Coigach Half Marathon

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A Proper Course Map

 

After several aborted attempts we excitedly made the journey north last weekend for the 2017 Coigach Half Marathon, the 6th running of the race. Starting in the village of Achiltibue, by Ullapool, the epic drive started after work on the Friday via Inverness before completing the 5 hour road trip on the morning of the race.

 

Leaving Ullapool it became obvious why our friend Catherine sold this as a must do race. The mountains grow in stature and loom over the single track road which leads towards Achiltibuie with each passing mile and as you near the coast you are met with stunning views over the Summer Isles. This was our first visit to this part of Scotland and without doubt the landscape provided a stunning backdrop for a race. Off to a good start.

 

Registration was friendly and professional showing again that the level of service you get at local runs is usually far superior to mega city events. Another bonus was receiving change from my £15, a very fairly priced event.

 

After checking in with friends in the neighbouring village of Achnahaird and settling in to our digs for the weekend we headed back to the start line. As the map shows this is a looped course that hugs the coastline before heading inland and back towards the start area. As promised there was also some decent elevation (this would be greater than either Arran or Run Mhor, two tough courses I’d attempted earlier in the year). This was about as much as I knew about the route so I set about trying to get some local knowledge prior to the start of the race.

 

In the 90 minutes after arriving at registration Catherine and her family had told me about the two big climbs on the route (the one I could see and the bigger one I couldn’t), the volunteers at check in had told me to save something for the last few ‘tough’ miles and I’d also learned the finish was not downhill to the community hall but up a pretty steep gravel path to the school playing field. And also the start line was 1km out of town ūüôā

 

Despite all this I knew that the course played to my strengths on the uphill with a reasonable amount of elevation giving me the opportunity to hold on to some faster opponents. The route was also remeasured and would be shorter this time around meaning I’d already saved approximately 400 metres on last year’s entrants.

 

After waiting on ‘Uncle Angus’ to park the bus and jog back to the start line the ladies were called to the front of the field of 49 runners – good to see manners are alive and kicking. Race instructions were on the wry side – right up my street. And then we were off….

 

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Feeling Good At the Start of the Course – Photo Credit Anne McGee

 

The first couple of miles descend to sea level and with the wind at your back it is difficult not to go off too fast. In fact after a few hundred metres I found myself in unknown territory as I briefly led the field. Quickly realising how dangerous this would be I moved behind the lead pack of 4 runners who were clocking along at a decent pace. I decided at this point with local knowledge fresh in my mind to slow down a little in advance of the hills, wind and tough final few miles and watched the leaders gradually open up a gap on me.¬†I’d decided to target as close to a 1:30 half as possible given the undulation so was conscious of bagging some time on the faster downhill miles without going crazy. Not always an easy balance.

 

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By the time we reached the foot of the first climb at the 5k mark I was totally isolated but enjoying the views out over the Summer Isles. Gritting my teeth the climb was tough as the wind now moved across the route rather than at our backs but with the top generally in sight most of the way it was a case of getting the job done. Rounding the first corner the route levels off briefly allowing runners to refocus energies on the scenery and dodging the sheep lazily meandering their way across the track. Around this time I closed the distance quickly and passed the runner in 4th place, noting that the field ahead has stretched with the 3 runners now well spaced out.

 

A long and enjoyable downhill section follows the first big climb. Checking my watch I was well on for 1:30 and was comfortably beating my pb pace from the Glasgow Half on these easier miles. Feeling good I tried to open up a bit of a gap on the runners behind by pushing hard through this section.

 

 

Turning inland around the 6 mile marker the second, and biggest, of the climbs stretches out before you with an encouraging cry from the marshal, ‘there will be water at the top… if it’s not blown away!’. The wall of wind at this point was fierce as you meet it head on for the duration of the ascent. A bad combination in anyone’s books. Focusing on the runner ahead I worked hard in the climb and reached the top looking reasonably fresh (see picture above) having moved into third place. Sensibly the volunteers at the water station had moved beyond the hill to a sheltered section of the route.

 

Potentially the best bit of the course the profile is downhill for the next couple of miles as the road heads towards Achnahaird where Lisa and I were staying for the weekend. Lochs and mountains enclose you and provide respite from the wind making for enjoyable running. With all eyes on the runner in second place it was in hindsight a bonus that Natalie Stevenson of Fusion Triathlon Club came blazing back at me on the downhill section as we were able to work together through this section. This caused me to run these miles faster than I would have on my own. I was racing rather than pacing my own race.

 

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Beating the Speed Trap on the Downhill

 

With the support crew out in force at the bottom of the hill I passed through Achnahaird in good time and feeling fit. Nothing though was going to prepare us for the section between Achnahaird and Achiltibuie where the relatively gentle climb was exacerbated by the worst head winds of the day. Natalie and I passed the runner in second place between mile 10 and 11 but the pace dropped dramatically on this section as the combination of physical and mental fatigue took their toll.

 

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Stretching ahead and giving myself a bit of a gap in second place it took all my efforts to keep going as you can tell from my very bad poker face in the picture above. With the balls of my feet burning badly again in my new shoes it was very much a case of ticking off each step and talking myself through to the end after being a tad ambitious in the middle section of the course. Mental note – remember all local knowledge in future races as the final miles definitely required something in reserve.

 

Turning in to the final mile and a half of the course and heading back (up) through Achiltibuie the relatively gradual incline felt a million times harder that the first climb or second ‘big’ climb earlier in the route. It was now a case of getting to the end and trying to hold on to second position.

 

Rounding the final corner at the 13 mile marker the last thing I wanted to see was a gravel track headed steeply uphill to the finish line and it was at pretty much walking pace that I completed the course. I was absolutely delighted though to finish on the podium and in second place on a tough course. My time of 1:25:39 was within a minute of my pb which on this route was a real step forward given that I didn’t manage to break 1:30:00 at Arran on a course with 70 metres less elevation.

 

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All in this was another top race and a definite contender for the most scenic route I’ve run. It would definitely be on the list for an annual visit. I absolutely loved everything about the route and it must rank as one of Scotland’s most friendly races. The final ace in the pack was a great post-race buffet in the Community Hall. A top event this run was small, friendly, scenic and challenging in just the right measures.

 

These are the days when you need to be really grateful that I’m able to be out there in such amazing places. For me this was about as close as it gets; the day when I managed to hit¬†a rich vein of form on a course well suited to my strengths in a remarkable part of our beautiful country.

 

Well done and thanks as always to the race organisers and everyone who gave up their time on the day to help out including Anne McGee who uploaded some of the photos (copyright) to the events page and is raising money for the Highland Hospice.

 

Strava geeks check out my race performance below:

https://www.strava.com/activities/1234998509/overview

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Glasgow Half #greatscottishrun

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The Runbetweeners at the Start Line

 

It was brollies at the ready this morning as I headed in to town to meet my Dad early doors. One of the biggest events in the cities sporting calendar, it’s brilliant to see the streets of Glasgow given over to runners for the day and although the weather was miserable at best the sprinters definitely got the best of the day as conditions deteriorated in the early afternoon. Heading towards the river the buzz on the Broomielaw as the 10k runners hit the 9k mark certainly inspired me as I said my goodbyes and made my way towards George Square for the start of the half.

 

The Great Scottish Run had not been in my plans this year with cost a significant factor given the range of community / running club organised in many stunning parts of the country. Followers of the blog will know that that big city runs don’t feature too often but there’s something special about pounding the streets of your home town with larger numbers of spectators than normal. With a half price entry due to last’s years short course I decided to go for it and was determined to finally dip under the 90 minute mark this morning after narrowly missing out on a number of very challenging courses earlier in the season.

 

It was great to see so many Runbetweeners taking on the challenge this morning and people were in good spirits before the start.  Everyone was confident following a good period of training and keen to round of the summer season in style. In my own head (after a pep talk by The Claw) I was aiming for a race plan of:

 

Goal A – sub 85 minutes

Goal B – 87.5 minutes

Goal C – Sub 90 minutes

 

Setting multiple goals is something I have picked up from listening to the Marathon Talk podcasts and it’s something I wish I had been capable of doing earlier in my running journey.

 

Heading off from St Vincent Street I stuck with David from the Harriers who was pacing the 90 minute runners. A relatively gentle but prolonged uphill drag it’s important not to get too carried away here and on the climb up the Kingston Bridge if you are to run well on the flat later on. I was deliberately holding something in reserve and between the 1 and 2 mile mark I started to move away from the 90 minute group.

 

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Early Doors – Photo Credit Coach Tony Coyne

 

The section between Scotland Street School and Pollok park ticks off a lot of miles and I was pleased to see a huge Harriers and Runbetweener support crew at the end of St Andrews Drive including both my wife and The Boy. This meant I would see them again 3km later when exiting the park. Feeling spurred on by their support I picked up the pace a little and started passing other runners regularly. The uphill reverse parkrun climb is part of the Harriers Time Trial route and I was able to put local knowledge to good effect. I know the number of paces, every pot hole and inch of this section of the route and through gritted teeth I maintained a sub 6-30 minute mile pace before picking up to a quicker split at the brow of the hill.

 

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Photo Credit Jacqueline Glass

 

Exiting the park and spurred on by my support crew for the last time I knew the toughest miles lay ahead. Bellahouston Park is a tough little section as you pass through the middle miles of the course and switchback a number of times. I was feeling confident though a bit concerned that the field was getting a bit strung out. On the two small Bella climbs I managed to pass a few other runners bringing me into contact with a group of about 4 runners for the pass down Paisley Road West.

 

A watch check showed I was about 18 seconds outside Goal A around the 9 mile mark but on track for Goal B. A quick body MOT told me I was in good nick although the ball of my foot was burning badly – this has happened in my last few runs in racing flats. Turns in particular were painful but more the grin and bear it than slow down sort of pain. Most importantly my legs still felt good and my breathing was controlled, even on the climbs. I was definitely on for a crack at Goal A so I decided to try and pick up the pace rather than leave it too late and regret it later on.

 

Miles 10-12 passed comfortably as I clocked 6-20s. Crossing the Squinty Bridge I knew the finish was approx 1.5 miles away and I decided to kick again along the flat drag. The road quality improves here and it was nice not to feel every small crack and bump in the road in my racers as the ball of my foot continued to burn badly in my new shoes.

 

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Weather Deteriorating Badly – Photo Credit Kenny Phillips

 

As I neared the final 1k it was head down and dig deep time for the first time in the race as a combination of the distance and quick miles caught up on me. Seeing the big screen and a motivating message from my number 1 fan gave me the oomph heading into the final 400 metres. I could see the White Wave clock ticking closer and closer to Goal A with each passing stride but was delighted to cross the line just under 1:25:00 and in a chip time of 1:24:42. Officially a PB of 5mins 27seconds. Not bad.

 

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This is definitely one of my top 3 performances alongside my stand out 10 mile races of 2017. 2018 is going to be about the Marathon and 5k and 10k and I need to take confidence from recent performances. This was a great end to a brilliant week after The Boy and I received news that The Runbetweeners has been nominated in the category of Best JogScotland group.

 

It was great to shelter under the umbrella in The Clutha’s beer garden as the wind picked up and rain got heavier cheering on Harriers, Runbetweeners and familiar faces. Most looked pleased with their efforts and are hopefully resting up and reliving the day on catch up TV. Well done to everyone and I’ll maybe even see you next year.

 

If you like what we do and want to keep up to date with The Runbetweeners give our Facebook page a like. We’re also on Twitter and Instagram and you can follow the blog.

 

https://www.facebook.com/The-Runbetweeners-1654515041438088/?hc_ref=ARRhLENQCIfzjOLpiwSV5Abn1T8H3LvB8as6KiA2k201dwpCsP5bx-HOAKB5VclUHC8

 

Strava Geeks – link below:

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1210568205/overview

Kyles 10 Miles – Round 3

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The Scottish Wife Carrying World Championship Squad in Training

 

Our pick for race of the year 2016, there was never any doubt that The Boy and I would be in Tighnabruaich yesterday for the annual Kyles 10 Miles Road Race. With the biggest every entry it was great to see so many familiar faces toeing the start line as well as many of our friends taking on this iconic race for the first time. Importantly though the race remained small enough to retain the intimate community vibe which has made it such a popular and well regarded event.

 

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The Sun Always Shines on the Kyles 10 Miles

 

There was a good turnout from both Bellahouston Harriers and Dunoon Hill Runners ¬†this year meaning I was in for a no-win scenario plumping for a colour clashing combo of Harriers vest and Hill Runners buff after donning the local vest. Whilst my usual rule is ‘when in Argyll or on a hill don the Hill Runners vest’ I had travelled down from Glasgow with my Harriers team mates and wasn’t even too sure if my Dunoon vest had made it through the laundry cycle after the Cowal Hill Race.

 

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I wish I could just follow The Boys lead and not worry about my racing attire

 

Most pleasingly though for The Boy and I was the strong turnout from our Monday night running group. For some this was their longest race to date and they did brilliantly on a tough, but ultimately rewarding, route.

 

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Overview of the Route

 

On to the race itself I’ve promised The Boy I will keep it brief (for a fuller course overview see previous posts). So in a sentence this is a looped route with 6 hilly miles followed by four reasonably flat miles on open country roads. And if the editor had his way that would be it. Perhaps he’s keen to keep this one close to his chest, I wonder why?

 

If I really have to keep it short and you’re going to stop reading here all I will say is this is a race that you should seriously consider doing at least once.

 

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Just the right amount of elevation to test the legs ūüôā on the official scale of bumpy to mountainous

 

For those who want a little bit more keep reading…

 

The route is situated in one of the most incredibly scenic parts of the now Rough Guide awarded most beautiful country in the world. There are too many vistas to mention but the top views on the route include a short sideways glimpse of Ostel Bay, one of Argyll’s hidden gems, and jaw dropping panoramas over the Isle of Arran.¬†With an early September date in the race calendar it provides a good test before Autumn Marathons and 1/2s and there’s more than a decent chance of good weather – the two good days in May and then again in September after all are what we Scots refer to as summer.

 

 

As well as the views the organisers manage to maintain a level of personal service alongside a professional race day experience that rivals the best out there. This was evident again despite a larger entry this year. This includes contact in advance with the organisers through to on the day assistance. ¬†Throw in an incredibly friendly welcome from marshals, locals and interested passers by and you’ve got the key ingredients for our kind of race. The true test of a race as everyone knows though is in the post race refuelling options and here the Kyles 10 Miles triumphs with refreshments on tap, home baking and burgers cooking on the BBQ within metres of the finish line.

 

 

This year’s race went well overall with The Boy and I both recording course best times and bookending the top 10 much to our delight. It was great to see both Harriers / Hill Runners and friends of the Runbetweeners running strong on a tough route. Interestingly if my school running club had entered as a team we’d have been in with a good shout of a team prize.

 

Personally I felt strong over the hills but struggled to pick it up on the flat final 4 miles, a now familiar tale. After reaching the top of the shinty / golf course hill at the 1st mile marker I worked with ‘man in red running top’ to close the gap on the ever consistently fast Iain Morrison and a runner from Garscube Harriers. Closing the gap over the next two miles ‘man in red running top’ and I continued to climb and descend at a good pace over the outward section of the loop. Having someone to battle against definitely contributed to a personal best performance for me but on the final descent towards Carry Farm I struggled to maintain the downhill pace, gradually losing contact with ‘man in red running top’. This left me hopelessly adrift and running alone for the final few miles. Digging deep¬†I was pleased to see later that I managed to maintain a sub 20 min 5k pace over the last section of the route when it felt like I was wading in treacle. The last mile was brutal with my legs feeling heavier with each passing step but I was delighted to cross the line in a little over 66 minutes.

 

The Boy was already gearing up for a two mile cool down by the time I finished and looks in great shape ahead of his tilt at the Berlin Marathon in two weeks. Congratulations to him for the win with a 40 second improvement on last year’s effort and for photo of the day.

 

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Most impressive yesterday though were the performances by The Runbetweeners who have caught the running bug badly. Despite the odd blister and tired legs everyone loved the route and it was great to see everyone coming home with giant smiles across their faces. It really was a fantastic achievement by each of them. A good warm up for tomorrow nights time trial ūüėČ

 

 

As always thanks to the race organisers and marshals who give so tirelessly of their own time. It is much appreciated.

 

Race str√§va –¬†https://www.strava.com/activities/1176057742/overview¬†

 

Photo credits:

Claire Lamont

Alan G Forsyth Photography (snapped by Pam)

Paul Paterson

The Road to Berlin: Week Seven

Week Seven: 21/08/17 – 27/08/17

Total Mileage: 73.3M

Monday:         Rest

Tuesday:         13M (10 Progression)

Wednesday:   7.3M Recovery

Thursday:       8x600m reps off 90sec jog recovery

Friday:             AM: 4.5 M Recovery

PM: 7.25M Easy

Saturday:        8M Easy + Strides

Sunday:           24M (20 Moderate)

 

Reflections:

This was a tough week and a bit of a mix to be honest! Things started fantastically and I felt great on the progression run. I managed to work down to a couple of reps at 5:25/mile and felt strong. This was a similar session to one which I completed before my Marathon in Amsterdam last year however this attempt ended up being significantly faster than that effort – a nice little confidence booster!

On Wednesday however I had to stop my run half a mile early due to really bad stomach cramps. I had further stomach issues on Thursday too, though thankfully I was still able to complete the session.

On Friday and Saturday I was made it through all of the runs with no further issues which was a relief and I felt great. I am really starting to feel fit just now and these runs felt fantastic.

Sunday was a big one. 24Miles with the middle 20 at 6:20/mile (approximately 30seconds ahead of Marathon Pace). I made my way round Pollok Park before heading up along the cycle route towards Paisley and along the canal before turning and heading back on myself. It was really useful to have company on the first section of this run and Darren and Stuart ran with my to the half way point. It was also a nice boost to see Cris and Craig when I was heading back as we used the same route for our similar sessions. I felt great on this run and the pace felt comfortable – again it was a huge confidence boost as I enter the final month of preparation. I did get a bit of a fright when I stopped however as I attempted to stretch my calves (which had been very tight) and I got a sharp pain up my Achilles and left calf. After a couple of minutes the pain disappeared¬† and things seemed to clear up. I decided to take a day off tomorrow and to focus on a stretching/icing/foam rolling strategy to get through it! Fingers crossed…

 

 

Cowal Hill Race

Just in the door from another brilliant pilgrimage home for the Cowal Games held annually in Dunoon on the last weekend of August. A welcome addition in the last few years has been a hill race up The Camel’s Hump and this was the main reason for heading down this time around. This event definitely fits the criteria of great value local races within easy reach of Glasgow with a stunning backdrop in terms of both scenery and the Highland Games.

 

After marshalling last year I was ready to toe the line again this morning hoping to improve on previous performances where I’ve either blown up after hitting the hill too hard or not attacked the downhill with enough aggression.

 

The 6km route starts outside the newly refurbished Burgh Hall on Dunoon’s main street. After a course and safety briefing we were off. A fast flat start ends quickly as within 50 metres the route turns left up John Street where you are faced with a steep but relatively short climb which really gets the heart rate going.

 

The chart below shows this to be the case and while I’ve been wearing my heart rate strap again in recent weeks I really need to read up more on the benefits of HR training and get a better understanding of what each effort means and feels like on the context of different sessions and races.

 

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Expensive Technology Confirming That I Was Working Hard

 

Anyway back to the race. The route levels off as you make your way up John Street until you enter the trail turning quickly into a foresty track. This is a trail I know well from previous efforts on the race, training sessions with Dunoon Hill Runners and boyhood adventures. It’s basically all uphill from here until the top.

 

The first few hundred metres are hellish and at the back of my head I knew if I could get to the first gate I could relax on the more gentle climb to the top of the hill. At this stage, around 1km into the race, I was sitting in around 10th place and thankfully feeling in good shape. Passing the gate I started to pass a few runners although the lead group were stretching their lead.

 

The route, still climbing, disappears into the forest above Dunoon with the sound of the pipes filling the air from the stadium below. This is another tough little section as although most of climb is done and the elevation is kinder the terrain underfoot becomes more scree like making it difficult to maintain a regular cadence.

 

It was great to see Morven (although I had heard her long before) at the Phone Mast, pretty much the highest spot on the route. Dropping down in to a break in the wood the underfoot conditions change for a third time and the effects of the previous week’s weather were immediately obvious. Thankfully I managed to stay on my feet this year putting to bed the ghost of 2015 as this marked the spot where I slipped and fell hard in my last go at the race.

 

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Still Looking Far Too Happy – Thanks to Morven for This Snap

 

At the end of the grassy break in the forest a short, but steep, climb leads to the top of the Camel’s Hump where the view of The Firth of Clyde and The Holy Loch opens up. It’s pretty much all down hill from here with the first 500 metres on open hillside with plenty obstacles and loose boulders giving a short technical / fell aspect to the race. With conditions underfoot slippy and the heart of a mouse I struggled to keep the brakes off, taking my time to navigate the worst of the conditions. More downhill practice is definitely needed but I was glad I had the extra grip on my trail shoes this time around. Exiting the wood I sadly passed one of the early pacesetters holding his wrist after what I assume was a slip on this tricky section.

 

The route meanders down a forestry road over the next kilometre where it joins the High Road headed back for Dunoon and the finish line. The runner behind was closing in on me during this stage of the race and I was starting to feel heavy legged after the exertions of reaching the top. Exiting the forest road and getting back onto the hard tarmac gave me a chance to pick up the pace and use the road speed which makes up the bulk of my training.

 

Approaching Dunoon it was obvious any chances of passing the runner ahead were gone and it was just a case of making sure I wasn’t passed.¬†After you reach the Grammar School it is just a short hop into the back gate at the stadium to the finish. Kudos to Iain (the race organiser) for getting the finish even closer to the refreshment tent this year. I was well spent having emptied the tank on the last km and a bit along the road and glad to see the finish. It was great to hear that Michael and Grant of the Hill Runners had picked up 1st and 3rd place respectively. Although still to be confirmed it seemed I’d managed to come home in 5th place, which I was pretty pleased with, finishing just behind a member of Manran – the headline act in the Ceilidh Tent later in the day.

 

Despite being a long way behind the top four this was a run where I felt good and worked hard giving another good indication that my running continues to improve. Importantly I feel like I am applying my experience a lot more effectively in races resulting in better performances. Naively experience wasn’t something I would have ever factored into a running race before becoming a runner myself. Rather I would have reckoned the fastest guy would always win. Now I know there’s a lot more to it.

 

It was great to watch the ever-growing army of Dunoon Hill Runners enter the stadium with a string of excellent performances including a first female for Lucie Noakes.

 

If you stumble across this blog because you are thinking of the Cowal Hill Race I would definitely recommend it. ¬£5 includes entry to the stadium which is normally ¬£18. With live music, family entertainment and a friendly atmosphere you’d struggle to get better value. Throw in a well organised hill race at less than 200m elevation and this is a great entry into the often daunting sport of hill running.race organiser

 

As always a huge thank you to the army of volunteers at registration and out on the course. Particularly to my mentor and old Geography Teacher Mr Livingstone who assumed his usual marshalling duties at the top of the Camel’s Hump. Well done to race organiser Iain Cairns for another great wee event. I look forward to 2018 whether I am marshalling or running.

 

 

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The Hill

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1153611678/overview

https://www.relive.cc/view/1153611678

#Paisley10k Race Review

This morning I took part in my first Paisley 10k. I’m not quite sure how I’ve avoided this one which is always a popular date in the running calendar. I’d been looking forward to this one since entering a few months back as it meant getting back to my old stomping ground after teaching in the town for 6 years. By complete coincidence I’d spent the night before being absolutely blown away by an ex-Paisley Grammar pupil in the lead role in the stage adaptation of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.¬†And so it was cycling past The Grammar on my way to the start line that I made my mind up to try and give a season’s best performance.

 

The 6.5 mile cycle warm up has worked well in the past for me as a leg loosener and I arrived in what I thought was good time in the centre of Paisley around 30 minutes before the start of the race. Despite this I got stuck in the bag drop queue for a while meaning I missed my chance of getting close the front of the start pen. I tried to wriggle my way through but with a record breaking field of runners I accepted my fate and positioned myself on the edge of the start pen hoping to at least avoid getting boxed in.

 

However with a few minutes to go the crowd surged forward and I managed to navigate a path closer to the front. This was still a long way off my regular competition but gave me a fighting chance of catching them. Determined not to let this put me off I took a wide route over the first km which encompasses a small loop past two of Paisley’s most iconic landmarks – The Town Hall and Paisley Abbey. By now I had caught Billy from the Harriers who would surely have given me more of a ribbing about my poor pacing yet again following the Mens 10k if he’d seen me coming.

 

Heading around the back of Gilmour Street station the route settles into a reasonably flat and fast one on wide roads. Around 2km I caught Janine, Donald and Mark from the Harriers. A quick scan of my vitals told me that I had run the first mile in close to 6:20, too fast given how much weaving I had done and how slow the first 400m had been. Despite this I felt pretty comfortable. With a sensible head on this would have been a good spot for me to sit in as part of a pack and regroup but I felt strong and decided to try and maintain the pace as long as possible passing the guys and exchanging pleasantries.

 

Between 3 and 4km I caught sight of Paul B. and Neil from the Harriers on the horizon and I tried to reel them in over the next few kms. I was sure I would have settled into a good rhythm by now but my second mile split was 6:12. I was getting faster. Pleased to be holding a pace that could put me on for a new pb and feeling good I was still regularly passing other runners due to my delayed start giving me confidence in my fitness, speed and potential on the day. Passing Paul I gave him the shout to try and keep Neil, who seemed to be maintaining the distance between us, in sight for as long as possible.

 

Approaching the half way stage the route switches to the pavement before dropping down slightly to an underpass giving you a view of those ahead on the other side of the busy road. This meant only one thing – after the turn there would be a climb. Turning the corner into the underpass I was pleased to get a shout of ‘Mon Mr Taylor’ given that there can only be a small number of pupils left at Paisley Grammar who I actually taught.

 

Cresting the small climb I was still feeling strong and enjoying the relative speed at which the miles (and the kms even more so) pass off in the middle distance events. The next km sees you approach the canal section of the race. A switchback onto the main path and you can really start to open up the legs if you still have the energy. Around this point I was slowing slightly as much due to the small climbs in these miles as the fast start and this would be where I lost precious seconds and my concentration lapsed. With about 2km to go I contemplated picking up the pace but I could still see Neil from and Mark from Motherwell A.C. ahead giving me two good benchmarks that a good time was on. If I could close the gap slightly, coupled with my slow start, my chip time would be good and I could smell a sub 39 minute pb. Sadly for Neil as I almost got within shouting distance he took a wasp in mouth situation and had to stop to clear his throat.

 

The route exits the canal path at the 9km flag giving a clear indication that it is time to put the foot down if you have still got anything left in the tank. Although I was still feeling strong I was continuing to slow coming off the canal path. Unfortunately there is also a small rise up to the Coat’s Memorial Church so you’re doing well to maintain pace at this point.

 

A watch check would definitely have helped me at this point in knowing a. How much further was to go, and b. How close I was to my pb.

 

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Hitting the Final Climb With Less Than 1km To Go – Photo Courtesy of Coach Tony Coyne

 

Route experience would definitely have helped me at this stage as I was concerned that the finish might take us around the back of Gilmour St. again. As I was beginning to struggle with the pace I definitely took my eye of the ball at the most important stage. As it turns out the final 600m is a racer’s dream with a gentle downhill sprint to the finish line. I picked up the pace from about 500m to go after a strong show of encouragement from the al fresco dining Harriers but dropped off this pace slightly with what turned out to be about 200m to go worried that we’d be directed to do a loop of the town square before seeing the finish line. As it turned out it’s a straight run down the main street before a sharp left turn into the main square.

 

I crossed the line in 39:11 in position 100 (a few places higher on chip time). A PB equaling effort and a result I am pretty pleased with all things considering as I’ve only had a couple of weeks of solid training under the belt since returning from Japan. It’s definitely given me confidence for the next couple of months with some exciting new and old challenges to look forward to.

 

It was great to see such a strong turnout from the Harriers at this one and to catch up with so many others who seemed pleased with their runs in the main. This is definitely a race I would do again and I am confident that if I run as well next year course knowledge would definitely see me dipping under my current pb.

 

As always thanks to all of the marshals and race organisers – particularly those that gave their time for free.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1142748902/overview

 

 

The Road to Berlin: Week Six

Week Six: 14/08/2017 – 20/08/17

Total Mileage: 82.3M

Monday:          8M Easy

Tuesday:          12M (10 Moderate)

Wednesday:    8M Easy

Thursday:        8x 1km reps

Friday:              AM:  5M Recovery

PM: 6M Easy

Saturday:          8M Easy + Strides

Sunday:             22M (13.1 Steady)

Reflections:

This has been the heaviest, in terms of volume, that I have done in a very long time (possibly ever!) and I was a little concerned coming into it about how my body would cope. I am delighted to have got through it unscathed and have actually really enjoyed the sessions.

Monday’s easy run was a gentle start to the week – which was nice as this would also be my last day off before work started up again! It was nice to get back into the ‘run commute’ habit on Tuesday with a longer Moderate run along the Clyde which felt very comfortable. It’s always reassuring to have these sessions as at the start of the program I know that this run would have felt far more laboured. Another easy run on Wednesday took me to 28 Miles and it was nice to feel like the legs were simply ticking over.

On Thursday I had to plan for an 8x1km interval session as part of my run home from work. The goal was to get a couple of miles of warmup in at a nice easy pace (which would also take me conveniently down to the Clyde Walkway) and then bust out the kilometre reps along the Walkway towards Glasgow. I needed to get two mins of jogging recovery in between each rep too which meant that the total distance covered would be significantly further than just the 8km. I hit the reps at ~10km pace and felt great. There is something very reassuring about beginning a rep and seeing that it I only 0.62miles to go when you’re used to counting down in full miles! I had to do a little doubling back on myself when I got to Glasgow Green in order to fit all of the reps in but this was not a problem and I enjoyed a nice easy few miles back up to the flat once they were done.

Friday and Saturday were reserved for more easy running. I made sure to hit my strides on Saturday as I had missed this from my session earlier in the week. For Saturday’s run I enjoyed a nice few miles down to Pollok parkrun where I ran round with Paul Houston (and had a good chat!) before knocking out a few easy miles home again.

Sunday was the big one. This was a session which has been staring out of my plan at me for a few weeks and which I have been fairly intimidated by. Not only was the idea of running 22M with 13 of them at target race pace terrifying, I was scared of the implications if it proved too big a task – if I could not manage half a marathon at my goal pace, what chance would I have over the full thing! I set off with Walshy nice and early to get the first 5M in at an Easy pace. This was great and it was really helpful to share the session with someone. We were both nervous but definitely took confidence from having the other there. As we hit 5M, Walshy and I parted ways to complete the faster section at our own target paces. My goal was to keep the mile splits in the 5:51-5:53 area for the first half and then see how I felt. As the clock ticked along I soon realised, to my absolute joy, that the pace felt comfortable! I hit the half way mark pretty much on track (except for one poor split which I am blaming on tree coverage messing with my GPS) and decided to pick things up for the next 7M. I picked up the pace to 5:45/mile and felt great. With a mile or two to go it did start to feel like a little effort to maintain the faster splits but I still felt strong and my HR suggested I wasn’t working too hard. I hit the final mile and threw in a 5:41 to see how the legs would cope. This was a bit more of an effort but I felt great and was delighted to get through this section of the run. As I hit the 13.1 mark, I reached Walshy and we exchanged a few words about the run – we had both had similar experiences with the pace and were buzzing with adrenaline. Together we climbed back towards the Southside to complete the 22Miles. My final mile felt tough – the legs were completely empty. At first I was a little concerned about this but I figure it was to be expected as we had made the decision to hit the run without gels or water. After a decent feed, I was able to look back on it as a very positive session and a real confidence boost as we come into the last 5 weeks.

This has been a pretty full-on week but it has been great. The volume and quality of the progressive sessions seems to be paying off and I am feeling very strong. I have had some tightness in my calf (left) but daily stretching and rolling seems to be working. I will monitor this closely and continue with the additional exercises I am doing.

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The Road to Berlin: Week Five

Week Five: 07/08/17 – 13/08/17

Total Mileage: 70.8

Monday:        6M Recovery

Tuesday:        12M (8 Steady)

Wednesday:  6M Recovery

Thursday:      2M Time Trial (Race)

Friday:            AM:  5M Recovery

                          PM:  6M Easy

Saturday:       AM: 8M Easy + Strides

                          PM: Conditioning Circuit (Light)

Sunday:          20M Easy

Reflections
.

Delighted with the way this week has gone. This is the final week of my school holidays and it has been great to get out and get some quality sessions under my belt. 

Tuesday’s run was a great confidence boost as I ticked along the 8 Steady miles at ~ 5:51/mile pace and felt comfortable. I will look to build on this in the coming weeks as I attempt to tune into Marathon Pace.

Thursday was another huge confidence boost as I ran a PB at the Bella Harriers Time Trial with 9mins 58secs. I enjoyed a nice 2M warmup and cool down with my brother Oli who was up visiting and felt brilliant toeing the line. I made an effort to hold back a little in the first mile of the race andlooking at my Garmin data after the race revealed that I actually ran the first mile 7secs slower than when I ran my previous PB. Nevertheless, I felt really strong because of this and hit the ascent with confidence. This was the first time that I have really felt in control running up the hill on this course and it seemed to fly by. I hit the peak and wretched things out with a fast finish. I managed a slightly negative split despite the climb and this definitely contributed to the PB. I was also lucky to get a fancy photo taken after the race by award winning professional photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert who was taking portrait style photos of club members for his latest project.

Friday and Saturday were both geared towards recovering from the hard start to the week and I felt good getting through the slower miles. On Saturday I also managed a very light circuit of conditioning in the gym followed with a brief, easy swim and a sauna.  I finished the day feeling refreshed and spent a lot of time on the foam roller in front of the athletics.

Sunday was a big one and I headed out with the lads for a 20M Easy paced run over the moors. This is a very hilly route with over 1000ft of ascent, mostly in the first half. We manage to tick the miles off however and stuck to the planned pace effectively. This really is a stunning route and the views make the hills worth climbing! I tested out race strategy with gels today and had success with taking two Science in Sport gels during the run. I had one at 10M and one at 15M and had no issues with them. The run concluded with coffee and croissants courtesy of Craig before I popped home for some more foam rolling and stretching.

This was a fantastic week or me. It was my biggest week in terms of volume so far and included some nice confidence boosting short runs too. I’ve got a few more ‘big’ weeks to go before hitting my taper and am feeling very strong. I’ll be focusing on hitting the sessions as planned in the coming weeks and also ensuring my nutrition and recovery is effective to support this. 


Thanks to Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert for the photograph!  

The Road to Berlin: Week Four

Week Four: 31/07/17 – 06/08/17

Total Mileage: 53.7

Monday:         10x 1min on/1min off

Tuesday:         6M Recovery

Wednesday:  18M (10 Moderate)

Thursday:       6M Recovery

Friday:             8M Easy

Saturday:        REST

Sunday:           11M (7 Tempo) 

Reflections.

This week was spent pretty much entirely in Cyprus (I flew back to London on Saturday evening) which meant a slight shuffle of the sessions. I was worried about trying the do the Tempo run whilst away as I felt the heat would make it very difficult to hit the speed that I was aiming for. I therefore swapped this session with the long run which had been planned for the weekend. I also switched out Monday’s planned Hill Session as there were no hills available and so did a fast,flat interval session instead.

Monday was an a tough session in the morning heat and I definitely underestimated it. I got the session done but realised I would definitely need earlier starts from this point on. I also realised that I would need to ensure I had water for all of my runs. 

Tuesday was much more enjoyable as I was able to drop the pace and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Salt Lake.  This also gave me a chance to scout out the first section of a route for tomorrow’s longer run. Felt good and had to make a real effort to hold the pace back towards the end of the run.

Wednesday was a session which I had been dreading. It would mean being out in the heat for a long time and there was also the very real possibility of me getting lost! I decided to get up before the sunrise and head out at 5:30am.  I also decided to break the run into sections which would enable me to re-fill my water bottle. I set off for the first 5M section at an easy pace and made sure that I consumed a full bottle of Gatorade during this loop. I then re-filled my bottle with cold water during a quick pit stop and headed back out the door. I gave myself one more mile of easy running to get back into a rhythm before hitting the 10M at Moderate pace (6:30/mile). I felt great and succeeded in holding this pace for the duration as I completed a full loop of Larnaca’s Salt Lake and headed back along the seafront. This faster section was followed with a couple of easy miles to bring the total distance to 18M.

Thursday and Friday were a nice dip back down to gentler paces and I was able to soak up the sun with a little less pressure. I felt good although I had a little tightness in the left calf, leading to a slight ache in the shin, after the 8M Easy run on Friday. I’ve been slacking on the stretching/foam rolling while away so will make an effort to get back on with this!

After a rest day on Saturday and a flight back to London, I headed out for a Tempo run on Sunday. I got a lift up to Kenley  Aerodrome for the session as I figured this would be nice and flat and traffic-free. Unfortunately I didn’t consider how windy it would be and this made it very tough to hit my target splits. I missed the goal pace by a few seconds per mile but this still felt like a decent session. It was a relief to get through the run with no aches in the shin or calf.

This was a good week of training and it was nice to get everything done without it eating into the holiday too much. The change of scenery was fantastic and it was great to be running in the heat before cooling off in the sea and enjoying my ‘recovery’ wth a book on the beach.