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Tag: ultramarathon (page 1 of 19)

John Muir Ultra | 50k Race Report 2017

The John Muir Way Ultramarathon

John Muir 50k 2017

John Muir 50k
1st April 2017

5hr 37m 47s
105th of 165 Runners
32nd of 65 Females

The John Muir Ultra is a relatively new race on the Scottish Ultramarathon scene, with the 2017 race being only the second running of the event. The race is delivered by the same team who run the Foxtrail Winter Running Series, and it follows 50km of beautiful East Lothian trails and roads from Port Seton to Dunbar along the John Muir Way.

john muir ultra

The race first came to my attention when I read about Antonia’s third place finish last year; it was then consequently on my radar when I was looking for races to do this Spring to keep my long runs longer in the lead up to the Cateran 55 in May. Without a training squad and adequate transport to get places that are beyond the reach of Lothian Buses, I’ve not been doing any exciting running so far this year; this was a great opportunity to go somewhere I hadn’t been before and knock out a little ultra in preparation for the upcoming medium-sized ultra.

As it happened, the week before the race was somewhat stress-heavy and I found myself lacking in enthusiasm for what should have been a great day out. Kynon was still in Stonehaven for the weekend and with a slightly heavy head from one too many beers consumed the night before, I found myself sitting alone in my kitchen in the dark at 5:30am on race morning, eating a breakfast I had no appetite for, and seriously questioning my motives.

It was a mix of a crisis of confidence and a slight fear of the unknown; perhaps I underestimate how much I rely on Kynon’s support to lift me up, and finding myself at the end of a hard week without him at the last minute due to a clash of events, I started doubting whether my legs had it in them to carry me so far that day. It was reminiscent of the singular time I’ve come close to a DNF at the Cateran 55 in 2014, when troubles in my head overtook the strength in my legs and nearly pulled me under. We all know that in this sport the body will try to give up long before the mind will, so keeping a strong head throughout the ups and downs of ultramarathoning is imperative.

I’m usually good at using running as both a cathartic release and/or a way to hide from my troubles in life, but when life gets particularly bad, the fight becomes a lot harder. I really didn’t want to run. I wanted to get back into my bed, turn my alarms off, and sleep until I woke up again. For any new readers, my husband and I have been living apart for 10 months now due to various shitty circumstances, and it ain’t great.  Right now life is hard and confusing, both financially and mentally, and the irony was that the only thing which was guaranteed to fix me, was the one thing I didn’t want to do.

However, striding down Clerk St at 6am in the morning, wearing my favourite Houston Texans bobble hat and my lucky racing skirt, I knew I had taken the hardest step of the day. I got the train from Edinburgh to Dunbar and then hitched a lift from the station to Foxlake Adventures with a chap called Norrie, who was a solid gold legend for helping me out at the last minute. I got myself registered easily and looked out for any familiar faces; I knew a handful of others doing the race, but it was an unusual situation where there were very few friends running this particular race. The buses to the start at Port Seton left promptly at 8am, and by 8:45am, the runners were assembling for a pre-race photograph and briefing.

John Muir Ultra

I had studied the course briefly at the last minute and knew to expect three aid stations, but I had no real idea what to expect in terms of terrain. I should have read Antonia’s helpful blog again, because then I would have been less surprised to be on sandy beach paths quite so quickly after the start! Even though there were only 165 in the full 50k ultra, the narrow paths were quickly crowded and we followed one another in single file, carefully watching where our feet were going.

John Muir Ultra

It was quite a bright, warm morning, and the first 4 miles on the beach gave us some lovely views. Passing through Aberlady at 6 miles gave us a little water stop, and then we headed onto some walking paths and roads to take us to Gullane.

Picture - Neil Scott

Picture – Neil Scott

Even though the sun wasn’t really out, it was a humid and ‘close’ day which meant I stripped off my outer layers quickly and drank my full litre of water before the first check point at Archerfield Walled Garden. I drank deeply from the cups on offer and refilled both my soft-flasks before swiftly moving on, following a winding path through a forest filled with daffodils.

John Muir Ultra

One of the features of Archerfield is a beautiful ‘Fairy Trail’ where little houses are hidden in tree-stumps and roots. I would have loved to stop to examine them all closely, but I just stopped by this one for a brief photographic memory.

John Muir Ultra

We continued on with the sea on our left towards North Berwick and the half-way checkpoint. I’ve never been to North Berwick and I enjoyed the brief detour through the town which allowed me to admire some beautiful houses. The route took us across the West Bay on the sand, before we reached to Lifeboat Station where the checkpoint was based. Here, I refilled my flasks again and enjoyed some banana chunks and fresh orange slices, before heading out across Milsey Bay on the sand towards the imposing loom of Berwick Law.

Thankfully the route didn’t take us anywhere near the summit and we circumnavigated around the base avoiding any serious incline. The next few miles were then across farmland and fields which would have been very muddy had it been a wet day (or even a wet week!) but thankfully we traversed the packed earth relatively unscathed and approached the next water stop at mile 20 deep in a forest, by a fishing lake.

John Muir Ultra

This little checkpoint was the first to be equipped with the nectar of ultrarunning, full fat coke. I also had two slices of a vanilla traybake birthday cake which was inexplicably delicious. The miles which followed saw me skip through the forest with a smile on my face in genuine delight – I had finally cheered up and achieved the sweet release of the runner’s high which keeps me coming back to these events. I felt strong and capable once more, and ready to fight home to the finish.

Amazing, happy picture by John Lochhead

Amazing, happy picture by John Lochhead

The miles leading to 26.2 and the final checkpoint were largely nondescript, although I found the going tougher as the clouds had burned off and the temperature began to rise. There was also some kind of factory processing plant which was giving off the most horrific smell I have ever had the misfortune to breathe into my body; I think it was processing animal or fish material for fertiliser, and was polluting about half a mile of the route with the awful stench. I dry-heaved a couple of times as I ran as fast as I could to get upwind of it…

Passing through the last checkpoint at 26.2 miles, the amazingly cheerful marshalls buoyed us with reminders that it was only 8km to go. Not being a metric thinker, 5.5 miles seemed a lot longer in my head. I ran a little with Amanda and Fiona around this point, but eventually the direct sunshine started to get the better of me and I threw in some walking breaks. The last few miles were definitely my favourite part of the route; a little pathway by a river for a while which lead to a coastal path where the beautiful white beaches reminded me of the Moray coast.

John Muir Ultra

John Muir Ultra

John Muir Ultra

The race concluded with a glory lap of the Fox Lake itself, and a final sprint towards race HQ. I finished in 5hr 37m 47s and thoroughly enjoyed a good sit down in the sunshine on the deck for a while afterwards, pumping myself full of orange squash. I was feeling decidedly ropey for a while upon finishing; having drank an estimated four litres of fluid during the race, I had yet to need to go to the toilet. I was dizzy and nauseated; these early Spring races are always so hard when the temperature sneaks up on you and you’re used to running in the snow!

Remarkably, despite my body’s best efforts to the contrary, I managed to pull off a top quality finishing pose in the last twenty meters which was captured perfectly by Bob Marshall Sports Photography. I’ll await my ‘Best Actress’ Oscar nomination in the post…

John Muir Ultra 2017

So all in all, the John Muir Ultra is a great day out and I’d love to do it again. For a brand new race, they’ve got all of the important race features executed perfectly, and served with a side of East Lothian’s cheeriest marshalls. A stunning route and a very achievable distance for a first trail ultramarathon, I expect that the popularity of this little race will explode very soon.

Once my nausea had cleared I headed home on the train and was back in my flat in Edinburgh within an hour. The morning’s troubles seemed like a distant memory from another lifetime ago and I headed out for some beers in the sunshine. One of my friends had commented earlier in the day on my reluctance to do the race by saying ‘I don’t know why you do something you don’t want to do?’. Well; not a lot of things in life make sense, least of all ultrarunning. I do it because sometimes, I feel it’s all I can do.

Next up: London Marathon…

D33 Ultramarathon | Race Report 2017

D33 Ultramarathon
11th March 2017

d33 ultra medal

5hrs 14m 58s

104th of 241 Finishers
14th of 67 Female runners
6th of 23 in Senior Female Category

In 2012, I ran my very first ultramarathon at the D33 ultra, after having started running in 2010, and completing one poor marathon finish in 2011.  Often I find it very strange to take a look in the rear view mirror and see everything that has passed since that first finish, and how somehow along the way I became someone who has ran 25 races of marathon distance or further. On many occasions I still find myself looking at my reflection in the mirror and can’t quite figure out how I manage it, yet time after time I seem to be able to pin a number on to a running top, put on some trainers and knock out another finish.

In 2017 and in the days preceding my fifth D33, I could have done without missing an entire night of sleep due to  travelling on the sleeper to London for a day of work, and I could have probably done without casually getting hammered before our evening flight back (although that was awfully good fun). I also could have done without getting the late train after work from Edinburgh back up to Stonehaven the night before the race, and I could have done without my period showing up to join the party on race morning as well; but these things are sent to try us.

Nevertheless undeterred, I woke up to an empty house on race morning (Kynon having left long before to help with Race Director duties) and hitched a lift with some Stonehaven Running Club friends to the start in Aberdeen. It was quite a mild morning, but after half an hour of standing around in a vest and shorts I started getting second thoughts about my minimalist apparel, and added a long sleeved top underneath as raindrops started to fall from the sky.

The start was the usual whirlwind of hugs and reunions of old friends, although it was quite surreal to be saying hello to my colleague Lauren for the first time at a race, who was on the start of her second ultramarathon and enjoying her very first trip to Aberdeen.

d33 ultra 2017

When the hooter went, I launched away and sped out of the Duthie Park gates with the somewhat reduced crowd of 240 odd runners. In the last couple of years numbers have really swollen, but this year it felt slightly less of a bun-fight to get through the narrow park gates and up the steep twisty path to the start of the old railway line. I clocked a predictably quick first mile in 8:40, and then settled in for the long haul at 9 minute miles for the first 26 miles.

d33 ultra 2017

My coach had suggested that a sensible way to pace it would be to aim for a four hour marathon and then turn up the pace in the last 7 miles, but only if it felt ok. I was trying hard to do what I was told, so I religiously kept an eye on my watch and clocked a solid set of splits between 8:50 and 9:10 until the first check point, where I lost 20 seconds fumbling with a soaking wet water bottle, and then I continued with the metronomic pacing, sliding through half marathon distance at 1hr 58m.

d33 ultra 2017

The weather definitely deserves a mention, as by 4 miles it was solidly pouring with rain and by 8 I was soaked to my skin. It wasn’t particularly cold, but this did mean the early onset of some wet kit chaffing (always a joy), and the path becoming slippery and muddy where it becomes more of a trail, after Drumoak.

I reached half way at 2hr 24m which was bang on target for a five hour finish, and decided to take the time required to drink my bottle of Active Root as a walking break. My guts were doing some ominous clenching and I wanted to make sure I took on the fluid I needed. After a minute I set off again and enjoyed seeing a good selection of friends who were not far behind me, and high fiving everyone I could.

d33 ultra 2017

Picture: Running in Scotland

Then the wheels began to come off. I got to 20 miles in just under 3 hours as planned, but that was after miles 17, 18, and 19 falling well short of the target as I was beginning to struggle with some gnarly period pain and its tag-along friends, nausea and back pain. I make no apologies if you find this to be TMI; if so, please go and have a wee word with yourself and come back. I’ll still be here. This is an issue which biologically female athletes have to work around, and it’s not talked about nearly enough, so I’m adding my voice to it. Want to learn more? Shout out to Tess and  Lauren for their honest blogging lately, and of course our girl, Paula, speaking in the news last year.

50% of the population have periods every month for much of their lives, and chances are every so often one is going to show up on a race day for a runner. I’ve been ever so lucky to avoid this before now, but I always knew that eventually it would happen and that it would be unpleasant. I’ll leave it at that, but it’s hard to keep your pace in check when you’re having to stop to bend over and breathe through a vicious cramp, stretch out your back, or just casually do a dry heave whilst still jogging on.

d33 ultra 2017

So that happened, and I quickly came to terms with the fact that there was nothing I could do about it so I just dragged myself back to Duthie Park as swiftly as I could. This was not my goal race, and I wasn’t injured; I had got in a great 20 mile run, and then I would have a nice 13 mile cool down with a medal at the end of it – a lovely way to spend a Saturday. The sun even came out for a little while, too!

d33 ultra 2017

d33 ultra 2017

With Lauren and our medals afterwards

There’s not much else to say – I went through marathon distance in 4hrs 07m and cruised back into the park in a total time of 5hrs 14m and 58 seconds – a tidy 47 second PB for the 33 mile course. It would have been great to be reporting on a bigger success, but I’m glad that I didn’t empty the tanks as I can keep on training for London and I can be fit for a strong run at the John Muir 50k on the 1st of April.

d33 ultra 2017

Before I close, I’m got a bonus story to share. Firstly, here’s a picture from the D33 in 2012; moments after I crashed over the finish line and landed square in this lady’s arms for a hug, after achieving my first ultramarathon finish.

d33 ultra 2017 _6

That’s Julie; who is an amazing part of the Scottish Ultramarathon family, and works hard at nearly every race on the circuit year after year. That was actually the first day I’d met Julie properly; we’d chatted on social media, via blog comments, and on Fetch, but having just re-read her race day blog from way back then, I’m reminded of this:

d33 ultra 2017 _7

So; here I am, 6 years and 25 ultras and marathons (including a West Highland Way Race finish) later, sitting in Duthie Park drinking a beer in the cold Spring evening light, and the tables are turned. Despite years of adamant protest to the contrary, Julie is finally running her first ultramarathon and it’s my turn to deliver the finish-line hug. I was lucky enough to be one of a privileged few to know that she had been working hard over the winter to be ready for the D33, which she had sneakily entered under a  different name and I was so excited to see her finish.

d33 ultra 2017

Photo by Sandra

Finishing was never in doubt, of course; with friends like us you won’t get a choice. Showing a tremendous amount of pluck and tenacity, we got to welcome her home in 9 hours 16 minutes and 14 seconds. Well done Julie; we are all so proud!

 

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

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?

 

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