The Human Body: eternal source of frustration

The Human Body can do a bunch of pretty incredible things.  Like creating stomach acid  strong enough to dissolve metal (which might account for new stomach lining being produced every few days).  Or the fact that every month we are covered with a new outer layer of skin.  Or heal.

But the human body, at the moment, is a source of major frustration for me, because, at the moment, it seems to be doing nothing but malfunctioning.

Last Thursday was my rest day, which was just as well, as it was a parents’ night.  After all my appointments, I met Ian, and we made our way to his mother’s place as his sister and niece were visiting.  We stayed there for a few hours playing with his niece (puzzles, made up games, chasing her around – usual 4 year old shenanigans), before gathering our stuff and making our way to the front door.  As I was leaving, by doing nothing more adventurous than walking in a straight line, I felt an excruciating pain in my left ankle, and nearly fell over, as placing any weight on it sent waves of pain up my leg.

Thinking it was just some freak twinge, I waited a couple of moments before trying to walk on it.  Mistake.  More of the same pain.  Ian’s mum drove me home, and I hobbled upstairs and put it on ice, while Ian went off to meet some friends for a couple of hours.

As time went on, my leg started throbbing.  There was no swelling, no bruising – nothing that would make anyone think that there was anything at all wrong with my ankle/foot/leg, but it hurt, a lot, and I still couldn’t put weight on it.

Less than two weeks before an International marathon you’ve been looking forward to for months is not ideal timing for freak body issues.

I chatted with Ronnie online, and he suggested a trip to A&E, which I thought was a bit extreme, since I had no bones sticking out of my leg, and no obvious signs of trauma.  I have only been to A&E twice in my life, and both I considered worthy of the trip, though not life-threatening:

  1. Toothpick embedded in my eyeball.  It happened to be the eye I am not blind in.  I may have been in hysterics.
  2. Piece of metal jammed under my fingernail.  Finger had to be anaesthetized, and I watched in horror as the nurse detached the nail from my finger until she could shimmy the metal out.  Of course, I thought it was no big deal afterwards, as I couldn’t feel anything, so declined the painkillers offered as I left.  That was a decision I came to regret, as I lay in bed, sweating, and clutching my throbbing hand  that night.

As time went on, and I realized A&E would be pretty quiet because it was a Thursday night and payday had not happened yet (A&E get a bunch of drunken mishaps), AND my foot situation continued to deteriorate, I messaged Ronnie back and told him if he really had nothing better to do, we could swing by in case it wasn’t busy.

Two hours later, and Ronnie is helping me back to his car on these bad boys with no explanation as to why I couldn’t walk:



Fast forward a few days and things are improving.  I can now put weight on the left foot, and my walking style has gone from ‘hop’ to ‘gangsta’.  I’m too scared to even attempt a short run, so I think this week will be about being super cautious and hoping for the best come Milan.  I have already dropped a textbook AND a bottle of water on my other foot since hatching my master plan of ‘Be Careful’, so it’s going well.

If anyone has any idea what the hell I might’ve done to myself, I’m all ears.  I’m pretty much willing to try anything but homeopathy right now.

A bit of a cock-up.

I don’t normally talk about my job, because usually anything interesting/funny is one of those ‘you-had-to-be-there’ kind of things, and it would be totally irresponsible of me to disclose details of kids I teach.  It’s also sort of suggested in my contract that I don’t broadcast details of my work to a bunch of creeps on the internet.  So you’re welcome, employer.

Last week, however, I experienced one of those horrible moments where the answer to that internal voice shrieking ‘DID YOU ACTUALLY JUST SAY THAT OUT LOUD???’ was, unfortunately, a cold and serious: ‘Yes, Rachel.  Yes you actually did.  You are an idiot.’  And so, as this particulay incident deals mainly with my own stupidity – and since I’m fair game – I feel like I can share it.  So you’re welcome, readers.

Let me provide a little context.  One of the things we look at every year is the poetry of World War One.  We check out a little Wilfred Owen, a little Siegfried Sassoon, and a little Rupert Brooke.  We have a look at what the trench conditions were like.  And, to provide a little light relief, we occasionally show some ‘Blackadder’, because what is life if it doesn’t have a little dry humour in it?

Anyway, I was showing a clip of ‘Blackadder’ to the class (which they’d have to answer questions on), and one of the jokes in the clip was Baldrick offering Blackadder one of his vulgar dinner creations, ‘Rat-au-Van’.  The joke being that it sounded like the fancy dish ‘Coq-au-vin’, but was, in fact, just a rat that had been run over by a van.  Get it?  You can watch that part of the clip here.

Now, after the clip had been played, one of the questions was asking why this joke was funny.  I asked the class if they knew what dish it was meant to sound like.  Tumbleweed.  I quickly explained that there is a dish called ‘Coq-au-vin’ that is basically chicken in some kind of wine sauce.  I then jokingly asked how many of them would be enticed by a plate of ‘Rat-au-Van’, to which I discovered not a single child would be interested in such a delicacy, but some would quite like to watch the ‘preparation’ process.

Then I somehow went off on a tangeant (this sometimes happens).  I starting talking about how extreme hunger can warp judgment.  I talked about that film ‘Alive’, and then, in perhaps too much detail directly after lunch, I described the unfortunate fate of the Donner Party in the mid-1800’s.  The class was horrified.  I had made my point.  Dead rat trumps a sibling’s leg.  And then I said it.

You know when you’re speaking, and then you realize you’ve said the wrong thing, and so you stop abruptly, pause to reconsider, and then say what you intended to say?  Kind of like, “I really like it when I wake up before dusk – pause while your brain registers an error and you rewind – I mean dawn.”  Well.  That happened.  What came out of my mouth, in front of a classroom full of teenagers, is this:

So you see, in situations like that, I would imagine you’d be desperate for mouthful of Coq-…..

I paused to correct myself, and the class erupted into giggles as the realization of what I had just said dawned on me.  Failing to remain nonchalant, I desperately added, “AU-VIN!  I was saying COQ-AU-VIN, but meant to say RAT-AU-VAN!!!”, however the situation was unsalvagable.  At least one of the boys in the front row managed to say something along the lines of, “Yeah, we know what you were saying, but it went badly wrong.”

I conceded that it was a rather unfortunate place to pause in order to correct myself, the bell mercifully rang moments later, and I was thankful that I only had to get through one more class without saying something dumb (a roaring success, you’ll be pleased to know).

So, while I managed to get through the D33 with no injuries, I did get food poisoning from my celebratory burger the following day (resulting in a less than pleasant Monday-Wednesday), making my faux pas on Friday the cherry on top of a sub-par week.

Clearly, my brain is ready for the Italian getaway on the horizon.

D33 Ultramarathon 2014

Time:  6:20:00

Medal: Yes

IMG_20140315_171853The D33 was set up by George Reid as a longer distance race to help build up to the Highland Fling in April.  The same Highland Fling that somehow I am going to attempt to complete in just over a month.  Entries for the D33 opened a little early this time around, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, and as I sat at my parents’ kitchen table in Houston eating pasta and preparing for the Texas marathon, I became the 42nd person to enter this year’s race.

I have done a few training runs with some of the Stonehaven running club runners, and this race was in the schedule as the longest training run before April’s race.  I had a few goals for this, the most important being: don’t get injured, have fun, and finish.  Joining in the pre-race chatter online, I had been invited to run with Kate, Vicki, and Geraldine as our final training run as a group.  The thought of having company throughout the race was appealing, especially the race was on Kate’s birthday, so spirits were bound to be high.

Race morning was overcast and a bit breezy, but nothing that would blow tiles off a roof.  I had been keeping my eye on the forecast all week, and it fluctuated between sunshine and 14 degrees, and rain and 7 degrees.  But relying on the forecast in this country is futile, so I was pleased that it wasn’t too windy, but worried about the heavy cloud.

At about 7:30, I left my apartment and walked about a mile to Duthie Park to register.  Several friends were volunteering and it was nice to see familiar faces ordering me about with instructions on where to put my (pitiful) drop bags for the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 checkpoints.  Eventually more and more runners descended upon my local park, and I ran into more recognizable faces, some also popping their ultra cherry.

Eventually Kate, Vicki, Geraldine and I all found each other.  They were decked out in club vests and some rather flashy socks in their club colours which attracted a lot of attention during the day, and 3 of us were all wearing the same purple Camelbak.  We also found Tina, from Aberdeen Metro runners, who was cautious because she was running on a dodgy ankle and fancied a steady group to keep her company.

Kate and I missed the race briefing because we were in a queue for the porta loo, but made it back to our group on the start line with a couple of minutes to spare.  Then came a countdown, and we were off!

The railway line that I normally ran along was packed with neon flashes as we churned out the first mile.  Tina and I fell in behind a group of women that were keeping us at a reasonable pace, and were chatting about a training weekend along part of the Fling route in a couple of weeks.  We were soon joined by another woman and Claudia.  I noticed that we were a little ahead of Kate, Geraldine, and Vicki, so when Tina overtook the group after a couple of miles, I fell back and the rest went ahead, looking strong. Unfortunately, a mile or so later, the four of us ran past Tina, Claudia, and +1 off to the side, Tina holding a tissue covered in blood, and blood all over her knee.  I asked if they were ok, and Tina seemed in good enough spirits and said she was fine, so we kept going, assuming she had just scraped her knee and was otherwise alright.  It turns out, she had gone over her ankle (again), and decided to be sensible and pull out.  Photos of her swollen ankle that turned up later on Facebook confirmed that she probably made the best decision, but she was, and is, understandably gutted.

It was around this point that I noticed a host of niggles that I panicked would leave me at the side of the course, writhing in agony later on, but thankfully most of these gradually faded away throughout the day.  The same couldn’t quite be said for birthday girl Kate, however, as she had been suffering from plantar fasciitis, and had even been told by her physio not to run the race.  On her birthday.  With friends.  So obviously she ignored that, and for the start, at least, everything seemed to be going smoothly.

Photo: Ryan Roberts

Photo: Ryan Roberts

Vicki was a strict task master, and we were following her run for 30 minutes/walk for 3 rule.  The walk breaks gave us an opportunity to take in fuel, an assortment of sweet and salty snacks, as well as let our heartrates come down a bit/stretch out any tight areas.  Initially, it felt a bit silly to be walking 30 minutes into a race when we were running at such a conversational pace, but if that’s what it takes to run 33 miles with no ill-effects afterwards, then I’m a believer.

We hit checkpoint one/three (it’s an out and back course), where Naomi and Suzy were waiting to hand us our drop bags (a bag of salted crisps for me), and chatted for a bit before setting off again, hoping that we were still as cheerful on the way back.  After about 14 miles, we hit Milton of Crathes, where Kate’s family were all waiting for her, and we stopped again for a toilet/oatmeal raisin cookie break (to the creator of those, they were amazing!).  I also took this opportunity to text ahead as someone marshalling at the halfway checkpoint wanted to present Kate with a ‘birthday flapjack’ (flapjack with a candle rammed inside it).

At Milton of Crathes.  No idea why it looks like I'm checking out Kate's rack.

At Milton of Crathes. No idea why it looks like I’m checking out Kate’s rack.

By this point, the faster runners had started to pass us on their way back, and we encouraged them as they all flew by.  Eventually, we made the halfway point and stopped for a chat, some snacks, and to refill camelbaks.  I think once we set off, we were all a little bit happier because we knew every step we took took us closer to the finish line instead of farther away.  The sun came out.  I was nearly what I would classify as ‘warm’.  I was happy.

There weren’t too many people behind us, which became apparent on our way back.  Soon we ran past the ‘Grim Sweeper’, looking cheerful at the back.  By this point, Kate’s feet were causing her a lot of pain, and there were murmurings of stopping at the 3/4 checkpoint, but we stuck with the run/walk strategy and pushed on.  We were also picking off a few walkers who were clearly hurting, and we were grateful that on the whole, we were feeling comfortable.

The 3/4 checkpoint arrived, and we took a little while to chat/replenish supplies.  I packed some dried fruit into my camelback and added a little water, as I’d run out.  I also drank half a bottle of lucozade, but chucked the rest, and added the rest of my food to the ‘free-for-all’ pile on the table.

At the 3/4 checkpoint

At the 3/4 checkpoint

1926824_10201508899193102_717979712_nBy this point, Kate reasoned that she couldn’t really do too much more damage to her feet in another 8-ish miles, so the four of us continued as a group.  I phoned Ian to let him know roughly when we’d be finished, but also requested that he bring something to hand over to me before the finish line.

I remember looking down at my Garmin at about 26 miles and thinking how strong I felt for completeing a marathon distance, when normally I’m ready to crumble in a heap and go for a nap.  The next time I looked down, the distance read 27.2 miles, and I was out of known territory!  With about 5 miles to go, we all stopped for a photo with a sign somebody had put out for Kate’s birthday:

1907565_10152314998593792_666196150_nWith less than a 5k to go, I found myself involuntarily speeding up, and then trying to reel myself in.  Then Ian appeared on his bike and cycled beside us.

Now, I wanted to finish my first ultra in style, so obviously I had asked for Ian to bring me a pair of high heels to cross the finish line in.  About a mile from the end, we came across Vicki’s husband, Ian, who was struggling.  Vicki told me to go on ahead and that they would walk with Ian for a bit.  Ian (my Ian) and I went on, and as I turned the corner into Duthie park, he produced my heels from his rucksack, and cycled off to the side. Ronnie had been for his long run already, so was at the finish with his camera in hand:

Appraching the finish line.  Carrying heels.

Appraching the finish line. Carrying heels.

About 10 feet before the finish line, I stopped and stepped to the side.  One of the marshalls told me, “You’re not finished yet, love, you need to go a bit further.”  Then I put my heels on the ground and started untying the laces of my trainers.  She laughed, as did the crowd at the finish line.  I managed to wedge my feet into my heels, and, somehow, stand up unaided, before strutting across the finish line as Kate, Vicki, and Geraldine came in behind me, holding hands.

Because, why not?

Because, why not?

Geraldine, Vicki, and Kate.

Geraldine, Vicki, and Kate.


And with that, I was an ultramarathoner.  And I felt OK!  I got my medal, goody bag, and swapped my heels for flip flops, and spoke to some of the other finishers, and some of my friends who had come down to watch the finish and cheer in runners.  Not long after, Ian and I walked back to my flat, where I showered and threw on compression socks, and had a failed nap attempt before heading to the train station en route to the after party in Stonehaven.  Many a beer were enjoyed (although I’m pretty sure I owe a few people a round), and I clumsily made it back to my own bed via the second to last train home.

This morning I am suffering no more than I would had I gone out for a 15 mile run, which gives me a bit more confidence for the Fling.  However, despite getting through an ultra marathon with no hassle, I did end up bleeding and in tears after thwacking myself in the face with my mobile phone this morning, which is swelling up a treat, and will no doubt look terrific for work tomorrow.

For now though?  A burger I think.

D33 route

D33 route

Inverness 1/2 marathon 2014

Time: 2:07:36

Medal:  Yes


Ah, Inverness.  How I forget how long it takes in a car to get to you…

Thanks to sick people being around me with their sickness and coughing sick germs all around me, I was, after finally shirking off a two week cold, struck down again with some grim plague.  I took Wednesday night off from the gym.  And then Thursday.  And on Friday I felt so rancid that I had asked to be put down and cried at my desk at morning break had a little pity party for myself.  In fact, when the bell rang at the end of the school day, it took a full 30 minutes before I could muster up the strength to leave my desk and walk to my apartment.

Thankfully, Ian and I have started (and nearly finished) watching ‘Rome’ on Netflix, so I had something to look forward to every day (other than lying in bed in a dark room).  In fact, we have become so engrossed in the show that on Saturday, feeling a bit more human, I bought some spelt flour and baked a traditional ‘Roman Loaf’ (according to the recipe on the back) for us to rip apart with our hands and feast on as we watched.  Accompanied by “traditional” Roman butter, of course.  And bottled Heineken (also 100% traditional, I’m assured).

This guy.

This guy.

Unfortunately, our ‘episode of Rome with dinner’ grew into a Rome-a-thon, and Ian and I didn’t go through to bed until a slightly unreasonable hour.  And so on Sunday I slept in.  Up not quite early enough to allow for a bit of relaxation, and not quite late enough to have to write off the possibility of going to Inverness entirely, I spent the next 20 minutes frantically scrambling around my apartment, throwing on my race kit, trying to find my Garmin/keys/wallet/mp3 player/phone (which somehow had not charged overnight)/running socks (I own like 20 pairs, so why had they all mysteriously vanished?!), and then sat down to demolish a yoghurt and catch up on a bit of work.

Just before 8, I kissed Ian goodbye and headed downstairs and to the meeting point to await my chariot, a Fiat Panda filled with Naomi, her boyfriend Stu, and Ronnie.  Naomi and Stu had both run the Paris half (comically called ‘Le Semi’) the previous weekend, and were both worried about how they would manage just 7 days after a peak performance.  Sniffling and trying not to fall asleep in the warmth of the car, I told Naomi I’d be happy to keep her company if she fancied taking it easy, an offer she may have, at times, wished she hadn’t accepted.

We arrived at Bught Park with literally hours to spare, and since we were such keen beans, found ourselves registered, relieved, and sitting on the floor of the sports hall by about 10:30.  Somehow we managed to convince Ronnie that the start had been delayed by half an hour, which he was very angry about, but eventually came clean when it seemed as though he was going to hunt for an ATM and a shop with all the fictional extra time, and would potentially miss the actual start.

As the start approached, Stu (a serious athlete) dumped his warm layers into the car and went to warm up.  The rest of us dumped our clothes in the car, and then returned to the warmth of the sports hall, meeting up with a few familiar faces along the way.  Eventually, the piper started leading runners to the start line, and we tailed onto the swarm, choosing to stay indoors as long as possible, because: weather.

Naomi, Ronnie and I made a token effort to join in the enthusiastic warm up dancing (Stu was basically at up at the front and needed no such ridiculousness), until we started moving forward, breaking into a jog, and then speeding up to cross the timing mats.

The start.  Stu is the dedicated looking one in the Fife vest.

The start. Stu is the dedicated looking one in the Fife vest.

“I guess we’re running 13 miles then.”

Ronnie stuck with us for less than a mile before Naomi and I persuaded him to go ahead – he has been working hard at losing weight and was keen to get his first sub-2 half marathon since 2012, and we both thought he was capable, unlike the two of us (dead legs and snot face).  The pair of us plodded along, and I despite my heart rate, I felt comfortable.  I thoroughly entertained Naomi with hilarious and enthralling tales (or so I would like to believe), and we kept a pretty even pace (about 9:30 minute miles) for the first half, stopping to walk through the water stations.  Naomi’s legs soon voiced their disapproval, however, and the pace dropped back a bit after this point.  At one point, at a road crossing, the marshal told us we had to stop to let a bus past, which at the time was a welcome 10 second break, but would have been a real offense if we’d been running for time!  Still, he was apologetic, and it’s not like either of us minded.

With about 5k to go, we approached Esther, someone we recognized from the local parkrun.  Her half PB is 2:10, and at the rate she was running she was on track for a PB.  Just when Naomi was really starting to struggle, the role of PB pacer seemed to give her a reason to push on to the end, and we made it our mission to bring Esther in under her goal time.  We stooped to ridiculously unnecessary tactics (trying to become windbreakers, shouting like a drill sergeant, picking up a branch from a nearby grassy area and prodding her forwards with it), but she kept with us, and even managed to outkick us with a sprint finish at the end.  I mean, yeah, Naomi and I were busy with a conversation, but still – excellent effort.

"Yeah, I think a Nando's sounds like a good idea for dinner."

I’m pretty sure I remember smiling, but instead I look pretty vacant.

100% focus.

100% focus.

Even Ronnie shouting at us with less than a mile to go, exclaiming that Claudia (someone we know) was only about a minute ahead (Ronnie knows I get competitive at the end) wasn’t enough to make me leave our little pacing group.  Especially since this half marathon was technically my ‘cut back’ for the D33 in, ohhhhhhhhhh, two days.  Which I am starting to panic a bit about.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be so busy at work, because at least it has kept my mind off of that little gem of information.

Anyway, Ronnie managed his sub-2.  He ran just over 1:51, in fact, and he was ecstatic.  Sadly, this means Naomi and I have lost a race buddy because he will once again start leaving us in his dust.  Stu, a freak of nature, ran less than half a minute slower than his Paris PB and crossed the line in 1:17:52.  Quite frankly, disgusting.

Once we had all gathered in the sports hall and chatted with other runners for a bit, we decided to head back to Aberdeen, singing along to some quality tunes (‘We Built this City’ and ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ come to mind).

Overall, a good, but long, day out.  Here’s hoping I’m this cheerful in 48 hours.  And that I can still walk.

Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon cancelled

A few times last week, I had been on the Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll website filling in the entry form, but always closing the tab before comitting because I’m planning on selling my flat in the near future, and I seem to remember last year that this was one of those ‘send out race packs’ kind of races; basically I didn’t want to have to deal with getting in touch with organizers/setting up a forwarding address/hassle.  I also knew that I would have plenty of time to sign up, because Rock ‘n’ Roll races generally have a large capacity for runners, unlike some local races that sell out in a matter of hours.

2014 would have marked the third year that the Rock ‘n’ Roll half went ahead in Edinburgh – or at least everyone who had been signing up was expecting that.  Until Monday afternoon, when event organizers announced that they had pulled the plug on the event, offering refunds or a place in another of their races for those who had already signed up.

A refund is all well and good, but due to the popularity of these events, and the fact that (in order to fleece you for more cash) they offer ‘World Rocker’ medals to people who complete their races internationally, there is now a sizeable group of people who have non-refundable accomodation and flights, but no race to run.  Several of these have been leaving comments on the R’n’R Edinburgh facebook page, bemoaning their financial loss thanks to a big name brand happily accepting cash without fully securing the race they were shilling.  One couple even complained that they had included the race as part of their honeymoon!

While not quite as bad, I have several friends who had already entered, and many are now trying to see what they can get back from pre-paid hotel rooms and non-refundable travel arrangements.  I realize this is no wide scale disaster – nobody died, the event wasn’t scheduled to take place for another few months, etc. – but that doesn’t make it right for a company to accept money and allow people to make arrangements to compete in one of their events knowing that there was a chance they wouldn’t be able to follow through.  Why would anyone even do that?

Huh, how did this picture get here?

Huh, how did this picture get here?

I mean, they even changed the date from April to June after the weather last year made the run a horrible experience for many, though everyone understood that the weather was out of their control.  But the date change is a whole other can of worms: I mean, yes, Scottish weather is unpredicatble at the best of times, but the chances of a repeat of last year’s conditions? Remote (did I mention how utterly loathsome the weather was?  Because it was shit).

Anyway, I’ll leave the weather alone, because I have serious beef with Scottish weather even when I’m not running, and my focus here is on the sloppy organization of a not-very-cheap race by a company that clearly values making bank over providing a quality product.

It’s a real shame, as well, because the course really did (at times) go through the heart of the city. The EMF Edinburgh marathon and half marathon start off in the city centre, graze by Holyrood Park, but then the course veers to the outskirts of the city and along the coast to Musselburgh.  On the plus side, they don’t up and cancel a race that people have already paid for.

To the people who had planned an international trip around this event, I can imagine your frustration.  But if you’ve travelled hundreds (or thousands) of miles for a race, what’re a few more?  While perhaps not the glitz and glamour you would expect as part of the ‘world’s largest running series’, there are other races near (and not so near) around the same time to consider:

Sunday, June 22nd:

Saturday, June 28th:

  • Dollar Hill Race – website shows details for last year’s race.
  • Kelty Coal Race – brought to my attention by a reader.  I’ll admit, I am tempted.

Sunday, June 29th:

Saturday, July 5th:

Sunday, July 6th:

Smokies 10 Mile Road Race 2014

Time:  1:32:09 [Results]

Medal: No, but this year we got a t-shirt and, ‘scandalously’ (according to several) a beanie in place of the traditional bottle of wine.

Smokies 10 mile shirt + beanie

Smokies 10 mile shirt + beanie

This is the third year in a row I’ve run Smokies, and each year I get slower.  But I have an excuse!

Less than 2 weeks away from my first ultra (I feel like I’m mentioning that a lot recently…), I haven’t quite hit the ‘taper’.  Though my idea of tapering is vastly different from most (it usually involves me just swapping to any exercise other than running, and maybe taking off the day before), it will be pitiful for the D33.  Mostly because I’m using it as my longest training run for the Highland Fling, and as I have Milano City marathon 3 weeks afterwards, there will be no racing heroics on the day; I’ll walk when I need to, I’ll slow down if I have to – my aim is not to break myself.  What this all means is that I am still logging big miles during my weekends, and this weekend was no exception.

Saturday morning’s wake up call (my ridiculously annoying alarm on my phone that will one day drive Ian to homocide, I’m sure) was at 5:30am.  Breakfast, getting dressed, and curling up in a ball on the floor next to my radiator consumed the next 30 minutes, and then I left for Aberdeen train station, where I would meet a lovely lady from the metro running club (who shall for mysterious reasons remain nameless) and Ronnie.

Stonehaven bound, we made a point of using the bathroom on the train before arriving at Stonehaven train station.  Though it was beginning to get light, there was mist on the horizon, and a deep chill in the air.  We set off along the Slug Road, and up towards the Elsick Mounth trail – aiming for the reverse version of one of the group long runs in February.

It was slow going in places, as the trampled mud had frozen, and there was a lot of slipping about, but eventually we made it to the top of the hill, by which time the sun had come out and skies were blue.  It was still freezing, but sunshine is my crack, so I was happy:

I'm standing on a tree trunk, surveying my kingdom.

I’m standing on a tree trunk, surveying my kingdom.

After this we were on trails and country roads for a bit, until reaching the Deeside railway line, which is what the D33 will be run along.  We stopped for a photo with a cow, because I thought it was cute:




The railway line is boring, at best, especially if you’ve live near it and use it frequently, but at least we had good company for the run back towards Aberdeen.

Deeside railway line.

Deeside railway line.

Roughly 8 miles from Aberdeen, I enjoyed my first al fresco piss in years.  I forgot how liberating urinating amongst nature could be, and it’s good to know that there are some relatively secluded areas behind bushes if I get hit with an un-ignorable urge to pee come race day.

After nearly 21 miles, we called it a day, hopped off the railway line, and walked home, via the supermarket (at least in my case) for food (fajitas, in case you’re wondering, and yes, they were delicious).  There were a lot of tight places in my legs, so I make a token effort to use the foam roller before turning in.

Now, Sunday is usually the single day a week where I don’t set an alarm, so I was mildly disgruntled pissed off that I had to wake up early again.  Still, I’m thankful to Claudia for giving me a lift, because Ian might have dumped me if I woke him up early on BOTH weekend days in addition to begging for a lift.

With my stellar navigation skills, we managed to arrive at the Arbroath Sports Centre with 46 days to spare until the race start, so we enjoyed using the toilet with minimal queueing, picking up our race numbers instantly, and chatting to familiar faces before returning to Claudia’s car for warmth.  Again, it was sunny, but it was cold.

About 20 minutes before the race start, we went back to the hall to wait for the migration to the start line, and I met Kate and her friend Elaine, who were both planning on sticking to a nice easy pace and getting through the race in one piece (Kate is also running the D33 and the Highland Fling, and we’re both suffering a bit from training).

Despite the race results being your gun time, we stayed at the back for the start, and only realized the race had started when the bodies in front of us started moving.  My calf was sore.  My hip was sore.  My hamstring was sore.  I was very glad I had company that had agreed to stick with 10 minute miles…

smokiesfbBut after a couple of miles, everything started to loosen up, and even though we were busy chatting the course away, our pace kept creeping up, and we made a (rather pathetic) attempt to reign it in a bit.  Eventually, we gave up because we all felt decent, and just ran at the pace that felt comfortable.  Clearly, I was feeling alright about half a mile from the end:

Me (looking demented), Kate, and Elaine - half a mile or so from the end.

Me (looking demented), Kate, and Elaine – half a mile or so from the end.

The three of us crossed the line together (despite what the results might reflect), and we were all handed our goody bags before making our way to the sidelines to watch the other runners come in.  Shortly after, Claudia finished, bagging a PR, and we headed back to her car to pick up some warm clothes, passing Carolyn (also flying in with a new PR), Amy (what’s up lady who said hello!), and Danielle (again….PR) on the way.

Armed with warm things, Claudia went for a shower, and I headed for the amazingly quiet massage table, managing to get on pretty much straight away for a donation.  Whoever the lady was there was fantastic, and did not hold back working into my calves.  Covered in menthol oil, I headed back to a group of friends, and chatted until the awards ceremony and raffle.  I wasn’t as lucky as last year, when I won an Arbroath smokie, but Claudia managed to win a foot roller/massager thing, which she seemed pretty pleased with.

Raffle over, and clouds looming, we said our goodbyes to everyone and headed back to Aberdeen, where I had a well deserved nap on my sofa, and then watched Robocop for the first time in my life, because Ian said that I needed to, and that it was a solid 10/10.  I can’t believe Dr. Robert Romano and Red Forman played bad guys!  I’d also maybe give it a 7/10.