Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Category: Travel (page 1 of 9)

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

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?

 

Glen Lyon Ultramarathon – RACE REPORT

Glen Lyon Ultramarathon

Glen Lyon Ultra

7th May 2016
6 hours 26 minutes 14 seconds

60th of 77 (81 starters)
19 of 30 Females

The Glen Lyon Ultramarathon is the newest race in the BaM Racing portfolio. Billed as a 30 mile run in one of the remotest parts of Central Scotland, it was being ran for the first time in 2016 with a limited field size. Anyone who has done a BaM event before knows that they are in for a treat, so I signed up without hesitation when the race opened in February.

Glen Lyon is as remote as it is beautiful, so we booked into a hotel in Aberfeldy for the night before the race. In direct contrast to everything which went wrong with our trip to London for the marathon, this overnight stay could not have gone better. We stayed at the Aberfeldy Townhouse, an immaculate and comfortable boutique hotel with the most amazing customer service I’ve ever experienced outside of the USA. Pre-dinner beverages were taken at the Fountain Bar in the town square, with its outside seating area providing a comfortable place to soak up the warmth of the golden hour. Dinner was at the Three Lemons, a bar and brasserie that would not have been out of place in a fashionable neighbourhood in any city, and we enjoyed some huge and delicious stone-baked pizzas before retiring back to our hotel for an early night.

Glen Lyon Ultra 1

The next morning we were awake just after 6 and headed down to the restaurant for a pre-arranged early breakfast at 7am. Since they do not serve breakfast until 8am on the weekends, the hotel manager had very kindly offered to prepare us a breakfast roll and some coffee to prepare us for the day ahead. In actual fact, the staff had come in early, the whole breakfast buffet had been set up, including warm pastries fresh from the oven, and we were given two overflowing rolls each, served with fresh coffee and several rounds of toast. As ever my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I was well and truly stuffed with we left the hotel at 7.30am.

Glen Lyon Ultra 3

The 23 mile drive from Aberfeldy to Glen Lyon took over an hour, much of which is on treacherous and windy crumbling single track road. With no phone signal or means of communications other than the Race Director’s emergency satellite phone, this race was well and truly off the grid.

Glen Lyon Ultra

We arrived at the Dam at 8:45 which was just enough time to get registered, choose which layers to wear, and say hello to an assortment of friends. The weather was more or less perfect but there was a chilly wind which kept things cool as the sun was hidden behind haze.  I went for my new long sleeve Tracksmith top over the top of a tshirt, with various peripherals packed in my race vest.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Picture – Fiona Rennie

Glen Lyon Ultra

At 9:15am there was the briefest of briefings before the whistle went at 9:30am to set us on our way. There was half a mile of road to run on before a swift turn uphill for a long march up towards the Dam.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Picture – Susan Addison

The race is, to borrow the words of Dougie, a race of two Glens. The first half takes in the entire circumference of the dammed Loch Lyon before bringing the runners back to race HQ for a check point. The road was an undulating rocky landrover track which you could never quite relax on – the uneven terrain made it easy to lose your footing and stumble. With stunning views the whole way around it was easy to get distracted.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

The heat slowly rose in the Glen and I quickly found myself losing my outer layers. This meant that the several river crossings were welcome relief, especially the handfuls of fresh spring water I splashed on my face to cool down with. Unsurprisingly, I hadn’t been hungry at all after my big breakfast, but was drinking a lot of water.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra SA 2

There was a water point at 9.5 miles right at the far end of the Loch before we headed back towards HQ. I said hello to Iona and Donna before refilling my bottles and getting on the move quickly. I was aware I was pretty far back in the field but I didn’t care as long as I was feeling ok and running smoothly. I knew that today was not going to be a day for fast times or impressive running from my legs!

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon UltraPhoto – Donna Leslie

Returning towards the Dam the headwind was very strong and I had to work that bit harder to keep a steady pace. I reached the Dam and the (theoretical half way point) in roughly 3 hours which was bang on target . Not knowing the course, I had guessed I might take between 6 and 6.5 hours to cover the 30 miles, but I knew that the second Glen, and in particular getting in and out of it, would be harder running.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

Picture – Fiona Rennie

After leaving Race HQ we were back onto tarmac road for a long 2 mile slog up a steep hill,Looking towards the other side of the Loch, you can see where the path we had ran on  previously is hewn from the sides of the Glen high above the water.

Glen Lyon Ultra

After the long climb up there was a flat half mile as the road followed the contour lines before descending down into Glen Lochart. There was a water stop at around 20 miles before we turned off the road and onto a rocky trail high above the Glen. Looking down I could see little running figures on the bottom of the other side of the Glen on their way back; I did some quick sums in my head and calculated that the loop around the Glen must be about 7 miles in length, before the long and arduous haul back over the hill to the finish. Looking ahead down the Glen was daunting and my mental resolved wobbled a little; I was tiring and beginning to feel a bit sick, and it was obvious that  my lack of training was beginning to show.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

The small field of 80 had long since spread out and I ran much of the race completely by myself. There were very few race markers required, so if it hadn’t been for the odd glimpse of a person far in the distance, I may as well have been out there completely alone. Miles 20 – 27 were really quite tough as I pushed myself on when I was fatiguing hard. My legs and hips were feeling ok; not stiff or hurting, and my feet were fine too, but I was just lacking the solid cardio fitness which usually makes these events a lot easier. Feeling nauseated really wasn’t helping either, but I just trucked on steadily, breaking up the miles in a 0.1 walk/0.4 run sequence. I was amused to pass through marathon distance at 5hr 12m 38s, which is only a few seconds off the time in which I completed my very first marathon.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Finally, the big pipeline which we had crossed 7 miles ago came back into site and I knew I had nearly completed my lap of the Glen. I began to steel myself for the 3 mile climb from the bottom of the Glen right to the top of the hill. I had caught up with Sue, a Wee County Harrier, who I’d spoken to one or two times before, and chatting with her made the first of the three miles pass a lot more comfortably. We reached the 20 and 27 mile water point where I had hoped to tickle Diesel the Dog for some puppy power, but he was fast asleep having had a big day cheering all of the runners.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Picture – Lois Simpson

After quenching my thirst I locked in for the last few miles and started an ultra stomp up the hill, huffing and swearing as I went. It was obvious the race was going to be well over 30 miles in distance, but at least I knew the last two were downhill.

30 miles came and went, and so did 31, but the finish line didn’t arrive until 31.6 miles – a slightly generous 50k. Running up towards the finishing arch was a lovely feeling, as was having Kynon’s arms to fall into once again. Thanks to Fiona Rennie for these excellent pictures.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

I had a sit down and some more water, before putting on some dry warm clothes immediately.  I wanted to eat but the appetite just wasn’t there, so I had a cup of sugary tea to keep my blood sugar up. It would have been nice to hang around but we had to more or less zoom off straight away in order to drive back home to get to a birthday party that evening. I was nervous about the twisty road making me car-sick but in the end we were stuck behind the slowest van in the world so it wasn’t really a concern!

I would thoroughly recommend this race to anyone looking to step up to ultra distance running, but is maybe a little unsure of the flat and fast nature of the D33. This race gives all the scenery and trail running of some of the longer SUMS events but without the extra mileage. The event is sure to grow to be another huge success for BaM, so keep your eyes peeled for the 2017 opening date!

8 Things To Consider for a Happy London Marathon Weekend

london marathon

image source: London Standard

Last weekend we traveled from Aberdeen to London so Kynon could run the London Marathon. After a catalogue of minor fails which resulted in the weekend falling seriously short of potential; I’ve put together some humorous thoughts which could be applicable to any major city marathon, especially one you’ve traveled a distance to attend…

1.Choose your hotel very carefully
This is really a no-brainer, but we made a poor choice in booking three nights at the Ibis Styles ExCel Centre. The hotel itself was largely acceptable (apart from paper thin walls and a bathroom that stunk of marijuana…but I’ll leave the rest of that moan for TripAdvisor), but the ExCel Centre is a lot further away from Central London than we expected. Whilst Kynon could walk to the Expo at the ExCel in five minutes, that was really the only benefit of this location which is 30 – 40 minute tube ride from Central London, and on the edge of a sketchy housing estate. Whilst it was good value, I would have happily paid double the rate to be closer to the London action. We booked in December, so if you are planning on doing London next year, then you need to get your hotel booked yesterday…

london marathon

2. Don’t get smashed in the 48 hours before the race
Another no-brainer really, but it’s amazing how easily these things happen. Being offered the opportunity to rendezvous with a selection of friends he hadn’t seen for a while, Kynon hit the pubs of London Bridge pretty hard on Friday night which made Saturday a bit of a nightmare for him. Spending the day before a marathon feeling pretty poorly will do nothing for your mental or physical preparation, and the dehydration will negatively impact your running. If anyone finds out how to make turning down the opportunity to drink good beers and catch up with friends on race weekend a fun and appealing option, let me know.

3. Don’t go to Camden Market on a Saturday
I don’t know what came over me, but I really wanted to do a bit of market shopping. I used to love going to Camden many years ago, but I somehow missed the change in the district from ‘intriguing alternative hive’ to ‘mainstream tourist hell-hole’. I’m somewhat misanthropic at the best of times, but I had to jump on a bus and GTF overland before I committed mass-murder with a Spanish tourists’ selfie stick. Critical London error: 2/10 could do better.

london marathon

4. Don’t go to NikeTown when you know you can’t afford it.
I love browsing the shiny new-season kit in Nike on Oxford St. I tend to purchase my kit when it’s months out of season and discounted massively on SportsShoes.com, so it’s nice to see what I’ll be wearing in about 18 months time. I spotted a pair of deliciously awesome £120 compression tights and was eyeing them up for the second time; I was almost about to reach for my wallet when an announcement came over the tannoy: “Attention! An incident has occurred! Please stand by for further instructions!”. The announcement was repeated several times before changing to an instruction to evacuate the building. Jeez. Ok. I know I’m broke but back off, man.  I put the gorgeous tights back on the hanger and followed staff instruction to evacuate to street level alongside four floors of active-wear lovers, and the entirety of Topshop Oxford St. It turns out they were evacuating the entire block. I was mildly alarmed, but I retreated to a safe distance and attempted to call Kynon to find out where he was. It turned out he had been in the customer toilet at the time; whether that had anything to do with the evacuation is TBD, but either way my attempts at purchasing kit I can’t afford were well and truly foiled.

5. Plan your pre-race dinner
Seriously though, this is so bread-and-butter, but we somehow dropped the ball here as well and ended up wandering the streets looking for an Italian which had availability for 4 on the night before the London Marathon. LOL. We found a vaguely acceptable looking pizza cafe which was half empty and ate a very average meal. It was crap. Do your research and make a booking before you even arrive in your race city – it’s not worth the hassle or disappointment to try and wing it.

london marathon

6. Plan your spectating route in advance
I did a pretty good job on this one, and managed to see Kynon twice and at the finish. I made the most of it by putting on my running kit and a CamelBak, and scooted between 9 miles, 11 miles, 24 miles, 22 miles, and back to the finish via the South Bank. I racked up a healthy 8 miles, saw many of my friends on their way, and particularly enjoyed watching the Championship and fast club runners gallop past at mile 24. There was some serious effort being deployed here which I found quite inspirational.

london marathon

7. If you must lose your Oyster Card, don’t do it on Marathon day
Nobody really wants to do this anyway, but I managed to lose mine with a healthy balance on it at some point on my marathon supporting jog. Tube stations near the route are utterly mobbed on marathon day so an attempt at purchasing day or single tickets will add considerable time to your journey, as well as added expense. Thankfully someone reminded me that I can use my contactless bank card to pay, but personally I am not really comfortable with sacrificing personal privacy and security for convenience, so it is not a long term solution for me. Farewell my trusty 10 year old Oyster Card – given to me by an old friend long disappeared in the sands of time, I have no idea who it is registered to and no way of retrieving the balance.

london marathon

8. Plan your post-Marathon celebrations with military precision
We all know how easy it is to fall into a bed or couch after a marathon, order delivery food, and not leave the house until you have to. That’s fine when you’re at home, but if you’re in a new city you’ll want to use your apres-race evening to soak up the last of the race atmosphere, exchange knowing nods across a bar with your fellow runners, wear your medal proudly, and generally cling on to as much of your race-cation time as possible. Hopefully you won’t have been as daft as us and booked a hotel in the middle of nowhere, but if you have, then you need to get a plan in place in advance in order to make the most of your evening. If not, risk of the following occurrences will occur: sitting in your hotel room saying ‘what do you want to do?’, ‘I don’t know, you?’, until you finally break free of the clutches of the Ibis Styles to head to the Canary Wharf area, because it’s easy to get to and there’s a Wetherspoons there that will do the job. Except, you will show up and the Wetherspoons will be inexplicably closed and you’ll find yourself wandering the empty streets of the Isle of Dogs looking for a restaurant or bar that isn’t a £200-a-head steakhouse. You will finally locate a curry house online which looks vaguely acceptable, only to find it is a tiny, deserted cave in a strip-mall next to a dual carriageway across from Westferry Station, with only two other customers in it. The curry will be crap, you will leave after one beer, and be back in the Ibis Styles taking a long hard look at yourself wondering how you managed to mess this up so badly.


 

So what is the overall lesson here, ladies and gentlemen? PLANNING. PLAN EVERYTHING. PLAN MORE. Piss poor planning promotes piss poor performance. We seriously messed up this one, and other than Kynon having a great race and pacing his lifelong friend around his first marathon to a 4:44 finish, the whole weekend was generally the extended disco remix of mediocrity. It really shouldn’t have been; we thought we could just wing it…how hard could it be to have a great weekend in one of the greatest cities in the world? Not hard at all, but it turns out that having a shit weekend is a lot easier than  we thought.

Have you ever had a race weekend disaster?

What are your tips for a stress-free race-cation?

 

 

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