Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10k 2013

Time: 53:51 [Results]

Category Position: 199/970

Gender Position: 381/1836

Medal: Yes


I can’t really say I was looking forward to this race.  My speed has taken a back seat during my ‘training’ for the Paris marathon, and this has been a pretty crappy week.

My grandfather was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October, 2011, and told he had 3-6 months to live.  Our entire family went to visit him and my grandmother for two weeks over Christmas, when I started this blog.  He wanted to make it to his birthday in February, 2012, which he did, as well as his next one earlier this year.

About 2 months ago, his health began deteriorating, and he was given weeks.  My mother flew out to be with her parents, and kept us all informed about his condition.  He went from being able to eat a few bites of food during mealtimes, to unable to eat, and finally, at the end of last week, to unresponsive.  We knew that it was just a matter of waiting by this point.  Early on Monday morning, however, my grandmother was hit by the news of her brother’s unexpected death.  Just hours afterwards, my grandfather passed away.  My great uncle’s funeral was on Thursday, and my grandad’s on Friday.

Obviously this has been a rough time for my family, and, naturally, nature loves to hit you when you’re down, because for the first time since pretty much this time last year, I’ve been sick.  All of this has been a recipe for sleepless nights, and living on toast – absolutely not ideal preparation for a race that I had considered using as an attempt to break 50 minutes for the first time in years.

Unfortunately, the Baker Hughes 10k is not a cheap race to enter, despite it being just a 10k, and, since last year, offering no goody bag.  It’s also literally a 25 minute walk from my front door, and just across the road from my gym, which makes it far too convenient to NOT run.  Despite every fibre of my being wanting to stay in bed, I begrudgingly got dressed, drank a smoothie, and headed for the ‘event village’, where I met up with some friends:

Before the race

Photo: Susan (always in purple)

We all took advantage of the nearby hotel’s bathrooms, and about 15 minutes before the start, headed towards the pens.  I was not feeling confident, but Ronnie and Teri both dragged me into the 51-55 minute pen, while the others went to the 55-60 minute pen.  We weren’t waiting long before we started moving forwards and then we were off on what I have got to say is one of the least interesting courses I have been on in Scotland.  The fact that I run along parts of the route regularly may have skewed my opinion, as might the fact that this was the 5th time I was running the race, but there are just so many nicer parts of Aberdeen that could have been used instead.

Anyway, Teri, Ronnie, and I all set off together, but Ronnie, obviously regaining his fitness and speed, slowly pulled ahead.  Although I was trying to ignore my Garmin, I caught a peek at my heart rate which was in the 180’s.  It is usually not in the 180’s unless I am pushing myself to the limit, but I was just keeping it under 9 minute miles.  I probably should not have been running.

Teri stuck with me until about 6k, but she was feeling good (probably as a result of the six – let me repeat for effect, SIX – coffees she had consumed before the start) and she sped ahead (eventually overtaking Ronnie).  Meanwhile, I tried to ignore my heart rate, the three people I passed at the side of the road in a bad state, and a very persistent urge to sob, and trudged onwards.

At the 400m sign, I felt like I would struggle to reach the end.  At the 200m, I sprinted to the finish line, overtaking around 20 people, and dodging some woman’s projectile vomit as I came over the timing mat. She looked how I felt, and I collected some water and my medal, found Ronnie, and had a bit of an emotional episode, which I can only apologize to him for.

Once I’d sorted myself out, we went back to the finish to cheer on people we knew, watched Carolyn win her age category prize (again – she’s very fast), and then collected our stuff before walking home.

I’m glad to see the back of this week.  Dormire bene, Nonno. x

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Dunecht Dash 2013

Time: 24:57

Position: 84/180

Category Position: 10/37

Medal: Yes


The Dunecht Dash was meant to be a shake out for my legs after the Loch Leven half marathon, and as a way of taking pressure off of myself to go for a killer time, I had decided well in advance that I was going to go in some sweet fancy dress, since there were a lot of people I know running as well.  Unfortunately, I never got round to securing my YMCA leather biker costume before the weekend, and opted to wear the tech tee I got yesterday in an attempt to excuse a poor time.  Teri, who I ran with yesterday, had offered to pick me up in the morning.  It seems we were both feeling extra stylish: IMG_20130512_154112We were even wearing the same Garmin.  Too far.

We were advised to arrive early (we did) as parking was limited (it was – though there was an overflow parking lot), so we found that we had plenty of time to kill before the start at 12:15.  Luckily, there was a kids 2k race on at 11:30, so we giggled at their enthusiasm warming up to ‘Gangham Style’, and other such pop hits, and then found a prime viewing position for the start, cheering them on as they leapt into action!  Some of the kids were TINY, so it was pretty adorable watching them, tongue’s out, pumping their arms with determination.  I had been pretty emotional during the weekend because of non-running stuff going on, so I was actually choking up a bit.  Very unlike me.

It wasn’t long at all before the leaders of the kids race came storming up the hill towards the finish, where the bagpipers had started up.  All the parents and 5k runners lined the path and cheered on the kids.  Now, I swear that I do not want my uterus invaded by the world’s most beautiful, talented, and clever baby any time soon, but I feel I must reiterate that these kids were extra cute breaking into goofy smiles when they sprinted to the finish line.  Except for the girl who was crying and being dragged along by her dad – that was just hilarious.

After all the kids had finished, it was time for our warm up.  Usually, I shun such amateur stuff (translation: my coordination is appalling), but my legs were stiff as hell (especially my quads), so I thought I might as well go for some cheesy aerobics to try and loosen up.  I’m not even being sarcastic when I say my enthusiasm was evident – I  shimmied, twirled, and bounced with all the grace of a monkey on crack, but I definitely felt looser.  And ridiculous, obviously, but as I was joined by Teri, Danielle (who was there with her husband – NOT partaking in the warm up), Susan, and a few others, it didn’t really matter.

Warm up done, we reluctantly shuffled towards the start area.  As we were being counted down, I still wasn’t sure whether I was going to go for an easy run and enjoy half an hour in the somewhat mild weather, or push myself to ‘burning lung’ stage.  As the horn sounded, I went for it.

The course weaves around the Dunecht Estate on tarmac roads, and is very gently undulating.  The start was a nice downhill stretch and I clocked my pace at 7:xx whenever I looked at my watch.  My lungs were burning by the first kilometer, so I guess I’d made my decision already, and I settled in for 20 more minutes of pain. My pace dipped a bit as the race went on, but I was determined to come in under 25 minutes.  As I turned a gentle corner to the right, I realized that I was looking uphill to the finish line, and I picked up the pace despite my very real concern that I might throw up all over myself.  I watched 23:59 tick over to 24:00 on my Garmin, and realized that I’d have to really push to make it to the finish in less than a minute.  I continued to ignore the increasingly strong urge to vomit (and my screaming quads) and grimaced my way to the end (forgetting, as always, to stop my watch or look at the time).  I got my medal (unexpected), a bottle of water, a banana, and a goody bag (also unexpected), and found Teri ‘speed demon’ Brown waiting for me.  She’d managed to finish her first 5k run in 22:39, which was good enough to secure her 1st place for her age group!

Teri (right) and Carolyn (1st female SuperVet) with their awards.

Teri (right) and Carolyn (1st female SuperVet) with their awards.

She was so shocked she actually screamed when they called out her name, and I overheard someone say, “Best reaction ever”, even over her excitement. Teri wasn’t the only one who had a successful race – Danielle managed a PB too!

Me and Danielle (rocking the luminous look) after the race

Me and Danielle (rocking the luminous look) after the race

Teri and I eventually made our way back to the car.  Our elation at how well we had both done, especially after what felt like such a punishing half marathon the day before, kept us in high spirits during the drive home.  This joy lasted until I got dropped off and had to walk to my apartment on toes that could accurately be described as tenderized beef.  I hope they forgive me for the 10k they’ll be taking me through next Sunday.

After the race

After the race

It has been a while since I’ve run any short and fast races, especially with my first two marathons within 6 months of each other, and now that I have a bit of a break, I wouldn’t mind trying to get a little bit of speed back.  Here’s hoping the next short-ish race I do will be a little bit less painful.

Loch Leven half marathon 2013

Time: 1:59:01

Medal: No, but as it was the race’s 30th anniversary, they splashed out on a commemorative tech tee for all finishers.

The back of the t-shirt

The back of the t-shirt

I’ll freely admit that one of the reasons I signed up to this race is because they were offering a tech tee to all finishers for the anniversary, even though it was clear that this would not benefit my medal haul in any way.  But there was a much more significant reason I decided to take part.  And it’s all down to a fridge magnet.

About 2 years ago, Ian, myself, and our friend Liell decided to visit Loch Leven castle, which happens to be on an island in the middle of, you guessed it, Loch Leven.  To get to the castle you need to catch a boat from the visitor’s centre, where we paid for our ticket and got in line behind a young family.

During our wait, a guy came up and started speaking to the young family.  It was one of those ‘Wow, small world, how are you doing?’ conversations.  He was soon joined by a couple of children pulling at his leg/drooling/making annoying noises.  Then came the wife/mother.  A flawless line cut.  I  was onto their game, and made towards them to articulate my unhappiness about the whole situation, but Ian told me it didn’t matter, because there would be enough room on the boat for everyone.  You can see where this is going, I would imagine.

There was not enough room on the boat.

As the two families sailed towards the island, I held my tongue like a responsible and mature adult, and once they were out of earshot, took out my rage on Ian, who was clearly irritated about the situation as well, but tends to be one of those people who silently simmers, whereas I will explode, act like a dick, and feel equal parts embarrassment and satisfaction after an angry episode.

Eventually, we got a boat to the island, and enjoyed the (beautiful, and totally worth going to visit) castle.  When we were ready to head back, we saw the same family boarding  (and filling) the boat that was about to leave, and had to wait, again, because of the size of their group. By the time we finally got back to the gift shop, it had closed.  This pissed me off because:

  1. I wanted to buy ice-cream, and I had been denied this option
  2. Every time I visit a castle, I buy a souvenir fridge magnet from the gift shop, and now my collection would be incomplete.

Number 2 was obviously more emotionally damaging than I first thought it would be, since over 2 years later I felt it was necessary to enter a half marathon on the basis that I could finally complete my fridge magnet collection. I swear to god, I do have social skills, and I have real friends.  I even have two who had agreed to accompany (and drive) me to Loch Leven:



[The above photo took, like, ten tries to make sure all of our heads were in shot.  We absolutely looked like assholes in the parking lot.]

Once we had registered, I quickly realized that I was under dressed for the weather, especially next to my two cosy companions with their base layers, and their running jackets, and their hats, and long sleeves.  I guess the freakish sunny/warm weather the weekend before had lulled me into a false sense of security, but who can blame a girl for wanting to get rid of her t-shirt tan?

Teri (happy and warm) and myself (the opposite of that)

Teri (happy and warm) and myself (the opposite of that)

I was ordered to 'smile!'

I was ordered to ‘smile!’

Anyway, the race sold out this year (600), so we huddled next to the other runners as we listened to the bagpipes before the start.  We had decided to run as a group, and set off at a very casual pace, especially as it took about half a mile for the crowds to thin out a bit and find a natural rythm.

Mile 1 – 9:11

Could this be the first half that I finish in under two hours this year?  That first mile felt fairly conservative, and Ronnie and Teri seemed comfortable as well, so we pushed on happily.  Of course, we were pushing on more than we had realized:

Mile 2 – 8:33
Mile 3 – 8:33
Mile 4 – 8:32
Mile 5 – 8:30
Mile 6 – 8:20

Now, my PB is 1:53:28, which is an average pace of 8:37.  I’m still not completely over Paris since I didn’t really give myself a break afterwards, and I hadn’t really rested properly, or been training specifically for a half marathon, so I already knew I was being dumb, and that logic would be right when it told me, “Rachel, you will not be able to maintain this pace.  Slow the fuck down.”   Logic is a bummer sometimes, and I opted for a more carefree approach to my new ‘Destroy my PB’ strategy that appeared out of nowhere, around mile 4.

Ronnie was starting to do his steam engine breathing, but I pleaded with him to keep going at this pace for as long as he could.  Teri was not offering much in the way of conversation either, so I knew we were all kind of pushing way harder than we had intended to.

Me (luminous orange) and Ronnie (black) at around the 6 mile mark.  Photo: Nichola Ritchie

Me (luminous orange) and Ronnie (black) at around the 6 mile mark. Photo: Nichola Ritchie

Ronnie knew I was keeping track of time, and told me to go ahead.  It is around this point that we had started heading back around the other side of the Loch.  Into some pretty strong headwind.  Oh, and up a hill, heralding the start of the course’s ‘undulations’.

Mile 7 – 8:40

This is when things got crappy.  I hadn’t really looked at the elevation profile for the course, and despite a veteran Loch Leven half marathoner warning us in the morning that the first half is relatively flat, and the second half was a mean kick in the teeth, I had chosen to believe that he was completely wrong.  It turns out he wasn’t, much to my chagrin.

Mile 8 – 9:33

Mile 9 – 9:45

Well terrific.  My excitement at running a killer time was killed just as quickly as it appeared.  Today was not going to be a PB day.  But I could still make it to the finish in less than two hours, right?  This became my new goal.  In a race that I started with no goals.

Miles 10 – 13.1 – ???

I stopped looking at my watch close to mile 10 when I got a stitch.  I tried to run through it.  I tried to slow down and keep running.  And then I was forced to walk for a couple of minutes until it went away.  When I started running again, it felt laboured, and somewhere around mile 12, Teri caught up with me.  The two of us ‘encouraged’ each other and we were blasted by gusts of wind from every direction except from behind, and we stuck together until the end, coming in, much to our amazement at that point, in under 2 hours.  For a relatively modest time, we were elated.  But our bodies were trashed.

Ronnie came in about 4 minutes later and was pretty happy with his time as well.  It was his most consistent run since he picked up his injury last year, so hopefully this means he’s back on track to start kicking my ass.  Unfortunately, it also means my running buddy will be too fast for me, so I’ll have to actually start racing properly again.  After today’s performance, that seems like it’s going to hurt a bit.

After the race, we all found a couple of other people we knew who were there for a chat and some orange juice, and then we headed back to the car.

But we weren’t done just yet.  Our final stop for the day was the Loch Leven Castle visitor’s centre, where in exchange for a couple of pounds, I finally got my fridge magnet.

Scottish summer arrives, road bike (and shoulders) sees daylight!

For the first time this year (and possibly for the first time in the last 5 years), we had a glorious weekend in Scotland.  It was warm enough for me to address my t-shirt tan situation in an unflattering green tank top, and when I looked towards the sky I saw the colour blue, instead of the familiar grey!  I had already agreed with Ian that I would accompany him on a drive into the countryside on the Sunday for a few hours, but I took full advantage of the sunlight, and met a friend for ten glorious, sunny miles at 6:30am.  I can absolutely get on board with being a morning person in weather that doesn’t suck.

After a quick shower, and bundled up, Ian picked me up in his 1954 MG TF, and we set off into the Scottish countryside with the top down.  It was pretty windy, especially when we started climbing up some of the hills, but it was too sunny to care.  We saw all of the lambs basking in the daylight, and even came across an escapee on the road, who thankfully wandered off to the side:

Keep moo-ving

Keep moo-ving

We stopped for lunch in Dufftown and started to head back soon afterwards, getting back to Aberdeen at about half past 3.  Considering one of the few perks of living so far North is the fact that we get longer days as summer approaches (estimated sunset time was just after 9pm), we both decided to take advantage of this freak weather, and go for a proper ride on our road bikes.  14.5 miles later, we were back for dinner and an early night.

I was lucky enough to have the Monday off (Ian was not), so I went for a 5 mile run and did some weights at the gym in between spring cleaning my apartment (with the windows open!), and again, the day was beautiful.  Instead of going to spin class in the evening, I ditched the indoor workout and joined Ian for another go on the road bikes.  This time we managed about 25 miles on the rolling hills outside of Aberdeen, making it back just before sunset, at which point Ian devoured everything edible in sight.

Water break

Water break

Losing daylight

Losing daylight

IMG_20130508_164505Despite the silent protest of my undercarriage at the amount of time it has been in an unfamiliar saddle, the rest of me is now even more excited about the 40 mile Granite Cycle challenge next month.  At least, I was excited until I got home after work to an e-mail regrettably informing me that the event has been called off due to poor participation numbers (I think there were only 37 sign ups, and as it’s a charity event, the financial loss they would make is too big to allow it to go ahead).  Unfortunately, normal weather service has resumed, and I can report that it is currently raining, and I had to turn my heating on all day at work.

Road Bike Outing: Day 2

Road Bike Outing: Day 2

Still, 55 miles in 2 days ain’t bad.  And at least we got a summer in Scotland this year – here’s to 2014!