Tears on Boylston

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There were tears on Boylston
On the day the runners came back.
Wrapped in scarves imbued with courage
The blue and yellow jackets of ’13
the first ones to arrive
In a race for restitution
For their numbers to be counted
they stood in contemplation
At the finish line rebuilt.
Boston Strong, they walked in quiet tribute
Along the street that was hurt

And the hopeful yellow daffodils,
wrapped in Boston blue,
Lined the street like supporters
Cheering those who passed.
The daffodils made me cry.

Quit while you are ahead

The second half of last year saw me injured with an achilles injury which took nearly 6 months to get better.  Since January my achilles has been behaving, though it still niggles,  but I have also been struck down with plantar fasciatis, a sore ankle caused by bruised cartilege, a long running sinus infection, and a really busy work schedule.

Foremost in my mind has been my appointment in Hopkinton on Monday April 21st and the need to get there in one piece.

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Boston ’13 eyeing up the finish line

Now normally when I train, I am  of the blood,  sweat and snotters school of training.  No finesse but lots of effort.

This year, with so many ailments I have had to adopt a painfully cautious approach to training.  I have tried to follow the 10% rule, upping my mileage slowly. I have been disciplined in my long runs, turning back early in some of the long group runs on the West Highland Way when it would have been easier just to slog them out with my chums who were all running longer. Turning back when you are competitive is really hard. I even dropped out of the D33 race at 25 miles because my foot just wasn’t right. My first ever DNF  and those who know me will appreciate how painful that is.

I have done next to no speed work. My usual set of Yasso 800′s has slipped off my plan. Even tempo runs have been done at about 80%.  I started training without a base and whereas last year I was running 200-250 miles per month this year I have been in the region of 175-190.  This time last year I raced a pretty speedy half marathon and got a new PB. This year I haven’t raced at all.  Not even a parkrun.

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Boston ’14 training miles

 

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Boston ’13 training miles

 

I am  undertrained. I have no speed.  I feel like I am about 4-6 weeks away from full fitness, so having been cautious all year, I am going to have to keep the caution going and run the race with my head and not with my heart which is what usually gets me into trouble anyway.

My mantra throughout this whole training programme has been to quit while I’m ahead.

So where does that leave me?

First off it means that barring accidents I am uninjured and ready to go run Boston. Success!

My goal for race day? To run safely and sensibly for 20 miles and get over heartbreak hill with 6 miles to go and be feeling strong.  If I can do that then I should be in with a chance of beating last year’s time. The trick will be to resist the temptation to push on and to remember where I am now, not where I used to be and tailor my ambitions accordingly.

Despite being tedious at times, I have plodded through the last 16 weeks doing what had to be done, to be safe rather than sorry. It has been frustrating and it hasn’t been enjoyable, but it has been successful and I will be on the start line with a semblance of fitnes

It is now taper time, and I will be getting wrapped in cotton wool because at the moment I am just about ahead, so definitely time to quit until race day.

 

 

My Left Foot

My Left foot

isn’t handsome like Daniel Day Lewis

and though it leans to the left

and occasionally extracts the Michael,

it doesn’t wear a donkey jacket.

Most days, my left foot and I get along fine and dandy

much better than my knees, which make me look bandy.

My left foot has been frozen in snow, soaked in puddles,

stained brown with mud, peat and smelly brown sludge excreted by flatulent bovines.

But just when I need it most, my left foot throws a tantrum.

It  develops an attitude, becomes uptight and high maintenance

like a hormonal teenager it decides it has feelings

and firing stinging barbs into my delicate heel

it pouts, shrugs and declares that it has a Plantar Fascia

and what do you mean you don’t know what it is?

everyone else has one, you are just sooo out of touch!

If it wasn’t for the stabbing pain I am sure my left foot would stamp.

Please,  Plantar Fascia,  fascinating you may be,

but you are strung out like an over wrought piano string

I’m feeling like I stood on a key and there are too many sharps.

It is Friday night, have a glass and relax.

Cut me a little slack, hang loose.

Don’t force me to wrap you up in sticky brown tape

so I can’t hear you scream

while I  kidnap you,  hoping for stockholm syndrome.

There is training to be done in the morning, and my left foot has an appointment with Mr Brooks

Every Day is a School Day

Black Mount

Hopefully the road to Glencoe will be easier for runners in June

I have just spent a couple of days at the Highland Fling training weekend in Tyndrum. Although I am not running either the Fling or the WHW this year it was good to spend time with like minded souls, enjoy some wine and some hard training.

I spent some time running with Amanda Hamilton who is building up to her first West Highland Way Race this year and we had a chat about what worked for me as well as what went wrong as I ran my first WHW race last year.  I am sure that Amanda will have a strong race as she has her head screwed on the right way and is putting in the hard miles.

So what would I do differently next time?

1. I would practice running during the night.  When I left Milngavie I had no problem running in the dark, but I did have a big problem with my body clock not wanting to start running at 1 am and I really struggled to maintain what would normally have been an easy pace at the start of the race.

2. I would do more long slow runs. I struggle for patience in long runs and tend to rush them to get them over and done with as soon as possible, so while I had the distance in my legs, I didn’t necessarily have the time in my head.

3. Getting carried away and charging over to Glencoe like a demented warthog may have felt great at the time, but I probably suffered for it later.  Resist the temptation to rush.

4. Spend less time at checkpoints. Despite having a strict plan for my checkpoint times, time seemed to slip away, especially later in the day.

5. Don’t worry about the weigh-in. I was getting a bit light when I left Auchtertyre, even though I felt absolutely fine and it worried both me and my crew in case I would have a problem in Kinlochleven. This resulted in me spending time at our van trying to feed up before I went in to the Leisure Centre. Daft when you look back on it sitting outside in the cold and dark when I could have been inside in the warm.  Kinlochleven checkpoint is a great place. If you are well, no-one will pull you from the race. Get inside and feel the tough love being dished out.

6. The haggis and beer at the ski centre probably wasn’t a great idea either even though I enjoyed them at the time.  I think I would probably try to eat more real food earlier in the race and stick to softer food in the second half.

As for the things I got right there are probably a few

1. Do the training miles but don’t do them too early and try not to  get mileage envy of the nutters who are knocking out 40 mile runs at christmas.

2. Know the route inside out

3. Have a training plan and trust it. Don’t chop and change just because you hear someone else threw in an extra long run and don’t get sucked into going on every social training run just to be part of the gang.

4. Get a support crew you trust absolutely. Your needs become very childlike in the race and your crew needs to know when you need and cuddle and when you need a spank.

My final tip is that there are many ways to skin a cat and what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. You need to experiment early in the year with gear, mileage and nutrition so that when it gets to the business end you are settled on the logistics and all you need to worry about is running.

And finally no matter what you get right or wrong, at times it will get horrible and dark, but if you keep going, no matter how slowly, it won’t get any worse and might even get better, but either way, you will make it to Fort William.

Brooks Pure Flow 3

this is the second year I have been fortunate to take part in the Try It On promotion by Brooks where they let you have a pair of shoes to trial for a week.

I am a big fan of Brooks shoes. Most of my running shoes are Brooks.  I have been running in the Pure range of shoes pretty much since they were launched.

20140205-202148.jpgMy favourite Pure Project shoe remains the original Pure Grit trail shoe.  Despite the fact the grip on the sole wasn’t great, as a shoe, for fit,  feel and comfort it was pretty much perfect.

Last year’s update to version 2 of the Pure shoes didn’t work so well for me. I bought a pair of Pure Cadence 2 but they just didn’t feel as good as the version 1 shoes.  I tried the Pure Flow 2 as part of Brooks’ Try It On promotion and just couldn’t love them. They were too big, too soft and the upper rubbed my little toe. I blogged about them here.

I have been running in a pair of Pure Flow 3 for the past week as part of this year’s Brooks Try it On Promotion.

This year’s model feels much improved. These shoes are immediately comfortable and you can run in them straight out the box.

The ride feels lower and while there is plenty of cushioning,  it is a very responsive shoe.   There is plenty of cushioning to support my heavier frame. The shoe feels very well balanced. It nudges you towards a midfoot/forefoot strike rather than pushes you.  The shoe is very flexible,  allowing you to run fast, but still manages to feel substantial enough to protect you from the pavement.

It doesn’t feel too dissimilar to my beloved Racer ST5′s which are my preferred marathon race shoe.  After only a week’s running in them I am pretty confident that I could happily run a marathon in these shoes and be happy wearing them.

The fit is comfortable. The toe box is wide enough for my wide feet, without feeling too large. There isn’t too much excess volume on the top of the shoe. The fabric is soft and comfortable and hugs your foot very nicely. The heel is comfortably snug and doesnt rub. The asymmetric lacing has changed shape and is much more comfotable. The previous version tended to put pressure on the top of my foot (I have high arches) whereas the different shape is very comfortable. The tongue is stitched in place on the inside which again helps to keep the foot secure and in place.

I am still not convinced that either the Nav Band or the split toe add much to the shoe, but then again the shoe works very well so who am I to argue.

All in all there is very little more to say about these shoes. They are probably the best shoe I have tried for a long time and a shoe which I would be confident wearing for long distances and which are a significant improvement on the Pure Flow 2.

I will almost certainly part with my hard earned cash to buy a pair as I can see them becoming my workhorse marathon training shoe.

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If? (an exceedingly good question)

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;”

It is time for the obligatory review of 2013 post. For me 2013 has been a year of two halves to pinch a football cliche.

The first half of the year saw me achieve my two biggest running goals: to take part in the Boston Marathon and the West Highland Way Race. Plenty of words have been written about both of these events so I won’t repeat them here, except to say that I am truly honoured and humbled to have taken part in both of these unique and inspiring races.

The second half of the year has been a complete washout. An achilles injury just two weeks after completing the West Highland Way has restricted me to next to no running for 5 long frustrating months.

My running improved a little this year – I managed a new PB for the Half Marathon, but apart from that, despite good training,  my racing performances were on the whole a wee bit disappointing.

Overall 2013 has been a year of learning. Learning a bit more about myself, about what things do and don’t work, about my strengths and weaknesses.  2013 has also been a year of watching a whole load of friends achieve amazing things. Probably too many to mention, but watching Helen run her Devil O’ The Highlands race in horrendous conditions and then run 50 miles in the Glenmore 12 hour race have been particular highlights. Biggest lesson I suppose is that running, like life, has ups and downs so to paraphrase Mr Kipling’s quote at the start of this post, MTFU and get over it.

My running hero of 2013? Lots of amazing performances, people running fast, people running long, but my running hero of 2103 is Andrew Moodie. Andrew is a stalwart of Falkirk parkrun, who just gets out there and gets it done time after time in his own quiet unassuming way.  He offers heartfelt, genuine support to anyone trying to get started with running. Despite his self deprecating claims of being an “auld fat man” (and his weight loss story is inspiring) he has run over 1300 miles this year which is a fantastic achievement especially considering how hard he works in the day job.

I will go into 2014 nervously. As always,  ambitious plans are afoot.  No point in putting them off, “you’re a lang time deid” as they say.  However this time I go in with an achilles which still isnt healed properly so I will need to learn to be patient and very specific with my training.  My first goal for the year is to return to Boston and run well.  I have a lot of weight to lose and a lot of training to do if I am to line up in Hopkinton on Patriots Day and run in a way which honours the race in what will be a very special race coming one year after the bombings.  I am fearful that my achilles will impede my training so my biggest challenge will be staying healthy and uninjured. Next up are goals of running well at the Cateran 55 mile race and the 72 miles of  the Great Glen Ultra. There are one or two other plans being hatched but they can wait until they are confirmed before I share them.

Why do I keep doing this? After all I am only a decidedly average runner and it doesn’t get any easier.  The answer to that question gets clearer each year. I run to scare myself, to hurt, to improve, to overcome adversity, to explore wild places and be rewarded with views and experiences which have to be earned.  I run to allow me to stand on a start line knowing that the only thing which will get me to the finish is my strength of mind and body.  Not digital, not virtual but a reality that can’t be manufactured.  That and the ability to drink beer with nice like minded dafties.

Will I succeed in the challenges lined up for 2014?  We shall see…….

WHW Race – Just 2 days in June?

The WHW Race is so much more than just 2 days in June.

It is now half way through November which means that is it is half way through the entry period for the West Highland Way Race 2014. Lots of people will be waiting anxiously for the end of November to discover whether or not they have a place in next year’s race.

I haven’t entered this time around. Despite it being the best thing I have ever done, I shall be trying different races, though I do hope to be involved supporting the race in one way or another.

The West Highland Way Race is all consuming, especially for a first-timer.  5 months on from the race and it still influences me.  Apart from my ongoing achilles injury which I picked up as a result of not resting sufficiently after the race there are other little reminders,  like the favourites list on the BBC Weather website which popped up this afternoon and which made me smile at the pervasive nature of the race.

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