The Formartine & Buchan Way

The Formartine & Buchan Way is my ‘local’ route, the scene of the majority of my training. It may not be hilly – far from it in fact, but then, what would you expect of a former railway line! The route is 40 miles in length, from Dyce to Fraserburgh with a 13 mile spur from Maud to Peterhead. As a result of improvement work, the majority of the trail is now compacted underfoot and high quality.

Route cards are available for each of the sections and can be downloaded from Aberdeenshire Council.

Places of interest close to or passed by the route include:

  • Aden Country Park
  • Drinnies Wood Observatory
  • Strichen Stone Circle
  • Deer Abbey
  • The White Horse at Strichen

“The pathway uses the former railway line linking from Dyce, on the edge of Aberdeen in the south, to the village of Maud where it splits into two routes; eastwards to Peterhead and northwards to Fraserburgh.” (Aberdeenshire Council,http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/outdooraccess/long_routes/formartine_buchan.asp)

“The line was a victim of the 1960s Beeching cuts, though it continued to carry freight to Peterhead until 1970 and to Fraserburgh until 1979. The Buchan Countryside Group began the work of reopening the route as a cycleway and footpath in 1987.” (Walk Highlands,http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/aberdeenshire/formartine-buchan-way.shtml)

Sections

  • Dyce to Udny Station 13km
  • Udny Station to Ellon 8km
  • Ellon to Auchnagatt 12km
  • Auchnagatt to Maud 7km
  • Maud to Strichen 9km
  • Strichen to Fraserburgh 17.5km
  • Peterhead branch: Maud to Longside 11.5km
  • Peterhead branch: Longside to Peterhead 10.25km

An Unexpected Snow Run

I awoke to a most unexpected sight on Saturday morning, snow! What’s more, unlike the last snowy weather, Ellon actually received a good dusting of the white stuff.

Last time around I was gutted not to be able to make the most of it and get out and train. Unfortunately, we had little more than patchy, layered ice mixed with intermittent concrete as the snow didn’t lie for long at all. As such, even spikes were out of the question.

So, when the opportunity presented itself on Saturday morning I hit the trail for just under 10 miles along the Formartine & Buchan Way, taking the picture below in the process. A further 10 followed on the Sunday but, by then, the snow was long gone, leaving once again little more than patchy ice.

Nonetheless, I had a great run and met Nywanda of http://nywanda.com/ at the midway point before we both ran back towards Aberdeen. Was good to have some company on the run and, by the end we were knocking out some decent mile times whilst still happily chatting away.

Definitely the best I have felt on a run all year. Thanks for the company Nywanda.

Barefootin’

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Barefootin’

When it’s all you can do not to pump your hands in the air as one of your favourite trance tracks comes into the mix, you know that it’s as near to a perfect run as you can get and this run was certainly a contender on that front.

Coming off the back of the Highland Fling in late April and then The Cateran Trail Ultra the previous weekend, I was still carrying the niggle in my right ankle that I had picked up early on in The Cateran. With this in mind, I had planned a fairly gentle weekend of running but, as is so often the case, things just didn’t go to plan.

The location was the first part of the plan to change. We received an invite to join Mrs Mac’s mum and dad staying in Coylumbridge, just outside Aviemore and right at the foot of some of my favourite trails. Little did we know when we accepted the invite that we would arrive on the Friday to temperatures around 28 degrees and that the temperatures were set to continue right through the weekend – bonus!

Waking just after 5.30am on the Saturday to a glorious sunny day, I set out to run the 5 miles approx. of uphill that takes you from Coylumbridge to the mouth of the Lairig Ghru, one of my favourite, rooty, rocky trails consisting of approx. 3 miles of forest road and then a further 2 miles of singletrack.

As they say, what goes up, must come down and, as I have blogged before, this has to be one of the best descents in Scotland, taking me back down to Coylumbridge in time for some pre breakfast sunbathing before everyone else got up (yes, it was THAT hot!).

As the temperatures rose, the plans for the day were scaled back slightly and we ended up spending the morning walking from Glenmore to the Green Loch and then on to Ryvoan Bothy where we had lunch. We took a high path on the way there and then the lower route that we usually take on the way back and, with the discovery of yet another rocky, rooty path, I made a mental note to run the high path in future.

Waking at 6.00am on the Sunday, I set out again, this time in the direction of Loch Einich for a run that totalled just over 12 miles. It felt even hotter than the previous day and I ditched the top to run in Anton Krupicka style (only a ‘slightly’ more rotund version!). I figured that I wasn’t going to meet anyone this far out as 6.00 am. I can only apologise to the two people that I did see – I sincerely hope you were able to erase the image from your minds!

The waters en route were quite high and, coming to the last of these, I waded in until my legs felt like icicles (strangely refreshing) before turning around and heading back to Coylumbridge. I was approx 1 to 1.5 miles short of Loch Einich itself but was conscious of the time and wanted to be back before the family were up. An all day breakfast from the excellent Mountain Cafe was planned and, considering that my food intake up to that point had consisted of half a pack of Honey Stingers, I had built up quite an appetite!

Heading back along the high route this time, listening to Armin van Buuren in the mix, takes me back to the start of this post. I was having an absolute blast. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Now there was one significantly different element in all of this. I spent the entire weekend, both running and walking, in Merrell Trail Gloves. Back at the end of April Merrell were kind enough to send me a pair of their Trail Gloves to test. I have been running in the Trail Gloves through the week over shorter distances but, this weekend, I wanted to give them a real test on some of the best technical and harsh trails that I know.

I have dabbled with minimalist shoes in the past and, after reading Christopher McDougall’s “Born to Run” the first time, I experimented by running barefoot on a treadmill (gets surprisingly hot underfoot!) before ‘progressing’ to a pair of neoprene surfers booties (gets surprisingly hot in the shoe!). I have since tried a few different minimalist shoes.

The idea behind minimalist running is as follows:

1. Align your posture
2. Balance your foot-landing
3. Count your cadence

As simple as ABC! There is considerably more information over at http://www.merrell.com/UK/en/Barefoot

Be sure to check out the Running Bug Good Form Guide as well.

The one thing that I just can’t stress enough is to start slow and build up barefoot activities, especially if you are new to running any distance.

The idea is to stimulate and strengthen your feet and this may well prove painful in the initial stages until your feet have become accustomed to running without the rigidity and cushioning of trainers. I found that my calf muscles in particular often tightened up during or after a barefoot run so I wore Compressport calf compression whilst running and this appears to have totally removed this issue from the equation.

As regular readers may be aware, the Merrells are quite far removed from my usual medium to long distance trail shoe. Weighing in at only 176g the shoes have a 0mm ball to heel drop with 4mm compression molded EVA midsole cushions and a 1mm forefoot shock absorption plate that maintains forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure.

Up until this weekend I had been testing them on the trails around Ellon and along the old railway line, the Formartine & Buchan Way. Compacted gravel trails, rooty, rocky forest trails, grass and mud all proved no problem as the Trail Gloves took everything that I could throw at them in their stride. Running through muddy puddles, they filled up and emptied again just as quick, leaving the feet to quickly dry off before encountering the next puddle. This was equally true this weekend as they filled with ice cold river water and emptied again, providing temporary refreshment for my feet in the heat.

The things that struck me were the roomy toe box, allowing the feet to splay, the breathability of the shoe, and the change in my running form that came (mostly) naturally. My cadence was increased, taking smaller steps so as not to stride out too far and land on the heel.

The main difference, and possibly even more exaggerated for me given the cushioning that I am used to, was feeling every rock, root and stone underfoot. Whilst strange at first, I soon learned to be more careful in picking my route rather than just trying to run over the top of everything and, in doing so, found myself ‘skipping’ about.

On a rare occasion I would misplace my foot and/or there simply would be no ‘good’ spot for footfall, and on these occasions I would feel whatever was underfoot. However, I actually found that this connecting with the terrain underfoot added to the run.

Blinded by the sun at one point this weekend, I kicked a rock which, unfortunately, turned out to be well rooted in the ground. I was surprised not to break my toe but it would appear that the rubber toe bumper on the Trail Glove offers more protection than might be expected of a shoe that can roll completely into a ball and, other than the initial sharp pain, there were no long term ill effects.

One thing that I can say for sure about running in the Trail Gloves is that it is FUN!

My experience with the Trail Glove has actually left me wondering just how far I could run in them, though with the 95 mile West Highland Way Race now less than 4 weeks away, sensibility prevents me from testing this out… for now at least. Certainly, I know of a couple of ultra runners who have run around the 50 mile mark in Merrell Trail Gloves. Going by my efforts of 10 and 12 miles this weekend, I reckon I could run at least 20 miles in them, if not more. Once the West Highland Way Race has passed it will definitely be time to put my theory to the test!

I have also found myself wearing the shoes for everyday use. Funnily enough, I took to running in them quicker than I did to walking in them and, if anything, it is my walking style that needs improved!

The Merrell minimalist range now includes ranges for Run, Train, Water and Life. Runners contemplating the minimalist approach to running should check out the Trail Glove and/or the Road Glove. Merrell have also recently added the Run Bare Access shoe to the range. Described as “For distance runners and those new on the path to barefoot running”, the shoe maintains the 0mm drop but with additional cushioning. Now that sounds like my next shoe for sure!

Don’t just take my word for it, check out what everyone else thinks online.

One reviewer wrote “The trail glove is to trainers what Apple Macs are to computers”. I don’t think you can pay much more of a compliment than that!

“I bet you can barefoot all night long
Take off your shoes and throw them away,
Come back and get them another day
We’re barefootin’, We’re barefootin’,
We’re barefootin’, We’re barefootin'”

Robert Parker – 1966

A Tough 18 Mile Run

I ran just over 18 miles on Saturday, from Ellon through to Mintlaw along the old Formartine & Buchan railway line. I had given myself what I considered to be a good break from running since the 53 mile Hoka Highland Fling 7 days previously but, despite this, it made for a tough 18 miles and I could feel that the legs still had those 53 miles in them. On the down side, I need to take a bit of a break and/or mix up the training a bit more as the 55 mile Cateran Trail Ultra is looming (19th May). Technically, I probably should be tapering for this anyway. On the up side, I did manage the miles and it feels good (retrospectively) to have trained on tired legs which is always good training for the later parts of any ultra.

I am going to concentrate on shorter distances from now until The Cateran, with the dual aim of giving the legs a bit of a break and also keeping the running ticking over until the 19th. I am just off to hit the trail for a run in the Merrell Trail Gloves that I was sent to review. With the timing of their arrival, just before the Fling, I have not yet managed to take them out as much as I would have liked. Anticipating a run of between 6 and 10 miles but will just see how the legs feel.

Going to stick on the latest of The West Highland Way Podcasts, which have proved to be an invaluable source of information as the West Highland Way Race approaches.

Happy running!

February & March Summary

2 months summary rolled into 1 post. Time has flown past. It seems like only yesterday that I had completed the final race of 2011, the Speyside Way Ultramarathon. The D33 and the 2012 Scottish Ultra Marathon Series all seemed so far away. Until, that was, this Saturday past when it all started again. From now until the end of September it will be an ultra a month every 3 to 4 weeks, until I have completed all 7 of the races that I plan to do this year. This includes the 95 mile West Highland Way Race, the thought of which excites me and fills me with fear in equal quantities!

So, in terms of a summary, to cut a long story short, I ran – a lot, or at least a lot in comparison to last year, which in turn saw a significant increase on the year before. It would appear to be a continual upwards trend where my running is concerned. Having said that, I am now taking more time off to recover and especially after the longer runs. Only time will tell what kind of final mileage lies in store this year.

I ran part of The Moray Coast Trail, from Ellon to Fraserburgh along The Formartine & Buchan Way, in and around the Cairngorms and in and around Ellon while Leanne was away in Houston. All of the aforementioned runs helped prepare me for The D33 on Saturday 17th March and no doubt contributed to my PB of approximately 23 minutes.

As for the rest of the month – a frantic week of work will be followed by a week in the Cairngorms to celebrate turning 40. Where better to mark this occasion than in one of my favourite parts of Scotland.

Happy running!

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside‘.

Standing high above the beach in the sand dunes, enjoying the scenic view with the sands beautifully lit up, I savoured the feeling of satisfaction. I had run 30 miles for this view, and whilst not altogether an easy 30 miles, it had certainly felt better than the 27 mile run the previous weekend which had seen me literally grind out those last miles. After the effort of the run, I quite literally did like to be beside the seaside! (I can only apologise if that song sticks in your head for the rest of the day!)

Arriving in Fraserburgh shortly before dinner time on Saturday was quite an occasion for me as it meant that I had finally covered the entire length of The Formartine & Buchan way, the former railway line that connects Dyce to Fraserburgh or Peterhead.

I have run from Ellon to Dyce (and sometimes even back again) more times than I can remember and, those of you who regularly read my blog, will know that it is the route that I run home whenever the wife heads off abroad with work.

With family in both Mintlaw and Peterhead these too are familiar parts of The Formartine & Buchan Way, as I often set off on early runs, timing my arrival to coincide with that of the wife. As I write this, it has just occurred to me that I have never considered how those family members actually feel about me arriving at their doorsteps a sweaty mess! It’s not exactly the ‘done thing’ when it comes to visiting relatives now is it?

On Saturday I finally ran the Ellon to Fraserburgh section of the route.

Often exposed, as the occasionally fierce headwind testified, I found the route to be mostly scenic although there was the occasional section where you could see for miles and miles along the route… but then, what else would you expect of a former railway line!

I was on familiar territory up until Maud, where the line splits and where you must choose to head for Fraserburgh or Peterhead.

At this point I usually take the turn to Mintlaw but, on Saturday, I headed off to Strichen and, ultimately, to Fraserburgh.

It was late Thursday when I came up with the plan to run to Fraserburgh and, at that time, running up Mormond Hill seemed like a great idea.

Mormond Hill (from the Gaelic ‘mor’ meaning big and ‘monadh’ meaning hill) is a large hill just past Strichen.

I have been driven past the hill numerous times and have often noted the satellite dishes and masts on the top of the hill, remnants from Cold War NATO communications. I have also noticed the white horse on the side of the hill, made from white quartz that has been placed into position to make the shape.

“It is a war memorial to a Sergeant who gave up his horse for his Captain in battle. The white deer (also known as ‘The white stag’) was created in a similar way, with quartz on the side of the hill but was made as a wedding present rather than as a memorial. Unusually, these are the only two hill figures located in Scotland. There are three more in Wales and roughly 50 more in England. The White Horse is one of sixteen horses in the United Kingdom, whilst the stag is one of two stags in the United Kingdom, although the other is more of a natural figure which simply looks like one.” (Wikipedia – Mormond Hill)

Often intrigued by the masts and figures, I decided that I would run up Mormond Hill and that this would be perfect training for forthcoming ultramarathons, and specifically for the Highland Fling where, after approx 20 miles of running, you have to run up and over Conic Hill.

Now, had I left earlier, I might well have stuck to this plan. On Saturday however, I decided to leave Mormond Hill for another day. Despite running alongside the hill, there appeared to be no obvious way off the line and up the hill, or at least, no obvious way that didn’t require leaving the line at Strichen and then taking what looked like becoming a considerable detour just to get to the hill, never mind run up and down it! As such, I admired the hill from the viewpoint of The Formartine & Buchan Way and kept on running.

On the long run in to Fraserburgh itself I could see the glistening sands of the coastal beaches, bathed in sunshine which, funnily enough, was somewhat absent directly above me. The effect off the dunes was almost mesmerising, willing me on towards my final destination. I wanted so badly to be there, out of the wind, enjoying the sun and the golden sand.

Arriving in Fraserburgh my route ran alongside the dunes. By this point I was actually in two minds whether to make the effort to run up and over the dunes (I still can’t believe that this was even an option in my head – looking back I could kick myself!). Fortunately, sensible thoughts prevailed and I headed up into the dunes. I stood for a few minutes, savouring the view with Fraserburgh to my left and miles of beach to my right.

As I ran back down off of the dunes I quickly checked MotionX GPS to get my bearings and some idea as to where in Fraserburgh I might find a bus station. However, there was no need. Spotting a bus arriving in the town I chased after it, arriving at the bus station just in time to hop on a bus bound for home. I couldn’t have timed it any better.

It was a relief to finally get a seat and I enjoyed the return leg as the bus wound so effortlessly around the villages that only hours earlier had seen me toiling along.

Another weekend, another run.

This coming weekend I am heading off to one of my favourite ‘stomping grounds’ – the Cairngorms. I have a few route potentials mapped out already but there’s a whole week ahead in which to do some homework and decide on the best options.

These past two weekends, my first really long runs of the year, have provided my first opportunity to truly test my Hoka One One Mafate shoes and it has to be said that they have passed with flying colours.

Normally, after a run of 30 miles, I would be stricken with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in the days after the run and, certainly where I am concerned, it is the second day after the run that is usually the worst. However, I would go so far as to say that I felt quite sprightly on the Monday at work. I had decided in advance that I would take the Monday and probably the Tuesday as rest days to let the legs recover fully. Arriving home last night, it was all I could do NOT to run! I was definitely tired but not at all sore. As for tonight… well let’s just see how the working day goes… But it’s safe to say that a run is at least on the cards!

The first race of the year, The D33 is fast approaching (17th March). I will hopefully see some of you there. I hope that everyone is remaining injury free and that training is going to plan.

Happy Running!

In The Zone!

New post at The Running Bug, ‘In The Zone‘.

Valentines evening and I painted a forlorn picture, trudging along the streets on a windy, wet night. I passed the local Indian & Italian restaurants and, as you would expect, they were all packed to the rafters, windows covered in condensation from the sheer number of bodies packed inside. Not quite how I had planned my Valentines but that was before Mrs Mac had reminded me that she would be in Houston with her work for a month, starting 11th February – just in time to wipe out any plans for Valentines!

Once Mrs Mac was safely through the check in gates I did my, by now, traditional run back from the airport, a run of approximately 15 miles along an old railway line that eventually deposits me back home in Ellon. Despite some fairly dodgy weather the preceding day, Saturday was (fortunately) perfect running weather.

I would be lying if I said I was in the mood for the run so the improvement in weather was, at least, a small mercy. However, those first 3 miles just didn’t go to plan. I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong until – I realised that I was overheating. It was only February, and the majority of the country lay under a blanket of snow, but where I was it was a balmy 6 degrees and, with this realisation, I peeled off my Gore outer layer. It was like I had freed a caged beast, or at least I like to think of it that way! My body once again felt like it could breathe as I enjoyed the ‘freedom’ of running in a single base layer.

The remaining 12 miles flowed, one of those ‘in the zone’ runs where you feel at one with the world. Checking my splits afterwards confirmed it. Normally I would be looking at 9-10 minutes per mile pace, the kind of pace that I would be aiming for (though not necessarily achieving!) in long ultras. However, with my pace ranging between 7.35-9 minutes per mile, it confirmed that today was indeed a good ‘in the zone’ run and, further, that my efforts at speed work were starting to pay off.

The first time Mrs Mac headed off for work I ran back from the airport and promptly decided to rip up the patio. It was, to say the least, a fairly spur of the moment decision and it was some 3 months before I finally relaid it, laying each slab with OCD like precision. Looking back, my timing could have been better – try explaining your wife’s 10 week absence to the neighbours when it coincides with the patio being ripped up! To say that I regretted my hasty actions would be an understatement. Other than the fact it took me 3 months to get around to relaying it (I really did have the best of intentions, I was just ‘waylaid’!) I woke the next morning feeling like I had gone 12 rounds with a heavyweight! Whilst the body might have been used to distance running, it certainly was not used to the exertion of manual labour and, specifically, lifting slabs!

I was not up at the crack of dawn the following day. Instead, I had a leisurely breakfast before heading out for an undecided length of run. I settled on 10 miles, taking my mileage up to a new weekly PB of 60 miles. As with my run the day before, the splits varied from 7.30 up to 9.00 and, again, I had one of those ‘in the zone’ runs.

I am fortunate in that I quite often experience the kind of runs where I feel tuned in to my surroundings. I do like to listen to music while training (generally trance music) but, even then, I still feel connected to what is around me. On one particular occasion I was running along quite contentedly with my headphones in, only to realise that the music had actually stopped some time ago. Again, one of those runs where you feel ‘in the zone’. It is not something I particularly set out to achieve, though I do believe that the beauty and the peace and quiet of my surroundings (the old Formartine & Buchan Way railway line) do help me to attain that feeling of satisfaction where everything feels right with the world.

Still, it is always good to mix up the scenery and, with that in mind, I will likely head to Elgin again this weekend, specifically with the intention of getting some long runs done in and around the Quarrel Woods. The woods might not be the biggest of areas but, given the copious amount of trails that lie within the woods, I reckon I can get at least half of a planned 20 mile run done there. On top of that there is the close proximity of the coastal towns and the opportunity for some beach running. Whatever the outcome, it will be a nice change of scenery and an opportunity to run some of my old childhood haunts – something that certainly didn’t cross my mind back then!

Happy running!

Fear of FOMO!

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Fear of FOMO!‘.

I have actually run a bit less than usual these past two weekends. All things considered, that’s probably not a bad thing in terms of letting my body recover and adapt. I spent this past weekend visiting and, on Saturday morning, I sneaked in a 10 mile run in the Quarrel Wood on the outskirts of Elgin.

Upon wakening I immediately questioned the sensibility of running due to a sharp pain in my right calf, most likely the result of overdoing a barefoot run 2 nights previously. However, I did go for the run, soon ran off the pain, and had one of those runs where you are truly thankful you went.

The Quarrel Wood was virtually on my doorstep for so long through my childhood years and yet, as a non runner, I never saw their true potential.

Returning to the woods with a different perspective, I ran trails up and over, through and around the woods. It was a frosty, sunny morning and, stopping on the far side of the woods, I was aware of steam rising from my entire body! To say that I had a blast would be an understatement – I came across a 4000 year old henge that I did not even know existed and, probably ‘the’ highlight of the run, a ‘face to face’ with a deer as I appeared suddenly from around a corner. Startled, the deer instantly took off as I watched, wishing I too could perfect such a gracious style of running!

I will definitely be returning to the Quarrel Wood for a longer session some time soon.

Saturday’s session also took my January mileage over the combined mileage for both January 2010 and January 2011 so, all in all, not a bad start to the year!

With two evening runs still to come before we reach the end of the month, I will also comfortably ‘beat’ my highest ever monthly mileage total. Given that the past two weekends have been devoid of long runs, I am more than happy with that!

Relentless Forward Progress

I have been reading the excellent Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons by Bryon Powell

According to the blurb on the Amazon page, “Bryon Powell is a former Washington, DC, attorney who left his job to devote himself to running ultramarathons full time. He publishes the popular trail running and ultrarunning website iRunFar.com, and competes in ultras nationwide.” I will wager there are at least a few of you who have just read that and thought ‘wow, cool!’. I know I did! All the more impressive when you consider the career that Bryon left behind.

But back to the post!

Working my way through the book I found myself chuckling away to myself. There is a chapter in the book that discusses FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out!

To quote the book:

“As you become aware that you’re capable of running vast distances, especially through gorgeous locales or with new and interesting running companions, you may continually add outings and events to indulge your physiological, spiritual, and social desires. While such desires are wonderful motivators, FOMO can leave you taking on additional events without consideration of traiing benefit or adequate consideration of physiological cost.

If you find yourself unable to decline invitations for a group run, you might have FOMO. If you’re unable to resist signing up for every race, you might have FOMO. If you miss a holiday meal to run, you might have FOMO. Beware of FOMO.”

On the basis of the above, I have self diagnosed myself. I have FOMO!

I live in a small town called Ellon in the North East of Aberdeenshire. I moved here approximately 4.5 years ago and, I have to say, I totally love living here. I am a couple of hundred yards away from forest trails and just over a mile from an old railway line, The Formartine & Buchan Way, which provides me with miles of off-road tracks on which to train.

Another benefit of living in Ellon is the local race, The Ythan Challenge, an 11k (approx.) mixed terrain event (road, trail, forest, mud, river) with a considerable number of obstacles thrown in along the way – everything from hay bales, cargo nets (up & over, and under!), tyres, mud pits (guaranteed to claim at least a few trainers each year! Lose your momentum for a fraction of a second and you require assistance in being hauled out!) and even the river from which the event derives it’s name – the Ythan.

Last year, participants found themselves up to their necks in the cold waters of the Ythan not once but twice! No one minds the water though. Having clambered up and down mud caked hills, often resorting to using fingertips to help claw your way up and bums on the way down, the thought of getting a good wash is pretty appealing! It’s also a good way to get rid of the stench if you have spent too long stuck in the mud pit!

The route and obstacles vary from year to year and, I would be so bold as to suggest, it could possibly be the most fun you can have whilst running! For a good number of people it is their one and only run in the year.

Last year the event sold out in 4 days. This year, it sold out in 4 hours, despite an increased capacity!

My heart sank when the date for the 2012 Ythan Challenge was announced. It takes place 6 days before my attempt at the 95 mile West Highland Way Race!

This is where FOMO kicks in!

I knew when the entry was scheduled to open and, thanks to a job that sees me ‘attached’ to a PC for most of the day, I was in the best position to get my application in.

Sensible me did wonder about the sensibility of entering an obstacle course based event less than a week before my main race of the year.

FOMO me considered those thoughts and then blatantly disregarded them. ‘This is my local run, it’s a short one, it’s fun, and there’s no way I am missing out!’

So I entered! Or at least I tried to.

Due to the volume of applications, my attempt failed.

It turns out that people spent in excess of an hour attempting to get their application accepted.

In the interim, my sensible side broached the subject on Facebook:

“Ythan Challenge the week before the 95 mile West Highland Way Race – tempting injury or not? Is an 11k obstacle course the best preparation for the WHW – probably not, but it is my ‘local’ run and I have done it the past 5 years! Choices, choices!”

Responses came in promptly ranging from:

“Do it! It will be a nice gentle warm up, both mentally and physically for the WHW Race.

Or – coming off a hay bail, you’ll break your ankle.

Hmmmm”

to

“Think of the goblet!!” (In reference to the crystal goblet awarded to all finishers)

and

“Don’t be stupid!” (Thanks Mike!)

Dilemma!

As it was, the pangs of doubt set in long enough for the event to sell out, thereby taking the matter out of my hands entirely.

If truth be known, I was erring on the side of caution but the early closing of applications helped to take the matter entirely out of my hands.

I still have FOMO – what if it is the best one, EVER!

I will still miss the event but I know that it would be too risky to attempt it. There is too much going in to the WHW Race to even think of jeopardising my chance in what will already be a tremendously tough race.

Thanks to my wife Leanne, and to my friends for showing more sense than I did.

I have FOMO, there is no doubt about that, but I am now getting help!

TIP

It is really easy to try and run everything and anything. However, other than the financial cost of entry fees, accommodation, transport etc and the potential strain on relationships with friends and family, there may well also be a cost to your health. Another aspect of the book is an emphasis on the need for adequate rest and recovery.

So how best to accommodate this: target a key race or races and set out a suitable training plan to help you reach your goal. This may involve other races along the way but only do this if they will add to your training plan i.e. if your plan suggests a race of X miles on a particular week, you could run in an event of X miles. However, it is recommended that you merely run in the event rather than race it. If a race does not fit in with your plan, then don’t do it, regardless of how much fun it is!

I hope that everyone who was fortunate enough to secure a place on the Ythan Challenge has a cracking day. I will be back in 2013 (But only if I am not running the West Highland Way Race again!)

S**t Ultra Runners Say

I came across the following video the other day on Facebook. I had to laugh as I realised how typically running centred my conversations have been of late. I thought it would be hit or miss when I played it to the wife but, when she even found it hilarious, I realised I had a problem lol! Worth watching for the laugh.