Thursday 27 December 2012

Lancaster 4k

Results | Garmin track

After the horrible experience of running Leyland 10k yesterday with a cold, I thought I might just about be able to survive this shorter distance today.

It was a fast, flat course.  Danny Parkinson of Kendal developed an ever increasing lead to win by almost a minute in 12:34. I hung onto 5th place in 13:45, for my final race of 2012.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Leyland 10k

Results | Garmin track

Being ill for the past 12 days with a heavy cold, injected sinuses, and generally feeling pretty washed out was not the best preparation for running a 10k.

The course was a bit different to the last time I ran it in 2007.  The trails were a bit muddy with standing water, and the starting area was quite narrow and congested. There was a slight delay at the start when the timing mats had to be moved back about 30 metres.

Once underway, I tried not to go out too fast, but found myself leading for the first 200 metres or so, before 4 or 5 runners came past.  After a while I dropped more places until I was sitting around 10th place at around halfway.

I just about held things together until 8km, but then fell apart in the last 2km and dropped 7 places, from the combined effect of getting a painful stitch and just feeling completely washed out with this lingering cold virus.

The timing clock at the end showed 37:12 as I crossed the line, but when I checked my watch later I discovered I'd actually run 36:38.  Ellie came in soon after in 42:24.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Glasgow Parkrun #198

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

Having completed precisely 1-mile of training in the past 2 weeks, and crocked my back carrying the baby buggy, I lined up in front of the Burrell with lower back in spasm and feeling quite weary from the aftermath of gastroenteritis.

I was surprised to see British Fell Running Champ Joe Symonds on the startline, sporting his boggin' brown HBT vest, and had a brief chat before the run was underway.

I started much more slowly than normal, partly because I couldn't run properly with my lower back locked. Once the road levelled out by the carved woodpecker, I passed George Taylor to move into 4th place, with Joe Symonds rapidly disappearing from view.

I got a shout from Jethro at the first junction, and then aimed at closing down Michael Sweeney on the first little uphill section. I caught Michael just as the path levels off again, and then starting trying to close down Stuart MacDougall. I appeared to be catching Stuart for a brief while, but then the gap never came down, so I just kept a constant gap and finished 8 seconds adrift in a fairly average 17:25.

Joe Symonds was a full 2 minutes ahead with 15:27 for the 7th fastest time ever on the course.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Lancaster Half Marathon

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect 

I hadn't run a half marathon since Balloch to Clydebank back in April, when I pottered round in 1:19:54 as a warm up for London, and Ellie hadn't run this sort of distance since London 2011, whilst she was expecting Benjamin.

Anyhow, the weather couldn't have been much more perfect for running. Cool, clear, sunny and only a slight wind. We were in a bit of flap trying to get registered in time, but just after 11am the race was underway.

I was fairly sure I could measure my pace to around mid 1:17, but half thought 1:16 might be possible. The opening 100 metres shook out the field, and I was soon jogging along in about 5th or 6th position. Despite feeling fairly pedestrian, I didn't want to go any faster at this stage, and went through the first couple of miles in just over 5:30 pace. The first 4 runners were rapidly disappearing from view, so I worked with next 3 guys to share the pace. A guy in the Pudsey vest (James Titmuss) looked the strongest, so I tucked in behind him for a while on the narrow muddy cyclepath heading south into a bit of breeze.

We went through 5 miles in about 28:50, at which point I decided to back off for a few miles before pressing the pace again. This was perhaps a slight mistake, since it allowed a gap of a few metres to open up which I never closed again. At 6 miles the route turned sharp left onto tarmac and followed narrow undulating roads for the next 3 miles, before dropping back onto the cyclepath just after Aldcliffe.

We hit the 10-mile mark at just over 59 minutes, so I knew we would definitely be under 1:18, but still wasn't quite sure if 1:16 was possible. At mile 11, I dropped Phil Robertson of Lancaster Uni, who had been right on my heels for the past 6 or 7 miles, and attempted to reel in the Pudsey vest of James Titmuss over the remaining 2 miles. I pushed reasonably hard just in case he started coming back, but the gap wasn't closing fast enough, and my heart wasn't really into making any sort of super-human effort to charge him down on the line, so I just kept a steady jog going around the Salt Ayre track to finish 6th in 1:17:28.

Ellie soon appeared and crossed the line in a chip time of 1:34:38 for 2nd FV35, which was a gutsy performance given her crocked back and lack of sleep for the past 9 months.
Lancaster Half Marathon Race Route

Saturday 27 October 2012

Scottish National Cross Country Relays

Results | Photos | Activity on Garmin Connect

Working hard at Cumbernauld
This was my 6th attempt at the Scottish National Cross Country Relays at Cumbernauld Park, and having run sub 15 minutes in 2009 and 2010, I was hoping to do the same again today.

Tom Smith ran Leg 1 in 14:45 to finish in 42nd, followed by Gregor Stewart on Leg 2 in 15:02 who made up 8 places to finish in 34th place. I was hovering around the start area with Ross Milne of Central who set off 3 seconds ahead of me.
The first hill out of the starting straight
I didn't want to kill myself in the first 3 minutes, so worked myself in gradually and reeled in Ross after a kilometre or so. I then set about the task of pressing the pace, and aiming for distant runners and bringing them back.  I managed to catch 6 more, to bring us up to 27th place with a time of 14:50, which is the 2nd fastest I'd run the course.  Niall then took the final leg and made 2 more places to bring the team home in 25th place in a total time of 59:40, which is the first time we've ever got under the hour.
The 4.1km race route

Sunday 14 October 2012

Pentland Skyline

My 11th Skyline in a row started in sobering mood with a minute’s silence to reflect on the passing of Darren Holloway at last Sunday’s Ian Hodgson Relay. John Blair-Fish spoke a few words, and emphasised the importance of stopping to help fellow runners in difficulty.

Once underway, the race followed a slightly new route to gain the gateway and path above the ski slope.  I’d already constructed a plan in my head that involved setting off ridiculously slowly, and putting in no effort until after Turnhouse, and even then saving myself until Bell’s Hill when I hoped to have a strong run to the finish.

I’d also decided to eat and drink more than before, and to start eating and drinking earlier. Therefore I’d decided beforehand exactly when and where I would take my 4 gels.

I arrived at the top of Castlelaw pretty much with Jasmin Paris and Iain Walker, and caught Jon Gay on the descent.  After Flotterstone, I took it pretty easy on the climb up Turnhouse watching Stuart Smith of Cosmics disappearing off into the distance and wondering if I’d catch him later.

I jogged over the 5 Carnethy hills pretty much together with Iain Walker, and was with Iain more or less to the climb up Bell’s Hill.  I had a chat with Stephen Winter who was sheltering in the gully, took my last gel and some more drink and tried to get organised to run from the of Bell’s Hill to the finish in under 40 minutes.

I passed 2 runners more or less straightaway, but then there was a big gap in front.  Strangely I suddenly caught Stuart Smith, but it looked like he’d taken a route diversion, since he then took off again, and I had to chase him all the way to Allermuir before I finally caught him again as he hesitated in the mist, not knowing which path to take towards Caerketton.  I made my move and jumped back, and tried to finish strongly down the super muddy slippery descent to hit the track running above the ski slope.  I wasn’t 100% sure of the final section, but forced the pace to the gate and then put in one last effort to the new finish, which gives a much nicer run in.

I was pleased to finish in 13th position in 2:54:18, having made up 6 places in the second half of the race, although in less soft and muddy conditions I’m sure I could have run sub 2:50 again.  Perhaps next year...

Sunday 16 September 2012

Three Shires Fell Race

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

Having the northbound M6 closed from Lancaster to Junction 36 didn't help much with stress levels prior to arrival at Hodge Close, about 10 minutes before the race was supposed to start. Luckily the race was postponed by 30 minutes, otherwise I envisaged chasing around after an already departed field of runners.

This was my 7th running at the Three Shires. Based on previous results, I was expecting to run around 2:18.

Summary of previous times:
2002 - 2:19:32
2004 - 2:17:07
2005 - 2:16:36
2008 - 2:11:32
2009 - 2:11:49
2011 - 2:23:46

When we finally got away at 11:30am, it was glorious sunshine and pretty much perfect running conditions.

Race Start - Photos: Pauline Charters
I set off medium hard along the track to Wetherlam, and reached the fell gate just inside 14 minutes. After crossing the gate, I decided this time, rather than following the crowds in front, to take a steeper more direct line, and was immediately followed by Gary Thorpe and Dan Duxbury both of Ambleside AC, which gave me some confidence I'd made a reasonable decision. As I climbed higher, at every opportunity I worked my way leftwards onto to higher ground which eventually brought me out onto a path of sorts, that lead to the summit of Wetherlam.  This definitely felt faster than the routes I'd taken in previous years, and brought me out right behind a group containing John Hunt, Jon Deegan and Chris Robinson who had all been well ahead at the start of the climb.

I chased this group to Swirl Hawse, but on the climb up Prison Band was caught by quite a few runners including Gary Thorpe, Mike Robinson and Richard Mellon. I reached the summit of Swirl How with Chris Reade but he pulled away on the descent. Just before the final drop to Three Shire Stone I was also caught by Dan Duxbury and James Archbold.

The climb up Pike o' Blisco was spent chasing Dan and James. Halfway up the climb I was reeled in by Jasmin Paris. I managed to stay just ahead of her, and we slapped the summit simultaneously before she turned and legged it across the summit rocks far faster than me.

On the fast technical descent to Blea Tarn I was caught by Ross Litherland and Adrian Davis just before the intake wall, and nasty descent through bracken and rocks. I jumped past Ross on this section, but then we ran up to the start of the final climb up Lingmoor together.  After faffing around for gels and dropping the contents of my bumbag, and Ross helping me get my act together, he took off in hot pursuit to catch Jasmin.

I was impressed how quickly he opened a gap, and I tried to catch James and Jasmin before the Lingmoor summit cairn. I was couple of paces behind Jasmin, so just relaxed and thought I'd follow her route off, but halfway down she veered off course into bracken, allowing me back in front, so I now had her right on my heels.  At the top of the zig-zags I told her it was quicker to batter straight down through the rocks and bracken. Once through the intake gate, I said she might as well go in front since I could tell I was holding her back, but unfortunately she promptly fell straight into the mud and lost a few metre, so I was no back in front as we hit the final track. I knew that after my 1-mile track race on Thursday, I could hammer out a pretty good pace from here to the end. So managed to reach the finish holding position in 2:16:08 for 23rd place.
Three Shires Race Route

Sunday 9 September 2012

Millport 10-mile Road Race

Results | Photos | Activity on Garmin Connect

This was my 4th attempt at the Millport 10-miler. My first race was in 2007 when I clocked 56:25 in reasonably windy conditions, and for last year's race I staggered round in 60:56 in storm force winds, where you could hardly stand up on the far side of the island.

I had hoped for calm conditions today, but it turned out pretty breezy, with heavy rain forecast for later.

Being chased by George Taylor at the start
The race started with a hooter almost before everyone was ready, and trundled out of Millport at a fairly pedestrian pace. I was surprised after a mile or so that there were only 4 runners in front, running as 2 pairs, and vaugely thought about trying to catch runners 3 and 4, who were Steven Reid of Ayr Seaforth and Billy Richardson of Irvine AC. But I also knew that after mile 5 we would turn into the wind, and I needed to keep something for the 2nd half.

In fact I didn't need to worry about sitting in 5th place for long since Stuart MacDougall reeled me in and passed me quicker than I could latch on. I was then just waiting for Crispin Walsh to catch me as well, which happened around the 3 -mile mark, as Cris, Colin Thomas and George Taylor all caught me at once.  I tried to slot in behind Cris and Colin, to match their pace, which was faster than I was comfortable with. I knew that Crispin had run 1:14:57 at the Glasgow Half last Sunday, so this felt like race suicide trying to stick with him from Mile 3 to 4, knowing that we weren't even half way.

After Mile 4 I backed off a fraction, since I didn't have the confidence to keep battering out 5:48 miles, plus as you turn around the top of the island you are then heading back into the wind, which just gets stronger and stronger as you run down the west side of the island. From mile 8 to 9, the headwind was getting pretty strong, combined with cyclists meandering around in the middle of the road, made this a tough section.

Turning onto Millport High Street for the final 400 metres

Just before Mile 9 I was suddenly caught by James Wales of Dumbarton. It was far too windy to have heard him coming, and also too windy to attempt to drop him again. So I ran along just behind for a few hundred metres, before with about a kilometre to go I made my move. I wondered if I'd gone too soon, but knew the run in from here, and thought it would be good training to push myself hard over this distance.
Millport 10-mile Road Race - the finishing straight

Over the slight crest, and relax and stride out down to the high street. Then it's just 400 metres to the finish, where if you put in the effort, there's no chance of being caught. So the end result was 58:54 for 8th position.

Ellie, Benjamin and I then jogged back to the ferry slip and arrived back at Largs just before the heavens opened.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Glasgow Parkrun #189

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

Having just jogged the Ben Nevis Race last weekend in a personal worst of 1:56:09, and 3 weeks ago running my slowest ever time on the Glasgow Parkrun course with 18:02, I decided today to make a bit more of an effort.

The weather at Pollok Park was pretty much perfect for running. Dry, mild and no wind. Scanning the startline I saw that my main challenge would come from the ever-improving Stuart MacDougall. I knew that he'd finished first 3 weeks ago, but I still thought he might be beatable if I played my cards right.

Head to heads with Stuart

My main plan was not to overcook it at the start and then hopefully still have some strength left for the second lap. So we launched off at the start with Stuart taking an immediate lead. I started fast, but tried to hold back a fraction. After the first kilometre I still had Ross Mackenzie more or less alongside, so I surged a few times to open a gap.

Once over the hill at the end of the first lap, I tried to concentrate on catching Stuart, who appeared to be coming back a fraction, but I didn't quite have the resolve to fully commit to closing the gap. I tried to keep up the pressure, just in case Stuart slowed on the final hill, but as we caught our way through the crowds of tail-enders I lost sight of him, so for a few moments there was nobody to chase. It is quite stressful trying to get past the slower runners when they show no signs of keeping to the left, so I tend to find this section takes all my concentration just to avoid barreling into the back of people.

Once we were at the right turn down to the finish, Stuart was too far ahead to catch, but I thought I might as well keep the effort going to the line, especially seeing as Benjamin and his Grandmother Jennifer were waiting for us. I hadn't bothered looking at my watch once during the run, so was pretty surprised to find out I'd run a course PB of 17:11, finishing 6 seconds behind Stuart who had also recorded a PB.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Borrowdale Fell Race

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

Borrowdale was my 3rd ever hill race back in 2000, after Glen Rosa and Maddy Moss. I'm pretty sure the race was cancelled in 2001 due to foot and mouth, but I ran the race in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Summary of previous times:
2000 - 4:13:25
2002 - 4:04:47
2003 - 3:31:08
2004 - 3:59:51

A return visit was long overdue, so despite it being an English Championship counter, and having done no long hill runs this year, I decided to put in a speculative entry.

Ellie and Benjamin watched the field depart at 11am before disappearing off to Keswick for a couple of hours. I set out reasonably fast through Stonethwaite to the foot of Bessyboot, and then started sliding steadily backwards down through the field. Jasmin Paris caught me on the first climb, and then disappeared from view on the boggy run towards Allen Crags.
Approaching Bessyboot - Photo: Paul Dobson
I seemed to start holding position once I got to Esk Hause, and the flounder across the rocks to Scafell Pike. The descent to the Corridor Route was every bit as steep and rough as I remembered. Ross Litherland caught me on this section and dragged me along for a while, but had left me in his wake before we reached Sty Head.

I tried to gather myself for the climb up Great Gable by taking a good drink, and seemed to be passing a few folk as the temperature was rising. The descent to Windy Gap was a rather tortuous route choice to avoid a few rocks. Once over Green Gable I was aware of feeling pretty jaded, and not interested in running hard to Honister.

It was getting really warm by this stage, and I messed up by not grabbing enough water at Honister. The climb to Dalehead was a bit frustrating having run out of drink, and struggling with dehydration.
Final Descent off Dalehead - Photo: Paul Dobson

River Derwent
I was getting a bit worried by this stage that I might not get under 4 hours, so tried to keep up the pressure on the descent and run back to Rosthwaite. It was good to see Ellie and Benjamin just as I ran through the River Derwent with only about 500 metres to go. Given my lack of any sort of preparation for the race I was pleased in finish in 3:52:50, albeit way down in 77th place.

Borrowdale Fell Race Route

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Kilmaurs Gala 5k

Garmin track

My first 5k race since 7th January, 2 days before Benjamin arrived, when I posted my slowest ever 5k with 18:00 at Pollok Parkrun.

Since I hadn't been doing any fast running (or any running) lately, my main aim was to enjoy the race and hopefully sneak in under 18 minutes.
Kilmaurs 5k Startline - last minute instructions from Dave Mitchell
There weren't too many speedy looking runners on the startline, but even so I quickly find myself back in about 7th place once the race started. Iain Connell leapt into the lead as the whistle went, as we had 2 laps of the greasy muddy track of Morton Park before launching off around some parkland with some hilly trail and sharp corners.

I made up 3 places before leaving the track, and was soon passed by Keith Haining, also of Kilmarnock Harriers.  Once we headed out onto the A735 Kilmaurs Road, the order was Robert Gilroy in the lead being closely chased by Iain Connell, then gaps to Roger Naughton, Keith Haining and myself in 5th.

I thought I was fairly comfortable plodding along in 5th place, but just as we passed the 3km marker I could hear a mixture of breathing on my shoulder. We were climbing uphill at this stage, and I didn't want to suddenly make any extra effort. As the road levelled off, we had a sharp left turn where Kara Tait and Ian Hughes went past.  I thought I could easily just track them, and didn't respond just yet.

Following Kara Tait, Ian Hughes and George Irving
Just before turning back onto the track
 Just as we turned back towards Morton Park, George Irving of Irvine also went past, so as we turned onto the track for the final 400 metres, I had 3 runners just in front. I wasn't quite sure how much effort to make in getting past, but with 300 metres to go I made a move and jumped past George, which also carried me past Kara, and I only had Ian to chase down, who I didn't quite catch.

My time was around 17:48, so was pleased to comfortably scrape inside my target time of 18:00, on a reasonably hilly twisty course.

Monday 23 July 2012

Kentmere Horseshoe

Results | Garmin Track

This was my first attempt at running or racing for just over 6 weeks, what with various things like hiking across the Alps and helping to look after Benjamin.

The route follows a clockwise loop of Kentmere, and has 3 checkpoints: Ill Bell, High Street and Kentmere Pike.
Kentmere Horseshoe Route
I'd only run this race once before, and that was way back in 2003 when I managed 1:45:02 for 10th place.

I didn't have much idea what to expect this time, so set off pretty slowly and steadily.

Kentmere start
Once up on the ridge towards Ill Bell it was pretty windy and grey, and just before Thornwaite Crag we were into the mist and I lost sight of the runners ahead, or at least I thought I saw them disappearing off in the wrong direction.  I hesitated for a moment which was enough for Ross Litherland to catch me, who I'd last see in Nepal nearly 3 years ago on the hike out to Jiri.  Anyhow, Ross seemed confident of the route so we ran more or less together to High Street.

Once descending to Nan Bield Pass it started getting ridiculously windy, making it really difficult to balance and remain upright. Somehow Ross and Richard Snowden of Totley suddenly seemed to have made a gap on me, and I was struggling to keep them in my sights. I tried to track them along to Kentmere Pike, but once I reached the final summit they were long gone, and I had nobody to chase.

I had no recollection of the final descent, but had a vague idea you needed to branch off rightwards, however I branched far too soon when I should have been running down the obvious path alongside the wall. However I still reached the stile at the fell wall before anyone caught me, despite faffing around and looking over my shoulder.  Shortly afterwards the track became horribly rocky, and groups of runners came swarming past, including Dave Armstrong and Chris Reade who must have got lost in the mist, since they had been in front earlier.

Anyhow, I somehow seemed to entirely run out of strength and coordination on the final bit of descent, and managed to lose 10 places in the space of about a minute which was slightly annoying, but I couldn't make my feet move any faster.  The only place I regained was by passing Chris Reade again in the final few metres just before dropping back into the finishing field.

My time was 1:53:18 for 25th place.

Mark Roberts of Borrowdale, now a V50, won the race in 1:39:00 which was pretty impressive given that it was quite possibly the windiest race I've ever done.

Friday 20 July 2012

Across the Alps in 15 Days

I am recently back from hiking across the French Alps in 15 days. My route followed the GR5 most of the way, starting at St Gingolph at Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). I did however use 3 variants which took in some wilder, more rugged landscape. These were the GR55 through the Vanoise, the GR5B variant between Col de l'Echelle and Briancon, and the GR52 through the Mercantour national park, to finish at Menton.

When I get round to it, I'll blog the trip in more detail here:

The approx. stats were 630km with 33,000 metres of ascent, making this trip the most ground I've covered in a 2-week period on foot, generally managing around 45km and 2,400m ascent each day.

View GR5 in a larger map

Saturday 9 June 2012

Glen Rosa Horseshoe

Results | Garmin Track | Race Details

Glen Rosa was my first hill race back in 2000.  In the past 12 years I've managed about 690 more races.

Glen Rosa Route 2012
I set out along the first 4 km of trail chatting with Russell Small at first, and then just settling in behind him, trying deliberately to take it easy. On the first steep climb up Beinn a' Chliabhain we caught up with Michael Reid, with Konrad Rawlik not that far in front. I tried not to trash my legs by working too hard. Just as the ridge eased off Alan Smith suddenly appeared on our left, perhaps 20 metres ahead, having taken a different line.

The summit ridge was misty, so I didn't recognise the descent into Coire Daingean, and perhaps strayed too far to the left. Although that line took me down pretty smooth ground. I could see Alan Smith ahead taking a high line through the heather, but I decided to drop low onto more runnable ground, and managed to overtake Russell, Michael and Scott Umpleby who were all thrashing through deeper heather above me.

I decided to contour straight across to reach the decent path on the other side of the burn, and then ran up the path to the steep steps to stay ahead of Michael, Russell and Scott. They did however all catch me by the summit of Cir Mhor and we all turned more or less at the same moment.

Once we had dropped back down the steep steps, Scott and Russell took a lower path, whilst I lead Michael across towards the Glen Rosa Slabs, only to chicken out when we got nearer, and we ended up dropping steeply through heather and rocks to flank underneath them.  This wasn't too bad since it took us to a good trod which lead to the Saddle. I'm sure there is a quicker higher line across the slabs, if I could just manage to recce it one day.

After the Saddle, I set about closing down and passing Russell and trying to make some ground on Scott, but he simply disappeared before the summit of Goatfell, so I wasn't quite sure if he was still ahead.  The descent down the Goatfell never gets any easier and requires constant concentration to avoid tripping and shredding yourself on the rough granite. Once I'd reached the new wooden bridge, I was fairly sure nobody would catch me.  I ramped it up to a reasonable pace, but then realised Adam Anderson was only about 20 metres behind me, so I suddenly had to find a couple of extra gears for the last kilometre of forest track.  Plus the last couple of fields seemed more lumpy than usual, and we had a couple of extra gate crossings just to help bring on the cramp!

I was pleased enough to finish 9th in 2:54:03, given that this was my first long hill run of the year.

Finlay Wild was the race winner by more than 16 minutes, in a new course record of 2:18:20.

Monday 4 June 2012

Austwick Amble

Activity on Garmin Connect | Results

3rd race in 5 days, after Dumbarton 10k and Dallam Dash 10k on Thursday and Saturday.

Route map for Austwick Amble
The event started in the centre of Austwick as part of the village's annual Street Fair and Cuckoo Festival.

The route followed a tarmac road for the first 800 metres before branching off to climb across fields to reach a flat shelf on the side of Ingleborough. Just around the halfway point we turned and descended through a tricky section of limestone which I should have recognised as part of the Yorkshire Three Peaks route.

I was briefly caught by a Settle runner around this section but managed to find enough on the run back to hold off any further challenges. I finished the 12.4 km route in about 56:51, for about 6th place.

Ellie completed her longest run since London Marathon 2011, to finish in just under 70 minutes.

Saturday 2 June 2012

Dallam Dash 10k

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

Looking at the depleted startline of 48 runners, I thought I might be in with a shout at winning this one. Especially after running 35:25 at Dumbarton on Thursday night.

I set off reasonably quickly, leading for the first 800 metres or so, and going through the first couple of kilometres in 3:33 and 3:34. However I then started to feel pretty tired and jaded in the heat, and fell back into 3rd place as Dave Wilby of Ilkley Harriers drifted past. Not wishing to drop any more places, I tracked Dave until the 5 mile marker, before making a move on a short uphill section to nip past and started racing the last mile, knowing there was a good final downhill section.  My time of 37:24 for 2nd place was nothing special for 10k, but it was a pretty hilly course, and quite warm conditions for running.

Ellie completed her first 10k since the arrival of Benjamin, posting a respectable time of 45:54.

Ellie at Dallam 10k

Saturday 19 May 2012

Goatfell Race

Activity on Garmin Connect | Results | Photos
Race Route
Due to multiple clashes with the Scottish Island Peaks Race, this was only my 5th attempt at the normal Goatfell race route. By far my fastest time was 1:27:32 back in 2004, when I came over with Bish and Rhona and the girls. Last year I ran 1:31:52, and expected to be around that kind of time again.

The route is a fraction under 16km, or just under 10 miles, and climbs 874 metres from sea level to the summit of Goatfell and back the same way.

Route Elevation
The Adventure Show were filming the race, so I kept a low profile to avoid the cameras, and also didn't bother with my usual trademark sprint at the start to lead the field out round the field and down the road toards Brodick Castle. This time around I decided to be a bit more conservative to see whether saving the legs until the forest would make any difference.

I found myself running down the road alongside Grant MacDonald of Bellahouston Road Runners, chasing after Gary Fraser of Ochils and the usual suspects in a group beyond Gary with Es Tresidder and Graeme Campbell setting the pace.

Once on the steepening forest track my lack of hill climbing became evident, and I slowed to a shuffle allowing John Hammond, Stephen Winter, Russell Small, Tim Allan and Alan Smith to pass. I tried to keep working and run where I could, but wasn't feeling very strong.

On the climb. Photo: Alex Ulivi
I turned at the summit in cool mist and quickly saw Jill Mykura and Jasmin Paris not far behind as I dropped off the summit plateau. The only place I can make any ground, is on the first bit of steep descent. Once lower down the trail is too technical and my legs too tired to gain on anyone.

I followed Tim Allan of Lomond Hill Runners down as far as the deer fence and wooden bridge, before he seemed to conk out, and after that I was running on my own, half expecting to get caught by Bruce Smith or Jasmin Paris. However nobody challenged me from the bridge to the finish at Ormidale Park, so I didn't need to work that hard and finished in 1:32:57, about a minute slower than last year, but still quite pleased that I'd felt OK and hadn't fallen on the descent.

On the descent. Photo: Alex Ulivi

Thursday 17 May 2012

Helensburgh 10k

Activity on Garmin Connect | Results to appear here

Another year, another Polaroid Series.

Last year I surprised myself at Helensburgh, with a time around 35:18. I knew I was nowhere near that fit tonight, and the legs were slightly sore and tired after Cornalees Hill Race last night.

Helensburgh 10k Route
The weather was cool and rainy with little wind, so pretty comfortable for running. I was lined up with all the usual suspects: Scott Martin, Russell Whittington, Bruce Carse, Alex Chalmers, Dave Thom, Paul Carroll, Steven Prentice, Mick McLoone, Stephen Mulrine. On a good day, I would reckon to beat about half of these guys, but tonight I wasn't so sure.  I set off with intent to get around the first few sharp corners, and saw Gillan Scott snapping away.

I passed a few folk on the first straight and first slight climb, but looking ahead realised there were only about 3 runners ahead between me and the Shettleston and Ronhill Cambuslang vests disappearing into the distance, which meant I must have been sitting around 8th.  This was further up the field than I meant to be, and soon I was dropping places and chasing after a group with Paul, Steven, Mick, etc.

I wasn't really feeling totally up for a challenge, so I backed off until Scott Martin and Dave Thom came by. I then chased them until 5km, thinking I might reel them in in the 2nd half.

Once down on the sea front and on the home drag, we seemed to be battling into a headwind, and I suddenly felt pretty jaded, and convinced I was about to be caught. I didn't want to keep looking around, but I knew somebody was closing me down. Eventually I realised it was Marco Consani, as he pulled alongside and tried to go past with some momentum. Marco was looking pretty strong, so I said to "Well done, you can catch a few more now", but Marco didn't seem so convinced. We then ran together for a couple of km, with me putting in a few surges to try to keep the pace up. I had plan to break away at 8km and really speed up for the last 2km, but I never saw any 8km marker, and I didn't want to faff around looking at my Garmin, so it was more like 9km that I suddenly speeded up and started giving chase to Dave Thom and Scott Martin. I'm sure if I'd have gone a bit earlier I would have caught them both, but as it was I was happy to coast in behind Dave, in his words: "One Westies Captain giving deference to a former Westies Captain".

Photo courtesy of Gill Scott at Scott Sport Photography
Anyhow, having felt like I was coasting for most of the race, I was pretty suprised and delighted to find I'd dipped under 36 minutes with a time of 35:52 for 20th position, and only about 30 seconds slower than last year.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Cornalees Hill Race

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

My 6th Cornalees Hill Race in a row.  Arriving early at the Glenpark Harriers clubhouse on the strangely-named Orangefield, I had time to inspect the trophy whilst waiting for the majority of runners to arrive.

Last year, in 2011, Westies' own David Riach proved victorious after I gave him a good fast lead out at the start. Prior to that, Glenpark's demon descender Andy McCall had won the Cornalees title 6 years in a row. But with David on the other side of the world in Brisbane, and Andy McCall not around either, there was a guaranteed new name on the trophy this year.

Cornalees Hill Race Route
It was fairly obvious from the start who would win the race, as 28 seniors lined up in cold and grey conditions. After leading for the first 50 metres or so, Shaun Lyon came trotting past, and continued you to trot away further into the distance on the climb. My main challenge for 2nd place came from Stevie Campbell and Christina Rankin, both who passed me just after we crossed the Greenock Cut.  Once the angle eased slightly I nipped back in front and tried to drive the pace up the big track, not sure whether pushing on I might be able to drop Stevie. As we crested the first main climb, I asked Stevie how he was, trying to gauge how hard he was working.

We broke off the path together and into the tussocks, but as soon as we hit the abrupt little pair of climbs, Stevie suddenly just bounded away from me. And in fact I felt so sluggish on the final climb around the cairn that I realised Christina was right on my tail again.

I tried to open a small gap on the run back to the main track, but wasn't sure whether I'd dropped her, and didn't want to keep on checking behind, so I tried to keep pressing on but my chest and stomach were tightening with a stitch so I was finding it hard to breathe and keep up any momentum.

I knew that if I got to the 90 degree lefthand turn with being passed, I would definitely open it up from there on the nice grassy final run in.

So I finished 3rd in 35:27, which was only 11 seconds slower than last year, so not too bad.  I saw that Stevie Campbell didn't look too happy at the end, with perhaps a sprained ankle. I hope he is doing OK, and thanks again to Stevie McLoone and Glenpark Harriers for hosting the event!

Monday 30 April 2012

Falmouth - Helford Coastal Run

Despite, or perhaps because of, the terrible forecast I decided to head out for a battering in the wet and windy conditions.

I headed out in shorts and T-shirt, which seemed OK to start with, but got pretty uncomfortable after I'd turned at Helford Passage and began the return leg, getting pelted with freezing rain.

It was an interesting mini-adventure with foam blowing off the sea, and a mud-bath trail in many places.

Stats = 23.5km in 2h14m.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

London Marathon

Results | My Splits
Sore legs after my 26 mile jog and 385 yard sprint
My preparations for this year's London Marathon had been slightly unorthodox.

With the arrival of Benjamin in January, I'd done almost no running in Jan and Feb; then crammed in 8 half marathons the month before London; but didn't manage a single road run longer than 13.1 miles. So I knew for sure I would fade in the 2nd half.

Without any long run training, I knew there was no point in taking the race too seriously, so instead I treated it as an easy-osy potter around the streets of London, and put up no resistance as runners drifted past for the first 25 miles.

To avoid calculating the difference between my chip and gun time, I decided to lead the charge off the Red Start, and was only beaten in the initial sprint by somebody dressed as Superman. Once underway, I backed right off and went through the first mile in 6:03, which was no doubt too fast, but it didn't feel quick since I hadn't run all week.

I then maintained an incredibly even pace until Mile 14, going though halfway in 1:24:18, before suddenly getting a stupid stitch which meant I couldn't breathe or run properly for a couple of miles. Eventually the stitch must have gone away, but by that time I'd slowed right down, and couldn't really get back onto the pace, so I just plodded along, still thinking I would run around 2:55.

Anyhow, I must have been too complacent and slowed down more than I'd realised since when I was approaching Mile 25, it suddenly dawned on me that I was in danger of tripping over the 3 hours. I got a nice shout from Amy Pitch just before Parliament Square which galvinised me into making one final push up Birdcage Walk. Since at no point so far had I actually been forcing the pace, I realised I could speed up fairly easily and found myself passing crowds of folk, which suddenly became quite fun.

I didn't want to overcook it and cramp my legs or anything, but when the "400 metres to go" sign came into view I realised my watch said 2:57-something. This felt far too close for comfort, so I chucked away the bag of jelly babies I'd been carrying and gutted myself around the corner, only to remember that there is another corner before you see the finishing gates on The Mall. As I came to this final final corner I could hear the BBC annoucer bellowing something about James Cracknell, but then I saw Superman who had out-sprinted me off the startline, so I nipped past him and put in by far my fastest 200 metres of the race to dive under the gate in 2:58:59.

Mightily relieved.

Mile Splits
You can see from the mile splits that I was pretty comfortable until 14 miles, but then got a stupid stitch in mile 15 that clobbered my pace, and I never really got into it again after that, until pulling out all the stops for the final 400 metres.

3 times before I've averaged 6:40 pace or better, so I still think that in future I can run a 2:50 marathon (average pace needed is 6:30 per mile).

Monday 16 April 2012

Balloch to Clydebank Half Marathon

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect | Photos

Perfect conditions for my 5th attempt at the Balloch to Clydebank Half Marathon: cool, no wind, and bright sunshine.
Photo by Gillian Scott  -  Scott Sport Photography
With London Marathon one week away, my plan was to have a steady comfortable run, trying to stay relaxed and focussing on running at a sustainable pace. I set out without over-cooking the first kilometre, but during the next 2 km I decided to catch up and sit on the shoulders of Alex Chalmers and Mark Walsh. I thought I might be able to stay with them, but bit by bit their pace was too fast for me, and I was dropped as they both chased after and caught Paul Thompson around the 4-mile mark.

I went through 5 miles at Dumbarton in just under 30 minutes, which made me think that 1:18 might be  possible, however once I'd ducked under the railway line and started on the long straight drags through Dumbarton I suddenly felt quite tired and jaded, and could sense I would get caught at any moment.

The first runner to pass wore a Dumbarton AAC vest, closely followed by 4 more runners including Paul Carroll of Clydesdale Harriers, who asked how I was. I replied I was feeling pretty gubbed, which was true, since when the 5 runners passed, I couldn't latch onto their pace.

From 8 to 12 miles I ran along on my own, apart from passing the Dumbarton vest at 10 miles.  From 11 miles to the end, I usually really try to ramp up the pace, but today I was happy enough to potter along at the same pace, which allowed Emilio Cosimo of Springburn to catch me at 12 miles. Normally I would have put up a fight over that final mile, but I thought it would do me more good to concentrate on maintaining the same steady pace.

Turning under the bridge and onto Seaforth Road at the end I was surprised to see my watch still reading 1:19-something, so I thought I should put in a bit of sprint to the line to try to scrape in under 1:20  That finishing straight always lasts a little longer than I remember, but I managed to cross the line in 1:19:54 which was pleasing to meet my target time with a few seconds to spare.

Now I just need to run double that distance next Sunday.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Heaven and Hell Half Marathon

Results | Photos | Activity on Garmin Connect

Photos courtesy of

A hilly little route just outside Perth, starting near Scone Airfield.

The main challenge is the rather daunting climb of around 220 metres at 8 miles.

I hadn't done this race before, and thought it might be checking out.

I did a short warm up with course record holder Paul Arcari of Kilbarchan, who'd run the course in 73 minutes, and clearly wasn't going to get much competition today. I thought I might be in with a shout at top 5 or 6 depending on how I played my cards.

The race started at a pretty pedestrian pace, apart from Paul Arcari who raced off into the distance and out of sight almost immediately. That left Grant Wilkie of Corstorphine and Craig Reid of Bellahouston Road Runners as the only targets to chase. I possibly could have closed the gap on them a bit, but instead decided to shelter in a group of 6, and get some protection from the wind, even though the pace was a bit too slow.

Taking some shelter in a group in the first couple of miles
Once we hit the first long uphill drag after 2 miles, the race started to stretch out, and I found myself in 6th position by the top of the hill, giving chase to runner 190 in the blue T-shirt who turned out to be endurance triathlete Douglas Allan.

Crest of the hill at 4 miles
I felt pretty good going through 10 and 11km, before battering down the steep tarmac hill to the 8-mile marker. I was catching Douglas all the way down the hill, and almost got onto his heels at the base of the climb.  But somehow all my resolve vanished once I started climbing, and I ended up shuffling up the hill and little more than walking pace. This meant Douglas quickly disappeared from view, and opened the door for Euan McIntosh to catch me halfway up the climb. Euan and I worked together up the remainder of the hill, into the increasingly powerful wind. Once over the crest at 10 miles, I thought I might be able to pull away, but Euan was strong on the descent, and eventually opened a small gap with 2 miles to go.

In my mind, I was going to put in my final burst with 2km to go, but the course suddenly had a few minor hills which killed my pace, and I could feel I was being caught by another runner. With just over 1km to go, Gerry Craig of VP-CoG came trotting past looking pretty comfortable, and looking like he'd catch Euan as well. For the final kilometre I was hanging on for grim death trying not to lose any more places, and also trying not to keep on looking behind, which is always a sign you are fading away. 

With about 400 metres to go, I suddenly thought that rather than wasting my energies on wondering if I was going to drop more places, I should really just shift my body and jump past Gerry again. This meant doing horrible things to my heart rate, but I upped the pace and was hovering on the point of gauging the exact level of effort needed to pass Gerry before diving into the finishing funnel. I thought I pitched the effort perfectly with one last ditch effort, only to discover that wasn't the finishing line, and there was still 100 metres to go around the corner.  

Turning into the finishing straight just after passing Gerry Craig
 The photo might not show it, but this was me gasping into the final few metres of the race.

So the end result was I finished 7th in 1:27:10, which wasn't too bad seeing as most of the route I was running at a pretty steady comfortable pace.  Paul Arcari won the race by more than 6 minutes in 1:15:05.

Race winner Paul Arcari showing howing it should be done

Saturday 24 March 2012

Nigel Barge 10k

Activity on Garmin Connect

After 2 weeks of not running, I went to the other extreme the past 7 days, clocking up almost 70 miles (including the Alloa Half Marathon and Nigel Barge 10k), which is my highest mileage since March 2011.

This has made my legs feel like they've been run over by a bus, although I probably didn't feel quite as bad as John Bishop doing his Sport Relief Hell.  Like at Alloa Half, I knew I wasn't in great shape, so just tried to concentrate on running smoothly and not stressing myself.

Race Start - Photo: MyPhotoFinish
Positions at 2km
I got caught and passed by first lady Julia Henderson soon after this photo was taken:
Turning onto Temple Road at 2.5km. Photo: Claire Thompson
I didn't really have the confidence or energy to force the pace, so just pottered round trying not to drop too many places on the 2nd lap.

At the 5km point
I was caught by John McLaughlin of Garscube several times, but always managed to nip back in front, and managed to hold him off during the final kilometre along Maryhill Road. I could probably have caught Gavin Harvie and Julia before the finish line, if I'd made an effort, but I'd decided I was only interested in not dropping places, rather than catching anyone. My time of 38:03, 1½ minutes slower than last year, showed that I wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders.
Not feeling too great at the finish
Warm Spring sunshine made for ideal lounging around after the race conditions, however easily the highlight of the afternoon was seeing Maryhill Harriers Stephen and Caroline Jones with their gorgeous 3-day old baby Benjamin.

Monday 19 March 2012

10 weeks, or 1 year old...

Benjamin at 10 weeks, or in other words, exactly 1 year since he was conceived.

Benjamin at 10 weeks  - Awake

Benjamin at 10 weeks - Asleep

Sunday 18 March 2012

Alloa Half Marathon

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

This morning I went for a 13 mile training run around the Alloa Half Marathon course. This was my first attempt at running for 2 weeks after a lingering cold and sore throat, and my longest road run since London Marathon 11 months ago.

The weather was perfect, with spring sunshine and hardly a breath of wind.

Great weather for running. Photo: Duncan McGougan
I kept a reasonable pace for the first 4 or 5 miles, before lack of training, stamina and endurance all kicked in. But also I was trying to run well within myself, and not get into competition with the steady stream of runners passing me. I was more interested in feeling fine, and getting to the end. My finish time was around 1:22:23, which is one of the slowest half marathons I've ever run. But I'm hoping that the run might kick start some much needed training in the 5 weeks before London Marathon.

Warm weather at Alloa. Photos: