Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A short race and then a long run

82 days until the Boston marathon.


This past weekend I ran the Devil's Burdens relay race. I ran with friends from my local running club, and I did the first leg. In this leg, two runners were required from each team, and I ran with M. from the club.

There were two starts for the race. The 9:30 start was for the slower teams, and the 10:30 start was for the others. Because we were unsure where we'd finish, and in part because I had to get home for child-care, we opted for the early start.

We lined up towards the front of the 39 pairs of runners, and with the horn we were off.

We made our way through the historic village of Falkland, and headed up through the woods to East Lomond, the hill above the village.

The pace wasn't too hard, and I found myself near the front with another woman. Shortly after, a guy from a nearby hill run club passed, and I ran with him for a bit. I didn't know the route, although I carried a map, and was happy to follow someone who had done the route previously, as this guy had done. M. was just behind us.

We emerged from the woods and headed up the steep, grassy slope of the hill. It was too steep to run. I was breathing hard, but felt good.

At the summit there was a checkpoint where we had to make a hole punch in our checkpoint list. From the summit there were terrific views of the surrounding countryside (photo: copyright Scottish Hill Runners).

M. and I descended quickly. Although we were second to the summit, we somehow were the first team down, and had to navigate on our own. M. was familiar with the area from previous cross-country races, and led us in the correct direction. Occasionally, when pausing to look at our map, one or two teams would catch up to us. This proved useful, as we were able to confirm our route.

The first leg wasn't too long - 4.4 miles - and as it neared the end, we pushed to finish first, and were able to do so.


The next day, Sunday, I had to get in a long run.

I'd done 10.8 miles for my long run the weekend before, although my schedule called for a 15-miler.

The week before this, my schedule had called for a 13 mile run, and, tired, I'd only done 3.

So, I'd been short-changing my long-runs, and it was time to address this.


My first lap around town - 5.4 miles - went fine. It was around 5 p.m., my children were having their dinner, and my wife knew I'd be out for a while.

On my second lap through town, I started to feel the fatigue from the race the day before. After finishing our leg, M. and I had run most of the route back to my car, so it ended up being about 8 miles all told.

I'd borrowed my daughter's ipod shuffle, and listened to podcasts: American Public Radio's Marketplace, and Steve Runner's Intervals and Pheddipidations. It was now dark out.

I wanted to get my distance in, but I was tired. I switched to a 8 min run, 30 sec walk schedule. This got me through the second lap around town, and the third.

Tired, but not exhausted, I finished my longest training run so far in this cycle: 16.2 miles in 2:24.

I still have a lot of work to do before I'm ready for Boston.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A moonlit morning run

88 days until the Boston marathon.


My watch alarm went off at 6:11 this morning. I'd set it to get up early for a run.

I'd run the night before, a 6-miler with some hills, and was feeling pleasantly tired in bed. My legs were stretched out, I was warm under my duvet; I didn't want to get out of bed, put on running clothes, and head outside again.

I turned over. Sometimes when I wake up early and don't need to get up I like to think about camping - resting in my warm sleeping bag, somewhere in the mountains, a day of walking ahead perhaps.

I turned over again. The marathon was now less than three months away. Every training day, now, counted. My only chance to run today was this morning because my wife was out tonight.

So, I either got up and went for a run or I didn't run today.

I got up.

I made a cup of instant coffee. My son, aged 5, wandered into the kitchen. I told him that it was too early to get up yet and I put him back to bed.


Outside it was cold and dark. I could see the frost on my wife's car. My legs were still tight from last night's run, and from basketball the day before. I had in mind an easy town loop (5.4 miles) just to stretch.

I wore my usual winter running clothes. Hat, gloves, long running trousers, a longsleeve shirt, a shortsleeve shirt on top, and a mesh visibility vest. There was frost on the road.

When I got to the loch, a mile into the run, the moon was full and bright. It was still dark outside, but the ruined palace on the other side of the loch was moonlit. There was no one out. The path alongside the loch was easily visible, and I didn't need my torch (flashlight).

My legs loosened and the running became easier. I made my way around the loch, and around the farm. Heading back into town, there were more cars now about. I made my way back, and arrived home 46 minutes after I'd started. I checked our thermometer, and it read -6 C (22 F).

Looking out the window of the house, the moon was low and still bright, so I stepped outside and took a quick photo.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Running at lunchtime

95 days until the Boston marathon. Oh man, that's just 3 months from now! This isn't that much time from a marathon-training perspective.


I went for a lunch-time run today, as it was my only chance to run.

I left the lab where I often work in Old City, and jogged to a park that is near its center. The park is features an extinct volcano, and shear rocky outcroppings, referred to as crags. These are visible from my office window, so I thought a run up to them would be fun.

I left my building, crossed a few streets, and heading into the park. I followed a trail and made my way to the base of the crags. One one side they are shear rock faces; on the other they are steep grassy slopes. I ran up the slopes, and gained a view of Old City.

I made my way along the crags, and then descended to the road that runs around the park. The road through the park was mostly closed to cars for about half of its length - so it was perfect for running.

I was warm and so removed my gloves and head band. It was one of the warmer days we've had in the past month and a half - probably near 40 F.

I ran around the park, and then headed back to work. I was only planning on running for 40 mins or so, but ended up taking 50.

Back at work I had a quick shower, and joined a meeting that I was planning on attending about 10 minutes late.

But I'd got my run in.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Training for a marathon in the winter

102 days until the Boston marathon.


I'm now in week 4 of my 18-week training program for the Boston marathon and, given that some of these weeks have included the holidays, things seem to be going well.

Last weekend my schedule called for my first 15-miler, and I achieved it - or something close - by adding extra miles to my Sunday morning run in the woods with my running friends. I felt good, and was tired at the end, but not exhausted. Altogether the run was about 2:40, but this included a lot of running through snow, stopping, and picking my way across ice patches.

The next day, Monday, I took my usual rest day. Tuesday I did 8 miles with a friend in a cold rain, and my legs were tired. Wednesday I did my town loop of 5.4 miles, and felt absolutely beat. There's still ice covering parts of the path where lots of people have walked and the snow has been compacted, so it requires a little care when trying to run it in the dark.

Tonight, Thursday night, I donned my winter running clothes while my children watched TV before supper. I wanted to get a short run in and be back to eat with them.

It was cold - -2C (28F) - and I wore two shirts, a reflective vest, two pairs of gloves, a hat, my running trousers, sox and shoes. I carried a small LED bike light.

I headed up the road and then up a bridle way nearby. On the bridle way I used my light to see the ground. It's a true bridle way - there's a farm with horses adjacent to it. Portions of this way had ice, but it was mostly clear. The ground was hard and frozen.

I turned off the bridle way onto an intersecting farm road. It was a clear winter's night, and the big dipper was visible to the north. There was just a sliver of a moon. My route had taken me up a hill, and the street lights from my town were visible below.

I headed to a bend in the road where there is a small cluster of houses and a farm. When I run past these I sometimes wonder what it must be like living out here, two miles or so from the village. Do the people who live out here feel isolated? More prosaically, as they are up on a hill, how is their water pressure?

I was warm, but had been out for 22 minutes, and so turned around and headed back. I arrived back at the house to find supper underway.


Last month, December, was the coldest month in Scotland for 63 years. The cold here is slightly different than what I've experienced in the midwest and northeastern U.S., in that there's a lot of humidity in the air. So, to me, the eqivalent temperature feels colder. Also, you get an accumulatation of frost on everything. This is particularly impressive when the trees are covered, as the one outside my office window was last month.