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Jog Scotland at Westwoods

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I got asked to cover the running group that Brendan and Fiona run at Westwood’s health club while Brendan was recovering from an injury. I was to look after the 6pm class, intermediate group of mixed abilities with numbers varying each week but anywhere from 6-14 at a time. Having only recently ‘qualified’ as a jog leader via Jog Scotland I have to admit I was slightly nervous for my first big group session. I made sure I reccied the area the weekend before and planned out my first session well, speed.  I need not have been nervous, I love running and I know what I’m talking about so as soon as I got started into the warm up I was in my groove. I enjoyed a full 9 weeks of running the group, taking them through different sessions each week such as speed, steady, hills, intervals and fartleks.
It’s been a positive experience for both the group and myself. I feel I’ve learnt a lot about running with larger groups of mixed abilities and how to ensure they all get an equal workout, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the runners each with their own stories, goals and successes to share. From their feedback they have really enjoyed a different style of leader, experiencing some different types of sessions and alternative warm up and stretching exercises. They have also enjoyed hearing about my ultra running, nutrition, kit and training aspects as well as my own story of fatty to fittie which has helped to motivate and inspire them some more.
I thought my stint was over, but it turns out they love me that much I am coming back on a permanent basis starting next week Tuesday September 16th for both the 6pm and 7pm classes, so check it out and why not sign up yourself?

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Canadian Visitors

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It was a gorgeous week in Edinburgh for a running tour and the weather didn’t disappoint for a Wednesday jaunt around the sights with some lovely ladies all the way from Canada.  Samantha and Allison were keen to take in the sights of Edinburgh and burn off some energy at the same time.  With both ladies in training for what sounds like a fun event of kayaking, running and cycling in September in Vancouver this was the perfect opportunity to stretch out the legs.

Views of Arthur's Seat
Views of Arthur’s Seat

When they first saw the impressive Arthur’s Seat they were unsure whether they would be up for running all the way up or just taking the run around Queen’s Road, but we left that decision for later.

Calton Hill
Calton Hill

Edinburgh is renowned for its hills and we were certainly warmed up by the time we got to the Castle which was a hive of activity with preparations for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo which is an experience like no other; an unforgettable evening of music, dance, ceremony and theatre.  The seating started construction about 6 weeks ago ready for the show program from 1st August until the 23rd August, and will take a good 4 weeks to dismantle afterwards.  On top of that, Royal Mile is exploding with activity ready for Edinburgh Fringe Festival which also kicks off this weekend, so we ran amongst gothics & ghouls, singers, live statues and many a strange character.

After a steady run back down Royal Mile we were faced with the decision to go up or around Arthur’s Seat, the ladies boldly chose the best option and up we went.  We were rewarded with views as far as the eye could see, albeit rather windy, I made sure they held on tight while I got their summit photo!

Hanging on to Arthur's Seat summit
Hanging on to Arthur’s Seat summit

I left the ladies at the end with a tasty treat and a big bottle of water which they thoroughly deserved and they headed off to find some tasty dinner!

Holyrood Park
Holyrood Park

 

 

Feeling inspired?

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It is nearly here!  The XX Commonwealth games will start on the 23rd July!

Who’s coming?  What tickets have you managed to get?  There are still opportunities to get tickets, so don’t miss out.

It’s events like these that seem to get us motivated.  The Tour de France is on at the moment and suddenly you see an influx of cyclists out and about, when Wimbledon was on the same happened for tennis, when it’s London Marathon, we all get out and go running.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, anything that gets people motivated to get off the couch and out doing something active is a good thing in my book.

So while you are up in Scotland, as I am sure you will have to visit Edinburgh, then why not make use of that motivation and join me on a running tour.  Edinburgh has it’s own venue for the games as well, the Royal Commonwealth pool is hosting the diving, we could incorporate a run past that into your tour as well.

Look forward to having you join me on a run and hearing about your experiences at The Games!

Eclectic Cake visits Edinburgh (and Glasgow)

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After a ‘holiday’ in The States, attempting my first 100 miler, I had a nightmare journey back to Edinburgh with delayed flights. My only concern was that I had a running tour booked for 5pm on Monday 30th June and it was looking shaky that I might not make it back in time…..but I did! Landing in Edinburgh at 1pm on Monday, after being up since Sunday morning early, I made it for my 5pm booking with Jen from Eclectic Cake. It was refreshing to go for a run with another keen soul and it was certainly the best antidote after such a long travel, cured the jet lag!

Jen and the flower clock
Jen and the flower clock

Jen has her own blog and here she has written a great blog about her running tour with me in Edinburgh and with another fellow runner, Graham in Glasgow. Take a read and I hope to see you joining me for a running tour soon.

Mystique of the Mohican

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When our friend, Peter (Princess) Joergensen, suggested we join him on a trip to America to run the Mohican 100 we didn’t really take into account how soon it was after running Marathon Des Sables but wanted to give it a go. And let’s face it, any excuse that results in ending up in New York & Philadelphia for shopping and food is a winner in my book. So the plans were set and we were off.

My training wasn’t tailored for a 100 mile event, with MdS in April that was the event I was training for, so coming back from that was more about recovery and holding my level of fitness which I hoped would be enough to get me through my first 100 miler. I probably averaged about 50 miles a week between April and June, with one week including running the Edinburgh Marathon as a training run, in particular practising using gels for race fuel which I hadn’t done for quite a while due to stomach upsets in the past.

The Mohican 100 is the 5th oldest ultra running race in the USA, with many claiming it is tougher than Western States (obviously I am not qualified to comment….yet!). It is an automatic full points qualifier for UTMB which goes to show how tough it actually is. Traversing 95% trail along a challenging course made up of 4 laps (2 x 26.8 miles & 2 x 23.2 miles) winding its way through the lush 5,000 acres that makes up the Mohican Memorial State Forest, it has to be the most beautiful trail I have ever had the privilege to run. Absolutely stunning, mostly single track trails through heavily covered woods. Switch back trails taking you up roughly 1,000m ascent (and descent) every lap through gorgeous forestry, past lakes, under waterfalls, jumping fallen logs, running along rivers and even including a hand over foot climb up a massive set of tree roots!

We chose to stay in the nearby town of Mansfield, which was only about a half hour drive away, but in hindsight would definitely arrange to stay in the Mohican Adventures Cabins located directly across from the finish area to make it even easier. The race started at 5am on Saturday 20th June, so alarms were set for 3:30am to ensure we were at the race start in time. The weather was quite difficult to judge with some light rain to welcome us at the start but it was already so muggy! I decided to stick to my X-bionic shorts with a short sleeved top and donned a buff for my head to keep the cool off. I shouldn’t have bothered with the buff, within 5 minutes of running I was absolutely dripping in sweat and the buff was off and put away for good. There was loads of runners starting with just a pair of shorts not even a shirt so that is a pretty good indication of how warm it was, due to the dense cover the sun never really came through the trees in full light so the sunglasses I had in my bag were a waste.

At the start for 5am
At the start for 5am

A head torch was needed for the first hour and a half especially with the forest being so dense it did take a while for the light to be strong enough to turn the torch off for good. But oh my; how beautiful it was as the light came through. Absolutely stunning, the forest was shrouded in mist and had an ethereal quality about it and this was certainly the most magical part of the day.

I ran the first lap strong, I had my race plan of taking on fuel every half an hour worth 30g of carbs to keep me going and this certainly worked for me. I had a mixture of gels to take with different flavours from Torq, High 5 and Hammer, along with a few ‘real food’ options such as Torq bars and bounce balls along with a few treats like Doritos crisps and a donut (planned for later in the evening). There were checkpoints roughly every 5 miles, all of which were really well stocked with ice cold water, Hammer Heed, coke, ginger ale and a variety of snacks such as orange segments, pretzels, sweets, turkey sandwiches etc and of course Hammer gels (the event was sponsored by Hammer) and all the checkpoint volunteers were super friendly and always willing to help.

The route was absolutely beautiful, I made sure I was looking around and soaking up the beauty of it all. The ascents and descents were steep though and I started to regret my choice of shoe size. With the humid heat my feet were swelling a lot more than I have experienced ever before (even in MdS and Kalahari I didn’t have this problem) and this was causing my left big toe to be very sore, meaning I was running on the side of my foot to try and take the pressure off my toe, causing then a sore ankle, all compounded on the descents.

Covered Bridge was the 3rd checkpoint along the trail loop which stored your other drop bag ensuring I could maintain my nutrition plan by picking up my packed mini bags I had prepared with gels/food I had brought with me. It also meant I didn’t need to take long at checkpoints or eat much of the checkpoint food provided, just the odd orange segment which tasted a treat in the heat.

Heading towards Covered Bridge
Heading towards Covered Bridge

The temperature was certainly rising and the humidity was high, I’m taking a guess the temperature would have been in the 30’s with about 90% humidity so it was thirsty work which was a bit of my downfall. I was running with my Ultimate Hydration Ultra Vesta which had the supplied 10oz bottles (284ml) on each side. One one side I was using this for purely water and on the other I alternated between Torq Energy and Hammer Perpetuem (both high carb energy drinks) so my water intake was too low, I was constantly running out of fluid before each checkpoint, and even though I was drinking a cupful or two of water at each checkpoint as well I still ended up dehydrated through my second lap.

The laps started and finished at the Mohican Adventures checkpoint so this was the location for the other drop bag, so on finishing the first lap in about 5.5 hours, as 2nd lady I found out whilst there, I restocked with my fuels and headed off to plenty of cheers of support. Still feeling strong I headed out feeling great and positive that I would certainly be completing this race. About halfway through the 2nd lap my ankle/toe was starting to become increasingly painful and mixed with the dehydration things were starting to look desperate. I was still in 2nd lady position at Covered Bridge (41.8 miles) but soon after that I started to slow dramatically. When I got to Hickory Ridge checkpoint (47.3 miles) I was struggling. I sat in a chair, which is a complete no-no at this point and had a cup of the most delicious salty potato soup to try and kick start things. It was here that I started to get overtaken by quite a few runners. A lovely lady at the checkpoint recognised me, and knew that Dion, my husband, was ahead of me. She said that she had seen him at this checkpoint but he wasn’t looking good and was possibly going to drop which was a shame as he was in 7th place after 50 miles. Little did I know at this stage that he had been peeing blood again (he had the same issue at MdS). I think hearing that switched a little mental switch in my head and the last 6 miles back to the start/finish were a long battle of my thoughts; should I drop or shouldn’t I? I had to grab a stick along the way to help me get down the hills as my toe just couldn’t take any more pressure. 2 1/2 hours to do those 6 miles and I made it back, completing lap 2.

Dion is super positive for me, telling me to eat and drink something, sit for a bit and think about what I really want to do. Always thinking that there is no point doing lap 3 if you can’t do lap 4. I thought back to my last 6 miles and how long and painful that was; I could do one more lap I thought, but not two. So I dropped! There is roughly a 40% drop rate on this race, and as we sat waiting for Princess to come through, we witnessed lots of people dropping out as well. During conversations through the race with other runners it became quite apparent that most people were here on their 2nd/3rd attempt as a minimum so I didn’t feel too bad about the decision. Live to run another race right?

We sat for hours waiting for Princess, we’d eaten the food in our drop bags and decided to get some real food while we were waiting. It was getting late and soon it would be completely dark and there certainly weren’t many food options locally so Dion headed off to the local Pizzeria and came back with a massive, delicious pizza and a couple of beers which we enjoyed while watching the fire flies flutter about in the remaining light. It was truly amazing to watch other runners coming through after their 3rd laps now, looking strong and certainly heading out for strong finishes. Totally inspiring!

We were getting very worried about Princess and were constantly doing laps in the car up to a few spots we knew you crossed to see if we could find him and finally we spotted him so I got out and walked/hobbled with him to the start/finish again where he also decided to drop. He was asleep in the car before we had driven even 5 minutes.

The decision was right to drop out, this was never my ‘A’ race so I didn’t have a desperate need to finish and I was always mindful that I have a 100km race, Race to the Stones, on the 19th of July (less than 4 weeks after) to run as part of The North Face Ultra team so I also wanted to remain ready for that. But I can tell you now that this will be my ‘A’ race in 2016. I’m going back, in fact all 3 of us are going back to finish this bad boy and get that belt buckle; stronger, fitter and wiser than before! It doesn’t work in my plans for next year as it is too soon after Transvulcania which I have already registered for so it will have to be the year after, but I will be back and then it will not beat me!

What a steep learning experience the race was. It has certainly cemented my thoughts on nutrition and I am really pleased with how that worked for me so I will be taking that learning with me forward to future races. Of course with every race you learn something more about yourself and come back with a renewed vigour to attack your training plan to make yourself an even better and more competent runner. And as a race recommendation, would I recommend it? You bet I would, it was fantastically well run and I would highly recommend giving it a try to win the holy grail of ultra running – a belt buckle, something that alludes me for now but stay tuned for the next attempt!

Combining two loves!

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I love running!

I love Edinburgh!

Why not combine both and share my love of running?  That is exactly what I have done, in two ways.  I have thought about doing the first venture or offering running tours for a number of years, and it was something I was really keen to get off the ground after I had done one myself on holidays; Rockin’ Running Tours in Memphis.  What I found great about taking part in a running tour in another city was to quickly take in a lot of the sites in one hit, get a locals perspective on the city including some insider tips for the best ribs as might be the case in Memphis and get my daily run in at the same time.  Win:Win!

Moving to Edinburgh was the perfect opportunity.  Not only do I have a great job managing a great hotel in such a great location, Crowne Plaza Edinburgh – Royal Terrace; but all the main sites are all within a few mile radius with various options to extend out.

I have just started offering the tours and already getting some great feedback, so now it is just a matter of letting the word spread and start sharing the love.  Check out my tours at www.edinburghruntours.com and follow me at @edinruntours on twitter.  Share the idea with all your running friends, I’ll be so happy to show you or them around Edinburgh soon.

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Venture number two is another combination of my love of running with a higher aspiration to coach and develop other runners into ultra runners.  I want to develop training plans for runners for marathon, ultra or multi stage distances, whilst providing a sounding board with ongoing advice and encouragement along with tips on nutrition and kit all based on my experiences.  This is perfectly linked with the ultra babe Race to the Stones project (@RTTS100) with The North Face as our goal is to encourage women to step up to the ultra distance.   As a woman, with ultra and multi stage event experience, I feel that I can offer something to the running community out there and give some other women the confidence and encouragement to go out there and give it a go.  There are some fantastic examples of ultra coaches for the men out there such as Rory Coleman and Robbie Britton, to name a couple I have had the pleasure of meeting, but there is a need for more women coaches and advisors.  Seeing as though it is something I love and am truly passionate about, I wanted to give this a shot.  I have already got 2 lovely ladies that I am presently putting together plans for, Marina Ranger (@mranger90) and Rhianon West @rhianonruns, and have got an ultra weekend of running planned this weekend for Marina to set her up for her plan.  I will be sure to get some testimonials up once they have worked their way through their respective plans and achieved their goals.

What is my experience that ‘qualifies’ me to give this advice.  I have not been running for that long, only since 2008, starting off with 10km and half marathon races.   I completed my first marathon in 2011 with the Amsterdam Marathon, and subsequently have run Philadelphia and London marathons in 2012, Nice to Cannes and London Marathons in 2012, Manchester Marathon in 2013 and having completed my first ultra in May 2013, 34 miles in 7hrs (yes, rather slow) and then completed my first multi stage Ultra, Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon in October 2013. 250km (160 miles) fully self sufficient race over 6 stages through the Kalahari desert in South Africa. Not only did I finish it, but I was 14th overall and 2nd lady! It’s amazing what your body will do when pushed. In 2014 I have completed the Pilgrims Ultra (66 miles on North Downs Way split into 2 days of 33) in February 2014, Endurance Life Northumberland Marathon 27miles in March, Marathon Des Sables in April 2014, and am about to complete my first ever 100miles in one hit at the Mohican 100 in June. After a few weeks to recover I will be taking on Race to the Stones in July, Berghaus Trail Chase in August, Clyde Stride 40 mile ultra in September and then heading back to the Kalahari in November to compete in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon for the 2nd time.

Want to know more than check out my website www.runningdutchie.wordpress.com  and follow me @runningdutchie on twitter for more about me and what I can do for you.  I hope to see you at a running event soon!

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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Summer is here and the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival kicks off on the 1st August, all the way through until the 25th August.

Are you going to be visiting Edinburgh this summer?  Get in touch, bring your trainers, and let me show you the sights on foot!

I did a mini tour this morning and we went up to the summit of Arthur’s Seat.  What a gorgeous morning for it too, not a whisper of a breeze and you could see for miles.

Can’t wait to go running with you soon.

On the trail up to Arthur's Seat
On the trail up to Arthur’s Seat
Summit reached!
Summit reached!