Fraserburgh Half Marathon
Half marathon #5 is in the bag! I had the best time on Sunday and ran my heart out to achieve a new personal best, smashing 4 minutes off my previous PB set at Dyce in August. Preperation for this race was unconventional at best, with a ‘taper’ week of no running at all spent mainly in the pub drinking Brewdog after work, Friday night I saw Bill Bailey perform and had a Nepalese banquet at midnight, followed by half a litre of rum, and Saturday I spent the day mainly helping friends build a garage and eating pizza.
On Sunday morning I was up bright and early to try and eat breakfast, and was pleased to see clear skies and dry ground. It was quite crisp and about 8C/46F outside, and hazy and sunny. I ate some weetabix with seeds and dried fruit, washed down with coffee and nuun and was ready to meet Naomi at 9am to drive us up to Fraserburgh.
We arrived at the starting area about 10am and got easily parked. Registration was in a tiny sports pavillion which was absolutely freezing inside. I picked up my number and was delighted to see that the tshirt was a longsleeve tech shirt in a choice of colours! It wasn’t branded with anything to do with the race, but long sleeved tops are so rare to get from races so it was a real bonus – I chose a blue/white one.
Shortly afterwards a couple of car-loads of fetchies arrived and my pre-race nerves were quickly dispersed with rude jokes and banter as is custom amongst the bunch of us. We were all bouncing around trying to keep warm, until I discovered that it was actually warmer outside in the morning sun than in the tiny refridgerated hut.
I went for my classic shorts and socks combo, but with a long sleeve tech over my favourite vest and ear sock/running gloves. A lot of people were wearing vests/shorts but I didn’t think I’d be warm enough for that. I’m a big fan of my new Ronhill running shorts as they have pockets on the sides and a zippy pouch in the back. Theyr’e also a little more flattering than my usual Nike Tempo shorts as they are less ‘poofy’ around the backside, creating a more slimline silouette.
Another quick blow of a whistle and we were off a little after 11. I had decided some time ago to run this race ‘blind’ and not look at my garmin throughout. I just pressed start when I crossed the line and then covered it with my sleeve. I plugged in my iPod and started my playlist – I had lined up the entirety of Nero’s ‘Welcome Reality’ for the first hour and three quarters and a selection of my favourite running tracks to bring me home for a fast finish. Nero is not an artist I would count as within the realms my my usual musical taste but I have to say I absolutely LOVE running to dubstep. It’s very easy to keep my cadence at a smooth regular level and a lot of the tracks on that album have a beat similar to my cadence.
The course took us out of the park and along on to the main road into Fraserburgh, where it looped around the outside of the park, up a street, down a street then back on to the main road where it heads up a hill in to the countryside.
This map is a bit wild, but it gives the general jist of the course which after the first loopy bit is a lollipop shape. I apprecitated being able to know what I’d be facing on the return leg – particularly this nice downhill which would be at mile 12
My goodness – Rhona in ‘great action race photo’ shocker! For once I don’t look knock-kneed, about to vomit, about to pass out, or like I’m doing the funky chicken instead of running. This was about 2.5 miles in and I was feeling good.
Mile 1 – 9.42
Mile 2 – 9.34
Mile 3 – 9.58
At mile 3 the course turns off the main road and into a private estate. It winds through a forest and past a couple of properties on concrete, before it turns in to a muddy trail surface.
It really was a beautiful day for running; perfect temperature and no wind. At this point I was aware of my pace and aware that I was running faster than my ‘long slow run’ pace which is roughly 10:30min/mile pace, but it felt good enough so I stuck with it.
Mile 4 – 9.30 (water)
Mile 5 – 10.05 (hill – gel)
After a while on muddy tracks, the course pulled out on to a back road which was a slow winding hill. I felt the incline impact on my speed but I just slowed a little so that I didn’t raise my heartrate too much. I was looking forward to my first gel as I had a weird taste in my mouth and felt myself perk up quite a bit after taking it.
Mile 6 – 9.41
Mile 7 – 9.54
I ran side by side for a while with this guy above – I thought I might have found a good pacer but he pulled away and then I ended up passing him on a hill shortly after. This part of the course was great – long, straight and flat although there was a bit of a headwind. I was acutely aware of the camber of the road however and could never quite shake the fear of my ITBs freaking out like they did in Loch Ness.
There was a water stop at mile 7.5 and shortly after Mike made another appearance. He had cycled up for the day on his bike and popped up at various points along the course – it was really good to see a friendly face every now and then in a race which has such an isolated course.
Mile 8 – 9.44
Mile 9 – 9.51
I was delighted at how good and how strong I was feeling at this point. Last week’s 10 mile run was good but I still had the odd niggle and pain here and there which caused discomfort – after 9 miles here however I was flying, and confident I was going to finish with a fantastic PB.
We found ourselves turning off the road again and on to the old Banff and Buchan railway line. I really appreciated the soft trail underfoot and found it gave my legs some relief. Though, as you can see, the sun was beaning down on my back and despite it being a chilly day this was very uncomfortable and I started sweating buckets. Incidentally look at that long shadow – this was just after midday, what little sun we get in the North of Scotland in winter only barely crests the horizon.
Mile 10 – 9.41 (gel)
Mile 11 – 9.41
There was a photographer waiting at mile 10 who took these great pictures of me – I love them! I don’t think I’ve ever looked so happy in a race picture before! I was genuinely enjoying myself at this point. With only a couple of miles to go I was feeling supersonic and reeling people in and passing them one by one. As my fellow racers began to feel fatigue and slowed down I zoomed right past them.
Mile 12 – 9.57
I had been looking forward to mile 12 all the way through the race – a nice down hill to cruise through to get me home to the last mile for sprinting. Then suddenly…CRAMP! Arrrgh…a stabbing, gribbing spasm on my left side; it was under my ribcage and felt like one of my intercostal muscles was pushing through my skin. I found it terribly hard to breath and found myself bent over pushing fingers into my stomach to try and get it to go away. At this point I was running along the main road again, I can only imagine what my face must have looked like to the drivers – but I didn’t care. I knew I had a PB in me and I was NOT going to lose it this late in the game! I kept moving as fast as I could although I felt like I was running through mud.
Mile 13 – 9.10
I had stayed true to my plan and not looked at my watch throughout the entire race. I needed a little extra something to help me push through the pain, so after I passed the 12 mile marker I allowed myself to look so see where I was at – the watch read 12.37 miles, 2:00:XX! I realised I could crawl the last mile and still get a PB! This was the push I needed to put mind over body and ignore the pain of my stomach cramp. I gave it everything I had and raced that last mile like it would be the last I’d ever run.
0.1 nubbin – .35secs
Another classic pausing-the-garmin finishing picture. I’m only grimacing here as I thought I was going to puke, but as soon as I entered the finishing chute to the sound of my faster Fetch pals and support team cheering I couldn’t stop grinning – Godamn that mile was hard work but so worth it! Four minutes off! Sub 2:10 goals blown out of the water!
There were sweaty hugs and congratulations all around as I grabbed my goody bag and staggered over to some dry ground and plonked myself down on it to catch my breath. What a rush! I love the atmosphere of smaller races even more now I know so many local runners – the cheers are personal, your friends are right there and you don’t have to wander for half an hour to find them and hug them. As soon as I could, I stood back up and went over to the finishing chute to cheer in the last of the Fetch crew including a very emotional PB from Maz who wore her heart on the sleeve as she came across the line. I am so very grateful to have met so many wonderful runner friends – we share a unique bond over something so simple and it is a pleasure to share these experiences and achievements with them every time I race.
After everyone had come in, we went en masse to the local community centre where a huge spread of food had been provided. Runners and family were able to eat their fill and more from the impressive array of cakes, biscuits, sandwiches and pastries. I had a few bits and pieces but my post race nausea had not quite died down and I wasn’t quite ready to eat.
Looking around, I felt at home amongst strangers. A motely crew of individuals and groups, dressed in clothing deemed bizarre and innappropriate by conventional standards, sweaty haired and muddy legged. These are my people now; I am an athlete, a runner, an achiever and an improver, and I can’t wait to find out where the journey will take me next.
All photos except 1, 2, 7, 10, 11, 12, 18 taken by Graeme Clark of Fraserburgh Running Club