Thursday, September 22, 2011

West Highland Way

Okay, typically I'm overly verbose, tend towards the bulging emails, write a paragraph when a yes or no will do...  I think you get the drift!

I also tend to become preoccupied when "on a project", such as the pottery studio I'm building for Lee Anne, hence the 11 day hiatus from this blog.  So, rather than spend an acceptable (inordinate) amount of time dealing with an embarrassing lack of technical calendar reading (also known as scheduling), I will copy the article written about the West Highland Way.   The "Way" is staggering in scenery, wonderful to experience and a unique view of Scottish land and life.  The article does little justice to how glorious the experience was and how much we experienced.

But first, a succinct line or two on my glaring scheduling faux-pas...  Basically, I thought I had 2 weekends between now and the Run for the Toad!  For those calendarially challenged such as I, the Toad is next weekend (9 days from tomorrow).  Out the window go my plans to ramp up to 28K for 2 weeks before the race.  Unfortunately, the reality is that running 50K at the Toad is also not practically possible.

Let's get on to the Way:

Running the West Highland Way

Considered a rite of passage for the Scottish, the 95-mile West Highland Way (the Way) is a wondrous venue for exploring and appreciating Scotland.  It covers majestic landscapes in both the lowlands north of Glasgow and the highlands, culminating in Fort Williams.

There are many packages for hiking the trail, typically in 7 or 8 days.  There is also a race for those who would like to test themselves against the terrain.  In 2011, the race started at 1:00 AM on June 19th with a cut-off at noon on June 20th.  This provides a generous 35 hours to cover the 95 miles.

Most of the course is quite runnable, following well-marked paths or older roads comprised of gravel, pavement or cobblestone.  Some trail sections are more technical in nature, but these only represent about 15-20% of the course.

Planning to break the course record?  In 2006, Jez Bragg ran the WHW in 15:44:50.  The next year saw Lucy Colquhoun shave 20 minutes from the woman’s record with a time of 17:16:20.  The race started in 1985 with two runners and aside from missing a few years, continues to this day.  In 2011, 113 runners beat the 35-hour cut-off.

Are you interested?  Check out for details.  Entry for 2012 opens in September or October of 2011.  Read the rules carefully, for there are hidden gems, such as you must have motorized support and at least 2 crew on your team and you are not allowed a pacer if you are within 4 hours of the leader!

My wife Lee Anne and I hiked the Way in 6 days.  Although no day was as difficult as running a 50K race, we hiked up to 22 miles on one day, which took about 9 hours.  You truly deserve a dram of scotch after such a feat!    The Way starts at Milngavie, 12 miles from the Glasgow airport.  Milngavie is more or less a suburb of Glasgow and at the start, the Way reminded me of any crushed rock trail inside a city.  A very pleasant way to start a long journey.  Throughout the lowlands, the trail is mainly on groomed trail or road, but with enough technical bits to require some of your attention on the path forward.  The scenery is splendid; it seems everything in Scotland is lush and green, or historic.  I excitedly took pictures of waterfalls, until the tally superseded 50, and then tended to consider them as no big deal.  Loch (lake) Lomond figures prominently in the lowlands, with startling vistas from Conic Hill.

Once you arrive at Crianlarch, the trail turns more rugged and the Highlands start.  Viewing a country via a “horizontal” trail is new to us.  We tend to hike trails in the mountains and have done so in Scotland and other countries.  These “vertical” hikes are most impressive and provide beautiful vistas, but hiking “horizontally” brings you in touch with the history, architecture and natural beauty of a country.  Highly recommended!

Lee Anne runs about 90 miles per week and went for a few 10-mile runs after the shorter days, typically comprised of 14 miles of hiking.  I found 95 miles in 6 days just about right, thank you.  On 2 days, we both ran the last 6 – 8 miles and were quite surprised that it would have been easy to run part or all of the Way throughout the 6 days.  In retrospect, a very doable run.  Either as a 95 mile race in under 35 hours, or as a 2 – 4 day run / hike.  We booked with Macs Adventures, as we prefer B&B’s to camping.  It tends to rain in Scotland!  Macs Adventures ( was hassle-free.  They book the hotels and B&B’s, transport luggage to the next room and provide excellent maps and details of the hike.

For runners with Scotland on the bucket list, consider the West Highland Way.  The trail is a wonderful Way to see Scotland and run some interesting terrain!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wasaga Beach Half

I am still resenting the decision (actually a lack of a timely decision) to skip Haliburton.  The reason was acceptable, I couldn't afford the time just now to drive over on Friday evening, run a race (Curly would start at 06:00), wait around for Curly to finish 50K or 50M, then arrive in Creemore Saturday evening.  I am building Curly a 12' X 20' pottery studio.  She plans to ramp up her pottery, now that she has retired from teaching.

Being in IT at Honda and involved in project schedules, (I tend to default to the technical project lead, even when I instruct my managers not to slot me into such a position.  Managers!  Who can trust them...) I like to keep personal projects on schedule.  I know, run, think about running, write about running...

A surprise phone call at work on Wednesday from Curly culminated in her signing us up for the Wasaga Beach half marathon.  The half is actually a wonderful distance.  The course was flat (flatter than Creemore!), a mixture of road and bits of trail, and it doesn't burn the day away, such as a 50K 3 hours from home.

A half is also a distance at which you can "cheat" on your training.  From my perspective, the first 5K of Wasaga was painful and slow, as the various ailments resist running faster that a slow hobble.  From 5 to 10K, I can ramp it up to a fast, lurching hobble, with little pain.  Quite enjoyable!  From 10 to 15K, my lack of training resulted in a short black period, in which running became painful surviving.  From 15K to the end was a bit better, as I kept repeating to myself that I only had 6 more K!

A finishing time of 2:05 was my second slowest ever, but I'm happy, given the lack of training.  An added burden stemmed from handling 6 bushcord of firewood last week and hauling wood and hammering on Friday and Saturday, something I do infrequently.  It was strange to run with significant resistance in the shoulders and arms.

I can now look forward to running 50K at the Toad.  How am I going to do this without proper training?  A very good question!  Any hints or suggestions?  My only recourse at this point is to attempt a 30K next weekend, then execute a perfect taper.  "A" plan is run 25K, then run/walk 12.5K, then walk/crawl the forth loop.  B plan is to run 25K, then DNF.  The plan will depend on how much pain I am managing at the 25K point.

Well, the floor is done and 2 walls are framed, but time to swing a hammer!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Confusion Reigns Supreme!

Okay, I've been very very bad this week.  I had hoped to run Haliburton or with Ron Irwin (West Grey Runner) who scheduled quality time yesterday on the Bruce Trail at Beaver Valley.  Guess what?  Time commitments precluded both endeavors as I needed to complete the firewood supply for one of my sisters and myself, before starting a new pottery studio for Lee Anne this coming weekend.  Today is Lee Anne's first official day of retirement!  She is looking forward to once again becoming a professional potter, after teaching primary classes for 27 years.

So, firewood, pottery studio and running.  Did I mention I work for a living?  I know, my priorities are running, thinking about running, writing about running and way down the list, "other"...  To be fair, this week I have been writing an article on the West Highland Way in Scotland.  Lee Anne and I hiked the Way in August.  Inspiring scenery, epic hiking and a wonderful way to see Scotland.  There is also a race that follows the 95 mile Way.  I hope to post soon.

At some point I need to post on my injury list.  The task is surprisingly daunting, as I have been running for 38 years and was also active in sports that are usually not considered sedentary in nature.  While playing Rugby for Waterloo University, my teammate's ear became infected after having been partially torn off.  He needed a note to play against McMaster, but his Doctor knew little of the sport.  He convinced the doctor that Rugby was similar to tennis, and was granted a doctor's note to play!  Similar to running, denial is a large component of high-impact sports...

For fun, let's start with the left knee:  Operation to remove cartilage (embarrassingly enough, it was high school basketball), damaged ACL (chainsaw), torn petellar tendon (rugby), ripped quadricep (Swiss saw), IT band (running) and knee strain (arthritis).  I jokingly state that my left knee is the good one!  Enough frivolity, I better call it a night...