BRG Challenge 2013

Time: 3:02 ish

Medal: Yes (same as last year’s)


And yes, that is what my nail looks like currently after it lost a fight with a closing door back in April.

Having been back at work for a full week, I feel like I’ve aged 20 years, and the suggestion that I’ve just had 6 weeks off seems laughable.  Throw into the mix a disgusting head cold, and I present you with a girl who has run once this week, and has done a grand total of zero other workouts.  Waking up this morning, shuffling to the bathroom to cough up a night’s worth of grossness so I could breathe properly, looking outside at the rain pelting down – I was so, so unenthusiastic about running 17+ miles today.

But when does that get in the way of running a race?  Pretty much never.  So I threw myself into the shower (running fresh is important), lubed up generously (I learned my lesson after 1st degree chafe during a 12 mile run whilst the heaven’s opened last month, and did not care to repeat that experience), threw on my kit, and had a bowl of cereal.  And then did a load of washing.  And then washed the dishes that had piled up during the week (let me remind you I was sick).  And then I vacuumed.  Oh, sorry, did I not mention that I woke up at 4:37 am and could not, despite feeling exhausted, get back to sleep?  Because that happened.

At about 9:30, I reluctantly left my warm, dry apartment with everything I needed, and made my way to the pick up point, where Naomi was waiting for me.  She had already picked up Sheri, so it was a quick trip to pick up Susan, and then we were off to Fraserburgh, which I have had a hate-hate relationship with since the 10k there last year.  I was uplifted when we drove past the sign to ‘Gash’, because sometimes I have the maturity of a 13 year old boy.  The sky was overcast and grey, and rain continued to fall, but it could have been much worse, as we discovered upon arrival that there was no discernible wind – a miracle along the Scottish coast!

This place exists.

This place exists.

Ronnie had driven to Fraserburgh the night before and registered us all, which involved picking up our numbers and t-shirts, which were a step up from last year’s white, I must say.  He had also been up early to drive his car to Gardenstown (the finish), so that we could all be driven back to Naomi’s car at the start.  Luckily we arrived early, as this took longer than anticipated, and we had to navigate to Ronnie’s mum’s to pick him up, nearly driving the wrong way down a one way street!

Back of the technical shirt

Back of the technical shirt

Once back at the start, we had a quick toilet break before congregating in the rain with the decent turnout of runners for a safety briefing.  We were all told that the clock had started 2 hours ago with the walkers, and at 11:00 we were off along the relatively flat first 5/6 miles along the coast that lulls you into a false sense of security.

L-R: Sheri, Me, Ronnie, Susan, Naomi

L-R: Sheri, Me, Ronnie, Susan, Naomi

The five of us set out together at a steady pace, walking through the water stations because we knew there were a lot of relay teams, and as we were treating this as a training run for Loch Ness, weren’t keen on competing with fresh legs.  Despite how I felt earlier this morning, I was feeling pretty strong, possibly down to the fact that my body got a bit of a rest this week (apart from a 12.5 mile run on Thursday evening).  Susan and I fell in behind a youngish boy who was running as part of a relay team, and Naomi and Sheri were treated to a history of Ronnie’s childhood a little further back.

After about 6 miles, ‘flat’ was no longer an option.  If you weren’t going up, you were going down, and there was no let up until the end.  Ronnie, myself, and Susan powered up the hills, and Sheri and Naomi fell back.  It stayed like this for another mile or so, and then Ronnie fell back as well, as Susan and I aimed to catch ‘man in yellow’, the gentleman running the second leg of the relay with the young boy from earlier that had been tagged just as the hills started.

Knowing this was some great hill training for Loch Ness, Susan and I kept going, and eventually passed ‘man in yellow’, but we could see him, as well as Ronnie and Naomi close behind every time we stopped for water.  Having run this last year, I knew what was coming, so Susan (and the rest) had been warned in particular about the 17% incline at about 14 miles.  Possibly inspired by my photo from last year, Naomi made her feelings about the hill quite clear when she reached it:


Photo: Ronnie Mutch

I will say, this photo does not do the steepness of the hill justice.  You’ll just have to take my word for that.

Susan and I battled up the hill next to cyclists that had come off their bikes to push them up the hill (they had set off an hour after the runners), and were eventually rewarded with some downhill running that didn’t make us fear for our lives (ie, not the 20% incline we had to run down earlier). At this point I still felt strong, which I was thrilled about, because at this point last year I was nearly a broken woman.  Susan, however, was starting to feel fatigued, and when my Mr. Motivator chat wasn’t helping, she told me to go ahead for the last couple of miles.

There was a woman up ahead who was running the last 3 miles or so as the final leg of her relay team, and I made it my mission to pass her.  I grunted hello as I overtook her, and continued on the mostly downhill path until I saw the town sign up ahead – nearly done!

I kept at a steady pace for the final mile or so, but had to try and slow myself down during the steep and slippery descent towards to harbour!  During my final few strides of the race, I overtook a couple of walkers (an added bonus), and clocked my time as being just over 3 hours, which is only a couple of minutes slower than last year.

A couple of minutes later, Susan appeared, followed shortly by Ronnie and Naomi, and then Sheri.  Adorned with medals and shivering, we made our way to Ronnie’s car to warm up (and hopefully dry off), stopping to take a couple of shots of the finish/harbour.  The blurriness of Ronnie’s phone’s camera should indicate the levels of precipitation:

Soggy and cold.

Soggy and cold.

Very excited about boats, it would appear.

Very excited about boats, it would appear.

My goal for this run was to run at a steady pace instead of shooting off fast and burning out like I did last year.  Despite being slightly slower, I count it as a success.  I was also curious to see how much more successfully I handled the hills since I’ve been including quite a bit of trail running during this training cycle, and was pleased that I didn’t feel the need to walk quite as often.  The real test, however, will be how I feel tomorrow.  Or, more specifically, how my legs feel tomorrow.

BRG Coastal Challenge 2012

Time: 2:58:57

Medal:  Yes (and a technical t-shirt/goody bag)

The BRG Challenge is an annual event, held in August, that allows people to choose to either walk, run, or cycle 17 and a half miles from Fraserburgh to Gardenstown.  The walkers set off at 10am, the runners at noon, and the cyclists at 1pm.  I originally signed up to this event to act as a stepping stone between half marathons and the Loch Ness Marathon in 5 weeks time,not that, you know, I’m freaking out marginally or anything.  Little did I know that I would have already completed an 18 mile and a 20 mile run beforehand!

The course was described to me as ‘undulating’, which in no uncertain terms translates to ‘non PB conditions’, so without the burden of time pressure, I had decided just to enjoy this and treat it as a long run.  Obviously, long runs require carbalicious dinners the night before, so I had some homemade pizza with Grant.

So delicious. Even looking at this photo should make your pants tight.

After a good night’s sleep, my partner in crime, Ronnie, picked me up at 10 and we headed towards Fraserburgh after a quick stop at Tiso to pick up some energy gels.  We arrived at the starting area with about half an hour to spare where we registered and got our stuff ready.  This was to be my first race with my glamorized running bum bag, and I was packin’.  There was absolutely zero chance I would go hungry during this run.

We set off on time, probably helped by the fact that there were very few of us running (Results indicate there were 42 runners, although this doesn’t take into account the relay teams).  Immediately I regretted the bag.  It weighed way too much.  But it was too late to turn back.  Having Ronnie as a running buddy was good, since he’s from Fraserburgh, and pointed out all of the major landmarks like where his ex works and what I can only describe as the least enticing night club in the world:

Absolutely not somewhere I’d fear being date-raped.

Side note:  If I have time to take mildly comical photos, I am clearly not aiming for a time that would give Usain Bolt shivers.

Anyway, the first 5 miles or so were relatively flat.  We followed the coastline and the runners quickly spread out, so I’m glad Ronnie had decided to keep his race slow and steady, or I would have been running pretty much alone for 3 hours.  After 5 miles, we started climbing.  A lot.

The course remained ‘undulating’ (I hate that word), until the end.  After about 8.5 miles (and about 1:25), the first ridiculously fast cyclists whizzed by.  A minute or so later, another group.  And for the remainder of the race, people overtaking on bikes was a constant fixture.  It was kind of comforting.


What was not comforting, however, was coming across this sign:


That hill appeared to go on for ages.  The cyclists, at this point, had dismounted.  If only I had known that this was just the beginning….


You may be thinking that with all these monster inclines, there must be some sweet downhill sections, right?  Well, there were downhill sections.  But they were pretty much as steep as the uphill ones.  Where’s the happy medium?!  On one downhill section I clocked my pace at 6:20/mile.  And I literally could not stop.  It was ridiculous.  Fun, but ridiculous.  It also pretty much destroyed my foot modelling prospects.

Still, through the hills, and wind, and rain, the marshals/volunteers were always smiling and encouraging, and the plentiful water stations were stocked with jelly babies, orange slices, bananas, water, diluting juice, and chocolate bars.  Amazing!  And since I had company the whole way, I didn’t drain any of my mp3 player’s battery (even though I had 3 whole albums put onto it last night that I was dying to listen to).  To be honest, most of the time I was smiling (apart from the grimacing after mile 16 due to an extreme tow blister situation), and so was Ronnie:

NB: This photo was taken before Ronnie’s left nipple starting bleeding all over his shirt.

As the miles ticked by, and the foot pain increased, the sun started to peek through the clouds.  The mile 17 marker, had a been male, would have given me a semi.  It was nearly done!  We ran, downhill, steeply, towards the harbour at Gardenstown and I would be lying if I said I didn’t beam when I saw the finish line.

Crossing it together, Ronnie and I accepted our medals (mine was from a former pupil, which was odd for both of us), and then Ronnie found his friend who was there to give us a lift back to Fraserburgh.

Trying to move from one car to the next after sitting for 20 minutes was pretty hellish, and leaving Ronnie’s car and climbing the stairs to my apartment was also unpleasant.  But the hot shower once at my destination was awesome.  So was Grant bringing me a chocolate croissant 10 minutes later.  And the Nando’s for dinner rocked my world (and nearly blew the roof of my mouth off).

Tomorrow?  I’m helping Grant move into his new apartment.  It’s all about building the guns.  I hope everyone is having a good weekend of running so far, and I’ll leave you with the elevation profile of the BRG Challenge.  See if you can spot the deathly inclines….

BRG Challenge Elevation Profile