Aberdeen Sport Relief Mile (and Craigievar Castle)

Aberdeen Sport Relief Mile

Distance: 6 miles  (5.66 according to my Garmin)

Medal: Yes

Too coordinated?

21 degrees Celsius in Aberdeen today, and the hottest day recorded in March in the UK ever – what can be bad about that?

Despite a heated argument with my phone last night regarding clocks going forward and smartphones being too ‘smart’ to accept manual time changes (really?), I was up early for the Sport Relief mile (or in my case, 6 mile) at Duthie Park, here in Aberdeen.  With staggered start times for the different events (1, 3, or 6 miles), everyone finished at roughly the same time, and the course was clearly marked, but that’s where my praise ends.  The ‘course’ was a ‘half mile’ loop, and the 6 mile fun runners were told we had to do 12 laps to complete our 6 mile run.  Exciting.  Also, according to my Garmin, the laps were slightly under half a mile, and after my 12 laps I had only run 5.56 miles.  Still, it was a gorgeous day, and the run was for a good cause, so it wasn’t too bad – in fact, I got to know the marshals pretty well by then end, and despite the ‘sturdy’ lass in a KISS t-shirt walking the entire 6 miles WHILST SMOKING (!??!?), everyone seemed to be giving it their best effort.

Especially my boyfriend.  He ‘doesn’t run’.

I had managed to convince him to sign up for the 3 mile run, which he reluctantly agreed to, and he looked less than enthused this morning.  Despite that, he actually finished in good time, not stopping once!  He was panting, red, and in ‘some mild pain’ afterwards, but he managed, and bagged his first ever running medal!  My friend Grant also came along (for the 6 mile race) and kept me company running the laps.

Runners in the park

Glad to be done!

With our bottle of water, we walked back to my flat, showered, then grabbed some lunch.  Grant went home (to ‘laugh at [his] hungover sister’) and Ian cycled home to pick up his car, a 1954 MG TF (he is very fond of this car).  The initial plan was to drive to Banchory for an ice-cream, but upon reaching Banchory and eyeballing the queue for the ice-cream shop, we drove on:

As we were in the area, we thought we’d stop by Craigievar Castle.  Surprisingly, the car park was empty when we arrived (we soon realized that it was not yet open season, so you couldn’t go inside), but we headed to the castle and towards the Hill Trail.

The walkway to the castle

2 miles = 1-1.5 hours?

We thought we’d try the Hill Trail, instead of the Bluebell trail because a.) it was a bit early for the bluebells to be out and b.) hills imply views.  Scoffing at the notice telling us it would take us an hour and a half, we hit the incline.  We walked through peaceful wooded areas…

Ian pressing on

More woods

After about 20 minutes we reached a clearing and got some decent views:

Hills, etc.

Before heading back to the castle for a few obligatory snaps before setting off home:

Suck on THIS, Annie Leibovitz!

Doorway of the castle wall

So how was everyone else’s weekend of running (or otherwise)?  I know at least a couple of you were involved in Sport Relief – how did everything go?  I just have one more week to make it through before two beautiful weeks off for school Easter holidays.  There is an hourly countdown in my head!

Sport Relief Week and New Kit

Well, there’s no escaping Sport Relief this week at school – there have been activities on every lunchtime, and a collection going around during registration every morning.  It is a constant reminder that I’m doing 6 miles for Sport Relief on Sunday, and I have raised a great, big, stinking ZERO pounds.  Still, even the registration fee goes some way, and I usually buy some kind of merchandise on the day, so I don’t feel as bad.  Plus, over the years I have pretty much exhausted the goodwill of my friends by fundraising for various runs, so it isn’t like I’ve done nothing charitable in my life.  I mean, for real, I’m a teacher.

Yes, I did buy them because they matched my nail polish.

Anyway, speaking of money, I’ve been dropping some hard cash this past week.  I hit up Run4it in a big way, initially to look for trainers for my boyfriend (who is doing the 3 mile run on Sunday, but whose running I imagine is akin to a flailing monkey on acid).  What I ended up with is a new pair of trail running shoes (a sensible purchase considering I’ve signed up for the Ythan Challenge and Tough Mudder, and street shoes just wont cut it), and the sports bra to end all sports bras:  The Shock Absorber Run.

Now I have always had a problem with boobs + exercise.  As a natural 32F, it often took some extreme hardware to keep my chest in check.  It was unheard of me me to wear LESS than two sports bras at a time, and STILL, there was bounce.  But last year, for a whole host of reasons, I had breast reduction surgery.  I’m now sitting at a still voluminous 32DD, and while I usually still double up on sports bras, I definitely feel more ‘restrained’.  However, this sports bra, the Shock Absorber Run, is amazing.  Nothing moves.  It is as though my own hands are clamping down on my breasts and holding them to my skeleton – I am impressed.  My reservations about the £37 price tag have disappeared, as well.  Ladies – if you have substantial boobs and have never tried this bad boy out – do it.

Anyway, it has been an amazing few days, sunshine-wise, in Aberdeen.  That, coupled with the lighter days, has been really uplifting – it’s amazing what some good sun can do for your spirits!  It was even semi-light when I left spin on Monday night!

Totally looks like a tornado. Isn't.

Oh.  And last night after spin I managed a 5 minute plank.  By the end I was grunting like Tony Soprano approaching climax, but I got it done.

Garioch 10k 18.4.12

Chip Time: 52:31

Gun Time: 53:34

313th finisher (81st female)

Medal: Yes

Time to redo my nails.

After a semi-disasterous half marathon last weekend, I was a little concerned about how I would perform today, but I also felt relieved that I’d only have to run half the distance, and I was back in my 10k comfort zone!  I had never run Garioch before, so I was glad to pick up some tips at Saturday’s parkrun, when I was volunteering as tail runner.  It looks like I wasn’t the only Garioch runner saving my legs, as several of the volunteers were at the race today, and I got to say a friendly hello.  From some of those who had run the race I established that it was hilly, so not one for PB’s.  I was also told that at around 7k, the route actually passes the finish line at the sports centre and goes off on a 3k loop before ending – VERY handy to know, as I didn’t get too excited when I saw the sports centre come into view , and I ran past at a steady pace knowing I’d be there soon.

Before parkrun yesterday morning. The weather today was just as nice!

I got a lift to the race from my friend Grant, who was also running – his first 10k!  It was obviously a momentous event as he actually obliged when I told him to pose for photos!  We got there in plenty of time, registered, and spent some time enjoying the rays before the rush of runners arrived.

Fueling up, bitches!

The race was well-organized, despite a couple of hiccups involving flooding toilets and late registrations holding the start back by about 10-15 minutes.  The weather was glorious, just like the previous day at parkrun.  Unusually (to me), the half marathoners and the 10k’ers started in the same pens and took off together, splitting onto separate courses just before 4k.  I thought it was a bit of a shame for the halfers, as they’d have people zooming by at the start and they’d feel like they were just plodding along!  Just before the horn there was a speech and a minute of silence to remember the 34-year-old runner who died near the end of last year’s race, Mark Sharp.

Once the run had started (uphill from the word ‘go’), everyone shuffled along, dodging in and out of pockets of space between other runners for the first kilometer or so, until everyone found their pace.  The sun was shining and for the first time this year, I felt warm running in Scotland!  There were a lot of undulations throughout the run, and a couple particularly brutal bits, but with that came a few downhill sprints where you could catch your breath.  I ran with a pretty steady pace throughout, and never felt like I was overexerting myself…… until the sprint at the end.  I can’t help breaking into any energy reserve I have left when that finish line comes into view.  And it’s even more sweet when you overtake guys in that final stretch!  Despite having my earphones in and blasting ‘Promises’ by Nero, I heard the announcer call out my name when I crossed the finish line, and I felt like a rock star picking up some water, my technical t-shirt, and, of course, my medal.  So much of a rock star, that I forgot to hit ‘stop’ on my Garmin.  Every freaking time!


This race was also good fun because of the amount of people I knew that were there.  A few folk from the gym made it along, some volunteers from parkrun that I’d met the previous day, and even a new twitter friend.  Running is quite the social activity!

So how was everyone else’s racing weekends?  The weather is picking up, and so are the events!

What do you do with your race bibs?

I’ve seen a lot of people proud of their race bibs by trawling through blogs.  Some people have a cork board with bibs and medals hanging off it, some people blu-tack them to a wall as a kind of motivational thing, I even saw someone wallpaper her study in them!  While I like keeping the old race bibs, they have usually just been stuffed somewhere out of sight for me to come upon during a particularly thorough ‘flat clean/re-jig’.  And then I’m torn between nostalgia and wanting to throw them away (because, essentially, it’s just clutter).

And so – starting this year (technically May 2011, but whatever), I’ve started keeping race bibs in a handily sized photo album.  The album is from Paperchase* (WARNING: EXTREME STATIONARY PORN!), and every bib I’ve had since I started has fit in it just fine.  There is a range of colours, but I went for neon orange, because it was so cheerful.

*Update: The album I have is the neon orange one, but there are also pink and purple ones.  From my stats I can see this is a popular post, so thought I’d link to the specific products.

Anyway, I quickly filmed myself flicking through for anyone bored enough to have a look.  I like that I can just slip it onto one of my bookshelves.  Neat and convenient!  I’ll warn, I was listening to music and the sound seems really loud when I play the video back on my laptop!

So what do you guys do with your race bibs?  Bin them? Stash them somewhere discreet?  Display them with pride?

Inverness Half Marathon 11.3.12

Official Time:  2:04:46 (PB)

1118th finisher (That sounds pretty rubbish!)

Medal: Yes

Pinky was not intentionally positioned to hide ‘1/2’, honest!

First half marathon, and I was gunning for a time under 2 hours, since I know I’m capable of it.  Unfortunately, everything seemed to go wrong.

I woke up with a pretty ropey belly, and to avoid totally grossing anyone out, I’ll avoid any graphic description and simply say that what my body was churning out at 6 am in the bathroom did not set my spirits high, as hydration is pretty important for a race.

The drive to Inverness was stressful.  I wasn’t driving, but Ian was becoming more and more pissed off with shit drivers along the way.  We also got stuck behind a ridiculously slow caravan, and then a tractor.  Stress mounted as it became clear that we would be cutting it close to make it to registration on time.  To rehydrate, I was guzzling water and realized very suddenly that if I didn’t get to a toilet, STAT, there was going to be a Paula Radcliffe moment in the passenger seat.  This did not help stress levels.  Luckily we found a gas station with a toilet, and normal (ish) activity could resume.

Once we had made it to the sports centre in Inverness, there wasn’t much time left, and I still had to get changed and find somewhere to put my stuff.  The parking looked crazy, so I ran out, leaving Ian to it.

Much stress ensued, but I eventually registered, got changed, sorted out a locker and met Ian.  It was around this point I realized I had eaten nothing since breakfast (it was about 12:15), and thought I should maybe try and fuel up.  This did not happen because I felt sick just thinking about food.  At this point, Ian left, and I realized that I was exhausted from the stress of getting there on time.  Shortly after, the bagpipes started up, indicating the walk to the start line.  I felt so rotten I wanted to cry.  You know those days were you feel like even walking is an effort?  This was one of those days, and I knew this run was going to hurt.

When the horn went, everyone slowly made their way to the start line.  Once I passed, I hit ‘start’ on the Garmin and set off, aiming to keep a pace between 8:30 and 9:00.  Even dodging the slower runners, this was going well.  The first 3-4 miles steadily climbed uphill, and I maintained a good pace.  I was hungry, and it was tough, but I started feeling more positive.  This positive feeling skyrocketed when I ran past my ex-boyfriend’s parent’s house, because where there was once a grassy meadow next to the small country path that led to their riverside home there was a GIANT FUCK OFF TESCO.  I remember his mother (who I thought was a patronizing bitch) used to complain that ‘they’ wanted to build a Tesco in the meadow and that it would ruin their views/be horrible/etc.  Man, that Tesco made me smile.

Of course, karma is more of a bitch than my ex-boyfriend’s mother, and for all of my nasty thoughts, I received payback in mile 6 when the mother of all stitches decided to bestow itself upon my person.  Right after the uphill struggle, and right before the sweet, sweet downhill section.  I was super pissed off.  I had to ‘evolve’ several times.  To illustrate:

hunched over walking – upright walking – slow jog – regular jog – attempt to run – EXCRUCIATING PAIN! – repeat

This went on for the next few miles, and checking my Garmin only confirmed that a sub 2 hour half was not on the cards this time.  I was even more pissed off.  I experienced the weirdest emotion-struggle when a woman ran past and shouted back, “Come on, you’re halfway there!”  Half of me was grateful for her encouragement and wanted to smile and say ‘thanks’, and the other half wanted to punch her in the face and scream.  That’s a strange internal struggle to experience, and I’ll be honest and say it’s the first time I’ve felt anything like it.

By mile 10, the pain had finally subsided, and I finished the last 3 miles at a 9:00/mile pace.

At the finish line

I was never happier to see a finish line and I have never run a more painful race.  I felt pretty deflated afterwards, and even getting a sub 2:05 time wasn’t enough to lift my spirits – I actually wanted to cry.  I took my medal (one of the only things that encouraged me to keep on truckin’ during the pain), found Ian, and headed to the car.  It was time to go home and refuel in style: with beer and curry.

There’s nothing quite like running 13.1 miles on a near-empty stomach, and a 2 1/2 hour drive home to build up an appetite.  After a shower at the flat, we headed to the restaurant.  I got shat on by a bird within 5 minutes of heading out the front door, but I was so exhausted, and so hungry, I didn’t care, and I dined out with a crusty patch of bird shit in my hair.

Not a smile, but a grimace that I was too exhausted to execute properly.

On a positive note, the race was well organized, the views were beautiful, and the atmosphere was great.  I’m just bummed I didn’t really get into the spirit, but whatever, medal numero uno in the bank – Boom!

Curry bound!

Putting my feet up after my THIRD shower of the day – thank you anonymous bird.

I look like ass when I run

I came across some photos of the 10 miler on Sunday, and managed to find a couple featuring my sweaty, washed out face.  OF COURSE the photos of me had to be taken after mile 9.  Every other time I saw a camera along the way, I smiled for the photos (of which I am certain 98% portray me as at least slightly demented), but after the 9 mile marker I was oblivious to anything except my desire for it all to end.  Hence, no smile, even though I am looking DIRECTLY at the camera.  I can almost hear myself thinking ‘I don’t even care if a trail of drool is cascading down my face, take your damn photo’.  I’m number 321.  Enjoy:

Photo courtesy of roadrunpics.com - Thanks!

Anyway, in preparation for the abuse I’ll be giving my body this weekend, I am taking Saturday as a rest day.  Those who know me will understand how much of a sacrifice this is, as Saturday is awesome for both parkrun and gym classes, but I have worked out non-stop since last Thursday, so screw it.  I’m going to clean my flat, which would, at this point, make bachelor pads look pristine.  I’m actually ashamed of the state of it.  I am also going to pamper myself.  Brows are being tinted so my face has a slight chance of looking decent in any photos on Sunday, and I’m getting a ‘Rescue Pedicure’, which my poor feet are looking forward to.  Judge for yourself, but I would say they have only become more gross-looking since the last foot-fetishist-boner-killer photo I posted:

I'm sorry for posting this*

Anyway – managed an easy 5 mile run this evening, mainly because it was mild and sunny when I finished work, but also because I had planned on trying out my first ‘carb loading’ session tonight.  I’ve never bothered before, but since it’s a half marathon, might as well fuel up, right?  So what wholesome food choices do I make?

  • KFC boneless chicken 3 piece meal (with chips)
  • pan au chocolat
  • approx half a large loaf of bread with nutella
  • an entire pack of MAOAM sweets

I’m sure that is EXACTLY what I should be filling my body with for Sunday’s race.  At least I managed to resist beer…

*I’m lying.


Getting excited!

After a performance I’m pretty proud of on Sunday at the Arbroath 10 miler, I’m feeling a lot more confident about my first half marathon this Sunday.  Realistically, I’ll be happy to finish under 2:30:00, but if I can smash 2 hours I will be happier than a fly on shit.  Reasons I know I’m getting excited about something:

  • I paint my nails black (badly. If there was a high school class called ‘How to be a successful girl’ I’d have failed it – hard)
  • I plan a meal out (signs point to curry once we get back to Aberdeen)
  • I get my brows dyed (having wispy blonde hair means I can get away with not shaving my legs for weeks, but it also means my natural eyebrows are invisible, and this annoys me)
  • I book a random beauty appointment (pedicure, perhaps foolishly the day before my half, but my poor feet deserve some love.  I also know that the beautician has seen my feet before and it is unlikely she’ll recoil in horror)
  • I crave ice cold beer and slutty dancing (unfortunately not going to happen for a few weeks, but there’s a gym night out on the cards)

I also start planning my outfit.  Now, my running gear isn’t particularly fancy (in fact, it’s pretty much just gym kit), so I’m currently gunning for some wicked war paint on my face.  Because, you know, I’m going to ‘defeat the race’.  Totally lame, I know, but backed by my bitchin’ tunes, I’ll feel like a warrior.

Does anyone else have running plans for the weekend?

Arbroath Smokies 10 Mile Road Race 4.3.12

Official time: 1:24:56  (PB)

99th finisher (out of 333)

Medal: None, unless you’re crazy-fast (but we did all get a t-shirt and goody bag)

First race of the year, first PB of the year (by default, but totally still counts), and first 10 mile race – such excitement!  At least excitement is what I expected to feel this morning, until I gazed out of my window upon the delightful Scottish weather.  Here is a shot from the inside of the car, on the way to Arbroath, just before we passed the road information sign announcing: Snow forecast.  Terrific.

A touch of rain - and sleet.

Luckily, when we arrived it had stopped bucketing rain from the sky, but it had not stopped being totally freezing.  I was very glad I wore the long running tights.

Anyway, The crowd was friendly and I had some good chat before the race, and picked up some handy information.  For example, it was good to know there would be a hilly start, with a down hilly second half before I set off, or I may have ended myself at mile 3.

I’m a fan of summarizing, so I’ll keep the overall ‘Race Report’ short and sweet by breaking it down into defining thoughts per mile.

Mile 1: Glad I brought my gloves, it is freeeeee-what the hell, how can she wear just a singlet and micro mini shorts? Oh, we’ve started, bring it, hill, I’ll destroy you. Holy shit, check my pace!  That’s a 7!  I am AWESOME!

Mile 2: My pace is still awesome.  I am slightly concerned I will suffer for this pace later on in the race.  Pffffft!  Whatever. I am AWESOME!


Mile 4: I recovered like a pro after that hill – BOOM!  Still a decent pace.  Damn my hands are sweaty.  I’ll take off the gloves.  Hmm, where do I put the gloves?  Stuff into bra? That’s some sweet thinking on your feet, Rachel.  I am AWESOME!

Mile 5: Shit, that guy just took a photo with a super-professional looking camera and I have gloves stuffed into my bra.  I’m going to look like I have a growth on my chest in every single race photo.  Should I move them?  Nah, best not to look like I have a dong instead.  Smart thinking, baby, you’re on top!

Mile 6: Shouldn’t have tried to drink out of the plastic cup, I am freaking soaking. Hey!  We’re going downhill! WooooOOoooOooOOOOOoOOOoooOOO!! Check my pace.  I am AWESOME!

Mile 7: I want to die.

Mile 8: I’m a fucking idiot for signing up to this.  Why did I sign up to this? My underwear is chaffing my vagina.  How does that even happen?!  My shower is going to sting, hardcore.  This is shit.

Mile 9: So close.  Please don’t die.  Keep going.  Wait, why am I listening to PJ Harvey?  This is not uplifting at all!  Ah, here we are, some relaxing System of a Down.  Lovely.

Mile 10: Chaffing is worse than cancer and AIDS and world hunger, I will never enjoy sex again, where the shit is the finish line?  Wait, is that the sports centre?  Oh thank fuck, it’s over.

So as you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am totally not regretting the Half Marathon in Inverness next weekend.  At all.  But knowing that if I stick to today’s pace I can make it in under 2 hours is pretty groovy indeed. And the goody bag?  Well, who can complain when they give you booze at the end of a run?

Minus a Twix Bar, a bag of crisps and a bottle of water.

To everyone that gave gel advice – thanks!  Unfortunately my stomach has been really weird all day, so I just stuck to Gatorade and dried fruit, and am still not feeling totally right.  I will definitely try a gel or two next weekend though.  After my Mile 7 lull today I think I’ll need it!

Oh and the weather cleared after the race.  We visited some of my boyfriend’s relatives for lunch, then met a friend for a quick visit before heading home to some typical Scottish views:

Mountains and nature and shit.

First Race of the Year is tomorrow!

Which means a relatively speedy 5 mile run on Friday and Body Pump this morning were probably ill-advised, but whatever – tomorrow is a 10 mile race and an automatic PB since it’s a new distance to me!  It’s nice when there’s no pressure (unless you’re having a sports massage, in which case, what are you paying for?!).  I’m still not used to long distances so don’t really know how I’m going to pace myself or anything, I’ll just see how it goes.  I will, however, be experimenting with energy-food-stuffs.

Now, I’m familiar with sports drinks as I’ll usually neck one if I have a particularly grueling gym session, but I have never really bothered on runs.  When I was in Australia I bought some powder-form Gatorade (the BEST sports drink, in my opinion, but sadly, not widely available in the UK).  I’ve made up a bottle’s worth and it took all my willpower not to neck it, because it tastes awesome.

Better than Powerade

So I’ll have this as a nice little treat before the run, but I have also bought an assortment of probably-shit-tasting energy things that I may or may not use during the run.

Not real food

I have tried the caffeine-injected jelly beans once before, and I can confirm that although initially they tasted normal, the aftertaste did indeed taste like ass, but the gels I am new to.  Anyone have any advice regarding best (as in least terrible) flavours?  And do they make a difference with performance?

Either way, watching Starship Troopers and eating Nutella from the jar probably isn’t what I should be doing just now…