Red Wine Runner


West Highland Way Race Training – Week 10

West Highland Way Race Training
Week 10
west highland way race red wine runner

Last week was a welcome return to form with three runs and three cross training sessions, including a casual 30 mile hill run at the weekend. Unfortunately I have since been struck down with a stinking cold which has been somewhat of a disability this week…

Monday: 1hr Power Yoga
Tuesday: 7.5 miles – Club long tempo run on hilly route.
Wednesday: 1hr Body Pump
Thursday: 6 miles – Club interval session – 1km effort x 5
Friday: Rest and eating lots
Saturday: 30 miles – an 8 hour monster long run with my Saturday run crew.
Sunday: A couple of hours of tough digging in the gardening and a relaxed 30 mins of Ashtanga Primary Series

Glen Dye

We had planned a route to start at the Clachnaben car park in Glen Dye, then go out up and over Clachnaben, up and over Mount Battock, then down to Tarfside and Glen Esk, before climbing back up Stobie Hillock and down the other side to the Water of Dye, following its path through Glen Dye past Charr Bothy to the car park. This in theory ought to have taken about 6 hours for a total of 25 miles, but we went a little off route on two occasions which resulted in a lot of heather bashing. On the first occasion we took an incorrect turning and after sailing down a very steep hill at great speed, realised we were going the wrong way. We heather-bashed our way around the hill contours until we found the path again, and marvelled at the huge amount of white mountain hares we saw, which were still mainly white in their winter camouflage coats.  Our second re-route was the result of new tracks being made on the estate which we were running through which was very confusing when we were following an OS map.  Supreme map reading skills re-routed us over the hills, circumventing a huge herd of deer, and then had us hopping and skipping down another descent, splashing through bogs and streams and back on track to the finish.

Clachnaben run

glen dye 3

Glen dye 4 Glen dye 5 glen dye 6 glen dye 7 glen dye 8 glen dye 9

Glen dye 11

Having left Stonehaven at 6.15am, we reached our cars at about 3.30pm so it had been a very long day. I was glad to have sensibly packed extra food just in case, and happy that the weather was on our side. It was a stunning route with about 4,500ft of climbing and a real challenge underfoot at times, so a perfect sharpener for the Highland Fling in three weeks time. On Sunday I enjoyed the sunshine and worked in the garden, before getting my yoga mat out and working through the Ashtanga Primary Series slowly to stretch out my weary legs with some furry help.

yoga cat

Tomorrow I’m off to London for a few days with Kynon to stay with some friends. Amongst other things, I am looking forward to meeting some Twitter run chums for a sightseeing run, trying a Fierce Grace yoga class, and hopefully doing some parkrun tourism at Finsbury Park. As mentioned, I developed a nasty cold on Sunday and I haven’t ran this week – better to try and get back to full health than push the bugs into my chest! I always get fatigued after having a cold or virus and I’m very keen to take care of myself with a big race on the horizon.

I’ll be posting photo updates on my London adventures on my Instagram account; if you don’t follow me already, why not come along for the journey?


West Highland Way Race: Training Week 1

West Highland Way Race Training, Week 1 – Week Beginning 26th January.

west highland way racelogo

It feels inaccurate to title this entry as ‘Training Week 1′ as years of work have already gone in to this journey towards Fort William. This is week one of the final six months of training which will lead to the start line on the Evening of the 19th of June, ready for the off at 1am on the 20th. I am still tweaking my final training ‘plan’ and working out how I will be fitting in the long weekend runs around various things I have in my calendar, so I won’t be sharing this on the blog just yet. I am basing my training loosely on the plan for a 100 mile race which peaks at 70 miles a week as seen in ‘Relentless Forward Progress‘, but allowing for plenty of flexibility if required. Races in the lead up to June will be the 33 mile D33 Ultra in March and the 53 mile Highland Fling, but the jury is still out about what kind of effort I will be executing at these.

This week was my first week back to regimented training of 2015, after a relaxed December of shorter runs and two rather sedentary weeks on holiday. I completed all my planned training and really enjoyed the feeling of working hard for the first time in a while! It was the last week of my Winter break from University so I had plenty of time on my hands allowing me to spread things out a bit and do a little extra at my leisure. Lets take a look:

AM – 8.4 mile run around Stonehaven in my new Hokas
PM – 1 hour Power Yoga

AM – 3 mile social run catching up with a friend
PM – 6 mile Club Run – Long Speed Intervals, 5 x 800m

PM – 2 mile run to and from 1 hour Body Pump class

PM – 6.5 mile Club Run – including 30 minute tempo


23.2 mile trail run on West Highland Way

3 mile hike – Balmaha – Conic Hill summit and back

TOTAL: 51.9 miles


I won’t normally be doing so many sessions – 5 runs and two cross-training sessions will suffice, and I won’t be running on a Monday.

WHW training weekend

Picture: Sandra McDougall


It was of course the first West Highland Way Race training weekend of the year, and Kynon and I spent two lovely nights at the Oak Tree Inn at Balmaha with dozens of good running friends. Many more joined in for the Saturday run alone, with many completing the full 30 miles from Balmaha – Inversnaid and back. I hadn’t set a goal other than something over 20, but given I hadn’t done a ‘long’ run since November, I was wary not to get too carried away and over-cook it. It would be a pretty amateur move to injure myself at the end of my first week of proper training. I was also harbouring a cough which was making my chest tight so I knew I had to be wise. In the end I did 23 after deciding that I would do the same as my Stonehaven Running Club training group did last weekend which I missed due to jetlag.

It was great to be back on the West Highland Way again, and the weather was stunning. As ever, the climbs between Balmaha and after Rowardennan were steeper than I remembered but were a good indicator as to where my fitness is at the moment. On Sunday we climbed Conic Hill right to the summit to flush out the legs. It was absolutely stunning at the top! Here are some pictures of the weekend:

whw training 1whw training 3whw training 4whw training 5whw training 6whw training 7whw training 8whw training 9

Finally, I’ve decided to finally register my blog with Bloglovin'; so if this is your preferred method of reading blogs you can now follow my blog with Bloglovin.

RACE REPORT: Monymusk Hilly Half Marathon 2014

Monymusk Hilly Half Marathon
26th October 2014

stonehaven running club at monymusk  half marathon 2014

Time: 2hr 15m 26s
Place: 79th / 92
Gender: 21st / 26
Category: 9th / 10

Monymusk Hilly Half Marathon is a small race in its second year, organised by the Cosmic Hill Bashers. In its second year, it attracted a field of 94 to the Village Hall for the start at 11am, including twelve from Stonehaven Running Club as it was the final race of the 2014 SRC Club Championships. The terrain is described as multi-terrain with runners making their way across fields, along roads, on forest tracks and mountain bike trails. Also, the clue is in the name, and racers can expect a significant amount of climbing throughout the 13.1 miles.

Stonehaven Running Club met at the leisure centre to share lifts at 9.30am and we made it up to Monymusk around 10.15am. Unfortunately due to my innate ability to get car-sick in almost any vehicle when I’m not driving, I arrived feeling pretty rotten and sick to my stomach. This wasn’t a great start to the day but with some fresh air, water and a cereal bar I began to feel a little more human after I picked up my number, which was a bargain £10.

We met some with some other club ladies and all dithered over what to wear. The weather was actually quite lovely with the exception of a very strong wind, which seemed to change in temperature every 10 minutes from being icy cold to rather temperate. We knew the route would be exposed when we broke through the tree line ascending the hill, but climbing hills is usually pretty sweaty work so it was a tricky one to call.

At 10.50am there was a short briefing and then we were walked to the start around the corner. My right hand automatically flew to my left wrist ready to start my garmin, but once again I was reminded that in my haste to leave on time earlier, I had neglected to pick up this essential piece of kit from the kitchen table. It didn’t bother me to be running utterly blind, especially as it was a trail race and I wasn’t chasing a time, but there’s nothing like knowing how far you have to go when your energy levels drop towards the end.

The first section of the race took us on a steady uphill over a field on a grassy track, before we turned onto a country road for a brief downhill and then more and more climbing. I was grinding away at the hill, trying to keep a steady jog, but I just wasn’t keeping the pace of those around me and I saw the last of the Stonehaven ladies slip out of sight only about 2 miles in to the race. I didn’t really care; my competitive instincts had disappeared shortly after my guts started jangling like a set of church bells, and the previously experienced urge to vomit quickly made its presence felt once again.

This was frustrating, but what did I really expect having felt pretty ill shortly before and then gone from zero to running hard up a hill?! We’ve seen this phenomenon before this year, except at Braemar I did end up emptying my guts (in front of an unsuspecting child, no less) so what can be learned from this? 1) Drive myself to races. 2) WARM. UP.

Next, we turned off the road into Pitfichie Forest where the path was a wide and gravelly forest track. Still heading uphill I conceded to walk and continued to power up and up but breaking into a run wherever I could. The path got narrower, rockier and steeper and then we broke through the tree line and could see ahead where the hill side was populated by a small stream of neon ants climbing up to the summit.

Somewhere around this point I seemed to shake off the nagging nausea, and perhaps fuelled by the gorgeous views which surrounded us, developed a real spring in my step as the terrain became much more technical. I passed a couple of men and channelled my inner mountain goat hopping from rock to rock and over lumps of heather towards the marshall at the top.

As expected, the wind up on top of the hill was vicious but it was welcome as I was really overheating after the climb, which according to Vikki’s Garmin was a cracking 7 miles long. I began the controlled fall down the other side in delight as I was finally in my element; I love a technical downhill and enjoy letting gravity take its course without fear. I was ever-grateful for the superior grip of my Salomon Speedcross 3s which let me bounce all over the place without feeling out of control.

Monymusk Half Marathon Descent

I thrashed my way all the way down the hill and re-entered the forest where the path widened and flattened out. I lost a couple of places here which I had gained on the down as my legs had decided they’d had about enough for one day, and I struggled to find a rhythm again on the flat and easy road. It felt like I was stuck in 2nd gear; I wished I knew how far I still had to go as I was utterly clueless. The long haul up the hill had totally distorted everything in my mind.

After a welcome water stop I was told it was 4k to the finish. Ten more minutes along the road and the next marshall said 4k too! We turned off the road and headed towards the banks of the River Dee, and followed the river for some time along the bottom of a tussocky grassy field which was frustrating to run on. The soft grass sucked the last of the energy from my lifeless legs and I locked into a system of running for 50 breaths and walking for 20 which passed the time.

The next marshall said one mile left – excellent! The next one half a mile later said 2k left… I have never missed my Garmin more! I could deduce I was pretty close from the sounds of the road and my memory of the course map, so I tried to just enjoy the beautiful Autumn leaves around me and underfoot and the sunshine which was breaking through the trees.

A sharp right turn brought us on to the finishing straight, where after a long uphill run it was time to finally call it a day. The rest of the SRC girls were waiting for me which was kind of them; especially as there was soup and cake awaiting all finishers! My Mum had popped along to cheer us on as well as snapped a picture of me finishing:

Redwinerunner Monymusk Half Finish

 This smile was a bit forced – I was absolutely gubbed. The race was beautiful, but very hard work and a lot warmer than I’d expected and by the finish I already had a dehydration headache. I checked with the timer what my time was and was surprised to hear only 2 hours and 15 minutes – I had expected to be well over 2 hours 30, so despite it being a lifetime worst performance at Half Marathon distance I was pleased that my time wasn’t too horrific.

The other girls had come in between 1hr 56m and 2hr 08m and had all found it to be a very challenging course. In coming 6th SRC lady, I didn’t actually get any more Championship points as in my top 5 finishes in Championship races I have finished higher than 6th every time. Vikki came 5th SRC lady and was able to better one of her placings gaining another two points to retain her 2nd place with 89 points, and keeping me safely in 3rd with 87 points.

Unfortunately I will miss the prize giving ceilidh in January as we’re on holiday. I have one more goal to achieve by the end of the year, which is to reach the SRC Silver standard, which is defined as the following: Complete 5 formal events 1 of which must be a minimum of a half marathon and 3 of which must be over 60% WAVA. I obviously have the 5 events and the distance requirements sorted, but I need one more event at 60% WAVA. I’ll be attempting this at the Metro Proms 3k next Friday (or the December event if I’m unsuccessful) where I’ll need to run under 13 minutes 56 seconds. I can also attempt 60% WAVA at the Peterhead 10k where I’d need to run quicker than 49 minutes 59 seconds, which is a 45 second PB. That seems a lot more achievable right now than the 1hr 49m 40s I would need to run at the Fraserburgh Half Marathon, which is a 5 min 38s PB!

I’ve often said that I really don’t enjoy running ‘fast’ so competitions like this force me to push myself harder to unlock the achievements. It certainly shakes things up from my preferred ultra distances, and pushes me to train differently. Hopefully I will finish 2014 with a new PB or two and wrap up the year on a high!

Does your running club have a Club Championship or club standards? Do you take part? Do you feel it pushes you to run faster?

The week everything changed


This week was a turning point for many people in my country. You would have to have been living under a rock in recent weeks to ignore the coverage and impact of the Scottish Referendum, and the impact of the decisions made on Thursday will roll forward like waves into the future. However, that is not what this post is about. There are people out there who can write more succinctly and with greater insight on that subject than I, and whilst I have strong opinions on recent events I will limit my sharing of them to sitting around a table in a pub with my friends, or perhaps shouting at the television and the newspapers.

You see, two days before Scotland’s day of reckoning, there was a day in my personal life with equal or perhaps even greater significance for me. This was the day where I left my full time job for the last time and entered the next stage of my life.


Three months ago, after a lot of thought and consideration, I put in my notice after deciding that the high-stress, long commute, long hours, desk pilot lifestyle was no longer serving my best interests. Things hadn’t been 100% right for me in my job for a little while and whilst I loved many aspects of working where I did and the people that I worked with, I couldn’t see a future there for me. Having been inspired by several friends doing something similar, I began to see that it wasn’t too late for me to quit the rat race and find a life that I was in control of and made me happy. Of course it wasn’t an easy decision to make and the next few months are by no means going to be easy either, but I’m very excited to move on and start building a different future.

MaldivesSo, what exactly am I going to be doing with myself? Well, next Wednesday I will be enrolling on a full-time taught Master’s degree at Robert Gordon University and in 12 months time I should be graduating with an MSc in Digital Marketing. This is a slight deviation from my career so far, but I see it more as a development than anything else. For those of you that don’t know, my undergraduate degree is in Music (BMus (Hons) Newcastle University, ’06) and I have spent the majority of my career so far in Concerts and Event Management/Arts Marketing, most recently in Higher Education. In the last 18 months or so, my job has veered away from that aspect and into an Administrative direction that wasn’t really part of The Plan, so this is my way of re-qualifying myself and upgrading my skills with a view to re-entering the Arts Marketing world in the future.

The course itself is taught over two days a week, with three days left free for study and research. This tremendous amount of time flexibility that I’ve been granted is going to allow me to train more effectively than ever before, with my eventual goal being the 2015 West Highland Way Race. I look forward to being able to actually have the time to take strength/conditioning classes and no longer having to head out for a couple of hours of running after a long day at work.

Postgraduate study is no joke, but I am looking forward to a less stressful existence and being able to be a better person to be around. I didn’t used to be a particularly sickly person but I’ve never been more ill more frequently in the last couple of years than in my whole life, and I credit that entirely to burning the candle at both ends and in the middle, and generally not being able to look after myself as well as I’d like. Many friends are always quick to say how ‘healthy’ running and training must make me, but health does not just translate as the ability to run 50 miles. Just because I can do that does not mean I’m a healthy person and anyone who knows me very well will know that there is a lot I can improve upon right now to be granted the title of ‘Healthy’.

vs-lochmuickSo for now in terms of training for the next couple of months, I’ll be building a strong body with which to tackle the West Highland Way and its associated training next year. As keen as I am, there is no point in bashing out the big miles now as I’ll be worn down and bored by March. I have some weight to lose, some muscle to rebuild and some strength to gain first, and I hope that this will lead to PBs at the Peterhead 10k and the Fraserburgh Half marathon in November.

I also look forward to having the time to share more about my training on this blog and moving away from the constant stream of Race Reports that it has been lately. When I started RedWineRunner several years ago I documented my weekly training as I built up to races and this is a format I’d like to return to. Hopefully with more frequent posting will come more reader engagement and the opportunity to grow this blog into something a bit more substantial, but I promise to keep it relevant and not sell out to sponsors and reviews.

Photo: Stuart Macfarlane

Photo: Stuart Macfarlane

So here’s to the next big step. It’s hard to believe that I started Red Wine Runner nearly four years ago to document my tentative embarkation upon the great sport of ‘running’. A lot has gone under the metaphorical bridge since those early posts and I don’t doubt that there’s still a lot to come! I’m excited for the future and for further change and I hope you all stick with me for it.

Thanks for reading,