Hasta la vista, 2012!

This time last year I was in Australia with my family, jet-lagged, a bit sunburnt, and enjoying the fact that I was in a country experiencing summer.  I was in bed by about 10pm, and woke up at 5am on New Year’s Day for a run.

Like the party animal that I am, I am again preparing to spend midnight in my bedroom, but checking out the city’s firework display from my window and drinking the bubbly currently chilling in my fridge.  Part of that is by choice (I refuse to go to a bar only to wait 30 minutes to get served an overpriced warm beer in a plastic cup, all whilst inhaling the body odour and farts of the drunk people in the filled-to-way-over-capacity room).  Part of that is because I promised Ian we would stay in and do sexy things.  And a new reason I’ll be staying in?  I’m pretty sure I somehow pulled a muscle in my neck, for the second time of my life, and of the year.  Amazing.

Looking back at 2012, I’ve had a lot of firsts: my first half marathon (and 7 more), my first 10 miler, my first 13.1K, my first 17.5 miler, and, most importantly, my first marathon.  I didn’t think too much about signing up for a lot of races (in fact, I was a bit drunk when I signed up to some), but I’ve thought more carefully about next year’s schedule so that I don’t neglect Ian during so many weekends, and also so that I have some time to rest.  I have also learned the meaning of the word ‘rest’, and despite struggling with the concept, am improving with the idea of not working out every day.  Sometimes.

In 2013, I hope to continue racing relatively frequently, as well as incorporating some races outside of Scotland (Paris and Houston, I’m talkin’ to you!).  I also want to try out a few duathlons and triathlons, and if I enjoy them, I want a road bike.  A pretty one.  With flower decals on it.

Anyway, I’ll keep it short and sweet, and just say that I hope everyone has an amazing end to 2012, and here’s to an amazing 2013!

Dundee Half Marathon 2012 (half DRAM)

“Chip” time (only the finish line was chipped, so more like gun time): 2:01:08

Garmin time: 2:00:31

Medal:  Yes

I had decided to try and stick to somewhere between 9:15 and 9:30 minute miles for this race, as practice for the Loch Ness Marathon, and while I managed to ease back on the pace a bit, it is obvious looking at my time that I am still starting off a bit fast.  Admittedly, though, at mile 12 I thought I had a shot at getting in under 2 hours so I sped up a bit, but too little, too late.  Still, this race wasn’t about getting a personal best, it was about self-control, and I’m happy enough as I finished feeling fresher than I have finished any of my previous half marathons, and as though I could go on for miles.  This is promising, because in September I’m going to have to run twice the distance.

The day began with a cruel alarm at 6am, prompting me to get into the shower (I like to race fresh, I don’t care if some people find this unnecessary).  At 7, Ronnie picked me up, and we picked up his friend Jane, before heading onwards to Dundee.  The forecast had been cloudy with showers.  The forecast, thankfully, was not accurate.  We were greeted with gorgeous sunshine and a nice breeze – perfect!  We picked up our registration packs (our race number and timing chip), and then realized we had over an hour to enjoy the rare Scottish sunshine.

And of course I will be talking about my toilet moments.  There were four portaloos visible from where we registered, so I jumped in line for a slash.  After a few minutes (and minimal movement), a guy on a megaphone declared there were more toilets hidden around a corner.  Cue a mass sprint to the new destination!  Once we had arrived, we realized that there were male and female public toilets, so we got into new, slightly shorter lines and all avoided making any comments about how much the toilets stunk.  What I remember from the moments waiting for the toilet was a man (in the men’s queue, clearly) who declared that there were several, “urinals, if you’re not needing a cubicle.”  About two thirds of the men removed themselves from the line and went into the men’s room, leaving three men that we then ALL knew had to launch a brown submarine into the U-bend trying to look casual.  I have no idea why I found this so amusing, I guess working with kids lowers my mental age occasionally.  Anyway, I think I deserve a medal just for maintaining the illusion of calm maturity while inside I was laughing uncontrollably – the kind where you snort out of desperation to breathe.

Moving swiftly along, after the toilet stop, I demolished a chocolate chip Cliff bar that I purchased at the Run4it tent (I had eaten all of my ‘morning fuel’ the day before whilst watching the Olympic coverage).  Ronnie was busy decorating himself with nipple guards (that ended up migrating during his run, but did, he confirms, prevent any chaffage) as well as a birthday badge.  Ultimately, he made the wise decision to omit this particular piece from his race gear.

Stylish to the max

Just before 9:30, everyone made their way to the start.  I had noticed that there didn’t appear to be a timing mat at the start line, and confirmed with other runners that there would only be a timing mat at the end, so we would only get an official gun time.  Had I known this earlier, I might have tried to get ahead, especially considering the first 2 miles, but then again, I was actively trying to pace myself, which I have previously been shit at.

The race started just after the scheduled start time, and we were greeted with an uphill climb from the start.  The course stayed within the park and took us along some muddy (especially muddy considering the recent rain) trails, and I remember thinking trail shoes would have been more appropriate!  Someone pulled up beside me and seemed to know my name – another reader!  This was his first half marathon and he was aiming for 2:10:00.  I think I saw him come over the finish line before 2:15:00, and if I’m right it was a very good effort for his first go.  Anyway, during the uphill trails there was quite a lot of bunching as it was practically impossible to weave through people or overtake.  This is reflected in my first two mile splits: 10:25, 9:38.

Almost exactly after the 2 mile marker, we left the trails and ended up on the road – and downhill!  It was around here that the sun really began blaring down, and the heat was rising from the asphalt, that a girl in a light blue top (that I had picked out as a pacer at the start) made a comment to me about how she wished the forecast for cloud and rain had been accurate!  We started chatting and, realizing that we were pretty well matched for pace, ended up running together until about mile 11.  It was great having company through those early miles, and one thing I learned is that if your name is on your shirt, everyone shouts encouragement at you!  We must have heard ‘Come on Sally!’ every time we passed a crowd of supporters, so this is definitely something I want to have during Loch Ness.

Just before mile 11, our pace was beginning to lag, and we had both said it was OK to go ahead if the other was getting tired – she was aiming for sub 2 hours after a near miss last year.  I was still feeling strong, so I slowly started pulling away, but I thought I could still hear her feet hitting the ground behind me.  When I started to try to talk to her, I turned around to realize I was having a conversation with a very confused looking gentleman.

The water stop just after mile 11 could not have been more encouraging.  There was a long downhill stretch ahead of us, and the marshals assured us that it was all downhill or flat until the end!  This kind of news is pretty much akin to being starving and hearing the Dominos Pizza delivery guy ring your buzzer.  I was stoked.  I also, remarkably, still felt really strong.  I didn’t go wild, but I did start putting the pedal down (and enjoying the sea breeze that was making love to my face).

As my Garmin beeped for 12 miles, I looked down to realize that if the GPS wasn’t too far out, it was possible to get across the line in under two hours if I stuck to 8:30 minute miles, which I did.  The stretch along the water had a bit of a headwind, but as it was the final stretch, I found it quite refreshing. There was a bit of a sticky moment running across a rickety wooden bridge (with more than one runner pounding on it, there was quite a lot of disconcerting bouncing, and I do believe I let out an f-bomb), and then the finish was in

Feeling fresh, but not looking it.

sight!  I looked at my Garmin to see the time tick over from 1:59:59 to 2:00:00, swore under my breath, and steadily cruised over the line in 2:00:31.  I collected my goody bag (containing medal, discount vouchers, Haribo sweets, a High5 gel, and a cereal bar), as well as a bottle of water and a High5 plastic sports bottle, and made my way to where I had seen Ronnie shout my name as I came through.

We hung around for everyone else we knew doing the race to finish, and enjoyed relaxing in yet more sunshine.  We also watched as the full marathon runners continued on their journey beyond the half finish line and cheered them on.  Then we collected our bags and headed for the shuttle bus, which was meant to leave every 15 minutes (lies!).

The bus journey back was warm and cozy, and the smell of a large group of sweaty runners wasn’t as bad as I had expected, though one guy did have to get off the bus early and we drove off leaving him looking a bit green, but glad to be in the fresh air.  Once back, we watched some of the marathon runners come across the line (their return journey saw them finish at the start line) before heading to the car.

As we drove away from Dundee, we drove into the dark clouds and heavy rain that had obviously been plaguing Aberdeen for most of the day, and realized how close we were to miserable race conditions.  The rest of the journey, however, is less than a blur, as I had fallen asleep, probably with my mouth hanging open in a ridiculously becoming style, so I can only thank Ronnie for not looking over and bursting into hysterics so severe that we veered out of control and crashed.

I have spent the remainder of the day sleeping on and off, eating, and watching Olympic coverage.  I also managed to pop an enormous blister that I picked up during the race.  I shit you not, it was the size of a jelly bean, thus doubling the size of my second-to-littlest toe.  I would have taken a photo, but I was just too excited to pop that bad boy! Yes, I am a popper – I am too impatient to let them heal naturally, and at that size on the bottom of a toe, it is pretty sore.

Overall I really enjoyed this race.  A lot of that could have been down to the excellent weather or the good company I had, but the course was quite pretty and varied as well.  In fact, this was the second race I have ever done in which I didn’t listen to any music – even though my mp3 player was in it’s regular tucked-into-bra spot, ready for action.  AND I had downloaded some fresh music that I was really looking forward to using to push me to the end. The first race, by the way, in which I raced sans tunes, I woke up wildly hungover and with just enough time to get dressed and cycle to the start line.  I PB’ed on that occasion.  Sick.

Although this isn’t anywhere near the best medal I have received for a run (in fact, I was kind of disappointed with it), it was inscribed on the back, which gives it extra points.  If I don’t hate running with every atom of my being by next year, I might be back!

Half DRAM 2012

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!

Close-up

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

Ythan Challenge 2012 – Update

The Ythan challenge is already booked up!  I suggested it to a few friends as we’re planning on entering Tough Mudder 2012 as a team and it would be good practice (decent distance and obstacles).  I was informed by one of these friends, however, that when he tried to enter this morning the entries had already sold out!  Not only that, they had sold out within FOUR HOURS!  Mental; what a bunch of sad bastards, spending their lunch break desperately trying to ensure they had a space….. Ahem.

Screenshot from their website today - glad I booked on my lunch break!