Laying Down Keg MG-1048: Field Marshal Alexander Leslie


In 2011 I was taken on tour in Sweden (again). This time was different; we headed North from Stockholm to visit the Mackmyra Whisky Distillery – a relatively new venture at that juncture. The tour, a present from my sister-in-law was really excellent, and I was selected to pick a barrel from a row of 10. Most of them looked fresh – American bourbon casks with fresh Swedish oak tops and bottoms. There was one, a gnarly battered looking specimen which made me think it might just have character. I filled the keg and placed it in bonded warehouse. All good fun.

The Keg: Field Marshal Alexander Leslie MG-1048 (58.2%)

An enjoyable day. We left the distillery in April 2011. Over the coming years we would visit and taste the whisky as it developed. We were showered with gifts of shirts, jumpers, and all manner of gifts – we had…

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DNF: Dramarathon Whisky Marathon 2017

Everybody has one in their running career. For me, hilariously it happened on what was scheduled to be my last ever run over a marathon distance. I had been limping for weeks. The doctor told me I had a hairline fracture in my foot. But he said it might break as easily stepping off a kerb as on the run, and if I was lucky I might make it.

Ouch: Enough Said ….

About 10 miles in I heard a loud snap. Race over. The decent race officials gave me my goodie-bag full of drams anyway. Then down to the hospital in Dundee on the way home and on with the moon boot. This could take some time to fix.

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The Night Runners and the Moon

Shorter days and longer nights – this is the time of year that means that some people ease off on their running and excuses abound about the dark, the cold and the weather. I notice even some of the real fitness bunnies on the internet are talking about “moving it inside” to the Dreadmill. But in avoiding nightime running, are many people missing out on something magical? Specialised running sites like The Running Bug do advocate continuing to run through the winter nights. Indeed they’ve suggested many ways to stay safe at night including sticking to well lit up areas. In some places, especially the cities, they may have a point especially (if regrettably) for single women. Others, like We Are Runners are less afraid to advocate the rural or remote night run, emphasising the use of proper equipment, especially a decent headtorch. But this is not a post about Lumens.

In truth the Tentsmuir RunnersNightshift” have been embracing the darkness for years. We are blessed by living close to a forest that includes an 8 mile stretch of beach, which allows for a very decent and varied 15 mile circuit without doubling back over any part of it (See the Garmin stats and map here). Quite a few of us have knocked in longer runs than that over the years, in terrain which includes landrover tracks, sand dune routes, dirt footpaths, deer trail and that wonderful soft calf-busting sand as you round Tentsmuir Point. A favourite.

However, around the end of September each year, we pick an evening and from then on and throughout the winter we let it be known across the local running groups that at least a couple of us will be heading into the forest from the same starting points each time. Over the years we have been joined by dozens of newbies to night running, many of whom are familiar faces on the weekly run to this day. Some people use the opportunity for training for particular races such as Aberdeenshire’s glorious The Illuminator 15 mile night time trail race. Others for the monthly jog around the forest we mark out for the local Run4It shop which, by nature of the seasons, has also moved its monthly event into the night and still attracts some 70 runners each time for the 5 & 10k routes we mark out for them.


But for most of the regular Tentsmuir Runners, the Tuesday group run is only one of several times we will be in the forest each week. Sometimes we are alone, sometimes we have company. Often the run descends into a festive celebration of nature and the seasons – “Is that not what it’s all about?” I once asked.


Orientation is Key

We don’t deafen or distract ourselves with pulsating rhythms from the latest in running headset “Zombie Kits”. Nor do we always distract ourselves by light and very often we simply switch the head torches off and enjoy the tranquillity of running along the shore guided only by the ambient light. It can be breath-taking and humbling in the same moment.


Torches off on a Full Moon Beach Run

I’ve never seen “Attack ships on fire off the shores of Orion” – but I have seen Orion. Indeed, with my friends I’ve witnessed The Northern Lights, Meteor Showers, Comets; We have heard seals barking in the darkness offshore as geese thump a different beat in the air overhead.


The Northern Lights from Fife by Corinne Mills

Some don’t like it when we move to the middle of the forest and again stop, switch off the lights and simply gaze up at the stars (one timers we call this sort, for they seldom come back – tree huggers some have called us in return). But the forest at night is not to be feared, it’s to be embraced. It’s not that “We’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” – it’s simply that we take the opportunity to go there; to stop, to listen and yes even in the dark, to see. See things that are there all the time, but that most people will never take the time to make space for in their lives. Although by virtue of being runners we are on the move in a physical sense, on the Tentsmuir Nightshift some of us feel we nevertheless Cultivate Stillness in our own particular way.



The Night Runners and the Moon

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Running v Cycling – The Blood Glucose Experiment

I have been asked about fuelling by quite a few diabetic folks of late. Here’s what I had to say about it a couple of years back


My interest in understanding fuelling for diabetic endurance runners is something that has been troubling me since I finished the Bamburgh Coastal Trail Ultra Marathon last October. I seriously underestimated the fuelling levels required on that run, and though I finished in good time and high spirits, I soon found myself having a diabetic episode. I cannot tell you for sure if my Blood Glucose Level (BGL) was too low because, as a Type 2 Diabetic, I had ceased to be prescribed test strips for my BGL meter in 2008. I was told there was no need now that my circumstances had changed. Briefly, the background is this:

I’ve been diagnosed T2 diabetic since 2001 and a runner of sorts since then completing my first marathon in 2006 in 3:59:01. For about six years my BGLs were completely controlled by exercise. I monitored by BGL religiously and eschewed any attempt…

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Is that not what it’s all about?


Beer on the Beach

There is history and heritage in this image; a lot of running miles sitting around that fire. Hundreds of ultras, marathons, and trail miles covered – let alone the training runs. But that is not what tonight was about. No this was about friendship and a more relaxed approach to health and fitness.

It started with a lovely little joggette through the small wooded trails and dunes to the beach where we ended up at the traditional ‘Fire Pit’. Once there, a steel and flint appeared and an ‘old school’ fire was made of the drift washed up on the beach. Who doesn’t carry tinder with them when running in the wild? Backpacks were opened and a variety of goodies produced; Some home brew beers developed by the ‘award winning’ brewing experience of @hermiston and others reinterpreted for tonight by @andyjamieson30. These all easily survived the journey, but we let them settle for a few minutes ‘just in case’. These were all drunk from Marathon du Medoc trophy mugs earned by me and @FireyJim  for drinking beer after ALL the wine during the race back in 2011.

The beer tonight was also tasted in the company of friends who took a chance after internet banter to ‘go for a run’ in the Tentsmuir Forest a few years back. @GirlRunsWild’s first ever night run was down there with Jim a few years back and it was largely for her that we celebrated the new moon rising.

Beers and Full Moon

We broke no running records this evening. Most of us simply covered a very comfortable 7.5 miles on the trail. Andy knocked in an impromptu marathon having pushed in 20 miles earlier on in the day – well, at least that meant this 50 something could keep up! After a couple of hours watching ‘Red Neck TV’ (the fire), we trotted off the beach and back home through the forest, still chatting about everything from the beauty of the full moon to the finer points of brewing. An occasional mention was even made of running ….. But most importantly tonight, we laughed. We laughed a lot. Is that not what it’s all about?

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But here’s the thing …..

Last year, 2015,  was a mixed bag. Having seriously injured myself running and cycling within three months of each other (knee in April, shoulder in July) I had three full months of recovery which included my arm being in a sling for six weeks (seriously broken collar bone), and the subsequent recovery from the insertion of a metal plate and pins.

Scar Tissue

As a result I’ve gone pretty much back to square one with my running and have reintroduced my cycle commute to work painfully slowly. From shuffling one mile three times a week in September, I have managed at least one 10-15 mile run each week for the last 10 weeks thanks in no small part to the constant companionship on the trail of the one you might know as Girl Runs Wild. This run adds to 3 or 4 others of between 3-6 miles which is, all told, a much lighter mileage than I had at the start of 2015. I should add we also tend to stop for a snack half way round these days at The Crepe Shack. It would be rude not to.

My cycling too has slowed somewhat. I have shelved the Genesis Aether for races only and moved to a slightly heavier hybrid for my daily commute.

Genesis Aether

There are noticeable pros and cons for my health. On the one hand I managed to put on a little weight last year, and my HbA1c rose from my usual 6.2-6.5 to a quite uncomfortable 7.8. I am working on this.

But here’s the thing ….. Since July 2015 I have not taken a single puff from my Blue inhaler (Salbutamol). As part of my recovery I have dispensed with any form of speed or sprint work and by being more relaxed about my activities I have been nine months with one less medication. Instead, I am controlling my Asthma with Symbicort only, and even then at a reduced dose of only two puffs in the morning and one on the evening.

So, my race times are a thing of the past and I am sluggish on the move. But there is a positive health benefit, and I’m sure one day soon I’ll start to hit some kind of form worth blogging about.

In the meantime, you can always find me in the Tentsmuir – possibly stuffing my face with Crepe.

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What is it about Loch Ness?

End Pic Etape Loch Ness

So there you go! My first ever bike race was completed on 27 April 2015. I ask “what is it about Loch Ness?”, because the scene of my first ever running race over any distance was the Loch Ness Marathon (a sweet 3:59:01 perfectly paced round by my fiend Jim Groark). That was back in 2006.

Then last year I got involved in a personal coast-to coast challenge across Scotland (The Soldier v Scholar with my friend from way back in 70s, Bruce Strachan).

Steve Selfie Challenge July 2014

On our challenge we got used to running and cycling along the banks of Loch Ness. So naturally this year the Etape Loch Ness Cycle Sportive had to be done (66 Mile/105km).

The event was a wonderful experience; the organisation was superb. Being used to the start of running events I was surprised at the calm at the start of this race. The marshalling into start pens was so smooth and fuss-free. But the thing that really surprised me was once we set off. It felt sedate and relaxed compared to running events and I suppose I expected it to be more frenetic. We all knew we had a long way to go so people simply pedalled off. One thing that became apparent quickly was how conditioned we are on the roads. Despite being a closed road event, you couldn’t help but chortle as a few of us cruised down the right hand lane watching the “sheeple” sticking to the left.

The main thing to take away from the race is obviously the scenery. But three of us had decided to work together over the first half of the race, taking it it easy, but pushing and pulling each other to get to the half-way point in good time. Then came the “King of the Mountains” and we separated for the rest of the race. Ali Bartlam pushed off first. I tried to go after him – no chance! He waited for me at the top of the 5.5 mile section, but had been there almost 10 minutes. Together we waited for Bruce, but the snow came on. I told Ali to press on, I’d wait. But 5 minutes later, all of us waiting at the summit were ushered away by the marshals who were fearful we’d get hypothermia.

Then onto the swiftest part of the course where I hit my top speed of 59.8kmh (37.5mph in real money). I maybe could have gone faster, but this was already MUCH swifter than I’ve ever gone in my life. Having negotiated the decent, and now cruising at about 20mph, a slight disaster happened. A rear wheel blowout caused me to skid, and in the process hit the verge and take out a guy slipstreaming me. We were both shaken but fine, and after making sure my friend was OK to continue, got him back on his way. Then I had to turn to the problem of my bike which I was uncertain would be able to finish the circuit. Luckily the motorcycle mechanic team had me back in the race in less than 15 minutes. They changed the tube, but also gave the bike a surprisingly thorough check over before sending me on my way. Ah, the old Genesis Aether – not the fastest, but now a proven sturdy bike!

Genesis Aether

While I had been confined to the verge, Bruce had gone past, so when I got back on the road I made it my mission to catch him up. When I did he told me to press on as I was going well – and in the last quarter (and very much to my surprise) I maintained a much higher pace than any other time in the race.

I crossed the line in 4:42:20 – a time I am delighted with given I was thinking more like 5:30:00 for a target. For those who like such things, the stats are available from GARMIN.

Afterwards Ifelt tired, but did not have that “nearly broken” feeling I get after the ultramarathons. My BGL was admittedly low (3.5), but I had been correctly fuelled on the way round and am used to going low on a cycle. Asthma – well, I did need a puff a of the reliever inhaler after about 10 minutes, but apart from that I was fine. Indeed, overall, I liked the feeling very much and know this is not my last sportive.

I would like to thank all my friends for their generous support in the build up to the race, and for those who supported my fundraising for Diabetes UK and Asthma UK. To those who donated anonymously, you have the advantage of me – how will I know who to buy a pint, coffee or cupcake for?

Thanks again for all your support – it means a lot to me and to both the charities I was cycling for.
Diabetes and Asthma Tops

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