Long Runs, Sad Farewells.

It has been a while since anyone has posted, between busy holidays and busy jobs it is hard to find the time.  We have managed to keep up with the running though. Myself and Jess managed our 30 mile run, which felt like a big milestone.  We all completed the Great Wilderness Challenge, an arduous 25mile  mountain trek from Dundonnell to Poolewe taking in breathtaking scenery, and midgies, along the way.  I highly recommend this challenge to anyone, the organization was fantastic, friendly stewards great food stations not to mention the brilliant spread waiting for us back at the Poolewe Village Hall.

                                         Sand Path 2015.01.18-6

There are still a few more races lined up for this year, Tery and Jon are taking part in the Applecross Duathlon, organized by our very own Gerry McPartlin.  Another great event, this one takes you through the Applecross Glen from Hartfield House to Kenmore then a short run on road to the coastal village Arena where you pick up bikes and cycle 15 miles along part of the newly named North Coast 500.  Breathtaking all the way.

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Jon, Tery, Jess and myself have decided to return to Glen Coe to give it another go, see how much faster/further we can go.

As I am sure we have mentioned in an earlier post we have, over the past year been looking towards entering  the 2016 Ultra trail Du Mont Blanc.  In order to do so we must complete one of their qualifying races to gain one point.  After a bit of deliberation we decided to enter The Marathon De Ben Nevis.  This is a 40mile run around (not over) Ben Nevis.  Still with 1700m of climb it will be a bit of a mission to say the least.  However I will be running this with Jess.  Who I have to say is the best running partner.  Which takes me to my next point.   Yesterday was a sad day in Applecross as Jess left to return to Cornwall.  Not only will we miss out running companion but our friend and her beautiful children.  Jess is great to run with as she always stays strong and positive no matter how steep the climb ahead is.  Occasionally making this slightly crazy muttering sound in the final stretch while she literally counts down the miles!  I love running the long runs.  If I was to take anything from these long runs to apply to my everyday life it would be this.  Stay strong, think positive and keep moving forward, only looking back to see how far you have come.

Looking forward to seeing you in Glen Coe Jess.

Sarahx

An Applecross Run

In 2012 my family left Applecross to start a new life in Devon. The remote West Coast peninsula is a hard place to leave both in a logistical and spiritual sense, but we have returned every year since on holiday. The community and elemental landscape continue to exert a strong emotional pull.
With our two children reunited with their old play mates and attending the primary school for the week, and Carolyn out visiting, I had a morning to roam. A chance meeting with old friend Gerry McPartlin resulted in me accepting an invitation to accompany him on a run that would take in the glen and some of the local mountains that rise above. This was a perfect opportunity to re-familiarise myself with my former home and also to catch up on the last 12 months of Applecross life. Runners are rarely silent as the stride.
As an afterthought Gerry added ‘I’m planning to run about 15 miles and take in 5,000 ft of ascent; you’ll be fine with that I’m sure, a young man like you‘. Even in his 70s Gerry displays an unusual desire to test the limits of his body and mind. The last few years have seen him complete the London Marathon and scale all of the 283 3,000ft Munros in 88 days. His eyes were now set on completing the Great Wilderness Challenge, an arduous 25 mile mountain marathon. Our run was to form part of his early preparations. There is invariably a twinkle in his eye when Gerry suggests an outing; often what he proposes has the makings of an epic, and with every invitation is a kindly coded challenge. Like most young men (an energetic 47!) I wasn’t going to back down having accepted, even though the distance was longer than I was comfortable with, and two years of living in Devon had softened my mountain legs. My last run with Gerry had been two years previously, a failed attempt to complete the Trotternish Ridge Race on Skye, a fairly brutal 26km race undertaken on the day in white out conditions and a howling gale. I was hoping for something more sedate this time.
I have always been an enthusiastic amateur runner. I was never that gifted at sports as a child, and being tall and lanky have a physique that seems naturally suited, if not to explosive speed, then at least to consuming miles. Distance running is one of only a few things in life I find easy. Although I have completed the occasional hill race, half marathon and even marathon, I’ve never been that driven to compete and am not that interested in improving on a ‘personal best’ for a set distance. I also don’t have the mental discipline to undertake constant training and invariably find it hard to pull on my trainers; more so as I get older. But once the decision has been made to set out, I have found constant solace and contentment throughout my adult life in exploring landscapes by foot at a regular jogging pace. The combination of soaking up the landscape, rhythmic breathing and observing the changing fabric of the countryside as it passes, invariably results in me being in a better mental place than when I started. More optimistic somehow; more sure of myself; invigorated; more content with my place in a world I have yet to understand. For me running is a reversion to a most basic state with the body and mind exploring and gaining energy from the power of the land through which it passes. Anything up to 12 miles is my natural distance. On a good week where work, family commitments and energy levels allow, I maybe run 20 miles. Two runs of 5 miles mid week with a longer route of perhaps 10 at the weekend being typical. Prior to Gerry’s invitation though, I had been largely idle for two months waiting for a muscle strain to heal.
We met at Hartfield in the glen at 8am, and began running along the solid and ancient coffin route between Clachan Burial Ground and Kenmore. We were joined by Greg Watson, another of the peninsula’s mountain-loving characters and like Gerry, a stalwart of the nearby Torridon Mountain Rescue team. The weather was grey and mild and a light breeze kept the midges in the undergrowth. After a few hundred metres we crossed south-eastwards over the River Crossan to ascend a small hill north of Allt Mort, a stream with ancient woodland remnants flanking its sides. This was a place I once loved coming with the family for a picnic. On reaching its summit we descended by the same route and then headed up the glen, wary of the Highland cattle and their young idly browsing close to the path. Although passive creatures, their horns and maternal desire to protect their young demand respect. By now we had each found our rhythm, our even pace allowing punctuated conversation. This ranged, as it invariably seems to in the Highlands, from an update on who had found work, deer, crofting politics, sheep, the local Inn, the outcome of the 2014 referendum, the rise of the SNP and the potential implications of the Scottish Land Reform Bill for Applecross. A change from when I had lived here two years previously was the arrival of Tesco delivery vans. Although embraced by many, others still shun this new arrival which they fear may threaten the existence of the local shop and post office.
After 20 minutes we left the main track and ascended the rough terrain of the slopes of Beinn a’ Chlachain. The only flowers to shine out through the heather and deer grass were milkwort and lousewort. By all accounts it had been a hard spring and worse early summer. Their tiny blooms of intense blue and pink were a welcome presence. As we climbed higher, our increasingly punctuated chat covered the re-introduction of beavers, forestation and re-wilding, but eventually the gradient became such that each of us retreated into our own heads a little more. The conversation had internalised.
What do I think about on long runs? Everything and nothing, and what is certain is that I cannot focus. Instead, a constant miscellany of unconnected concerns, desires and memories pass through my mind, not in a rush, but as a stream of fair weather cumulus clouds drift across the sky. All moving sedately, none of them ever really tangible for more than a second or two before disappearing to be replaced by another. Running is not great for bringing clarity to a problem I may have. Yet somehow the process results in me feeling that I somehow ‘know’ a little bit more about myself than I did before.
Peaking at around 600m, no paths now guiding our route, we ran northwards. Conversation by this time had all but been abandoned. Although our feet trod the same ancient rocks, our minds were inhabiting different mental landscapes. After a few more minutes the darkness of An Dubh-loch appeared in a valley below and we each chose our own desire lines down the slope to reach its south-eastern shore. There is something immensely satisfying about reading a landscape and selecting the most effortless route through it. I chose the vivid green that traced a small stream, judging it to be a soft mat of Sphagnum; damp enough to soften the heel strike, but firm enough to hold the weight. I am not always the best at route choices, but on this occasion it was ideal, and I effortlessly glided to the dark loch’s shore. On a different day a swim in this remote water, a dark eye at the base of an immense barren amphitheatre, would have been impossible to resist, but we still had many miles to cover. An adventure for another time.
From the loch edge we curved south-eastwards, still picking our way across sandstone bedrock and moor. At this point Greg, as if catching sight of a something precious that we couldn’t see increased the pace and traversed out of sight behind a crag. ‘Let’s leave him be, he’ll find us later,’ said Gerry. ‘We should descend here‘. We had been running for about two hours at this point. Still no fatigue but my top was drenched with sweat and my socks darkened by peaty water. The descent back to the main glen was not arduous, but this time there was no easy carpeted route to follow and both of us ended up doing the classic zig-zag descent of mountaineers. Awkward and slow. Finally, as we passed some long abandoned sheilings, the sound of cuckoos and the energetic tumbling waters of the River Crossan welcomed us towards the valley floor. Seven miles covered. I judged that to return back to the cottage where we were staying was a further five miles, and in case I didn’t have a chance later in the week, I also wanted to take in the network of inter-connecting paths in the lower glen that were familiar to me, and which I had greatly missed since moving south. That would make 12 miles and more than enough. We said our brief goodbyes and agreed to meet for a drink later in the week. Gerry turned away and began the slow climb below Meall Arachaidh to meet Greg who was somewhere above us, whilst I took the easier route and headed downhill, the limpid waters of the Sound below framed against tilted slopes of sandstone and the Isle of Raasay beyond. A few languid creelers seemed motionless on the water. I breathed in the view. After two and a half hours I began to extend the stride, assisted by gravity, and I reached that magical place which all runners will recognise, where you feel you can run forever and one’s love for living is unconstrained. Thanks to Gerry and Greg for reminding me of the harsh beauty of the Applecross landscape and for re-kindling my love for wilderness running.
Sam Bridgewater

Over Thinking

I tend to over think. I overly worry, I over indulge, I over sleep, I over work, and when I can, I like to over party. But can I over run?

Today I ran 14 miles off road, over hills with a 2000ft ascent.  This has been my longest run to date and it got me thinking… (See my first point).

How do I find the best distance for me? I’ve been running for just under a year now and over the months I’ve pushed myself a little bit further, a little bit faster and now it would seem a little bit higher! Where should I stop? Should I stop? Should I keep pushing or should I find a comfortable distance and stick with that?

I found today really hard and I wanted to stop and give up – many times – but I didn’t and right now I feel pretty pleased with myself.  However, committing to running longer distances requires several alterations to my routine. More time away from family, more time away from my business, more time away from chilling out and last but not least more time away from my over indulging. Some good alterations and some bad…

So, let’s see…. what better way to road test the best distance for me other than pushing it a bit and just checking. The next challenge is The Great Wilderness Challenge 25 miles over some more hills.

Like I say, I like to overdo things – but I also need to try before I decide whether its right for me or not. Around the half marathon mark fits in with my lifestyle quite well right now but if we don’t push and we don’t try and get out our comfort zone every now and then we will never know whats right for us. So let’s see.

Right now I’m away to over sleep….me running     Tery

Onwards and Upwards.

Last weekend myself and 3 of my running buds, Tery, Jess and Jon plus family, all traveled down to Edinburgh to run the Edinburgh Half Marathon.  It was a successful weekend all round.  Tery and Jon who had hoped to come in under 2.30 smashed their time with a 2.11 finish, and myself and Jess who hoped to come in under 2 managed a 1.53 finish.  Although the forecast was not looking too promising with high winds and heavy rain forecast, the weather held up for us.

I was not fully prepared for this race, stupidly thinking it would feel like a breeze having not long competed a marathon.  A month had passed and i had managed to keep up the training including a good 14mile 800m ascent run.  Myself and Jess ran together.  We started well, managing to get to the front of the pack.  We were keen to do this as we had started at the back in the London marathon and spent the first 13 mile weaving through the crowds, trying to pick up our pace.  The route took us down hill for the first 5 miles and we ran the first 10k in 52 mins, which is good for DRYK1797-20x30us.   However, having decided not to take any watch, we had no way of knowing how far or how fast we were going.  We were a bit gutted when we spotted the 5 mile marker, thinking that we were nearer 7!  So knowing we could not continue at that pace for a further 8 miles we decided to slow down until mile 10.  From there the plan was to try and speed up to the finish.  However the last 3 miles was psychologically hard as the route took us  along a straight road for 1.5 miles then back down again on the other side of the road.  We did manage to speed up a little, it felt like a lot but having seen video footage of the finish it was not as much of a sprint to the finish as I had thought! I clearly remember thinking at 0.6 miles to go, “OMG! I cannot keep going for much longer!”  which I knew was wrong.  It was only a month earlier that I had run 26.2 and although we were running faster, not that much.   It was a good reminder for me that you have to be careful when you gear your self up for the task ahead.  Psychologically, if you set yourself up for 13miles, that can feel like your limit.  I do not want to set my limits, I want to push my limits.gwc

With that in mind I have now set my next goal.  30 miles!  London I wanted to complete, Edinburgh I wanted to speed up.  Next I would like to increase my distance.  Our next race is in August, The Great Wilderness Challenge, 25 miles cross country from  Dundonnell to Poolewe.  So the plan is to move off the roads and up the hills.  Short steeps and increased distance.

Sarah

The London Marathon…the big day and first of many

So, we did it! Gerry, Sarah and I ran the London Marathon after months of training in snow, hail, high winds, and the odd bit of sunshine. There was injury, frustrating schedules when we couldn’t run, a lot of new kit, approximately 10 pairs of trainers, a million fundraising events, and lots of support.

Still in the afterglow of the marathon we were asked by our charities to give a few words about how it felt. So this is it:

It was so, so exciting! We all started together, which was amazing given that we thought we would never find each other amongst the thousands of other runners. Sarah and I spent the first 13 miles weaving in and out of competitors, feeling really strong, but at mile 18 it started to get truly tough. The crowd were utterly mind blowing, and kept us going. On many occasions I looked round to see if I knew the people speaking to me because it felt like they were cheering just me – the shouts of ‘come on, you’re looking strong, you can do it!’ were awesome (although I think they might have said this to everyone looking like they were about to pass out).

I passed a man doing seven marathons in seven days, a huge hulk of a man dressed as a Baywatch babe, Jesus (yes, actually on the cross), and a lady dressed as an ‘Essex girl’ running in 5” stilettos! It hit me at one point that I wasn’t going as fast as I’d thought when a man dressed as a phone box passed me, and someone actually walking shuffled passed me!

The weather was cold and wet, which was perfect for us, being used as we were to the Highlands in winter. There was a man DJing from his flat balcony to spur us on, and kids lined the streets with their hands outstretched to give us high fives all the way along the route. There were steel bands, African drums, jazz, and a Scottish band of pipe players which made us very emotional.

The supporters were fantastic! There were people with bananas, oranges, jelly beans- just because they wanted to do something to help all those people going through all kinds of pain. There were moments when I considered that I might be going crazy with all the thoughts that were running through my head, and moments when the crowd literally reduced me to tears.

Running along the embankment was phenomenal, and passing Big Ben knowing we only had a short way to go was the best thing ever… apart from seeing the finish line and knowing that the pain was about to stop. Except it didn’t! The agony of stopping was clear to see in everyone hanging sheepishly around the finish area, unable to move, sit, stand, or walk. And everyone was so emotional they didn’t know whether to collect their kit, hug someone random, collapse on the ground, or cheer like a crazy person!

It really was the best day ever… and to top it all off, we got a massive medal!

In total we have raised almost £14,000 for our charities, Fight for Sight, Prostate Cancer and Venture Trust. The support we had back home was nothing short of amazing. The whole of Applecross got behind us and tracked us on the app. And the donations just kept pouring in on the day.

Our top tips for your first marathon:
1. I really hated my bumbag; it was so uncomfortable. In normal circumstances this would not be an item I would purchase, but I needed something to carry my energy gels. Be sure to go running with the kit you’ll take on the day to eliminate any faux pas!
2. Go to the toilet before you start your race! This is very important. Unless you want it to be the only thing you are thinking about for the last eight miles.
3. There are female urinals at the start of the race. These are not your friend.
4. Never put an overly predicted low time on your application. You will end up at the back of the 38,000 people and have to spend 13 miles or so weaving in and out of those people who have chosen to walk the marathon.
5. Never agree to a celebratory dinner just a few hours later… you will be too tired and unable to climb the steps of the tube!
6. Have fun, and if it feels like it’s too much and you can’t do any more, just remember why you’re running, the great cause you’re supporting, and keep going. You will get there, and when you do, you’ll be elated and overwhelmed and want to do it all over again.

It was an incredible day and something I would definitely recommend everyone experiences if they have the opportunity. Run it, jog it, walk it, dress up as a tomato and skip along, but do it. It really is for everyone.
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45 days to go.

Micro M

February has been and gone,  Spring is upon us and we have made some big strides with our London Marathon fundraising.  We have all reached our targets, this is a big weight off our shoulders.  On the 1st March we had our Micro Marathon.  It was a fantastic day, despite a chilling wind and hail, 30 runners turned up to run 2.62 miles. The race started at the Beachwood path in Applecross, through the estate and up the Applecross Glen then finishing off in Hartfield House Hostel for some soup and bacon rolls.  It was particularly exciting to watch the young runners who were unperturbed by the dismal conditions.  We raised £181.65 towards our charities, Fight for Sight and the Venture Trust.

Still struggling with shin splints I decided to take myself back to Run 4 It in Inverness to try some new trainers.  They were very helpful, I went for some Asics Cumulus 16.  I am very happy with these.  They are far more cushioned than my previous trainers, Nike Free 5.  They also very kindly donated a £20 gift voucher as a prize for our Micro Marathon.  Without wanting to risk anymore wear and tear in my shin I have been focusing on cross training.  Cycling/Yoga/walking and some strength training.  With only 4 weeks of training left, at this stage I think the best I can do is try and maintain my fitness level.  Tomorrows plan is a bit of gym work followed by a swim.  Next week I will take to the paths of Applecross again and try and build up a few miles before London.   Whatever happens on the day I know I am fitter, healthier and more energized than I have been for years, a great way to start my 36th year!   And I have just booked a place in the Edinburgh Half Marathon along with fellow Applecross runner Tery… Bring it on! Sarah

Back in 2013, I did a very strange thing.

U G.run

Why on earth would anybody choose to run 30 miles on a treadmill? Yes, it was another of Grandad’s mad challenges. The prostate cancer motivation was imminent surgery for the condition. The L’Arche connection was longer standing. L’Arche is a charity for adults with learning disabilities. Over the previous 3 years, I had helped raise funds for a new L’Arche home in Edinburgh, now up and running, and a new L’Arche community in Kenya, that I visited in 2012.

U Gerry

I was on my own, 3-4 hours in to the run, when I had an unexpected visit from Mandy Orr of L’Arche’s Edinburgh office. She was carrying an A3 sized photo message from my wonderful friends in Kenya. It was the perfect motivational boost.

UGrun2

I completed the 30 miles within my target time. I think I’ll carry a miniature of the picture with me in London. By 20 miles I’m sure I’ll be needing to “CHANNEL MY INNER KENYAN”!

Gerry McPartlin.

The Down Side To Running….

Now, I hate to be negative especially on our second post but I would like to address a common point of view which has been expressed to me quite a lot recently.  It’s the “running is bad for your joints”  “you’re better off just going for a brisk walk”  attitude.  I have to say that having packed in quite a lot of miles over the last few months, possibly overdoing it a bit, I have sustained an injury to my left shin.  Nothing serious but seriously annoying.  It has meant i have had to take several weeks, six to be precise, off running.  When training for a marathon this is quite a set back.  I have tried to keep fitness up by replacing running for cycling or walking but really there is no substitute.  It was the beginning of December when I started to get this reoccurring pain in my shin.  Rather that stopping and listening to my body I decided to ignore it and hope it would just go away.  We then did an 18 mile road run.  It was such a good day.  The weather was cold but clear, we had a stunning route along the coast road between Applecross and Shieldaig.  This, as far as my leg was concerned, was the final straw.

Several weeks later things seem to be back on track.  But I am sure there will be other injuries along the way.  Hopefully not before we head off to London.  Whilst running recently, we have started to discuss what times we would like to make in the London Marathon and plan for how best we can achieve this.  Will we be disappointed if we don’t make those times? probably.  But what I have realized is that it is what we are doing now, here in Applecross that is important.  It’s the training, the consistent exercise, the getting out there what ever the weather that matters most.  Yes we could just go out for a walk but there is something addictive about running.  Getting a P.B. in an everyday run.   The races planned are really just for motivation to keep you going.  London is just one stage of what I hope to be a lifelong running journey.  It may cause some wear and tear for your limbs but it is unarguably good for the heart and soul.

A crazy idea…

It all started with a crazy idea to enter the Glencoe Mountain Gathering Half Marathon. From there Applecross Running Club was born with the simple idea that we wanted to keep running in the wilds of Scotland and that others might want to as well.

We all live and work in Applecross: Jon owns the Walled Garden Potting Shed Restaurant and catches all his own seafood. Tery runs Clement Design; Sarah does the accounts and paperwork for her husband’s business; and I work at Venture Mor, adventure holiday company and hostel. Gerry is a retired doctor and also on-call doctor for Mountain Rescue. Everyone has children: little ones and big ones, some of which have also joined the running club. Friends help with childcare, hot coffee after long runs and even free baths in the recent event of power cuts!

What we have discovered is that anyone can run. Everyone is pushed for time; everyone has commitments and constraints and insecurities, someone who is slower than them, and someone who is faster. It turns out it really doesn’t matter.

We all started out a few months ago, petrified of running with each other because we thought we wouldn’t be able to keep up. None of us had shiny new kit (I believe Jon ran in his crocs the very first time!) or knew what we were doing. But we started having such fun running around the trails of Applecross, chatting about everything from what our running theme tune should be – Chariots of Fire – to the benefits of Botox.  We learnt that running without eating means you run out of energy, and running when you have just eaten is definitely not to be recommended.

We have learnt so much about each other and made so many running and social plans along the way. We have gone from turning up in jersey jogging pants to buying running tights and trail shoes, reading running magazines, and searching the internet for tips on training.

So now we have goals, dreamt up during particularly good runs. Three of us got places in the Virgin Money London Marathon on 26 April. Another two are entering the Tiree Half Marathon in May. Five of us are planning to do the Great Wilderness Challenge, a 25 mile run over mountainous terrain, in August. And then, after watching the BMC Running Wild video of four women running the TNF Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, we felt inspired (especially by Milly Voice). We now have a far off goal of doing it too – something we never really even knew was a possibility.

So, although not yet achieved, we are taking our first steps. And this blog is our way of making sure we get there. By putting it in print, sharing our training ups and downs, how we overcome injuries and set backs, when we reach milestones (quite literally), anything we learn along the way, kit we couldn’t do without, and how that first crazy idea has changed our lives.

Please share with anyone who is embarking on an adventure of their own, training for something, or just starting out. Or just someone you think might be interested.