Strathearn marathon medals

When I bullied persuaded Naomi to sign up for a marathon that was less than a week away, one of the sticking points was that it had no medal (I felt her pain).  To get her firmly on board, I promised her that I would make medals for us once we had finished the race, and told myself I’d figure something out based on our experience.

Well.  Naomi unexpectedly ran a PB, and my gut feeling was that a chocolate coin taped to a shoelace wouldn’t really cut it.  I began to construct a masterpiece.

One of the things I enjoyed about Strathearn was the beautiful scenery in the sunshine.  The course (helped by the weather) really highlighted why Scotland is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world.  There were also pipers at the start, and at two points in the earlier miles of the race.  Add this to the bright purple thistle flowers lining the roads, and you have a very ‘Scottish’ race!  This made choosing the ribbon pretty easy – tartan.

I opted for the one with greens and blues, and trawled the city to find someone who could embroider ‘Strathearn marathon 2014’ onto them.  It turns out, not many places do this.  After trying a few tailors, and some independent art shops, I was pointed in the direction of ABstitch, handily just down the road from me.  I approached one of the women in the workshop who seemed unconvinced it would work (ribbon is too thin, and they’re used to embroidering logos onto heavy duty boiler suits), but after telling them what it was for, she said she’d give it a try, but wouldn’t guarantee they’d be any good.  I reassured her that my only other option was to hand-stitch them myself, and I could guarantee they would be terrible.

I got a message from her that night telling me the ribbons were ready, and I picked them up the next day.  Although she didn’t think they were fantastic, I was more than pleased.

IMG_20140614_154034And now for the important bit.  I couldn’t shake, for some reason, the idea that I wanted something ‘natural’ for the medal, not a generic, buy-in-bulk bit of metal that you sometimes get for some of the smaller, local races.  I ended up fixated on the idea of glass, partly because there is a local glass workshop also very near where I live.

I popped into Oil and Glass on Friday afternoon and told the woman working there what I was looking for.  As the shop was about to close, she recommended coming by for a drop-in session on Saturday, where I could speak to Shelagh Swanson, the owner, about customization.  So that’s what I did.

I think I lucked out, because when I popped in, there was nobody else there, so I had a quick lesson on how to create glass tiles, and, after showing her my ideas, a cheeky condensed lesson on how to measure and cut glass sheets.  She was really accommodating, and within 10 minutes, I was left to my own devices.  A bit later a kid came in with his grandmother to make a keychain for his dad (Father’s Day is tomorrow), and a couple of women came in to make some glass tiles.  It was really relaxing, and I’m fairly sure I have terrified Ian by informing him that our new place will have customized tiles in the kitchen, by yours truly.

Because I wanted the medal to be personal, I decided to use different coloured pieces of glass to represent the two of us running together, based on what we were wearing, and how we were positioned in this photo (which I love):

Pigtail indicates wind direction.

Pigtail indicates wind direction.

Armed with blue, turquoise, red, and yellow glass, my design, in it’s ‘uncooked’ version, looked like this:

IMG_20140614_151717The orange ‘dust’ is just fine pieces of glass (which will be red – they were out of clear), as I needed to fill in the gaps between the coloured chunks.  I handed over my works of art, and was told they would be fired in the kiln that night, and would be ready to pick up the next day!

On Sunday (the next day), I went for a long run in the morning, and then swung by the shop in my sweaty running gear to pick up the finished medals.  Although one was upside down, I think they turned out really well, and took them straight home to put on the embroidered ribbon.

IMG_20140615_141431They also look pretty cool with natural light behind them:

IMG_20140615_141338Deciding that the medal handover required some kind of ‘ceremony’, we opted to meet in the pub for a drink.  I brought both and told Naomi to choose the one she wanted, and she seemed pleased enough with her new PB memento.  Next time, however, she’s getting a doorknob on a piece of string.  🙂

IMG_20140615_202337

Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10k 2014

Time: 52:35 [Results]

Medal: Yes

IMG_20140518_200922This was the 6th time I have run the Baker Hughes 10k, and there isn’t an awful lot I can say about it, other than:

  • It is flat
  • It is fast
  • It is one of the most uninspiring routes I have had the pleasure of running

Aberdeen has some lovely areas, but sadly, along the beach and through some of the industrial areas are not them.  However, is is apparently easier and cheaper to close the roads down by the beach than the city centre, and the event attracts thousands of runners every year, so why change, right?  I mean, it’s not like I can really complain since I sign up every year, knowing that I’ll wake up on race morning dreading the long stretch along the beach, exposed to the North Sea winds.  How can I resist a race on my doorstep?  Hint: I can’t.

The race has had some particular low points: Race Timing System a couple of year’s ago made a shit hot mess of timing, the aforementioned dull course, the introduction of an ‘e-goody bag’ with offers nobody cared about.  This year, I’m glad to say the timing issue had been resolved, and I had received a text message telling me my chip result before I had managed to retrieve my belongings.  All results were also online within a few hours of the last finisher crossing the line.  And despite a pretty breezy second half, for yet another year, it DID NOT RAIN during the Baker Hughes.  Next year, plan a barbeque on race day – it really is uncanny.  Oh, and we were handed physical goody bags after we crossed the line, with stuff I might actually use (or eat):

IMG_20140518_201034On a personal level, I did not expect much from this race this year, being 3 weeks after the Highland Fling (which has left me with a lot of sore/tight bits in my left leg – like everywhere).  In fact, I hadn’t intended running any races all month, instead slotting in a bit of a running break so I could enjoy some time on my bike and check out the shiny new aquatics centre with a 50m pool (it is fabulous; I am already a dedicated fan).  But seeing advertizing for the ‘big’ local race is basically like cracking open an ice-cold beer, seductively pouring it into a tall glass, and letting the outside of the glass crystalize with sexy, sexy condensation, and then putting the glass in front of a recovering alcoholic and whispering, sensually, “Drink it.”  So I entered, knowing if I was still crippled, I could at least walk the course.

I turned up with just enough time to dump my belongings and extra layers in a locker at my gym (handily close to the start), and find Ronnie and his friend enthusiastically taking part in the warm up.  We were called to our pens, and I shuffled into the 55-60 minute corral.  I had low expectation, and planned to just jog the thing.

Crossing the start line, I realized my Garmin had switched off (thanks a bunch power save), so I had to wait about 30 seconds for it to locate satellites and get started, eventually reading that I was running a 9:30/mile pace.  Good enough I thought, shuffling up to someone else wearing a Highland Fling shirt for a quick hello.  After the first km, I felt OK, and looked down to read an 8:30/mile pace, which was a bit of a shock, as I felt pretty comfortable.  I put it down to my Garmin acting up, and ignored it for the next couple of miles.  At 5k, I looked down again.  8:22/mile.  I kept picking off runners ahead at a steady pace, but wasn’t trying to push myself, because I could still feel my hamstring and calf complaining, and I have a week of chaperoning teenagers around London ahead of me.

It wasn’t until I passed the sign for 9km that my competitive rage was unearthed when I zoned in on a familiar, silver ponytail, bobbing in the distance.  This ponytail belonged to a woman who drafted me during the Christmas Canter 10k (my first ever race report on this blog which I am intentionally not linking to, because I’ll probably cringe if I re-read something I wrote that long ago).  This woman has become known amongst a number of different running groups as a bit of a poor sports-woman.  This woman was going to finish behind me.

I turned the corner at the ‘400m’ sign and floored it.  I looked down once at my pace and read 6:xx.  I kicked silver ponytail’s ass.

Though crowded, I couldn’t spot anyone I knew after I had collected my medal, so I went to get my stuff, and then walked home.  Because of my impending 14 hour coach trip (with 40 teenagers, in case I hadn’t mentioned that yet), I thought I would try and wear myself out a bit in the hope that I’ll manage to sleep for a couple of hours on the bus tomorrow to help break up the journey, so Ian and I set off for Mill Stone hill a few hours later.

Though only about a 3 mile loop, it’s a relatively steep climb, and because the wind had died down, it was sweaty work.

Ian heading up.  Jacket off.

Ian heading up. Jacket off.

At the top, with Mither Tap in the background.

At the top, with Mither Tap in the background.

And now to sit back, relax, and enjoy a beer with some peri-peri chicken, sweet potato wedges, and later, something sweet.  And then packing.  And then a 3am alarm call (I know – gross).

D33 Ultramarathon 2014

Time:  6:20:00

Medal: Yes

IMG_20140315_171853The D33 was set up by George Reid as a longer distance race to help build up to the Highland Fling in April.  The same Highland Fling that somehow I am going to attempt to complete in just over a month.  Entries for the D33 opened a little early this time around, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, and as I sat at my parents’ kitchen table in Houston eating pasta and preparing for the Texas marathon, I became the 42nd person to enter this year’s race.

I have done a few training runs with some of the Stonehaven running club runners, and this race was in the schedule as the longest training run before April’s race.  I had a few goals for this, the most important being: don’t get injured, have fun, and finish.  Joining in the pre-race chatter online, I had been invited to run with Kate, Vicki, and Geraldine as our final training run as a group.  The thought of having company throughout the race was appealing, especially the race was on Kate’s birthday, so spirits were bound to be high.

Race morning was overcast and a bit breezy, but nothing that would blow tiles off a roof.  I had been keeping my eye on the forecast all week, and it fluctuated between sunshine and 14 degrees, and rain and 7 degrees.  But relying on the forecast in this country is futile, so I was pleased that it wasn’t too windy, but worried about the heavy cloud.

At about 7:30, I left my apartment and walked about a mile to Duthie Park to register.  Several friends were volunteering and it was nice to see familiar faces ordering me about with instructions on where to put my (pitiful) drop bags for the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 checkpoints.  Eventually more and more runners descended upon my local park, and I ran into more recognizable faces, some also popping their ultra cherry.

Eventually Kate, Vicki, Geraldine and I all found each other.  They were decked out in club vests and some rather flashy socks in their club colours which attracted a lot of attention during the day, and 3 of us were all wearing the same purple Camelbak.  We also found Tina, from Aberdeen Metro runners, who was cautious because she was running on a dodgy ankle and fancied a steady group to keep her company.

Kate and I missed the race briefing because we were in a queue for the porta loo, but made it back to our group on the start line with a couple of minutes to spare.  Then came a countdown, and we were off!

The railway line that I normally ran along was packed with neon flashes as we churned out the first mile.  Tina and I fell in behind a group of women that were keeping us at a reasonable pace, and were chatting about a training weekend along part of the Fling route in a couple of weeks.  We were soon joined by another woman and Claudia.  I noticed that we were a little ahead of Kate, Geraldine, and Vicki, so when Tina overtook the group after a couple of miles, I fell back and the rest went ahead, looking strong. Unfortunately, a mile or so later, the four of us ran past Tina, Claudia, and +1 off to the side, Tina holding a tissue covered in blood, and blood all over her knee.  I asked if they were ok, and Tina seemed in good enough spirits and said she was fine, so we kept going, assuming she had just scraped her knee and was otherwise alright.  It turns out, she had gone over her ankle (again), and decided to be sensible and pull out.  Photos of her swollen ankle that turned up later on Facebook confirmed that she probably made the best decision, but she was, and is, understandably gutted.

It was around this point that I noticed a host of niggles that I panicked would leave me at the side of the course, writhing in agony later on, but thankfully most of these gradually faded away throughout the day.  The same couldn’t quite be said for birthday girl Kate, however, as she had been suffering from plantar fasciitis, and had even been told by her physio not to run the race.  On her birthday.  With friends.  So obviously she ignored that, and for the start, at least, everything seemed to be going smoothly.

Photo: Ryan Roberts

Photo: Ryan Roberts

Vicki was a strict task master, and we were following her run for 30 minutes/walk for 3 rule.  The walk breaks gave us an opportunity to take in fuel, an assortment of sweet and salty snacks, as well as let our heartrates come down a bit/stretch out any tight areas.  Initially, it felt a bit silly to be walking 30 minutes into a race when we were running at such a conversational pace, but if that’s what it takes to run 33 miles with no ill-effects afterwards, then I’m a believer.

We hit checkpoint one/three (it’s an out and back course), where Naomi and Suzy were waiting to hand us our drop bags (a bag of salted crisps for me), and chatted for a bit before setting off again, hoping that we were still as cheerful on the way back.  After about 14 miles, we hit Milton of Crathes, where Kate’s family were all waiting for her, and we stopped again for a toilet/oatmeal raisin cookie break (to the creator of those, they were amazing!).  I also took this opportunity to text ahead as someone marshalling at the halfway checkpoint wanted to present Kate with a ‘birthday flapjack’ (flapjack with a candle rammed inside it).

At Milton of Crathes.  No idea why it looks like I'm checking out Kate's rack.

At Milton of Crathes. No idea why it looks like I’m checking out Kate’s rack.

By this point, the faster runners had started to pass us on their way back, and we encouraged them as they all flew by.  Eventually, we made the halfway point and stopped for a chat, some snacks, and to refill camelbaks.  I think once we set off, we were all a little bit happier because we knew every step we took took us closer to the finish line instead of farther away.  The sun came out.  I was nearly what I would classify as ‘warm’.  I was happy.

There weren’t too many people behind us, which became apparent on our way back.  Soon we ran past the ‘Grim Sweeper’, looking cheerful at the back.  By this point, Kate’s feet were causing her a lot of pain, and there were murmurings of stopping at the 3/4 checkpoint, but we stuck with the run/walk strategy and pushed on.  We were also picking off a few walkers who were clearly hurting, and we were grateful that on the whole, we were feeling comfortable.

The 3/4 checkpoint arrived, and we took a little while to chat/replenish supplies.  I packed some dried fruit into my camelback and added a little water, as I’d run out.  I also drank half a bottle of lucozade, but chucked the rest, and added the rest of my food to the ‘free-for-all’ pile on the table.

At the 3/4 checkpoint

At the 3/4 checkpoint

1926824_10201508899193102_717979712_nBy this point, Kate reasoned that she couldn’t really do too much more damage to her feet in another 8-ish miles, so the four of us continued as a group.  I phoned Ian to let him know roughly when we’d be finished, but also requested that he bring something to hand over to me before the finish line.

I remember looking down at my Garmin at about 26 miles and thinking how strong I felt for completeing a marathon distance, when normally I’m ready to crumble in a heap and go for a nap.  The next time I looked down, the distance read 27.2 miles, and I was out of known territory!  With about 5 miles to go, we all stopped for a photo with a sign somebody had put out for Kate’s birthday:

1907565_10152314998593792_666196150_nWith less than a 5k to go, I found myself involuntarily speeding up, and then trying to reel myself in.  Then Ian appeared on his bike and cycled beside us.

Now, I wanted to finish my first ultra in style, so obviously I had asked for Ian to bring me a pair of high heels to cross the finish line in.  About a mile from the end, we came across Vicki’s husband, Ian, who was struggling.  Vicki told me to go on ahead and that they would walk with Ian for a bit.  Ian (my Ian) and I went on, and as I turned the corner into Duthie park, he produced my heels from his rucksack, and cycled off to the side. Ronnie had been for his long run already, so was at the finish with his camera in hand:

Appraching the finish line.  Carrying heels.

Appraching the finish line. Carrying heels.

About 10 feet before the finish line, I stopped and stepped to the side.  One of the marshalls told me, “You’re not finished yet, love, you need to go a bit further.”  Then I put my heels on the ground and started untying the laces of my trainers.  She laughed, as did the crowd at the finish line.  I managed to wedge my feet into my heels, and, somehow, stand up unaided, before strutting across the finish line as Kate, Vicki, and Geraldine came in behind me, holding hands.

Because, why not?

Because, why not?

Geraldine, Vicki, and Kate.

Geraldine, Vicki, and Kate.

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And with that, I was an ultramarathoner.  And I felt OK!  I got my medal, goody bag, and swapped my heels for flip flops, and spoke to some of the other finishers, and some of my friends who had come down to watch the finish and cheer in runners.  Not long after, Ian and I walked back to my flat, where I showered and threw on compression socks, and had a failed nap attempt before heading to the train station en route to the after party in Stonehaven.  Many a beer were enjoyed (although I’m pretty sure I owe a few people a round), and I clumsily made it back to my own bed via the second to last train home.

This morning I am suffering no more than I would had I gone out for a 15 mile run, which gives me a bit more confidence for the Fling.  However, despite getting through an ultra marathon with no hassle, I did end up bleeding and in tears after thwacking myself in the face with my mobile phone this morning, which is swelling up a treat, and will no doubt look terrific for work tomorrow.

For now though?  A burger I think.

D33 route

D33 route

Hare and Hounds relay

Time (Garmin): 19:21

Medal: Surprisingly, yes!

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20130811_154807

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We saw a lot of livestock.

We saw a lot of livestock.

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

Sweet potato fries (except they're baked).

Sweet potato fries (except they’re baked).

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

Cycling is the new black.

But for some people, cycling is the new black circa 1850’s America.  Something that they are disgusted by as they drive their big, modified, white Subaru. Cyclists mean they can’t drive at 60mph in a 30mph zone with their douchey trance music offending the ears of anyone within a half mile radius, but rather, they have to slow down to nearly within the speed limit which is just such a freaking inconvenience.

In case it wasn’t becoming quite obvious that I have had a bit of an incident recently, I’ll just confirm that during an otherwise pleasant countryside cycle with Ian on Sunday, a fat bag of dicks that only just came into my sight once I had set off from a T-junction (with plenty of time for me to move the 3 meters forwards in order to be out of his lane), decided that he was so affronted by my being on the road that he deliberately sped up, and thought it appropriate to shout out of his window that I was a “fucking idiot” as he sped past me in the opposite direction.

I know I was not in the wrong: I looked both ways before I set off, and when the driver zoomed into view he was going far too fast.  But that doesn’t mean that his thoughtless comment hasn’t annoyed me for the last few days.  I somehow doubt he would be so vocal if he wasn’t in a big metal box that I could never catch up with, especially with Ian there too.  I guess part of it annoys me because no matter how careful and considerate  the majority of cyclists and drivers are, there will always be the few (of both) that think they own the road and have a serious grudge against anyone else using it that they don’t feel is worthy of sharing their space.  As long as they stay in the minority, we’re good.

Taking a break to check out a stone circle in the woods.

Taking a break to check out a stone circle in the woods.

Ian + rocks

Ian + rocks

Falls of Feugh, near Banchory

Falls of Feugh, near Banchory

The Falls of Feugh are pretty popular this time of year as you can stand on the bridge and watch salmon attempt to get upstream.  Ian and I saw a few make a good attempt, but fail to get up the falls successfully.  After a near miss, we decided to head off, which is when I met Mr. White Subaru.

Have any of you had bad experiences cycling?  Or are you a driver that has had a bad encounter with a cyclist?  Why do you think some drivers hate cyclists, and some cyclists hate drivers?

 

Race for Life 10k Aberdeen, 2013

Time: 57-ish minutes

Medal: Yes

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The Race for Life is an annual 5k for women with the aim of raising money for cancer research.  I have run the 5k a handful of times, but this year was the first year that Aberdeen also had the option of a 10k (a few of the bigger cities have had a 10k option for a year or two now).  It didn’t clash with any other races (unlike last year), and it’s for a good cause, so I signed up for the 10k a couple of months ago and kind of forgot about it until last week.

After Saturday’s less-than-pleasant 10 miler, I was feeling optimistic about Sunday’s Race for Life.  Why?  Well:

  1. It was ‘only’ a 10k, so if I can get through 10 painful miles, 6 should be easier than criticizing the acting in ‘Lost in Space’ (it was on last night, and it was not good).

  2. Even though the word ‘race’ appears in the name, it’s an untimed charity run, so my general game plan was to turn up, and run it casually.  In fancy dress.  Then go home.

Simple, right?

I went to bed a bit later than I had hoped to on the Saturday night, as I met a friend for sushi, and to catch up.  Apparently it has been a while since we last saw each other, because we had so much catching up to do that we were essentially kicked out of the restaurant because they had to close (they were very tactful about it).  By the time I got home, I was drained, and went straight to bed, setting about 12 alarms (as usual) for the next morning.

You may think 12 alarms is excessive.  Ian certainly does, and is usually pretty vocal about his feelings after being woken up several times early on his weekend morning unnecessarily.  He is especially annoyed because I seem to be immune to pretty much any noise when I am asleep.  Like alarms.  And Sea King helicopter.  Perhaps you see where this is going: I slept in.

Instead of fancy dress, I scoured my cupboard for something pink, but not being a very girly girl, this soon changed to ‘something cheerful’, which ended up being a floaty blouse that would be more at home at a gay pride march, but cheerful it was, so it went on.  I then kissed Ian goodbye, left the apartment, and jogged down to the beach.  The fact that I achieved my maximum heart rate JOGGING DOWNHILL was not a harbinger of joy and optimism.

At the predetermined meeting place, I ran into Susan, and slowly more and more familiar faces arrived.  Susan had also jogged down to the start, and was going to add a little extra onto the end as a long run in preparation for Loch Ness in September.  Since we were both in no hurry, we decided to run together.  We had plenty of for some group photos, and then we enthusiastically took part in the group warm up, before packing ourselves into the start chute with 5,000 other runners, jogger, and walkers.

L-R: Nishat, Nava, me, Jeananne, Naomi, Suzy, June

L-R: Nishat, Nava, me, Jeananne, Naomi, Suzy, June

Beautiful sunny day for a grumpy medal slut.

Beautiful sunny day for a grumpy medal slut.

Now, as this was the first time Aberdeen had put on a 10k race as well, we were all curious about how they would arrange the course.  We had been told by the organizers, however, that it would not be ‘just two loops of the 5k’.  This was a relief, as the beach is a pretty dull (and exposed) place to run, and doing laps is soul destroying, so when we realized that we had been lied to, and that the 10k WAS going to be two laps of the 5k route, we were all a bit deflated.

I really feel this photo (Ian Sharp) captures my enthusiasm.

I really feel this photo (Ian Sharp) captures my enthusiasm.

Every other time I have participated in the Race for Life, I have sardined myself at the very front at the start.  This year, joined by friends, I jumped into the crowd, a fair distance behind the start.  The guy on the tannoy had mentioned (several times) that runners should go to the front, and walkers should position themselves at the back, but this advice clearly fell on deaf ears, as within about 100m we found ourselves trapped behind walkers, sometimes 7-8 abreast (and holding hands), leaving us to either stop behind them, or barge through rudely.  By the time we had covered half a kilometre, we had probably dodged over a hundred walkers.  The thought of our second loop elicited a heavy sigh from a few of us, as we realized it would probably take about half an hour for all 5,000 participants to funnel through the starting area and get onto the course.

After about 2k, the course thinned out into people who were not walking, but it was a hot day, and, again, my heart rate was soaring, so I was glad to see there was a water stop at the half way point.  Unfortunately, by the time we reached it, we had to join a huge, chaotic ‘queue’, and wait for a couple of minutes as a group of about 5 people poured water into plastic cups.  5,000 participants.  The hottest day of the year so far.  No cups of water prepared.  I’ll let that just sink in for a while, while I take a couple of deep breaths and imagine something calming.

After the water, we were heading back to the start on the other side of the road.  The side of the road we were supposed to be on.   Also on this side of the road, a bunch of people walking, people with dogs on leads, small children wandering about in pink fairy wings, wheelchairs, pushchairs, crutches – all going in the opposite direction.  They had been squeezed onto our side of the road because of the sheer volume of people taking part, and the pink mass showed no sign of thinning as we got to 3k, 3.5k, and 4k.  Susan and I had seen a few of the 10k runners weaving in and out of bodies on their second lap of the course, looking annoyed.  Finally, at 4.5k, the last of the walkers went past, and then we hit the turnaround point for the 10k.

Within a few minutes, we were in the same position as the fastest 10k runners, navigating our way through large groups of women, as well as having to be aware of people who stopped for no apparent reason.  Susan and I also experienced the strangest thing to fall in front of us during a race, I think, so far.

We both saw a seagull flying dangerously close overhead.  It is important to mention here that seagulls in Aberdeen are a mutant species.  They’re like normal seagulls on steroids.  They have regularly been seen eating pigeons, other seagulls, and are notorious for thieving whole sandwiches from innocent pedestrians trying to have lunch on the go.  They are loathsome.  They also have an uncanny skill of being able to land a splodge of bird crap on a person with frightening accuracy, and when Susan and I looked up, to our horror, we saw a mass heading straight for us.  We both slowed, and a mere 2-3 feet in front of us we heard an almighty ‘splat’.  We paused, probably from shock at the size of what had been dropped before us, and realized that we were looking at a partly eaten fish.  All of my complaints about how I was feeling and how much I didn’t like this event were washed away as I thought how grateful I was that we hadn’t been that little bit faster, but stinking of fish.

The remainder of the second lap is a blur of discomfort.  My heart rate continued to alarm me, and I continued to ignore it most of the time.  Finally, we approached the finish, and Naomi’s dad managed to capture the two of us in the home straight, mid-chat.  I don’t even want to know what I’m saying, but if I were a betting woman, I’d wager that I am not saying, “Wow, I can’t believe this race is over so quickly, I feel so fresh!”

At least Susan seems amused.

At least Susan seems amused.

Hopefully whatever bug I’ve managed to pick up will go away soon, because I’m kind of over feeling like walking up a flight of stairs requires a 10 minute recovery nap.  Still, in the grand scheme of things, I can’t really complain.  The Race for Life aims to raise money for cancer research, and while I didn’t fund raise for it (because people would raise an eyebrow if I asked for sponsorship for a 10k), I have decided to fund raise for Macmillan Cancer Support, aimed at providing care and support to those affected by cancer, in memory of my grandad.  If you’re feeling flush, you could always drop by the online fundraising page.  If you’re where I was a few years ago, and paying for your entry into clubs with an old sock full of pennies that add up EXACTLY to the entry fee, I won’t be offended if you ignore this.

Anyway, I am genuinely uncomfortable with the idea of asking people for money, but it’s for an excellent cause, and I promise not to bring it up again.  And I don’t really know how to end this post, because everything I think of writing sounds awkward.  So, yeah. Happy 4th of July.

Runner’s Knees Virtual 10 Miler

Time: 1:51:52

Medal: Yes (to be delivered)

It's the personal touch that makes them.

It’s the personal touch that makes them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Quiet on the Scottish Front

Note:  I’m an English teacher, I’m allowed to create cheesy titles for my posts.

Now that my spring running schedule is coming to an end, I find I have a lot more free time at the weekends.  I had promised to Ian that I would go light on the summer races, since there is a chance Scotland will get some palatable weather and we can do outdoorsy stuff together, (and there is a greater chance that if I don’t keep to my word I’ll return home one day to find my belongings shredded and burnt) and I have been fairly vigilant at keeping myself in check.  The last two weekends have been race free, and, delightfully, the weather has been amazing.  This has resulted in a couple more outings on the road bikes.

Two weeks ago we were joined by one of Ian’s friends who was riding on his mountain bike (and suffering as Ian and I glided along the road effortlessly).  Once out of Aberdeen, we took the quiet back roads to Banchory, where we each enjoyed an ice-cream before heading back.  It was such a glorious day that I have pretty much ensured my ridiculous lycra tan will be a permanent fixture this year.  Again.

This past Sunday, despite being a bit cooler and cloudier, we took the road bikes out again, this time just me and Ian.  We took a similar route in the beginning, but continued on to Dunecht (where I ran a 5k a few weeks ago), and then on to Castle Fraser, where we stopped for a slice of cake (me), a scone (Ian), and some orange juice.  As I headed to the toilet after our treat, I overheard a human beluga that had also been indulging in the tea room tell her equally corpulent friend that it would be “a long drive back to Aberdeen” and they should maybe use the toilet and get a treat for the journey.  For reference, it is about a 20 mile drive back to Aberdeen along the main roads.  I was speechless.

Outside Castle Fraser

Outside Castle Fraser

Aberdeen to Crathes Castle route

Aberdeen to Castle Fraser route

Aberdeen to Castle Fraser elevation

Aberdeen to Castle Fraser elevation

I have also been pretty quiet recently because I have endured enjoyed a school trip to London for a week with 40 teenagers who appear to be immune to fatigue.  And silence.  Having lived in London a few times, I always find it kind of nice to go back and see familiar places.  It was not kind of nice to spend 12 hours on a bus getting there, and I’m pretty sure ‘butt-cramp’ is a very real affliction.

Anyway, we got to go on the London Eye and scope out several of London’s landmarks, we went shopping in Camden Town (my old haunt) and Covent Garden, took in a few shows (Billy Elliot was amazing), visited the zoo, survived the London Dungeons, and had a day trip to Thorpe Park, where I remembered how much rickety roller coaster hurt your head.

Tiger having a snooze at London zoo

Tiger having a snooze at London zoo

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

Big ass moth

Big ass moth

Penguins

Penguins

Caricature from Covent Garden

Caricature from Covent Garden

We also accidentally stumbled upon the premier for The Hangover 3 which was extremely exciting for many of the teenage girls since apparently Bradley Cooper is a “total babe!” and “OMG so hot!”.  I tried to convince them that he wouldn’t be there yet, but they asked me to look over the crowds, so I wedged myself between a couple of hysterical fans at the barrier and, sure enough, Mr. Cooper was about 6 feet away.  I told the girls he was pretty much within spitting distance, and then took turns ushering kids towards the barrier and holding them up under their armpits so they could get a look.  I snapped a photo to show the kids that had missed out, and then made my way back to the rest of the group, as we were kind of meant to be heading to the theatre.

Bradley Cooper at the Hangover 3 premier in London

Bradley Cooper at the Hangover 3 premier in London

Bradley Cooper - still at the premier for the Hangover 3 in London

Bradley Cooper – still at the premier for the Hangover 3 in London

Although I did take my running stuff to London, I was still pretty miserable and ill for the first couple of days, and only managed to get out once for an enjoyable 8 miles along the Thames.  Early starts, chaperoning kids, walking around the city/theme park, and late nights after the theatre kind of take it out of you, and by the end, I was pretty glad to be back in my own bed.

The Shard

The Shard

Big Ben

Big Ben

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Red phone box and the London Eye in the background

Red phone box and the London Eye in the background

Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10k 2013

Time: 53:51 [Results]

Category Position: 199/970

Gender Position: 381/1836

Medal: Yes

IMG_20130519_140730

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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Scottish summer arrives, road bike (and shoulders) sees daylight!

For the first time this year (and possibly for the first time in the last 5 years), we had a glorious weekend in Scotland.  It was warm enough for me to address my t-shirt tan situation in an unflattering green tank top, and when I looked towards the sky I saw the colour blue, instead of the familiar grey!  I had already agreed with Ian that I would accompany him on a drive into the countryside on the Sunday for a few hours, but I took full advantage of the sunlight, and met a friend for ten glorious, sunny miles at 6:30am.  I can absolutely get on board with being a morning person in weather that doesn’t suck.

After a quick shower, and bundled up, Ian picked me up in his 1954 MG TF, and we set off into the Scottish countryside with the top down.  It was pretty windy, especially when we started climbing up some of the hills, but it was too sunny to care.  We saw all of the lambs basking in the daylight, and even came across an escapee on the road, who thankfully wandered off to the side:

Keep moo-ving

Keep moo-ving

We stopped for lunch in Dufftown and started to head back soon afterwards, getting back to Aberdeen at about half past 3.  Considering one of the few perks of living so far North is the fact that we get longer days as summer approaches (estimated sunset time was just after 9pm), we both decided to take advantage of this freak weather, and go for a proper ride on our road bikes.  14.5 miles later, we were back for dinner and an early night.

I was lucky enough to have the Monday off (Ian was not), so I went for a 5 mile run and did some weights at the gym in between spring cleaning my apartment (with the windows open!), and again, the day was beautiful.  Instead of going to spin class in the evening, I ditched the indoor workout and joined Ian for another go on the road bikes.  This time we managed about 25 miles on the rolling hills outside of Aberdeen, making it back just before sunset, at which point Ian devoured everything edible in sight.

Water break

Water break

Losing daylight

Losing daylight

IMG_20130508_164505Despite the silent protest of my undercarriage at the amount of time it has been in an unfamiliar saddle, the rest of me is now even more excited about the 40 mile Granite Cycle challenge next month.  At least, I was excited until I got home after work to an e-mail regrettably informing me that the event has been called off due to poor participation numbers (I think there were only 37 sign ups, and as it’s a charity event, the financial loss they would make is too big to allow it to go ahead).  Unfortunately, normal weather service has resumed, and I can report that it is currently raining, and I had to turn my heating on all day at work.

Road Bike Outing: Day 2

Road Bike Outing: Day 2

Still, 55 miles in 2 days ain’t bad.  And at least we got a summer in Scotland this year – here’s to 2014!