Monday, 30 June 2008

And training begins with an electrifying run!

Two solid runs last week on club nights with Steph on Tuesday and Stevie Cowper who had an easy run with me hanging onto him getting pulled to a swift 5 miles. Celebrated JR's WHW finish with the club in the Old Vale Bar. Guest was Bobby Shields who was responsible for the Race as he was one of the original two racers in the inaugral head to head.
Decided on Sunday to head onto Carman hill to start toughening up the joints and feet. Mistake! Being a roadie who avoids cross country, I usually avoid pulling on the trail shoes. Now I remember why. One wrong turning on the farm roads behind the golf course left me with the choice of turning back to the correct road or going cross country. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Bang!! electric shock through my left hand as I am poised to leap a fence. Now I know why there was no barbed wire to keep the coos in. Diversion. Empty field. Here I go. Bang!! Another shock. Somebody doesn't like me about here. And here I am married to a farmer's daughter. Still some tricks to teach me Mairi.
Eventually I get into a field to approach the road I should be on. Pass the coos and you're on the hill. OH. That's no a coo. Oh well, I needed the speed work.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

JR's Run

A week since the finish of the West Highland Way race and it's taken me this long to sit down and pay tribute, not only to Jim Robertson, but to all those involved in a truly remarkable race.
As I have already blogged, I got involved when Jim's normal support runner had to drop out through work commitments. I, like many others in the club, had noticed something different to Jim's approach this year. He was fit, had no apparent injury or illnesses to hamper him and was determined to achieve that elusive 12th Goblet. I spoke to him about two weeks before the race, intending to give him a morale boost. I simply intended to tell him exactly what I had written here, that I was impressed with his preparation and fitness and that he was as ready to finish as I have ever seen him. At this time I didn't realise what Jim had previously achieved in the race. He was one of a very few double figure finishers, and is the only person ever to complete 10-in-a-row. Even Rangers and Celtic never got that far! So there I am assuring him that if I can get a weekend pass from Mairi I'd be his support runner. The following day I assured him I'd be there, and the day after that I told Mairi. I didn't tell her it was an overnighter though! Bravery has it's boundaries as well.
The next week I found I wasn't alone as Jim McKenzie also volunteered to run part of the last few legs. I had fancied running from Kingshouse to Fort William and even as Jim volunteered I still kept it as my intention to run that far just to dip my toe in the water. That plan was to go for a kybosh!
I planned to get organised after work on Friday and then travel to Rowardennan early enough to see Jim going through take some photos and then go up to Beinn Glas farm or Auchtertyre to take photos of the leaders. However I was sent to Goole and by the time I got home and got the shopping it was too late to get organised. As I was to return to Alexandria for 3pm to pick up Jim Mc I decided to have a longer lie and then go straight to the wigwams to photograph the leaders. Then I'd go home and get my gear ready and head to Tyndrum to catch JR go through.
I got my photos of the leaders and spoke to some of the support groups. Ian Beattie, not known to me as a runner but as a member of the Scottish Athletics executive a few years ago. He had dropped out at Rowardennan, and this was the first indication as to how tough this event was. If someone with his background in distance running had been struggling, just how would it be for lesser mortals who had little experience of this type of race.
Included in my photos at this time was Marco Consani who lives in Alexandria and runs, as does his wife Debbie, with Garscube Harriers. They are doing a lot of distance events for the Yorkhill Childrens Hospital charity, and this was one of the biggest challenges. Both suffered injuries, Marco a bad shin injury that severely hampered him, but he still finished in 20hrs 47 minutes. Debie hurt her knee when she twisted it going over a stile and finished in 30hrs45 minutes. Both were first timers and I amsure will be back next year and for some time to come. Debbie and Marco keep blogs and they certainly impress me with their training and preparations as does John Kynaston who blew everyone away (including himself!) by finishing in 19hrs59mins.

Back to Beinn Glas Farm where I checked in with Jim's support team his wife Helen, and their great friend Anne. Both ladies are veterans of many WHW campaigns as Anne's late husband Alex also completed many times. Jim was raising money this time around in aid of and in tribute to the McMillan nurses who cared for Alex during his illness. Jim had reached Rowardennan just on the time limit. Clubmate Geraldine had travelled up to the checkpoint to see him and reported he was doing well at that point.
I traveled home and after picking up my running gear and food picked up Jim McKenzie. We decided to check at Auchtertyre to see if JR had reached there and I nearly ran him over when we came across him wandering down the road towards the A82 drinking and eating. Jimmy Mc walked with him to the end of the road and when I picked him up informed me that he was going to run with Jim from Tyndrum as he thought Jim could do with the company!
That was the "plan" up in the air, as I then started running at Bridge of Orchy when the next stage began, with McKenzie driving to Kingshouse to take JR over the Devils staircase. I managed some more photos before they arrived at B of O including a couple of Jim Drummond with whom I have had the pleasure of accompanying on a couple of training runs at Aberfoyle. JD gave me a couple of message to pass on to JR but I decided that, discretion being the greater part of valour, to keep them to myself, just in case JR decided to chase JD all the way to Fort Bill for a well deserved hiding!
Jim's arrival at the Bridge involved a quite testy questioning by the race steward to assess his fitness to continue, but JR was in fine fettle well able to go on. Sean, the marshall, was worried about a forecast of cold rain heading in our direction and all runners were told they required full waterproofs to continue. Keith Hughes and Tony Gilmour had come into the checkpoint a little ahead of the two Jims and sweeper Joe Sheridan, but took a longer break and so it was only Jim and I as we set off over the hill towards Inveroran. At the top of the climb Jim admitted to being "buggered" but managed to raise a gallop on the downhill. At Victoria bridge, Keith Tony and Joe caught us and after meeting the two ladies for a snack and JR discovered the delights of Red Bull off we went towards Rannoch Moor. If said Red Bull ever wants a new campaign to promote it's effects, they need look no further than the bold boy who proceeded to set a cracking pace over the moor. So much so that Sean, the race steward who had been concerned re JR at Bridge of Orchy and who had walked back from Kingshouse to check our progress was suitably impressed with the pace and informed us that if it had been daylight we would be able to see the next group of runners ahead. Until then we had been navigating without the aid of torches and hadn't really noticed the daylight had gone. We continued to do so until we reached a cottage near the A82 where the lights from a 4x4 ended our night vision. At Kingshouse my first foray was over and I had to drive round to Kinlochleven as Jim McKenzie was taking Jim through the next stage. It also ended the sweeper stage for Joe although he continued to Kinlochleven "for the walk". Joe was also the sweeper during the Highland Fling and had accompanied Christine Dawson at the back of the field until her race ended at Beinn Glas as one of the Milburn 42 milers. His company was always good and is much appreciated down Milburn way.
A phone call from Geraldine to check on progress was ended prematurely when the McKenzie antique mobile gave up the ghost. I can't talk, as my super duper 3 mobile Sony Ericsson state of the art communication system hadn't given a cheep of a signal since we left Balloch!
I drove round to Kinlochleven intending getting my head down for a few hours.
I didn't go into the medical centre at first and parked outside, trying to get my head down. No chance! All the coming and going at the centre and a loud, banging door meant sleep was impossible. The start of a heavy rainstorm with driving winds and torrential rain added to the problem (wondered briefly how the runners were doing, then turned up the heater) and then nature called. I went into use the toilet to find a casualty clearing station, with medical staff obviously concerned about the condition of some of the runners who were showing some pretty worrying signs. If anyone has any doubts about how hard this race is, than a visit here will soon put them right. On top of that the physios and masseuses were working overtime. Saw Jim Drummond and found that Debbie had probably been in the centre when I was outside trying to get some beauty sleep. Apologies Debbie, I am sure you needed the encouragement more than I need beauty sleep!
I went back to the car, got my head down, and the next thing I knew McKenzie was banging the window! Looking very wet and bedraggled, he was looking forward to replacing me as team sleeper!
A couple of cups of tea, during the 20 minute break Jim and the others had agreed on, and we were off up the hill out of Kinlochleven. By taking a shortish break we had set out ahead of several other runners who had taken long breaks at Kinlochleven. That meant the sweeper was no longer with us, unless you counted Keith who had started the race as a sweeper but continued to the finish. Accompanied by his mate Dave, Tony and his daughter, Jim and I set off towards Lundarva.
In November 2005 I ran in the Lochaber and JR had driven the mini bus up the Lundarva Road to drop Anne and Margo off to walk into FW. As I was bursting for a pee at that time I was expecting to find a hotel or bothy up there to facilitate relief. I found nothing. That's how bleak that place is. As I saw that the road disappeared into the never ending distance I remarked how it must be pretty daunting after 70 odd miles! Next time I'll shut my mouth. A few photographs taken en route shows apparent high spirits but then the rain started again. McKenzies fault we agreed. He's doing a rain dance down in Fort William. It worked ya "^*&^$!
Tony was struggling with his feet and a few others passed us having progressed since Kinlochleven. Two had passed us on the climb but we re-passed them on the Lairig Mor. Jim was regaling me of tales of past races including stories of running partners having hallucinations. Scary stuff. At last we smelt the smoke from the fire at Lundarva. Two guys at a tent in the woods were the first we met. "Number 11" said Jim, wondering where the usual steward was. And I'm number 12 said an old fellow apparently having had the benefit of a dram or two. Wrong checkpoint! Hee Haw! No wonder we call Jim, Donkey.
Up to the real checkpoint and found the famous fire on it's last embers. JD's daughter, Anne, Helen, and Tony's wife had all driven up to Lundarva and tea was offered and accepted. I almost said to Jim that it was all downhill from here, but thought better of it. 150 yards later I realised the wisdom of that decision when a wee killer hill was negotiated. Soon, though, we were climbing through the forest above Glen Nevis and then the last climb to the last summit of the Way. This was the highlight for me as I saw the smile on JR's face as he realised it really was all downhill from here. If he had to roll down the hill he would. But nothing was coming between him and that 12th Goblet!
The last couple of miles were still hard work on the quads, but I was confident enough in Jim to run on ahead to dig out my big camera to take the finishing photos. I, however followed the WHW markers onto the main road. As I walked along it I wasn't too chuffed to see Jim appear with the others as they appeared from the race route! I still managed to get top the leisure centre ahead of him in enough time to warn the officials of his arrival and get the all important pics of Jim and the quaich! And he got two goes at it!
Only two people have finished this race more times than Jim Robertson and they have a few years to catch up on his record of being the oldest ever finisher. Jim McKenzie and I were only witnesses to this final achievement. There for safety and a bit of company and support along the way. Other than Jim picking JR up after a fall on the staircase we did nothing to carry him, or otherwise aid him on his way. It was all his own work. I don't think however he would have managed it without the remarkable support of Helen and Anne.
That brings me to my tribute to all the runners and support teams. This is a marvellous event made even more so than by the fantastic contributions made by the runners support teams who follow their runner from checkpoint to checkpoint, layby to layby, through thick and thin, to make sure their nutritional, hydration and physical needs are met. Add the race officials, marshalls, administrators, medical staff and masseurs all of whom go that extra mile to make sure the event runs, if not smoothly, then safely and enjoyably(?). It really makes it special and I for one Millie can't wait to try it for myself. At the moment I'm not alone!
After a big scottish breakfast at Morrisons Jimmy McKenzie and I got to the prizegiving just as first prize was being awarded to Jens Lukas. Therefter followed the longest prizegiving I've ever seen. But deservedly so. Every finisher gets a goblet and every finisher more than deserves to be presented with it individually. It's done with an astonishingly personnalised commentary by the race organiser Dario who looks great in pink by the way!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The West Highland Way Race Beckons

Nice easy training run at the club last night. JR was taking it easy as he has a wee race on Saturday, Geraldine was exhausted from work and,, as most of those I would have run with were absent, I simply went with the flow and ran for 45 minutes at a nice gentle pace.Really enjoyed it and washappy to finish without the need for oxygen.My wife had a hospital appointment today and as soon as I arrived (she came straight from work and me from the coffee shop), she informed me I had a recruit for jogscotland. Lindsay, one of the nurses, intends coming along tonight. The others in the department have said they will come too, but I get the idea that as with everything else in the NHS there is a requirement for a clinical trial first. So Lindsay is the guinea pig.
I gave her the usual spiel about it being life changing and that she would love it. Then she made the mistake of saying she knows Jim Robertson. So I told her what I was doing this weekend, and then found myself telling her and my wife that I would do the race next year! OH SHIT!
Striking while the iron is hot I went and bought a camelback, midge net, midge repellent and a running belt. So I guess I'm committed, or should that be I should be committed? Now where are my trail shoes?

Monday, 16 June 2008

  • Tagging is easy. Just copy the following onto your post.
  • The rules of the game are posted at the start of your blog post.
  • In this case, I'm asking you five questions about running.
  • Each player answers the five questions on their own blog.
  • At the end of your post you tag five other people and post their names.
  • Go to their blogs and leave a comment on their blogs telling them they've been tagged and to look at your blog for details.
  • When they've answered the questions on their own blog, they come back to yours
1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

Sporadic. I was a good runner in my youth but discovered Smirnoff (and any other brand of alcohol) and went from a skinny wee boy to a fat rugby playing beer swilling physical mess. Still fit for rugby and my work but not a happy bunny. I ran the three races of the Polaroid series in 1996 with one of my probationers from work (I was then a police sergeant) We ran about 52 mins at helensburgh, 49 at Dumbarton and after 10 days hard drinking had a nightmare at the Vale. No Clydebank race in those days. The next target was to have been the Glasgow 1/2 marathon but I ended up in hospital with a very swollen knee due to overtraining and hat was the end of my running career for a few years. It got going again when my 12 year old joined West Dunbartonshire and I started coaching, officiating, and training to keep up with the kids. then JogScotland got started and the rest as they say....... My son is now 22 and no longer an athlete. He is running again but won't go out with me until he can keep up!

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?
Best was this years London Marathon, my first 26 miler but definitely not my last. Tough but the atmosphere, organisation and sense of achievement were immense.
Worst? Any run where I'm not in the mood. I especially hate the Clydebank leg of the Polaroid 10k series. The course is so small I feel I'm going round in circles. I've DNF'd twice on it. The good news is that when the Riverside project is finished Davie Kennedy plans on moving it over there. Hurry up and finish it!

3. Why do you run?
It was my sport as a kid. I ran about 2.03 for 800m (or was it 880 yards!) but as I said earlier bright lights, big city (small town) etc ended any prospect of my being Olympic Champ.
I always turned to running when a) I needed to lose weight or b) I was struggling to climb stairs. I then started to train and race in order to maintain some level of credibility with the athletes I was coaching at West Dunbartonshire, and then to keep up with some of the ladies at the jogging group. Now I'm obsessed with the sport, but I could do with some motivation as, since London I've found it hard to get to a level of fitness I think is appropriate. Maybe a lay off will help.
4.What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

Worst: It's all about hard work. It isn't. There must be recovery time as it's not the training that gets you fit, it's the process whereby the body breaks down under the stress of training and then recovers to a point where it gets stronger. The best running I've done is since I stopped racing younger athletes and started training with slower athletes as well as some who can push me slightly harder, without pushing too hard.
Best advice: Don't look at the top of the hill!

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.
I don't drink! Not for a long time, although I lapsed last year for a couple of days.
I was once a DJ and was the first in Scotland to play Una Paloma Blanco, after my sister brought it home from Benidorm.
I have the Chief Constables High Commendation for stupidly tackling a mentally ill man armed with a knife. (He tried to stab me and I wasn't having that!)

So that is that. I don't know many people who Blog so I'm tagging Steph

Sunday, 15 June 2008

I suppose I'd better post

Sorry I've been away for so long. Blame Debs tagging me. I do so hate that feeling that you've got something to do and keep putting it off. Anyway I've had little to write about as I've done very little running, due to a number of factors including just feeling knackered!
After failing to finish Clydebank I found myself in Elgin on the day of the Dumarton 10k with a Coca Cola transit van to drive home before taking it to Lockerbie the next day. By the time I'd picked it up I reckoned I would just get home in time to change and go to the 10k. As long as I didn't stop, eat, go to the toilet. or I could always hammer it down the road. Anyway a mix of methods meant I was home at 6.15 and absolutely knackered so decided that whatever I did in the race I would do it slowly. However as I got to Dumbarton the rain started so I selected reverse and went home! A cop out!
Had some easy runs over the weekend but nothing to suggest my running was getting any better. Just no energy. Good at motivating others but could do with a mentor myself. Everyone has been training and running well but I.
The on Tuesday of last week I was sent to Dunfermline to pick up a car. I travel reasonably well dressed with collar and tie and dress shoes. However I ended up trailing all over an industrial estate looking for a company that exists in name only and by the time I discovered I was really looking for Somerfields warehouse I had three blisters. I couldn't train that niht but managed to take my jogging group on Wednesday. Didn't run again this week for a variety of reasons, family problems and work. I was looking forward to running the Vale 10k today, with fresh legs, but decided to trim away the dead skin on my foot where the worst of he blisters had been. Found it still horribly tender under the skin, and decided that I couldn't run.
If i had hobbled round I may have caused worst problems and jeopordised next weks run which might well be a unique experience.
On Tuesday night I took my blisters to training for a blether. Asked Jim Robertson how his preparations for the WHW race were going. Jim is a real veteran at this race and has 1,1 finsihers goblets, but has failed to finish his last two attempts. He has really trained well this year and his only worry was thatb his support runner had had to call off and as having a support runner on the last few stages is a must, he was in a pickle. Without thinking, well maybe I did think, but I volunteered to run with him. It'll be a whole new ball game running from about Kingshouses in Glencoe to Fort William. Not by the sensible route, but on the West Highland Way. At night. In the dark. I don't know the Way, having only run one small section Drymen to Milngavie and back. The mileage isn't the worry, but I don't do hills. especially downhills. I don't even like ordinary cross country.
So after following some of the club members on he Highland Fling, reading some books by trail runners, buying an American Trail Runner magazine, now I'm running with Jim. Can anyone see a pattern developing?

Sunday, 1 June 2008


No not motivation! Since last post I've missed a lot of training as I my good lady has been on holiday, and, for reasons I won't go into hasn't been in very good tid recently. So a bit of time with her including a wee trip to Irvine where my sister had a few friends and rels round for a belated celebration of Mairi and I's (?) 25th wedding anniversary.
I also started the Clydebank 10k but after doing sub 4 mins for the first K , and foolishly trying to keep running hard I only lasted 3k before deciding that the numb things hanging from my pelvis weren't going to work for much longer. I was able therefore to watch the future of Scottish athletics run to a new course record. The Scots at the top of the tree will now have to work a lot harder to earn their Asics vouchers.
After having had no work for the week despite being available on three days (probably to do with the Whitsun holiday in Englandshire) I got a call asking me to go to Ellon on Saturday morning to pick up an Audi, thereby scuppering my intention to run the 10k trail race at Aberfoyle. I was away at 7.30 by train to Aberdeen then bus to Ellon before a nice walk past a golf course to the customers house. My return journey was in an Audi A4 convertible, which was duly converted and a great time had by me on the return trip. I felt like a 22 year old again.
I then got to park it outside my house for the weekend, so maybe Rosie next door will think I've won the lottery!
On Sunday I thought I'd toddle over to Linwood to watch the Scottish Young Athletes League meeting. Got there to find it was mobbed and parked about 300 yards away. Walked into the track and couldn't see anyone from West Dunbartonshire. Phoned Duncan MacNeill who was with the kids... in Grangemouth! Oh well, back to the ironing board.