Sore bits and good support.

It’s no great surprise that parts of my body are suffering with marathon training.  Some of you may remember one or two photos of my feet I uploaded (I am still unapologetic), and blisters are no longer a real shock to me.  I know men suffer with bleeding nipples, and I am glad to be a woman, because chicks (one would hope) wear sports bras when they run, which prevents chaffing.

At least nipple chaffing.  Part of the problem with having sizeable (even after a reduction) chest pillows is that they are more difficult to keep locked down.  For as long as I can remember, I have doubled (and sometimes tripled) up on bras to avoid painful bounce.  Even after my reduction I am a DD cup, and although I have noticed enormous benefits to having a smaller chest, they’re still big enough to need some serious support.  I have forever relied on Shock Absorber bras as my main man for such a task, and although they’re great, wearing one, and sweating in one, and moving in one for hours a week causes some unique problems.  Witness:

This is an improvement.

While the photo above doesn’t look too bad, it is a VAST improvement to the raw, seeping mess my underboob area looked like a week and a half ago.  Take a moment to imagine the searing pain (and hissed swearing) that occurred in the shower recently.

I haven’t backed down on training – the past two weeks have been my highest ever mileage weeks, back to back.  What I have done is switched to a different sports bra for my longer activities to minimize painful rubbing on this weirdly vulnerable area.  It’s still a Shock Absorber, but it’s their specialist running bra.  I can say that this bra has saved my skin recently.  But more than that, it has the power to hold my chesty junk in its trunk.  Seriously, my mammary meat is firmly strapped down, and it is as though I had an extra pair of hands holding me in place.  I cannot sing this bra’s praises any more.

Oh wait, yes I can.  It comes in the standard black/white colour choices, but also some jazzier colours.  The most recent one I’ve bought is this beauty:

I can get into this contraption solo, but it is helpful to have a drowsy boyfriend to clip you in on early Sunday mornings, I will admit.  This particular colour combination is the one I have linked to above, but unfortunately I do not have an Olympic women’s beach volleyball player’s figure that fills me with enough confidence to go for a jog wearing it sans t-shirt.  But I know I’m wearing a nice bra.

The quest continues, however, for socks that prevent all blisters, end up dry at the end of a run, and massage your feet throughout your workout….

Dundee Half Marathon 2012 (half DRAM)

“Chip” time (only the finish line was chipped, so more like gun time): 2:01:08

Garmin time: 2:00:31

Medal:  Yes

I had decided to try and stick to somewhere between 9:15 and 9:30 minute miles for this race, as practice for the Loch Ness Marathon, and while I managed to ease back on the pace a bit, it is obvious looking at my time that I am still starting off a bit fast.  Admittedly, though, at mile 12 I thought I had a shot at getting in under 2 hours so I sped up a bit, but too little, too late.  Still, this race wasn’t about getting a personal best, it was about self-control, and I’m happy enough as I finished feeling fresher than I have finished any of my previous half marathons, and as though I could go on for miles.  This is promising, because in September I’m going to have to run twice the distance.

The day began with a cruel alarm at 6am, prompting me to get into the shower (I like to race fresh, I don’t care if some people find this unnecessary).  At 7, Ronnie picked me up, and we picked up his friend Jane, before heading onwards to Dundee.  The forecast had been cloudy with showers.  The forecast, thankfully, was not accurate.  We were greeted with gorgeous sunshine and a nice breeze – perfect!  We picked up our registration packs (our race number and timing chip), and then realized we had over an hour to enjoy the rare Scottish sunshine.

And of course I will be talking about my toilet moments.  There were four portaloos visible from where we registered, so I jumped in line for a slash.  After a few minutes (and minimal movement), a guy on a megaphone declared there were more toilets hidden around a corner.  Cue a mass sprint to the new destination!  Once we had arrived, we realized that there were male and female public toilets, so we got into new, slightly shorter lines and all avoided making any comments about how much the toilets stunk.  What I remember from the moments waiting for the toilet was a man (in the men’s queue, clearly) who declared that there were several, “urinals, if you’re not needing a cubicle.”  About two thirds of the men removed themselves from the line and went into the men’s room, leaving three men that we then ALL knew had to launch a brown submarine into the U-bend trying to look casual.  I have no idea why I found this so amusing, I guess working with kids lowers my mental age occasionally.  Anyway, I think I deserve a medal just for maintaining the illusion of calm maturity while inside I was laughing uncontrollably – the kind where you snort out of desperation to breathe.

Moving swiftly along, after the toilet stop, I demolished a chocolate chip Cliff bar that I purchased at the Run4it tent (I had eaten all of my ‘morning fuel’ the day before whilst watching the Olympic coverage).  Ronnie was busy decorating himself with nipple guards (that ended up migrating during his run, but did, he confirms, prevent any chaffage) as well as a birthday badge.  Ultimately, he made the wise decision to omit this particular piece from his race gear.

Stylish to the max

Just before 9:30, everyone made their way to the start.  I had noticed that there didn’t appear to be a timing mat at the start line, and confirmed with other runners that there would only be a timing mat at the end, so we would only get an official gun time.  Had I known this earlier, I might have tried to get ahead, especially considering the first 2 miles, but then again, I was actively trying to pace myself, which I have previously been shit at.

The race started just after the scheduled start time, and we were greeted with an uphill climb from the start.  The course stayed within the park and took us along some muddy (especially muddy considering the recent rain) trails, and I remember thinking trail shoes would have been more appropriate!  Someone pulled up beside me and seemed to know my name – another reader!  This was his first half marathon and he was aiming for 2:10:00.  I think I saw him come over the finish line before 2:15:00, and if I’m right it was a very good effort for his first go.  Anyway, during the uphill trails there was quite a lot of bunching as it was practically impossible to weave through people or overtake.  This is reflected in my first two mile splits: 10:25, 9:38.

Almost exactly after the 2 mile marker, we left the trails and ended up on the road – and downhill!  It was around here that the sun really began blaring down, and the heat was rising from the asphalt, that a girl in a light blue top (that I had picked out as a pacer at the start) made a comment to me about how she wished the forecast for cloud and rain had been accurate!  We started chatting and, realizing that we were pretty well matched for pace, ended up running together until about mile 11.  It was great having company through those early miles, and one thing I learned is that if your name is on your shirt, everyone shouts encouragement at you!  We must have heard ‘Come on Sally!’ every time we passed a crowd of supporters, so this is definitely something I want to have during Loch Ness.

Just before mile 11, our pace was beginning to lag, and we had both said it was OK to go ahead if the other was getting tired – she was aiming for sub 2 hours after a near miss last year.  I was still feeling strong, so I slowly started pulling away, but I thought I could still hear her feet hitting the ground behind me.  When I started to try to talk to her, I turned around to realize I was having a conversation with a very confused looking gentleman.

The water stop just after mile 11 could not have been more encouraging.  There was a long downhill stretch ahead of us, and the marshals assured us that it was all downhill or flat until the end!  This kind of news is pretty much akin to being starving and hearing the Dominos Pizza delivery guy ring your buzzer.  I was stoked.  I also, remarkably, still felt really strong.  I didn’t go wild, but I did start putting the pedal down (and enjoying the sea breeze that was making love to my face).

As my Garmin beeped for 12 miles, I looked down to realize that if the GPS wasn’t too far out, it was possible to get across the line in under two hours if I stuck to 8:30 minute miles, which I did.  The stretch along the water had a bit of a headwind, but as it was the final stretch, I found it quite refreshing. There was a bit of a sticky moment running across a rickety wooden bridge (with more than one runner pounding on it, there was quite a lot of disconcerting bouncing, and I do believe I let out an f-bomb), and then the finish was in

Feeling fresh, but not looking it.

sight!  I looked at my Garmin to see the time tick over from 1:59:59 to 2:00:00, swore under my breath, and steadily cruised over the line in 2:00:31.  I collected my goody bag (containing medal, discount vouchers, Haribo sweets, a High5 gel, and a cereal bar), as well as a bottle of water and a High5 plastic sports bottle, and made my way to where I had seen Ronnie shout my name as I came through.

We hung around for everyone else we knew doing the race to finish, and enjoyed relaxing in yet more sunshine.  We also watched as the full marathon runners continued on their journey beyond the half finish line and cheered them on.  Then we collected our bags and headed for the shuttle bus, which was meant to leave every 15 minutes (lies!).

The bus journey back was warm and cozy, and the smell of a large group of sweaty runners wasn’t as bad as I had expected, though one guy did have to get off the bus early and we drove off leaving him looking a bit green, but glad to be in the fresh air.  Once back, we watched some of the marathon runners come across the line (their return journey saw them finish at the start line) before heading to the car.

As we drove away from Dundee, we drove into the dark clouds and heavy rain that had obviously been plaguing Aberdeen for most of the day, and realized how close we were to miserable race conditions.  The rest of the journey, however, is less than a blur, as I had fallen asleep, probably with my mouth hanging open in a ridiculously becoming style, so I can only thank Ronnie for not looking over and bursting into hysterics so severe that we veered out of control and crashed.

I have spent the remainder of the day sleeping on and off, eating, and watching Olympic coverage.  I also managed to pop an enormous blister that I picked up during the race.  I shit you not, it was the size of a jelly bean, thus doubling the size of my second-to-littlest toe.  I would have taken a photo, but I was just too excited to pop that bad boy! Yes, I am a popper – I am too impatient to let them heal naturally, and at that size on the bottom of a toe, it is pretty sore.

Overall I really enjoyed this race.  A lot of that could have been down to the excellent weather or the good company I had, but the course was quite pretty and varied as well.  In fact, this was the second race I have ever done in which I didn’t listen to any music – even though my mp3 player was in it’s regular tucked-into-bra spot, ready for action.  AND I had downloaded some fresh music that I was really looking forward to using to push me to the end. The first race, by the way, in which I raced sans tunes, I woke up wildly hungover and with just enough time to get dressed and cycle to the start line.  I PB’ed on that occasion.  Sick.

Although this isn’t anywhere near the best medal I have received for a run (in fact, I was kind of disappointed with it), it was inscribed on the back, which gives it extra points.  If I don’t hate running with every atom of my being by next year, I might be back!

Half DRAM 2012

VINTAGE: Baker Hughes 10k 2009

Time: 47:58

Position: 671/2537 (Gender position 82)

Medal: Yes

This was to be my second time running the Baker Hughes 10k, and the weather was glorious.  A friend from the gym, Will, had recently got into running (not my fault, entirely), and we had decided to meet at the gym beforehand for a warm-up.  I remember we had both discovered power yoga, and we did some vinyasas in one of the studios.  He’s gay, but I have no real excuse for that.  I should have just turned up drunk, like I did the year before (where I PB’ed, by the way, and have never managed to run a timed 10k faster, disgustingly!).

Anyway, after the warm-up, we headed to the start area where we basked in the sunshine, an Aberdeen rarity, and tried to pretend like we had no pre-race nerves:

It was just before this photo was taken that Will decided to inform me he had chosen not to wear pants, and that he could see his pubes poking through the lycra.

Soon after a bit of photo posing, we made our way to the start line, and before we knew it, we were off!  I remember starting behind Will and trying to keep up, but slowly and steadily his red shirt bounded further and further into the distance until I couldn’t see it anymore.  This obviously annoyed me, and I have never listened to the System of a Down album I had playing without feeling a tinge of bitterness since that day.

The course is pretty uneventful, and I just focused on getting it done and not stopping, a technique that seemed fairly effective for me.  As this was a PG moment (pre-Garmin), I had to rely on the kilometer markers to inform me of how much torture I had left to endure, and when I saw the 9km sign, I hit the gas, knowing from my treadmill tendencies that I had less than 6 minutes left to blast out.

Turning that final corner before spotting the finish line was fantastic.  I broke into a sprint and in my head I felt like spectators were getting a real treat watching my rippling leg muscle glimmer in the sunshine, illuminated by my healthy, glistening sweat.  In reality, they may have glanced in my direction when they heard me grunting my way past some dude who happened to be ‘the chosen one’, the person I had decided at that point I HAD TO BEAT.  I crossed the line, felt like puking for a while, and had my medal placed around my neck as I tried to get back to a normal breathing pattern and find Will, who I knew would be ready to subtly drop into conversation in any way possible that he had beat me (I was right).

Finished!

Please excuse my lack of eyebrows – these were the days before I had discovered blondes need to tint.

I hadn’t beat last year’s time, and I hadn’t beat Will, but overall I had a good race, and who is going to complain about getting another medal to display, right?

Cold beer tastes good, and other obvious things.

Well I am currently sitting on the sofa after my longest training run to date: 16 miles.  It was slow.  It was painful.  But it is now behind me, and I have inhaled a croissant, a Rice Krispie Square, a Dr. Pepper, a lemonade, and a Sprite.  And shortly I will be cooking chorizo carbonara!  It’s from a cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and it is TO DIE FOR.  This is not a recipe blog, but I warn you, I might stick the details for this up because it is like sex for your mouth.

Anyway, the sun made an appearance today, but the forecast for tomorrow is rain.  My schedule called for 8 miles today and 16 tomorrow, but because I hate rain, I thought I’d get the long run out of the way so I would hate my life less tomorrow.

Background: my gym. Foreground: building being demolished. This photo was taken a couple of days ago, and most of the building was gone when I ran past it today.

My plans to make parkrun and then blast out another 13 miles were scuppered by what I got up to last night (more on that to come), but sometime around 1:30, I made my way outside and headed for the beach, where I had decided to do uninspiring laps.  Upon reaching the promenade, I spotted one of the Fetch girls, Naomi, chugging along and decided to join her, since I knew she was somewhere along in her 20 mile run.  It turns out she had 4 left, so I stayed with her until she finished, and then continued on, glad that the first 6 miles had flown by.  Soon after going solo, my fan from the Stonehaven half marathon ran past me, going in the opposite direction and shouted hello (I really should catch his name one day).  The sun was out, I was smiling, life was good.

And then it wasn’t.  At about mile 8 everything started to hurt.  My shin splints resurfaced.  My calves felt like they were being flogged every time I put weight on them.  Even my neck felt like it was stiffening up.  I took some walk breaks, and soldiered on, knowing that when it was all over and done with, I could relax and stuff my face.  I was toying with the idea of writing about my thoughts during the second half of the run, but they’re all pretty much unpublishable.  I’ll just say I’m glad it’s done.

Anyway, life is not all about running.  It’s also about beer and enjoying yourself.  Last night was a time for both of those things.  Prepare yourself for photos of me that are actually flattering, because as this is primarily a blog about my running endeavors, this does not happen frequently.  It was Ian’s friend’s 30th, and we had decided to make an appearance, since we don’t go out nearly as much as we used to (translation: we’re getting old and boring).  I spent a considerable amount of time making my face look presentable (10 minutes, tops), and Ian may have showered.  Because I spent so much time prepping, I felt I needed to document this with a photo*:

Self shot

I asked Ian to take a couple as well:

I guess he felt the laundry basket added something, so he didn’t crop it out.

But I do sometimes question his photography skills…..

Seriously unskilled, I mean, he totally cut off half my face.

Anyway, we arrived at the party after the band had played, but during the karaoke.  We heard some splendid renditions of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ and ‘Bat out of Hell’.  And then?  Party games, of course!  And what better way to get the party started than by playing ‘Pin the moustache on Nicholas Cage’? Yes, seriously.

The ‘pinner’ had a variety of options…

We have a winner (and a not-so-successful participant)!!

After the party games, I dove right into the food spread and gobbled a few profiteroles (delicious), before settling into a comfortable seat and enjoying some beautiful cold beer.

Delicious.  I even shaved my legs!

Ian found another luxurious seat and reclined with his adult beverage, basking in the glory that can only be felt by a wearer of the 3 wolf moon t-shirt:

Stylishly, and effortlessly, seductive.

It was a later night than planned, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I exercised some self-restraint last night (this morning) and DID NOT eat my two leftover slices of pizza, instead choosing to save them for the morning.  Thank you, slightly beered-up Rachel, you’re a gem.

Anyway, a good night was had, a horrendous, but successful run was had, and very shortly a cream-laden carbonara will have been had.  I’m excited, guys.  It’s the little things.

*Yes, I am totally fishing for compliments.

Tough Mudder Scotland 2012

Medal: No.  But we did each get a headband, t-shirt, and beer.

Tough Mudder headband on the medal rack

Team Apache had signed up for Scotland’s first Tough Mudder, and we had decided to camp the night before (with the exception of Liell, who, as mentioned, had opted for a luxury B&B, and Paul J., who was driving up with his girlfriend from Glasgow on Saturday morning).  We all enjoyed some pasta, scrabble and backgammon (and a couple of beers) before turning in at a sensible hour.  We were not the only people signed up for Tough Mudder at the site!

Dylan adjusting his goggles for the water events.

Ian bringing the back-up lantern into the Spartan tent.

Keeping warm at the scrabble ‘table’. (Substitute ‘box of beer’ for ‘table’)

Pete lighting up the scrabble board

Grant looking cheerful, as usual. I think he was bummed that he got DESTROYED at Scrabble.

Paul M relaxing in the Spartan while Dylan enjoys the wildnerness… on his phone.

On Saturday, at 9:20 am, our team of 8, made up of myself, Ian, Dylan, Grant, Liell, Paul M, Paul J, and Pete, began our Tough Mudder Journey.  We had ignored the instructions to leave 2 hours before our start wave as we were camping less than 4 miles away from the start and had a relatively early start time, and we set off at about 7:45 am.  We should not have ignored the 2 hour suggestion.  The roads were deceivingly deserted as we approached Drumlanrig Estate, where the event was being held, but we soon ended up on the tail of a fellow Tough Mudder participant.  And another thousand or so in an enormous queue for the parking.

After 20 minutes of watching a few fellow mudders walking by (one wearing only Under Armour gear and what we all agreed must be stuffing or a protective cup, because he gave Henry VIII a run for his package money), we paid our £10 for parking (this event knows how to fleece the folk taking part), and then haphazardly grabbed ID/spare clothes/consent forms and made our way to registration.  Regrettably, we neglected to bring the face paint, so Liell was the only team member that looked like he had made an effort (I had sponged his entire head blue, and he had taken care of the rest of his body).  We had just enough time to register, get bibs pinned on, get our numbers drawn on our heads and other body parts, take a tactical toilet break, and dump our bags before our wave was being called to the start line.  All of my carefully planned pre fueling and decorative war paint flew out pf the window as we helped each other over a ‘berlin wall’ just to get to the start line.

There was a pep talk and a pledge, and some safety info.  Looking around, there were a lot of buff looking dudes.  Not many fat ones.  This did not bode well, because it’s nice to be able to see people who you know are going to struggle more than you.  There was a definite majority of penis on the penis:vagina ratio as well.  Oh, and then the announcer mentioned that the course would be 12, not 10 miles.  Cue a few people making ‘What the fuck?’ faces and looking around to make sure they weren’t the only ones.  They were not.

Everyone looking cheerful at the start line!

Before we knew it, we had finished the countdown and we were moving forward.  The first part seemed to be an uphill stretch through fields and mud.  There were a lot of good costumes on show: the frog prince, a rabbit, some guys wearing only a jock strap and trainers with their butts painted bright orange (I thought of them during several of the obstacles and I’m sure they’re feeling tender today), guys in full suits, a bride, etc.

As soon as we hit the first major obstacle, it was clear that they weren’t going to be in the order we had expected.  Numero uno?  The Arctic Enema.  A plunge into an ice bath with a barrier that forces you to be completely submerged in order to swim under.  My idea of hell.  I had been toying with the idea of skipping this, especially after my experience in the Ythan Challenge during the river dip, but decided to give it a try.  Luckily Ian was right behind me and helped push me through the water when I was under, because if I was solo I’d probably have frozen (har har) and been unable to propel myself forward.  Once on the other side, it took me a good minute or two of hyperventilating like a sissy before I could get moving again.

Yellow arrow points to me, Yellow box shows Ian and Grant.  Blue head in the background belongs to Liell.  The girl who I’ve put a smiley face over was ACTUALLY smiling.  Clearly she’s nuts.

And a sweet action shot of Liell emerging from under the ice!

As the course went on we conquered obstacles such as crawling under barbed wire through mud, running through mud varying from ankle to thigh deep, and crawling up muddy hills.  During one of these hills I began sliding backwards. I felt two hands grab my ass cheeks, before hastily being removed, before I heard the guy behind me apologize and put his hands right back on my ass cheeks to push me to the top of the hill while his friend giggled.  No need to apologize, my friend, I thank you.  Hell, even my boyfriend thanks you.

Unfortunately (for me) there were several more water obstacles incorporating freezing water (because Scotland does not experience a season called ‘summer’), and while I managed to swim under barrels (after taking a few moments to acclimatize to the temperature, and taking a few more moments afterwards to get over my hyperventilating routine), I opted out of the plank, where you jump into a lake from a height.  Be aware, readers, that had the water been warm or had I been wearing a wetsuit, I would have loved the jump, but the thought of inhaling gallons of bog water and requiring the assistance of the lifeguard was too unappealing. Besides, I had to keep Grant company (he can’t swim).  Don’t judge.

I vaguely remember ‘squatting’ into this photo…

About 2/3 the way through there was an aid station with water and bananas.  There were also a fair amount of spectators about, and Paul J.’s girlfriend, Louise, appeared, armed with her camera.  Here’s a shot of the whole team, and just so you know, my ultra beautiful face isn’t swollen, I have just deep-throated half a banana:

L-R: Ian, me, Paul M, Paul J, Liell (blue head), Grant, Pete, Dylan (with goggles, and also, I would say, banana in mouth).

The mud was relentless, and although the treks through rivers at various stages of the course were freezing and tiring, they were a welcome chance to try and wash some of the mud off of your shoes/face/legs/clothes.  Saturday was also one of the few occasions that I have truly enjoyed the rain.

About a mile from the end of the course, running down a muddy hill, I heard someone shout “Come on Rachel!”.  I followed the voice to what was at first an unrecognizable face (exhaustion had started to affect my lightening quick thinking skills, I think), but I soon realized it was Lynne, I girl I know from the gym (as a pain wielding Body Attack instructor) who was there supporting her boyfriend Andrew, who I sometimes get sports massages from despite his cruel love of inflicting pain.  Seriously, he laughs (actual belly laughs) when I scream in pain.  She told me there were only 3 more obstacles to go: Funky Monkey (monkey bars), Everest, and the Electroshock.  I saw a few photos of his team later.  They all opted for kilts.  I bet they’re all really friendly with the savlon cream this week.  I spoke to Andrew on Monday and it looks like we finished in about the same time as them.  Who needs a six-pack?  Anyway, the pain-inflicting massage therapist is the one on the left:

You’re welcome, ladies.

Back on track, the Funky Monkey saw me reach the second bar before falling into the water and swimming to the other side, and most of our team fared about as well.  Ian was the only member to make it all the way across (Paul M got to the penultimate bar before slipping into a splash of self-hatred).  We could see Everest from where we left the monkey bars, and jogged up to join the queue.

During the (looooooong) wait there we witnessed some pretty painful things.  One guy face planted the wall and stood up with a face full of blood and minus one tooth.  Another guy hit the wall face-first and slowly slid down to the bottom.  At first everyone thought he was taking a moment to compose himself, but after just that bit too much time had passed, the marshals were over with a space blanket to check him out.  They had to stop people from using a portion of the wall as he was seen to, but he didn’t look good.  All of this made me feel pretty apprehensive about taking a shot, but when it was my turn I just went for it.  Unfortunately, I too face planted the wall, bashing my cheekbone and jawbone hard enough to leave me dazed for about 10 seconds before deciding to walk around.  I doubt I would have had a chance to have another go anyway, as it was around that time the marshals told everyone to stop, and an ambulance was making its way towards the guy who had knocked himself out as we headed to the final obstacle.  I’ve searched Google and thankfully there was no sign of anyone dying on Saturday, so I hope the guy is feeling OK.

Dylan getting through the final obstacle with the finish line in sight!

The final obstacle, Electroshock, involves running through a bunch of wires that, wait for it, shock you.  I was not keen, because I have this freakish phobia about my heart that isn’t worth getting into, so I walked around and waited for the rest of the team.  Once they were through, we walked through the finish line together and grabbed our headband, beer, t-shirt, space blanket, and had our team finish photo taken.

At this point I was shivering and exhausted, so I was glad people didn’t want to hang around, and instead wanted to get back to the campsite for a shower.  Before we set off, we had a quick trip to the first aid tent for some antiseptic wipes.  I had bashed my ankle off a rock during one of the many river crossings which had a malteser-sized bump (for the US readers, a Malteser is the UK version of a Whopper), but Ian had a golf ball sized lump on his shin from hitting it off an underwater rock.  It was spectacular, but has since gone down a bit, so unfortunately, no photo.

Team Apache + headbands but -Pete at the end! (Still smiling)

Once back at the campsite, the boys got into the queue for the 2 available male showers, and I grabbed my stuff and sauntered (whilst still shivering) into the empty female shower room.  I switched on the water and walked, clothes, shoes and all, into the shower.  The warmth was one of the best feelings I have experienced, and I spent a beautiful 25 minutes slowly stripping muddy layers off and wringing them out under the nozzle.  I remember being grateful that I had bought a rough sponge, as it came in useful for scrubbing layers of mud from my skin.

Clean, in warm clothes, and carrying a plastic bag full of still-muddy clothes, I headed back to the tent where we all ended up cooking some pasta inside to shelter from the rain.  We decided we’d wait for a dry spell before packing up and heading home, via Dundee for a Tonic Burger stop (we’d earned it).

Getting back to Ian’s and lying down in a real bed on Saturday night was bliss. It did not take long to get to sleep and I slept in until nearly 11, which is the longest lie I have had since my summer holidays began.  My upper body was sore until Tuesday, but my legs were OK (despite cuts/bruises), and I’m looking forward to getting back on track with my marathon training.

Tough Mudder was an endurance event, but I think I’d be lying if I agreed that it was the ‘toughest event in the world’.  Parts of it were draining, but honestly, I think if you were in pretty decent shape to start with, you’d make it through, – especially with all the help from the fellow mudders – just not under 2 hours!  I was a little disappointed with some of the ‘obstacles’ as they just seemed like slapping a hardcore label onto sections of the terrain (sneaky organizer types), like dips through the rivers/streams and some of the more technical parts of the path, but it was a good day out with old friends and new, and it’s an item off the bucket list.  I mean, the t-shirt alone has given me some sweet bragging rights at the gym!

Drying the weekend’s clothes after a two cycles in the machine.

How to avoid Marathon Training: Pull a neck muscle.

It isn’t uncommon to incur an injury when training for a marathon, that much I know.  Usually it’s related to your legs, you know, because they’re kind of used a bit during running.  Now anyone that knows me will know that I’m not monogamous when it comes to physical activity.  I totally dig running, but I’m also a bit of a gym whore, and regularly go to weights/spin/yoga/aerobics classes.  Most runners call this ‘cross-training’ and die-hard runners seem to hate it, because it isn’t running.  I like a bit of variety in my sweating.

It was during one of these cross-training sessions on Friday that I threw an over-enthusiastic punch, twisting my upper body with mad style, but also pulling a muscle in my neck.  I didn’t notice at the time, but when after the class in the changing room I noticed my neck felt a bit stiff when I was putting my rucksack on, and by the time I got home about an hour later, it was pretty sore and swollen, and it hurt to look up, down, and to the side, so after consulting Dr. Google and ruling out various horrific ailments, figured I had a neck strain.  Aware that Tough Mudder was just over a week away, I tried to keep my head as still as possible, and hoped I’d feel better Saturday morning.

I did not.  If anything, I felt worse.  I’m not normally a pill-popping Penelope (I don’t know either), but I was in so much pain that I cracked out the ibuprofen.  Drugs, my friends, are amazing.  If it weren’t for my weirdness with chucking chemicals into my body, I’d take drugs frequently, because I felt great.  For about 2 hours.  Then the pain crept in again, but at lest I had some distraction.  It was my friend Grant’s birthday night out, and he had come over with his brother in the early afternoon.

In between laughing at my predicament, we played board games, baked cake, ate some take-away Nando’s and generally just hung out.  This was easy enough to do because I could maintain my weird, upright, looking-straight-ahead position in comfort.  But then the time came to venture beer-ward.  I managed a shower, then, with some discomfort, managed to get into an appropriate drinking outfit and slap on some make-up.  Unfortunately the pain was creeping back, so I opted not to drink in case I felt the need to chow down on more ibuprofen (I’m aware some of you are A-OK with over the counter drugs and a few beers, but I’ve just got a no-mixing policy, mainly due to my own paranoia that I’ll react in a strange way and go blind, which would suck).

I was really looking forward to beers on Saturday, so I was a bit pissed off at my mean right hook, but at least I scrubbed up well:

So here we are on Monday afternoon.  I’ve missed a mid-distance and a long run over the weekend, and I suspect it will be at least another couple of days before I’m back pounding the pavement.  I have better range of movement, and I had a sports massage scheduled for tonight anyway, so hopefully I’ll be feeling better tomorrow.  As long as I’m able to take part in Tough Mudder, I’ll be able to refrain from an all-CAPS, rage-induced post.  Until then, back to discovering daytime TV.

Aberdeen Summer

Last summer there were 2 days out of 6 weeks on which it didn’t rain long enough for me to enjoy the outdoors.  Last summer was crap.  I make no secret of the fact that I pretty much hate the weather in Scotland, and this summer (so far) is shaping up to be another massive disappointment. I have had nearly an entire week off work, and apart from a freak burst of sunshine today, the views from my apartment windows have been as such:

Pass me the sunscreen!

Blinding sun!

For the record, the above photographs were taken on different days.  The fog has been pretty constant.

The positive?  There has been minimal rain, and the cloud cover means that it never gets too warm.  Although it does feel very muggy and humid during a run.  After one of my midweek runs at a pace that would normally yeild little sweat, I returned home to find I looked like this:

NB: My hair was dry (and straight) when I left the flat.

Despite the sweatfest, I am pleased that I have been keeping up with my marathon training plan since the Fraserburgh 10K, despite still having shin splints that irritate me.  I’ve just been taking things a bit more slowly than I’d like, but a mile’s a mile, right?  Part of the reason why I think I’ve been sticking to my schedule is that it’s the first thing I see when I get up in the morning, and head for my wake-up nature call:

It’s even laminated.

The sense of guilt I would feel if I couldn’t tick another day off the list would be too much for my slightly OTT organization needs.

Today was also a treat because Danielle came up to Aberdeen for a few hours to help me make chili and sourdough blueberry muffins, with her own starter that she has been taking care of.  I don’t think she was quite prepared for the size of my kitchen (miniscule).  The recipe for the chili is HERE, and it is totally delicious.  It was my friend Grant’s birthday today, and he came round after work to enjoy the results of an afternoon of cooking.  Both he and Ian gave the chili a hearty thumbs up (they cleared their plates), and Grant even snuck off with an extra muffin – the biggest of the batch!  I’ll have to take Danielle up on her offer of joining her for a hilly run to make up for devouring these by the end of the weekend!

Delicious!

Anyway, no race this weekend (what!?!), and Grant’s birthday drinks on Saturday night.  It has been ages since I’ve been out on the town, so I have a feeling Sunday’s long run isn’t going to be the most pleasurable of experiences.

Happy Birthday Grant!

Stonehaven Half Marathon 2012

Gun Time: 1:56:33

Chip Time: 1:56:00

Position: 180/266

Gender Position: 26/75 (Category Position: 19/46)

Medal:  Yes (+ goody bag!)

It’s all about the …. buh-bling, buh-bling..

I was not looking forward to this race, which means it is exactly the kind of race I should be doing more of.  After foolishly entering without even glancing at the elevation profile, I discovered that this course was rather unpleasant, hill-wise.  Oh, and I suck hard at hills.

On a brighter note, my friend Ronnie (from the gym, where I spent roughly 83% of my free time, much to my boyfriend’s irritation, as he would prefer I spent 83% of my free time dressed in a maid’s outfit ‘servicing his room’) had entered the Stoney half on Friday night, just shy of entries closing.  On a whim.  His longest ever run, before today, was just over 8 miles.  He’s sensible that way.  Anyway, this meant I had a lift there and back, which is always good news for me!

I was picked up at 9:45 and we headed to Stonehaven.  Once there, we ran into Caroline (a spin instructor at the gym) +1, Rhona and Kynon, a few runners from Twitter, and I was introduced to some of the Aberdeen(shire) Fetch crew, which was nice as it’s always good to be able to put a face to a name (even if that name is merely a screen name).  After registering, Ronnie and I had to trek back to the car park to dump any unnecessary belongings, I shoved my mp3 player and 2 gels into my bra (because I’m classy like that), and then we headed back for pre-race mulling.  Just after 11, the runners began to assemble at the start line, and we were (I believe) briefed on the race, but the only thing I could make out was ‘Keep to the left!’

Me and Ronnie at the start line, gels and mp3 player giving the illusion of weird growths on my chest.

When the horn sounded, I was not totally prepared to run a half marathon, but off we went!  My goal, other than ‘finish it’, was to try to maintain the pace I’d love to run my debut marathon at.  I was actively slowing myself down during the first mile, and it was annoying.  Thankfully (ha!) the ENORMOUSLY DICKISH HILLS did a fine job of keeping my pace way down for the first 4 miles.  Thank you hills, you had my back.  As I kept my music off until mile 8, I was able to have little chats with a few of the people struggling alongside me as we trudged forth.  This was particularly useful during a walking break (I know), when I spotted a photographer up ahead.  I instructed my companion to ‘look alive’, and we bounded past the snapper, before breathlessly continuing up Cheyne Hill (at least that’s what my new BFF said it was called).  FYI: Cheyne Hill is a strict mistress.  And I don’t like her.

Me + BFF (Photo: Stonehaven Half Marathon website)

Once the downhill bits began (and after angels sang Hallelujah in my mind), I left my buddy in my wake, chugging along at a respectable pace.  The downhill bits were sweet.   I don’t really know how I can put into words how much I appreciated them, but know that if they were a person, I’d consider naming my firstborn after them.  It was around mile 6 when Rhona came zooming past me.  She had spotted Kynon up ahead and was determined to catch him.  After all, she couldn’t let her boyfriend beat her during his first half marathon, right?  I considered following her, but looked down at my pace and thought ‘fuck that.’  She was making some good progress when another ma-hoo-sive hill decided to just turn up out of nowhere and shit on everyone’s parade.

Gross

Thankfully, near the top of the hill (I thought these were meant to be over and done with!) there was a water station, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I walked a bit more.  It was the nicest 30 seconds of the race up until that point.  Hands down.  After sucking down a gel (and getting sticky gel crap all over my hands, which annoyed me for the rest of the race) I picked up the pace again, and started to enjoy some more downhill sections.

After another mile or so I passed Rhona again.  She had her earphones in (and I might have as well) so didn’t bother with any chit chat (which would have consisted of me panting and repeating ‘I hate hills’), and I also spotted Caroline +1 up ahead.  I caught up to them, and they both seemed to be struggling a little.  I mentioned that they were over halfway there and it was all downhill from there (I didn’t know if that was the truth or not, but that’s what I would have wanted to hear).  Then I took my second gel and marched onwards.

The next 4 miles or so were along a busy-ish road, and I felt pretty strong as I slowly picked off runners.  I caught up to Kynon and gave him the heads up that Rhona was coming for him, and then continued on my sweaty way.  It was about here that my heart rate monitor strap starting really digging in under my bra (this always happens when I run over 10 miles), and I knew that I’d be stinging badly in the shower later on.  Up until this point, I was pretty sure I was putting in a dismal performance, but my pace was good, and I realized that as long as I kept it up, I’d manage to finish in under 2 hours, something that seemed near impossible during the first 6 miles.  Awesome.

More uphill before the final stretch (Photo from SHM website)

The last couple of miles flew by, and I was amazed I wasn’t feeling more worn out.  I kept picking off a couple of runners here and there, and before I knew it I was back on the field staring ahead at the finish!  For maybe the first time in my life, I held back and did not sprint the last 400 meters like a douche.  This meant that when I crossed the finish line, I didn’t feel like I needed to blow chunks; result!

Don’t be fooled by the placement of this photo – I only look this fresh BEFORE a race!

I fully took advantage of the drinks section in the finishers’ area, and re-hydrated like a beast.  I got my medal and my goody bag, then went to meet Ronnie, who sickeningly managed to run his first ever half marathon in 1:46:35.  I was also approached by a guy who asked ‘Are you medal slut?’  A fan!  Hello, reader!  Rhona came in soon afterwards, smashing her PB and managing her first half in under 2 hours (and her 7th half marathon ever), followed by Kynon, who she had clearly managed to hunt down!

Pre-race nerves (unfounded, it turned out)

After the race, there was a selection of sandwiches and cakes on offer, which looked delicious, but I couldn’t stomach.  I had a couple of bananas, and all the high5 fluid I could get my hands on.  Originally, the pub had been planned, but the rain had started coming down and I really wanted a shower and my sofa, so Ronnie and I said our goodbyes and headed back to the car.

The finish! (Photos, again, from SHM website)

So that’s half marathon number 3 in the bag.  Next up?  Tough Mudder Scotland (unless I have another impulsive moment) in two weeks time.  And now, time to get intimate with my foam roller, because I’m really into self-harm today.