Friday 29 June 2007

Only 1 week to go! Time for some random thoughts!

In little over one week, I'll be setting off from John O'Groats on a truly epic journey to a place called Lands End some 868 miles away (by my route).

Apart from needing to raise a little more sponsor money (and rest assured I will raise enough), everything is in place for what is without doubt the most difficult and risky challenge I have ever undertaken.

The organisation of the event has been done on a shoestring budget with plenty of £15 travelodge rooms booked, £1.99 Easyjet flights here and there for my road side supporters and 11 out of the 36 nights to be spent in a tent! Lets hope the recent torrential weather dies down a bit! Not for my sake though. It's the road side crew I'm more concerned about. I'm prepared for any weather. I've trained in extreme heat, cold, snow, wind and rain. I'm prepared for any conditions. At the start of my training I used to hate the wind and had a really negative outlook while running. Now, though, I've got the attitude where I'm disappointed with a 25mph gale and I'm almost thinking "Is that all you've got?". I know it's a cliche but "Bring it on" really does spring to mind.

I've really toughened up mentally over the last 12 months. Just as well, because in my experience of ultra distance running (4 events now!) I think that success is based on 70% physical strength and 30% mental strength.

I've gained a lot of confidence on the road in 2007 and feel well equipped, mentally, for the long journey to follow. That's just part of the story though, as the backing and encouragement I've been afforded by my colleagues at Northern Rock has been absolutely first class and has undoubtedly contributed to that 30%. Some people I've talked to reckon that by miles 600 - 700 the necessary physical/mental ingredients will be more like 50%/50%. I'm not disputing that and I've set my expectations such that I accept there will be low points on the run. After all, 868 miles is a long way to run in 36 days. It's taken me 6 months to achieve that distance alone in training!

The routine of running a marathon a day for 36 days is bound to have some adverse effect on my body and mental state. However, I aim to enjoy each and every day on this run. There are 3 days where I'll be joined by colleagues. Then there are the fancy dress days! I'm going to be running through some real beauty spots in the country. I'm sure I'll meet many characters on the way. It'll be a real adventure for me as well as my road side supporters! My missus and the bairn are supporting me for 3 of the 5 weeks. So it's going to be quite a unique family experience. All I got when I was a lad was 6 weeks in a shoebox (caravan) at Seahouses and I was grateful. I got 10 pence a week to spend in the slot machines if I was lucky! Kids these days don't know they're born! READER - "YOU WERE LUCKY....etc etc......".

Thursday 28 June 2007

Sponsorship landmark!

I've had some brilliant sponsors this week (they are all brilliant by the way no matter what the week!) and the fund has reached 75% of my target. Thanks to Aunty Ada, Uncle Brian, Chris & Kev and Mandy for boosting the fund which now stands at £3734.

There are still many avenues to pursue and I feel sure that the magic £5000 will be reached.

Are there any rich individuals or companies out there? Still up for grabs is individual sponsorship for my "FANCY DRESS" days. See the full tariff further down the right hand side of the page for details. A few Batman days have gone. I'm half glad that I haven't sold the "Borat bikini" day (£300) or the "naked 1.5 miles over the Forth Road Bridge" (£500). There's still time mind!

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Meet the support crew (Part 2)

The second of the four support crew members is none other than that cheeky wee Celtic Supporting Scotsman; Owen McMahon.

Owen, who lives very near Glasgow, will be providing 5 days of support from Bristol to Exeter. I doubt that Owen actually knows where either Bristol or Exeter are as he is famous for believing that the Spanish city of Barcelona lies north of London. Needless to say, that Owen will be relying heavily on the support car's satellite navigation system.

As I mentioned earlier, Owen is mad daft on Celtic FC and he has followed them all over Europe, albeit via cities they were not actually due to play in! His navigation skills might not be up to the highest standard but the craic should be good as he will, no doubt, attempt to explain how Celtic FC are the greatest "fitba" team in the world.

Over the years, Owen has been a very generous sponsor for the various runs I've done. He's had me singing all sorts of Celtic songs over the phone while up a mountain for extra sponsor money. I've even recited Robbie Burns and scenes from Braveheart for extra dosh. The "low" points were in 2005 where I wore a kilt for 134 miles on the C2C run and then in 2004 where I ran a naked 100 yards on the same route in a Billy Connolly style. All in the name of charity and extra sponsorship of course! This year he's offered an extra £1 for every picture of me running in a Celtic shirt. That should be interesting in Edinburgh!

Like the other members of the motley crew, Owen has taken valuable annual leave in order to provide this support. This is very much appreciated. Meanwhile, I'll be brushing up on my "och, jings, help ma boab" and all that in order to sustain a conversation with my friend from up north!

Tuesday 26 June 2007

John O'Groats to Lands End (in 36 easy steps!)

The following table should be useful for those readers who would like to have some idea of where I'll be running on any given day (and how far!). Planned mileage has been verified by and reconciled using Microsoft Autoroute (2007). The actual mileage on the run will be verified using GPS tracking.

107/07/07John O'GroatsUlbster25.325.3
511/07/07ArdullieLoch Moy26.7133.5
612/07/07Loch MoyKingussie27.7161.2
713/07/07KingussieEbendon Bridge26.2187.4
814/07/07Ebendon BridgeDalguise26.2213.6
1218/07/07MiddletonNewtown St Boswells26.2315.7
1319/07/07Newtown St BoswellsCatcleugh Reservoir24.7340.4
1420/07/07Catcleugh ReservoirGreat Swinburne23.0363.4
1521/07/07Great Swinburne
1622/07/07CastlesideMiddleton in Teesdale22.5407.6
1723/07/07Middleton in TeesdaleKirkby Stephen24.1431.7
1824/07/07Kirkby StephenMelling24.2455.9
2329/07/07WybunburyChetwynd Aston23.5570.6
2430/07/07Chetwynd AstonKinver23.0593.6
2904/08/07StarCreech Heathfield24.3713.1
3005/08/07Creech HeathfieldTiverton24.6737.7
3106/08/07TivertonWhiddon Down24.4762.1
3207/08/07Whiddon DownLifton Down22.9785.0
3308/08/07Lifton DownBodmin23.4808.4
3611/08/07LongrockLands End13.2867.6
3712/08/07Contingency/travel DayContingency/travel Dayn/an/a

Sunday 24 June 2007

Meet the support crew (Part 1)

With just two weeks to go until I set off from John O'Groats, it's about time that I introduced the crew of folk who will be providing road side support during the 36 day run.

First up, is Keith Riley (Age 50 ish). Keith will be supporting me for 7 days from Dalguise (near Pitlochry) to Castleside (County Durham). That's a total of 171.5 miles.

Pictured to the left in a fine catalogue pose, Keith is one of the most intelligent people I know. Not surprising giving my friends! Needless to say, he's not from the North East! In fact, Keith is based in the North West and supports Burnley FC.

His knowledge of the route and and his ability to tell endless yarns will be invaluable during his time on the support rota.

Not only is Keith a very generous sponsor, he is taking unpaid time off work to support me on the big run. Of course, all of this is very much appreciated. I look forward to your support Keith. Welcome aboard!

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Route plan finalised!!

It's taken the last 7 days to finalise the route for the big run. To say this was a painstaking exercise is very much an understatement. Especially so, as I've planned it on 2 different bits of software to ensure accuracy and add a degree of reconciliation into the whole process.

The total mileage for the route is 868 miles, giving an average daily run of 24.1 miles!

I've also been able to get a couple of £15 Travelodge rooms and a £1.99 flight from Bristol to Newcastle for Katy and Jack (at the end of their second support stint) ensuring that the costs are kept to the bare minimum.

The only thing left to book now is a few nights camping and there is a little matter of buying a tent! Otherwise, all accommodation and travel for the road side support crew is booked. With just over 2 weeks until the run starts, things are starting to fall into place nicely.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Jack's the lad to win the races!

No running for me today! It was Jack's turn for a change and he did us proud on his school Sport's Day. He finished 1st in both of his races - the bean bag relay and then the sprint.

I beamed with pride when he was presented with his medal by the head teacher.

I hope in future years that Jack takes up my mantle of running (and perhaps does a better job of it!). My memories of school sports days are, sadly, not happy ones. I remember finishing last or near to last in most events. Sport wasn't really my forte at school. In fact, it wasn't until I was 21 that I started to run regularly. Hopefully, with a lot of encouragement, it will be something that Jack can have a good go at.

It'll be good to have Jack supporting me for 3 weeks on the big run. He'll be seeing more of the United Kingdom in those 3 weeks than I've seen in 35 years. Add the fact that we will be staying in a tent on various places on the route and it should be quite an adventure for him.

I must say that I'm starting to get a wee bit nervous about the big run. I've started to think seriously about the mileage over the last few days. However, for some reason, seeing Jack run today has really inspired me and a little of the fear factor has gone. Whether he finished first or last mattered not. He really tried hard today and made me so proud. Now that's the attitude that's going to get me to Lands End. There's a lot to learn from this little 4 year old!

Monday 18 June 2007

Training Summary (Week ending 17/06/2007)

Monday 11th June. 6 miles. Town Moor. 01:00:46.
Tuesday 12th June. 6 miles. Town Moor. 01:01:38.
Wednesday 13th June. Gym.
Friday 15th June. 5 miles. Race Course. 00:48:20.

Saturday 16 June 2007

Sponsorship landmark!

Thanks to my Aunty Joyce getting some brilliant donations from her friends and family, the sponsorship total has now reached a very impressive £3479. That is 70% of the target.

There are still 1 or 2 avenues to pursue in order to try and get up to the magic £5000 mark. One of which will be the use of a secure collecting tin on the run provided by Anne Oliver at St Benedict's Hospice. An example of it's potential use will be when Batman and Robin (aka myself and Ian Glasgow) stop for a drink at Carter Bar on the day Ian joins me for 10 of 26 miles. Hopefully, any tourists stopping to admire the view of the Borders will dig deep!

I also have one iron in the fire which I can't say too much about at present. But rest assured, as soon as I get any good news I'll post it up here on the website under the heading "Sponsorship target reached". Fingers crossed!

Friday 15 June 2007

Running at full speed again.

It's been 12 days since I suffered the injury to my right hamstring. With 4 runs in the last 6 days I can safely say I feel back to full fitness. I even attempted to run at full speed today up to Newcastle Race Course and back. I really feared the worst last week but yet again it looks like I've proved to be a quick healer.

Thursday 14 June 2007

Checking the route again!

As well as two 6 mile runs and a good session in the gym, I've spent this week checking the route and it's mileage. This is the fifth time I've undertaken this painstaking exercise. I'm also doing a bit of fine tuning. If there is a more direct or safer route then I'm going to take it. Take a look at the image on the left. This is the elevation profile from day 4 (Evelix to Arudillie). The maximum altitude is a mere 147 ft.

I decided to move 17 of those miles from the coastal A9 to the much quieter B9176. Unfortunately the B9176 seems a tad hilly when you look at the elevation profile on the right. I now have a new altitude of 813 ft with a total net climb of nearly 2000 ft! Mind you the total net descent is greater at 2116. With 20 days of running re-checked already I hope to have the remaining 16 done by the end of the week. I'm using a combination of Autoroute 2007 and to ensure that the mileage is correct.

Monday 11 June 2007

We can rebuild him!

"Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster."

That about sums up how I feel after hopefully putting last week's injury behind me. I went for a steady 6 mile run around my favourite Town Moor route today with no ill effects. What a relief to be running pain free again. I must admit I didn't expect to be running again so soon.

I know I've said it in the past but I'm going to have to be very careful when I'm running. 8 - 9 minute miles are out of the question for now. My final weeks of training will be at a very sensible 10 minute mile pace. There will be no more PBs for a while and a good stretch after my runs will become part and parcel of the routine. I have 3 full weeks of training left where I'll be winding things down a bit. I'll be doing lots of shorter runs and a few more sessions in the gym.

As I said last week, I'm ready for the big run. It's just a case of keeping myself ticking over between now and July 7th.

"Mark Allison will be better than he was before. Better, stronger, but quite sensibly, not faster."

Saturday 9 June 2007

New PB for Blaydon Race!

My decision to run the Blaydon Race on the back of a hamstring injury was vindicated as I romped home a full 7 minutes quicker than last year. It was good to see so many familiar faces at the start line and, as per usual when I run with some of these guys , that's usually the last I see of them. No sooner had the band stopped playing the Blaydon Races we were on our way in glorious sunshine.

I had a solid start to the run with a 08:42 minute mile. I felt some slight pain in my hamstring at the first climb and I thought a repeat of last Tuesday's run was on the cards. Thankfully, it was a false alarm and the run along Scotswood road was very comfortable. I was very careful on the climbs at the Scotswood Bridge and Blaydon flyover and finished the run at a decent pace. I saw Katy and Jack near the finish line which rounded the event off very nicely indeed. I was amazed at the time as I crossed the finish line. 7 minutes quicker than last year!

Training Summary (Week ending 10/06/2007)

Tuesday 5th June. 3.8 miles. Race Course (retired injured). 00:44:30.
Thursday 7th June. Gym.
Friday 8th June. Gym.
Saturday 9th June. 5.79 miles. Blaydon Race. 00:52:53. PB!

Fit to run!

After a couple of laps around a local football pitch I'm pleased to announce that I'm fit for the Blaydon Race!

Blaydon Race in the balance!

I've tried a gentle jog up the street this morning with some slight soreness. The decision to do today's Blaydon Race will be made as late as possible this afternoon.

Anyway, enough of that trivia. The Borat Bikini turned up this morning complete with hair, tash and sun glasses. While taking the photo to the right, Katy, Jack and I were in fits of giggles with proper tears and everything. I think I look like a scouser more then Borat! I'm sure it will be a different look once the bikini is on. There's no way I'm putting it on until the required level of sponsor money is achieved.

I've done my bit. If Paul Jackson gets £300 sponsorship and my leg is fit enough then I face the most embarrassing hour of my life.

If Jacko doesn't come up with the required amount then at least he has a month before my big run starts to do so. Imagine the looks I'd get in that thing running down the A9 in the Scottish Highlands!

Friday 8 June 2007

90% chance of doing the Blaydon race.

My leg is feeling a lot better today. I haven't ran with it yet but I have now had 2 good sessions in the gym. The signs are encouraging. I refuse to get carried away though. I've got some lovely bruises from the Sports Massage on Wednesday. A little reminder of the pain I went through! Ouch!

Jacko, one of the lads at work, today tried to raise enough sponsorship to get me to run the Blaydon Race dressed in Borat's bikini. I managed to get hold of one and it will arrive tomorrow morning by Special Delivery. The fund for this little stunt stood at £100 at the end of the working day, some £200 short of what it would take to get me to wear such an embarrassing costume. I'm now regretting all of those King Prawn Madras curries consumed over the last few months! The main concern with such a skimpy item is "popping out" while running somewhere like the Scotswood Bridge. Nightmare!

I'll leave it right up until the last moment possible to decide whether to run the Blaydon Race tomorrow. Hopefully (!) Jacko will have raised the required amount by then! At least if I don't wear the costume then Katy is in for a treat! I've just got to keep reminding myself "It's all for a good cause".

Thursday 7 June 2007

60% chance of doing the Blaydon Race!

My leg is still very sore! However, this feels like soreness from yesterday's sports massage and not the initial injury. It didn't prevent me from having a good half an hour on the cross trainer in the gym. I even had to go above the usual intensity level on the machine such is my improved fitness. I followed this up with 15 minutes of stretching and some weights. An unusual gym session all round!

I'm going to leave it right until the last minute before deciding if I'm fit enough to run the Blaydon Race on Saturday. I reckon I've got about a 60% chance of doing it. Another gym session with lots of stretching should give me a better idea tomorrow.

Wednesday 6 June 2007

Lots of pain hopefully leading to some gain!

With my right leg still quite sore, I decided to have a sports massage at the gym today. I've heard that they can be quite painful but needs must.

Once the masseur found the problem spot the next 15 minutes were spent by him digging his elbows into my hamstring in an attempt to make a grown man cry! I'm sure there was a scientific reason too! I was told prior to the session that I might learn some new swear words but I managed to restrain myself.

At the time of writing this entry in my blog my leg feels very sore. I'm not sure whether this is pain associated with the injury or as a result of today's torture session. I guess I'll have a better idea tomorrow.

Until I can run again, the plan is to hit the gym with some weights, low impact cardio and plenty of stretching.

On the positive side, not being able to run is giving me more time to finish off planning the logistics of the run. I'll be checking the route once again and booking the few remaining campsites over the next few days. There's also that small matter of raising the final amount of sponsorship. The fund total currently stands at £3226. Almost there!

Tuesday 5 June 2007

Injury doubt for Blaydon Race

I managed 1.5 miles of a 5 mile run today before feeling the familiar pain in my hamstring again. I had no choice but to turn around and jog gently back to the start. I even had to walk some of the way, such was the pain.

There's still 4 weeks until the big run so I'm not too concerned about this injury in that respect. Also, I feel as though I'm fit enough at this point in time and as I said last week any training done in the next 4 weeks is a bonus. I am, however, very disappointed at the prospect of missing the Blaydon Race this Saturday. I am looking forward to it and feel almost certain that I am in with a very good chance of beating my previous PB of 00:59:50. In the grand scheme of things, the Blaydon race matters not one jot. Getting myself fit and ready for the big run in 4 weeks is the priority.

A few people have asked me what I would do if this type of injury occurred on the big run. The answer is simple. I'd run slightly slower and take plenty of pain killers. It would take something very serious for me not to finish this run. And even then I'd still have a crack at it. The strategy is therefore "Get to Lands End at all costs".

For now, I've got a bag of frozen peas on my hamstring and I'm going to get a sports massage at the gym tomorrow. It's very painful by all accounts. Can't wait!

Sunday 3 June 2007

Training Summary (Week ending 03/06/2007)

Monday 28th May. 22 miles. Castleside to Middleton in Teesdale. (04:16:07).
Sunday 3rd June. 6 miles. Castleside to Waskerley way. (01:02:30).

Precautionary measures taken 6 miles into a 16 mile run!

Today's planned 16 mile run saw me set off late in the morning in 20.5 degree heat. I remember adapting to the heat quite well last year and today was no exception. It was a nice change from last week when I had 3 layers on and a woolly hat.

Everything was going well with the first 2 miles in 19 minutes. Looking to maintain my good time, I arrived at a steep uphill section and attacked it hard. It was at this point that I felt some mild pain in my right hamstring. The pain worsened by the 6 mile point and I decided there and then that I'd better call it a day. This is the approach I've taken twice in the last 5 months. As soon as I've felt any pain I've stopped.

Let's hope that once again I prove to be a quick healer. I'll either be at the gym tomorrow our around Newcastle Race Course (not literally) depending on how my leg feels.

Saturday 2 June 2007

5 rest days and I'm ready to go.

I've decided to let my body recharge and repair following the two 22 mile runs earlier in the week. It looks like it's paid off as I feel in tip top condition and ready for tomorrow morning's 16 miles in the Pennines. The blisters on my feet have healed well. I stopped aching at about Thursday tea time. Those 2 miles really took a lot out of me but at the same time gave me a confidence boost to take into the final 4 weeks of training.

The fact that I'm hardly batting an eyelid at the prospect of this hilly run is testament to my training so far. Confidence is very high so I'll be looking to break 03:05:00 hours. Secretly, I'm looking to break 03:00:00 hours but it won't be a disaster if I don't.

Next week's runs will include the Blaydon Race where I'll be looking for a PB. I finished the run in 00:59:50 last year. I reckon a sub 00:55:00 could be on the cards this time.

The final 4 weeks of my training will see me doing the usual 5 - 8.5 miles during the week together with some intense gym sessions. I'll be varying my remaining weekend runs though with some quicker flatter sessions. I feel ready for the run now. Any remaining training is a bonus.