Thursday, 31 December 2009

Hogmanay Thoughts

Just a couple of hours to the bells and time to look back on my year; well, two half years.
I failed miserably in my goals other than in the three races I actually ran. A Pb at Alloa was a good sign, despite little speed work in my training. I finished the Highland Fling albeit with a struggle between Inversnaid and Beinn Glas where I was told by the stewards and my wife just how bloody awful I looked, worse even than normal! I struggled to recover and missed a chunk of training due to recovery and being on holiday in May. However a successful completion of the West Highland Way race was achieved; albeit a struggle with blisters and back. Two things motivated me to finish. My crew and my nephew Darren. A wee boy with disability that bothers him a lot less than it could. With an outlook on life like his, how can I complain about a bit of discomfort. Over £1800 raised to help make Darren's life a little easier, the least I could do for his inspiration and example.
That, however, was that as far as running went. My body refused to operate in running mode and although I have made satisfactory progress (in my osteopath's eyes), I am currently suffering from tight adductors due to the exercises I was doing with him on Tuesday.
Worse, instead of losing weight as I'd hoped I've gained two stones since June. Mainly due to inactivity and over-indulgence in the wrong kind of calories.
So, once the New Year dinner is out of the way I will be starting all over again, with an tentative target of the Devil of the Highlands in August. My only goal is to be confident enough, this time next year, to be able to say I've got an entry for the WHW race in 2011.
I'll start by blogging more often. That may be limited in scope at first as I will be starting off with some very easy running and swimming, as well as having to spend some time in the gym. (Part of my running problems are due to lack of basic strength and conditioning in my legs. At the end of the day I have the endurance in my heart, lungs and muscles but my joints and skeleton need to be improved to ensure I can survive an ultra.)
Additionally, it seems that Facebook has taken over as the preferred means of communication amongst the ultra community, and it also helps that other friends are more aware of activities. But it lacks the motivational aspects that the blog has; blogging being a kind of training diary as well as a commentary on all aspects of life.

So here's to a very Happy New Year to all of my friends and family. Thank you all for the tremendous support I received in June. I'll be having my New Year glass from a rather nice Goblet!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tanks? Firemen?

I post this link without comment..... other than where do people get their references?

Quick before it is taken off the site!

Thursday, 12 November 2009


Until yesterday I was trying to run at least twice a week and, whilst occasionally managing about three miles before things go wrong, generally I am in discomfort from the first step.
Yesterday was my weekly visit to the osteopath and a description of my efforts only encouraged him to ban me from running for at least two weeks.Swimming, cross-training, walking and upper-body weight training are permissible, but avoid putting weight through my knee at all costs. My right backside muscles it seems are a lump of dead meat. And he set to putting life back in them. Hopefully without the need for the kiss of life!
This morning, I am unable to move, but I am about to lace up some shoes and get out for a good long walk. Tomorrow, I'll head into the gym and pool with Andrew, my ticket to cheap workouts. Aqua-jogger and a bag of training gear in hand.
So, to my choices; I see two options. The one of the brain and the one of my heart.
1. I have an entry (reserve list anyway) to the Devil of the Highlands 2010. I could make that my target for 2010 and forego the temptation to enter the West Highland Way Race, making that the two year project that it really should have been first time round. I can enter the Fling right up until the closing date due to their being no limit, so, if I get back training early enough, I can do it as the start of the build up to the Devil's. I will also hopefully, manage a lot more races, certainly more than 2009 in which I managed three (Alloa half (pb) the Fling and the WHW)
2. I enter the WHW race at the risk of being the world's biggest "Numptie" (© WHW Runner) and undo all the expensive treatments by doing exactly what I did last year. (And be ridiculed by anon the mouse contributors.)

I'm going with 1. above. That will save me from the perils of form filling and I hereby volunteer for marshalling/admin/photograhic duties as directed by the race committee (anything for a goodie bag).

That's one weight off my mind. Standby for the responses....

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Trauma Queen

I've mentioned this blog before, but reading it tonight found that the author has been rewarded for his skills and writing abilities. To read more go to his blog

Now, where would I like to go?

Monday, 26 October 2009

Progress Report

After seven treatments from my osteopath, I finally plucked up the courage to suggest running a few miles. he is firmly of the opinion that the way ahead is still swimming, or at least aqua jogging, both of which has me in danger of drowning as I would be risking falling asleep in the pool through the sheer boredom of it all!
Anyway, the man from Del Monte he say YES!! Within reason and with a few days between sessions to ensure full recovery.
So I did what was really a warm-up in Balloch Park on Friday, sticking to grass and doing some stiff strides (stiff as in immobile not hard!) in the highland games field. No real problems so I continued with my exercises and stretches until today when I followed them with an hours slow run/walk on the golf course, trails and farm roads around Cardross. A struggle at times, not helped by looking for a path that doesn't exist but an hours exercise doing what I enjoy most. Mud on the shoes, a wee bit of sweat on the shirt and a wee runners high post run!
Tomorrow night is the club time trial. The first of the (formerly) monthly winter events is being re-started and, as I am secretary and haven't been training for a while, I have been nominated as starter/timekeeper.
I'll also be tackling our social secretary regarding trophies for the presentation night. it had been decided that JR and I, as chairman and secretary, would be responsible for selecting them. I duly picked up the brochures and asked his opinion.
Would you believe that the 12 time Goblet winner and first and only ten in a row finisher of the West Highland Way, icon, legend and father figure, doesn't have the bottle to pick them in case the girls don't like them!!
Name and shame I say.

Back to the osteopath on Wednesday. i'll be reporting a tight butt as the only problem when running. Progress is good.
November fast approaching and I've started a moustache for "Movember" to highlight men's cancer health. OK it's still October but I'm after a wee start. Mind you if past bhistory is anything to go by, it'll be off in a few days. I can't stand the itch and Mairi can't stand the look.

Why not join in to highlight this important agenda?

EDIT: Just after posting this I joined Allybea, Keith, Dave W and maybe John K in registering for NaNoWriMo......... November is going to be a long month.
Several ideas in my head. Favourite at the moment is the tale of three ex-army rogues who set up a personal training company in Glasgow, and have be dug out of deep shit by a big flatfooted polis!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Glee Club Outing on the WHW

Saturday was the first Glee Club run of the winter.Organised by Mark "Drama Queen" Hamilton and Ellen McVey, this is an occasional training group that trains on the West Highland Way in preparation for the Highland Fling and the other two races on the route, the Devil of the Highlands and the West Highland Way Race itself. An amazing 25 runners started at 10am and at least another three arrived late and caught up with the pack. They ran to Beinn Glas farm and back from Tyndrum where I met up with them to spend the day walking, but mainly to take some photos. It was a cracking day, cold and sunny, setting off the autumnal colours to their very best. I had been out to try a run in Balloch Park on Friday, permission having been granted by my osteopath to try an easy run, and could have kicked myself for leaving the camera behind. The Loch was at it's best with an atmospheric mist lending a little extra. So I set off for Balloch to try and catch it again. But as I drove over the Carman Moor I saw the sun rising over the Crags behind Dumbarton casting a beautiful light on the reservoir on the top of Carman. Out came the camera but, as the sun had just made it over the top of the Crags, the flare in the camera lens spoiled a terrific pic. I've kept it though and annotated it with a promise to return on the first similar morning to try again.
Onto Balloch, but the Vale was looking it's very best. You couldn't see it for the mist! Again, I shall return.

Onto Luss for a few views of the Ben and then Tarbet. However, mindful of the time I headed on to Tyndrum where a few weel kent faces were getting ready to run and a whole new set of "virgins" ready to join them. Arriving from the wrong car park came Debbie and Sharon, gabbing ten to the dozen and I gathered them all together for a group photo (above) before waving them off. I sneaked through the grounds of the Ben Dorain Hotel to see a few of them crossing the river and running up to the gate.
After my free coffee and my (paid for) bacon roll in the Real Food Cafe, I set off to the layby at the A82 crossing at Ewich where I walked up the Way to try and catch a few runners with a, hopefully, spectacular background. I've always wanted to send a photo to Runner's World for their "Great Run" photo feature. I had in mind the view from near the top of the forest looking north east following the direction of the river towards Loch Dochart. Damn that bacon roll! I had made good progress, but was caught by the pack before I reached the top and had to make do with pictures as they went past, then making my way down and taking more pics as the stragglers went past me. The only one I missed was DQ who had waited for Mrs Pacepusher at Auchtertyre. A technical hitch (the camera was finding it hard to focus due to a walker passing at the same time - my excuse - I told Mark he was running too fast:-) ) meant I missed this photo. Never mind it's his girlfriend I'm photo essaying!
Back to the car and down to Beinn Glas where I managed a few more photos before lunch was taken. Chicken broth and a roll - delicious! This was a chance to meet some of the newcomers and examine Georges KSO shoes as well as the F lites he was changing into. Never, never do I see myself trying either. There is more sole and cushioning in my slippers. Certainly no use to my flat feet. Outsize they may be, but they are all there is between my ankles and the ground and they have to take all my weight. Unlike a certain London fireman who probably doesn't pay VAT on his children sized shoes.
I took Nora, who decided Beinn Glas was far enough, back to Tyndrum for more (free) coffee and a (paid for) flapjack before finding a very cold and shivering Debbie wrapped in my mate Brian's jacket. She had fallen on the return journey and had done a fair bit of damage to her knees. Last I heard she had her feet up watching her collection of DVDs and her much put upon husband Marco was head cook and bottle washer.
Quite a lot of strenuous walking in Ewich forest has left my hip and knee a bit stiff
but it was nice to be out. Photos here

By the time I got home I was starting to receive texts from Tooting where Lee and Dave were supporting Ian in the Sri Chimnoy 24 hour race. That's 24 hours round a running track!
Sadly, Ian completed 100kms before dropping out, but two members of the West Highland way "family" excelled. Paul Hart was second in the men's race completing 140.983 miles and Aileen Scott won the women's race. (As I type this, Aileen's distance isn't on the interweb thingy but she had passed 113 miles with an hour to go. I'll edit this when I find out the distance.)

Friday, 9 October 2009

A Post About Not Running

I'm sitting on my butt, reading Facebook and thinking about doing the exercises that my Osteopath has given me, when Rachel pops up in "chat" for a blether. She complains about my lack of blogging and, in another context describes me as "inspirational"!!!
I inspire?
Oh, well.
Even Mairi has complained I haven't been blogging. And that from the lady who complains about me sitting with my head in my laptop all the time. (She's sitting opposite me now so if this post ends suddenly......
I'd better fulfil my role then. This blog was set up as the bit on the top says to record my views on running, coaching and life in general. I've pretty much given up coaching, haven't done any jog leading since the WHW race due to my being unable to put on foot in front of the other in the required manner, and life in general is pretty bloody grim, not being able to run. I've only managed a few "runs" since the race and each led to a further period of not running due to new niggles, pains and incapacity. So this is a post about not running!
I thought tapering was a pain in the posterior, but not being able to run at all is a damn sight worse. Most of the time I'm fine. As before the first run after my blisters healed I have no pain at all, other than the slight discomfort in my sacro-illiac joint that has been present for about 10 years. I want to run and regularly get my trainers on and set off only to realise my leg muscles can't actually function at speeds above say, four miles an hour. Walking poles? A zimmer is what I need!
Several aborted attempts at a run did end in pain. I've been aqua-jogging. Borrrrrrrrrr - ing.
But I do it because I know it works. I'm getting good at it too. I actually sweat in a pool! Then one Thursday I go to the pool in the morning. Feel great and -
"I know!! I can go for a run tonight!" Down to the club I go and set off with the pack. Honest, I intended staying with the (absent on holiday) JR's group. All ladies - who stop for a blether with a former member. In the pub car park. 25 yards from the start of the run. I keep going. And find my self loping along at the front of the main pack with Big Ed who is just back from a looonnggg stint underwater with the underwater air-force. And who wants a short easy run before the Great Scottish run on Sunday; that he's trained for an hour at a time on the underwater gym's treadmill. (Could we power the sub on Neal's and Ed's running?)
When the rest of the pack carry on to the Arden Roundabout and beyond, the big guy and I turn off at Cameron House where we try and spot some of the Scotland players who are resident whilst preparing(?) for the Macedonia and Holland games. Big Ed needs a Paula so I slow to a walk while he waters the trees and when I start again......... I have a knee pain and have to jog/walk back to the club.
That was my last effort and a couple of weeks ago decided that I needed to blow the household budget and seek the skills of an osteopath. I've now had three sessions and surprisingly, given the horrendous stories of these guys treating their customers as cash cows,he reckons I'm making good progress and we are already looking to reduce the times between consultations. His thoughts are that I have at least three major muscle groups in my back that have pretty much seized up and,together, have affected my skeletal system so much that my pelvis has tilted, restricting the range of movement in my legs and was well on the way to serious breakdown. Every time I tried to run I was exacerbating the problem. No go-ahead to run again yet so I've resisted the opportunity to give it a wee try-oot. It's hard though.
I've being going to the club whenever I can, to post entry forms and fliers that have come in and last night for a committee meeting. They've given up asking when I'm getting back to training and replaced that with "Jeez, you're putting the weight on". And it shows. My troosers are tight, my shirts are bulging over my belly and my local sweetie shop is thinking of floating on the stock exchange due to the sudden increase in profits.
Mind you I'm now the proud owner of a new Nikon D5000 DSLR camera! And it worked well on Sunday at the club Horseshoe handicap race. Thanks Aviva!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Insurance Premiums - Why are they so high?

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my photographic efforts and that I had a wee accident during the Devil's when my Nikon D50 DSLR camera was inadvertently dropped and damaged.
I took it into a Glasgow camera repair company who, a week later, gave me an estimate of £262.00 including Vat for the repair of the camera and lens,both of which were damaged but repairable.
I decided that it was time to finally make a claim on my home contents insurance that fortunately included accidental loss or damage outwith the home. All I was expecting was a go ahead on the repair and for them to send me the cost of repair, less my excess.
I contacted Aviva gave them all the details and they passed my claim to another firm IVAL who would be contacting me in a few days. So I waited, and waited and eventually I contacted them. And gave the girl on the phone all the details - again. She took all the details and put me through to their technical services department who didn't answer. I hung up and called back to the first girl who booked an appointment call for the following day. This call was prompt to the minute and I spoke to another girl and gave her all the details.... again! She told me the camera would be uplifted from me by a courier company the following day and off I went to Glasgow to pick it up. I explained to the guy at the repair firm that the insurance company wanted the camera and he seemed amused at this. I wondered why.
Again, the courier company arrived in time and took my carefully packaged camera off to Eastbourne to the IVAL technical services department. I sent the receipt for the camera and a cheque for the excess off to IVAL by recorded delivery and sat back to await my camera's return in 28 days. I was like a man who had lost his right arm, not having my camera. I presumed that the camera would be repaired by a repair firm either owned by the insurance company or at least who had a deal that would have made it more economical for the insurance company than having it done in Glasgow. How wrong was I?

This morning I received a call from IVAL. After a few security checks to ensure I was the person THEY had phoned, (what is that all about?)the lovely young lady proceeded to tell me that having examined the camera (that could be repaired for £262 remember), they had concluded that they would require to have it replaced. By a new Nikon D5000 and a 18 - 105mm lens. They will order it today and I would have it in araound two weeks. Would that be acceptable?
Is JR a geriatric?
Too bloody true it is acceptable!

But what the F--- gives here? They are ordering it from Warehouse Express and sending it by next day delivery from their place (again, why not get warehouse express to send it direct)at a cost according to WE's website of..... wait for it £754 less any discount they get if they have a contract with them.
My original camera cost me 582 quid nearly four years ago.

Now I don't have a problem with a new camera with twice the pixels of the original(12.3 mp), a moveable screen, live view (D50 doesn't,) a shutter speed twice that of he D50),continuous shooting at 4 frames per second, a lens with more range and all the accessories I'll get with a new camera. Absolutely no problem at all. No, siree! Not against getting the old camera repaired for 262 quid.
But why do we pay such huge premiums for insurance? I just can't figure it out!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Part 3 - Interlude and more from Tim

A few comments on the previous two posts have raised questions about hydration that I've had to research a bit and rack my brain for exactly how Tim explained how the theory actually works.
There is one word that appears on my notes: "Homeostasis" that explains it all.Homeostasis is "The ability or tendency of an organism or cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes". I'll try and explain.
We all know that insulin is the means by which the body reduces sugar levels in the body. However, the real job of insulin is to transport nutrients through the body and deliver them to the liver and other organs. However, as it is the only hormone capable of reducing sugar levels, it has to be used as such when we eat excessively. This means that it is unable to do it's proper job and the body reacts by creating resistance to insulin and that affects our overall health and well being as the insulin can't do it's real job.
Now the body has many systems that act and counteract to maintain equilibrium. But where they are forced to compensate for each other they are unable to do their own job.
So it is with certain hormones that work to keep our body's system in check that are forced to deal with overhydration. They can't do their own job and we damage our kidney's due to MUSCLE BREAKDOWN/RHABDOMYOLYSIS. Remember, those of you who were at the February briefing in Edinburgh for the West Highland Way race?
As has been explained by Noakes, we have evolved to operate quite efficiently when de-hydrated. As long as we deal with thirst, which is an indicator that certain hormones are about to be required, we can operate more efficiently than when overhydrated. Therefore the advice is to DRINK TO THIRST.

One other important point on this is that I'll reinforce is the use of Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID's). These inhibit the hormones that control, hydration adding to the dangers of MUSCLE BREAKDOWN/RHABDOMYOLYSIS.

Remember the Highland Fling race where many of us suffered in the heat and humidity? I, for one, was scraping salt off my scalp and drinking, as I thought, sufficiently to replace the fluid lost. However we usually have more sodium in our body at the start of the summer and as this was the first hot days running many of us had endured, there was a lot of sweating done and sodium lost. So what did I/we do? Drank more to replace the fluid. Actually, what we were doing was diluting the remaining sodium. And that is what we are being warned against! Anyone vommited clear fluid whilst racing? Wondered what gastro-intestinal complications caused it? Probably none. What easier way for the body to deal with excess fluid!

So, to tea and biscuits in the interval. During this time, someone suggested to Yannis that we could do with hearing more from Tim so he was dispatched to the lecture room to muster some slides to continue his talk. Whilst he was doing so, I wandered back into the lecture theatre. Spotting him alone I asked him about the results of my blood check following the West Highland Way race. Much of my analysis was pretty normal, but my level of Creatine Kinase was highly elevated, with a count of 29,490 as opposed to a normal reading of less than 210. His explanation fro this was simple - "You drank too much". As he had explained that earlier I didn't need to ask any more! But I did think that there may have been a bit more to it!
How about recovery? I explained I had hardly ran since the race and struggled every time.
He said "If I were to cut you open right now, I'd find your heart and muscles in great condition. Your problem is that your brain, having had a traumatic time, doesn't want you to do it all again. It is sending out warnings to you that ensure you don't put yourself in danger again. You will have to progressively re-train your brain to run." Or words to that effect!
I'll have to learn how to run all over again. This time I'll bear in mind what I learned at this seminar. No doubt I'll also bore for Britain, so if you've read this, stop me!

I was also able, over tea and biscuits, to talk to an Norrie Hay an old acquaintance who is the coach of some of Scotlands good middle distance runners. We commented on the information on the weight discrepancy of E.African and US elite runners. Norrie has a good runner who is, by our standards, very light, but he reckons he will have to lose a few kilos to improve. I mentioned the latest revelations in US 5k running who recently ran sub 13 minutes, Dathan Ritzenhein and Matthew Tegenkamp. I wondered about their weight and lo, and behold IAAF stats show Ritzenhein's weight is 53kilos! Norrie told me that when Alan Webb changed coaches to Alberto Salazar, he was ordered to lose muscle mass, of which he was fairly well laden due to weight training. No weights until he got down to what his new coach considered a competitive weight. Interesting!

Tim Noakes continued.....
Back into the lecture and Noakes showed some videos and slides to further illustrate his earlier talk. One of these was Paula Radcliffe's disastrous Olympic marathon in Athens. Remember the bit about animals, and their paralysis of hyperthermia? Animals can't operate in conditions where their core temperature reaches 43 degrees Celcius. They collapse. Humans however are capable of passing this core temperature due to evolution. But the brain will safe guard the body and cause it to stop running before death occurs and that, in Noakes opinion, is what happened to Paula. She had her race plan that had led her to world records and marathon victories but did not have the have the mental capability to run the race according to the conditions she met in the Athens race. The brain simply shut her down.

He also illustrated the power of the brain and that faith and belief in what the athlete is capable of is paramount in achieving their goals. Some more illustrations.
John Landy, an Australian athlete, and Roger Bannister were both chasing the sub-four minute mile and Landy was quoted in February 1954 as saying the 4 minute barrier was "a brick wall, I shall not achieve it."
On 6th May 1954 Bannister told himself that weather conditions that day would preclude any attempt at the barrier. His coach Franz Stampfl disagreed. He told Bannister that he thought he was in fact capable of 3minutes 56! If he was capable of that then he should be capable of 3.59 in the day's weather conditions. Bannister had long before learnt to trust his coach and the belief instilled in himself by Stampfl led to history being achieved. having shown Landy that it wasn't a brick wall, Landy believing himself at least Bannister's equal that produced a (then) world record of 3.58!
Finally Noakes showed this image of South African Josia Thugwane 1996 Olympic Champion and second place Lee Bong-Ju. Thugwane is looking as if he could run it again, Lee less so! They had been seperated by just three seconds!(By the way third place was only a further 5 seconds away!) Noakes said in summing up "Three seconds! Lee could have run faster and won it. How do I know? He's still alive!"

Tolosa Kotu Terfe

As I stated in part 1 this presentation didn't really do it for me. Tolosa's heavily accented English was difficult to follow and I'm grateful to Yannis for operating sufficient slides to get the gist of the lecture. But there is certainly no doubting his credentials. He has been involved in the careers of many of the Ethiopian elite athletes, and is well placed to say just what makes them such sublime athletes.
The main factor is attitude. No that's not a typographical error. ATTITUDE not altitude!
Living and training at altitude is, of course, crucial in their physiological make-up, but the attitude ingrained in them by their culture and media, as well as the incentives, monetary and cultural, ensure they are best suited to succeed.
They firmly believe that their ability to run is God given. They have great faith in that ability and that, together with their need to thank God by using it, gives them their supremacy.
Selection of athletes in Ethiopia is done through regional competitions that feed the successful athletes to high altitude training camps, where the younger athletes have to do work to pay for their keep earning a token payment in addition. When they reach elite status they are separated from the other athletes in much of their training in order that their training can be tailored to the individual rather than the group. In the case of the Dibaba sisters they had to be separated in order that they did not race each other into the ground at training rather than in races!
Training for Track and field season takes the form of a three month base of intermediate and moderate paced sessions followed by an intense three month period of hard training and a main competition period of one month. Obviously they race during the training phases, but mainly as a buildup to the main competition phase. All training is on a non-scientific basis. No supplements, sports science testing (other than foreigners trying to find out why they are so good!). Measurement of training effect and fitness is taken by stopwatch and asking how the athlete feels.
Contrast that with the western attitude where everything is governed by sports science.
And we have seen, from the sports drink industry, that they do not always have the athletes best interest at heart.

He summed up the Ethiopian success as being due to
High Altitude
Natural Food
Childhood hard work (aerobic)
Hard training

Rewards. How can we reward our runners? Cars? Got 'em. Money? Not skint, but only our very elite make great money, so I might as well not even try. Fame? How many athletes can Joe Bloggs name? Paula, Kelly, emmm......
To an Ethiopian or Kenyan even the modest rewards from winning a small 10k in Britain, Europe or further afield is worth much more than it would be to you and I. That is why we find that even the smallest races here are being won by the east Africans. They don't need much to live. A group will share the costs of a house, their dietary needs are simple and certainly won't be wasteful and when they return to their home country, the pounds, dollars and euros convert rather nicely, thank you!

So that's it. My recollections of an excellent seminar. No doubt others who were present will be able to fill in any gaps, or interpret things, perhaps a little differently. I hope it is useful and that I haven't lost you midway!
One lasting impression that was left on me by Yannis and Tim was that they are willing to admit they were wrong. Scientific knowledge is always advancing. Five years ago they concluded the East Africans had genetic advantages over us mere mortals. now they admit, subject to further findings, that they were wrong. That is refreshing. In much of our society we are hindered by the refusal to amdit that our standard practices are flawed. We need to lose the pride and admit that smarter people than we are have advanced thinking. We need to follow.

I hope it's not another five years before we have another seminar!

Note: I'll go back over these posts and compile some references and sources to enable you to take your understanding a bit further.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Glasgow Running Seminar Part 2 .... water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!

Tim Noakes was a fascinating presenter with that off-the-wall style that is so effective, continually joking and making asides, usually to himself!
His presentation started with a long illustrated guide to human evolution. I'll cut this short as I can, but that will be difficult!
Humans evolved into hot, sweaty, furless mammals for a very good reason..... hunting. And in this evolution, the environment was more important than genes. Man developed, arguably, in the High Veldt of South Africa or in East Africa.(The arguably coming from where your scientist lives, in Noake's case, SA.) When the environment left him nothing to eat he was forced to chase down animals. He did this by running after them until he caught and killed them by strangulation or with a rock. Thus, man had to learn to run long distances and to overcome hyperthermia, or overheating. Animals may be able to run faster than man but, eventually, they must slow down and stop as their core temperature reaches 43 degrees centigrade at which point they suffer from paralysis by hyperthermia. By following the animals at a steadier pace over many miles and hours man was able to catch even the fastest animals.
He managed this by adapting from a four legged beast to a biped, thus reducing the surface exposed to the sun to the head area whereas the animals had to expose their entire length. Man developed a sweat system where he cooled his body by sweating and other anatomical changes such as smaller pelvis,large Gluteus Maximus, shorter arms,longer legs, counter-rotating trunk and the ability to keep the head fixed in relation to that rotation... ensured he could run.
Due to the requirement to keep moving during the chase, man also developed the ability to delay drinking. Unlike the animals who had to drink lots at set times to avoid the predators who could catch them when they drank, man was able to drink frequently in small amounts delaying full correction of fluid deficiencies generated by exercise until the evening meal.

I'll repeat that, because Noakes did. We drink our fill at meal times and less during exercise. We fully replenish any fluid imbalance only after eating!

How is that? Humans can adapt so that they are better able to exercise in the heat due to the ability to conserve sodium.And if they were to drink excessively during exercise then Hyponatraemia could set in.
So how much water do we need?
Professor Noakes showed a video of Haile Gebrselassie running a marathon. He sipped, and I mean sipped, about four times during the race and had his bottle in his hand for a total of 58 seconds! And that was mostly carrying it while he thought about drinking. In other words he sipped only enough to take away his thirst.
So why is there a belief that we need to maintain hydration. The answer is fairly simple......... sales of sports drinks!
When sports drinks companies wanted to increase sales, they engaged sports scientists and nutritionists to encourage people to stay hydrated during exercise, with dire warnings of serious collapse or death if they failed to stay fully hydrated. However, deaths in marathons and Ironman Triathlons started to occur. When one occurred during an African ultra doctors at the race inserted a catheter in the unconscious patient and, surprise,surprise, found the patient was over hydrated! At this point they started to raise the alarm about the condition, but deaths continued as the sports drink and running magazines continued to warn against the dangers of dehydration. Noakes spoke to one magazine publisher who refused to publish his warnings as it would alienate advertisers - the sports drink industry.
He told of one runner whose husband was watching her race and waited at the 35k mark to watch her go by. She collapsed in front of him and their two infant children and her husband realised she was suffering from overhydration. Paramdics attended and said she was dehydrated and against the wishes of her husband connected up yes,IV fluid. She died. A journalist wrote in the Chicago Tribune of these dangerous practices and, within an hour, received two phone calls from "sports scientists" ordering him to retract as he was going to cause many deaths. A bit of investigation found that they were in the pay of the sports drinks manufactureres. How else, asked Noakes, could Californian scientists learn in one hour what had been written in a Chicago paper?

He then moved onto fatigue or rather the concept of fatigue. Those of you who have read the book Brain Training For Runners will be familiar with the concept that the brain controls the runner's performance. Noakes took this concept and illustrated it with his Model for Fatigue.
The brainless runner can be best described as an athlete on a treadmill whose speed is set by his coach or a scientist. There is no input from the athlete. The coach can increase the speed and keep increasing it until the athlete collapses with fatigue.
The Runner With A Brain is a different animal! He can set the pace according to the signals he receives from his brain. These continuous signals cover both physiological and psychological input from all the systems in his body. He therefore can decide how to run according to the conditions. Heat was one of these conditions on which Noakes concentrated. He asked is weight a factor in the performance difference between E.African and white athletes.
He pointed out that the average weight of the African runners they surveyed is 53.9kg whilst that of the US runners was 63.7kg. Heat loss is greater according to the heavier weight of the athlete. Therefore, the white, heavier athlete is going to suffer more in the heat. And, as he knows this, his brain will ensure he sets off at a slower pace than the African in order to ensure he doesn't overheat. Beaten before he starts.
Further, an examination of split times of Gebresellaise's world records show that his fastest kilometer is always his last. How could that be when he is so tired? In contrast, the record breaking white runners splits were normally slower at the end, a steadier run in other words. Noakes said that the indicator of fatigue should be the inability to vary speed. In other words power input should vary all the time and the loss of that variation shows that fatigue has set in. He illustrated this by saying that tests of fresh runners show that their pace and stride length vary all through the run but when fatigue sets in, their pace and stride length become uniform. Hence the ability of the Africans to constantly vary the speed of their running during races, an ability that white athletes struggle to master.
Finally in this section before the break, he stated that instead of measuring VO2max in athletes to guage fitness they should be measuring muscle function as it is the brain's ability to recruit muscle fibres in exercise that governs how fit he is rather than heart and lung function.

Noakes summed up by saying that man evolved as an endurance runner(and nothing explains sprinting evolution!) He is built to resist the effects of water loss!
The body will also excrete excess sodium through sweat and urine, but is able to withstand low levels of sodium although it requires calcium to fire the muscles. Hormones control the conservation of water and salt in the body. (These hormones are rendered less effective by overhydration and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAID).


At this point we adjourned for refreshments.

In part 3 ...... my chat with Noakes and his explanation for my increased level of creatine kinase after the WHWR!
Also Noakes gets more time to lecture and an insight into Ethiopian training.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Glasgow Running Seminar 2009 Part 1

Glasgow Athletics Association, in conjunction with Glasgow University, organised the Glasgow Running Seminar 2009, and I was privileged to attend it yesterday
In 2009, the fifth anniversary of the first East African Running Conference held in May 2004 will be celebrated, and the focus is once again on East African Running.

The presenters were to be:

*Professor Timothy D Noakes, MBChB, MD, DSc, FACSM: Founding Member: International Olympic Committee's Olympic Science Academy; Fellow: American College of Sports Medicine; 1992 Elected Fellow of the University of Cape Town for sustained excellence in original scientific work; 2001 Ministerial Commission into High Performance Sport in South Africa; Author; Lore of Running

*Dr Yannis Pitsiladis, FACSM: Research Scientist based in Glasgow who acts as Scientific Adviser to Global Sport Communications.

*Mr Tolosa Kotu Terfe: Former National Coach for Ethiopia. Has coached Meseret defar, Genzebe Dibaba. He "discovered" Kenenise Bekele and worked with Heille Gebresellaise for eight years.

*Dr Bezabih Wolde Hataou: Former Secretery of the Ethiopian Olympic Committee and the Ethiopian Athletics Federation. Dr Hataou has worked with Elite Athletes advising on injury rehabilitation, nutrition, providing physiotherapy and sport massage services.

Dr Hataou was a non-arrival but we were told that Tolosa Kotu Terfe would incorporate much of the content into his talk. Unfortunately the Ethiopian was a let down (IMO). He was intent on telling us more about himself in very rambling talk that was saved by Yannis Pitsilidis running his slides for him allowing us to take the "meat" of his talk down in notes.

The first speaker was Pitsilidis who hosted the event. He works in Glasgow Uni and his research has taken him on several visits to South and East Africa with PHd students. He also spoke at the previous Glasgow Seminar in 2004 where the (theoretical)genetic differences between the E. African elite runners and mere mortals with white skin was suggested as the reason for the huge gap in running standards.
His research has since taken him into contact with all the top runners who readily agreed to supply DNA for examination. The task - to find the performance gene. They have examined the general population in Kenya and Ethiopia as well as elite runners in 5k,10k, and marathon. They also examined the socio-economic circumstances of both the control and elite runners and their school travel habits! After all, it is said that the reason East Africans are so good is due to the aerobic base laid down by running to school.
To cut a long story short, they found that the DNA of all humans is 99.9% identical!
Scientists in Japan are in the process of examining the genome that will probably confirm the finding that there is NO genetic difference in these athletic types.(Examination of West African origin sprinters showed no genetic difference in them either!)

Yannis then went on to examine the school travel habits of the general population.
The general population were taken from the students of colleges and universities they were visiting who were not athletes. They found that 24% ran to school, 60% walked and the remaining 16% traveled by other means (car, bus, cycle).
In the elite athlete sample, 60% ran, 29%walked and 11% used transport. It was also noted that nearly all Kenyans and Ethiopians who were elite athletes lived in small areas at altitude. Indeed 80% of Kenyans were from the Rift Valley of whom 40% were from the village of Nandi and 80% were from one tribe: the Kalanjeni. (sp?)
He showed an amazing video clip of a 10 yr old boy running with a VO2max measuring mask and electronic gauge. This boy ran at 16km/hr before exhaustion came as he attempted 20Kph! He had no training background!
Older students who did the same test, again ran at fast pace of up to 20kph with no training background.
How could this be?
The answer was fairly simple. When asked how he could do it, the runner simply thought that was how you ran! This was a theme - faith in his own ability- that recurred later in the seminar. East Africans run that way because it is a natural instinct, born of evolution.
Mike Boit was interviewed as part of the research. His belief is that they are great runners due to:
Solid base;
High Altitude camps;
Non scientific approach - natural instinct;
Aerobic training;
Interval training (known to them as bone-breakers);
Altitude training different from western approach; (E.African athletes live at varying heights from 2,400m to 3,000m, but when they leave home to run they start by climbing even higher. They do drop down to do speedwork but generally the rule is "Live high, train higher) as opposed to our athlete's rule of "live high train low")
Cross country training;
African diet;
Non scientific approach to training (no drugs, supplements or technology) only high tech apparatus is a stopwatch - no Garmins!!!
Superior fatigue resistance.

As regards the diet,it is summarised as 86% vegetable, 14% animal and 77% carbohydrate. Much of the diet is maize (64%) eaten in the traditional form of Ugali.
Staple drink is tea.
Breakfast and dinner are eaten only after training (30 - 60 minutes after). (NB. In a later part of the seminar on hydration it is suggested that most of the fluid drunk each day should be taken with the main meal.)
It was noted (and again later in Tim Noake's presentation) that the E. Africans are so much lighter than their western counterparts. In 2006 it was noted that they were under eating by 9%. However their diet did include all the major micronutrients required to train effectively. They were NOT dehydrated.

One other point that Yannis made was that, in 2004 it was considered relevant that the lower leg morphology of the E.African was important in considering the superiority of their runners. That is to say very skinny legs. However that has been discredited in spectacular fashion. Just look at Bekele's legs!

Part two later.....
I apologise for an inaccuracies in this account. Blame my memory and handwriting!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

I was I'm Back

The optimistic post previous to this was as a result of demand that wasn't really backed by performance. However,things went fairly well as long as I stuck to the flat roads and trails or gym and swim sessions. But no substantial improvements other than the ability to guess JK's time on the Devil of the Highlands. My prize is in transit and I received an e-mail from Debs tonight saying she is in possession of said prize.
On Monday I went to try a serious session of resistance work. Serious in that I hadn't done much recently and took my son and heir to keep an eye on my session.
The session ended suddenly with a serious dizzy spell although I recovered enough to manage some swimming and aqua jogging and a sauna.
However an attempt to run some hills at the club was an abysmal failure and I didn't do anything today.
So. What's the problem? I'm gubbed, that's obvious but why?
An e mail arrived from Jennifer Cuthill giving me the results of blood and urine tests from the WHW race. Most being reasonable, but one was alarming. Not from a health point of view as the notes explained that a hugely elevated reading for muscle breakdown was not harmful in itself,even if accompanied by severe muscle pains as long as they resolve themselves within a few days and you continue to pass urine normally. That's fine, I was not experiencing any muscle problems and could pee for Scotland. However, my reading was 29,490 as opposed to a normal reading of under 210. That's an elevation of over 140 x normal.

Did anyone beat that?

I may be wrong but I think I'm entitled to a longer rest!

Meantime I've put on a stone in weight. And unless a certain Mr Steele is also putting weight on I reckon I'm now as fat as a WHW family member can be unless retired for a generation or two!!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

I'm back! Under Orders to Say so.

I managed a pain free run last night. About five easy miles with little undulation but enough to motivate Jim to demand a post with the title "I'm Back". Woke up this morning thinking that perhaps we celebrated too soon! I've been running slowly for the past the past couple of weeks and spending some time in the pool, aqua-jogging and swimming,in the gym gradually building up my quads and loosening my SI joints. Never thought I was getting anywhere until last night!

I've been a real couch potato, armchair sports fan and one thing I inherited from my old man was my ability to spend hour after hour watching sport, even cricket!

However my sporting highlight of the week, overshadowing even Ennis, Bolt et al., came in an e-mail from an old mate, Crawford Inglis. It took two parts. One, his delight in the achievement of his 9 year old son Callum completing a 26 mile sponsored cycle in aid of a cancer charity; Glasgow Universities annual Bikeathon that helps fund research at the Beatson and related establishments.
Crawford is a two times cancer survivor who is tireless in his efforts to fight this horrendous disease. My wife is living with Hodgkins Disease and his support when she was diagnosed was a tremendous help to me and my family.

Yesterday, whilst driving and listening to the radio, I heard a mention of Lance Armstrong and a peloton riding through the Gleniffer Braes. "Windup" I thought until an e mail and this photo came into my in-box.

Yep, the bold boy's hero was staying in Paisley, whilst here to watch U2, and asked for Crawford by name and requested his presence at the front of the peloton as company for the great one on his ride through the deepest, darkest suburbs of the town whose name must never be said out loud.....ssshhh.... Paisley! The highlight of Crawfords cycling life, I would think, and just reward for someone who bravely fought the disease - and continues the fight on behalf of those suffering and those yet to suffer.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Devil of The Highlands 2009 - a spectators view

I rose early on Saturday morning to head up to watch and take photos at the Devil which started at Tyndrum at 6am. As JR had an entry, I was going to offer to support him, as his sainted wife Helen had probably had enough of him at the Fling and the WHW and in any case they had had the grandkids for the past week or so. Jim hadn't recovered sufficiently from the big one,though, and decided to withdraw. However, race organiser Garry Milne asked him to support a couple of runners and he agreed to do so. He offered to give me a lift up, but as I wanted a bit of independence to take my photos, I decided to take my own car. Little did I realise that his two charges were Mark Leggett and Helen Johnson (1st lady) both of whom ran sub 7 hours!
In my last post I instructed all readers to SMILE a request that was met with a comment from the WHW RUNNER to the effect that he rarely had anything to smile about when running ultras! However, I managed to get one out of him at Bridge of Orchy so he'll have one to cherish!
After the race briefing, where I managed to speak with most of the familiar faces running, the field gathered at Brodies and set off on the dot of 6am.
I had no intention of entering and running the race, and indeed struggled to get any pace on the short run I had at Glencoe, but I really did envy them as the first section is amongst my favourites. After a pit stop I drove after the runners and managed a few long distance shots as they climbed the hill towards the rail crossing. Thomas, Neal and Caroline were amongst many who had stopped on the big layby north of Tyndrum to shout their encouragement across the glen. Driving on to Bridge of Orchy I parked south of the hotel so as not to further congest the checkpoint and after speaking to JR headed off on the trail above the railway for my next set of pics. One of Richie shows why he is such a terrific runner. He levitates!
Debbie and John were both having good runs and Ian can take smiling lessons from Debs any time!

As I left to go to Glencoe disaster struck. Placing my camera on the roof of the car whilst I took my jacket off, I promptly drove off without retrieving it. I heard it slide off and on examining it found the casing scraped and cracked. Worst, it would only work intermittently, sometimes not operating, sometimes not auto focusing, and, when flash was used, only getting a white screen. Fortunately, it worked a bit better when in sports action mode, so I used manual focus and managed to take reasonable photos the rest of the day.
On reaching Glencoe ski centre I ran to the top of the ridge onto Rannoch Moor managing to run quite freely on some sections but on rougher patches my knees sent the usual signal to the brain and I only managed about 35 minutes running - and I didn't get far. Did meet the leaders though and the only question I was asking was "Who will be third?" as the first two already had a lead of over 7 minutes as they passed me, although Paul Hart had a slight and inconsequential lead over Craig Stewart when they passed. I changed and drove down to Kingshouse where I met the Kynaston/Consani/Lohendorf/Scott supporters and managed to get a few photos although some were deleted due to lack of focus. John Foley was on his knees looking for an earring Aileen had dropped - he later found it in some clothing - and I promised him I would confirm he was looking! He reckoned Aileen wouldn't believe him!
Debbie looking really strong at this point and seemed to be having the time of her life running this race, and John was looking strong too although he would have a rough patch soon.
I reached Kinlochleven just after the leader (Craig) had gone through and saw Paul Hart about a couple of hundred yards behind. Grabbed a bite to eat before deciding that it was getting too busy in the streets and to head over to Fort William to await the leaders rather than going to Lundavra where I reckoned one less car would be one less bit of hassle for those with a need to be there. So I went to the finish and took photos for about an hour after the first finisher Craig Stewart.

I had a blether with a few supporters including Vicky, BH of second place Paul Hart. I've enjoyed reading her blogs over the past year as she recovered from injury and set about re- arranging her PB list. She ran at the Helensburgh 1/2 marathon this morning setting a cracking time at what I think was her first attempt at the distance.
Then JR appeared withgn the news that Helen was well ahead
of Debs in second place

with Aileen fading a bit to third, and that was how they finished.
Quite a few runners made the journey north just to watch the finish, including Marc Casey of Dumbarton, Davie and Sharon, Stevie, Adrian and others.Brilliant support for the race and the runners that I'm sure they appreciated.

Photos here

Due to technical problems (my incompetence) the last photo (Aileen)
appears first.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


Three re-unions to talk about. One was a very brief one with my training shoes as I set off this afternoon to see if a longer run tonight would be on the cards. Initially successful as my first steps did not involve searing pain through my knees or lower back, singing hamstrings or deep seated pain in my bum, I was soon reduced to a slow shuffle as the very short run wore on. I had stretched, exercised, cycled, aqua-jogged stair climbed and swam to little avail, but I just felt that I could get me along to jogscotland to run with one of the beginner groups. So that's what I did. About 20 minutes was all I managed although I did speed up a bit on a grassy section, but, what the heck, every journey begins but with a single step. I'll try again tomorrow. Hopefully things will gradually improve.
The other re-union was in the west end of the big city, Byres Rd to be precise. I was going with two of my former colleagues to meet up with an old colleague who had left the Strathclyde force 19 years ago to join British Transport Police, retired as a Chief Inspector and was currently on holiday from his new home in Perth, West Australia, where his wife is a paramedic. Colin is from Benbecula and, although a much reformed character, used to drink as a native born. We shifted some amount of booze back in the day, as did Billy and Jim who were with me. Surprisingly, call it age, not a drop was drunk as we met in one coffee shop, lunched on Pasta and finished up in another coffee shop. As soon as we settled into the first round of beans the volume went up several notches and the Queens English became a thing of the past as a few well chosen adjectives and verbs ensured an x certificate. When we went into the restaurant I asked the Maitre d'- ok the burd at the counter, for a table as far from decent people as possible as things would get more and more raucous. "Sorry" was her reply, "we don't use that section at lunchtime." That was a worry as there was a table of nine and ten-year-olds on a birthday outing very close. Not a problem. They made such a racket that we old fellas decided to cut and run after lunch and one round of cokes. No coffee. Couldn't wait to get away from the place where today's generation drowned out our loudest indiscretions.
We moved to another coffee shop where we continued "All Our Yesterdays". Unbelievably, four of Strathclyde's former finest had no alcohol whatsoever. No wonder the drinks business is going down the tubes. All you whisky connisseurs better lay down a good cellar. Diageos shares are about to plummet.

I also had a wee family re-union as the Hall clan of Irvine descended on Cardross in order that Darren and I could go to the pub next door to thank the staff and customers for their contribution to my fundraising on his behalf. The pub has an occasional Jazz Sunday, and on the last occasion they raised over £300. It was on the Sunday of the race so I didn't get back in time to say thanks that day.
Current total is over £1700 and there may be more to come as a few pledges have yet to be redeemed.

Finally, good luck to all on Saturday's "DEVIL OF THE HIGHLANDS". I hope to be up there taking a few photos. JR is providing back-up to a couple of runners but I'll take my own car so I'm not tied to him and I can get about that bit quicker. Remember to SMILE folks!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Kicking My Heels

It's been three, nearly four weeks since the WHW race and my quads and ITB just don't want to come out to play. I've tried several times but can't raise much more than a shuffle. Linda gave me a good massage on Wednesday, but still not right so I'll continue to give it time. Annoying, though, that I'm desperate to run and can't!
So, I've spent my time reading the WHW forum and blogs that have paid terrific tributes to Dario following his sad and unexpected death on Sunday. And good to see the humour in them, a reflection of the kind of guy he was and how much loved. His goblet presentation ceremony helped attract me to the race after I witnessed JR receiving his 12th goblet last year. There was something magical about this race and it all revolved round Dario. I wanted some! If I'd known then what I know now........

Last night I held the watch and recording sheet for the Milburn Harriers "Ted Baker" Pappert Well Hill Race over 5.25 miles and 900 feet. A great atmosphere as we met at race sponsor Big Pete's house in Bonhill where the race starts and finishes. A good race followed by some nice scoff and blether. JR was MC at the prizegiving where David Somerville (guest) and his partner Karen Lees collected the handicap prizes. Jim Watters (guest) was fastest gent and Catherine Wardlaw the fastest lady. Stevie Cowper was the fastest member and retained the trophy. Need to do something about a fastest lady prize though!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Fundraising Update - Running For Darren

With a few people still to be seen for their donations,due to holidays etc., the final total in my WHW Race fundraising effort, to raise some money for my great nephew Darren, looks like reaching £1600. The generosity shown has been humbling and breathtaking. Thanks to all readers who contributed!

Monday, 6 July 2009

I'm Not Lying Down!

Despite the pain in running yesterday, I decided to continue my recovery today. A session of self massage (ON MY QUADS!), and heat from a hot water bottle yesterday would hopefully allow some work in the gym. Into Dumbarton with Andrew where I bummed a freebie and spent 20 min. on a treadmill, 20 min. on a bike and 20 minutes on the aqua jogger. Followed by a sauna and a good walk without any great discomfort. I'll try a gentle run tomorrow morning than attempt to run at the club tomorrow. Failing which I'll go back to the gym to break sweat and gradually return my limbs to working order.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Now I Know Why.....

..... Jim tells me to slow down. It's to train me to cope with the speed I reached on this afternoon's run. I could have walked faster, seriously!
My feet are all but healed, just some lingering bruising on my heel pad that causes me some discomfort first thing in the morning, and I'm walking pretty freely and feeling quite good. So why not run? I set off just as Roddick squared at 2 sets all and was nearly home in time to see the fourth game of the fifth set! From the first step out of the gate I was in agony as my ITB and quads combined to make me shuffle like I did on the Lairig Mor. I was embarrassed running past the pub next door, as the lone smoker outside obviously looked healthier than me, and the strange looks I got from passing cars made me cringe!
I managed to hobble down onto the foreshore and along as far as the footbridge before calling it quits and heading home. A last effort on the small hill on Peel St. was my last attempt to raise a gallop, but was too painful to continue. It was as if the past fortnight's enforced rest had never happened. I was still in the same form as I finished the WHW Race in - crippled. So I need to do some rehab. Heat, massage and stretching this afternoon, and I'll try some aqua jogging tomorrow.Maybe by the end of the week I'll be able to run with JR.... if he'll wait for me!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Thoughts On A Few Race Related Subjects.

Time for a bit of analysis of my race and preparations prior to starting training again as my feet start to resemble normality.
This bit is probably a bit boring and will take FURTHER two weeks holiday to read, but if your name is Sandra…. This is it!

The age old question is of course “Did I do enough?” Probably not but I finished so it worked. Now I need to analyse what I did, how I did it and why I did it.
I had two basic needs to fulfil. Get used to trail running, and increase the distance I was able to run. I also had to consider my poor, aging body. Maybe not as poor as some, definitely not as aged as some but nonetheless previous experience warned me that the result previously of over extending myself was extremely painful and on one occasion left me in hospital. My ethos was then to ensure I recovered sufficiently from training runs before moving on. That said I attended most club sessions in particular the 12 mile Tuesday runs being very enjoyable and probably the most rewarding fitness wise. I didn’t always enjoy the Thursday interval sessions but did most of them. Getting onto trails was pretty much a new experience and one that I loved. Some good trails locally and the WHW and Arrochar trails were well used, either alone or with groups.
Long runs were gradually increased, although prior to the Fling I managed only a 34 miler and after the Fling I was so tired and recovered so slowly that I only went past that distance in the WHW race. So every step past Tydrum was a step beyond anything I had ever done. It was tough, but no tougher than I should have expected given the excellent advice that I was given throughout my training. I have been told that a good run in the race is a two year project, and even three, thereby rubbishing the theory that you shouldn’t start training for it until the New Year. Specific training for the race, yes, but I am realising that this race is an all year round obsession and that every step I took since this time last year was taken in preparation for the race. That said, this year already looks like it was preparation for next years! Yes I think I’m in!

Back up – When I ran the Fling, Mairi and Andrew were my backup, and after finishing and making my mind up to run the WHW race they made it clear that they were happy to carry on – or at least that is what I read into their reaction! When I confirmed to my extended family that we would be Running For Darren, my sister’s family were unanimous in offering their help. Little did I know that Mairi’s stubbornness to see the race through would mean she more or less refused to take the role halfway, as I had meant, and only at Braveheart did she get some sleep, although she allowed Grant to drive her after she parked at the Leisure centre to go to Lundavra. Ally and Andrew were both pretty much adamant that they would run part of the way, and as other options did not materialise they became my support runners. Lack of experience (in the case of all of us!) meant that in hindsight we could have improved things, but hindsight is an exact science and you live and learn. All of the mistakes were mine, I could have asked no more from my team!

Drinks - I can’t complain about my drinks strategy other than to say that my boot is still packed with un-used bottles of fluids. Fling experience meant that I would drink more and that Coke diluted 50-50 with water was going to be a staple. I also had plenty of water (and we bought more enroute!), Gatorade and Redbull or the Morrison’s own brand, both bought just because they were on offer in my local supermarket. Funnily enough, Gatorade, drunk copiously during my support of JR last year caused me to pee just as copiously and I vowed to avoid it. However, my Fling experience of failure to pee, made me put it back in the car as I wanted the comfort blanket of piddling to assure me I wasn’t having problems!

Food – definitely a work in progress. After a while I just can’t chew, so need easily swallowed stuff to keep me going. I used plenty of Honey Stingers, chew bars, supplemented by occasional fruit, PB and J sandwiches, beans, Muller rice, chocolate bars and crisps. Heaven was half a roll and Heinz ravioli at KLL – hot too!
One thing I meant to take - and forgot! – was rice crispies. I like them before a morning training run and I think I’d also add some porridge that could provide good carbs with the minimum of effort.

Blog – A bit of a controversy here! On Saturday night, drink having been taken, a few of the Millie members ( Sandra!) took me to task for the way I refer to JR on my blog. They felt I am unreasonably harsh and make fun of him. Hopefully, we sorted that out at the time. I would be devastated to find that anyone had been hurt by any comment I made, JR in particular. Yes, I write down my thoughts, but never say anything I wouldn’t or haven’t said to him in person. He added his tuppence worth to the discussion and assured me he never took offence at anything I said and confirmed to the others that when we had differences of opinion, it was face to face and usually on a Thursday in the cafĂ©, post training. He further added that no matter how much I may have disagreed, the fact that I finished was proof positive that I had listened!

Writing this blog is my training diary, a plea for advice that is often fruitful, as I receive many comments and e mails offering advice and encouragement. It lets me set out my thoughts and bares my soul to my readers. As a motivational tool it kept me going in the darkest days when doubts came into my mind and allowed me to express my joy in those moments when I simply had to tell someone what was going on, and I was on my own in the wee small hours. It may be boring, corny, boastful, or just plain garbage, but it’s mine and serves me well.

Feet – Finally, the big problem I have to overcome is the damage I have incurred to my plates. Since I was born with very flat feet, that have amazed podiatrists and occasionally rendered them speechless, I will always have an uphill battle to run without problems. As I said before I have ended up in hospital with swollen feet and limbs that were suspected of having venous thrombosis and probably the result of my running gait due to the lack of arches. Over-pronator? MOI? The word has my pic next to it in the dictionary. But thanks to orthotic insoles the problem has been largely alleviated. I asked Blair at Achilles Heel if she thought the orthotic she made me would stand up to the rigours of running the WHW race. Her answer was that the insoles would survive it, but would I?
The orthotics were unfortunately the start of my problems. It may have been the socks or shoes causing the orthotics to slide about a bit, or just the terrain, but I found the edge of my foot just outside and below the ankle were getting sore from Drymen onward. If I had changed shoes then, there may have been less of a problem, but I didn’t. so the problem got worse. My feet also started swelling at about the same time and again I could have and should have changed things.
Then there were the blisters. JR’s advice was to moisturise and I followed that advice.
But the problems I had were dreadful and I will reassess this for next year. I’ll stick with it until the autumn and see if I have any problems in training. I can always go to the surgical spirit method as a trial before making my mind up.
I am however reminded of the Marathon De Sables competitor who said it was a matter of luck and you could do the race for years and have no problem and then you get a blister on the first stage and that does your race.

Next year – Although I have till August to decide whether I’ll run next year, I feel I have unfinished business and the chances are I’ll be on the entry list when it’s published. My niece wants to do support for me and I think I’ll have to fight off the boys who seem to have enjoyed themselves supporting. That said, there may be more support runners available from the club next time!

Tomorrow will be 2 weeks since the end of my race and I haven’t run an inch. I will try to run tomorrow………

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A New Title For My Blog

A quote taken from Tomo Thomson's blog inspired a name change for my blog. I just realised that it had happened to me during the crossing of the Lairig Mor. What a feeling. I remember thinking that those who climbed mountains every year to see sunrise on the summer solstice would be disappointed due to heavy cloud, but realising it was pretty special to be doing what I was doing, no matter how much it hurt. Many of my non-running friends had told me I was mad to be doing the WHW Race. Now I look forward to telling them I was one of the privileged few who had been lapped by the sun.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Greetings from the other BBQ

I was gutted when Milburn, my club, decided to have a BBQ on the same night as the Beattie's "Official" post WHWR do, but as secretary had to do the decent thing and support my own club, not that for a second this is difficult, as Millies are definitely on the more sociable side of party animals.
Pat Burns who has several race finishes was the chef and I as usual was official photographer. Head barperson was whoever Jim Robertson nominated when his glass was empty. A sad lack of musical choice led me back to the car where I introduced the membership to the two Jackie Albums left in my CD rack by my wife last weekend. These are collections of oldies from when the Jackie magazine was required reading for all teenage girls - and their brothers! It even comes with Posters of Donny Osmond and David Cassidy (a young Davie Hall lookalike!) that had the "ladies who run" swooning in appreciation.
Food, drink, music, Strathclyde Police helicopter overhead, balloons released from somewhere nearby, and dry weather made for an enjoyable evening.
Then Jim Robertson stood up to give a small congratulatory speech and club mementos of engraved medals to the four club members who were finishers in the West Highland Way Race; Geraldine, Jimmy Brian and I and, on behalf of the Highland Fling Race, the final finishers walking stick to Christine and Geraldine.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening, that is already on next years agenda. I've asked already to avoid the clash of dates. A guy only gets out a few times a year after all.
In the meantime my feet are still burning and my darling wife has shorn all the dead skin from my soles, the last duty of a fine support crew.
Next year? Not discounted but I have to find a new driver as it really was too much for Mairi. In the meantime Andrew, my son and heir, has purloined my Camelbak and on Friday went on a 12 mile trail run! maybe I'll be supporting him. Will that still get me to the Beattie's BBQ?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

WHWR 2009 Photos

Posted photos here
Sorry that most are of me. My crew were a bit blinkered!

Monday, 22 June 2009

West Highland Way Race 2009 (I Have a Goblet)

Like 146 others who started the race on Saturday morning I am now realising that the human brain is extremely capable of letting you know just how little it appreciates the effort required in running the 95 miles from Milngavie to Fort William. Nerve receptors are receiving loud and clear messages, whether it is the sting of raw soles, the constant ache of the achilles or the sharp objections to any kind of movement.
There is however one way of displacing the pain. Turn your head to the right, slowly now.... look at that glass goblet on top of the cabinet yes the one beside the Highland Fling bubbly (unopened(!)), and wipe the tear from your eye!

Race Report

Take a couple of weeks off work, get a glass or mug of whatever is your pleasure and a comfy seat. It's a roller coaster ride!

If it were up to me I would be in the car park at Milngavie at 7pm to savour the build up, but my wife and son, Mairi and Andrew, are more circumspect and we eventually left the house around 10pm. One mile along the road and I asked "Where's my wallet?" Home again I searched in the usual places, only for Andrew to find it in the car boot!
Off again with a stop and a strop at ASDA where Mairi wanted to pick up face wipes and, of course we ended up filling a basket with a few extras. Then we went to the self checkout. You know, the one that speeds you through, saves time, and gets you on your way in quick time? Cue Davie in a show of temper and frustration as everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. I'll spare the details. The language is censored anyway!
Arriving at the station car park in Milngavie I started to see many of those runners, bloggers, legends and assorted nutters whose wit and wisdom has become a part of my life. I had a wee prezzie for one of them. A Holland and Barrett "Wallaby Bar" had been purchased with Keith Hughes in mind. If I knew then what I know now, I would have had him certified. Not content with running the race in under 24 hours, he kept going! He's still on tracker as I write Fort Augustus.
Blood and urine donated, weight checked and I'm nearly the fattest B****d in the race although not quite! A blether with a few friends,(nice to meet Rachel for the first time), best wishes exchanged with everyone and then the registration area emptied for the pre-race briefing at the underpass. A quick bye-bye to Mairi and Andrew and we were called to the start.

Milngavie to Rowardennan
I started near the back with fellow Milburn runners Geraldine,Brian,Jimmy and Jim; a nice steady first mile, but found myself getting uncomfortable with a short stride necessary to stop me from clicking Jimmy's heels, so moved past them. A short time later and I had moved away, although I didn't feel myself getting any faster. Quick blethers with various people before I found myself with Keith. He had been sweeper last year, but kept going for a finish and I had a lot of time in his company when I ran with JR at the end of his race to his 12th goblet. Past Carbeth and he moved away and, for the first time, I found myself pretty much on my own for a couple of miles. My head lamp and hand torch were doing a good job lighting the path in the grey, overcast, moonless night. The first time I saw Andrew was at Beechtree where I swopped my drinks bottle. I had ensured I was well hydrated prior to the start, and was relying on small, assorted energy bars to keep my sugar levels up until I got to Drymen where I would take a break. After Dumgoyach and the Beechtree we came to the section where there are an interminable number of gates. I have always disliked this part due to the "after you Claude" manners displayed. Not that I'm rude you understand but I just think it slows us down. I fell in with Davie Hay whom I knew would run a sensible race and he was a "sensible runner" marker for me. Eventually he went away but only after stopping a couple of times. He wasn't to finish so he may have been having problems very early. Next to have the pleasure of my company was the amazing Chris Moon MBE,double amputee having lost his lower right arm and leg in a minefield. I introduced myself and had a blether about his Edinburgh Marathon(4.02). At this stage of the race he was running with his "blade" prosthetic. It looked unstable on the road but he was flying on the downhills.
In the Fling I reached Drymen in 1.55 and suffered. My aim today was 2.30 and not to see any (George Reid) of those I had ran with in April. Tick the box!
As I stood with Andrew the twins Pauline and Fiona went through and as I climbed up into forest I caught them. At the Edinburgh information evening they stole the show with their infectious humour and Fiona related the story of how she was enjoying herself so much on the final stages that she started to sing to herself. The song? "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen. We had a blether about our mutual interest in JogScotland and their forthcoming Commonwealth Championships in September.
Onto Conic Hill I pulled away from them only to be caught and passed by Karen Donaghue. Well if I wasn't to see George, I had to see Karen. The first signs of a problem came in my right foot. I was wearing my usual Mizuno Wave Riders with the insole replaced by my orthotic inserts and I started to feel discomfort on the outside of my foot just forward of my ankle. I think the orthotic was being pushed outwards by the trail surface. My feet were also swelling and may have been a contributory factor. At Balmaha I made my first mistake. Coming down the hill I was passed by club-mate Brian, and then, when in the car park getting fed and watered, Jimmy and Geraldine came in. The competitive instinct kicked in and off I went to get and hopefully stay ahead of them. And I forgot to loosen off my shoes that by this time were getting tight in the "lace" area.
My last talk with JR had been on Wednesday after training and his advice was not to chase anyone, or race anyone. One mile, later I had to stop to re-tie my laces and made a pigs ear of that as I pulled the wrong way and knotted the laces. I lost 5 minutes re-tying but, going again,felt the better of it although the swelling would return soon than I liked. The roller-coaster ride that is Balmaha to Rowardennan was going fine, better than the Fling anyway, due to the more sensible pace. I spent some time in the company of The Subversive Runner and his mate Martin Hooper, pointing out across the Loch the village of Luss where I spent four years as the village cop. Contrast that with Dave's current career as a fire fighter in "Lahndon".
I reached Rowardennan in 6.16 and promptly took 15 minutes to refuel and rest my feet in my chair. I saw the twins go past me (again)and spoke to Jimmy who was going fine. This time though, when they (he, Brian and Geraldine) left, I let them go, and concentrated on food and drink. My main energy source was Honey Stingers, Brunch Bars and rice puddings,PB and J sandwiches, grapes and bananas. Until the latter stages I was able to eat regularly and well, although some of the drier stuff was difficult to chew. Liquid-wise, water from my camelbak, mixed coke and water, gatorade kept me well hydrated.

Rowardennan to Auchtertyre

As you leave Rowardennan the Way is on probably the best continual surface of the entire course. It's a lovely run, or, on race day, walk, with spectacular views west. I really enjoyed this section although I don't recollect seeing too many people. What was worrying me that due to race rules and the impossibility of access I wouldn't be seeing Mairi and Andrew until reaching Carmyle cottage, a lonely 5 hour gap. Throughout the race, or at least until the Devil's Staircase I was able to maintain a good walking pace, strong confident strides eating up the miles. And doesn't time fly when you are enjoying yourself. My head only had one tune in it; Live and Let Die. Fast strides, slow strides, medium strides, there is a pace in there somewhere!
Even when reaching the rougher bits south on Inversnaid I was making good progress and guess what? I caught the twins just as we reached the hotel. I stopped though, they never! Chris passed me as I was munching, going well. How would he find the next bit I wondered? Rucksack replenished, nutrition taken and I was off again, on what used to be my least favourite part of the course. That title is now held by the Kingshouse to Kinlochleven section; every last millimetre of it!
Today however, I was fine although I was starting to realise that I should have changed shoes at Rowardennan as my continually swelling feet got sorer by the hour. I gradually caught up with Chris and Dinah, who was just behind him and whom I had met on one of the Glee Club training runs. We also share a Jogleader role, she in her Argyllshire village. Any worries I had about Chris were put to rest as he flowed over the terrain, and when I passed him at an appropriate place I realised he was doing so carrying his carrier bag in his artificial hand! He assured me his eggs were already scrambled! A water refill at Bein Glas Farm campsite was all we were allowed due to objections from the landowners regarding the access to the area by supporters. I was suddenly disheartened. Don't tell them, but I was missing Mairi and Andrew. In the Fling I reached here totally out of it, dehydrated and exhausted, forced to take a half hour rest. Today my legs were fine but I was worried about Mairi being worried about me! I knew she wouldn't be happy until she saw me again as she was shocked by my appearance on the Fling. I had done my best to ensure no repeat and hoped that this would re-assure her. Mark passed me somewhere around here, looking forward to meeting up with his four-legged training partner Molly. Unfortunately, although I recollect seeing them later in the race at one of the checkpoints, he doesn't appear on the finishing list. Next time, Mark!
Glen Falloch has always been one of my favourite places, but some of the climbs were taking their toll and my feet were fit to bursting. My rucksack was also causing me some back pain and I couldn't wait to get to Carmyle where I'd change shoes and get back to a bum bag. A great welcome here from Murdo and the other stewards and supporters. A smile on Mairi's face as she realised I was still going strong despite the ever gaining distance. I changed my shoes, pulling on my Salomon Trail shoes for the rest of the race. I benefiited from the better stability, but eventually blisters became a serious problem, of which more later. Quite a few came in to Carmyle as I was eating and when I got going I realised that, for once, I was getting out of a checkpoint ahead of them! They were becoming important to me as Fiona's target time was 25.59.59(!). I thought at that time it was a decent pace to set, allowing myself a fair drop off in the latter stages to finish with respectability. Although I had never set myself a time target other than a rough 3 hour period that I thought was achievable, I now realise that my good progress to here had started my brain working (never a good thing) and I was starting to look for silly targets. Off up the hill, unusually dry as I remember, perhaps the coos are constipated. Into Ewich Forest, a roller-coaster to end roller-coasters, meeting walkers on a more regular basis, buoyed by their encouragement. I love this section, even the uphills! There's something about being in the forest that gives me a good feeling. Racehorse trainers say that horses run faster passing trees. Maybe it's the thoroughbred in me!
Andrew refreshed my bottle at the A82 crossing and I knew I didn't have far to go before meeting the rest of my support team and supporters at Auchtertyre.
Regular readers of the blog will know that I had good reason for completing the race. Darren Cousar, 5 on Friday is my nieces youngest son. He has a condition known as Tetrasomy 18P and I was using the race as a means to raise some money to fund any of his future needs. He was meeting me here, and I was filling up at the thought. As I ran towards the wigwams Darren's dad, Ian, and brother, Jack, met me and ran in with me to the checkpoint for a family re-union. My sister Anne and her husband Grant, their son Ally, my 2nd support runner and his sister and Darren and Jack's mum, Sarah Jane, the daughter Mairi and I never had! Don't tell her I wrote that!
At the checkpoint I was weighed and had a massage in an effort to ease my back. as a qualified sports massage therapist I think I'm able to say that guy knew what he was doing! Unfortunately, I only managed a few more miles before the problem re-curred. I also introduced myself to the Strathaven crew who were running the checkpoint, inclding Mrs Mac's mum and dad. Then the lady herself appeared as if from no-where. She heard me and got out of the car where she had been preparing to go looking for her soul-mate the Subversive Runner who was still behind me (and would remain so as he struggled to the end and a goblet to slay the dragon of last year's DNF. Well done,Dave. As I was eating in the car park those twins went past again. I wouldn't see them again until the presentation. Time for stage 7.15, cumulative 13.31.

Auchtertyre to Bridge of Orchy
After a long break I went off again to Tyndrum where I had an appointment with a cup of coffee from my Magic Mug refilled (again) for free at the Real Food Cafe, sponsors of this and the Highland Fling races. And an unexpected pleasure of several Millies, Steph, Pat(and his son Daniel and his son) Ali and Christine and Chris. (apologies if I've missed anyone). A pleasure too, to see Julie and Jimmy from my JogScotland group. By this time I was spending a lot of time in the checkpoints, but felt that a) the additional rest would do no harm and, b)I was enjoying and appreciating seeing everyone. Mentally it was a spur; tiredness was setting in badly and I knew that every step I took from this point was a step further than I had ever run before.
I like the next bit. Open paths with few technical problems, stunning views and it isn't far! Overtaking plenty of runners, and being overtaken by a few,progress was good. Chris had gotten past me, probably at Auchtertyre, and as he approached the railway station I thought he was staggering about the road a bit and worried about him passing the scrutiny of the race marshall, the Lord of the Bridge, Sean Stone.
I was to find out later that he had actually been fine at that point, the reason for him taking up so much of the path was down to the pain in his stump.
Into the checkpoint at Bridge of Orchy in 3.03 for a cumulative time of 16.34. That included my time out in both Auchtertyre and Tyndrum, so I was pretty happy with my pace, especially the speed at which I was walking the uphill sections.
Again some time out and found the Subversive Runner's backup team included a masseur, so I wangled a back massage again. More soothing than the first one but, again, got the seal of approval!

Bridge of Orchy to Kinghouse
Knowing I had the Rannoch Moor to cross, I arranged to meet my support briefly at both Inveroran and Forest Lodge but I had an unexpected bonus as I ascended out of Bridge of Orchy when I met Steph and his dog. They had walked up the hill with Jimmy and they were kind enough to turn right round and do the same for me. That helped and Steph was good at saying all the right things about the progress I was making. At Inveroran and Forest Lodge I took on fluids prior to starting the climb over the Moor. No matter that I've been across there several times in the past year, I am always caught unawares by just how far it is! I was very much alone here. The two Americans, Sue and Rob were always in sight but even though I was catching them I never did and eventually they went away from me. A very few walkers on this section as it was getting late and suddenly I was overtaken by tiredness and backache necessitating a seat on a bridge parapet. Only a couple of minutes but suddenly I had a new lease of life and pounded on at a fast pace knowing that at Kinghouse I would have the company of either Andrew or Ally for the rest of the race. Still, the first sighting of Kinghouse Hotel seemed a bit further than I remembered. Stage time 3.58, Cumulative 20.32.

Kinghouse to Kinlochleven
It didn't seem long before I was off again, keen to get as much of the quickly disappearing light as possible. I was also spurred on by the knowledge that Geraldine was only five minutes ahead of me when I came into the checkpoint. I couldn't see her there, so wrongly assumed she had left ahead of me. Only when I caught up with the two groups ahead did I realise she had remained at the checkpoint. Ally had opted for the first section of my support, Andrew the second, and whoever survived best, the third. This section was the only section I had never ran or walked either in training or whilst supporting Jim last year. That was a mistake. It would almost end my race, but my thoughts soon after the race were that if I had climbed it before I would never have started! Hopefully that memory will fade.
After first overtaking Sue and Rob, they re-took their place and then we passed a group of four before starting the ascent at Altnafeadh. This I found to be a long arduous ascent. Enjoyable when fresh, I'm sure. But 70 odd miles into the race it was a real struggle and seemingly never ending. Ally was in his element though. 17yrs old and a keen walker he was amazed by what he saw around him in the gathering gloom. Good company and never allowing me to get too negative, even though he was finding his uncle had a few more words in his vocabulary than he realised. I struggled to the top and, only as I reached the top, realised I had nearly twice as far to come down to sea level. Oh joy! And the terrain in the dark was worst than anything I'd seen previously. Worst was to come. Just after the first steep section my left knee suddenly became extremely painful. On the outside just on the knobbly bit and I realised my ITB had decided to say it wasn't having fun. Progress suddenly became very slow and painful, my knee buckling under my weight and the blisters that I had been ignoring starting screaming at me. The lights that proved to be Kinlochleven seemed too far away to be reachable given the mileage on this section and I became more and more disheartened. Then I saw a small sign that promised salvation. Remote rescue were just around the next corner and one of them had an elastic knee brace that solved the problem for my knee for a long time. Thanks!!
They told me I had two miles to go, but either he was completely wrong or I was going so slowly that I was doing about 25 minute miles! Even when I hit the truck track below the power station it seemed an eternity before I got to Kinlochleven. On the way down we met a support runner coming up looking for Chris Moon. I hadn't seen Chris since Bridge of Orchy but his support runner had left him at Kinghouse to drive a car to Kinlochleven. Rather than wait there, he decided to walk up but was extremely concerned that the terrain would prove very difficult. We advised him of the Remote Rescue point and we continued down. Caught by two runners on the way down from the summit and another four just as we entered Kinlochleven, the field was extremely spread out, We had seen lights of about six or seven groups below us as we reached the summit of the Staircase, and I wondered where they had all gone.
I reported into the surgery and got a huge cuddle from the lovely Geraldine MacInnes. A nice surprise that had my family a bit stunned but not as much as when her mother who was assisting realised, when she saw Andrew, that two of her best friends were in fact, my mother and father-in-law! A small world with one small problem..... DQ and I are closer than we thought!
Stage time 4.03 Cumulative 24.35

Kinlochleven to Lundavra

Andrew took over support and we set off up the hill towards the Lairig Mor, a climb I was not looking forward to as memories of last year's downpour came back. It was indeed a hard climb but my knee was holding out although the heat in the soles of my feet was getting unbearable. I had decided not to remove my shoes to examine them, choosing to try and block out the pain with the help of my wife's painkillers. Doc Ellis had offered some but I'm sure the one I was using would have been a bit iffy for him to prescribe!
Then we crested the final rise and the Lairig opened up before us, a white-ish ribbon in the darkness. Weird, that in the darkness with no moon, the luminousity of the surface allows it to shine out. It was a long trudge, but again Andrew was a brick, no negativity, and tons of encouragement. We were a team so much so that we started seeing the same shapes in the rocks and grassy tussocks. I had been told all sorts of stories about hallucinations, from sheep to tank regiments. Mind you if I saw a tank I'd only think that Dave Waterman had arranged a taxi home!
A quick chat and a drink from the rescue coverage at the ruined farmhouse (together with another wonky distance estimate - I wonder how these guys measure the fish they catch?)and off to Lundavra with not another soul in sight. The gathering dawn brought even more figments of my imagination, including the second ruin looking like a ship or landing craft. How long is the run to Lundavra? I bet I'm not the only person asking that, but that road sure does go on and on. And still no-one behind us. Surely we should be losing ground at the speed I was walking.
Eventually getting there in 3.33 for 28.08 cumulative. Now I was really struggling, but I was met at the checkpoint by Grant and Ally as well as a lot of other support waiting on their charges. Red Bull didn't give me wings, but Ally joined Andrew and I setting off on the last leg. And on the first hill disaster struck when my left knee went again. I tried massaging it, and it was a painful process, as I'm sure anyone who has had an ITB rubbed will attest. I slowed to an absolute crawl and getting over stiles was a nightmare. The only light moment came when I saw a man standing with his dog just off the path. I pointed him out to Ally and Andrew and both of them agreed that was what it was. No. Another hallucination,but we were such a team we were having the same hallucination! Down into the forest where some of the descents were torture. I ended up walking with my arms round the shoulders of my two buddies and somehow we ended up at the top of the last hill. I remember last year when JR reached this point, (which has changed in appearance due to new road construction and is sadly spoiled a bit)he had a smile as wide as the Clyde on his face as he realised it was all down hill from here. I didn't, as going down was worst than going up! Suddenly two runners came past. At a speed. I thought they might be some of the support runners or elite runners out for a training run. Then I saw the number on their back! Where had they been? No way should anyone behind me be capable of such speed. Sleeping in Kinlochleven, that's where. Turned out they were knackered by going too fast earlier and now, rejuvenated, had decided to completely demoralise me by flying home. I sent Ally ahead to warn the others that I was struggling down and kept plodding on. I tried a run, well OK a shuffle and that seemed to ease things a bit for a while. Then I saw Anne walking up the hill with Ally and knew we weren't far from Braveheart. Unbelievably, I pulled my jacket and fleece off, then the T shirts (not a pretty sight) and pulled on my Milburn L/S tee before turning onto the home straight. Mairi stayed in the car, I thought sleeping, but she didn't want to see me in the state I was in. Sarah Jane and the boys who had gone to the caravan for a sleep after we left Bridge of Orchy were there too, and as they drove past me on the way to the leisure centre she shouted "You're looking good" as per race support instructions not to be negative. Then she said "Only a mile and a half to go!" What? No it can't be. Please. Pretty please?
On my own again as the entire crew went on to give Dario the shock of being invaded, I broke into a shuffle. Then realised that Fort William gets up early to either run or applaud idiots that run all the way from Milgavie. Tears streaming, I stopped at the roundabout to wipe them away and then rounded the last bend into the car park to grab wee Darren's hand to cross the line with the only person in the world for whom I'd finish the race in that state. Not that I wouldn't have gone as far as Braveheart for all of the rest of them!

Stage time 2 hrs 46.49 (felt like more) Finishing time 30.54.49

Finished! And was I glad? Well I wasn't turning somersaults, but after giving blood, a shower and a cuddle from Mairi I started to feel a bit better. The only problem was that Geraldine was still out there and they hadn't heard a dicky-bird from her, but eventually word got back that she was on her way in. I was still in the reception area when Chris finished, tired but happy. An amazing guy who is an inspiration. He had struggled but like 121 others he had succeeded in achieving the Holy Grail - a goblet.
Finally I managed a pee for the doc and headed off for some brekkie at the caravan, a 10 minute nap and a look at a paper. Then off to the presentation.
Now I was seeing some of those who have made the past year such a pleasure. Some high with the elation of success others circumspect after such a challenge and some deflated by their experience. All I could do was moan about how sore and tired I was!
Full of poor me's rather than being chuffed to bits. A note on my previous post from Ian out that in perspective.
I enjoyed the presentation and took plenty of photos to go with those taken by Andrew and Ally during the race. I'll get them sorted and uploaded tomorrow.
I managed to speak to Mark (DQ) and Dave (subversive runner) afterward, as well as posing for photos with my support team. I also had the pleasure of showing off Darren and I'm sure he has a few new fans. Several of the West Highland Way family passed on donations for the fund, and for that I am extremely grateful.
As we left the hall my sister-in-law and two nephews gave me a cuddle, having travelled up just for the presentation. A lovely gesture. Thanks guys. Unfortunately, lack of sleep and the desire to get home before the roads closure at Ardlui kicked in, we had to give the post-race party a miss. Maybe next year. Next year?