Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Aberfoyle Trail Race : Race Details

This Saturday (2nd March) my youngest daughter Ellen, aged 8, and I will be running in the new Aberfoyle Trail Race. This will be Ellen's first race outside of school and by far the longest as well at 2km long and hilly too so it will be great challenge for her to tackle.  We will be running around together so I'm really looking forward to accompanying her.

To find out about the details for the day I asked Maz Frater, the Project Manager of Skiddle, a few questions not provided on the Skidaddle website, I'll add to these the details on the website so it's all in one place.

Saturday 2nd March. Registration 9:30am to 10:10am.

David Marshall Lodge, above Aberfoyle.  Park up and register at the lodge and then wander down to waterfall for the start.

What races are there and who can enter?
The 2km route is open to ages from 5 years upwards.  Children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult, above 8 is down the parents discretion.

The 4km route is open to Juniors (12-15 years) and Seniors (16+).

The 7km route is open to only Seniors (16+).

All races are open to the cairncross competitors - dog and human are harnessed together and run as a team.

Race start time?
The 2km, 4km and 7km races all start together at 10:20am. The caincross competitors will be have a staggered start, starting 10 minutes before the start of the human only race.

Race routes?
All routes follow the hilly forest trails that go in anti-clockwise loops in the forest  to the east of the Lodge.  Start and finish will be just down from the waterfall.  All routes follow the trails in an anticlockwise direction, with the 2km turning left uphill of the main trail first, then the 4km turns uphill of the left further on and then finally the 7km route does the same heading up and over the hill before looping back downhill towards the finish.

I have created three route maps using googlemaps based on routes marked on an OS map, while these might not be perfect they should give you a good idea of the route.
Race entry?
Online entry can be done via the skiddle website.  Prices are £6 for Juniors and £10 for Seniors.  Entry on the day subject to availability.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Running in Frosted Cheesecake to Running on Sunshine!

The last week on running has brought some amazing contrasts, last Wednesday I was running in fresh snow, at the weekend running by mist shrouded lochs to the last two days of brilliant sunshine.

On Wednesday 13th I was planning on heading into Glasgow to attend as a participant of Msc study at Strathcyde University into effect barefoot/minimal running on balance and risk of ankle injury compared to conventionally shod runners.  Running a far number of miles in Vivobarefoot Neo Trails + Inov-8 Bare-X 180's seems to qualify me as a barefoot/minimalist runner.  Unfortunately, snow overnight and in the morning meant road conditions were too iffy to risk heading in so... instead of hoping around in lab I got to head out for a lunchtime run in the fresh snow, time to be kid once more :-)

My route took north and uphill through the woods around Bracklin Falls
The underfoot conditions were rather strange due to the nature of the weather - warm air from an occluded front slide over the cold air dropping rain into cold air producing a cross between snow and hail.  As I ran up and the down hills I got to experience a range of stages of falling ice and snow, when I turned into the strong wind on my return leg the mix was pretty harsh on any exposed skin.  The peculiar snow/ice mixture underfoot was dense and viscous and best described as running in frosted cheesecake! 

Bracklin bridge, alas my phone camera couldn't capture it well in the low light
View from south Bracklin bridge, looking back to location of previous photo
View north from Brackin Bridge and the direction I'd be following
A mile or so later looking south towards the Scout Pool
Two days later the sun was out and had melted the majority of the snow, since our three girls were all off on half term holidays we took them out for a family walk along the part of the same route as my run two days earlier.
At the Keltie Bridge pond we were greeted by two hungry swans
Heading up the farm track towards Bracklin Falls, looking back west towards Ben Gulipen and Ben Ledi

The next day I woke before the rest of the family and headed out for a 15 mile long run, my longest so far this year.  I went out with just a small drink of water, no tea to wake me properly and no breakfast in my belly.  This is part of my fat burning training plan for the Fling - as much as possible all my runs are running without carbo loading or in flight refuelling.  Boy I was sleepy though, my whole run I just plodded along at 9 min/mile pace, my body just wouldn't respond to going any faster.  Not that I needed or wanted to, but it was an odd feeling just to be stuck in one gear.  Perhaps the misty conditions and lack of sunlight had something to do with my lack of wakefulness... 

My run took my up the hill side overlooking Loch Venachar then down along the south bank on my return leg. 
There was absolutely no wind so loch was a mill pond with amazing mirror perfect reflections.
Beautiful and quite, add low glycogen and lack of caffeine and you have a surreal and magical experience
The following day (Sunday) I didn't run, but had loverly walk with my family along the board walk at Brig O'turk on route to a lunch at the Byre Inn.

View from the board walk, looking west towards Ben Venue

On Monday the girls were back at school and the sun was shining so headed out for a lunchtime run from Callander up Bochastle Hill.

3 miles in and 400ft up, view looking south towards the Loch Venachar and Ben Ledi, note ice on far side of the loch.
Near to top of the route, looking north towards Loch Lubnaig
Today the weather was just as glorious so for another lunchtime run I headed up Ben Gulipen.
The route up Ben Gulipen follows forest trails, the temperature contrast of shade to sun was startling, really feels like spring might not be too far away
At the top of Ben Gulipen I turned back at the masts, and took a snap of the view south towards Kippen and Glengoyne (part of the West Highland Way and the Fling!)
View east towards the Ochills and Stirling, kinda flat out there!
Ahh that's better, proper Trossachs mountain view - Loch Venchar below and Ben Ledi, Stuc a' Chroin and Ben More to the north.
It's extraordinary to look back at these photo's as the contrasts in the conditions of just one week. As much fun as playing in the snow is, the last two days running in the sun was just plain awesome.  Working from home and living in the Trossachs just spoils me rotten :-)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Snow, Ice, Wind, Rain and Floods

New Years Day, above Scout Pool Looking north towards Stuc A'Chroin
In January my training began in earnest for my next race, the 53 mile Highland Fling.  Last year I had to take building up my weekly mileage very slowly as I was nursing hip flexor injury, only logging 92 miles in January, this year I have been able to up the mileage surprisingly quickly and logged 191 miles, my second highest monthly mileage ever!

One aspect to my training last year that worked well was running 5 or more days a week and adding in recovery run before and after longer or more intense runs.  In January I started off quite easy but on the 11th I just got the training bug and decided to see just how many days on the trot I could run.  My first day off was yesterday, after 31 days running ever day, covering 226 miles and 14,000ft of ascent and descent.

Running every day introduces different mental and physical challenges - the weather through January and into February has certainly been full on winter running.  Rather than wimp out on tough days I've deliberately just got on with it, one can't choose the weather on race day, so getting my head around just going out running in wild weather is all part of the preparation.  Full on weather has it's own beauty and raw charm, not only is the physical self exposed but the mental self too.

I have one thing that draws me out everyday, I am utterly beguiled by the Trossachs, it's quite simply an awesome place to get outside and run.  As I work for myself and from home it's easy to head out for a lunch time run.  Here's a sample of my runs over the last month:

A few weeks later, same view as first photo, now available in White :-)
After climbing Bochastle Hill looking north towards Loch Lubnaig
Early morning half marathon route out along shores of Loch Venachar

Crossing the River Teith in Callander after a night of heavy snow
Looking north east back towards Callander from Inver-trossachs Road
Still on Inver-trossachs Road, now at the east end of Loch Venachar
After the snow had thawed we got flooding in Callander and surrounding fields and roads

Then to frosts, and on early run through the woodland of the lower crags path I startled a roe deer
Another batch of cold air swept through, snow and ice returned
Followed by another thaw, high winds and tempestuous squalls
And back to snow, on the flank of Ben Ledi once more, looking north
After another thaw, got up Ben Gulipen and at the summit saw a float plane
It's great uploading the photo's, reminds me just how much fun I have had getting in shape for the Fling, and how lucky I get to live and work here in the Trossachs.  Two and half months to go now and I'm already near to shape I was in when I completed the Fling last year and when I did my 10k PB back in summer.

I currently still in aerobic base building/conditioning phase, so keeping my runs modest in length and intensity, but mixing them up, lots of hills, some marathon paced runs but keeping comfortably below lactate threshold, lots of easy to moderate runs and some recovery runs when I feel the need.

The only damper is that I've picked up a niggle in my left calf that developed when running on all the ice and snow and hasn't settled yet, so will be avoiding long training runs and high intensity work for a while longer.  With snow forecast for the next few days it looks like I'll be doing more gleeful battling of the elements!