thoughts ahead of the race that could be….but most likely won’t be.

My usual blog rules apply, if you’re a spelling and grammar snob get out….

My first blog in quite some time, I was thinking about writing a blog a few weeks back around about this time to jot some thoughts and feeling down before my big race, literally the only race I have signed up for this year after my battle back to fitness following last September’s torn quad injury. I am just going to spill my heart with this so feel free to turn back now or read on if you want to hear what makes me tick and attracts me to this race. Ill try not to go too deep but excuse me if it starts to feel like a rapid descent into the Mariana trench.

I will start off with the here and now, currently sitting this morning on my couch having just done another 20 minute icing cycle on my leg followed by some leg drainers lying up against the wall. With a fresh layer of bapanthen cream lathered on my fresh tattoo, bapanthen is not in short supply in this flat…I’ve stocked up 5 tubes of it for the southern upland way race to fight of chaffing. The state my mid body ended up in with chaffing in May during a 3 day recce which covered nearly 100 miles was other worldly….there wasn’t a pleasant bath or shower for about a week after it! Why all the work towards the southern upland way (SUW) race in particular? Well for one the race is a fucking monster, 214 miles with a very tasty 100hr cut off is no gimme for anyone! The SUW is very underrated and not anywhere near as well known or hyped as its Scottish sister the west highland way for example, the west highland way is like a rock concert in the summer and throughout a lot of the year, walkers, runners and cyclist around every corner and always in sight. I’ve always felt with the west highland way although I’m in the highlands of Scotland I am ‘safe’ and around civilisation and people if shit hits the fan. The southern upland way is the opposite, with massive distances between settlements on the route and hardly seeing a soul when you’re out there. During the 3 day recce I done of the route in May, betweek Beattock and Cockburn path 119 miles – 214miles in terms of race distances…myself and Gordon who I ran with never seen a single SUW walker…not one! We passed people walking dogs etc on the route at parts near towns etc but no hikers. The 2 day recce at the end of April which covered even more remote areas between Glentrool in the Galloway forrest – St johns town – Sanqhar 43 – 91 miles, this time we passed ONE couple walking the route, crazy! An American couple who shouted ‘you guys are like superheros!’ when we ran by, to be fair big Gordon was looking pretty shit hot with his vest on during some driech weather sporting his big beard and tattoos, what chance ye got! I’ve read and heard from word of mouth the statistic that 1 mile on the SUW is the equivalent of around 1.5miles on the WHW. (SUW terrain is tougher) I’d say that’s pretty accurate although I’d say it’s an even greater ratio than that in my humble opinion. The SUW is fucking wild man it’s so under used and there’s plenty sections where the path is hardly visible and if you don’t see the way marker on the hill side in the distance you could easily go off on the wrong direction. I’ve been lucky enough to have a GPX file of the route. What both routes have in common is some stunning scenery….both races are in Scotland after all so that’s a given! This is in no way an attack on the WHW by the way, its just a wee comparison for people who don’t know the route well and the under stated southern uplands…they are an absolute gem, some true true wilderness. So in overview I picked this race because it’s going to push me to new heights, make me have to use true raw grit, resolve, stamina, mental strength and character….this is the challenge of my life and will be a life changer in terms of a life experience. I know I can do it, but it’ll take some massive internal battles to be won aswell as the outward battles of hills, brutal terrain, chaffing, tiredness, sleep deprivation, footcare and edurance.

So sorry back to the here and now, I got side tracked with my love for this race and the route…. Ultimately I am injured. It looks like a reoccurrence of some kind of tear that I suffered in my right quad during Glenmore 24 last September. I noticed it last Thursday, ‘your going bonkers man, its taper induced and in the head’ I told myself and so did some others…if I could turn my imagination into a skill and write stories id be the next Stephen King! That’s what I wanted to believe and that’s what I tried to tell myself, but I could tell even from walking about my right leg wasn’t getting the same power outage that the left leg was. A horrible weekend of worry, doubt, icing, elevating followed before a trip to the physio at 1430 on Monday, D-Day. Kev my physio is the best about, he has worked on me before and knows the score, Kevin is a very upbeat and positive guy but when I came into the studio and told him this wouldn’t be for the run of the mill sports massage it should have been and will be more a diagnostic session on what felt like a dodgy quad, I could sense my low mood was very apparent to him straight away. After examination and treatment Kev gave me the news that it sounded like classic torn muscle symptoms but it’s hard to properly diagnose without scans. Its ones of two things a grade 1 rec femoral tear – goodnight Vienna  (SUWR) or a grade 1 fascial tear – probably goodnight Vienna although a small chance with lack of activity, rest, icing and elevation that it may have healed in a few days enough to make the start like….but he reiterated the small chance and that he wouldn’t let me run it if he had any doubts as it would be mega irresponsible. Wow man…I fought back tears in that physio room, fought them on the way walking to my car, fought them while I text my coach Neil asking if I could speak to him….when he phoned me and I started to tell him, I broke down into a bubbling wreck. I could hardly speak for crying and was about to hang up and text him instead when I eventually pulled it together enough to tell him the verdict, I could sense the guttedness and disappointment on the phone to Neil from his end. Very few people realise how far I’ve came back this year in terms of fitness and hunger for it, barring myself Neil knows it like no other, I was very close to wrapping it all in January/February. I phoned my dad in a very similar scenario to the convo with Neil, text people that id let know I was going to the physio etc. Absolutely heartbroken that its came to this, I drove to my little sisters to tell her yet again in tears.

The injury had obviously taken place during an easy peasy paced taper run on the Wednesday along the pancake flat Prestwick promenade…damn roads!! After the absolute hell id been raising in the hills in the months leading upto this race surely the odds were it should have happened during one of these runs? But no it was into my second taper week which was a very aggressive taper (very slow short and easy terrain runs), I’d been consistent and on plan with my strength and conditioning work, my glute work, core work…. doing all the right things and better than ever. I’d gotten myself into the physical shape of my life no doubt…so cruel and so unfair. Seeing plenty people stating they’ve ‘hardly trained for this’ ‘not ready’ I was the opposite of this and it’s most likely been taken away from me…a harsh harsh sport. FUCK.

Worst case and most likely scenario….im going to do things all so differently than I done post G24 torn quad. I was guilty of camping out in my own self misery and pity that time, ate shit, didn’t rehab, didn’t sleep well and recover…basically I was a dick. This time I’m going to be a dick and turn this into proper rehab and rejuvenation period, use the time away from running to master my true Achilles heel…my diet. Its not the worst in the world all of the time, but it’s lets say…high volume!! The one thing I did do well the last time was come back with humility and greatfulness for this gift of running and physical health….that won’t change and only grows stronger the more experienced I get. I see enough poor souls to know I am a blessed individual, truly lucky.

Some thankfulness, to all the comments and private messages on social media, hugs and chats in person etc. I am a well-supported individual, no questions. It means a lot to me so thank you deeply x

No question I am heart broken and deeply frustrated, but don’t be kidded I know I am still a very lucky person to be here, living the life I’m living. Here’s to the verdict on Thursday night at the physio….either way I will survive and continue this….long, hard, gruelling, emotional, but also AWESOME, FULLFILLING, CHARACTER BUILDING….. hobbie of mine in the long run (pun intended), I love it more than anything. Andy C x

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Never underestimate the power of kind and positive words 🏃

If your reading this blog I’m 99% sure you’ll be aware through my social media postings from the last 6months or so that I’ve had a tough time recovering from a torn quad muscle I got at Glenmore24 in September.

I have been negative, ready for quitting, pulling out of races, not pulling out of race…the usual head up the arse status when things aren’t going to plan and are out of routein. It’s no secret that running is a huge part of my life and keeps me grounded on many levels usually, not having it for so long was tough. I hadn’t been doing myself any favours either with my diet choices and lack of dicipline in areas I could still have been working on while unable to run. To be honest I more or less mentally gave up on myself in a running capacity, but I was hating the feeling of my body getting more and more lathargic and soft from the lack of training. The vicious cycle or eating rubbish, feeling shit and not training continued well into the new year.

I’m delighted to say now I’ve pulled myself out of this chapter and I am now recovered and running good mileage again for the stage of recovery I am at, eating much better and probally most importantly domnating my strength and conditioning at the gym. I know how important the latter is in performance and strength gains. It’s not been easy to get out of the rut I was in…but Ive got there and for that I’m delighted, proud and motivated for the future, very motivated! You might wonder where this blog post is going…during the let’s say ‘shit’ times of the past few months, I can remember a handful of conversations I had with people, either face to face, over the phone or via social media that inspired me and made me feel humbled of what people thought of me as a person and runner. It can show you, how much or how little (depends on your perception) needs to be said. It’s going to be as simple as giving shout outs and listing sadly, you might be surprised to see your name mentioned.

Start of January at Ayr parkrun, running my first ever Parkrun with my girlfriend Lynda. I was still very much in the wanting to get myself out of the rut I was in but not acting on it by doing what I needed to do. After park run I got chatting to Neil Nesbit in the car park. The brief conversation highlight was Neil’s words (roughly) after my negativity toward my current fitness levels and upcoming race ‘you’ll be fine Andy, once you get the head down and into race mode you’ll do great’ (refering to the monsterous southern upland way race in August).

Phonecall pre monthly running Plan with Coach Neil, mid/end of January…I wasn’t looking forward to this phonecall, I knew Neil world have seen my lack of positivity towards running recently by my social media postings and my obvious lack of commitment to the previous couple of months plans for building Fitness and rehab slowly again. The conversation with Neil went a couple of directions, but the motivation and humble factor was when Neil mentioned I’ve shown tonnes of potential at the longer endurance stuff in the past (Glenmore) and it’s my type of race (after my doom and gloom chat about bodyweight/speed etc). After the phonecall also the email with the plan Neil also wrote a little message about getting back into it with consistency and not having a repeat of the last couple months dysaster.

Master’s XC, Dean Park at the end of January. It was awesome enough getting to watch my older fitter counterparts taking part in a brutal XC race for my motivation levels to get fit and back on it again (I love XC). Post race I met Norman McNeill, after giving him kudos for a Great run on the brutal XC course we got talking about our year’s race plans. After talking about norries marathon and half plans he asked me mines, I gave the speech I am sick even thinking about now with the negativity it entailed about how I’ve been injured blah blah but getting back into it and in for the southern upland way in august, after tell him the details of the race (distance, time limit etc) Norrie said along the lines of ‘Youve got it up there though Andy (the head) you’ll power through it no matter how tough it is’.

I was down at my uncles Caravan in dalbeattie mid February, by now I was getting back into the swing of things but still breathing very heavy in most runs. Myself and Lynda had just parked the car at the bottom of Screel hill about to take a stroll up when none other than Norman Neilson started running up it behind us, had a wee stop and good 5/10 minutes chat before he battered on up. I was chuffed and inspired to hear Norman had won the MV50 category for the SUMs series (at 58yo!) Sorry for disclosing that Norman mate but you’ll be a true force when you go up a category again! Norman also told me he was on the reserve list for the SUWR and that he’d like to meet with me to train on the course etc before hand if he got in. Normans general positive manner left me feeling very motivated and positive!

A couple of weeks ago, out during a 7 mile road run through Prestwick main Street…I was feeling particularly lathargic and out of shape, when I stopped and spoke to Bobby Miller for a bit…Bobby is doing London marathon this year and we had a chat about that and my races and status, bobby have me some reassuring words that I know is what these long races take physically and mentally and that’s half the battle when it comes down to it. Another great uplifting convo, I felt the mile or so back to the flat from here much easier than what I’d just done after this chat.

I had a bit of a meltdown on social media in mid December. Saying along the lines of ‘time to give up running, it’s been a good innings’ etc etc. This may have sounded attention seeking but it wasn’t, I was genuinely thinking about taking up another hobby to fill my time. The amount of comments on the status I got was overhwleming and humbling, of people encouraging me to stick with it, some witty (Alan Carr calling me a sexy big stud, standard), some tough love and some cheesy but everyone of them was heartfelt and genuinly appreciated. I also received a handful of private messages and texts after this status, some from people I was surprised to hear from but delighted to and very grateful and Il say it again… Humbled. I’m not going to name all of these people because it would be too many to call out, but thank you!

The main take away message from this blog is really summed up in the title, no plot twists or creative writing in here! (See James Stewarts blogs for that). Kind and encouraging words can make a HUGE difference to someone’s mood, mentally and attitude towards a tough and important situation to them. This is my example and it’s helped me get back into it…I’m very happy with where I’m at just now and how well my fitness and legs are coming back (muscle memory you glorious glorious bastard) But take from this what you want and don’t forget to be kind and encouraging as much as possible to people in your life. There enough negativity and doom and gloom in the media and newspapers. Thanks folks.

Andy x

Ulitimate Trails 110km 2017, Ambelside :-)

I entered the Ultimate Trails 110km in the lake district after being unsuccessful in the 2017 WHWR ballot, around 50km shorter than the WHWR but with more climbing over the route I knew that it would be a great and challenging race. I also have a big passion for the Lake District and getting down to train there on the trails and fells as much as possible, I’d managed down 3 times this year prior to the race. With a combined total of around 140 miles and 40,000feet climbing over the trips, I managed to recce the last 24 miles of the Ultimate trails course and the first 6 miles (out and back). The out and back was cut short as the weather changed dramatically that day and a couple of feet of snow fell (march time).

The year so far had been an up and down affair more so mentally as training on the whole has been going decent, I had a good showing at amazingly brutal but fantastic Glentress marathon in February. Followed by a disappointing day at the Highland Fling in April DNF at half way (27 miles), my head wasn’t in it that day and I shouldn’t have started the race to be honest. I Lost my Papa in the March which didn’t help things at the time, I grew up since I was 6 staying with my Gran and Papa so it was a very close loss. He is greatly missed by all the family, Love you Papa x. Next up In May I had the small and humble (but tricky and tough) mull of Galloway trail marathon, following the mull of Galloway trail from the lighthouse (the most southerly point in Scotland) up the coastal route to Stranraer. I felt I had a very good showing that day in the baking sunshine and this kick started my mojo for it post Highland fling. But in truth marathons don’t really cut the mustard for me and aren’t the races I like to define myself for abilities as a runner. I don’t see myself as good over the marathon or shorter distance ultras and believe my strengths really come into play in the longer ultras on harder and hilly terrain. I wanted to prove to myself I still had it in me for a tough legit ultra and by the time this race arrived I was like a coiled spring. Albeit a very nervous one, I was hoping for good vibes and feelings in this race.

Down to race day, a quick overview. I travelled down the day of the race (Friday) by train to The Lake district with team mate of Ayr Seaforth and friend Kevin who was doing the 55km race. My race started at midnight and Kev’s wouldn’t start until 11am on the Saturday morning. We arrived in Ambleside and checked into the hostel and immediately went down to the race registration area around 1 mile away from the hostel. There was some pretty extensive kit checks being done, I will add a picture of the list later for you to see. It made my pack a lot heavier that I was used to and near bursting at the seams. I also got fitted with a tracker on the arm of my race pack for upto date tracking between check points (which didn’t work well apparently). 8 Check points were in the race, each stocked with food and fluids so you didn’t have to rely on drop bags, which was great! I got some great scran which I will delve into later. Although many of the runners still choose to use drop bags at these checkpoints. Anyway after registration it was around 1600 and I headed back to the hostel to try and sleep for a few hours while Kev went out for a few pints and some lunch. I got into bed and had my head down for about 1715 after I had laid all my race stuff out ready for getting up so I wasn’t under pressure with time later on. I set my alarm for 2130 and had a solid hour or so sleep then the rest of it was very restless and struggling to sleep but I stayed in bed and kept myself relaxed to get the body well rested for what was to come. Just before my alarm I got up and had a quick shower, then went down stairs to eat some dinner that I had pre-cooked at home and brought down with me (quorn chicken + vegetable, Stirfry) *note I had been eating also homemade sweet potato oven baked chips throughout the day aswell. When I got back upto the room I got myself ready slowly and relaxed, it was good to get everything sorted before I went to bed to save the hassle. I had some chat with Kev then said my goodbyes etc and left the hostel around 2250 to slowly make my way to the race start at Rothay Park. When I arrived there around 2310 it was all quiet with a steady amount of runners kicking about, we made our way over to the starting arch and tent around 2330 where portaloo’s were insitu and the race brief would be given. After the race brief which finished bang on midnight they gave us 5 minutes or so to get ready for the off.

The race was underway, I started in the back 5th of the field I would say, I had contented myself with the idea of running well within myself through the night and dark stages. Within the first 13 miles I knew there would be 3 pretty big climbs and that the descending would be tricky and technical particularly with the rain that had been falling during the week. On that note the weather was perfect to start the race, mild enough for a t-shirt with a lovely little breeze blowing on the higher grounds. The first bit through Ambelside town centre was nice to get cheered on by some merry people outside the pubs, then onto the steady climb out of Ambelside that would eventually take us over to Troutbeck. Parts of the climb here were semi technical but good running, I had my head torch on the dimmest setting and was leaching light off other runners to save battery, while sipping away at my tailwind to keep my fuel levels topped up. Descending and Arriving into Troutbeck around 3 miles in then the next big climb of around 1000ft over and down into Kentmere where CP 1 was situated. I was power walking up some parts of the gradients and low gear grinding up other parts, well within myself and feeling good and relaxed picking off a handful of runners while using some runners to pace me up it. At the peak of this climb the descent started into Kentmere, this was steep and technical and people were taking it very cautiously, the technical aspect was bad enough but given the rain fall and wet path it made things doubly treacherous. I was moving well but carefully down here and overtook a few here, stopping for a Lillian Gish near the bottom of the descent where it joined onto a road. Arriving at the first CP I dibbed in and started to assess the feed station, jelly babbies (grabbed a handful and put them in my handheld bottle pouch for on the run), a quick handful of crisps and topped my water bottles up and I was off. While moving slowly out the checkpoint I opened another sachet of tail wind and added it to my bottle. Running down the road with another 4/5 runners we met a few runners at the bottom of a hill stopped…dead end, we had went off course. I offered to load my GPX file up on watch like the gent I am and got us all back on course, it was only maybe 200meters off course we had swayed. The course was sign posted with reflective black and white arrows for the night time sections and also had small maybe 2 foot in height ‘Ultimate trails’ flags sticking out the ground on the route every so often. I was more cautious after this and didn’t make another wrong turn through the night.

After leaving Kentmere the trail started to get a bit wet underfoot and it was unavoidable getting your feet wet, a bit of a worry early on in the race especially with so many technical descents it could be a factor with blisters and feet condition later on. The next big climb taking us up around 1,200ft this time and to around 1,900feet above sea level. It was a good but wet one, tough but I was taking it easy while still managing to pass a steady stream of people and looking back now and again to see the line of head torches in the distance coming up the hill behind me was a great sight. At the Top of this climb which was around 12 miles into the race my Suunto was reading around 3,500ft of elevation gains so far, a solid start to a race particularly through the night. The descent from here to the start of Haweswater loch…ok Lake lol, was one of the most technical of the day but I relaxed and got myself down it safely to CP2 which was here at around 13.5 miles. I filled my water bottles and had a couple of cups of cola, a handful of crisps and stocked my handheld bottle pouch back up with jelly babies again. I had been eating 3 jelly babies every so often when running between check points, I remember reading that 3 jelly babbies = an energy gel so this kept me going between checkpoints all day. Even if it was just psychologically in knowing I was regularly keeping nourished.

Leaving this CP is a beautiful run along the side of Haweswater, although the midges were well out in force I didn’t notice them too much. This part of the trail was filled with rocky technical terrain as was the case most of the day and a few steady gradual climbs and the same again descending. I took a small NAV error here aswell but would only have cost me a minute or so, I was passing people every now and again but feeling slightly tired. Just at that we hit a road section which was 2/3 miles and mostly downhill or flat, It was good to get the legs moving a bit faster over easier running terrain and I think it rejuvenated me a bit, I arrived into CP 3 21ish miles in at Bamptom feeling great. There was Bacon rolls on offer here, not that I had any. I had a couple of ¼ triangle slices of peanut butter sandwiches, a banana, some crisps and topped my water bottles up while adding my last sachet of non-caffeinated tailwind to one of my bottle. Here I also got my power pack out and watch charger and connected my watch to charge while on the move, I hadn’t done this before and only purchased the power pack a couple of days before but it worked brilliantly! While doing all this I got it done quickly and left the CP and I reckon I must have leap frogged at least 20 people in here who were taking their time. I was feeling mega organisied and motivated to keep moving today.

Leaving Bampton was a couple of miles of road to start which gradually climbed up hill then taking a sharp left onto the Askham Moor which continued the climb for a mile or so. The moor was cracking and offered some great views of Ullswater and the terrain wasn’t too harsh here in comparison of what I had through the night. I really enjoyed this section and picked off a few runners on the moor still feeling strong and within myself when doing so. The gradual descent then started off the moor into CP 4 Howtown. I had my GPX file on my watch now to avoid NAV errors again as at a few wee forks there were flags missing and it would have been easy to go wrong (apparently walkers and locals had been lifting flag markers of the route, very poor taste in my opinion and dangerous on such harsh terrain and fell areas). This felt like my fastest and most comfortable section of the race I would say. CP 4 was around 27.5 miles into the race, I fuelled similarly to previous CP’s but left my caffeinated tailwind for the moment. Planning to get a good buzz from it later in the race (or so I thought…)

The next Section Towards Patterdale and Glenridding was a mixture between fells and roads, probably 70/30 (fells/Roads) a good section and I enjoyed running with a few people for some chat on the road sections then getting the head down and grinding up the gradients on the fell trails. There was a gentleman from Liverpool who I was making up a lot of ground on in the climbs then he was catching me back up on the technical descents. Arriving into CP 5 at Glenridding was around 34 miles into the race so we were past bon jovi and I was feeling motivated, focused and emotional (a good mix for me I run well like that). In the CP I done my thing, using a sachet of caffeinated Tail Wind and also adding a zero extreme tablet (caffeinated) to my other bottle of water for a double dunt of caffeine for the trip, hells yeah!!

Leaving this check point I kept an eye on my GPX as it was a bit tricky to get back on the trails and climb out of glenridding, an Irish Woman Fiona joined me here as she didn’t have a GPX so followed slightly behind me. Around 1.5 miles after leaving the Check point and getting up into the mountain pass, I was running well up the gradients with Fiona maybe 200 meters behind me, I came to a Fork in the track and being a hill lover that I am I took the track that went steepest up the hill….the Liverpool dude I had spoken to earlier told me it was a gradual climb from glenridding to Greizedale Hause tarn (highest point of the course) so I thought I should be climbing instead of running on the gently climbing other path. *note the GPX file only gave a 0.2 mile scale so it was really difficult to know if I was on the right or wrong path quickly* Fiona followed me up this path but I did shout back I wasn’t 100% sure if this was the correct way, I carried on moving well up the technical path. I heard a couple of shouts from behind me and assumed it was Fiona shouting that we were going the wrong way, but in my determination I was definitely not running all the way back down the same way I’d come to get back on track, that would kill me inside. The thoughts were ‘Acht fuk it, it will all come round about the same area as the other path anyway’…eh Naw it didnae. It was a pretty horrific error I had now climbed 700feet and could see the path down the hill where I should have been. Some sweary words were utilised very loudly, and within seconds I had decided instead of running back I was running the most direct line down this fecking hill to get back onto the route. So off I went down a (later discovered 47% gradient) though areas of bracken upto my hips and chest, i slipping, bracken giving me wedges, until I eventually got back on the path. I jumped back on the path just 20 yards or so in front of another runner, he asked if I was ok and explained he nearly took the same path. I had a rant about the signage and swore a few times and explained the situation to him, I’m sure he never understood a word of my Scottish angry rant. Anyway I had dropped 500feet again to find that path then straight back into another 1,200ft climb of technical wet stuff to the peak of this section. I was running angrily here but managed to calm myself down and the error actually motivated me a lot more than deflated me, it may have been a blessing in disguise! (Plus more climbing for strava, YAY!). I moved well up this climb and took over people who had made ground up on me again including my Liverpool friend, I quickly explained the nav error I had taken and kept on going. Getting to the top of this climb we were met by a marshal encouraging us who sent me off to the right across the sodden fell to meet the most technical path of the day and the descent down to Thirlmere. That descent was a killer and treacherous but I took my time and got down safely, being passed my Liverpool mucker again which was the norm on the downs! The Sun was out now and it was a cracking day, but there was still a lovely breeze. Arriving at the bottom of this descent I was marshalled safely across the main road having to wait a minute or so for the traffic to pass. Then running alongside the Main road on the trail I was feeling happy and singing some songs, I heard a few toots from a white van. It was Mark Caldy, travelling down on the morning of the race for the 55km, what are the chances and great timing, a great wee boost! Arriving at CP 6 around 42.5 miles in at Thirlmere I done my usual stock and eating wise and was talking to the marshals who informed me (us) as there were another two guys in the CP with me that there were only around 30 people in from of me, this wasn’t a dib in CP though so she didn’t have an exact number. This was a good feeling I hadn’t realised I was so high up the field.

I left the CP sharp to make some ground up on the two guys who were in the CP with me, one being my Liverpool friend. I knew the next bit of the course as this was the last 24 miles that I had recce’d before. It’s a pretty steep and technical wet climb on the fells, through a river (yes a river) then onto a horrid 3 mile run across the Watendlath fell, which was so wet under foot. I started to catch someone 400 meters or so ahead of me on the climb and then by 0.5 of a mile on the sodden fell top I had took over him, then another runner about a mile later. Who I remember saying to him as I passed ‘this is fecking grim mate’ he 100% agreed. It was such a relief to get off that sodden fell but onto a technical rocky descent into Watendlath was very painful on the feet and I was worried at how my feet must be looking and hoping they wouldn’t cause me too much bother between now and the end of the race. After arriving in Watendlath it was another short sharp climb of around 300/400 feet then a technical descent into Rosthwaite and CP 7. Arriving in Rosthwaite was excellent, I was feeling strong for this stage in proceedings (48miles) and I was getting a lot of cheers and kudos from walkers and supports on the route, I thanked everyone of them. In the CP I had my usual eating plan but also had the luxury of pizza here…I held back and only had 4 slices :). Nutrition had not been a problem today and probably why I had felt strong all day so far. I used my last sachet of Caffeinated tail wind and another Zero extreme for my bottles and set off, the sun was shining still but as I say I didn’t find it overly hot and there was a stiff but nice head wind breeze to cool me down. The Marshals here told me it was 15km until the next CP (9.5 miles for Alan Carr), the biggest gap between CP’s of the day but it shouldn’t be a problem….

I enjoyed running steadily and strongly on the technical trails into the Rosthwaite and Borrowdale Valley which gradually climbed for 3 or 4 miles to the foot of the last (and steepest) big climb of the day. I passed Fiona here and we spoke about the Nav error earlier and I told her I had managed to get back on track, she was running well but I ended up maybe 600 meteres or so in front of her by the foot of the last big climb. Man it was a slog, I held a decent walking pace up it but I was in no mood to try and catch the two runners I could see a bit in front of me. At the top of this climb I was feeling ‘Blah’ bloody terrible!! I wasn’t moving well and I felt a major dump in energy, my only explanation is FAR too much caffeine, I worked it out to be 350mg of caffeine I had taken between the caffeinated tailwinds and the zero tablets. Plus a lot of cups of cola in check points, I don’t drink coffee normally or take energy drinks so I am not used to caffeine. I descended down into the beautiful Langdale valley at a very slow pace stopping a few times to get my head together and try and shake this dump. On the way down this technical descent I seen a black sheep right in the middle of the path where I would be running down, it never moved for me so as I approached 5/6 feet away I made a noise to try and scare it into moving. It just turned round and stared at me, so walked up to it and gave it a clap on the head and walked around it…bloody incredible how tame it was. Or maybe a hallucination!? lol. Anyway as I was making my way down I had the odd look back and seen Fiona had made a lot of ground up on me, by the time I got down and onto the Langdale valley floor she caught upto me and asked if I was ok, I told her I thought I had a major caffeine energy dump and she offered me a drink of her water which I took and she ran off ahead. My two bottles were only filled with caffeinated drinks at this point so I wasn’t wanting to drink them. It was 1.5 miles to the check point (or so I thought it ended up 3.5) nightmare! But I ended up finding a fast moving water fall and poured my caffeinated shit out and filled up with fresh water, bliss! I got through this horrible patch and started moving decently again, but I was desperate for this last checkpoint at Chapel Stile, I eventually got to where I thought was chapel stile (well it was) but the CP was at the other side of it around 0.75 miles away. A lovely marshal ran with me for the last 0.5 mile or so into the check point and encouraged me, I was running well again and at a decent clip. I got into the last CP at the primary school and asked what position I was they told me 34th (I was 32nd) so I just kept the motivation of no one passing me between now and the end. They said it was 10km (6.2miles for Alan Carr) to the end from here, but I knew from my recce knowledge it was shorter plus my GPX told me that as the crow flies it was only 3.5 miles to Ambelside, the course definitely didn’t deviate enough to make it 10 km.

I left the school CP running strongly, and down the hill on the road past a pub with many people sitting having lunch in the beer garden all shouting and cheering positive things, it gave me a big smile and was great motivation for the last stages, Thank you all x. Just after this was a wee undulating part through a park, then a steady climb up a road joining a trail again climbing onto another road higher up. It was a cheeky last 4.5 miles, but I had a good section. Onto the last climb through the trails and on my watch looking at 1 mile as the crow flies to Ambelside I knew this area from memory. It’s a great downhill from the top here to the finish of around 0.75 of a mile. I seen the top of the hill and that was a great feeling, I powered upto it getting some encouraging words from walkers who knew the race was on then started my descent…bliss, what a feeling. I had a look behind me after 30 seconds or so of the descent and spotted someone behind me running, ahwell there goes a nice steady downhill finish I thought I had to turn the burners on slightly to fend this guy off. I got down to 0.25miles from Rothay park and could see him close behind me, on the flat now I managed to hold strong and made a bit of ground on him. Running into the park to a lot of cheers and music and the finish line speaker calling my name as an ‘Athlete’ as I crossed the line.

I was thrilled to be finished and in 16:08 for 32nd place overall, I wasn’t sure but I had around 17hours in my head before the race as a target so I beat that. During the run I thought sub 16 might have been possible and it could have been without Nav errors and the low spell. I was feeling great though and chuffed with my time and placing and more so how I had dealt with and tamed a VERY tough and technical ultra-course. For my first ultra marathon finish this year!! After the disappointment of the fling, it was a great confidence booster. I was happy at how I reacted and battled back strongly from my Low point before the last CP aswell. All in all a fantastic day!!

Thanks to all the organisers, marshals, supporters and walkers and people of the lakes (except the ones who were pulling flag markers out) for a great event in one of the most fantastic places on the planet. I fecking love the Lake District and can’t wait to race there again! Thanks for reading folks and sorry about my grammar and use of the English language.

Also a special shout out to Coach Neil MacNicol for your help, encouragement and beilf in me. Sarah self and Scott Fergus for being well on the ball with the tracking and keeping it upto date on social media while I was running, much appreciated! And everyone who puts up with my constant running chat on facebook and on all platforms all year round, thanks for the encouragement everyone!

(Photos below)

Much Love, Andy C x

2016 since the west highalnd way race.

Not written a blog for a while since the West highland way race this year, for no other reason than I didn’t have the passion to write them after my 3 ultras since then which were – Clydestride 38miles, Glenmore 24hr race and the 10th anniversary River Ayr way 40 miler.
The passion diminished a little after the WHWR, in hindsight given the adversities the race through at me this year managing to reel in a sub 24hr run in 23:44 was a great result but fell short of my target of 21:30. Hard training and work had went into it so it was hard not to be a little disappointed in the result, although a finish and another goblet to join my 2015 one is very special still.
The Clydestride ultra was just 4 weeks after the WHWR and just a tick box ultra for me to get a race I haven’t done before ticked off, plus a new t-shirt! My time of 6:53 was decent given I had tried to run a negative split and was in 3/4th last position at the 10 mile check point, I missed out on a negative split by 3 minutes!
Glenmore 24hr race, 4 mile trail loops round the beautiful setting of Forrest tracks down by loch Morlich in Aviemore. This race along with the fling earlier in the year and the WHWR was an ‘A’ race for me. Setting a target with my new ultra-coach (who I will talk about later) it was an ambitious one, but I knew I had it in me if I paced things right. The first 40 miles I paced is at 11:10 minute mile average, target was 11:20s average minute mile for 23hrs of running (this allowed for 1hr of breaks throughout). The next 36 miles (now 76 in total) my average pace came down to 10:58s, I was running stronger and felt like I was in a race without pushing too hard…I was well on course to meet my target mileage of 120 miles and even workout out I could slow by 1mph average for every hour remaining and still achieve it. But with the way I was feeling I knew slowing down was still a good few hours away, I was feeling strong, eating and pacing well! The front runners had over taken me around 3.5 laps into the race 2hrs 20 minutes, but had not passed me again since at over 14 hours of the race, this gave me the confidence I had paced it very well! Ultimately though the courses design of 2 miles flat, the 3rd mile 300feet uphill then the 4th mile downhill took its toll on my quad and hip-flexor. Not because I was going hard down the 4th mile, but because I was holding back to preserve energy and not blow out my quad, it backfired. My quad and hip-flexor went coming down this hill and the lap for 80 miles (lap 20) I walked to try and shake it off, walking it in around 1hr where I had been running every lap 42-44 minutes all day was soul destroying….i toyed with the idea of walking for 100 miles which I could easily do but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. After running so strongly and still feeling in my heart and lungs that I should have still been running strong. My heart was stinging at the decision and still does, but I pulled out. Beating myself up regarding if it was the right decision or not, but a run 4/5 days later feeling the pains again straight away and it eased the anxiety a bit and I realised it probably was for the best. What might have been and I am definitely going back to conquer that demon next year, entries open 3rd December at 9pm!
Two weeks later was the River Ayr Way, far too close to G24 to do anything daft I took it easy and enjoyed the day finishing in 8hrs 45minutes (PB – 6:02 from last year).
Generally I’ve not enjoyed myself and felt the same vibe I did in 2015. My highlight of the year for sure was the Highland fling finishing in 10:01, nearly beating the sub 10hr target but with my pacing being very tight I was happy with the finish and a 2:15 last 12mile section from beinglas to tyndrum! This was a 32 minute PB from 2015 and gave me a tonne of confidence going into the WHWR.
Since July I have started personal coaching from Neil MacNicol and Runrecover, Neil is a guy I respect a lot from the ultra-scene with some fantastic results, wins and experience plus an all-around good guy! The training has been great and kept me on a leash a little bit from battering out needless miles and being more productive with my training….im looking forward to having a big training block between now and the first race of next year which is Glentress Trail Marathon in February. A lot of the time since I started training with Neil has been in recovery from ultra-races etc. It will be good to now be able to focus on some solid gruelling winter training!
I’ve tried not to be negative with this blog post as I’ve still had a great year and feel lucky to have the health to train and run the way I do. I’m just my own critic and do want a bit more from myself from something I value so much. Next year’s races will be Glentress Marathon, The Highland fling, the WHWR (hopefully) if not the south wales 100 or Great Glen ultra. Then some demon bashing at Glenmore 24 to finish the year. 3 ultras onlt next year, quality over quantity is the idea…6 this year and 6 last year was maybe where ive been going wrong.
The journey as a whole and looking at the bigger picture, I went from a 13:20 Highland fling in 2014, 10:33 Fling and a 22:57 West highland way race in 2015. Then a 10:01 fling this year, my progression and improvement has been good but I’d like to see it improve a level yet again. I know what I’ve got to do, not just in training but lifestyle, diet and rest and recovery to achieve this.
Thanks to everyone who encourages me all year on the ultra-scene and life in general. Some quality characters and individuals and I’m proud to be associated with you guys and a lot of you inspire me daily!! Bring on the fast approaching 2017….ohh and its day 1 of marcothon 🙂

My west highland way race experience 2016..

Support Crew: William Crichton, my Father, one of my best friends and biggest supporters. John Strachan, a great mate who I have met through the running club Ayr Seaforth, John has now got the ultra bug after doing his first last year, he will be in Tyndrum for the Devil o the highlands in August! Greg Beattie, a funnier, down to earth and more loyal chap you couldn’t meet! A 2014 WHWR race finisher a great man to have on the crew at the last minute. Glenn Gemmell, a 5 yes 5 times WHWR finisher, what a wealth of knowledge and a cool calm and collective head to have on the team and last but not least Bobby Miller, a very experienced runner having run countless ultras across Scotland before he had a massive part to play in the race as did the rest of the crew…also other runners, other crews, friends seen on route and friendly strangers…I cannot stress enough the support and warmth I felt from everyone on Saturday when the going got tough. 
Time to get Into registration and Race experienced now here goes…

My Dad and I drive upto Milngavie Train station arriving for roughly 11pm, on the way up there wasn’t much convo in the car a few bits back and forth. I did however speak to my dad about feeling a lack of emotion towards the race this year, which isn’t like me I am normally an emotional charges person particularly with things I am passionate about…ultra running especially an iconic race such as the WHWR should certainly get my juices flowing! I had put it down to swallowing a couple of sleeping sedatives that afternoon to try and get a sleep, which didn’t work too great I only managed a couple of hours, I was still sure I felt drowsy. On arriving at Milngavie and walking over to registration, that lack of emotion I was feeling towards the race….quickly changed and I was feeling the excited and butterfly feeling, in fact in the course of registration and the race starting at 1am I’d say I was more nervous than I had been my previous and first year running it! so it was satisfying for me to feel this way…my soul, heart and passion hadn’t deserted me, yay! which I would say are some of my biggest attributes for ultras :-). A lot of chat and people met at the registration, weigh in and around the start etc. motivational chat, humour and best wishes etc. Shout outs to chats at the start I remember…Debbie Consani when getting my timing chip on, I disclosed my target time and Debbie told me she would be watching! (No pressure there with one of the UKs best ultra runners!) Gerry Craig at the weigh in station (where I covered my eyes and didn’t look), Kristy and Keith Wise…lovely people and would be seeing them a few time on route. Graeme Connolly  who was up supporting other people on route, he would have a part to play in my belief pre and post race…All the runners that I know on the start line far too many to name but you know who you are…a lot of you will get a mention in the action part. The race brief…then race start 1am…lets go.

Milngavie – Balmaha 19.5 miles

The race start through Milngavie town where atticipation, excitement and fear can all be felt in equal measures! the supports cheer you off onto the trail and onto the start of the WHW. My dad and Greg had left 10-15 minutes before the start to get to Drumgoyne 7 miles in to meet me at the first bit. Not too much to talk about here, settling into the race and leeching head torch light off of others by turning mine off a lot as I was paranoid about the battery life. I had a good chat with Stephen Schofield and Graham MacBroom along sections here, both in there first WHWR and would go on for some great performances! Arriving at Drumgoyne I grabbed a change of water bottle off Greg and a packet of space raiders and granola bar. Yes the eating and started already! I was feeling fine and settled, it was a beatiful clear night. In fact the sky hadn’t got completely dark atall due to the summer solstice fast approaching. Heading north even at the start of 1am you could see on the horizon sky line a line of daylight with the dark sky above it…amazing place that Scotland is! making my way to just a couple miles before drymen I caught back up with my man Graham MacBroom, we chatted up the inclines and easily ran the downs and arrived in Drymen on 2hrs…now a bit fast I think…I wanted 2:05-2:10. I find it hard to judge pace with the head torch on and especially given that I don’t use a garmin I’m just running in feel, but I normally am a very good pacer. Graham and I both decided to take the foot off the gas a little bit here after to Balmaha 7 miles away, gradual climbing and a few rolling bits after drymen then the climb and descent off of Conic hill down to Balmaha Check Point at 19.5 miles. I had wanted to be here in 3hrs 35, we dos take it easy with a very leisurely easy approach gabbing a lot apt life and the day ahead. We sauntered up conic hill, only getting a wee run on near the top as we seen the cameras were there for the adventure show haha! The sun was newly up and the view off the top of conic hill which looks down over Loch Lomand as I’ve seen many times was beautiful…but at that time of the morning and in such a race it feels even better! The descent off of conic was handled with care to avoid trashing the legs. Graham and I arrived in Conic together at 3hr 25mins…about 10 minutes ahead for me. Seen Rob Souter here, who shouted a bit of support, Top Guy! and for cheers and claps from a lot of others, I remember saying to friends that said ‘looking good Andy’ as Ijogged by to my support car ‘thanks but it’s been too fast so far’ Maybe so but I was running on feel so just had to see how it goes. I ate a quiche in this CP, babybel, crisps, ambrosia rice and was off within 3/4 minutes. The midges were a wee bit annoying here…but I set off for Rowerdenan 8 miles north along the banks of loch lomand…

Balmaha to Beinglas 41 miles

Leaving Balmaha roughly at the same time as Graham we ran basically all of this 8 mile stretch to Rowerdenan together again. It was nice to pass the time with someone and chat, we were both running well and not feeling we were pushing it too hard. This is quite an underated section and gets quite undulating at parts. Arriving at Roweredenan for me bang on 5hrs was 15 minutes ahead of my planned pace. Getting to the Rowerdenan CP where my dad and Greg were waiting on me….it was undescribable how bad the midges were here, my full arms and legs were covered within seconds of stopping running to try and eat. I wanted to eat a good bit of food here but as the midges were so bad it was a rushed effort and I ate what I could and got out…taking some food with me. Leaving for Inversnaid 7 miles away the midges were relentless for the first couple of miles still, climbing up the hill after Rowerdenan it seemed to go on for longer than I remembered before we turned down to the newly reopened (low path)…this takes you back down to the loch side instead of up and down like the high path. The low path is great trails, short sharp undulations, twisty, tricky underfoot…so a good edition to the race taking you off the Land Rover track road section of the high path. Although it’s slower and probably adds 10-15 minutes into the journey. Not to worry though I ran Much of this section with Derek Fish, just taking it quite easy as I was starting to feel a Little tired…but no worries I can’t expect to feel good all day! arriving at Inversnaid at 34 miles I grabbed a quite bite out of my drop bag here, and a few things off the table. Midges were still bad here…but compared to the scenes at Roweredenan it was nothing!! leaving for Beinglas 6.5-7 miles away, this is the tough loch side section. Very hard terrain to run on, where infact a lot of it is just good clambing speed you need to have and a bit of bottle with some of the stones that look slippy to cross them and tree roots quickly etc. it’s a tough section but I always run well here and this was no exception…taking over 5-10 people here. Climbing up by Darios Post and a quick look back to see loch lomand in the opposite direction from the before mentioned view from the top of conic hill was nice…but today good riddance to the lochside and its midges! a mile or so on and I was at Beinglas…8hrs 20min and target was 8hrs 30min. I stopped for 5 here to eat with my dad and Greg and had a good uplifting chat with them and Paul McNair, that guy is the fountain of positivity and good will, Legend! and a quick chat and photo from photographer Graeme Hewitson aswell before I set off…below

  

Off for Auchentyre at 50 miles now and the first weigh in station…

Beinglas to Auchentyre 50 miles.

Leaving Beinglas for Auchentyre, is gradual climbing to the top of the roller coaster after crainlarich then a bit of undulating and down to Auchentyre. Running well during this section…the sun had started to split the sky which banished the midges! Good times, but it was only 10am in the morning and feeling hot enough…this was set to be a scorcher I could feel. A couple of miles after Beinglas I ran past Ally Thompson and his wife who were up to cheer on on route, great to see Ally briefly and get a quick chat, he’s a top man! Running up cow pat ally over taking a few bodies I was fast approaching 47-48 miles and Crainlarich, where it’s Half way time!! a good feeling, John, Glenn and Greg were there to meet me. My dad had no left and gone upto Inchree to check into our accommodation and for a nap. Hardcore great was up for the duration today! Once I had a quick stop and ate a quiche and a few other things I went into the start of the damn roller coaster, this is a tough stretch for a couple of miles before Auchentyre…like the name its up and down, up down…the you hear the traffic of the main road 😀 then guess what…your back up again. It’s some section! (Pictures show arrival at Crainlarich and then start of rollercoaster)

   
getting to Auchentyre farm I got the weigh in and was down 3.5 KG. on my frame 3.5 KG isn’t that much but a healthy weight to see coming off given the effort and heat. I fuelled with assistance from my great support crew…while sitting down briefly for the first time today. I arrived in Auchtyre at 10:31 which was bang on target of 10:30…I was stopped for 5 minutes then off again…on the way out of this CP running I had a couple of chats with people, One being Graeme Connolly who informed me how the front of the race had been panning out and how unfortunately his runner and my mate Davie Gow had to pull out with injury at Beinglas. Unfortunate as davie had been training well and would have been well up there in the race! Graeme encouraged me to keep plugging away and relax and let it take care of itseelf. I was starting to feel the race now thoug….this was the start of a major battle for me to get to Fort William for me.

Auchentyre to Bridge of Orchy (BOO) 60 miles.

the 3 miles from Auchentyre to Tyndrum were run slowly…I was baking in the heat but knew I would see my support crew again here and they would have an ice lolly for me…infact John had two! A sole ro and a magnum…he gave me the choice of which one to take and I took the solero even though I wanted both like lol. I crossed the road with assistance from john to make sure there was no traffic coming  

 
At the other side of the road the rest of my support crew were there and Bobby had arrived too. Barrie Johnson and his Relay team were about too and giving me some encouragement but I wasn’t taking much on…I was being very negative about how I was feeling and the blazing midday sun wasn’t helping matters. My crew encouraged me to get going again and John walked out a bit with me…I left tyndrum feeling a major low point, infact I walked for the first 30 minutes after I left it….and this is one of the easiest sections of the route, all I could think about was how bad I was currently feeling and what still lay ahead, Rannoch moor, Devils staircase, KLL descent and ascent/larig moor. To be feeling the way I was just now and slowing down it was going to to be a long shift out there, I was also getting bitter saying to myself I’m not using a support running either feck that etc, I want to suffer myself! (I was being a blade!) I resigned myself when i crouched over on my knees looking at the ground 4 miles outside of BOO that I was stopping when I got there…I had now walked for 40 minutes since Tyndrum how could I walk the rest of it in…I was being very negative with myself, it was indeed dark times! just at that a few people passed me, one being Derek Fish…I managed to pull myself through a bit and got into a run for a few miles before BOO. I arrived in here to my support crew and they were much happier with my presentation saying I seemed much better than the way I seemed and came across at Tyndrum! I had came out of a bad spell…this was good but I had lost a lot of time on that section and had not resigned myself to not getting my goal time. I refuelled as well as I could here but  couldn’t take much in…I think the sun was making harder to eat now along with the blazing sunshine! Anyway I left the CP with Bobby Miller as my support runner who would now accompany me until KLL at 81 miles! Upon leaving I got a few shout of support from Raymond and Paul in Graham MacBs support crew and spoke to Rob Souter and remembered saying I’m off for my target time now mate, his words of wisdom were strong and true…it doesn’t matter, just get it finished! that stuck with me on the Rannoch moor.

BOO to Glencoe 70 miles

leaving BOO with Bobby Miller polar oposites to my inner tantrum I was taking on the last section, I actually really really enjoyed having my support runners company. A problem shared is a problem halved as they say! We walked strongly up the hill together to the top where jelly baby hill is with the the man playing music on his flute. And I got a picture taken taking a jelly baby and got Bobby to take a picture for me. After that was the down hill of half a mile or so to inveranon hotel where we met the support crew again, only 2/3 miles since BOO but I had a shot at eating again and again I didn’t do too well…which worried me as its normally a trump card for me during ultras the ability to eat!  

   
(First pic is getting to inveranon, Secind leaving BOO)

So Bobby and I pressed into the rannoch moor section….steady uphill here for a good 5/6 miles, I told Bobby I would just death march most of this section, as it wouldn’t be much slower than running pace for me to do a fast walk and it would save me a bit of energy for later…I hoped! We done just that here, catching upto a couple of runners and having a chat passed the time reasonably well. Due to the stones nature of the path here my ball of my left foot was feeling as though it might be developing a blister…and boy did it happen, about a mile from Glencoe I almost felt the pain going from painful to ‘fecking brutally painful’ blisters isn’t a thing I normally ever get even at long distance. But today I had my old pair of Mizuno Kuzan trails to put on at the start….but noticed a bit of a tear at the front of them so decided to not wear them incase stones went into them, so I wore my new pair I had only worn twice for a total of 10 miles….I knew it was risky for blisters but I had no other option. I had to hobble with care for the last mile off rannoch moor and down to Glencoe to get the the checkpoint and see what I could get done to the blister…on the way down I bumped into Kenny Taylor who was on the way onto rannoch moor to Look for Graeme Reid his runner, I also seen Graeme Connolly here again who was doing similar in looking for his runner…both of them have me some encouragement but I could sense there concerns. My negativity had come back a bit again aswell, no chance I could do another 26 tough trail miles with the foot like this. I got into the Check Point and John was going to try and drain the massive blister on the ball of my foot for me…3 times he went to Pearce it and me being a Jessie couldn’t face someone else putting a needle in me lol, (ironic as I do that to people on my job daily!) I ended up having to do it for myself, but didn’t get much reprieve. Oh dear…I got up and ready to go out of this check point but felt terrible about my chance now…and was very close to resigning from the race at Glencoe.

Glencoe to Kinlochleven (KLL) 81 miles.

Leaving Glencoe with Bobby starting the down hill towards Kingshouse on the road…I fast walked/shuffled a hundred feet or so from the checkpoint and said…’nope’ I can’t go on with the blister as bad as this (knowing the terrain that was to come) I asked Bobby if he could run back to re CP and try and get some sort of kit or dressing to cover it for me…the legend ran back and checked for me. While I was sat down on the grass at the side of the road with my face in my hands…I really wanted a way out of this race, but something wouldn’t let me at the same time…if I could get this blister even feeling half better I could maybe mount something I thought. Bobby arrived back with Greg who had a kit with some compeed dressings, i got Greg to stick two over my blistered area and got my sock and shoe on to try again. Just before Bobby and I went to run off i remember Kristy and Keith Wise driving slowly past me in in their car and I could see the worry in their face for how i was was looking I just shock my head as a sign to them things hadn’t been going to great. Then Martin Kelly drove by me after that with his window down and asked how I was doing. ‘I’m in a bad way’ Was met with a very encouraging vote of confidence from Him that I’m strong and could do it! Bobby and I left for the road down to kings house, after walking the first 50 feet again I tried into a slow jog…and from Somewhere I maintained it…all the way to the bottom of the Devils staircase 4 miles away which some of is climbing and on rough terrain. I had a very strong 4 miles here, the blister felt much better and my spirits were lifted…back from the doldrums…again!! just before the stair case climb I got a quick bite to eat from My support crew and then started the ascent at a low but steady and uninterrupted walk! my crew came up part of the staircase to take pics of Bobby and I… 

   
After we reached the top of the Devils staircase it was time for the 6 mile descent in KLL, or the most brutal part in the race in my opinion. I’m never very good at this descent with 75 miles already in my legs so just took it easy…runners were flying past me, Graham MacB first I’d seen him since Inversnaid which felt like a lifetime ago came screaming past me (literally) as him and his support runners on Raymond, Paul and his bro were all singing…they all encouraged me to come with them but I didn’t have the legs for the pace they were doing and declined and wishes them luck, it was great to see Graham moving so well! Graeme Reid And Kenny past me…Stephen Schofield and his crew which included Rob Souter passed me…I couldn’t keep up with any of them! it was a souls destroying descent for me with Bobby trying to encourage me and keep my head from going down…but it was again tbh. But Eventually we got to the bottom of the descent and into the town, a half mile run or so seen me into the KLL Checkpoint. Feeling hellish and looking it after hearing from people who seen me here after the race…I went into get weighed, after a great motivational hug From Sarah first! when I went outside i seen GC again about to head off with Karen Walace for her last 15 mile, she’d had a great run! Graham MacB also gave me a shout S he left as did Graeme Reid! but I was just happy to get a seat for 10 minutes and eat some (very little) food and try and get myself a bit more comfortable and motivated for the last stage…saying that with 15 miles to go I now knew I was definitely finishing! I just at this point couldn’t care less what the time was…I was under motivated and just wanted to be at fort William now. Getting ready to leave for the glory leg with John as my new support runner Bobby Miller started getting prepared again, John had talked him into seeing it out until the end aswell! I good touch for Bobby to see me to the end aswell as he had done a great job with me thus far! I hadn’t been N easy customer to support run for today I knew that lol…so we left, 15 miles away from a goblet and finish.

KLL to Fort William 96miles, FINISH!!

So we left walkinh through KLL to the start of the big ascent out of KLL onto the larig moor…I walked all this ascent in an uninspiring way and just wanted it to be over! when we got out of the ascent and onto the larig moor I was still acting very uninspired…as I say it was just a finish I was interested in now time was irrelevant at this point! John and Bobby tries hard to motivate me into a run but I tried (didn’t give much effort) And then stopped to a walk again…3/4 miles or so onto the moor, I did however get another wind and started running…just after I did I said to the guys not to mention it as I didn’t want them to make a fuss over me running and I wanted to focus, they laughed at me saying this but it sounded ok in my tired head lol. I kept this light and slog jog up…we reached the mountain rescue area where the lovely Patricia was helping out at as she was last year, Patricia is a fabulous photographer and took a snap of John, Bobby And myself approaching…I knew it was coming so got those two to run in good alignment for a photo lol. stopper here quickly for a cup of irn bru and. Couple of hugs from Patricia and we were off again…I was still running, I had a bit of grit and fight back in me again! I knew Landavra wasn’t a million miles away, and looking at my watch…I now decided I could push and get a sub 24hr time, which given the way I had felt for a lot of the last 35-40 miles would be a great consolation! so we got going running at a decent clip…John Spotted the smoke from the fire at Landavra a mile or so away so that motivates things further! when we eventually reached the campfire and music of lundavra my dad and Glenn were there cheering us on. We didn’t stop and run straight through though for the last 6/7 miles for the goal time! coming out after lundavra is hilly and undulating into the Forrest. We kept a good shuffle up going up the gradients for the first few and then started to walk…I seen a random white board in the middle of one of the fields with the dark shadow of a man standing In front of it…spooky. Although upon getting closer I seen it was a rotten tree stump, I never disclosed this to the guys at the time lol too focused on runnin, but on that note, Time for the guys to get the head torches on and one to go in front of me and one behind through the forest section! We battled our way through the Forrest…and arrived at the most beautiful site on the whole WHWR…the sight of the last gradient in the race!! after the 14,000ft +\- that had already come before it, it was sure welcome :-). We made our way up here and onto the road into fort William! 3/3.5 miles from here and a lot of time to do it in for sub 24…it was in the bag but I still ran this anyway, only reaching about 12 minute miles on the downhill it felt a lot faster…but it was plenty at this stage to get me home and dry. getting nearer for William it felt like the turning for Braveheart car park (1 mile to go) was never coming!! when it eventually did with about 27 minutes left for the last mile for a sub 24 I knew the job was done…but still kept a jog up along the main road into fort William and thanked the guys John and Bobby for helping me to get to this stage and to a sub 24! as we were 0.25 of a mile from the finish I instructed the guys to run on to the finish so they could watch me come in if they liked…I took the foot off the glass and once I seen they had turned into the leisure centre…I started running with a bit more vigour again! into the leisure centre car park 10 yards from the finish i slowed right down and enjoyed the applause from everyone to cross the line with my arms raised! 23:43:29 seconds 

 …I am damn pleased with that after the way the day played out after Tyndrum. I showed some heart and grit where some would drop out if they weren’t making goal times. But there is something powerful about that Goblet…any finish is a good one for one of those to add to the collection! I was met by my dad, Greg and Glenn at the finish. For handshakes hugs and congratulations…I thanked them all too Defo not possible without them!!  

 
The next day the the goblet ceremony it was great to see everyone and have a chat to some about there journeys, everyone had done great who had finished and even those who didn’t had the courage to try it!! a couple of shout outs…firstly to a guy I have been praising non stop since it and he might want a restraining order on me soon lol James Stewart…what a hero, James won the race in 15:15, logging the 3rd fastest time of all time on the course…a truly spectacular run, a great guy who full deserved the glory!! Also to my team Mate Mark Caldwell, Mark is a quite character and let’s his running do the talking…a 18:15 run which was an 1hr 20 minute PB is absolutely colossal!! and to get 7th place is pretty special aswell In a very high quality field this year! I was 70th/160 finishers (198 starters) I have had a lot of encouraging and thoughtful messages after the race telling me not to be disappointed in not making my 21:30 target…but to take great pleasure and pride in the fact that I pushed through on a lot of very dark stages..where many would have fell by the DNF side. So I’m trying to do that, and to be honest il loving my 2016 goblet…I’m remembering the bad times of the race when I look at it then remembering I still got a very respectable time…there is plenty more to come from me for the race in the future I also rest easy knowing that!! At 27 years old I have a bit of time left :-).

Thanks for reading guys, a truly magical race and weekend from everyone involved. Runners, marshals, walkers on route, support crews….everyone, thank you and much love xx
Andy Stag C x   

Nearly WHWR 2016 time :-)

So it’s nearly time (37 hours) until i run and battle it out to earn another West highland way race goblet that will go nicely with last year’s in the cabinet. Naturally the buzz maybe hasn’t been quite as much for me in the race build up this year, but the last few days I can’t deny the excitement I am starting to feel. Last year I ran to my platinum target and arrived at Fort William in 22hrs 57minuts and 12 seconds, this year I’ve made it public that I’d like to target sub 21hrs 30minutes. I’m realising probably due to a bit of taperitis in the head…that 1hr 30minutes to knock of is no mean feat. Last year my predicted time (53 mile Highland fling time x 2.2) gave me a prediction of 10:31 x 2.2 = 23hrs 9 minutes….so I beat the formula by 9 minutes. This year 10:01 x 2.2 = 22hrs 0min and 30secs…long and short of it I am realising that I need to more than triple what I beat my WHWR time predictor by last year…this will be no mean feat for me to run this time and will require for me to be on my game for the full race.

Positives to draw and changes I can make from last year… first and foremost a strategy I think everyone would use to try and knock some time off, it’s not rocket science or training like a mad man either….its spending less time in check points. Last year I spend 20minutes at Balmaha (10 minutes looking for my ‘lost timing chip’) which was round my neck all along! 5-10minutes at Rowerdenan, 25 minutes in Beinglas, 5-10 minutes at Tynrdrum, 10 minutes at BOO, 10 minutes at Glencoe, 10-15 minutes at KLL…these are just the ones that stick out, so 1hr 30minutes+ easily I spent static in check points. This year I’d like to be much slicker in the pit stops…no more than 5 minutes in any of them, though I am not so naïve and realise that this will make the race feel much tougher for me. The longer CP breaks from last year certainly give the body a wee bit of recovery time and bring the HR down a bit more again, this year will be sorer….but bring it on! Another positive is the vast experience I gained from my run last year and all the ultras the proceeded it. I had some awesome results and great displays of pacing in ultras last year. I’m going to say this and a lot of people will think I am just being self-critical with the first statement…I am not a by any stretch of the imagination a good runner, but my main attribute is…I f&%king love to run!! I love training, gruelling hills, brutal terrain, being outdoors…I work hard for it. I am not naturally built for this game, hovering between 90-95kg but what I lack in the psychical makeup I like to think I make up for it in my mentality and passion for it. Pacing is a big thing for me in ultras, as it is for everyone! I don’t have the natural pace in my legs a lot of others do, but I do have the strength and if I pace it right I can come though the field in the second half of races well as is evident with some statistics from last year. WHWR 2015…98th/188 at Balmaha 20miles…finished 42nd…Devil o the highlands 88th/200 at Glencoe 18miles…finished 30th and Glenmore 12hr race, 10:25s for the first 6hrs, 10:35s for the last 6 hrs seen me strongly come through the field for 3rd place. This year my pacing for the WHWR is following the same rough plan as last year, 1 hr slower than Highland Fling time to Tyndrum at 53 miles in so 11hrs, then the last 43 (devil o the highlands) in 10:30. This target will mean I am 30 minutes quicker over the first 53 miles this year, then 1 hour+ quicker over the last 43 this year. If I can execute this game plan it will be a very strong last 43 miles for my standards without much room for the inevitable low points. I can’t wait for the battle on the Rannoch moor and Larig Moor, I’ve already run it a 100 times in my head and dreams in the past few weeks :-).

All that’s left to say now is that the training is done, the taper is ‘nearly’ done and the next time I run it will be on the start line at 0100 on 18/06/16 from Milngavie train station heading on a 96 mile adventure north for Fort William. I cannot wait to see how the race unfolds and catch up with a lot of brilliant and inspirational people I have had the privilege to have met through ultra-running. Far too many to name, but will see you all on the start line, on route and in Fort William. Runners and support crew alike, have a great race and good luck :-).

Hoka Highland Fling 2016

Hoka highland fling 53 mile ultra marathon…I done this for the first time in 2014 in a time of 13:15. Last year in the 2015 race I knocked 2:44 minutes off and finished in 10:31…what would 2016 hold? Trainings has gone well, 877 miles for the year leading upto toeing the start line and with a lot of good climbing…69,500feet. The route is run along the West highland way from the WHW’s start at Milngavie train station, 53 miles north along the route and finishing in Tyndrum. It offers a wide range of different terrain and challenges along the route….it’s a fantastic race for any ultra-runner, elite or novice :-). Three of us were doing the race from the club this year Mark Caldwell, Davie Jones (ultra debut) and myself. I will get down to the tale of events from the Friday through to the Saturday night now….usual rules apply don’t be grammar or spelling snobs, its written from the heart!
The weekend had been well arranged between the three of us, Davie and his good lady Lorna and daughter Rihanna were kind enough to invite myself and Mark to travel up the night before and stay in their campervan with them. This made race morning logistics so much easier! It also meant there was no pressure to rush home from Tyndrum after the event! I was picked up around 6pm and we set off for Milngavie, to register at the pub and get settled in the car park for the campervan for the night. It was a good laugh and the spirits were high, trying to ease Davie’s anxieties a bit with him wondering if he had put enough miles and quality training runs in leading up to it. He was well prepared as we all were, just the usual pre match taper induced nerves! The mind can do funny things to you when you’ve hardly ran in the 10 days or so leading up to an event to ensure your properly rested. Around 9pm in the campervan I decided to start prepping my stuff for tomorrow morning, with a 6am race start time the alarm would need to be set for 4:30am so the less stuff to organise in the morning the better! We decided to get organised one at a time as there was limited space in the van for everyone to be doing it at once. By around 10:30pm everyone was organised and we were set for getting the head down. Lorna and Rhianna were in the bunk above the driver’s seat, Davie and I were on the double couch and mark on the single couch. It was a tight squeeze but it was no bother!
The alarms went off at 4:30 and not true to form I was woken up from a deep sleep, normally when I know there is an alarm due to go off I am very conscious of it and normally awake before it. Nice to know I got a restful sleep though, as it was going to be a long day with a lot of effort given :-). We pottered about and got our stuff together while eating breakfast and hydrating. The weather a couple days prior had been heavy snowfall up near Tyndrum and generally ‘Cauld’. Although there didn’t look to be much, if any rain or snow forecast for today. ’but it might be baltic’ further up the course I thought, so I wore an under armour t-shirt with a WHWR base-layer on top (bad choices as will unfold later in blog). We walked round to the race start which was around 10 minute’s walk away, with a steady flow of runners also making their way. It was a chilly morning and the skies looked very clear, a perfect morning for it! Getting round to the race start and handing in drop bags for the various CPs along the route it is always a busy occasion bumping into friendly and familiar faces. It was good to get a chat to John and Graeme Connolly before the start, John Miller, Davie Inverarity, Rob Conroy, Derek Fish and Graeme Reid (don’t be offended if you didn’t get a mention) such a busy race start, its always a bit of a blur with around 700 runners alone in the Milngavie train station car park! John Duncan gave the race brief then it was over to the start line area…the race goes in 3 waves, sub 10 runners, 10-12 hour runners and 12hours+ runner, to try and avoid congestion in the early parts of the race as some sections are narrow on the trails. I was loitering at the back of the sub 10 crew…but knew the pace I would be setting off at a lot of the 10-12hr runners would catch up to me anyway…as was the case. Okay down to the race, but first I will outline my targets for pacing.
Milngavie to Drymen (12.6miles) – 2:00hrs….Rowerdenan (27miles) – 4:40….Beinglas (40.9miles) – 7:40 and then sneak in a sub 10hour run arriving at Tyndrum and the finish…I knew with my pacing it was making things tight and I would have to stay strong all day with no major bad patches. But I knew if I could take it easy, relaxed and pace the first section to Drymen, that once the tougher sections start I could remain strong and get into my race.
Milngavie – Drymen
Races started through the town centre of Milngavie onto the trails, great support in the town centre main street for 6am in the morning! I had my garmin on but it only has 7:30-8 hour battery life so as you can see there would be a problem recording the whole race. I used it for this first section to make sure the pacing was going to plan then I switched it off. This first 12 miles is easily the most runnable of the route and due to fresh legs…it can be a disaster waiting to happen if you go off too fast here! I was 1:59 to Drymen last year and finished in 10:31 and was confident with the same pacing this year I could make the around the 10hrs. I knew where I could improve on from last year’s race and I have more experience and races in my legs (although let’s not talk about the ACP 100km a few weeks back) shocking pacing from me that day…very uncharacteristic and I was out to prove today I can pace a race very well to my strengths :-). So yeah an un-remarkable first section really, although it was great to run for most of it with Alan Cormack. I thought I raced a lot… this man is a different breed! If anyone reading this has never heard of ‘The Hill’ ultra-marathon down south please look it up. An insanely extreme event and Alan has competed in many of them, always a gentleman it was great to pass the miles with him. A couple of miles shy of Drymen, Wullie Bishop caught upto us aswell good to see him! I reckoned Wullie and I would be close in terms of times today. Arriving in Drymen at 1:57 I was satisfied with the pacing although anything under 1:55 and I would have been worried it was too fast…sounds silly but these few minutes here and there can really tell letter in the race. Anyway HAPPY with the start :-).
Drymen – Rowerdenan
Leaving Drymen the race always starts to spread out a bit, it’s a gradual climb for 4-5miles to the base of conic hill for the climb over and down to Balmaha. I was realising with blue skies and the sun splitting through with no sign of clouds on the horizon that this was going to be a potentially very hot day to be running. I am an over heater for sure when running, so the under armour layer with a baselayer also on top was seeming a bit of a school boy error. I ran to the base of Conic Hill with Kenny Taylor and his mate, we were shuffling along the gradual uphills nicely and relaxed and having some good uplifting chat. At the base of Conic hill I decided to put the foot down a bit to get up and over, I have a good stride for power walking up hill (and running the runnable bits) I took over a good 15 people on the climb I would guess without actually counting! Getting near the top it was time to keep a look out for Graeme Hewitson and his Camera, trying to look cool for the photo by taking my hat off and attempting an enthusiastic smile! From the top the view on a day like this of loch lomand is amazing, and over to the arrochar alps on the west side of the loch aswell which were covered in snow…Beautiful! No time to admire though as the steep descent off of Conic hill was now on, I don’t pass too many people on down’s especially at this early stage in the race. I have learned how much running fast downhill can trash the quads and have a big factor later in races. A controlled and relaxed descent down this which in areas is technical was the order of the day. Just before the steps near the bottom I met Karen Wallace, it was nice to put a face to the name as I have followed Karen on strava for a while and never had the pleasure of meeting yet, I’m just sorry I wasn’t available to help you past the cows on cow shit alley Karen haha :-). Arriving in Balmaha I got into my drop bag quickly, downed a chocolate milk…scoffed a granola slice, a rice crispy square and a pack of (pre cruched for quickness) chip stick crisps…got my water bottle topped up and popped two electrolyte tabs in. I done most of the eating on the move and was only in the CP for 2 minutes max…slick pit stops were part of the plan today! So I stuffed all my wrappers in my chest rig to dispose of at the next CP. Balmaha to Rowerdenan is around 8 miles and pretty undulating but the terrain is very runnable in trail terms, so it could be seen as a fast part of the course….although I’m not a fan of this part in truth. But I was running well and the miles ticked away, I passed the 3 miles from Balmaha stage as this is well known from the popular Drymen 10 mile out and back training run! Nothing remarkable in this section although I did hit a little bad spot physically and mentally a couple miles short of rowerdenan but I think it was a case of ‘nearly-halfwayitis’…arriving at Rowerdenan at 27 miles on 4:34 I was 6 minutes ahead of plan but happy enough. John Strachan and Kevin Bloy two good friends of mine through the running from home, were marshalling here today so got me sorted out for another quick transition in and out of the CP in 2/3 minutes. Cheers lads! The food and hydration tactics were the same as Balmaha…all my drop bags were identical today, how boring!
Rowerdenan to Beinglas
Coming out of Rowerdenan heading to Inversnaid around 7 miles away is a gradual but tough in places climb for 2/3 miles…I tried to run bits of it but I was still feeling the effects of my dose halfwayitis and struggled a bit…opting to power walk most of it. Kenny Taylor had caught up with me again and we exchanged some words of encouragement to each other but generally just got our heads down to focus and concentrate on the task as hand…about 5hrs running now and around the same to go all going to plan there was a lot of running still to be done. Getting to the top of this climb is then around the same again distance wise of a downhill…nice to get running controlled down this hill, a couple of miles short of Inversnaid is where the lochside terrain starts. Sharp ups and down, rocks, tree roots, streams running down….I enjoy this terrain though, it gives you something to think about and engages the mind aswell as the body, mindfulness! It was in this section and the one following from Inversnaid to Beinglas I was christened ‘The stag’ 2 years ago by Ian Young, who was impressed by my stride and movements over such terrain…the nickname has stuck, I like it :-). I had a good strong 2 miles into Inversnaid and it gave me a ‘buzz’ I arrived here looking forward to the challenge of the even tougher section of Lochside ahead but knew here with 19 miles to go I was going to finish strongly and well. At Inversnaid the only difference with the fueling procedure here was using ‘zero extreme!!!!’ sounds more exciting than it is…just a zero electrolyte tablet with added caffeine. I used 1.5 tabs of this in my water here, hoping it would give me a boost as I am usually quite sensitive to caffeine! (never tried this supplement before on a run). I also grabbed a couple of SIS gels from the scavenger table before setting of for Beinglas hoping they would provide a couple of boosts! Setting off along the 4 miles of tough terrain lochside is where the emotions and heart started coming out a bit in me. I was taking over a good number of people I would guess 20 in the space of the 7 miles between Inversnaid and Beinglas. Bits where I was running myself I started some out-loud motivation tactics to fire myself up, telling myself how hard I train for this and calling myself an animal etc…cringey…but it has great effects on my determination and drive when pushing the body hard. Getting off the section of lochside I ran well though the bit that’s always sodden underfoot. A mile or so on and the climb to Dario’s Post on the hill at the end of Loch Lomand, taking a look back and admiring the amazing view then setting off again. I was glad to see the back of the loch for the day by now, it seemd like ages ago since Balmaha! Running into Beinglas for the mile or so becomes quite technical again but is mostly downhill so a good bit of pace can be kept. I arrived in Beinglass at 7:37…3 minutes ahead of my 7:40 target (no garmin since drymen!) really can’t complain at my inner metronome….I ran strongly into the CP and had a quick word with G-MacBroom on the way past who had been running the relay, got some good encouragement from him, top man! Norrie Hunter and Ally Thompson were great at getting me organised for a quick transitions and out again for the final 12 miles, appreciated guys! As I left I remember saying to Norrie, 2:15 (roughly) for the sub 10…pressure on and a tall order but I was feeling pretty strong and motivated to give it a go!
Beinglas – Tyndrum
12 miles to go but a tough one…7 miles of climbing more or less from Beinglas to the top of the rollercoaster a mile after Crainlarich seen you at the highest point in the course…I knew if this was on for the time I had to run most of the up-hills on this section, I tried my best and grinded up the majority…but I was absolutely roasting at this point. No cover from the sun between Beinglas and Crainlarich, I resorted to some drastic measures to try and cool down….dipping my hat in muddy puddles to get it wet and putting it on my head to get a bit of respite and coolness. It didn’t last long and I felt as hot as ever 30 second later just with trickles of mud running down my face and neck! A group of walkers seen me do this and had a good laugh. No wonder i must have seemed crazy to them…but anything to cool down! Earlier in the race I had been wetting my hat in burns and streams along the lochside, which was magic…so this was just the contingency plan for then these facilities weren’t available! Grinding along these gradients, cow shit alley where you normally end up caked wasn’t too bad…and I could see the tree line which signals being near Cainlarich and around 6 miles to go. Some support at this gate I was greatful of the claps and kudos…a good boost psychologically at this stage. Taking the sharp left with a steep uphill into the Forrest from memory I knew this hill didn’t go on for long…but my memory also told me that once I got to the top of it I was at the peak of the rollercoaster…no It wasn’t, another 0.5miles or so of downs and more so UP’S!! It put a bit of a dent in my hopes of the time…but I stubbornly progressed on, never say die! Eventually I did reach the top, and jackpot! There were little pockets of snow lying about….guess what happened next? Due to still being roasting I picked up a handful of snow and put it inside my hat and put the hat on…bliss!! I repeated this another couple of times on my run down to the road :-). The road crossing and around 3 miles to go…things were very tight with around 30 minutes left for a sub 10…I knew I was going to try my best though I would rather miss out marginally than giving up on it! Crossing the road I had to wait for 20-30 second as the Marshalls waited until the road was clear. Then I was off with as much effort as I could, crossing the field onto Auchentyre Farm I met Norman Neilson, a great guy who I have met at several ultras, he was up supporting and cheering on today and gave me some great encouragement on the way by and a drink of coca cola, Legend! I set off for round the farm, most of this on road and I was running as hard as I could for this stage in the race…I took over a couple of people with 1.5 miles to go or so and encouraged them to try and stay with me in an effort to get sub 10 hours! I wasn’t sure of distances but with around 10 minutes left for a sub 10 I thought I was around a mile away. I pushed hard…I got to the gate which isn’t too far to go but with 3 or 4 minutes to go for the sub 10 I was resigned to just missing out. I still gave it the best I could though and running into the forrest across from pine trees camp site, past the bag pipers and onto the home straight I enjoyed it…no sprint finish this year on the red carpet lined with support, I jogged down with my arms spread wide for high 5s and cheers….enjoying the moment and fantastic atmosphere that this race produces! I crossed the line in 10:01:07…not one bit of regret or disappointment at missing the sub 10 hours, I ran a great race and felt strong throughout and a 30 minute Personal Best!! 112th out of around 700 finishers.
A great weekend all in Davie Jones running 11:18 in a great debut and Mark Caldwell running 9hrs!! It was great to see everyone after the race and watch many friends cross the line and get a chat with people. 2-3 hours post-race flys in as you meet so many people…Rob Souter and Neil MacNicol to name a couple always a pleasure talking to these guys, elites in their categories and humble as it gets! Fabulously organised event, thanks so much to the fling team, all the marshalls, photographers on route etc who give the support. What a community!! West Highland Way Race up next….18/0618…bring it on :-).

ACP 100km road race

A brief overview of what the race involved, 1.5mile lap of North Inch park in Perth for 42 laps which makes up the 100km distance. The race started at 7am and the 50km race start time of 10am.

Well well where to begin, a little on the preparation the day before hand….

I was night-shift at my work on the Friday night into Saturday morning (7:30pm-8am). When i got home the plumbers were fitting a new toilet in downstairs so i had a very broken sleep until just before midday. I rose and made some lunch while watching some of the world half marathon championships on the TV with my ‘Anyone but Mo’ head on then leaving for Perth around 2:45pm. The drive up was insignificant around 2 hours in duration and that was including one wrong turn just outside of Perth which added 10 minutes or so onto the journey. After arriving at the guest house i was staying in and taking my gear inside it was round about time for the night before registration to open (which was only for offical team Scotland, England and Wales athletes). But the bold Andy turned up as well without realising! it was fine though and i got my number…but i felt like a fish out of water with so many supremely fit looking runners around. One of which i know personally in James Stewart who was running for Scotland. I had a brief chat with him and wished him luck and I’d see him tomorrow, always a pleasure, top man! After this i decided to find an Asda on my sat-nav and go for some food to take back to the guesthouse…i dunno what i was thinking i would get but i ended up leaving with two pre-packed sandwiches and a pick n’ mix. I wont say on this blog what i think of myself for the latter the night before a big race, but i will say my diet needs reviewed. When i arrived back at the guest house i spoke on the phone for an hour or so to relax myself :-). But bearing in mind the clocks were going forward an hour and i was pretty tired from the night-shift the previous night i decided to try and sleep around 8:30 (which would be 9:30 in clocks forward time!). I was restless, struggling to sleep checking my phone etc, i eventually got off to sleep around 10pm. Then i was woken by a baby screaming and crying in a room next door, this went on for about half an hour. I was so desperate to get back to sleep i went into the communal bathroom and got some toilet roll and stuffed some in either ear to act as ear plugs, it done just the job!

The next morning my alarm went off at 5am although i was awake since about 4:45 just lying in bed, visualizing and thinking of the day ahead. I ate some pineapple and grapes for breakfast along with some porridge all while hydrating with water and later on in the morning isotonic juice. I aimed to leave around 6:15am for the 10 minute drive to north inch park which would be plenty of time given I’d registered and rehearsed the drive the night prior. What i like to do the morning before races if the situation allows is listen to a motivational speech video on YouTube, called ‘change’. I say if the situation allowed as often i am in company the morning of the race, but today i was on my lonesome. I listened to this video on loop for a good 4/5 times it last about 10 minutes, if this video speech doesn’t fire you up i am afraid you don’t have a soul…it immense.

Arriving at North Inch park i parked up my car and started to carry my race gear round, the first person i met on the road round was Jonny Pritchard. I’ve followed Jonny’s exploits on strava for a while but not had the pleasure of meeting him so it was nice to introduce myself and have a chat for a few minutes. The next people i met were my running club Gaffer – Laurence then Gerry Craig and then James Stewart. We got all organised inside and started heading over with our kit to the start/finish area where we could leave our kit and supplies. Sarah had kindly offered to sort out my drop food on her table today to give me a hand and make things a smoother transition for me, a lovely gesture and great help i am very grateful! Sarah was also helping Gerry out. It was nearly 7am so we all headed towards the start line, i shook hands and wished luck to all the a fore mentioned runners and a few others. What an experience this was going to be either way with so many elite runners from Great Britain running. The field was only around 30 and 22 of those were team runners i believe. The race started….slow and steady does it now Andy…

So the team runners all belted off, i was planning a more conservative approach like i always do with ultras. I am in no means a fast runner but i have the endurance if i pace it right to do well especially the longer races go as others tire. With such a small field everyone appeared to go out quick i thought given that this was a 100km/62.5mile race. I knew most of the 8 that weren’t the elites and a few i thought ‘if they are doing that pace so i should be as well’. I started off faster than the 9-9:15s i had planned, running around low 8 min miles for the first lap. The lap itself….I’m sorry but i don’t think anyone would disagree was as boring as i can possibly imagine for an ultra. After about 0.3 of a mile from the start there was a tiny speed bump (hill) and that was that, the rest was insignificant. Although running down the back straight it was pretty windy which naturally made you take the foot off the gas a little. After the first lap i stopped for the toilet then when i came back out i found myself racing to try and catch the guys that had got a bit of distance on me due to the break…foolish. I wasn’t running my normal tactics at all. But having said that i got to 10 laps feeling good (15miles) running most miles at around 8min miles, a couple just under it. I stopped for some food here and reported to Sarah an Gordon that i was feeling good, but acknowledged i had went off a bit tasty and that not what I’m comfortable with in ultra’s. To give you an idea of how i ideally pace ultras…at the Devil o’ the Highlands last year (43miles) i was 89th/190 at Glencoe (18/19miles in) then by the end i was 30th/190 and 13th fastest overall across the Larig moor in the race. Also at Glenmore 12hr race, taking the 3rd mile uphill steady but jogging then the 4th mile downhill slow and relaxed seen me come up through the field steadily throughout the race and finish in 3rd place….case and point i know how to pace races to my level of and strengths in running. But today i possibly was getting talent mixed up with ambition. After the 10 laps marker i felt i was putting an effort in but still relatively relaxed, smiling for the cheers and support at the start and finishing area. By around lap 16 i was starting to feel it…i remember going into the start area and saying I’m starting to struggle and that was a horrible feeling and mindset with well over half way still to go. Regardless i tried some food and struggled on, i was through marathon distance in around 3:42 if i remember correctly…where my initial plan was around 4:10-15. heading out for lap 19 i was ready for jacking it. Only a very strong and inspiring talk from Mr Davie Mooney and Sarah got me eating and trying for another lap (thanks a millions guys :-))…i plodded round…getting a second wind with half a mile to go from the lap end but this was only because i had resigned myself to the fact my race was over. I got back to the start and told them my plans to stop but i got some more encouragement and told everyone knows i’m more than capable etc…which is true i know that myself, but my legs were shot from the faster pace earlier on. I ate some more food and downed a few salt tablets that Gerry had given me and got back out there…walking at first, getting plenty of great encouragement from some of the 50km runners going past me who had started about 3 hours after the 100km race, it inspired me. The dose of inspiration/food kicking in spurred me on and i managed a handful of very steady laps. I was having good thoughts and inspired at the thought of battling through this race from adversity before the half way stage, laps ticked away. When i got back from my 25th lap my second wind had deserted me and i was feeling as bad as ever. Davie, Sarah and the rest said i had done fantastic to battle back for a good 10 miles after i had felt like jacking it and if i was feeling like stopping again, with another 24/25 miles still to go it might take its toll on the body. I agreed with them i know i have nothing to prove with my running and training i put in, bad days at the office can’t be helped sometimes…but regardless i went out for what i was 99% sure would be my final lap 26/42. Very slowly jogging out for the lap i hoped something would kick in to allow me to carry on, but it wasn’t happening. Debbie Consani was round the back straight supporting and approached me saying ‘come-on Andrew i didn’t say you could have a walking break’ i told her i was done in and my plans were to stop, to which i got some man up treatment :). I carried on slowly round and when i crossed the line i got some similar interaction with John and Graeme Connolly and Paul Giblin…but i was still 99% sure i wasn’t going back out for another lap. I went over to my drop table and finalised i was definitely finished by stopping and resetting my Garmin. 38.7 miles in 6:05…Although i knew it was the right decision due to how my body was feeling, it still stung a bit and i was disappointed to have a DNF. But hey there is plenty more races to come this year and ones more suited to me. I am miles away from being a naturally talented runner, but i put A LOT of hard work into it no one can take that away from me. I might struggle to break 20 minutes on a 5km on a regular basis, or get under 1:30 in a half marathon…but i put the work in for what i love, ultra trail running. Trails in my view dictate your pace for every individual mile and that makes for things to be much easier to pace. A flat road ultra has nothing to hinder your pace and its easy to get carried away…100% no excuses for this race though, my tactics were wrong and i probably could have been better prepared in a few other areas. After i dropped out i got a sports massage from the physios on my quads, calves and hamstrings…OUCH! But I’m sure it done a good job, they were great physios and full of good uplifting chat. After i had a shower and got changed i walked back over to collect my gear to take back to the car. On the way over i bumped into Graeme C again and had a chat with him and he gave me some good diet advice on some do’s and don’t, which is an area i am keen to improve for my running, cheers mate much appreciated. Before i left i watched a few of the elites cross the line…the winner Paul Navesey crossing the line in 6:58 (6:45s per mile average, wow!) and my friend James Stewart in around 7:45, a superb performance in the Scotland vest!

I tried to draw the positives from this experience and there were many of them. Life is good on a lot more than just the running front at the moment, which makes training easier so happy days. But I’m definitely running back to the hills and trails for ultra races for good now, sorry roads :).

 

Jan + Feb 2016 running catch up…

Keeping this brief and will try not to be clever with things, as my grammar and punctuation makes me seems as bright as 2am in the morning 🙂 and if you’ve listened to my blog with JK for the WHWR…you will hear I talk very fast, which I’m affronted with! Anyway….

Great start to the years running, 215 miles in January and 244 in February. Legs are feeling trim, diets getting better, losing weight? I don’t know possibly a few lbs but I’ve not been on the scales. I’m certainly feeling fitter and stronger 🙂

Sessions that have stood out have been 9 trips upto the carrick hills. This is a Hilly run on the road, usual route mimnum of 10.5miles with 1,550 feet +/-, maximum 15 miles with 2,700 feet +/-. 19 times upto the famous Ayrshire ‘masts’ in total so far this year…100 total could be a training target to keep me motivated (not that I need motivation) I’ve had 4 trips upto the WHW. 2 x 20milers, 22 miler and a 30. Great training runs :-). Last weeks I done 4 reps of Cairn table down near Muirkirk totalling 3,700 feet +/- over 12.9miles. A belter of a session and an absolutely stunning day for it :-).

So in comparison to 2015…I was on 222 for Jan/Feb combined…hadn’t been upto the WHW course once, no hill runs in…just flat roads. Jan/Feb 2016 combined 459 miles, multiple trips to the course and off road runs, hill training and 35,000ft of climbing total (which ain’t bad when you live in Preswick/Ayr – so flat). 2015 was a great year for me, but with the start I’ve made to 2016 I feel confident of a PB at the fling and WHWR…and a very good showing at G24 in September to pop my 100mile cheery! **cough cough 120-25 target!! Mojo is high and I’m enjoying my running as much as ever, at the end of the day that’s all that matters and ensures great showings at races 🙂

Next up Anglo Celtic Plate on Easter Sunday, 100km of 1.5 mile laps around north inch park in Perth! Something different and a great experience no doubt. There will be a blog update for it…promise 😉

Thanks for reading folks 🙂

Andy C x