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

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Girly Weekend with a difference

Taking 5 minutes out of a somewhat upsetting day to think about something that makes me smile...

The stereotypical 'girly weekend' is usually an allover fake tan and glitzy nails.  We came back with a patchy tan and wrecked nails!  But we had a great time :-D
Amanda wrote a great wee blog about our trip so I'm sharing hers instead of writing my own - not being lazy but really not much point in writing the same thing twice!
Read all about it here in Amanda's blog

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Highland Fling Ultra - 2013 all over again :(

photo courtesy of Colin Knox (who doesn't know I pinched it!)
There are many quotes about how making it to the start line of the race is a triumph in it's own right - I just can't recall any of them at the moment :) 
On Saturday 25 April 2015, I did make it to the start line, just not much further!  This is progress when in 2013 I didn't make it to the start line and had to admit defeat on the Thursday before when my Dr told me I wouldn't be fit to run for a bus never mind 53 miles... I was absolutely heartbroken and still remember the lovely messages of support and condolence I got from a number of the experienced 'old guys' and their female counterparts - they helped so much!  History was to repeat itself this year in almost identical pattern - we returned home from a race by plane and John picked up a bug.  Cue a nasty sinus/chesty infection which caused him to take time off work - almost unheard of!!  I was doing really well, managed to keep healthy and keep up my circuits and had a good run at the weekend over Conic Hill.  Was even starting to feel positive about this year's Fling then Boom! Wednesday swollen glands and sore throat, feeling irrationally tearful :( Thursday felt a little bit better til night then back again :-( :-(  Friday, the cough started :-( :-( :-( and the temperature...
However we were packed up and ready to go so headed to Milngavie - I'd paid for the room after all!  Had our tea - eventually in the charming and enjoyable company of Rhona and Graeme McKinnon then headed down to registration.  Caught up with friends and made some new ones, one drink with Wim who'd flown over from Amsterdam that morning, and then back to hotel.  Quick catchup and nightcap with Amanda then bed - I had started feeling better after dinner so hadn't ruled out a DNS though the coughing when I laid down did make me think about it.  I had a really good sleep - perhaps cold n flu night time tablets and a wee Bunnahabhain ceobanach are a good combination!
Saturday morning 0430 alarm goes off, John has the kettle on and it's time to assess the situation... I actually felt really quite good, felt well slept and temperature seemed normal so organised and off to the station we went.  Lovely to catch up with lots of friends - who all later took the opportunity to tell me how shit I looked (you know who you are and I love you all!) and then it was time to line up for the start.  Off we went and all felt ok, legs were happy to be running gently and I was chatting to Mike Adams and David Egan as we trotted gently down the High Street, waited in the bottleneck at the ramp and then a wee wave from Ally and Ian and onto the path.  I waved and shouted 'morning' to Keith as he filmed from the bridge above and after half a mile my lungs packed up!  Literally!  I couldn't draw a breath.  No warning coughs no tightening in my chest just Wallop!  It wasn't a difficult decision to make - I can stumble along on duff legs but can't do much with duff lungs.  Garmin stopped and phone out to ring John - hoping I'd catch him in time.  I think he thought he was getting some sort of 'sex call' is that what you call them? You know the ones with the heavy breathing and you can't hear the words?  Anyway, he got the message and fortunately was only as far as the car so he came back to meet me and escort me back to the car.  We spent the rest of the day dotting about supporting and then spent a wee while at the ceilidh but were knackered so headed to bed (he's still not fully recovered either)  I woke early Sunday feeling really miserable and just wanted to be home in my own bed, so we got up and had a quick cuppa and a chat with Wee Fi then headed home.  We were back by 0900 and I spent the whole day doing nothing but feeling grotty and coughing and wheezing... Stayed in bed yesterday too then went to see Dr this morning.  I have my drugs, they're starting to work and already the world has a better perspective :)
So many friends had great races on Saturday and a few didn't get what they wanted from the day, the event was as always, 'some show'!  Johnny Fling, ably assisted by Noanie has made this bigger and better and it was great to be part of the day albeit not quite in the way I'd planned. 
In 2013 I was devastated, in 2015 I was disappointed and sad but not with the same sense of failure or trauma, my whole year is aimed at one thing and that is being back in the station car park at 0100 on 20th June and I am comfortable that I made the right decision not to try to push on - it's all about the bigger picture - my eyes are firmly on the goal!

Thanks all for the kind words and good wishes they mean a lot!