Fraserburgh Half Marathon 2012
18th November 2012
Gun time: 1hr 56m 9s
Position: 162/242 finishers
Gender: 37/82 Ladies
Category: 16/34 Senior Ladies
Another end of season, and another great day out at the Fraserburgh Half Marathon, affectionately known around these parts as the Broch Half. Last year I finished up my racing year there with a brand new half marathon PB of 2:07.17, slicing 8 minutes off my first attempt at the distance 5 months previously at Stonehaven. This year I’ve somehow managed to carve a further 11 minutes off and my PB now rests firmly under 2 hours – a 19 minute improvement since my first half. It’s not just the time that is coming down though – last year at the Broch I placed 37th out of 67 in my gender and only 22nd out of 28 in my age category. There was a slight increase in numbers taking part this year but I am pleased to finally be worming my way out of the back of the pack to the middle in these smaller races.
The day started off with a complete catastrophe. A real, race-ending catastrophe. Kynon and I spent the night before the race in my now empty flat in Aberdeen (I have a week left on the lease) as it is 15 miles closer to the Broch, and when I was getting dressed I realised I had forgotten one crucial component of my kit. My sports bra. I was being picked up in 45 minutes and I was missing the one thing which would prevent me from running that day – it would have been less of an issue had I forgotten my running shoes.
Kynon, my knight in shining armour, leapt out of bed and threw on some clothes and jumped straight in the car back down the road to Stonehaven to get it for me whilst I sorted the rest of my kit and ate my breakfast. Thankfully Naomi was happy to wait a little bit and at that time of the morning on a Sunday there was no traffic on the roads at all so he was back within 40 minutes. My sweetheart, my saviour – thank you so much darling!
We were on the road with Naomi soon enough and enjoyed the sunny drive to the Broch. Sheri was supposed to be with us too, but unfortunately she succumbed to an ear infection and was unable to make it. Upon arrival we were greeted with brilliant sunshine but a bitter cold, finished off with a cutting wind.
Shivering, we quickly huddled into the sports pavilion to register and to pick up our race garments – another great quality long-sleeve top. Unbranded and in a choice of colours (bright orange for me!), I suspect I will get just as much use from this top as I have done with the one from last year. We also got our goody bags, which I found most odd; why on earth were we getting them at the START of the race?
It was SO cold! Ironically I knew it would be the kind of weather that would result in me being warm and possibly too hot within a mile of the start if I wore too much. In the end I went for calf sleeves and running skirt on bottom, long-sleeve top and fetch t-shirt on top, with arm warmers and gloves which could be easily tucked into my race belt when I got too warm.
Soon we were surrounded by plenty of familiar faces, all equally cold and wearing plenty of layers to retain the heat. The Fetch roll-call was: RedWineRunner, crooked-smile, Old Croc, mrsshanksi, weekatiepea, SillyFencer, HalfPint, MotherDuck, the Duckinator AberdeenDavid, Claudinaha and Corrah – a great turn out!
We only managed to herd a few of us together for a picture at the start – L-R – crooked-smile, Old Croc, RedWineRunner, WeeKatiePea and her baby runner in training, and mrs shanksi with her runner in training.
Mrs Shanksi (aka Vicki who I supported at the West Highland Way race this year) had originally been recruited to pace Sheri to a sub-2 half, but since she was now without her charge she was at a loss for what to do in the race. I quickly suggested that she could extend her pacing duties to run with me and see if we could get me firmly under 2:00. After a quick discussion of tactics we decided that we’d go for sub-9 miles with a view of coming in around 1:55. This seemed quite ambitious to me initially but I was happy to step up my game. WeeKatiePea was going to run with us as well and try and stick with us as long as possible – this was her first race back after having her baby 6(?) months ago.
11am came and we reluctantly shed our outer layers and lined up ready to go. A quick blast of an air horn and the 242 of us were off on the initial loops around the park which make up the first mile and a bit of the course.
This meant that the supporters were able to see us two times before we took off into the distance through the wooded private estates and exposed country roads of the rest of the course.
The first few miles flew by because we were chatting away like mad. I was charged with leading the pace but I really had to pay attention as we were coasting in the low 8s when we needed to dial back to about 8:50s
Unfortunately I somehow did something to my garmin which caused the splits to go, for want to a better word, wonky. You can see in the above shot that I’d rolled my sleeves up already and in order to do that I’d had to loosen my garmin and I think I must have hit the lap button. I heard it make a noise but I assumed we’d just passed a mile marker – I don’t tend to look at the mile counter on my garmin in races. However the next time I looked I saw it was paused – how had I done that as well?! Analysing the data later it had been paused for about 40 seconds and lapped at .3 of mile 2 which set the lap alerts (set for each mile) completely out of kilter. I didn’t let it bother me however as all I really needed to see was average pace, but I was annoyed that I’d completely buggered it up so early in the race.
The route leads out of Fraserburgh up a hill before turning off the main road into a private estate. There is a lovely wooded section to run through, but this year it was very muddy and icy which made conditions challenging. The sun was very low in the sky one we got out of the woods and I was glad to have my sunglasses on. Despite being familiar with the course from last year, it was hillier than I remembered and there were plenty of undulations to keep us on our toes.
Chatting away merrily; Vicki, Kate and I were sailing along at quite a pace and I kept on being confused at how easy it felt to be so comfortably under 9 minute miles. I was a bit scared in case I bonked later in the course but I was feeling so good that seemed impossible. We ran though a water station at about 7.5 miles and I took a few sips to wash my mouth out and then remembered I ought to take a gel. Normally I spend the whole first 5 miles of a half look forward to taking one at mile 5 and I’d completely forgotten!
Kate stopped for a proper drink and slipped behind me and that was the last I saw of her. Vicki ran behind me with her for a little while longer before speeding back up to join me at 8 miles, which I remember her saying we passed in 1hr 12 minutes which was excellent pace. I was still ignoring my accumulated race time on my garmin so I was pleased to hear our progress.
The reason I ignore the accumulated time these days is because after a couple of years of training, I seem to have embedded certain times as mile posts when I’m out for runs and depending on what side of them each individual run falls it can usually affect my mental outlook. As I get faster I need to stop doing this, as for example in a steady training run these days I usually hit 8 miles in around 1hr 15 so when I heard we’d done 8 in 1hr 12 my initial reaction was ‘Must slow down, don’t want to burn out’. Other mile posts are – 6 miles – slower than 55 mins? I’m having a bad day, and 10 miles – slower than 1:38? Having a very bad day.
I digress. Vicki and I continued on, now faster than ever. We tackled the off-road section on the old railway line by her running in front of me and setting the pace, and then once we were back on the road and heading back to the finish I lead for a few miles. I had warned Vicki that I tend to do huge negative splits on Halfs and this course would be especially prone to it due to the easy downhill last 5k. It was all going exactly as I planned as we ran comfortably under 8:30 minute miles. At around 11.5 miles I was starting to get out of breath so the chat had to stop and Vicki pulled ahead with an aggressive pace to bring me in for a strong finish as I clung to her feet.
I remember last year I got a horrible and debilitating stitch at 12 miles and I was wary of pushing too hard too soon – I needed to keep a little bit left in my legs for a final explosive push across the park to the finish. I tried to remember a feeling I got last week in my sports conditioning class of all places, of feeling like I was flying when I was sprinting up and down the hall and around cones; I remembered how fast and graceful I felt and how the power exploded from my legs – I was able to focus on that feeling and enjoy the final mile, I’d never felt this strong in a half before.
When we turned off the main road and we could see the finish I finally felt that delicious and longed-for feeling of relief, knowing that it would all be over soon. Now was not the time for taking the foot off the gas, my lungs were burning and my vision started to blur as I diverted all energy to pumping my legs as fast as possible. I knew it would be a PB, but by how much?
Into the final couple of hundred meters and there was a tiny hill to descend on our way into the park. I used this as my launch pad to release the final reserves of energy I was saving for a champagne finish. “On you go Rhona, finish strong!” Vicki called out as I passed her and the girl in front of us, raising a hand in acknowledgment. Rounding a corner and seeing the small crowd waiting I heard Kynon’s bellow above all of the noise: “C’mon Rhona, GO FOR IT!!” and that was a further push I needed to pass three more runners in the last stretch. It lasted forever with an agonising gradual incline on grass, but I finally stomped my foot down on the spray-painted line on the grass and looked at the race clock.
1:56.09? A three minute PB – I’ll take that!
A stagger down the finish chute and moments later I was in Kynon’s arms with steam coming off me in the chilly midday air. My 9th Half marathon and another PB blagged – sooner or later this is going to stop happening and I’ll need to actually do some targeted training to make further progress, but we’ll let future RedWineRunner worry about that for now.
When I’d got my senses back, I realised that there was no water or food at the finish and I was gasping for a drink and some sugar. Of course – we’d already been given our goodie bags, which were back in the car along with the rest of our kit… After locating some fluids we waited for Naomi to come in and cheered her across the line with Claudia who she had ran with and pushed to a new PB in 2:17.
I saw a couple runners with medals, but most were not wearing one which is very odd for a race finish area. I had just assumed that sadly there was no medal this year, but on further investigation I was told that they were handing them out back at the Pavilion where we had registered. Again, most odd, but I headed over to investigate with Naomi. When we enquired politely about what the situation was with a member of race staff, they snapped at us telling us that they’d run out but that we’d got our tshirts and goody bags at the start, had we not? Were we not happy enough with that?! I was completely taken aback by the aggressive response and walked away slightly dazed – had that actually just happened?! It was completely unnecessary and not in the slightest bit apologetic. If they’d just said that there had been a tremendous entry and they simply didn’t have enough for everyone on the day then that would have been fine but to bite runners’ heads off as though we were asking for their first-born child was totally uncalled for. If you offer a race memento, a shirt and a goodie bag in your race entry then entrants have every right to query when for whatever reason your offerings cannot be met. We were not the only ones to be given such a discourteous response and we left with a really bitter taste in the mouth which is completely out of line with every other aspect of this great race.
None of the Fetch group received a finisher’s medal despite finishing between 1:35 and 2:17. No-one at the finish was telling people to collect a medal at the Pavilion and I find it most bizarre that they weren’t being given to finishers as they, well, finished. However, the race has redeemed itself by announcing via Facebook that since they had run out, all finishers who didn’t receive a medal would be sent one if they asked, which seems perfectly reasonable to me.
Despite the unfortunate ending to the day, I had yet another wonderful race in Fraserburgh and will be back next year to see if I can finish 2013 with another PB. Maybe next time I’ll stick to my training and really come up with something to write home about? I know there’s still a lot to come off and I hope that in joining Stonehaven Running Club and training regularly with my new running comrades for the next year will unleash my inner speed demon, which I know is just dying to get out.
I’ll finish with a huge vote of thanks to Vicki who was an amazing pacer – I couldn’t have got this PB without you!