First ultra distance training run!

OK, so in the end we took a wrong turn, so it wasn’t the planned 28 miles, but it still tipped over the marathon distance into 26.51 miles, which I am totally taking.

I awoke on Saturday morning (some would argue, however, that the time I was stirring could still be classified as Friday night), and got my things together for the day’s long run – my third and final run with the Stonehaven running club’s Saturday long run crew, before attempting to run my first ultra, in just under three weeks time.  Annoyingly, the cold that had been bugging me for the past two weeks hadn’t quite gone away, and the familiar stuffy nose, sore throat, and achey body kept me company during my breakfast.  I questioned whether or not it was wise to attempt such a long run, but figured if it all went wrong, the run would be on roads, and I could hitch a lift back to anywhere that had a train station or bus stop.

And so, at 6:45, I was picked up by Dave, who thankfully did not turn out to be an axe-murderer, but a pleasant Irishman, with Mike (though casually dropping in his name here, I had also never met him in person until this point) in the passenger seat, and we set off on our merry way to Stonehaven, where we met up with the locals at a gas station at 7:20.

Once (nearly) everyone had made it to the start location, we set off through Dunnottar woods, and then onto quiet, undulating back roads.  The skies were blue!  The sun was out!  The temperature was ‘mild’ (for February in Scotland)!  The only gripe I had about the weather was the headwind, which, as we were doing an A to B run, would blast into our faces for, oooooooh, the entire day.  So that was nice.

22.2 long run elevationThe first 5 or 6 miles felt horrendous.  We were slogging uphill, there was wind in my face, there was snot blocking my airways, and I longed for the cosiness of my bed.  But after about an hour I started to feel….. almost good.  After about 11 miles, we waited for everyone to catch up before taking a group shot.  By this point, I felt practically normal (and especially smug for coming along).  Look at the blue sky!

Photo: V Shanks

Photo: V Shanks (as are the rest!)

After the group shot, it was less than two miles (downhill) into Inverbervie, where a number of us made use of the public toilets, before the ascent out of the town.

Approaching Inverbervie

Approaching Inverbervie

Leaving the coast involved a bit of powerwalking uphill, and running the flats and downhill sections, which became more frequent as we approached our finishing point, the Balmakewan cafe.  Some of the guys had gone on ahead, and those of us in the middle section took a different route on the final descent, which caused a bit of confusion when we reached the cafe first.

I had a hot stone massage booked for 15:30, and we made it to the cafe just after 13:00.  Ronnie had kindly agreed to pick me up at the end and drive me back so that I would make my appointment, but it would have also been nice to stay for lunch; it was pretty hard watching juicy, delicious burgers arrive at the table for others knowing I’d have to wait another few hours for a hot meal.  On the plus side, I felt great!  I guess running for 5 hours cures the common cold.

When Ronnie did arrive, he took me, Dave, and Mike back to Dave’s car in Stonehaven to pick up our warm clothes, then Ronnie drove me home using the ‘scenic route’ (translation: he took a few wrong turns), and Dave drove Mike home.

I made it home with enough time to throw myself into the shower, put on clean clothes, and scrape my hair back, before semi-jogging to my massage with 4 minutes to spare (not great fun).

The massage was delightful, but I was horrified to discover, when I got home, that my big toenail on my right foot was missing (it had taken a battering during the Texas marathon, and I honestly thought I’d lose it a lot sooner).  It must have come off during the foot scrub, which means the poor girl pampering me would have had to clean an entire toenail out of the foot-spa-bowl-thing she was using.

You guys knew this was coming.

You guys knew this was coming.

I phoned Ian on the way home and croaked something about, “Oven on…. Food in… On way,” and was delighted to have cajun chicken and rice in front of me half an hour later.  And that’s when the day’s exertion caught up with me, and my symptoms developed into the plague.

I was in bed and sleeping by 20:30.

The route

The route

St. Valentine’s 30k

Time: 3:17:55

Medal: No, though if you ran as a ‘Valentine’s Pair’, you got a ‘special prize’.

'Special Prize'

‘Special Prize’

WARNING: Excessively long – if you’re only here for the race report, head down to the picture of a window.

Being a teacher means I can’t pick and choose my holidays, which – for races – can be a real deal-breaker.  With a birthday the day before Valentine’s Day, however, I’m lucky in that my birthday falls on, or near, mid-term, when we usually have a long weekend, and a couple of in-service days (where it is totally acceptably for me to turn up to work in tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie).

This year was one of those mythical ‘milestone’ birthdays.  I turned 30.  Or, as my dad liked to point out on my birthday card, I entered my fourth decade of life (let that horrifying thought sink in), and am now 47% of his age.  WHAT KIND OF A PERSON TELLS YOU THAT SHIT?!?!? My dad – that’s who.

Most of my friends are a few years older than me, so they’re all over the whole ’30 is a big deal’ thing, and to be honest, so was I.  But I still wanted to do something special to mark the occasion, so looked for some ‘special’ races.  My heart was set on the Romeo e Giulietta half marathon in Verona (for reasons explained here), but even with the extra day off work, there were no flights that were feasible.  After asking for suggestions, someone pointed me in the direction of the Stamford Striders event, the St. Valentine’s 30k.  30k for 30 years?  Who could argue with that?!  And when I read that it was Valentine’s themed, and that you got a special present if you ran as a couple, I convinced bullied Ian into joining me.

Ian – who is not a runner – trained sporadically for this.  I think he came on a couple of my 6-8 mile recovery runs before the Texas marathon, an 11 mile run as part of one of my longer runs, and a few runs by himself between 5-10 miles.  Over the course of about 3 months.  Every time I brought up the weekend, he looked pained, and hinted strongly that he didn’t want to do it.  Every time he complained, I reminded him that it was my birthday present, and that he had agreed.

Thursday (my birthday) came and went.  Some of my work colleagues bought me a cake and some gifts (girly stuff and a really nice scarf).  I bought myself some gifts – because I haven’t been shopping in ages, and I forgot how fun it is.  Ian bought me some champagne and a card.  I went to the gym after work and had scrambled eggs made with out-of-date milk when I got home because I was too tired to make/go out and buy anything else.  Then I had a shower and went to bed.  It was pretty unremarkable.

This was my lunch on Thursday:  Not exactly my style, but delicious and very thoughtful.

This was my lunch on Thursday: Not exactly my style, but delicious and very thoughtful.

Valentine’s Day was an in-service day, and work went fairly quickly once we knew what our tasks were, thankfully, though I remember looking outside at the sunshine wishing I had the day off.  After work I went home and packed before Ian picked me up after his work and drove us to his mum’s for Valentine’s Day fajitas.  By this point the weather had turned, and the rain had started.

After dinner, we set off for Ian’s sister’s in Edinburgh (we planned on breaking up the 300+ mile journey by stopping there for the night), and after about 15 minutes it was uncertain if we would make it to the race.  A series of storms had been battering the UK, and we were driving in the middle of one.  I took a screenshot of the interactive weather map, but my phone is misbehaving so instead I’ll show you a satellite image from google of  that night:

The UK is underneath that big swirly thing.

The UK is underneath that big swirly thing.

Warnings for flooding, snow, ice, and high winds were everywhere, and soon we understood that they meant business.  We were crawling along at about 20 mph desperately trying to stay within sight of the lights on the car in front to help guide us, because there were sections when we couldn’t even see the road.  I felt genuinely unsafe, and an icicle had formed on one of the side-mirrors. I took a photo when we finally came to a lit area of the road, but it didn’t turn out too well.  The street lights in the photo did all go out about 5 seconds after I took this, which was extra comforting:

IMG_20140215_215758“I really want to turn back,” was uttered a few times, but by this point we had been travelling for over an hour, so we decided to press on.  Luckily, after Dundee, it wasn’t quite as horrific, but we were both very glad when we arrived in Edinburgh.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for a quick breakfast with Ian’s sister’s family, before setting off.  One of the compromises I had made in order to get Ian to agree to this weekend was that we would stop off in York to go to the National Rail Museum, as he wanted to see two historical trains: The Mallard (which holds the record for being the fastest train, ever), and The Flying Scotsman (which is also, apparently, impressive for some reason).

We arrived in York at around 1pm, and found the museum easily enough.  While entry is free, you do need to buy a token to leave the parking area (£9!).  We also discovered that neither The Mallard nor The Flying Scotsman were at the museum, but at the sister museum somewhere else in the UK.  We were basically just in a massive warehouse with a bunch of old trains.  I was not overly impressed, and despite Ian’s best efforts, neither was he.  In fact, we got more amusement trying to spot the die-hard train fanatics (6 in total, one carrying a camcorder, filming every nook and cranny of an engine, touching it too affectionately).  It was interesting looking inside the old Royal Carriages, but I had reached train saturation after about 20 minutes.  We had a sandwich in the cafe, and then hit the road again.

Here's a train.

Here’s a train.

We arrived in the very quaint Stamford at around 5pm, and found our Bed and Breakfast, Rutland Terrace, without too much trouble.  I had booked it on Friday morning, and lucked out because the owner had just had a cancellation, so we were getting the best room!  It was only after I booked it that I noticed it had been in the Channel 4 show, ‘4 in a Bed’, so obviously I had watched the episode to see if we were going to be staying at the home of someone relatively normal, or one of those freaks who appears on reality shows and you wonder how they could have possibly survived as long as they have.  Thankfully, she seemed nice, (on the show and in real life) and our room was lovely as well.

On the landlady’s recommendation, we went to a local pub called The Toby Norris for our (enormous and delicious) dinner, before heading back for an early night.

On race morning, we awoke to a gorgeous day.  There was little wind, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping – ridiculously perfect.  My head was still bunged up from a cold that had been attempting to take hold for the last week, but I didn’t come all this way to let a little discomfort get in the way.  I mean, look at this weather!



After a full English breakfast (I didn’t even care that I had to run 18 miles a couple of hours later), Ian and I went back up to our room to pack and get ready.  Ian still had not come round to the idea that this could be enjoyable.  I saw a few cyclists fly by down below as I was looking outside, and Ian said, “I wish I was them.”

Ian getting ready

Ian getting ready (and wearing my shorts).

We settled the bill, and set off for the school where the race was starting from.  Upon registering we were given our shirts (long sleeved tech-tee, I was impressed!), and our race number.  We went back to the car to stay warm and get organized, before following the crowd to the start line.  The race had a capacity of 750 runners, but I’d say 100 or so didn’t make the start.  It was odd being in a crowd of runners where I didn’t recognize a single club vest (and the accents were a bit different, obviously).

Ian is PUMPED about running.

Ian is PUMPED about running.

At 11 sharp, the group surged forwards, and Ian and I settled into a comfortable 9:30inute/mile pace.  We would run the course together, and take as long as we needed – Ian’s only goal was to not finish last.

Although we were pretty cold at the start, we soon warmed up.  There was an occasional breeze, but nothing like NE Scotland would deliver.  There were ‘undulations’, but, again, nothing as horrific as something like the Templeton 10 miler.  This was my ‘cutback’ week for ultra training, so I was just enjoying a casual run somewhere new with GLORIOUS weather (I was way too excited about the weather being nice).

St. Valentine's 30k elevation: actually undulating.

St. Valentine’s 30k elevation: actually undulating.

The km markers were in love hearts, and had (cheesy) insirational messages.

The km markers were in love hearts, and had (cheesy) insirational messages.

“This isn’t so bad,” said Ian.  After the first kilometer.

When Ian had asked me earlier how long I thought we would take, I guessed somewhere around the 3 hour mark.  We ran the first 10k in under an hour.  Ian complained that, “running is boring.”  We hit the 15k mark in under an hour and a half, and Ian complained that, “running is shit.”  By 16k, Ian had had enough, and asked to walk.  When I asked what hurt, he snapped back, “Everything!  This was a shit idea.”

The inspirational quotes did little to motivate him.  The marshals only infuriated him.  Anyone that ran by trying to give encouragement would be met with a seething scowl.  Old people, women, overweight people, and people panting for breath were passing him, and he couldn’t accept that these people were overtaking a man who can cycle 70+ hilly miles on a whim.  With no food.  And who can bench press his girlfriend.

“Running is gay.  Running clothes are gay.  Guys should not wear lycra.  This whole thing is gay.  I hate running.”

“But you wear lycra for cycling.”

“Cycling clothes are gay too, but at least your dick isn’t bouncing around in front of everyone’s eyes.  I hate running.  When will this end?”

“We have 12k to go.”

“12?!  What?!  That’s miles away!  Why do you like running so much?  I hate running.”

About 6k from the end, Ian looked back (to make sure we weren’t last), and saw someone on a motorbike talking to one of the runners.  He automatically assumed this was the sweeper vehicle, and disgusted at this, attempted to go faster.  By this point we were walking 50% of the time, and he had mentioned more than once that he didn’t think he could run anymore because his legs were in so much pain.  I think if he hadn’t seen the motorcycle (which, incidentally, was NOT the sweeper vehicle) we would have walked the rest of the way.  Instead, Ian soldiered on, running in short bursts, and then walking to recover.

At about 28k, we started recognizing some of the course from the start, and knew we were close to the school.  I remember reading on someone’s recap that there was a lap on the school field at the end, but I chose not to divulge this information to Ian, because we were about 20 seconds behind another couple, and I wanted to beat them.  I could see the girl was struggling, and her boyfriend (wearing matching clothes) was trying to push her on to the finish (and looking back to see how much ground we were gaining), but it took everything Ian had not to walk that final lap, which he described as, “fucking horrible.”

We crossed the line holding hands, despite the deep hatred Ian clearly felt towards me at that time, and I was very proud that he had finished, especially without walking during the final lap.  After some effort, I convinced him to have a quick massage while I grabbed a shower, because I knew it would help with the long journey back to Edinburgh.

Despite Ian’s scathing review of the run, I found it really enjoyable.  The hills were never overly steep or long, the water stops (and jelly baby supplies) every 5k were perfect, the on-course support for such a small local race was great, and for the cost of entry, a tech shirt and chip timing were bonuses!  Of course I would have liked a medal, especially as my birthday run, but I can’t fault the organization, the course, or the weather.

Ian, doing his best to smile after 30k.

Ian, doing his best to smile after 30k.

The journey back to Edinburgh was indeed long, with congestion on the motorway due to a gas leak (judging by the smell), but at about 8pm we were back in Scotland:

IMG_20140216_224840(1)And yes, Ian is still wearing his running kit.  He was so desperate to leave the painful memory behind  that he didn’t bother showering or changing.  Despite this, he is totally comfortable posing for photos in shorts in the snow.  We clearly find different things painful.

This morning, after a well-earned lie-in (after 8am!), we had a relaxed breakfast with Ian’s sister and neice, Anna, before checking out the house they’ll be moving into in a few weeks!  Anna is one of the cutest children on the planet, and I told her I’d let her have my race banana if she agreed to act like a monkey.

Cutest child ever.

Cutest child ever.

And finally, after hours of driving and hours of running, we have made it home.  Although I’m bummed that I am back at work tomorrow, and that I still have this crappy cold, and that after work I have a meeting that will prevent me from having an afternoon nap, at least tonight I will have sushi (my birthday meal that I was too tired to bother with) and my champagne.  Here’s to my thirties!

St. Valentine's 30k route

St. Valentine’s 30k route

Review: Brooks Cascadia 9

I pretty much don’t do reviews, because I throw serious side-eye when others do, as it’s usually to shill crap that they are an ‘ambassador’ for.  I get it; they want to earn a little money from their hobby, with the hopes of one day giving up the day job.  But zero percent of my brain is going to trust a review of something you didn’t spend your hard-earned money on.

Last week, in an attempt to cheer myself up because I couldn’t work out, I went shopping.  I knew that I would need to buy a pair of trail shoes that didn’t massacre my feet after 10 miles for the Highland Fling in April, and I had heard good things about the Saucony Peregrines.  Without even having tried on a pair (I’m impulsive like that), I had made up my mind that I was going to walk into the running shop, try a pair on, and buy the shit out of them.

It was unusually busy in the shop when I went in, so I had to wait to be seen.  I decided that I might as well scope out the competition as I waited, and my eyes were drawn to a pair of bright purple shoes.  They.  Were.  Beautiful.

Transfixed, I almost didn’t notice the store guy come over.  When he asked how he could help I told him I was looking for “the least trail-y trail shoes.”

I have a pair of Solomon trail shoes (which I bought because they were purple, and looked pretty, and despite my outwardly unfeminine persona, sometimes my X chromosomes dominate my brain functions), but they are uncomfortable to run in after a few short miles.  I am pretty much a sucker for cushioning.  I mentioned to the sales guy that I’d heard good things about the Peregrines, which he nodded at, but to my delight he picked up the purple shoes and told me they would likely be my best bet, because they were like a cross between a road and a trail shoe.

“Excellent, because I think they’re the prettiest!”  Dude looked a bit confused, but got my size.  I never even tried on the Peregrines.

In the store, the Brooks Cascadias (HEADS UP: affiliate link) felt nearly as comfortable as my road shoes (also Brooks, but I alternate between the Ghosts and Vapours).  Usually you’re expected to go up a size for trail shoes, but the 7’s fit me fine and left plenty of room in the toe box.  They weren’t suffocatingly narrow for my increasingly wide feet.  They felt bouncy.  They matched my dress.  I was sold.

A Brooks orgy.  And some beautiful sequined ankle boots.

A Brooks orgy. And some beautiful sequined ankle boots.

Now, I know it’s widely accepted that you’re meant to gradually break in new shoes, but they were so comfortable that I opted to wear them for Saturday’s long run.  Within the first 30 seconds of running, I was horrified that the back of my socks seemed to be pulled down underneath the lip of the heel part, and I anticipated blisters aplenty, but happily that was the last I noticed my heels, my socks stayed put, and – most importantly – no blisters!

We covered over 25 miles, and my feet were drenched (thank you boggy conditions and river crossings) for about 95% of the run, but I still walked home without any pain in my feet whatsoever.  Even the brief sections on roads, which I was dreading, because in my Solomons road running is highly unpleasant, were run comfortably thanks to the bounciness.

Basically, I love these shoes.  They were comfortable for 7+ hours on my (wet) feet, they were comfortable enough to run on the road in, they had enough room so as not to crush my toes and batter my toenails, and I only slipped once (downhill, in a mudslide – I’d have needed crampons to avoid that).  Oh, and they’re beautiful.  Or at least they were, before I took them out for a test run.

Brooks Cascadia 9's

Brooks Cascadia 9’s

“24” mile long run

Waking up Saturday morning at 5:00 am to the sound of what could be a freight train passing my window, but what I knew was more likely the wind, led me to the conclusion that, for a change, the Scottish weather forecast was correct.  I had planned to join a group for a 24 mile, hilly route, and my ride (Claudia) was due to arrive at 6:15.  I ate what I could stomach, got dressed, packed my rucksack with food and water, and thought more and more how much I wanted to go back to my warm, dry, cozy bed.

My calf was still not right – it felt tight when I bounded across my living room during a ‘test’, and I was worried about doing real damage by demanding so much of it during a training run.  I was also particularly cautious, because I didn’t want to hurt my chances of actually taking part in the St Valentine’s 30k the following weekend.  Defeated, I picked up my phone and dialled Claudia’s number to tell her to head straight to the meeting point, and that I was not going to make it.

Claudia’s phone went straight to voicemail.  This meant that I had to at least go to where she had arranged to pick me up to let her know, so I didn’t bother changing out of my kit.  About 10 minutes before I was due to be picked up, I told Ian I’d probably see him in 15 minutes, and headed out into the cold, wind, and rain.  I took my rucksack with me.  Just in case.

When Claudia arrived, I got in the car and said nothing.  By the time we had picked up the second person, it was too late to go back.  I sent Ian a text to let him know I was just going to go for it.

About an hour later, after dropping some cars of in Banchory, 15 of us were heading towards the start point of our run – a parking lot somewhere within some woods.  Somewhere.  It was early, I didn’t really have much of a clue where we were, I just knew I had to follow the people that did.  Here we are at the start:

I'm the one wearing the light green jacket checking my watch for signal.

I’m the one wearing the light green jacket checking my watch for signal.

Although the rain had been bad earlier, and for basically the entire week before, it had stopped by the time we started running.  This cheered everyone up for about 100 meters, by which point everyone had wet feet.  We ran along the trail from the car park for about a mile or so before we got to our first hill.  Veering off the path, we headed strraight up, battling our way through soggy ground and heather. I had assumed this whole run would be on some kind of trail, so my heart sank as we plodded further up, becomming more exposed to the wind, and being shrouded in cloud.  We hadn’t even reached mile 3.  Nearer the top of the first hill, Mount Shade, the terrain became a bit more forgiving, and we picked up a bit of speed.

At the top, we decided it would be best to crack on back down the other side before stopping for something to eat, as we’d have more shelter lower down.  After a brief rest, and narrowly being the first person to fall on their ass thanks to lightning-quick reactions that I am amazed didn’t break both my wrists, we started up the second hill of the day, Clachnaben, which I’ve been up countless times in the past, and would have known exactly where we were.  Had we not been enveloped by cloud.  Only near the top did the prominent tors become visible, heralding the end of our second climb.

Approaching the summit of Clachnaben.

Approaching the summit of Clachnaben.

After another comfort break to eat/wait for everyone to gather, we started off down the other side, where snow, ice, and slush came into the mix.  During this section, the sun briefly came out, and everything looked beautiful.  Rhona managed to snap a great photo of some of us running along, bundled up:

The summit of Clachnaben in the background.

The summit of Clachnaben in the background.

Sadly, the sunshine was not to last, and we took solace in the fact that, despite the wet conditions underfoot, it wasn’t raining that much as we headed along to the summit of Edendocher.

1560720_10153823873045377_1706291727_nOnce down a bit, and out of the snow and cloud, and after about 11 miles, we came to our next rest stop, Charr bothy, where a few group photos were snapped, and more than a few snacks were consumed.

1653780_10153864572280438_771864360_nAfter about 10 minutes, we headed outside again, and pressed on. This is the first section on road we encountered, and there were a couple of 12% inclines to walk up.  Eventually we came upoon a farm house, where we knew there should be a path that veered off to the right before the house.  We found what we assumed was the path, and trudged through very boggy ground to a river.  Which we needed to be on the other side of.

1014111_10153823874355377_1381818480_nAnd of course, the only way was ‘through’.  We found a narrow section, with fast flowing water, but it only came up to around my knees (apart from the bit I was hauled over by helping hands).  Unfortunately, there were one or two slips involving wet crotches.  Having experienced early onset hypothermia from my brief stint in the water, I can only imagine how uncomfortable that was for them.

1896866_10153823872245377_939104960_nLuckily, we had quite an uphill slog ahead of us up Kerloch, so we soon warmed up, though trench foot was starting to take hold on all of us.  We climbed for what seemed like an hour, before finally starting the rocky, and quite technical (in my opinion) descent.  I rolled my ankle a few time here, and it was not comfortable.  Thankfully, the rocky section came to an end, and we were treated to a gentle downhill section on a dirt track, which was heavenly.  For the first time, we could see Banchory in the distance, and our final hill, Scolty, with the tower on top.  Being able to see the end point was uplifting for those beginning to struggle, and we continued downhill onto road, and to the base of the path leading up Scolty.

We made it to the tower at the top and took shelter from the howling wind inside, before taking a group shot once everyone had arrived:

1690417_10152212770239704_476177028_nFrom the top of Scolty, it was pretty much downhil for the final 3 miles, which was good news to hear.  We dodged dog walkers and a few cars on the way back, and the pace noticable picked up the nearer we got to the supermarket parking lot where we had left the remaining cars over 7 hours before.

Upon reaching the end, I looked down and joked that we could add on an extra .7 miles to make it a marathon distance, but nobody was game.  I was grateful for that.  I was also grateful for the supermarket cafe where we all ate a well deserved hot meal, despite having the shittiest service I’ve experiences in such a long time.  I won’t even start…

In the car, heated to Claudia’s Panamanian temperature requirements (perfect!), I nursed my tight calf, but was pleased that it felt no worse than it had throughout the week (though no better, for sure).  My ankles, the only exposed part of my skin other than my face, were no match for the heather and rocks, and were stinging.  My left hamstring was a bit tight.  My right hip was a bit tight.  But overall?  My calf held up, I’d covered 25+ hilly miles, and I had earned a Sunday sleep-in.

Today (the morning after), my calf is extra tight, so I’ve given it a 3 mile walk and a yoga/thai chi style class to help loosen up the legs and give them a stretch.  I’ll foam roll later this evening, and I’m hopefuly that after a few more days of this, it’ll be feeling much better.

Here’s our route from yesterday:

5hillsmapAnd the elevation profile:

5hills* I stole photos from, like, everybody else.  I didn’t take any because it was cold and I didn’t want to take my gloves off.

Calf Update

Because I know you’re all obsessively hitting refresh in case there’s any news on my calf (I know you’re not) – I can confirm that there is less pain when I stretch/touch my leg, but there is still definitely pain.  I tried a spin class tonight and had to bail after ten minutes, which even I found offensive.

I have done that stupid thing where you google and automatically assume the worst case scenario is what you’re going through, so this morning I either had a Grade 1,000,000,000 calf tear or DVT that would kill me in my sleep.  The fact that there is no bruising, and I can walk as though I am not in fact a cripple, tells me the first is unlikely (though I may have a minor calf strain), and the second is also unlikely, because I don’t think DVT usually comes on at the tail end of a 15 mile run.  Clearly though, I’m no doctor.

So: it’s back to rest, compression, and I might even succumb to ibuprofen, because I haven’t exercised in 2 days now, and that is problematic for me because I’m fairly sure I replaced my addiction to smoking (over 6 years and not a single cigarette -Woo!) with one for the gym.  I know, I know, all addiction is bad addiction, but I know which one I think is lesser of two evils.  Right?

I also read online that if it is indeed a calf strain I have, the things I should DEFINITELY AVOID in the first 72 hours are heat, massage, and stretching.  Which is fabulous, because as I assumed it was just a tight muscle, I had a steaming hot shower, stretched, and massaged the shit out of it.

Or, indeed, a man.

Or, indeed, a man.

Attempt number 2 at the gym tomorrow; Tuesday is weights day, so at least there’ll be no aggressive calf action necessary.  Wednesday I’ll try spin again, and I have a sports massage at night, so hopefully this will be something I can look back on and chortle at this weekend, during the 24 miles I have planned…

In more enthusiastic news, I bought tickets to Milan last night.  It’ll be the first International holiday Ian and I, in our 6+ years together, will take, which is exciting.  It’s also my first step in convincing him we should live around the world in various fabulous places, but baby steps.


Ultra training and not being (so) dumb.

Today was my first DNS of the year.  After yesterday’s 15 miler (which included a few stops for stretching since my left calf was seizing up), I got home, stretched, foam rolled, and massaged my sore limb, hoping that it would loosen up througout the day.

It did not.  I woke up this morning to a crazy painful lower leg, and despite some futile (and desperate) stretches and a stint on the foam roller, my ‘test jog’ across my living room floor pretty much confirmed it: I would not be running the Forfar multi-terrain half marathon today.

As little as one year ago, I might have thrown caution to the wind, and taken Ronnie up on his offer of a lift, grimacing my way through the 13.1 miles despite sharp, painful protests from my body.  In fact, I did.  But with my first ultra a mere 6 weeks away (well, shit), I have become somewhat sensible, and decided to take a bit of time to allow my calf to rest up and heal (as it has been feeling particularly tight all week).  I don’t even know myself anymore.

Apart from a couple of minor setbacks, like today, my training has been going reasonably well.  Launching into ultra training on the back of a marathon has afforded me a few easier weeks (with 14-ish mile long runs), but the distances are starting to ramp up again.  Last weekend, for example, was a 24 mile run from Aberdeen to Stonehaven over Elsick Mounth, a run I ran from Stonehaven to Aberdeen last summer with Ronnie.  It was a lot warmer (and sunnier) that time:

Looking down upon Aberdeenshire - summer 2013

Looking down upon Aberdeenshire – summer 2013

Sadly, we are elbow deep in winter, and rain and strong winds were regular features of our jaunt last weekend.  Still, some good ‘hill training’ at the end, judging by the elevation profile:

ABZ-STNNext weekend is another 24 miles, but hillier, and expected to take the best part of the day.  I’m looking forward to it, but I hope (so hard) that we don’t get snow/sleet/storms/gusts/etc., because that will inflict my inevitable bitching on the group of people I’ll be running with, and I don’t want an experience with ‘grumpy-at-the-weather-Rachel’ to be their initial impression of my character.  I even dislike myself when I’m angry at the weather.

Stinking Rich Husband on Death Bed: position available

One of the consequences of scrolling through running blogs in your feeder in January is being made aware of a slew of fantastic sounding races that have made it onto 2014 race calendars.  Sadly, my races for the year are nearly all mapped out (I’m opting for more quality, less quantity this year because, well, money), so I don’t really have the option of getting overly excited filling up my schedule with exotic locations.  Instead, I get to create a ‘to-do’ list of races that I would love to one day participate in sometime in the future (or when I win the lottery, though I hear you have to buy a ticket for that, so I’m not holding my breath).

Take a (virtual) trip around the world with me as I investigate some of the races I would to see in my future!  And leave me any suggestions!

E.T. Full Moon Midnight marathon (Rachel, Nevada)

This race takes place in Rachel, Nevada.  My name is Rachel.  Not that I even need to explain any further why I am interested in this one, but it is also takes place at night, and I would imagine fancy dress is encouraged.  Because aliens.

I need a photo standing next to this sign.

I need a photo standing next to this sign.

Caracas marathon (Caracas, Venezuela)

I figure, having ticked Houston off the list, I should try and run a marathon in every city I’ve lived in.  Why not start here?  Besides, I love the idea of carb loading on arepas and queso de mano.  I’m drooling.  It could also turn into a nice extended holiday.  To Aruba.

Jakarta marathon (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Continuing the ‘cities I’ve lived in’ tour, Jakarta would be my next stop.  I would be equally excited about the food options available for pre- and post-race nutrition.  Many of my childhood favourites (chicken satay, sambal olek, nasi goring, beef rending… Oh. My. God. Yes.) would feature prominently, and I would top it all off with a trip to Sambolo beach to relax and watch anak Krakatoa simmer in the distance at night.

Puncak.  Late 80's/early 90's.

Puncak. Late 80’s/early 90’s.

Giulietta e Romeo ½ marathon (Verona, Italy)

I’m a high school English teacher, so this totally appeals.  I’m also Italian, and Verona is like a 2 hour drive from my Great Aunt’s house, so I could make it a family affair.  I had this in mind for my 30th next month, but the timing for flights was super awkward, so I’ll have to wait until flights are more regular from Scotland.  Or until I can afford the better flights.  Or a private jet.  Whatever comes first.

I have even illustrated the whole play for my senior class.  I love Romeo and Juliet.

I have even illustrated the whole play for my senior class. I love Romeo and Juliet.

London marathon (London, England)

One of the most famous marathons in the world, London would be great to run for fun, and for the experience.  I’m not really willing to get an entry via a charity place, because you need to commit to raising, like, 4.8billion pounds, and I pretty much maxed out friends (and strangers – thank you again!) generosity with the whole sled-pulling trick in September.  However, I’ve entered the ballot 5 times and lost out, so we’ll see.  I’d also be ticking off a ‘cities  I’ve lived in’ marathon, so there’s that.

Great Wall marathon (Great Wall, China)

Because who WOULDN’T want to run this?  And I’m using the term loosely – it would be a challenge with all the steps.  But steeped in history, and with beautiful views, who cares how long it takes to finish?

Williams Route 66 marathon (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

This is where I hit a brick wall with trying to run a marathon in every city I’ve lived in.  Ponca City, Oklahoma – population 24,974 – does not have a marathon*.  I have decided to get around this by picking another race in the same state (totally legit), and have chosen, easily, the Route 66 marathon in Tulsa.  The medal is meant to be fantastic, which is a bonus, and I’ve only ever read good reviews, so in all honesty, I need no elaborate reason to want to run this.

Berlin marathon (Berlin, Germany)

Another marathon with a ballot entry, which means my biggest challenge for ticking this off the list is getting a spot in the first place.  A couple I know both entered the ballot for this year.  He got in.  She did not.  For the sake of their marriage, he turned down his place.

Any marathon in Australia.

Australia is a weird place.  Summer and winter are backwards, and the majority of the island is a barren death-trap.  But I’m already starting to save for an Australian trip in summer 2015 with my friend Grant.  We’ll check out Melbourne/Sydney and catch up with old friends for a few days, then I’ll journey solo to visit my grandmother.  If I can time the trip to include a marathon that is within reasonable train distance, I’m in.  There’s also a fantastic cycle trip from where she lives, to the top of Mount Beauty, then back.  A challenge I am keen to complete after visiting a couple of years ago and seeing the huge number of cyclists puffing to the top.  Also, my old sports massage therapist lives in the same town my gran does, so I’d be looked after.  Small world.

New Year, 2012, Australia

New Year, 2012, Australia


*Currently, Aberdeen does not have a marathon either.  But I have run several 5 and 10ks here, and – if all goes well – will be running my first ultramarathon here in about 8 weeks.