Further updates will be posted on my GR11 Blog
The Western States 100 is a 100 mile endurance run across the Sierra Nevada in California, from Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe to Auburn near Sacramento. To get a flavour of the race, you should read Dean Karnazes' Ultramarathon Man.
The 2010 race took place this weekend, with a massive amount of build up on the excellent iRunFar website, in particular Bryon Powell's great super-relaxed interviews with most of the leading runners, for example Anton Krupicka who goes into the Western States unbeaten over 100 miles, and with a huge amount of training under his belt as documented on his incredible blog Riding the Wind.
The other 3 main candidates for winning the race were Kilian Jornet of Catalonia who ran 800 km across the Pyrenees in 8 days only 3 weeks ago, Hal Koerner, 2 times defending champion, and Geoff Roes from Alaska also unbeaten over 100 miles.
At 50 miles, all 4 of these runners were still together, until Kilian Jornet and Anton Krupicka began to pull ahead. However later in the race Jornet faded and Geoff Roes came through to break the course record, finishing in 15:07:04.
A small elite field gathered at the superb new Community Hall in Arrochar.
I set off with my usual steady start, only leading the field for about the first kilometre before allowing Dave Eiser, Mark Harris, Stewart Whitlie and Al Anthony to pass.
I ran up towards Loch Sloy with Bill Fairmainer and David Houston, catching Bruce Poll at the base of Ben Vorlich. Once on the climb, my legs felt a bit dead and Bill and Bruce started pulling ahead. I turned at the summit at about 1h12m, just behind Bruce and Stephen Winter.
On the steep descent to the dam Phil Williams of Central went by, but I reeled Stephen and Phil back in on the climb to Ben Vane. Once over the summit Lewis Grundy of NFR came through strongly, and I tried to follow Lewis to the bealach before Ben Ime, where Owen O'Neill and David Riach were marshalling and handing out water.
On the climb up Ben Ime I tried to follow Bruce Poll's line rather than Lewis and Stephen who I thought were going to far left. I could see that Dave Scott was slowly closing me down, but tried to hold him off for a while.
Passing through the col before Narnain, Christine and Steph were handing out more water. I tried to gain some ground on Lewis on the final climb, but didn't feel that strong despite taking a gel and some more drink.
Reaching the summit of Ben Narnain in 3:24, I thought I was in with a shout for clocking sub 4 hours, since in 2008 I descended in 36 minutes, but I was much stronger in that race and took a lot of chances on the descent.
The time around my legs were wobbly and buckling as soon as I hit any awkward ground, and the descent from Narnain is super-awkward down steep blocky mica schist.
I could see that Dave Scott was gaining on me, so eventually I just stopped and let him go through, thinking I might be able to chase him down the hill. It helped a bit to start with, but my legs were too wobbly on the lower section strewn with rough boulders and blocks of concrete.
I knew I needed to hit the forestry track in around 3:50, but it was 3:52 when I turned onto the big track, and I knew there was no way I could get to the end in under 8 minutes, so I just plodded the final section and finished in 4:02, which wasn't too far off my target.
Andrea Priestley was 1st lady in 4:06:46, thus beating Christine Menhennet's record of 4:09:26 set back in 1987, the very first time the race was run.
I was quite pleased with my run despite losing a bunch of places from the Saddle to the end. My time of 2:54:30 was only 2 minutes down on my last 2 Glen Rosa races, and I just jogged off Goatfell until the finish.
The race was won by Andy Symonds, with Brian Marshall 2nd and Prasad Prasad in 3rd place.
First lady was Jill Mykura, who took a narrow lead on Fiona Maxwell, with Emma O'Shea in 3rd place.
I arrived straight from getting my legs pummelled by Graeme at Achilles Heel, so my calves were feeling a bit battered and bruised. I decided to treat the race as an experiment at concentrating on my kinaesthetics, and chose not to look at my watch once during the run.
I settled in with a group until about 4 km who I thought would be running around 37 minute pace. Slowly I fell off the back and didn't really have the confidence or strength to catch anyone.
After the bridge at Cadder I made a bit more effort to pass a few folk, and then once back on the canal I was passed by Paul Carroll of Clydesdale who I chased back to the finish without dropping any more places.
The 9 km marker was missing, so it wasn't obvious how far there was to go, and I was determined to not look at my watch, but instead focus on my running technique, keeping it nice and smooth and relaxed.
My target was simply to have a steady 6 mile run, and perhaps get under 38 minutes, so I was pleased enough to finish in 37:57, which was fractionally faster than any of the recent Polaroid 10k runs.
Ellie had a great run to clock 43:39, and 2nd senior lady, in her first race for about 4 months.
Just back from the Ben Sheann Hill Race at Strathyre.
Thankfully the midges weren't quite so horrific as usual.
The Forestry Commission have obliterated the old route, so an alternative was needed and the race organisers duly spent the last couple of days hacking a rough track up through the forest. This provided a challenging steep ascent and a tricky descent.
I found myself slogging up the hill in close company with Gary Fraser, Des Crowe, Catriona Buchanan and Emma O'Shea. Once on the descent I gradually caught and passed Catriona and Emma, but got passed myself by Don Reid and Alan Gilkison of Westies, and lower down Gary Fraser of Ochils flew past with nimble feet.
The new route was 3.33 km according to my Garmin 405, which is slightly shorter than the old route, but underfoot it is a whole lot rougher, so my time of 31:48 was a bit slower than I've run on the old course.
The race winner was Adam Gatens of Westerlands with his first senior hill race win. Steven Fallon finished 2nd, and Alan Smith was 3rd.
In the women's race, Catriona Buchanan was first, finishing ahead of Emma O'Shea by the narrowest of margins.
The 4th and final race in the 2010 Polaroid 10k Series. I'd never completed all 4 races in the series before, so thought I should make the effort despite rather sore legs from yesterday, and an early start to make Balloch before 9am.
The weather was fairly grey and rainy, but a comfortable temperature for running.
The race starts at Lomond Shores and after crossing the River Leven turns into Balloch Castle Country Park with a fairly steep hill from 1km to 2.5km, which climbs about 50 metres.
I shuffled along through Jamestown getting passed fairly continuously until crossing the bridge at 6km. With 4km to go I started making a bit more effort, and just managed to dip under 39 minutes, which means that all 4 of my 10k times were 38 minutes something, which although embarrassingly slow was at least consistent.
I had planned to cycle Henry Blake's Cairngorm 100, but I couldn't face the long drive up the A9, plus the forecast looked much better for the Scottish Borders so I made the fairly short drive down to Durisdeer for this low-key classic hill race.
It was only my third time at Durisdeer. In 2005 I ran 1:57:19 in thick clag to finish 8th, and in 2008 I ran 1:43:22 to finish 70th when it was a British Championship race.
I knew I wasn't likely to run 1:43 again, but hoped to do a bit better than 1:57.
There was a pretty small field of only 34 runners, and Tom Owens disappeared out of sight within the first 5 minutes. I plugged away in 4th position to the summit of Black Hill, with Alan Smith and Dave Eiser not far in front.
I stopped briefly at the summit of Black Hill to let Adam Anderson past and to follow his descent line. Russell Anderson also passed me on the descent, but I soon caught him again after we crossed the road to Dalveen farm. David White and Natalie White (no relation) also joined us for the descent down to Enterkin Burn.
The four of us were never that far apart as we climbed over the Steygail col and re-crossed the road. I should probably have started climbing the hill immediately after the road, but instead experimented with running down the road for a few 100 metres. I think this only helped in letting Russell catch us up again.
On the steep climb up Well Hill, Dave and Russell pulled away from me, but I managed to hold my gap on Natalie who wasn't far behind. From Well Hill to the end I felt a bit slow and weary, but tried to keep pressing in the hope of getting sub 1:50, but I couldn't summon up much pace and clocked 1:51:32 for 7th place.
Tom Owens finished first in 1:28:14 with a winning margin of more than 12 minutes.
This evening I ran the Cort-ma Law Hill Race for the 9th year in a row. Conditions underfoot were fairly slow and soggy.
The race was won by Kenny Richmond for the 3rd year a row. Garry Rankin of Kilbarchan was 2nd, and Dave Eiser of Ochils finished 3rd, just ahead of Westies own Adam Gatens in 4th place.
In the ladies race, Claire Gordon started like she had a bus to catch, and had disappeared out of sight by the time I reached Cort-ma Law summit. I battled along switching places with Deeside's Emma O'Shea for most of the race.
Between Cort-ma Law and Lecket, I dropped 2 places as Stuart Simpson and Russell Anderson went past. Then towards the bottom of the gulley, Gary Fraser of Ochils nipped past with a stronger descent.
I was feeling pretty jaded at midge-hell gulley, where I got a shout from Munro legend Charlie Campbell, and was expecting to lose a bunch more places before the end, but gritted in and caught up Gary Fraser again, but didn't go past properly and allowed Gary to regain the initiative and fire on ahead.
After the final fence crossing, marshalled by Fiona Hutch, I was a bit lazy and just sat behind Gary rather than making more of a final effort. This allowed Emma to catch up again, and together we were gaining on Claire Gordon on the final descent. I was fairly sure we would catch Claire anyhow, but I shouted on Emma to make a final effort, that I wasn't interested in matching, but it was still enough to take us past Owen O'Neill, who was flagging towards the end.
My time was 57:19, which is 15 seconds faster than my Personal Worst for the course of 57:34, set in 2005. So thankfully this stops my 6-month sequence of PWs in every race!
This was my 4th race in 5 days, and after cycling 90 miles to reach Gargunnock and Saugh Hill, I wasn't feeling at my most sprightly.
The start of the race was pretty chaotic with baggy T-shirted kids going all out for the 100 metres sprint, leaving us ploddy hill runners in their wake. Thankfully they fizzled out as soon as the road steepened up, and by the time we passed under the railway bridge onto the stony track I was sitting in 3rd or 4th place.
Once we were out onto the open hillside I had Toni McIntosh and Don Reid right on my heels. I worked hard to open a gap on Don, knowing he would be faster than me on the descent.
After reaching the top of the hill, the route swings around the right across flat lumpy ground before a fast descent through gorse bushes to regain the route out.
I was surprised that Don hadn't caught me yet, since my descending was a bit half-baked, but as soon as we hit the stony track I hear Don huffing and puffing behind me. I managed to increase my pace to hold him off until we passed Kerry Wilson, at which point I eased off and let Don in front just as we hit the road. I thought I might be able to conjure up some finishing speed from somewhere, by my right shin was going into cramp, and I thought I'd prefer to just potter into the finish, rather than risk twanging something.
I was pleased enough that my time was somewhere around the 26 minutes I'd estimated. And thanks to Nat Taylor for the shoe-bag spot prize at the finish!
Anyhow, I decided to make another car-less journey to a hill race. This entailed cycling to Glasgow Central to catch the 11:00 train to Ayr, from where I pootled along various backroads the 22 miles to Girvan.
My route took me through Maybole and Wallacetown along nice quiet country roads surfaced with bone-juddering shattered tarmac and potholes. Perhaps the Royal Artillery use these roads as target practice.
What looked a straightforward ride on the map turned out far more wearing due to the appalling road surface, and the endless succession of choppy little hills. So I arrived in Girvan slightly more washed out than I would have liked for the race starting at 3pm.
Given the tragic circumstances surrounding David Hay, who revived this race in 2008, but sadly passed away in January 2010, I thought I should make the effort to attend.
It seemed a waste of nice day to drive the short distance to Gargunnock, so instead Ellie & I cycled out via Lennoxtown, Fintry and Kippen. We arrived in loads of time to check out the closing stages of the route, before Ellie wandered off up the hill to sunbathe and take photos.
The race began in traditional fashion with a lap of the showfield, before launching out onto the road. I was happy to start slowly in the pack and jog up the road with clubmate John Denovan as the race began. Once we had turned more steeply uphill I began steadily picking a few folk off, and made a few places on the steep 20 minute climb.
Once we turned at the top though it was a different story, and I was dropping places all the way back to the road as Dave White, Alan Tait, Gary Fraser and finally John Denovan went past.
I thought if I dug in for the final kilometre I might be able to reel a couple in, but I couldn't find the necessary speed or resolve to catch anyone. I was pleased enough with my time of 36:37 though, given that before the race I'd predicted around 37 minutes.
Today we decided to do a "Michael Diver" and cycle blummin miles for a short hill race.
Our route to Gargunnock went out via Lennoxtown, Fintry and Kippen, and back via Cambusbarron, North Third, Carron Bridge and Kilsyth.
To get out of Glasgow in the first place, Ellie & I followed the Forth Clyde canal as far as Kirkintilloch, then branched onto the Strathblane disused railway line to Lennoxtown. After that we cycled up over the Crow Road to Fintry and branched off for Kippen, which we reached in 2 hours. We had a short stop before tackling the few miles of race track A811 along to Gargunnock, and arriving about 1½ hours before the race.
After the Gargunnock Hill Race we re-joined the A811 eastwards before turning off for Cambusbarron. From here we took a shortcut along the west side of Gillies Hill on very rough quarry tracks. It wasn't the best choice for a road bike with skinny tyres, but luckily we made it through to Bannock Burn without any punctures. From the point you reach Bannock Burn there is an almighty climb up to North Third Reservoir, rewarded with stunning views across to Lewis Hill and its wall of dolerite.
It was with some relief that we reached Carron Bridge to face the final climb of the day over the famous Tak Ma Doon road to Kilsyth.
I was getting tired by this stage, but couldn't be bothered to stop in Kilsyth, so we re-joined the canal towpath a bit after Twechar and forced the pace back to Glasgow feeling a bit wabbit.
The 3rd race in the 2010 Polaroid 10k Series.
A super-warm evening in Dumbarton. I took the train and arrived early in time for some long slow running before the start to try to ease off the legs from last night's Kilpatricks race.
The start area was quite congested with a sudden left turn to join the main road, shortly followed by 2 more sharp turns to drop onto the cycle track. This created a bit of jostling and a temptation to force the pace, which I resisted. My only plan for the evening was fairly unimaginative, but I decided to track Lesley Chisholm who had beaten me at the first 2 Polaroids by about 30 seconds. I figured that if I stayed right behind her, she would drag me along to a time of about 37:30. Johnston tried this same strategy, but blew up at 5km.
I got steadily dropped after 6km, and slumped further off the pace until the 9km marker, at which point I suddenly woke up and decided it was about time I made a bit of effort. So I experimented with the idea of actually overtaking a few people which seemed a bit radical, after not overtaking anyone at Helensburgh or Clydebank.
I was hoping to get under 38 minutes, but my time of 38:06 wasn't that far off, and was pretty consistent with the 38:19 and 38:00 at the other 2 races.
A nice warm dry evening with a record turn out of 117 starters. I kept up my 100% record of PWs for 2010 by running 53:15 for 30th place. My previous slowest was 52:34 in 2005, which strangely got me 9th place. Anyhow, I had a good long chat with Davy Duncan before the race, and got a few top tips about keeping as relaxed as possible whilst running.
I therefore treated the race as an experiment to focus on keeping relaxed, and to see if it made any difference. The first climb up through the Braes is quite a slog, and I was swapping positions with Stuart Simpson as we topped out onto more runnable ground. Alasdair Duke had powered past me up the hill, but I managed to claw him back on the track alongside Loch Humphrey, largely by keeping relaxed and shortening and quickening my stride. I turned off the track pretty much level with Richard Coombs, and then John Kennedy overtook me the same place he always gets me.
I then held position as far as the dam for Greenside Reservoir, and foolishly hoped that all that cycling I've done would help me run up The Slacks. But far from it. My legs felt like bendy rhubarb as I tried to power up the hill. Michael Diver and David Dickson both flew past showing how it should be done.
Once I reached the trig I tried to re-group for the descent, and I tried to heed Davy Duncan's words about staying relaxed, and felt extremely relaxed as I watched 6 or so runners shoot past me on the descent. I wasn't going to go mad on the last bit of road since I knew I was doing Dumbarton 10k tomorrow night, but I made a half-baked attempt at closing down Richard Coombs on the final bend, and got close enough to make him sprint for the line!