Glenlivet 10k 2014

Time: 55:07 [Results]

Medal: Yes, and a miniature of whisky!

IMG_20140413_183019 Sometimes I wish Scotland was famous for something other than whisky and shortbread, because they seem to be popular goody bag items at local races, and I hate both.  It does mean my friend Grant, a whisky drinker, is going to luck out when I see him in a couple of weeks, as he did after I ran the Isle of Skye half marathon last year.

However, I suppose that Scotland is also famous for some beautiful scenery, and the Glenlivet 10k boasts proudly that it is the “most beautiful run in Scotland”.  Today, apart from seemingly hurricane-force winds, the weather played ball, and we were greeted with sunshine and blue skies, which allowed all of the runners to appreciate just how stunning the race is.

The race is set in the Cairngorms National Park, on the Glenlivet Estate, home of the Glenlivet distillery.  It’s a bit of a drive, so although the race started at 11, Elaine picked me up at 8am to head out from Aberdeen.

We arrived shortly before 10, and made prompt use of the swanky toilets (not a porta loo in sight!), before collecting our numbers and timing chips.  We had something to eat, and then dumped our clothes in the car, being battered by the winds as we did so.  Still, this was our view (it’s hillier than it looks):

IMG_20140413_183259 I had DNS’d this race in 2012 after falling ill (and yes, I was avenging my loss), but Elaine had run it last year.  She let me know that the first couple of miles are a steady incline, and then you get to enjoy the view and cruise through a few undulations, and a mainly downhill final few miles.  She also helpfully told me that the race finished short of the start, and not to panic when I saw neon specks climbing the hill back to the distillery, because they would have already finished and started walking back to collect their goody bags.

At 10:30 we had the humorous race briefing, and at 10:45 we headed outside and huddled with other runners at the start, which was prompt.  I had decided that I would listen to music for a change, and had downloaded Hole’s ‘Live Through This’ to revisit my angry teenage years after I was reminded about the album’s existence after a friend had mentioned it was the 20th anniversary of its release a few days ago.

The race starts with a short, gentle uphill, before a longer, less gentle downhill.  What a tease that section is!  I was full of energy, blasting classic tunes, and flying downhill in the sunshine with a smile on my face.  And then you get to 1k, and the ‘steady incline’ begins.  This isn’t so bad I thought to myself, keeping steady and following a  girl in a green top in front of me.  OK, this is starting to feel quite horrendous I thought, after 5 minutes of slog.  Yep, I’m having a heart attack I thought, as I resigned myself to a power walk.

Once my heart rate had come down again, I picked up to a jog, and refused to walk again (apart from the two water stops) for the rest of the race.  Thankfully, I only had one more hill of any great importance to crest before a sign informed us all that we had conquered the worst of the uphill sections.  This is where water stop one was located, and after a few sips, I was flying downhill again.  This is also where the best vistas of the race were, and I threw caution to the substantial wind as I craned my neck to admire the scenery floating by, trusting my feet not to land in a pothole.  I remember smiling here as well.

Before I knew it, we were taking a left turn back towards the distillery, and I noticed, as Elaine had warned, those neon specks cresting a hill in the distance.  If I hadn’t been warned, I probably would have felt pretty defeated, but knowing the finish line was close, I pushed on, even managing a cheeky sprint finish.

I waited for Elaine to finish, and then we began the walk back, picking up some water and our medals on the way.  Back at the hall, we collected our goody bags, and then took advantage of the free distillery tour.

Me + Elaine at after the race.

Me + Elaine at after the race.

I learned that whisky making is a fairly simple process (if you have all the expensive machinery) thanks to our knowledgable and amusing guide, Sandy.  You need barley, yeast, and pure spring water, which is in abundance on the estate.  I also learned that whickey is clear, just like vodka and gin, but that it gets it’s colour from the wooden barrels it is stored in, as well as remains of sherry or bourbon that the barrels were used for before.  Oh, and apparently whisky loses .5% alcohol each year it matures.  Obviously there was more that we were told during the tour, but it’s worth a visit if you get the chance.  I mean, I don’t even like the stuff, but I still found it pretty interesting.

Inside one of the 'small' warehouses...

Inside one of the ‘small’ warehouses…

Different sizes of barrels

Different sizes of barrels

After the tour, you are invited to try a dram of either 12, 15, or 18 year old Glenlivet whisky.  I had hoped that my newfound appreciation of how it is made would help me enjoy the tast of some of Scotland’s finest, but tasting it had the same effect any other whisky has had on me: it made my tongue and lips burn, and tasted far too similar to what I imagine paint stripper to taste like, tickling my gag reflex.  I couldn’t finish my measure.

Tasting time.

Tasting time.

Elaine tasting her 18 year old Glenlivet.

Elaine tasting her 18 year old Glenlivet.

Elaine and I both stopped at the guest centre for a baked potato before we left, partly to get the taste of whisky out of my mouth, and then we drove home along the winding roads, admiring a bit more of the scenery.

I’m glad I finally got to tick this race of my list, and it is certainly a contender for one of the prettiest races I’ve taken part in.  I also wasn’t expecting a medal, so that was a nice suprise.  I woud like to give a couple of shorter races a go after the Fling to try and gauge how terrible my ‘speed’ has become, and maybe do something about it.  But’s that’s on the other side of a very big obstacle…

Northern Italy by Train: Monday

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After the Milan marathon, the Milan Furniture Fair moved into town.  Apparently this is a thing, and it’s big enough to cause the majority of hostels and hotels in Milan to become fully booked.  So I guess we weren’t hanging … Continue reading

Milano City Marathon 2014

Time: 4:24:19

Medal: Yes

IMG_20140406_152655First of all, I know I’m late in posting this race report, but I’ve been enjoying food, drink, and sunshine in Italy for a week, and a race report was not especially high up on my list of priorites, I’m sure you’ll understand.

Drinks outside our hotel in Venice.

Drinks outside our hotel in Venice.

I entered the Milan marathon last year, as I wanted to tackle another international marathon after my fantastic experience in Paris last year.  As Milan was being held during the start of my Easter holidays, and was offering a discounted entry fee to Italian citizens, I signed up without too much consideration.  And then I bullied Ronnie into entering, because I’m helpful like that.

As Ronnie has the luzury of choosing his days off, he set off for Milan on the Friday, while I was still at work.  Ian and I flew to Heathrow, where we stayed in a ‘Yotel’, which is basically a pod hotel room in the airport.  It was compact, but clean and quiet, and we got a few hours sleep before waking up at 5am to shower before our early flight to Milan.

I was pretty casual about booking, like, anything other than flights and a hostel room in Milan for two nights, so when Ronnie told me we were flying into the airport further out of the city, I kind of panicked for a few seconds before shrugging and deciding we’d just kind of ‘work it out’ once we arrived.  Which we did.  Ian and I collected our bags, caught a train into Stazione Centrale, and then jumped on the metro to the stop nearest the hostel, where Ronnie met us, and guided us to where we would be staying (and where he was staying as well).  The only slight cock-up was not ‘validating’ our train ticket before we hopped on, which can apparently carry a hefty fine, but thankfully the conductor just kind of looked a bit annoyed, wrote something on our ticket, and walked away.  Success!  Well, apart from the view from our room…

Could have been better...

Could have been better…

Once we had dumped our belongings into our room, Ian and I joined Ronnie again, and we all headed towards the expo, armed with medical certificates and registration letters.  It was a short enough walk, and we collected our race packs and (luminous) race shirts without incident.  We also had a quick look at the stalls, but I wasn’t really in the mood for buying anything, and Ronnie made do with grabbing as many freebies as he could, pointless or not.

We headed back to the hostel for something to drink, and then went in search of some Italian carbs for our pre-race meal!  Sadly, we were not staying in an area with an abundance of eateries, and every place we passed in the first 20 minutes of searching was ruled out because if we had been allowed through the door, I would have felt extremely uncomfortable in a hoodie, skirt, and trainers.  Eventually, we ended up settling for a tourist trap restaurant with disappointingly average pasta dishes, but it was cheap enough, and we werern’t wanting to waste time trying to find somewhere else.  Afterwards, I pretty much forced everyone to help me track down the nearest gelato shop, ignoring completely the advice in the marathon booklet to ‘avoid dairy’ the night before the race.  What rebels we were!

The first of many.

The first of many.

We also checked out the the Duomo at night, and made plans to re-visit it the following afternoon.

Outside Il Duomo, Milan

Outside Il Duomo, Milan

Once back at the hostel, we said our goodnights and I went to sleep without preparing anything for the next day, because I am confident enough now in my ability to dress myself and collect anything I need within about 5 minutes of waking up.  Thank you college and my crappy alarm.  Unfortunately it was stuffy and hot in our room (apparently Ronnie’s was cool and breezy), and I later discovered that we must have been above a bunch of pipes or something directly underneath us, because the tiles on our floor were actually hot.  Not ideal, but I eventually got to sleep.

Race Day

My alarm failed to wake me up the next morning, but thankfully a police siren did, about 25 minutes before Ronnie and I had agreed to leave.  I scrambled into my race kit, packed anything I might need into my Camelbak, and said goodbye to Ian before heading down for the complimentary breakfast (a croissant).  There were a couple of other runners staying at the hostel, and Italian who had run Rome a couple of weeks before, and an American girl called Amira, who had picked Milan as her debut marathon.  As a small group, we headed to the metro station and towards the start!

From the city centre to Rho Fiera, it was about 20 minutes on the metro.  From there, it was another 10-15 minutes of walking through what looked like a giant conference centre until we found the bag drop/porta loos and queue/etc. near the start.

After all of the typical pre-race rituals, we made our way to the start line.  I was in the 4:00-4:30 pen, whereas Ronnie and Amira were in the pen behind.  Both failed to sneak into mine, but the guy policing the runners’ entrance called them back as they were walking away and let them in.  Ronnie’s aim was to finish in about 4:30 or less, and Amira seemed happy to try and maintain 10 minute miles for as long as she could, so we agreed to run together.

We chatted in the 15 minutes leading up to the start, and it only then started to sink in that I was about to run a marathon.  Up until the morning, I was still genuinely unsure about whether I would run at all after my mystery foot/ankle crisis a week before.  I hadn’t run in over a week, my ankle was heavily taped up to avoid rolling, and I felt kind of unfit and lazy, but there I was, watching the helicopter filming us all the the start line, about to attempt a 26.2 mile run on a questionable ankle.  I remember trying to recall what the time limit for finishing was, and also wondering how long it would take to hop 10k.  I was perhaps a little bit concerned, but I told myself if I couldn’t run 26 miles today, I shouldn’t even attempt 53 in less than 3 weeks time.  Today was a (slightly faster than average) training run with Ronnie, and that’s what I kept telling myself to take the pressure off a little.

2014-04-06 07.55.25The sun was rising, the skies were clear, and I was happy.  But I was already starting to regret my Camelbak, because I was feeling comfortably warm standing still.  It was, however, too late to do anything about that, as we were edging forward, already out of sight of the elite runners.

Ronnie, Amira, and I managed to stick together for the first mile or two, and, as usual, I kept having to remind Ronnie to reign in his pace – we were still a long way from the end.  After about 10 minutes I was sweating profusely, and a quick reach around revealed that my back was drenched.  My ankle was sore, but not excruciating, and though the tape was digging painfully into my skin, I figured I could always stop to rip it all off if it didn’t slacken up in time (which it did, a little, thankfully).

Miles 1-2:9:529:43

It was around here that we lost Amira.  We thought maybe we’d have a chance to see her at the end, but later found out she crossed the line in 6+ hours.  I know she was catching a flight home later in the afternoon, so I really feel for her.  Ronnie and I kept a pretty steady pace, though, again, I kept making him slow down, and tried tucking in behind people running at the pace we should have been trying to maintain in an effort to stay steady, but Ronnie kept overtaking them, against my strict orders.  He did agree to walk the water stops every 5k, though, which is nice, because I might have murdered him if I didn’t have adequate time to drink in everything I could get my hands on.  Did I mention it was warm?  Because it was warm.

After just over 10k, we passed the relay pens, filled with runners eagerly awaiting their teammates.  Although the relay started after the we did, it wasn’t long before the second leg runners came bounding by us, fresh and fast.  Screw them and their bouncy, sweat-free hair.

Look at this guy, floating on air.

Look at this guy, floating on air.

Miles 3-13:

9:20
9:50
9:30
9:41
10:09
9:40
9:43
10:24
9:28
9:51
10:24

At around mile 13, the course goes alongside the finishing straight, and the helicopter overhead let us know that the winner was closeby.  Sure enough, on our right, at, presumably, light speed, the marathon winner, Francis Kiprop, breezed alongside us, passing us with ease, and heading to the finish line.  Ian, who had decided to visit the castle at the course finish, was lucky enough to catch him just before he crossed the line, before taking in some of the historical sights.

P1010564While Kiprop crossed the line, Ronnie and I were only halfway through our race, so we pressed on, beginning to feel the heat, and our quads.  There were a few cobbled sections here, so I didn’t take in any of the impressive architecture, unless you consider paving to be fascinating.

Miles 14-20:

9:459:3710:509:469:2611:5410:21

I realize people are wearing COATS in the background, but trusst me, it was toasty.

I realize people are wearing COATS in the background, but trusst me, it was toasty.

At mile 20, Ronnie hit the wall.  His chatting stopped, his breathing picked up, and he finally admitted that he was starting to struggle.  I told him he still had time to play with, and that as long as the 4:30 pacers were behind him, he had nothing to worry about.  I went ahead a little, and kept turning back to check he was on my heels.  He was the first few times I turned back, and then he wasn’t.  I walked through the next sponge station, and the next water stop, walking backwards to see if I could spot Ronnie and his loud Fetch shirt, but no luck, so I kept moving forwards.  I’m not sure what I’m trying to achieve with my face here.

milano5

Miles 21-25:

9:4410:549:5111:1010:56

At mile 25, a guy dressed as a banana passed me.  I was swweating my balls off, and this guy in a fulll banana suit was happily jogging past me, smiling.  I later realized he was part of a banana relay team, but I was so affronted at the sight of him that I chased him all the way to the finish (he still beat me).  I did, however, manage to pass a group of guys dressed as an American football team, who had managed to hold Ian’s attention at the finish line so he completely missed catching a photo of me.  In fact, he would have missed me altogether if I hadn’t shouted his name as I ran by!  At least the event photographers managed to catch me…

Mile 26

9:42

milano4milano3Finally, sneaking in under 4:25, I crossed the line and collected my medal.  Secretly, I was the most happy that I could stop running, but secondly that I could legitimately wear my race shirt, since I had finished.  I found Ian at the castle, and we kept an eye out for Ronnie, who came in just after 4:36, crushing his previous marathon PB.  We took a photo at the castle with our medals, and started the slow and aching journey back to the hostel for a shower, and a rest.

P1010602That afternoon, once cleaned up, we made our way to Il Duomo, were we checked out the impressive interior, and saved money by climbing the 230+ steps to the terraces instead of taking the lift.  That was fun.  At least the views were worth it!

During the day this time.

During the day this time.

P1010612P1010610P1010613P1010621P1010622P1010616P1010619That night, we managed to find a good restaurant, where we each wolfed down a pizza, and Ian and I enjoyed a couple of beers before, you guessed it, another gelato.  It was heavenly.

When we got back to the hostel, we wearily said our goodnights again, and went to bed in preparation for journeys the next day.

The Human Body: eternal source of frustration

The Human Body can do a bunch of pretty incredible things.  Like creating stomach acid  strong enough to dissolve metal (which might account for new stomach lining being produced every few days).  Or the fact that every month we are covered with a new outer layer of skin.  Or heal.

But the human body, at the moment, is a source of major frustration for me, because, at the moment, it seems to be doing nothing but malfunctioning.

Last Thursday was my rest day, which was just as well, as it was a parents’ night.  After all my appointments, I met Ian, and we made our way to his mother’s place as his sister and niece were visiting.  We stayed there for a few hours playing with his niece (puzzles, made up games, chasing her around – usual 4 year old shenanigans), before gathering our stuff and making our way to the front door.  As I was leaving, by doing nothing more adventurous than walking in a straight line, I felt an excruciating pain in my left ankle, and nearly fell over, as placing any weight on it sent waves of pain up my leg.

Thinking it was just some freak twinge, I waited a couple of moments before trying to walk on it.  Mistake.  More of the same pain.  Ian’s mum drove me home, and I hobbled upstairs and put it on ice, while Ian went off to meet some friends for a couple of hours.

As time went on, my leg started throbbing.  There was no swelling, no bruising – nothing that would make anyone think that there was anything at all wrong with my ankle/foot/leg, but it hurt, a lot, and I still couldn’t put weight on it.

Less than two weeks before an International marathon you’ve been looking forward to for months is not ideal timing for freak body issues.

I chatted with Ronnie online, and he suggested a trip to A&E, which I thought was a bit extreme, since I had no bones sticking out of my leg, and no obvious signs of trauma.  I have only been to A&E twice in my life, and both I considered worthy of the trip, though not life-threatening:

  1. Toothpick embedded in my eyeball.  It happened to be the eye I am not blind in.  I may have been in hysterics.
  2. Piece of metal jammed under my fingernail.  Finger had to be anaesthetized, and I watched in horror as the nurse detached the nail from my finger until she could shimmy the metal out.  Of course, I thought it was no big deal afterwards, as I couldn’t feel anything, so declined the painkillers offered as I left.  That was a decision I came to regret, as I lay in bed, sweating, and clutching my throbbing hand  that night.

As time went on, and I realized A&E would be pretty quiet because it was a Thursday night and payday had not happened yet (A&E get a bunch of drunken mishaps), AND my foot situation continued to deteriorate, I messaged Ronnie back and told him if he really had nothing better to do, we could swing by in case it wasn’t busy.

Two hours later, and Ronnie is helping me back to his car on these bad boys with no explanation as to why I couldn’t walk:

Stylish.

Stylish.

Fast forward a few days and things are improving.  I can now put weight on the left foot, and my walking style has gone from ‘hop’ to ‘gangsta’.  I’m too scared to even attempt a short run, so I think this week will be about being super cautious and hoping for the best come Milan.  I have already dropped a textbook AND a bottle of water on my other foot since hatching my master plan of ‘Be Careful’, so it’s going well.

If anyone has any idea what the hell I might’ve done to myself, I’m all ears.  I’m pretty much willing to try anything but homeopathy right now.

A bit of a cock-up.

I don’t normally talk about my job, because usually anything interesting/funny is one of those ‘you-had-to-be-there’ kind of things, and it would be totally irresponsible of me to disclose details of kids I teach.  It’s also sort of suggested in my contract that I don’t broadcast details of my work to a bunch of creeps on the internet.  So you’re welcome, employer.

Last week, however, I experienced one of those horrible moments where the answer to that internal voice shrieking ‘DID YOU ACTUALLY JUST SAY THAT OUT LOUD???’ was, unfortunately, a cold and serious: ‘Yes, Rachel.  Yes you actually did.  You are an idiot.’  And so, as this particulay incident deals mainly with my own stupidity – and since I’m fair game – I feel like I can share it.  So you’re welcome, readers.

Let me provide a little context.  One of the things we look at every year is the poetry of World War One.  We check out a little Wilfred Owen, a little Siegfried Sassoon, and a little Rupert Brooke.  We have a look at what the trench conditions were like.  And, to provide a little light relief, we occasionally show some ‘Blackadder’, because what is life if it doesn’t have a little dry humour in it?

Anyway, I was showing a clip of ‘Blackadder’ to the class (which they’d have to answer questions on), and one of the jokes in the clip was Baldrick offering Blackadder one of his vulgar dinner creations, ‘Rat-au-Van’.  The joke being that it sounded like the fancy dish ‘Coq-au-vin’, but was, in fact, just a rat that had been run over by a van.  Get it?  You can watch that part of the clip here.

Now, after the clip had been played, one of the questions was asking why this joke was funny.  I asked the class if they knew what dish it was meant to sound like.  Tumbleweed.  I quickly explained that there is a dish called ‘Coq-au-vin’ that is basically chicken in some kind of wine sauce.  I then jokingly asked how many of them would be enticed by a plate of ‘Rat-au-Van’, to which I discovered not a single child would be interested in such a delicacy, but some would quite like to watch the ‘preparation’ process.

Then I somehow went off on a tangeant (this sometimes happens).  I starting talking about how extreme hunger can warp judgment.  I talked about that film ‘Alive’, and then, in perhaps too much detail directly after lunch, I described the unfortunate fate of the Donner Party in the mid-1800′s.  The class was horrified.  I had made my point.  Dead rat trumps a sibling’s leg.  And then I said it.

You know when you’re speaking, and then you realize you’ve said the wrong thing, and so you stop abruptly, pause to reconsider, and then say what you intended to say?  Kind of like, “I really like it when I wake up before dusk - pause while your brain registers an error and you rewind – I mean dawn.”  Well.  That happened.  What came out of my mouth, in front of a classroom full of teenagers, is this:

So you see, in situations like that, I would imagine you’d be desperate for mouthful of Coq-…..

I paused to correct myself, and the class erupted into giggles as the realization of what I had just said dawned on me.  Failing to remain nonchalant, I desperately added, “AU-VIN!  I was saying COQ-AU-VIN, but meant to say RAT-AU-VAN!!!”, however the situation was unsalvagable.  At least one of the boys in the front row managed to say something along the lines of, “Yeah, we know what you were saying, but it went badly wrong.”

I conceded that it was a rather unfortunate place to pause in order to correct myself, the bell mercifully rang moments later, and I was thankful that I only had to get through one more class without saying something dumb (a roaring success, you’ll be pleased to know).

So, while I managed to get through the D33 with no injuries, I did get food poisoning from my celebratory burger the following day (resulting in a less than pleasant Monday-Wednesday), making my faux pas on Friday the cherry on top of a sub-par week.

Clearly, my brain is ready for the Italian getaway on the horizon.

D33 Ultramarathon 2014

Time:  6:20:00

Medal: Yes

IMG_20140315_171853The D33 was set up by George Reid as a longer distance race to help build up to the Highland Fling in April.  The same Highland Fling that somehow I am going to attempt to complete in just over a month.  Entries for the D33 opened a little early this time around, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, and as I sat at my parents’ kitchen table in Houston eating pasta and preparing for the Texas marathon, I became the 42nd person to enter this year’s race.

I have done a few training runs with some of the Stonehaven running club runners, and this race was in the schedule as the longest training run before April’s race.  I had a few goals for this, the most important being: don’t get injured, have fun, and finish.  Joining in the pre-race chatter online, I had been invited to run with Kate, Vicki, and Geraldine as our final training run as a group.  The thought of having company throughout the race was appealing, especially the race was on Kate’s birthday, so spirits were bound to be high.

Race morning was overcast and a bit breezy, but nothing that would blow tiles off a roof.  I had been keeping my eye on the forecast all week, and it fluctuated between sunshine and 14 degrees, and rain and 7 degrees.  But relying on the forecast in this country is futile, so I was pleased that it wasn’t too windy, but worried about the heavy cloud.

At about 7:30, I left my apartment and walked about a mile to Duthie Park to register.  Several friends were volunteering and it was nice to see familiar faces ordering me about with instructions on where to put my (pitiful) drop bags for the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 checkpoints.  Eventually more and more runners descended upon my local park, and I ran into more recognizable faces, some also popping their ultra cherry.

Eventually Kate, Vicki, Geraldine and I all found each other.  They were decked out in club vests and some rather flashy socks in their club colours which attracted a lot of attention during the day, and 3 of us were all wearing the same purple Camelbak.  We also found Tina, from Aberdeen Metro runners, who was cautious because she was running on a dodgy ankle and fancied a steady group to keep her company.

Kate and I missed the race briefing because we were in a queue for the porta loo, but made it back to our group on the start line with a couple of minutes to spare.  Then came a countdown, and we were off!

The railway line that I normally ran along was packed with neon flashes as we churned out the first mile.  Tina and I fell in behind a group of women that were keeping us at a reasonable pace, and were chatting about a training weekend along part of the Fling route in a couple of weeks.  We were soon joined by another woman and Claudia.  I noticed that we were a little ahead of Kate, Geraldine, and Vicki, so when Tina overtook the group after a couple of miles, I fell back and the rest went ahead, looking strong. Unfortunately, a mile or so later, the four of us ran past Tina, Claudia, and +1 off to the side, Tina holding a tissue covered in blood, and blood all over her knee.  I asked if they were ok, and Tina seemed in good enough spirits and said she was fine, so we kept going, assuming she had just scraped her knee and was otherwise alright.  It turns out, she had gone over her ankle (again), and decided to be sensible and pull out.  Photos of her swollen ankle that turned up later on Facebook confirmed that she probably made the best decision, but she was, and is, understandably gutted.

It was around this point that I noticed a host of niggles that I panicked would leave me at the side of the course, writhing in agony later on, but thankfully most of these gradually faded away throughout the day.  The same couldn’t quite be said for birthday girl Kate, however, as she had been suffering from plantar fasciitis, and had even been told by her physio not to run the race.  On her birthday.  With friends.  So obviously she ignored that, and for the start, at least, everything seemed to be going smoothly.

Photo: Ryan Roberts

Photo: Ryan Roberts

Vicki was a strict task master, and we were following her run for 30 minutes/walk for 3 rule.  The walk breaks gave us an opportunity to take in fuel, an assortment of sweet and salty snacks, as well as let our heartrates come down a bit/stretch out any tight areas.  Initially, it felt a bit silly to be walking 30 minutes into a race when we were running at such a conversational pace, but if that’s what it takes to run 33 miles with no ill-effects afterwards, then I’m a believer.

We hit checkpoint one/three (it’s an out and back course), where Naomi and Suzy were waiting to hand us our drop bags (a bag of salted crisps for me), and chatted for a bit before setting off again, hoping that we were still as cheerful on the way back.  After about 14 miles, we hit Milton of Crathes, where Kate’s family were all waiting for her, and we stopped again for a toilet/oatmeal raisin cookie break (to the creator of those, they were amazing!).  I also took this opportunity to text ahead as someone marshalling at the halfway checkpoint wanted to present Kate with a ‘birthday flapjack’ (flapjack with a candle rammed inside it).

At Milton of Crathes.  No idea why it looks like I'm checking out Kate's rack.

At Milton of Crathes. No idea why it looks like I’m checking out Kate’s rack.

By this point, the faster runners had started to pass us on their way back, and we encouraged them as they all flew by.  Eventually, we made the halfway point and stopped for a chat, some snacks, and to refill camelbaks.  I think once we set off, we were all a little bit happier because we knew every step we took took us closer to the finish line instead of farther away.  The sun came out.  I was nearly what I would classify as ‘warm’.  I was happy.

There weren’t too many people behind us, which became apparent on our way back.  Soon we ran past the ‘Grim Sweeper’, looking cheerful at the back.  By this point, Kate’s feet were causing her a lot of pain, and there were murmurings of stopping at the 3/4 checkpoint, but we stuck with the run/walk strategy and pushed on.  We were also picking off a few walkers who were clearly hurting, and we were grateful that on the whole, we were feeling comfortable.

The 3/4 checkpoint arrived, and we took a little while to chat/replenish supplies.  I packed some dried fruit into my camelback and added a little water, as I’d run out.  I also drank half a bottle of lucozade, but chucked the rest, and added the rest of my food to the ‘free-for-all’ pile on the table.

At the 3/4 checkpoint

At the 3/4 checkpoint

1926824_10201508899193102_717979712_nBy this point, Kate reasoned that she couldn’t really do too much more damage to her feet in another 8-ish miles, so the four of us continued as a group.  I phoned Ian to let him know roughly when we’d be finished, but also requested that he bring something to hand over to me before the finish line.

I remember looking down at my Garmin at about 26 miles and thinking how strong I felt for completeing a marathon distance, when normally I’m ready to crumble in a heap and go for a nap.  The next time I looked down, the distance read 27.2 miles, and I was out of known territory!  With about 5 miles to go, we all stopped for a photo with a sign somebody had put out for Kate’s birthday:

1907565_10152314998593792_666196150_nWith less than a 5k to go, I found myself involuntarily speeding up, and then trying to reel myself in.  Then Ian appeared on his bike and cycled beside us.

Now, I wanted to finish my first ultra in style, so obviously I had asked for Ian to bring me a pair of high heels to cross the finish line in.  About a mile from the end, we came across Vicki’s husband, Ian, who was struggling.  Vicki told me to go on ahead and that they would walk with Ian for a bit.  Ian (my Ian) and I went on, and as I turned the corner into Duthie park, he produced my heels from his rucksack, and cycled off to the side. Ronnie had been for his long run already, so was at the finish with his camera in hand:

Appraching the finish line.  Carrying heels.

Appraching the finish line. Carrying heels.

About 10 feet before the finish line, I stopped and stepped to the side.  One of the marshalls told me, “You’re not finished yet, love, you need to go a bit further.”  Then I put my heels on the ground and started untying the laces of my trainers.  She laughed, as did the crowd at the finish line.  I managed to wedge my feet into my heels, and, somehow, stand up unaided, before strutting across the finish line as Kate, Vicki, and Geraldine came in behind me, holding hands.

Because, why not?

Because, why not?

Geraldine, Vicki, and Kate.

Geraldine, Vicki, and Kate.

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And with that, I was an ultramarathoner.  And I felt OK!  I got my medal, goody bag, and swapped my heels for flip flops, and spoke to some of the other finishers, and some of my friends who had come down to watch the finish and cheer in runners.  Not long after, Ian and I walked back to my flat, where I showered and threw on compression socks, and had a failed nap attempt before heading to the train station en route to the after party in Stonehaven.  Many a beer were enjoyed (although I’m pretty sure I owe a few people a round), and I clumsily made it back to my own bed via the second to last train home.

This morning I am suffering no more than I would had I gone out for a 15 mile run, which gives me a bit more confidence for the Fling.  However, despite getting through an ultra marathon with no hassle, I did end up bleeding and in tears after thwacking myself in the face with my mobile phone this morning, which is swelling up a treat, and will no doubt look terrific for work tomorrow.

For now though?  A burger I think.

D33 route

D33 route

Inverness 1/2 marathon 2014

Time: 2:07:36

Medal:  Yes

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Ah, Inverness.  How I forget how long it takes in a car to get to you…

Thanks to sick people being around me with their sickness and coughing sick germs all around me, I was, after finally shirking off a two week cold, struck down again with some grim plague.  I took Wednesday night off from the gym.  And then Thursday.  And on Friday I felt so rancid that I had asked to be put down and cried at my desk at morning break had a little pity party for myself.  In fact, when the bell rang at the end of the school day, it took a full 30 minutes before I could muster up the strength to leave my desk and walk to my apartment.

Thankfully, Ian and I have started (and nearly finished) watching ‘Rome’ on Netflix, so I had something to look forward to every day (other than lying in bed in a dark room).  In fact, we have become so engrossed in the show that on Saturday, feeling a bit more human, I bought some spelt flour and baked a traditional ‘Roman Loaf’ (according to the recipe on the back) for us to rip apart with our hands and feast on as we watched.  Accompanied by “traditional” Roman butter, of course.  And bottled Heineken (also 100% traditional, I’m assured).

This guy.

This guy.

Unfortunately, our ‘episode of Rome with dinner’ grew into a Rome-a-thon, and Ian and I didn’t go through to bed until a slightly unreasonable hour.  And so on Sunday I slept in.  Up not quite early enough to allow for a bit of relaxation, and not quite late enough to have to write off the possibility of going to Inverness entirely, I spent the next 20 minutes frantically scrambling around my apartment, throwing on my race kit, trying to find my Garmin/keys/wallet/mp3 player/phone (which somehow had not charged overnight)/running socks (I own like 20 pairs, so why had they all mysteriously vanished?!), and then sat down to demolish a yoghurt and catch up on a bit of work.

Just before 8, I kissed Ian goodbye and headed downstairs and to the meeting point to await my chariot, a Fiat Panda filled with Naomi, her boyfriend Stu, and Ronnie.  Naomi and Stu had both run the Paris half (comically called ‘Le Semi’) the previous weekend, and were both worried about how they would manage just 7 days after a peak performance.  Sniffling and trying not to fall asleep in the warmth of the car, I told Naomi I’d be happy to keep her company if she fancied taking it easy, an offer she may have, at times, wished she hadn’t accepted.

We arrived at Bught Park with literally hours to spare, and since we were such keen beans, found ourselves registered, relieved, and sitting on the floor of the sports hall by about 10:30.  Somehow we managed to convince Ronnie that the start had been delayed by half an hour, which he was very angry about, but eventually came clean when it seemed as though he was going to hunt for an ATM and a shop with all the fictional extra time, and would potentially miss the actual start.

As the start approached, Stu (a serious athlete) dumped his warm layers into the car and went to warm up.  The rest of us dumped our clothes in the car, and then returned to the warmth of the sports hall, meeting up with a few familiar faces along the way.  Eventually, the piper started leading runners to the start line, and we tailed onto the swarm, choosing to stay indoors as long as possible, because: weather.

Naomi, Ronnie and I made a token effort to join in the enthusiastic warm up dancing (Stu was basically at up at the front and needed no such ridiculousness), until we started moving forward, breaking into a jog, and then speeding up to cross the timing mats.

The start.  Stu is the dedicated looking one in the Fife vest.

The start. Stu is the dedicated looking one in the Fife vest.

“I guess we’re running 13 miles then.”

Ronnie stuck with us for less than a mile before Naomi and I persuaded him to go ahead – he has been working hard at losing weight and was keen to get his first sub-2 half marathon since 2012, and we both thought he was capable, unlike the two of us (dead legs and snot face).  The pair of us plodded along, and I despite my heart rate, I felt comfortable.  I thoroughly entertained Naomi with hilarious and enthralling tales (or so I would like to believe), and we kept a pretty even pace (about 9:30 minute miles) for the first half, stopping to walk through the water stations.  Naomi’s legs soon voiced their disapproval, however, and the pace dropped back a bit after this point.  At one point, at a road crossing, the marshal told us we had to stop to let a bus past, which at the time was a welcome 10 second break, but would have been a real offense if we’d been running for time!  Still, he was apologetic, and it’s not like either of us minded.

With about 5k to go, we approached Esther, someone we recognized from the local parkrun.  Her half PB is 2:10, and at the rate she was running she was on track for a PB.  Just when Naomi was really starting to struggle, the role of PB pacer seemed to give her a reason to push on to the end, and we made it our mission to bring Esther in under her goal time.  We stooped to ridiculously unnecessary tactics (trying to become windbreakers, shouting like a drill sergeant, picking up a branch from a nearby grassy area and prodding her forwards with it), but she kept with us, and even managed to outkick us with a sprint finish at the end.  I mean, yeah, Naomi and I were busy with a conversation, but still – excellent effort.

"Yeah, I think a Nando's sounds like a good idea for dinner."

I’m pretty sure I remember smiling, but instead I look pretty vacant.

100% focus.

100% focus.

Even Ronnie shouting at us with less than a mile to go, exclaiming that Claudia (someone we know) was only about a minute ahead (Ronnie knows I get competitive at the end) wasn’t enough to make me leave our little pacing group.  Especially since this half marathon was technically my ‘cut back’ for the D33 in, ohhhhhhhhhh, two days.  Which I am starting to panic a bit about.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be so busy at work, because at least it has kept my mind off of that little gem of information.

Anyway, Ronnie managed his sub-2.  He ran just over 1:51, in fact, and he was ecstatic.  Sadly, this means Naomi and I have lost a race buddy because he will once again start leaving us in his dust.  Stu, a freak of nature, ran less than half a minute slower than his Paris PB and crossed the line in 1:17:52.  Quite frankly, disgusting.

Once we had all gathered in the sports hall and chatted with other runners for a bit, we decided to head back to Aberdeen, singing along to some quality tunes (‘We Built this City’ and ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ come to mind).

Overall, a good, but long, day out.  Here’s hoping I’m this cheerful in 48 hours.  And that I can still walk.