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

Dundee Half Marathon 2012 (half DRAM)

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

Garmin time: 2:00:31

Medal:  Yes

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

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

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

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

Stylish to the max

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling fresh, but not looking it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half DRAM 2012

VINTAGE: Baker Hughes 10k 2009

Time: 47:58

Position: 671/2537 (Gender position 82)

Medal: Yes

This was to be my second time running the Baker Hughes 10k, and the weather was glorious.  A friend from the gym, Will, had recently got into running (not my fault, entirely), and we had decided to meet at the gym beforehand for a warm-up.  I remember we had both discovered power yoga, and we did some vinyasas in one of the studios.  He’s gay, but I have no real excuse for that.  I should have just turned up drunk, like I did the year before (where I PB’ed, by the way, and have never managed to run a timed 10k faster, disgustingly!).

Anyway, after the warm-up, we headed to the start area where we basked in the sunshine, an Aberdeen rarity, and tried to pretend like we had no pre-race nerves:

It was just before this photo was taken that Will decided to inform me he had chosen not to wear pants, and that he could see his pubes poking through the lycra.

Soon after a bit of photo posing, we made our way to the start line, and before we knew it, we were off!  I remember starting behind Will and trying to keep up, but slowly and steadily his red shirt bounded further and further into the distance until I couldn’t see it anymore.  This obviously annoyed me, and I have never listened to the System of a Down album I had playing without feeling a tinge of bitterness since that day.

The course is pretty uneventful, and I just focused on getting it done and not stopping, a technique that seemed fairly effective for me.  As this was a PG moment (pre-Garmin), I had to rely on the kilometer markers to inform me of how much torture I had left to endure, and when I saw the 9km sign, I hit the gas, knowing from my treadmill tendencies that I had less than 6 minutes left to blast out.

Turning that final corner before spotting the finish line was fantastic.  I broke into a sprint and in my head I felt like spectators were getting a real treat watching my rippling leg muscle glimmer in the sunshine, illuminated by my healthy, glistening sweat.  In reality, they may have glanced in my direction when they heard me grunting my way past some dude who happened to be ‘the chosen one’, the person I had decided at that point I HAD TO BEAT.  I crossed the line, felt like puking for a while, and had my medal placed around my neck as I tried to get back to a normal breathing pattern and find Will, who I knew would be ready to subtly drop into conversation in any way possible that he had beat me (I was right).

Finished!

Please excuse my lack of eyebrows – these were the days before I had discovered blondes need to tint.

I hadn’t beat last year’s time, and I hadn’t beat Will, but overall I had a good race, and who is going to complain about getting another medal to display, right?

Balmoral 10k 2012

Chip Time: 52:40

Position: 596 (out of 1915)

121st female, 63rd in category

Medal: Yes

Finally, back on track!

Today started early.  The Balmoral 10k starts at a super awkward time of 2pm, which means your entire day is eaten up by this event.  Even more so, as today I was getting a lift from a woman I go to the gym with (we’ll call her IB) who is also a runner (and a fairly swift one).  We had both heard horror stories from previous years about the traffic, and had been advised to set off early.  The original plan was 10am, but it was closer to 9:25.

The journey there?  Smooth and quick.  We arrived, despite a sunny forecast, at an overcast and at times hailing backdrop at Balmoral Estate just before 11am. H-O-U-R-S to go.  We visited the cafe and I had a hot chocolate (and my banana, and bag of pretzels, and some jelly babies), and then decided to check out the 5k race before heading back to the car and dumping our bags.  We made this last 2 hours.  Those are some skills, right there.

Once we’d shed our warm jumpers and tracksuit bottoms and left the car, it was was goosebump city.  Freezing.  We power walked back to the main event and then alternated between walking and shivering for the remaining 40 minutes before the start.

Once the runners were eventually asked to assemble, we crammed ourselves into the starting pens.  We were told to assemble by the placards with our estimated finishing time, but they only appeared a while later, and weren’t spaced very evenly.  We settled somewhere near the middle, plugged the earphones in, and waited for the slow push forward.  After a few start-stop moments, we were off!

The first 2 miles are on tarmac, but the path isn’t very wide so I got stuck behind quite a few runners and wedged off to one side.  There was a lot of side-stepping and ‘Sorry!’ shouts over my shoulder for accidentally elbowing someone in the ribs.  Mile 3 involved a sharp left turn and KABOOM!  A hill.  Before I’d started I had told myself I’d run the whole thing.  I even switched off the heart rate monitor on my Garmin so I wouldn’t look down and freak out (FYI my max HR for today was 191).  Still, it took it out of you, and I didn’t want to tire myself out for the second half, so I scampered to the left for a bit to power walk.  When a dude in a pink tutu overtook me, though, it was game on until the bagpipers at the top that enticed a grin out of me – I knew that was it!  Just after the descent, I spotted the ambulance crew and threw them a wave as I began to fly downhill – bliss after the last mile.

The next couple of miles were mainly downhill, and fairly uneventful.  At one point I was going so fast I realized I couldn’t have stopped if I had wanted to, and with the wet ground there were a few moments of panic as I did not want to end up tits-to-the-floor after slipping.  I managed to remain on my feet, thankfully.

The last mile and a bit flattened out, and there was one last cheeky undulation (uncalled for!), before the final stretch.  I stuck to the pace that I was at, but couldn’t help sprinting the last 200 metres (because some chick was trying to overtake me – not happening).  After crossing the finish line I had to keep moving because I was at the ‘faint/puke’ stage that I usually inflict on myself when I push at the end.  I also, as per usual, forgot to hit STOP on my Garmin like a tool.

Once I had my breath back, I grabbed my medal and a medium t-shirt (HUGE!) and had a bottle of water thrust into my hands (but no goody bag).  I went to meet IB (who finished in something like 49:xx), and immediately told her I felt rancid.  She looked at me, agreed I looked like all the colour had drained from my face, and I headed for the first aid tent like an amateur (totally lame).  A few minutes of lying down and having some friendly banter with the paramedic was enough to help me stop feeling queasy, and after a handful of jelly babies, IB and I set off for the car, where we made it back to Aberdeen for about 5:30pm.  8 hours for a run that lasts less than an hour.  Mental.

All in all, the event was well-organized, but I could have done with more than one water stop (at the top of the hill).

For anyone that wants to guess which mile had the notorious hill, I present to you my splits (in miles):

  1. 8:08
  2. 8:22
  3. 10:49
  4. 7:50
  5. 7:48
  6. 7:55
  7. ? (forgot to stop Garmin)

Balmoral 10k elevation map

Check out that rack!

So I’ve perved over the Allied Medal Hangers for a couple of months, but I just couldn’t choose something to customize one with.  Plus, they’re pretty pricey AND I’d have to get it

Homeless medals.

shipped over from the states.  While my desire for one of their particular medal hangers has waned, my lust for a way to display my medals has definitely not.  After loads (25 minutes, maybe, I perhaps exaggerate) of online research, I decided that I could probably knock something together that I would like just as much as some of the stuff I saw for sale.

Enter deranged “creative” Rachel.  I decided I wanted a branch.  And I wanted it to look like it was floating on my wall.  And I wanted medals hanging off it.

I began giving disturbing amounts of attention to sticks on the ground.  I went for a run on

Enough to get my pulse up*

the railway line and caught myself eying up a fallen branch.  I was seduced by the gnarls and whorls on trees as I walked past them.  In a park, I was like Quentin Tarantino in a foot spa, it was ridiculous!

Despite the fact that I spotted several worthy contenders for my ‘ultimate rack’, it seemed that they were inconveniently attached to trees.  A pity, that.

Yesterday, however, I went for a walk through sand dunes and along the beach with Ian and a friend, where I came across several pieces of driftwood.  I would pick one up, carry it along for 5 minutes, excitedly, and then spot a better piece.  I went through pieces of driftwood quicker than Angelina Jolie kidnaps adopts children, until I found THE PIECE.  Unfortunately it was still 2 miles from the car, but I carried it all the way back and it has been drying off in my bathroom since.

Well, until about 2 hours ago.  Armed with a screwdriver, a hammer, some screws, some nails, some hooks, and some ‘mad DIY skyllz’ I set about creating my new medal rack.  Et voila!

Boom!

More hooks will be added, as there is already doubling (and tripling, and quadrupling, etc.) up, but I needed a shower and was impatient to get a photo taken.  Already, it’s much better than medals hanging off a doorknob, and there is plenty of space left to fill in.  So what do you guys think?

*Photo of the tree nicked from here.

Kilomathon Scotland 2012

Distance 13.1 K

Chip Time: 1:08:35 (PB)

109th finisher (36th female)

Medal: Yes

Edinburgh runs are always nice because we usually stay with my boyfriend’s sister, her husband, and their daughter.  We also usually catch up with friends, so it’s a social thing instead of just a running thing.  This was no exception, and on Saturday night, despite all

Good company

my better judgement, I found myself indulging in a spicy order out curry and washing it down with beer.  NOT ADVISED!  When you’re desperately hoping for a fart to ease some of the discomfort caused by fattus muchus (eating too much), you know you’ve gone too far.  After a quick costume change (into pyjamas with an elasticated waist and a baggy old race shirt), everyone settled onto the couch to watch some TV and relax.  I went through for a quick kit check for the morning, re-read the fact that it was an 8:30 am start, and decided I should probably not stay up for Mad Max 2.

The alarm at 6:30 am on Sunday morning was a bitch.  Plus, after the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having, the return to typical Scottish spring weather was a kick in the teeth.  I devoured a power bar whilst remaining under the duvet, taking full advantage of my boyfriend’s body heat.  I even put as much of my running kit on as possible under the duvet – it was cold!  At 7, I nudged Ian and told him he needed to get up, get dressed and think about driving me to the start.  I’m convinced he was too tired to be grumpy, so I counted myself lucky, and he took me as close to the start as possible, before dumping me into the cold and zooming off back to civilization.

The race started at Ocean Terminal, and since there were no buildings or anything to block the sea breeze, I was pretty much covered in goosebumps from the moment I ventured out of the car.  I made my way to the baggage drop, reluctantly giving up my tracksuit bottoms and vest, but meeting a friendly woman who seemed just as enthused as I was about being up at that time in the morning (for clarity: not very).  Everyone took refuge in the shopping mall until we were called to the starting pen, where everyone ‘warmed up’ in an effort to not freeze.  Eventually, 8:30 arrived and we set off.

It took a good 2k for me to feel a bit thawed, and it was the first outing of my new toy (Garmin 310X) that I can justify buying as it is waterproof, and I have at least 2 races this year that will require a waterproof GPS watch.  I repeat: totally justifiable purchase.  I glanced at the pace and was shocked to discover it was around 8:30/mi and I didn’t feel like I was particularly exerting myself.  I slowed down for the second kilometer just in case, but when the 3k marker came into view I thought ‘screw it’, and sped up again.  Next weekend is the first in a while with no race (!!!) so I might as well go for a decent (automatic) PB on a new distance.  Plus there was a woman who passed me at the very start with a smoking hot body, and if she is blessed with that, I want to at least be faster than her (this is the kind of crap that motivates me).

The route was generally very pretty, taking us along cycle routes away from traffic.  It wasn’t too dissimilar to the old railway line in Aberdeen, except it had more impressive bridges.  Each kilometer was clearly marked, and when we joined up with the 6.5 k

Looking back into Murrayfield Stadium at the exit after finishing.

runners, the markers were clearly colour-coded.  Despite the cold, the skies were blue and the sun was shining, and by the time we ran the finishing kilometer around Murrayfield Stadium and onto the track it was actually fairly pleasant!  As I crossed the finish line, I was instructed to go straight ahead to pick up my medal and goody bag, and the marshals were all very helpful and friendly, directing me to the toilets, the baggage pick-up, and even towards town (where I was about to start walking to meet Ian).

The sun stayed out for my walk back so I didn’t bother adding any layers apart from an extra t-shirt over my wicking top.  Once I met up with Ian we walked around Edinburgh city centre for a while before grabbing a ‘Big Belter’ cooked breakfast from a cafe bathed in sunlight for ‘brunch’.  It was definitely a case of my eyes being bigger than my belly as, despite making a good dent in the pile of food delivered to me, I was defeated.  We continued walking back to Ian’s sister’s in the sun, walking down the royal mile and through Holyrood Park.  After a shower and some goodbye’s, we had a quick stopover at a friend’s for a quick board game, then started on the journey home.

Holyrood Park

More Holyrood Park

OBVIOUSLY, as I now have 2 weeks off work thanks to the beauty of Easter Holidays, the gorgeous weather we have had for the last week has disappeared and been replaced by the gross weather that will cause me to want to sit around in pyjamas all day watching Jeremy Kyle instead of going for a carefree run in the sun.  Leaving Edinburgh, I fell asleep in the car for about 45 minutes and awoke to meat sweats courtesy of the fry up, and this uplifting scene:

Awesome.

Garioch 10k 18.4.12

Chip Time: 52:31

Gun Time: 53:34

313th finisher (81st female)

Medal: Yes

Time to redo my nails.

After a semi-disasterous half marathon last weekend, I was a little concerned about how I would perform today, but I also felt relieved that I’d only have to run half the distance, and I was back in my 10k comfort zone!  I had never run Garioch before, so I was glad to pick up some tips at Saturday’s parkrun, when I was volunteering as tail runner.  It looks like I wasn’t the only Garioch runner saving my legs, as several of the volunteers were at the race today, and I got to say a friendly hello.  From some of those who had run the race I established that it was hilly, so not one for PB’s.  I was also told that at around 7k, the route actually passes the finish line at the sports centre and goes off on a 3k loop before ending – VERY handy to know, as I didn’t get too excited when I saw the sports centre come into view , and I ran past at a steady pace knowing I’d be there soon.

Before parkrun yesterday morning. The weather today was just as nice!

I got a lift to the race from my friend Grant, who was also running – his first 10k!  It was obviously a momentous event as he actually obliged when I told him to pose for photos!  We got there in plenty of time, registered, and spent some time enjoying the rays before the rush of runners arrived.

Fueling up, bitches!

The race was well-organized, despite a couple of hiccups involving flooding toilets and late registrations holding the start back by about 10-15 minutes.  The weather was glorious, just like the previous day at parkrun.  Unusually (to me), the half marathoners and the 10k’ers started in the same pens and took off together, splitting onto separate courses just before 4k.  I thought it was a bit of a shame for the halfers, as they’d have people zooming by at the start and they’d feel like they were just plodding along!  Just before the horn there was a speech and a minute of silence to remember the 34-year-old runner who died near the end of last year’s race, Mark Sharp.

Once the run had started (uphill from the word ‘go’), everyone shuffled along, dodging in and out of pockets of space between other runners for the first kilometer or so, until everyone found their pace.  The sun was shining and for the first time this year, I felt warm running in Scotland!  There were a lot of undulations throughout the run, and a couple particularly brutal bits, but with that came a few downhill sprints where you could catch your breath.  I ran with a pretty steady pace throughout, and never felt like I was overexerting myself…… until the sprint at the end.  I can’t help breaking into any energy reserve I have left when that finish line comes into view.  And it’s even more sweet when you overtake guys in that final stretch!  Despite having my earphones in and blasting ‘Promises’ by Nero, I heard the announcer call out my name when I crossed the finish line, and I felt like a rock star picking up some water, my technical t-shirt, and, of course, my medal.  So much of a rock star, that I forgot to hit ‘stop’ on my Garmin.  Every freaking time!

Done!

This race was also good fun because of the amount of people I knew that were there.  A few folk from the gym made it along, some volunteers from parkrun that I’d met the previous day, and even a new twitter friend.  Running is quite the social activity!

So how was everyone else’s racing weekends?  The weather is picking up, and so are the events!

Inverness Half Marathon 11.3.12

Official Time:  2:04:46 (PB)

1118th finisher (That sounds pretty rubbish!)

Medal: Yes

Pinky was not intentionally positioned to hide ‘1/2’, honest!

First half marathon, and I was gunning for a time under 2 hours, since I know I’m capable of it.  Unfortunately, everything seemed to go wrong.

I woke up with a pretty ropey belly, and to avoid totally grossing anyone out, I’ll avoid any graphic description and simply say that what my body was churning out at 6 am in the bathroom did not set my spirits high, as hydration is pretty important for a race.

The drive to Inverness was stressful.  I wasn’t driving, but Ian was becoming more and more pissed off with shit drivers along the way.  We also got stuck behind a ridiculously slow caravan, and then a tractor.  Stress mounted as it became clear that we would be cutting it close to make it to registration on time.  To rehydrate, I was guzzling water and realized very suddenly that if I didn’t get to a toilet, STAT, there was going to be a Paula Radcliffe moment in the passenger seat.  This did not help stress levels.  Luckily we found a gas station with a toilet, and normal (ish) activity could resume.

Once we had made it to the sports centre in Inverness, there wasn’t much time left, and I still had to get changed and find somewhere to put my stuff.  The parking looked crazy, so I ran out, leaving Ian to it.

Much stress ensued, but I eventually registered, got changed, sorted out a locker and met Ian.  It was around this point I realized I had eaten nothing since breakfast (it was about 12:15), and thought I should maybe try and fuel up.  This did not happen because I felt sick just thinking about food.  At this point, Ian left, and I realized that I was exhausted from the stress of getting there on time.  Shortly after, the bagpipes started up, indicating the walk to the start line.  I felt so rotten I wanted to cry.  You know those days were you feel like even walking is an effort?  This was one of those days, and I knew this run was going to hurt.

When the horn went, everyone slowly made their way to the start line.  Once I passed, I hit ‘start’ on the Garmin and set off, aiming to keep a pace between 8:30 and 9:00.  Even dodging the slower runners, this was going well.  The first 3-4 miles steadily climbed uphill, and I maintained a good pace.  I was hungry, and it was tough, but I started feeling more positive.  This positive feeling skyrocketed when I ran past my ex-boyfriend’s parent’s house, because where there was once a grassy meadow next to the small country path that led to their riverside home there was a GIANT FUCK OFF TESCO.  I remember his mother (who I thought was a patronizing bitch) used to complain that ‘they’ wanted to build a Tesco in the meadow and that it would ruin their views/be horrible/etc.  Man, that Tesco made me smile.

Of course, karma is more of a bitch than my ex-boyfriend’s mother, and for all of my nasty thoughts, I received payback in mile 6 when the mother of all stitches decided to bestow itself upon my person.  Right after the uphill struggle, and right before the sweet, sweet downhill section.  I was super pissed off.  I had to ‘evolve’ several times.  To illustrate:

hunched over walking – upright walking – slow jog – regular jog – attempt to run – EXCRUCIATING PAIN! – repeat

This went on for the next few miles, and checking my Garmin only confirmed that a sub 2 hour half was not on the cards this time.  I was even more pissed off.  I experienced the weirdest emotion-struggle when a woman ran past and shouted back, “Come on, you’re halfway there!”  Half of me was grateful for her encouragement and wanted to smile and say ‘thanks’, and the other half wanted to punch her in the face and scream.  That’s a strange internal struggle to experience, and I’ll be honest and say it’s the first time I’ve felt anything like it.

By mile 10, the pain had finally subsided, and I finished the last 3 miles at a 9:00/mile pace.

At the finish line

I was never happier to see a finish line and I have never run a more painful race.  I felt pretty deflated afterwards, and even getting a sub 2:05 time wasn’t enough to lift my spirits – I actually wanted to cry.  I took my medal (one of the only things that encouraged me to keep on truckin’ during the pain), found Ian, and headed to the car.  It was time to go home and refuel in style: with beer and curry.

There’s nothing quite like running 13.1 miles on a near-empty stomach, and a 2 1/2 hour drive home to build up an appetite.  After a shower at the flat, we headed to the restaurant.  I got shat on by a bird within 5 minutes of heading out the front door, but I was so exhausted, and so hungry, I didn’t care, and I dined out with a crusty patch of bird shit in my hair.

Not a smile, but a grimace that I was too exhausted to execute properly.

On a positive note, the race was well organized, the views were beautiful, and the atmosphere was great.  I’m just bummed I didn’t really get into the spirit, but whatever, medal numero uno in the bank – Boom!

Curry bound!

Putting my feet up after my THIRD shower of the day – thank you anonymous bird.