Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Tag: sri chinmoy 50k

I’ve got a secret…

Hello!

Things have been a little quiet around here lately, haven’t they? Given that it is nearly the end of March and I’ve posted only four times in 2016, it’s clear to see that things are unfolding a little differently for me this year.  The early months of the past few years have been crammed full of miles, hills, and mountains, with my eyes firmly set upon a goal later in the year.

red wine runner 28 mile run

This year, with a great deal of instability in my employment and financial situation, things have gone a little bit differently. If you don’t have a lot of money spare you can’t enter lots of races, especially if your kind of races usually involve a tank of petrol and a night or two in a remote hotel. Also, if you’re looking to move to a different area, then what’s the point in spending precious money on races which, if your life sorts itself out, you won’t be able to attend anyway? It’s a bit of a vicious circle situation to find yourself in and with no long races to train for, prying myself out of bed at 6am in winter to run 20-odd miles for the sake of it fell pretty far down my list of priorities. I am still running; just not very far and with no great sense of urgency. That hasn’t left me with very much to write about here, I’m afraid 🙁

But what about the Self-Transcendence 50k?

self transcendence race perth

I started the year training for the Self-Transcendence 50k which is taking place in Perth at the end of March. It seemed like a good choice in terms of timing and as a flat, lapped race, I could try my best to record a fast 50k time. What I failed to get a proper grip on though, was the actual day of the race… I had it in my head that it was taking place on a Saturday like all the other Scottish Ultras, when in fact it is a Sunday – the day before I fly to Tokyo. After seeking some medical advice I was conflicted; medically it is not a great idea to complete an endurance event 12 hours before a long-haul flight, but it’s not going to kill me either. There is a medical risk involved, but in all honesty there is more of a risk of me chewing up my feet with blisters and acquiring some nasty DOMS from running on tarmac, which would ruin the first few days of our much-anticipated trip to Japan. I thought about doing the race and taking it easy, but I’m done with the concept of doing races just for the sake of them (especially whilst under-trained) and my health and injury-free status is more precious to me than a medal. So unfortunately, I’m a DNS.

So what is this secret then?

It’s not very exciting I’m afraid, but in the absence of beautiful pictures from mountain runs to share with you, it will have to do. I’ve joined a gym – Pure Gym Kittybrewster to be exact – and since the new facility opened at the start of February I’ve been enjoying attending several times a week and working hard on different aspects of my fitness. The new gym launched with an amazingly cheap offer which caught my broke, freelancer eyes – £10.99 a month for your first 12 months, rising to £18.99 thereafter. I scoured the small-print for the catch, but everything is completely legit and follows the no-frills, no-strings attached, no contract, 24 hour memberships which the Pure Gym chain are renowned for offering at their gyms around the UK. I can show up whenever for a workout, and as someone with a very flexible work-from-home arrangement this means I can go during the day when it is very quiet. It’s a bit of a drive from my house, but it’s still more cost efficient than attending several classes a week nearer home and it gets me out of the house and off the computer which is priceless.

pure gym logo

I’ve been enjoying attending spinning, kettle bells, HIIT, and abs classes, and they are frequently timetabled in a way which means I can sandwich a weights workout in between two 30 minute classes. As the gym is completely brand new, all of the equipment is in great condition and the facilities are clean. What has really struck me is the diversity of clientele; I’ve been a member of many gyms in the past in various cities in the UK, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a broad range of age, abilities, and ethnic backgrounds before. There is very little posturing around the weights area and people are just in there to get on with their own workouts – a refreshing change from Aberdeen Sports Village where, as a female entering the free weights area which was primarily populated with male students, I felt like I was either in the way or some kind of exotic half-time entertainment.

In conclusion, I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying being a member of a gym again. The staff are all brilliant and it pleases me how much attention is given to correct form in classes, especially weights-based exercises. When the exercise studio is not in use, members are permitted to go in and use the space for their own dynamic workouts, such as setting up a little circuit to do, or lighter barbell workouts away from the main gym floor. Another reason why I joined PureGym is because you can quit at any time with no questions asked, but I will definitely be sticking around as long as I’m in the area. At £10.99 a month for such a great quality service, you really can’t go wrong!

What’s Next?

miyajima island

photo source: theredlist

Since my entry for the Self-Transendence race will be a DNS, that leaves the first race of my year to be the Miyajima Marathon! As part of our adventure around Japan, Kynon and I have secured entries to the 15km race on April 3rd which goes around the beautiful Miyajima Island just outside of Hiroshima. We leave for Japan next Monday and will spend two weeks in the land of the rising sun, visiting Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and Kamakura. It’s going to be quite the adventure of a lifetime and I promise I will share lots of information and pictures on my return. Can’t wait til then? Make sure you’re following me on Instagram!

West Highland Way Training Weekend

Last weekend I took my first trip back to the Southern half of the West Highland Way, since the West Highland Way Race in June 2015. The annual January training weekend was taking place once more at The Oak Tree Inn, and despite not running the race this year, to miss the annual January get-together was unthinkable.

 

After a hairy drive across Scotland going head-on into Storm Gertrude, we arrived at the Oak Tree around gin o’clock. Thankfully, despite passing one car accident and three over-turned lorries on the way, we achieved safe passage without incident. After a couple of drinks and a substantial meal to fuel the next day’s efforts, we retired to bed as the wind screamed through the trees around us creating ominous noises.

west highland way race training weekend

The next morning we awoke to a scattering of snow on the ground and continuing relentless wind. There was no two ways about it – the forecast was extremely poor…

balmaha weather

The wind was pushing off Loch Lomond from the West in huge gusts and creating big waves on the water. It seemed like the weather was changing every five minutes – when I sat down to breakfast the sun was shining, but by the time I’d ordered my coffee it was hammering down with hail.

Somewhat reluctantly I swallowed some cement and hardened myself up, and turned out for the start of the run at 9:50. There was a huge turnout, with many more people arriving on the morning than had stayed the night before. After a brief introduction from Ian we set off en masse at 10am, being battered from all sides by the wind.

west highland way craigie fort

I had given some consideration as to how far I wanted to run, but after the weather forecast veered into dangerous territory, I decided to call it on the day. I knew at a minimum I wanted to run to Rowardennan and back (around 16 miles) which would be a sensible distance for my first ‘long run’ of the year; if I was enjoying myself more then I would continue.

Ben Lomond west highland way

Ben Lomond in the snow

Either way my priority was to socialise and enjoy myself, which is why I was disappointed to find myself running alone for the first 8 miles. As usual – too fast to be slow and too slow to be fast. I am also a pig for sticking at exactly my own pace,  so unless someone else is running at exactly that on a group run, I rarely end up with close company on long runs.

Loch Lomond National Park Memorial Scuplture

Loch Lomond National Park Memorial Scuplture

The weather was very changeable, but careful dressing meant I was able to regulate my temperature well. On the sections away from the Lochside it was quite calm and snowy, but on the more exposed sections you really had to get your head down and shield your face from the hail. I’ve never seen the Loch look so rough as it did on Saturday!

Milarochy Bay west highland way

Milarochy Bay

I stopped at the war memorial at Rowardennan when I hit 8 miles and decided I would make my way back after a snack. As I wandered around eating some biscuits, I bumped into Fiona and Pauline who were heading back too, so I stuck with them on the return journey. It was the right decision to make as the intervals of sun became more and more infrequent and the wind and hail increasingly more violent! Violent is the right word; the pea-sized hail really stung your bare skin as it flew in sideways at speed. It got so bad it was fun – at least it wasn’t rain and we stayed mostly dry!

photo by Fiona

photo by Fiona

photo by Fiona

photo by Fiona

(link to video – click)

We made it back to base about three and a half hours after starting, just in time to get the last of the lunchtime soup at the Oak Tree. After defrosting and enjoying a couple of beers, I headed back for a lovely hot shower and a snooze before the evening’s festivities began.

The next morning, Kynon and I blew the cobwebs away with an ascent and descent of Conic Hill. I’d love to share some photos, but the cloud was so thick and low that you couldn’t see a thing. Here’s one of my favourites from last year instead…

whw training 7

It was interesting to be back on the West Highland Way for the first time since the race. I had a few flashback memories along the way of things that I’d forgotten about from the race, and as ever, the trail didn’t fail to shine despite the changeable weather. I’d forgotten how beautiful some of the forest sections near Rowardennan are.

After a few weeks of speed training I was satisfied with my first ‘Long’ run in a while and am looking forward to increasing my mileage in preparation for the Sri Chinmoy 50k at the end of March. Next up – 18 miles on the road, tomorrow!

Have you trained through the nasty weather recently?
What’s your favourite part of the West Highland Way?

Earn The Right

Inside my front door, there are thirteen pairs of running shoes which belong to me.  Make your way up the stairs, and you’ll pass coat hooks with several running jackets hanging next to a fuel belt and a couple of hydration packs. If you stray into the kitchen, you might open a cupboard and see boxes of energy gels, flapjacks, protein bars, and a shelf of various paraphernalia; a head torch, a packet of Compeed, a half used roll of athletic tape.

Walking into the living room, a bookshelf dominates one wall: ‘Born to Run, ‘Eat and Run’, ‘Why We Run’, ‘Run or Die’, ‘Runner’, ‘Running for Women’, ‘Relentless Forward Progress’, autobiographies of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Paula Radcliffe, with several issues of Like The Wind magazine piled on top. Behind the couch is a pile of medals, sprawling in a mess since their collective hanging weight nearly pulled a light fitting off the wall last month. The focal point of the room is the fireplace; in the centre of the mantlepiece is a crystal goblet, flanked on either side by several other small mementos, quaichs, and plaques. Anyone would think that a runner lived in this house.

West Highland Way Triple Crown

Much thought has been given in the past as to at what point it is permissible to call oneself a ‘runner’. Many people incorporate a small amount of running as part of a larger training regime, but they would not call themselves a ‘runner’. Some people will run five days a week but never compete in a race, thus will refuse to call themselves a ‘runner’. There is also the elitist mindset that believes that someone moving at anything less than a certain pace is a jogger, not a runner. I’ve always been of the mindset that if you run, then you’re a runner.

So what am I, if I have not been running?

Regardless of what speed you move at, you have to actually partake in the activity to be a part of it. You can own all the running shoes in the world, but unless you are running in them then you are not a runner. You have to earn the right to call yourself a runner. Since entering life without a structured training plan, in the last few months I’ve been feeling like I’ve been slipping further and further away from the title, leading to somewhat of a loss of identity at times. My monthly mileage from September to December 2015 even when combined does not exceed or even remotely equal the total achieved in each month in the early part of the year, which is a strange situation to find oneself in when you are commonly referred to as an ‘ultrarunner’.

West Highland Way Race

Training for completion of the West Highland Way Race and the accompanying Triple Crown races was such a long labour of love that it almost felt natural to step back for a little while and reassess where I wanted to go next. The combination of that step back, complete dedication to the completion and submission of my MSc in October, and perhaps an added sprinkle of residual over-training syndrome or cumulative fatigue has led to a different situation at the start of 2016 – I have no idea what my goals are, still. Having no plans whatsoever was fun at first – a totally open calendar felt like an amazing opportunity, but now having still found no direction I feel I am flailing a bit.

To this end, I decided not to indulge in the blogger’s bread and butter in December and post a 2015 round up. To me it didn’t make sense to conclude one year without a clear vision for the next. Taking a brief look back though, despite going out with a fizzle rather than a bang, 2015 was alright.

Another PB at the D33:

d33 ultra

An amazing 1hr 21m PB at the Highland Fling – a race I still credit as my strongest yet:

hoka highland fling

Photo by Clark Hamilton

Finally getting *that* Goblet:

west highland way race 2015

Finishing the Devil o’the Highlands, and achieving the Triple Crown, hand in hand in the pouring rain with my husband:

devil o the highlands race 2015

Photo by Clark Hamilton

Submitting my MSc and heading off to Berlin to fun-run the marathon:

berlin marathon finish

And graduating. The work was worth it, and I passed with a Distinction:

Graduation

So how on earth does one follow a year like that? Without major goals, I need to re-immerse myself slowly. I need to re-earn the right to call myself a runner again. I’ve already had a couple of false starts at getting into a training routine;  partially due to my work situation at the moment, it’s challenging just to get into and keep a routine in general.

Earn the right

[Embedded video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B-SIJedZJg]

Once upon a time I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin. Even now over a decade later, I still follow the football programme avidly and my blood still flows burnt orange as a lifelong Longhorn fan. The Texas Longhorns have a great YouTube channel and the above video stuck with me the first time I watched it. Despite it now being a few years old I often rewatch it when I need a boost or a reminder why I need to keep working every single day.

“We constantly say that you’re not given anything in life. Even if you’re given an opportunity, you have to earn the right to keep it.”

I’m lucky in that my hiatus from running has been more or less a choice. Many are not so lucky and have been sidelined by injury or other circumstances. It has been humbling to go back out and find that running 8 miles without a break is quite exhausting, humbling to be reminded that the speed I once had is no longer there, and downright frustrating when I’m reminded how much harder it is to run when you’re carrying an extra stone around. The saying “Once a runner, always a runner” may be true, but for me I want to earn the right to keep it.

So what’s the plan?

I’d like to try some different things this year. After four consecutive Springs of training for the D33 Ultra and three training for the Highland Fling, it was almost a relief when I realised I was not going to be free on either race weekend in 2016. I will miss the social for sure, but this is forcing me to look beyond my usual routine and push me out of my comfort zone. You don’t get any better by doing the same things every year!

To this end I’ve decided to focus on the Sri Chinmoy Perth 50k at the end of March, and choose an Autumn marathon to target train for and really claw back some speed. I won a place on twitter for the Fort William Marathon in July, and I’m considering if I would like to return to the Devil o’the Highlands for a second time.  Other than that, my calendar is wide open and I’m looking for new races to try.

What’s on your 2016 calendar?
Are you setting any new goals?
Do you have any suggestions for new races I should run?

© 2020 Red Wine Runner

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑