First of all DOWNLOAD OUR NEW PODCAST EPISODE, Tartan Running Shorts, for your next run!! Tom Brian and I have been prepping this for a while (although you probably wouldn’t think it) but we promise we’ll get better!
For those who were unable to open this link, I hope you can read now – added below!
If you follow me on social media, you will see that I managed to win the Highland Fling at the weekend, which also doubled up as the Scottish Ultra Trail Championships!
The weekend started with a drive down to Stirling after work to have dinner cooked for us by Olympic medallist, and good friend, Robbie Renwick. He was our nutritionist for the night (spag bol and champers!) and we swapped some incredible stories (best kept off the blog!). ALSO he just smashed his first half marathon at Stirling on Sunday – his aim was to beat his 200m freestyle time (1m45s – try THAT at ASV!) and came shy with a 1h48 – not bad considering swimmers can’t run!
(Robbie and Harley looking cool)
We then headed to our travelodge near the start line, and I laid out my gels. SO. MANY. GELS. I divied them up and gave Debs a tutorial on where to be and when, and with what bag full of gels. My equipment for the race was the Salomon S-Lab Ultra vest, Salomon Soft flasks, Salomon S-Lab Sense 6 racing shoes, Salomon Trail Short (not my tartan ones as they chaf sooo bad), Torq and SIS gels (with caffeine) and of course my Metro Aberdeen Vest!
(I don’t know what she sees in me)
5 hours later, the alarm went off and I downed some porridge with banana and we headed to Milngavie start line, where I registered, dropped bags for checkpoints where the support crew weren’t allowed, had an espresso, and Jenni Rees Jenkins helped with my kit and we both laughed at how ridiculous my balloons were that I attached to my drop bags! Shout out to how helpful and calming she was!
They then played Loch Lomond on the speaker, where I got a lump in my throat, and the countdown was on! I was nervous but excited; the weather was expected to be perfect with no wind, and Loch Lomond has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
When the gun went off, I took the lead immediately and focused on running my own race.
(About 10seconds in and a long way to go!)
At the first official checkpoint, 12 miles in at Drymen, I had about a 3 minute lead and was apparently 2 minutes up on current course record holder and GB International Rob Sinclair’s split at that point from last year. The next part was my favourite part of the course – up Conic Hill. It was runnable, had breathtaking (literally!) views, and was tough enough to enjoy the burn! I could tell I was increasing my lead, as I felt good and knew this was my type of course.
The next checkpoint at 20 miles was at Balmaha. I saw Deb here for the 3rd time cheering like a loony and being her usual positive self, but I was in the zone and all I could think of was time. I knew I wanted rid of my buff and gloves (and the temperature had climbed to 13C – hitting up to 17C at points – and I was melting!), and collect more fuel. She told me I was about 6minutes ahead of the record so off I went, staying positive and controlled.
Reaching the next checkpoints at Rowardennan and Inversnaid, I was continuing to build on my lead, and was now a good bit ahead of the record.
Well, you can stop reading now and just pretend I am a god…
…continue, and you’ll find out it all went downhill from here. Literally as well as figuratively, and I was NOT good at the technical descent. Hopping from one rock to another over gorges, avoiding tree roots, jumping over puddles, walking slippery thin planks…you name it, it was probably in this section!
By the time I got to the next checkpoint with 13 miles to go, at Beinglas farm, apparently the tracker was acting up and I was pretty much at the finish line. Marshalls were panicking that they’d missed me, and you phenomenal followers online were baffled that I could run a 3 minute mile at the end of an ultra 😉
I’m not going to lie, after completely f***ing up that technical section, I was so angry. I got to the checkpoint, only took a couple of Deb’s goodies (she’d added some extra treats to this check point thinking it would be a nice pick me up) but instead I told her how mad at myself that I was and was questioning whether I’d even win the race.
Roll back the clocks to Tarawera where, with 5km to go, Debbie told me there was no one for miles behind me, and I just needed to relax to secure my place. Unbeknown to me, the guy in 6th was only 2 minutes behind me! TWO MINUTES! Anything can happen with 3 miles to go! Luckily I didn’t stop, or walk, that final part but she’s lucky I didn’t!
Now back to Beinglas, she told me I was around half an hour in front of 2nd. Well, I didn’t believe her for a second and it made me angrier!! But she was actually telling the truth. Anyway, off I left her in my rage up the final hill towards Crianlarich.
Over cow sh1t alley, infamous for it’s angry farmer who let’s his cattle go wherever they like along the West Highland Way, I got COVERED! At this point I didn’t care too much, as it was just another thing to add to my list of things to be angry about. Tree roots is probably still at the top of that list.
Then it was up another hill which, normally, I would thrive on. It was through a beautiful forest with views of the snow capped mountains whenever there was a break in the trees. Not too bad underfoot, and a lovely incline, followed by undulating paths with, again, stunning mountains in the backdrop. I saw Debbie again who was a trooper trying to find me! She’d gone to the top of the hill and had met me as I was walking up. She knew how long it was to the top which really helped my morale. I was getting calmer by this point because more spectators had told me I was miles ahead (literally again, I guess) and so I just wanted to relax and be proud to be from this beautiful country.
As I followed the river to the finish, I suddenly heard pipers. Could I finally be at this bloody finish line!? I was! I heard the announcer and the crowds. I turned a corner to what is so far the best finish line I’ve been on (although that could be because I got to high five as the winner of this prestigious race 🙂 !)
There was a DJ, shopping tents, food tents, and I got some ALCOHOLIC beer at the finish, so already it’s my favourite race 😉
The hilarity at the end (it wouldn’t be me if something goofy didn’t go wrong), was I was in the shower and realised I’d only forgotten my pants and shorts! Once again, Debbie to the rescue who kindly lent me her bright pink 3/4 leggings while she went to the car to get my clothes. At least I gave the marshals a laugh!
To top the day off, fellow clubmate Dave Andrews stormed home to come 3rd vet and also support, alongside Dwayne Batt we we were crowned the scottish team champions aswell 🙂
A large portion of fish and chips later, and a phenomenal prize giving ceremony, we were off up to Aviemore for Nicolle’s 30th celebrations. A few more pints and burgers later, I went to bed thrilled I took the win, a little gutted I blew up a little on the second half, but tipsy so I didn’t care…! Thanks for the support and a huge thank you to race organiser John Duncan and his amazing team of volunteers for an unforgettable race!
Since Tarawera 100km it’s been a couple of months of ups and downs in my training and racing. Although I took some time off after the 100k race, I have been getting in some solid training with the odd race thrown in despite the crappy weather in the past couple of months!
Race wise, I haven’t competed in a huge number of races but I ran the Garioch Road races and took part in the 5km and the half marathon a couple of weeks ago, only having 45 minutes apart to recover for the half! In the 5km, I was pipped by a young whipper snapper and Scottish internationalist, Callum Symmons from Aberdeen AAC who went on to win the 10k an hour later. I had the fortune of winning the half marathon in 72 minutes, which was slightly off my course record of 70 minutes but hey…a win is a win!
Perhaps more than any other block of training, I have found getting back into training tougher than before and a real struggle to hit the level I was at the start of the year. Getting up and running in the morning before work has been tough and my pace is slooooow! Later in the day, my legs seem to ease off and means I can run for longer compared to the morning and at a slightly faster pace. Faster interval sessions are slightly slower than before my ultra-training but I am not too bothered as it is vital to train your body to run longer and slower than before. I do hope to regain my marathon speed later on in the year when I run the Chicago marathon and shoot for a PB (fingers crossed!).
I am therefore hoping that the hard work and the subsequent taper will leave me adapted and ready to go for my next major race – the Highland Fling tomorrow(!), which is also hosting the Scottish Ultra Trail Championships! The race is 53 miles and follows the West Highland Way, Scotland’s oldest official long distance footpath, through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park starting at Milngavie and finishing at Tyndrum.
Last weekend, myself and Debbie ran the Balmoral 15 miler trail race, which for me was a good solid effort before putting the feet up for the 53 mile 6 days after! Debbie smashed her race and ended up winning the race, and in touching distance of bettering Hill running legend Angela Mudge’s course record. This is 3 years on since the awful day she was hit by a car on her way to the race whilst on her bike. I came away with 2nd place behind GB Mountain runner Andrew Douglas and was fairly happy with my effort giving me that much needed confidence booster for the Highland Fling!
Also, a huge shout out to everyone who performed amazingly at London this year. Some amazing performances by some of my Metro club mates and other running buds around the UK and especially in that heat!
And finally(!) our exciting announcement is that myself and Tom Brian will be starting up a brand new running podcast in the next couple of weeks. More details to follow shortly!!