Monday, 30 June 2008

Post BBQ

I am absolutely exhausted. The last couple of weeks have really worn me down but in a bizarre twisted way I've actually enjoyed them. Whilst the outcome of our race day wasn't quite what we expected there have been many positives.

Just reading the comments on our blogs and emails has made us realise we have lots of good friends. The BBQ on Saturday reinforced it as well. Luckily I didn't have to listen to all the boring, sorry fascinating blow by blow accounts of everyone's race as I was a bit busy with some burgers. (I don't want to see another burger all summer!)

But now it's time to draw a line under this year's race and think ahead. I'm not going to pre-empt The Runner's plans but he is planning to take part in another Ultra event fairly soon. Hopefully that will get rid of his pent up frustration. Have I mentioned he's been a nightmare to live with these last 7 days? I think I've been a very good wifey and held my tongue on more than a few occasions. The pity party is officially over! Get your running shoes on and hit the road, dear!

I've added a few more blogs to my links. It's good to see The Fool's Wife and My Other German Friend writing about their support experiences. Have a look if you haven't already seen them.

Next date for your diary is the Crieff 10k on the Sun 13th July. A lovely multi terrain course, with a wee incline that wouldn't be too bad for aching legs. Check out the details on the Strathearn Harriers link at the side. Did I mention that I'm the Race Organiser? Yikes! I hope I live up to the responsibility.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Post mortem

Well, this is not the post I thought I would be writing today. Unfortunately The Runner had to drop out of the race at Rowardennan, just 27 miles in. Since then we've been going over and over what happened until I can't think straight any more. Here's how it looked from my perspective.

We arrived at Milngavie just after 11.30pm. The car park was almost full. As usual the place was buzzing with activity and there was a definite air of excitement. We met up with old friends and sought out new ones made through the world of blogging. The Runner seemed to be ok before he went off to the pre-race briefing. However, when he returned he was a bit agitated that there wasn't enough time left to do everything he needed to do. He started to fuss about what was in his bumbag, which had already been double checked at home. He was complaining about needing the toilet again, which is normal for him at the start of this race. But with hindsight, the early signs were there.

I think I managed to see everyone I knew and wished them luck before they started. Then before I knew it, they were off. What followed can only be described as Wacky Races as all the support crews tried to exit the car park at the same time. Beardie, Flash and I weren't in a hurry as our first stop was Balmaha. Again in hindsight, this was a mistake. Perhaps if we had seen The Runner earlier at Drymen we might have realised something wasn't right.

We arrived at Balmaha and parked exactly where The Runner wanted us, at the bottom near the toilets. For the first time in 8 years of doing this backup malarky I managed to sleep! Only half an hour but it was better than nothing. Just before he was due to arrive we set out all the things he had asked for. Soup, beans, coffee, grapes, smoothie and a rice pudding. Whatever he might have needed was ready and waiting for him. We also had VERY strict instructions to get him serviced and out again in 5 mins.

However, when he arrived he was in a right state. It wasn't until much later on in the day he told me he had been sick several times before Balmaha. If I had known this I would have reacted differently. He didn't want anything to eat and decided to go to the toilet first. This used up his 5 mins. He took some coffee and soup in disposable cups and left. As we tidied up Beardie and I commented on how grumpy he was. Again, another sign all was not well. Should we have arranged to see him again before Rowardennan?

We continued on to the midgie ridden hell that is Rowardennan and waited. When he arrived I knew by the way he walking towards the car that something wasn't right. His head was down, his shoulders were slumped and he was barely lifting his feet off the ground. He lifted his head and our eyes met. He couldn't speak and just shook his head. I just knew. As he got closer he said 'It's not going to happen today.' I couldn't even answer him.

We got to the car and Beardie tried his best to jolly him along but I knew it was game over. I know I'm supposed to be chief cheerleader and motivator but I just couldn't lie to him. He looked dreadful. Dull grey skin and sunken eyes. That was not how he should look at 27 miles. We walked back towards the checkpoint and met Mr Race Director who quickly realised the situation. Like everyone else that day he was stunned by the news. He realised something must be very wrong. We started walking towards the marshalls to hand in his tag. I let him go ahead of me as the tears started rolling down my face. I was gutted for him. For me. For Beardie and Flash. We walked back to the car in silence holding hands. People around us started asking if everything was ok. The news began to spread. The Runner had dropped out at Rowardennan.

We had a decision to make. Should we go home or continue to Fort William? Well, it was a no brainer. Of course we would go on. Anyone who knows The Runner knows he's just as interested in his friends' race success as he is in his own. He took the opportunity to see the race from another viewpoint. We drove back to Milngavie and dropped Flash off. I hope he wasn't disappointed that his race experience was over almost as it begin.

As we drove to Auchtertyre, The Runner slept. Obviously his body needed it. When we arrived the news quickly spread and The Runner found himself the centre of attention. This set the pattern for the rest of the day. Backup crews and runners first thought they were hallucinating when they saw him! There were some very funny double takes as we arrived. The Runner took it all in his stride and was genuinely keen to support all his friends but I know how much it hurt him.

We spent some time at Bridge of Orchy and then Kingshouse. I think The Runner was amazed to see how the backup works at each checkpoint. He hadn't realised how busy it gets. He enjoyed watching how each crew looked after their runner and got them back out again. He has a head for numbers and facts and was able to tell each runner that they were still on target. He offered sensible advice (I hope!) to those he knew were trying to set PBs.

As we headed towards Fort William I selfishly realised that I wouldn't need to go to Lundavra. The Runner to his credit didn't even ask if we should go up. We checked into the hotel, had a quick drink and then walked up to the finish. It was amazing to see the first runners arrive. And very emotional. Our fellow clubmate McStecko finished in an amazing 19 hours 14mins. He took over 8 hours off his previous time. Now that's a man to ask for training secrets! (He'll be at the BBQ!)

We also saw The Pastor's incredible sub 20 hours finish. I'm afraid I was yelling like a banshee as he ran through the car park as he was a bit tight for time! I hope he can edit it out of his video. I think we watched the first 15 arrivals. By then we were really tired and headed back to the hotel.

Although The Runner had held it together most of the day he was very emotional back in our room. Seeing his friends finish had just reinforced the fact that he had dropped out. He was still trying to make sense of it. Was it the training? Was it the tapering? The back to back marathons? The sub 21 target? Changing the first checkpoint? Could it be everything? I think we've come to the conclusion that there is a very simple reason. It had to be a virus. Small and deadly. Even today his legs are much sorer and heavier than they should be after 27 miles.

After a decent night's sleep and a full Scottish breakfast we headed off to the prizegiving. This was incredibly moving as many people came to speak to us. They were sure we had taken the right decision at the right time.

I'm incredibly proud of The Runner. I know the strength and depth of his character. It was one of the many reasons I married him. But I've been deeply touched by the many comments and messages he has received from his fellow runners and their backup crews. He is obviously held in high regard and I'm grateful to you all in expressing it. It has helped him through the last 2 days.

I guess it's too early to think about next year. But I hope there is a next year. I'm available if asked. And just in case he's getting a big head with all the nice things people are saying about him, let me tell you he can't pee straight into a toilet and he once reversed into a parked car because he 'didn't know it was there!'

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Last Post

This my last post before the big day. With 1 more sleep to go I wanted to write something inspiring and uplifting to send everyone on their way. But I'm sooo tired and sooo busy.

Thankfully all the provisions have been sorted. Magic soup is made and sitting comforably in a fridge groaning with food. Lists are being checked and checked again. Texts and emails are flying about. My rookie back up guy Flash has been briefed. The English invasion has begun. Let's just say I'm glad I'm not a resident of Bridge of Orchy tonight!

It is my heartfelt wish that everyone who makes it to the start also makes it to the finish safe and healthy.

To all the veterans, I wish you a good race with PBs.

To all the newbies, I wish you good luck. Anything is possible if you believe.

And to all the backup crews, I wish you an uneventful day. These nutters simply can't do it without us.

Alison x

Monday, 16 June 2008

Be Nice to Your Backup Week

It goes without saying that the runners are finding this final week before the big day hard going. Well, the big news guys (and gals) is that it's not much fun for your backup either! Especially if they live with you!!

This is the week where we have to listen to you worry about every single thing that could be a potential disaster. Dodgy tummies, runny noses and groin strains don't usually stop you going on a training run or running a marathon. So why does a sniffle from your youngest child or fellow passenger on the train send you into a frenzy? Why does something written on a forum or seen in a magazine article make you doubt your last few weeks training/tapering plans?

Those of us who've been involved in providing backup before pretty much know what we're doing. You don't really need to ask us if we've got midgie nets or tell us to get petrol now just in case there's none left by Friday. It's all in hand.

Here the lists are prepared so I won't forget anything. My week is planned so that I have plenty of time to get the provisions and fill up with petrol. Just relax! Be nice to your backup.

Only 4 more sleeps to go!

Monday, 9 June 2008

You know you're married to an ultra runner when.....

You buy Jelly Babies, chocolate milk and rice pudding but you don't have a 3 year old in the house.

Your food bills are higher than the national average.

You can't go for a 2 week holiday in *insert your dream holiday location here* because it's too hot to run.

You go to New York/Boston/Zurich for a weekend and it coincides with the marathon.

You can't go out at the weekend or have friends over because there's always a race or big training run.

You don't have any normal friends anyway.

Your neighbours don't bat an eyelid at the amount of Lycra items on your washing line.

There's always an aroma of eau de trainer in the bedroom/bathroom/utility room.

Early nights (nudge, nudge) actually mean an early night if there's a race on.

Your husband and his friends talk about bonking but he's not being indiscreet about your love life.

He texts his friends before you to tell them his race results.

If you've got any more, let me know!

Sunday, 1 June 2008


I've taken my tongue firmly out of my cheek and am giving you 2 posts in one day!

I read a lot of blogs including non-running ones and often see people getting tagged. Tagging is a blogging game. Since all you WHW runners are at a loose end for the next 3 weeks I thought I'd start one.

Tagging is easy. Just copy the following onto your post.

  • The rules of the game are posted at the start of your blog post.
  • In this case, I'm asking you 5 questions about running.
  • Each player answers the 5 questions on their own blog.
  • At the end of your post you tag 5 other people and post their names.
  • Go to their blogs and leave a comment on their blogs telling them they've been tagged and to look at your blog for details.
  • When they've answered the questions on their own blog, they come back to yours to tell you.

Got that? Here goes.

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

Same as it is now - sporadic and at times non-exsistant. I didn't have a back problem and was 2 stone lighter than I am now! I managed to do a few 10ks and am grateful to Beardie who used to drag me round Troon on club nights.

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?

The best run I ever did was 2 weeks after the NYC marathon. I did a wee 4 mile loop round Troon on a cold frosty morning and took 10 mins off my previous best time. For some strange reason I stopped running after that.

My worst race was the NYC marathon. I won't bore you with details but it was awful!

3. Why do you run?

Usually to get fit, lose weight or when The Runner says "Wouldn't it be great if you......."

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

Worst piece of advice was given to me by The Runner after I stepped into a pothole and had a bit of a sore calf. He advised me to keep running on it even if it was painful. I kept running even though it was agony and the tiny bruise that had appeared kept getting bigger and bigger. When I eventually went to see a physio I discovered I had torn my calf muscle and couldn't run for 6 weeks. This is part of the reason my NYC marathon was horrendous.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.

I have a small rose tatoo on my right shoulder. At first glance it looks quite innocent but if you are familiar with Georgia O'Keefe's flower paintings you may see something different ;-)

Okay, now it's your turn. I tag

The Runner
The Pastor
Mrs Pacepusher
Running Fool
Subversive Runner

My dear Pastor

I received a letter from a worried reader.

Dear Agony Aunt,

What advice can you give to me to help me through the next three weeks? I won't be running as much as I'm tapering so what do you suggest I do to while away the time?

Thanks in anticipation

The Pastor

My dear Pastor,

This is a problem familiar to many Ultra Runners. Running takes up so much of their time they have no other relaxing hobbies to get them through the cold turkey stage that is tapering. I've found that related activities like surfing the internet for information and talking to fellow runners on forums increases anxiety levels to a point where you think you won't make it to the start. It's advisable to look for an unrelated relaxing activity to fill your time.

A personal favourite of my own is knitting which has been proved by Harvard research to be "as effective as meditation, yoga or chanting in triggering the body's relaxation response.....the repetitive motions block the hormone noradrenaline, which in turn lowers blood pressure."

I'd also recommend a little light gardening (no double digging a vegetable plot!) or perhaps some housework. Activities like these will help keep you active and have the added bonus of pleasing a partner especially one who is your Support Team Leader.

In the grand scheme of things a 3 week taper is a very small price to pay. The aim of the game is get to the start of the race fit and healthy. All the hard work of the previous months is stored in your legs and more importantly in your head.

Good luck with the next 3 weeks


Agony Aunt