Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Category: Life (page 1 of 25)

Summer Running

It’s been a busy few weeks at Red Wine Towers and there are a lot of changes afoot. In the midst of it all I’ve been continuing to train as I’ve set myself some goals for the summer. ¬†Let’s take a look at what I’ve got planned!

12th of June – Strathearn Marathon

strathearn marathon

After helping out and marshalling at the Cateran Trail races a couple of weeks ago, I came home with a lingering case of race envy. With nothing in my calendar until July and some itchy racing feet, I sneaked a little entry into this small but beautiful marathon. Renowned for its friendliness, the Strathearn Harriers put on a great show every year and the race has a super reputation. Naomi and I are heading down together and are very excited about the Squirrel medal we will be earning. I’ll be using this race as a gauging point for how I’m feeling and how much work needs to be done over the summer, with a goal of cruising around in 4hr 30ish.

3rd of July – Stonehaven Half Marathon

stonehaven half marathon

A return to my very first half marathon, except this year the course has totally changed! The course is now multi-terrain and takes runners from sea level all the way up 1000ft of elevation to Fetteresso Forest for a bit of a run around, before coming back down to the sea. The race has only grown its reputation for being the toughest half in Scotland, as now instead of the first 4.5 miles being up hill, it’s 7 miles of straight up hill. There’s no denying it; it’s going to hurt, but as long as I can get to the top then it’s a fun cruise back to town.

31st July – Fort William Marathon

fort william marathon

I won a place in this race a few months ago when I entered a competition on Twitter. The race starts and finishes at the Nevis Range mountain resort and takes in a circular route via Inverlochy, Gairlochy, and Spean Bridge. With 1200ft of elevation it’s a little bumpy, but I will be using this race as my last long training run for my final race of the summer.

20th August – Speyside Way Ultramarathon

speyside way ultra race

After enjoying the race so much last year, I really wanted to come back and give it another go. This year I am not attempting a half marathon the next day, so I am planning on target-training for this race specifically and going as fast as I can. Last year I ran over 7 hours, so I’d like to get a lot closer to 6 or maybe even under. Kynon is also doing the race so it will be a fun day out ūüôā

As for the rest of the year, well I’ll figure that out when I get there. The changes I mentioned above will have quite an affect on what I get up to, because I won’t be living in Stonehaven any more! In fact, this time next week I’ll be packing the last of my bags and shipping off down to Edinburgh to start a new job. It’s all very exciting and I’m really pleased to be taking the next step in my career. This means that I’m on the look out for a new running club to train with and will sadly be hanging up my black and purple Stonehaven Kit. Ironically I’ve just renewed my membership and ordered a new hoodie, but I’ll always keep SRC as my second claim club whilst I’m in Scotland.

I’m really excited to be moving back to a big city again, but it will mean a lot less easy access to mountains to run up and forests to round around. We are truly spoiled in Aberdeenshire, but then which other city can claim to have a volcano in the centre of it? Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags will shortly become my new back garden so there will be no excuses for getting my legs primed for hills.

What’s on your calendar this summer?
What’s your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh?

 

 

 

8 Things To Consider for a Happy London Marathon Weekend

london marathon

image source: London Standard

Last weekend we traveled from Aberdeen to London so Kynon could run the London Marathon. After a catalogue of minor fails which resulted in the weekend falling seriously short of potential; I’ve put together some humorous thoughts which could be applicable to any major city marathon, especially one you’ve traveled a distance to attend…

1.Choose your hotel very carefully
This is really a no-brainer, but we made a poor choice in booking three nights at the Ibis Styles ExCel Centre. The hotel itself was largely acceptable (apart from paper thin walls and a bathroom that stunk of marijuana…but I’ll leave the rest of that moan for TripAdvisor), but the ExCel Centre is a lot further away from Central London than we expected. Whilst Kynon could walk to the Expo at the ExCel in five minutes, that was really the only benefit of this location which is 30 – 40 minute tube ride from Central London, and on the edge¬†of a sketchy housing estate. Whilst it was good value, I would have happily paid double the rate¬†to be closer to the London action. We booked in December, so if you are planning on¬†doing London next year, then you need to get your hotel booked yesterday…

london marathon

2. Don’t get smashed in the 48 hours before the race
Another no-brainer really, but it’s amazing how easily these things happen. Being offered the opportunity to rendezvous with a selection of friends he hadn’t seen for a while, Kynon hit the pubs of London Bridge pretty hard on Friday night which made Saturday a bit of a nightmare for him. Spending the day before a marathon feeling pretty poorly will do nothing for your mental or physical preparation, and the dehydration will negatively impact your running. If anyone finds out how to make turning down the opportunity to drink good¬†beers and catch up with friends on race weekend a fun and appealing option, let me know.

3. Don’t go to Camden Market on a Saturday
I don’t know what came over me, but I really wanted to do a bit of market shopping. I used to love going to Camden many years ago, but I somehow missed the change in the district from ‘intriguing alternative hive’ to ‘mainstream tourist hell-hole’. I’m somewhat misanthropic at the best of times, but I had to jump on a bus and GTF overland before I committed mass-murder with a Spanish tourists’ selfie stick. Critical London error: 2/10 could do better.

london marathon

4. Don’t go to NikeTown when you know you can’t afford it.
I love browsing the shiny new-season kit in Nike on Oxford St. I tend to purchase my kit when it’s months out of season and discounted massively on SportsShoes.com, so it’s nice to see what I’ll be wearing in about 18 months time. I spotted a pair of deliciously awesome ¬£120 compression tights and was eyeing them up for the second time; I was almost about to reach for my wallet when an announcement came over the tannoy:¬†“Attention! An incident has occurred! Please stand by for further instructions!”. The announcement was repeated several times before changing to an instruction to evacuate the building. Jeez. Ok. I know I’m broke but back off, man. ¬†I put the gorgeous tights back on the hanger and followed staff instruction to evacuate to street level alongside four floors of active-wear lovers, and the entirety of Topshop Oxford St. It turns out they were evacuating the entire block. I was mildly alarmed, but I retreated to a safe distance and attempted to call Kynon to find out where he was. It turned out he had been in the customer toilet at the time; whether that had anything to do with the evacuation is TBD, but either way my attempts at purchasing kit I can’t afford were well and truly foiled.

5. Plan your pre-race dinner
Seriously though, this is so bread-and-butter, but we somehow dropped the ball here as well and ended up wandering the streets looking for an Italian which had availability for 4 on the night before the London Marathon. LOL. We found a vaguely acceptable looking pizza cafe which was half empty and ate a very average meal. It was crap. Do your research and make a booking before you even arrive in your race city – it’s not worth the hassle or disappointment to try and wing it.

london marathon

6. Plan your spectating route in advance
I did a pretty good job on this one, and managed to see Kynon twice and at the finish. I made the most of it by putting on my running kit and a CamelBak, and scooted between 9 miles, 11 miles, 24 miles, 22 miles, and back to the finish via the South Bank. I racked up a healthy 8 miles, saw many of my friends on their way, and particularly enjoyed watching the Championship and fast club runners gallop past at mile 24. There was some serious effort being deployed here which I found quite inspirational.

london marathon

7. If you must lose your Oyster Card, don’t do it on Marathon day
Nobody really wants to do this anyway, but I managed to lose mine with a healthy balance on it at some point on my marathon supporting jog. Tube stations near the route are utterly mobbed on marathon day so an attempt at purchasing day or single tickets will add considerable time to your journey, as well as added expense. Thankfully someone reminded me that I can use my contactless bank card to pay, but personally I am not really comfortable with sacrificing personal privacy and security for convenience, so it is not a long term solution for me. Farewell my trusty 10 year old Oyster Card Рgiven to me by an old friend long disappeared in the sands of time, I have no idea who it is registered to and no way of retrieving the balance.

london marathon

8. Plan your post-Marathon celebrations with military precision
We all know how easy it is to fall into a bed or couch after a marathon, order delivery food, and not leave the house until you have to. That’s fine when you’re at home, but if you’re in a new city you’ll want to use your apres-race evening to soak up the last of the race atmosphere, exchange knowing nods across a bar with your fellow runners, wear your medal proudly, and generally cling on to as much of your race-cation time as possible. Hopefully you won’t have been as daft as us and booked a hotel in the middle of nowhere, but if you have, then you need to get a plan in place in advance in order to make the most of your evening. If not, risk of the following occurrences will¬†occur: sitting in your hotel room saying ‘what do you want to do?’, ‘I don’t know, you?’, until you finally break free of the clutches of the Ibis Styles to head to the Canary Wharf area, because it’s easy to get to and there’s a Wetherspoons there that will do the job. Except, you will show up and the Wetherspoons will be inexplicably closed and you’ll find yourself wandering the empty streets of the Isle of Dogs looking for a restaurant or bar that isn’t a ¬£200-a-head steakhouse. You will finally locate a curry house online which looks vaguely acceptable, only to find it is a tiny, deserted cave in a strip-mall next to a dual carriageway across from Westferry Station, with only two other customers in it. The curry will be crap, you will leave after one beer, and be back in the Ibis Styles taking a long hard look at yourself wondering how you managed to mess this up so badly.


 

So what is the overall lesson here, ladies and gentlemen? PLANNING. PLAN EVERYTHING. PLAN MORE. Piss poor planning promotes¬†piss poor performance. We seriously messed up¬†this one, and other than Kynon having a great race and pacing his lifelong friend around his first marathon to a 4:44 finish, the whole weekend was generally the extended disco remix of mediocrity. It really shouldn’t have been; we thought we could just wing it…how hard could it be to have a great weekend in one of the greatest cities in the world? Not hard at all, but it turns out that having a shit weekend is a lot easier than ¬†we thought.

Have you ever had a race weekend disaster?

What are your tips for a stress-free race-cation?

 

 

The Running Awards 2016

The Running Awards

Back in March, an email arrived inviting me to attend The Running Awards and an event in London which was hosted by Strava. As a partner of The Running Awards, Strava invited¬†a selection of their top¬†bloggers and influencers to a pre-awards ceremony group run, drinks reception, Q+A session with Martin Yelling and the Strava team, and then attendance at the Running Awards themselves. Occasionally I get invited to events in London by PRs who haven’t noticed that I live 500 miles away, so I nearly deleted the email just like I do with all the others until I noticed that it was taking place on the 22nd of April and I was already going to be in London due to Kynon running the marathon. A rather fortuitous coincidence!

I was still initially a little unsure about attending as the timeline of the events seemed a little challenging – a 6k run, then 30 minutes to get ready for an awards ceremony? Not even with a full hair and makeup team on hand could I manage a turn-around that fast! However there was discussion about the event amongst members of a blogger group I am a part of and I realised that the real opportunity was to actually meet and spend an evening with many online blogger friends who I have connected with online for years, as well as to enjoy the evening as a whole.

The next challenge was to manage my hand-luggage only packing to include extra running kit and some evening attire for the awards ceremony. Thanks to my Mary Poppins-esque cabin bag I was able to squeeze everything in, and we arrived at our hotel from the airport about 30 minutes before I needed to be at the hotel where the events were being hosted. That was far too tight a margin for my control freak tendencies, but unfortunately this was not the first or the last failure of our London Marathon weekend… More on that in another post, but most importantly I was able to change and scoot out of the hotel quickly, and make it to North Greenwich tube station in time to arrive at the InterContinental Hotel at the O2 for the evening.

The first person I set eyes on as I walked on was the legendary Susie Chan, endurance runner extraordinaire and the latest world record holder of the women’s 12 hour treadmill run. I’ve been tweeting with Susie for years yet our paths have never crossed in real life, so it was lovely to finally meet her and her husband Shaun. We were given our goodie bags which contained; a gorgeous long sleeve¬†Tracksmith top (athleisure at its finest!), a Wahoo Tickr bluetooth heart rate monitor, and a Strava drybag phone case. If we hadn’t already been spoiled enough, we were then paired up with another runner and given a key to one of the hotel rooms to use to store our belongings and wash and change for the awards. I should probably mention that the InterContinental 02 is a five star hotel, brand spanking new, and absolutely dazzling on the inside. Compared to my room for the weekend at the Ibis Styles Docklands it was somewhat of an upgrade…they were going to have to prise that room key out of my cold, dead hands!

After my roomie¬†Bethan ¬†and I had figured out the room technology (turning on the bathroom lights took us a bit longer than it ought to!) and got over the view over London from the stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, we headed back downstairs to meet the rest of the attendees and set out on the run. Unfortunately the weather really wasn’t up to much, but a group of about a dozen of us headed out in the first wave around ‘gritty’ East London in the rain.

The Running Awards

The 6k run took us along the Docklands on the Thames Path and then through to Greenwich Park, to the top of a hill with what should have been a lovely view over London. Despite the rain it was still a pretty place to pause and Susie captured a group selfie to mark the occasion:

The Running Awards

Picture – Susie Chan

The Running Awards

We arrived back at the hotel about 45 minutes later, and self-consciously squeaked our way across the beautiful marble floors of reception in our soaking wet kit. As if by magic we all reappeared back in the lobby shortly after looking far more presentable, and headed off to the Indigo venue at the 02 Arena for the drinks reception.

The Running Awards

I had my picture taken with Bethan, Polly, and Helen, before we were whisked up to the balcony area above the main stage for some glasses of champagne before the Q+A session, which was with renowned GB athlete and coach, Martin Yelling, CEO of parkrun, Tom Williams, and the Strava team.

The Running Awards

The session was fairly brief but some interesting points were covered. I was interested and encouraged to hear that Strava are currently working with local councils in some areas to provide heat-map data to Infrastructure design teams, in order to assist with the creation of cycle and runner friendly roads and paths.

The Running Awards

Next up was some delicious food and some more complimentary beverages, where I had the opportunity to meet and chat with a number of other online friends and bloggers; Helen, Elle, Sarah, Loz, Laura Рit was great to finally meet you all! At 10pm the award ceremony started and we were lead downstairs to the awards floor where there were a couple of spare tables; in theory we were going to be given balcony seats, but the offer of getting a little closer to the action was much appreciated.

The Running Awards

The Running Awards have categories for just about everything you can think of, including; Best Marathon, Best Shoe, Best Sports Drink Рall which were unsurprisingly awarded to the big guns such as London Marathon, Adidas, Nike and Lucazade. I was pleased to see awards for smaller more niche categories though, and am delighted that Aberdeen-born Run4It retained their title as Best Independent retailer, and also won the Best Customer Service award.

For the most part I retain a healthy degree of skepticism about online awards these days as the sector is now somewhat saturated, reducing the credibility of most of them. It seems like every brand has their own ‘best blog awards’ which essentially boil down to a marketing exercise for the brand, and retain the feeling of a playground popularity contest for the bloggers. It also goes without saying that any award where you can nominate yourself and then solicit for votes isn’t worth the energy it takes to click ‘Like’ …

However, The Running Awards are respected as the original and best, and continue to put on one hell of a show to celebrate everything to do with running in the UK each year. Attending events such as these is bread and butter for many bloggers based in the London area so I was glad to take the opportunity to partake in the fun for once, and it was undoubtedly the highlight of my weekend in London.

Thank you so much to Strava for inviting me, and for the lovely goodies to take away.

the running awards

RACE REPORT: Miyajima Marathon 15k 2016

Miyajima Marathon 15k

miyajima marathon logo

3rd April 2016

1 hour 34 minutes 3 seconds
Category placing: 16th of 53 Female Under 40
Gender: 23rd of 76 Females

In August 2015, with a little help from a tax rebate, I booked a two week long trip to Japan for myself and Kynon. It took a lot of planning in the intervening months to get the trip exactly right, but one of the first things which helped shape our tour was finding out that the Miyajima Marathon was going to be taking place whilst we were in the country. As usual I had searched on various websites to find running events to take part in, but it was a chance Google search which saw¬†me stumble upon the website¬†for this race, which is only in its second year. ¬†Whilst it bills itself as a marathon, it is actually only 15k – I believe this is because the word Marathon translates roughly as ‘running event’ in Japanese. Anyway, it was small and cheap, and the route looked stunning! We quickly signed up to secure our places, and continued planning the rest of our trip.

I am planning on writing another post on our Japan travels, so for now we’ll fast forward to the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of April which we spent in Hiroshima, which is only a 30 minute train ride from the Miyajima Island ferry. Accommodation during the time of year which we visited was both expensive and hard to come by, so we found that staying in Hiroshima rather than on the island itself was our best option.

miyajima marathon

We stayed at the enormous Mitsui Garden Hotel, where we enjoyed this amazing view of the city of Hiroshima from our room on the 18th floor. Hiroshima is a port city and from our room we could see out to sea and the mountainous islands which rose up from the water.

miyajima marathon

On the morning of the race we woke up very early and were on the move by 7am. First we had to take a tram to a train station, then a local train to Miyajimaguchi, where we could then catch the ferry across to the island. Having already spent four days in Tokyo and successfully navigated our way South to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen, by now we were pros at using the Japanese transport system, which is just as clean and efficient as you would expect.

miyajima marathon

image source: visit-miyajima-japan.com

We were using JR Rail passes to travel around Japan, and these passes included the Miyajima Ferry crossing which took around 30 minutes. The ferry lands near the famous Itsukushima Shrine ‘floating’ Tori Gate which stands out in the water and passengers get a stunning view as they approach. Miyajima Island is highly regarded as one of the most scenic ¬†and historical sights in Japan, and is an incredibly popular tourist destination. You can stay on the island but most people come for a day trip, and like many other places in Cherry Blossom season it is absolutely mobbed from dawn til dusk.

miyajima marathon

On the day we visited it was cloudy but very warm and humid. Even early in the morning it was clear that it was going to be a hot race when we started at 10:30am, but thankfully the sun stayed behind the clouds for most of the day. I had been hopeful for a fast run; examining the previous years’ results showed that the female field seemed quite soft and the women’s winner had completed the 9.3 miles in ¬†around 1 hour and 12 minutes. Prizes were awarded for the first 5 runners in each category, so I genuinely thought I had a good chance of placing, as I would normally run 9 miles in around 1hr 15m. There was a route map and course profile on the website, which other than a hill at the start, showed a reasonably flat course… It looked like the road followed the contour lines around the hills rather than go over them…

miyajima marathon

However, it’s fair to say that this route map, like many things in Japan; was not what it seemed!

miyajima marathon

Registration was at Miyajima Jr High School and we picked up out race packets and numbers easily. After sorting ourselves out we returned to the ferry terminal to store our belongings in a baggage locker as we had some things which were just a bit too valuable to be left in the baggage drop, such as passports, JR passes, etc.

miyajima marathon

We took a walkabout and warmed up on the first mile of the course. There was definitely a hill at the start but it wasn’t too scary and I was ready to start at the front with the fast girls and go out strong and compete. After returning to the start area we took some pictures, chatted to a couple from Glasgow (!!) and spoke to one or two of the other International runners – there were about 15 in total.

miyajima marathon

There was a mass choreographed warm-up which was hilarious, and then some J-Pop was performed live before the start which was all very enthusiastically received.  At 10:25 we were summoned to the road for the start, and at 10:30 we were on our way.

The heat was immediately an issue for me, even though the sun was behind the clouds. The air was humid and close, and the humidity rating was nearly 90% to complement the 23C temperature. I pushed through the first mile in 7:59 and the second in 8:46 which was pleasing, and felt that I was able to maintain that pace…until the route took a hard left and commenced a steep and nasty climb. The race was all on road, but suddenly we found ourselves navigating a set of relentless switchbacks which I’m not sure I would even enjoy driving up in a car. I chugged away hoping that it would be over quickly, but soon I found myself having to power walk with my hands on my knees. The climb was about half a mile long through thick forest, until we could finally tumble down the other side on another series of steep switchbacks. It took me a moment or two to realise that we would be returning on the same route, so this hill would have to be navigated for a second time…

Into the fourth mile I began to revise my plan. I had clearly underestimated the course and it was extremely tough, made tougher by the heat. I knew it was highly unlikely that I would still be in contention for a top 5 spot, and I was concerned that continuing to push relentlessly would result in heatstroke. I switched to self-preservation mode and took the pressure off so I could soak in my surroundings and really enjoy the experience. There were monkeys shrieking in the trees, eagles flying overhead and birds singing unfamiliar songs. The views from the top of each hill were heavenly; islands floating in the haze above the flat, azure sea. Running has taken me to some pretty amazing places and this was quite special.

miyajima marathon

A sweaty phone camera just doesn’t do it justice; the scenery was stunning.

miyajima marathon

The lead runner passed me at 3.6 miles on his return and went on to win the race in an eye-watering 58:56. With the runners on their way back in I was able to count the number of women ahead of me, but I lost count at around 10. I got a big high 5 from Kynon who was toiling away and  doing excellently, and I said hello to the people who I had spoken to before the start as they approached half way.

miyajima marathon

There was a water point here but unfortunately they had run out. Thankfully I’d been able to get a cup of water at around 3 miles, but I was still very thirsty! The return journey was just as stunning and up until mile 7 I was mostly leap-frogging with the same group of guys. Once I had crested the final monster hill I knew I had two and a bit miles to go on mostly flat road, so I decided to focus on clawing back as many places as possible. A girl had motored past me which spurred me on and I chased her all the way to the finish as we both passed about a dozen men.

In the last 500 meters before the finish there was a gradual decline and I realised I was gaining on the girl. I realised if I timed my sprint finish attack right I could probably pass her, and claw back one female place. At the end of the slope I used the momentum to launch into an aggressive pace for the last moments of the race and passed her assertively to cross the finish line one spot higher, as 16th female and second international female.

I collected a bottle of water and my post-race food – an onigiri (sushi rice wrapped in seaweed) and a ‘Momiji Mangu’ which is a cake shaped like a maple leaf filled with flavoured bean paste and a local Miyajima¬†specialty. Kynon greeted me with a sweaty hug and told me that he finished in 1hr 21m. We were both wiped out and needing a lot of water; not surprising as the the total elevation of the 15k course was 1640 feet!

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathon

 miyajima marathon

We were given a finisher’s certificate and commemorative towel each, which alongside our bib numbers make for some fantastic international running souvenirs. Whilst the race was extremely challenging I enjoyed it so much, and it is one of my most treasured memories of our two weeks in Japan.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the enchanting island, wishing that we were staying longer. You can climb all the way to the top of Mount Misen and explore the various shrines and temples on the way, but sadly we just didn’t have time to do everything. The cherry blossoms made already stunning views utterly breathtaking, and whenever we return to Japan, I will definitely hope to spend a couple of nights on Miyajima so I can explore all the sights in full.

Here are some of my favourite snaps from Miyajima; I will write up our Japan trip in a different post with more pictures and stories next week. Until then you can see more on my Instagram account if you’re not already following! This weekend sees us head to London for the Marathon (Kynon running, myself supporting) and I will also be attending The Running Awards as a guest of Strava, who have invited their top 100 running bloggers along to a¬†special event.

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathon

Have you ever been to Japan? Did you visit Miyajima?

Where is the most exotic place you have raced?

Are you running the London Marathon this weekend? Good luck!

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