Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Didn't manage to train tonight which is a real shame. I was going to go on a nice hilly trail run with my club but upon having my gas meter changed this morning I was informed I had a leak. Not a big one, but a leak nonetheless so my gas supply was cut off. It took until 6:30pm to get an engineer round but he did his job well and isolated the leak - our gas hob is dodgy. I'll have to see if I can get a replacement tomorrow but I think the company has changed its range even though I am within my 5 year warranty. To install the equivalent looking hob might require I get a fitter out to saw the worktop aperture a little larger. Groan ... this could get complicated and with a hungry 9 month old baby, not having a hob could get tricky for cooking food. It'll be out with the Trangia!
Anyway, I went out for my tempo run last night round Furzton Lake in Milton Keynes and it went quite well. I set out to warm up for 1 mile, to run sub 7 pace for 4 then to cool down for 1. I've not really done much speed training since before the WHWR and now with both WHWR and DOTH in my legs I feel a little sluggish speed wise. I didn't feel like I had pushed myself as I neared the end of the 4th sub-7 mile so decided to do a 5th. I could probably have squeezed out a 6th but my motivation went.
Eastern end of Furzton Lake
Distance: 7.5 miles
Ascent / descent: +/- 85' (woooo hilly)
Splits: 8:12, 6:43, 6:47, 6:51, 6:54, 6:51, 9:59, 4:47 (half a mile)
I don't need lots of speed / tempo training just now as I gear up for the High Peak 40, so will probably do a speed (interval) session one week then a tempo run the next. I am thinking of this as an alternating week training plan:
Week 1 - 1 x long trail run, 1 x medium tempo run, 1 x medium trail run, 1 x hill training
Week 2 - 1 x long trail run, 1 x medium road run, 1 x medium trail run, 1 x speed intervals
I can only manage 4 sessions per week as I have my baby daughter Eilidh to look after. Much better than running! Well some of the time at least (depends on how many nappy changes you have to do). We are going to get my wife back into shape now with a spot of running and gym bike work so I'll have to swap around exercise nights.
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Anyway, it's my favourite mountain in Scotland and a place I last visited in 2005 when my friend John took the photo on a hike. I have fancied running from the nearest road access, past the mountain all the way south to the next road for some time now but never got round to doing it. The nearby bothy would also be a great place to base oneself for a mountain running bonanza. Some time, some time ...
I have been thinking about not drinking Monday to Thursday for some time now but have got into the habit of a wee post-work drink whilst cooking the dinner (just like Nigella Lawson me, but slightly less chesty and less hairy, or at least with a different hair distribution). This week, in preparation for my wife and daughter returning from Oz where they've been for the past 2 weeks I have decided to take action on the fact that drinking mid week makes me tired and sluggish. I am under strict instructions to be as well rested as possible for their return so I can take over as pcg (primary care giver) so have decided to cut out the booze in the interests of promoting a feeling of restedness.
Might my body be going through some minor form of cold turkey and consequently making me feel lethargic? Probably not, but I am not feeling sprightly.
I have an opened bottle of wine from Sunday night. A nice shiraz - viognier blend. I am not going to drink it. I am not.
Update on the bottle of wine when I next blog with my running stats (I will get out the door).
Sunday, 24 August 2008
First of all are teeth and the fact that my daughter is now taking on the appearance of a beaver with the appearance of her front lower pair and front upper pair of milk teeth. She is no longer a baby (aaawww) but instead has gained the ability to gnaw through wood (hoorah!). We are hoping she'll take after me in the teeth domain for my wife has a slightly wonky set of toothy pegs. Mine ain't US-style perfecto, but they also aren't British in appearance - my wife, an aussie, introduced this stereotype to me. Apparently most of the rest of the developed world take the piss out of us Brits for having dodgy teeth - 'British Teeth'. I had no idea, but it is as entrenched a stereotype as French men wearing stripey t-shirts and dangling onions from their bikes. Unfortunately I think the British Teeth stereotype might actually have more basis in truth, or so my wife tells me at least.
Onto morality and religion. I type this whilst watching 'Make me a Christian' on Channel 4. It's an interesting program but fails to address the assumption that religion is the only way to have a coherent moral or ethical stance - this assumption is not stated as such but lurks around in the background context. I'd much rather see a set of people engaged with debates about morality (concerned with good or bad) and ethics (sets of principles for conduct) which include religion but expose the participants to a far wider range of positions.
As someone educated formally to Doctoral level in the sciences and a professional 'scientist' I understand what Richard Dawkins is still trying to do - show people that the Biblical account of creation is complete nonsense in terms of geological, glaciological, genetic and fossil evidence, and that in fact you don't need to invoke a godlike entity to explain either the existence or diveristy of life. There are simpler explanations, and following William of Ockham's (a good Christian by coincidence) principle (Ockham's razor) the only plausible way of building theory and explanation is piece by piece, starting with the simplest and only adding additional elements and layers if absolutely necessary. Otherwise you start arbitrarily complex and you have no basis for jusifying the level of complexity of explanation you have selected. The dynamics of small scale (chemical, molecular and genetic) processes embedded within the dynamics of larger scale (developmental biological, organismic and ecological) processes over space and time are all that is needed.
Clearly such process based explanations do not provide the same kinds of answers that religion provides, or at least the non-literal creationist or fundamentalist bits of religion. But I suspect not everyone wants or needs such answers. Science does not do the same thing as religion in epistemological or functional terms and no-one sensible has ever pretended otherwise.
However Richard Dawkins fails to understand that simply showing that there is no need to believe in a god does not provide a replacement for something which is quite clearly a core component of human life regardless of country or culture. People all over the world lead their lives according to religious codes of morality and ethics, and meet together to worship. Does this mean that people need to belong to morally and ethically defined communities, or to have some institutionalised forum for debating issues of morality and ethics, or just to be told what is good and bad? I don't know, but suspect there are a complex set of needs being satisfied. Richard Dawkins will remain frustrated until he figures out something to adequately replace the religions he so desperately wishes to debunk. I suspect it will be close to impossible however - the institutional history and capital associated with the worlds religions is substantial and I cannot see how something (a new institutional structure - centralised or decentralised wouldn't matter) could be created quickly enough to satisfy the same needs as the religions of the world. These things take time, lots of time ...
I wonder whether I should turn this blog into a sort of scholarly version of the subversive blog? I simply can't compete with Dave in booze terms and agree with some other WHWR family members that blogs which contain more than facts and figures are more interesting. Well I'll see if anyone bothers commenting here to see whether the scholarly waffling appeals or put readers off. Maybe I'll continue on regardless! :-)
But having said that here are the facts for my weekend's runs. I did a hilly off road 10 miler yesterday which I felt tired throughout but also felt I maintained good form. I then did a faster run today to try to get some speed back into my legs. It wasn't a tempo run or speed session, just an attempt to run a bit faster than normal. I managed despite getting lost a bit but my legs felt really heavy throughout so it wasn't a comfortable run.
Saturday - trail run
Distance: 9.80 miles
Splits: 8:34 (avg), 9:14 (slowest), 8:04 (fastest)
Sunday - road run
Distance: 6.89 miles
Splits: 7:41 (avg), 7:42 (slowest), 7:20 (fastest)
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
The last ultra this year for me will be the High Peak 40, a 40 mile race which starts in Buxton in the Peak District and does a clockwise circuit of some of the more interesting trails, peaks and dales including Mam Tor and Cave Dale. It's quite a fast race as parts of it are on road although it contains everything from muddy bog to hard pack trail to seriously rocky trail to road and grassy fields, and has around 4500' of ascent. The last 6 or 7 miles of it are a real sting in the tail - first psychologically as you come up and out of a dale at the 33 mile mark or thereabouts and have to run for 4 or 5 miles along a road which winds its way visibly ahead of you, seemingly forever - then physically as you strike over a field with only a few miles to go and all of sudden come across a 300' odd deep narrow dale barring your way with the only option being to descend then climb back up. It's a great race though and I've run it twice before. I'll be hoping for sub 7 hours this time.
I have decent 'ultra legs' on me just now having completed a total 5 ultras so far this year (Wuthering Hike, Highland Fling, Marlborough Downs Challenge, West Highland Way Race and Devil O the Highlands) so training shouldn't be a bother. I went out for a 9 mile recovery run last week after DOTH and also did a gym training session. Today I'll do a 6 mile trail run, then an 8 mile road run tomorrow then another 6 mile trail run on Thursday. I'll squeeze in something around the 15-16 mile mark on Saturday and that should be my legs recovered so I can build up the distance for a few weeks before I taper.
My back of year plans are to run a 9 mile trail race (the Ridgeway Run) from Tring on 12th October then the Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) on 25th/26th October. Marco C and myself have got an entry for the A-Class, which will entail being self sufficient (i.e. carrying all gear - water, food, clothing, tent etc.) and navigating our way point to point over the Borrowdale fells in the Lake District covering around 20 miles and a few thousand metres of ascent each day. The exact course details won't be released till the day but if its anything like the event in Galloway in 2006 it will contain a lot of up, a lot of down, a lot of navigating over very rough ground in bad weather, fording rivers up to my chest and sleeping in damp warm clothes with spectacular scenery and bunch of other like minded er folk. Heaven, sheer heaven.
I then plan to try run a half marathon faster than my current PB of just over 1:29 and would like to enter a full marathon in December to see what time I could do. I've only ever run 1 road marathon and that was years ago when I had only been running for a few years. I got 3:42 which I think I could easily beat now. Sub 3:15 would be my goal, sub 3:10 if possible but I don't know if I'll be able to turn round the ultra and OMM training quick enough to get speed in my legs.
Saturday, 16 August 2008
Our daughter Eilidh is teething just now so the 5 odd days leading up to the race were rather short of sleep - 5 or 5.5 hours a night - groan ...
Anyway I drove up from Milton Keynes to Cumbernauld to stay with my folks on the Friday immediately before the race. We all ate promptly upon my arrival and were in bed by 9pm so we could get up at 3am to drive to Tyndrum without feeling like potatoes. I got up, had 2 cups of coffee and still felt like a potato, or at least like someone had extracted my brain and replaced it with potato or perhaps a potato-turnip mix. The coffee had no effect at any rate.
The roads were unsurprisingly completely empty so we got to Tyndrum easily and I registered. My mum and dad were support crew for me and eagerly snapped up the tea and coffee on sale in the Green Welly Store (well organised race this!).
Me in the car park of the Green Welly Shop at 5am
I footered around the boot of my Dad's car getting my hip pack ready in a confused, very tired manner havig met and chatted to Davie, Marco and Debbie (who just er happened to be out at 5am in the morning - slightly odd behaviour and I'll be sharing a tent with Marco at the OMM soon - should I be concerned about psychosis?), Tom, Silke, Ian, Allybea (yes there were lots of WHWR family there), Dario and George Reid. I lost my race number in the dark then remembered where I'd put it but was thinking coffee coffee why aren't you working ... ?
To Bridge of Orchy
Brody's Store car park was almost light by the time we all assembled at the start. Debs was looking professional with a big camera and took some great shots like the one below. She continued taking great shots until Kingshouse when she and her equally mad husband Marco shot off to go to a wedding in Giffnock (as you do after having stood around in the rain from dawn).
Tom, Marco and me at the start
I started running with Tom but found his pace too fast for me to sustain so I dropped back after only a few hundred metres to join up with a Dutch fella called Erwin and shortly also Davie Bell. We three ran together to BoO at a much faster pace than I had planned (8 - 8:30 / mile rather than 9/mile) but my legs felt fine even though my head was still one big tired sleepy potato. The weather was fine and the running good so I only stopped for a minute to grab some water and some buttered malt loaf, my chosen fuel for the day aside from gel packs.
Me running into Bridge of Orchy with my Dad jogging along (I'm sure he could be a decent runner)
To Blackrock Cottage
Davie Bell pulled away gradually from me as we plodded up the hill towards Inveroran. I was struggling with the sheer chewiness of the buttered malt loaf and felt really sleepy tired. Legs fine but no real oomph. After falling back a few hundred metres I upped pace to stop falling further behind and eventually caught him as he made a post Inveroran pit stop with his support crew dancing the midge avoidance dance. The wee buggers were pretty serious despite the rain which had started.
Davie and I chatted and plodded our way up and onto Rannoch Moor and kept up a good 8:30 pace across the moor over Ba Bridge then walked much of the gradual rise which takes you up towards Blackrock. My calves and quads were feeling heavy and I still had a potato head on me. Davie confirmed his legs were pretty heavy too.
Me running into Blackrock with Richard and Sharon (1st lady) in hot pursuit
We arrived into Blackrock and were immediately followed by Sharon, eventually the 1st lady. Davie thought 'shit!' according to his blog and I too thought 'shit!' but instead of upping my game like Davie I just let things be. I left Blackrock after a very quick coffee not knowing whether I was in front or whether Sharon was, or where Davie was. To be honest I didn't really care, but now, after the race and having been beaten by both of them fairly resoundingly I wish I had been bothered! If I'd kept up I could have got much nearer to 7 hours. C'est la vie. C'est la vie. Next time.
This section was pretty uneventful for me although I was pleased to have managed to keep up a decent pace on the descent after climbing the Staircase. In the full event my knees are too sore to run this at much of a pace at all so I quite enjoyed the relatively pain free run down. The climb itself was fine and the rain was nice and cooling. I passed Richard Dennis at the foot of the climb then he passed me on the way up. He got to Kinlochleven before me but I left it before him - a pattern we'd been keeping up throughout the race. I'd stop for less time but he'd catch up and over take me.
Wet and leaving Kinlochleven
The Dutch fella Erwin, that I'd run to BoO with had pulled away from me on Rannoch Moor so I was pleased to catch him up by Kinlochleven and to leave the stop before he did. It meant I wasn't losing too much ground despite my potato filled head.
To Fort William
The climb up and out of Kinlochleven was a grunting sweaty affair as it usually is, but the run along the long, high valley of the Lairig Mor was quite pleasant and uneventful. The wind was behind me and the rain was cooling. I met a happy Murdo McEwan running the opposite way and overtook a couple of folk. Richard Dennis maintained a lead on me and Erwin overtook me whilst I was stopped at Lundavra. I'd encountered no hikers at all until this final section when there were loads - must have been well over 20 all heading towards Fort Bill and a welcoming pint I expect.
Me eating very very chewy malt loaf at Lundavra
I had a quick cup of coffee and was off at a creaking pace from Lundavra. I soon caught up with Erwin who was mostly walking and then Richard who was struggling with the descents. I kept on and built up a fair lead over Richard in the final descent into Glen Nevis. I then just kept up the pace till I hit Fort Bill and had the triple crown in my hands.
The whole race was a bit of an experiment to see what would happen having run the main 95 mile event only 7 weeks or so previously. Overall, with a time of 07:28 I think it went quite well.
Post-race stiffness in Fort William
Post race thoughts
Realistically I just didn't have it in me mentally or physically to get much nearer to 7 hours finishing time. I hadn't trained enough post-WHWR and was knackered. Wish I had pushed it a little harder though! Davie B absolutely trounced me (not that I'm in competition with you Davie but 26 mins is a tanking - well played you).
Never ever choose to eat buttered or non-buttered malt loaf as your food of choice in an ultra. I reckon I must have consumed at least 1000 extra calories through chewing alone.
Congratulations and many many thanks must go to my Dad, Gordon, who has been instrumental to my completing the triple crown by acting as support crew for me at each of the three races. He has completed the triple support crew crown and deserves a very loud hoorah - HOORAH!
Gordon (support crew triple crown completer) with son Brian (running triple crown completed)
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
(1) that I've now run the West Highland Way twice under race conditions in the same year
(2) that I am a bit soft in the head
Me looking a bit soft in the head
I'll post my DOTH race report tomorrow but in the mean time here are my stats for the races that make up the Crown:
Distance: 53 miles
Ascent / descent: ~ +/- 8000'
West Highland Way Race
Distance: 95 miles
Ascent / descent: +/- 14,760'
Devil O the Highlands
Distance: 43 miles
Ascent / descent: ~ +/- 7000'
All 3 races are fantastically well organised and run, so I must extend my thanks to the organisers and volunteer marshalls who make them possible. I can heartily recommend them for 2009!
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
A gratutious photo of Eilidh as she's great