Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

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WHW Race Training Update and D33 Ultra preview

West Highland Way Race Training Update
Weeks 5, 6 and 7

west highland way race red wine runner

The last couple of weeks of training haven’t been very interesting, hence my lack of regular updates. I couldn’t bring myself to write a couple of boring posts about running around Stonehaven every other day, so I figured that if I didn’t want to write it then there’s no way anyone would want to read it! So here’s a brief run-down of what I’ve been doing, and a more interesting look ahead to the first race of the Scottish Ultra season, the D33 Ultra, which is this weekend!

Week 5 – Week Beginning 23rd Feb.
First week of D33 ‘Taper’

Mon – Unscheduled rest due to University work
Tue – Unscheduled rest due to University work
Wed – 6.1 mile easy run around Stonehaven, missed Body Pump due to University work
Thur – 9.5 mile medium effort run.
Fri – 9 mile ‘8 Hills of Stonehaven’ route – I was supposed to do 20 miles this morning but woke up lacking in any desire or mojo whatsoever. I bargained myself down to 9 mile of hard effort up and down every hill in Stonehaven – for some reason this seemed preferable. It was fun!

8 hills of stonehaven 8 hills of stonehavenSat – 6.5 mile walk around Edinburgh
Sun – 1hr 30m of Bikram Yoga in Edinburgh. I loved being back in the hot room!

Total – 31.2 miles

Week 6 – Week Beginning 2nd March

Mon – 1hr Power Yoga
Tue – Rest – attended Placebo gig in Aberdeen with fellow ex-teen angsters Rachel and Laura.
Wed – 6.2 miles easy on the D33 route
Thur – 4.2 mile easy PM, 7.5 mile hilly trail club session
Fri – Rest
Sat – 13.2 mile long slow run with Saturday gang
Sun – Rest

Total – 30.3 miles

Week 7 – Week Beginning 9th March

Mon – Unscheduled Rest. Caught a case of the Mondays
Tue – Rest
Wed – 4.1 miles ‘easy’ battling gales
Thur – Club session
Fri – Rest
Sat – 33 mile RACE!
Sun – 5 mile recovery toddle with our house guests Jemma and Iona.

Total – 50ish miles.


D33 Ultramarathon 2015 Preview!

d33 ultra logo
This will be my fourth time at the D33, after having my first taste of ultra-distance racing in 2012 (5hr 56m). A big PB followed in 2013 (5hr 26m – the year of the awful weather) and a further sliver of a PB followed again in 2014 (5hr 25m). Last year I maybe started a bit too quickly or ambitiously;  I started to feel really sick after about 8 miles and then just couldn’t maintain my goal pace. I still finished strongly, but my splits were all over the place which was in direct contrast to the metronomic effort of 2012. This year I don’t feel as though I’m as fit as last year so I’ve been heavily debating what to set out to achieve on Saturday. I could just run it by feel and get a good long run in, I could deliberately run a slow run/walk race for maximum time on feet, or I could pick a goal time or pace to achieve. I’m not really interested in the first two options – races are for racing after all, so I need to decide on a sensible time to aim for. Last year I went out at 9 minute miles in order to try and achieve around a 5 hour finishing time, but that didn’t quite work. I’m not confident that I’m capable of maintaining that pace for 33 miles currently, so I am going to start at 9:30 minute miles with a view of achieving around a 5hr 10 minute finishing time. If all goes well I will be able to be quicker in the final down hill miles and execute my usual strong finish for a solid PB.

For once, the weather actually looks perfect. Dry, thick cloud, a light breeze and temperatures between 3 and 5 degrees. Weather can be so changeable at this time of year so it is hard to dress for a long run – in 2012 and 2014 I wore far too much and as the day went on I struggled to be comfortable in the ‘heat’. Layers will be key as usual, so I will be looking out a flexible outfit – long socks, arm-warmers, gloves, buff, etc.

Like last year I am going to fuel it just like a marathon with a gel every 5 miles, but with a snack at half way of hula hoops and a flap jack. I won’t wear a rucksack and will rely on bottles in my drop bags to drink from with a mix of Powerade and water in them, and will keep my gels in a waist pouch. Pre-race dinner will be a lovely serving of tortellini and garlic bread, with some cake for good measure. Breakfast will be peanut butter porridge with a banana, and cereal bar.

The D33 Ultra is also the first race in the Stonehaven Running Club Championship series, so for the 29 of us signed up we will be ‘battling’ it out for the best allocation of Championship points. The first home of each gender gets 21 points, with second getting 19, third getting 18…and so on. As well as my local pals I’m looking forward to seeing the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series crowd and all the associated banter which comes with it. Kynon and I will have a full house as Iona, Jemma and her fiance will be staying with us on Friday and Saturday so it is shaping up to be a very social weekend indeed!

So; safe travels and good luck to everyone traveling up to Aberdeen or Stonehaven for the D33 this weekend, especially if it’s your first ultramarathon. It’s a super race and can lead to some incredible things if you want it to. I’ll be posting my race report as soon as I can after the race, so do leave a comment and let me know how you get on!

West Highland Way Race: Training Week 2

West Highland Way Race Training, Week 2 – Week Beginning 2nd February

west highland way race red wine runner

Last week was an excellent week of training with five runs and two cross-training sessions, to make a total of 56.6 miles and twelve hours of training. I finished the week with that brilliant feeling of total physical exhaustion mixed with elation, and really pleased that I had achieved everything I set out to do. Here’s the break-down of the week’s sessions:

Power Yoga – 1 hour

Club Run – 10.3 miles in total.
Our monthly off-road ‘moonlight run’ took place this week in Swanley Forest in ankle deep, virgin snow. I found running uphill through the snow pretty tough and was bringing up the rear of the group for most of it. The run was also longer than I expected – I had guessed 8.

Body Pump – 1 hour.
Due to the longer, tougher run on Tuesday night, I decided to move Wednesday’s run to Friday as my legs were pretty tired.

Club Run – 8 miles in total, including 3 miles of intervals.

Easy run – 3 miles
Wednesday’s run, shortened a little just to shake out the legs. It was also a lovely day and I didn’t want to stay inside!

Long run – 25.6 miles
On the Deeside Way, north of Banchory and back. Hilly and icy in places, but a good effort with a gang of about 15 runners training for the D33.

Recovery run – 9.5 miles

Total – 56.6 miles


d33 ultra training run

Picture: Claire MacAskill

It was fun to run with a big group on Saturday morning and explore a new-to-me route. If the D33 team ever decide to have a D66 or D99 race, then this part of the Deeside Way will be part of the route! For me, my long training runs for ultras are all about a consistent effort throughout the whole of the run. I pay attention to my heart rate and if I’m working too hard then I slow down, or walk a bit. This is why I (and many others) will power-walk up hills on our long runs rather than run up them and burn off too much energy too quickly. Some of our group took off at a great pace at the start, but beyond 20 miles this started to fade, and those who were previously pushing the pace at the start had moved to the back of the group. I’ll be aiming to run the D33 at around a 9 minute mile pace, so my training pace on my long runs should be around 10:30ish. My average pace on Saturday clocked in at 10:58 after I started at the back and kept a steady effort throughout, ending up being first back home at the car park. There’s always a risk when running with a group to go off too fast, or feel like you need to stick around with people who are faster/slower than you. Always be mindful of how hard you’re working and keep your own goals as a priority when deciding how you will pace your longer runs.

In other news, I was pleased to see that a little interview article I wrote for the Scottish Running Guide magazine was published this week in their Spring issue. I wrote about my favourite race, which I decided for a lot of reasons, is the D33. I haven’t managed to pick up a copy of the magazine yet, but Lucja on Twitter sent me a snap:

Red Wine Runner Scottish Running Guide

Finally; I’ve been enjoying using MyFitnessPal to track my calories over the last couple of weeks. At the end of January I was a stone heavier than I was at that time last year, which is less than ideal but not an insurmountable challenge to shed once I cut back on booze, cheese and treats. MyFitnessPal has been really useful at keeping myself accountable for all the extra snacks that sneak in here and there and giving me a better insight into my nutritional breakdown. I’ve lost 4lbs so far which is a good start and I’m actually looking forward to weighing myself tomorrow to see what else has come off in the last week after all that hard work!

Who else uses MyFitnessPal? Is anyone else still hanging on to a New Year Diet?

– Rwr

D33 Ultramarathon 2014 – RACE REPORT

D33 Ultramarathon


15th March 2014
5hrs 25 minutes
177th of 306 finishers
35th/83 Females
20th/40 Senior Females.

The morning of my third D33 Ultra dawned calm and grey after a very windy night before. I awoke ages before my alarm as has become customary in the last few weeks – sleep has become surplus to requirements when my brain decides it’s time to awake and start thinking about table plans, thank you cards and how loud the music should be when I walk down the aisle. However, on Saturday morning I was able to look forward to a five hour break from the wedding melee and just enjoy a good long run with friends. My training thus far this year has been the (mostly) non-negotiable foundations around which I have built my week outside of work. However many other things had to be sorted out on a weekend, knowing that I had two periods of rest where I’d get to drop everything and go out and run has really kept me sane. Yes, weddings are important and it means a lot to a lot of people; but the wedding is just one day. It’s the marriage that is for life – just like running. That’s been our views on it anyway, much to the despair of some of our family and friends who don’t exactly share our priorities. I say our, because it should not be forgotten that Kynon was running at the D33 Ultra as well, and it was his first Ultra. Spoiler alert: he finished, and with a smile as well! Perhaps I can entice him to write another guest race report, however for now it is time to tell the tale of a race which didn’t exactly go to plan, but by all accounts should be considered a PB success. I’m marking this one down as a ‘learning experience’ and one of those dreadful runs which make you appreciate the good ones even more.

I woke up with not great deal of desire to eat, but choked down a banana and some coffee to get my system on the go. We had a lift arranged from a club member at 7.30am, and arrived in Duthie Park about 8.00am after a journey spent discussing our race strategies. My plan was to go out at a comfortable pace and average somewhere between 9 and 9.30 minute miles for the first half, and then push harder for the second to finish strongly at around 5 hours with nothing left in the tank. I was going to treat it like a marathon and take a gel every 5 miles, and not stop at check points. Having done the race two times before and completed a sub-4 marathon last Autumn I was confident that this was a realistic and achievable goal…

000001Stonehaven Running Club

Before the race there was the usual hubbub of excitement found at all the Scottish Ultras as old friends are reunited, this time after several months given that the D33 Ultra is the first of the ‘season’. I hadn’t seen anyone since Glenmore 24 in September so there was plenty of chat to be had. I was greeted by Sandra and Julie who were on number pick-up duty and had a special surprise for us, with a pair of personalised bibs for Kynon and I decorated with ‘Bride to be’ and ‘Hen run’. I loved this but was grateful I hadn’t been given a tiara and veil to wear!

In the hour that followed I ate a Clif bar and some Powerade and tried to decide what to wear. It felt like it was getting colder and colder and rain was beginning to fall. I couldn’t shake the memories of last year where I put on some thermal sleeves at the last minute which probably saved my race as the weather turned wet and windy after a few hours. The forecast for Saturday had been a real mix but it wasn’t expected to be cold – hanging around in a chilly Duthie Park at 8.30am wasn’t convincing me however and I decided to put on the t-shirt I had in my bag for after the race as an extra layer, at least for the beginning.


After the customary short and blunt briefing from George, there was a few minutes before the final countdown and the off.

001StuartMac1002StuartMac2003StuartMac3004StuartMac4Pictures by Stuart MacFarlane

The huge crowd of 300 were raring to go and streamed out of the park to the railway line with a thunderous sound of feet on concrete. Cyclists, dog walkers and other users of the path were forced to stand to one side as the pack streaked up the narrow path as far as the eye could see.


I very quickly spotted Graeme from our club near me so moved over for a chat. He and I run at a similar pace at these distance and are both training for the Fling so had similar goals. Soon we were joined by John and Mags from the Club and we ran as a little pack for nearly 8 miles, ticking each split easily off between 8:50 and 9:20 minute miles and chatting happily. My Mum was waiting to cheer at Holburn Station and my Grandad was waiting at Auchinyell Bridge at the bottom of his road; I was really pleased to see him and glad he spotted me amongst the crowd. “4:59!!” He shouted at me from above “Yes, Sir!” I hollered back, offering a salute as I passed under the bridge.


I was running smoothly and painlessly – I felt exactly how I want to feel at the start of a long road race. I took my 1st gel at 5 miles and by then was already regretting wearing gloves and the extra tshirt as I really didn’t need them, and would need to hold on to them til half way. I made the difficult decision to drop from my little group at 7.5 miles to nip behind a fence for a pee – knowing the route well I knew this was my last chance for a while so didn’t want to miss the opportunity. I stopped for less than 30 seconds but my gang was already gone – I would not see them again until the end of the race.

009annette8mile1010annette8mile2Pictures by Annette Raffan, Craftrocks.

The first check point came shortly after at 8 miles where I had a bottle of juice to drink. I was really looking forward to a drink since I didn’t have my Camelbak on but it tasted far too sickly and thick; at this point I only wanted water. I kept hold of it however and pushed on.

013chencheekongPicture by Chen Chee Kong

Running was suddenly becoming a chore. The ease with which I covered the first 8 miles had stopped abruptly and I felt a sick and nauseous feeling spreading throughout my gut. Even cruising the down hills towards Drumoak was not comfortable and maintaining a pace under 9.30 as planned was becoming very hard work. I forced myself to eat and took my sleeves and buff off to cool down as the sun had come out and it was warm. I refused to believe my goals were gone as how you feel in an ultra can be so unpredictable…but not usually after 8 or 9 miles.


When I got to Drumoak I conceded and walked up the hill and drank some more in an attempt to make myself feel better. Plodding along to Milton of Crathes was tough but I was delighted to see Mike in 2nd place behind Grant Jeans when the leaders began to pass me on their return to Aberdeen. I high-5ed him and shouted ‘Reel him in!’ as we passed, and continued to high-5 all my friends until my hand hurt. There were lots of supporters at Crathes including Kate’s husband Ali and their cheers really lifted me up. The sickness was getting worse and I could only begin to conclude that I was in for a very. long. day.

I reached half way in 2hrs and 33 minutes – only 3 minutes behind schedule. The half way party was in full swing and Sandra announced the arrival of the bride, much to my embarrassment. I was really glad to see my Mum there too – there is nothing like a hug from your Mum when you’re feeling crap.

014halfwaysandra1015halfwaysandra2016halfwaysandra3017halfwaysandra4Pictures by Sandra Macdougall

I got rid of my hot layers and drank some precious water. This time I ditched more than half of my powerade and mixed it with water which was a lot easier to drink.
I filled a sandwich bag with hula hoops and some flapjacks and just got right back out there. I didn’t want to get comfortable as I might never have left.

Kynon was not far behind me and reached half way at 2hr 50 race time so had made excellent progress in his first half. Passing more friends and club-mates certainly gave me a further boost, but as the sun began to beat strongly on my back my expectations began to slip. My guts were in agony – all I wanted to do was vomit but I couldn’t get myself to do it. After only 15 minutes out of half way I slowed to a walk for few minutes and thought about how I could handle the rest of the race. I knew I’d finish, but it would be slow and sore. After 10 more minutes before I had to walk again, I realised my revised plan of run 30/walk 5 was even a bit much. My next tactic was to ram more food in and hope it would pay off – I managed half a flapjack, some hula hoops and a gel and kept my fingers crossed it would either refuel where it was needed, or bounce out of my stomach and take whatever else needed to get out of there with it.

018alirobertsonPicture: Ali Robertson. Smile: a big lie.

For the first time that I can remember in the second half of a race I was being passed, by quite significant amounts of people. Normally this is when I come alive in a race, but in startling contrast to last year I was falling to bits and I was extremely annoyed. I could feel blisters boiling between my toes, my hip flexors were stiffened and waves of fatigue were washing over me. I hit  20 miles at 3hrs 12m and I felt completely rung out – there was no way I could make up the time to hit my goal but if I was able to cruise at a moderate pace there would be no excuse to not get under 5hr 30m.

It was after Drumoak that things began to perk up a little. My stomach no longer felt like I had drunk 10 pints of lager the night before. Perhaps the food had worked? I ran all the way up the long slow hill just before the 3/4 check point and passed at least 20 runners on the way who were walking and had recently passed me. Being somewhat competitive at times this really pleased me and further fuelled my rekindled fire. I refilled my water bottle at 3/4 check point, grumbled a bit with the marshals and set out preparing to work hard again, reeling slower runners in one by one.

019Mum26miles26 miles. Picture by Mum.

I hit marathon point in 4hrs 18m which was 4 minutes faster than last year but about 18 minutes slower than I had intended. I was pleased that I seemed to have been able to pull some of my race back but waves of nausea were still attacking my stomach every so often which forced me to a walk. My feet had become dreadfully sore and I could feel that monster blisters just like last years  had formed between my big toes and my second toes. This annoyed me most of all as last year they took 3 weeks to heal and made wearing shoes extremely uncomfortable – not what you want 7 days before your wedding.

My Grandad surprised me again by waiting on Auchinyell Bridge. “Where the Devil have you been?!” he shouted; this was at 5hrs 15m race time and he had obviously been waiting for a while. This made me feel guilty and it spurred me on even more to get this last mile to the finish over and done with – I was absolutely spent, my guts were in knots and my feet felt like bloodied stumps.

StuartMac8Picture by Stuart Macfarlane

Running into Duthie Park is always a pleasure. You are retracing the footsteps you took so many hours earlier and whilst it looks exactly the same you have accomplished so much in the intervening time. I checked my watch and it said 5:2X so I knew I’d shave a PB so I concentrated on running as hard as I could through the Park and enjoying the finish.

StuartMac9StuartMac10StuartMac11Picture by Stuart Macfarlane

There were plenty of supporters cheering and people calling my name. I flew down the hill to the gantry with a smile and stumbled in to George’s arms for a welcome home hug as he put my medal around my neck.

StuartMac12Picture by Stuart Macfarlane

I stumbled my way into the tent and tried not to be too negative when asked how my race had gone. The fact that I didn’t even stop my garmin until Sandra asked what my time was shows how little I cared for goals by the end. As it happened, I finished at 5hrs and 25 minutes on the nose; a 1 minute 28 second PB. If I had ran a marathon and shaved that much off my time I would have been delighted, but that was not what I came to do on Saturday so I felt a little underwhelmed by my whole race.

I drank over a litre of water whilst waiting for Kynon to come in, but I still felt really grotty and didn’t feel like eating anything. I caught up with various people and was delighted to hear that Mike came second and Noanie was 4th lady and 1st FV40. A lot of people struggled though and found the moderate rise in temperature tough to adjust to.

At just over 6 hours race time I saw Kynon’s red cap bobbing into the park. I was so excited to see him and was delighted to see that he was still running. He galloped down to the finish and walked over the finish-line in style, bowing deeply to the crowds.


Just like me, he’d found his first Ultra infinitely easier than his first marathon and finished in great spirits, delighted at his achievement.


After some hearty refuelling and a couple of beers, we made our way home to recover for the after party that evening. Obviously I was glad to have finished but I was sad and frustrated that I hadn’t got the race I wanted. It just proves once more that you can have the best season of training you’ve ever had in the bank, but if your body doesn’t show up on race day then you’re screwed. I’ve been so lucky with races recently and with only one or two exceptions I was very happy with every performance in the last year. They can’t all be brilliant, so I just have to take my teeny PB and be happy I finished another D33 ultra (mostly) healthy and uninjured, and keep my focus on the next race which is the Hoka Highland Fling in a month.

For now it’s time to focus on the wedding though. In less than 48 hours we’ll be married, and after a huge party we’ll be whisked off on honeymoon to return after a fortnight’s adventures a very long way away…

See you on the other side!



D33 Ultramarathon 2014 – 14 hours to go


Once again my blogging schedule has slipped down the khazi. I suppose it was to be expected really; planning a wedding, training for a season of ultras, and balancing a time-intensive day job and community commitments has been just as manic as it sounds, and as usual blogging has slipped to the bottom of the pile.

However; no news is good news, and I have arrived 14 hours from the D33 in great shape and ready to run hard. I did some great 20+ mile long runs in February with the ultra gang from my club, and kept up the back-to-backs with the exception of one Sunday after a monster 7 hour hill run when both Achilles were very tight. This was nothing serious however and I just needed a day off to recover.


The run was worth it though, and excellent preparation for my longer races later in the year.

I am keen to run a strong race tomorrow and will be aiming to beat my time of 5hr 26m from last year. My goal is to run faster than my first marathon time, which was 5hr 12m, and would require a constant pace of sub-9.30 minute miles to achieve tomorrow. After my sub-4 marathon in September I have every confidence that I can do this tomorrow and plan to run the first half easy at sub-9.30 and then push a little harder on the way back and finish strong.

Bronze goal – A PB
Silver goal – under 5hr 12m
Gold goal – under 5 hours.

If I can pull off a race as steady as last year I’ll be delighted – in my opinion this still remains my strongest long distance race to date. Just look at these steady splits!

D33 splits 201320130316_175150

For the first time at this race, I’ll be running without a camelbak and relying on gels and my own bottles at the check-points. I’ll grab some hula hoops at half way, but the goal is to treat this just like a longer marathon where I wouldn’t normally eat actual food. I also plan to be in and out of half-way checkpoint within a minute – no stopping for a chat with my Mum this year.

However – since I will be getting married 7 days later I do need to be sensible – no PB time is worth limping down the aisle for, or wearing flip flops because my blisters are that bad. All in all I’m just delighted that the 2014 ultra season has finally started for me, and for the next 7 months I have a monthly date with the Scottish Ultra crazies and all the associated fun that comes with it.

DSC_9622Finishing last year.

Speaking of which; I’m off to the Station Hotel for some pre-race hydration. Good luck if you’re running tomorrow – especially if it’s your first ultra! I’ll be wearing Stonehaven Running Club kit, including some fantastically rowdy black, purple and gold stripy socks, so do come and say hello if you’re around.

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