So here it is, the promised delayed-by-a-week race re-cap from last weeks X Country 3 miler at Balgownie, Aberdeen. The race was the third of a series of three run by the Running Shop in November, January and February – you can read my other two recaps HERE and HERE.

As usual for a race morning I started out with a large bowl of porridge and coffee…this time with additional peanut butter and fruit

The race was actually only a couple of miles from our house this time which was a nice change. It meant a relaxed start as my race wasn’t until 12.15pm. It took place at the Balgownie Sports Centre which entails of a small old school club house with a lounge with plastic seating that your bum sticks to and smelly loos with concrete walls. Since it was rather windy and exposed outside however, I think a lot of runners were grateful for the shelter. You can see the constant wind from the flags billowing in every picture!

The course was set out on a long steep hillside. Several football and rugby pitches are cut into the hill, but the area you see in this picture is all scrubland with a track that goes around the outside. The 3 mile race was one full loop of the scrub land track and two loops of the larger loop which included the rugby pitches as well as the scrubland loop.

Looking at the course (all of which was visible from this point here), I was slightly nervous. It had a horrible hill at the start – a hill which needed to be climbed three times due to the repeating loop. I hate courses with repeats – I remember the first x country race and how it was laid out in a similar fashion – I didn’t enjoy completing one tough loop and then realising I had to do it all over again, and then again. Even on training runs I always plan my routes to be circular or ‘out-and-back’. Repeats are boring!

I did some warming up; as usual there were plenty of cute dogs around all enjoying the wind, running with their owners and looking like they were having a fabulous time! I’d love to have a dog to run with – I’d love to have a dog in general but it’s not the right time in life, it wouldn’t be fair on the little critter as i’m never home.

As it grew closer to the start I got ready – I had my usual sugar free redbull half an hour before the race and took off my outer layer – this was the racing début of my running skirt! I was excited to race in it; no-one else had one, I think I got a few odd looks but maybe they were admiring, who knows. After Badger’s tactful netball skirt comments when I first got it I can’t help thinking some people might have thought I’d got lost on the way to the hockey pitch or something. THANKS BABE.

Even though it was sunny, as I mentioned earlier the wind was rather, er, brisk. When the wind wasn’t blowing it was really rather temperate for February, but I kept my jumper on for as long as I could. Yes, I wear that jumper all the time; yes, I love it…ok, I’ll try and get a hold of another when I’m back in Texas to mix it up a bit (I leave three weeks tomorrow!)

It seemed like a smaller field than usual – there were a lot more younger runners than olders. You know, the lightning fast 13 year olds who finish the race in 15 minutes…

I was apprehensive at the start – I knew there was a mere hundred meters of flat running before a steep climb of at least 250m. This means before you’ve even got into the swing of your pace and found your place in the pack you’re hammering up hill. When I was at the top I felt seriously unhappy and knew I was in for a tricky race. My heart was racing like mad and I could hardly catch my breath; I immediately realised that I’d started way too fast.

This was at the end of the first loop – in my head I really wasn’t too happy; I knew I was in for a long slog. I’d only just about managed to get my heart rate back to normal after the major hill and here I was about to climb it AGAIN.

That’s a good view of my race outfit – see, it’s cute right? Not jolly hockey sticks…right?! I really like the adidas top, it’s very soft and form fitting whilst not being too tight. It’s also long enough that it doesn’t ride up and show my tummy – a huge problem with a lot of fitness wear; but even more so when you’re 5ft10″ and with a larger than average bust to stretch over as well.

I’m passing Badger here – trying to muster a smile. At this point it didn’t feel too desperate as there were still some people behind me, however my tummy was starting to feel not right and I was struggling to control my panic over having to climb the hill twice more in addition to further distance. Bear in mind at this point we’re at less than a mile into the race…

See? Not so much of a smile as a grimace.

…and off we went again.

I ended up walking/running up the hill this time in an attempt to maintain more of a steady pace. I was still feeling pretty unpleasant and unnerved by the whole experience. How can the same person happily run 8.5m on Tuesday, yet struggle after not even one on Sunday? I was also finding it hard to catch my breath and was desperately clinging to my sanity – it’s 3 miles, only 3 miles…chill out, you’ve got this!

Although I was chugging along quite happily here, the thought of hitting the hill again for the third time was upsetting me. I felt like I was completely out of steam and my guts were churning – a foreign thought crept into my brain; what if I don’t finish? Can I actually do this?! Oh God…

This was yet again another sneaky little steep hill – thoughtfully drenched in stagnant water and mud so running up it was like going up a travellator a la Gladiators in 1993.

 

The best bit about this stupid little hill was that my friend Mike and his girlfriend were there cheering me on! It was such a lovely surprise to have unexpected support – Mike is an ultramarathoner, who has so far been an utter font of knowledge in my pursuit of becoming a runner. He popped up randomly to cheer me on when I did the 2010 Santa Run as well – nothing beats seeing a friendly face when you’re racing, especially an unexpected one, and ESPECIALLY when you’re secretly struggling.

And off for lap three.

This lap of the hill was the worst. At this point I was feeling seriously nauseated – I couldn’t seem to manage to get into a rhythm throughout the entire race – with my breathing, my heart rate and my entire race plan. My concentration was so off that I even forgot to lap my Garmin after each mile (bear in mind how focused I was during Race 2). My stomach was churning and as I ran up the hill I began retching; I considered stopping to try and throw up but I figured I’d already lost enough time by walking up the hill the second time so I kept pushing on regardless – I figured if I threw up there wasn’t anyone that close behind me anyway to get caught by the splash back. Any spectators who saw would just have to hold my determination in awe.

 

Here you can see me in the distance approaching that stupid short muddy inclement again I’d like to say that those two people behind me were in the race – but they were warming up for the 6 mile race which was just about to start. Well you can’t say I’m not honest on this blog…

There were only three people behind me in the field.

In this race I was second last in my age group with 28m 38s as my finish time.

In the series there were four women in my age group who ran all of the races – I came fourth out of four.

Whatever – as far as I’m concerned I’m number 1. After 28 minutes of feeling the worst I’ve ever felt outside of a hospital, I crossed the damn finish line with a smile and that means I won. Out of those four women who ran between 18 and 30 I am the only one who isn’t club-affliliated – as in, I run these races out of sheer determination and bloody minded-ness. In fact – in the whole race there was only 2 women not club affiliated. Some would call it lunacy – who am I to disagree.

I certainly felt a like bit of a lunatic after that. But I don’t care – all I care about is that I’ve completed another race and through that I’ve learned even more about how my body works and responds to racing. I know now I started too fast obviously, but I also think the red bull had something to do with it as well – It’s always been fine before but this time my tummy really didn’t like it. I’m learning more and more about race fuelling the longer I run, so gradually I’ll learn what works best – and most of that will be the hard way. If anything it will make for a good blog post.

Stay tuned this week for more posts – I’ve got a couple lined up to make up for my absence in the last week. I hope you all had a good weekend – the weather up here was glorious and I knocked out 16.3 miles over Saturday and Sunday. Have you ever had a race experience so bad it shocked you? Why not tell me about it in the comments. Join in the fun – interact! I want to meet my followers 🙂