Sunday, 29 January 2017

Forward progress & Fun with Friends

This weekend was the annual West Highland Way training weekend and it also marked the end of the second month of my training programme, both events worthy of recording.
As always the WHW weekend was based in The Oak Tree Inn at Balmaha and a motley crew of regulars and newbies turned up to enjoy the exercise, the company and the hospitality.  Some folk arrived Friday night, some came Saturday morning and stayed overnight and some just rocked up Saturday morning, ran and enjoyed the company and post run soup then headed home.  The full run is out to Inversnaid and back which is 30 miles though there were many variations and distances on the day.  For many people this is their first long run of the year and for some, it's  their first sojourn onto the WHW.
I'd a 10mile run on my programme but went to Rowardennan with Julie where we turned for home. Unfortunately at about 11miles we had to slow to a walk as Julie suffered cramping and we were lucky that Lorna was passing and offered us a lift back just as the watch ticked over the 13mile mark!  I was happy though with a wee bit further than planned, some good climbing and no ill effects.
A long hot shower, then as John had also returned from his run, we headed down to the pub for some food and to catch up with everyone's tales of their adventures and their hopes and plans for the coming year.
Afternoon rolled into evening and then it was dinner time, and proseeco and giggles later we were getting gently ushered out the door - oops! I can't remember the last time we were in a pub til closing time!  Great evening catching up with friends, a good sleep, nice breakfast and after a wee walk to say cheerio to Karen & George and Donald we headed home.  Tired but giggling as we remembered some of the conversations from last night!
This weekend is always special as it reminds me of the fun to be had when spending time in the company of friends, you meet on the trails and then again over a bowl of soup or a drink and for me it marks the start of the year for real.
As I said at the beginning I have now completed the second month of my training programme and am feeling quite proud of that achievement, I've managed all the workouts, some better than others and have been enjoying the discipline and the routine.  I'm also sticking to my healthy eating and this is paying dividends too as my weight is slowly starting to come down,  both of these factors are helping me to stay positive and stick at it.  Here's to February and whatever it brings! (Hopefully some snow!)

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Happy New Year!

I was looking back through the Facebook memories thing this morning and came across this in a blog entry I wrote in 2013...I still feel the same way! 
In 2013/14 I achieved the goals I set myself then various health stuff kicked in and it all went downhill and the last 18-24 months have been pretty crap, and only made bearable thanks to the love/friendship/support from some very special people. It's back on the straight and narrow now, the eating is back on track and the running and training are back underway too. I've got goals to achieve this year and I'm going to do my damndest to nail them. I'm pleased that whilst I put on a couple of pounds while on holiday it was only a couple of pounds and I'd managed to lose 6.5lbs before we went away so am still on a nett loss.

I think we still had a good time over the festive season with enough indulgence to make us feel that we'd not been deprived, but definitely nothing like the gross over indulgence we used to undertake - for no reason other than I think we were conditioned to believe that that was what you did... in the same way as the hundreds of people who flock to the supermarkets on Xmas eve and Hogmanay and panic buy as if the end of the world was nigh - the shops are only closed for 2 days!! So, if there's a moral to this post it is this - in the same way as we are conditioned to overeat and drink in December - how many times do you hear - 'oh well just the one then it is Christmas' or similar excuses from people who can't say no thanks? - We can also condition ourselves to make healthier choices, to get up out of our chairs, to park a little bit further away from the door of the shops, to drink more water etc etc...
None of these things cost us much time but they will make a difference to our health.
So a toast to all my healthy friends, and a 'come on what's stopping you?' to the rest... you decide which category suits you xx

Sunday, 17 July 2016

It's nearly always worth it...

It was Clyde Stride weekend this weekend.  This 40mile run from Partick railway station in Glasgow to New Lanark was my first ultra in 2011 and I will never forget the sense of achievement when I finished, albeit second last and after most of the folk had gone home, packed up.  In 2012, I ran leg 4 of the relay with some work colleagues and the last 3 years we have taken part in a marshalling role.  I love watching the finishers come through the 'hole in the wall' it is extra special when they are first timers as it brings back happy memories of how it feels to achieve something bigger than you've ever done before.
The past 3 years we have stayed over on the Saturday night in the wee row Youth Hostel and had a fab post race party. It gives us all a chance to chill/unwind over a plate of Dave W's awesome chicken curry, socialise and stay up late!  Last night was no exception and after curry, much gin and giggles it was 1am before John and I headed up the stairs.  We had agreed that today's training would be a hill climb and he had suggested The Cobbler - I like this climb, but didn't fancy the drive home afterwards, so inspired by Ross and Norrie doing it twice yesterday(!!!) I suggested Ben Ledi which is a bit more local, therefore an easier drive home.
This morning we were a little sleepy and after a coffee and goodbyes to the others who were up and about, John and I headed towards Callander.  We stopped at Dobbies for breakfast - very good and great value - and at this point I was NOT feeling the love!  I wanted to go home to bed!
Thankfully John turned a deaf ear to my gentle whining and soon we were getting kitted up in the car park and off we went- straight up then up some more!  Two miles of continuous climbing before we reached the saddle where it was blowy but we still managed a wee jog.  After the first mile we were in the thick, wet cloud so visibility wasn't great and it just got foggier and drizzling until we reached the cross barely visible through the mist.  A wee bit more climbing and we were at the summit, we didn't hang about, just time for a few daft photos
The Top!
then it was about turn back the way we came.  I was a bit worried about this, as on the way up there were some stretches of scree and bog and I was happy enough climbing up but not looking forward to going down... I took my time but managed well, much better than I feared, I had no 'wobbles' I didn't slip and by the time I got into my stride, coped even on the bits where it was blowing a gale!  I was delighted when I got to the steps as I was able to come down them 'normally' and got a huge boost to my confidence and less pain in my leg!
We even managed to jog down once on the path proper and with a mile to go, we came back out of the cloud again and could see where we were going.  Wee trot back to the car and job done!  So, I too got the same sense of achievement as the folk yesterday even though I'd only gone 5.5miles (and climbed 2707 ft!) and it was definitely worth it!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

It's been a while

I haven't been on here since September last year, I've thought about popping back but then I've thought "what's the point?"  I've not had much to write about... In retrospect that's a bit harsh on myself and on the folks who have been there in the past 9 months to listen when I've  moaned or to stay quiet when it was best to say nothing.  Who have been there with a reassuring word or a hug.  It's been a funny old time with a couple of fairly significant health issues to deal with and regular periods of self doubt...
I am sitting here full of pizza and wine (not really full of wine, just 1 glass) and recovering from the weekend.  It was WHW weekend this weekend past, John was running and he did brilliantly!  He was crewed by me, Amanda & Clark and between us we did a damn fine job finishing with a 2 hour  10min PB for John and a healthy, unbroken runner 😊 Result! 
I'm sure in due course he will write it up himself so I will say no more other than it was a blast!
It was a fantastic weekend, wonderful weather and surrounded by friends old and new.  Many of whom achieved their dreams, some like me last year, who didn't but who will hopefully recover over the next few months.
I was in a wee bit of a 'post race blues slump' last night when Cat (or Mike) posted the marshall's brief for the Great Glen race in 10 days time and the buzz was back!
In the past 3 weeks I've had good news on the health front which means I have no more excuses ;-) So now, I'm sitting here with goals in place and plans afoot, who knows I might even post some more ramblings on here...
Thank you to the wonderful ultra family for helping me get my head back on

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Life is for Living!

It's been a long time since I have been here - I've not been back since my failed attempt at the WHW race in June...
There has been lots of stuff to deal with, not just that I wasn't able to finish the race, and it's way too much to go into in detail.  However, hopefully things are on the up again and although I'm still banned from lifting any heavy weights or circuit training, I am allowed to run 'gently' I guess lumbering slowly along counts as gently!  I've had setbacks and injuries before and come back from them, stronger and wiser.  It's a wee bit different this time around as nothing hurts I don't have an 'injury' per se... just some bloody inconvenient blood clots in my Retinal vein :-(
However, I was back at the hospital on Monday for a checkup and there's a treatment plan in place so here's to moving forward and taking each day as it comes.  I was browsing earlier and came across a Huffington Post blog from a young woman who died this morning of bowel cancer at the age of 36!  Things like that make you stop a minute, take stock and give thanks for you what you have, even though it's maybe not all that you would like to have.  She wrote a final post to be published after her death and these words touched me.  I'm sorry if you find them a bit cheesy, but I thought they were worthy of note...

"Embrace your loved one and if they cannot embrace you back, find someone who will. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Don't settle for less. Find a job you enjoy, but don't become a slave to it. You will not have 'I wish I'd worked more' on your headstone. Dance, laugh and eat with your friends. True, honest, strong friendships are an utter blessing and a choice we get to make, rather than have to share a loyalty with because there happens to be link through blood. Choose wisely then treasure them with all the love you can muster. Surround yourself with beautiful things. Life has a lot of grey and sadness - look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it."
Charley Kittley 16:09:15

Thursday, 18 June 2015

50 weeks ago...

At 1am on Saturday 5 July I lined up in the dark for my longest race to date, the Great Glen Ultra - 72 (3?) undulating and stunning miles from Fort William to Inverness.  John's parting words were 'be good if you could get home before it gets dark'.
21hours and 51minutes later - before it got dark, I crossed the finish line in the Bught Park to the most amazing welcome from a surprisingly large crowd of fellow runners and supporters.  I will never forget it, not least because I managed to run all the way around the track, but mainly because I didn't expect so many people to be there.  I had been at the back of the pack for most of the duration - criss crossing with the legend that is Ray for a fair bit of the course from Laggan to Drumnadrochit.  Then after a wee strop at the checkpoint, thanks in the main, to the amazing George Reid, I made it up that feckin great hill and then plodded my way home.
When I finished John said to me 'could you do another 20 miles?'  I nodded and said I think so but slowly, 'that's ok' says he 'you'd have another 13 hours'.
I had always thought that the West Highland Way race was beyond the grasp of an ageing and decrepit - ok not quite, but rapidly falling to bits, wummin of a certain age and whilst I loved being part of the crew last year and supporting John the year before, I'd never thought of giving it a go.  Not seriously.
Long story short, I thought about it a lot over the next few months - mainly in the why not vein, and the if you don't do it now, you're not getting any younger vein.. Come November I filled in my details and submitted my application for WHW 2015!
8 December I'd just got into work when my phone buzzed, a very excited David Meldrum "You might want to go check FB" it said, followed shortly thereafter by one from Amanda Hamilton - yep I'd been one of the lucky ones, I'd got a coveted place, as had David and Amanda.
Fast Forward Fifty weeks and I will be on the start line at Milngavie station tomorrow night (another 1am start) There have been a fair few miles, in all sorts of weather - well you have to train for all eventualities and "there will be weather" on all sorts of terrain in some beautiful parts of Scotland, a fair few tears and a couple of health scares along the way, but my stuff is almost packed, my plan is almost complete and I am looking forward to crawling/stumbling that last mile of tarmac from Braveheart carpark to the Leisure Centre sometime on Sunday morning.
Thank you all for the messages of support, encouragement and Good Luck in the past few days and indeed over the course of this year, I hope to see most of you over the weekend. 
To those of you who are also running, Good Luck, have a great race. 
To those who are marshalling - thank you - we couldn't do it without you. 
To those whose journey to the start line was thwarted by illness or injury - commiserations, the trails will be there for you another year. 
To the Committee who gave me this chance by putting my name into the ballot so it could be drawn out - thank you.  Also for the hours of time you put into the organisation of the race each year...
To those who have inspired me and supported me in countless ways - HUGE thanks you really are the best.
God I know, it sounds like an Oscar speech :-)
The inimitable George posted something on facebook which I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing as it sums the whole thing up perfectly:
"Looking forward to seeing the family and biggest support crew I have ever known."

Wednesday, 3 June 2015


Still running...
(you probably need to be over 50 to get the reference in the title but never mind!)

I always wanted the luxury of having a week to train and not have to worry about anything else, and last week I was lucky enough to realise that ambition.  We had volunteered to help at the inaugural Skye Trail Ultra and decided to take a week's holiday beforehand so that we could run and run and run.  Unfortunately John had 'tweaked' his calf again but I was able to run - every day, twice a day on all but 2 days!  I am very proud of my longest ever training week and my stats:
Distance: 74.64 mi
Elevation Gain: 2,578 m
And I'm not broken either!  Tired, but not broken :-)

On Saturday 24th May we headed up to Skye, the weather wasn't great, rainy and windy.  This set the tone for the week, rain, occasional sunshine and gales.  Add in the sleet, snow and hailstones and you get the gist - character building, challenging, (hellish!)  I soon discovered that there are no flat bits on Skye, every single run I did was hilly!  We managed to catch up with some friends while we were there, had a lovely curry with Andy and Karen O'Grady in their house and then I met up with Fiona, Rachel and Andy again on the Thursday evening for a run.  We also managed to explore a fair bit, I ran around the North of the island on Sunday, we went to the Quiraing on Monday as John had hoped he be able to run but unfortunately his leg wasn't as strong as he'd thought so instead, I ran home.  Tuesday we went to Broadford and I ran on the marble line to Kilbride, this is a beautiful trail and is also the last 10 miles of the Ultra race.  The trail is beautiful it has hard packed trail, heather and peat bogs, grassy headlands and scrambling up rocks add in the path along the beach where the cliff has fallen down and it's got something for everyone!  The views when the sun comes out are spectacular, you pass through Boreraig and Suisnish - villages cleared during the Highland Clearances - strangely eerie and emotional places with a single solitary headstone in the clearing.
I ran five evenings as well, a different session each time, whatever my coach decided I should do.
We also managed to catch up with some much needed restorative sleep, including a few afternoon naps.
On Wednesday I set my alarm and got up to run early in the morning (in the rain), with good reason.  It was Amanda's birthday and we had arranged with her husband Clark to meet them in Plockton for lunch.  The Plockton Inn is one of her favourite spots for food and it didn't disappoint!  Beautiful seafood and great to catch up with them, Amanda didn't know we were going to be there and I think she enjoyed the surprise (and the gin)!  Wednesday evening I went out to do intervals and it was the worst weather of the whole week, it nearly reduced me to tears on rep 5!  However I toughed it out and did more than the previous time!

Waternish trail
Thursday dawned a bit brighter and we headed to Waternish - there was mud, lots of it but there was more sunshine than we'd seen all week and only a couple of heavy downpours.  We visited the old church at Trumpan and  John walked up to see the Brochs.  On the way he tried to rescue a sheep who'd got stuck in a ditch but unfortunately she died :-(
Clark had told us they'd done this route a few years ago and it was muddy, he wasn't wrong!
The trail did get grassier and less mucky and more runnable later on and on the way back I managed to run through some puddles to try to clean off my shoes a bit, they still had to get a proper rinse under the tap and they've still got some peaty brown bits ingrained into them - as have my toes!  We stopped off in Dunvegan for lunch and by the time we got home, I'd half an hour on the couch with my feet up then it was time to get changed again and go meet some fellow Grumpies for the second run of the day!  The weather was getting wild again and we headed off to the Quiraing where Fiona, Rachel and Andy were going to take me up the hill that I'd chickened out of on Monday.  Suffice to say it was scary!  Gale force winds, hailstones, beautiful rainbows, mud and my legs were pretty dead before I started - I found it really tough and Fiona took pity on me and we stayed on the 'low' bits!  Thanks Chiefy xxx
Friday was my last training day as we were marshalling the race Saturday and Sunday, so  we headed back to Kilbride and I ran the marble line again in the 'right' direction this time ie the same way as it would be for the racers.  Thursday night's rain was torrential and the difference on the trail from Tuesday to Friday was huge, it had been fairly dry on Tuesday and it was a complete mudfest on Friday.  I was very tired on Friday morning and found it hard going at the beginning, however the sun came out and the views were fantastic.  Then the hail came!  Then the sun came back out, then the hail, this was to be the pattern of the afternoon, sunshine and showers.  John met me at the end of my run and we headed to the Broadford hotel to meet up with the competitors and Jeff the Race Director.  More friends, Donald and Elaine were staying overnight in Uig on their way to Harris, so we met them in the pub for a drink and a catch up then we went 'home' to get packed up and ready to leave the cottage on the Saturday morning.   4am Saturday and the alarm went off, time to go to Duntulm for the start of the race - but that's another story...

home for the week