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.

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Scottish Gas 10k report

Apologies for the lack of pictures accompanying this report. Through an extraordinary series of events my photographer, driver, trainer, nutrition expert, running coach, fan club and cheerleader were all unavailable – she had a more pressing engagement. It was a warm, dry morning (17 degrees) and the only fly in the ointment was a 16mph westerly wind. This wind had been forecast all week and it did demoralise me a bit as I knew half the route would be running into it and my experience from the weekly parkrun 5k is that anything over a 10mph wind adversely affects my running time.

There was a good turn out for this event – about 500 runners – most doing the 10k but a good number running 5k. We shared the start and the first few k until the 5k runners veered off to the left for the return. I started strongly – too strongly as it would turn out. Although I was running into the wind from the 1k marker I ran it at 5k pace through a combination of inexperience at 10k level and utter stupidity. My time at 5k was 21 minutes 40 seconds and I told myself just one more k into the wind then you can coast home with the wind behind you. But the first 5k had taken too much out of me and when I turned for home my energy levels were low, even with the wind behind me. Try as I might I could not sustain the pace I wanted. Just after the 6k point I passed a prostate runner lying at the side of the route being attended to by a couple of anxious looking fellow runners (I learned later that she was out cold for 4 minutes but had come round and recovered by the time the ambulance arrived) I tried to push on but the legs weren’t obeying. From the 7k sign to the 8k sign seemed to take forever – so much so that I started to think that I had missed the 8k marker. At 9k there was a significant hill – not what you want at that stage of the race. Worse still when I thought the hill was over there was one final uphill twist. By this stage I was just trying to keep going. There was no-one around me to push me on and I was lacking motivation and focus. Finally the finish gantry appeared in the distance and I summoned up one last tame effort. I crossed the line in 44 minutes 22 seconds – under my target time of 45 minutes but having run a poor race in terms of pacing and performance.

First squash match report!

I finally played my first competitive squash match last night. I knew it was coming sometime but as my opponent was responsible for booking the court I didn’t know when. I did have eight hours warning – not enough unfortunately to prevent my 10 mile training run yesterday morning but that was no excuse for what followed!

In competitive sport there are a number of ways you can lose. The game can be closely competed and there is little between the two players. Well it wasn’t like that. It can be one-sided where one opponent is clearly stronger. It wasn’t even like that. It can be a total mismatch where one player thrashes the other. Yes it was like that and believe me I was the one getting thrashed! The scores were 9-0, 9-2, 9-2. Because we finished early we played two further games which my opponent won 9-4, 9-7 (he was slacking off by then and giving me points) Clearly my squash has a long way to go. I need to learn to serve; I need to learn dos and donts; I need to learn the absolute basics to be honest. I struggled with not facing my opponent; I struggled with the different heights and walls that come into play and at times I struggled just to return the ball. So it wasn’t pretty and I have a long journey to make. And clearly I need to learn how to hold the racket and play strokes because my right forearm is killing me this morning. So much so that I am lifting my mug of tea with my left hand!

On a more positive note, I’m starting to look forward to the 10k on Sunday. My training has gone well despite the fact that my weight remains stubbornly high. The long run yesterday was to build stamina and confidence. I’ll do two more sessions of interval training, probably today and tomorrow before resting for 2 days before the run. I’m confident of going under 45 minutes but I’m certainly not taking it for granted either.

A good run, a bad run and a real nightmare!

I’ve been training quite hard for the 10k a week on Sunday. 10k is an odd distance and tricky to pace. You can’t run it too fast but the danger is that you run it too slow. After a week of pretty decent training apart from Thursday when I gave up half way through the dreaded interval training I was looking to challenge my 5k pb at Edinburgh parkrun last Saturday morning. But after just 1k I knew that it wasn’t there. I’ve run enough now to know that some days the mind can be positive but the body won’t obey. It’s a horrible sensation because you have to keep running even though you know early on that it isn’t going to be pretty and you’re not going to run a good time. I resisted the temptation to just stop and struggled round in my worst time for ages.

Today I set off to run 10k at the pace I want to run it on the day. Early on I could tell it was going to be a good run. I felt strong; there was a rhythm and everything was just as it should be. And believe it or not this lasted the whole 6 miles with my finishing time of 43 minutes 55 seconds being easily the fastest that I have run 10k in training. If only I could run that time a week on Sunday. I don’t know what was different today but whatever was adversely affecting my performance on Saturday has obviously moved on.

Perhaps it was my recent nightmare that was driving me on today. This was a very real dream if you know what I mean. I was in the grounds of a university walking across concrete paving (this small detail is significant) There was a sudden urgent call for help and I spotted two nurses at either end of a stretcher struggling to carry a heavy and badly injured middle aged man. He had major leg injuries and there was a lot of blood around. I ran to help the nurses with the stretcher. We needed to run round a corner to get to the main road where the ambulance was waiting. Now when it comes to carrying a stretcher two is comfortable, three is unhelpful. As I grabbed one side of the stretcher and as we tried to negotiate the corner at speed the inevitable happened and the patient was unceremoniously tipped onto the concrete. He let out a terrifying and agonised roar. One of the nurses and I looked at one another powerless to do anything. And this is the really bad bit. We both burst into uncontrollable giggling. The other nurse glared at us and I woke up. It might have been a dream but my lack of medical skills, inability to help out in a crisis and the ability to laugh uncontrollably at the most inappropriate moments are absolutely me.

Busy, busy, busy

For the next four weeks I’m aiming to run 5 times a week. This is more than usual; more intense than usual and accordingly more demanding and exhausting than usual. I wouldn’t be doing it if I wasn’t so dashed competitive and driven. I know I can run the 10k on 22 September under 45 minutes barring some gale-force winds; natural disaster or injury but I just want to make sure. So the weekly programme is Monday a 10k run on the actual course; Tuesday 5k including the 10 exercise stations in Inverleith Park. Here’s one of the brutes :
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Wednesday is interval training at the local park; Thursday is more intense interval training and Saturday is Edinburgh parkrun 5k. Friday and Sunday are rest days. All the runs are timed and my aim is to increase speed and lower times each week. So far so good but I’m aware of the dangers of pushing this too hard. That being said I was delighted to achieve an unexpected personal best in last Saturday’s parkrun. Unexpected because I’d broken my no-alcohol pledge on the Friday night. Maybe there was rocket fuel in the white wine! Conditions on Saturday were perfect for the run and for once my pacing was fairly decent.

I’m busy, busy, busy because I’m trying to fit the training listed above into my already busy schedule. And I’m also due to play my first game of squash very soon. The person below me in the ladder has challenged me to a game and if he beats me we swap places. I don’t really want this to happen so I’ll be trying my hardest when we reach court. I’m hoping I can put it off until after the 10k but I fear not. I’ll keep you posted!

Meanwhile in other news the irrespressible Vicki Weitz has this very day completed her 26th marathon in 26 days. Vicki you’re a legend!

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.

Guilty as charged my lord!

I’ve not been writing this blog for a while and here’s the reason why.
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This gorgeous dog came to stay with us for his holidays. In his mouth is his most treasured possession – his bath mat. I spent a lot of time catering to his lordship’s every need and in return he contributed to the work of the household. One evening he heard me say that I must remember to put the rubbish out and he saved me the trouble by doing it himself.
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Despite that minor misunderstanding he really is the most gorgeous dog and I’m so lucky that his owner trusts me with him.

But to less important things. Since completing the marathon I’ve been in denial about needing a new physical challenge. I thought it was taking up squash but I haven’t even started playing and won’t it appears until September at the earliest. So when I heard about a flattish course 10k coming up in Edinburgh on 22 September I had my application in quicker than a ferret up a trouser leg (don’t try this at home) So I have my next challenge – to run a sub 45 minute 10k. It should be possible. My one previous 10k on a very uphill course ended in 45 minutes 5 seconds. How annoying that was. Admittedly it was 2 years ago when I was younger and fitter but I can work towards this run knowing that it is theoretically possible. It is just under 6 weeks away and I’ve found a 6 week 10k training schedule which I aim to use. I’m disappointed that I’ve given in to the temptation to try another challenge so quickly and have very little to say in mitigation. I’m pleading guilty and hoping for a merciful judge.