Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

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London Marathon | Final Thoughts


This is not the post I expected to be writing 24 hours before the London Marathon, but I need to give you an update on how the last week has gone. I’m writing this on my phone in my hotel room, so firstly let me apologise for any typos or random formatting which may occur. 
A week ago today I woke up with a tickle in my throat and feeling really run down. I got on with my day, but needed a two hour nap before I made it along to the pub for a couple of soft drinks before quitting at 9.30pm to go home to bed. The next day I felt pretty grim, but I was just relieved that race day was 7 days away and I had plenty of time to recover…

I was awake at 4am the next morning to travel back to Edinburgh and I muddled and coughed my way through my day before retreating to bed feeling terrible as a dose of ‘proper’ flu took hold. I didn’t get out of bed for the next 48 hours; swathed in an agonising fever which felt like acid was coursing through my veins. Every limb ached and I couldn’t sleep, eat, or think straight. 

Whilst the race was on Sunday, I had chosen to fly down on Thursday morning in order to attend The Running Awards on Thursday night, and the Women Run Strong event which was hosted by Susie Chan and Kelly Roberts. With my company having an office in Central London, this made perfect sense as I could still go to work and enjoy a couple of days of fun London life.

As you can imagine though, I was in no fit state to take a red-eye flight on Thursday morning. However on Wednesday night I felt a bit improved and was convinced I was on the mend. A 4am alarm and five hours of travel by bus, plane, train, and rush hour tube, meant that I got into my office and almost collapsed, much to the horror of my colleagues who were working there that day. Not my finest moment, and I’m actually genuinely mortified…

The long and short of it, is that it has been very touch and go whether I would be able to run on Sunday. If it was any other race I would have given up the pressure days ago, but it’s LONDON; I’ve been desperate to do this race for years and the opportunity to run it as part of Team Floatride was a dream come true, and one which I was stubbornly not going to give up on.


So I’m going for it. Whilst I’m not fully 100%, in the last 36 hours I’ve seen a massive improvement, regained my appetite, and feel like a new human being. My incredible body has done an amazing job of seeing off these bugs, and after the 3 mile run at the  Women Run Strong event, I felt good. Fatigued and a bit lead-legged, but good! 


I can cope with feeling shitter than normal, but I wouldn’t be stupid enough to run if I thought I was still too ill. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve decided that I can do it. It might take me five or six hours, but my bread and butter is running for ten, fifteen, twenty hours, so I can cope with being a bit more uncomfortable than usual for a bit longer than usual. Some might even say I’m getting more value for money…

So tomorrow will be about FINISHING LINES not FINISHING TIMES. I want a new PB in marathon fun; I want to dance through the streets of the Capital enjoying the biggest celebration of the sport I love the most. I want to take selfies with running Rhinos, high five old ladies, dance to the bands, and wave to the cameras. My sub 3:45 goal can wait for another day; tomorrow is going to be all about enjoying the experience no matter how long it takes me!


Good luck to everyone taking part tomorrow – I hope you get the races you want and finish with big, happy smiles!

Reebok Floatride Shoe Review

Back at the start of February, I was offered the incredible opportunity to join a small team of bloggers and influencers to participate in the launch of the new Reebok Floatride shoe. As an ambassador with Team Floatride, I was generously provided with a place in the 2017 London Marathon, two pairs of Reebok Floatride to train in, a bundle of lovely Reebok kit to run in, and a coach to make sure I run my best race. I’ve been training in the Floatrides for over two months now, so it’s time to write up a review and share my thoughts on these brand new kicks.

reebok floatride

When you think of Reebok the brand these days, many active people would immediate associate it with modern fitness trends such as Crossfit  or the Spartan race series. In recent years, huge title partnerships and sponsorship of these events have kept Reebok relevant to many in the fitness community, but they have not been a go-to brand for distance runners.  With the distance running market dominated by big players such as Nike, Adidas and Asics, Reebok are back fighting with a renewed focus on running and are launching their return to this market with the Reebok Floatride Run shoe.  Floatride has been designed to compete at the top of the performance running shoe market alongside recent popular releases like the Nike Flyknit and the Adidas Boost, and is found at an equivalent price point in the market.

Reebok Floatride – Key Features

reebok floatride

There are several factors which make the Reebok Floatride a unique-to-market shoe. Firstly, there is the unusual knitted fabric upper which feels almost like a sock, the 3d moulded seamless cup heel, and the light foam sole cushioning which all add up to make the shoe a whisper-light 233g. A lot of science, technology and testing was invested in the development, with over 300 runners testing the shoe in its many earlier beta forms.

  1. Floatride Foam: The Floatride Foam has a consistent cell structure that delivers the seamless integration of cushioning and responsiveness. This is over 50% lighter than standard EVA foam (ethylene vinyl acetate) which is used in most cushioned shoes.
  2. Ultraknit Upper: A seam-free Ultraknit upper construction is engineered in zones to provide adaptive comfort that offers support and breathable flexibility.
  3. EVA Support Rim: Supportive foam rim centers and balances your foot throughout the gait cycle.

What I think

reebok floatride

We’re now at a point where I’ve used up all the technical information available to me about the shoe, and I’m at risk of losing everyone’s interest. If you’ve read this far, then you’ll be wanting to know my honest thoughts.

These are definitely the most ‘fancy’ shoes I’ve ever trained in, and quite the departure from my OnRunning Cloudsurfers which I have ran almost exclusively in (on roads) for around five years. Generally I know what I like, and I stick to what I know; I’m not one to drink the KoolAid of new shoe releases and only seek out new solutions to problems as and when they occur. I don’t really care what kind of foam is in my sole, as long as it feels good to run in.

The fit: I wear an EU42 in road shoes, which is either an UK8.5 or a UK9 depending on the brand, and sometimes even a UK8. If at some point we could achieve some consistency on that, that would be GREAT… but I digress. It’s an awkward size of foot to have as often I find that the women’s sizing will stop at an 8, and men’s 8 will be too big (a wider fit). Perhaps you’re beginning to understand why I don’t change my shoe brands often – if I find that rare magic slipper that fits just right, then I tend to stick with it. So, having relayed this sob story to Reebok, they sent me a men’s UK8.5/EU42.5. This fits me perfectly, with plenty of room in the toebox for toe movement and feet swelling; important when it comes to marathoning.

Cage Lacing Support: You will see from the pictures that the sides of the shoes have a plastic cage grid encasing them. This provides additional stability and support, gripping this foot in an adjustable manner via the lacing. Given that the upper of the shoe is basically a toughened sock, this means that all of your support comes from the cage. This is new to me, but I liked it. I have to be careful not to tie too tightly though, as it makes your little toes go numb.

‘Ultraknit’ Upper: Another new-to-me feature of a shoe, but I like how breathable it makes your entire foot, which allows for easy sweat wicking and  drying. In theory you could probably wear these without socks, but I am definitely a fan of socks and I don’t like running without them. It took me a while to find the right pair though; Injinji Trail Weight toe socks do the best job for me as I needed the extra padding on the Achilles area.

Run Feel: The most important part. The Reebok Floatride feels light like a minimal shoe, but the fancy, light foam cushions like a long distance road shoe.  I’m really intrigued to see how this shoe performs in the London Marathon because every training run, both long and slow and short and fast, has been extremely comfortable so far. The sole is appropriately ‘grippy’ so that you feel confident flying downhill on wet pavement and even on light trail, and the shoe really comes into its own when you’re cruising at race pace.

Colours: As I have the men’s shoe, I have the blue and black colourway which is shown in most of the pictures. Ladies sizing comes in a zingy neon yellow and silver which I have to admit I am quite envious of. They also feature reflective heels which adds to the futuristic vibe. From a purely stylish point of view, these are the kind of trainers which you could easily wear all day if athleisure is your thing.

reebok floatride

In summary; if you’re looking for a modern, neutral shoe which is a break from the norm then the Reebok Floatride Run would be worth a try. I’ve ran about 100 miles in these shoes, and my only issue thus far has been finding the right socks in order to get maximum comfort on long runs. These seem to really suit me and I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to try them out before they hit the shelves on April 1st, and of course to pound the pavements of London in them on the 23rd of April, in pursuit of my first London Marathon finish.

The Reebok Floatride Run retails at £119.99 and can be bought from Sweatshop.

Disclosure: I was provided with these products to test and review as part of the Reebok #FloatrideLondon ambassador team. Images and some tech details are courtesy of Reebok (I don’t know THAT much about trainer foam), but this article and the opinions expressed throughout are my own.

John Muir Ultra | 50k Race Report 2017

The John Muir Way Ultramarathon

John Muir 50k 2017

John Muir 50k
1st April 2017

5hr 37m 47s
105th of 165 Runners
32nd of 65 Females

The John Muir Ultra is a relatively new race on the Scottish Ultramarathon scene, with the 2017 race being only the second running of the event. The race is delivered by the same team who run the Foxtrail Winter Running Series, and it follows 50km of beautiful East Lothian trails and roads from Port Seton to Dunbar along the John Muir Way.

john muir ultra

The race first came to my attention when I read about Antonia’s third place finish last year; it was then consequently on my radar when I was looking for races to do this Spring to keep my long runs longer in the lead up to the Cateran 55 in May. Without a training squad and adequate transport to get places that are beyond the reach of Lothian Buses, I’ve not been doing any exciting running so far this year; this was a great opportunity to go somewhere I hadn’t been before and knock out a little ultra in preparation for the upcoming medium-sized ultra.

As it happened, the week before the race was somewhat stress-heavy and I found myself lacking in enthusiasm for what should have been a great day out. Kynon was still in Stonehaven for the weekend and with a slightly heavy head from one too many beers consumed the night before, I found myself sitting alone in my kitchen in the dark at 5:30am on race morning, eating a breakfast I had no appetite for, and seriously questioning my motives.

It was a mix of a crisis of confidence and a slight fear of the unknown; perhaps I underestimate how much I rely on Kynon’s support to lift me up, and finding myself at the end of a hard week without him at the last minute due to a clash of events, I started doubting whether my legs had it in them to carry me so far that day. It was reminiscent of the singular time I’ve come close to a DNF at the Cateran 55 in 2014, when troubles in my head overtook the strength in my legs and nearly pulled me under. We all know that in this sport the body will try to give up long before the mind will, so keeping a strong head throughout the ups and downs of ultramarathoning is imperative.

I’m usually good at using running as both a cathartic release and/or a way to hide from my troubles in life, but when life gets particularly bad, the fight becomes a lot harder. I really didn’t want to run. I wanted to get back into my bed, turn my alarms off, and sleep until I woke up again. For any new readers, my husband and I have been living apart for 10 months now due to various shitty circumstances, and it ain’t great.  Right now life is hard and confusing, both financially and mentally, and the irony was that the only thing which was guaranteed to fix me, was the one thing I didn’t want to do.

However, striding down Clerk St at 6am in the morning, wearing my favourite Houston Texans bobble hat and my lucky racing skirt, I knew I had taken the hardest step of the day. I got the train from Edinburgh to Dunbar and then hitched a lift from the station to Foxlake Adventures with a chap called Norrie, who was a solid gold legend for helping me out at the last minute. I got myself registered easily and looked out for any familiar faces; I knew a handful of others doing the race, but it was an unusual situation where there were very few friends running this particular race. The buses to the start at Port Seton left promptly at 8am, and by 8:45am, the runners were assembling for a pre-race photograph and briefing.

John Muir Ultra

I had studied the course briefly at the last minute and knew to expect three aid stations, but I had no real idea what to expect in terms of terrain. I should have read Antonia’s helpful blog again, because then I would have been less surprised to be on sandy beach paths quite so quickly after the start! Even though there were only 165 in the full 50k ultra, the narrow paths were quickly crowded and we followed one another in single file, carefully watching where our feet were going.

John Muir Ultra

It was quite a bright, warm morning, and the first 4 miles on the beach gave us some lovely views. Passing through Aberlady at 6 miles gave us a little water stop, and then we headed onto some walking paths and roads to take us to Gullane.

Picture - Neil Scott

Picture – Neil Scott

Even though the sun wasn’t really out, it was a humid and ‘close’ day which meant I stripped off my outer layers quickly and drank my full litre of water before the first check point at Archerfield Walled Garden. I drank deeply from the cups on offer and refilled both my soft-flasks before swiftly moving on, following a winding path through a forest filled with daffodils.

John Muir Ultra

One of the features of Archerfield is a beautiful ‘Fairy Trail’ where little houses are hidden in tree-stumps and roots. I would have loved to stop to examine them all closely, but I just stopped by this one for a brief photographic memory.

John Muir Ultra

We continued on with the sea on our left towards North Berwick and the half-way checkpoint. I’ve never been to North Berwick and I enjoyed the brief detour through the town which allowed me to admire some beautiful houses. The route took us across the West Bay on the sand, before we reached to Lifeboat Station where the checkpoint was based. Here, I refilled my flasks again and enjoyed some banana chunks and fresh orange slices, before heading out across Milsey Bay on the sand towards the imposing loom of Berwick Law.

Thankfully the route didn’t take us anywhere near the summit and we circumnavigated around the base avoiding any serious incline. The next few miles were then across farmland and fields which would have been very muddy had it been a wet day (or even a wet week!) but thankfully we traversed the packed earth relatively unscathed and approached the next water stop at mile 20 deep in a forest, by a fishing lake.

John Muir Ultra

This little checkpoint was the first to be equipped with the nectar of ultrarunning, full fat coke. I also had two slices of a vanilla traybake birthday cake which was inexplicably delicious. The miles which followed saw me skip through the forest with a smile on my face in genuine delight – I had finally cheered up and achieved the sweet release of the runner’s high which keeps me coming back to these events. I felt strong and capable once more, and ready to fight home to the finish.

Amazing, happy picture by John Lochhead

Amazing, happy picture by John Lochhead

The miles leading to 26.2 and the final checkpoint were largely nondescript, although I found the going tougher as the clouds had burned off and the temperature began to rise. There was also some kind of factory processing plant which was giving off the most horrific smell I have ever had the misfortune to breathe into my body; I think it was processing animal or fish material for fertiliser, and was polluting about half a mile of the route with the awful stench. I dry-heaved a couple of times as I ran as fast as I could to get upwind of it…

Passing through the last checkpoint at 26.2 miles, the amazingly cheerful marshalls buoyed us with reminders that it was only 8km to go. Not being a metric thinker, 5.5 miles seemed a lot longer in my head. I ran a little with Amanda and Fiona around this point, but eventually the direct sunshine started to get the better of me and I threw in some walking breaks. The last few miles were definitely my favourite part of the route; a little pathway by a river for a while which lead to a coastal path where the beautiful white beaches reminded me of the Moray coast.

John Muir Ultra

John Muir Ultra

John Muir Ultra

The race concluded with a glory lap of the Fox Lake itself, and a final sprint towards race HQ. I finished in 5hr 37m 47s and thoroughly enjoyed a good sit down in the sunshine on the deck for a while afterwards, pumping myself full of orange squash. I was feeling decidedly ropey for a while upon finishing; having drank an estimated four litres of fluid during the race, I had yet to need to go to the toilet. I was dizzy and nauseated; these early Spring races are always so hard when the temperature sneaks up on you and you’re used to running in the snow!

Remarkably, despite my body’s best efforts to the contrary, I managed to pull off a top quality finishing pose in the last twenty meters which was captured perfectly by Bob Marshall Sports Photography. I’ll await my ‘Best Actress’ Oscar nomination in the post…

John Muir Ultra 2017

So all in all, the John Muir Ultra is a great day out and I’d love to do it again. For a brand new race, they’ve got all of the important race features executed perfectly, and served with a side of East Lothian’s cheeriest marshalls. A stunning route and a very achievable distance for a first trail ultramarathon, I expect that the popularity of this little race will explode very soon.

Once my nausea had cleared I headed home on the train and was back in my flat in Edinburgh within an hour. The morning’s troubles seemed like a distant memory from another lifetime ago and I headed out for some beers in the sunshine. One of my friends had commented earlier in the day on my reluctance to do the race by saying ‘I don’t know why you do something you don’t want to do?’. Well; not a lot of things in life make sense, least of all ultrarunning. I do it because sometimes, I feel it’s all I can do.

Next up: London Marathon…

D33 Ultramarathon | Race Report 2017

D33 Ultramarathon
11th March 2017

d33 ultra medal

5hrs 14m 58s

104th of 241 Finishers
14th of 67 Female runners
6th of 23 in Senior Female Category

In 2012, I ran my very first ultramarathon at the D33 ultra, after having started running in 2010, and completing one poor marathon finish in 2011.  Often I find it very strange to take a look in the rear view mirror and see everything that has passed since that first finish, and how somehow along the way I became someone who has ran 25 races of marathon distance or further. On many occasions I still find myself looking at my reflection in the mirror and can’t quite figure out how I manage it, yet time after time I seem to be able to pin a number on to a running top, put on some trainers and knock out another finish.

In 2017 and in the days preceding my fifth D33, I could have done without missing an entire night of sleep due to  travelling on the sleeper to London for a day of work, and I could have probably done without casually getting hammered before our evening flight back (although that was awfully good fun). I also could have done without getting the late train after work from Edinburgh back up to Stonehaven the night before the race, and I could have done without my period showing up to join the party on race morning as well; but these things are sent to try us.

Nevertheless undeterred, I woke up to an empty house on race morning (Kynon having left long before to help with Race Director duties) and hitched a lift with some Stonehaven Running Club friends to the start in Aberdeen. It was quite a mild morning, but after half an hour of standing around in a vest and shorts I started getting second thoughts about my minimalist apparel, and added a long sleeved top underneath as raindrops started to fall from the sky.

The start was the usual whirlwind of hugs and reunions of old friends, although it was quite surreal to be saying hello to my colleague Lauren for the first time at a race, who was on the start of her second ultramarathon and enjoying her very first trip to Aberdeen.

d33 ultra 2017

When the hooter went, I launched away and sped out of the Duthie Park gates with the somewhat reduced crowd of 240 odd runners. In the last couple of years numbers have really swollen, but this year it felt slightly less of a bun-fight to get through the narrow park gates and up the steep twisty path to the start of the old railway line. I clocked a predictably quick first mile in 8:40, and then settled in for the long haul at 9 minute miles for the first 26 miles.

d33 ultra 2017

My coach had suggested that a sensible way to pace it would be to aim for a four hour marathon and then turn up the pace in the last 7 miles, but only if it felt ok. I was trying hard to do what I was told, so I religiously kept an eye on my watch and clocked a solid set of splits between 8:50 and 9:10 until the first check point, where I lost 20 seconds fumbling with a soaking wet water bottle, and then I continued with the metronomic pacing, sliding through half marathon distance at 1hr 58m.

d33 ultra 2017

The weather definitely deserves a mention, as by 4 miles it was solidly pouring with rain and by 8 I was soaked to my skin. It wasn’t particularly cold, but this did mean the early onset of some wet kit chaffing (always a joy), and the path becoming slippery and muddy where it becomes more of a trail, after Drumoak.

I reached half way at 2hr 24m which was bang on target for a five hour finish, and decided to take the time required to drink my bottle of Active Root as a walking break. My guts were doing some ominous clenching and I wanted to make sure I took on the fluid I needed. After a minute I set off again and enjoyed seeing a good selection of friends who were not far behind me, and high fiving everyone I could.

d33 ultra 2017

Picture: Running in Scotland

Then the wheels began to come off. I got to 20 miles in just under 3 hours as planned, but that was after miles 17, 18, and 19 falling well short of the target as I was beginning to struggle with some gnarly period pain and its tag-along friends, nausea and back pain. I make no apologies if you find this to be TMI; if so, please go and have a wee word with yourself and come back. I’ll still be here. This is an issue which biologically female athletes have to work around, and it’s not talked about nearly enough, so I’m adding my voice to it. Want to learn more? Shout out to Tess and  Lauren for their honest blogging lately, and of course our girl, Paula, speaking in the news last year.

50% of the population have periods every month for much of their lives, and chances are every so often one is going to show up on a race day for a runner. I’ve been ever so lucky to avoid this before now, but I always knew that eventually it would happen and that it would be unpleasant. I’ll leave it at that, but it’s hard to keep your pace in check when you’re having to stop to bend over and breathe through a vicious cramp, stretch out your back, or just casually do a dry heave whilst still jogging on.

d33 ultra 2017

So that happened, and I quickly came to terms with the fact that there was nothing I could do about it so I just dragged myself back to Duthie Park as swiftly as I could. This was not my goal race, and I wasn’t injured; I had got in a great 20 mile run, and then I would have a nice 13 mile cool down with a medal at the end of it – a lovely way to spend a Saturday. The sun even came out for a little while, too!

d33 ultra 2017

d33 ultra 2017

With Lauren and our medals afterwards

There’s not much else to say – I went through marathon distance in 4hrs 07m and cruised back into the park in a total time of 5hrs 14m and 58 seconds – a tidy 47 second PB for the 33 mile course. It would have been great to be reporting on a bigger success, but I’m glad that I didn’t empty the tanks as I can keep on training for London and I can be fit for a strong run at the John Muir 50k on the 1st of April.

d33 ultra 2017

Before I close, I’m got a bonus story to share. Firstly, here’s a picture from the D33 in 2012; moments after I crashed over the finish line and landed square in this lady’s arms for a hug, after achieving my first ultramarathon finish.

d33 ultra 2017 _6

That’s Julie; who is an amazing part of the Scottish Ultramarathon family, and works hard at nearly every race on the circuit year after year. That was actually the first day I’d met Julie properly; we’d chatted on social media, via blog comments, and on Fetch, but having just re-read her race day blog from way back then, I’m reminded of this:

d33 ultra 2017 _7

So; here I am, 6 years and 25 ultras and marathons (including a West Highland Way Race finish) later, sitting in Duthie Park drinking a beer in the cold Spring evening light, and the tables are turned. Despite years of adamant protest to the contrary, Julie is finally running her first ultramarathon and it’s my turn to deliver the finish-line hug. I was lucky enough to be one of a privileged few to know that she had been working hard over the winter to be ready for the D33, which she had sneakily entered under a  different name and I was so excited to see her finish.

d33 ultra 2017

Photo by Sandra

Finishing was never in doubt, of course; with friends like us you won’t get a choice. Showing a tremendous amount of pluck and tenacity, we got to welcome her home in 9 hours 16 minutes and 14 seconds. Well done Julie; we are all so proud!

 

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