Looking like a ‘serious’ runner

Well today, despite a beasting 10k yesterday, I dragged my tired legs out of bed for my long run.  On today’s menu: 12 miles.  I’ll be honest, I was not feeling it before I left the flat.  The sun, however, was, and I wasn’t going to pass up some sweet rays after nothing but rain and cloud for two weeks, so out of bed and into running gear I went!  Today was important for two reasons:

  • 12 miles = my longest training run
  • This would be the first time I traveled with supplies!

I bought a belt pack thing (so eloquent) a couple of months ago, but I could never be bothered wearing it before, because none of my runs were really long enough to warrant energy supplies.  Today, though, I wanted to make sure I was hydrated and fueled.  After dry heaving at the aftertaste of sport beans before my run, I substituted the rest of the pack for a gel shot, and filled a 500ml bottle with gatorade.  Ready to rock.

The first 5 miles were pretty non-eventful.  At around 5.5 I had to stop because of traffic (which makes crossing a street a bit more difficult).  An old man was shuffling across the street and it looked like he was speaking to me.  The dialogue followed as thus:

Old man: I used to be able to run to [inaudible place] in 30 minutes.  Not any more!  Now I can barely walk!
Me: (polite chuckle) Wow, that’s good going!
Old Man: So what are you doing, just keeping fit?
Me: No, I have a half marathon next month.
Old Man: You’re getting married next month?
Me: No, a HALF MARATHON.  In 4 weeks.  I’m training.
Old Man: You WANT to get married in a month?  No problem love, I’ll marry you.  I’ll need to get rid of the wife first, but after that.
Me: No.. Half.  Marathon.  You know, running? (gestures running)
Old Man: OH! A half marathon.  How much longer have you got today?
Me: Umm, about 6 miles I think.
Old Man: Glad it’s not me!

Too right, old man.  Too right.

Anyway, the run went pretty much without incident.  I had my gel shot at about mile 6.  I didn’t realize it was just a clear, sugary goop, but it didn’t make me feel gross and I felt strong (but ready for the couch) at the end of the run, so I think they’ll be making a reappearance.

And here’s a shot of me with my sexy water belt that was apparently enough to get me a marriage offer today:

Sidenote: I LOVE those tights!


I used to run a lot, and I used to be a lot faster.  If any of you reading this have been reading my blog for a while, you might know that I had 2 operations last year that prevented me from exercising for months.  I gained weight and lost fitness.  I used to be able to run a relatively flat 10 k in 47:xx, which is a average pace of 7:xx.  Now?  Not so much…. yet.

Over the course of the year, in the various races I’ve taken part in, I’ve noticed a trend in my overall pace.  It is, thankfully, decreasing.  I mean, we’d be having to take a good hard look at my training if that was not the case, but anyway.  It has been slow and steady, but if it keeps going down, I’m happy.  Below are the races I’ve competed in this year with my average pace for each of them:

  • Arbroath Smokies 10 mile :  8:29/mi
  • Inverness Half Marathon :  9:27/mi  (discount this as it was an overall disaster!)
  • Garioch 10k :8:28/mi
  • Kilomathon (13.1K) :  8:27/mi
  • Balmoral 10k : 8:29/mi (but if you consider the extra .03 miles, 8:24/mi)

While I’d love to be improving faster, I can’t say I’m not happy with this.  I think the intervals I’ve started throwing in might actually do more than make me hate life for involving treadmills!

So what do you guys do to improve speed?  Until about a month ago I only ever ran at what I felt was a sustainable pace.

Balmoral 10k 2012

Chip Time: 52:40

Position: 596 (out of 1915)

121st female, 63rd in category

Medal: Yes

Finally, back on track!

Today started early.  The Balmoral 10k starts at a super awkward time of 2pm, which means your entire day is eaten up by this event.  Even more so, as today I was getting a lift from a woman I go to the gym with (we’ll call her IB) who is also a runner (and a fairly swift one).  We had both heard horror stories from previous years about the traffic, and had been advised to set off early.  The original plan was 10am, but it was closer to 9:25.

The journey there?  Smooth and quick.  We arrived, despite a sunny forecast, at an overcast and at times hailing backdrop at Balmoral Estate just before 11am. H-O-U-R-S to go.  We visited the cafe and I had a hot chocolate (and my banana, and bag of pretzels, and some jelly babies), and then decided to check out the 5k race before heading back to the car and dumping our bags.  We made this last 2 hours.  Those are some skills, right there.

Once we’d shed our warm jumpers and tracksuit bottoms and left the car, it was was goosebump city.  Freezing.  We power walked back to the main event and then alternated between walking and shivering for the remaining 40 minutes before the start.

Once the runners were eventually asked to assemble, we crammed ourselves into the starting pens.  We were told to assemble by the placards with our estimated finishing time, but they only appeared a while later, and weren’t spaced very evenly.  We settled somewhere near the middle, plugged the earphones in, and waited for the slow push forward.  After a few start-stop moments, we were off!

The first 2 miles are on tarmac, but the path isn’t very wide so I got stuck behind quite a few runners and wedged off to one side.  There was a lot of side-stepping and ‘Sorry!’ shouts over my shoulder for accidentally elbowing someone in the ribs.  Mile 3 involved a sharp left turn and KABOOM!  A hill.  Before I’d started I had told myself I’d run the whole thing.  I even switched off the heart rate monitor on my Garmin so I wouldn’t look down and freak out (FYI my max HR for today was 191).  Still, it took it out of you, and I didn’t want to tire myself out for the second half, so I scampered to the left for a bit to power walk.  When a dude in a pink tutu overtook me, though, it was game on until the bagpipers at the top that enticed a grin out of me – I knew that was it!  Just after the descent, I spotted the ambulance crew and threw them a wave as I began to fly downhill – bliss after the last mile.

The next couple of miles were mainly downhill, and fairly uneventful.  At one point I was going so fast I realized I couldn’t have stopped if I had wanted to, and with the wet ground there were a few moments of panic as I did not want to end up tits-to-the-floor after slipping.  I managed to remain on my feet, thankfully.

The last mile and a bit flattened out, and there was one last cheeky undulation (uncalled for!), before the final stretch.  I stuck to the pace that I was at, but couldn’t help sprinting the last 200 metres (because some chick was trying to overtake me – not happening).  After crossing the finish line I had to keep moving because I was at the ‘faint/puke’ stage that I usually inflict on myself when I push at the end.  I also, as per usual, forgot to hit STOP on my Garmin like a tool.

Once I had my breath back, I grabbed my medal and a medium t-shirt (HUGE!) and had a bottle of water thrust into my hands (but no goody bag).  I went to meet IB (who finished in something like 49:xx), and immediately told her I felt rancid.  She looked at me, agreed I looked like all the colour had drained from my face, and I headed for the first aid tent like an amateur (totally lame).  A few minutes of lying down and having some friendly banter with the paramedic was enough to help me stop feeling queasy, and after a handful of jelly babies, IB and I set off for the car, where we made it back to Aberdeen for about 5:30pm.  8 hours for a run that lasts less than an hour.  Mental.

All in all, the event was well-organized, but I could have done with more than one water stop (at the top of the hill).

For anyone that wants to guess which mile had the notorious hill, I present to you my splits (in miles):

  1. 8:08
  2. 8:22
  3. 10:49
  4. 7:50
  5. 7:48
  6. 7:55
  7. ? (forgot to stop Garmin)

Balmoral 10k elevation map

A slight improvement

The pain caused by the return to work, and the arrival of ‘flu of extreme pain’ has come and gone, thankfully.  The rain that arrived on day 2 of my 2 week holidays, however, has not.  I am beginning to forget what sunshine looks like, and I have a sneaking suspicion this is why I sounded like I was holding back some fairly impressive projectile vomit to some pupil this week, when, in fact, I was stopping myself from screaming things that would probably get me a disciplinary.  Essentially, I am feeling physically better, but the weather and being ridiculously busy at work have ensured I remain in a balanced ‘on edge’ state.

Missing the Glenlivet seems ages ago now.  I know, based on how rough I felt in the days after, that I made the right decision, so there’s no point in dwelling on it (I am mostly trying to convince myself here). Just to show how ‘hard’ I am, and fueled by anger, I managed to push out 4 painful miles the following day to hit 300 for the year.  I briefly thought I was going to have a heart attack afterwards, and had splash cold water on my face and lie on the floor until my heart rate came back down, but I did it (FYI, I’m now sitting at 336, so still on track for 1,000 in 2012!).

Anyway, it’s not long now until my next race: The Balmoral 10k, affectionately known as ‘the one with the hill’, or as a friend put it, ‘ugh… hill.’  What a motivator she is!  Apart from a hamstring niggle (no idea what caused it, but it doesn’t hurt when I’m running, so I’ll deal with it), and a bit of a sniffle, I’m good to go!  I just need to keep all the bunged up children who are allergic to hand washing out of my personal space for one more day!

My strategy?  Finish it, get the medal, go home, eat.  I’m not going for time here, the next race I’m going to really go for is the Edinburgh half marathon next month.  As long as the hamstring holds up, Saturday’s 10k will be a ‘tempo run’ followed by my long run on Sunday.  In crap weather.  Still.

In other news, I have booked my flights for Houston in October and I am ridiculously excited!  One of my runner friends has agreed to sign up to the Huntsville half marathon on the second to last day I’m there, and we are going to follow it up with IHOP and beer.  I am more excited than a 10 year old getting ready for a sleepover where pizza and soda is a definite yes.  It will be amazing.  Do you know what else will be amazing?  Sunshine.  (You guys might be noticing a trend – I love sunshine)

Anyway, I just thought I’d take a few minutes to update here, since it has been a while.  I’m just back from a quiz night with people from work and for the first time, like, ever, I won something!  Not in the raffle, and our team came 6th out of 17, so not for that either.  I won, out of a whole room full of people, a game of Heads or Tails.  A proud achievement, and something that earned my a bottle of bubbly.  The fact that the cost of my ticket and the amount I spent on raffle tickets could have allowed me to purchase TWO of said bottles of bubbly does not detract from the excitement I felt after actually winning something!  And I don’t even really drink that much!

I am a winner!

Hopefully the next time I’m sharing, I’ll have a picture of a shiny new medal to show you as well!

My first (and hopefully last) DNS

Well, if I could apply a numerical value to how shit I feel today, it would roughly translate to 99/100.  I have been battling a cold for the last couple of days, but last night it really kicked into power mode, and I woke up this morning with cold sweats and a fever.  I nearly walked into the walls several times on my trip to the bathroom (at most, a 10 meter journey) due to being dizzy and sore, but still turned on the shower for my ‘pre-race clean up’.  As I waited for the water to heat up, I turned 90 degrees to my left, caught sight of myself in the mirror, chuckled at how pathetic I looked, realized it hurt to chuckle, and then had a coughing fit for approximately 3 minutes.  Once I had caught my breath and steadied myself, I switched off the shower and took my temperature.  Ah, shitty, fuckity fuck McFuck.

I texted my friend who was meant to be giving me a lift with the bad news, and went back to bed, furious, but exhausted.

After another few hours of sleep, I woke up to have my boyfriend utter the 3 words every girl who is sick and looks a hot mess wants to hear:

“The heating’s broken.”

Did I mention it had been snowing?  No?  Well it had been snowing.  And I know some people think ‘hate’ is a strong word, but I hate the cold.  I looked at my phone and noticed that all the Glenlivet 10k runners would be setting off in a couple of minutes, and I felt so dissapointed in myself, and so, so, so fucking angry at my boiler.  I also felt a significant amount of pain, though I may have mentioned that before.

Since my 11:00am moment of self-pity, the plumber has been and gone, and the flat is slowly heating up.  I am still really bummed I didn’t make the race, as I am the first to tell people to ‘man up’ (and I readily admit I told myself several times this morning to stop being such a wuss), but I honestly don’t think I could have have run a mile today, much less a 10k that involves about 5 hours of traveling to take part in.  I mean, when I wake up and don’t immediately think about food, I know there’s something wrong.

I hate not following through on plans, and it kills to know I missed out on another finisher’s medal, but I guess sometimes you just need to be sensible and realistic. I hope everyone racing today had a blast, and to those who I might’ve met at the Glenlivet, there are still plenty more races in the year.

Totally doesn’t mean I’m not pissed off.

[insert witty title here]

Let me introduce you to two facts:

  1. My boyfriend has had a cold for the past week.
  2. I now have a cold.

Coincidence?  I think not.  I am, to put it simply, not amused.  Especially since I have the Glenlivet 10k on Sunday.  I am not anticipating any record breaking times for this, considering I am not an asthmatic, but I am wheezing like one whenever I exert myself (rise from the sofa to go for a piss, lift arm to push a button on the remote, scratch leg).

My boyfriend seems to know I am not amused.  I’m amazed he picked up on my subtle vibes (me shouting things like “Stop touching me you massive infection!” and repeating things like “I am really pissed off that you have given me your disease”).  Just to fill you guys in, he, being the caring boyfriend he is, laughed and faux coughed in my direction.  So how did I know he understood my mood?

Ignore sketchy search terms

That’s how.

Trendy new hair, and discovering that I am the last to become aware of trendy application.

Today I ran 5 miles.  Yesterday I ran 6.  This is a vast improvement to last week, in which I ran a grand total of 10 miles, but in fairness I had no race on at the weekend for a change, and fancied a bit of a break.  Also, I continue to be concerned that my knees sound like rice krispies when I rise from a squatting position, but my GP confirms this is not an issue (and he’s a runner, so I’ll trust him).  Plus, being a teacher, one (the only) perk of my job is some sweet holiday time, and I am now on week 2 of a 2 week break for Easter.  So I got more than a ‘bit’ of a break, and I’ve enjoyed that, but let’s get back on track, shall we Rachel?  I have the Glenlivet 10k on Sunday, and as long as I can squeeze in 1 mile before then, I’ll hit 300 miles for the year by the end of the week!  This excited me for two reasons:

  1. I am on track for 1000 miles in 2012
  2. I like neat numbers

In other (totally more important) news, I had a haircut.  I have had average length hair for yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeears because every time I go to get it cut (not regularly enough, we’re talking once every year, and I’m proud of that commitment!) I chicken out and go for a ‘trim’.  Now I am not blessed with luscious, thick, strong hair (fuck you Pantene commercial, you lying hussy), and I regularly wear my hair in a ponytail.  Result?  Frazzled, wispy ends, and roughly 1/3 of my hair being broken off where I tie it up.  Not a good look.  So yesterday, armed with several photos of celebrities with cute haircuts (but much prettier faces than I could pay for), I went for the bob.  Unfortunately, I was dumb enough not to take a photo post-salon, a look I will somehow never be able to recreate, so I have, in an attempt to gloss over gross foot shots, included a photo* of my new hair in (tiny) pigtails.

*Clear skin courtesy of instagram – better than any facewash or foundation – seriously, I can see why people use this thing.

And a slightly more tousled (post sweaty workout) look:

And, because I must be one of the last people living in a first world country to discover the instagram application (all this news about Facebook dropping some sweet change to buy an application that makes your photos look old – sickeningly on the day Kodak announces bankruptcy – caused me to find out what the hell it is!), I present to you my lunch:

Not pictured: leftover chocolate, rice krispie treat, cheese and crackers, orange juice.



Feet still gross, offend people.

Yes, I am one of THOSE people.

For the benefit of kids and staff at school, I’ll opt out of the open toe sandal trend that never fails to take off in Aberdeen after the first hint of sunshine for the year (it’s best to be prepared in case any sun breaks through the clouds again this year, after all). Why, you ask? (At this point, you may be rolling your eyes thinking I didn’t ask, you maniac, I don’t care about your feet, but you know what?  My blog = my subject choice!)   So why?  Because my feet are disgusting.  But they are fairly important for actual movement, so I can’t hate on them, but other people totally can.  And I KNOW that some of you are guilty of over sharing your foot situation, because at any given time in the 20 most recent posts in my Google Reader feed, there will be a grainy photo of someone’s mangled, blister-ridden feet.  And you know what?  It is always a pleasure to witness proof that someone’s feet are grosser than mine.  So thank you.  And to return the favour:

E.T. book pedicure...

If that put you off any Easter chocolate, you’re welcome!  If it didn’t, then go ahead and make yourself feel better by finding out why chocolate is good for you.

Anyway, despite really feeling like going out for a run today, my knee is being a bitch, so I thought I’d call it a rest day.  Not content with lounging about and having facials, however, I decided to get back on track with some of my core work.

90 bad boys - done!


About a month ago I embarked on the 200 push-ups challenge in an attempt to increase my pathetic upper body strength before Tough Mudder.  The first week was good, then I forgot about it.  Today, I decided to start again, but a step up.  It wasn’t too fun, but I got it done.  Upping my weights in Body Pump for the last 6 weeks is obviously benefiting my girl strength, though, so that’s uplifting.  I also did a few one legged squats (because I like big butt’s and I cannot lie), and finished off with a (killer) 4 minute plank.

Things I learned today:

  • Push-ups are always hard.
  • Planks are even harder if you’ve slathered yourself in body lotion first.
  • Exfoliating facials hurt.

Hope everyone has had a great Easter long weekend!  🙂


Check out that rack!

So I’ve perved over the Allied Medal Hangers for a couple of months, but I just couldn’t choose something to customize one with.  Plus, they’re pretty pricey AND I’d have to get it

Homeless medals.

shipped over from the states.  While my desire for one of their particular medal hangers has waned, my lust for a way to display my medals has definitely not.  After loads (25 minutes, maybe, I perhaps exaggerate) of online research, I decided that I could probably knock something together that I would like just as much as some of the stuff I saw for sale.

Enter deranged “creative” Rachel.  I decided I wanted a branch.  And I wanted it to look like it was floating on my wall.  And I wanted medals hanging off it.

I began giving disturbing amounts of attention to sticks on the ground.  I went for a run on

Enough to get my pulse up*

the railway line and caught myself eying up a fallen branch.  I was seduced by the gnarls and whorls on trees as I walked past them.  In a park, I was like Quentin Tarantino in a foot spa, it was ridiculous!

Despite the fact that I spotted several worthy contenders for my ‘ultimate rack’, it seemed that they were inconveniently attached to trees.  A pity, that.

Yesterday, however, I went for a walk through sand dunes and along the beach with Ian and a friend, where I came across several pieces of driftwood.  I would pick one up, carry it along for 5 minutes, excitedly, and then spot a better piece.  I went through pieces of driftwood quicker than Angelina Jolie kidnaps adopts children, until I found THE PIECE.  Unfortunately it was still 2 miles from the car, but I carried it all the way back and it has been drying off in my bathroom since.

Well, until about 2 hours ago.  Armed with a screwdriver, a hammer, some screws, some nails, some hooks, and some ‘mad DIY skyllz’ I set about creating my new medal rack.  Et voila!


More hooks will be added, as there is already doubling (and tripling, and quadrupling, etc.) up, but I needed a shower and was impatient to get a photo taken.  Already, it’s much better than medals hanging off a doorknob, and there is plenty of space left to fill in.  So what do you guys think?

*Photo of the tree nicked from here.

Seal Spotting at Newburgh and Forvie Sands Nature Reserve

This is the first weekend without a run since my 2012 race schedule kicked off on March 4th, so it was a little strange feeling like I had loads of time to myself.  I hit the gym for weights in the morning, then came home and realized I had the WHOLE REST OF THE DAY!  I remembered Ian mentioning one of his friends had expressed an interest in going to see seals on a beach the night before, so I texted him to see if it was happening.  All systems go!

Ian and I were picked up by DazzlePecs (clearly, not his real name) at around 3pm, and somehow made it to Newburgh without his driving killing us.  Armed with the GPS on my phone, we headed to the mouth of the Ythan River where, Dazzle’s dad assured him, we would find seals.  Turns out he doesn’t lie:

To the right: The North Sea. Straight ahead on the shore: hundreds of seals!*

*The little dark specks in the distance = seals.

Not content with the shitty zoom on my camera phone, we decided we would go back to the car, drive over the bridge a couple of miles away, and make our way to the seals for a better view.  We ended up on a trail that wound through the Sands of Forvie National Nature Reserve, a 4(ish) mile loop that would take us roughly 1km from the seals.  The meander through the grassy sand dunes was pleasant as we were shielded by the sea breeze, and just when we got to the last big dune before the seals, we were confronted with this:


These wee pillars covered the entire section of the peninsula that we wanted to get to for some hardcore seal spotting and we were being denied because apparently April-August is breeding time for terns, and if they are disturbed they leave their young for predators to come and gobble up.  Missed access by one measly week!  To give a clearer picture of our journey, see the graffiti handiwork of paint applied to a screenshot of google maps below:


Still, we had a nice walk continuing along the trail, passing an old church, some weird bones on the shore, and even an old train carriage, but by the time we got back to the car it was pretty cold and damp, and we were all pretty hungry.  Click on the thumbnails for bigger photos (unless you’re completely disinterested, in which case, scroll to the bottom)!


Never-ending barrier

Myself and 'Dazzle' walking along the beach

Train carriage

Me and Ian (and seals) at 'Original Sighting Spot'

Me + driftwood = new project for next week!

Once in the car, we all headed for The Cock and Bull Restaurant.  Though I felt somewhat (extremely) under-dressed in a tracksuit for a Michelin listed eatery, the lure of steak was too much.  The food was delicious. and I am still stuffed.

So what did everyone else get up to this weekend?  Races?  Training runs?  A bit of time off?