Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Ultramarathon Training | Week One: Complete!

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope your 2017 has been going well so far and that you are easing out of the festive season without too much resistance. I saw in the New Year bundled up marshaling at the Stonehaven Fireballs ceremony, which saw us have a relatively quiet celebratory night. In fact; it was well after 1.30am when I even had my first beer, which was well-earned after the hard work which the Fireballs team put in to clean up the event straight after it ends. We headed to a party afterwards and had a chilled couple of hours with friends, meaning I woke up feeling fresh and ready to start my 2017 with a bang!

dunnottar castle

I actually can’t remember the last time I woke up without a crippling hangover, never mind even waking up before midday on New Year’s Day. However; with the winter sun shining down on me, I had a wonderful head-clearing trot around Dunnottar Castle and Dunnottar Woods before lunch which really got my head in the right kind of positive place to get excited about my ultramarathon training in 2017.

Here’s what I did this week:

Monday: 4 mile road run around Stonehaven, followed by a 3 mile walk with friends
Tuesday: No training – packing and returning to Edinburgh
Wednesday: 10k canal run at lunchtime – breaking up my first day back at work nicely, then Hot Yoga at 7:45pm
Thursday: 10k run around Stockbridge and Dean Gardens at lunchtime
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 11.5 miles total, including a run with Mikeller Run Club Edinburgh (more on that later this week)
Sunday: 11.2 mile Long Slow Run on road.

This follows my usual ultramarathon training plan pattern of running Tue/Wed/Thur and then a Sat/Sun back to back. I will have another couple of weeks of running a 4/6/6 or 6/6/6 pattern in the middle before shifting up to higher midweek mileage; 6/6/8, 6/8/8, and eventually some midweek 10s as well – although that will be hard to fit in at lunchtime at my current pace!

Cross-training

I really enjoyed my first Hot Yoga class in a few months at Meadowlark, and next week I will also be heading back to the gym to re-incorporate more cross-training into my routine. In the last two months before Christmas, I re-joined Pure Gym and spent a lot of evenings doing classes in an attempt to shake up my fitness and re-gain some strength, as well as attempting to shift a bit of lard in the most efficient way possible. I equally hate and love HIIT training, but it pulls me out of my comfort zone and kicks my arse in to shape like nothing else does. I’ll be going back tomorrow…

It was around the same time I joined the gym that I received an email from Millet Sports asking if they could send me a pair of trainers from their running shoe range in exchange for my thoughts on them. I thought about it quite a bit before saying yes; I wasn’t sure I really needed more shoes and I didn’t want to be reviewing free stuff just for the sake of it, however after a few sessions at the gym, I realised I really needed some more gym-appropriate trainers and I had no idea where to start looking for the right kind of shoe.

On roads, I’m still running in my favourite On Running CloudSurfer shoe (I’m now on pair #5!), and on trails I switch between various Salomon trail shoes, or my Hoka ATR Challengers if it’s more than 20 miles. None of these shoes are suitable for doing gym work, especially if they’re clarted with mud from the weekend’s off road adventures. I was pleased to have a look through the huge selection of shoes which Millet Sports have, and to pick a shoe which I thought would do the right job for crosstraining. I wanted something light yet durable, with a pretty low heel-toe drop, and something which would be suitable for running on a treadmill as well.

nike free run distance

I selected a pair of Nike Free Run Distance shoes, in a rather sharp looking black and white colourway. Despite being one of the biggest sports brands in the world, I have never been particularly drawn to trying Nike trainers for running, so I was keen to see how they would perform. I own several items of Nike running clothing and continue to be impressed by their durability after literally thousands of miles of usage, but I’ve always elected for more niche running shoes which target very specific runner requirements.

According to Nike, the Free Run Distance shoes were created after they learned that Stanford University track and field athletes had been training barefoot on the university’s golf course. Nike decided to develop a shoe that felt natural and weightless, with an overall goal of feeling similar to bare feet. The team then spent eight years studying the biomechanics of runners’ feet in motion, with the results yielding a profound understanding of the foot’s natural landing angle, pressure and toe position, allowing Nike designers to build an unconventional and flexible running shoe from the inside out. I’m not sure about unconventional – they seem pretty straight forward to me – but I always find it interesting to hear about why shoes are made to the specifications that they are.

  • Weight: 207 grams
  • Heel drop: 4mm
  • Cushioning: Soft foam
  • Sole: Hexagonal ‘flex grooves’

I was instantly pretty impressed with these shoes from the first moment I put them on. They are SO LIGHT! When they are on you can feel that they are a low drop shoe, but the soft foam sole adapts to your weight distribution so it never feels like the low drop is harsh on your calves. I chose a Ladies size EU42 which was mostly true to size, but if I was going to be doing a lot of long distance running in them I would either size up or choose the male version, just for a little extra swelling accommodation.

nike free run distance

I have ran about 50 miles in the shoes and done several types of gym class in them. One of my favourite things is how sticky the sole is on a gym floor if you’re doing a plymetric or circuits class. For moves like box jumps or mountain climbers, the sole grips the floor solidly which gave me a lot more confidence in landing and executing my movements.

In terms of running, they feel good both on a treadmill and outside, but the grippy sole loses all control on wet leaves or icy pavements! I have ran in them when it was frosty or wet outside and had to really slow down; the hexagonal soles provide flexibility of movement but very little grip, so these are definitely a summer running or dry road choice. I wouldn’t contemplate going anywhere near a trail in them either, especially as to not ruin the lovely black/white leopard print detail on the sides…

nike free run distance

I’m going to continue to wear them for my shorter mid-week running sessions, especially for any speed work which I do. The lightness of the shoes on my feet is really noticeable compared to my other road shoes, and it feels like I run lighter in them as well. At some point in the near future I will be doing a little parkrun time trial, so I will wear them for that kind of lung-bursting, 5k sprint effort, and see how they (and I) perform.

Thank you to Millet Sports (not Millets – confusingly, this is a completely separate company from Millets the High Street outdoor specialists) for providing me with my choice of shoes, and for their in-kind support of the costs of maintaining this blog.

***disclosure: I received the shoes of my choice in exchange for an honest review of the product. I received no additional compensation for this post, and as always, all opinions are my own***

2016 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s the last day of the year, so traditionally a time when one casts a retrospective eye over the year and deems it either worth celebrating, or writing off as a total loss. 2016 has been a complete dumpster fire for many people for a variety of reasons, and I am certainly no exception. Personal issues aside, in terms of running, I am truly struggling to pull together the usual show-reel of highlights; winter training with friends, running up and down hills for fun, smiley summer trail running pictures, a smorgasbord of medals and race keepsakes… well, there’s not much of that to share this year.

Glen Lyon UltraHave a nice picture of Glen Lyon instead.

2015 went quite radically downhill for me after I completed the Triple Crown, an achievement which I was rightly proud of.  After that, I basically stopped regular training. Deep in long term unemployment, unable to plan ahead and enter races which sell out months in advance, I had nothing to focus on other than getting fatter and slower. Of course I could have continued to train in a useful manner anyway, but I just didn’t. My mental health and well-being is very closely tied to how much exercise I do; if I don’t run, I get in to a bad place, and when I’m in a bad place, I don’t run. It’s like a big fun snowball careering down a hill, which then crashes and burns in a mess at the bottom. Best year ever!

So what did I actually do in 2016?

Miles Ran: 823 (very poor; 200 less than last year and 500 less than 2014 and 2013)
Races Ran: 5 (Meh)
Longest Run: 37 miles (Speyside Way Ultra)

Glen Lyon UltraFinishing Glen Lyon Ultra in May

It’s an odd juxtaposition to follow on from some moaning about how shit a running year I’ve had, to then go on and say I completed five races 2016 including a marathon and two ultras. But when you find yourself in a bubble where running an ultra a month is now not just usual but almost expected, it’s quite easy to feel that by ‘only’ doing two you’ve somehow fallen short of expectations.

I am also personally aware of how little effort I put in to training for them, and I turned up and consequently struggled a lot more than I should have done. Relying on muscle memory and tenacity in order to get to a finish line is not cool, and certainly not commendable. Do not take inspiration from this method, I do not recommend it at all. In my experience, the rewards are a lot more enjoyable when you have earned them.

What else did I do in 2016?

Months unemployed: 5
Jobs gained: 1
Countries visited: 3 (Germany, Japan, Ibiza)

edinburgh castleThe view from my new office

I moved to Edinburgh to start a new job at the start of June. Unfortunately I had to do this by myself, leave my husband working in Aberdeen, and begin a heinous routine of Monday to Friday in Edinburgh, Friday night to Monday morning in Stonehaven. I’ve seen Stonehaven train station before 6am on a Monday more times than anyone should, and at the last count, I’ve spent over £600 in train fares. Living in Edinburgh is nice, but I am yet to settle in and make new friends, join a running club, or embark on any meaningful training routine. This transitional, peripatetic life is utterly exhausting and after seven months, I am sick to the back teeth of it. I’d love to say there is an end in sight, but the geographic nature of Kynon’s work means that finding similar work in Edinburgh has so far proved impossible, so this is our life now.

My favourite memories from 2016 are from our trip to Japan at the start of April, which is Sakura (cherry blossom) season. I was enchanted by the country and its culture; we visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, and Kamakura, and travelled between the cities on the famous bullet trains. We also found a race to do, and really enjoyed the scenic and hilly Miyajima 15k.

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathonBeautiful Miyajima

How are we going to make 2017 better?

Races entered: 7
Weight to lose: 1 tonne (approx)
Flats to move into: 1

As mentioned in this post, I’ve jumped in with two feet and registered myself for a tonne of races. Being a typically tight Aberdonian, there’s no way I am going to pay for entries and then not use them, so 2017 is looking a lot busier than 2016 was. The other great news is that I have received a ballot place in the Chicago Marathon! I am so excited to do this race and am going to train my backside off (literally) for it to do the best I can. I am going to dedicate the summer to train specifically for this marathon, and I hope that in 12 months time I’m signing off next year’s post with how delighted I am with my massive PB, and to also finally have got a Good For Age time for London.

Kynon and I are planning on making the trip to Chicago together, and taking the opportunity to explore some of America’s Midwest. I’m investigating potential road trip destinations, and hopefully we’ll be able to attend an NFL game too. This trip will be a beacon to look forward to, as well as hopefully a trip to somewhere sunnier closer to home in the summer.  Another good thing is that I am moving into my own flat in Edinburgh at the end of January, and I am looking forward to finally getting more of a sense of home in my ‘new’ city.

I can only hope that the combination of these good things will pull my spirits up a bit, and that next year I can produce some great, positive, blog content for you all.

New Year’s Resolutions

  •  Do more yoga
  • Take more weekend trips
  • Make more of an effort to make new friends

Yoga – For some reason, now I’m in Edinburgh with a variety of yoga choices, I have stopped taking classes. This makes as much sense as the rest of this clusterfart of a year, so I won’t even try and explain it. I love to practice yoga; it clears my mind, restores my heart, and makes my body feel better. Why am I not doing more of this?!

Travel – Edinburgh Airport has a great selection of flight options to travel cheaply within Europe for a weekend. I need to take more advantage of this, and I’d rather spend my money on this than more bloody train tickets!

Friends – I am going to join a running club in the New Year, and I am going to try and be better at interacting with the fitness scene in Edinburgh. As a massive introvert this does not come naturally, but I know that if I surround myself with people whose goals align with mine, I will train happier and more effectively. There’s no way I would have dragged myself out of bed for all the pre-7am Saturday long runs without my Stonehaven running chums, so I need to find a similar squad to train with in Edinburgh.


I think that’s enough navel-gazing for now. I’m sorry this post has not been the happy review it usually is, but there’s no point in trying to gild a turd. 2017 will be better for us all – it has to be.

Thank you all for sticking with me through both the highs and the lows, and I wish you and your loved ones all the best for 2017.

~Rwr

Review: Supplements and Snacks

Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying one or two supplements in exchange for my thoughts on them. Here’s a little round up of the products which I’ve been testing and how I got on with them.
***Disclosure: As usual; all opinions are quite clearly my own, and I received no other incentives to write about these products other than the samples themselves for consideration.***

Whey Box – The Most Convenient Whey

Whey Box is a service whereby one sets up a subscription, and a box of protein sachets are delivered to your door each month. I signed up to try this out and received a box of five flavours and a branded shaker in the mail.

whey box review

What they say:

  • Whey Box is primarily about convenience, with an easy to order service. Once you sign up, the protein shows up, and you can take the sachets everywhere with ease.
  • Each sachet is 30g and contains around 120kcal, 22g protein, 3g carbs, 2g fat.
  • A monthly subscription of 10 sachets costs £14.99 a month, 20 sachets costs £24.99

What I think:

  • I tried Chocolate, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Orange, Cookies and Cream, and Gingerbread. The flavours are perfectly acceptable but nothing different from any other brand out there.
  • I tried one with water and it was chalky and unpleasant in texture; I tried the others with Oat milk and I much preferred it.
  • For me it feels like a fix to a problem which doesn’t exist; I have a tubs of my preferred protein supplements at home and a tub at work. If I choose to have a protein shake after a workout or for breakfast, then it’s right there to use. I have never found myself in a situation where I’ve not been able to ‘get my protein fix’ (their words) conveniently.
  • The pricing is ka-razy. A box of 10 contains 300g of product at £14.99, which works out at £49.96 per kilogram of product, or approximately £1.51 per 30g serving. I can buy a kilo of my preferred protein powder (PhD Nutrition Diet Whey) and have it delivered to my door for £16.95 from Amazon, which is roughly £0.51p per 30g serving. To me, that makes no financial sense whatsoever.

So it’s a no from me on this service; the products were perfectly tasty (gingerbread was my favourite) but I could not justify paying so much more for a service which ultimately, I don’t need.

 

Kind Bars – A new KIND of snack bar

Kind asked if they could send me a selection of their snack bars, and I said YES PLEASE. I received a box with one of each flavour to try, including some new ones which I haven’t seen in the shops yet.

Kind Bars

What they say:

  • KIND bars are a delicious, wholesome snack made quite simply from whole nuts and fruits, bound together in honey. Not only do their unique flavour combinations taste great, they’re also gluten-free, high in fibre, and contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
  • KIND bars have recently been released in the UK, but have been ‘One of the US most beloved snack bar ranges’ for some time.
  • There are two ranges: KIND Nuts & Spices, and KIND Fruit & Nut. Nuts & Spices bars are whole nuts flavoured with delicious spices. With about 1 tsp of sugar per bar, each has on average over 40% less sugar (per 100g) compared to similar snack bars. Fruit & Nut bars are all about simplicity. Just whole nuts and fruit bound together in honey.
  • KIND bars can be found in Whole Foods Markets (£1.49), Tesco stores (£1.29), Sainsbury’s (£1.25) and Waitrose (£1.29) nationwide

What I think:

  • I absolutely love these snacks and am really pleased you can get them in the UK now. I love how they are comprised of whole nuts, and eating them feels very substantial.
  • They are really calorie-dense, so great for taking out on the trail. You need to remember this when you feel like snacking at 3pm on a Thursday though, as they are heavy going in terms of natural fats.
  • The flavours are unique, and I love the ones with sea salt flakes in them – dark chocolate nuts and sea salt, caramel almond and sea salt, and maple glazed pecan and sea salt. YUM.

So it’s a resounding HELL YES for me on these, and I hope that I can purchase them by the box soon.

 

Red Kooga Natural Energy Release Tablets

I received so many emails from different people working on behalf of Red Kooga, that eventually I decided to take up their offer to sample the product just to see what it was all about. They sent me a 60 day supply of tablets, and I’ve taken two a day as instructed for the last two months.

red kooga ginseng

What they say:

  • Red Kooga Natural Energy Release Tablets help provide the mind and body with a bit more ‘oomph’ when slowing down isn’t an option. It is formulated with Panax Ginseng and Guarana herbs.
  • Panax ginseng is a herb used in the Orient for thousands of years to promote vitality and maintain mental alertness. Guarana herb helps provide a natural source of caffeine, providing a gentle way to help you feel sharp and mentally alert.
  • Red Kooga is a natural remedy product, the tablets can be taken as a great energy booster when working out or even just to keep up with the busyness of everyday life, acting as a great alternative to coffee, energy drinks or sugary treats.
  • Ginseng supplements are best taken for a 6-8 week period followed by a couple of weeks break to obtain the maximum benefit

What I think:

  • I was interested in trying this product because at this time of year I really struggle with energy levels as it gets darker, and remain entirely reliant on too much coffee to make me function as a normal human.
  • I took the product for 8 weeks and then took a break as instructed – I have noticed absolutely no difference in my mental alertness, or my general awakeness.
  • I took it morning and night for two weeks before I realised that technically it has caffeine in it (derived from guarana). If the pills are supposed to an alternative for coffee or energy drinks, the fact that I took them then happily fell asleep counteracts that claim quite solidly.
  • I like a side of science with my supplements. There is little research available to back up the claims which are made about the benefits of ginseng and how effective it might be.

I’ve never been a great fan of homeopathy as a reliable fix for problems, so I will admit to not expecting great things from this supplement, and not being surprised when I saw no results.  I was happy to experiment with the product though, as this is not something I would normally purchase. If you want to try it yourself, then you can get it for £7.99 a box from Boots. For the same money though, you can buy a bag of high quality coffee beans and perhaps wake up a little more quickly…

 

Shopping For Races!

It’s the time of year when runners everywhere are looking beyond the Festive season and well into 2017 in order to plan their racing year ahead. After an unstructured year in 2016 (in more ways than one!) I have embraced forward planning once more, and thrown myself and my credit card full-heartedly into ‘ballot season’ this year. Here’s what I’ve got planned so far:

The D33 Ultramarathon – March 11th

d33 ultra
Surprise, surprise; I’ll be kicking off my 2017 season with my first and favourite festival of flat racing, the D33. This will be my 5th (whaaat?!) crack at this race and I have an early, flexible goal of getting under 5 hours. It’s not open yet, but when it does I’ll be ready to commit.

The John Muir 50k – April 1st

john muir ultra

A new-to-me race which is a mere 20 minute train-hop away from Central Edinburgh. I’m looking forward to trying a new route and will enjoy a gentle jog around this one.

The Cateran Trail Ultramarathon 55 Miler – May 13th

cateran trail ultra

I am so excited to run this race for the second time. When I ran it in 2014 I had the toughest ultra experience I had ever endured at the time, and had to push through a challenging amount of pain and mental difficulties. I’m very hopeful that I’ll be in much better shape and will cruise to a massive PB.

The Strathearn Marathon – June 11th

strathearn marathon

I was getting a bit click-happy on Entry Central and saw this one was open, so I thought ‘why not?’. I had a great time this year, and now I know the course I will be able to execute a strong race as my last long run before the…

Great Glen Ultramarathon – 30th June/1st July

Glreat Glen Ultra logo

I haven’t entered this one yet, as I’m not made of money and between Christmas and these race entries I am haemorraging my pay check. Thankfully it fills up slowly, so this one will be on my entry list come January. Much like with the Cateran, I’ll be looking to improve on my 2014 time. That year I struggled with an ITB injury from 20 miles in and eventually made it home in 17 hours 40mins. I can do a lot better.

Devil o’the Highlands – August probably, not open yet.

Devil o the Highlands Footrace

This is another race which I feel I have unfinished business with. I’d like to race it rather than run it, and see how I perform on the top half of the West Highland Way. My instinct is twitching at me saying that this is maybe too much and that I should leave it ’til another year, but I’ll make that decision when entry opens next year. Unfortunately it looks very likely that entry will be via a ballot system, which is the fairest way to do things, but makes planning that little bit harder when the decision on whether you get to run or not is taken out of your hands.

Glenmore 24 – 2nd September

g24header

Both Kynon and I are signed up for our second crack at the 12 hour event. I was briefly tempted by the new challenge of the 24, but I remember how utterly glad I was to finish after 12 hours in 2014 and can’t see that changing this year. I’d like to reach 60 miles – I came close-ish in 2014, but I lost the will to live in the last 2 hours and stopped pushing for speed as it was cold and wet and I basically had trenchfoot.

Chicago Marathon – 8th October

bank_of_america_chicago_marathon_logo-svg

Yet another World Marathon Major ballot to be rejected from… what can I say? I’m just going to keep trying and sooner or later I will be allocated a place or will get fast enough for a Good For Age place. At the rate I’m going at, I think I have more chance of casually bashing out a 3:45 than getting a General Ballot place for any World Major… (this is me attempting to tempt fate one way or the other)


That’s about as far ahead into the future that I can see right now. If, as I predict, I am unsuccessful in the Chicago ballot, then I am quite interested in taking a little trip to Hamburg for their marathon in April. It’s flat, and if I hit it healthy and hard, then a PB might be in order. If it’s enough to score a London Good For Age time, then you’ll finally hear the end of my griping about the London Ballot!

In all seriousness though, I do need to address my soft marathon PB which at 3:58:30 is now over three years old. I have progressed so much as a runner in the intervening years and I haven’t trained ‘properly’ for a long road race since then, due to my desire for distance being greater than speed. I know the endurance work I’ve done since 2013 can translate into a great marathon time if I apply the correct targeted training, so I’m keeping everything crossed that the ballot fairies say yes to RedWineRunner in Chicago. If not, then race shopping in Europe shall commence!

Fingers crossed!

What have you got planned for 2017?
Are you waiting on any ballot results?
Where should I go in Europe to run?

 

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