Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A Review of 2015 - Life begins at 50 - Me, Myself and Gerry

It's that time of year when we say goodbye to one year and welcome in the next, for some its about what did or did not happen and for others its a new start or a new challenge, where resolutions are made and many are broken.

January arrived, i had come off the back of a successful 2014 campaign and really only wanted to keep the same momentum going, the first thing was to see out the Strava MTS, leading the board towards the end of the month and a 50th Birthday celebration ensued.

My first race arrived over the Easter weekend in the form of the Glasgow to Edinburgh Double Marathon, 55 Miles; this would be my tester for my race in May, i set off with Gerry Craig at a steady pace and eventually caught the two front runners Grant Jeans and Robert Turner,where i made some ground on Gerry and found myself crossing 1st over the finish Line in 6:51:20 and 6th fastest time recorded over the new distance.

The training continued without having any issues and May arrived, this was going to be my longest ever race, 145 miles from Birmingham to London, the GUCR or Grand Union Canal Race, as i was travelling down from Scotland most folk in the race come form England or Europe to take part so i
only knew names from Facebook, with the race under way at 6am, i met some very nice people along the way, Andy Horobin, Edward Batch, Paul Ali, John Knapp and Mimi Anderson to mention a few, i soon found myself on my own from 70 Miles to the 100 mark where i met Warwick Gooch, we ended up running together for the last 45 miles with some company in the form of buddy runners, Susie Chan (top triathlete) and Warwick's sister Shelley, we crossed the line jointly in 11th position in a time of 31 Hours and 39 Minutes.

After the GUCR i found it hard to get motivated and lost a lot of training days, it just so happened by chance on a local run one night that Gerry Craig drove by heading home, we chatted and before i knew it i was part of the JGS (Jordanhill Garden Supplies) relay team for the Cydestride in July. when race day arrived Alison went out on first followed by Duncan then me on third and Gerry on the anchor leg, the team came home in first position. it was during my wait on the third leg that i got talking to David Meldrum who offered me a place in the JL50 (John Lucas Memorial), i gladly sent away my entry fee.

The months were flying by and the summer had almost gone and we were now in August and myself and Gerry travelled through to the JL50, with near perfect conditions we were soon off, working together for the first 10 miles i was soon on my own until Gerry caught up with me around mile 41, by now i was struggling and this helped to get me through to the end, one that would bring its share on controversy as we both crossed the line together in joint first.

We were now into September and again i was in for one of my most attended races since taking up ultras, the RAW (River Ayr Way Challenge, a race that i had won the year before, i had arranged to pick up Jonny Pritchard who was staying in Glasgow after travelling down from Stornoway, i reckoned Jonny was in with a shout if he was making the long journey, the race set off and before i knew it Jonny and Willie
Robertson had opened up a lead, i sat with Mark Caldwell and continued to work away until i saw that the front runners had taken a wrong turn, this is where i decided to pick things up and try and go for a second win on the course, i arrived home in first with a new course record followed by Richard Cooper and then Jonny in third.

The training continued through October and into November where i was about to run my first Half Marathon in many years, The Kirkintilloch Half, and a very tough course again the usual suspects were on the starting line, once the gun went the leader and winner just seemed to disappear into the distance leaving the myself and Alex Chalmers to see who could take the podium places, Alex came home in second followed by me in 3rd and in a sub 1:20 with Gerry very close behind in 4th.

November also saw the annual SUMS awards, again Gerry and i travelled through to Edinburgh, it had been quite a successful year for the both of us, me taking overall male winner and vet 50 and Gerry with second male along with the vet 40 and third in the short category and second in the long, James Stewart our other training partner took third overall male and first in the short category, all in all a good night for three good friends.

As the year draws to a close the only aims i had left were to reach the 4,000 miles in a year, something i narrowly missed out on in 2014 with 3,741, this was achieved with 3 days of the year remaining and currently on 4.033.94, my second was to pass last years Marcothon Miles total of 679.4 miles , i am currently on 660.68 this will be achieved on the final day of the year.

As i said at the start, its not about making resolutions, its about doing your best to be happy and healthy, best wishes for 2016 when it arrives.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Back to the John Lucas Memorial 50 Miles

This would be my 3rd John Lucas, so far it has been one finish from 2013, which i won and again in 2014 where i pulled out after going wrong  a couple of times with 38 miles in the legs, so i knew that i wanted to make amends for the previous year and do better in 2015, so fast forward to the Clyde Stride, i was running leg 3 which starts at Strathclyde Park when i got talking to David Meldrum, David has done a fantastic job with the event and i had mentioned that i planned to run so he advised me to get the entry in fast, so i did.

Race day arrived and i agreed to pick up Gerry Craig as he had kindly got me for the Clyde Stride Relay a few weeks earlier, we arrived at Strathaven and picked up our numbers, a quick chat to Greg Beattie running the event for the first time and a hello to Lee McLean, Helen and John Munro before. As we headed to the start i could see Grant Jeans in the distance, this year the race started on the main road so after David addressed the runners with the race brief we were off, Grant immediately went to the front but did not go off too fas compared to his tactics in the G2E earlier in the year, myself and Gerry just sat in close behind.

The event also offers a relay event which requires 5 in a team, good friend and training partner James Stewart had put a team in and at one stage i was in with a chance of possibly being part of the team, however the team picked remained the same which is why i ended up doing the whole thing, their loss as i could have bought them home even quicker, lol, seriously they blew the rest out the park, i am now putting a team together for next year, lol, anyway back to the race.

Within  a half mile of Checkpoint one, we were met with the relay runners warming up, a quick hello to Barry johnstone who was part of Jame's Team Vambo just  before we arrived at CP1, Grant still sitting in front of us crossed over to pick up his drink as he did we continued through the junction with a nice downhill section as i turned the bend, it was a quick hello to Janice Millar, i continued along and feeling good at this stage thought i would just work away and wait for Gerry and Grant to pull me back in, still a long way to go, this never seemed to happen possibly down to the fact that at this stage i was feeling good and managed to throw in seven sub seven minute miles before the next check point.

As i  arrived in Stonehouse still feeling reasonably good, it was a quick hello to Lee McLean and David Waterman who filled my drinks bottle back up, i was away again, just around the corner i got a shout from another training partner, Stephen Schofield, i was now approaching Marathon distance, which i went through in around 3:10, this is where the race can find you out as the next section has some nice climbs, i continued to work away and was keen after leaving Larkhall to make sure that i do not go wrong again this year.

The next point took me through Glassford which is around 31 miles, i went in to the hall and refilled my bottle, i was now starting to feel the going tough, i was struggling bad in this section with cramps and feeling dehydrated i decided to try and tuff it out until i could reach, David Gow, part of the relay team came flying past me,  Auldhouse which is 40 miles,  so it was a bit of running and walking, Auldhouse just felt like it was never arriving, suddenly i could see the checkpoint in the distance and stopped for a five minutes to refill my bottle, a quick hello to Karen Robertson on Marshalling duties and a chat with David Mooney, David was my wing man back in 2013 when i ran the race and have a lot of respect for, anyway we got chatting and his super hero Partner Julie Docherty nipped in to the Auldhouse Arms (Local Pub) and came out with a can of coke for me, this would later see me through to the end.

I was now into the last ten miles, Davy was cycling the last section and was giving me encouragement to continue but i was still cramping and had not recovered from the dehydration, he advised me that Gerry was closing in and was now only around two minutes behind me, this section continues to climb until you reach the summit where the wind turbines are, i happened to look round at 42 Miles and saw Gerry working towards me, as he closed in i decided to have another go at trying to stay as close as possible so i tucked in and kept working away, as we started to head downhill i found myself with a wee gap opening to Gerry, with Davy continuing to give us both support at this stage.

We arrived neck and neck at the junction and knew there was around 5 miles left to go so i continued to sit just behind Gerry, at one point i said on you go Gerry but within a minute or so i thought to myself you cannot stop now some how i found another wind and managed to get back up beside Gerry, all this time Davy was still willing us both on, the times started to pick up as the miles started to disappear, by now it was nip and tuck with both of us taking up pole position, we were now into the last mile and still neck and neck, this was how it would end as we both crossed the line together, both of us were greeted by David, Sarah Self (SUMS best Helper) and Team Vambo, we later found out that Grant had dropped out again and both Gerry an i would record PBs.

A huge thanks goes to Gerry for making me work right to the end, to Davy for the encouragement to continue, Julie for the can of coke, this certainly worked it magic in the last miles and to David Meldrum for putting on another superb event.

Monday, 21 September 2015

River Ayr Way Challenge

I had decide to enter the River Ayr Way Challenge only 2 days before entries closed, looking down the list of entries there was some decent names that i recognised immediately, Robert Turner, Grant Jeans, Jonny Pritchard, Mark Caldwell James Murray and Andrew Crichton,Glen Gemmell and Willie Robertson.

I had received a Facebook message from my friend James Stewart asking if i could give Jonny Pritchard a lift as he was travelling down from Stornoway and staying over in Glasgow. I picked up Jonny at 6am outside his hotel and we headed for Ayr, we arrived first in the car park i could see Anneke at the back of the van so we went over and i introduced Jonny as we got our numbers, shortly after Glen arrived and then Willie Robertson.

We got on the bus and started taking to a group of runners from Dumbarton AC, the jokes make the journey seem quick despite the ram shackle of a bus we were travelling in, as we arrived at Glenbuck, the first person i met was Greg Beattie who joked about offering me a 200 mtr lift to the meeting point, aye right, Mark, Andrew and James appeared and we had a few quick hellos before we got called to the start, after a quick photo shoot we were off.

As in previous years i set off at a steady pace, average 6:30, i happened to look on my shoulder and could see Willie Robertson, followed by Jonny, after the first checkpoint (Kames Carpark) at 5 miles we settled down and it did not feel like a race as we all started to chat, i happened to look back and saw Mark Caldwell closing in, Mark i know well from previous races and our 2011 West Highland Way Race anyway he came through and went to the front of the group until Checkpoint 2 Limmerhaugh (10 miles). on leaving the checkpoint both Willie and Jonny set off and opened up a gap of a few minutes on us, i continued to work away with Mark close by, i remember saying to Mark just to do our own race as i felt they could still take a wrong turn with not knowing the route, this turned out to be the case as i came through 19 miles after putting in a sub 7,  i saw Jonny and Willie running along a road, i shouted at them to say they were off course at this point i was back in front and decided to try and open a gap, knowing that if i could the possibility of them not knowing the course would be to my advantage, this turned out to be correct as i later found out it was one wrong turn was one too many for Willie and he pulled out leaving Jonny in second place for a long time, as i arrived at Failford (25 Miles) i picked up my juice and was greeted by Greg Beattie on Marshalling duties sporting his camera, a quick wave and i was back into the trail,  

I passed through Marathon distance in 3:21:46 and still feeling fresh i continued along through the detour down to Tarholm Bridge (i went wrong here last year) and i was not doing the same this time around, i continued to work away through Annbank, and along a road that Andrew Crichton calls Tomato Lane, again another tough spot as it twists climbs and turns until you reach the main A77 road, once here and over the bridge,i knew that my time was looking close for the record but just not sure how close, the last stretch is a small undulation before dropping down and then crossing  over the bridge knowing that Dam Park Stadium is under 3/4 mile away, on approach to the track the place was empty, one person was sitting in the stand and Anneke working away under the finish line tent, i crossed the line to be told that i had now recorded the fastest time, Richard Cooper who had finished 3rd at the Clyde Stride was 2nd to cross the line in 5:18:48 followed by Jonny in 5:22:32.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

21st GUCR, Birmingham to London -145 Miles

I'm not one for blogging too much as you will see from my last post in November, since then i received the news that i had been accepted in the ballot for the  21st GUCR, for those not familiar with the acronym, it stands for "Grand Union Canal Race", A race distance of 145 Miles, where you cannot stop for more than 40 minutes at each checkpoint or you are disqualified this meant that if i wanted to attempt to do well or even finish i would need to make sure that my training  was the best it could be, December is a cold, dark and horrible month for training but because it's Marcothon Month
it was the ideal opportunity to get the ground work underway, i recorded 700+ miles running over the first 28 days and this continued into January with a further 700+ miles, the base work was now completed, all that remained was to get some runs on the local canal to prepare me mentally for the race.

I started training on the canal and entered the Glasgow to Edinburgh Double Marathon in early April to get me race fit, the race is exactly 55 Miles and went far better than i could have possibly imagined i was running with Gerry Craig and Duncan Oats most of the way whilst the two front runners stormed off, Bob Turner and Grant Jeans, it was only at 38 Miles where i passed the injured Bob and then caught Grant who was also struggling at 42 Miles did i then go on to win the event in a time of 6:51 all be it 7th in the hall of fame and the 6th best time over the new distance, not that i am complaining as i am the oldest winner in the history of the event, LOL.

Race Number
During the next 6 weeks prior to the race my form took a dip, my motivation wasn't the same and work was not helping, it was only the week before the race that i started to really sit down and go through all my itinerary that the race organiser, Dick Kearn had taken the time to compile, the whole race pack is well put together, waterproof maps 2 race numbers, and all the info detailed that you need to know,.

I travelled down to Birmingham on the Friday lunchtime and headed to O'Neill's  pub where the regular runners meet up each year before registration which is in the Travelodge just next door, Paul Ali, Paul Stout, Pat "Paddy" Robbins, Mimi, Natasha Farid, Gerry Smallwood and Andy Nuttall who was also a first timer like myself

After some food and registration it was back to the hotel for an early night, 100 individuals all in bed by 10pm whilst the rest of Birmingham parties in to the small hours. my alarm went off at 4:15 and i was up fed and headed to the start line for 5:30, the place was jumping before i knew it we were being called on to the canal to get started, the organiser, Dick Kearn announced that this would be his last GUCR, he has taken an event and grown it over 21 years, well done to him for the creation of a classic event in the British race calendar.

The race started at 1 minute past six but it was soon evident that when two top runners, Dan Lawson and Mark Perkins immediately shot to the front that could mean only one thing, they were there to win it and to attempt to beat the current record held by Pat "Paddy"Robbins as we headed out of Birmingham i ran with Andy Horrobin and John Knapp, two strong hill runners, Andy ran 8.03 at the Fling this year, and John just over 9, we were just sitting behind the famous Mimi Anderson who has run just over 28 hours in the past and did a double run one year and was the woman's record holder until Debbie Martin Consani beat it in 2012,

Checkpoint 1 - 10.7 Miles - Catherine De Barnes

Andy kept a close eye in the watch making sure that the running was restrained, we came through in around 1:35, the pace was just fine we were joined at times with other runners, Edward Batch and Warwick Gooch who i would eventually cross the finish line with.

Checkpoint 2 -22.4 Miles - Hatton Lock

Again the chatting seemed to pass away the time and we came through this in 3 Hours 24 Minutes, we were all moving at a comfortable pace each taking turn to go to the front , we did not stop for food, just Andy applying some sun screen.

Checkpoint 3 - 36 Miles - Stockton

Similar to the previous checkpoint we were all steadily working away with no pressure to do anything silly at this stage we had completed 5 Hours and 24 Minutes and just wanted to keep running within ourselves, i stopped had a coffee and Apple pie and Custard.

Checkpoint 4 - 53 Miles - Weedon

We came through here in 8 Hours, 28 Minutes, i  stopped to refill my bottles and get some food in me, i decided to change my watch but was unable to locate a satellite  signal on the 310 so i stayed with the 920 a bit longer,all the faffing about cost me time at this point i lost Andy and John, further along this section as i came up the ramp at Blisworth Tunnel i took two wrong turnings the first was that i went right as per map but it should have read "turn left then right" along road and the second was i took a bridal path to the right instead of left, lucky for me  Russell Tullet who was part of the support for Russ Bestley was on had to direct me on the the correct path

Checkpoint 5 - 70.5 Miles - Navigation Bridge

They say that is the halfway point, well just short, i had now reached 12 Hours of running, i had a few glasses of Coke and hot apple pie and Custard again before re-filling my bottle and packing my head torches, gloves and buff along with changing into a long sleeve for the night time to keep warm.

Checkpoint 6 - 84.5 Miles - Willows Bridge

I arrived  here in 14 Hours and 43 Minutes, this was a real lonely section as it was dark from 9:30 which i ran and walked on my own, a couple of runners passed me with their buddies which is certainly a big help at this stage of the event, due to the underfoot conditions you are close to the edge and one mistake and your in for a swim, you just have keep your concentration about you.

Checkpoint 7 - 100 Miles - Marswood

It took me 18.5 hours to arrive here, after some coke and a yogurt  i left the checkpoint with Warwick and his buddy, Susie Chan who had ran the MDS would keep us going for the next 20+ Miles, there were points were i started to feel tired and dizzy, probably not enough food intake, the legs were feeling heavy and at one point i stubbed my foot on some rock sticking out of the ground.

Checkpoint 8 - 120.3 Miles - Springwell Lock

Bulls Bridge 13.5 Miles to Paddington
By now it was now a lovely sunny morning and we stopped for juice and bacon sarnies, Warwick change buddy runners to his sister Shelley, this was a tough stretch mentally as the legs were heavy the knees sore and body finding new aches and pains, it was also very warm, we tried to break it up the distance with 3 minutes running and 3 walking, probably too much walking but as long as we were moving, thats all that mattered until we reached Bulls Bridge which has the sign saying that you are just over 13.5 miles to Paddington.

Checkpoint 9 - 135 Miles - Hamborough Tavern
We continued with the 3 min on / off just beyond this until we were passed by 2 other runners, Jens Wittrowski and his buddy runner followed by Stephen McAllister who was on his own followed by tons of speed merchants on bikes with no bells to warn you of their approach, this gave us the jolt just to keep moving to the end, an end that just never seemed to arrive.

Checkpoint 10 - 145 Miles - Little Venice

By now we started to see the major land marks of London, the Chard, was in the distance and it wasn't long until we could see the finish line, a small detour diverted off the path then back on due to the path being repaired but we started to pick it up knowing we had reached our goal. me and Warwick crossed the line together in joint 11th place in a time of 31 hours and 39 Minutes, Dick immediately came up with the Medals that are the best you could ever receive

Left Side - London                                                               Right Side - Birmingham

The race is said to be one of the toughest with a high number of DNF's each year, this year we started with 100 and finished with 67 crossing the line, this is testament to how tough mentally and physically this race is.