Archive for December, 2013

Well look, I haven’t really done a lot since I did my two-year round up back at the start of November – if you want to see what that was all about, it’s here for all to see.

What I have done is come to the end of my 1,000 Miles in 2013 Challenge. It was big enough to warrant capitals, it really was. At times it looked promising – my first three months were all over 100 miles and for a moment I thought I could get to 1,200 miles. After that, and with a move of house things went a bit downhill. April just made it past 50 miles. May was better. June was shocking, only making it over 100 miles because I ran my first ultra and added 69 miles to the total.

As we wheeled into December I needed just under 100 miles to get there. And guess what, I made it! On December 31, I got up early, wandered out and trotted off 10 miles to get me just over 1,000 miles. Wahey!

So what next for 2014? Well, I’ve got a couple of ultras booked in – Glasgow to Edinburgh in April and the Kintyre Way in May. I’m hoping to get a place in the Marathon du Medoc – a marathon through French vineyards, with wine-tasting on the way. 🙂

Right now, it’s a bit of a rest – my left tendon is a bit wonky, and a few days off should see it right.

Have a great new year everyone – hope it’s runny.



Nearly there…

Posted: 27/12/2013 in Uncategorized

Ooh, so that’s me down to under 20 miles to go. 

At the start of today I had 33.7 miles to go to make my 1,000 miles during 2013.

I now need 19.7 miles to get to the end.

That was a tough 14 miles. My left tendon around my ankle was sore from start to finish. My right one was bad a week or so ago – it recovered. But, lefty has stubbornly refused to get with the programme.

I’ve got five days left after today, which seems like much better odds after getting those fourteen out of the way. If I could only invent a time machine it would be a no-brainer.

Of course, there’s the small matter of the uber-storm that’s just arrived. Who ordered that?

Probably better get to the sales tomorrow and get the parts for that time machine, eh?

Oh yes, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year while I’m on – one being early, the other a bit late.

Rock on!

It could be early, because it’s sorted out already, or late because it’s not happening until May. 


In a fit of forward-looking excitement, I’ve booked up to run the Kintyre Way in May 2014. Because I’m not totally deluded with my speed or ability to climb big hills, I’ve entered the half-ultra, at a very reserved 35.5 miles, starting from Tayinloan at 9:30am and running to Campbeltown with a cut-off of 9:00pm. If I go a bit wrong in the mean time, I can change to the full-blooded 67 miles and get an extra three and a half hours, starting at 6:00am from Tarbert. At the moment, I don’t think I’ll be changing up to the longer run, as it’s going to be a bit of a Team Angrybees full-scale outing.

I’ve booked us into the Ardshiel Hotel for a few days before, and we’re going to make a bit of a holiday of it – while we lived in the Borders for a few years, it’ll be the first actual holiday we’ve had there since our honeymoon. Fingers crossed for lovely weather and marvellous sunsets.  Ardshiel Hotel won the 2013 Scottish Field Whisky Bar of the Year award, so I’m thinking there may just be something to do if it does rain of an evening.

As the Kintyre Way is part of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series, along with April’s Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra and the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra that I ran back in October, that gives me enough runs to get a final score. When the first set of results came out a week or two again I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were a few folk between me and the end of the list – I knew there were a couple who finished behind me at Jedburgh, but there’s now a good 17 folk separating me from last place.

Oh yes, Campbeltown is also the home of the Springbank Distillery. 🙂

Over the summer I picked up one of these tops, it’s lightweight, quilted and designed for running in the cold. It’s also orange, which is pretty good in my book. As it was warmish over the summer I’ve not had the chance to try it out, but now the weather is a bit colder I’ve had it out a few times. I’ll be honest and say the colder the better – in less cold weather I’ve sweated a remarkable amount, but in the quest to bring my views to you, gentle reader, I’ve stuck with it. I bet you’re glad… 🙂


The Thermoshell comes with it’s own fabulous wee stuff sac, it’s goes to about the size of a butternut squash (sorry, vegetable comparisons only), and weighs virtually nothing. Inov-8’s website says 260g, and I’m not one to argue.

The first thing you notice is it’s pretty thin – I thought maybe too thin, but then when you consider you generate heat while running it might just work out. As a larger framed chap I found that I fit into a medium pretty much spot on. I was a little surprised, as was the man in the shop who said he’d pegged me as a large. Thanks there. It peels off well, without needing to turn myself inside out, but I’d be worried about putting on much Christmas weight or it might get a bit snug around the middle (that’s the battle zone of my weight, too much fatty food and there it goes, like I had a sponsorship deal from Michelin*).

A nice long zip on the front, some nifty thumb loops on the arms (I’ll be honest, I think thumb loops are very cool, but I’ve only rarely ever actually used them) and a chest pocket big enough a few bits and bobs and you’re away.

Hang on, one more thing to think about – right way in or inside out?

What, I hear you ask, have you finally lost it?

Well, probably, but one of the genius things about this top is that it’s reversible. One (orange) side is smooth, with the other (black) side being quilted. If you have the quilt on the inside, it supposedly retains more heat (I’m not an engineer, so don’t ask me how). Does it work? Well, yes, I think it does – I ran some of the colder runs recently with the orange side out and I swear it was warmer than the other way around. Inov-8 say 10% warmer, so lets work on that basis. All I know is one side I’m the orange ninja of smooth warmth, and on the other I’m the black ninja or quilted warmth. Interestingly the black side also has reflective bits on it, so it’s bizarrely better to run in at night. The orange side is Pertex Quantum, so it should be pretty wind-proof. The black side is “air permeable”, so I guess that explains everything…?

For me, the fit is perfect, it’s like a glove. I’ve worn it on it’s own, with a Nathan VaporWrap and it’s done fine. It has very good wind resistance, and when I’ve been out in a shower it’s never felt wet any more than the amount of moisture I’ve built up. A word on that too – when I’ve worn it when the weather’s not been so cold, and when I’ve worn it with a pack especially, I’ve managed to build up a fair bit of moisture in the back. I’ve never noticed it while running, but when I take it off it’s sometimes shiny wet on the inside. I stick it on a chair by the fire and it dries off double quick time.

To be honest, I’m waiting for some truly shabby cold weather before I can report back on just how well it performs. As it’s small, I could just about fit it in my pack to put on over a running top if I stop or slow down. Another good thing is it’s a synthetic fill, Primaloft Sport, so not only does it cope well when wet (or sweaty) but it also doesn’t involve any animal products (I think, sent an e-mail to check, so will report back – update,  they came back super-quick, it’s totally animal free, so groovy if you’re a vegan runner – I also found out they’re just down the road from me in Crook, and they have a sale last Friday of the month… interesting!).

Price-wise, it wasn’t the cheapest thing I’ve bought, coming in at ÂŁ108, but it compares favourably to the price of my Berghaus Ignite jacket, for example, which at ÂŁ120 is a bit too insulated for running in. I’ve not seen anything quite similar to it, so I think it fills it’s niche very well. Teamed up with a waterproof shell I think it would be an ideal combination for deep winter running in the hills.

*Other tyre company jokes are available.

<snap> what’s that? is it a deer? <rustle> must be a deer, right? it wouldn’t be a ghost, ghosts don’t rustle, do they? <flump> what’s that flumping over there? is that a pair of eyes? are they green, like a deer, or red like a goblin? <crash> ohh, if only I hadn’t started thinking about ghosts…

A night run is a good way to mildly terrify yourself. So far, it’s also been a pretty safe way to terrify myself, in the woods in the dark, just me and the deer, the very occasional dog walker (two in total to date) and the ghosts and goblins.

Or are there?

I was out and about last night, and having just read about John Steele’s fantastic achievement of The Hill, 160 miles in 55 laps up and down the same hill, particularly the bit where he said he saw someone at the side of the path on the last few laps, dressed in Victorian clothing, who didn’t speak to him. So you’ll appreciate the thoughts of ghosts were already fairly well rooted in the ol’ brain box.

To date I’ve worried mostly about badgers, and rightly so, you know their jaws lock when they bite and you can’t get them to let go? See, told you it was good to be a bit worried. Well, last night I had a fleeting moment thinking about ghosts – the woods had a line going through them to transport coal, it feels like there’s a fair chance some kind of unfortunate event must have happened there at some point, right?

Well, I had a moment thinking that, then the oddest thing, I felt my brow go cold, my head tighten up and realised I had just managed to scare myself. Not the adrenaline-fuelled scare of having something leap out at you, more the sensation of dread. I’m not saying it was lovely, but it was quite interesting to actually feel it happening.

During the rest of the run I managed to scare myself a few more times – there’s a deer, or is it, I can’t see it’s eyes. More thoughts about ghosts, which was scary when you start thinking about the opening scene of Ghostbusters.  What’s the etiquette with ghost, do you talk to it, or do you jog past with a jaunty (aha, I typed ‘haunty’ there originally by accident, that’s spooky) wave? I know if you see a pixie you shouldn’t talk to it or is it that you shouldn’t dance with it, maybe I can’t remember after all.

The other thing I learned was that when the woods go from a calm night to a mild breeze, the first wave sweeps over the trees from one side to the other. From peaceful calm I heard a mild noise behind me, which grew slowly until it sounded like the world might just end – it swept in from behind and now I was looking in the sky for a plane, but it was all around me and suddenly is washed over the top and headed off in front. I realised what it was just before it passed over, which is probably lucky as the other option would have been to wee myself in terror. On another, less mildly spooky night, it would have been fine, I’m sure, but not last night, everything was bigger and louder and stranger than normal.

In summary, get out there and terrify yourself. It’s amazing. Better to do it in the woods than terrify yourself trying to run through the centre of Newcastle on a Friday night, that would be properly worrying…

I own a GPS watch with a “Virtual Partner” – while you run, your virtual partner runs too, and it’s up to you to keep up or ahead of the blighter as you will in order to avoid “Virtual Embarrassment”. So far so good.

Until last week, I’ve never used this fantastic facility, but I decided to have a pop and see.

My first surprise, on pressing the button, was the chap who sprang out of the face of the watch, much like Automan. I’m pretty sure he was Australian though – I suspect all the Aussies who used to work in bars in the 90’s have gone on to work in the cyberweb…

“G’day mate”, he said, which was what tipped me off – “what pace?”.

As I was feeling frisky, I suggested a nice 10 minute mile, that’s me “on a good day” (but without the aid of Berocca), and off we set. At first he trailed behind me, which I assumed was down to my fabulous athletic prowess. A minute, two minutes ahead, and I was starting to lose sight of his gleaming presence behind me in the dark woods.

Then I started up a hill – and as I was also trying to run in Zone 2 or Zone 3 for my heart rate I slowed down a bit to compensate.

Now it became clear that his approach was one of aggressive lulling, in which he allowed to feel like a smug winner while all the time he was just motoring along at a steady 10 minute mile. It also appeared that he was probably using some kind of performance enhancing substance, as he maintained the pave up the hill – no-one does that without at least a jelly baby or two to gee them along.

When I reached the top I was only a minute ahead, and struggled to extend that by a few seconds on the flat. Down a hill and another ten or fifteen seconds in the bag, but then up the return and he was gaining on me once more. I nearly died getting up that hill in the lead. I may have coughed out a lung, but as that would have halved the burning ache it seemed like a small price to pay.

Back onto the straight and even here my pace was woeful, hovering a bit over the ten minute mark, but with only a mile to go and his sizzling e-self gaining I sprang into an uber-plod and managed to get down to the target speed.

Along the road to home and a kidney coughed out this time – no clear why I needed two to begin with, other than to raise some funds selling one, so again no great miss. I got to the end and stopped the watch – an average pace of 9:54 and a loss of of some non-essential organs that only served to reduce my racing weight.

On the one hand a ringing success. On the other an endorsement of my belief that I am a solitary runner, even in a virtual sense.

I would have posted sooner, but I can only just breathe properly again now…