Friday, 30 May 2008

Dear Agony Aunt

Dear Agony Aunt,

I think my husband has a serious problem and I need some advice on what to do. It all started a few years ago when he met someone at a race wearing a t-shirt from an event called The West Highland Way Race. It turned out that it was an event where people ran 95 miles in one go! I couldn't believe it when he said he wanted to take part. I thought it was a phase and it would pass. But it hasn't. The addiction has just got worse over the last 8 years. He spends a lot of time on the internet reading blogs and watching videos and even meets other people to share experiences. I think they just encourage each other.

I've also found strange items of clothing in our bedroom. He recently bought some Skins and frankly I think they're obscene. They leave nothing to the imagination. I've also noticed that some items keep going missing from the fridge and cupboards. He says he needs to eat chicken and potatoes and even baked beans for breakfast. I'm at my wits end.

Do I have grounds for unreasonable behaviour? Can he be cured? What should I do?


Running Widow

My dear Running Widow,

You have my deepest sympathies. This is a very serious addiction called Ultra Running and I'm afraid there is no cure. I'm sorry to be so blunt. There is an organisation called The WHW Family that gives excellent support to both runners and their families but once you are part of it there is no escape.

You have to embrace the lifestyle your partner has choosen. All your friends will be connected in some way to this event. You will find Outsiders do not understand and will judge you for standing by your man. You may even lose contact with some of them. Weekends and holidays will be arranged around races and training. If you want to see your partner you will have to be brave and go with him. Some Ultra Runners are lucky in that their partners know about their condition before they get married and so have a choice. But it sounds like you married a lardy bum who became addicted later on. That must be tough.

The food issue is very important to Ultra Runners. During an event, some are known to mix baked beans with chocolate milk, rice pudding and Jelly Babies. So eating chicken or potatoes at breakfast is quite mild.

You sound like a special person. Your husband needs love and support. He cannot do it without you. Make yourself invaluable to him and you will have a bargaining tool if he becomes unreasonable. Help him to choose races in places like New York or Zurich so you get something out of it too. It won't be easy but it can be rewarding in the long run.

Good luck with the future


Agony Aunt

Monday, 26 May 2008

Calm before the storm

There are less than 4 weeks to the big race now. This is the period when most runners start tapering and run fewer miles at a gentler pace. This is the time when The Runner finds himself home from work hours earlier than usual cos he doesn't NEED to go for a run. This is the time when he sleeps less deeply and wakes before the alarm goes off because his body isn't absolutely knackered. This is the time when he notices what's going on around the house and garden. This is the calm before the storm.

I reckon I've got 2 weeks before race hysteria picks up. If he gets a cold it's not a problem as there's still 2 weeks to go. A wee hamstring/groin niggle? Plenty of time to get it sorted out. We might even be able to go out on Saturday night since there's no big run planned for the Sunday. I really like this brief period of calm.

I know it doesn't last but it's quite nice all the same.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Day 2

Why did I think having breakfast at 7.30am was a good idea? I had 2 cups of tea and a few spoonfuls of porridge (it was too salty). I should have waited until the runners had left and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at 9am. Ah well, you live and learn. The Runner managed a full Scottish breakfast as did Pacepusher who couldn't run as his ankle was too sore. He decided a spot of support would be good for the soul. And it meant Mrs Pacepusher could recce the bit she'll be running as his support runner in the race. 4 more runners joined us at Bridge of Orchy so a team of 6 set off together at 9am.
A right motley crew!
Since I didn't need to be at Kingshouse for another 2 hours I returned to my 'suite' and got ready to check out. It was a very nice room with quality bedding and Anta throws but I didn't sleep much better than last year's bunkhouse experience and I still heard snoring from the next room! (The window sills were a bit dusty so I wrote 'Clean me' with my finger!) I guess next year it's back to the bunkhouse and save ourselves a heck of a lot of money.
I made my way up to Kinghouse and noticed the temperature was only 8 degrees. It was quite chilly standing waiting for the guys to arrive. But I introduced Mr and Mrs Pacepusher to the delights of Earl Grey tea which kept us warmed, although Pacepusher calls it Url Grey! I wish I had a pound for every time he said 'This support stuff is a bit boring!'
All 6 runners arrived together although Running Fool didn't stop for a break. Beans, rice, coffee and grapes were consumed before they set off again. Pacepusher couldn't believe we waited all that time just to see them for 5 mins. Welcome to the world of the back up crew!
Quick stop at Kingshouse

Next it was down the winding road to Kinlochleven and a visit to the Co-op to stock up on a few things. For the first time in years I had a Cup-a-soup. It wasn't too bad and it was warm and filling. I didn't want to risk another dodgy pub lunch although to be fair I've not been in the Tail Race Inn to eat before. Mrs Pacepusher was going to run from here so she set off just before the runners were due to arrive. She fully expected to be caught by someone.

Mr and Mrs Pacepusher at Kinlochleven
After she set off we were surprised to see 4 runners arrive. Running Fool, American Gal, Quiet Man and The Other Beardie had the fresher legs. Again they had a very quick stop and left as The Runner and The Pastor arrived. I had said all along I didn't want to go up to Lundavra but The Runner was VERY grumpy and said he might need stuff there (he rarely does which is why it's waste of time for me). So I grumpily said I would go. After the runners had left, Mrs Pacepusher's aunt (a nurse) arrived. Luckily she was in the area and had agreed to look at Pacepusher's ankle. She didn't think it was broken but felt it needed to be strapped up. Out came my trusty Sports First Aid kit. However she didn't think the bandages were very good so that's definitely something I'll be looking at for the race. She strapped up Pacepusher's ankle for him. Once he put his shoe back on I thought he was walking a bit easier. Maybe he was just relieved that she said it wasn't broken although she advised resting it for 2 weeks! We set off for Lundavra.
Every time I go up there more and more trees have been cleared. It used to be lovely up there (when there's no midgies about) but now it's just ruined.

Pacepusher tries to pass another 5 mins by reading the board!

Funniest moment of the day was Mrs Pacepusher's arrival at Lundavra. We weren't expecting her to be first so Pacepusher wasn't prepared. She threw her top into the back of the car, yelled 'Where's my water? You're a rubbish back up!' grabbed her bottle herself and left. Total time 10 secs! Pacepusher was speechless!

Mrs Pacepusher arriving at Lundavra

The Runner and The Pastor arrived together and left quickly. Their experience had obviously won over the fresh legs. Running Fool and The Other Beardie were going well and left us fairly quickly. Best photo of the day was definitely Quiet Man's expression. I think it sums up the exhausted runner perfectly. He decided to stop here and get a lift back to Fort William. For various reasons his previous day hadn't been ideal preparation for a tough run but everyone learns from the experience and I'm sure he'll be fine on the race day.

I'm exhausted!

On the other hand, American Gal was feeling and looking good. Her cookies have obviously got magic ingredients! She ran the final section strongly and caught up with Running Fool to finish together.

Not far to go now

When I arrived at Fort William I had plenty of time to pop into Morrisons where I was able to get fresh milk and some Mars milk for The Runner. Allybea's snack bar was up and running by the time the runners began arriving. Mrs Pacepusher arrived first, thrilled that no-one had caught her. I think in a few years she may well be running the race herself! Next in was The Pastor, followed by The Runner. The Other Beardie was next with Running Fool and American Gal following.
We did it!
It was a successful 2 days of running and supporting for us. I was as tired as The Runner. We both slept like logs on Saturday night. As ever there a few things I need to change and work on for the race. I'll give it some thought and post on it. Best part of the weekend was meeting more of the WHW Family. They were all very nice but clearly nuts! I'm in good company ;)

Sunday, 18 May 2008

2 day training run on the Way - Day 1

We arrived at Balmaha slightly behind schedule. All I can say was 'It wisny me!' The Man from Peebles had already left so the guys chucked 3 large sports bags into our already full car. The Runner had 1 large sports bag AND a suitcase of clothes!! I had 1 small overnight bag which had 2 full changes of clothes (in case of very wet conditions) and extra trousers to change into for dinner. The guys set off at 10.30am and I headed towards Rowardennan.
The Runner, Pacepusher and The Pastor at Balmaha
When I arrived at Rowardennan, there were 2 mini buses from Kyle Academy full of pupils who were going to climb Ben Lomond. I didn't mean to eavesdrop but I had to laugh at the pre-climb briefing from the teacher in charge. It was the usual 'You're representing your school' type of chat with heavy emphasis on good behaviour. It was nice to see a school group doing outdoor activities as there has been much negative press about outward bound activities going wrong.
About 15 minutes before the guys arrived a huge machine appeared and started to churn up the path. It was very noisy and extremely dusty. Luckily it didn't have any impact on anyone walking or running on the path. I completely missed The Man from Peebles as I was expecting the 3 amigos to have caught him and arrive together. But it was just the 3 runners who arrived on time and had a very quick pitstop.

Yum, baked beans at Rowardennan

Chocolate milk at Rowardennan

Had my grapes and ready to go

The long drive round from Rowardennan to Beinglas is always the worst bit on the actual race day. It was nice to do it in clear daylight and without sleep deprivation. I parked at Beinglas Farm and noticed a sign which had camping charges. It also said it was £1 to park your car! As I was intending to eat in the pub I didn't pay my parking charge. Maybe I should have paid it as the £8.80 I paid for a disgusting cheese toastie and chips was a rip off. I always make a point of spending money here but this is the second time recently the food has been inedible (I bought a cheese roll to take away at The Fling that was stale).

All 4 runners arrived together and I finally met The Man from Peebles. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos here as I was busy filling water bottles etc. By this time the temperature had risen to the low 20s. The Runner needed sun cream as he burns easily being fair skinned. Everyone looked in good shape (despite Pacepusher going over on his ankle) and they were still good humoured. Next stop Auchtertyre aka the Wigwams.

Pacepusher was the first to arrive and he did not look happy. He had gone over on his ankle again and it didn't look pretty. So the Sports First Aid kit got its first outing in the 2 years I've had it. We agreed it wouldn't be sensible to remove his shoe as it might not go back on. So I gave the ankle a good drenching of ice spray (first checking the skin wasn't broken). It probably didn't make any difference but he later said it felt as if it had an effect. I had also managed to get more milk at the farm shop so he downed a cold pint of the disgusting stuff (I hate milk. Yuck!) and he set off before the others arrived.

Arriving at Auchtertyre

The Runner and The Pastor arrived together about 10 mins after Pacepusher left. Both were in good shape and they also downed some cold white stuff. Strawberries and grapes were also consumed with their beans before they set off.

The Man from Peebles arrived 10 mins after they had left so I didn't have to wait long. He needed more water and had a coffee. He was confident of finishing before dinner.

I arrived at Bridge of Orchy as the heavens opened and checked into my lovely hotel room. It had a birds eye view of the road so I could watch for the runners as they ran down the hill. First to arrive was Pacepusher. He had pushed himself really hard. In fact he had pushed himself so hard he was shaking and not just from being wet. He was also a bit incoherent. I've seen many friends like this at the end of races so I gave him a big towel to wrap up in and got him a cup of tea. By the time The Runner and Pastor arrived he was a bit more with it. They both knew that a hot shower was the best solution and all 3 headed off to warm up.

The Runner was in a bath when The Man from Peebles arrived. As 8.45pm was the earliest we could have dinner, he had plenty of time get ready.

Everyone was in good spirits for dinner although Pacepusher sat with ice on his ankle which was ballooning up nicely. Service was very slow and we must have been the last meal to come out the kitchen. It was very nice but I suffered indigestion all night as a result of eating so late.

The Runner and I were the first to go to bed since he was nodding off in the corner. We agreed to meet at 7.30am for breakfast.

Monday, 12 May 2008

What's the difference....

....between one of my white t-shirts and one belonging to The Runner? In case you can't tell, mine is the one on the right. The t-shirt on the left (one of dozens) is from the Dublin Marathon in 1997. It's older than No3 son! But for some strange reason The Runner won't part with it. Not only won't he part with it, HE INSISTS ON STILL WEARING IT! IN PUBLIC!!!!

Why are runners so attached to t-shirts from certain races? I see it frequently at races we go to. Is it a badge of honour? Is it an ego thing? I have to say it's mostly men I see wearing old manky t-shirts eg London Marathon 1983. Are you making a statement? 'I've been running longer than you've been out of nappies!'

Many years ago I threw out some of The Runners old t-shirts. They were grey, mildewed and holey. I was the talk of the steamie! Well, the Troon Tortoises training runs for weeks. It stills gets cast up from time to time.

Well, this is advance notice. When you have more t-shirts than drawer space it's time for a cull. So lookout for a subdued Runner in the next few weeks. At least he will be better dressed at races.

Just don't get me started on his pants...................

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Troon 10k

Well, it was a close thing but last night I made it to Troon after a horrendous 2 and a half hour car journey just as the race started. Sadly I didn't see The Runner at the start but he must have been in the pack near the front. As usual it was a good turnout from runners and spectators, helped by the glorious weather. We lived in Troon from 1990 to 2003. In all the years in being involved with Troon Tortoises and the 10k, I can only remember one bad weather day on race day.
It was great to be back on our old stomping ground. I couldn't walk a few metres without someone recognising me. I met loads of Tortoises (who haven't changed a bit), old colleagues, people from our old church and of course our dear friends Beardie, Hippy Chick, Cool Chick and The Railwayman.
The Runner wasn't very happy with his run. I think it was just too hot and he's not training at speed anymore but what do I know?! And I was amused to see him running in a pair of Skins that he had just purchased yesterday!
Just a few metres to go

The Pastor and The Runner at the end

Our lovely evening was rounded off with a fish supper on the sands at Barassie. Sadly we couldn't see Arran as it was too hazy but the sky was pink(ish) as the sun set. We drove home with the roof down which meant we got lots of funny looks but it was amazing.