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

Hasta la Vista, 2013!


This gallery contains 10 photos.

I am currently gearing up for a raucous New Year’s Eve here in Houston.  I’m planning on whipping up some cinnamon spiced pancakes, courtesy of Chef John’s dulcet voice.  Or plain spaghetti.  It depends on how settled my stomach is … Continue reading

Oh no! The race is almost full!

Despite walking about like a cripple for a week after my idiotic Loch Ness adventure, and running Aviemore feeling horrendous, I must have felt like I hadn’t quite made enough dumb decisions to fill my annual quota.  Hopelessly drawn in Inspired by these guys, I’ve bitten the metaphorical bullet and signed myself up for an ultra.  I have also been shamelessly hounded into thinking it’s a sane-person thing to do by several local (ish) runners of unsound mind (you know who you are).

So what’s on the menu for 2014?  Apart from kicking off the year with the Texas marathon on New Year’s Day, I have entered the Milano City marathon in April, followed by the Highland Fling, a 53 mile trail race through the Scottish Highlands, made all the more appealing by reading about friends’ adventures there earlier this year.  Yes, once again I was suckered into a race by watching the available places dwindle on an online entry site.  So yeah, kill me*.

2014 is also peppered with a few other (shorter, mercifully) races, and I anticipate a mild breakdown/relapse into heavy drinking and McDonald’s binges around the beginning of May.  Yee-to-the-motherfucking-haw!

Basically the universal reaction I am getting from people I know when I tell them my plans.  This is not limited to the ultramarathon.

Basically the universal reaction I get from people I know when I tell them my plans. This is not limited to running.

*Don’t literally kill me, I actually really enjoy being alive.

Crathes 1/2 marathon 2013

Time: 1:57:01 [RESULTS HERE]

Medal: Yes

Crathes 1/2 marathon medal

Crathes 1/2 marathon medal

Crathes half marathon was earmarked in my diary as my last longish training run before Loch Ness, so I wasn’t particularly concerned about my time.  In fact, I was aiming for around 2:05 as I had coerced Ronnie into cycling from Aberdeen to the start line, running the half, and then cycling back – roughly a 35 mile round trip on the bikes.  And because some people are scum, I didn’t really fancy leaving my belongings (change of clothes, wallet, phone, keys, food, water, random crap) hanging off my bike, so opted to wear my rucksack during the run.  So basically, I have no idea how I managed to run my fastest half marathon of the year.

I woke up at about 6:30 for a shower, and noticed that walking was painful.  Having stopped doing my regular weights workouts about three months ago because I’ve been having issues with my abs (long, annoying story I won’t subject you to because I get really frustrated when I think about it), it was maybe not the wisest idea to partake in a weights class on the Thursday, opting for the weights I regularly would have because I cannot handle having less weight than somebody in a weights class (at least if it’s an after school activity, and half the class are teenage girls).  Even before I was squatting and lunging like my life depended on it, I was thinking this is dumb, Rachel.  Why do you keep doing dumb things?  I hate you.  My more competitive voice was just shouting MORE WEIGHT WEAK HUMAN!  I guess we know who won that argument.

After my shower, I confirmed with Ronnie that cycling was still on, because the forecast was good, and I felt that with winter looming we needed to take advantage of clear skies while we still could.  We met at Ian’s at about 9, and set off about 15 minutes later into a chilly headwind.  Taking the back roads from Peterculter meant no annoying traffic, but it did mean a few slight undulations to warm up the legs.  I was surprised at how fine my legs felt on the bike, and I had hoped that I would feel fabulous after my warm up.  Ha.

I mainly took this photo for the police, should someone steal our bikes.

I mainly took this photo for the police, should someone steal our bikes.

Once we arrived at Crathes, we locked up our bikes and Ian sped off back home to do some yard work and weights.  Sadly, when I stepped off my bike I still felt like a cripple, so I just tried to remind myself that I got through the Forfar 1/2 marathon, and the Dundee 1/2 marathon this year in a similar level of pain.  I was not anticipating an easy couple of hours when I registered and collected my t-shirt.

It was kind of cold, so I threw on my old favourite hoodie.  The one I used to wear practically every day.  When I looked more like this, and it was ‘fitted’:

Fat people + hot weather = unpleasant

Fat people + hot weather = unpleasant

Apparently wearing clothing that sits on you like a tent isn’t very flattering, so you’ll just have to take my word that I don’t look this fat in real life, but that my legs are indeed my worst feature.  So I’m extra excited that they are accentuated in this group shot:

Back row (l-r): Naomi, me, Shona, Susan, Ann, Maz.  Front row (l-r): Suzy, June, Lesley

Back row (l-r): Naomi, me, Shona, Susan, Ann, Maz. Front row (l-r): Suzy, June, Lesley

We had our obligatory bathroom breaks, before settling into the crowd at the start line.  The countdown happened, and we started pretty much on time, before shuffling over the starting line.  Ronnie and I were running together, and we remarked on our rather admirable pace in the first mile and a half.  Expecting to burn out early, we restrained ourself to a more conservative pace until just after 2 miles, when Ronnie started experiencing pain and cramping in his calf.  After it worsened for another minute, I told him to walk and stretch it out, which we did.  After about a minute, I asked if he was ready to run again, but he did not look happy, and told me a couple of times to just go on.  Once he said he was sure, I took off, and that’s the last time I saw him until he finished.

The course was undulating, but there are no shocker hills to attack, so it’s just a case of pushing on until you get a little downhill break.  My pack felt kind of heavy, and the sun had come out, so I had definitely warmed up.  I still looked down at my garmin to see a pace that I thought would last until maybe 7 or 8 miles before I began to struggle, but though to hell with it and kept going.  I think the fact that the route is along back roads as well as country tracks kept it interesting enough for me not to obsess over checking my pace too often, but was pleasantly surprised every time I looked down.

At about ten miles, we were directed onto a second off road track, and it’s here that I remember starting to overtake quite a few people, but I was feeling fine.  In fact, it wasn’t until just before mile 12 that I started to hurt.  My bag straps were digging into my neck, and my legs started to feel heavy, but by this point I knew that all I’d need to do to get a sub 2 time is stay under 10 minute miles.  Just to be safe, I pushed on a bit.  Exactly what I should be doing two weeks before a marathon, I’m sure.  I passed Kate (who seemed to be full of energy and encouraging a couple of club members to the finish), and made it my mission to catch up to whoever was in front of me.  Then whoever was in front of them.  Ad nauseum.

I remembered a long and punishing uphill section from about mile 12 last year, but I didn’t really notice too much of a hill this year (that’s got to be a good sign – thank you trail workouts).  Before I knew it, I was turning left onto the service entrance for Crathes Castle and knew this race was as good as done.  Elated, I sped down the grassy finish chute and across the line, stopping my Garmin (I remembered!) and hobbling over the the people cutting off the chips from our laces.  Hobbling is pretty accurate.  My legs hated me.

I waited for Ronnie to come in, and then waited for some of our other friends, most notably Suzy who was running her first half marathon and came in just over 2 and a half hours.  I also met a Claire, a girl I’ve interacted a bit with online, and who is also running Loch Ness in two weeks.  Apparently she spent the whole race using me as a pacer without knowing who I was.  I also had a very pretty lady come up and ask if I was ‘medal slut’ and I’m sure I was completely awkward, so if you’re reading then I am very flattered and felt like a rock star, but I am also kind of crap when I’m put on the spot, so I hope I didn’t come across as a creep!

After everyone had come in, Ronnie and I resigned ourselves to the fact that we now had to cycle back home, so we packed up, unlocked our bikes, and set off, passing some of the final finishers and shouting encouragement as we cycled past.  Luckily, our route home took in parts of the course, and we happened upon an unmanned water station.  Ronnie took full advantage of the already opened bottles and filled up his own stash:

Ronnie, modelling this year's fetching turquoise shirt.

Ronnie, modelling this year’s fetching turquoise shirt.

Despite a few angry moments as we came back into town – there were road works going on and a few of the drivers didn’t seem to understand the significance of a cycle lane – we made it home unscathed, and I was glad to get cleaned up and out of sweaty clothes.

I wouldn’t hesitate to run this again next year, as the course is pretty fast and varied, it’s close enough to cycle to (Ronnie will hate me again next year), and I love the t-shirt:


Ben Avon, Beinn a’Bhuird, and the Secret Howff

Disclaimer:  Ian has requested that I mention the fact that he has very successfully navigated to the summits of several munros in his life.  In fact, every one we have climbed together, bar Ben Avon, which is obviously ‘cursed’.

Just the thought of attempting to reach the summit of Ben Avon made me grumpy.  You see, previously Ian and I had two failed attempts to our credit.  The first time, a companion’s babysitting duties (and Ian’s shocking navigation) caused us to turn back early on a beautiful day.  You can re-live everything going wrong here.  The second attempt I didn’t even feel warranted a mention on this site, because it basically consisted of the following:

  1. Ian and I arrive at the car park with out mountain bikes, sometime in March.
  2. Ian and I look around at other walkers who are wearing a gajillion layers, and are equipped with such extravagances as walking sticks and gloves.
  3. Ian and I (in lycra running shorts and a long sleeved top) both agree that these people are amateurs and that we are far superior (and badass) hill walkers, and smugly set off on our way.
  4. After an arduous 5 mile cycle, an enormous snow drift blocks our path before we even begin our main ascent on foot.  We scramble to higher ground only to realize the entire munro is hidden under snow.  It is very windy.  I am very cold.
  5. We meet some walkers who inform us that they checked the mountain weather forecast before they chose their outfits, and they did not seem surprised when we told them we did not do the same.
  6. Ian gets annoyed that I am unwilling to risk hypothermia/death by continuing, I cry and shiver.
  7. We turn back, stopping only to locate the Secret Howff that we didn’t manage to find last time.

Unwilling to face failure a third time, and determined to get this over and done with, Ian checked the forecast and took a day off work when the weather looked like it would be on our side.  We left early, arriving at the car park at about 10, and setting off for the first 5 miles on the gradual ascent on our mountain bikes.

We both commented on how much less efficient they felt than our road bikes, which have been getting a lot of use this summer thanks to an atypically glorious Scottish summer (featuring special guests, Sun and Warmth).  In fact, the mountain bike section was a lot less crappy than I remembered it to be.  Hopefully this is a reflection of my quad strength.  Once it became a bit too life-threatening to continue by bike (at least for me), we locked them together near a burn (American translation: stream), and continued on foot.

We followed the path that I had wanted to follow the first time we tried (and failed) to reach the summit.  Ian, however, had decided to abandon the path and climb the steep edge of the mountain as his map reading skills led him to believe that the path would be the wrong course to take.  In case you missed what happened previously, the path would have absolutely been the correct course to take, an opinion I strongly voiced at the time, and for several weeks afterwards, when we checked my Garmin details to confirm where we were.

I am smug that I was right about the path.

I am smug that I was right about the path.

Eventually, we came to a T-junction in the path as we reached some very steep cliffs.  To the right, a steep ascent close to the cliff face.  To the left, a steep ascent close to the cliff face.  At this point, we realized that we must have had the wind to our backs the whole time, because once we had stopped it felt like we were in a wind tunnel.

“Left or right?” I asked Ian.
“Left.” he replied.
“You sure?  The summit definitely isn’t to the right?” I asked, because, you know, I wanted confirmation.
“Yes.  We’re definitely going left.”  I sensed a little hostility from Ian after questioning his judgement.

Left we went, climbing the very steep section where the path kind of disappeared, eventually making it onto the flatter section leading up to a summit.  I looked behind us, mainly to marvel at how steep the ascent was, and told Ian that I was glad we were doing a loop, because I didn’t think I’d be able to go back down because I’m such a wimp with heights and descending steep bits.  Especially next to cliffs with very, very, very high drops.

Quite steep

Quite steep


Steeper – to the right, sheer drops


Entering ‘all fours’ territory.

I then looked across to where the path to the right would have led, and noticed a very high summit.

“You’re absolutely sure that’s not the top of Ben Avon, right?” I cautiously inquired.  This was met by a frustrated confirmation that we were indeed on the right path.  About 10 minutes of steady climbing later, we were at the top, where we took a couple of photos and shared a pack of fig rolls (American translation: Fig Newtons).

Ian at the incorrect summit.

Ian at the incorrect summit (with the real summit off in the distance to the left)

Me at the false summit.

Me at the false summit (with the ridge leading to the second munro behind me, to the left)

Despite Ian’s certainty, I couldn’t help noticing that the summit across the valley we’d just come up from looked noticeably higher than we were.  I asked for Ian to point out where we were on the map, which he did, but looking at the gradient around where we were supposed to be, and looking at our surroundings, my heart sank as I became certain that we had taken a wrong turn, and that I would have to go back down the steep path.  To prove that I was being paranoid, Ian took out his Garmin edge and switched it on.  I sat back and enjoyed the view while it was loading up, and then Ian said, “Oh, shit.”

As if you couldn’t see this coming, we were not at the summit of this shitting mountain.  And yes, in order to reach the summit, we’d have to double back.  Before that, however, we decided to bag another summit which was a few kilometers away along a ridge, with very little extra climbing, so off we set for Beinn a’Bhuird (I have no idea how to pronounce that, so if you want to find out, go here).  I was obviously super happy that instead of a gentle downhill walk back to the bikes like we had planned, we were only halfway through the scary cliff part of the day.

At the summit of Beinn a'Bhuird

At the summit of Beinn a’Bhuird, with the summit of Ben Avon (the highest one in the distance) behind me.

At least now Ian knew which way we were going:

That way.  I promise.

That way. I promise.

After a couple of photos, we retraced our steps and headed towards the summit of Ben Avon.  Again.  Going down the steep bit was terrifying, and I made Ian walk in front of me in case I lost my footing – a human shield, if you will.  Finally, we were back at the junction, and then we started a long, steady ascent.  Again.  This side wasn’t quite as steep, but it went on for longer, before flattening out a bit with a clear path to the tors at the top.

After the steep bit, approaching the summit of Ben Avon.

After the steep bit, approaching the summit of Ben Avon.

Finally, several hours after beginning our journey, we made it to the summit, where Ian forced me to climb on top of the tors for the official ‘summit photo’.  I am not standing because there was a very real risk of being blown off the mountain (you may think I’m exaggerating, but I’ve witnessed a kid blown off his feet before, and yes, it was hilarious).

Summit of Ben Avon

Summit of Ben Avon

Someone is feeling accomplished.

Someone is feeling accomplished.

We shared our second packet of fig rolls, and started our descent, running into a few ptarmigans on our way.


Heading back, with the false summit just to my right.



Despite being behind schedule, we had decided to go a little bit out of our way to go to the Secret Howff again.  Ian’s late father and one of his friends had helped to repair it many years ago, and Ian’s brother had told us recently that he had carved his name into one of the wooden beams in the 60’s.  Obviously, since we had missed this the first time we went, Ian wanted to go back and see if he could find the name.

Ian outside the Secret Howff

Ian outside the Secret Howff

Sure enough, his dad’s vandalism from nearly 50 years ago was there!  Although it’s kind of hard to see from a camera phone photo:

Inside the Secret Howff

Inside the Secret Howff

We signed the guestbook again, and then hopped back onto our bikes for the luxuriously (mostly) downhill section to the parking lot.

After a hearty dinner, we both slept well that night, and enjoyed a bit of a long lie the next morning.  Ah, to be back on my summer holidays…

Today, my first day back at school, was a bit of a shock to the system.

Hare and Hounds relay

Time (Garmin): 19:21

Medal: Surprisingly, yes!

L-R: Ishbel (pink), me (&), Teri (brown).

I had originally earmarked this weekend as that of the Dyce half marathon, as I have yet to run it (and haven’t been put off by Ronnie’s description of it as a dull, never-ending stretch on an old railway line).  However, due to essential railway line maintenance, the event was called off this year.  In its place, Aberdeen Metro Running Club set up a Hare and Hounds relay race.

Each relay team was to consist of three runners, and Ishbel, Teri, and myself quickly agreed we’d run as a team.  We ‘creatively’ went by the team name ‘Pink and Brown’ because Teri’s surname is ‘Brown’, and combining bits of my surname (the letter ‘P’), and Ishbel’s surname (‘ink’) created ‘pink’.  And yes, I am aware this sounds a bit rude.  There was a fancy dress element to this race, and we had kind of hoped that:

a.) nobody else would bother, or
b.) people would really get behind our creativity.

Sadly, there was a fabulous team of cockatoos (feathered limbs and everything), as well as kilted and wigged runners, so despite our monumental effort, we didn’t take away the fancy dress prize with this (sidenote: Teri did not own anything brown, so we improvized):


L-R: Ishbel (pink), me (&), Teri (brown)

Although the relay was originally advertised as a 3k loop through trails in Hazelhead park, we were warned the distance would be closer to 4k, and that although it would start on road, we would soon be galivanting around the trails.  I was the first leg of our team, so I lined up with all of the (ridiculously tall, lean, and athletic looking) club runners, and a few other people that had been suckered into this run like me.  After a, “Ready – go!” we were off, and for about 10 seconds I was trailing the back of the gazelle-esque (totally a legitimate word) pack of runners before my lungs and legs begged for forgiveness, and I settled into a more reasonable pace.

I kept telling myself it would be over soon, just don’t slow down, and being on Ronnie’s tail gave me the motivation to stop myself from slacking (and he was also an exceedingly useful navigational tool).  Being familiar with the trails in and around the park meant that I knew when I was close to the finish, and I picked up before closing in on Teri.  We were told that one part or another of our body must ‘make contact’ with our team mate’s during the handover (as there were no batons), so with a literal run-up, I gave Teri a very spirited slap on the right butt cheek, and she went flying off!  I would just like to mention that I got excellent purchase on her backside with the palm of my hand, and it was a truly satisfying slap.  In fact, I believe that added propulsion is what helped her overtake one of the other team’s runners!

Once Teri was in sight, Ishbel geared up for the final leg, during which Teri and I enjoyed the crisps and water on offer to finishers.  At one point we had entertained the idea of being the first all female team to finish, but as Ishbel came gliding into the finish, we settled with second.  Still, there were no ill-feelings towards any of the winning teams:

L-R: Naomi, Teri, Ishbel, me (squatting so Ishbel's head would be in view), Ronnie, Stu

L-R: Naomi, Teri, Ishbel, me (squatting so Ishbel’s head would be in view, which in hindsight was unnecessary), Ronnie, Stu

After the relay, Ishbel and Teri headed off, and I joined Ronnie and our friend Susan for a ‘long run’, which consisted of an additional 13.3 miles through the outskirts of Aberdeen.

We saw a lot of livestock.

We saw a lot of livestock.

When we made it back to Ronnie’s car, Susan opted to run the 3 extra miles home, and I opted for a lift to the supermarket for key ingredients to the snack I had been craving all day:

Sweet potato fries (except they're baked).

Sweet potato fries (except they’re baked).

And now?  Another voyage to the grovery store for a couple of ingredients for some tuna patties for dinner, and hopefully a cold root beer (or two).  Seven weeks until Loch Ness marathon, which means 5 weeks until blissful taper time!

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


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.

Runner’s Knees Virtual 10 Miler

Time: 1:51:52

Medal: Yes (to be delivered)

It's the personal touch that makes them.

It’s the personal touch that makes them.

A quick word of advice: If you plan on running 10 miles at 9:30 in the morning with a friend, going to another friend’s birthday/leaving do, staying out until the wee hours, drinking, and karaoke are not a good idea.  Especially if you have been sick for the last two weeks.

I was rudely awoken on Saturday morning by light coming through the gap in the curtains (and an impending sense of bowel discomfort) at about 6 am.  Despite having brushed my teeth thoroughly a mere few hours before, my mouth felt as though it was stuffed with cotton balls.  I attempted to get some more sleep, but the grim reality was that I lay in bed dozing on and off for another hour an a half, before my alarm informed me it was time to start getting ready.

I hauled myself to the bathroom to realize that, as usual, I had failed to remove my ‘drinking’ make-up before going to bed.  I would like to clarify that I rarely drink, but while I try and be sensible (I only had 3 pints last night), I am a super cheap drunk, and small amounts of alcohol have profound effects on me (willingly performing a duet of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ with a virtual stranger).  Anyway, as you may be able to tell, I was not enthusiastic about the prospect of doing exercise this morning:

And yes, I am sitting on my toilet in my underwear.

And yes, I am sitting on my toilet in my underwear.

Still, at least I would have some wonderful company for this ‘race‘ in the form of Danielle, who had agreed to drive to Aberdeen and set a new distance PR as she works on increasing her distance runs for the Aviemore half marathon in October.  She told me after our run that she was worried that she would slow me down. Ha. Hahaha.  AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  (Spoiler: she was wrong)

I had planned a course on my limited knowledge of a secret trail leading to Hazelhead Park, based on my enormous experience of walking along it.  Once.  While in my head, I knew the general direction I was going, the reality included a lot of backtracking in the first few miles, and educated guesswork (sorry Danielle!).  My heart rate was sky-rocketing, my legs felt like led, I was dizzy, and I felt like I was going to throw up.  By mile 1.

Danielle had mentioned that after about ten minutes she likes to stop and stretch.  I pushed us just that little bit further so we could enjoy the surroundings of Johnston Gardens while we had our break – and I attempted to breathe at a normal rate for a minute.

IMG_20130629_100622After what I felt was a painfully short rest stop, we set off again, continuing uphill (the first half of this ten mile route was on a gentle – but steady – incline) and eventually along the secret trail paths (evidently not actually so secret, as we passed several runners), and finally to Duthie Park.  By mile 3, I was done, and even keeping a pitiful 11:30/mile pace was a real struggle.  I told Danielle I needed to drink something, and ended up at the pavilion in Hazlehead Park, more thrilled than is socially acceptable to find cold cans of 7up.

I had to take a break here, and actually sit on a wall to let my heart rate come back down to a number that didn’t make me think I was suffering from a heart attack, and had my 7up.  Hopeful, we set off again.

Although I was struggling, I knew that the 7up would kick in soon, and the second half was going to be all downhill.  This made me ignore the severe discomfort I was in, as did concentrating on the trails we had found ourselves on that went through the golf course. After 4.5 miles, we turned back, and everything started feeling a bit less horrendous.  Just a bit.

Danielle at the half way point, full of energy and enthusiasm.

Danielle at the half way point, full of energy and enthusiasm.

Me at the halfway point, ready to collapse/cry/vomit.

Me at the halfway point, ready to collapse/cry/vomit.

I thought, for Danielle’s benefit, we should take in not one, not two, but THREE of Aberdeen’s parks during today’s run, so we went back to our starting point, and then further downhill to Duthie Park for a final mile around the grounds there, including a brief jog through the Winter Gardens.

And then, glory be, the entire ordeal was over!  Danielle had set a new distance PR, and I was still breathing (heavily).

We walked back up to town to buy a can of root beer (essential), and then Danielle was off, because she had only paid for 3 hours of parking, and my pathetic state had meant we used the entire 3 hours.

I had just enough energy to wash myself, and then Grant came around for a couple of hours before his bus to his new home in Glasgow.  I may have blamed him for moving to Glasgow and having his leaving do the previous night for my pain out loud, or I may have just thought it.  Either way, I got the ten miler done, even though it is probably the last thing I felt like doing when I woke up, and at least Sunday’s plan was ‘just a 10k’…