Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Holiday, hills and a cheeky half

Chilly at 4000metres
Matterhorn selfie
Our family summer holiday to Switzerland just happened to coincide with the Zermatt Marathon.  No one believes me when I said it was purely coincidental, but it's the god's honest truth.  As it was a sign, it would be rude not to partake surely?

The race series offers a marathon, half marathon and an ultra.  All with the same profile: Up, up and more up. I opted for the half.  Actually I only entered because of the profile - no pressure to run at a certain pace and I could use the hills to hide behind a rubbish finishing time.

When I finally decided to enter the race, they had already reached their 500 capacity.  One of the fantastic things the organisers offes, was an online entry exchange, so I managed to buy a place from a Czech girl who could no longer participate.

When I went to pick up the pack from race HQ in St Niklaus, I realised my race number had me in the very last starting pen.  I would have tried to change it, but then I remembered I'm no hill runner.  And I'm certainly not a half marathon runner.

The forecast for race day was thunder and lightening storms.  But even in Switzerland the forecast lies, as we were greeted with a beautiful sunny day. 

There was no compulsory kit for the race - even though I would have classed it as a mountain race - so it felt a bit alien rocking up with only a hankie and a gel in my pocket.

Sonic and Cairn were going to get the train to the finish in Riffenberg, so I said my goodbyes and went off to join the joggers pen.  Not without stopping to join the queue for the portaloos for the 27th time. A lady asked to jump in the queue because spotted my remedial class green start number and she was donning the super-fast red race number and would be starting soon.  I took great joy in passing her at around mile four of the race ;-) 

The race starts with loop of Zermatt and then it hit the trails. It's certainly a cheeky course.  I don't recall every going uphill for so long without some kind of respite.

The great thing about starting in the last pen was that I spent the whole race passing people.  Like most races, the majority go off too fast and blow up quickly, so that added to the ease of picking off runners.   I was using a run/walk play run strategy.  2 x 40 breaths of running and 1 x 40 breaths of stomping.  I found it more efficient and passed loads of people who were continuously running in the process.

Thankfully with the profile of the race, no one tried to speak to me.  So I didn't have that awkward moment of having to tell people - who are most likely fluent in many languages - that I'm your typical ignorant Brit and can only speak one. Badly.

I really enjoyed the race.  All good training too. Even that nasty sting in the tail.  I finished 17th gal in 2 hrs 36, which I was pleased with.  Especially with 4418ft (1347 metres) of ascent.  Of the 483 starters 203 were female, which is I think is a great representation for the ladies.

I would highly recommend the race.  Great course and amazing scenery.  How can you beat the Matterhorn as a back drop? And it's fabulously organised. There are even shower cabins at the finish line - at the top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps.  Plus, if you're at the sharp end, there's some serious prize money up for grabs.

Results here


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ultimate Direction Body Bottle

At first I thought soft flasks were a giant stride for trail kit, but I fell out of love with the Salomon ones. On paper, they are fantastic - there's no swooshing sounds or bruised ribs from hard bottles and they are super lightweight - but I had problems with them leaking.  They leaked all over my rucksack, car seat and down my clothes.  Even without pressure.   Plus, they only fit inside the Salomon sack, which I also gave up on.  Granted, they were designed for the Salomon pack, but even when using that, one fell out during a run and I didn't notice.  They're not exactly cheap, so you definitely don't want to loose any.

When I bought the Ultimate Direction pack back in September, I stuck with the bottles that came with the pack.  It might take a bit more work to get the fluid out of the kicker valve, but they're 100% leak proof.  They're not just great for runners, but for kids too!  Especially if you've got one like mine, who spills everything and leaves juice bottles leaking on the back seat of the car. 

But they still swoosh - and I have noise issues! - so when I first saw the design of the Ultimate Direction Body Bottles, I was quite excited.  They've taken what's brilliant about soft flasks and perfected them with a hi-flow bite valve. 

I was expecting great things from them.  And after trying them for the first time at the weekend, they did not disappoint.  Ultimate Direction have rekindled my love of the soft flask. 

The technie bit...

Price: £13.50
Weight: 1.08 oz / 30g
Fluid Capacity: 14.2 oz / 420 mL
Material: BPA-Free TPU
Clear - you can see how much fluid is left
Collapsible - is only as large as the liquid being carried
Pliable - conforms to any shape
Cleanable - can be placed in dishwasher
Cap - Hi-Flow Bite Valve

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Lessons learned on the track


  • The track isn't that boring.  Unfortunately that probably means that's because I am
  • Changing direction will blow your mind
  • People who hog the inside lane are annoying
  • I hogged the inside lane, therefore I am annoying
  • Banging on the toilet door to hurry up a spectator is probably inappropriate behaviour
  • Maw Broon's caramel shortcake is awesome
  • Chia Charge bars are tasty, calorie dense and easy to eat
  • I didn't need the 20 snack/protein bars I packed.  Two was suffice
  • People Boys go off like rockets and die
  • Even though it was raining at the start, putting on suncream is still a good idea
  • Toenails can just pop off without any warming
  • Focussing on lap time is easier to deal with mentally, than race time and distance
  • I struggle with an Irish accent.  Sorry, Aodhagan, I just smiled and nodded
  • Most runners probably didn't understand my Glasgow accent and just smiled and nodded
  • The six hour race starting in the middle of the 12 hour is very exciting
  • For about 20 minutes and then you want them off the track
  • People run together.  Leo and Dan ran the whole way together.  And I only overheard one girlie spat
  • It's the most time Sonic and I have spent together this year - when he lapped me 40 times
  • Lapped races are the only kind of races when you get to interact with everyone
  • Lap counters have a really tough job
  • I have more in the tank than I think
  • I'm a real drama.  Check me slumped on the track in tears.  Sonic ran 10 miles more than me and he's neither here nor there
  • I don't need an ipod.  I made a bit of a song and dance when the race organisers cited the ban as a UKA rule.  It's not.  My first words to Pam, RD was "it pains me to say this, but not having an ipod made me focus on just running"
  • Distractions are not necessary a good thing
  • I found myself getting defensive when someone on a social media site called the race "pointless"
  • Even though I know it's "pointless"

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Crawley 12 Hour Track Race

There's not really much you can say about a 12-hour track race in Crawley, is there? Somehow I've managed to talk at considerable lengths about it though.  Cutting the trailers, here's the short version: 1st lady with 129km/80miles. 2nd overall. Course record. Scottish record. British record.  And a second world best for 2014

And now the tea-and-biscuit version...

I'll be honest, this race wasn't on my bucket list.  Or any list for that matter.  I had floated the idea of doing a 12 hour race - and I had unfinished business with the track - but I wasn't overexcited about going to Crawley.  Granted a track's a track.  But the scheduled GB team meeting/training weekend clashed with the other races that I did have a burning urge to do.  I did train properly for it and it was always an A-race, but I was in a bit of a huff about doing it.  Am I back tracking on that a bit now? You bet. 

Check us out,  just joking around ;-)
The race was the first time that Sonic and I would go head-to-head in quite a few years.  He did say that we were running in different races, but I know he had moments of mild panic.    We all know he would run circles around me and he quite literally did.  But on paper, I was his biggest threat and me beating him would be his biggest nightmare.

Sonic was taking on the race three weeks after her fantastic run at the Glasgow Edinburgh Ultramarathon. He set a new record on the 55 course in 6:19.  A mere 55 minutes ahead of second place in a very pedestrian 6:52m/m average pace. I was secretly (or not) hoping that his exertions would have taken it's toll, but in reality his confidence would reign supreme on race day.  He had been - as my colleague would say -  "walking about like a dog with two d*cks" since, well, Tooting. Crude, but apt. 

As previously mentioned we were there for a GB 24 hour team gathering.  Despite the grey cloud of having to churn out some laps on the track, it was great to catch up with the troops.  And BrotherSonic and Gillian had come over from Bournemouth my gorgeous little nephew, Luca.  Socially, it was always going to be a top-notch weekend.

On the Friday evening, we had a  team meeting to discuss various points from last year's 24 hour World Championships and plans for this year's championships.  At the time the only information that we had - after the event in the Czech Republic was cancelled - was it may or may not be rescheduled to take place in Taiwan later in the year.  

On race morning, the rain was pouring and the trees were bending in the wind outside the hotel room.  Less than ideal for an exposed track, but the forecast had promised fairer conditions from mid morning.  So, I covered myself in factor 50 before starting the race in a rain jacket and gloves and donning a sun visor. Fashion a la Scottish summer style.

At the start line.  Actually can I call it the start line, when it was the same line I crossed every two minutes for 12 hours?  Anyway at the line, I was nervous.  My heart rate was through the roof.  Way more than I expected to be.  I think it's down to the fact I don't race enough.  I don't do races as training runs.  Or training runs as race for that matter.  I even get the jitters doing my local Parkrun.

BrotherSonic had kindly volunteered to do my support, but I didn't have a plan for him. At the end of the day I would only be a couple of minutes away from another lap, so I was just going to shout up requests for the next time around.  It worked perfect.  Plus, I was using the race to test all the ideas that I never got the chance to try at the Barcelona 24. Or in my case, the Barcelona 12km.

I only had one goal. There was no bronze, silver or gold, just one.  To run 130km (81 miles), which worked out at 325 in total/ 27 laps per hour/2:13 per lap.

I'm not going to give you the lap-by-lap account, or even the hour-by-hour version, but running around a track is a lot easier than I thought it would be.  To be fair, races do always seem easier when the stars align for you on that given day, don't they?

Physically, I knew I was in OK shape.  But more importantly, on race day, my head was in a good place.  I was certainly happier being there than I have been on any of my 24-hour races. I wouldn't go as far as to say I really enjoyed it, but I was very content in the moment.  I didn't think about the distance or the clock. Only each lap/hour.

Even in the latter stages there was no stressing and frustration and willing the race to end (which is the norm for me).  There was no killing time (also the norm).  I was focussed on lap splits to the bitter end.

This is a display of my lap splits.  The red dots (or slow laps) were: First, removing all warm/waterproofs and then three toilet breaks.


My friend and GB team mate Karen Hathaway kept me on my toes for the whole day.  Jeez, I nearly caused myself internal injuries not going to the toilet as often as I should have, as I deemed this as a luxury I couldn't afford :-) She ran a brilliant and very even-paced race.  I suppose on paper it looks closer that it was, but it took me the whole 12 hours to build up to that < 2km lead.

At around nine hours (I think!) it was announced that the 24 hour World Championship had been confirmed for Taiwan and this really spurred Karen on.  She had a real power hour, which quite frankly put the shitters up me. I knew I had lapped her every two hours, so I had to at least match her lap for lap to keep my position. From previously races, I knew that Karen really comes into her own in the final stages, so I couldn't rest on my laurels.

During the 11th hour I knew I would comfortably break the (unofficial) Scottish 12 hour record and informed BrotherSonic of this.  Then there was a little kerfuffle amongst the support crews as - I later discovered - they were frantically trying to confirm what the British record.  I didn't know what the record was, who had it or when it was set.  Nothing.  It hadn't even crossed my mind before or during the race, as I just assumed it was so far out of my reach.  

Turns out the record belonged to Eleanor Robinson - one of the GB 24 hour team officials - who was on the sidelines that day.  She set the record of 128km (79 miles) in 1985 and it'sstood for nearly 30 years!


Then with a little over 20 minutes to go, BrotherSonic told me I needed to complete another nine laps to beat the British record. Calculating that in my already frazzled brain meant that I'd have to run my fastest laps to get it.  It's amazing what your body can do when pushed, because I ended up doing nearly 11 laps to clear the record by 771 metres.   Eleanor was very gracious about it and has since sent me a lovely email to congratulate me. 

The support from those on the sidelines and the runners within the race was amazing.  I apologise for anyone who felt bullied out of the way as I charged around in he latter stages.  OK, in my head I was charging.  But, visually, think Chief Brody in the get-out-of-the-water scene in Jaws. 

Sonic joined me for the last lap, despite my request for him to leave me. He's kicking himself now though, as he lost out on the world best second place by two metres!!  He maintains that he was happy to join me for the British record moment, but I knew if he were to do it again, he wouldn't be sitting in third just now!   He had a great race though and set a new course record of 90 miles.  

So there you have it.  The Condensed version.  Big thanks for BrotherSonic for being brilliant on support. It can't be a coincidence that he was on duty for the GUCR, TP100 and Crawley 12, so he is now officially my lucky charm.  Thanks to Pam Storey and the race officials who put on a great show.  And to the Crazy German for chipping in and taking such great photos. 

Lap times. Click to view
The most impressive feat of endurance had to come from our lap counter, Sharon Herbert.  Sharon had the unenviable task of counting laps for BOTH Sonic and I.  And we're not talking ticking a box.  Our laps sheets have race time per lap and lap splits.  My head hurts just thinking about all the numbers.  Plus, she didn't even take so much as a comfort break. She was there every time I passed.  Amazing! Thank you, Sharon.

It was a great day out.  The nicest thing about a track race is having the opportunity to speak to everyone in race and meet lots of lovely people.  

Full results here

Well done to everyone who took part in the six-hour race too. Especially to Adam (winner) and Emily, Fionna and the GM who were 1st, 2nd and 3rd ladies respectively.

I'm off to run about on some hills now.  I've had my fill of track for one year. 

Friday, 28 February 2014

Hoka Clifton review (Available August 2014)

Hoka have come a long way since I first clapped eyes on the super soles back in 2010.   Love them or hate them, there's no denying their huge increase in popularity and dominance in the niche market of maximalist shoes.   Even popular brands such as Brooks and New Balance and lifestyle footwear manufacture Sketchers have introduced new models which look suspiciously like Hoka to me.
(Clockwise: Conquest (top), Bondi 3 and Kailua)

Last year, the introduction of the Rapa Nui and Kailua appealed to running shoe traditionalists, looking for a more toned-down version of the plush-riders.  

This year, it's all changed again. The Conquest Tarmac,  Bondi 3 and Kailua Trail will be available from next month and I'll be first in the queue to try them out.

In meantime, I was lucky enough to receive a pair of the still-in-progress Hoka Clifton to test. Available in the UK from August, 2014.


They look nice and cushioned, don't they?

Would you believe me if I told you these size 5.5 weighed 193 grams (6.8 oz) ?  Didn't think so, so I did a photo comparison between the Hoka Clifton and the ridiculously light Adidas Adizero Adios.




Shocked?  Me too.  I know it's only one gram, but it's hard to believe that a cushioned shoe could be lighter than a racing shoe.  And they are so comfortable.  It's like wearing slippers made of fresh air.

I'll be honest, although I'm a Hoka gal, I do mix up my footwear.  Any competitive runner will know that there's no one shoe fits all when your training schedule calls for a variety of sessions and terrains.  Originally, Hoka were most suited to super distance runs and races, but the new models will change that.  The brand even have a sponsored track runner!

Watch more videos on Flotrack

Even True minimalists and lightweighters who tsk at the mere site of a chunky sole could fall head over their low-drop heels with the launch of the new Clifton.

Friday, 17 January 2014

UltraRunning magazine now available in the UK

There have been many times when I've nearly hit the "subscribe" button for the UltraRunning magazine.  I already subscribe to Runner's World, Running Fitness and Trail Running, so what's one more?  However, I've always been put off by the $100 annual subscription fee.   Even when I selflessly considered getting it for Sonic for a Birthday/Christmas gift.

But fret not, it's now available in the UK from the ULTRAmarathonRuningStore.  With no hefty upfront costs.   Click here for info

Here's the marketing bit..."Serving a loyal market of long-distance runners since 1981, UltraRunning magazine has long been established as “the voice of the sport”. Containing comprehensive and informative articles about all aspects of the sport of ultramarathoning, UltraRunning is a must-read for all who participate in the sport.  UltraRunning magazine is an invaluable resource for ultrarunners – experienced, new and aspiring endurance athletes seeking to go beyond the marathon. We provide helpful and entertaining content to ultrarunners, and measure our success by the accomplishments of our readers, and ultimately by the growth of the sport"

I received a copy this morning and I'm really impressed.  It's no flick-through read.  It's more like a book, so can safely justify the cover price.  Plus, it's completely different from my other magazine subscriptions.  

The January/February 2014 issue features: Rob Krar, Men's Ultrarunner of the Year; Are you tough enough? by Dean Karnazes ; 100-mile prep by Ian Sharman and ultra/life balance by Ellie Greenwood to name a few - as well as top race reports and product reviews. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Gear of the year 2013

These are the products that got my seal of approval in 2013...



Ultimate Direction SJ Race Vest was the best purchase of the year.  Although I previously confessed my undying love for the Salomon S-lab, I have huge issues with the clips when my hands are cold. As my jaunts don't frequent fairer climes, this is a big problem for me.  I swithered for months about buying the UD pack. Mainly because I'd already bought the Salomon, but also because the GM had the one.  It's bad enough that we look like Mary-Kate and Ashley by default, without purposely kitting out in the same gear. Anyway, I caved and it was a great decision. 


Weighing in at a teeny 212 grams and providing 9.2 litres (it's like a tardis in there!), it's perfect for long training runs and races.  As it's so light, I don't use a bottle belt for medium-distance runs any more.  It's a really well thought out product with compartments and pockets for everything you will need on a day's run. It's doesn't bounce, rustle, rub and fits like a glove.  Even on ladies who are less blessed around the chest, like me.


LED Lenser SEO7R head torch is another gem. I'm not very technical, so I'll save myself the embarrassment and just tell you how I see it.   The beam is fantastic.  It weighs next to nothing, so I'm more likely to carry it as emergency kit on training runs.   It can be used with 3xAAA batteries, but also comes with rechargeable lithium battery pack. So, you save a fortune on expensive batteries.  Especially if you're like me and replace batteries that don't need replacing just to be on the safe side.  Plus, because it's rechargeable I use it more on runs that I probably wouldn't bother with during winter nights.   And it's only priced at around £70.  Bargain!


Montane Mountain Minimus Jacket is one my favourite bits of kit.  It's ultra lightweight and packable, so perfect for a day on the trails. I also wear it quite often on my daily running commute.  With only one base layer underneath it's perfect for winter mornings.  I feel really comfortable without overheating two miles into the run.

HOKA Rapa Nui and Kailua:  I've been a Hoka fan for a couple of years now and the Rapa Nui (trail) and Kailua (road) are my favourites. My endorsement has more credibility when I can say I bought these - and raved about them - before I became a Hoka sponsored athlete though!  I'm quite excited about trying out the new Conquest Tarmac in the spring though.


Hoka and Dirty Girl Gaiters
Drymax socks: Running in the UK, I've certainly put my Drymax through the wringer.  The range includes socks for different weather and conditions.  As previously documented I went from blister-plagued to blister free on the very wet and muddy Thames Path 100, using the Lite Mess No Show  and for warmer termperatures the Drymax Hot Weather Mini Crew are fantastic.  For really wet and cold weather the Drymax Maximum Protection Running Socks are in a league of their own.  I know, it's a wonder I have time to run at all with all the dilemmas I face before even getting out of the door!

Dirty Girl GaitersI'm a gal who likes to accessorise, so the these are right up my street. Plus, there serve a pretty good purpose and stop little nasties getting into your shoes.  Double bonus.  

Lansinoh Lanolin: This is my new must-have for feet and areas prone to chaffing. Yes, it's for breastfeeding Mother's cracked nipples, but it works a treat.  The small tube is also light enough to carry on long runs and races. This one retails around £10 (available from Boots), but supermarkets do their own cheaper version. I have used one from Asda. which is only £5. Lanolin is Lanolin after all.

Engo Blister Patches:  I used these for the first time during the Lakeland 100 and didn't have any issues with my feet. Of course, this is only one part of my foot care regime.   The Engo Patches are different in that they are applied to the inside of the shoe - not too skin.   There are proven to last over 300 miles, but mine last the duration of the Rapa Nui, which was about 500 miles.  Not cheap for what they are, but worth a look.
Pulsin Protein Bars are my new favourite training snack. They are the only junk free (and tasty) protein bars that I've came across. Made with whey and pea protein isolates, Pulsin's Maple Protein Bars contain 15 grams of protein. And certainly the only one I could find without sweeteners.   Click here for ingredients.  Plus, they're vegetarian, gluten free, no added sugar, no trans fat and non GMO.  You might be a bit dubious the first time you try one, but after that it's like a nice bar of chocolate. 

Bounce's Coconut & Macadamia Protein Balls are a little bit of heaven. I see them more of a treat, that something you have to endure for energy on a run.  Although I'm not sure I could eat them during a race, as the chewing would be an endurance event in itself. Still very tasty though. 

Accelerade Energy Gels are perfect for racing.   Personally I don't use gels or sugar for training runs, but I used these for the Lakeland 100 and Glencoe Marathon. Accelerade contain 4:1 carbohydrate and protein.  They are the only running gels on the market that protein, with 5g in each pack. There are some interesting favours such as strawberry kiwi and key lime and raspberry cream.  The chocolate and expresso flavours also contain 100mg of caffeine. 


Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Beaten Track

I suppose I’ve been long overdue a “sh*t happens” themed race report.  I’m always the first to tut at race excuses.  But after running a grand total of 12.5km at the Barcelona 24 hour track race - one of my A-races for the year - I better explain myself.

The reasoning: Although this a stark contrast to Sonic’s 24-hour debut in Tooting, the reason why I signed up for Barcelona 24 was because I was so inspired by the event that I wanted to have a crack at a track race.

I’ve only ever run a 24-hour with an international vest - One for Scotland and two for Great Britain.  And with that comes a whole lot of pressure and expectation.   I’ve always come away from the events with an armful of ideas and tips on how to improve.  I don’t think I’ve ever got a 24 hour right and wanted to use Barcelona test some things in an open race.  So, for those who didn’t understand why I’d want to put myself through when I have already run above the qualifying distance for the Great Britain team (twice), that was my reason. 

Plus, I had bit ambitions that I was really confident that I could back up on the day. If I could feel like I did during the Lakeland 100 or the Glencoe Marathon, then I’d be on to a sure thing.

Testing:  This was the list of new things to try during training, taper and the race. Most which, of course, remain untested.

1) I gave up caffeine for a month prior to the race.  From eight cups of two-spoons coffee per day to nothing.  This was probably the most heart-breaking aspect of the DNF.  No coffee. For a month. For nothing.

2) Two-runs-per-day.    For the last six months, I have used my easy/steady run days to run twice.  So, on a Wednesday and Friday I ran to and from work.  It’s only five miles each way, but I really think it helped build endurance.  As well as an effective use of time and saves me battling rush hour traffic.

3) Training with a heart-rate monitor.  This was new to me, but after reading Dr Maffetone’s book on Endurance Training and Racing. I followed the plan of running below my maximum aerobic heart rate for six weeks (NB, it should be eight weeks) following the Lakeland.  Not only did my pace improve within that zone, but I got my resting heart rate down to 37 (from 42) prior to the race.

4) Track training.  And I don’t mean proper track sessions, I mean just jogging around for hours and hours.  It didn’t bore or frustrate me and it really helped me get my head into it. Plus, I got through a few audiobooks too.  The best thing was that I never count the laps.  That’s usually the first to break me in looped courses.

5)  In the run up to the race, I did more hill training.  It was easier on the back of training for the Lakeland 100 and Glencoe Marathon, but I didn’t do any long road/flat run.  Plus, I ran on the hills and didn’t use them as an excuse to walk/skive.

6)  Following a five year break, I started Yoga classes.  That was a shock to the system as I didn’t realise how tight my hamstrings were.  I’m not exactly bendy, but a few months later and things are improving.  I’ve even started a Bikram yoga class in the hope that it might stop me unravelling in the heat.

7) My feet problems have been well-documented on this blog. In other 24-hour races I’ve been too nervous to try anything different, but for Barcelona I was going to use some of my steps with only Drymax socks.  It’s work during training and stopped the “burning”.

8) After reading Andy Milroy’s Trainingfor Ultra Running and taking on board some of the traditional techniques used by sport’s greatest, I binned expensive foot and chaffing cream in favour of good ol’ Lanolin.   Yep, a £5 tube of the wonder stuff – marketed to feeding Mothers as a cure for cracked for nipples – is working a treat.

9)  My nutritional plan was to take in more protein (but mixed with carbs) in the early stages.  And in the latter stages take in more gels, but with water only. No sports drink.  Tips I’d picked up from Matt Fitzgerald’s New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition to eliminate stomach issues.

So, there you have it.  There was method to my madness.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.  I started vomiting before I arrived at the airport.  The day before the race was a complete write-off.  I kept thinking it would pass, but after redecorating the hotel bathroom the night before the race, - with the GM holding my hair like a flashback from our youth -  I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  

I shouldn’t have even have got on the plane, let alone start the race.  But it’s a long way to go, not the cheapest of trips and Sonic had endured an epic journey – via London – to be there on the Saturday morning. 

I gave it a shot, but I was hanging over the railings vomiting within the first hour.  There was nothing in me. I really had to give it everything to get to 12.5km.  And do you know why?  Because I all I could think about was how much I’ve mocked the Crazy German since his 5K bail-out at the CCC in 2010!!

Once I’d mopped up the tears, I tried (probably unsuccessfully) to put the disappointed to one side to help Jen Salter and Karen Salter (1st and 2nd lady) reach the qualification for the GB 24 hour team.  They ran 217km and 210km respectively and were by far the best runners on the track. 

After the race, Karen collapsed and needed medical attention.  After seeing the same thing happen to many ultra-runners we all knew she would be fine, but the medics were adamant she went to hospital.  I volunteered to go with her, so at least I got a tour of the city – blue-light style.  It was a little concerning that the 12-year-old ambulance driver was using the sat nav on his phone to find the hospital.  And then had to circle the car park to find the entrance!

Of course, she was fine with a few hours but the hospital was a riot.  It was like a scene from a war movie with bodies lying everywhere. At one point, Karen was dozing off when a nurse came along and snapped an oxygen mask on her face.  Then after being shouted at by a doctor came along took it off Karen and put it on the patient next to her.  Who was male and about 80!

But the drama hadn’t ended.  Sonic was then spewing on the way home…Thankfully dispelling the pregnancy questions.  And I kindly passed it round the rest of my family.

Not the best end to 2013’s races, but as I’ve heard a thousand times since “better to happen in that race, than in one that matters”.

Even though we don’t know the date or the venue of the World 24 hour and cannot plan any other races, I know for sure Barcelona 24-hour in 2014 with be on my hit list.

Happy New Year J

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Supporting SuperSonic at Tooting Bec 24

After three years of supporting yours truly during 24-hour races, Sonic decided to throw down the gauntlet and go for GB qualification himself. After his phenomenal run on the West Highland Way Race, I bullied him into submitting his entry form for Tooting Bec 24-hour track race. Note: I’m only on the second sentence and already taking credit for it.

Sonic doesn’t lack confidence and self-belief, which is something that will take him further than his skinny legs.  He had a goal that some people may have quaffed at, way beyond the 235km minimum team standard qualification.  But as they say: Fortune favours the brave.

When we arrived in Tooting on Friday afternoon, I told Sonic to rest up and I would go and do all the shopping. Apparently four bananas would not suffice, he needed “at least 12”. Eight slices of caramel shortcake wouldn’t cut it.  At least three packs were required.  Yes, 24 slices of caramel shortcake. Along with 20 9-Bars, chicken breasts, a family-sized block of cheese, various snacks and a million litres of drinks. Four trips to Sainsburys – and a broken back – later I was done. And done in. 

I decided to go for a little run and check out the track location.  Tooting is crazy busy and after an afternoon of negotiating my way through the High Street – with their pound shops, halal meat counters and betting shops aplenty – I was glad to head to the leafy area of Tooting Common.

I was glad to have done the recce run – I do love a good recce – as the taxi driver in the morning would have have taken us to the wrong sports’ centre.

It was a bit surreal turning up to a race with only 45 participants and trackside packed with tents and open-boot buffet displays. 

We found some spare grass and after asking another runner, Marcus, to move his car over (I know, the cheek of it!) we pitched up next to Fionna Cameron’s pit-stop - with the lovely Keziah on duty - and Richie Cunningham’s crew of Drew Sheffield and Claire Shelley opposite.  The official Team Scotland camp!

Team Scotland. Richard Brown centre
You know you’re in a new age of social media friendship swhen you find yourself more and more having introductions that start like Nici’s:  “You don’t know me, but I follow you on Twitter” and Ali’s “I read your GUCR report”.  Supporting Stephen Woodus (aka Woody) they were an absolute riot to hang out with.  And thankfully they were around to help erect a brand-new-out-of-the-packet gazebo we had brought down for the occasion.  I kind of looked like a Punch and Judy tent, but it did the trick.

Just to put the GB pressure on, my team mates Emily Gelder and Karen Hathaway came along to help me out.  A team manager, Richard Brown was there scouting for fresh kill. 

I’m not going to write about the race.  Mainly because I didn’t run the race.  And Sonic is threatening to write his own blog post!  So, here’s the lowdown on Team Scotland.

Scottish Athletics report here

Sonic:  1st place with 248km (154miles)

For the purpose of this report, I will now refer to him as SuperSonic.  If you followed the race or happen to be one of his aforementioned “social media friends”, you will know he absolutely smashed it. The most impressive bit was he managed to keep a lid on it at the beginning.  Even when he was knocked to eighth place because of his scheduled walking breaks.  Pushing through he took the lead a few hours in and pushed a bit more to finish with a mere 20-mile lead.  

He was overly smug about beating my 100K time and I was overly restrained to tell him that I’ve only ever run one 100k and it was a piss-poor performance.  Then he hit 100 miles at 14:31 and broke through the 235km GB team qualify with an hour and a half to spare.  

I’d secretly packed a Union Jack and asked the lap counters to make an announcement so he could do a victory lap.  Then whipped the flag off him and sent him on to punch -out another 13 kilometres.  A total of 620 laps to clock 154 miles (248km)

That’s the best distance by a GB athlete this year.  Third on the all-time Scottish list – behind the records and seemingly unbreakable 166m distance set by Don Ritchie and 154 miles by Mick Francis. All in a debut 24-hour race. 

Just for the record though, he only ate four bananas and two slices of the caramel shortcake.  If you see any flightless birds around Tooting, don't blame me!

Fionna Cameron: 1st lady, 2nd overall with 216km (134 miles)  Another sterling debut performance, with 134 miles (216km). There must be something in the water at Aberdeen Asset, as Marco and Fionna work in the same office.  

Fionna is lovely, yet very determined.  Actually if you were to look up “lovely” in a Thesaurus, Fionna could be the first alternative. The 24-hour did something strange to her character though.  There was spitting, snot-rockets and tantrums.  Thank god!  Don't want her showing up the GM and I at the next GB outing.

Stephen Mason: 5th with 198kms and (123 miles)  I ran with Stephen on the Scotland team in my first 24 hour race in 2011. He went round like and train and came through a few – understandable – rough patches.  At one point I had to shout at him, as he was running around having nodding off.  I kid you not! 

Richie Cunningham: 7th with 194 kms (120 miles)

What can I say about Richie?  He showed he’s a true Scotsman by spending the vast majority of the weekend spewing and slurring his words.  I’m not sure when he starting the projectile vomiting, but it pretty much lasted the duration.  Heroic or stubborn?  Either way, there was no stopping him.  Even defying the medics.  Like a Weeble:  He just wobbled, but he didn’t fall down. I’m not sure how he did it but he clocked 120 miles on absolutely no fuel. 

The Aftermath.

This was when the fun started. Firstly, Sonic collapsed. Personally, I think he was just enjoying lapping up the attention of the female medics.  Then he proceeded to thank EVERYONE within a mile radius for their amazing support and encouragement.  Not even a single mutter to me, who had spent 24 hours on a trackside!  And, quite frankly, you should never underestimate the difference an experienced support crew can make ;-)

After leaving him in the capable hands of the professionals, I went off (in a huff) to pack up the stuff and get Sonic’s after race kit.  On return, Richard Brown accused me of “being very nonchalant” about the distress my husband was in. I would have explained, but I’d already chewed my tongue off by that point.  Then Sonic collapsed again.  When his lap counter appeared to congratulate him, he was practically crying with gratitude. I might look really tired in this picture, but I’m (shamefully!) contemplating whipping my legs out from underneath his head ;-)

All very childish in the cold light of day.  I've been there and I know how grateful you are.  Let's put it down to sleep deprivation!

The prize-giving was lovely.  It was so nice that everyone’s efforts were recognised.  Especially, Geoff Oliver who at the grand age of 80 had set SEVEN new world records during the race.  Then turned up in the prize giving in a shirt and tie and gave a wonderful heartfelt speech. It was an honour and a privilege to watch his amazing performance.  Sonic was obviously using his race tactics to take him out during the hours of darkness (see left).  I would like to know what Geoff was listening to on his ipod though. 

Then we had to get the train from Euston to Glasgow.  And we still had to get the Tube to Euston. For both of us, this could officially be the worst experience of our lives.  Sonic was broken, sick and emotional and I was carrying three duffel bags through London.  It was nothing short of a nightmare. I liken it to trying to negotiate with a bad tempered drunk. 

On the tube, Sonic decided he was going to drop down and sleep. At the door!  I couldn’t even help him, as I was trying to balance all the bags on my body.  My head was going to explode with the weight on my shoulders and I’d lost all feeling in my hands.

This picture makes me laugh so much, I have used it as the contact picture on my mobile, so pops up every time Sonic calls me.

There were works on the tube line, so we had to get three trains to Euston.  Of course, I did my best support job and accepted that everything was my fault. Of course.

I did have to giggle when I looked back to see him shuffling along, muttering expletives to himself  It was less comical though, when he decided he was too warm (also my fault) and stopped dead in the middle of an unforgiving fast-moving hoard of people to roll up his trousers.  That really set off the look.  Thankfully it was London and therefore no one bats an eyelid at neurotic behaviour.  Even when he staggered along the platform with his trousers rolled to his knees – his carrier bags of trophies in each hand – and then stopped to slide down the wall in tears.  In hindsight, it’s hilarious.  Hey, don’t judge me.  Sonic posted a video on You Tube of me after my first 24-hour race.   If had any feeling in my hands, I might have done the same.

Then we finally made it to Euston.  Of course our reserved seats on the Virgin train had to be at the opposite side. I swear it took us 15 minutes to walk the length of the train.  I’ve never been so happy to sit down - or for Sonic to pass out -  in my life. 

Even after all that, whoever says supporting is harder than running is at it. I had a great time.

Some random pictures on Flickr here