Ring of Steall Skyrace Weekend

A month ago yesterday was the Ring of Steall Skyrace, part of a phenomenal weekend put together by the Skyline Scotland team, Ourea Events and the amazing people that make up the mountain running community.

This was my big race of 2016. I was trying something new (skyrunning: big ascents, tough terrain), flirting with ultra running time-on-your-feet territory, and pushing my boundaries physically, but most importantly, mentally. I learned so much about myself during the entire training period, about what I can do, how my mind puts limitations on my abilities, and how to continue to push through mental barriers. In a way, when it comes to trail running, I grew up.

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The weekend started with a drive in the dark from our home in Aberdeenshire to Kinlochleven, the location of the Skyline Scotland race weekend, as well as Ice Factor, the very important event centre. Pat and I arrived at Ice Factor with minutes to spare before registration shut. Thankfully, we were the only ones registering at the time, despite the many competitors lingering about the place. We picked up our race bibs and maps, got our dibbers fastened onto our wrists, got photos taken, picked up our complimentary race t-shirt, and got our kit bags checked by staff. We also impulse-purchased the Skyline Scotland hoodies. It was then off to our accommodation to attempt to unpack, unwind and get some sleep before the biggest race of our lives.

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Four Munros and a Marathon: week 3

This September and October, I’ll be running two tough races, three weeks apart: the inaugural Ring of Steall Skyrace and the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. Every week, I’ll be reflecting on my training – what worked, what didn’t, changes made, fueling, diet, sleep, etc.

What I learned this week:

  • One of the reasons the Ring of Steall has a huge elevation gain (8200 feet or 2500 m) in so little distance (16 miles or 25km) is that it starts, and finishes, at sea level. There is a sea loch at Kinlochleven, the site of the race start/finish. This means, that rather than the usual inland ascent of say 2000 feet (which is still a lot but doable), we’re climbing from the very bottom to the very top of a munro, immediately. That’s over 3000 feet. Good thing I’m still in the early phases of training.
  • Take more clothes on long trail runs because you never know what Mother Nature will throw at you!
  • My fitness is much better than it was a few months ago. This training is paying off big time.
  • Never drink alcohol, even a small amount, the day of a long trail run. You’ll find out why!

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A Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running (via Primal Eye)

I realise that my last post was quite heavy, but perhaps it also inspired you to get out there, get in the mountains, blow off some steam and soak in all Mother Nature has to offer.

Perhaps, it also inspired you to try trail running. This article, written by me, first appeared in Primal Eye this past October, under the fitness category. It has everything a trail running rookie needs to get started.

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My first trail run was up a Munro – Ben More, on the Isle of Mull, part of the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. With an elevation of 966 metres1, underfoot is either loose rock, boulders, or grassy meadows. I did it wearing my usual running clothing including road shoes. I did it because I wanted to join my husband in his training for an off-road triathlon. Most of all, I bagged Ben More as a trail run because I wanted a new challenge and I had grown bored of road running.

Like me, perhaps you too are looking for a new way to challenge yourself both physically and mentally. You’re a road runner looking to kick up your running game a few notches. Trail and fell running is a great activity to do once you’re properly informed. It’s also going back to our primal roots, covering new land in ways our bodies have moved for centuries. This article details everything you need to know to get out on the trails to conquer hills and see new remote land.

Click here to read the full article.

Knowing My Limits

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Pat has entered the D33 Ultra marathon for March. It is a 33 mile out-and-back race from Aberdeen to Banchory and back. He has just started training for it, and being the supportive wife I am (read: I actually just need to push distance beyond my comfort zone of 8 miles lately), I elected to join him on his long runs. They started last week with a very hilly 11 miles of landrover track through the woods of Drumtochty. This past week, Pat decided to increase to 15 miles, and reluctantly I went along.

I say ‘relucantly’ because realistically, I shouldn’t be increasing distance so much, so soon. At this time last year, I was half marathon fit and mentally, I would’ve been comfortable with a 15 mile run. This year, my current long run fitness is at the 8 mile mark – I can bang out an easy 8 mile run with no adverse effects. My hips wouldn’t ache, I wouldn’t feel tired after the run, I’d be fine to get on with writing, meal prep, cleaning, whatever for the rest of the day. And I wouldn’t feel the after-effects of stiff muscles and tiredness the following day.

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Reach Further in 2016

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It has taken me quite some time to figure out how I wanted to write this post. I want a lot for myself in 2016, but my wants aren’t simply self-improvement, or goals, or intentions – they’re all of the above. While a new year usually signifies a new you, my aspirations for this year are also about expanding my capabilities, pushing my previously set boundaries and just trying new things. 2016 will be where I continue to reach forward and make space between I Can and I Can’t.

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My Significant 9 of 2015

You’ll have seen it floating about Instagram: Best 9 of 2015 – your nine top-liked photos, put in a nice picture grid to post on Instagram. While it’s a great way to see which posts your followers really liked (food in my case!), I thought my Best 9 photos for me were lacking in any kind of substance: while delicious, the photos didn’t capture any meaningful moments for me this past year. 2015 was a significant year in both good and bad ways, so to mark the past 365 (+5) days, I’ve put together the photos that I think captured my nine most significant moments of 2015.

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Glen Clova Half Marathon Recap

This race was a tale of two halves, with me relying on information from others to guide my expectations of the route. Leading up to the race, I had been told two facts about it: #1 it’s easier than the Stonehaven Half; you’ll have no problem with Clova; and #2 this race is so hard!!!! I wasn’t sure what to believe, but neither influenced my ultimate decision to just run this race. There wasn’t going to be any pursuit of a new 13.1 personal best – I think two in one year is enough – but I had hoped that I would still, based on these ‘facts,’ be able to run a sub-2 hour race in the least.

In the days before the race, I had been experiencing a dry cough in the morning, accompanied with mouthfuls of phlegm. While I had left my previous job because of how the stress was getting my entire wellbeing down, it appears my immune system still wanted to do me over. That, coupled with working with little germ ball children again, and the fact that I’ve still been more so 80/20 than 95/5 with my diet, led to a chest thing less than a month after my throat thing. Side note: I really need to get my act in gear because I don’t like all this being ill business!

Upon hearing me still coughing the night before the race, Pat queried my intentions for the next day. I clarified that I wasn’t going out to race the race, but rather just run around the route and hope for a time under two hours. I hadn’t even bought my usual Honey Stinger Energy Chews, and instead opted for the very paleo but sweet Nakd bars made of nuts and dates.

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Aviemore Half Marathon recap

In the week before this race, I wasn’t even sure it would happen. After yet another term of stress and feeling run down from it, I got a cold and throat thing the week before the half marathon that just wouldn’t go away. I assumed I’d get better as the week progressed and the race neared, but I didn’t. In fact, with just days to go, I thought there was a possibility I wouldn’t even start the race, never mind try for a good result.

But I wanted to run the race, partly because my mom was visiting from Canada and she had never seen me at a finish line before. Also, partly because, with its downhill course, the Aviemore Half is a PB shoe-in.

With two days before, I finally started to feel better. Even on the not-so-good days, during a long hill walk with my mom, I was able to breathe normally. My head didn’t feel heavy. I wasn’t coughing so much. I felt normal and slightly energized. I decided to chance racing and just see what happened, see how I felt. Had it been someone in my position, however, I probably would’ve advised to take it easy, don’t race the race, and possibly not even run it. But I’m stubborn like that.

Another running error I committed with this race was to wear brand new, never worn running shoes. I bought another pair literally the week before the race, thinking I’d get a run or two in beforehand, but with my illness I decided not to run at all, not wanting to add any more stress to my current state. I was going to chance illness, and also blisters. I was a running rebel.

Race morning hit a bit hard: I had been up throughout the night coughing, and as a result, didn’t get much sleep. In the week leading up to the race, I had spent so much thinking about ‘What if?’ rather than a race plan, that I spent my race morning quietly mapping out a last-minute strategy in my head. I tried to eat my usual breakfast of bulletproof coffee, fruit + coconut cream + Nutter Bomb, and veggie omelette, but was struggling with the lack of preparation race nerves, making it quite difficult to get through breakfast, never mind finish it.

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Eat Primal, Run Hard Round-Up

What do you do when you’ve got many bits of news that aren’t big enough for blog posts on their own? You create an aptly named round up 🙂

Eat…

… all the courgetti. Last week, I received my spiraliser in the mail. Is it possible to be in love with an inanimate object? If so, I’m head over heels for my spiraliser.

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Every time I’ve used it lately, I’ve made Italian-inspired sauces to go with my courgetti (courgette + spaghetti): Continue reading

Train Low, Race High for Endurance Athletes

After a brief hiatus due to our annual summer holiday, I’m back! Kinda.

Check out my third article for Primal Eye Magazine, a fitness piece on a weapon in my training arsenal: Train Low, Race High. It’s all about training in a lower glycogen state – achieved through timely carb consumption – then racing with muscles stocked to the brim with energy. This allows the paleo or primal fat-adapted endurance athlete to use fat as a main fuel for training, and makes more efficient use of glycogen stores, which results in not hitting the wall or bonking so quickly. You can effectively run without needing to depend on pre-run and mid-run fuel, and run towards many PB’s. Like me.

Read the full article here.

And, if you’re wondering about being fat-adapted, or a fat-burner as opposed to a sugar-burner, check out my Primal Lessons post all about the two types of fuel your body can use. I also have an updated version on tap for Primal Eye as well.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my post about our trip to Ireland!