Ythan Challenge 2013

Time: 1:26:25 [RESULTS]

Medal: Yes (and technical t-shirt)

IMG_20130616_145157I remember entering this race back in January on my lunch break, desperate to get in before the spaces inevitably filled up as they did in 2012.  In record time (I think about 2 and a half hours), entries were closed, and I felt smug that I had managed to secure a space.  And then I thought – why have I entered this race again?  Last year I was still in ‘Tough Mudder training mode’, and excited to be doing my first obstacle course style run.  I thought it would be a good training opportunity, and something different.  This year, the realities of scrubbing dried mud off your skin in the lukewarm, post-race shower and trying to salvage the running kit you wore were at the forefront of my mind.  In the week leading up to today, I still questioned why I had been so enthusiastic about entering.

Ronnie (now a regular feature in my posts) picked me up at 9:30, along with one of his work colleagues, and after a trip to the supermarket for breakfast (and an amazing 3 disc cd full of classic rock songs), we picked up Susan and her fiancée Levi, who was amusingly still under the influence after the night before, and thankfully only coming along as support.  Despite the ominous weather forecast for the weekend, the skies were blue, the sun was out, and it was warm.  As always, this makes me happy.

We arrived in Ellon with about half an hour before registration closed, picked up our bibs, had our numbers drawn onto us, and had a final comfort break.  There were quite a few familiar faces about, and we filled the time in before the start by chatting to everyone in the sun.  One of the familiar faces was Teri, who had fractured her foot when she won the Whole Hog Challenge a few weeks back, but refused to accept that she had to rest.  Interesting fact: She is also planning on running a 10k on Tuesday, and a half marathon the following Sunday.

L-R: Susan, me, Teri, and Ronnie before the race

L-R: Susan, me, Teri, and Ronnie before the race

Before we realized it, the first wave had lined up behind the start line.  There were four waves in all, and we were in the third one.  About ten minutes after the first wave had sped off, we were listening to our starting horn go off, and making our way down the grassy field, towards the deep steps, and finally along the river path.  The majority of the Ythan is along trail paths, with sections through mud and through the river Ythan (which is freezing – without fail).

I started off running with Teri and Susan (Ronnie shot ahead), and a couple of miles in, Susan was struggling, so I stayed with her while Teri shot off, only to be seen again at the finish.  Eventually, the two of us caught up with Ronnie, and then I went ahead after the river, which, and I cannot stress this enough, was dreadful.  This is mainly due to the queue of people stuck in the river waiting their turn for the one exit space.

With heavy, boulder filled shoes, I was finally out of the Ythan, but only to zig-zag up and down a muddy hill before the second (and final) plunge.  With the river behind me, I was all smiles, and enjoyed the more technical trail sections of the race (though I got stuck behind some bottlenecking in areas which was a bit of a let down).  The obstacles barely registered (rope net to crawl under, tubes to crawl through, fence to scale, logs to hurdle, and hay bales to get over) as I happily bounded through the flickers of sunlight slicing through the canopy of leaves above.  My pace wasn’t great, but after a hard 6 days of working out, I was having a grand day out.

I heard my Garmin beep at me, and looked down to realize there were only a couple of miles left of the race.  I was amazed that something that I had been dreading all week had passed by so quickly and that I had enjoyed it (apart from a rather spectacular fall on my ass during a steep downhill section)!  I think a lot of credit goes to the weather, in fairness.

Turning back onto the lower field before the finish, I prepared myself for the shittery that the organizers set up after everyone is over the start line as a ‘treat’ at the end.  Sure enough, we had a staircase to run up that took us by the finishing chute, past it, and then back down the hill.  The final slog was pushing back up the steep hill, over a hay bale, through tires (which I fell face-first into), over a final hay bale, and then over the finish line, high-fiving some kids along the way.

Photo: Victoria Shanks

Photo: Victoria Shanks

I caught up with Teri, and we both went to cheer in Ronnie, and then Susan as they navigated the final section.  After a quick bite to eat, it was back to the car for a post race photo before dragging ourselves to the showers to clean up.


Cleaning up involved a lot of violent body scrub action, and a lot of stinging where chaffing had occurred (I’ll spare you the details).  In our fresh clothes, we headed to the food tent: there was a BBQ on the go and a fantastic spread of all sorts of cakes for only 50p each.  I indulged in a slice of cake.  Teri inhaled everything in sight.

Just after prize giving, we went back to the final stretch of the run to wait for the final finishers, Shona, Carol, and Jeananne, to come into sight.  When they did, they were full of cheer, helping each other over the penultimate hay bale, but less cheerful when they realized they had one more in store:


Although I did enjoy today, I am firmly over mud runs and obstacle courses.  Will I try and get a place next year?  Who knows.  There’s something that makes me want to enter a race if there’s such a limit on availability, and I have a feeling that, like in January, my panic at missing out will override my sanity.

More Ultra Flattering Running Photos

As if I needed to even say it, but the title of this post is laced with sarcasm, because I look like ass in these photos.  But there was a totally buff chick running the Fraserburgh 10k on Sunday, and she too looks like ass in her running photos (not included), so I have hope that I may actually be classed as ‘attractive’ in some circles.  Behold!

Fraserburgh 10k photos: Graeme Clark

Ythan Challenge Photos: source

Fraserburgh 10k. I’m 215, and Grant is behind Mister 130.

Attempting, and failing, a photogenic ‘wave’.  Please note the weird bulge on my right (your left) tit is actually my mp3 player, not a strange growth.

Running up that hill…. no problems.

failed wave #2


Also for your viewing plesure, a few photos from the Ythan Challenge on the 17th of June.  First up, a shot of me conquering the rope netting and making it my bitch.  Seriously, I had to wait in line for ages waiting for people to pathetically scramble over this thing, even going two at a time.  I felt I was particularly skilled at maneuvering over this particular obstacle.

I’m the chick on the right, showing the rope who’s boss and getting all the admiration from the crowds.

And at the end, I obviously had to show the woman ahead of me who the real champion was, by sprinting past her like an enraged hippo.  Here she is congratulating me while I attempt not to puke from the exertion.

Glad not to be experiencing a heart attack.

And one final photo.  Kynon handing me water as I’m sure I gasped something about needing something to wash down ibuprofin with because my shin was dying.

Almost drugged.

Anyway, my shins are still pretty sore during any real exertion, so I’m obviously stoked about the Stonehaven Half Marathon this Sunday.  I think I’m going to treat it as a long run, as I’m scheduled for 13 on that day anyway, and I’m going to unburden myself with the pressure of racing for time by trying to stick to my ‘marathon pace’, which is anywhere between 9:15/mile and 9:30/mile (I’m guessing).  The medal at the end will just be an added bonus for finishing a very social training run.  And the beer will just be me celebrating the fact that I have 7 weeks off work for the summer holidays!

Yeehaw, bitches!

Ythan Challenge 2012

Time: 1:19:49

Position: 222/432 (Gender Position: 40, Category Position: 25)

Medal: Yes

I originally signed up to this race as a ‘test run’ for Tough Mudder Scotland, which is now 4 weeks away.  I also liked the idea of a multi-terrain race speckled with obstacles – – and mud!  Unfortunately, after my LETR (longest EVER training run) last Sunday, my calf has been giving me jip, so much so, that I had only run 3 gentle miles this week.  I was a bit apprehensive about running as I:

  1. Didn’t want to be in crap loads of pain afterwards, and
  2. Didn’t want to injure myself further.

Clearly I am not often described as sensible, and so armed with 4 meters of bandage wrap from Superdrug, I got ready for the race.  I had stayed over at my friend Grant’s house the night before, as he lives in Ellon close to The Meadows Sports Centre, so I also had a delightful rendition of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ courtesy of his 8 month old niece’s sing along book.  Way to get PUMPED!  Here is what I looked like before he 12k course:

Clean. Dry. White bandage.

The Meadows Sports Centre had plenty of room to get changed in, and plenty of toilets so that queuing wasn’t so bad (although this could have been down to limited entry numbers).  After picking up my t-shirt, timing chip and race bib from registration, I mulled around with my friend Grant, who unfortunately missed the small window between registration opening and entries filling up.  I also chatted with Ronnie, from the gym, Niall, Rhona, and Kynon (pronounced Kin-non, not K-eye-non, as I initially thought – pronunciation really doesn’t come across well on Twitter!).

We were to set off in 4 different waves, the colour of your race bib indicating the wave you were allocated to.  Wave 1 was orange, Wave 2 was yellow, Wave 3 was blue, and Wave 4 was green.  I was in the blue wave, and a few minutes after the yellow wave set off, we were being counted down to start.

I set off at a reasonable pace, mainly because I wanted to make sure running on my sore (I’d rate it 6.5/10 for pain at the start) calf was not crippling.  After about a minute, the pain numbed into a dull ache, and I decided to ignore it for the rest of the race.  Just as I settled into my stride the pack came to an abrupt halt.  “The first of many,” a fellow runner commented, throwing me an eyeball roll.  We were waiting for runners to navigate single file down some steps to a riverside path.

Once down, it was good to get moving again, but the narrow path made it difficult to overtake, so I guess I was successful at not shooting off too quickly!  Eventually the path widened out, and, despite being branched in the face by a gentleman directly in front of me (who laughed when he heard my ‘Oooof’ as my face got owned), this section was rather uneventful.  The gentlemen did say it was unintentional, but had it been his son, it would be another story!

After crossing a bridge and running/sliding through the woods, things started to get interesting.  I can’t remember the exact order of the obstacles, but there were plenty of hay bales, which I didn’t realize would be so tall!  It was a bit of an effort pushing myself over them, but they’re much easier at the start – to that I can attest!  There were also a couple of sections where we had to crawl under netting, which was easy enough to get through.  The real ball buster, for me, was the damn Ythan River!

I should make you aware, reader, that I am not a fan of the cold.  It is mid June, and I haven’t changed any of my heating settings from January.  Friends often complain that my flat is like a sauna and could I not, “put on a [censored] sweater?!”  I recall watching an episode of Bear Grylls: Man Does Stuff that Inevitably Ends in Nude Push-ups.  In this episode, it is explained that one of the dangers of jumping into ice-cold water is a heart attack because of the shock your body experiences.  I feel that I was not far off from experiencing this horror today after trudging through the ‘bog’ and then sliding into the freezing river.

As soon as the cold water surrounded me, I was rendered completely useless.  All I could do was take short, sharp gasps for air while I stood tit-deep, paralyzed in the river, wide-eyed and stunned.  Now, I can’t remember how the topic came up, but one evening a few years ago, my boyfriend and I were discussing rape.  I argued that unless the attacker had a gun to my head, or something similar, it would be practically impossible for him to rape me.  Ian disagreed, and said that with brute force, rape would be achievable on my person, especially by someone with his strength.  This led to 30 minutes of pretty aggressive wrestling on our part, concluding with his admission of defeat.  Status: un-rapable.  Well, future-potential-rapists, I have found my kryptonite – freezing water.

Thankfully (for me), there was one other woman experiencing the same reaction to the cold as I was.  After several moments, we grabbed each others’ hand and started moving – quickening steadily with a goal of getting out of the water!  Once we’d been hauled out, we set to running again, feeling the extra weight of wet kit for the first time.  Soon we were faced with a second dip in the Ythan, but thankfully it was much shallower here (thigh-deep), and it wasn’t so traumatizing wading through.  Unfortunately, this is when I got a heap of grit inside my shoes (and socks, somehow) that caused me to stop no less than 3 times during the course to remove a shoe (and sock), wipe away the grit as best I could, peel my wet shoe (and sock) back on, and start up again.

It was around this time that I had a spectacular face-plant into the muddy trail, landing hard on my wrist and knee.  I’m sure I was the picture of grace, but I brushed myself off and kept going.

Amongst the pleasures devised for us on the rest of the course were more hay bales, tree trunks to hurdle over (including one with a ridiculously robust twig that snagged a ridiculously sensitive part of my anatomy – thankfully I was still numb from the cold water), tyres and tubes to crawl through, and neon sticks to run (uphill) through whilst trying to avoid smacking yourself in the face (unsuccessful).

Once we passed the 10k mark, there was an audible sigh of relief from the runners, and we soldiered on to the field where we started.  I had been warned that those trickster race organizers would have more treats to greet us before the finish line, so I wasn’t surprised to see some steep up- and downhill parts to conquer before the end as well as yet more bales of hay!  After the final bale, it was the home stretch, and I broke into a sprint (why do I always feel the need?!) to overtake the woman ahead of me.  I crossed the finish line and proceeded to gasp for breath and experience extreme nausea, as normal, before realizing I hadn’t stopped my Garmin, as normal.  After bagging the medal and some water (thank you Kynon!), popping some painkillers, and seeing Rhona cross the finish line, I found Grant and headed for the showers, which were totally necessary.  Witness:

Wet. Cold. Muddy. Sore.

Overall, I had a great time.  The race was really well organized, and the marshals were extremely helpful, particularly the ones who were stuck in the river guiding everyone through, and those who helped haul people out of the bog and river!  The route was clearly signposted with red and white tape, and they had bananas at the finish line!  I would definitely come back next year (if I can get a spot in time) and I’m pretty psyched about Tough Mudder next month.  And I must say – that’s one really sleek medal, guys, bravo!


And now?  Time to pop some more painkillers, ice my calf, and plan work for tomorrow.