The Road is Always Long

My journey through the world of ultra marathons.

Monthly Archives: March 2016

To the Anglo Celtic Plate

It has been some time since I’ve updated the blog and wee bit has happened on the running front since the Glen Ogle Ultra.  The main thing being selected as part of the Scottish team for the upcoming Anglo Celtic Plate race.  I’d already planned to run the Self Transcendence 100km in Perth this year.  The race is being used as the Scottish 100km championships, the UK 100km championships, the World 100km Championships trial race and, lastly, the Anglo Celtic Plate.  The ACP is an annual competition between the home nations over 100 kilometers that is hosted by each home nation on a revolving basis.  This year it’s in Perth, Scotland.

I am absolutely delighted and honoured to be named in a very strong Scottish team.  The guys team is stacked with talent (as is the girls team):

Paul Giblin – West Highland Way triple winner and course record holder (link)

Marco Consani – Glasgow to Edinburgh course record holder and GB internationalist for 24 hour racing (link)

Dr Andrew Murray – Scottish International ultra runner, adventurer and doctor! (link)

James Stewart – Glenmore 24 course record holder, Clyde Stride course record holder. (link)

And me!!!

I really am the one with the least experience, so it was a surprise to be selected on the back of my single Glen Ogle win last year.  OK, it may have been more than just that, but that is all I have to show for a pretty disastrous 2015.  I had been targeting this race after it was announced in late 2015 that it would be coming to Perth for 2016.  I have cut my teeth on the tarmac all over Scotland in the last decade and a bit and as I’ve moved onto longer distances, it made sense to test myself on the tarmac over a real ultra distance.  Not that 33 or 43 miles are not a real ultra distances, but they are deemed to be “short”!!

So what’s been happening since GO33?  Here is a brief.

  • East District XC Relay Championships (Edinburgh AC – Masters Team Silver)
  • East District XC Championships (Nothing to report although had a good run)
  • Portobello Promothon – New Years Day (1st Master 21:27 – a Personal Best with a hangover)
  • Anglo Celtic Plate (March 27th) – Selected for Scotland Team
  • Jack Crawford 10k (5th March – 33:23 for 3rd and first Master)

Cross country is not my favourite part of running, hanging around in the, often, cold wet and miserable conditions in some field somewhere is no fun.  Some people love it, but I always go into these races with an already negative head space.

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(East DIstrict Champs – Boab loving cross country, thanks to David Woods for the photo)

I tend not to run too well, but I have been surprised at my efforts this winter, still not startling, but have felt pretty strong throughout the races, which may just be a side effect of the training period I am currently in.  What has been more encouraging is my road speed.  To be clear, I have done no speed work (intervals, track work, road repetitions) since early 2015.  I spent most of that period injured, hmmm, I wonder why.  So I’ve ditched the speed work, but as has happened in the past the volume I have been putting in has affected my speed in a positive way.

First race of 2016 was the Portobello Promothon.  This is a 4 mile race on New Year’s Day.  Now, I spent the most of New Year’s eve consuming beer and gin.  Not a massive amount, but enough to make me feel the effects the next day.  This along with the 10 pounds I found over Christmas, this was not going to be a good race and I decided to hang back from the front of the race.  This race always attracts a good field.  As it was there were some GB internationalists there, Andrew Douglas and Kate Avery to name a couple.  It also attracts your more traditional drinker, I mean runner.  I started off steady, but by mile 1 I was feeling really good, so pushed on and ended up running 21:27 a new PB.  Not an age 40+ PB, this was an actual PB.

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(Porty Promothon – The ‘V‘ stands for Very chunky and hungover!!! Photo by Sharon and Alan Ramage)

Next up was a park run (Slipping and Sliding) at the end of January.  This was a treacherous day of running, very icy underfoot, but I was pleased with how I ran.  Felt strong and ran as hard as I could.  Again, taking the first half mile relatively easy and gradually turning the speed dial up.  Maybe there is something in that approach!!  Anyway, the time wasn’t quick, I finished second to a youngster from Edinburgh Uni only a few seconds behind, but the lad in 3rd had finished Silverknowes parkrun the week before in 16:37.  So I knew I was in shape, assuming that the lad in 3rd wasn’t hungover or having an easy day.  Incidentally, the lad who won, completed a 5 mile race recently in 26:xx.

Regular 100+ mile weeks since Christmas has totally turned around my fitness, getting close to 2009 fitness where I ran 71/2:31 for the half and full marathon.  That sort of mileage has it’s problems.  Recovery, for one, nutrition secondly and lastly injury.  I personally think these are all related.  Get the recovery or nutrition wrong and injury may not be too far away.  Of course the constant tarmac pounding is a big factor with regard to injuries.  I have been prone to injuries in the past and I haven’t gone through this training cycle without the indication that things are not 100%.  The continuing saga of achilles issues still has me hobbling out of bed each morning.  Only a couple of weeks ago, both knees decided to provide me with a little tendinitis (suspected) and my groin has been bothering me for a couple of months.  However, I have learned from last year.  I need to get to the gym to work on muscle weaknesses, I am over 40 (well over 40 actually) and I need to look after this old body as you would an old car.  Feeding it the right food is absolutely of top importance if I want to get the best out of it.  Makes sense right?  So, I’ve given up the booze (a temporary measure), given up the rubbish meals, given up on processed anything, I even make my own chocolate bars:

(Recipe: half a cup of 100% cocoa powder, half a cup of melted coconut oil and about 4-5 tablespoons of honey, mix together and pour into ice cube tray, let set in the fridge = Y-U-M)

I got a telephone call on the Saturday evening after New Year from Adrian Stott, who is part of the Scottish team selection committee, to ask me if I would like to be part of the Scotland team for the up and coming Anglo Celtic Plate 100km.

(Selection announcement)

It was clear that I couldn’t hide my excitement about the selection (it was noted in subsequent emails to the rest of the team).  The bottle of red wine I was about to uncork was put back on the wine rack!!

I’ve left nothing to chance for this event, I’ve dialed in the following vital components of training and preparation:

  • training
  • diet
  • sleep
  • mobility and strength
  • race nutrition
  • race preparation

I’ve lived like a monk for what seems like months.  The culmination of this approach was realised last Saturday:  I had a moderate double long run weekend to complete, my last big weekend before the 100km, and wanted to attempt to fit a race into the plan.  5 miles was too short (KB5 on Saturday 5th March) and my eldest had her 5th birthday party on 6th March so the Lasswade 10 miler was out.  The only race, realistically, was the Jack Crawford 10k in Bishopbriggs.  I wee bit of logistical planning and I was sorted.  I’d take the train to Lenzie, then run from there to the Leisuredome in Bishopbriggs, run the race and then run back to Lenzie.  As an aside, how lovely is Lenzie?  What a nice town.  Anyway, the weather was almost perfect; cold, light easterly breeze and bright.  I ran the 6 miles to the race start along the Forth-Clyde canal at an easy pace.  I was reminded how much more friendly people are in Glasgow, almost everyone said good morning or hello.  Living in Edinburgh for 20 years, I’ve lost the ability of being pleasant to complete strangers, it would seem!!

The race itself was well organised and went off on time without a hitch.  Tewodle and Paul, from Shettleston Harriers, shot off from the gun and I sat with Stevie Allan (Kirkintolloch Olympians) and Chris Greenhalgh (Giffnock North).  They are both v40 masters and I thought the winner of that sub race would come from one of us.  After about 1km I started to pull away.  Like the other races I’ve ran this year, that first mile or so was relatively easy (it turned out to be about 5:23), after that I settled into a pace that I thought I could maintain.  I didn’t concern myself with chasing down 1 and 2 and concentrated more on how I felt in that moment and less concerned with the race outcome, paces or places.  I could see that I was catching Paul in the second half of the race, but the gap he had opened up was way too much for me to close and in the end I finished 3rd in 33:23, just over 20 seconds behind Paul.  I was delighted with the time, I’ve not run this quick over 10k since 2009 – 2010.  This race along with the progressive 40 mile run from 2 weeks ago (where I ran the first 10 miles in 75 minutes, middle 20 in 2 hours 20 minutes and the last 10 miles in 65 minutes – and I could have gone on) have been a real confidence booster going into the 100km event.

It is now 3 weeks to go and my taper will start in a matter of days.  Just as important as the training, the taper is where all the training adaptations take place as your body starts to recover from the weeks and months of hard training and freshness returns.  It is difficult for a runner who has been running 100+miles a week for months to suddenly start to reduce mileage to less than half that.  Food intake become an issue, being used to eating thousands of calories a day normally, it needs to be curtailed if I want to avoid any unnecessary weight gain.  However, I have to remember why I do this sport and that is enjoyment and the challenge.  What happens on race day will happen.  This is probably the highest level I will race at and I am realistic with my ability in terms of the other runners who will be there on the day, so the most important thing I will take into the race is the reasons why I do this sport:  I do it because I love it, the positive stress of training hard, I relish the challenge or pushing my abilities and the freedom it can provide.

When I come out of the other side of the 100k race, I won’t care what position I am in or the time I run it in, who was ahead of me, who was behind me, it will be the personal sense of unbelievable achievement and satisfaction that I have run 62 miles around a 1.4 mile circuit and was able to give it everything physically and mentally that I could for myself, my team mates and my country.