Tag Archives: Scotland

Prelude to Canalathon – Why does it always rain on me?

An ultra marathon is a BIG undertaking. The initial blog post I planned was also BIG! So I have split it in two. Here’s the details on the training and the run up to Canalathon. It didn’t all go to plan…

Training

I entered this race in July 2017. I can’t remember how it all came together but I planned to do the race with my team green friends (from UKrunchat on Twitter), Gemma, Jon, Brian and Ellie.

My training plan included Conwy Half Marathon in November, Cakeathon in January 2018 as a marathon and then, the big one, Canalathon 50k in March 2018.

Photo of AM on Great Orme

I went back to pain face after this was taken!

Conwy was a great race. The weather was beautiful and the views across the Great Orme were spectacular.  The medal was one of my favourites of the 12 medals I earned during 2017. I had a niggly calf during the race though which developed into full blown calf strain about a week later during one of my run group sessions. I had only just recovered from that and managed one run when I came down with flu. Proper flu, the kind where you can’t fathom how people manage to get dressed and get out of the house type flu. Christmas was a write off as we all came down with it.

I did Wepre parkrun on New year’s day thinking I was much better but I was wrong! I wheezed and puffed my way round the course and felt only slightly better when I learned that it has the second hardest elevation of any parkrun in the UK.

I was trying to build up the mileage ready for Cakeathon at the end of January. I had wanted to do this race for a while. I had seen so many tweets from people brandishing this absolutely enormous medal and, as I like a nice piece of bling, I was intrigued. When I heard the race was coming to Yorkshire (it’s normally in Kent which is a 5 hour drive for me!), I signed up immediately.

Also my calf strain returned when I tried to increase my running. It didn’t bode well for doing a full marathon at Cakeathon at the end of January. I was lucky enough to win a free physiotherapy treatment in a Twitter competition, though, so I got some treatment and felt much better.

Photo of cakes

Cake table groaning with yummy cakes.

I drove over the night before and stayed in a local pub near the start. It was a fairly low key event with about 300 taking part. We congregated in the community centre in Peniston for the race briefing and to ogle all the cakes. I had brought a marble cake for the cake competition but no prizes for me on that front. It was great to see Helen Bly, Colin and Keith Johnstone and to meet a few others for the first time.

The course was straight forward laps of 4.37 miles along the Penine Way which ran behind the community centre.  3 laps made for a half marathon and 6 for a marathon. I had really wanted to do a marathon here but I just wasn’t fit. I was determined to do a half marathon and in fact managed 4 laps or about 17 miles.

Photo of AM

How many more laps before I can eat some more rocky road?

Running up and down the path was not the most interesting after a while but it meant that you constantly saw other runners so it wasn’t as isolating if you were a slower runner like me (especially slow that day!). We managed most of the race in the dry with some rain showers towards the end of my last lap.

The aid station was back at the community centre so when you completed a lap, you had your card stamped and helped yourself to plenty of crisps and cake. I was drawn to the rocky road which I later learned was made by Rachel, the race organiser. She reckoned that the secret of its success is that she adds a bit extra salt.

 

Photo of Cakeathon medal

The medal is as big as my kettle!

I was happy with 17 miles on the day as I remember just being really perplexed as to how unfit I felt for all of January. Flu is a horrible illness and really takes it out of you. I didn’t feel properly well until the week before Cakeathon, when I finally shook the annoying little cough. I  seriously considered pulling out of Canalathon as I wouldn’t have been able to prepare properly and with 50km at stake, you really have to respect the distance.

Although I came down with yet another cold and missed Mad Dog 10K, after that, things went a bit better and I recorded my highest ever mileage month in February at 166.2 km, including at 32 km run around the northern half of the Wirral.

Photo of AM in Oban

Feeling the runner’s high once I reached Oban!

My favourite training run was what felt like an epic point to point run from my in-laws in Port Appin to Oban, a total of 34.5km. I followed the cycle path all the way to Oban (although it disappears in some places and I had cut through a camp site at one stage!). It was quite magical too because I also saw a red squirrel, a deer and an eagle all in the space of 10 minutes about halfway through the run. They all disappeared before I could get my camera out, of course!  It was much more hilly than I expected, especially the last 10km but on the final downhill into Oban, I felt invincible and on a real runner’s high.

This was a turning point for me as I finally felt that I was as ready as I would ever be for the ultra. The cloud had lifted.

 

A new race on my doorstep? On a route on which I regularly train? Flat course? Loads of my running friends doing it too? Sounded good to me. Which explains why on a Friday night at the end of September I found myself signing up for the inaugural Wirral Way Half Marathon on 8 January 2017 and joining in on lots of excited chatter on social media.

I have done a January half marathon before – see my related blog post below for my review of the 4 Villages half marathon last year which I loved doing. I felt I couldn’t do both (although I wish I had now!) so I thought to myself that the Wirral Way Half Marathon had better be pretty special. I signed up to an ASICS plan (you can find them online) which tailors the training to your goals and time available and I started training at the end of October (once I had recovered from the Metric Marathon).

Photo of Loch Creran

Scotland – a place where the scenery is good for the soul

Training was going pretty well until the week before Christmas when I came down with a cold. Luckily it wasn’t a truly nasty cold. I was able to carry on with the preparations for Christmas and I “only” lost a week’s training. We also went to Scotland for Christmas and Storms Barbara and Connor meant that I lost a little bit more time. On the plus side, I enjoyed a long run on the Oban to Fort William cycle path. There’s nothing like running in very picturesque surroundings to boost the spirit.

Back home to the Wirral to the pre-race information or in my case, the lack of it. I had to rely on my parkrun buddies to forward it to me. As other people noted, it didn’t fill me with confidence because it was full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (so I had better make sure this blog post is perfect on both fronts!).  The race organisers weren’t able to secure closure of the roads at the crossing points so that meant that these were being manned by marshals and we may have to stop. I wouldn’t have put my safety over a PB but I really wanted that sub 2 hour half marathon.

Photo of AM and parkrun buddies

Parkrun buddies Brian and Gemma looking good at the start of the race

Surprisingly the race day weather was good. Very little wind, about 6 degrees and only very light rain was forecast.  The absence of wind was a decisive factor in my decision on the morning of the race to push for the PB even with the road crossings.

The nice thing about racing locally is knowing a lot of people also doing the race. So there were lots of familiar faces in the car park at Hooton station where the race was to start. The difference with this race was that the start times were staggered as the start of the course was very narrow. There were quite a few people I knew in my 9.30am wave start so was happy to chat to them as we waited to start. I did get hemmed in at the beginning so that my first kilometre was 6.26 minutes but after that I managed to get clear and started to pass people. Much more satisfying to pick people off in a race than being passed anyway.

Photo of AM at Wirral Way HM

4 miles in and feeling good…(photo credit to Paul Avison)

The “southern” parts of the Wirral way were not entirely unknown to me as I have been on every part of it before at some point. However, I haven’t been on them for a long time so they were “fresh” to me and I enjoyed this element of the race. At 4 miles in, I was feeling pretty good, doing a reasonable pace and felt that I could run all day.

The light rain started soon after and I regretted my decision not to wear my peaked cap. But it was quite cooling so I pushed on. I thought that I might struggle going past the finish at around 9-10 miles but as there were loads of friends out supporting, it was quite a boost. Only 3 miles to go and still on course for sub 2 hours!

Just one and half miles later, I nearly lost the plot at Cubbins Green. I thought we were just turning round there but staying on the path. So when we had to run down onto the Green itself with its bumpy grass and muddy climb up back to the path, I lost precious time and my inner critic (my chimp!) told me that it was no good and to abandon all hope of a sub 2 hour finish.  I really had to pull it together and told that little voice to shut up, that we were doing this or else! Sheer determination got me to the finish in 1 hour 59 minutes and 38 seconds. Finally achieved the goal, and it felt good.

Photo of medal from Wirral way Half Marathon

First bling of 2017

Great to see so many people at the finish and I was able to share out my yummy cupcakes I had arranged for my birthday (it was the day before). Most people were tucking into the hog roast laid on at the finish but I stuck to cake. The medal was pretty ,if a little small, and the red T shirt made a nice change although my only small gripe with this was that it didn’t refer specifically to the Wirral Way so please take note race organisers if you read this! Otherwise I thought this was a great race which surpassed initial expectations. Most of my friends had a positive experience too.

The great thing about the running community is how supportive it is and this race was no exception. Thanks to my Mersey Tri friends Collette and Sue for picking me up and taking me to the start, thanks to my parkrun buddies for support before the race, thanks to my running group friends for their support on the course and, most of all, thanks to my family, who would rather be doing other stuff than coming out on cold January morning to support a mad woman who is obsessed with running 13.1 miles in under 2 hours!

Photo of AM and family

At the finish with Adventurous Son and Daughter – “Euuw mummy you’re all wet!”

 

 

 

 

 

Marine Lakes and Mountain Tops

I have a relatively quiet month in May, “just”  the Edinburgh Half Marathon on 29th May. I am building back up my running mileage in preparation for that. As my race number recently arrived, it is becoming reality.

So we will have to be content with some mini-adventures and what better than the start of the open water swimming season!

Photo of AM at Marine Liake

Dryrobe: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…with apologies to Shakespeare…

Bear in mind that the previous session of open water swimming was cancelled over the bank holiday weekend because of high winds and low temperatures. So the fact that the swimming took place at all was a minor miracle (as was the fact that the weather went from Arctic to tropical in the blink in an eye).  I was convinced that I would simply get in the water and it would be so painful that I would simply dash out again!

I kitted up as much as possible: neoprene socks and cap and took my dry robe to stay warm pre and post swim (bought at the Tri expo). I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could get in without too much pain. I then tried to put my face in the water and whoa! Instant ice cream head! I pulled my cap further down my forehead and that seemed to do the trick. I managed a kilometre before I lost the feeling in my hands. Note to self: take gloves next time! I still loved it, looking up to the sky and across the broad expanse of sea (well, across the marine lake at West Kirby where we train.)

I felt inexplicably happy all day after that and I can only put this down to the open water swimming. Probably down to the adrenaline rush that open water swimming brings!

Not normally one for looking back, I thought I would also reflect on my climb up Goatfell on Arran during our Easter holiday. I wrote a brief Facebook post about reaching the top but thought I’d expand on it slightly as not everyone reading this blog follows my page on Facebook.

Arran is a wonderful island off the west coast of Scotland, reached by ferry from Ardrossan. It’s where my husband’s late father came from and where my husband spent his childhood holidays. It holds a very special place in his heart and I have fallen in love with it too. None of the family are left on the island but we go back every 2 years or so.

When we went to Arran, back in the days before we had the children, we always stayed with Adventurous Husband’s Aunt Flora who was a wonderful character and had great stories about island life. On one of these visits, we decided to climb Goatfell, the highest mountain on Arran, standing at 2,866 ft. Not quite a Munro (a mountain over 3,000 ft), but as the climb starts at sea level, a fair hike. We took a long route in from Brodick Castle. By the time we got to near the top,  I felt exhausted and felt unable to scramble up the rocks to the top. I recall that I was a bit overweight and had had back problems on and off during this time but I think the biggest problem was simply a lack of confidence about scrambling over rocks. Adventurous Husband went on to the top without me.

I thought about that day quite a lot over the years. When we climbed Scafell Pike, there was some scrambling to do, I remember being apprehensive but in a better place for fitness levels and managing it no problem.

AM and AD on Goatfell

Me, mini me and Teddy on our way up Goatfell

Now that children are older, we are trying to encourage them to do some more hill walking with us so we hatched a plan that we would all walk it. We had access to some guide books that recommended that we start the walk at Corrie, a shorter route overall.

On the day, we had nice sunny weather although in some places it was quite windy. Unfortunately Adventurous Daughter said that she did not feel 100%  about just over half way up so they went back down. I carried on with my sister in law and niece Meagan.

Photo of AM at the top of Goatfell

Finally at the top of Goatfell

And we made it! It really wasn’t that hard a scramble after all but it is amazing the difference that the level of fitness makes to confidence. On the way back down, I kept vowing to myself never to get unfit again.

Top of Goatfell

I could almost reach up and touch the clouds; the view from the top of Goatfell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking and open water swimming are two of my favourite mini adventures you can have all the time and are relatively inexpensive. Being close to nature is supposed to be one of the best tonics for our busy plugged in lives so I urge you to try one or both!

Have you had any hiking or swimming adventures to share?