Monday, 30 July 2012

Olympic Challenge Day 4 : 6.5 miles run, 44 miles down, 161 to go.

  Run, 6 1/2 miles, 0:55:00, Average HR 147, Calories 550
  Total 44 miles
  Distance to go: 161 miles

Felt stiff today, classic case of Delayed Muscle Soreness, the previous days Callander Highland Games Race was tough for sure - but loads of fun!

Today I took it easy, just complete 6 1/2 miles of easy running up past Keltie Bridge and then around our estate.  After a mostly cloudy day the evening turned sunny so I got a beautiful view looking west towards Ben Ledi.

I had planned to add in a 6 mile cycle to complete my 12 miles for the day but just felt a bit flat on my return so often for a nice a hot shower and sit down to watch the Olympics instead!

Not doing the cycle today means than I'm now 4 miles behind my schedule, but have plenty of time to catch up and would rather make sure I'm safely recovered from the hill race so not too concerned.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympic Challenge Day 3 : 12 miles run, walk, cycle, 37 miles down, 168 to go.

Summary:  Cylcle, then walk, then cycle, then jog, the walk back, total 3 3/4 miles
  Hill Race, 8 1/2 miles, 1:14:57, Average HR 172, Calories 1010
  Total 37.9 mile
  Distance to go: 168 miles

Today was the Callander Highland Games Hill Race, a 8 1/2 miles, 1500ft ascent/descent hill race.

In the morning I helped check part of Hill Race route to make sure all the flags and signs were still in place.  My section to check took up along the spin of the Crags and then down through the woodland of central Crags path.  Listening to the birds signing and gentle calm ambiance of the woodland in the morning light was hypnotic and beautiful.

The effects of spring storms are still very evident and stark reminder of how something that for now was tranquil and seemingly untouched haven not so long ago was a torn apart by hurricane force winds.

After the gentle walk up the Crags I ate an mid morning snack of fruit and yoghurt, the race was at 1:30pm and registration before meant little time for lunch.   My plan for the race was to treat it as a tempo run and not push it too hard - the race comes right at the start of my Olympic Challenge and racing hard presents a big injury risk.  Despite my attempts of treating the race as a low key event just for fun the nerves kicked in, people talk of butterflies in the stomach, I seem to get fireflies with a payload of laxatives!

This year the race was starting within the Highland Games ring with a lane marketed out around the outside of the ring just for the Hill Race.  This meant that at the beginning and the end of the race we'd be running within feet of the spectators.   This certainly added to special quality of being part of bigger event - normally fell and ultra runners turn up to a remote location with crowd of die hard runners for company.

At the start there was lots of familiar faces, both young and old, there were also unfamiliar faces and even so not so British accents.  Unfortunately Prasad was around to defend his tittle, he claims to be training to represent Britain.  Poor excuse, surely one could just use it as a tempo run like I was... intending too...

The race started, we ran, we walked, we ran, some fell, puffed a lot and finally back to final loop around the field.  I will write up more soon but right now it's getting late so I'll return to this post later.   Follows are photo's of the winners.

And just a final photo to show my kids what they missed by not coming along this year!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Olympic Challenge Day 2 : 20 mile cycle, 25 miles down 180 to go


    20.5 mile cycle, 1:51:43, Calories 753
    Total 25.7 miles,  3:27:13, Calories 1533
    Distance to go: 180 miles, on schedule
    Countries honoured: Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia*, Austria*,
    Azerbaijan, Bahamas*, Bangladesh, Barbados, Burundi, Belgium*, Belize,  
    Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bahrain, Botswana 
    (* denotes countries we've visited in our travels)

I awoke at 6am and after half an hour knew I wasn't getting back to sleep with the light seeping through the blinds, so decided to get in some miles before the rest of the family awoke.   My right calf was still tender so it was to dust of the mountain bike, oil the chain, pump up the tires and head out for my longest cycle in 10 months. 

My mountain bike doesn't get too much love when I'm not injured and able to run, while biking is fun it just isn't ingrained in my soul like running is.  The lack of time on the bike also means that I'm close to as slow a cyclist as I am a swimmer.  As I'm planning to do a Olympic distance Triathlon as part of Olympic Challenge it does make sense to put some miles in on the bike as practice, it's also a gentle work out for my strained calf and allows me to get back on schedule to do the full 205 miles over the 17 days of the Olympics.

The sky was overcast and light rain was falling when I set off at 7am for a circuit around Loch Venachar and Loch Achray.  As often is the case with days like this, even an overcast sky doesn't take away from the beauty of Trossachs, the clouds bring their own contrasts of lighting, perspectives and dynamics to the mountains.  Along the route I stopped a couple of times to take photo's, first is of the trail through the forest along the south side of Loch Venachar:

After leaving the shores of Loch Venchar you head across meadow to Loch Achray and get rewarded with great views of Ben Venue ahead to the west, Ben 'An to northwest:

 Along the south shore of Loch Achray you get some loverly framed views of Ben 'An and Trossachs church that has done many a postcard:

At mile 10 one leaves the trails and joins the road that leads back along the north shores of Loch Achray and Loch Venachar back to Callander.  Too many tourist buses negotiate this little road to stop and take photo's so I just got my head down and got home just before 9am.  It may have been drizzling for half the ride but such a loverly route you can't helped be cheered by the excursion.

Last time I did this route was back in August 2011, then I did it as a tempo cycle and did it in 1:38 so today's time of 1:51 was rather sedimentary.  Recovery from the calf niggle and enjoying my time out is my priority so very happy to take it easy.  The gentle ride looks have done the trick, my calf this afternoon has been much more comfortable, both less tender to touch and far more comfortable when doing stretches.

Tomorrow is the Callander Highland Games Hill Race, my only organized race during my Olympic Challenge.  Racing while doing an multi-day endurance challenge is risky, especially when one has a niggle, so I'll not race flat out.

Olympic Challenge Day 1: 5 miles down 200 to go


    1 mile swim, time 0:58:00, estimated calories 425
    4.2 miles run, time 0:37:30 , average HR 143, calories 355
    Total 5.2 miles, time 1:35:30, calories 780
    Distance to go : 200 miles, 7 miles behind schedule
    Countries honoured : Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra,
    Antigua and Barbuda, Angola

Waking up on the first day of my challenge with a knotted right calf was not a great start.  I now think I probably had a calf cramp during the night which strained my soleus muscle and made it so tender when I awoke. Massage helped but through the day it stay tender so I scrapped my plans for a half marathon distance run, and it rather puts a cloud over the prospects of completing the challenge of 205 miles in the 17 days of the Olympics. 

With a longer run off the agenda and injury recovery my main priority I opted to do go swimming at the McLaren Leisure Centre, with my two youngest children, Gwen and Ellen.  We had an just over an hour at the pool so I did lengths with the girls till they completed their planned 40 lengths of 20m pool (half a mile) and then they went to play while I continued on.  I'm not a good or particularly enthusiastic swimmer, only frequent the pool when taking the girls so rarely do I ever swim 40 lengths, and the furthest I'd swam before is 50 lengths (1km) which I passed in around 35 minutes.

I was deliberately keeping an easy pace, but just how easy was proven when a twenty something swimmer joined me doing lengths - I started getting passed ever half dozen lengths... While my breathing and heart-rate were not being taxed by the swimming my runners physic was starting to show signs of being a bit wimpy, after 50 minutes my shoulders were presenting signs of fatigue. After 58mins I finally hit my target of 80 1/2 lengths, 1610m which just over a mile.

To put this perspective, a quick search of the web tips up a world record for 1500m at 14:34, which is 15:37 pace for the mile, so I think quick can safely that my time of 58mins is rather feeble.  To hammer the point home Ellen finished one length complaining that I was hogging too much of the lane so she couldn't pass me and she's only 8!!  The difference between my swimming fitness and running fitness is rather stark - an easy paced mile swim I'm 4 times slower than the world best, while my easy paced marathon of 4 hours is only twice as slow as the world best at the marathon.  Clearly I'm in need of some serious swimming coaching...

Still swimming 1500m is all that is required for the Olympic distance Triathlon so now I've ticked that distance off for the first time stringing it together with a 40km mile cycle  and 10km run feels much more attainable - as long as I forgo any pretensions of racing.

After evening dinner I squeezed in quick recovery paced run with Ellen on her bike, coming along to be part of the challenge and to take photo's.  We did a 4 mile out/back, my calf felt fine on the way out - the swim obvious did it so good working out some of the tightness.

At the 2 mile return point we stopped to do some playful pictures.  Doing leaps for the camera resulted in a twinge of pain from my strained calf.  Clowning around is part of being a parent, but being a dork w.r.t injury really is no way to complete a big challenge.

On the way back Ellen struggled a little with tired legs so required a few power boosts from Dad, lots of fun for Ellen, not sure about healing injuries though... At the end of the 4 miles run my calf was more tender than was before so am rather regretting the silly antics.

On our return home we watched the Olympic Open Ceremony which was just awesome, thoroughly impressed by the engineering achievement and execution, especially in the industrial revolution sequence.  Overall it was  funny, entertaining, daft, a little bit sinister in turns and ever included a live performance of exerts/reworkings of one my favourite albums Tubular Bells so what's not to like!

I iced and massaged calf during Ceremony, it's tender but doesn't feel torn so I'm optimistic that with care it might heal OK.  Reflecting on the day 1 mile swim, 4 mile run, so 5 miles in total, well behind my required average of 12 miles a day, but every mile counts, 5 down, 200 miles to go!

Friday, 27 July 2012

My Olympic Challenge, 205 miles in 17 days

The Challenge:

To Run, Walk, Swim and Cycle 205 miles, one mile for each country entered into the 2012 Olympic Games, and to complete them during the 17 days of the Games - from the 27th July 2012 to 12th August 2012.


To enter myself and my young family into the Olympic Spirit, not by watching but actually doing some of the events that the athletes themselves will be undertaking. 

I also want to honour the people of all the countries entering the Olympics, and with have enlisted my children to do research and blog about what they find about each country as I tick the miles off.

It's also a huge challenge and I love challenges!  The most I've run in a week before is 62 miles, the week I ran the Highland Fling back in April, for this challenging I'll be averaging 84 miles per week, more than double my usual training mileage.  This might anything great a mileage for better athletes but for me it's huge challenge.  Can my body cope?

My hope is that setting myself a difficult Challenge it'll provide some inspiration to others, in particular my children, that even when something is hard, or even seen to be a little crazy, when one puts on mind to it you can achieve amazing things.  I also hope it'll allow them to understand just how talented the Olympic Athletes are, and just how much sacrifice and effort that they will have put in to get to the top.


To celebrate the endurance events I'll be aiming to do Marathon's on each of the Womens Marathon and Mens Marathon Days - the 5th and 12th of August. and an Olympic Distance Triathlon, the Mens event is on the 7th of August.  
I have also entered into Callander Highland Games Hill Race, a 8 3/4 mile hill run with 1500ft ascent/descent, which will be run on 29th of August.  These four key days will be the foundation that I'll work all the rest of my daily runs, swims and cycles around. 

I have never run Marathon's on consecutive weekends before, and I've never even done a Triathlon before let alone a Olympic distance one and it two days after a Marathon is clearly a big ask.  I am not a great swimmer or cyclist but how hard can swimming a 1500m and then cycling 40km and then running 10k be?

The only way I can possibly achieve this is to take things easy - so I'll be aiming to do most of my running at 8 min/mile pace or slower, for Marathon's I'll be aiming for around 4 hour Marathon - half the pace of Olympic champions.  I'd expect to need to consume on average an extra 1000 Calories a day.  That means lots of eating and since I love eating this is a double bonus!

Around these days I'll be working on keeping myself in shape to do the Marathons and Trialthon, so the first week will be higher daily miles then tapering for the first Marathon on the 5th, then light recovery run the next day, then the Trialthon, then a light recovery run, and then easy days that taper to the final Marathon on the 12th.

This first week I will need to put away an average of 12.5 miles a day, and will be putting in swims, cycles and runs to make sure that I'm better prepared for the Trialthon and also to reduce the risk of injury of piling on some many miles running.

Also being a bit of geek I'll be logging my resting heart rate each morning, and my heart/calories consumed during the events too.


This morning, the first day of my Challenge, I awoke at 4am to a tender and knotted right calf (my soleus), this has eased off through the morning but is still a bit tender.  I am really surprised to get this niggle as my calves have been tough as old boots all year and they haven't caused my any discomfort in any of my recent runs.  I have had plenty of issues with my hip flexors and right Achilles since the Autumn of last year, but over the last two weeks these have settled down almost completely.  Will my calf niggle get worse or ease off?  Will by Hip Flexors or Achilles problems return as I up the mileage?

To minimize the risks I'll need to take the next two days easy running wise, to see how my calf strain responds, then I'm straight into the Highland Games Hill Race on Sunday (29th August).  If all goes well up the mileage through next week and then taper down.  To make up the mileage I'll put in some time on the bike, in the pool, and if weather permitting some swimming in one the local Lochs such as Loch Venachar.


My family will be supporting, and in particular Gwen, aged 10, and Ellen, aged 8 have plans on taking photo's and accompanying my on bikes or in the pool.  They will also be providing guest blog entires to tell everyone about what they've found out about the countries.

If members of the running community fancy coming out on any of the days that I'll be running, cycling or swimming then just let me know via a blog comment or email and we can coordinate from there.  I'll be using Callander as a base and start place for most of the days and will be staying within the Trossachs when completing the daily events.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Callander Highland Games Route

I have run the planned route for the 2012 Callander Highland Games Hill Race, below are details of the route and pictures to inform and entice you to run the route/race!   The race will be held at Sunday 29th July, start at 1:30pm, according to my phone's GPS record will be roughly 8 3/4 miles long with 1500ft ascent/descent.  For entry to the race head over to the Skidaddle website.

I recorded the route on my HTC One S phone using the SportyPal application, this provided distance and approximate ascent/descent, as well as GPX for route which have imported into GoogleMaps page, to see the route click on:

     Callander Highland Games Hill Race Route.

The start of the race will be from the Highland Games Ring which you'll exit and head to the south to exit the field and turn left at the track which leads up to  Geisher Road passing the Fire Station and Medical centre that will be on your right.  Note, if you click on any of the images below you'll get full screen high rest version that you can step through, slideshow style.

At the end of Geisher Road cross straight over the A84 at the pedestrian traffic lights and head uphill along the track.

At end of track turn right and head along the tarmaced cycle path

The cycle path will go through a shorted wooded avenue and then to open farmland where you'll get an excellent view of Tom Duh - the first open hill you'll climb, pictured below at the left hand side.  On the right hand side of the picture you'll see a farmhouse amongst a trees, you'll follow the cycle track up around to the left of the farm house, then keep on the track and pass a caravan park which will be your right.

Follow the track out in the open farmland and then follow it round to the left where you'll head gently and through the forest.  After a third of mile you'll come to the junction below, just head straight on and continue uphill.

Follow the track uphill, ignore small paths off the right and downhill, stay within the track/forest break until you emerge from the woodland

Keep following the track for 50m till you each a junction, take the right hand path

Head downhill

You emerge from the woodland with the new Bracklin bridge infront of you, cross it

From the bridge spectecular views of the Bracklin Falls can be seen to left

And the right
After the bridge follow the track up around to the left and then down to run along the stony track along the right hand side of the river
Follow the track as it narrows and heads uphill via a couple of switch backs, at the top you'll meet a fence, cross over the fence and head right

After negotiating a few bushy obstacles you'll emerge on the hill side and vista will open up providing views of the the Ochills, Stirling and Edinburgh to the east, the Gargunnock hills to the south and the Menith hills, Ben Guilipen to the right
After a 1/2 mile along the track you'll reach a junction, follow left hand track uphill and begin your ascent of Tom Duh.

The track will quickly peter out to grass and heather slope, head uphill toward the left hand side of the prominent rock up Tom Duh

Then go straight uphill to the top of Tom Duh, you'll now have 360 degrees of wonderful views to enjoy

Head down of Tom Duh towards the forest, cross the fence at the style/gate and then follow open hillside up keeping to the right of the woodland.  At the summit you'll get great views of the Munros Stuc a'Chron and Ben Vorlich to the north. Straight ahead there is a track, continue downhill to where the track meets the forest.
Once you get to the track turn left and across/through the gate and then downhill following the track for 1/4 mile to a junction, take the right hand track downhill.  As you descent downhill to the left will be the Scout Pool - a great place to cool after a run!

At the bottom of the track cross the flat concrete bridge that goes across the river Teith, through the gate and then follow the track uphill, then turn left along the tarmac road for half a mile

The road goes through a lightly wooded section, then near the end of this wood the road heads left, to the right there is a muddy entrance to a track that heads up through the woods towards Crags summit.  After the short wooded ascent you'll emerge to a great view of the moors and mountains to the north

Follow the path left and uphill

As you near the summit you'll see the Queen Elizabeth Monument, Loch Venachar will be straight ahead to the wst with Ben Ledi looking down from the north west

Follow the path past the Monument and start descending along the path, a glance to the left will provide a great view of Calander, the Highland Games Field is right in the middle of the shot below, 5 1/2 miles down, 3 1/4 miles all downhill to go!

After a short scramble down rocks follow the steeped path that head straight down a gully 

At the bottom of the steps dance like a merry sailor through the meadow following the path down into the woodland

After some steep and very fast downhill running you'll come to a sharp right turn in the path, but here go left along a much smaller path into the woods

You will pass a concrete covered water works building which will be on your right and then soon after emerge onto Bracklin Road, turn left uphill and then after 50m turn right along the path towards Bracklin Falls.  After half a mile you will come to junction, take the track to the right

And head downhill for 100m, ducking under fallen trees, then follow the track around the left. The track will underlater for a third of mile then rise gently to a junction, go right downhill - you are now back on the route you came up at the start of the race
Follow the track downhill, then as you leave the woodland the track goes right and rewards you with a great view looking west towards Ben Ledi
Go past the farm and join the cycle path going right and westwards, go the past new house estate on left, after quarter of mile further take the left track downhill back to the A84, cross straight over at the lights and into Geiser Road. Opposite the Fire Station on the left you will see the main entrace to the Highland Games, follow this track back to the Highland Games Ring and soak up the applause!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Introduction to Trossachs Trail Runner

Welcome to my new blog, Trossachs Trail Runner, which I hope will capture the experiences I have, the events that are happening and where I love to run so that others can share in what I love doing and learn about this beautiful place that I call home.

A picture is worth a thousands words, so I'll keep this first post short on words and post a few pictures I've taken over the past few months.  Follow is a from the south shore of Loch Venachar looking north towards Ben Ledi.

View from south shore of Loch Venachar looking north Towards Ben Ledi

View of Loch Venachar from the top of Ben Guilipen, part of 9.4 mile, 1200ft ascent/descent, loop I run regular from my house.

View from top of Ben Guilipen, looking north towards Loch Venachar and Ben Ledi.