Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Thunder Run 2014

For detailed information on this event please visit their website www.tr24.co.uk

Lets cut to the end first, I LOVED IT !

Now that's out of the way, here's a bit about the whole shebang from my view point. I was invited by Twitter pals to join them in a team of 6 last year but had to pull out with a knackered back. Fortunately they invited me back this year.

As is often the case, I gave it little thought in terms of what it would be like to run in an event like this. Run, eat, rest, repeat. I had never done this so there really was no point in trying to guess.

I travelled south on the Friday to arrive at a mammoth campsite, which gave me my first indication of the scale of the event. The temperature was high, which for us Scots is spelled HIGH ! The skipper of the team had arrived early and had reserved lots of camping space for our team and 3 other teams (very much appreciated Mike and Sarah). We basically all knew each other in person or if not through Twitter.

Some of us decided to have a recce run that evening. I'm not sure of the merit of this with the event looming, but it was somehow fitting of how we approached the whole thing: we weren't here to win, but have a great fun weekend with likeminded people. Funnily enough, although taking it slowly, I found it quite tough. I thought the hills were steeper than I expected and the ground quite hard and rutted. This worked in my favour when I ran my 1st real lap as the hills seemed quite gentle and I didn't notice the ground as I was racing.

Friday night was spent chilling with a couple of beers and some food and off to a fairly early bed.
                                                      Ice cream van doing a roaring trade

Sarah is not sure what Mike has just fed her

                                                                Ian and Mike

As if the TR24 wasn't going to be enough, a lot of us went to the nearby Conkers park run, which I'm sure had a record attendance ! I must confess that my last 5k (other than in training) was in 2009 ! After a very slow congested start things opened up and I ran faster than I should have but hey, I was enjoying myself !

To business: our team #teamcrazy was led and organised superbly by the one and only Mike Wells (@mikew30). We had the Gaffer (@mrafletch) on board and three lovely ladies, all of whom are full of life, Catherine (@mrsbedders), Natalie (@spin_queen1) and Tracy (@temott10). Good people. We had our running order and at high noon, off Natalie went in the baking heat.
                                            Solo Martin standing in for Andrew in this pic!

The course is entirely off road, a twisty turny mix of trail and woodland. Some sections are very technical and there's around 400 feet of climb. My 1st lap started around 2.30pm and I ran a decent 6 miler in 52.27. Now the fun started in terms of what to do. I cheered some of the others on but I knew I was due out again around 7.15pm so I ate a bit and tried to nap.
                                                         My 1st lap was a hot one

Lap 2 was a beauty. I haven't raced over this distance for quite some time, so I just "went with the flow" and was delighted how I felt and stopped my watch on 49.59 ! Delighted and surprised. I ate some more and tried to sleep with the estimate that I'd collect the baton from Tracy around 2.10am. It's hard to sleep when you know you have to be awake and ready to race quite soon, but you know you need to. The skipper phoned from his tent 10 yards away at 1.10am to tell we were ahead of schedule and I was up at 1.45am !

Groggily, I got ready, drank a smoothie and headed to the changeover area with my head torch for a lap in the dark. I'd hoped I might get the lap where the sun came up, but that was the Gaffer's privilege.
                                                              Getting dressed at 1.30am

Running in the dark is fun. A lot found this to be their favourite lap. I wouldn't say that but I did enjoy the difference. The time went faster (although it was my slowest lap) as I had little awareness of where I was in the lap. I was literally looking a few steps ahead. At one stage I thought I was going slowly for a gentle downhill until I realised I was actually going uphill ! Lap time 53.46.

I had my best sleep next, all both hours of it ! I woke to find the Gaffer making tea. Very welcome. My last lap was scheduled for 8.10am but brought forward to 7.45am by everyone's speediness. I was very unsure how I would cope with this one. All in all I had run 27 miles so far. However, straight from the changeover I felt OK and passed 2 miles in a decent time. I thought to myself "2 like that? Keep going." After 4 miles I thought "only 2 more to go, keep working son." There's a nasty wee hill just before the finish where lots of people spectate. I got huge encouragement from my team mates there and gave it my all. 48.58 ! So pleased.
                                                       Giving it the beans up the last hill

So for the 1st time ever I enjoyed a cold beer before 9am on a Sunday morning (well two actually !)

The plan had evolved so that we would all run 4 laps and then if anyone wanted to go again, they could. We had plenty of time (you had to start your last lap before midday). Natalie wanted to go again as she had never run 30 miles in 24 hours before and had had lots of injury problems. We ran that lap as a team and I'm so glad I did. It was fun and quite emotional at the finish.



Natalie with her wings on upside down

                                                        Last lap time. 7th run in the kilt

                                                             Tracy looking cool as ever

                                                                          Santa Mike

L-R Mike, Natalie, Tracy, Andrew

Nat's glorious sprint finish

                                                             There were a few tears here

The atmosphere the whole weekend was just so good. Like minded people doing what they love. As I ran in my kilt all weekend, I got lots of support. Bizarrely, my beard got lots of support too. Must be a running thing !

I had a great weekend with great people. However, the people who really deserve the congratulations, admiration and respect are the solo runners. What they put themselves through, I can't begin to imagine. The only one I know personally is Martin (@teamb_o_b) who knocked out 13 laps. He had some low points, as I'm sure he expected, but had the mental strength to carry on. I ran with him in the Edinburgh marathon dressed as clowns, but this guy is no clown. Behind folk like Martin is support. His wife Sue deserves a big mention here: Well done that lady.
                                                                  Solo man Martin

                                                          Sue packed for all weathers

                                                    These solo guys think of everything !

If you have managed to read through this waffle, you'll get the idea that I quite liked it ! You could do worse than give it a go yourself sometime.


Sunday, 29 June 2014

Duns Castle woods in pictures

I spend a large part of my running life in these woods. Most days after work I head here and run a few miles. Its the perfect slow down after a hectic day.
I don't really care about the weather, but it is generally nicer when its sunny and summery. However, there are trails that are accessible in winter but too nettley in summer. The ground conditions vary hugely, which I love. These photos attempt to show the variations on offer. They don't do justice to the gradients. The run I took these pics on was 10 miles and had around 1200 feet of climb. Basically any run here will average around 100ft/mile.
I would add that this run took place mid morning on a summer Sunday and I saw one person (a cyclist. No walkers. No runners). Ive no idea why more people don't lap this place up.
In no order, these photos attempt to show the varied running conditions in this wee paradise.
                                                                      The Hen Poo

                                                                   Some clear paths
                                                                  Easy through the trees
                                                                     

Deer Tracks

                                                                      The old quarry road
                                                              Bare coniferous forest floor
                                                               Deciduous woodland


                                                               The Perch Pond
                                       Narrow, twisty trails overgrown at this time of year

                                                           Trails sloping left....

                                                                   .....and right
                                             The Hen Poo from the Bruntons

The most tricky sections aren't worth photographing as they are largely low branches, whin bushes and nettles. If you'd like a tour of my playground, just ask !