Ending on a Fail?

It kinda feels like an omen for 2017 doesnt it?!

It is always my hope that what I have been doing helps someone, one person is enough to make a difference.  One person impacts the people around them, the knock-on or domino effect.  As for the Marathon des Sables, many ask why should people pay for me to go and have fun, to go and do events I wouldn’t normally afford.  This is about so much more than running in events, it is raising the profile, raising awareness of a charity/charities and some monies.  It is doing something that some see as impossible, a massive stretch to the human body.

Without the support of those who have donated, given their time, their conscious effort to make a difference and to help I would not have gotten as far as I did.  It is with great sadness and a feeling of letting others down, of failing my charities, that I say I did not manage to secure sufficient funds to attempt this challenge – #80degrees.  However, I am very grateful to the sponsors for trusting me to secure the funds to enter the event in January 2018 – I have a goal.

In addition to my friends, clients and those sponsors, a big mention must go to Vickie Saunders.  Vickie is behind The Sponsorship Consultants, they work with individuals such as myself and but also many top level athletes.  Vickie has been instrumental in shaping my perspective on sponsorship.  She has shown me and illustrated that all is not as it seems.    You do not have to be the winner of every race, you do not need to be or have to be a household name to secure sponsorship.  Vickie has taught me a huge amount about connecting with teh right people, that everyone has worth and connects with others, thank you!

#80degrees (My name for the challenge) was meant to be my next challenge to further raise awareness of the fantastic work carried out by DAMH (Dundee Association for Mental Health) and SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health).

These two events are run by David Scott through his company Sandbaggers – check them out if you are looking for something different. An 80 degree turnaround!

Running through the Namibian desert in +40 degrees with a second marathon at -40

degrees in Outer Mongolia.  The mental strength, capacity and determination to do these types of challenge mimics real life.  My experience in the Sahara is testament to this.  I have tried to ultilise and speak of my own experiences with mental health to demonstrate that those who face these challenges do not always fall into the stereotypical ideas that society has.

Mental health challenges and welbeing affects people from all walks of life.  We bounce back and sometimes we don’t so quickly (By the way this is not a reach out – Im all good).

I have much to keep me busy in the coming year, so this is a failure?

No, it is an opportunity to grow, refelct, evaluate and improve my approach to come back stronger and more knowledgeable.  If you would like to keep up to date, I will endeavour to be better at posting my blogs.  I am being published by Positively Scottish so keep an eye out on there also.

Whats coming up:

My Marathon des Sables experiences

My prep for #80degrees

Training for the West Highland Way (June 2017)

Deadwater (July – Aug 2017)

Finally but by no means least, a huge THANK YOU to my sponsors who have stayed on board to ensure we can continue to raise the profile of DAMH and SAMH.

Heal Physiotherapy                                                  Carol S & Kay L and many more fundraising

Bloc eyewear                                                               Murroes Primary School

Icebug UK/                                                                   Running Sisters Tayside

Clarks Bakery                                                             Henrys Coffee House

The Gas Technology Partnership Ltd.

 

 

 

 

What did previous runners say???

Well it is now only 4 days, 22 hours, 11 minutes, ? seconds and counting – oh god its drawing closer and I am scarily calm.  Is it the calm before the storm?  Well we’ll soon see.

I thought you guys would find it interesting yo see what previous MDS runners to say about the race . . .

Name: Gordon Barrie12510725_10153207786621861_1501170662_o

When did you complete the Marathon des Sables? 2005

What was your background in running?     I started running in 1st year at school (Madras College in St Andrews) and joined Fife AC. I now run for Dundee Hawkhill Harriers (since 1991). I have competed over various
distances on the track, cross country and road.
What made you sign up?   I was in danger of drifting away from the sport
and wanted a fresh challenge. Plus, I had seen the MdS on the TV and in
Runner’s World and thought it looked amazing (and it was!).
What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?    Running
through the desert on the long stage in the middle of the night was
fantastic. There was nobody else around, it was nice and cool and the
stars in the night sky were amazing!
What was/ is your worst memory of the race?     Waking up on the morning of
the long stage (about 50 miles!) and being sick with nerves. I honestly
though I was going to quit at the first checkpoint that day. Then I
looked at the guy lying next to me in the tent, who looked worse than I
felt! He kept going and I was immediately motivated again. I never
looked back after that. In a race like the MdS, everybody has highs and
lows, you just have to keep focussed on the goal. Plus, everybody
encourages one another. There’s a real bond between the runners.
How long did you have or take to train for the race?     I was running
anyway but specific training for the MdS was probably 5 or 6 months,
with the bulk of it in the last 12 weeks. Back to back 20+ milers at the
weekends!
What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   I
would have done some upper body strengthening and carried a pack more
often in training.
What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had
had going out there?   Make sure you like all the food that you’re
carrying. I discovered that I should have taken more savoury stuff. I
found the sweet food unpalatable in the heat!

Name: Keith Anderson

 When did you completethe Marathon des Sables? 2009

What was yourbackground in running?   No background prior to entering the event
in 2007. Was formerly a rugby player.

What made you signup?   Had seen Ben Fogles documentary a few years before which
was the first awareness of the event. I was looking for a challenge and wanted
to prove that the ordinary person can achieve anything.

What was/ is your best memory of being out in the Sahara?
Difficult. In short the camaraderie and “journey” everyone shared. Personally,
on the long day I suffered sickness bug and almost retired at the first
checkpoint. I got medical assistance for extreme dehydration 7 x 1/2 litre bags
of saline and glucose via a drip, after which I got up and walked the next 66
miles non stop. That episode was “my mds”.

What was/ is yourworst memory of the race?    Sickness bug which swept the
campsite on day 2.

How long did you have or take to train for the race?   2 years building from 10
km up to ultra distance races as long as 64 miles.

 What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?
You don’t need to train for 2 years. 6 months should be long enough. However my
experience was in 2 stages. The journey to the start line which comprised of 2
years of fundraising and training which was an amazing time, and then there was
the race itself. The more training you do the more you get to know your body’s
limitations.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had
 going out there?
I researched every element of the race to an extreme level and so I had all the
info I needed and there was no real surprises which gave me confidence in my
abilities. The best piece of advice that I had was to never withdraw yourself
from the race, get a medical assessment and let them withdraw you. You’ll be
surprised how much you can achieve even when you think you are done.
Also, never share anything with fellow participants, that’s not being selfish
it’s self preservation as bugs transmit very very easily so no sharing
water/food/cutlery/etc.

 

Name:  Lucja Leonard1902795_10152441613959924_4052712739759365014_n

When did you complete the MDS?    I did my first one in 2014, now up for my 2nd.

What was your background in running?   I took up running to lose weight about 8 years ago, hated running or any sport growing up, I was a size 18, weighing 98kg when I started with a walk/jog routine and next thing you know…..I’m running MdS (ha ha not quite, it did take quite some time but it was pretty quick considering my history) First marathon in 2011, first ultra 2013.

What made you sign-up?   I’d watched a documentary about it on TV and was gob smacked by the sheer challenge.

and then return again . . . and again?    My first MdS was a real eye opener, a real kick in the guts every day I was out there to say you are not as fit as you thought you were and I found it brutally difficult and although I finished I was personally disappointed with my result so even though on the finish line I vowed I would not be back….whilst I was watching my husband compete in it again last year (2015) and he did super amazing (32nd overall!) I just got so excited I had signed up before he had even finished the last stage!  I am really keen to go back and run it better and stronger.  I am fitter, lighter, stronger and wiser than last time so that has to help right?

What was/is the best memory of being out in the Sahara desert?    The total isolation, I love that feeling of being away from everything that is routine to my normal daily life in a stunningly beautiful place whilst pushing my body and mind to the limit.  It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

What was/ is your worst memory of being in the Sahara?    The heat & the sand!

How long did you have to or take to train for the race the first time round and then thereafter or have you been keeping fit doing other races in between?   I was marathon/ultra fit, or at least I thought I was (it’s all relevant) already so my training kicked off in the December of 2013 so a good 4 months of solid training with a mixture of training and a few races in between to keep me focussed.  Christmas is always a hard time though so that was a blip in the schedule.  In hindsight I can see now that I overtrained, I was so focussed on my weekly mileage rather than the quality of my training, and spent too many hours running ‘junk’ mileage and too much running with my bag instead of focussing on quality sessions and including strength work into it.  After MdS I remember it took at least a month for my body to recover, I recall feeling like I wanted to run about a week after and about 1/2mile in I just stopped and was totally exhausted, the mind wanted but the body couldn’t.  It really takes a lot out of you.

10153771_10152441614489924_1331766896319222961_nThis time around my training has been all about quality sessions, getting in my key sessions each week – strength, flexibility, speed, hills, tempo, long back to back runs and most importantly – rest!  I have only just had a run with my bag and only plan on about 4 runs with my bag fully weighted, and I will start heat chamber sessions and Bikram yoga 2 weeks out from the race.

What is the one thing you would have changed about your training?   Sometimes less is more.

What is the one piece of knowledge or recommendation you wished you had had before going out there the first time (if you can remember)?    It is probably really obvious and it does sound stupid but I wish I had realised how damn hot and sandy it was going to be, nothing prepares you for the furnace that is the Sahara and no one can explain it to you.

Did you change things massively year on year?    More in my training approach, a few tweaks to nutrition, especially for during the race, the first year I took lots of nuts and bars to eat whilst ‘running’ and found them impossible to stomach, so this time I am going for gels and liquid energy (like Hammer Perpeteum and Torq energy sachets to add to my water) and save the chewable stuff for back in camp.

Here are Lucja’s own blogs: MDS Preparation 2014 and Post-event – please do check them out.

 

Thank you for reading folks, I really do appreciate everyones support and words of motivation.  Big thank you to Gordon, Keith and Lucja for answering these questions for my blog but also for answering my incessant questions and fielding my worries.

 

I am raising money for a small local mental health charity – Dundee Association for Mental Health – DAMH – they are a wonderful Dundee based charity who do fantastic work to help local people.  As someone who understands the need for this kind of invaluable suppo12687943_10205375836827795_8892240053623715467_nrt, both personally and professionally, I aim to do my very best out there in Morroco.

I will be taking on my biggest challenge to date,
if you would like to donate to the charity and sponsor myself you can do so here – Sponsor Page – Thank you

Follow me from your comfortable seat 😉 – Here is a link you can go to to follow me on a ‘live’ basis but if you wish you can also send good luck messages to keep my spirits raised during the event!    I am runner number . . .  1013 (#scary)

Sponsor Profile:Gas Technology Partnership Ltd

Gas Technology Partnership Ltd

As with many of my corporate sponsors Sarah has chosen to write about the why of getting involved in sponsoring myself for the Marathon des Sables.  Few of them have taken the opportunity to showcase their business.  BUT, I think the way they have written their profiles says alot about them as business owners and how they want you, potential clients, to see what they value.  I am delighted that these businesses have gotten involved, that they value mental health and, it always astounds me, but their belief in my abilities.  Anyway, enough rambling on my part, here is Sarah’s words:-

You’d be forgiven for thinking ‘why is a Specialist Gas Consultant sponsoring Louise for the MDS Event?’

Actually, there’s more common ground here than meets the eye. Read on…

 

Louise and I first met during the 2014 Spartan Sprint just south of Edinburgh. Well when I say we met, what I mean is we didn’t have a clue who each other was but I decided to embark on a silent competition between us during the 5k obstacle race. Ridiculous I know, I had no chance against Louise.

I went away always wondering who my nemesis was.

The 2nd time we met was at an OCR training day that Louise was coaching in Ayrshire last year. I remember smiling to myself when I saw her stomping around and I thought ‘at last I get to meet the wee powerhouse herself’. (Sarah is on the left, conquering the high wall at the muddyraces OCR training day at Scottish Assault Courses Ayrshire).

IMG_1808

I knew right away we’d get along like we’d known each other for years. Louise is passionate about her sports and her goals. That comes across right away. It’s an attractive trait and you can see that people really warm to her.

We’ve been in touch ever since with the conversation always about racing and our personal physical goals, including the inevitable ups and downs that this always entails, but Louise always sees the positive and she’s a total inspiration for me.

I was so excited to hear that Louise had been selected to take part in the Marathon des Sables – ‘The toughest footrace on Earth’. 5 ½ marathons in 5 or 6 days – across the Sahara Desert!

Without a 2nd thought I wanted to support her in this epic dream.

This is where the commonality is between Louise’s goal and my company – Gas Technology Partnership Ltd. My dream was to always run my own company. After years of being constantly let down by employers I decided ‘ENOUGH!’ I can do better for myself.

I knew what my goal was; I could see the end game. I just needed to make it happen. 2 and half years later and I’m now running a very successful business, in fact it’s surpassed even my own expectations.

It takes hard work, determination, tenacity, positivity – especially when things get tough – which they do. And you have to keep that end game clear in your head – never lose sight of what your goal is.

But I gotta say, you do need a strong support network behind you. For me it was my friends and family who simply just believed in me.

Louise has all those traits in abundance and I know she’ll achieve her goal and it’ll be the experience of a lifetime. I also know what it means to just need some support along the way. It feels like perfect Karma to be able to give something back to help Louise live her dream.

 

Good luck my friend!

So again, thank you to all who take the time to read these blogs, please pop over to Sarah’s website/ facebook page and give her a ‘like’ and share the love as they say.

Website:  www.gtp-gas.co.uk

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/gastechnologypartnership/?fref=ts

 

 

Muddyrace Scottish Training Day – Ayrshire/ Kilmarnock

I had the priviledge of once again leading a Muddyracce (http://www.muddyrace.co.uk/) training day at the original Scottish Assault Courses ( http://www.scottishassaultcourses.com/ ) over at Craufurdland Castle, Ayrshire.  I was looking forward to this one for different reasons, firstly I hadn’t been on this course before AND we were sold out.  It really is fantastic to see so many people, of differing levels wanting to come along and learn techniques to help make their OCR races even more enjoyable, achieveable and to conquer them.  I can understand the sense of achievement, its amazing and get it every time I cross a finish line.

Fraser and I had a few run throughs over the course and I, of course needed a few wee practices to ensure I was up to scratch for everyone, unfortunately my practice attempts did not fill me with confidence – I was not having a good day at the office, or so I thought, haha.

We got everyone started of with a dynamic warm-up and some games, a bit of shin-tig always gets everyone going and I am glad to say this occasion was no different, shrieks galore during the game!  IMG_1720A warm-up prior to racing events is important to ensure your muscles are fully warmed up, heart rate has risen.  The shorter the race, the more intense the effort and the more important I find the warm-up.  The harder you want to work during that race, the better and more vigorous the warm-up needs to be.  Remember, for most, an OCR race is not using the typical movements that you have been doing in training and being unprepared can leave you more open to the injuries, warm-up.

It was time for the obstacles, demo’s went much better than my practice attempts.  Everyone warmed me up on the monkey bars to get going, it is definitely mind over matter when you were facing that water pit below.  We covered different ways of conquering these for those of differing abilities to attempt.  Including just hanging from the bar, some may laugh this attemot of but if this is a big step for you – the ability to hang and support your own bodyweight is important – then that is your big win for the day.  Strength even in this position can develop and lead to movement.  You do what is the next step for you and not compared to someone else.  A definite ‘chuffed moment was getting up the 11 foot wall using the rope, clearly needed an audience for that one.IMG_1733

The guys that attended were fantastic, everyone got stuck in at each of the obstacles, the monkey bars were a biggie, this is what drew the attention of everyone, watching those trying to conquer the bars with their slight twist without getting ditched into the water pit below.  I thought everyone did an amazing job on the 6 foot wall and we had a few who tried and CONQUERED the 11 foot wall.
IMG_1808We also covered how to work as a team to conquer walls safely without injuring/ hurting your fellow teammates or racers.

We had saved the best for last, a full run through of the course, we were the first to try out new sections of the course which had been changed just last week.  Again, we ran through the whole course with the key principles of overcoming personal obstacles, practicing what had just been learnt and embracing the very nature of OCR races – to support and help each other!

We started of with the walk the plank/ tree, surprisingly challenging, lulled into a false sense of security of staying dry with planks over more water-logged areas, it was time!  Time to to get filthy wet, in they went and up onto the island, this relief was momentary as they were then back in the water to duck under the planks.  This needed a big breath as it was a full submersion, ideal practice for those races that require you to get right under the water, such as Tough Mudder and Tough Guy.  The guys worked their way around the island and then we were quickly into a bogged down, supremely muddy area.

Running the path to the next obstacle, a vertical up and down cargo net with challenging spaces between the ropes.  But to get there you had to get straight through the mud puddles, these were NO normal puddles!  IMG_1868You virtually disappeared into this muddy puddle!IMG_1862

Everyone attacked the next muddy section with gusto, keeping those legs moving quickly and again offered support to those trying to escape at the other end, we went onto an obstacle that challenged those with claustraphobia issues.  Into a tunnel which was partially submerged.  IMG_1971 The team then had to weave through a web of string, before getting back into the mud.  The amount of mud on this course is epic!  Everyone then had to try out the skills and techniques they had learnt during the practice periods with the real life feeling of being wet and muddy!

Well done everyone, it really is great to meet fellow OCR racers of all levels who share the same enthusiasm for getting MUDDY! (See what I did there 😉 )

Hope to see you all at races around Scotland and at more muddyrace training events!  Definitely come over and say hi!

IMG_1853         IMG_1854               IMG_1919

My most Embarrassing Placing,

I had two events, if you like, this weekend. The first one was to support my team at the final of the Chequered Flag Duathlon series, series 3 at Knockhill Racing Circuit.  I was attending in my work capacity, taking part as a support, this is not really my type of event but great for a wee change.  Then today I had the Angus HAM at monikie park, this one was for me.  Unfortunately, I have been feeling worse for wear all week and this weekend was not well-timed,  I also noticed I have been saying this alot recently.  It highlighted for me that my work-life balance is a little skewed, I have a habit of always putting work first, placing my clients needs above my own.  I have worked to re-dress that balance this weekend and moving forward – everyday is a school day folks!

Chequered Flag Duathlon Series 3

After a week of glorius sunshine, there was foreboding as the weather forecast left alot to be desired, but lucky as we are it could have been far worse.  There was a delay to the start due to the weather interferign with track events, from the cafe, we could see what looked like heavy sleet/ rain coming down, to the point you couldn’t really see out the windows, with it clearing the track tannoy was being bounced around by the wind.  Alex had suggested we cycle round the off-road route during this time, aye RIGHT! 🙂 sorry Alex haha

All of a sudden we were off, neither Karen nor I had taken it too seriously, we moved around to keep warm but probably not enough to completely warm-up.  Difficult after such a long wait to start.  We started with 2 laps of the track which was ideal, but had its challenges with the wind tunnel that was created on the back corners of the track.  Putting it politely ‘ I was blowing out my ass’ by the time it came to getting on the bike.

The off-road section was nighta nd day compared to the series 2 off-road section, despite the rain we had had it was much harder under the tyres, making it easier to gain traction.  Onto the track for the final 5 laps, this is where it really made a difference many of the guys taking part had 2 bikes with them, a mountain bike and a road bike.  When you compare this to Karen and I on our mountain bikes – eeek, it didnt bode well.  Again, we were hit by the wind and I swear the wall of wind became stronger with every lap of the track.  I was ecstatic to finish, biking is not my forte!  I waited for Karen and went around the final lap with her, ‘no-one gets left behind!’.

There were only 3 females there on Saturday, so inevitably we would all place, this is where my title came from, there were prizes for 1st female and 2nd female and the same for the males.  Now, let me explain, despite this being a placing I know I would never have achieved had any other females been there, the key point I reminded myself was that I showed up and took part.  This is what I would tell my friends and my clients, I am no different and therefore deserve the placing.

Karen I am happy to say also took a prize of a bottle of vodka for super-vet category.  I think she felt less embarrassed by this prize, eh Karen 😉  This race of the series was the one more oriented toward duathletes and triathletes, as it has to be said were the other races in the series.  It was mainly folks from triathlon clubs that were signed up or at least those who take part in this type of event.  That is a bit of a shame as it is a great cross-training event and great for doing something different!  Would be great to see more folks of all abilities signing up to next duathlon that is run by Chequered Flag.

On a final note, the marshalls were fantastic!  They cheered and motivated us all round the track on what must have been rubbish conditions for spectators.

Angus HAM

Day 2 of the weekend, I dithered were to take part in this half marathon as I didn’t want to make myself worse.  My competitive nature won out, I knew I would be massively disappointed not to take part.  I set some goals and parameters to help me come out of this without negatively impacting my health.  It actually worked within a larger plan that I needed to cover the distance for my marathon training, so to keep me fairly up to date, I was concentrating on the larger picture.

This means for the first time, I wasn’t concentrating on finishing time, it was all about simply covering the distance.  I also know well what I am like, competitiveness does overtake me, so I set some goals to achieve within the race/ run itself.

1.  Maintain my posture throughout the whole race.  Losing this would tell me I had pushed too hard and was tiring through my core.

2.  Stay relaxed throughout the whole run, tension would demonstrate I was pushing too hard.

3.  Stay within my comfort zone, keep my breathing nice and regular.

I was happy to say I met all 3 goals and really held it together not to sprint the finish, just jogging through.  This was a very successful run for me.  In a completely different way to that which I would normally define a successful run,  I would also normally be massively disappointed in my time.  These are the very principals that I try to teach to my clients and it felt good to embrace them and use them to help me achieve my goals.  To end, it is not always pushing the limits 100% of the time, often we go out looking to beat our PBs or abilities every single time.  It is not possible, sometimes we must consolidate and consider the circumstances.

Again, year in, year out the Angus HAM is a well run, smooth race.  The marshalls were great, a big mention must go to the marshall at the mile 8 marker.  He was brilliant, a loud, encouraging voice, just what you needed moving into the tough last quarter of the race!

Mission achieved!

Facing Up in Aviemore . . in more ways than one!

 

IMG_0914-2.JPG

The weekend of the 12th of October saw a few of us, friends/ clients head over to Aviemore for the 10km/ half marathon race.  I haven’t entered this race for some time for personal reasons but decided this was the year when I saw that a friend was looking for volunteers to head over and make it a laugh.   I decided I could conquer my demons this time, lots of distraction combined with running – the best way I know to relax the stressed mind.  I signed up quickly before I could change my mind.  I was going with the aim of getting that PB that had eluded me at the Dundee Half Marathon after I had to give first aid to a young lad.  Which was naturally a choice I would make EVERY single time, the fact of the matter is that there was no choice.

 

The drive up was epic, in that we had all sorts of music, wind ups, a stop of for the ‘cloakrooms’, yes not toilets – we had entered a new world.   The views, as always on this drive, were simply captivating.  It just makes you want to take it all in, I was alittle apprehensive heading up to Aviemore, it holds alot of personal memories as I mentioned, some of which I have in the past struggled to deal with.  But as I have said I felt it was time to face them and I do love Aviemore, I was heading up with a group that would easily distract me 😉

 

I really feel alive as I head up into this area of Scotland, being close to the hills, out in the proper fresh, clean air, there’s something about it all that makes me feel invigorated.   Being surrounded by people who want to be active is brilliant!

 

Getting into Aviemore, there was alot of traffic, people were clearly arriving in their droves. Unfortunately, it was while we were in Aviemore, that I was literally sucker punched.  The chances of a face from my past being in Aviemore the same weekend I had decided to venture up had to be minimal, so I hadn’t expected it.  This was to throw a cloud over my weekend but I dug deep to see past this and not let it change the weekend.

 

Gareth from The Cairn Hotel in Carrbridge was fantastic, with brilliant customer service, he arranged for us to stay at a local self-catering  apartment, The Old School House, due to another group extending their stay.  It was 5 star and amazing, we were in our element and not least because the 3 of us staying there enjoyed rubbing in the fact that we had a hot tub to the rest of the group.

Oh yes!  But the most endearing aspect of it all was the 3 goats, hahaha, as Tornado would say -‘Its all about the V.’IMG_0904.JPG

Registration for the event was flawless, check out your name on the boards, head for your numbered table to collect your envelope and, if you were a sponsored entry, an Aviemore buff.  In the registration room at the MacDonald hotel was also a route map to confirm any queries, the helpers were friendly and fantastic!  Run4It had a mini shop set up and had lots of perfect kit for the run (hopefully no last minute purchases for untested kit) and as I have always found, great customer service.

We all met up at registration with some hilarious events – knew I would be distracted if only for moments at a time!! Visits to the toilets had turned out to be eventful.  We headed for food which was outstanding, lots of serious preparation for our runs the following day as you can see from theses pictures . . . . .

 

Some of the guys, headed off for a few more drinks after dinner while the three of us headed back to The Old School House.  Rolling galore to loosen of the tight muscles from our long travel that day.  I have to thank the facebook page ‘I love Foam Rolling’, they provided me with a roller to take away and use – brilliant.  Naturally, I shared this with my friends, important to share these benefits!

 

painful rolling         IMG_0912-0.JPG

(This is not me, however, aptly demonstrates the kind of faces I regularly witness and I am sure pull)

 

Our sleep patterns are massively important to our bodies ability to recover and prepare for our events. There is some research that sleep can affect the body’s ability to replenish our glycogen stores, affect focus, energy stores and recovery from hard workouts.  Unfortunately, my sleep was affected by reflection on the days events.  I hadn’t been able to let them go.

IMG_0891.JPG           IMG_0893.JPG

(This was our amazing view that we woke to on the Sunday morning, seriously, what more could you want to see!)

This meant I was not as organised as usual before my race, we headed into Aviemore to get the bus to the race start.  It was getting super busy but the buses were moving efficiently and promptly.  Great system!  The race was at Rothiemurchus, again a beautiful area, a very necessary toilet queue.  The cold morning air just added to this need, it was stunning, the rest of the group had joined us, fully rested after their eventful night.  I was very nervous, worried I would bump it that familiar face, how would I deal with this event should it occur, what would I say – lots of scenarios went through my head like a revolving door with no escape.

IMG_0894.JPG                                                   IMG_0895.JPG

We were separated into our distance lines, this is where it gets even more nerve-wracking.  We are then walked along to the start area to the sound of a piper.  It was a fantastic morning, perfect weather for the run, crisp, dry and the sun was out.  I was worried that I would not be focused sufficiently to hit my PB target but all I could do right now is put one foot in front of the other and concentrate on the here and now.  At this moment I started listening to the people around me, one gentleman was discussing the disadvantages of buying new kit at the Run4It store and wearing them on race day, I had a wee chuckle to myself.

 

IMG_0896.JPG                                                            IMG_0897.JPG

In previous years the start had taken a wee while but we were off before I knew it.  Out along the forest track, curving through the forest. We were into an incline fairly quickly, the path was fairly rocky, loose stones underfoot and it wasn’t long before I saw a guy roll his ankle on a stone in front of me.  I think I actually exclaimed out loud, before running around him, but fair play he carried on.  (Damn it – I had worn too many layers, something I repeatedly advise my own runners about but often struggle with decision wise myself.)  I know this feeling, we then went into a downhill section.  This carried on for the next 6 miles, the most difficult sections for the half marathon runners are these start line – 6.5 miles.  This is the best I had ever felt on these hils but I felt my right glute tightening gradually but I was on target for my PB, I had to keep going.  It might loosen off and let me push it out as it had at the Edinburgh half marathon.  I utilised the downhill sections, arms out to help my balance and hugging the corners.  One girl spoke to me as we headed down the best downhill section and said that I was helping her with my pace but it was kicking my ass – LITERALLY!

The views really kept driving me forward, I love it!  The view of Loch Morlich with the sun glistening on the surface was amazing!  Lots of memories came flooding back as I ran this route, in some ways great and in others – not so great.  Important to focus on where the run is, the enjoyment of being in the surroundings that I was in, the beauty of the area, the people I was surrounded by, the fact I was there and able to run.

Gradually, I felt my glutes tighten and my leg became stiff.  It became difficult to move my leg forward and I began to limp/ run, I clamped down on that quickly as that would just lead me to more problems.  But as the race progressed I my hip then tightened up and started causing me no end of issues, I really had to push hard when I had hit the road section.  I had to dig really deep, concentrating on my technique, fighting for every step.  As I kept going I could feel my PB slipping away, frustratingly out of my reach, I nearly gave up on it, then I would kick myself up the ass and tell myself that wasn’t good enough, keep going.  Lots of the guys were out running today, aiming to do their best.  Now it was my turn, I had to do my best, my best means not giving up.

As we crossed the road to come under the railway bridge, I was really hurting by this point and I rounded the corner to hear, ‘Get your ass up the hill!!’ hahaha what a welcome sound, Lesley, a very longstanding client was there!!  She certainly knew how to get you moving.  She was there to support her cousin which is great but nevertheless I know we all found her words of motivation perfect at that time and location.  Then Pat was there with the pup, quietly cheering us on.  This was enough to pick me up, then over to the final stretch and I could hear clients shouting my name at various points and all of a sudden all I could think was, keep pushing the legs.

That was it, it was all over, incredibly sore, but I was keen to find everyone without moving too much.  The crew all did amazingly well!!  I love seeing people out there achieving their goals and pushing beyond what they initially thought were their limits.  New ones were created that day, new boundaries to once again defy.  The guys took part in some full body stretching, others attempting (yes I said attempting, to replicate some taught moves).

 

IMG_0899.JPG

This is a well run race, the marshalls are simply superb, high 5’s along the way to lift the spirits.  Supporters are fantastic, not justthose who know your name but every single person that claps you onwards and wishes you good luck is amazing.  Well done every single person who is involved in the organisation of a fantastic event.  In addition, all the many runners, who take part.  Thank you.

 

IMG_0908.JPG

My weekend finished on a high, where Tornado and I walked the forest trails around Carrbridge, taking in the scenery.  Had a fantastic meal at The Cairn Hotel, this was a very welcoming pub with great food.  We then headed back to the the luxury that was our 5 star accomodation.  We hit the hot tub for some well earned relaxation and recovery . . . . . .  one word – fabulous!

 

A brilliant weekend, if somewhat tainted by my own personal battles.  But you can not deny we truly live in a beautiful and spectacular part of the world.  We simply have to open our eyes and our hearts to appreciate it!

 

IMG_0903.JPG                                                                              IMG_0906-0.JPG

 

Rat Race Coast to Coast – Scotland in ALL her Glory!

The first question I had to face from friends – ‘Did I enjoy myself?’ For once this was a tough one, I was and still am, in that phase of, ‘ehhhhhh, yes of course’.  I know I did enjoy myself, most physical challenges I face I do enjoy, even if it takes me a while to realise it.  Rising to the challenge, personal, is what it is all about!  Even a week later, I hesitate when asked this question.  But I am not slow to talk of the fantastic moments along way as well as the traumatic ones . . . . .  yes you will find them out also!

I did not have the best preparation in the days leading up to the race, I wasn’t mentally prepared, I hadn’t had the best physical preparation after being drop-kicked by a cold – flu bug at the end of my 100 Mile run.  So on many levels I wasnt happy with myself going into this race, I allowed other things in my life to distract me.  Yes, I make the same mistakes everyone does, its a learning curve and I am only human.  No super hero powers . . . . .  yet!Cheetara-thundercats-4597636-375-600Quite obviously, this is not me but Im a fan of thundercats 😉  Hmm what would I look like as a super hero.  Anyway, I digress!

I was taking part in this event with my best buddy Karen, she has been training ferociously to achieve her goal of completing this event.  Karen chose this event, why?  wait for it . . . its brilliant – there were sections of kayaking.  I wouldn’t recommend selecting your events in this way.  However, unique to Karen hahaha!

Analysing the route, the kit lists, the final emails was all over.  Karen and I headed up on the Friday. easy drive taking it nice and easy with plenty of stops to stretch the legs.  It was a fantastic day.  We arrived in Nairn, full of wonder at what we were getting ourselves into.  I was full of trepidation, I was woefully unprepared, or at least felt like I was.  We kept seeing the word ‘Expert’ everywhere and the burst our laughing hysterically.  ‘Expert – hahahaha’, ‘OMG expert – hahahaha’, followed by ‘maybe we should tunr up at the start line and just say we were given the wrong category’.  It was suddenly very REAL!

Registration was a very quick affair, but no kit checks.  I was suprised as this was heavily enforced leading up to the event.  It was beautiful weather and was forecast to continue over the event weekend which would place less on ??????

Once our bikes were dropped off at Cawdor Castle, literally 5 – 10 min drive away, seeing the countryside, it was going to be amazing.    We should have been in bed early for our early rise but it just wasn’t happening, we were wide awake.

The morning arrived quickly, well it would when you are getting up at 430am.  This was like a normal work day for Karen, I was hoping I wouldn’t get a crash in the afternoon, which would be well into the event.  This was relatively unknown territory for both of us.

The start line was down at the sea, set just back on the grassy area, fantastic place to start.  There was an air of excitement as everyone milled around and waited for the start talk.  We headed down to the beach to get a quick pic before starting.10671321_10202478574838056_2725662220864347802_n

Then we were off with a roar, straight toward the sea with a sharp right turn.  We had a short run through the town to get to the trail section.  I was feeling like I was adrift of the main front group but I actually made reasonable time here, making my way up the group and finally to the point where I felt like I wasnt too far away.  Underfoot it was fairly slippy with the dew of the previous night still obvious on the ground.  Tree roots and large stones meant you had to be aware of where you were placing your feet otherwise you were sent stumbling, slipping and sliding,  I very nearly went over my ankle but managed a hop, skip and jump to save myself. A bit early in the day for that!  Concentrating on trying to stay relaxed and find my rhythm, it was going well.  People were passing one gentleman who was not happy about this, ‘dont  know what you are all in a rush for, we’ve still got a hundred odd miles to go’ was his statement.  I simply said no-one was commenting on his pace/speed.  ultimately, we each have to find our own pace, otherwise the runs doesnt feel like our own and can be more detrimental.  But he wasn’t bothered about being ‘chicked’, I wasnt sure whether that was a positive statement or not.

We quickly reached the Cawdor Castle transition area with the morning mist still hanging in the air.  We had a fleeting site of Cawdor Castle as we ran past, I have borrowed my mates Karen’s photos as I was saving my phone to track my progress, with no garmin 😦10370356_10202478575438071_4956908465355902352_n140916051949_H

My timing here was 1 hour and 1 min so actually quite happy with that, it was an absolutely melting 7 miles, very close and very warm.  I took on board my first gel walking through the transition point to my bike.  I took my time here to get organised and make sure everything was where I wanted it.  I would say the only thing I hadn’t thought of was all the mildew overnight making everything wet.  Thank god it never rained!

I was hooked up, hydration pack that is, unhooking my bike from the rails, my only thought was here we go.  Well, alongside thinking about Karen, I wondered where she was for most of the day.  It was walking between the bikes that I was traumatised, yes you saw it – traumatised – I mean, you really shouldn’t see these things, not this early in the morning and not at an event.  I was exposed to a ‘willy/ tadger/ johnson’ – it was just THERE!! Nae shame, hinging oot!  Averting my eyes I shuttled past as if it was going jump out, well you know, I was traumatised haha!  I swear I kept having flashbacks throughout my race, for those that dont know me this wont have much significance but those who do, well what can I say.

Onto my first cycle section, I should have known from my attempt to get started that this wasn’t going to be my best part of the journey.  Out the gate and I had to stop with kit issues, my bike bag was rubbing on the wheel.  This hadn’t happened on any of my training runs, tried tightening it up and hoped that was all it was.  Ensured all my suspension was locked out so ensure I could use my bike as best I could.  Especially given it is a dual suspension mountain bike.  I had had slimmer tyres put on the bike to help but it has to be said I felt like an elephant on a bike:

elephant on a bike

After repeated stops to try to sort my bike bag, I was frustrated but started to look around and take in the surroundings.  It was on this section that I had many of my ‘WOW’ moments, all related to the stunning scenery we were passing.  Actually, I was the one everyone was passing, my bike was heavy in comparison.  Suprisingly, alot of folks on road bikes but simply with larger tyres, many had done the reverse to myself.  No wonder they were flying past me, any time I had gained on the run, I lost on the first cycle.  It was truly torture, my quads were burning, then they were on fire, the same thing you might say – I am no longer sure.  Then my knee was sore, my hamstrings grew tight, I lost the feeling in my toes, although this happens often in my right leg.  I tried to take in my surroundings and keep moving forwards, many guys, would check in that I was all good, chatting as they passed.  Occasionally some banter would develop if you got a back and forth moment, the guys had to and could easily stop for the toilet breaks.  It was fairly hilly and the pedals just never seemed light enough churning around, I mean I could walk faster but I chanted to myself ‘I WILL not walk, I will NOT walk’.  So I kept driving down through my legs, one after the other, concentrating on moving forward and upward little by little.  140916011958_H 10690012_10202478576078087_1107017065648108929_n  This was one looooong, big ass hill.  I think alot of folks stopped at the top to ease of the legs, I was literally quivering in my shoes hahaha, never before has this happened.  Over the top and on the other side was a fantastic downhill section, we passed by a beautiful loch, in the distance I spotted orange ‘thing’, I thought ‘oh, oh can this be the next transition point’, my eyes were deceiving me.  I thought Rat Race had changed the colours of there signage but I could see it, I mean what else could it be?!  Great big trucks/ cranes – ‘Noooooooooo’.  That was a sheer moment of torture!

A lovely gentleman passing me let me know we only had about another 5-6 miles left, ‘I could do this, I can do 5 – 6 miles.’  We climbed more hills and came to another downhill section toward the transition point in Fort Augustus.  I had let a wee camper van pass me going down this big hill, mistakenly thinking they would leave me well behind but, and this sickens me, I had to keep braking going downhill!  Can you believe that!! Braking on a downhill section!

Boom I was already in Leg 3 with a short run and a wee kayak!  Funnily enough my legs felt fine trying to run to the kayak.  I had noticed as I parked my bike at the transition point that  lots of folks were eating and taking their time getting organised heading back off on the bike for the second leg of the bike or to look at it another way Leg 4.  The kayak was quite nice actually and I just waited for a lass to come along and join me in the kayak.  Together we got round the buoys, albeit with alot of left, left, left, right, right, right . . .  ahhhh shite we need to go right again. Hahahaha!

140916062402_H

At this point my head was down and I was concentrating on keeping moving.  Then I heard Karen shouting my name – amazing moment!  I now knew she was doing great, such a relief.  Headin gof on Leg 4 my spirits were lifted and I had just shouted to Karen, ‘Catch me up’.  I was looking forward to that.  My legs were much lighter, I am not sure how but I suddenly felt real good.  I had eaten at the checkpoint but surely that wasn’t it?!

 

From here we were on alot of trail based sections, my holiday in Turkey, had fully prepped me for this type of off-road.  Dry, stony underfoot.  The fire was back in my belly, we cycled past amazing sites and simply beautiful areas.  It really was stunning and I was faced with sections that I really had to dig deep and not allow myself to take the easy option . . . walking . . . alot of the guys who had roadbased bikes were indeed walking.  No longer jesting my bike – aha!  I droppped my gears and slipped into a high peddle turnover to get myself up them thar hills, loved it.  The I would fire along the top flatter section full of achievement as it was one more section I had made.  My pace was up, my legs were firing round and round and felt like they were finally flying – as G man would say ‘AMAZEBALLS’ – I loved it.  A few fellows were sitting at the roadside eating and giving me encouragement as I drove up the hills where others couldn’t get traction, I made it, cheesing moment, hell yeah.  Now I havent even mentioned the best bit,  duh, duh, daaaaa!  Hahaha, okay I am getting excited bare with me.10689496_10202478577678127_7609302357402868460_n10622958_10202478579038161_2784033259847333800_n

 

The downhills, for me anyway were fantastic, right, then left, then right again with minimal room for manoeuvering , I was getting veeeery close to the bushes and I hadnt worked out if there was solid ground right under them.  Right, left, I had frequent moments of worry about Karen on this section. I really hoped she was okay! I was literally fleeing down these sections, wind in my hair, I loved it!

Finally we came out onto the road and I slowed again, very disappointing and my head went down for a bit but I laughed to myself as I recognised where I was.  This was the section that Karen and I had driven to check out the route and got lost,  It was here we learnt the true menaing of passing places and single route roads hahaha.

We came into Fort William, passing amazing scenery to have to deal with the traffic – ahhhhh – it wasnt great.  I had completed Leg 4, amazing.  I felt reasonably good I had to say but was tired and a sarcaastic comment let me know I wasnt hiding it well from a fellow racer.  At this transition point, the timer went off, we were allowed 30 minutes or less.  This allowed us to ensure our bike went to the correct point for collection post-race.  You could also go to the toilet, essential for the ladies.  Glad that I was consuming enough fluids, eat and drop off anything you didnt want to run with in your bag.  I decided to run with my cycle bottle as I could fill it with a carb mix and keep the fluid in my hydration pack as plain water.  Massive thanks to the guys at Run 4 It Dundee for their advice in using these mixes in my endurance events.  I really think consuming this regularly had made a difference to the day as it had been hot all day and I was sweating, alot!

I got myself organised, chatted with some of the other racers. Then I headed off, I was in Leg 5, give me a big ‘Hell Yeah!’  Running along the West Highland Way (WHW), it was tough, I decided my strategy had to be walk the hills, run the downhills and flats.  Underfoot was tough with rocks hurting my feet and making it really difficult to get going.  I really enjoyed this section nevertheless, I had gotten some energy back again and made what seemed like good progress. I had decided to let the competitor in me come out to encourage me to push onto the next person I saw.  This was good as it would have been easy to just settle into a walk.  Many guys were walking either because they were tired or sore, I passed many and kept going.  One foot in front of the other, the 8 mile marker was a welcome site and spurred me on even more.  We turned off the WHW at a specific point and it was one tough climb to the point where we would see the loch at Glencoe, it was right there but so far away.  The climb up to this point didn’t really look like much but it kept on going.  Then cam ethe final downhill, I knew this was coming and I cam into my own.  Downhill is where I can really open up the throttle and let go.  Letting my body fly downhill, leaning into the hill, we could hear the loudspeaker of the event but I was never getting closer to it.  It was a long downhill and I was surprised to feel my legs flag.  The undergrowth kept pulling at my feet and ankles, then we would reach flat slate-like stones which were slippy.  Other sections on the path were boggy and suctioned your feet in.10685325_10202478580518198_3736990669744429678_n

 

I reached the final Leg – kayak across the loch – at the same time as a gentleman called Alan.  We hopped into the kayak to head across the absolutely stunning loch.  The sun was glittering across the water, words are simply not enough to describe it.    It took us a while to get across with both of us having issues with our hip flexors at various points.  But we made it and crossed the finish line!  Amazing feeling I have to say, I was greeted with ‘ You are the freshest looking racer Ive seen crossing the line.’  Not bad, bad I was not able to relax yet, where was Karen.  I went for my bag which by the way seemed miles away and headed back to wait for Karen.  I was never so relieved to see her appear in a kayak and complete one of the most epic events ever.

140916055955_H140916055957_H140916060010_H (1)

140915225200_H                        10600378_10202478582958259_5056114014246632912_n

 

Simply amazing!  I will be back to improve.  A massive thanks has to go to Heal Physiotherapy (http://www.healphysiotherapy.co.uk/)  for helping to ensure I was physically fit and able to complete this event.