Milestones & Losing My Mojo

New post on The Running Bug, ‘Milestones & Losing My Mojo‘.

I haven’t posted here on The Running Bug since back on the 20th March. The reason for my absence was an extended leave of absence to mark one of my own milestones – hitting the big 4-0.

I couldn’t have ‘timed’ my 40th better. I have spent a lot of time in the Cairngorms these past few years but never before have I encountered the kind of weather that we had for the duration of my birthday week which was spent running & walking in the Cairngorms with Mrs Mac. I recall two weeks spent in Aviemore one summer in which we had 13 days of torrential rain and a single sunny day. On that day Mrs Mac almost broke her ankle out walking in the hills, an injury that took some 6 months to fully clear, so, all in all, we have definitely had more successful holidays!

This time around, it was a different story altogether and we certainly made the most of it on walks in and around the Cairngorms. My ‘local’ run for the duration of our stay became an out, around and back from the hotel to the stunning Loch an Eilein, a great start to any day! The last run of my 30s came in the form of a hot & brutal 1000ft of ascent in under 2 miles as I ran up the back of Aviemore in the Craigellachie Nature Reserve. On top of an ascent of the Goat Path up Coire an t-Sneachda and back around Coire an Lochan and Lurchers Gully, earlier that day, this left me well and truly in need of a day of rest on my birthday!

“A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile… Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travellers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination.” (Wikipedia – Milestone)

I will admit to having had some initial reservations about reaching this particular milestone and this is only to be expected given that 40 is an age which attracts so much attention, in a way that 20 and 30 never did. I did my usual whenever something intrigues me – I Googled it. I actually didn’t find all that much to explain why 40 was such a big deal other than the suggestion that 40 signifies ‘middle age’. Now admittedly, I didn’t search for too long so perhaps I just missed the ‘real’ significance. I don’t know about anyone else, but me, personally… I am aiming for more than 80 years and, with a bit of luck, I will still be fit and active.

Using my 40th as my own particular reference point, I would say without doubt that I am healthier, fitter & happier than at any point in my life up until now. As such, I think it is safe to say that I am indeed following the ‘proper path’ and this all helps to put the big 4-0 into perspective for me.

In terms of running, a large number of my ultra friends have this year turned or are about to turn 40. Coincidentally, most of us are also attempting the 95 mile West Highland Way Race for the first time this coming June. Mid life crises? Maybe so but I would be more inclined to call this our mid life challenges.

Dean Karnazes perhaps sums it up in the opening chapter of Run!

“The human body was made to move. Everything about us was designed for locomotion, engineered for movement. Our modern world, however, invites just the opposite: idleness. We go from our air-conditioned cars to the elevators of our climate-controlled buildings to our comfortable office chairs. Modern rationale equates comfort and convenience – the total absence of pain and struggle – with happiness. I, along with a growing number of like-minded individuals, think that just the opposite may be true. We’ve grown so comfortable, we’re miserable. Personally, I never feel more alive than when I’m in great pain, struggling to persevere against insurmountable odds and untold adversity.”

I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘miserable’ but I agree with the essence of what Dean is saying. I have a comfortable office job throughout the week and, come the weekend, I want to hit the trails, to rack up the miles, to test myself, and perhaps even feel some pain. I am not a natural runner. I am not a fast runner. When I set out on training runs and ultramarathons alike, I expect that there will be periods where I will suffer. And yet, this is the ‘hobby/addiction’ that I, like my ultra friends, have chosen for myself.

Built for comfort, not speed

Looking at the various 40 jokes, I had to laugh when I came across this one:

“At 40, I realize that I was built for comfort, not speed.”

I have never been known for my speed but, ironically, it is something that I have embraced since turning 40.

My first weekend back after my time away in the Cairngorms was supposed to involve a couple of long runs of at least 20 miles. However, Saturday’s run did not go to plan and I limited the run to 12 miles. My legs felt unresponsive and jelly-like so I saw no point in pushing things. I settled for an afternoon spin bike session.

Sunday was no different and I opted instead to hit the treadmill. I decided to ‘punish myself’ with a hill and speed session rolled in to one. By the end of the 5 mile session, I looked like I had been caught in one almighty (indoor!) rain shower but the change in how I felt was remarkable. That afternoon I hit the cross trainer and the spin bike again and, I have to say, thoroughly enjoyed mixing it up a bit for a change.

I both lost & found my mojo, all in the short span of a single weekend and this morning I completed another 5 mile hill & speed session.

It’s not exactly what I had planned in terms of training at this stage and, reading of friends 30 mile plus runs this weekend, part of me wants to hit the panic button. The Hoka Highland Fling is on the 28th April and I currently have 1 finish and 1 DNF in this race. I am determined to add another finish and, thus, don’t want my training to lose direction. However, there is still time for the long slow run training and, in the meantime, my hill and speed work can only be beneficial.

My final thought on turning 40:

If I am ‘over the hill’, it is only because I chose to run up it!

Treadmill Or Dreadmill, Hitting The Wall, Sheer Determination & Podcasts – A Hotchpotch Of Musings

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Treadmill Or Dreadmill, Hitting The Wall, Sheer Determination & Podcasts – A Hotchpotch Of Musings‘.

This weeks post is a bit of a hotchpotch of musings. With a solid start to the year, including a new personal best in terms of monthly mileage, I was determined to keep up the mileage momentum. I approached Friday 3rd of February having covered 40 miles that week and, with the potential for weekend long runs, looked set to beat my highest weekly mileage total. Or at least, that was, until illness derailed my plans! Bugger! So, no long runs and no new PB. However, the ‘plus side’ to being ill is that I have found some time to catch up on all those articles that I have spotted online and sent to myself for reading when time permits. So here goes:

Treadmill or Dreadmill?

Anyone who has read my post Confessions of a Treadmill Runner already know which side of the fence I sit on. The treadmill has been my saviour this past week, as in the past, as it has enabled me to log at least some miles whilst under the weather. It is definitely a contentious issue and the following may well fan the flames that I quite often come across on the forums.

I found the following article ‘Think Outside The Mill: How To Make The Most Of Treadmill Running‘ which stood out from the majority of treadmill articles for me in that it contained a pro treadmill line from none other than Michael Wardian, silver medalist at the 2011 100k World Championships and USATF Ultra Runner of the Year in 2008, 2009, and 2010. To quote Michael Wardian:

“I tend to use the treadmill like I am outside and that means I use my imagination, I pretend I am coming up to a tough section of the race and then increase the incline or speed or then I am crushing down the hill and I might speed the treadmill up,” Wardian explains. A large number of his 120 miles per week are done on his downstairs treadmill. “We got our treadmill the day our second son Grant was born – I watch both our sons most mornings and I can still do my workouts and spend time with them.”

“The one good thing is that the treadmill keeps you on pace so during a tempo run there is a tendency to back off when you start feeling tired, the treadmill won’t let you do that unless you push the button!”

Once you read past the 120 miles per week element (wow!), the potential benefits are laid out and the article expands on the above, mentioning family, safety & weather as reasons for making use of the treadmill.

One further point that I pulled from the article is a cautionary one, and is a useful bit of information for anyone who does make use of the treadmill:

“Another factor to keep in mind is that because the belt is constantly running, it will be dragging your legs under and behind you during your stride cycle. By doing this, your hamstring muscles (which would typically be doing this work when outside) will be working less and you will be relying more heavily on your quads. Be mindful of weakened hamstrings if you’ve spent a lot of time on the treadmill when you move back outdoors; though, strength work in the gym can counteract this.”

Hitting the Wall

The article Hitting the wall – how to avoid it and what to do when it happens would appear to be well timed given the number of marathon related queries on the forums and given the fact that many Running Bug readers may well be gearing up for their first marathon. This excellent article highlights that each and every marathon is different, no matter how many of them you run and suggests that you always keep something in reserve for mile 18 and beyond, the point at which people generally experience the sensation of ‘hitting the wall’. In case you do hit the wall, try to remember the following:

“It is also important to remember that just because you’ve hit the wall, all is not lost. When we hit the dreaded wall, we need to dig deep to why we are running to begin with. We need to bring our mind and soul to the present moment and ask ourselves why we are doing such a race. This isn’t to say you should keep going and do more damage if you are seriously injured. Rather I want to challenge you to think in the moment and to push your body to the limit. You’ve worked so long for this day and sometimes it is helpful to remind yourself of this journey. Think about how challenging it was to find the time to properly train for your race. Remember how hard you ran the many, many distance runs you did for practice. And keep in mind that all along, you’ve known the race day would be the hardest part of all. Now that you are here, do you really want to throw in the towel? Or is there a small part, somewhere deep inside of you, that has the strength to keep pushing on? If you can tap into that part and go on at a pace that is safe for you, you’ll probably feel a huge sense of accomplishment.”

As I read this, having myself experienced the awful sensation of ‘hitting the wall’, I found myself nodding in agreement. What a perfect strategy for dealing with the wall.

Finally, the article finishes with some sage advice “if you can’t continue on, don’t make this race define your running career”. There will always be other days and other marathons.

Sheer Determination

As anyone who has read any of my posts will know, I am all for appreciating each and every run, regardless of how it went, how the weather was etc. I came across another inspirational video the other day on YouTube. If you have ever experienced a bad run, be sure to watch this video. Hopefully it will put your bad run into perspective. The clip shows Holland Reynolds, a star runner at San Francisco University High, stumble towards the finish line at a cross country race. Her legs give out and she tumbles to the ground. Any assistance over the line would have resulted in instant disqualification and, obviously mindful of this, Holland crawls over the finish line before being whisked away to the medical tent. I have had a fair few bad finishes in my time, including everything from projectile vomit to three miles of run-hopping with cramp. However, I have (fortunately) never found myself in the same position as Holland. Anyone who has ever struggled over a finish line will no doubt appreciate the sheer determination shown by Holland.

Running Podcasts

For those of you who listen to podcasts, there are a couple of new podcasts out there that are well worth a listen:

Talk Ultra, presented by Ian Corless and Ian Sharman is billed as ‘a podcast for ultra runners and enthusiasts’.

The first podcast has been downloaded over 6000 times already and the show looks set to be a huge success.

Anyone who is interested in my ‘A’ race for the year, the 95 mile West Highland Way Race might also appreciate the new West Highland Way Race Podcast produced by John Kynaston. The podcast covers everything from the history of the race through to tips from and interviews with some of those who have completed the race in the past. Essential listening for anyone who is looking to complete the race this year or, indeed, at any point in the future.

That’s all for this post. Slightly different to my usual posts but hopefully something of interest in there for everyone.

January 2012 Summary

After 61 consecutive days of running throughout November and December (Movember & The Marcothon), I could have been forgiven for taking more than a few days off. However, I was back running by 3rd January, and, despite the lack of a long run since 6th January, I have clocked up a total of 160 miles for the month.

This exactly doubles what I ran in January 2011 and exceeds the combined mileage of January 2010 and January 2011. My new monthly mileage PB (personal best) is only 5 miles more than my previous monthly PB but, given the lack of long runs, I am delighted with it. Further, I have only run 155 mile months twice previously.

I have run in the Cairngorms, in the Quarrel Wood on the outskirts of Elgin, in and around Ellon itself and even on the treadmill! It has to be said that the mild winter weather has contributed significantly to the mileage as there have been no impediments to getting out there and clocking up the miles.

I have also had some great runs with the Ellon Running Group and have found these beneficial in terms of pushing myself that bit extra when, normally, I might still just be getting in to my stride.

Finally, after years of running ‘single speed’, I have now made progress in terms of speed work and am starting to see some improvements on my times at last. Whether this will translate into faster ultra times is anyone’s guess but, with the first ultra coming up mid-March, I will soon find out!

Run highlights of the month most definitely centre around the ‘accidental’ 21 mile run I did in the Cairngorms, from Glenmore, past the Ryvoan Bothy and Abernethy Forest, to Nethy Bridge and then back to Aviemore via Boat of Garten on the lower part of The Speyside Way. This was uncharted territory for me in fairly difficult conditions underfoot and came only 2 days after my first long run of the year, an 18 mile run from Ellon to Dyce. Overall, it was a great start to my 2012 training and I will definitely be looking to retrace this route.

Another highlight was my 10 mile run in the Quarrel Wood on the outskirts of Elgin. An undulating run on a very cold but sunny morning and with already tight calf muscles from a minimalist run 2 nights previously. Again, I will be looking to return to the Quarrel Woods with a view to putting in some longer runs.

Kit wise, I have been battering the HOKAs on my trail runs, and alternating between Merrell and New Balance trainers on the road and the treadmill. I am also looking forward to receiving Brooks and Pearl Izumi trainers as a result of competition wins towards the end of 2011.

Finally, I have also added 4 new posts to The Running Bug web site:
All in all, a positive start to the year and, hopefully, a solid start to my training for the 95 mile West Highland Way Race that awaits me in June!

Changing Perceptions

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Changing Perceptions‘.

Have you ever heard that such and such a supermodel won’t get out of bed for less than £50,000 or some other preposterous amount? I used to be like that. Unfortunately, however, it was not great wads of cash that were used to entice me from my pit of slumber. A quick glance at the profile photo will more than serve to illustrate that no one is about to throw money at me anytime soon/ever!

In my case, it was medals.

Run 6.2 miles? There had better be a medal at the end of that; and it had better be a good one. None of your cheap plastic medals. And while you are at it, best throw in a t-shirt for my efforts; not one of those heavy cotton T-shirts either as I melt in them! I want a nice, practical technical t-shirt; and when the label says XL, can you please ensure that’s a real XL and not some boy sized XL!

Didn’t ask for much did I! Ahem!

It’s funny how things change, and all in the space of a few years.

These days challenge, experience, achievement & friendship all rank way above medals. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good technical t-shirt and medal. The difference is that my expectations have changed considerably. Especially since I started running ultramarathons, I have come to appreciate that running and training for ultramarathons offers all of these things in abundance.

There is a fairly small, though steadily growing, ultra community in Scotland, with the same faces appearing at most events. Over the past couple of years I have developed a number of friendships with like minded individuals and we all strive to meet the challenges and experiences of ultramarathons, looking to complete the event for the sense of achievement that finishing brings, regardless of race position or time.

Looking back, as I moved up in distance, from 10k through to 55 miles (and hopefully 95 miles by the end of June!), my expectations shifted accordingly. Training for a half marathon would be somewhat incomplete without, for example, at least a 10 mile run in the build up to the event and, at least the last time I checked, there were no medals given out for training runs! At each and every stage in the journey from 10ks to 1/2 marathons, from 1/2 marathons to marathons and then, finally, from marathons to ultramarathons, how I felt at each point changed, shaped by the demands of the new distance.

So, from expecting a medal for merely rolling out of bed a few years back, I now rise at ungodly hours when even the birds are still asleep and set off on long runs so that I can return at a time that still leaves time for family, something that I am sure many of you are all too familiar with.

At one point in my 2011 training schedule, I ran three consecutive weekends consisting of a 28 mile run on the Saturday followed by 10 to 15 miles on the Sunday. The only ‘prize’ was a good soak in the bath and, of course, miles in the legs to help me attain my goals.

In March 2010 I ran my first ultramarathon, the inaugural D33 race, from Aberdeen to Banchory and back. All finishers of this 33 mile race received Chocolate medals and a specially produced bottle of Brewdog Beer, embellished with the sound advice to ‘Train Hard, Pee Clear’! In 2011 the medals were slate, crafted by a local company, CraftRocks, and were again accompanied with a specially labelled bottle of Brewdog Beer. In 2012 the medals will apparently be made of something reclaimed from Hurricane Bawbag! (and no doubt accompanied by a bottle of Brewdog Beer).

I cherish those medals (the chocolate has been ‘removed’) and have them stored alongside all of my other medals.

It probably helps if you have met Race Director George Reid to truly appreciate the sense of humour but, to give you an idea, the rules of The D33 are simple:

  • If you get half way and find you can’t, phone registration with your race number, tell them you are a loser and take the bus home
  • Support, there is none required but if you want your mum to meet you half way with a jam sandwich then thats ok with us
  • Only one checkpoint that is at half way turn around point
  • You get water at checkpoint, anything else you need to carry yourself or get from your Mum

It’s approximately 7 weeks until The D33, the first of my planned 7 ultramarathons in 2012 and I can’t wait! Until then, I will embark upon a great many runs most likely up to and including the distance. There will likely be a lot of weekends of double runs. My rewards in all of these weeks will, at best, be a good soak in the bath – but it will be worth it in the end!

Hopefully, come 17th March, I will add another medal to the collection. It will be cherished as much as all of my other medals. However, there is much, much more to look forward to, both in training and on the day. Four words pretty much sums it up: challenge, experience, achievement & friendship

Tip 1 Preserve Your Medals

Just a tip for any of you who do like to keep your well earned medals – I thought keeping them all together in a nice box was a great way of preserving them. At least, that was, until I returned to the box and found that the various medals of the past few years had started reacting with each other, resulting in varying degrees of corrosion. I was gutted. Regardless, I set about cleaning them up as best as I could and now keep them all in individual freezer bags which should (he hopes!) prevent any further reactions.

Tip 2 Headtorches & Lumens

At this time of year, there will no doubt still be a large number of you relying on head torches to light the way on those early morning or late evening runs. Thanks to the guys over at Hope Technology, I now have a greater knowledge when it comes to batteries. Those of you who have read my previous posts may have noticed that I invested in a Hope Vision 1 Adventure head torch (capable of a powerful 240 lumens on max power) after a run in with a tree stump that left both the front and back of my entire lower right leg bruised for over a month. Eager to avoid a repeat performance and with the 95 mile West Highland Way Race on the horizon, with a potential for two nights of running, I decided to aim for maximum brightness!

Now, as far as I was aware, AA batteries were all pretty much the same. The guys over at Hope put me straight on this one and advised me how to get the maximum performance out of my head torch. Rechargeable batteries would definitely appear to be the way to go, and most likely using some of the more well known brands, something that I would typically do. However, choosing a battery with a high enough mAh was something that was entirely knew to me. The torch performs better when using an mAh battery in the regions of 2650 – 2700 but even as low as 2100. I will leave it to Wikipedia to provide more detailed information:

The summary is ‘the higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last.’ Armed with this knowledge I am looking forward to getting even more out of the head torch and, as such, am much obliged to the guys over at Hope. Hopefully this will be of use to fellow runners.

Men’s Running Brooks Pure Project Competition Winner

I knew Men’s Running was scheduled to hit the shops on the 29th of December and I was looking forward to picking up some reading material for over New Year. Standing there in Tesco, flicking through the pages, I was shocked to find that my photo taken at the top of The Devil’s Staircase in Glencoe had won the competition!

The photo, taken while out on a training run, shows the view looking towards the Blackwater Reservoir. Can’t wait to try out my prize of Brooks Pure Project running shoes, gilet and running tights. Thanks Men’s Running :o)

The approximate location of the photograph on Google Maps:

View Larger Map

Marcothon 2011

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Marcothon 2011‘.

So here we are in the final few hours of 2011 and, looking back on the year, I am happy to say that it has been a good one for me. Hopefully you can say the same about your year and, in a matter of hours, we will have a whole new year in which to start all over again.

If you have read any of my previous posts then you will likely already know that in 2010 I let things slip following my last race of the year, the Loch Ness Marathon. As a result, all of the running fitness accrued over the year was long gone by the time the first of the ultras came along in March. This year, in an effort to avoid a repetition of this, I set myself the challenge of running every day in November to aid in my Movember fundraising efforts and every day in December, as part of Marcothon. I completed my 61st consecutive day of running this morning, taking my total mileage up to 300 miles for the 2 months and taking my annual mileage total for 2011 up to 1386 miles, some 136 miles more than in 2010.

If the Marcothon Facebook page is anything to go by, over 700 people from around the globe joined in the shared objective:

“The rules are simply, you must run every day in DECEMBER (any other month doesn’t count). Minimum of three miles or 25 minutes – which ever comes first. The challenge starts on December 1 and finishes on December 31. And yes, that includes Christmas Day.”

The Marcothon started in 2009, when Marco Consani challenged himself to run every day in November. His wife, Debbie Martin Consani, decided to follow suit and run every day in December and posted the challenge, dubbing it ‘the Marcothon’ on her blog. The challenge has grown in popularity each year and, from reading the comments on Facebook and/or the Marcothon twitter account, it is clear to see that it has ignited a passion amongst runners in a month when running is so often put on the back burner.

If your running has ever floundered without the targets of a specific run to keep it on track then you will likely appreciate just what the commitment of signing up to Marcothon provides.

It has been great to share in the trials and tribulations of all those who have participated in the Marcothon and to receive encouragement for my own efforts. December 2011 has not seen the huge snowfalls of previous years but the weather has attempted to throw a spanner in the works at each and every opportunity, or so it would appear! From paths and trails caked in black ice to ferocious winds and even ‘Hurricane Bawbag’, Marcothon participants have had to overcome hurdles throughout December.

Well done to all those who completed the Marcothon and, indeed, to anyone and everyone who has managed to keep running throughout this hectic month. The Marcothon will likely be back in December 2012 and it really is a great way to ensure that your running does not get neglected.

So that’s all for 2011 and here’s to 2012. Hopefully you will join me as I look to improve on this years 6 ultramarathon finishes. My goal for 2012 is to finish the same 6 ultras with a new PB in each race and also to complete the 95 mile West Highland Way Race. It’s going to be a tough year for sure but I hope to meet the challenges head on.

If you happen to pick up a copy of Men’s Running then check out my photo taken at the top of The Devil’s Staircase. I was delighted to find out this week that the photo had won me some Brooks running goodies, including Brooks Pure Project running shoes which I can’t wait to try out! I am sure this view will be familiar to a lot of you and especially to those who have completed the West Highland Way and/or the Devil O’ The Highlands ultramarathon.

I hope that you all have a Happy New Year.

See you in 2012.

The West Highland Way Race 2012

At 1 am on Saturday 23rd June, all things going to plan, I will toe the line to take part in the 95 mile West Highland Way Race. The aim – a sub 35 hour time that will enable me to join ‘the family’ of those who have completed the race previously, and to earn the sought after crystal goblet. The race includes 14,760ft of ascent and potentially 2 night runs, depending on how long I take. The race  is 40 miles longer than my longest run to date, the 55 mile Cateran Trail, and will become my ‘A’ race for 2012. I hope to complete 6 other ultras in 2012 besides the West Highland Way Race, 3 before and 3 after 23rd June. I, along with many of my Scottish Ultra Marathon Series friends, found out that I had made the official starting list of 200 last night. Training starts now!

So Many Experiences!

New post at The Running Bug, ‘So Many Experiences!‘.

Part 2 of Preparing For An Ultramarathon (Part 1) will follow shortly. In the meantime, I just wanted to share some of the following with you. It’s certainly been a busy couple of weeks as far as new experiences go!

So, the main news is that, as of last night, I am officially on the starters list for the 95 mile West Highland Way Race. I didn’t expect to hear until at least the middle of this week so it came as a surprise to get the email last night. After a day in which we had the first snow of the year, the first Christmas meal of the year, and put the Christmas tree up, it has to be said that Christmas did indeed come early! On top of my own good news, it appears that all of the friends that I have made over the past couple of years while running in Scottish Ultra Marathon Series events have also made it on to the official starters list. Great news!

I am also now on my 35th consecutive day of running, something I have never even come close to before, and other than a slight niggle in the right knee, all is well with the body (and mind!). I have probably just jinxed my efforts now but I will hopefully make it to the 31st December having successfully managed to run for 65 consecutive days. In case you are wondering, yes, that does include Christmas day!

Why am I doing this? After my final race of 2010, the Loch Ness Marathon, my running kind of lost direction and, as a result, much of the progress and race fitness that I had built up over the year was all but lost by the time the first ultra came around in March 2011. Determined not to repeat this, I decided to run every day in November as part of my Movember fundraising efforts and to run every day in December as part of the Marcothon.

(Talking of Movember, thanks to the sterling efforts of my work colleagues, our team looks set to make just short of £2000 to add to the amazing worldwide total of over £60 million! The moustache is now long gone and it is still weird not to have any facial hair – funny how used to something you can get in such a short space of time!)

It has certainly worked and I have to say that I am loving the challenge of a daily run. I did worry that I would dread the daily run, especially as I tend to run in the early evening when I return home from work, but this has thankfully not proved to be the case.

A couple of weeks ago I went on my first proper night run with the headtorch. After the confines of the treadmill, necessitated by a bout of ill health, it was great to get outdoors again. At least it was for all of 5 minutes when I went flying as I tripped on a tree root. Two weeks later and the bruising on my right leg, from the knee down to and around the back of the ankle is as yellow and as impressive as ever. It was perhaps a bit ambitious to head out the door, straight into the forest, on a pitch black night for my first outside run in weeks but hey, isn’t hindsight great lol!

Exactly a week later I went for a night run along the old railway line. The blackness of the night was something else and, stopping to turn off the head torch, I appreciated just how easily I could get out of town – not a light to be seen. My intended run was, however, cut short. As I ran along the track, trance music on, with nothing but the light from my headtorch to illuminate the way, I was totally oblivious to what was about to happen. From out of nowhere, I was suddenly aware of the underbelly of an owl flying right at my head. Illuminated by the head torch, the belly of the owl was amazingly white and dazzling. It was all I could do to duck out of the way in time. I ripped the headphones from my ears and stayed low. From the circling and swooping above my head it was obvious that my presence was not desired and, as such, I took ‘flight’ back along the track towards home. Safely back at home, looking at the Garmin, I was hardly surprised to see a considerable negative split on the nights run! It sounds daft looking back but, at the time, it was a scary situation. The owl seemed huge – perhaps just as a result of the total contrast between the feathers of the owl and the darkness that surrounded it. Suffice to say, when I next venture along the line at that time of night, I might just leave the headphones off so that I can hopefully avoid a repeat of the situation.

Last bit of news. Thanks to my Movember running efforts, I surpassed last years running mileage total of 1250 miles. 2,500 miles in 2 years. Who would have thought! Certainly not me and as little as 3 years ago I would have questioned the sanity of anyone running that many miles in a year – funny how things change! With 7 ultras planned for 2012, including the 95 mile West Highland Way Race, I can only wonder what my mileage will be this time next year!

Back soon with part 2 of Preparing For An Ultramarathon.

Planning for 2012 – The West Highland Way Race

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Planning for 2012 – The West Highland Way Race‘.

I am thankfully back on track (not literally!) and hope to be back to ‘normal service’ soon having just about kicked the chest and throat infection that has laid me low for the past week. In keeping with my Movember pledge, I have continued to run each day, albeit at a vastly reduced effort and mileage, and have in fact found that this has helped to ‘clear the airwaves’ somewhat.

Despite my relative physical inactivity, I have been ‘busy’ in a planning sense, having had plenty time this past week to reflect on 2011 and to consider my running goals for 2012.

At the beginning of the month entry to two of my favourite races opened up – the 55 mile Cateran Trail Ultramarathon and the 53 Highland Fling.

The Fling, much to everyones surprise, has a new sponsor as Hoka One One takes over the reigns from Montane.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks to Montane for their sponsorship of past events and also welcome to the new race sponsor. Without sponsorship I am sure that a lot of events would not be able to take place, and certainly not without a sharp increase in the entry fee levels given the relatively small scale participation in ultra events.

The new sponsor certainly got people chatting on Facebook. Other than the general shock at the change of sponsor, the nature of the product also resulted in considerable comment. As more and more people, myself included, are looking to minimal footwear for their running, the emergence of a sponsor whose products appear to have gone in the opposite direction came as a bit of a shock to all.

If you are not familiar with the product then head over to to see for yourself.

Aesthetically, the stand out point with the Hoka One One has to be the sole. The shoe itself is billed as being lightweight, with increased stability due to a 35% wider platform and the sole, as might be expected given the look of the shoe, uses up to 2.5x the volume of EVA in the midsole compared to standard running shoes.

The marketing has got me interested in at least trying out a pair of the shoes:

“The word Hoka is derived from the ancient Maori language and roughly translates to ‘now it is time to fly’. That’s just how it feels to run in a pair of Hoka One One shoes; with each and every step your foot takes flight.”

That sounds like just the ticket for ultra events and further exploration of the site highlighted that the shoe certainly seems to be making inroads in the long distance market with, amongst others, Karl Meltzer wearing the shoe.

Anyway – I digress – back to the results of my planning.

I intend to again run the 6 ultramarathons that I completed in 2011 – The D33 (33), The Highland Fling (53), The Cateran Trail (55), The Clyde Stride (40), The Devil O’ The Highlands (43), & the Speyside Way Race (36.5) – and to hopefully improve on my times for each of these events.

I have also applied to enter the 95 mile West Highland Way Race – this will hopefully be my main focus for 2012.

Entry to the West Highland Way Race opened on the evening of 31st October. By the evening of 1st November, over 100 people had already signed up and there is every chance that the final entry list (restricted to 200) will be decided by ballot. Entry is open for a month and is not determined on a first come, first served basis so there was technically no need for all of those entries in such a short space of time. However, the volume of entries in such a short space of time and the buzz on the forums and social networking sites is testament to the high esteem in which the race is held. It is the pinnacle of the ultra running world in Scotland and those who are fortunate enough to last the distance are affectionately known henceforth as one of ‘the Family’.

Starting at 1am on Saturday 23rd June 2012, competitors have 35 hours (until noon Sunday 24th June 2012) to cover the 95 miles of the complete West Highland Way and this includes 14,760ft of ascent. A good portion of the run, including Conic Hill, will be run in darkness by torchlight and, in the past few years, competitors have been subjected to extremes of weather. As an added bonus, the race provides 4 qualifying points for UTMB (Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc) which is useful for those people who fancy turning their attention to surely THE ultra race in the world.

Is it too much? Have I bitten off more than I can handle?

There is definitely a school of thought that would say yes, absolutely. However, from time spent this past week reading the forums (even illness has a silver lining!), it is obvious that the jury is out on this one. Given that, technically, 6 ultras is regarded as ‘too much’, I am going to side with those who say do what you feel comfortable with and that you feel that your body can handle. I am not ‘racing’ these ultras as such. Completion is the main aim, albeit with better times than previous years.

Only time will tell – and in the meantime, that potentially gives me a lot to write about!