New Beginnings

New post at The Running Bug, ‘New Beginnings‘.

In the run up to the 2012 West Highland Way Race I was pretty stressed, from the daunting prospect of completing the 96 miles of the West Highland Way in one go and under the 35 hour cut-off, to the prospect of sleep deprivation, chaffing, blisters and, well, basically all manner of things.

Having previously completed both the Highland Fling (first 53 miles) and Devil O’ The Highlands (last 43 miles) races, I was all too aware of what lay ahead. The mixture of stress, nerves and excitement in the weeks leading up to the race made it almost impossible for me to give much thought to much else.

Like everyone else connected with the race, I experienced a focus, a ‘tunnel vision’ if you like, with the single focus of covering the miles, arriving in Fort William, picking up the much sought after goblet, and becoming ‘one of the family’.

And then, just a few days before the race, Leanne announced that she was pregnant.

Having been together for over 8 years, and having been married since July 2010, we had not long decided that it was finally time to start a family. Neither of us expected it to happen quite so soon and, in the run up to the West Highland Way Race, it was most unexpected news, but also most welcome news.

My only concern was the thought of putting Leanne through the stress of a West Highland Way Race weekend, especially so early in the pregnancy. Little did I realise that it was going to turn into one of the THE most stressful weekends of my life.

Actually, thinking back, I don’t think it was actually that stressful for me as such. I ran. I also dealt with ‘stomach issues’ for a lot of the route, and projectile vomit at mile 50. But, mostly, I ran. And that’s all there really was to it for me, getting from point A, in Milngavie, to point B, in Fort William.

It was probably a great deal more stressful for those around me, including Leanne, Minty, John and Sandra, the support crew who saw me at my worst, hitting absolute rock bottom, and yet never once suggested that I quit.

As is normal for the early stages of a pregnancy, we told no one and it was quite some time before we were able to share the news with the support crew. I have to admit that, during the race, I wanted to tell my crew and especially Minty, a running acquaintance who became a close friend and who guided me to the end of the race despite all the obstacles that we faced.

So, from probably THE defining moment of 2012 to one of THE defining moments of my life. The mini Mac, or Bubba, as he/she has been named, will arrive at some point towards the end of February all things going to plan.

We can’t wait to welcome Bubba into our lives and, already, there is a new sense of direction. I expect that Bubba is going to change our lives in so many ways and that certain aspects of the lives that we enjoyed up until now will be challenged. While my early morning training runs fitted nicely into Mrs Mac’s calendar, leaving her to enjoy a long lie, I am not so sure that Bubba will appreciate the need for training.

However, at this point, my plans are to continue running and, hopefully, to still complete a number of ultramarathons in 2013, including the West Highland Way Race again, assuming I can get a starting place.

In this largely sedentary age, I want to set an example for Bubba. I want Bubba to experience the running community and, in particular, the ultra community. I want Bubba to see the camaraderie, the perseverance, grit and determination that is part and parcel of ultras, to show he/she that the best things in life, the best achievements and successes don’t necessarily come easily, and that life’s true ‘celebrities’ are the ones that overcome all manner of adversity to get to the start of a race and, hopefully, also to the end.

The thought of one day crossing the finish line with my son or daughter fills me with joy and would, I am sure, only serve to add to the feeling of accomplishment. The thought that, regardless of time or position, I would hopefully be setting a good example and perhaps even inspiring them, not necessarily to run ultras, but to see sport as a worthwhile pastime that brings joy to life along with the many other benefits.

But then, perhaps, I am thinking too far ahead already!

Barefoot Running Research

Craig Docherty is currently in the final year of a Masters degree in Sports Engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Craig’s dissertation is looking at the effect that barefoot running has on reducing the risk of ankle injuries. To help with this, Craig is looking for barefoot runners in the Glasgow area (and Scotland). If you are in a position to help Craig’s research, please contact him at For more information about the reason for Craig’s research check out the letter of the season on p70 of the latest Barefoot Running Magazine.

Training For An Ultramarathon

Elite ultramarathon runner and qualified personal trainer and exercise coach Andy DuBois wrote ‘Training For An Ultramarathon’ for the June 2010 edition of Running Free magazine.

“Running more than 26.2 miles was once considered the realm of extreme athletes but a growing number of runners are taking on the challenge, and discovering that running 30 miles or more on trails can be easier than running a road marathon. How is this possible and how do you go about training for one?”

  1. Practice walking in training
  2. Increase your long run
  3. Run downhill
  4. Learn to eat and run
  5. Get off road
  6. Run slower
  7. Mileage
  8. Back to back runs
  9. Smell the roses
  10. Believe it is possible

Forthcoming Merrell Product

A ‘sneak peak’ at some of the new Merrell product coming our way in 2013 with something for everyone in Run, Multi-Run and Hike ranges. Watch this space for a review of the new Merrell Mix Master.

“Reconnect with the Earth. Minimalist shoes and lightweight apparel for outside people.”

Te Araroa, The Long Pathway

The North Face accounced yesterday that North Face athlete and West Highland Way family member, Jez Bragg, is to run and canoe Te Araroa, The Long Pathway, in New Zealand starting in December 2012. The Long Pathway is a 3054 km trail stretching from Cape Reinga in the North of New Zealand to Bluff in the South and includes farmland, forests, mountain passes, rivers and even volcanoes!

Sounds like an excellent, if not highly energetic, way to see New Zealand. The target is to run the full 3054km in under 50 days, averaging 60km per day!

Jez’s stated objective: “A solo, fastest time attempt, running the 3,054 kilometre Te Araora trail in New Zealand.”

Talk Ultra will follow and update on Jez’s progress throughout the run.

Bottles Vs Bladders

When it comes to hydration while out running, you basically have the option of bottles or a bladder. I used a bladder for a long time before converting to bottles. Now I run with handhelds and/or backpacks that are capable of carrying water bottles. The North Face Enduro 13, Salomon XT Wings 5 & UltrAspire Kinetic are all examples of this kind of pack, holding two easily accessible bottles.

The Salomon XT and North Face Enduro packs are also capable of holding a bladder but this is something I would only do for long, unsupported ventures where there was a possibility of running out of fluids.

Why do I prefer bottles?

Mixing your drinks

Nothing to do with alcohol and everything to do with your ability to carry something different in each of your bottles. For a while I would just carry blue Powerade but, after a while, I found myself hankering for plain water. I then started using High 5 tablets which were easily carried and let me mix up my flavours so that I did not get tired of the same flavour. Of late I have tended to opt for 1 bottle of plain water and 1 flavoured with a High 5 tablet. The options are endless and all down to personal preference, as a quick google search will back up. Popular drinks included:

  • Water
  • Electrolyte drinks (High 5, Nuun, etc)
  • Powerade
  • Lucozade
  • Ginger Ale
  • Coke

I know that some runners like their Coke and Ginger Ale flat but I can’t say that I am a fan of this. There is nothing, however, to beat the lift that a small can of full on fizzy Coke or Ginger Ale provides at a checkpoint (or at the end of a race!).

Easier to fill

There’s no faffing at all when it comes to filling bottles. They can be easily passed to support crew and, if you have enough bottles, can be rotated to make the checkpoint process even smoother, handing over the empties in favour of pre-prepared bottles. You don’t even need to remove your pack – something you generally need to do if refilling a bladder.

Easier to see

When using handhelds, you can see exactly how much (or how little) fluids you have left and can determine how much fluid you should consume based on this. This is the main drawback of bladders as far as I am concerned and I have seen me come home from a run in the past when I have been using a bladder with 3/4s of my fluids left in the bladder, all because I was ‘being cautious’ with my fluid consumption!

Easier to tip over your head!

It may sound like a waste of fluid but sometimes there are days when you just need to give your head a good soaking. Have you ever seen anyone do this with a bladder? Nope, neither have I. Enough said!

Less to carry

Depending on your kit requirements, you could even ditch the backpack altogether and run solely with one or more handheld bottles. I tend to sweat a lot and running without a pack is one way to reduce this. Handhelds are especially useful for shorter runs or runs where there is not a great distance between checkpoints. Running with handhelds can actually give the arms a bit of a workout as well! Finally, have you ever heard of chaffing from hand helds? If you don’t need to run with a pack then you certainly don’t have to worry about the pack causing any chaffing!

Ice, Ice, Baby!

Possibly now out of season for this tip but, if you are likely to be running any distance on a hot day, partially or completely filling a bottle with ice should guarantee you a refreshing cool drink miles down the trail.

Salomon Sense Hydro S-LAB Set

New from Salomon, a different approach to handheld hydration, as demonstrated on the Castleberg Outdoors website. The combination of a glove like holder and soft flask offers all the benefits of handheld hydration but without the need to carry bottles. The Hydro S-LAB has been used by Salomon athletes over the past year and looks like it could be far more comfortable than traditional handhelds. The Hydro S-Lab set should be available from early February 2013.

Winter Hydration

Remember to stay hydrated when out training and/or racing. You may not feel thirsty or be sweating as much as usual but staying hydrated in the cold is important as your hydration needs are similar to any other time of the year.

Merrell Trail Glove Review

The Merrell Trail Glove is one of my favourite minimalist shoes and I now have 2 pairs which I use both for running and for general day to day use. I recently came across this excellent review of the Merrell Trail Glove posted by Jason back at the beginning of January 2011 over at Barefoot Running University. It’s an excellent, thorough review of the trail glove and finishes with a message to Merrell’s design team – “DO NOT CHANGE THIS SHOE!”. A great suggestion is the addition of a cleated model for very muddy trail running. Sounds like just the ticket for winter running! is Scotland’s newest trail running and ultra marathon outlet. Out-Run was set up to supply specialist kit to those taking part in trail & ultra-marathons.

Brands and items on sale have been selected on the basis of first-hand experience or as a result of recommendations from runners. The people behind Out-Run also have experience as Race Directors (GO33 Glen Ogle ultramarathon & Glenmore 24 ultramarathon) and thus have an understanding of runner’s needs.

Brands include:

  • UltrAspire
  • X-Bionic
  • Raidlight
  • OMM
  • Yeti
  • Thermarest
  • Injinji
  • Wigwam
  • 2XU
  • And many more

Hoka Highland Fling Almost Full

Update: 7.30, 13th November. Entries now stand at 462.

At the time of writing (16:12, 12th November 2012), 447 of the 500 available spaces for the Hoka Highland Fling have been taken, leaving only 53 spots remaining. The relay option has already sold out. So, if you have been thinking about tackling the 53 mile route on the lower portion of the West Highland Way, now’s the time to get your application in – before it’s too late!