Red Wine Runner

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Ultramarathon Training | January Round Up

We’ve reached the end of the first month of 2017, skidding to a halt in the midst of a changing world which twelve months ago many of us would find unfathomable. Twelve months ago I wasn’t up to much; staggering through a pretty hefty dose of the January blues and trotting around Stonehaven every so often if I could find the motivation. However I’m really pleased to report that this year I’ve had a great start to year in terms of training, and I think the tide is finally beginning to turn on the slump that I’ve been in for months. Here’s what went down!

Lunch Running – #Runch

We’ve been blessed with extraordinarily good weather in Edinburgh this January, making it easier than ever to log off from my computer and head out of the office for an hour or so of running. From my central Edinburgh location I’ve enjoyed tempo jaunts along the Union Canal, speed reps around the Meadows, and adventures on the ‘Inner Tube‘ routes out to the Coast. I’ve been aiming to get out at lunch on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and most weeks managing two of the planned runs and shifting the other to an evening.

A need for speed

I’m getting faster again! I’m seeing my splits on ‘easy paced’ runs get shorter and that pace feeling a lot easier. The sense of relief at running becoming less of a struggle is amazing, and I’m so glad to be enjoying myself again. I’ve lost a little weight and got some of my running form back, and it all seem to be coming together again. It’s remarkable what some commitment and consistency can do.

Long Runs

There were four weekends in January and I smashed a Long Run on each of them. Week 1 was an 11 mile / 11 mile back to back on roads, Week 2 was 18 snowy trail miles in Stonehaven, Week 3 was a 20 mile solo road run, and Week 4 was a 26.3 mile micro-ultra at the West Highland Way Race training weekend at Balmaha. I was really pleased with the 20 miler as I maintained a good steady pace and finished strongly – I wanted to do this to test my road legs and my endurance to benchmark ahead of the D33. I completed it in 3hrs 16 minutes, which is pretty much exactly where I want to be for aiming for a 5 hour D33 finish. The West Highland Way run was tough and took me 6 hours, but it was a great (albeit wet) day out.

Trail Running

Two of my Long Runs have been in two of my favourite places to run this January. Here are some shots which I’ve shared on Instagram; are we following each other over there? If not, then head on over to @rhinomittens.

stonehaven fetteresso snow

stonehaven fetteresso snow

stonehaven fetteresso snow

18 sunrise miles on snowy trails in Fetteresso Forest

loch lomond

milarrochy tree

loch lomond

26.3 miles on the West Highland Way by Loch Lomond

So the running has been good so far – a total of 156 miles ran, which is my highest monthly total since FEBRUARY 2015. My highest monthly mileage in 2016 was 104 in July, and whilst I ran 175 miles in February 2015, in the rest of that year my highest monthly total was only 135. This represents some serious change, and I am delighted to finally share this with you.

Other Things

It was the Stonehaven Running Club prizegiving ceilidh and I (somehow) achieved a bronze standard award for my running achievements in 2016. This means I completed 4 formal events of which 1 must be a minimum of 10k, and two of which must be over 55% WAVA. I completed 5 events and my two over 55% were a 25:03 parkrun in January which scored 59.03% WAVA, and the Stonehaven Half Marathon in 1hr 56m 28s, which netted a 56.59% WAVA.

stonehaven running club ceilidh 2017

I would like to aspire to achieve a Silver standard like I did in 2014, but rather controversially the standards have been made far more strict since then, which makes a Silver standard a bit more out of reach for your moderately average Senior runner. Ironically my best chance of a Silver is to stick to short events – 1 Mile, 3k, and 5k; so perhaps this summer I will do the Sri Chinmoy short races in the Meadows. And try not to throw up afterwards.

Mikeller Running Club

In my last post I mentioned that I went along to a new running group. but then I failed to follow up on the promised details. Apologies; I moved house recently and these things rarely go smoothly alongside normal life, and I also had some major PHP database issues with my website hosting recently, but that’s not very interesting to read about. Anyway; I went along to the Edinburgh branch of the Mikeller Running Club in January and really enjoyed meeting some new people. They are sponsored by the Danish brewery, meet once a month, go for a run, and then finish at their ‘Clubhouse’ (local craft beer bar) for a few drinks. Sounds perfect, yes? They also have Chapters all over the world where you will always be welcomed to join in if you’re visiting. The next run in Edinburgh is this Saturday, and you can find out more here.

So what’s next?

Other than my first 11/11 back to back, I haven’t completed any proper ultramarathon training back-to-back runs. This has been because I’ve noticed that lately I’ve taken a little longer to recover from Long Runs than I used to – this is hardly surprising as I’ve taken more than a year off from tough training. I’m not an idiot, and as much as I love seeing the miles clock up, I’m aware I need to be wise as I re-introduce training to my routine which my body has temporarily forgotten about. I’ve been feeling a lot more fatigued after Long Runs, and my legs have been stiff – which is quite normal for most people, so I’m not concerned!

In February I’m going to reintroduce back-to-back weekend runs and see how it feels. I’ve got another 11/11 easy planned this weekend, then three more weekends of 26, 28 and 20 mile Long Runs before a two week taper for the D33. The 26 is actually 26.2 and a trial of a trail marathon event Stonehaven Running Club is hoping to launch next year, and the 28 will be the traditional Stonehaven – Balmakewan road run, ending with lots of cake.

This will all be supported by lots of yoga, foam rolling, and sensible food and drink choices (I’m remembering how much better treats taste when you know you’ve solidly earned them, and I like it!). I’ve done a lot of work in the last month, so if I can do it all again this month then I’ll be skidding to a halt at the start of the D33 in great shape.

How is your training going?

When is your first 2017 race?

What is your favorite treat after a big effort? I love a big breakfast the morning after a Long Run

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016 – Race Report

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

3rd July 2016
1hr 56m 28s
236th of 372 Finishers
65th of 137 Females
44th of 80 Female Seniors

Stonehaven Half Marathon was  my very first Half Marathon back in 2011, which I completed in 2 hours and 15 minutes. With the notoriously hilly course it was a baptism of fire for my first race at that distance, but I came back again in 2012 to knock over 15 minutes off my time and achieve my first sub-2 half marathon time. Due to other commitments I haven’t been back since, despite it being my home half marathon which is organised by my own running club. This year was the first running of the brand new, even more challenging course, and with the weekend being free for the first time in four years, I couldn’t resist.

When we woke up on Sunday the weather was deliciously cool and cloudy. I breathed a sigh of relief as running a race in July always carries a risk of heat. Even with Stonehaven being next to the sea, as soon as you go inland a couple of miles it can get very hot out on the sheltered roads. Of more concern was my tummy – I had prepared for the race by attending a Mexican themed birthday party the day before, and whilst I had managed to stay off the tequila, I could not resist enjoying extra helpings of spicy food. Living only half a mile from the start made this a minor issue however, as I was able to enjoy the comfort of my own bathroom right up until 9am.

Kynon and I made our way to the start at Mineralwell Park where a healthy crowd was gathering. We quickly registered and went for a warm-up mile jog. I don’t usually bother with warm-ups unless I am seriously PB hunting, but the Stonehaven Half Marathon course starts its 7 mile uphill climb almost immediately after the start, so beginning the race with muscles which are ready to rock is a must. We had also ran 12 miles the day before to make for a nice back-to-back weekend of training, so we needed to shake out the legs a bit before getting started anyway.

When the hooter went we trundled off down the narrow road, restraining ourselves so not to clip the heels of those in front. We waved hello to our friend Mary who had somehow defied the odds of homemade cocktail consumption to come along to cheer us on, and turned the corner to begin the first steep climb.

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

Picture: Mark McGillivary / Facebook.

My goals for this race were to finish well under two hours, blast the downhills hard, finish with nothing left in the tank, and not look crap in my club vest running in my club’s race in my club town. People down the pub sometimes labour under the misinformation that running lots of miles and long races makes means you are a good (i.e ‘fast’) runner…we all know this is not the case for 99% of us, but at least I could try my hardest on this one to prove them right.

Obviously the long, long drag uphill to Swanley burned like hell like it always does, but I just kept reminding myself that this was my back yard and my bread and butter; every long run every weekend in Fetteresso forest starts with the long drag up from my house at sea level, so I knew every twist and turn.

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

Picture: Ali Robertson

That didn’t mean I had to like it, though. That hill never gets easier, and this perfect picture captures how I felt at mile 4. At mile 5ish the course changes from the past route and pulls off road into the forest for even more climbing, with a short out-and-back just for LOLs to make up some extra distance. I enjoyed this section as I do all out-and-backs, where I get to cheer on and high-five my faster mates on the way out, and do the same for those behind me on the way back.

I power-walked much of the final climb as I knew this way I could climb with just as much speed but less effort, and it let me use some different muscles for a bit. After some high-fives and water pistol skooshes from the gals at the Fetchpoint on the highest point of the course, I was ready to switch on my fast legs and take advantage of gravity to get me home quickly.

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2016

Picture: Michael Levack/ Facebook

My next miles were super speedy and I was feeling really strong. I was wary of keeping a consistent speed and trying to stay as loose in my torso as possible in order to avoid getting a stitch. I began passing people one by one which kept me happy, and kept my focus on pushing hard. I knew that mile 12 once we re-entered the town would be flat and a bit of a shock after the downhill, so I eased off a little to save the last of my energy for a really fast finish. It turns out that ‘easing off’ come out at an 8:17 mile, which is a refreshing change!

In the final mile I gave it everything I had as I knew exactly what I had left to cover on the route. The last mile goes on to a forest path and has a few sneaky hills before you re-enter Mineralwell park, which I much prefer to the old road road which takes you back down the steep Belmont Brae road where the race starts. With about 500m to go I saw three ladies in front of me and decided I was passing them all before the finish. I attacked on a short hill and flew down the other side straight towards the line, holding on to my churning guts as I red-lined it to out-sprint the counter-attack from the club runner I had just passed.

And then it was done; there was the usual finish line staggering and dry heaving which will have traumatised a few under-fives, but at least I didn’t actually vomit this time. I felt the great satisfaction of feeling a bit wibbly and totally gubbed; the sensation of having truly left everything out on the course.

Stonehaven Half Marathon

Splits: 8:57 / 8:49 / 9:41 / 10:16 / 8:50 / 10:07 / 9:48 / 10:01 / 7:49 / 7:44 / 8:09 / 8:17 / 7:40 

I was, and am still, really pleased with this run – another strong race with a massive negative split and powerful finish. All that as well as having ran 12 miles the previous morning (and having had a fair skelp of  booze in the afternoon too). It gives me confidence that my running form is coming back slowly, and my strength and speed is returning.

This is all in aid of Autumn races though, so this summer I need to keep building and building the fire, and at just the right moment…I will light the match 🙂

 

 

Strathearn Marathon 2016 – RACE REPORT

Strathearn Marathon
12th June 2016

strathearn marathon

4 hours 20 minutes 28 seconds
105th of 153 finishers
36th of 59 Females
16th of 26 Female Seniors

After the sudden news that I had got a new job and would be moving to Edinburgh within a fortnight, I had to re-think my plans for attending the Strathearn Marathon.  After completing my first week at work, I got the train home to Stonehaven on Friday night; I spent a lovely 33 hours with my husband before getting collected by Naomi at 6am on Sunday to head down to Comrie for the race. The plan was to enjoy some quality running and then I’d get a lift back to Edinburgh  with Sandra and Ian. I was glad to have sorted out a plan, and despite it being a little galling to say farewell to Kynon at 6am knowing I wouldn’t see him for another two weeks, there was little else to do other than saddle up and get on with it.

The weather was grim; proper dreich, foggy, drizzly and a little cold. The Strathearn Marathon is renowned for its views but it became apparent that we’d be seeing very little of them during the race. We arrived around 7.45 and got quickly registered before catching up with some friends and familiar faces. One of the great things about this small, friendly race, is that you are offered the option of personalised drinks bottles, which are taken to 10 and 18 miles. These were deposited at the start and the system was flawless.

At 8.55am we lined up in the drizzle and listened to the briefing. Mark Beaumont was the guest of honour and when the gun went off, he led us on his bike on a circuit of the Cultybraggan Camp for the first quarter mile. After returning to the starting line and crossing for the second time, we headed out of the Camp and out on to the back roads for the rest of our 26.2 mile adventure.

Strathearn Marathon

Picture by Ali Robertson

Shortly afterwards we started climbing steadily; much of the first five miles is up hill. Naomi, Kate and I ran together and maintained a steady pace. No-one was looking to set any PBs and Naomi and I had planned to use the race for a good catch up! After the course leveled off, it turns onto a slightly more major road, so common sense dictated that we ran in single file. This rather quelled the conversation but we kept plodding away despite the increasing rain.

Strathearn Marathon

Picture – Gordon Donnachie

It began raining very heavily and soon I was absolutely soaked through. There were quite a few exposed miles where the wind made me pretty cold and I was glad I had a long sleeve top on to stay a little bit warm. I continued to chat to Naomi every so often but didn’t get much response – I had figured she was just battling on in her own head, until I turned around at about 9 miles and saw it was a totally different lady behind me! Oops. It’s a shame my chat was so bad she couldn’t even respond to tell me she wasn’t who I thought she was.

Strathearn Marathon

Picture – Gordon Donnachie

As the heavy rain continued I just pushed on alone in my thoughts and the miles ticked by. I was surprised at how good I was feeling and nothing was hurting at all. I ran a couple of miles with Kate before we separated at the 15 mile water point, and then I had a great few miles where I just bounced along and began passing people one by one. I felt I got stronger in the second half and this was reflected in my eventual finishing time, which was a 2:12/2:08 negative split – a first for me at marathon distance!

Strathearn Marathon

Picture – Gordon Donnachie

I had a really strong finish which was I very pleased about; this race could have very easily turned out to be a bit of a suffer-fest as I really have not put the work in this year to merit a strong road marathon performance. 4 hours 20 minutes is 22 minutes off my PB, but for someone who has done two runs over 15 miles since last September (one in January, and one in May), has run just over 400 miles this whole YEAR, and has been carrying around an extra stone in weight for months…it’s not too bad. I wanted to use the race as a benchmark for improvement for the rest of the year, so at least I know what I’m working with. Like some report cards at school used to say… “If Rhona actually bothered to TRY, she could be quite good at [subject] but she doesn’t seem to wish to concern herself with effort”

Strathearn Marathon

So, this summer, armed with my new size ‘Large’ club vest (my Medium one is too tight now) and stinging memories from Sunday of what inner thigh chub rub feels like (I have raced 100s of miles in the above pictured black skort and that has never been an issue before) I will be attempting to shift the lard and relocate the athlete I was a year ago when I earned my West Highland Way Race goblet. Eight months of unemployment has not been kind to my body or my mind, so I really hope that I have turned a corner with my new life in Edinburgh and I can start building these aspects of myself back up again.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone starts doing ultras and then makes it their life’s work. After my first ultra in 2012, I have consistently ran several marathons and ultras each year until 2016, where due to a couple of triggering factors I kind of just fell off the wagon. Bloggers and tweeters and many other online influencers might have you believe that once you start doing ultras and you’re in the scene, you just keep doing them all the time and it’s super easy and fun to do massive runs or races every other week; hashtag #trailporn hashtag #ultralife hashtag #zerolimits… Apart from the fact that a #zerolimits #ultralife is quite hard to fully execute when you have #zerobalance in your bank account, sometimes in life, much like in these races themselves, you go through bleak patches and you just have to keep knowing and believing that at some point you’ll probably come out the other side. I’m not really out of it yet but today I feel like I’m a lot further along than I have been lately.

Devil o the highlands footrace 2015

This weekend it’s my absolute favorite weekend of the year – the West Highland Way Race. This year I’m crewing for a guy from Los Angeles called Steve who I only met for the first time on Tuesday! It will be yet another way to experience the race through a visitor’s eyes and I simply cannot wait to head over to Milngavie tomorrow night. As usual there are dozens of friends taking part or crewing who I’m excited to see, and I’m ready for another adventure. Good luck to you if you’re taking part, or crewing – both are huge challenges!

Summer Running

It’s been a busy few weeks at Red Wine Towers and there are a lot of changes afoot. In the midst of it all I’ve been continuing to train as I’ve set myself some goals for the summer.  Let’s take a look at what I’ve got planned!

12th of June – Strathearn Marathon

strathearn marathon

After helping out and marshalling at the Cateran Trail races a couple of weeks ago, I came home with a lingering case of race envy. With nothing in my calendar until July and some itchy racing feet, I sneaked a little entry into this small but beautiful marathon. Renowned for its friendliness, the Strathearn Harriers put on a great show every year and the race has a super reputation. Naomi and I are heading down together and are very excited about the Squirrel medal we will be earning. I’ll be using this race as a gauging point for how I’m feeling and how much work needs to be done over the summer, with a goal of cruising around in 4hr 30ish.

3rd of July – Stonehaven Half Marathon

stonehaven half marathon

A return to my very first half marathon, except this year the course has totally changed! The course is now multi-terrain and takes runners from sea level all the way up 1000ft of elevation to Fetteresso Forest for a bit of a run around, before coming back down to the sea. The race has only grown its reputation for being the toughest half in Scotland, as now instead of the first 4.5 miles being up hill, it’s 7 miles of straight up hill. There’s no denying it; it’s going to hurt, but as long as I can get to the top then it’s a fun cruise back to town.

31st July – Fort William Marathon

fort william marathon

I won a place in this race a few months ago when I entered a competition on Twitter. The race starts and finishes at the Nevis Range mountain resort and takes in a circular route via Inverlochy, Gairlochy, and Spean Bridge. With 1200ft of elevation it’s a little bumpy, but I will be using this race as my last long training run for my final race of the summer.

20th August – Speyside Way Ultramarathon

speyside way ultra race

After enjoying the race so much last year, I really wanted to come back and give it another go. This year I am not attempting a half marathon the next day, so I am planning on target-training for this race specifically and going as fast as I can. Last year I ran over 7 hours, so I’d like to get a lot closer to 6 or maybe even under. Kynon is also doing the race so it will be a fun day out 🙂

As for the rest of the year, well I’ll figure that out when I get there. The changes I mentioned above will have quite an affect on what I get up to, because I won’t be living in Stonehaven any more! In fact, this time next week I’ll be packing the last of my bags and shipping off down to Edinburgh to start a new job. It’s all very exciting and I’m really pleased to be taking the next step in my career. This means that I’m on the look out for a new running club to train with and will sadly be hanging up my black and purple Stonehaven Kit. Ironically I’ve just renewed my membership and ordered a new hoodie, but I’ll always keep SRC as my second claim club whilst I’m in Scotland.

I’m really excited to be moving back to a big city again, but it will mean a lot less easy access to mountains to run up and forests to round around. We are truly spoiled in Aberdeenshire, but then which other city can claim to have a volcano in the centre of it? Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags will shortly become my new back garden so there will be no excuses for getting my legs primed for hills.

What’s on your calendar this summer?
What’s your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh?

 

 

 

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