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As we near the end of March you might have noticed the distinct lack of activity on the www.pixelscotland.com site this past month. Instead of the usual 20-30 posts, there’s been a grand total of 4 posts all month, 5 if you include this one!
My ‘excuse’ is the arrival of my son Harris, one month old today. My time has been taken up by our new arrival and I wouldn’t change a thing. Parenthood is amazing, but a little more sleep would be most welcome!
I do feel guilty that I haven’t managed to keep up with the blog this month. I have a number of reviews to write up. Thankfully, having made lots of notes along the way, I don’t have to start from scratch. However, polishing these notes into something that constitutes a review takes time, and that’s something that I just haven’t had since the arrival of Harris.
I’m not the only one with a problem balancing family, work and blogging. Check out this article from Barefoot Beginner that deals with exactly that issue.
One month in, we are now starting to find our feet. A bit more sleep would be great but we are starting to get used to the total change in lifestyle that accompanies a newborn, and especially when that newborn is your first child. I am getting used to the reality of partial blogging, spending 10-15 minutes here and there working on articles and reviews that I might previously have devoted a few hours to. Normal service will resume shortly(ish).
There’s an excellent article on Why We DNF by Geoff Roes over on www.irunfar.com. Well worth a read for some thoughts on the dreaded ‘Did Not Finish’ from one of the ultramarathon elite:
“Continuing on and finishing a race when we are tempted to drop out is a mental challenge that is largely determined by our mindset in the days and weeks leading up to the race. At the same time though, our brain is telling us to stop to try to protect us from further damage. Sometimes, we can have some of our best races when we ignore any temptation to drop and just keep moving forward, and other times the further we go the worse things get.”
It should come as no surprise to anyone who read my previous post, ‘D33 Or Bust‘, that Saturday 16th March, the day of the D33 ultramarathon, proved to be a tough day for me. Due to a number of factors explained in that previous post, training just hadn’t gone to plan and, as I approached the day of the D33, the first Scottish Ultra Marathon Series race of the year, I was filled with all kinds of concern regarding how the day was going to pan out. I even considered giving the race a miss but both Race Director George Reid and fellow runner Ian Minty offered some sound advice, telling me to turn up and do the best that I could. Looking back, I am glad that I listened to their advice. Not only did I finish the race, I wasn’t last and, as I found out at George’s pre-race briefing, I was one of only 14 ‘ever presents’, who have run each of the 4 D33 ultramarathons held.
This time last year I had run in excess of 400 miles with a number of long slow runs including back to back sessions, basically the ideal preparation for the 33 mile event. This year I had completed just over 1/4 of that, with no run longer than 11 miles, basically the worst possible preparation for pretty much any event other than, say, a half marathon!
I knew this was going to hurt, and it did!
The legs coped well up to the 11 mile mark, the distance I had become ‘comfortable’ with in training. However, by the time I reached the half way mark at 16.5 miles, just on the outskirts of Banchory, I could feel tightening throughout my legs and, by the 18 mile mark, I was running in pain. ‘Only’ 15 miles to go. I must have been visibly pained by the time I reached the 27 mile mark as a kind walker, out for a stroll on the Deeside Way, took pity on me and offered me some paracetamol which I gladly accepted. This eased the pain somewhat and left me to deal with the cramping that occurred whenever I changed pace (think 1st and 2nd gear only by this point!). I had forgotten just how long that last section felt but was glad to meet in with a number of other runners who were similarly toiling. I was not alone out there at least!
The first time I ran this race, back in 2010, I completed it in a time of 06:03:01. Each year I have chipped away at that time, completing in 05:58:56 and, in 2012, my event PB time of 05:36:10. This year I finally crossed the line in a time of 06:18:33, 214th out of 252 finishers. I’m not sure how many DNFs there were on the day but over 300 had actually signed up to the event.
The weather throughout the day was cold and wet, quite unlike the usual D33 warmer weather that accompanies the event. To be honest, that probably worked in my favour. There have been times in the past where I have toiled in the heat and, this year, that might just have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. As it was, I was layered up with my Helly Hansen Dry Revolution LS and my Montane Minimus waterproof, which kept me at just the right temperature throughout the day.
I did have one particularly ‘doh’ moment. Around the 20 mile mark the rain once again started to pour down with some force and I decided to put up the hood on my Montane Minimus. Without thinking, I unrolled the hood and threw it over my head, at which point, some 20 miles worth of accumulated rain water went straight down my back, soaking and chilling me in an instant. That’s certainly something that I hope never to repeat – beware of hoods! :o)
So it was tough, but I got there in the end – Now on to the positives.
As with every D33, it’s great to finally get the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series underway, even if I was ‘slightly’ unprepared this year. To be honest, the training hasn’t exactly had the opportunity to kick up a notch or two since that day so I think, this year, the challenge is definitely going to focus on completion of events rather than on racking up PBs.
It was also great to see so many familiar faces, and lots of new ones. This year the pre race chat for most people that I met up with was about my newly born son Harris. It was nice to have so many people asking after him. He did make an appearance at the end of the race with Leanne but, given the conditions and my slightly later than usual finish, we didn’t get the chance to introduce him to many of you. I am sure everyone will get a chance to meet him soon enough :o)
It was great to finish. That usually goes without saying but, this year, finishing was particularly important to me and I can quite honestly say that I am content with my time. I expected to take longer if truth be told. I was met by Race Director George Reid on the finish line and had to laugh as he pointed out “see what you can achieve without training”. Thanks George :o) As always, the D33 medal, produced by www.craftrocks.co.uk, was unique and completed a goodie bag that included, among other things, custom labelled Brewdog Beer.
Huge thanks to RD George, his assistant Karen and all of the marshals who gave up their time and stood about on a terribly cold and wet day.
While things didn’t exactly go to plan, I did complete the 33 miles of the route and, in doing so, logged a long slow run session towards my Highland Fling training. There’s not long now until the next of my SUMS events, the 53 mile Hoka Highland Fling on 27th April, and I am already looking forward to getting back on to the West Highland Way for the first time in ages.
I also made the most of the opportunity to test some new kit.
I wore the excellent new Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set 2013 Backpack for the first time and was delighted with the fit, performance and functionality of the vest pack. Is this the pack I have been searching for all this time? Review to follow shortly.
Given the varied terrain, including everything from concrete and forest trail to gloopy mud, combined with the lack of miles in my legs, I opted to wear The North Face Ultra Guide trainers on the day. I have mostly been wearing minimalist footwear of late but the additional cushioning of the Ultra Guide made for a comfortable race and helped me onwards to the finish on the day. As above, review to follow shortly.
So, lots of positives on an otherwise tough day but now it’s confession time.
I had many lows and highs on the 16th, fairly typical when running an ultramarathon. However, on this occasion, the lows far outweighed the highs. Certainly part of this was down to the lack of race fitness. However, the large part was guilt at leaving my new-born son for so long. By the time I reached the finish line, I had made up my mind to retire from running ultras, at least for the foreseeable future. And then I read a comment on my blog over at The Running Bug – “when he’s old enough you will be Harris’s hero when he sees you cross the finish line”. The comment made quite an impact. I would love to think that at some point the wee fella looked up to me, seeing me complete an ultramarathon, albeit far down the field and despite the huge effort required to get to that finish line.
A conversation with a relative in the days following the race concluded that “it’s who I am” and “it’s just what I do“. Right enough, without running a large part of my life would be missing. However, we did also discuss moderation. What’s to stop me dropping down to more manageable distances, at least for the foreseeable future? It’s certainly not something that I will discount. It has been ages since I did a 10k or a 1/2 marathon.
However, when I found myself booking a VW Campervan the other night for my support crew for this year’s 95 mile West Highland Way Race, I knew that my mind was made up, at least for now. So, the news of my ultra retiral is indeed premature!
That was ultramarathon number 16 completed – see you all at my next one, the Hoka Highland Fling.
Normally I live for the weekends. This weekend, however, CAN come too quickly for me. Not that there’s time to do anything about it. You see, the 2013 Scottish Ultra Marathon Series kicks off with the 33 mile D33 race this coming Saturday. This time last year I had run in excess of 400 miles, including plenty of long runs, and was actually looking forward to the event. On the day, I took a chunk out of my PB, smashing my 2011 time of 5:58:00 by some 22 minutes.
This time around, things are not looking quite so positive.
I haven’t been logging my run details quite so compulsively of late. I do still have the details of each run on various bits of paper scattered throughout the house but they have yet to make their way into SportTracks, my favoured software for keeping on top of mileage and all the associated details.
What I do know is that my total mileage for 2013 comes to no more than 130 miles so far, with no run in excess of 11 miles. Hardly the best preparation for the D33 or, indeed, for any of my other 2013 ultramarathons!
So why the lack of preparation? Why, with the D33 only days away have I not run further than only 1/3 of the total race distance?
Well, back in June 2012, days from participating in the West Highland Way Race, we found out that we were expecting our first child. Let me just save you the bother of doing the math – that gave us a due date of 20th February.
The chaos all started with some ‘nesting’, preparing the nursery for our new addition. Seeing the resulting dust and mess, we accelerated our plans for the house, sprucing up practically every room, and replacing the antiquated 30 year old kitchen. There was just no way we wanted to be doing this kind of thing once Bubbs arrived. The kitchen was finalised 2 weeks before the due date and our attentions then turned to unboxing and putting the house back together, made more stressful by the need for speed and our impending arrival.
With the house complete, I had hoped to get back in to long slow runs in preparation for the D33. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to venture too far from home, just in case! I didn’t want to find myself miles down the track with no way of getting home in a hurry!
As if we didn’t have enough on our plate, I had a cancer scare right before the birth. Not the kind of thing you want at any time, least of all with the birth of your first born looming. Thankfully, tests brought us the news we wanted and I could again turn my full attention to our new arrival.
Back to my master plan. Bubbs would arrive as expected on or around the 20th and I would start a month of paternity leave, giving me ample time not only to be the best dad possible but also to train and ‘catch up’ in time for the D33.
If you have any experience with newborns, please do feel free to rejoin us once you have stopped laughing at the naivety of the above ‘plan’. The reality has been something quite different.
Harris Robert Mackintosh finally joined us on the 28th February after a protracted birth that started some 5 days earlier. I can’t complain about the self inflicted pain resulting from running ultramarathons after witnessing what can only be described as a painful ‘ultra labour’, far exceeding anything that I have ever had to endure!
I will never forget the feeling of finally seeing my son, so tiny and covered in blood, being passed to his mum for the very first time. Words can’t adequately describe it, the emotion and intensity of it all, coupled with a feeling that the air had been sucked out of me as I tried to catch my breath. It certainly puts everything in perspective.
There was a time when I would have felt aggrieved at not getting out for my daily run. Now, I am happy just to make it through the day, to watch my son develop, and for my head to hit the pillow, even if it is only until the next nappy change or feed. While running will still play a part in my life, it certainly won’t have the same prominence as before. Priorities have changed. I knew that this would likely be the case, I just didn’t appreciate how comfortable I would feel with that change.
So, almost 12 days in now, the deluge of visitors (all very welcome I hasten to add) has subsided and we find ourselves redefining ‘normal’ when it comes to our new life. This normal certainly doesn’t include a decent 8 hours sleep, something that I relied upon to get me through the day and keep me training pre Bubbs!
Despite the lack of training, I will likely toe the start line for the D33 this weekend (as mad as that might seem!). I have resigned myself to the fact that this will most likely not be a PB performance and, in fact, if anything, it may well be a personal worst! I actually don’t mind. Given the circumstances, I will be glad just to grind out a finish. What’s more, the race is actually the best training opportunity that I have for the forthcoming 53 mile Highland Fling race, scheduled for April 27th.
A number of people have suggested that a DNF is definitely preferable to a DNS and, as much as I hate DNFs, it makes sense to at least give it a go. Hopefully muscle memory will save the day and see me through to the finish line! Only time will tell.
One thing that will be driving me forward on the day is the thought of getting home to my wife and son.
All the very best to everyone participating in the D33 this weekend.
Issue 05 of Ultra Tales has now been released covering event reports from Jan – Feb 2013.
Issue 05 includes event reports from Hardmoors 30, Country to Capital, The Spine Challenger, The Spine Race, Thames Trot, Rocky Raccoon, Pilgrims Challenge, Donnington 105, CTS Devon, The London Ultra, Oceans Floor Ultra, Born to Run Ultra, The Moonlight Challenge & the St Peters Way Ultra.
Issue 5 also contains a number of runners profiles, including an excellent profile with SUMS very own Andy Johns, ranked 1st male 40 in SUMS 2012.