I had a great race this morning! I woke up well rested and it was a beautiful, warm day outside so I felt positive from the outset. Badger was on photo duty as always, and a race re-cap shall follow shortly. First things first however, as mentioned in my previous post (which was actually written on my phone via the WordPress app – it works brilliantly!) I’ve been awarded the “Stylish Blogger Award” from Meg over at WatchMeGoRun. You can see that sitting over there to the left. The conditions of receiving the award are that I must a) Write 7 things about myself, b) Award it to 15 other stylish bloggers and C) link back to the blogger who awarded it to me. I’m not sure about 15 other bloggers – that’s an awful lot but I’ll have a think…
7 things about me:
- I grew up in the countryside and am still very much a country girl at heart
- I spent a year studying at the University of Texas
- The furthest East I’ve been is Ukraine; the furthest West, California
- I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 13
- I’m an only child and have no cousins or other family younger than my parents
- I have 23 piercings
- My favourite drink is champagne
So there you go – if you know me in real life then that won’t have held many real surprises!
Now on to the race report from this morning. The race was the second out of the three races in the Running Shop’s Winter X-Country Season. The first was back in November out at Banchory and I found it quite tough – it was the first X-Country I’d done in a looong time. In the last few months I’ve been doing different types of training – speed and hill intervals – so I was hoping to be able to knock a couple of minutes off my previous time of 28m59s. I’m happy to report that I came in at 26m57s – that’s a whole two minutes and two seconds faster!! I was really please with how the race went, but what a mean course! I mean, the 3/4 of the second mile was uphill!!! So let’s take a closer look.
Breakfast? The failsafe porridge and toast combo, this time jazzed up with a banana and mango jam.
The race took place at Haddo House country park which is about 15 miles north of Aberdeen. I got packed up, remembering previous lessons learned for X-country such as: Bring a change of shoes and socks and bring layers to pile on before and after the race. We jumped in the car and I gave Badger a quick lesson on how to use my DSLR as he was designated ‘Blogographer’ yet again and given strict instructions to document the day
It’s a lovely half hour drive out to Haddo. I grew up about 5 miles from it near a little village called Udny Green so this countryside and these roads are all very familiar to me. The gates above are the entrance to the sprawling estate, what follows is a windy narrow road which carves it’s way through the estate clinging perilously to some steep inclement and swooping through romantic, mossy forests.
You have to drive slowly on this road – not just due to the residual snow and ice which still remains from the terrible storms we had recently – but what because of what might jump in front of you! There are a large population of deer living in the park and I’ll never forget that time when we were driving in and a deer leapt in front of the car and across the road. Luckily we didn’t hit it but it reminds me that it’s really their habitat and we’re just visiting.
When we arrived it was still a perfect day for running – 8C, no wind, no frost and not too wet. I went to register and collect my chip and collected a course map. There’d been a slight course alteration due to ice on the trails, but when I looked at it in more detail I realised I’d be very familiar with part of the course… When I was in Primary school (Age 7/8/9ish) I did regional X-Country races through the school team – one of which was held at Haddo House every year. They were always 1 mile in length and it turned out that the second mile of the course was the same mile that I ran all those years ago. At this point I tried to forget that the Haddo race was always the one that everyone dreaded due to the ungodly hills. Tried to forget. Tried…
The first thing we did was take a brisk walk around the first mile for a warm up and to take a look at the course. The trails were beautiful, it was lovely to walk through the damp forests and smell the thick musty aromas of mud and pine needles. There were some muddy bits and some icy parts as well, but for the most part this section of the course was dry.
We got back to the start where the crowds were beginning to form so I got ready to go. Badger was taking his duties as blog photographer very seriously and documented every stretch…:) At this point I realised I’d forgotten my tissues, which was frustrating as my nose was already streaming, but not to worry as soon as I’m in the race I never think twice about blowing my nose into the air, or other such ladylike habits!
Definitely need to get Badger schooled on the inner workings of my DSLR, in particular, Shutter Priority mode! It was a mixed field again, it felt like there were more people entered though. My 3 mile race contained the Open Men/Women and also the U15s and U17s girls and boys – I still can’t believe how speedy the kids are. Why is it we slow down as we get older? There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being overtaken by a gangly 12 year old boy whilst you’re wheezing up a hill. You try hulking 12 stone up this hill boyo, just you wait until you get older!!
So the first mile was quite speedy – I completed it in 8:13 I think? I said yesterday that using my Garmin, I was hoping to maintain an 8:50/9:00 pace but at one point I looked down and saw I was running at 7:04!! If I was a sensible runner, or running a marathon, I would have slowed it down but I’m far too competitive for that as that would have meant letting people overtake me. In any case, when I had been considering the course with the map I figured maintaining a 9:00 pace going up The Hill would be nigh on impossible so I needed to grab time where I could to keep my finishing time low.
Due to the shape of the course, Badger could only get to one place during the race to take some pictures. Here you can see me approaching him after descending The Hill. Let me paint a picture for you – when you approach those gates in the distance you take a hard left and head up on a grassy gradient which was very muddy and hard to grip on. You then head clock-wise around the base of the hill and climb upwards until you reach the top which can be seen in the top right hand corner of the above picture. It’s not just a steady climb however; there are two dips in the trail where it takes a steep 15m-ish drop and then you have to climb back out of of the dip and continue further up the hill. It’s a relentless, ferocious, uncompromising ascent which wrecks your legs and as soon as you crest the top, you have to plunge all the way back down again which confuses your aching muscles.
At this point despite feeling like I was about to throw up, I was delighted to have that part of the course over and was ready to tackle the last mile. I was focusing so hard on keeping my pace up, I didn’t let myself relax for a second – not even to look up and wave at Badger! I really wanted to pass these two lasses who were ahead of me here – they’d passed me on the hill and I wanted my spot back!
And that was me heading off in to the forest again. On a side note; do you like my freshly dyed hair? I re-bleached the roots last week to make it extra bright and I’m pleased at how pink it looks in daylight!
I was delighted to see I’d achieved my time goal. My plan of making up slow hill time by pushing extra extra hard in the other sections had worked and I have a new 3 mile personal best. Yas!!!
A blue powerade and some stretches and I was ready to head off before I got too chilly. Although I definitely didn’t make any ripples in my age group placings, I’m sure I climbed up the ranking board a little further than last time when I was, erm, second last. There are age group awards for the best improved times over the three races so maybe if I keep at it I’ll be in the running (HA geddit?) for one of those. Can I run the next one in 25 minutes maybe?
A few hours later and I’m still running off that great post-race feeling. Even though these are only small races I still thrive on the atmosphere and enjoy how it pushes me to do my best. Standing amongst all of the club runners in their club kits, these statuesque creatures all made up of dense muscle and long bones; I still haven’t lost the ‘Do I belong here?’ feeling…the sensation that they all know I’ve only been running for a year and they’re all quietly wondering what on earth I’m doing here. I don’t know anyone else who does these races, but I quite like doing them on my own; it’s making me stronger as a runner and develops my competitive spirit. I’m getting more accustomed to finding my place in the field and how to hold on to it. I was also relieved to have little to no pain from my damaged shin; it was a little sore but no where near as cripplingly painful as after the last time I ran about 10 days ago. I think I will continue to take it easy with my runs and try to go outside as much as possible – it’s getting lighter little by little which means safer outside runs after work and the ‘mill will lose it’s tight Winter grip.
Ciao for now – this post has grown to epic proportions! It was only a 3 mile race, how on earth with I cope with a half marathon race report?!