It’s Been A While

Hard to believe that my last blog post was way back in July. The most neglected that my www.pixelscotland.com web site/blog has been in years. But not without reason. Back in July I completed my final ultramarathon for 2015, the last event of my comeback year and, despite a distinct lack of event specific training, I made it!

I made it through the 33 miles of the D33, and what’s more, of the 5 times that I have run the event, it was my middle time, some 25 minutes adrift of my 2012 PB but, all things considered, a time that I was more than happy with.

By the time the Highland Fling rolled around in April, with further interruptions to ‘training’, I was seriously considering a DNS. However, after some 6 months of investigation, SEAT finally contacted us to say that they had resolved the issues with our Alhambra, and we had to pick it up from Glasgow. Coincidentally, the pick up date was the day before the Fling and thus, by my reckoning, we had to be in Glasgow anyway so I might as well just run it and see.

Filled with self doubt, I started at the back of the 1000 strong field. I had no expectations of myself. I was just going to do what I could.

It turns out that muscle memory is a wonderful thing. Despite the absolute lack of event specific training, I managed a PB! It was close, with my body finally fading noticeably in those last 10 miles approx. but, nonetheless, I did it. Funnily enough, it was a PB by only a couple of minutes but, over the course of 53 miles, it seems funny to be so close to my previous time.

And then, before I knew it, it was July, and time for the big one, my #1 event of the year, the 73 miles of the Great Glen Ultra, an event that would see me starting at 1am in Corpach and running through the night to arrive in my final destination, Inverness.

Still far from where I wanted to be in terms of training, I approached the event with the same aim – do what I could and try to enjoy it. With my stomach knotting itself on the bus down, the prospect of ‘enjoying it’ faded somewhat and I spent a good portion of the race considering a DNF. However, as my last post outlines, I got there, and in a time of 16:02:49, far, far removed from any time that I had expected. What’s even more gutting is that I had spent a good 10-15 minutes getting ‘lost’ at the end of the route, upon my arrival in Inverness.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t tough. Filled with negativity, and running mostly in torrential rain, I finished the race vowing that my ultra days were over. But, in true ultra style, this lasted no more than a few days (admittedly, the longest I have ever stuck to my ‘never again’ stance!).

It’s hard to believe that we now find ourselves just a couple of days away from December. I’ve managed to keep the running going, though not exactly ‘ultra training’. I’ve embraced something entirely new to me. A few weeks ago, Ellon got its very own Park Run, something that I would previously have placed firmly in the ‘my idea of hell’ category – run as fast as you can for 5k and try to hang on to your breakfast as you cross the line. Far, far removed from my more sedate ultra ventures and, in some ways, considerably more difficult for a ‘Clydesdale runner’ like myself!

That said, I’ve sat just outside the top 10 each of the 5 weeks that I have attended, with a variety of times in the 22 minute scale, and with 3 PBs, an ‘equals PB’ and, funnily enough on the day that I placed higest yet and felt best by far, a ‘PW’ in terms of recorded Park Run times. It had to happen, and especially as we approach the wet/snow/ice season, when an element of self preservation will kick in to play. That said, it was still a psychological blow. Ironically, it was also on the day that server problems delayed the release of the official results until evening, resulting in a ‘day of pain’!

I’m sure there’s a great many people will read the above and wonder why it takes me 22 minutes to cover 3.1 miles. It’s not a fast time for many. I’m well aware of that. However, not that long ago, I was happy to run 30 minutes for 3 miles so I am more than happy with my 22 minute times and will, of course, strive to take those times down into the realms of 21 minutes (and beyond!)

Unfortunately, after the fluke of maintaining my 100% Ellon Park Run attendance record thanks to the cancellation on health and safety grounds of last weekend’s event when I was away in the Cairngorms, I missed yesterday’s event through illness. Typical! Missing it once was enough to see me lose my place at the top of the Ellon Males Points Table.

This will likely be the last post of 2015. Talk about ‘prolific’ lol! I’ve decided to take a different approach to the site and, behind the scenes, I’m working on a whole new look and feel, hopefully to be launched in the not too distant future. This web site is ‘going back to its roots’. It’s going to be very much about me, my family, and my journey. And, of course, my photography.

I’ve decided to limit the reviewing side of things for one. Life’s too short to spend hours and hours reviewing products. If it’s something that I genuinely believe in, then that’s different. However, I know the brands that work for me and I’m most likely going to stick with them and ‘run with them’ (no pun intended!).

Those brands, by the way, are as follows:

  • Salomon – the truly awesome Salomon S-LAB ADV SKIN3 12 SET Backpack, Salomon S-Lab Advanced SKIN 3 BELT SET Waist Belt, and most of my clothes, from shorts to t-shirts, vests and jackets
  • Altra – the Lone Peak 1.5, 2.0 and Superior 2.0, by far the comfiest shoes I have ever had the pleasure to run in
  • Drymax – pretty much the only socks I wear now, having first worn them at a very wet, and often submerged course, back at the 2012 Speyside Way Race
  • OMM & The North Face – for super-lightweight waterproofs
  • Montane & Rab –   for everyday essential jackets like my Montane Fireball smock, Montane Prism jackets, and my Rab down jacket

I will, however, admit to having applied again to become an Altra ambassador. Altra is one brand that I ***would*** be delighted to represent.

After last years application, a promising email did get my hopes up but they focussed their efforts instead on their North American ambassadors. Hopefully this year, this will be extended to the rest of the world.

When I first tried on a pair of Altra Lone Peak, the comfort levels had me thinking back fondly to the Inov-8 Roclite 305s that I loved so much, a shoe that I ended up going through 5 pairs of. Funnily enough, I found an old pair and stuck them on for the day just last week. It turns out that they are like an old favourite film that you wish you hadn’t actually watched again. There’s just no comparison in terms of comfort, and the toebox on the 305s feels like a straight-jacket in comparison to the spacious toebox on the Lone Peaks!

So, finally, lets round up this extended post.

In terms of imagery, I’ve added a gallery of photos from our trip to the Cairngorms last weekend, when we were fortunate enough to benefit from the fresh perspective of a covering of snow on our favourite trails. It also gave us an opportunity to take Harris, quickly approaching his 3rd birthday (February), skiing and climbing for the first time.

And lastly, what’s on the cards for 2016?

I am in for the Highland Fling. That’s a definite. I thankfully grabbed myself one of those 1000 spaces before they sold out. Nuts to think that the race sold out in under 2 hours! Testament indeed to the efforts of RD John (Jonny Fling) Duncan and his team.

I am awaiting the ballot for the 95 mile West Highland Way Race. There are 265 starting spots, with the expectation that illness/injury/lack of training/life will reduce this to 200 actual starters. Unfortunately, at time of writing, there are over 300 applicants so some of us will be disappointed for sure. I’m going to be really selfish and hope that I am not one of the unlucky ones. After my 2012 race, I want to return and at least attempt to finish without having to go through quite such a time of it!

As for the rest of 2016, I am hoping to run the Great Glen Ultra again, though (ultimately sensible) rules prohibit anyone fortunate enough to finish the West Highland Way Race from running GGU in the same year. In the event that I don’t get into this year’s West Highland Way Race, there will almost certainly be an application going in to the 2016 Great Glen Ultra!

I’m also hoping to enter the Glenmore 24, which would be my first attempt at a 24 hour, lapped event. As the name implies, it’s held in the forests of Glenmore so I will be more than happy to spend 24 hours running around some of my favourite Cairngorm trails.

I’m also hopeful of securing entry to the Devil O’ The Highlands, which would mean an attempt to complete my second ‘Triple Crown’ of Fling / West Highland Way Race / Devil O’ The Highlands events.

After the success of last year’s event, when John ‘Jonny Fling’ Duncan, took over the reigns as RD, the Devil will likely be another quick to sell out event. Will have to set a calendar reminder or two for the day entry opens!

That’s all for now. Hopefully back with a new site soon, all things going to plan.

Happy Running

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