A trip into town yesterday to see the latest Batman movie resulted in some new running kit courtesy of the Tiso sale. Unlike a lot of ‘sales’ of late, there were some substantial reductions to be had and I came home with his ‘n’ hers (for the wife!) Salomon Rx Break Sandals which should be useful pre and apres run. An added bonus was a Salomon XR Jacket, a lightweight running shell, coming in at half the recommended RRP.
Salomon XR Jacket (Spring 2012) (£40.00 – was £80.00)
“Cut the wind chill in the Salomon XR Jacket, a lightweight running shell that excels where other jackets fail. Among its many cool features, this Salomon piece has exceptional mobility and great breathability via stretch woven panels in strategic zones. Zip it down and snap the button closure for a more ventilated, versatile fit.”
“The Salomon XR Jacket provides wind protection, stretch comfort and door to trail performance using lightweight, breathable fabrics.
Features SmartSkin Construction, climaWIND Dobby taffeta fabric, climaWIND stretch woven fabric, Active FitReflective branding front and back, 2 zipped pockets, Stash pocket, Thumb loops, WEIGHT: 290g
SmartSkin construction: Salomon’s construction technique of using a combination of fabrics in strategic areas to produce a more efficient, higher performance garment.
climaWIND: Wind resistant fabric that’s also water resistant but maintains breathability.”
Salomon Men’s Rx Break Sandal (£20.00 – was £40.00)
“A performance recovery shoe for trail running disguised as a light weight flip flop. RX Break helps your feet recover from the end of your run until you’re chilling in the hammock.”
The legs are already back to normal after an excellent spin bike session last night. This seems to have eradicated the last of the tightness that I had been feeling since finishing the 40 mile Clyde Stride Ultramarathon. Considering that the 43 mile Devil O’ The Highlands is now just 10 days away, it’s probably just as well!
It will be somewhat strange to return to Tyndrum and the start of the Devil O’ The Highlands given that my last time in Tyndrum was en route, by foot, to Fort William and the finish of the 95 mile West Highland Way Race. I was only just starting to get myself back in the game by Tyndrum following my projectile vomit session at Auchentyre Farm. While I am hopeful that the Devil will be considerably less traumatic, I do have some concerns about the terrain, and, especially that of the later stages of the race. It is all too fresh in the mind, etched there by the memory of the pain I endured as I ground out a finish at The West Highland Way Race.
Whilst, after the disappointment of my first non PB of 2012, I am revising my expectations for the Devil, it would be great to finish with another PB. However, I am all too aware after this past weekend that the body has taken a considerable battering over these past few months and it is finally starting to rebel. As much as it pains me to say it, I will have to consider cutting back the runs in 2013 and, almost certainly, will need to consider the space between runs. This is especially true of The West Highland Way Race, should I sign up for 2013.
One positive is that a finish at the Devil O’ The Highlands will see me complete the ‘Triple Crown’ of Fling, WHW Race & Devil, something I would never have even dreamed possible only a few short years ago.
I can then turn my attention to The Speyside Way Race, the climax of my own ultramarathon series in 2012. It’s hard to credit that it seemed such a short time ago I was sitting here considering The D33, the 1st race of the series. As they say, how time flies when you are having fun!
Once the ultras are done and dusted it will be time for me to turn my attentions to weight loss and to speed work, with the aim of improving on this years PBs. Soon enough, it will be time to get the entry in for The West Highland Way Race 2013 and I reckon I owe it to myself to lose approx. 2 stone before even considering an application!
All the very best to everyone running The Devil. See you on the start line.
The 40 mile Clyde Stride Ultramarathon turned into a test of my resolve this weekend. After approximately 6 miles of acute shin splint pain, 4 miles of happy running soon gave way to a feeling that I can only describe as ‘running on empty’!
Had it not been for the encouragement of Tommy, with whom I ran the first 18 miles, I may well have dropped!
The feelings of woe were further compounded when, whilst making a quick check in phone call with Sandra & John (WHW Race support crew who I stayed with this weekend and who met me at points along the way), I found that my peanut butter and jam sandwiches were still in the fridge and not in the carefully (mostly!) prepared drop bags.
It wouldn’t have been so bad but we had actually joked about the potential to forget them the night before – doh!
Thankfully Sandra & John managed to get the sandwiches to me at the 18 mile mark as I met them at the Strathclyde Park checkpoint.
I said to Tommy to run ahead at this point as I planned a short stop at the checkpoint to try and recharge the batteries. However, despite feeling better for seeing Sandra & John, I was fairly dejected as I ran through Strathclyde Park.
Not long after leaving Strathclyde Park I met up with Neil, whom I recognised from a number of races as both a runner and as one of the SUMS race doctors.
We both appeared to still be feeling the effects of the 95 mile West Highland Way Race only weeks before.
We stuck together for the remainder of the race and it was good to have some company to bolster the spirits. Although I had seen Neil on a number of occasions I didn’t realise just how many ultras he had run and it was great to hear about the various races.
As we neared Lanark a red squirrel ran through a field on my left hand side, dived through the fence and landed right at my feet before shooting off in front of me and then clambering up a tree. That has to be the weirdest (non hallucinatory) race experience ever!
I would say that I had come close to quitting early in the race. The reality is that I wouldn’t let myself quit. I was mentally prepared to grind out the finish. The West Highland Way Race redefined my definitions of ‘low’, ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’ and at no point was I anywhere near these points despite how bad I felt.
It was great to get to the finish, and at least this year I had previous knowledge of the loop that takes you back out of New Lanark before finally depositing you back at the finish line (pure evil!).
I missed last years time by some 12 minutes, my first non PB of the year. However, given the circumstances I am not overly disappointed with that.
The race route also had some surprises in store. I distinctly remember some wild and muddy areas last year but, this year, most likely as a result of the recent rains, the route contained more than a few muddy challenges and some plant life that was close to (and occasionally over) head height.
At times it felt more like being in a jungle but this merely added to the challenge of the route. Not what you expect of a race that starts in Partick! If you have yet to run the Clyde Stride, put your preconceptions aside and get yourself signed up for next year.
It is a great route with some stunning sections and what has to be one of the most stunning finishes to an ultra, in New Lanark, steeped in history. The race organisation, courtesy of Race Director Lee and her marshals, is excellent.
Today, sitting writing this on the train back home, I don’t actually feel all that sore. It looks like the body is starting to get accustomed to the occasional batterings it receives. However, the feeling of running on empty is a worry.
I obviously didn’t give myself enough time to recover after the West Highland Way Race and, from what a number of fellow WHW Race runners have said, they also found the race tough.
I have just 13 days now to recuperate before the 43 mile Devil O’ The Highlands ultra, my penultimate race of the year.
Somewhere around the mid point of the WHW Race, my dad called my wife to check on my progress. I don’t think she gave the full ‘projectile vomit’ version of events, but I think she got across that it was not going to plan and that I was finding it tough. At that point, dad offered me some incentive – £100 for a finish, for trainers or whatever bit of kit I needed. This only added to my determination to finish. However, I decided not to spend the money on trainers (despite my love of all things new and trainer-ish!). I opted for something that would remind me of my success on a daily basis rather than something I would likely dispose of after 500 miles.
Having sampled the coffees at Sandra and John’s house on numerous occasions (part of my support team on the WHW Race), I had long fancied a NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto coffee machine. The £100 was put to good use – the machine itself, some coffee glasses and, of course, the necessary supplies!
I have not run all that much since the WHW Race, thanks in part to recovery and in part to busy weeks at work. Today was only my third run since the race and my first since the Cairngorms last week. Initial surprise at the growth in the forest soon gave way to niggles and, most worryingly, a recurrence of the hip problems experienced in the latter stages of the race.
However, arriving back in the house after just under 10 miles, the niggles had been run off, I was actually sweating for a change, as opposed to wet from rain, and I found myself once again looking forward to next weekends 40 mile Clyde Stride Ultramarathon.
I fired up the machine for a coffee.
Good running, good memories, and good coffee – happy days!
Given the ‘summer’ we have been experiencing of late, I am sure that many of you have found yourself in a similar position to the one that I was in this weekend past. I hadn’t actually intended to post again so soon, given that I only recently posted my ‘Lessons Learned‘ thoughts. However, something came to me over the weekend – read on!
I was fortunate enough to find myself back in the Cairngorms for the weekend but, along with the rest of the country, I found myself suitably challenged by the never ending rain!
My weekend runs were my first since completing the 95 mile West Highland Way Race back on Saturday 23rd/Sunday 24th June. On the plus side, the legs didn’t feel too bad. A little sluggish but nothing that couldn’t be run off. On the negative side, I was still suffering from the effects of the blistering picked up on the long 95 miles and, in particular, the remnants of a blister on the sole of my right foot, where old skin met new skin, leaving a particularly sensitive area – unfortunately for me, right on the point where my foot landed with each strike!
I woke in time for a 6am run on the Saturday morning and enjoyed a wet and hilly 10 miles, running an out and back towards Loch Einich and making it back in time for breakfast with the family. I don’t think the rain stopped for more than 30 minutes all day but we did not let this dampen our spirits (no pun intended) and we ended up on various walks in and around Aviemore.
I woke early again on Sunday, only this time it was quite different. Peeling back the curtains to reveal continued rain, I found my resolve wavering. It was all I could do not to return to bed. In fact, I have to admit, I did actually lie back down. I could quite easily have drifted back to sleep, something that I normally can’t do. However, the guilt of not making the best of my surroundings quickly got the better of me.
I might have been tired, it was definitely raining, it was definitely not inviting but – and this is a huge but – I was in the Cairngorms. How could I not make the most of the opportunity to get out and hit those trails!
I ended up running from Coylumbridge out towards Loch Einich again but, instead of following the route from the previous day, I took a right turn towards Loch an Eilein. 3 miles in to the run I arrived at Loch an Eilein and proceeded to run right around the Loch before returning to Coylumbridge by my approach route. One of the things that made that run for me was that I did the run ‘in reverse’. When I arrived at the Loch, I ran right instead of left as I always do on that route. On the return, in coming back along my approach route, I ran the approach in reverse, something that I have never done as I always take an alternative route back.
I arrived back in Coylumbridge some 9 miles later, totally soaked but completely exhilarated. The simple act of running part of the route in reverse made such a difference to how I felt.
How much poorer my day would have been had it not been for my morning run.
At this point it hit me. There really is no such thing as a bad run.
There may be runs that leave you feeling challenged. There may be runs that are really tough. There may be runs completed in inclement weather that leave you soaked to the skin. There may even be runs so challenging that they leave you questioning why you choose to run!
However, if you are anything like me, you will never regret going for a run. Indeed, the challenging runs are more often than not THE most rewarding ones and, as such, the feeling of satisfaction to be gained from these is often far higher!
This leads me to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a bad run and, with this in mind, I am asking you to join me on twitter in using the #nosuchthingasabadrun hash tag.
Lets hear about those runs. Lets see if we can get running AND get trending! Sod the weather. We could be waiting a really long time for summer if the recent weather is anything to go by.
So get out and run, and be sure to tweet about it!
If it takes off, I will include some of the tweets in forthcoming blog posts.
I forgot to post anything about the www.longestdayrun.com in the wake of the West Highland Way Race. It’s a great idea and, fortunately for me, it coincided with The West Highland Way Race, meaning that I had the potential for a high mileage. I missed the submission deadline on www.dailymile.com but, fortunately, was still included in the final results. It’s not often that I get to figure so highly in a results table!
We are heading to the Cairngorms again this weekend. With various weather warnings in place, I think it is safe to say that I could safely have left the Salomon sleeveless vests out of the kit that I packed but you have to live in hope! By all accounts, there is a chance we could see a months worth of rain by Monday. Funnily enough, after running through the apocalyptic weather conditions at the recent West Highland Way Race, I am not at all bothered.
“Weather. There will be some.” (WHW Race briefing)
Living in Scotland you have to assume for the worst and hope for the best. This summer has certainly gone out of its way to disapoint us all weather wise so far!
I am looking forward to my first post WHW Race run, even more so because it will be on some of my favourite trails, and will be looking to break in a shiny new pair of inov8 Roclite 315s. I had a pair of 315s in the past but used them more for walking than running. However, with my favoured 305s (went through 5 pairs!) now impossible to pick up, I had to find a suitable replacement and the 315s look like they come pretty close.
By the time I leave for the Cairngorms, I should have taken delivery of an iFit enabled treadmill which I am getting on a months loan courtesy of Nordic Track. I will be reviewing the treadmill for The Running Bug and, I have to say, am looking forward to seeing what the iFit technology adds to the machine.
“You won’t be needing a boarding pass this year! iFit® Technology allows you to travel the world in the comfort of your own home! iFit®, Powered by Google Maps™, puts the world at your fingertips. Train everywhere, in your old neighborhood or around the Eiffel Tower! With Google Maps™ Street View, iFit® will take you to the heart of the town! You draw the maps with Google and iFit® will take you there!”
Using iFit, the treadmill will adjust the incline/decline or resistance to simulate the elevation changes of the selected route, while you watch Google Maps Street View. This should certainly add something to the treadmill experience and I am looking forward to hopefully trying out some testing routes and also to ‘visiting’ places, both old and new, from the comfort of my back room.
Thanks to The Running Bug and Nordic Track for organising this. Watch out for the review in approx 1 month.
It is coming up to 2 weeks since I completed the 95 mile West Highland Way Race and the body and energy levels are finally starting to feel more like they should. I don’t know what, exactly, I expected in terms of recovery after a 95 mile run but, other than the initial feet issues in the immediate aftermath of the event, I think I have fared pretty well. The cankles have thankfully subsided and the feet are, though distinctly unnatractive (nothing new!), at least starting to return to normal. The real test will be when I return to the Cairngorms this weekend and head out for my first post West Highland Way Race run. My main concern is that the ITB issues identified in the post WHW Race massage flare up yet again.
Someone tweeted about the apocalyptic weather conditions at the WHW Race and that phrase seems to have gathered favour amongst all of the runners and support crew. Completing the race in those conditions certainly added to the kudos of getting to the end but, already, the memories are starting to fade and I am turning my attentions to the next events – the 40 mile Clyde Stride, the 43 mile Devil O’ The Highlands, and the 37 mile Speyside Way Race.
I have certainly enjoyed reading the various blogs from runners, support crew and others involved in the race. Everyone has their own tale to tell, with a large number of them tales of woe and of facing adversity. I am not alone in having had a tough time at the WHW Race!
Throughout the race weekend, Mrs Mac took over tweeting duties, posting my progress to twitter at the various checkpoints. I spent some time looking back over my twitter feed and the #whwrace feed and it was great to see all the tweets of encouragement both to myself and the many other runners. Thanks for all of the tweets, they are appreciated.
I can only describe my appetite this past 2 weeks as voracious and I have found myself clearing cupboards, devouring everything from a stack of Pringles to entire Soreen loaves! I was shocked to weigh in at my usual weight this morning, despite my far from healthy appetite and I am taking this as some form of a ‘reprieve’ and as a sign that I should try to get back to my usual healthy diet as soon as possible. The last thing I want is to start pilling on the pounds, especially with the next race little more than a couple of weeks away.
I also felt a lot more tired than normal in the wake of the race and this was not been helped by the fact that I couldn’t seem to shake my normal sleep pattern. Despite my best efforts to continue sleeping past 6am I found myself wide awake and yet still tired! Sitting still for too long (even watching the football!) saw me dozing off.
So, on to the lessons learned, of which there were many.
1. I am nuts (it’s official!)
I know for a fact that a lot of people think I am nuts. Given how things went at the race, the list has undoubtedly grown! This ‘Lessons Learned’ post sees me try to take note of various things that I need to remember for future reference. At the same time, I also wear my heart on my sleeve in this post and hope that, in reading this, people will understand why I feel the need to continually challenge myself in this way.
2. Spend less time at checkpoints
Looking back at my times over the race, one potential future strategy jumped out at me – spend less time at checkpoints. I spent just over 2 hours at the checkpoints throughout the race, including 45 minutes alone at a single checkpoint. In my defence, this was at the 50 mile mark when I had issues with both diarrhea and projectile vomit! In retrospect, it is easy to say that this is excessive but, to me, the circumstances of my race explain the lengthy stops. One thing is for certain, under ideal conditions, with no stomach issues, I would like to stop for far shorter periods of time and this in itself would offer a considerable time saving.
3. Eat more (no excuses!)
Unpacking the carefully prepared food in the aftermath of the event, it dawned on me just how little food I had consumed. I did have the best of intentions, with a focus on eating real foods and a backup strategy of turning to gels. However, given that I couldn’t keep anything inside me, I gambled and chose to limit my intake. Looking back, this could have backfired spectacularly and I do think that my lack of energy by the end of the race was down to this. Lesson learned – regardless of how well (or otherwise) the day is going, you simply MUST eat.
4. Sports Beans are pure gold!
Sports Beans were the one thing that I could bring myself to eat in any volume, and especially from 50 miles onwards, when things started to really go against me. They will definitely factor into any future race plans. Mrs Mac was in town this week and came back with £20.00 worth of Sports Beans which certainly made me smile. Technically I made the classic mistake of trying them on the day as they were a late addition to my food supplies. However, this particular gamble worked and I am sure they kept me from running entirely on empty!
5. There will be weather!
As I have mentioned in previous posts, the race briefing was quite humorous, with the following gem in particular:
“Weather. There will be some. When the sun shines, it’ll be hot. When it’s raining, it’ll be cold and wet. If it’s windy, there’ll be less midges.”
Wise words! I had practically every bit of running kit that I owned in the motorhome and hardly used any of it. I went through 3 pairs of socks, 2 tops, 2 pairs of shorts and 2 waterproof jackets the whole weekend. There really was little point in changing too much, perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that my socks lasted all of 2 minutes after the first change before getting soaked through yet again! The lesson here is to expect the worst weather possible and then you can only be pleasantly surprised (or not, as the case turned out to be here lol!).
6. There will be chaffing!
Despite using BodyGlide and sudocreme I did get some chaffing. The worst region was an area I had not considered to be susceptible to chaffing, right at the top of the legs at the bottom of the buttocks. This totally new chaffing issue highlights what adverse weather conditions can do. The cause of the problem – 50 miles in soaking wet shorts, and yet, as discussed above, there really was little point in changing them given the conditions. The absolute worst way to ‘discover’ chaffing is to find out about it for the first time in the après event shower – definitely takes the shine off of a relaxing shower and introduces a whole new world of pain!
7. Your choice of support team is crucial
I think one of my biggest problems for the future is that there is surely no way I can improve on my support crew. I have no doubts that, without them, I would not have made it to the finish in Fort William. Despite everything that happened, they did not mention the dreaded DNF. My support runner Minty was without a doubt the man to keep me moving to the end and, unfortunately for me, Minty will likely be lining up on the start line of the WHW Race for himself next year. I wish him all the best and have no doubt that he will make it to Fort William.
Crew, I salute you!
8. I have a short memory
I think the most important lesson learned, and one that I think will be common to most runners, is that I have a very short memory where pain and suffering are concerned.
Last Sunday someone asked me what the best bits of the race were. At that point, I could only come up with the amazing send off that we all received at the start, and the race finish, basically missing out 94 miles of beautiful West Highland Way scenery! Fast forward a week and I was waxing lyrical about the events of the preceeding weekend – 3pm on Saturday to be precise. Last Saturday I was en route to visit relatives with Mrs Mac. 7 days previously, I was at rock bottom, covering the toilet of our motorhome with projectile vomit. ‘Reminiscing’ about overcoming this particular low I found that Mrs Mac was slightly less keen to cast her mind back and that she had obviously misplaced her rose tinted glasses!
Which takes me on to the next lesson learned – just how tough it was on all of our loved ones, friends, family and support crew.
9. It’s tough on your crew
In some respects, the job of the runner is easier. It is OUR goal to finish, OUR dream, OUR challenge to overcome. Meanwhile, our support crew endures pretty much the same levels of sleep deprivation without any of the benefits. Further, there is possibly even more stress on the support crews than on the runners. We run along to the best of our abilities. They, on the other hand, have to make the mad dash between checkpoints with no question at all over whether they arrive on time. Their runners race depends on it!
I don’t think I realised just how worrying it is for a loved one to watch you set out on something quite as arduous as the West Highland Way Race. I had briefed my crew beforehand about the possibility of seeing me at an all time low. Little did I realise at the time how true this would be. In all honesty, I thought I was merely going through the motions but, from speaking to all involved, I don’t think anyone would have placed money on me finishing after the events at the 50 mile mark.
The above realisation also makes the job of finding a support crew for the future that little bit more difficult. Do I really want to put everyone through this again next year and, more to the point, would they even contemplate it???
10. I am nuts (really, I am)
Despite all of my pain and suffering and despite the effect on my support crew, little more than 24 hours after the event itself I would not say no when asked if I would do it all over again. If anything, I had an instant goal for 2013 – Run the WHW Race again – only this time better and quicker and, with a bit of luck, without the problems that impacted so much on this years attempt.
11. I am selfish
I suppose the biggest lesson learned is the hardest one to take. In considering this event again, I am undoubtedly selfish, but I just cannot help myself. There is a passion, a fire burning inside me that needs to do this, that needs to constantly push myself, that needs to finish the event again with a quicker time. If only there was some way to make things easier for those who have to watch you put yourself through these things. As it stands, the only thing I can offer is that “it can’t be that bad again – surely” and “the first time is always the worst when tackling a new distance”.
The following quotation was, rather timely, posted on Facebook this week by ULTRAmarathonrunning.com
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to it’s old dimensions”, Oliver Holmes.
I think this is very apt as far as the past few weeks are concerned. Like adaptation in training, the mind itself adapts and expects, and it is with this consideration in mind that I now find myself looking forward to the next WHW Race, perhaps in 2013, perhaps later down the line.
The difference this time, is that I will step up to the line knowing that I can do the distance, that I have completed it previously, and with a little less self doubt than I had the other weekend. This in itself is an excellent adaptation and is possibly one of the best weapons that I could ever add to my psychological arsenal.