Hasta la Vista, 2013!

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

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.

Loch Ness Marathon 2013

Time: 4:43:32 (personal worst)

Medal: Yes

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I feel it’s necessary to preface this post with a few facts:

  1. I take great offence to weird things.
  2. Once I decide something, no matter how terrible of an idea it is, I am too stubborn not to follow through.
  3. I often have terrible ideas.

I hadn’t planned on running Loch Ness marathon again this year (after my painful début last year). I had already signed up for the Texas marathon on New Year’s Day, 2014, and that seemed like enough of a challenge. However, easily swayed by the fact that the majority of my running friends had signed up, for some their first attempt at the distance, I entered. Because who likes feeling left out? Nobody, that’s who.

The goal for this race, however, was not speed.

 ***

Rewind ten months. I was about to start my training for the Paris marathon after a bit of a running hiatus in December, caused by psychological trauma following my first marathon, naturally. It was an average day – I had gone to work, gone to the gym for a bit, come home, showered, and eaten – and I was relaxing on my sofa browsing the internet when I came across this meme:

Oh-you-ran-a-marathon-How-heavy-was-the-sledNow, I don’t even know why I can’t control my emotions like a rational human being, but seeing this awoke a mighty rage within me, and I wanted nothing more than to punch that smug husky in the face. With a speeding bus. Admittedly, it’s kind of funny, but the pain of my first marathon was fresh enough in my mind to trigger a loathing so all-consuming that it continued to gnaw away at me for the best part of 2013.

You have maybe already guessed where this is going.

Step one was buying a sled. I wanted something pretty (of great importance), and made out of wood. Thank you, Amazon, for this beauty:

sled

It was a bit heavier than I had anticipated, but the highly scientific test of dragging it 6 feet across my living room was enough to convince me that this was still a viable idea. But it would need wheels.

Step two involved searching gumtree for a used pram. I found one a few miles away for £10, and decided to run there, buy it, and then run home to test out the wheels. They were a great success, but pushing an empty pram around a city center acquires many an odd look. It was worth it for the advantage of carrying home a lot of shopping from the supermarket:

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Step three was taken care of by one of the technicians at school who removed the chassis and wheels of the pram from the baby-carrying bit, and then used cable ties to attach the sled, which fit perfectly. That was blind luck, which I took to be a sign that I was not completely idiotic. With some rope attached to the frame, I took it for a test run, which yielded more confused looks from the general public.

From this test run, I established very quickly that the sled was going to be a burden, but also that attached to my rucksack with a bit of rope, its movements were unpredictable and out of control. It veered off the paths on several occasions, and whacked into the backs of my legs on the downhill sections.

This was remedied by attaching telescopic walking sticks to the frame, which would allow me greater control over the sled’s movement, and prevent it from hitting me, whilst also behind handy for storage. These were also attached with cable ties. On Friday night. Trusting my mad engineering skills, I decided I did not need to test out the contraption at all.

The finishing touches for the sled included a cool bag for my lunch, and two stuffed huskies, Mukluk and Storm (they had names when I bought them). Add into the mix a relatively secure harness with a D-ring on the back and I was ready to roll.

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Race weekend had arrived, and on Saturday Ronnie picked me up at about 11:30. When Ian helped me carry the sled and my bags downstairs, Ronnie just shook his head and said, “So you’re still doing this.” With some Tetris-level manoeuvring, we managed to get everything into the car, and then we set off for Inverness, which took about twice as long as it should have done thanks to road works and people who drive on main roads at 40mph.

Once registered, Ronnie dropped me off at my B&B before checking out his swanky hotel. I watched women’s cycling on TV and took a nap before dinner with some Fetch runners, and was tucked up in bed by 9. As I was falling asleep, I remember only being nervous about organisers not letting me run with my sled for health and safety reasons. I don’t think ‘running a marathon the next day’ was even registering.

I was up at the crack of dawn for a shower, and to get dressed and get everything packed for checking out. Breakfast of toast, orange juice and a banana was at 6:30, and 15 minutes later I was hauling the sled along the dark streets of Inverness to where a few of us had arranged to congregate.

On our way to the bus

On our way to the bus

I was met with laughter and heavy sighs (I hadn’t told everyone what I was planning on doing, and nobody had seen the finished masterpiece). Trying to avoid crippling any of the other runners, we all made our way towards the buses, where I managed to get a wheelchair spot for the sled with no questions asked, other than “How much for a lift to the finish line?”

[side note: a stuffed husky is an adequate replacement for a neck pillow on an hour long bus journey]

The wait at the start was broken up by queuing for the toilet, making last minute adjustments to the sled, and wishing everyone luck. I was glad for the distractions because it was pretty cold.

L-R: Naomi, Sheri, me

L-R: Naomi, Sheri, me

Beginning to reconsider my idea.

Beginning to reconsider my idea.

Ronnie and his stylish foil cape.

Ronnie and his stylish foil cape.

At the start line!

At the start line!

Time seemed to fly, because before we knew it, we were edging forward towards the start line. I just hoped the sled (and my legs) would hold out until the end, and crossing the starting mats, I broke into a run.

The first 6 miles or so of the Loch Ness course are downhill, with much of the middle section being ‘undulating’. I know you’re not meant to go out too quickly at the start, but I also knew that I would struggle pulling a 25 pound sled up hills, so I thought I would take advantage of fast miles while I could, and blazed ahead of my much more sensible friends. Apart from the awkward arm position from holding onto the walking sticks, ‘pulling’ the sled on the downhill sections wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating. And the walking sticks gave me great control over the sled’s direction. As long as the cable ties stayed in one piece, it would all be ok. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

This optimism lasted for about 58 minutes. Then came the first of the undulations. The weight of the sled tugging behind me meant that unless it was a very gradual incline, I would need to walk – at least if I wanted to conserve energy for the later miles. It was around this point that the adrenaline at the start and my positivity about the sled began to dwindle. I recognized parts of the course from last year, and I knew that there were some steeper, longer climbs in the later miles. I had to keep breaking the race into manageable chunks to stop myself from feeling overwhelmed, so after 6 miles, I told myself 1 10k down, 3 to go. At 9 miles, I told myself this is where you were hurting last year, and your legs feel ok. At 13 miles, you’re halfway there!

When that stopped helping, I promised myself treats. At 15 miles, you can pull over, have your lunch, and text Ian. At the start of the hill at 18 miles you’ll get to walk for a mile. At 20 miles you can listen to music.

And then I had less than 10k to go, and crowd support started appearing. I was really struggling, and had to stop to walk a few times just to give my legs a break from the pain, but as soon as I saw the sign saying we had 3k left, I told myself I wouldn’t stop until the end.

I had to take off my rucksack and swing it round so I had a chance of finding a photo.

I had to take off my rucksack and swing it round so I had a chance of finding a photo.  This was somewhere after 15 miles, I think.

The crowd support during this section was amazing, particularly the Macmillan cheer crews (when they see you wearing one of their shirts they make you feel like a rock star), and I was lucky enough to see a few familiar faces cheering me on. I’m not going to lie, overtaking people when you’re hauling a sled is a pretty kick-ass feeling, despite the sub-kick-ass feeling I was experiencing in my legs.

Less than a mile to go!

Less than a mile to go!

At the finish!

At the finish!

Though I wasn’t going for speed, my goal for this race, other than to not collapse at the side of the road, was to finish in less than 5 hours, so when I saw the clock by the finish line started with a 4, I couldn’t help but smile. Except it was probably more of a grimace/smile. I heard my name called out over the loudspeaker, and heard an always enthusiastic Jeananne (who had run the 10k earlier) screaming my name as I came into the finishing chute exhausted, in pain, but most of all, relieved.

After receiving my medal, t-shirt and goody bag, I limped to our meeting point to find Susan had successfully finished her first marathon in a very respectable 4:37, and Naomi had run a new PB! Her boyfriend, Stu, had also managed to destroy his 10k PB earlier by finishing in under 36 minutes, which is just insane, quite frankly.

Me and Susan

Me and Susan

Sheri, me, and Susan

Sheri, me, and Susan

I found a better use for the sled.

I found a better use for the sled.

After a banana, some water, and some catching up, Susan and I decided to take advantage of being charity runners and qualifying for our free massage, which was a good, satisfying kind of pain.

While most of the people had today off work, I was not quite as lucky, so after hobbling back to the B&B (stopping once to give a very nice man the link to my fundraising page) to make use of the spare shower room, trekked with Suzy, who had come all the way to Inverness to cheer us on, to her car AT THE TOP OF A HILL, and we drove back to Aberdeen, where dinner and a strong, sled-carrying boyfriend was waiting for me.

I still can’t quite get over what I did yesterday, or how dumb an idea it was in the first place. I’m also amazed that nothing went horribly wrong, and that I can walk (awkwardly) today. Even Ian told me he thought I would go through with it, but that I would ditch the sled along the way (sorely tempting at times). But am I glad I did it? Yes. Partly because it means I’ll never have to do it again, partly because I can now look at the picture of the smug husky and feel smug myself, but, most importantly, I’ve managed to raise over £400 so far for Macmillan Cancer Support, who have been great this entire weekend.

Now, it’s no coincidence that I’m posting this on payday. If you’re been slightly entertained by my stupidity, and are willing, any donations are gratefully received. If you think I should get a grip – because why would total strangers donate money to someone who did something so that an internet meme would stop giving her high blood pressure? – then you don’t have to. It’s totally up to you. But I’ll just put the link right here. Just in case.

CLICK HERE! 🙂

Oh, and Mr. Husky?  25 pounds, bitch.

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.

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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:

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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.

Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10k 2013

Time: 53:51 [Results]

Category Position: 199/970

Gender Position: 381/1836

Medal: Yes

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I can’t really say I was looking forward to this race.  My speed has taken a back seat during my ‘training’ for the Paris marathon, and this has been a pretty crappy week.

My grandfather was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October, 2011, and told he had 3-6 months to live.  Our entire family went to visit him and my grandmother for two weeks over Christmas, when I started this blog.  He wanted to make it to his birthday in February, 2012, which he did, as well as his next one earlier this year.

About 2 months ago, his health began deteriorating, and he was given weeks.  My mother flew out to be with her parents, and kept us all informed about his condition.  He went from being able to eat a few bites of food during mealtimes, to unable to eat, and finally, at the end of last week, to unresponsive.  We knew that it was just a matter of waiting by this point.  Early on Monday morning, however, my grandmother was hit by the news of her brother’s unexpected death.  Just hours afterwards, my grandfather passed away.  My great uncle’s funeral was on Thursday, and my grandad’s on Friday.

Obviously this has been a rough time for my family, and, naturally, nature loves to hit you when you’re down, because for the first time since pretty much this time last year, I’ve been sick.  All of this has been a recipe for sleepless nights, and living on toast – absolutely not ideal preparation for a race that I had considered using as an attempt to break 50 minutes for the first time in years.

Unfortunately, the Baker Hughes 10k is not a cheap race to enter, despite it being just a 10k, and, since last year, offering no goody bag.  It’s also literally a 25 minute walk from my front door, and just across the road from my gym, which makes it far too convenient to NOT run.  Despite every fibre of my being wanting to stay in bed, I begrudgingly got dressed, drank a smoothie, and headed for the ‘event village’, where I met up with some friends:

Before the race

Photo: Susan (always in purple)

We all took advantage of the nearby hotel’s bathrooms, and about 15 minutes before the start, headed towards the pens.  I was not feeling confident, but Ronnie and Teri both dragged me into the 51-55 minute pen, while the others went to the 55-60 minute pen.  We weren’t waiting long before we started moving forwards and then we were off on what I have got to say is one of the least interesting courses I have been on in Scotland.  The fact that I run along parts of the route regularly may have skewed my opinion, as might the fact that this was the 5th time I was running the race, but there are just so many nicer parts of Aberdeen that could have been used instead.

Anyway, Teri, Ronnie, and I all set off together, but Ronnie, obviously regaining his fitness and speed, slowly pulled ahead.  Although I was trying to ignore my Garmin, I caught a peek at my heart rate which was in the 180’s.  It is usually not in the 180’s unless I am pushing myself to the limit, but I was just keeping it under 9 minute miles.  I probably should not have been running.

Teri stuck with me until about 6k, but she was feeling good (probably as a result of the six – let me repeat for effect, SIX – coffees she had consumed before the start) and she sped ahead (eventually overtaking Ronnie).  Meanwhile, I tried to ignore my heart rate, the three people I passed at the side of the road in a bad state, and a very persistent urge to sob, and trudged onwards.

At the 400m sign, I felt like I would struggle to reach the end.  At the 200m, I sprinted to the finish line, overtaking around 20 people, and dodging some woman’s projectile vomit as I came over the timing mat. She looked how I felt, and I collected some water and my medal, found Ronnie, and had a bit of an emotional episode, which I can only apologize to him for.

Once I’d sorted myself out, we went back to the finish to cheer on people we knew, watched Carolyn win her age category prize (again – she’s very fast), and then collected our stuff before walking home.

I’m glad to see the back of this week.  Dormire bene, Nonno. x

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La Course du P’tit Dej’ (The Breakfast Run) 2013

Gallery

This gallery contains 9 photos.

One of the reasons I had enough clothes to justify checking in a bag as well as taking a substantial carry on for a 4 night trip was the Breakfast Run – a 5k fun run starting at Ecole Militaire … Continue reading

Inverness Half Marathon 2013

Time: 2:01:17 (CR)

Position: 991/1566

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

IMG_20130319_172449The Inverness half marathon was my very first half marathon last year.  It was fairly disastrous, and I ended up getting a stitch halfway through and having to walk quite a bit.  While I wasn’t planning on racing it this year, I did want to put in a better performance than 2012, and my main goals were:

  1. Finish comfortably (after all, I have to run a marathon in less than 3 weeks)
  2. Not walk
  3. Beat last year’s time

Just like last year, it was going to be a there-and-back on the day kind of race.  Ronnie picked me up at about 8, and was subjected to my teenage tastes in music (as I had rummaged through an old cd case and found some classics), and along the way, we both remained unamused at the sleet battering the wind shield.  The forecast was not great.

We arrived at Bught Park in Inverness with loads of time to spare, and wasted no time in getting a parking space on the pebbles next to the field where the majority of people would be parking.  Or so we thought.  Because it was so wet, the field couldn’t be used for parking and everyone was told to try and make alternative arrangements.  I guess we kind of lucked out!

Ronnie's car, and some others, next to the field with NO cars.

Ronnie’s car, and some others, next to the field with NO cars.

Once parked, we braced ourselves against the cold wind and made our way to the hall, where we registered and picked up our tech shirts (which were pretty much identical to the Loch Ness marathon ones from September).  After that, we both took advantage of the small toilet queue, and bought some lunch (egg sandwich – delicious!), before sitting down with a couple of familiar faces for a chat.

The hall

The hall

While people watching (we spotted a Superman, a leprechaun, and a tin of SPAM – it was Saint Patrick’s Day), I caught sight of Paul, one of my team mates from Tough Mudder.  After a quick catch up, Ronnie and I decided we’d better ditch our warm clothes, get in the toilet queues, and head to the start line.

During the last (loooooong) toilet break, I met a fellow medal hunter, and also ran into Claudia, who was going for a PB, and asked to run with Ronnie and myself.  The three of us made our way outside as the bagpipers had already started to lead the runners to the start line.  Last year I remember a cheesy warm up, but I think we were too far back this time around, because I didn’t hear or see anything.

Eventually we were off!  I wasn’t too fussed about weaving in and out of people, and decided to just stick to everybody else’s pace until the runners became more spread out.  Claudia was not thrilled with this, and, unbeknownst to be, slipped through a gap and charged onwards.  Although Ronnie saw her, I did not, and after a few minutes realized Claudia was not longer behind us.  She had been having a lot of knee pain recently, so I tried to slow the pace a little to see if she would catch up, and kept asking Ronnie if he could see her.  I’ll admit, I was a little confused when he didn’t look behind him, but didn’t really question it, and we kept going.  Considering it was a cold and wet day, I hoped her race wasn’t going to be too miserable (which obviously it wasn’t, since she was well on her way by this point).

I had told Ronnie that we would stick together, and I would be his motivator.  There was a lot of “Keep it moving!” and “Charge up that hill!” and “Don’t be such a girl!” coming from my direction, and for the most part, he seemed thankful.  At 6 miles, he mentioned that he was now on his longest run since the Forfar Multi-terrain half marathon in February, and I urged him to push through any pain, unless it was coming from his ankle (which is recovering from injury).  Unfortunately, at about mile 8, he had a problem with his shoe, and every time I looked back, he was further and further behind.  His face told me he wanted no more motivational ribbing from me, so I kept going, at this point ploughing through the rain.

I smiled for every photographer I saw, said thank you to all of the super enthusiastic spectators, and tried to chat with anyone that was still in good humour.  Before I knew it, I was crossing the bridge again, and less than two miles from the finish.  I kept a steady pace until, roughly half a mile from the finish, I spotted Leslie (one of the familiar faces from earlier on) up ahead.  Unfortunately, this meant it was game on!  I started accelerating until I was just behind her, then coasted until right before we entered the stadium for our ‘victory lap’.  Like a complete bitch, I overtook her, and sped up conservatively for the finish (please note my St. Patrick’s Day effort):

Screenshot 2013-03-19 at 17.22.50After I finished, I waited for Leslie to come in and congratulated her, before grabbing my medal, goody bag, and some water, and moving out of the finishers’ area.  This is when I saw Claudia, and because I thought she was behind us, I assumed she had DNF’d, and braced myself for some consolation chat.  Happily, though, I was oblivious to her early surge, and she had smashed her PB by nearly 20 minutes.  We were both freezing by this point, and she went inside, while I went to wait for Ronnie to finish.

Violently shivering, I cheered Ronnie in, and instead of hanging around, headed back to his car for some heat.  Luckily, the gym chain we’re both members of has an Inverness branch, so we went there for a hot shower with no queues, indulged in a freshly squeezed orange juice, and headed back to Aberdeen.

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And of course the sun and blue skies emerged once we were on the road.  Because why wouldn’t it?

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!

Forward Thinking

Despite booking a train, a youth hostel, and entering the BUPA 10k in Edinburgh that takes place tomorrow, my mashed left quad has made it pretty clear that it has not sufficiently recovered from the marathon.  Considering I’m heading off for warmer climes (nb: This is worded significantly better than my brain fart this morning when I declared happily that I would be “in heat” in less than two weeks), and in these warmer climes I shall be running with my mother and an old school chum, I’m being sensible and ditching the 10k to give myself a bit more time to recover and avoid injury.

I’m also still caressing my Loch Ness medal, and have been sending photos to everyone I’m related to that has an e-mail address (about 6 people).  Photos like this:

And taking photos like this has made me realize I could take much more creative (translation: trashy) photos if I had two circular metal trinkets to pose with (marathon size only – because they would expose less).

Finishing the marathon has also got me thinking about possibilities for next year, and I’ve spent the last few days trawling the internet for races in Scotland and beyond that I can sign up to.  You can stalk my potential whereabouts here.
Featuring on my list is an international destination – the Paris Marathon.  A couple of running girls I know have planned to make a long weekend of it and have invited me to tag along. 
Despite swearing that I would never run another bastard marathon from approximately mile 9 onwards last weekend, I’m getting excited at the idea of running not only another marathon, but potentially an ultra.  While many of my non-running pals will undoubtedly throw an eye-roll in my direction when I share these plans with them, they are unaware of the benefits of burning a days worth of calories in the morning, and then heading for beers and burgers (I’m aware this is plural) later. 
If anyone in/near Texas (specifically Houston) or in/near either Sydney or Melbourne knows of any sweet races worth checking out in July, let me know.  And I realize these destinations are a couple of miles apart, and I also haven’t committed to traveling outside of Scotland in the summer (the only chance you’ll feel warmth in this country), but they’re locations there is at least a slight possibility I’ll be at.