The Worst Kept Secret

No, I’m not pregnant.  Or engaged.

Since before Paris I’ve been struggling with a sharp pain on the right side of my abs that, over various points of the year so far, I worried was a hernia.  While on the waiting list for a scan at the hospital, I was reluctant to enter any new races, especially ones that required a significant commitment, in case I was going to be sidelined by a month of recovery after an operation, but thankfully, that has been ruled out.  I’m still experiencing pain, which is thought to be scar tissue (fabulous), but I have been assured I can keep doing everything apart from weights for the time being.  The super sleuths among you may have worked out that my list of ‘things I can still get on with’ includes running, which I am obviously pleased about.

Before I got my results back, I became increasingly jealous of all my running friends who were excitedly planning (and getting on with) their training for the Loch Ness marathon, the first marathon I ever ran.  For a lot of my friends, it will be their first.  For others, it’s a return to form, or an attempt to slay the beast that got the better of them last year.  I watched the deadline for guaranteed entries creep closer, and hours before they closed, I entered.  And booked the same room I had at a B&B last year.  And didn’t tell anyone.

But I started upping my distance, and joining friends who were out and proud about training on some of their longer runs “for fun”.  I started making plans to just turn up at the start line and casually ask my friends if they were in the mood for a run, while also happy that if I needed surgery, I could just slink away from the training plan without having to tell anyone that I had pulled out.  Then I got my results.

My plan to keep my entry a secret and surprise my friends became more elaborate (and ridiculous, because how am I going to fit into a cake that I can also fit onto a single bus seat?) and after LESS THAN 7 DAYS, I cracked and told everyone.

So yeah, I guess the Loch Ness marathon is the main hurdle I need to get over before the Texas marathon in January, but I’m looking forward to seeing how pacing myself a little more wisely can affect my experience of a race.  And running with a bunch of my friends.  And eating afterwards, obviously.

Training has been going well so far, and unlike Paris, I have actually been able to run more than once a week, which has been reassuring. The last three weeks of training are below.  Anything that has no mileage is likely a spin class.  Any ridiculous mileage (30+) is on a road bike.

July 8-14

July 8-14

July 15-21

July 15-21

July 16-28

July 16-28 (Tuesday’s 13 miles were climbing two mountains, not running)

You might also notice that my long runs have been on a Thursday, and the simple reason for that is, I am a teacher, and the word ‘weekday’ does not register on my summer holidays.  Leaving Saturday and Sunday free means that I have time to cycle with Ian, be lazy, and not worry that any races I have entered don’t match up with my long run distance.

Of course, in three weeks I won’t be so smug when term starts…

Dundee half DRAM 2013

Gun time: 2:01:24

Garmin time: 2:00:51

Medal: Yes

IMG_20130721_173001This is the first race where not only have I seriously considered DNS’ing, but I have also legitimately feared I would DNF.  Regular readers may now be used to the fact that I don’t take rest and relaxation before a race seriously, but Sunday’s half marathon was something else.  But hey, at least I learnt something, as I’m fairly sure I could cope with a half Iron Man without any further training.  It just wouldn’t be pretty.

I started off my week with a 6.5 mile run on Monday, followed by an 8 mile run on Tuesday.  Wednesday was a punishing spin and abs class, with a 30 minute warm up on the elliptical, and Thursday was my long run, 17.5 punishing miles.  Considering I’m a city dweller, most of my runs are relatively flat, so Thursday was noteworthy:

Screenshot 2013-07-21 at 17.28.31

 

Friday was a quick almost-four mile run up a hill and back down, and Saturday was a 60 mile cycle with Ian and our friend Dylan through Aberdeenshire hills.  My quads were not impressed by this:

Screenshot 2013-07-21 at 17.22.53

 

Yet we remained in good spirits, posing by a stone circle next to a farm:

Dylan and myself perfecting our catalogue poses.

Dylan and myself perfecting our catalogue poses.

Ian being the alpha male

Ian being the alpha male

After our cycle, Ian and I had an enormous dinner and felt hungover for the rest of the evening.  Obviously we need to tweak how much water/fuel we take in during these longer rides.  I reluctantly set my alarm for 6:30 am on Saturday night, and resigned myself to the fact that tomorrow was going to be unpleasant.  I have only myself to blame.

Despite feeling like I got precisely 3.7 minutes sleep, several time keeping devices assured me that Sunday morning had arrived, and I needed to get dressed and make my way to Ronnie’s for a lift to Dundee.  Sidenote: Ronnie has started his own running blog, and you could do worse things than click through on the link and have a read.  I was first to arrive, followed shortly by Susan, and finally Lauren, and her mountain bike.  You see, our lift was only one-way this time, as Lauren and Ronnie were heading off for mini-adventure straight after the race, so Susan and I were getting the train back to Aberdeen.  After using my master Tetris skills to slot Lauren’s bike into the car, we were off.

An hour later, we had arrived at Camperdown Park, and we quickly got registered.  The fact that it was a real effort to walk uphill to registration was not a good sign.  Neither was the fact that Susan was suffering pretty badly from car-sickness.  Ronnie was gunning for a good time, and while the half DRAM is ‘chip timed’, there are only timing mats at the end, so you essentially get a gun time.  Susan and I were feeling like crap, so we eventually persuaded Ronnie that he would be better off leaving us behind.  Turns out he was, because that’s the last we saw of him until the finish!  We were, however, joined by Teri at the start, who was up for an ‘easy run’, which is why she obviously decided to run with me and Susan.  Way to boost our ego.  I jest.  Kind of.

Before we had a chance to kill any last shred of enthusiasm, we were off.  The first couple of miles are kind of uphill through trails, and, like last year, it was pretty congested.  I knew this would be the case, but I also knew I would be hurting, so I actually didn’t mind the hold up (at one point we came to a complete stop).  I was seemingly in decent enough spirits at this point, if photographs are anything to go by:

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Teri and Susan are on either side of me in this photo, but obscured by people.  How inconsiderate of them.

We eventually came out of the trails, and then started going downhill on what seemed like a cycle path.  By this point the sun had come out, and I was feeling better.  My companions seemed to appreciate this heat a lot less than I did, but we kept a remarkably alright pace.  Strangely, it was even feeling effortless, and every time I glanced down at my watch, I was amazed to see that we were at least a mile further than I thought.  I guess delirium will do that to you.

Around mile 7, Susan was beginning to struggle, and told us she was going to take a walk break, but urged us to go on.  We decided we would take an extended walk break through the next water station to allow her to catch up, but she’d had a pretty shitty week that had caught up to her, and her race kind of fell apart here, we later found out.  Teri and I went on together, and nothing noteworthy happened.  At about mile 11, Teri decided she quite fancied a sub 2 finishing time, and tried to convince me to speed up.  Her words of motivation fell of stubborn ears, and I told her the only way she would get sub 2 is if she left me behind.  Which she did.  At remarkable speed.  She even caught Ronnie!

Just over two hours after I had started, I crossed the line feeling strong, and not sweating.  Unlike my friends, which I found out, to my horror, when I had to touch them during our group photo at the finish:

1073053_185320574978038_1389547861_oAfter the race, we got on the next bus back to the start, and began the mad rush to transport me and Susan to the train station.  We made our train with about four minutes to spare, and then finally had a chance to relax as we made our way back to Aberdeen.

15 half marathons, complete!

 

Cycling is the new black.

But for some people, cycling is the new black circa 1850’s America.  Something that they are disgusted by as they drive their big, modified, white Subaru. Cyclists mean they can’t drive at 60mph in a 30mph zone with their douchey trance music offending the ears of anyone within a half mile radius, but rather, they have to slow down to nearly within the speed limit which is just such a freaking inconvenience.

In case it wasn’t becoming quite obvious that I have had a bit of an incident recently, I’ll just confirm that during an otherwise pleasant countryside cycle with Ian on Sunday, a fat bag of dicks that only just came into my sight once I had set off from a T-junction (with plenty of time for me to move the 3 meters forwards in order to be out of his lane), decided that he was so affronted by my being on the road that he deliberately sped up, and thought it appropriate to shout out of his window that I was a “fucking idiot” as he sped past me in the opposite direction.

I know I was not in the wrong: I looked both ways before I set off, and when the driver zoomed into view he was going far too fast.  But that doesn’t mean that his thoughtless comment hasn’t annoyed me for the last few days.  I somehow doubt he would be so vocal if he wasn’t in a big metal box that I could never catch up with, especially with Ian there too.  I guess part of it annoys me because no matter how careful and considerate  the majority of cyclists and drivers are, there will always be the few (of both) that think they own the road and have a serious grudge against anyone else using it that they don’t feel is worthy of sharing their space.  As long as they stay in the minority, we’re good.

Taking a break to check out a stone circle in the woods.

Taking a break to check out a stone circle in the woods.

Ian + rocks

Ian + rocks

Falls of Feugh, near Banchory

Falls of Feugh, near Banchory

The Falls of Feugh are pretty popular this time of year as you can stand on the bridge and watch salmon attempt to get upstream.  Ian and I saw a few make a good attempt, but fail to get up the falls successfully.  After a near miss, we decided to head off, which is when I met Mr. White Subaru.

Have any of you had bad experiences cycling?  Or are you a driver that has had a bad encounter with a cyclist?  Why do you think some drivers hate cyclists, and some cyclists hate drivers?

 

Race for Life 10k Aberdeen, 2013

Time: 57-ish minutes

Medal: Yes

IMG_20130704_191703

The Race for Life is an annual 5k for women with the aim of raising money for cancer research.  I have run the 5k a handful of times, but this year was the first year that Aberdeen also had the option of a 10k (a few of the bigger cities have had a 10k option for a year or two now).  It didn’t clash with any other races (unlike last year), and it’s for a good cause, so I signed up for the 10k a couple of months ago and kind of forgot about it until last week.

After Saturday’s less-than-pleasant 10 miler, I was feeling optimistic about Sunday’s Race for Life.  Why?  Well:

  1. It was ‘only’ a 10k, so if I can get through 10 painful miles, 6 should be easier than criticizing the acting in ‘Lost in Space’ (it was on last night, and it was not good).

  2. Even though the word ‘race’ appears in the name, it’s an untimed charity run, so my general game plan was to turn up, and run it casually.  In fancy dress.  Then go home.

Simple, right?

I went to bed a bit later than I had hoped to on the Saturday night, as I met a friend for sushi, and to catch up.  Apparently it has been a while since we last saw each other, because we had so much catching up to do that we were essentially kicked out of the restaurant because they had to close (they were very tactful about it).  By the time I got home, I was drained, and went straight to bed, setting about 12 alarms (as usual) for the next morning.

You may think 12 alarms is excessive.  Ian certainly does, and is usually pretty vocal about his feelings after being woken up several times early on his weekend morning unnecessarily.  He is especially annoyed because I seem to be immune to pretty much any noise when I am asleep.  Like alarms.  And Sea King helicopter.  Perhaps you see where this is going: I slept in.

Instead of fancy dress, I scoured my cupboard for something pink, but not being a very girly girl, this soon changed to ‘something cheerful’, which ended up being a floaty blouse that would be more at home at a gay pride march, but cheerful it was, so it went on.  I then kissed Ian goodbye, left the apartment, and jogged down to the beach.  The fact that I achieved my maximum heart rate JOGGING DOWNHILL was not a harbinger of joy and optimism.

At the predetermined meeting place, I ran into Susan, and slowly more and more familiar faces arrived.  Susan had also jogged down to the start, and was going to add a little extra onto the end as a long run in preparation for Loch Ness in September.  Since we were both in no hurry, we decided to run together.  We had plenty of for some group photos, and then we enthusiastically took part in the group warm up, before packing ourselves into the start chute with 5,000 other runners, jogger, and walkers.

L-R: Nishat, Nava, me, Jeananne, Naomi, Suzy, June

L-R: Nishat, Nava, me, Jeananne, Naomi, Suzy, June

Beautiful sunny day for a grumpy medal slut.

Beautiful sunny day for a grumpy medal slut.

Now, as this was the first time Aberdeen had put on a 10k race as well, we were all curious about how they would arrange the course.  We had been told by the organizers, however, that it would not be ‘just two loops of the 5k’.  This was a relief, as the beach is a pretty dull (and exposed) place to run, and doing laps is soul destroying, so when we realized that we had been lied to, and that the 10k WAS going to be two laps of the 5k route, we were all a bit deflated.

I really feel this photo (Ian Sharp) captures my enthusiasm.

I really feel this photo (Ian Sharp) captures my enthusiasm.

Every other time I have participated in the Race for Life, I have sardined myself at the very front at the start.  This year, joined by friends, I jumped into the crowd, a fair distance behind the start.  The guy on the tannoy had mentioned (several times) that runners should go to the front, and walkers should position themselves at the back, but this advice clearly fell on deaf ears, as within about 100m we found ourselves trapped behind walkers, sometimes 7-8 abreast (and holding hands), leaving us to either stop behind them, or barge through rudely.  By the time we had covered half a kilometre, we had probably dodged over a hundred walkers.  The thought of our second loop elicited a heavy sigh from a few of us, as we realized it would probably take about half an hour for all 5,000 participants to funnel through the starting area and get onto the course.

After about 2k, the course thinned out into people who were not walking, but it was a hot day, and, again, my heart rate was soaring, so I was glad to see there was a water stop at the half way point.  Unfortunately, by the time we reached it, we had to join a huge, chaotic ‘queue’, and wait for a couple of minutes as a group of about 5 people poured water into plastic cups.  5,000 participants.  The hottest day of the year so far.  No cups of water prepared.  I’ll let that just sink in for a while, while I take a couple of deep breaths and imagine something calming.

After the water, we were heading back to the start on the other side of the road.  The side of the road we were supposed to be on.   Also on this side of the road, a bunch of people walking, people with dogs on leads, small children wandering about in pink fairy wings, wheelchairs, pushchairs, crutches – all going in the opposite direction.  They had been squeezed onto our side of the road because of the sheer volume of people taking part, and the pink mass showed no sign of thinning as we got to 3k, 3.5k, and 4k.  Susan and I had seen a few of the 10k runners weaving in and out of bodies on their second lap of the course, looking annoyed.  Finally, at 4.5k, the last of the walkers went past, and then we hit the turnaround point for the 10k.

Within a few minutes, we were in the same position as the fastest 10k runners, navigating our way through large groups of women, as well as having to be aware of people who stopped for no apparent reason.  Susan and I also experienced the strangest thing to fall in front of us during a race, I think, so far.

We both saw a seagull flying dangerously close overhead.  It is important to mention here that seagulls in Aberdeen are a mutant species.  They’re like normal seagulls on steroids.  They have regularly been seen eating pigeons, other seagulls, and are notorious for thieving whole sandwiches from innocent pedestrians trying to have lunch on the go.  They are loathsome.  They also have an uncanny skill of being able to land a splodge of bird crap on a person with frightening accuracy, and when Susan and I looked up, to our horror, we saw a mass heading straight for us.  We both slowed, and a mere 2-3 feet in front of us we heard an almighty ‘splat’.  We paused, probably from shock at the size of what had been dropped before us, and realized that we were looking at a partly eaten fish.  All of my complaints about how I was feeling and how much I didn’t like this event were washed away as I thought how grateful I was that we hadn’t been that little bit faster, but stinking of fish.

The remainder of the second lap is a blur of discomfort.  My heart rate continued to alarm me, and I continued to ignore it most of the time.  Finally, we approached the finish, and Naomi’s dad managed to capture the two of us in the home straight, mid-chat.  I don’t even want to know what I’m saying, but if I were a betting woman, I’d wager that I am not saying, “Wow, I can’t believe this race is over so quickly, I feel so fresh!”

At least Susan seems amused.

At least Susan seems amused.

Hopefully whatever bug I’ve managed to pick up will go away soon, because I’m kind of over feeling like walking up a flight of stairs requires a 10 minute recovery nap.  Still, in the grand scheme of things, I can’t really complain.  The Race for Life aims to raise money for cancer research, and while I didn’t fund raise for it (because people would raise an eyebrow if I asked for sponsorship for a 10k), I have decided to fund raise for Macmillan Cancer Support, aimed at providing care and support to those affected by cancer, in memory of my grandad.  If you’re feeling flush, you could always drop by the online fundraising page.  If you’re where I was a few years ago, and paying for your entry into clubs with an old sock full of pennies that add up EXACTLY to the entry fee, I won’t be offended if you ignore this.

Anyway, I am genuinely uncomfortable with the idea of asking people for money, but it’s for an excellent cause, and I promise not to bring it up again.  And I don’t really know how to end this post, because everything I think of writing sounds awkward.  So, yeah. Happy 4th of July.