Red Wine Runner

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Category: Marathon (page 1 of 3)

Strathearn Marathon 2017 | Race Report

Strathearn Marathon 2017
11th June

strathearn marathon medal 2017

4h 22m 7s
95th of 134 finishers
24th of 27 Females
9th of 14 Female Seniors

The Strathearn Marathon is a small club race hosted by the Strathearn Harriers in beautiful rural Perthshire. I ran this race for the first time last year on Naomi’s recommendation, and despite getting thoroughly soaked I enjoyed the race and the scenic route tremendously. I signed up again earlier this year and looked forward to a second go at the undulating route with the possibility of improving upon last year’s time. After a strong run at Stirling Marathon three weeks prior, I believed I would be able to bring my time much closer to four hours and mark a season’s best for marathon distance in 2017.

When race morning arrived it was after a busy and stressful week at which had even included a day trip to Birmingham for a big meeting on Thursday. I had also traveled from Edinburgh to Stonehaven late on the Friday evening for the luxury of spending a rare day with my husband on the Saturday, before an early night to try and rest before shipping out again at 6am on the Sunday.

I could also detail the tremendous amount of crap I had eaten and drank in the days prior to the race, but it’s of no real relevance other than that I highly recommend access to a Business Class lounge if you have to hang around in an airport for three hours, because the free alcohol quickly turns a very long day into a very good day. As usual, my pre-race fueling strategy was impeccable.

Race Morning

When Naomi picked me up at 6am for the 2 hour drive I wasn’t feeling on my best form, but it was great to share the car ride with her and catch up on life. I had eaten my dinner quite late the night before and was not feeling hungry at all which was disconcerting, as was the uncomfortable feelings in my stomach and guts.

As we traveled further South the weather got worse and worse, with rain lashing down and the wind buffeting the car. My enthusiasm for running twenty six miles began to wane and I questioned why I was casually doing a third marathon in six weeks, and if there was any way at all in which I could weasel out of it. Never the less, we parked up and swam over to registration, getting utterly soaked in even a short two minute walk. After picking up our numbers we returned to the car and stayed there in relative safely until it was time to get ready to run.

Much to our delight, the weather made a drastic improvement in the final half hour before the gun and whilst it was still cold and quite blustery, the rain had moved on. I said hello to a lot of friends who had finally emerged from their cars and the assembly at the starting line was a jovial group of chums ready to go. After the customary starting lap of the Cultybraggan Camp, we left the starting area and traveled out into the hills for our 26 mile jaunt.

It’s not unusual for me to forget how hilly some routes are, and Strathearn Marathon is no exception. The first four miles are a long drag uphill, where at times it can be more efficient to walk. At the top of the hill the route follows an old military road route which is very exposed and on this occasion there was a wicked headwind to battle. I was steadily plodding along in the company of a small group of older gentlemen, but the effort I was having to maintain to keep below 10 minute miles was quite significant.

Thanks to FishyGordon’s RunPix

At ten miles there was the first of the two personalised water stations, where you could have your own bottle presented to you. This is one of the advantages of tiny club-run races, and I was really looking forward to my Lucozade. I still hadn’t been feeling particularly hungry but I had forced myself to have a gel at 6 miles and the Lucozade would provide some more liquid calories on the go.

Somewhere around the 14 mile mark, the skies cleared and the sun came blazing out. This combined with the wet pavements and foliage meant that the atmosphere became steamy and humid. As it had been under 10C plus windchill when the race started I was wearing a  vest, t-shirt, and long sleeve top – all black, of course. I quickly became far too hot and removed some of my layers in an attempt to keep cool.

strathearn marathon 2017 tony wayte

Thanks to Tony Wayte

At Crieff (18 miles) I decided I needed to ditch the layers which I was carrying in my hand, and threw them under a bush on the outskirts of the town for collection later on. This meant I had my hands free to take a water bottle as well as my next personal bottle at the next water station on the other side of Crieff, and keep moving without having to concentrate on juggling items.

Whilst it was very warm I was feeling good and running fairly steadily well under 10 minute miles. My splits are all over the place, but this reflects the hilly nature of the course. My stomach had been giving me some discomfort and I hadn’t really committed early in the race to getting around the course any quicker than necessary, so I knew that this would be yet another marathon finish in the 4:16 – 4:22 bracket that seems to be my signature of late.

The last few miles were as tough as they always are, but I felt like I still had some significant energy left so I pushed as hard as I could to move quickly. I targeted each runner ahead of me and drew them in to overtake, and I managed to catch quite a significant amount of runners in the last 5 miles. We had another drastic change of weather at 24 miles when the skies opened and another deluge left me drenched, but in reality this was really refreshing and cooled down my over-heating skin.

strathearn marathon 2017 fishygordon 3

Thanks to FishyGordon’s RunPix

I finished strongly and flew down the finishing straight with a smile, captured nicely here by FishyGordon who kindly provided event photographs for free. You can check out his Facebook page here.

My time? 4hrs 22m 7s – another steady marathon run clocked up, and just seven seconds slower than when I ran the London Marathon whilst recovering from the flu. I am beginning to think I need to put a bit more effort into these events, as my last five road marathons have all been within five minutes of each other and I know I’m capable of a lot more.

strathearn marathon 2017 fishygordon 2

Thanks to FishyGordon’s RunPix

So what’s next?

Well, I’m taking a break from marathoning over the summer and will be once again trying to bring some kind of consistency into my training, have another go at losing that stone of fat that has persistently clung to my body since 2015, and prepare for the Glenmore 12 hour race in September, and of course, the Chicago Marathon in October. I’m not a fan of putting massive pressure on myself to PB at Chicago as I expect it will be pretty hot and jetlag will probably feature, but I would like to arrive at the start line knowing that I’ve put in some actual work and am capable of a strong and enjoyable run.

In the meantime though I have an exciting partnership to announce next week, which will see me turn my hand to something completely new in July! Stay tuned to find out more!

Stirling Marathon Race Report | Stirling Marathon 2017

Stirling Marathon

21st May 2017

stirling marathon medal
4h 16m 49s
2065th place overall
510th Female
149th Female Senior

In May 2016, it was announced that the Great Run group was extending their Great Run British Marathon Series, and that Scotland was to get a new marathon. Billed as the Stirling Scottish Marathon, the event was received with enthusiasm by many as a ‘big city’ alternative to the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, with a route which would combine scenic running through the Heart of Scotland with an impressive finish in the shadow of Stirling Castle.

I was excited to hear about the new race and was delighted to receive a media place from Great Run in order to cover the event for Red Wine Runner. My original Spring 2017 plans were to PB at the London Marathon and then have a jog around Stirling for fun, taking the opportunity to soak in as much of the race atmosphere as possible. However, after my London plans were derailed by a nasty bout of flu, I found myself on recovery mode for a little longer than planned. I headed to Stirling with legs which were very well rested, but still with no intentions to try and set a new personal best. I wasn’t really sure what I would get on the day, but I just I wanted to enjoy myself and clock up my 28th marathon finish at this exciting, inaugural event.

I arrived at my friend Jemma’s house in Stirling on Saturday afternoon, and we spent the evening with her husband and his sister, Iona, eating food, drinking wine and discussing our plans for the race. We had to think about which shuttle bus to get to the start, and our cheering squad had to figure out their logistics too. It really could not be over-estimated how much Stirling had embraced this new event – with the entire city centre and surrounding roads being completely shut down to accommodate the runners, the race had pretty much taken over Central Scotland.

Race Morning

After a good night’s sleep we got up at 6am for coffee and breakfast. With all our gear ready, we left the house an hour later, intending to catch the 0720am shuttle bus from Stirling Bus Station. Due to so many roads being closed, the race had provided shuttle transport to the start at Blair Drummond Safari Park which all runners were strongly encouraged to take. There were various park and ride collection points around the Stirling area, with all runners allegedly being accounted for for transport. I was a bit nervous about this – 6,500 runners is a lot of people, and I didn’t recall being asked where I was intending to travel from on race morning. How would they know how many buses to send, and where?

Unfortunately when we arrived at the bus station, we were joining a queue several hundred people long which extended all the way around the concourse. Jemma spotted a friend near the start who had been waiting since 0630, and had seen only two buses turn up, both only able to take a tiny handful of runners due to them being full from earlier collection points out of town. This wasn’t the greatest start to the day, and with no event staff on the ground, communications on how the issue was to be solved was poor. I busied myself on my phone to try and get an answer via Twitter, if only to avoid thinking about how much I needed the toilet…

stirling marathon shuttle bus

Two empty double-decker buses showed up about 0745 though, so in the grand scheme of things we were not inconvenienced too greatly. Some Security personnel directed the long snake of the queue across the concourse to the bus stands and started herding us on to the second bus from the back of the queue first, which understandably *really* irritated some of the runners who had been waiting for much longer. This was regrettable, but we really didn’t have a choice other than to get on as directed. The buses pulled away to a selection of colourful language and two-fingered salutes from the crowd that was left with just over an hour until the start of the race.

stirling marathon start

As previously mentioned, the race starts in the impressive surroundings of Blair Drummond Safari Park. The buses dropped us off at the gates and then we had about a mile’s walk to the start area. When we arrived, Jemma and I went straight to the toilet queues as we were both absolutely bursting. Regrettably there seemed to be somewhat less Portaloos than the demand required, and we spent the next 30 mins inching forward bit by bit. The Portaloos were in addition to other park toilets, but I had hoped that the queues for the Portaloos would move more quickly…

At 9am when the runners were called to their pens for the warm up I was still in the queue with my kit bag, as I still was when the Orange Wave, which I was placed in, started their race. Upon exiting my Portaloo, I raced to where Jemma and Chris were sorting their kit and quickly did some last minute checks before sprinting to my allocated baggage bus to deposit my bag. Together we jogged towards the back of the next wave who had been brought up to the starting line, and with a sigh of relief realised that we could finally get on with the easy bit – running the marathon.

stirling marathon start

The Great Run Group do sporting ceremony very well, and we all felt roused by the music and announcements in the minutes before we crossed the line. Dozens of park rangers were lining the first part of the route alongside cute jungle animal characters; despite the stressful start to the day, as soon as I got a high-five from a Lion and an Elephant I knew everything was going to be just fine.

stirling marathon start

stirling marathon start

Speaking of elephants… this guy came out to cheer too:

stirling marathon safari park

 And this majestic beast was overseeing proceedings from the sidelines. Also spotted – a common-or-garden Red Wine Runner not looking where she is going.

Image from the Metro

Image from the Metro

So we were finally on our way; through the Safari Park before on to the closed A84 road heading towards Doune. There was a little out-and-back where I was able to shout to some friends including Naomi, who was just up ahead. It was truly amazing how many people I knew taking part, especially people from the Scottish ultrarunning community who hadn’t run a road marathon in years, if ever. It seemed like everyone had wanted to be a part of the first running of the Stirling Marathon even if they had sworn off tarmac running for good.

After about a mile I caught up with Naomi, and she and I spent the next 6 miles trotting along together steadily and catching up. It turned out that she had had quite a stressful morning getting to the start via the Park and Ride service; given the amount of feedback which has been deluged on the Stirling Marathon Facebook page, I do hope they can use this first year as a steep learning curve and improve the transport for next year.

stirling marathon route

At four miles we ran through the tiny town of Doune, where there were pipe bands, drummers, and 100s of enthusiastic supporters. Even at this early stage we had seen that the people who lived along the route were willing to turn out their full support for the race and make us feel welcomed as we ran through their towns and villages. Between six and seven miles Naomi and I went our separate ways; we’ve ran together for years now and I was aware that I was pulling her on a bit – she’s not daft enough to burn out too early in a marathon so I drifted ahead as we approached Dunblane.

The route swept through the town from the West to the South, and from the first hand-made ‘Welcome To Dunblane!’ banner, the road was packed with crowds for the entire two miles. The outpouring of support was phenomenal; young and old, they cheered us through their town and offered jelly beans, orange slices, and high fives. My face actually started to ache from all the smiling – I know the support in London is legendary, but this somehow felt so much more authentic and closer to home.

Next up at ten miles was Bridge of Allan. Again, even though the rain was now steadily pouring, the crowds stayed out to cheer. The route then presented a tough hill as we took a brief lollipop shaped tour around the University of Stirling, and by the time we were running past the foot of the Wallace Monument, we had hit half way and it was time to look out for Iona, Duncan, and other assorted friends waiting to see us and deliver high-fives.

I did a quick body-check at half way to assess how I felt. I had passed half way in 2hrs 06m which was promising, as I was feeling really good and my legs definitely had some pep in them. I had been checking my watch occasionally the last few miles and was comfortably running around 9:30/9:40 pace without trying, so I decided to try and stick to that and see what happened. I knew we’d hit Stirling city centre and the laps at about 18 miles, and I had been mentally visualising the race as a sprint finish with an 18 mile warm up.

stirling marathon finish

A lot of people had been apprehensive of how the lap system would work. The route map showed that we would go around the city two and a half times before finishing at the foot of the castle, where there was a lane system in place – keep right to carry on, keep left to finish. There were also timing maps to verify that every finisher had completed the correct distance. I think this system worked ok, but completing the lapped section was very tough mentally and I had to work hard to keep my head together.

stirling marathon laps

Upon entering the city loop, we immediately merged with fast runners who were completing their final loop and were sprinting through the city. I was conscious to not get in people’s way, but it was hard when they were ducking and weaving around the slower runners. The support from the crowd was brilliant but I quickly realised I had to ignore it as I still had 7 miles to run, despite the well meaning shouts of ‘you’re nearly there!’ and the big signs announcing ‘800m To Go’, and ‘400m To Go’. Running past the finish line area not just once, but twice, was quite soul destroying, and required a degree of tenacity to keep going.

The loop consisted of a climb into the city centre then a section going right through the middle of the town. It had been raining for a couple of hours which made the paving underfoot very slippery, and the sections of road which were cobbled were treacherous! After passing through the centre, the loop went past the finish and then negotiated a couple of steep underpasses on a roundabout which were narrow and slippery. We then went through a housing estate with lots of friendly supporters, and then returned to the start of the loop after climbing up a nasty lung-bursting hill.

Eventually it was my turn to complete a final lap of the city and finally let the rousing cheers of the crowd spur me on. There were quite a few friends scattered around and seeing them on my way gave me a last boost for a strong finish, as I finally got to ‘Keep Left’ and cross the line.

stirling marathon medal

I was really pleased with my race. I felt very strong throughout most of the miles and maintained a really even pace without a single walking break.  I haven’t had many good runs after London and I was worried that I’d lost a lot of fitness, but this is clearly not the case and I am more recovered from my illness than I thought! I’m excited to get back to training again, and will be tackling the Strathearn Marathon in two weeks’ time with renewed confidence.

stirling marathon

All in all, I think the Stirling Marathon has the potential to be a really great race. There are one or two issues which stand out which need change or improvement, such as the situations with the buses and the toilets, but hopefully the organisers will listen to the feedback from runners and improve for next year. I’m still not convinced about the loops of the city however, and would be in favour of accommodating a few miles elsewhere earlier in the route in order to reduce the amount of laps.

Thanks again to Great Run for the opportunity to run at this new event!

Did you run the Stirling Marathon?
What do you think of races with laps?

February Training Round Up

So here we are in March. In the past I’ve not made a habit of meticulously reviewing each month’s training; primarily due to reasoning that if I find it boring to write about, then you’ll find it even more boring to read about. However, after a spectacular January, there came a somewhat different February, so I’ve got more to write about than just a report on another month of targets being smashed. I’m also three weeks into my London Marathon coaching plan, which has really shaken up the way I train. Mileage is down, but so are my splits; a combination which is something I would have never expected to be saying this early in the year!

It’s been a funny month; in its inimitable fashion, life has thrown me some curve balls which have challenged my ability to train like the athlete I wish I was, but it is then that I remember that I’m not an athlete; this is not my job, and sometimes other aspects of life have to come first. I’ve just been doing my best to control what I can control and let the passing of time take care of the rest. Here are some thoughts on running from this past month.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

February started off with a stinking cold which saw me lose my voice and much of my aerobic capacity for a week. Thankfully by the time the Fetteresso Trail Marathon came around on the 12th, I was largely free of the plague. The Fetteresso Trail Marathon was a trial event, run by Stonehaven Running Club, with the aim of launching a fully licensed race next year. There were about 40 runners from various running clubs around the North East who gathered to take part, and the event took place on the trails in Fetteresso Forest, oddly enough.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

For the trail and ultra runners of Stonehaven Running Club, this is our back yard and we know it like the back of our hands. There are endless miles of trails in the forest and I’ve spent more wintery weekend mornings bashing through snow around up there than I care to remember. This Sunday morning was no different, and we were faced with quite a reasonable amount of snow underfoot which made conditions challenging at times. I had set myself a target of 4h 45m or quicker, as I wanted to get finished and back down the road to the pub to watch the rugby which started at 5 hours race time.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

Happily, I had a really great day and sailed through the miles with no bother at all. I finished in 4h 46m and as 5th female which although somewhat of a vanity statistic (there were only 11 ladies), being near the top was a well earned reward. I put in a hard effort pushing up and down the relentless forest hills on the snow and felt satisfyingly gubbed afterwards. I ate an entire jam swiss roll straight out of the packet like a burrito to celebrate.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

Speedwork – Intervals and Tempo Sessions

My coach, Shaun Dixon, has delivered me a training plan which is based on a loose goal of 3hr 45m at the London Marathon. He has me scheduled for 5 runs a week with extra conditioning sessions as well; I’d be lying if I said I’ve been able to complete every single session, but once we’ve figured out how to clone a second me to take over some of my current commitments, that shouldn’t be a problem.

At first, the pace brackets set for the intervals terrified me. If marathon pace is 8:35 per mile, then everything else is a lot faster! As a certified ultra plodder who also likes the fact that 10:00 per mile makes the running time mathematics really easy, seeing pace brackets that started with a seven was initially quite intimidating. However, I’ve found that whilst I might struggle to hit the correct pace during the first or second interval of a session, by the third and beyond I’ve found my groove and it comes a lot more easily than expected.

Holyrood Park

Notable sessions I’ve completed so far include: 7 x 3 minutes at 7:45m/m (first three) and 7:20m/m (last four), 3 x 9 minutes at 8:10m/m, and 3 x (5min / 3min / 1min) at 7:45/7:20/sub 7, with 90 seconds rest between intervals, and 45 seconds rest between sets. The last session mentioned there was called a ‘Blood Buffering’ session where the key factor is completing a 5 minute interval only 45 seconds after finishing a minute’s hard push; resulting in legs full of lactic acid and RedWineRunner being sick in a hedge.

I’m really enjoying the sessions though; it’s fun to have some structure to push myself to achieve and I feel like I’m really working hard in my lunchtime runs. Unfortunately, some days this has meant returning to my desk looking a bit I’ve been dragged through a hedge,  but as long as I’m not seeing any clients it’s fine…

worzel gummidge

Long Runs – Marathon Pace Runs

The big change to my training has been a dramatic cut in weekend mileage; in my first week of ‘coached’ training, the total training hours for the week were supposed to be 5 hours and 10 minutes. Normally at this time of year I would be going out and running for that amount of time and longer in one day, and then going out again the next day. It’s been hard to decide what to do, because whilst London is important to me and I have an incredible resource on hand in this coaching for the race…I also have a 33 mile race in 6 days time, a 50k race in 4 weeks, and a 55 miler three weeks after London.

I haven’t run for more than 5 hours since my day out on the West Highland Way at the end of January, and I can’t say that this doesn’t bother me somewhat. I need to be ready for 12 hours of moorland trails and hills on the 13th of May and being a Pavement Princess right now is not going to have me in the best of shape for that. However, if I was to get a smashing PB at London, perhaps that might make up for the death march that the Cateran 55 could potentially turn into…

IMG_0073

However, today’s ‘Long’ run was very positive, and makes me think that something pretty special for me might be attainable at the London Marathon. My run was technically supposed to be a 1hour 50m marathon-paced fartlek with two chunks of time at goal pace, but I got a bit excited and ran the whole damn thing at marathon pace and completed 12 miles at an average of 8:37m/m. It was just one of those days when both your legs and your head show up and the miles just fly by with zero effort. The difference is, that that was the fasted paced long run I have ever ran, ever. My half marathon PB is 1h 53m 58s (Fraserburgh 2014, hard effort, pishing rain and snow) and today I ran 12 miles in 1 hour 43 minutes, and it didn’t even feel like an effort.

For me, that is pretty damn significant and I’m not sure I feel about it. I know I’ve been working hard on my speed sessions, but realistically – it’s been three weeks. I’ve not lost any more weight and realistically I’m still drinking far too much booze to be a good athlete. Could it be that I’ve been blocking speed from my legs for years by constantly being exhausted from running hundreds of slow miles a month? Did I need 2016 ‘off’ from hard training and racing to finally give my body a rest, in order to come back stronger than ever in 2017?

Who knows. I’m just going to keep slowly building the fire, and at just the right moment; I’ll light the match.

light-a-match

Some Very Big News

Today I am really excited to share some big, BIG news which came quite out of the blue last week. Every so often, emails from PR companies and brands stand out amongst all the nonsense in my inbox, and when I opened this particular one I had to pick my jaw up off the floor…

Let’s get straight to the point…

I’ve been offered the opportunity to run the London Marathon in April with Reebok, and I’ve said HELL YES!

london marathon logo

 

I’ve accepted a place as a part of the Reebok London Marathon team, and will be helping them celebrate the release of their new shoe, the Reebok FloatRide.

reebok logo

In addition to the marathon place, Reebok have kitted me out with a selection of shoes and apparel and are providing me with a coach to make sure I arrive at the starting line in the best shape possible. This means that my training over the next few weeks until race day is going to change a little, but I’m really excited to get some professional guidance and hopefully run my best marathon yet!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some training insights and my thoughts on the shoes, as well as my usual assortment of running content. I’m still going to run the same Spring ultras that I had planned, but I think I’ll be working a lot harder during the week to try and get some speed to take to London with me.

2017 is turning into quite the year! After yet another disappointing result in the 2017 general ballot, I’m delighted to finally be running the UK’s most famous race – the London Marathon.

Thank you so much to Reebok for making this happen; I’m a very excited runner!

london marathon finish

 

 

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