Back To Basics

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of 2012 for me was completing the 95 mile West Highland Way Race. What’s more, I like to think that I did it in ‘style’, finally arriving in Fort William 31 hours after setting off from Milngavie (31:01:51, 102nd out of 119 finishers. 171 started). Apocalyptic weather, 20 miles of explosive diarrhoea, projectile vomiting at the 50 mile mark and a reduced calorie intake that you would expect from anyone whose body is doing its best to flush itself clean in the aforementioned ways, all stood in the way along the route which included 14,760ft of ascent. Thanks to an excellent crew and support runner (Ian Minty), I crossed the finish line in time to pick up the coveted crystal goblet and join the West Highland Way Race ‘family’.

As mad as it might sound, I had decided that I would put myself through it again by the end of the prizegiving ceremony, an amazing experience where every finisher receives their goblet in person, rightly celebrating the accomplishments of each individual.

Another highlight of 2012 was finding out that Leanne and myself were to become parents for the first time, though admittedly the timing of the news, just a matter of days before the madness of the West Highland Way Race weekend, could perhaps have been better. I was concerned at putting Leanne through something as stressful as crewing for me and the effect that this could have on someone in the early stages of pregnancy. And that was before that weekend actually ‘happened’. Fortunately, I had had the foresight to brief my crew – Expect to see me at my worst, never broach the subject of a DNF etc etc. Little did I realise at the time that I would actually hit absolute rock bottom on my journey.

That weekend was a huge learning experience. I was delighted to complete the race but, aside from that, the highs and, especially, the lows of that weekend set new standards where my running was concerned. Lets take the weather for example. If I recall correctly, the first 50 miles of the race were completed in torrential rain, aptly described as ‘apocalyptic’. Since that weekend, weather just hasn’t been the same. I no longer have the excuse not to just get out there and get on with it.

Similarly, the race established new definitions of ‘low’. One month later, at the Clyde Stride, I was not yet fully recovered and my body was rebelling against yet another ultra after a mere 13 miles. 27 miles of punishment followed as I ground out a finish. The way I saw it, I was nowhere near as low as I had been back at the West Highland Way Race. Sure I hurt, but other than that, everything was ‘rosy’ in comparison to that weekend.

Armed with this new outlook, I was looking forward to the 2013 West Highland Way Race and, somewhat naively it transpires, I was determined not only to finish the race, but to improve on my 2012 efforts (surely circumstances couldn’t be THAT bad again???) and, further, to do all this with a newborn baby.

Harris Robert Mackintosh was born on 28th February 2013.

My running took a hit even before he arrived. In the run up to his birth, home improvements and house wide decorating threw our lives into disarray. As the due date grew closer, I even found myself avoiding long runs, just in case he arrived early and I found myself receiving news of his impending arrival in the middle of nowhere. And then, after what can only be described as an ‘ultra birth’, he finally arrived.

Some 11 weeks on from that day we are still coming to terms with the impact on our lives. We both expected changes, but nothing prepares you for just how 24/7 it can all be.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am absolutely loving parenthood and found that I quickly accepted the change in priorities that accompanied the birth of our son (not that there was actually a choice lol!).

I knew from early on that running was going to have to take a back seat. However, I tried to kid myself that I was still going to achieve my running ambitions for 2013. On 16th March I lined up for my 1st ultra of 2013, the 33 mile D33. I knew it was going to be tough, going in to the race with a far reduced mileage than in previous years, and having run a maximum of 11 miles as my ‘long run’ in the build up to the event. Nowehere near long enough to realistically prepare me for the event. By 18 miles, my legs were in agony and, grinding out a finish with a personal worst time (though admittedly far better than I expected under the circumstances) I pondered my participation in ultras throughout 2013.

Next up was the Hoka Highland Fling on 27th April. A continued lack of training followed by a 2 week illness in the final weeks leading up to the event led to my first ever DNS (Did Not Start). Common sense prevailed, much to the relief of Mrs Mac.

And yet, at this point, I still had aspirations to run the 2013 West Highland Way Race. Or at least I did, until last weekend.

It was obvious to me that improving on my 2012 performance was unlikely, even if the stomach coped better this time around. It was also going to involve 3-4 days away from Leanne and Harris, something that I was totally not looking forward to. Last year, having trained considerably more, I found that my body took at least a month to fully recover from the race. Given the vastly reduced training this year, there was potential that the impact could be far worse. Finally, the passion just wasn’t there, at least not to the level that an event of this nature requires. This was becoming increasingly apparent when I sacrificed agreed training slots to spend more time with my son.

Riddled with doubts I went for a run with John Donnelly, part of my 2012 West Highland Way Race support crew. As we ran we talked through my doubts, my concerns about participating and about not participating. By the end of the run I knew that I should withdraw from the 2013 West Highland Way Race. It was a tough decision but, having committed to not running, I felt a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

Essentially 2013 was about 2 main ‘challenges’ – being the best possible parent to Harris, and completing the 2013 West Highland Way Race, improving on my efforts from the previous year. It became increasingly apparent to me that I could continue to pursue both but, in doing so, would do neither of them justice. When it came down to it, the choice was easy. In fact, there simply was no choice, just a realisation that the West Highland Way Race will still be there for me in years to come, but that these moments with my son are too precious to miss.

Having made the decision, I am much happier in myself. My running, still admittedly sporadic at this point, at least has an element of fun in it again. It is no longer about preparing to meet the challenges of the West Highland Way Race. It is about getting out for a run for the fun and enjoyment of it, if and when time permits on the family front (Given that time is such a precious commodity, I have taken to exercising at 5am, when it least impacts on quality time!). I’m looking forward to getting back to basics, to embarking on hill and speed training, trying to improve running that has essentially stagnated these past few years, with only marginal improvement in race times.

I am looking forward to listening to my body rather than to a specific training plan, running as far as feels good rather than the distance required to meet some goal or other. I am even looking forward to cross training and to new fitness challenges, such as Insanity, ‘The ultimate cardio workout and fitness programme’. As I have discovered of late, running fitness does not necessarily transfer all that well!

I do hope to return to ultras in the not too distant future but, rather than signing up for any one race, I will let my running speak for itself. Once the quality and quantity return, I will know that the time is once again right.

All the very best to everyone running the West Highland Way Race. I hope that you all make it to Fort William, and that you do so without too much damage to yourselves.

My thoughts will be with you all on the weekend of 22nd June.

Happy Running :o)

Ultra Tales Issue 6

The latest Ultra Tales has just been released. Issue 06 covers primarily UK ultra event reports from Mar – Apr 2013.

Issue 06 includes event reports from the White Cliffs 50, Trans Gran Canaria, Green Man Ultra, Haworth Hobble, D33, Sussex Coastal Ultra, Hardmoors 55, Exmoor Ultra, Thames Path 100, Northburn 100, Black Mountains Ultra, Viking Way, Perth 100km, Compton Challenge, Cotswold Ultra, CTS Exmoor Ultra, South Downs Way 50, 2 Oceans Marathon, Evesham Ultra, Highland Fling and The Fellsman. Issue 06 contains runners profiles for Luke Ashton, Haydn Johnson, Chris Edmonds, Mark Burnell, Sarah Gardner-Hall, Gary Vernon and James Stewart.

There are also articles on Training Buddies, Pre-Race Preparation, The Road to Sparta, A brief history of Ultra Tales, Torq Training Day and a Marathon Round up.

Download Links – Hi-Res Versions

Several links have been provided to cope with download traffic. If one link doesn’t work, then please try another.

Please note the .pdf file is a large download (40mb file) and may take a few minutes to open depending upon the speed of your internet connection.

Nathan Race Hydration Vests

Anyone who likes the concept of the UD Signature Series should also consider the latest offering from The Ultramarathon Running Store, Nathan Race Hydration Vests.

Keith from The Ultramarathon Running Store describes the vests as “a flexible, bomb proof, adjustable alternative” to the UD Signature Series. Every detail in Nathan’s Vapor Series of hydration vests works in harmony with the human body in motion. From the Ergological™ fit to the expert craftmanship, the Vapor Series vests represents state-of-the-art high-performance hydration and storage for serious athletes.

Nathan Sports describes the Vapor Series Hydration System as “our ultimate combination of storage, comfort, and performance for those who sweat the details”. The vests come in male (VaporWrap) and female (VaporShape) variants.

A sculpted fit and moisture-wicking fabrication give you all-day, chafe-free comfort and performance. Specialized, adjustable compartmentalization.

  • UTMB-capable with expandable cargo space
  • Insulated bladder pocket keeps water cooler, longer
  • Ergo-Response System keeps water and gear close to the body for maximum no-bounce comfort
  • Secret center back pocket holds ice pack for added body cooling

VaporWrap

Nathan Race Hydration Vest: VaporWrap (including 2L Hydrapak bladder). UTMB capable body-mapped adventure vest with max storage and Bladder Control System™ for serious athletes.

The Nathan VaporWrap Men’s 2 Litre Race Vest has a sculpted body-mapped design shape & fit for a stable bounce-free/smooth ride and on-the-fly adjustability. Load is balanced evenly reducing shoulder pressure points and allowing chafe-free comfort with a full range of motion.

VaporWrap Design

  • Body-mapped, Ergolocical™ fit, designed to move with you
  • Highly breathable, soft-touch, moisture wicking fabric gives all-day, chafe-free comfort and performance
  • 3D Cooling Channel™ with hidden back ice-pack pocket allows you to regulate your body temperature
  • Bladder Control System™ dynamically adjusts to pull fluid contents closer to the body for slosh-reduction and a stable, bounce-free ride

Features (Front)

  • Two angled 22oz bottle pocket pouches (allowing natural arm swing)
  • Dual V-chest strap (sliding)
  • Bladder Control System™ draw cords
  • Removable pocket (fits iPhone with case)
  • Large zippered pocket
  • Small water resistant pill pocket (with velcro closure)
  • Adjustable magnetic clip to keep bladder hose in place
  • 3D Cooling Channel™
  • Emergency whistle
  • Hidden ice-pack pocket

Features (Back)

  • 360 degree reflectivity for runs that last from dusk to dawn
  • Gusseted side zipper pockets
  • Removable shock cords for external storage
  • Three trekking pole attachment points
  • Open top insulated bladder sleeve compartment
  • 2L Hydrapak bladder as standard
  • Large size expandable back mesh zipper (vertical) pocket
  • Medium size external mesh zipper (horizontal) pocket
  • Haul loop

Specifications

  • Volume Capacity: 6.55L
  • Fluid Capacity: 2L bladder (and pockets for 2 x 22 oz. bottles)
  • Height: 40.5 cm / 16 in.
  • Width: 21 cm / 8.25 in.
  • Weight: 652 grams
  • Colour: Nathan Grey

Sizing at ribcage (Men)

  • S/M: 30.5-33.5in. / 78-85cm
  • L/XL: 33.5in. + / 85cm +

Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear. Size down if in-between sizes.

“2 Liters of Hydration, tons of packing space, and one of the most comfortable riding vests we’ve ever tested. Nathan’s been killing it lately.”

VaporShape

Nathan Race Hydration Vest: VaporShape (including 2L Hydrapak bladder). Women’s UTMB capable body-mapped adventure vest with max storage and Bladder Control System™ for serious athletes.

The Nathan VaporShape Women’s specific 2 Litre Race Vest has a sculpted body-mapped design shape & fit for a stable bounce-free/smooth ride and on-the-fly adjustability. Load is balanced evenly reducing shoulder pressure points and allowing chafe-free comfort with a full range of motion.

VaporWrap Design

  • Body-mapped, Ergolocical™ fit, designed to move with you
  • Highly breathable, soft-touch, moisture wicking fabric gives all-day, chafe-free comfort and performance
  • 3D Cooling Channel™ with hidden back ice-pack pocket allows you to regulate your body temperature
  • Bladder Control System™ dynamically adjusts to pull fluid contents closer to the body for slosh-reduction and a stable, bounce-free ride

Features (Front)

  • Single angled 22oz bottle pocket pouch (allowing natural arm swing)
  • Single V-chest sternum strap (sliding) and single rib cage strap
  • Bladder Control System™ draw cords
  • Large zippered pocket with external open mesh pocket
  • Small water resistant pill pocket (with velcro closure)
  • Adjustable magnetic clip to keep bladder hose in place
  • 3D Cooling Channel™
  • Emergency whistle
  • Hidden ice-pack pocket

Features (Back)

  • 360 degree reflectivity for runs that last from dusk to dawn
  • Gusseted side zipper pockets
  • Removable shock cords for external storage
  • Three trekking pole attachment points
  • Open top insulated bladder sleeve compartment
  • 2L Hydrapak bladder as standard
  • Large top-load expandable mesh zipper pocket
  • Internal zipper pocket
  • Haul loop

Specifications

  • Volume Capacity: 6.55L
  • Fluid Capacity: 2L bladder (and pocket for 22 oz. bottle)
  • Weight: 567 grams
  • Height: 39.5 cm / 15.5 in.
  • Width: 21 cm / 8.25 in
  • Colour: Nathan Orange/White

Sizing At Ribcage (Women)

  • S/M: 28-31in. / 71-79cm
  • L/XL: 31in. + / 79cm +

Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear. Size down if in-between sizes.

Elementary My Dear Watson

As a fan of Elementary, one of the new modern takes on the Sherlock Holmes story starring Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock and Lucy Liu as Watson (that’s right, a female Watson and it works really well) I was really impressed when I came across the following. Not only is JLM raising funds for charity (currently over $100,000), he’s doing it in style, running his first ultramarathon, The North Face Bear Mountain Run (50 miles), on May 4th-5th. Why this charity? One of the crew on Elementary has a son who suffers from Sanfilippo Syndrome and, by all accounts, it’s something that is overlooked by the large pharmaceutical companies. Huge respect to JLM not only for highlighting this cause and raising money for it, but for doing it the hard way, running 50 miles.

“We desperately need to find a cure for children suffering from Sanfilippo Syndrome. This ultra rare disease leads children to suffer brain damage, bone deformities and organ failure, and eventually death, often by their teenage years. People’s kindness is the only way to fund the search for a cure since Sanfilippo is not being paid attention to by big pharmaceutical companies. On behalf of Jonah’s Just Begun, I am running my first 50-mile ultramarathon at Bear Mountain. I hope to bring awareness to this most urgent fight to help save kids like Jonah. If everyone gives something today, then the research and studies can be done. Do something amazing and help us help these kids!! Donations are tax-deductible. Thank you!!!”

Jonny Lee Miller