Inverness 1/2 marathon 2014

Time: 2:07:36

Medal:  Yes

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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.

Santa Hustle Half Marathon (Galveston)

Time: 1:58:47

Position: 210/956 

‘Category position’: 7/74 (if my ACTUAL age was considered)

Medal: Yes

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As I was planning to be in Houston for the festive period (potential home invaders: my 6’2″ boyfriend is remaining in Aberdeen), I had scoured Houston Running Calendar for some potential races and discovered that there was a half marathon in Galveston the morning after I was scheduled to arrive.  My friend, Nikki, had signed up as well, and we planned to run it together, just like we did for last year’s Huntsville half marathon.

The UK was being hit by some pretty ferocious winds on the day I left, and I was a little anxious about flying (I am a really shitty flyer).  We were warned by the pilot before we took off for Heathrow from Aberdeen that we were “in for a bumpy ride.”  The dude was not lying.  Upon arrival at Heathrow, I collected my luggage, changed terminal, and checked in for my flight to Houston.  Which was significantly delayed.  It turns out the east side of the US was being hit by a storm system too, so any hopes of experiencing less turbulence was pretty much crapped on about 5 seconds after our (eventual) take-off.  I kid you not, my ass left the seat on more than one occasion during turbulence, and my butt-cheeks were clenched for about 90% of the flight in fear.  I hate flying, have I mentioned that yet?  Add to the mix the guy sitting next to me who kept falling asleep on my shoulder, and the kid in the seat behind me kicking my lower back every few minutes, and you ended up with a bedraggled and exhausted me upon arrival, nearly 4 hours later than anticipated.  And that was before the passport check.  Needless to say, I did not partake in much conversation with my family when we got home, and I finally made it to bed around midnight.

And then my alarm when off at 5:30 in the morning.  My mom, dad, and grandma came with me to Galveston, and I stifled yawns the entire way there.  I met Nikki under a giant inflatable snowman about 15 minutes before the start of the race and she handed over my race pack.  At least, we thought it was my race pack until I realized that I had entered as ‘Rachel Pidutti Williams’, and Nikki had been given the race pack for ‘Rachel Williams’, a 38 year old.  So Rachel, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!  Once changed into our Santa shirt and hat (screw the beard), we headed to the start line:

(Photo stolen from Nikki)

(Photo stolen from Nikki)

This was Nikki’s first half marathon since she had her (adorable) kid, and she was aiming for sub-2, which kind of worried me because this was meant to be part of my taper, but she was determined, so I was happy to bust a gut at her side.  We had unknowingly lined up in the ‘walking’ corral – probably because we shuffled up to the back of the crowd close to the start – and admired the effort some of the runners had put into their festive look:

Apparently he had a brother who was dressed the same.

Apparently he had a brother who was dressed the same.

About 5 minutes after the first group had left, we were running, and I was huffing and puffing pretty quickly only to realize we were charging out at an 8:00/mile pace.  To risk burning out completely, we slowed down a bit, though it seemed pretty comfortable maintaining an 8:30-8:50/mile pace for the first half of the race.

The course heads towards the beach, and to my dismay, you started with an out and back along the beachfront which wasn’t too dissimilar to Aberdeen beach – the most uninspiring place to run in the world.  Nikki and I both told ourselves that we were lucky this bit was near the beginning because it would be pretty soul sucking if it were to appear at the end.  Ha.

After the first out and back we continued onto another out and back in the opposite direction along – you guessed it – the coast.  It was warm and muggy (95% humidity – delightful), and the Santa hat had by this point fused to my soggy head.  We stopped to walk through every water station, but ignored the cookie/candy stops because neither of us were really interested in eating anything.

Somewhere between mile 8 and 9, Nikki was starting to struggle.  She felt like she was going to throw up, and running was not helping her situation.  Since we had made good time in the first half of the race, we had a little time to take back and still finish sub-2, but as we went further, she was feeling more and more sick.  She kept telling me to go ahead, but I refused to leave her until eventually she went off to the side because she thought she was going to throw up just after the 12 mile marker, and told me to go.

Seeing as it wouldn’t be long for her to finish, I went ahead, making it my mission for at least one of us to get a sub-2 finish.  I ran my fastest mile of the day – and saw my HR elevate significantly – in 8:21, and crossed the line in 1:58:47, feeling a bit like I was going to puke myself.  The humidity, the exertion in that last mile, the lack of sleep, and the jet lag all seemed to hit me at once, and I walked off to the side to drink some water and let my heart rate come down.  Nikki came in soon after in 2:01:25, and we celebrated the finish with a beer at 10:30 am (the bars had opened early for the occasion).

There was also a Santa and a snowman.

There was also a Santa and a snowman.

There was talk of an official after party, but we couldn’t find it, and we both had to get back to our respective homes, so we snapped a couple of photos of the ‘scenery’, and had a quick chat with my family before heading our separate ways.  After a Taco Bell stop (don’t judge me), I got home and showered, and managed to last until about 6pm, when I ‘power napped’ for 3 and a half hours before meeting an old school friend and his girlfriend for a beer and salted pretzel.

I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep as quickly as I did when my head hit the pillow on Sunday night.  I didn’t even feel guilty when I blew off my run this morning to relax for an extra hour in bed.  Bliss.

Glen Clova 1/2 marathon 2013

Time: 2:09:52 [Results here]

Medal: No, but ‘back by popular demand’ was the Glen Clova 1/2 mug!

IMG_20131109_162400 Ronnie, Susan, and I were the only ones we knew who had managed to secure a place for this race.  Entries opened, and all 350 spaces were snapped up before the end of the day (Susan managing to bag space 349!).  Although all three of us had had a less than stellar week (Susan: exhausted, Ronnie: swollen leg, me: limping on sore foot), the forecast of clear skies and no wind, coupled with the fact that we missed out on this race last year, meant that we were committed to finishing, even if it meant walking over the line.

Susan and I were picked up outside my flat at 9:30, and we began the scenic drive towards the Glen Clova hotel and community hall, where registration, the start, and the finish were.  Although mildly alarmed by the temperature reading from Ronnie’s car (-1) and clear evidence of frozen things outside, we were hopeful that the sun would melt anything too treacherous/heat the place up a bit before the race start at 12.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by an array of club vests (translation: fast people), and felt a bit out of our depth when during registration as we listened to people telling their friends they would “take it easy today with a 7 minute mile pace.”  Susan and I agreed on a more modest 10 minute mile pace to jog along to, and left our music in Ronnie’s car.

Ronnie fervently checking out his race goodies outside the hall.

Ronnie fervently checking out his race goodies outside the hall.

About 10 minutes before the start, we emerged from the warm comforts of Ronnie’s car and made our way to the start, making ourselves comfortable near the back.  It’s not a chip-timed race, but quite frankly we were all just keen to get around in one piece.  The views in the valley were stunning, but I couldn’t help noticing a rectangular patch of trees which I referred to as the ‘Hollywood strip’, for reasons I doubt I have to explain.  I forgot to take a photo, but got one at a crappier angle as we drove home:

Hollywood Strip

Hollywood Strip

The starting horn went, and there was a mad rush of vested runners eager to get on their way.  It was kind of a relief that the three of us had decided to stick together, but as usual, Ronnie was picking up the pace (my Garmin was saying 8:xx minute miles at the beginning there), so Susan and I let him drift ahead, while I stopped at the top of a hill to readjust my sock, which was uncomfortably bunched up under the sole of my right foot.

Don’t let the sunshine in the pictures fool you; it was cold.  After having such a freakishly nice summer, it was a bit of a shock to the system breathing in icy gulps of air and running on stiff, unresponsive feet.  Frost does make things very pretty, however, so we opted to stop again (yes, I stopped twice in 2 miles, I was taking the ‘easy’ bit very seriously) to photograph some nature and stuff: IMG_20131109_152440The first 6 miles seemed to take forever, despite quality company in the form of Susan, and it was full of undulations; no major hills that made you swear under your breath, but enough to be a bit of a struggle.  A woman who had run the course before assured us that the way back was much nicer.  She did not lie.

At about mile 7, Susan and I were both feeling tired, but enjoying the race.  The miles started ticking by more quickly, and in my opinion, the views are nicer on the way back (bigger hills in the distance).  We even managed to spot some para-gliders coming off the hills ahead of us!

Taken from Ronnie's car on the drive home.  Tiny dots = para-gliders

Taken from Ronnie’s car on the drive home. Tiny dots = para-gliders

The course on the way back

The course on the way back

Around mile 8, out of some shrubbery to our right, popped Ronnie, who had been relieving himself (or burrowing a hole for warmth, who knows, it was freezing).  He said he was enjoying the race, and that he felt good, but he was starting to tire.  We slowly pulled away, but he managed to stay about 30 seconds behind us for the remainder of the race.

From about 10 miles, Susan and I were both pretty fatigued.  The course became a bit more undulating here, and we felt no shame in walking the inclines to save enough energy to look as though we were comfortable in front of the spectators at the end.  I mean, that’s important stuff there.  We crossed the line together in just under 2:10, and we were pleased enough with that.  Ronnie came in shortly afterwards, and we headed into the Glen Clova Hotel for some warmth, and to my delight, hot lentil soup and bread rolls!

Keen to get home before sunset (about 4:15 in Scotland this time of year – I know, it’s gross), we bundled into the car to finish our soup:

I don't know what I liked more: the flavour or the warmth!

I don’t know what I liked more: the flavour or the warmth!

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The keen-eyed people might notice the temperature is now a SCORCHING 2.5 degrees….

We only slowed at one point, so that I could snap a photo for two reasons:

1. mildy amusing place-name
2. atmosphere

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Today (Sunday), my foot is feeling a little tender, but I’m not limping like I have been for most of the past week, which annoyingly has meant a slight setback for my “get back into better shape” plan.  Hopefully, though, I’m back on track from this weekend after a half marathon, and an 8 mile recovery run on the trails today.

Aviemore half marathon 2013

Time: 2:02:57 [RESULTS HERE]

Medal: Yes (though I’m told it’s the same as last year’s)

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Not every race can be a good one.

I spent all of last week feeling disgusting, and full of a nasty cold.  Kids were dropping like flies at work, and all I wanted to do was have some alone time with my bed, but I can’t help but worry that people will think I’m just being lazy by phoning in sick during the last week of term, right before a 2 week break, so I went to work, and felt like crying.

I had considered DNSing this race.  Despite laying off the gym/running during the week, and resting when I could, I was nowhere near 100% when I woke up on Saturday, but had blind faith that the marginal improvement I felt after the first good night’s sleep in days was a sign that I’d be feeling fabulous on Sunday (I did not actually believe this, but I hoped).  Also, I had told nearly ten people who were also staying in the youth hostel that I would cook for them, so I kind of felt obligated to go.  So I did.

Saturday morning, Ronnie picked up myself and Suzy, who was running the 10k, and off we went to Aviemore, arriving mid-afternoon.  When we arrived at the hostel there was no record of my booking, but the guy on reception gave me a key and said we’d work it out.  Eventually, Ronnie found his booking confirmation e-mail (he had booked for me), and everything was fine.  Apart from the fact that I was in the male wing of the hostel (since that was the only place where there were free rooms), and my room was situated right next to the men’s bathroom.  Nice.  The silver lining here is that I had the entire dorm (4 beds) to myself.

Before heading to registration, I whipped up some banana bread dough (I had 3 beyond-eating bananas at home, so brought them with me), and dumped it in the oven with a note saying I’d be back to take it out in an hour or so.  Ronnie, Suzy, Shona +1, and I walked the 5 minutes down the road to the hotel where registration was.   We got our numbers (I was 5, obviously very keen to enter), and then queued for the shirts, which were £6 each.  It was pretty busy, and they had a few things to keep people busy (a quiz, a couple of charity stalls, whiskey tasting, a pop-up sale, free pasta), but before we knew it, our hour was up, and we went back to the hostel for the banana bread.

By this point, more of our informal group had arrived in Aviemore, so we decided to get dinner started.  There were a lot of other runners staying in the hostel, so the kitchen was a hive of activity, but we managed pasta with a choice of sauces, and a massive pot of chicken, broccoli, mushroom, and white wine risotto.  Suzy, Susan and I decided we’d share the leftover white wine, which amounted to approximately 20ml each.  Cheers:

Wild times.

Wild times.

I believe Ronnie was relaxing in the common room while we were slaving away in the kitchen because, as he put it, “I drive, you cook.”  Several people did offer to help, but after prep, there wasn’t too much to do until we served up. Either everyone is very good at lying, or I am a passable cook, because all the food was eaten apart from the extra bread/garlic bread, which was graciously accepted from some of the other runners dining at the same time.  Warm banana loaf and Suzy’s home made rocky road made up the desert, and everyone was pretty satiated. Slowly, people filtered off to their dorms, but Suzy and Susan swung by mine and we ended up sitting and having very rude conversations until about midnight, when we decided it would probably be wise to get some sleep.  And sleep would have been nice, but was interrupted by men using the toilet, and then at about 3 in the morning, by a troupe of drunk gentlemen falling about the hall. Somehow, I managed to haul myself out of bed in the morning, and get myself dressed.  I felt no worse than the day before, but no better.  I met everyone for breakfast, then we made our way to the buses, which took us a short walk away from the start. It.  Was.  Freezing.  We bounced on the spot and huddled with familiar faces since we had a bit of a wait until the start.  I look positively thrilled (and compos mentis) to be there: 1379784_551254847110_944063357_n Thankfully I managed to pull my face together (kind of) for a photo with Danielle, who was running her first half marathon: IMG_20131013_135948 Thankfully there was a bag drop, and the organizers seemed pretty casual about keeping it open up to the last minute, so we huddled around in our extra layers as long as we could before the half marathoners had to begin arranging ourselves by our time predictions. The pre-crossing-the-start-line shuffle commenced, and then we were running.  The course starts out on trails that weave through the forest, so it was very pretty, but we were focusing on putting our feet places where big rocks were not.  I didn’t feel great, and my heart rate was quite high for the speed I was running, but it didn’t take a genius to work out that any hopes I had of getting an impressive (for me) time were pretty much obliterated.  Especially when we reached the first hill where I saw my heart rate creep up to 185.  So less than two miles into the race, I was done.  I bid farewell to Ronnie and Susan, and tucked in behind the walkers.

Going solo.

Going solo.

The first half of the race is a blur of gorgeous scenery (especially when the mist started lifting), and moderate discomfort.  At the halfway point there was an ambulance, and I actually slowed down and considered pulling out, but I remembered Ronnie saying the night before that from 7 miles, it’s all downhill, so chose to chance it. I was overtaken more times than I care to remember, but apart from that initial walk break on the hill, I managed to keep running (I use this term loosely) until the end, bar the water stops for a few seconds, because who can actually drink out of cups when they’re running?!

About a mile from the end.

About a mile from the end.  No idea why it looks like I’m having a wonderful time.

Special thanks goes out to the song ‘House of the Rising Sun’, which I pretty much played on repeat because I wanted a soundtrack to my despair, and I crossed the finish line without a smile on my face, but relieved.  Mostly that I had managed to avoid a heart attack. Not everyone’s race was a disaster.  Suzy got a PB on her 10k.  Susan PB’ed during the half, as did her mum, June, and Shona, and Danielle came in under her time target for her first half.  Though I caught him with 2 miles to go, Ronnie ran the half comfortably, which is one of the first times since his ankle injury nearly a year ago, and though he beats himself up about not getting the times he used to, I’m confident that he’s getting closer.

So basically, this race only sucked ass for me.  Purely for comparison, let’s just take a look at Shona’s post race, and then my own:

Shona: smiling, elated, loving life.

Shona: smiling, elated, loving life.

Me: hating myself.

Me: hating myself.

After the run, we went back to the hostel, because the nice man on reception had told us we could use the showers there when we were done (I may have been a bit forceful with my asking).  Apparently the towels are £2 to hire (I am an idiot and forgot to bring my towel), but the guy must have taken pity on me, because he told me there was no charge.  Suzy and I got to know each other pretty well in the double shower cubicle, and that warm blast of water was bliss.  Then we all waited for everyone else to clean up in the seating area, finishing off the banana bread in the process.

I really loved the course today, but my body let me down.  Originally this was going to be a PB attempt (and after running the course, I wish it had been!), but that was before I decided to run Loch Ness with a sled, and before some child infected me with their gross disease at school (I don’t even care if they’re blameless (they’re not)).  I would love to return next year to do the course justice, but right now I would love for my cajun chicken to finish cooking so I can eat my dinner, and go to bed – where I clearly belong.

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:

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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!

 

Isle of Skye half marathon 2013

Time: 2:00:18

Position: 233/377

Medal: No.  But we did get an engraved shot glass, a Talisker miniature, a canvas bag (from Skye Batiks), a cotton t-shirt, a mars bar, and a tray bake from a local company!

Isle of Skye half marathon shot glass

Isle of Skye half marathon shot glass

I had originally signed up to this race because Ian has told me several times that we need to go to the Isle of Skye together because it is one of the prettiest places in Scotland (and has a fair number of munros to climb!).  Grand plans unfolded about what we would do, where we would stay, when to leave, but all of them failed to materialize, as last Wednesday, Ian was anticipating his staff BBQ on the Friday afternoon when I was planning to have left for Skye.

Thankfully, Ronnie had also signed up to this race after some gentle persuasion, and had managed to get a half day at work.  When the bell sounded the end of the school day, I hauled my stuff out of a cupboard in my classroom and dumped it into Ronnie’s awaiting chariot.  And thus began a near 5 hour journey through the Scottish countryside in the glorious sun!

En route to Skye

En route to Skye

Stretching our legs near Loch Carron

Stretching our legs near Loch Carron

Setting sun over Loch Carron (at about 8pm)

Setting sun over Loch Carron (at about 8pm)

Sidenote: the sun makes me extremely happy.

Through twisty, single lane roads that cut through trees, we came to an opening and saw the impressive mountains on Skye beyond the also impressive bridge to the island.  Any excuse to stretch our legs again:

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As we had left it a bit late, Ronnie and I had managed to book a bed each at a hostel in Broadford, about 30 minutes drive away from the half marathon start in Portree, and we arrived at the hostel just before 9, quickly going to our respective rooms to make our beds and dump our belongings before descending upon the self-catered kitchen where I whipped up some delicious pesto pasta (and Ronnie cremated a garlic bread).  As usual, I overestimated my hunger, and made way too much, though Ronnie fought the good fight and put away three helpings. And two donuts.  Ridiculous.

After dinner, we decided to take advantage of the board games, and settled down to a game of Scrabble.  After the game was under way, Ronnie realized he was playing an English teacher, and I proceeded to kick his ass.  While midges dined on any exposed flesh.  For those not familiar with midges, imagine mosquitoes that are the size of a few grains of sand, but just as hungry and annoying.

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Sidenote: ‘pee’ is one of Ronnie’s words.

The game ended around midnight, so we thought it would probably be a good idea to go to bed.  I tried to get into bed as quietly as possible for the benefit of the sleeping women in my room, but navigating onto a creaky top bunk with no ladder did not endear me to them, I would imagine.  Nevertheless, I eventually got settled, and fell asleep pretty quickly.

I feel it is important to mention at this point that there is a hospital to the rear of the hostel.  With a helipad.

I felt my phone vibrate, and since I am so in tune with my alarm going off, since I have an unnatural fear of being late for work, I was up.  But the room was still dark.  I looked at my phone to discover it was 3:14am, and the vibration was a message from Ronnie saying, simply:

wtf?!

Which mirrored my thoughts exactly.  Why was Ronnie messaging me this at ridiculous o’ clock?  He continued to explain that there was a Sea King helicopter and an ambulance outside his window, and did I not hear the ungodly noise outside?  Well I did now, and I also noticed the curtains billowing in what I imagine was the draft of some monster propellers, but I found it a bit galling that I was sleeping peacefully through that until my phone vibrated twice.  I made this clear to Ronnie later in the day, but he was amazed I’d managed to sleep through the noise and the fact that the hostel was practically shaking.  Twice.  Apparently another chopper landed and took off a couple of hours later.  I have zero recollection.

At a more civilized hour (6:50), I got up for a shower, got dressed, stripped my bedding, and took everything downstairs for breakfast.  Ronnie joined me later and we set off for Portree.  I was unenthusiastic about the low, hanging cloud that obscured the summits of the mountains we had seen as we drove in last night.  Thankfully, as we neared Portree, the cloud began to give way to blue sky and beautiful views like this:

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Once at the community center, we registered and picked up our t-shirt before heading to where we had parked to get ready.  I was horrified when I realized what my race number was – I was obviously extremely keen when entries opened…

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Just before the start at 10:30, the runners were assembled and piped to the start line.  The rare Scottish sun was actually creating quite a pleasant heat, which delighted me, but apparently nobody else.  Ronnie and I had bumped into David and Lesley earlier, and we all started together.

Ronnie and I had decided to run the race together, since he is still getting his speed back.  David ran alongside us, waiting for some of the runners to spread out before shooting off (he is considerably faster than me), and we told him we’d see him at the finish.  However, from an already uphill start, we took a sharp left turn to be faced with a very steep incline.  David looked down at his watch and declared, “.13 miles in and I no longer care about time.”  Looks like we would have company.

Skye half marathon elevation.  Source: http://www.skyehalfmarathon.org.uk/map.shtml

Skye half marathon elevation. Source: http://www.skyehalfmarathon.org.uk/map.shtml 

Ronnie, who had pretty much memorized the course elevation, told us what to expect every step of the way, much to our horror.  David and I were both firmly in the ‘I don’t want to know’ camp when it came to upcoming inclines.  Lesley, David’s other half, caught up to us as we walked through the first water station.  As David’s revised goal was to ‘finish ahead of Lesley’, we took off again over the rolling roads in the sunshine.  Lesley passed us as we walked through the second water stop at mile 5, and we ran with her for about half a mile before pulling away again.  That was the last time we saw her until the finish.

Apparently this was taken at the 1 mile marker.  We look pretty relaxed.

Apparently this was taken at the 1 mile marker. We look pretty relaxed.

The third water stop was at mile 7, and we took a right turn marking our journey towards the finish line as well as the beginning of a significantly long climb.  After nearly a mile, David and I had started to pull away from Ronnie, but I was feeling uncharacteristically strong, especially for having covered such a hilly 8 miles, and David said that despite our leisurely run so far, it was not entirely unseasonable to think we could finish in under two hours.

“Well, if Ronnie is right,” I said, “then we have another 3 miles of this hill to go before starting our descent into Portree.”
“Nah,” said David, “that can’t be right.”
“It is,” came a woman’s voice up ahead.  “It is.”

We charged on, becoming slightly more aggressive with our pace, and every time we reached what looked like the top of the hill, higher hills loomed on the horizon.  Finally, we reached the top, and a very enthusiastic woman had parked her car at the side of the road to blare out bagpipe music, and we were greeted with a spectacular view of the Cuillin Mountains poking above one of the few clouds in the sky. And the arguably more spectacular view of two miles of downhill towards Portree!

David, who had by this point starting referring to himself as my new pacer, started picking up the pace, and I tried my best to stick to his luminous shirt.  We had been passing quite a few people in the last few miles, and we continued to pick off runners as we flew downhill (I saw 7:07 as my pace at one point) passing mile 12.  As I saw the 13 mile marker up ahead, David shot off, and I started pulling highly humorous faces I’m sure, as I made it my goal to pass the three people ahead before the finish line.  I was only deterred by the very enthusiastic kids lining the final 200 meters wanting high fives, before pushing up the final uphill section over the finish line.

Looking slightly less relaxed than at mile 1.

Looking slightly less relaxed than at mile 1.

I came in 18 seconds over the 2 hour mark, but considering this is touted as one of Scotland’s toughest half marathons, I’m pretty pleased with that.  Ronnie came in a couple of minutes after I did, followed by Lesley a couple of minutes later.

IMG_20130609_121241We all enjoyed plenty of water and our pretty impressive (canvas) goody bags!

Canvas goody bag from the Isle of Skye half marathon

Canvas goody bag from the Isle of Skye half marathon

IMG_20130608_133147Ronnie and I grabbed our stuff from the car and took advantage of the showers at the center (because a 5 hour journey back to Aberdeen would not have been pleasant in our current state), and then made a donation for a 10 minute sports massage, where I learned that we had been exceptionally lucky with the weather.

Cleaned, pummelled, and happy, we set off for Aberdeen, where we stumbled upon Eilean Donan castle (which was used in the film ‘Highlander’), and an RAF Mountain Rescue chopper (of a similar size to the beast that woke up everyone but me a mere 12 hours earlier, Ronnie tells me) getting ready to take off:

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

RAF Mountain Rescue chopper

RAF Mountain Rescue chopper

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Overall, the Skye half marathon was excellent value for money, everyone was friendly, the weather was fantastic (for me, David and Ronnie did not seem so keen on the heat), the views were stunning, and I obviously have to come back next year to break 2 hours. This was easily one of my favourite Scottish races.

Loch Leven half marathon 2013

Time: 1:59:01

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

The back of the t-shirt

The back of the t-shirt

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

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

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

There was not enough room on the boat.

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

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

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

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

Proof.

Proof.

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

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

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

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

I was ordered to 'smile!'

I was ordered to ‘smile!’

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

Mile 1 – 9:11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mile 7 – 8:40

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

Mile 8 – 9:33

Mile 9 – 9:45

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

Miles 10 – 13.1 – ???

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

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

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

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

Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon 2013

Time: 2:05:40

Position: 2209/4361

Gender Position: 783/2269

Medal: Yes

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I signed up to this race KNOWING that is was to be held one week after the Paris marathon.  I know that there are a lot of people that run back to back marathons, or ultra marathons, and they are just peachy with that kind of thing, but a single marathon definitely still kicks my ass – or, more appropriately, quads.  Of course, having seen last year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll medals, I didn’t want to wait until 2014 until I had one of my own.  So I guess the lesson I have learnt from this whole experience is that impatience makes you do really dumb things.

After my Parisian mini-break, I enjoyed a couple of days of gentle walking and retail therapy (and finishing off the French treats I had brought back).  I also did some yoga, some weights, and a bit or cardio, and even went on a 5 mile run with a group of friends to test the legs.  Verdict: they were tighter than a nun’s asshole and I felt fatigued after about 200 yards. I was already not looking forward to this race.

On Saturday, Ian and I drove down to Edinburgh as we were staying with his sister’s family.  I had breakfast before we left, but we didn’t stop for lunch, thinking we would have something in Edinburgh.  What actually happened is that we dropped off our stuff, then went exploring Crichton Castle because, for a change, the weather was mild and the sun was out!  Plus, you can just drive to this kind of thing in Scotland.  This did involve a bit of walking, but it was an enjoyable visit:

Approaching Crichton Castle

Approaching Crichton Castle

Looking down onto the courtyard

Looking down onto the courtyard

Toddler included for scale

Toddler included for scale

There were some amazing views

There were some amazing views

And some interesting modifications...

And some interesting modifications…

By the time we got back to the flat, I had to head off to meet Jennifer and Darren (and eventually, Claudia) at a local pub as they were also running RnR and had suggested that we all make an effort to meet in real life as we had previously only spoken online.  I told Ian that if I wasn’t back for dinner, he should check all the alleys and ditches near the pub for my mangled corpse, though I was fairly certain that I was not going to meet a serial killer or a rapist (I was correct).  We had a beer and chatted about races we had all done/were planning to do (and I bought some crisps to appease my stomach’s growls), before everyone had to head off for dinner.

Despite an uncomfortable stomach at a previous Edinburgh race after a curry, I did not hesitate to destroy a North Indian garlic chilli chicken dish (and another beer), before relaxing and digesting for a while before bed.  As I drifted off to sleep, I thought how nice it would be to not have to wake up early and run 13 miles.  I was still not looking forward to this race.

The fact that the wind was howling and blowing the window in our room so much that it was making some pretty remarkable noises that woke us up several times throughout the  night did not make for the most peaceful sleep, and when my alarm went off I was definitely not looking forward to this race.

I forced some shredded wheat and banana down, got dressed, and glanced miserably at the rain beating off of the kitchen window.  I think you’re getting the point by now, but I feel it is necessary to emphasize that I did not want to be running this race.

Dressed, wearing my plastic poncho from Paris, and reluctant, I set off for Holyrood Park.  The wind had knocked over a lot of the road works signs on the road overnight, and had not let up.  At times, it felt like I might be blown off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, and with my head dipped, I pushed into the wind until I arrived at the start area, shivering, wet, and unenthusiastic.

Screenshot 2013-04-18 at 23.33.36

Claudia, Susan, and some others were also meant to be running, and once I’d spotted them, and taken another pre-race snap, we tried to join fellow runners packed into the marquees like sardines, but there really wasn’t any room inside to shelter ourselves from the wind and rain.

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We huddled together, trying to make light of the situation, but we were all freezing and keen to get this thing over and done with.  We eventually heard an announcement (but not actually what it said) and assumed we should probably make our way to the start.  Amazingly, there was a momentary break in the rain, so I pulled out my phone and tried to take a couple of photos.  Unfortunately, my artistic skills have been somewhat hindered by three facts:

  1. I’m wearing gloves and my hands are shaking
  2. My phone is in a ziplock bag
  3. I can’t actually see the screen

Please ignore part of my finger in the crowd shot, but I have included it because the guy in orange’s face pretty much sums up how everyone at the start was feeling:

At the start of the Edinburgh Rock 'n' Roll half marathon 2103 - we are all super stoked to be here.

At the start of the Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon 2103 – we are all super stoked to be here.

And I promise that Susan is somewhere on the right and smiling for this photo, but you’ll just have to take my word for that:

Part of Claudia, me, none of Susan.

Part of Claudia, me, none of Susan.  Also, when did I develop crows feet?!

While I was chatting to Claudia and Susan, I heard someone say my name.  I turned to my right to see yet another person I ‘knew’ from the void that is the internet, Jane, and then another!  It was a pleasant surprise to just happen upon each other like that, and good to meet in person.  The announcer mentioned something about a ‘slight delay’ (met my my audible groans, much to the hilarity of my company), but shortly after our scheduled start time, we began to set off.  I decided to keep my poncho on.  It was that crappy.

Susan, Claudia and I set off at a reasonably quick pace.  My legs were stiff and sore, but I was so desperate to get some blood pumping to my extremities as soon as possible, and sure enough, after about a mile my fingers started to tingle as feeling returned!  Susan was chasing a PB, and wanted to come in under 2 hours, so she was setting an aggressive pace.  Claudia had just come back from 2 weeks in Panama, and was puffing.  We told Susan to go for it, while we hung back at a handicapped pace, as the sun began to creep through the clouds and create some heat!

Somewhere between miles 2 and 3 (I think, my Garmin decided to be an asshole so was essentially good for telling me that my heart rate was higher that normal) I ditched my poncho, being a bit too optimistic about the weather.  Although we were still being hammered by 37 mph wind (according to RnR’s facebook page), the rain seemed to be lightening up!

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Until we hit the coast.  Then it started hitting us in bitterly cold sheets, and I missed my poncho.  It was around here that I lost Claudia.  I assumed that she had pulled an ‘Inverness‘ on me, but found out later that she was struggling, and had fallen behind.  It was also around here that I knew the rest of the race was going to be really unpleasant. My legs felt like lead, I was out of breath, and I was spending more effort navigating puddles and fighting against the gusts than actually running.  I also knew that this bit was the easy, downhill section, and I would be attacking some pretty hilly terrain on the way back to the finish.

Obviously having a blast.

Obviously having a blast with my linebacker’s neck.

Screenshot 2013-04-16 at 06.44.52The rest of the race is a blur of rain, wind, pain, and a few hardy souls who braved the weather to cheer for the runners with looks of pity.  My legs were done, so I ended up walking most of the hills. Even the growing crowds as we approached the finish line weren’t enough to make me try to save face by speeding up.  I struggled across the finish line and let out a sigh of relief before getting my medal, some water, and finding the man with the foil blankets as my fingers were starting to turn blue.

Glad to be done.

Glad to be done.

And then joining the enormous queue to pick up my t-shirt.  Still, I counted myself lucky that I hadn’t checked any gear, because those lines were even longer!  Lines of foil-wrapped, soggy, shivering runners waiting to collect their stuff was an unfortunate sight, and instead of hanging around to socialize, I started trudging back to Ian’s sister’s where I thawed out in the shower.

I understand that the organizers can’t do anything about the weather, and the fact that the wind speed was, apparently, 37 mph on average, meant that some of the marquees blew over affecting the system at the finish, as well as forcing the concert at the end to be called off as it was deemed too unsafe.  I also get that casual supporters are more likely to not want to stay outside in such miserable conditions.  But being promised a band every mile (I counted 5 in total), I was expecting something a bit grander than what looked like a bunch of hollowed out burger vans with a band you could hear for all of 30 seconds (if they weren’t retuning or taking a break).

My goal for this race from the start was just getting around it in one piece and getting the medal, which is, admittedly, rather fantastic, so I guess I can technically count this as a success, but I am so glad I have two entire weeks before I have another race because my legs absolutely are not in love with me right now.

Run Garioch 1/2 marathon 2013

Time: 2:10:xx (ish)

Medal: Yes (though the same as last year’s)

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Anyone who knows me and regular readers of the blog might be aware, thanks to a few minor complaints here and there, of my intense dislike of the cold.  In case it isn’t clear why I was not looking forward to this race, I would like to clarify that I really do hate cold weather.  Today’s forecast? Freezing with a chance of extra freezing.

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No thank you.

To make it even more difficult to get out of bed this morning, my name didn’t even appear on the online start list.  You see, the really shitty company that was responsible for entries and timing are really shitty (from personal experience), and had wiped a handful of entries from the half marathon, even though they were more than happy to charge us for our place.  On the day, it was also discovered that racetimingsystems had managed to screw up the chip timing, so it was just gun time results for all races!

I had phoned Garioch Sports Centre about the start list issue on Friday, and was told that as long as I brought proof of payment I would be allocated a bib.  What I was not thrilled about, however, was having to wait until after registration closed to receive my bib out of a selection of bibs that had not been picked up, because it meant that I had to hold onto my phone (with a screenshot of my bank statement) and by the time I had my bib there was no time to stash it in Ronnie’s car.  For the record, today I was Jon Bell, and I think I looked rather youthful for someone born in 1974.  An impressive set of moobs, however.

IMG_20130324_150657Despite all of these reasons that made it so, so easy to decide to not bother and stay in bed, there was one nagging reason that stopped me from being such a wimp.  I had promised to run this with my friend Grant, who I had ‘enthusiastically encouraged’ to sign up for his first half marathon with the promise of enjoying the run together.  I sometimes wish people would say ‘no’ to me more often…

Just like last year, there was a lot of squeezing amongst people to get into the main sports hall to register.  Ronnie was the driver for today’s run (of course), and today we were joined by Teri, Rhona, and Mark.  We we all running the half marathon apart from Mark, who had his sights set on the 10k.  After running into several familiar faces/chatting/using the toilet/registering/hanging about to get a bib, we had about 15 minutes before the start of the race.  The four of us, plus Grant (who arrived by bus), made our way outside into the horrendous cold, and then to the starting area.  Did I mention the cold?  Because it was cold.

As my running jacket didn’t fit over the voluminous layers I had chosen to wear to prevent my frozen body from being discovered in a ditch when this freak weather decides to piss off, I had to be more creative with my outfit.  Initially, I had toyed with the idea of wearing a fleece monkey onesie, as it was very cosy, but settled on several thermal layers with a thick (and, as I would discover, quite weighty) Australian rugby jersey.  I stuck with a single pair of thermal tights, one pair of gloves (though I was considering two), plus two buffs, and a very bright woolly knitted hat.

I meant business.

I meant business.

There were one or two smirks at my choice of kit, and probably several runners who thought I was maybe a first timer who would be panting heavily and stripping sweaty layers from my body within the first couple of miles, but can I reiterate that I HATE THE COLD!  I also didn’t look quite so ridiculous when the horn went, and we all found ourself running into a snowy headwind.

Rhona pushed on ahead, as she was spurred on by her recent success (and beasting effort) at the D33 ultra last weekend, but Ronnie, Teri, Grant, and myself stuck together.

The first few miles were fairly uneventful (I’m choosing to omit the extended essay I COULD write on how much the cold was aggravating me, but I think we all get the point now), and we were chugging along at conversation pace fairly happily.  Unfortunately, this did not last, as Ronnie started feeling the strain, and despite the group slowing down to let him keep up, his injury and recent time off regular running were causing him to struggle, and he waved us on.  Not content with this, I urged Teri (who had informed us all the she needed a bathroom stop) to find some shelter and take her time, to allow Ronnie to catch us up.  It also gave me a moment to take a couple of pictures:

Snow, snow, and some snow.

Snow, snow, and some snow.

Looking back at the runners behind us, and Teri having a slash off on the right.

Looking back at the runners behind us, and Teri having a slash off on the right.

Ronnie caught up just as Teri had sorted herself out, and we set off again.  Unfortunately upon starting up again, Grant’s knee began to protest, Ronnie slipped behind again, and then Teri’s knee started acting up.  Overcoming adversity, we plodded onwards (and upwards, and downwards) into the biting wind, and even broke into song halfway through (a tradition I may have to stick to after having more success at mass participation this time round).

The rest of the miles were a bit of a blur, and I started to lose the ability to talk properly (because my mouth was so cold).  My ass also went numb, as did the entire front of my body.  I remember being grateful that the course was altered (for safety reasons) and the two notorious hill sections were cut out of the re-route, and I was pretty pleased when Grant and I passed the 12 mile marker (Teri had gone on ahead), as I was not comfortable with how cold it was.

At this point Grant was really struggling because his knee was hurting pretty badly.  I tried my motivational ‘Nearly there!’ stuff, as well as my tough cop ‘Don’t be such a bitch!’ stuff.  Neither had much of an effect, though, because Grant was pretty determined to get this thing the hell over with all on his own.

Finally, the finish line was in sight, and after a heavy dose of swearing and grunting from the male half of the group, Grant and I crossed the line together, and I left him to bask in the glory of finishing his first half marathon wince, look miserable, and give me the finger.  We found Rhona (who might have secured a PB by a few seconds!), and Teri, and went inside to stretch and take a cheerful group shot before going outside to cheer in Ronnie:

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Once we were all ready, we took our medals, tech shirts, and slightly thawed bodies back to Ronnie’s car in the Morrison’s parking lot, before Rhona, Teri and I raided the bakery section of the supermarket.  Strawberry jam donuts cure everything, for the record.  I nestled into my seat, blasted by the heat and wrapped in a foil blanket, and spent the car journey home regaining feeling in my extremities.

Fuck me, it was cold.