Sunday 21 November 2010

King's Seat Grudge Match

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

I forgot my camera, so I'm afraid there are no photos, however for the 3rd running of the King's Seat Grudge Match we had 19 runners, with 7 from Westies, which is probably the nearest we've ever got to matching HBT numbers-wise.

We had good running conditions - cold and fresh, and clear on the tops. Not surprisingly Murray Strain powered off into the distance with myself and Mark Shankey chasing. Mark eventually pulled away from me and Dave Eiser joined me to shelter from the wind. I ran with Dave as far as the summit plateau before I pushed the pace and managed open a small gap which I held to the finish by experimenting with my new secret descending technique.

Ellie was first lady by some margin after a storming ascent, but narrowly missed setting a new record by electing to thrash through bracken to the finish rather than following the obvious path.

A social afternoon was spent in the Woolpack ploughing through mountains of sandwiches, and discussing various options for an all-new Grudge Match for Spring 2011.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Glasgow Parkrun #98

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After Dublin and the recent cross country relays, I decided I might be in shape to challenge my PB at the Glasgow Parkrun.

It was cold and dry with no wind, and a fairly sparse field, so I hammered off as fast as possible at the start purely trying to time trial myself with no interest in what the other runners were doing. I hit the first avenue of trees after 400 metres well clear in the lead, with no footsteps behind, but also with my heart rate hitting 188 bpm. I knew this wasn't sustainable and backed off slightly, but then accelerated up the hill and the first long uphill drag. I was still well clear and couldn't work out why Bella Harrier Amanuel Zerezighi wasn't closing me down.

At this point I had no idea whether to keep pressing on, or whether to wait for Amanuel and hope he could pull me along. I had half a notion that I could win the race, but then lost confidence and waited for the inevitable. Amanuel caught me on the first uphill zig-zags and I tried to respond and latch onto him, but my feet wouldn't move quickly enough. I rallied a bit on the second lap, and tried to force myself to keep working to ensure the PB, but also half-thinking I might go sub 17 minutes.

Just before the final uphill climb I couldn't generate enough pace to catch Amanuel but kept working all the way to the line and recorded 17:13 for 2nd place, and a new PB, so I was pleased enough with that.

Friday 19 November 2010

Reflections on Dublin Masters

This was my first outing for Scottish Vets and a great experience, although my selection for the M45 team was far from straightforward since I spent most of last winter side-lined with a persistent adductor problem.

To re-gain some fitness I hiked 500 miles across the Pyrenees in July, and then only started running again in August with some ridiculously slow times.

Not surprisingly, I wasn’t initially selected. But in October at the West District Relays I found some form, and asked Alastair Macfarlane if there was any chance of getting a run at Dublin. I wasn’t hopeful, but in the end I was squeezed into the M45 team.

Race day at Santry Park dawned bright and sunny, but just as the M35 race was about to start the rain came on to nicely soften up the already muddy course. I started slowly and smoothly, sploshing though the wet muddy ground with mud and elbows flying.

After 600 metres the race was settling down. John Bell, Alan Derrick and Matt Ward all drifted by before I closed the back door and started moving up the field clawing back three Scottish places as I jumped Scott Martin, Tony Devlin and Louis O’Hare, with Denis Williams on my shoulder. I pressed on, and was caught by nobody else apart from Ian Johnston of Shettleston near the end Lap 2.

I stepped up the pace to go with Ian, and got dragged along in a bit of daze, concentrating on the 5-lap course to gather all my resolve for the final lap. As we hit the bell, things were really hotting up. The commentator was screaming with excitement as first 5 runners were all exchanging the lead, battling it into the finish.

In my own private hell I had 3 runners champing at my heels, all M45 category, two Northern Irish and one Welshman. Each time they pulled alongside I would jump back in front, feeling increasingly unsure I could fend them off for much longer.

With 600 metres to go I suddenly made a move, dropping these 3 runners as I charged up the hill towards Ian Johnston. I was closing him down fast, but then panicked and decided life would be simpler if I just held this gap.

I was now in the last couple of bends assuming any threat from behind had been dropped, when suddenly Northern Ireland’s Declan McCarthy came barrelling past at unbelievable speed. I was completely taken by surprise and had no response. But as we turned into the final 70-metre finishing straight, I decided there was still half a chance.

I sent my heart rate off the scale in a death or glory attempt to close that gap, but the finish line arrived just too soon and as we hurtled into the finishing funnel, and I was pipped by 1 second.

I don’t know why, but I find it incredibly frustrating to lose a place right at the end after working so hard to hold position, but of course all’s fair and all that, and this might be just the lesson I needed to learn to sharpen up my act for next time.

Overall, I was enormously pleased my run and delighted to make the team, and really enjoyed the whole weekend. I found it inspirational seeing all these older athletes still running at such a high standard. I certainly hope to get some more mileage out of my Scottish Vets vest in future!

Monday 15 November 2010

British & Irish Masters Cross Country

Results on Power of 10 | Activity on Garmin Connect

Tidied up Results highlighting Scottish runners

I ran my first ever British & Irish Masters Cross Country at Santry Park in Dublin on Saturday.

I was pleased to finish 2nd M45 counter for the Scotland team. I completed the muddy 8.15km 5-lap course in 30:45, and finished 3 seconds behind Ian Johnston of Shettleston. The only fly in the ointment was getting pipped by Northern Ireland's Declan McCarthy by 1 second right at the end. This was the only place I lost in the last 4 laps after Ian Johnston passed near the end of Lap 1.

British & Irish Masters Cross Country

Friday 5 November 2010


I'm just back from a brief trip to Tenerife.

I was hoping that the island would provide scope for some interesting trail running on a par with last year's trip to La Palma. However the contrast couldn't have been much greater. La Palma was tranquil and scenic, whereas Tenerife is grim and heavily built up around the coast. Inland, there is pretty much just the one big hill in the centre of the island, Mount Teide. At 3718 metres, Teide is the highest mountain in Spain, despite not being in Spain.

I arrived late on Saturday 30th October, had 4 days of hiking/running, and returned back to Edinburgh on Thursday 4th Nov, four days early having run out of things to do.

Monday 1 November 2010

Tenerife Day 2 - Mount Teide

Tenerife - Day 2

Activity on Garmin Connect

Day 2 began with a long and tedious drive to Santa Cruz in search of the elusive Mount Teide permit. I duly followed the elaborate instructions posted here, however when I'd finally found the underground car park and the Office Parc Nacional de Teide tucked away on the 4th floor in a deserted block of offices the whole scam had been a hoax and there is no such office, or at least it is permanently closed and the only way to get the permit is via the internet, but there were no internet cafes in Santa Cruz.

The only other way to get to the summit without a permit, apart from the method I eventually chose, is ostensibly to stay at the Altavista Refugio at 3260 metres, however of course when I phoned the refugio there was no response.

The only solution I was left with was to stuff the lot of them and just run up the hill anyway.

It was just after mid-day when I finally reached the foot of the hill and set off. There was no space to park at the trailhead, so I abandoned the car about 600 metres up the road in a viewing point. I then ran back and all the way the Montana Blanca trail past the Huevos del Teide, giant egg-shaped lumps of lava.

At 2700 metres the angle suddenly becomes much steeper to the Refugio at 3260m. I could see why nobody had answered my phonecalls since the whole place was shuttered up.

It was now easier angled and more runnable again, but at over 3,000 metres I was slightly nervous about conking out with lack of oxygen.

Things became more interesting just before the top cablecar station. For one thing the trail was suddenly crowded with tourists shuffling along the path and getting in the way, and for another I spotted the dreaded rangers post, where a tiny metal gate was barring the route to the summit. I quickly turned around, hoping not to have been seen, and to plot my next move. I back-tracked around 50 metres until just out of sight of the rangers, and then with a deep breath I battered across some rough scree to jump back on the main path above the rangers. My shortcut was only around 100 metres, but meant for a minute or so I was at risk of being spotted and cautioned.

At first I was out of sight of the rangers hut, but the ensuing barrage of shouts and whistles made me suspect they must have spotted me. I jumped back onto the path, ignoring their attempts at attracting my attention and walked as quickly as possible up the path to the summit. For the final few metres there was an overwhelming stench of sulphur making me feel slightly ill, not helped by the altitude and stress of how I was going to get down again.

I slowly walked back down the path, but the rangers were too lazy to come up and give me any grief. I wasn't that keen to have to repeat my shortcut, but after sitting and contemplating my move for around 5 minutes I decided I had no option, so as soon as the rangers looked distracted I snuck across the scree, keeping a low profile, and once on the main path casually merged back in with the tourists.

The adrenaline rush gave me a fast descent back to the car with a good 1200 metres drop.

It was a relief to get the big Mount T in the bag, and once relaxing at the Parador Visitor Centre cafe I realised that nothing else on the island would live up to this outing, so I started to plan an early return home.