I had hoped to do a training run on the D33 route with Jonathan Mackintosh long before now. I first ran with Jonathan during the Clyde Stride Ultra last year and then met at various other events. I had mentioned on Facebook about going up and he fancied doing it with me and hopefully a few others. It was really just to refamilarise myself with the route and terrain and do so in good company. I also thought it would be a good change of scenery from the WHW route. But getting the time to head up to Aberdeen has proven illusive thus far. So I'll just have to play by ear on the day. I'm looking forward to my 3rd D33 and will use it to work on my WHW race pacing.
I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. My thanks to all the kind birthday greetings I got. This landmark proved less traumatic than I thought. No grey hairs yet and nothing has fallen off or began to sag or droop. Although some of my running 'friends' burst my aging bubble by taking great pleasure in reminding me that I now have to tick the 'Veteran' age category box on race entry forms. Thanks for that! And also, as Jonathan kindly pointed out, I get an extra hour to finish the 'Fling'. I may need it!!
This year has seen a huge change to my 'running' calendar. Normally throughout the year I'll run every type of distance event, ranging from 5K to Ultra, but this is shaping up to be a primarily Ultra distance year. I'm missing all the 10K and Halfs that I have enjoyed over the last few years. But I took the decision last year that in 2012 I wanted to spend more time learning how to be an Ultra Runner. Last year I struggled during a couple of Ultras, partly down to running too many shorter faster races inbetween the Ultras and therefore not allowing myself time to recover and rebuild. The last few years have been busy, with an event an average of every fortnight, sometimes I had 2 a week. So this year I wanted a longer gap between events. As things stand I've only entered 6 races so far in 2012, all Ultras. There are 3 more I'm considering depending on how I feel after the 'Devil' in August. I was considering reverting back to 10K and Halfs after August for the remainer of the year. I'll see how I feel nearer the time.
Clyde Stride (July)
Speyside Way (August) or Glenmore 12hr Event (September)
Another of interest that I wish I had run last year is the 'Winter Ultra' so depending on fitness levels at the end of a demanding year I might be tempted to run this too.
Ian Parnell Lecture.
Those unfamiliar with the name, Ian Parnell is a renowned photographer and Climber. The lecture was at the Glasgow Climbing Academy. The title of his lecture had envoked interest from me, 'Wild at Heart, a lifetime of Adventure'. His talk centred on his biggest and most challenging climbing adventures which included Alaska's highest peaks of Mount McKinley and Denali. It was an informal atmosphere in front of a 'family' sized audience, so I count myself lucky to have been there. He chatted about when he first became interested in climbing and about his 'hero' Doug Scott. He talked about Alaska with a passion and it was clear he prefers this for climbing than the better known peaks in Nepal. Another North American peak he loves is El Capitan in Yosemite, having climbed it 9 times now. The one trip he spent time talking about was with Andy Kirkpatrick and Paul Tattersall. This became a unique climb and one that made the headlines around the world
They were climbing to help paralysed army Major Phil Packer raise 1 million pounds for 'Help the Heroes' achieve his ultimate dream of scalling this 3600 foot high monster of a rock. Tough for any able bodied climber, but for Phil, who was Paralysed from the chest down while serving in Iraq, would present a herculean challenge. The accent took nearly 5 days and was both physically and mentally draining on all four men.
However, against all the odds Major Phil Packer became the first person with his disablilities to summit El Capitan (there are a few videos on You tube worth a watch). Indeed, anything is possible if you have the will and stuborness to never give in. Ian showed us some video footage taken during the climb. It was awe inspiring.
He then talked about climbing closer to home, firstly on Ben Nevis and then Beinn Eighe, in Torridon, both in the winter. This included a couple of attempts of climbing new winter routes on Beinn Eighe's Triple Butresses. One such attempt resulted in a horrifying experience of seeing a climbing partner being swept down off the butresses by an avalance. He himself had to fight to stay on the rock face, only being saved when he became jammed against the wreckage of an old Lancaster Bomber. He reflected on how recent fatherhood has made him change what challenges he now undertakes and how he has dealt with the constant fear of not going home from a climb. The love for his two toddler children has changed his climbing ambitions but not dampened his sense of adventure. As Cameron McNeish once said ' Adventure is not that without risk'. He had some fantastic stories, backed up with amazing photos and videos which had me leaving feeling inspired and invigorated, which is the biggest compliment I can give him. I've been an admirer of other climbers such as Andy Kirkpatrick, Tim Emmett and Dave MacLeod for a while and now I'll be seeking out more on Ian Parnell.
The TCA is a fantastic centre and I'm tempted to use it a couple of times a month to help with 'core' strengthening. I've done a bit of winter 'climbing', but nothing near to the extremes of Ian and his peers. I value my mortality too much!
After January, February hasn't been anything writing home about and I'm a bit dissapointed with my running during the month. So, I need to regroup and get my Mojo back sharpish.
In my last blog post I mentioned that I was going to spend time trying to find out what things work for me to eat and drink before, during and after my Ultras. This would hopefully give me a 'menu' for the WHW Race. So a quick update, the following tasty treats are working well.
Now we get to the potentially embaressing one and the rudeness, so I'll just come out and say it (cover your ears mother!). Here goes, Pussy energy drink.
I didn't name it so stop wagging your finger and tutting at me you lot! It says on the can that Pussy is best when chilled and it tastes great. This isn't getting any better. No matter what I say it's going to come across as filthy and smutty, which is not my intent. Well, not entirely.
I can picture the scene. I'm approaching a checkpoint during the WHW Race and I'm tired, sweaty and thirsty. There's a large crowd gathered, I see my support team and scream out for all to hear 'I need some Pussy!'. There are several Blog Posts worth of jokes here so I'll bide my time and bite my tongue for now.
.....or specifically kit malfunctions. My 2XU calf compression supports had to be replaced this week due to the seam stitching in my current ones falling apart. I changed to 2XU from 'Skins' on a shop recommendation. The Skins I had been using didn't hold their compression qualities for very long and became too loose and saggy, like Nora Batty's pull ups!!
Another bit of malfunctioning kit was my Nathan water bottle during my most recent WHW training run. A knackered valve resulted in it emptying itself as I ran and I never noticed it until it was around two thirds empty. Binned.
West Highland Way Training Run: The Drovers Inn to Inversnaid Hotel to The Drovers Inn (14.5miles).
I had planned on a 'dawn of crack' start for this run and had wanted to do Drovers-Inversnaid-Bogle Glen-Drovers which would have covered around 25 and a bit miles.
But on the day decided to just do a shorter run and do a few more miles locally the next day.But the comfort of my bed prevailed and I didn't get up until 9amish, still early for me. It was a wet and windy drive up along Loch Lomond to Inverarnan. I stopped to take some photos just outside Tarbet, my first mistake. I pulled in opposite Tarbet Isle to get some shots down the Loch and then on walking back to the car a slow moving convoy of cars passed heading in the same direction I was going in. Within minutes I had caught up with them and was stuck behind them for the rest of the drive to the Drovers. 25mph was the fastest we got. With nowhere to pass it was a case of just sit there muttering and swearing. The sooner they widen this road to a Duel Carriageway, the better! The views are nice and it will be a shame if any improvements ruin it, but 25mph, come on!! I counted 10 cars in front and twice that behind,so please admire the views on your own time, muppet.
Anyway, after 3 days I eventually arrived at the Drovers, changed and off I trotted. I had no plans on time targets or pacing today, just an easy gentle amble to get in a few miles. This is the section that i've been avoiding and putting off time after time. I hate, despise and loath it. Of the 95 miles of the race route these are the 7 I wish you could by-pass on a nice tartan track. I know some people say that it's the bits you hate that you should run on more often, but I can't see the logic in that. It's unloveable in my opinion. No amount of inspirational Mantras or happy fluffy thoughts will change that for me. Tim Downie recently suggested to "not think of it as part of the race, but just to enjoy the views", good advice which i'll try during both the Fling and WHWR. I suppose thinking that normal service will be resumed shortly is the only way to get through it.
The cloud was low making it a bit dull and damp. I passed two runners in the Bein Glas car park who were getting changed into their running gear. They must have known the campsite owners as I thought parking here was an act of Blastphemy and punishable by a public flogging. I never saw them again so I guess they ran North. In order to run the route from Inversnaid to Bein Glas I first had to run 7 miles in the wrong direction, which turns out to be just as miserable and frustrating as the correct, or race, way. The duckboards were lethally slippy and had to taken with care. Most of this boardwalk section was flooded so getting wet feet was unavoidable.