to Male Vet and an accompanying earlier start at The Hoka Highland Fling.

Actually, let me retract that. I have never felt as good as I do now thanks in large part to running. I certainly don’t feel 40 and I very much doubt that this will change in the next 24 days!

Happy Running!

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside‘.

Standing high above the beach in the sand dunes, enjoying the scenic view with the sands beautifully lit up, I savoured the feeling of satisfaction. I had run 30 miles for this view, and whilst not altogether an easy 30 miles, it had certainly felt better than the 27 mile run the previous weekend which had seen me literally grind out those last miles. After the effort of the run, I quite literally did like to be beside the seaside! (I can only apologise if that song sticks in your head for the rest of the day!)

Arriving in Fraserburgh shortly before dinner time on Saturday was quite an occasion for me as it meant that I had finally covered the entire length of The Formartine & Buchan way, the former railway line that connects Dyce to Fraserburgh or Peterhead.

I have run from Ellon to Dyce (and sometimes even back again) more times than I can remember and, those of you who regularly read my blog, will know that it is the route that I run home whenever the wife heads off abroad with work.

With family in both Mintlaw and Peterhead these too are familiar parts of The Formartine & Buchan Way, as I often set off on early runs, timing my arrival to coincide with that of the wife. As I write this, it has just occurred to me that I have never considered how those family members actually feel about me arriving at their doorsteps a sweaty mess! It’s not exactly the ‘done thing’ when it comes to visiting relatives now is it?

On Saturday I finally ran the Ellon to Fraserburgh section of the route.

Often exposed, as the occasionally fierce headwind testified, I found the route to be mostly scenic although there was the occasional section where you could see for miles and miles along the route… but then, what else would you expect of a former railway line!

I was on familiar territory up until Maud, where the line splits and where you must choose to head for Fraserburgh or Peterhead.

At this point I usually take the turn to Mintlaw but, on Saturday, I headed off to Strichen and, ultimately, to Fraserburgh.

It was late Thursday when I came up with the plan to run to Fraserburgh and, at that time, running up Mormond Hill seemed like a great idea.

Mormond Hill (from the Gaelic ‘mor’ meaning big and ‘monadh’ meaning hill) is a large hill just past Strichen.

I have been driven past the hill numerous times and have often noted the satellite dishes and masts on the top of the hill, remnants from Cold War NATO communications. I have also noticed the white horse on the side of the hill, made from white quartz that has been placed into position to make the shape.

“It is a war memorial to a Sergeant who gave up his horse for his Captain in battle. The white deer (also known as ‘The white stag’) was created in a similar way, with quartz on the side of the hill but was made as a wedding present rather than as a memorial. Unusually, these are the only two hill figures located in Scotland. There are three more in Wales and roughly 50 more in England. The White Horse is one of sixteen horses in the United Kingdom, whilst the stag is one of two stags in the United Kingdom, although the other is more of a natural figure which simply looks like one.” (Wikipedia – Mormond Hill)

Often intrigued by the masts and figures, I decided that I would run up Mormond Hill and that this would be perfect training for forthcoming ultramarathons, and specifically for the Highland Fling where, after approx 20 miles of running, you have to run up and over Conic Hill.

Now, had I left earlier, I might well have stuck to this plan. On Saturday however, I decided to leave Mormond Hill for another day. Despite running alongside the hill, there appeared to be no obvious way off the line and up the hill, or at least, no obvious way that didn’t require leaving the line at Strichen and then taking what looked like becoming a considerable detour just to get to the hill, never mind run up and down it! As such, I admired the hill from the viewpoint of The Formartine & Buchan Way and kept on running.

On the long run in to Fraserburgh itself I could see the glistening sands of the coastal beaches, bathed in sunshine which, funnily enough, was somewhat absent directly above me. The effect off the dunes was almost mesmerising, willing me on towards my final destination. I wanted so badly to be there, out of the wind, enjoying the sun and the golden sand.

Arriving in Fraserburgh my route ran alongside the dunes. By this point I was actually in two minds whether to make the effort to run up and over the dunes (I still can’t believe that this was even an option in my head – looking back I could kick myself!). Fortunately, sensible thoughts prevailed and I headed up into the dunes. I stood for a few minutes, savouring the view with Fraserburgh to my left and miles of beach to my right.

As I ran back down off of the dunes I quickly checked MotionX GPS to get my bearings and some idea as to where in Fraserburgh I might find a bus station. However, there was no need. Spotting a bus arriving in the town I chased after it, arriving at the bus station just in time to hop on a bus bound for home. I couldn’t have timed it any better.

It was a relief to finally get a seat and I enjoyed the return leg as the bus wound so effortlessly around the villages that only hours earlier had seen me toiling along.

Another weekend, another run.

This coming weekend I am heading off to one of my favourite ‘stomping grounds’ – the Cairngorms. I have a few route potentials mapped out already but there’s a whole week ahead in which to do some homework and decide on the best options.

These past two weekends, my first really long runs of the year, have provided my first opportunity to truly test my Hoka One One Mafate shoes and it has to be said that they have passed with flying colours.

Normally, after a run of 30 miles, I would be stricken with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in the days after the run and, certainly where I am concerned, it is the second day after the run that is usually the worst. However, I would go so far as to say that I felt quite sprightly on the Monday at work. I had decided in advance that I would take the Monday and probably the Tuesday as rest days to let the legs recover fully. Arriving home last night, it was all I could do NOT to run! I was definitely tired but not at all sore. As for tonight… well let’s just see how the working day goes… But it’s safe to say that a run is at least on the cards!

The first race of the year, The D33 is fast approaching (17th March). I will hopefully see some of you there. I hope that everyone is remaining injury free and that training is going to plan.

Happy Running!