Marathon training is hard!

Not much in life comes easily. And if you want to run a marathon you have to do the training. I’m just back from a two week cruise which was wonderful in terms of a holiday and life experience but perhaps not the easiest means of continuing marathon training. The boat was too small to run on; it wasn’t safe to run when we berthed because I was scared I would drop keys, security passes etc and the only real option in the small gym on board was a treadmill. I know some people like treadmills but I’m not one of them. I did my best but at best my training stalled for two weeks and at worst it regressed a little. I’ve done two runs since coming back and they weren’t good in terms of pace and heartbeat. The big test will be the long run tomorrow which ramps up to 18 miles.

However to finish on the positive side I didn’t put as much weight on as I feared. I’m still completely injury free. I have two months left to get to where I want to be on the starting line. My only worries are about my finish time and not whether I can complete it.

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When the weight goes on

It’s hard to conceive now that in the middle of March this year I had achieved a decent level of fitness. I posted pb’s in 5k and the half marathon. I did relax after that and got into bad habits during the 7 week summer holidays that Edinburgh schools enjoyed. I put weight on (almost 6kg) and exercised less. When I was back in my routine after the holidays I thought the weight would come off but it has proved worryingly resistant and I still need to lose just over 4kg.

So I’ve found my next target which is to lose 4kg. It won’t be easy and I’m not joining a slimming club or doing anything weird or excessive. Somehow I need to eat less, exercise more and drink fewer calories than I have been. I need to reduce sugar intake. Very simple, basic stuff but I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for 6 weeks now. So here’s the plan. I’m going public and to keep me accountable I will weigh myself every fortnight and post it here.

And I’ll try and tell you interesting things about how the process is going.

Half year report

“Could do better!”

I used to hate it when I got those words on school reports even though it was sometimes true. And certainly my running report for the first half of 2014 would have to read the same.

I started the year with the sole aim of breaking 20 minutes for 5k and my best time this year is 25 seconds outside that. It is disappointing to say the least. And the worst thing is that I don’t know what is wrong other than that age is catching up on me! It is the school holidays now and I haven’t been training properly for a month. I’m going to restart training after the holidays and have another push in August, September when running conditions are often favourable. I’ve been enjoying volunteering at parkrun and I’ve acted as pacer a couple of times which is both enjoyable and fulfilling as you see others strive for and reach their personal goals.

More generally here in Scotland people are getting excited about two things. Firstly the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow starting on 23 July and secondly the referendum on 18 September when the question will be “Do you think Scotland should be an independent country?” Not an easy question to answer when people I admire and respect greatly are lined up on opposite sides of the argument.

Positive thinking required!

Here are three random things that I have learned in life :
If it sounds too good to be true then trust me it is too good to be true.
Never trust a politician when an election is looming
If a sports tournament is billed as gentle and relaxed then you can be sure that it will be ridiculously cut-throat and over-competitive.

But what about the saying : You can if you think you can. Well there is some truth in that but not the whole truth. My running goal this year is very straightforward. I want to take two measly seconds off my 5k personal best. So why has it not happened already and why is my stupid head trying to tell me that I can’t do it?

I can answer the first question easily. I lost fitness and put weight on over Christmas. Since Christmas the weather has not been conducive to fast running. I haven’t even run a competitive 5k this year. I have been training but I was on holiday last week and I can feel the weight gain round my waist.

So why is my head telling me I can’t do it? Well firstly because I was pretty fit when I set my last pb. I don’t think I’m near that. Secondly breaking 20 minutes is a psychological barrier. It will be very demanding physically and I’m not sure I’m prepared to give that amount of effort and fail again. I’ve been enjoying volunteering at parkrun and to be honest I’ve been turning up so relieved that I don’t actually have to run.

My plan was to lose weight, train hard, wait for a wind-free Saturday then turn up at parkrun and break 20 minutes first attempt. I certainly don’t want to turn up, run flat out and run 20.05. But now I’m thinking I need to do a run just to see where I am in terms of fitness and time. I’m trying to work on upper body strength and to build up the interval training. These are the key things.

The first Saturday I can do run parkrun is a week on Saturday. I might try for that. If I think I can!

A walk,a climb and a run in Wester Ross

It wasn’t all lazing about when I was on holiday. On one of the really nice days I headed off on the track to Slaggan Bay. This is the view looking back from near the start where you can see the single track road I had just left.
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The mountain is An Teallach – one of the iconic Munros although I have to say it doesn’t look so impressive from this side. I had been allowed 80 minutes for the 10k route when my lift would return for me so I marched fairly resolutely along the track. Quite soon the first loch came into view and you can just make out the track on the right of the picture.
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Not long afterwards the second and larger loch came into view.
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I know you shouldn’t keep looking back when you are walking but I found myself repeatedly being drawn back to views of An Teallach, Beinn Mor Dearg and the Fisherfields.
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Before long I was at Slaggan – a ruined settlement. The only inhabitants were Highland cattle and they seemed surprised to see me. There is a gorgeous bay at Slaggan with a glorious beach.
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It looks an idyllic place to swim but I’m told that the currents are dangerous so care has to be exercised.

The last couple of times that I have been up Flowerdale Glen near Gairloch I have spotted this impressive little rocky hill.
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I’m not sure that the picture does An Groban (383 metres) full justice. Trust me it is steep. This time round I decided that I had to climb it. The obvious route is the west ridge but the estate are carrying out “construction work” and the track had a large “Closed” sign on it. Normally I ignore these but I had actually decided to tackle the brute straight on so headed off to the right. Soon I was scrambling up a gully which led to rocky slabs. The rock was good, with good grips so the scrambling which ensued felt fairly safe albeit pretty exposed in places. Before long I was on the summit ridge and the photo I took shows both that the west ridge would have been much easier and also that there really is construction work going on – follow the bulldozed track to see it.
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It was a stunning viewpoint to the west, the islands, peninsulas and in the other direction the wonderful Torridon hills which almost seemed to be within touching distance.

I also did a 10k run on holiday just so that I wouldn’t forget how to do it and to punish myself for all the scones and cakes that I had been devouring. There are no photos of this run but it was lovely to run in such gorgeous surroundings and marvelous views. Certainly beats running in Edinburgh.

The glories of Wester Ross

Now we know that it is sometimes wrong to have a favourite. I was my parent’s favourite child – but only because I was an only child. When you’re a boss it is very wrong to have favourites among your staff. And part of me says that because I love the whole of Scotland I shouldn’t have a favourite part. But confession time – I do have a favourite and it is Wester Ross. And here’s the reason why.
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Or maybe you need more evidence
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Maybe a nice sunset would persuade you
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Or an unspoilt beach?
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Need I go on?
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The scenery is fabulous; the pace of life magnificently slow; just the right combination of majestic mountains, beautiful moorland, beaches, loch and sea, islands and unspoilt panoramas. And we regularly rent a cottage that has this rather decent view from the living room window.
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So it was a very excited boy who was picked up after completing his 91st Edinburgh parkrun 5k a week past Saturday to head north – destination Strath, Gairloch, Wester Ross. It was a gorgeous day and the journey north improved the further we got. You can never totally relax on the A9 because of the lunacy that it seems to attract – please expedite the dual carriageway Scottish Government! But once you’re over the Kessock Bridge onto the magical A835 you start heading north west and the eye is continually drawn to the left to the glorious mountains that become more and more visible. But the best is saved for last – the majestic A832. If you ever wondered if it is worth being in the European Community then the funding of the Achnasheen to Kinlochewe road and the outstanding roadside walls alone should convince you. After Kinlochewe I couldn’t resist a picture of Slioch which of course doesn’t begin to do it justice.
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We had a glorious week in Wester Ross enjoying drives, walks, coffees out, reading, relaxing and generally adapting to the pace of life. I’ll leave you with another sunset and a final picture of Wester Ross
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Nothing in life is easy

But some things are harder than others. At this time of year Edinburgh doubles in population as visitors arrive for the annual Edinburgh Festival and Fringe Festival. One of the Fringe shows caught my eye : “26 marathons in 26 days.” The detail brought tears to my eyes. Every morning an amazing woman called Vicki Weitz runs from the gates of Holyrood Palace up the Royal Mile to the Castle Esplanade (a height gain of 465 feet!) and back down again. She does this 13 times and is doing it 26 days in a row! Today is Day 20 and she’s still going strong. What an amazing woman. Read more about it here
Unsurprisingly this caught the eyes of the parkrunners and on Sunday morning at the ungodly hour of 7am a bleary-eyed group of us met up with Vicki to join her. I managed 7 laps (i.e. 14 miles) before giving up and I have to say what she is doing represents an amazing feat of strength, stamina, determination and mental fortitude. I’ll let you know in due course if she completes the 26.

Yes I know I’m meant to be training for a 10k and running 14 miles up a prolonged steep hill then down again is not exactly in the training schedule I had set myself but it was worth it to see what an individual can physically achieve. My weigh-in this week revealed that I’m still putting on weight post-holiday so the regime and training will need to be stricter this week. But seeing what Vicki is achieving will definitely be a spur and an encouragement.