podcast nerd

Terry Freedman, “podcast listen” @Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In the past year, I’ve started listening to podcasts as a regular thing.  I know, a decade late to the party right?  They’ve revolutionised my commute and are often a welcome change to music when I’m on my longrun.

So with that in mind, I’ve updated my “Links” page up on the menu with all the things I enjoy listening to as well as the sites I read — both running specific and things more generally about the outdoors.  Or you can search above just click here for my ‘links’ page.

Anything I’m missing out on?

PJ.

stupid pneumonia

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As it turned out, I never managed to run the Great Tartan Skidaddle.  So as of yet, I still haven’t jumped over that “ultra” hurdle.  Which is really frustrating. So my goal of finishing all the races that I enter….?  Will need to rethink that one.

The last week of my taper started so well, aside from waking with a slightly scratchy throat the day it all went pear shaped.

I took an easy run around Colzium Estate and I really enjoyed myself.  My legs felt fresh and I enjoyed exploring the place, which I usually just ignore and head further up the hills or to the top of Tomtian.

But when I got home, I got this raging fever that came out of nowhere, accompanied by the worst headache that I’ve ever experienced, hallucinations in the mix as well.  To make a long story short, I was eventually taken by ambulance to the Royal Infirmary and underwent a series of tests to find out what was wrong.  The doctors were initially concerned that I had meningitis due to the level of infection showing in my blood tests.  Turns out it was (thankfully) “just” pneumonia, but the infection hit me really hard for some reason.

So I spent race day in the hospital on a drip.

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I’m thankful for the great care I received from the NHS and that they got to the bottom of what was wrong.  Still, the whole thing was frustrating.  A weekend in the hospital was the last thing I wanted.  Seeing photos of the event online only increased that sense of missing out on something I had been looking forward to for months.

12 weeks of injury-free training. All good.  And this infection seems to have come out of nowhere.  This is the first time anything like this has happened, but it has knocked my confidence a bit.  I suppose it’s one of those freak things that just happen, but now I’ll probably have more “what if” doubts when I embark on another long training plan.  That’s always there when you commit to something like a longer race, but now I know the feeling of disappointment when I can’t even make it to the starting line.

Still, I’m determined to do the race in one way or another.  Once I’m back to full strength (and that could be a while — still on my medication and the doctor ordered at least two weeks of complete rest and then need to ease my way back slowly), I’m going to run the whole Great Tartan Skidaddle course solo, or with some friends.  It won’t be the same, sure, but it’s something that I still really want to do.

I’ve been stuck inside for a week.  Honestly, I’m a bit fed up and can’t wait to get out running again.  But I need to take my recovery seriously so I can get back to what I love.  This in mind, I might also miss out on the ATRX in a month’s time, I just may not be ready.  In that case, I’ll see if I’m well enough to volunteer to take photos or something.  In the meantime, time to enjoy other good things in life.  Resting and listen to lots of good music and reading good books.

Once I’m well though — can’t wait to do the route that I didn’t get to do.  Also thinking that I might be able to put some proper effort toward getting a good time at the Strathearn Marathon…

PJ.

I’ve attached a few photos from Colzium Estate below.  It’s lovely and seems a bit underused. Worth exploring and a good park if you’ve got little people:

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In praise of monotony / Monday music

I love trails and I’m lucky enough to have a couple on my doorstep (not literally, about half a kilometer of tarmac first).  That said, when I look back at my running diary, I see that only about half of my running takes place on trials.  As a father of two small kids, it’s often just easier to throw on my shoes and dash out the door for a quick 30 minute speed session.  Or if the weather is awful, I know that the relief of a warm shower awaits me as soon as I return.

There is nothing like running through wild landscapes and nothing really tops it.  But I’m not one to for getting all snooty about road running.  I’ve stated to enjoy the monotony, or less negatively, predictability of it. It means I can run and allow my mind to check out.  It’s like the negative to the developed photo of the focused mindfulness I need on the trails.

I’ve recently been losing myself in podcasts.  The brilliant and unclassifiable S.Town made me want to do back-to-back longruns just to get to the next chapter.

I also feel as if running has expanded my musical tastes.  Or maybe it’s just allowed me to shamelessly enjoy more bad pop.  Sufjan Steven’s Carrie and Lowell  might be a work of genius, but it doesn’t really inspire pacey running.

Here’s a short jam that I’m currently enjoying, which heard when I was catching up on BBC Radio Scotland’s ridiculously late but fantastic Roddy Hart Show.  Leeroy Stagger’s “I Want It All” is two minutes of joy:

Enjoy,

PJ.

Taper Mode

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I finished my ‘peak’ longrun a couple weeks ago and I’m now enjoying(ish) my taper.  That longest longrun was a full marathon.  I’ve never run so far in my life, but I felt remarkably okay afterwards.  It was a good confidence booster before the Great Tartan Skidaddle – in that I did it and survived.  Earlier that same week I had done speed work and hill sessions, so I wasn’t going into the 26.2 fully rested.  All in all, it made 31 miles feel slightly less daunting.

Tapering is a strange thing.  I’ve been running so much that easing off the training load feels strange.  I thought that I would feel full of energy.  Instead, I feel a bit lethargic and a bit stressed.  The longer runs are great for headspace and the speedwork gets the adrenaline going.  I’m actually missing it a bit.

But it’s just part of training for an ultra and doing the right thing.

Here are some things I’ve read recently that I’ll keep in mind as I go into the last week and a half of tapering before race day:

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While many runners dread tapering and the associated slothful feeling that comes with reduced activity, try to see past that and reminder yourself that it is a key element of your training, just as important as the speed sessions and long rungs you logged to get to this point…  The taper is also a valuable time for replenishing your emotional energy reserves by enjoying family and friends.

Hal Koerner with Adam Chase, Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning (Velo Press, 2014), p.37

…avoid thoroughly trashing yourself in the two weeks before race day.  In general, err on the side of too much rather than not enough.  Believe in your training!

Bryon Powell, Relentless Forward Progress (Breakaway Books, 2011), p.51

Tapering is about allowing all this hard work to come to fruition, allowing your body to recover fully from the residual training fatigue, but at the same time not losing the fitness benefits it has gained.

Sarah Rowell and Wendy Dodds, Trail and Mountain Running (The Crowood Press, 2013), p.111

 

PJ.

Races & Goals

This seems as good a place to start as any – what does 2017 hold as far as goals and races go?

I’ve been running now – with any actual discipline or consistency – for just over a year. I’ve moved up to the middle of the midpack in races, which is an improvement from just hanging on the heels of the midpack. I run for the love and stoke of it. At 35 years, podium finishes aren’t really a thing for me anyway, so no stress there.

Still, I have a few goals that I’d like to aim for this year. Running is a funny thing: both immensely personal but also attractive because of the community it gathers. There’s something special about the shared experience of a race and competition alongside the very personal nature of most running goals.

So the goals for 2017 are modest, but here they are:

  • Run a sub-22min 5k at my local parkrun. Currently sitting at 22:08
  • Complete 50 parkruns in 2017.
  • Finish all the races I enter!

Here are the races that I’ve signed up for / signing up for. In 2016, the longest run I did was the brilliant Antonine Trail Race (a half-marathon) so this is all uncharted territory. I’m not to aiming for particular times, just to push as hard as I can and finish. Set a benchmark and think about improving later.

The big ones:

The Great Tartan Skidaddle

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My first long distance race will be an ultra. As ultras go, it’s on the shorter end of the category, but still feels pretty daunting as I haven’t even run a ‘normal’ marathon. But I love the trails and doing the whole of the Great Trossachs Path in one go sounded great. I’ll be running this one for charity.  More on that soon.

Strathearn Marathon

More out of curiosity than anything else, I’d like to try a proper road marathon. The Strathearn route is pretty hilly, so it’s unlikely to be the quickest course, but I love Perthshire and prefer the vibe of a smaller events to the massive ones. It’s a lovely part of the world and I’ve driven the course, so I’d like to see it on foot. Everything looks different/better on foot, right?

The Salomon ‘Ring of Steall’ Skyrace

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Since did a solo run up Beinn Dorain, I’ve been really keen on the idea of a proper mountain race for myself. The Skyrunning circuit is something I follow as a fan of the sport.  It combines so many things: amazing landscapes, athleticism, and competition. The Ring of Steall is shorter than the full Glen Coe Skyline Race (which I wouldn’t be prepared for at this stage anyway, let alone getting through the vetting process!). Even though it’s not the headline race, it’s something that I’m stoked to be part of, rather than just a spectator. And honestly , 29k with 2,500m of ascent is nothing to be scoffed at, right?  Looking forward to the challenge.

Brilliant wee races:

The Cort-ma Law Hill Race

This is a proper fell race, or because we’re in Scotland, hill race. But it definitely has that aesthetic (listen to this brilliant Trailrunner Nation episode  with Nicky Spinks to see what I mean). I don’t why Tough Mudders need to exist when there are races like this. It’s a wonderful slog through the Campsies in all their boggy glory. Here’s a line from the actual race description: “The highlight of this race is the section of man-eating emerald green bog between Cort-ma Law and Lecket Hill.” 

I did this one last year and I loved it — even though it was a disaster. I rode my bike to the start, but forgot my entry cash so I had to cycle home and then get the car for lack of time. I got to the start line with moments to spare, already knackered from the cycle. Preparation was terrible. It’s the hardest race I’ve done and the most physically spent I’ve felt after a race, despite the race “only” being 10k.

The Kippen Trail Race

This is a perfect community race. £1 to enter and a fun route, nice family friendly vibe. With the short distance and a very runnable route, it’s one where I felt that I could just go all out from the start.  I’m hoping to bring the kids next time for the children’s race that takes place before the main event.

Antonine Trail Races: 10k / Half-marathon

Both of these fantastic trail races take place in Croy.  I didn’t know much about the place, but this series of races have introduced me to some great trails.  I used to only know Cory as that place where I  changed trains to get over to Edinburgh.  The RD of these races is the inspiring James Stewart (the winner of Rocky Racoon 100 in 2017, among other feats — there was a brilliant interview with James on Ian Corless’ Talk Ultra). These races are competitive, fun, and tough. A great introduction to trail racing.

The Trossachs Night Trail Series

A series of 3 cracking night races; RD is fell running legend Angela Mudge. These are whole lot of fun with a low-key vibe. There’s was a feature on the races in the winter 2016 issue of Trail Runner Magazine, I think.  Soup from the Forth Inn in Aberfoyle is a great way to finish the night.  Give me soup over a medal any day.

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There’s the race calendar, looking forward to the year, where the training runs take me, and being as proactive as possible to stay injury free.  The Great Tartan Skidaddle is only a month away now…
PJ.