Smokies 10 Mile Road Race 2014

Time:  1:32:09 [Results]

Medal: No, but this year we got a t-shirt and, ‘scandalously’ (according to several) a beanie in place of the traditional bottle of wine.

Smokies 10 mile shirt + beanie

Smokies 10 mile shirt + beanie

This is the third year in a row I’ve run Smokies, and each year I get slower.  But I have an excuse!

Less than 2 weeks away from my first ultra (I feel like I’m mentioning that a lot recently…), I haven’t quite hit the ‘taper’.  Though my idea of tapering is vastly different from most (it usually involves me just swapping to any exercise other than running, and maybe taking off the day before), it will be pitiful for the D33.  Mostly because I’m using it as my longest training run for the Highland Fling, and as I have Milano City marathon 3 weeks afterwards, there will be no racing heroics on the day; I’ll walk when I need to, I’ll slow down if I have to – my aim is not to break myself.  What this all means is that I am still logging big miles during my weekends, and this weekend was no exception.

Saturday morning’s wake up call (my ridiculously annoying alarm on my phone that will one day drive Ian to homocide, I’m sure) was at 5:30am.  Breakfast, getting dressed, and curling up in a ball on the floor next to my radiator consumed the next 30 minutes, and then I left for Aberdeen train station, where I would meet a lovely lady from the metro running club (who shall for mysterious reasons remain nameless) and Ronnie.

Stonehaven bound, we made a point of using the bathroom on the train before arriving at Stonehaven train station.  Though it was beginning to get light, there was mist on the horizon, and a deep chill in the air.  We set off along the Slug Road, and up towards the Elsick Mounth trail – aiming for the reverse version of one of the group long runs in February.

It was slow going in places, as the trampled mud had frozen, and there was a lot of slipping about, but eventually we made it to the top of the hill, by which time the sun had come out and skies were blue.  It was still freezing, but sunshine is my crack, so I was happy:

I'm standing on a tree trunk, surveying my kingdom.

I’m standing on a tree trunk, surveying my kingdom.

After this we were on trails and country roads for a bit, until reaching the Deeside railway line, which is what the D33 will be run along.  We stopped for a photo with a cow, because I thought it was cute:




The railway line is boring, at best, especially if you’ve live near it and use it frequently, but at least we had good company for the run back towards Aberdeen.

Deeside railway line.

Deeside railway line.

Roughly 8 miles from Aberdeen, I enjoyed my first al fresco piss in years.  I forgot how liberating urinating amongst nature could be, and it’s good to know that there are some relatively secluded areas behind bushes if I get hit with an un-ignorable urge to pee come race day.

After nearly 21 miles, we called it a day, hopped off the railway line, and walked home, via the supermarket (at least in my case) for food (fajitas, in case you’re wondering, and yes, they were delicious).  There were a lot of tight places in my legs, so I make a token effort to use the foam roller before turning in.

Now, Sunday is usually the single day a week where I don’t set an alarm, so I was mildly disgruntled pissed off that I had to wake up early again.  Still, I’m thankful to Claudia for giving me a lift, because Ian might have dumped me if I woke him up early on BOTH weekend days in addition to begging for a lift.

With my stellar navigation skills, we managed to arrive at the Arbroath Sports Centre with 46 days to spare until the race start, so we enjoyed using the toilet with minimal queueing, picking up our race numbers instantly, and chatting to familiar faces before returning to Claudia’s car for warmth.  Again, it was sunny, but it was cold.

About 20 minutes before the race start, we went back to the hall to wait for the migration to the start line, and I met Kate and her friend Elaine, who were both planning on sticking to a nice easy pace and getting through the race in one piece (Kate is also running the D33 and the Highland Fling, and we’re both suffering a bit from training).

Despite the race results being your gun time, we stayed at the back for the start, and only realized the race had started when the bodies in front of us started moving.  My calf was sore.  My hip was sore.  My hamstring was sore.  I was very glad I had company that had agreed to stick with 10 minute miles…

smokiesfbBut after a couple of miles, everything started to loosen up, and even though we were busy chatting the course away, our pace kept creeping up, and we made a (rather pathetic) attempt to reign it in a bit.  Eventually, we gave up because we all felt decent, and just ran at the pace that felt comfortable.  Clearly, I was feeling alright about half a mile from the end:

Me (looking demented), Kate, and Elaine - half a mile or so from the end.

Me (looking demented), Kate, and Elaine – half a mile or so from the end.

The three of us crossed the line together (despite what the results might reflect), and we were all handed our goody bags before making our way to the sidelines to watch the other runners come in.  Shortly after, Claudia finished, bagging a PR, and we headed back to her car to pick up some warm clothes, passing Carolyn (also flying in with a new PR), Amy (what’s up lady who said hello!), and Danielle (again….PR) on the way.

Armed with warm things, Claudia went for a shower, and I headed for the amazingly quiet massage table, managing to get on pretty much straight away for a donation.  Whoever the lady was there was fantastic, and did not hold back working into my calves.  Covered in menthol oil, I headed back to a group of friends, and chatted until the awards ceremony and raffle.  I wasn’t as lucky as last year, when I won an Arbroath smokie, but Claudia managed to win a foot roller/massager thing, which she seemed pretty pleased with.

Raffle over, and clouds looming, we said our goodbyes to everyone and headed back to Aberdeen, where I had a well deserved nap on my sofa, and then watched Robocop for the first time in my life, because Ian said that I needed to, and that it was a solid 10/10.  I can’t believe Dr. Robert Romano and Red Forman played bad guys!  I’d also maybe give it a 7/10.

Arbroath Smokies 10 mile Race 2013

Time: 1:27:00  [Results here]

Position: 114/311

Medal: No, but we did get wine and a t-shirt!


Having run this race last year, I knew that I should be expecting some hills.  The plan for this race was never to race all out (despite my shaky willpower when it comes to reigning it in sometimes all the time), because it was basically my long run for the week.  This plan was partly successful.   I’ll start from before the start.

Stuart and Naomi picked me up just after 8, then we swung by Claudia’s to collect her, fresh from her trip to Oslo.  Claudia didn’t have a guaranteed entry, but had planned to pace a fellow runner, Carol, around the course whether she was wearing a bib or not: a noble gesture!  We arrived at the sports hall in Arbroath shortly after 9.  The race didn’t start until 11.  Needless to say, we were not pushed for time, so we took advantage of zero toilet queues, registered (even Claudia), and then found ourselves a comfy patch of hallway and chatted to people we knew as they trickled in.

Naomi and Stu

Naomi and Stu

Ishbel and Claudia

Ishbel and Claudia



Pre-empting the mass exodus, we left the sports hall with about ten minutes to spare before the start, and headed towards where the start line was last year, partly to become accustomed to the cold, partly to allow our Garmins to find a signal.  We were soon joined by the rest of the runners, and, like last year, failed to hear any race briefing (if there was one), or signal that the race had started, and started running as the crowd moved forwards.  Off we went!

I started next to Naomi and Susan.  Naomi will also be running the Paris marathon, so it looked like I’d have someone else to run around the course with, since neither of us were concerned with time.  Susan was racing, and she wanted to come in under 1:45:00 (totally achievable), so she stuck with us from the start as well.

The first couple of miles were ‘undulating’, and we knew that the bigger inclines were coming up.  We managed to stick together, and had a pleasant chat for half an hour or so when Susan and I pulled ahead.  I told Susan that I wouldn’t look at our time or pace until after 5 miles, and then we could work out what to do about hitting her goal.  It looked like I had become a pacer!

At the halfway point, I glanced down at my Garmin for the first time and noticed we were streets ahead of Susan’s goal time, which I told her, but we didn’t slow down because we were now on the glorious ‘downhill’ part of the race!  Seeing 7:xx staring up at me during what felt like an average effort felt pretty badass (even though, as I said, we were definitely going downhill).

At about 6 miles, my plan fell to pieces.  Up ahead of me I spotted a woman wearing the same shirt as me.  I don’t even know why that was important to me, but the thought of her finishing before me was not OK.  I glanced back and noticed that I had pulled away from Susan a bit, but she looked strong, and there was only slightly more than a 5k left in the race, so I charged onwards.  After about half a mile, I caught up with same shirt (obviously complimenting her on her impeccable style), and then pulled ahead, setting my eyes on my next victim.

I was aware that my breathing was becoming more laboured than it had been for the first 6.5 miles, but that flip had been switched inside my brain that made me crave the high of overtaking people.  Last year, when I ran this race, it was the longest race I had ever done at the time.  I remember being absolutely decimated by mile 8, and thinking the road back to the sports hall would never end.

As I ran past the mile 8 sign, I felt strong, continuing to pick runners off one by one.  I told myself I wouldn’t let anybody pass me, and I didn’t.  I was smiling, the sun came out from behind the clouds – I felt invincible!  Before I knew it, I was skirting the sports hall and running into the muddy finishers’ chute on the field, to rapturous applause (in my head).  I was asked, “Red, white or rose?” as I was offered my goody bag, and then found Ishbel, who remains speedy and crossed the line in a cracking 1:21:38!

I glanced down to look at my time, and despite taking nearly two thirds of the race relatively easy, I had only come in a couple of minutes over my PB!  I didn’t have too much time to think about that, as Susan flew around the corner, and finished in a goal-crushing 1:29:29!  Naomi came in a minute or two afterwards, and we all went inside to discover what delights were on offer this year.  It turns out, quite a few:

IMG_20130303_163021Now, I wasn’t completely done for the day, as I had set myself a challenge on Facebook without really thinking it through, where I would do a push up after the race for every ‘like’ I got on a post.  Well, I can assure you that true colours were shown when so-called friends decided to share this with everyone they know, and several strangers helped to push my total up to 50.  With an official counter and photographer, I blasted out the full 50 push ups, on my toes, in a row, before collapsing in a heap for a minute or so, though I am sure my form suffered quite a lot during the final 10:

Halfway through

Halfway through

After my heart rate was back to normal, more and more people we knew finished and came in for something to eat and drink (there really is a decent spread at this event).  We had a section of the floor where we got comfortable and waited for the raffle to begin, holding our race numbers close.  I have no idea what I’m looking at in this photo of all of us after the race:

601778_10200558441944982_784628809_nAs I never win anything in raffles, I was not holding my breath.  But when the prizes were nearly all gone, I heard my race number called out, and went up to collect my very own shrink-wrapped Arbroath Smokie, which you can see in the photo at the very top.  Quite a fitting end to the 25th Anniversary of the event, and thankfully, well sealed, since we all had to drive back to Aberdeen.



Arbroath Smokies 10 Mile Road Race 4.3.12

Official time: 1:24:56  (PB)

99th finisher (out of 333)

Medal: None, unless you’re crazy-fast (but we did all get a t-shirt and goody bag)

First race of the year, first PB of the year (by default, but totally still counts), and first 10 mile race – such excitement!  At least excitement is what I expected to feel this morning, until I gazed out of my window upon the delightful Scottish weather.  Here is a shot from the inside of the car, on the way to Arbroath, just before we passed the road information sign announcing: Snow forecast.  Terrific.

A touch of rain - and sleet.

Luckily, when we arrived it had stopped bucketing rain from the sky, but it had not stopped being totally freezing.  I was very glad I wore the long running tights.

Anyway, The crowd was friendly and I had some good chat before the race, and picked up some handy information.  For example, it was good to know there would be a hilly start, with a down hilly second half before I set off, or I may have ended myself at mile 3.

I’m a fan of summarizing, so I’ll keep the overall ‘Race Report’ short and sweet by breaking it down into defining thoughts per mile.

Mile 1: Glad I brought my gloves, it is freeeeee-what the hell, how can she wear just a singlet and micro mini shorts? Oh, we’ve started, bring it, hill, I’ll destroy you. Holy shit, check my pace!  That’s a 7!  I am AWESOME!

Mile 2: My pace is still awesome.  I am slightly concerned I will suffer for this pace later on in the race.  Pffffft!  Whatever. I am AWESOME!


Mile 4: I recovered like a pro after that hill – BOOM!  Still a decent pace.  Damn my hands are sweaty.  I’ll take off the gloves.  Hmm, where do I put the gloves?  Stuff into bra? That’s some sweet thinking on your feet, Rachel.  I am AWESOME!

Mile 5: Shit, that guy just took a photo with a super-professional looking camera and I have gloves stuffed into my bra.  I’m going to look like I have a growth on my chest in every single race photo.  Should I move them?  Nah, best not to look like I have a dong instead.  Smart thinking, baby, you’re on top!

Mile 6: Shouldn’t have tried to drink out of the plastic cup, I am freaking soaking. Hey!  We’re going downhill! WooooOOoooOooOOOOOoOOOoooOOO!! Check my pace.  I am AWESOME!

Mile 7: I want to die.

Mile 8: I’m a fucking idiot for signing up to this.  Why did I sign up to this? My underwear is chaffing my vagina.  How does that even happen?!  My shower is going to sting, hardcore.  This is shit.

Mile 9: So close.  Please don’t die.  Keep going.  Wait, why am I listening to PJ Harvey?  This is not uplifting at all!  Ah, here we are, some relaxing System of a Down.  Lovely.

Mile 10: Chaffing is worse than cancer and AIDS and world hunger, I will never enjoy sex again, where the shit is the finish line?  Wait, is that the sports centre?  Oh thank fuck, it’s over.

So as you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am totally not regretting the Half Marathon in Inverness next weekend.  At all.  But knowing that if I stick to today’s pace I can make it in under 2 hours is pretty groovy indeed. And the goody bag?  Well, who can complain when they give you booze at the end of a run?

Minus a Twix Bar, a bag of crisps and a bottle of water.

To everyone that gave gel advice – thanks!  Unfortunately my stomach has been really weird all day, so I just stuck to Gatorade and dried fruit, and am still not feeling totally right.  I will definitely try a gel or two next weekend though.  After my Mile 7 lull today I think I’ll need it!

Oh and the weather cleared after the race.  We visited some of my boyfriend’s relatives for lunch, then met a friend for a quick visit before heading home to some typical Scottish views:

Mountains and nature and shit.