Red Wine Runner

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D33 Ultramarathon | Race Report 2017

D33 Ultramarathon
11th March 2017

d33 ultra medal

5hrs 14m 58s

104th of 241 Finishers
14th of 67 Female runners
6th of 23 in Senior Female Category

In 2012, I ran my very first ultramarathon at the D33 ultra, after having started running in 2010, and completing one poor marathon finish in 2011.  Often I find it very strange to take a look in the rear view mirror and see everything that has passed since that first finish, and how somehow along the way I became someone who has ran 25 races of marathon distance or further. On many occasions I still find myself looking at my reflection in the mirror and can’t quite figure out how I manage it, yet time after time I seem to be able to pin a number on to a running top, put on some trainers and knock out another finish.

In 2017 and in the days preceding my fifth D33, I could have done without missing an entire night of sleep due to  travelling on the sleeper to London for a day of work, and I could have probably done without casually getting hammered before our evening flight back (although that was awfully good fun). I also could have done without getting the late train after work from Edinburgh back up to Stonehaven the night before the race, and I could have done without my period showing up to join the party on race morning as well; but these things are sent to try us.

Nevertheless undeterred, I woke up to an empty house on race morning (Kynon having left long before to help with Race Director duties) and hitched a lift with some Stonehaven Running Club friends to the start in Aberdeen. It was quite a mild morning, but after half an hour of standing around in a vest and shorts I started getting second thoughts about my minimalist apparel, and added a long sleeved top underneath as raindrops started to fall from the sky.

The start was the usual whirlwind of hugs and reunions of old friends, although it was quite surreal to be saying hello to my colleague Lauren for the first time at a race, who was on the start of her second ultramarathon and enjoying her very first trip to Aberdeen.

d33 ultra 2017

When the hooter went, I launched away and sped out of the Duthie Park gates with the somewhat reduced crowd of 240 odd runners. In the last couple of years numbers have really swollen, but this year it felt slightly less of a bun-fight to get through the narrow park gates and up the steep twisty path to the start of the old railway line. I clocked a predictably quick first mile in 8:40, and then settled in for the long haul at 9 minute miles for the first 26 miles.

d33 ultra 2017

My coach had suggested that a sensible way to pace it would be to aim for a four hour marathon and then turn up the pace in the last 7 miles, but only if it felt ok. I was trying hard to do what I was told, so I religiously kept an eye on my watch and clocked a solid set of splits between 8:50 and 9:10 until the first check point, where I lost 20 seconds fumbling with a soaking wet water bottle, and then I continued with the metronomic pacing, sliding through half marathon distance at 1hr 58m.

d33 ultra 2017

The weather definitely deserves a mention, as by 4 miles it was solidly pouring with rain and by 8 I was soaked to my skin. It wasn’t particularly cold, but this did mean the early onset of some wet kit chaffing (always a joy), and the path becoming slippery and muddy where it becomes more of a trail, after Drumoak.

I reached half way at 2hr 24m which was bang on target for a five hour finish, and decided to take the time required to drink my bottle of Active Root as a walking break. My guts were doing some ominous clenching and I wanted to make sure I took on the fluid I needed. After a minute I set off again and enjoyed seeing a good selection of friends who were not far behind me, and high fiving everyone I could.

d33 ultra 2017

Picture: Running in Scotland

Then the wheels began to come off. I got to 20 miles in just under 3 hours as planned, but that was after miles 17, 18, and 19 falling well short of the target as I was beginning to struggle with some gnarly period pain and its tag-along friends, nausea and back pain. I make no apologies if you find this to be TMI; if so, please go and have a wee word with yourself and come back. I’ll still be here. This is an issue which biologically female athletes have to work around, and it’s not talked about nearly enough, so I’m adding my voice to it. Want to learn more? Shout out to Tess and  Lauren for their honest blogging lately, and of course our girl, Paula, speaking in the news last year.

50% of the population have periods every month for much of their lives, and chances are every so often one is going to show up on a race day for a runner. I’ve been ever so lucky to avoid this before now, but I always knew that eventually it would happen and that it would be unpleasant. I’ll leave it at that, but it’s hard to keep your pace in check when you’re having to stop to bend over and breathe through a vicious cramp, stretch out your back, or just casually do a dry heave whilst still jogging on.

d33 ultra 2017

So that happened, and I quickly came to terms with the fact that there was nothing I could do about it so I just dragged myself back to Duthie Park as swiftly as I could. This was not my goal race, and I wasn’t injured; I had got in a great 20 mile run, and then I would have a nice 13 mile cool down with a medal at the end of it – a lovely way to spend a Saturday. The sun even came out for a little while, too!

d33 ultra 2017

d33 ultra 2017

With Lauren and our medals afterwards

There’s not much else to say – I went through marathon distance in 4hrs 07m and cruised back into the park in a total time of 5hrs 14m and 58 seconds – a tidy 47 second PB for the 33 mile course. It would have been great to be reporting on a bigger success, but I’m glad that I didn’t empty the tanks as I can keep on training for London and I can be fit for a strong run at the John Muir 50k on the 1st of April.

d33 ultra 2017

Before I close, I’m got a bonus story to share. Firstly, here’s a picture from the D33 in 2012; moments after I crashed over the finish line and landed square in this lady’s arms for a hug, after achieving my first ultramarathon finish.

d33 ultra 2017 _6

That’s Julie; who is an amazing part of the Scottish Ultramarathon family, and works hard at nearly every race on the circuit year after year. That was actually the first day I’d met Julie properly; we’d chatted on social media, via blog comments, and on Fetch, but having just re-read her race day blog from way back then, I’m reminded of this:

d33 ultra 2017 _7

So; here I am, 6 years and 25 ultras and marathons (including a West Highland Way Race finish) later, sitting in Duthie Park drinking a beer in the cold Spring evening light, and the tables are turned. Despite years of adamant protest to the contrary, Julie is finally running her first ultramarathon and it’s my turn to deliver the finish-line hug. I was lucky enough to be one of a privileged few to know that she had been working hard over the winter to be ready for the D33, which she had sneakily entered under a  different name and I was so excited to see her finish.

d33 ultra 2017

Photo by Sandra

Finishing was never in doubt, of course; with friends like us you won’t get a choice. Showing a tremendous amount of pluck and tenacity, we got to welcome her home in 9 hours 16 minutes and 14 seconds. Well done Julie; we are all so proud!

 

February Training Round Up

So here we are in March. In the past I’ve not made a habit of meticulously reviewing each month’s training; primarily due to reasoning that if I find it boring to write about, then you’ll find it even more boring to read about. However, after a spectacular January, there came a somewhat different February, so I’ve got more to write about than just a report on another month of targets being smashed. I’m also three weeks into my London Marathon coaching plan, which has really shaken up the way I train. Mileage is down, but so are my splits; a combination which is something I would have never expected to be saying this early in the year!

It’s been a funny month; in its inimitable fashion, life has thrown me some curve balls which have challenged my ability to train like the athlete I wish I was, but it is then that I remember that I’m not an athlete; this is not my job, and sometimes other aspects of life have to come first. I’ve just been doing my best to control what I can control and let the passing of time take care of the rest. Here are some thoughts on running from this past month.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

February started off with a stinking cold which saw me lose my voice and much of my aerobic capacity for a week. Thankfully by the time the Fetteresso Trail Marathon came around on the 12th, I was largely free of the plague. The Fetteresso Trail Marathon was a trial event, run by Stonehaven Running Club, with the aim of launching a fully licensed race next year. There were about 40 runners from various running clubs around the North East who gathered to take part, and the event took place on the trails in Fetteresso Forest, oddly enough.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

For the trail and ultra runners of Stonehaven Running Club, this is our back yard and we know it like the back of our hands. There are endless miles of trails in the forest and I’ve spent more wintery weekend mornings bashing through snow around up there than I care to remember. This Sunday morning was no different, and we were faced with quite a reasonable amount of snow underfoot which made conditions challenging at times. I had set myself a target of 4h 45m or quicker, as I wanted to get finished and back down the road to the pub to watch the rugby which started at 5 hours race time.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

Happily, I had a really great day and sailed through the miles with no bother at all. I finished in 4h 46m and as 5th female which although somewhat of a vanity statistic (there were only 11 ladies), being near the top was a well earned reward. I put in a hard effort pushing up and down the relentless forest hills on the snow and felt satisfyingly gubbed afterwards. I ate an entire jam swiss roll straight out of the packet like a burrito to celebrate.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

Speedwork – Intervals and Tempo Sessions

My coach, Shaun Dixon, has delivered me a training plan which is based on a loose goal of 3hr 45m at the London Marathon. He has me scheduled for 5 runs a week with extra conditioning sessions as well; I’d be lying if I said I’ve been able to complete every single session, but once we’ve figured out how to clone a second me to take over some of my current commitments, that shouldn’t be a problem.

At first, the pace brackets set for the intervals terrified me. If marathon pace is 8:35 per mile, then everything else is a lot faster! As a certified ultra plodder who also likes the fact that 10:00 per mile makes the running time mathematics really easy, seeing pace brackets that started with a seven was initially quite intimidating. However, I’ve found that whilst I might struggle to hit the correct pace during the first or second interval of a session, by the third and beyond I’ve found my groove and it comes a lot more easily than expected.

Holyrood Park

Notable sessions I’ve completed so far include: 7 x 3 minutes at 7:45m/m (first three) and 7:20m/m (last four), 3 x 9 minutes at 8:10m/m, and 3 x (5min / 3min / 1min) at 7:45/7:20/sub 7, with 90 seconds rest between intervals, and 45 seconds rest between sets. The last session mentioned there was called a ‘Blood Buffering’ session where the key factor is completing a 5 minute interval only 45 seconds after finishing a minute’s hard push; resulting in legs full of lactic acid and RedWineRunner being sick in a hedge.

I’m really enjoying the sessions though; it’s fun to have some structure to push myself to achieve and I feel like I’m really working hard in my lunchtime runs. Unfortunately, some days this has meant returning to my desk looking a bit I’ve been dragged through a hedge,  but as long as I’m not seeing any clients it’s fine…

worzel gummidge

Long Runs – Marathon Pace Runs

The big change to my training has been a dramatic cut in weekend mileage; in my first week of ‘coached’ training, the total training hours for the week were supposed to be 5 hours and 10 minutes. Normally at this time of year I would be going out and running for that amount of time and longer in one day, and then going out again the next day. It’s been hard to decide what to do, because whilst London is important to me and I have an incredible resource on hand in this coaching for the race…I also have a 33 mile race in 6 days time, a 50k race in 4 weeks, and a 55 miler three weeks after London.

I haven’t run for more than 5 hours since my day out on the West Highland Way at the end of January, and I can’t say that this doesn’t bother me somewhat. I need to be ready for 12 hours of moorland trails and hills on the 13th of May and being a Pavement Princess right now is not going to have me in the best of shape for that. However, if I was to get a smashing PB at London, perhaps that might make up for the death march that the Cateran 55 could potentially turn into…

IMG_0073

However, today’s ‘Long’ run was very positive, and makes me think that something pretty special for me might be attainable at the London Marathon. My run was technically supposed to be a 1hour 50m marathon-paced fartlek with two chunks of time at goal pace, but I got a bit excited and ran the whole damn thing at marathon pace and completed 12 miles at an average of 8:37m/m. It was just one of those days when both your legs and your head show up and the miles just fly by with zero effort. The difference is, that that was the fasted paced long run I have ever ran, ever. My half marathon PB is 1h 53m 58s (Fraserburgh 2014, hard effort, pishing rain and snow) and today I ran 12 miles in 1 hour 43 minutes, and it didn’t even feel like an effort.

For me, that is pretty damn significant and I’m not sure I feel about it. I know I’ve been working hard on my speed sessions, but realistically – it’s been three weeks. I’ve not lost any more weight and realistically I’m still drinking far too much booze to be a good athlete. Could it be that I’ve been blocking speed from my legs for years by constantly being exhausted from running hundreds of slow miles a month? Did I need 2016 ‘off’ from hard training and racing to finally give my body a rest, in order to come back stronger than ever in 2017?

Who knows. I’m just going to keep slowly building the fire, and at just the right moment; I’ll light the match.

light-a-match

Active Root | The Natural Ginger Sports Drink

Recently I’ve been testing some samples of a new sports drink called Active Root, which is made right here in my adopted home of Edinburgh. I’d heard about Active Root through various outlets but had never come across a sample, so I was pleased to give it a go. I absolutely LOVE anything ginger, including when I’m out running, so it seemed like the product would be perfect for me. I wasn’t wrong and I’ve really enjoyed drinking it on long and short runs, and even for tackling a hangover. It’s zingy and refreshing without being too sweet, and tastes great even after six hours on the trail.

I was really keen to support this new Scottish business, so I asked the founder of Active Root, George Ashley, if he would answer some questions about his products so that I could say a bit more than “This Tastes Awesome!”. Read on to learn about what makes Active Root special, where you can buy it, and what the next steps are for the team…

active root sports drink

Can you tell us a bit about Active Root – what is it and what does it do? What makes it different from other sports drinks?

Active Root is the first natural, ginger based sports drink. It is designed to help avoid and alleviate stomach discomfort and nausea before, during and after exercise. It also tastes pretty  good! There is a whole host of data from peer reviewed scientific journals to our own  investigations to suggest ginger calms the stomach and decreases nausea. This forms the basis  of what makes Active Root different from other sports drinks.

Where did the idea to make a ginger sports drink come from? Why choose ginger?

My business partner Will and I were sat in a pub in Edinburgh in early 2013. His mother used to give him ginger beer as a child when he had an upset stomach. Both of us had experienced stomach issues before and after long runs and bike rides. After a few more beers and discussion, we realised that this could form the basis of a business.

How did you get from an initial idea to prototype? How much testing did you do?

For the first 9 months we attempted to fuse a sports drink recipe with a ginger beer recipe with little success. Our ‘lab’ was my kitchen using a blender and some simple equipment. I have a background in bench science so that came in handy. We experimented with different ingredients, concentrations and production methods most Saturdays throughout the summer of 2013, and eventually, we came up with something both of us would drink!

In 2014, Huw joined the team via a mutual friend and Active Root formed the basis of his Master’s project at University in Edinburgh. We compared the stomach settling qualities of Active Root against another sports drink (with no ginger) and water. We had 40 volunteers for the study, involving a series of 5k races and a semi-quantitative questionnaire. The results suggested that Active Root decreases gastric issues by 40% compared to the other two drinks. In 2017, we have a further study planned, in collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University.

Active Root is now made by a third party manufacturer so all necessary quality and lab checks are conducted in-house. It’s a long way from my old kitchen in Marchmont!

What was the biggest challenge in production?

In 2015, and still pre-trading, we decided to move from a liquid product to a dissoluble powder. This was not only to make Active Root a viable business from a financial perspective, but also to give the consumer more flexibility with Active Root in terms of where they want to use the product. That could be on their bike, in their rucksack or in the cup holder whilst down the gym.

The biggest challenge was converting our recipe into a viable powder form. However, we have a great manufacturing partner in the north of the UK who have been very helpful in the whole process.

What has been your favourite moment of the Active Root journey so far?

There has been a few but probably seeing Active Root on the shelves for the first time in shops such as the Apple Pharmacy and Run and Become in Edinburgh. Seeing that really brought it all home for me.

Is Active Root a full time job now, or do you balance it with other commitments?

Will and myself have other roles, which provide funding for the company, but we have two full time people. It’s an unconventional setup but it currently works for us.

Who else is on the team and what do they do? Are you all runners?

As well as Will and myself, we have Huw who is our main full time person, and backbone of the company, as well as one other who is a little shy! Everyone is critical to the team. We are all runners; I am mainly a XC and road runner, Huw is an orienteer by trade, and Will is our expert triathlete and Ironman.

If you could see any athlete drinking Active Root, who could it be?

Primarily runners, cyclists and anyone into endurance sports. However, Active Root can be used by anyone who likes ginger and wants to balance their system throughout exercise. Gym goers, hill walkers, footballer and even golfers!
If you are asking about one particular individual, it would probably have to be Joe Root (the English cricketer) for obvious reasons! If the customer feels so inclined, it also makes a great mixer and an even better hangover
cure! [Editor’s Note: Can confirm – alleviated most red wine hangover symptoms in our extensive in house trials]

Any plans to sponsor any athletes or events?

Yes, we are the official hydration partner of Spartan Races in the UK for 2017. This is major platform for us to bring Active Root to as many people as possible across the UK. Spartan are a great partner and have been extremely helpful in promoting us and helping us develop.

In March 2017 we have a trade stand at the Scottish Cycling, Running and Outdoor Pursuits Show at the SECC in Glasgow. This is the largest show of its kind in Scotland and provides Active Root with the opportunity to engage with around 10,000 active folk to see what they think of our product. It also gives them an opportunity to buy some!
We are involved with other, more small scale events this year as well and I would recommend anyone to check out www.activeroot.co.uk to find out more regarding where we will be this year.

Any plans for any other ginger products? Please say yes – I would love a ginger gel!

A second flavour is in development and all will be revealed in due course. As for a ginger gel, that is an idea that has been on the white board in the office for a while but we’ve made no putative steps towards it yet.

Where can we buy Active Root?

Active Root is currently available to buy on our site here at http://www.activeroot.co.uk/store and we are also available in store and online at Run and Become Edinburgh (http://www.runandbecome.com/shop-online) and in store at the Apple Pharmacy in Edinburgh (http://www.applepharmacy.co.uk/).

 

 

Some Very Big News

Today I am really excited to share some big, BIG news which came quite out of the blue last week. Every so often, emails from PR companies and brands stand out amongst all the nonsense in my inbox, and when I opened this particular one I had to pick my jaw up off the floor…

Let’s get straight to the point…

I’ve been offered the opportunity to run the London Marathon in April with Reebok, and I’ve said HELL YES!

london marathon logo

 

I’ve accepted a place as a part of the Reebok London Marathon team, and will be helping them celebrate the release of their new shoe, the Reebok FloatRide.

reebok logo

In addition to the marathon place, Reebok have kitted me out with a selection of shoes and apparel and are providing me with a coach to make sure I arrive at the starting line in the best shape possible. This means that my training over the next few weeks until race day is going to change a little, but I’m really excited to get some professional guidance and hopefully run my best marathon yet!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some training insights and my thoughts on the shoes, as well as my usual assortment of running content. I’m still going to run the same Spring ultras that I had planned, but I think I’ll be working a lot harder during the week to try and get some speed to take to London with me.

2017 is turning into quite the year! After yet another disappointing result in the 2017 general ballot, I’m delighted to finally be running the UK’s most famous race – the London Marathon.

Thank you so much to Reebok for making this happen; I’m a very excited runner!

london marathon finish

 

 

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