Red Wine Runner

Scotland

RACE REPORT: Hoka Highland Fling 2015

Hoka Highland Fling 2015

hoka highland fling medal
53 Mile Ultramarathon 
25th April 2015

11 hours 44 minutes 7 seconds
Finish Position: 321 of 647 finishers (49 DNF)
Gender Position: 53rd / 160 Females
Category Position: 27th / 64 Female Seniors

This race report arrives a little later than I would have liked because of a big University submission being due last week. Having three days completely ‘off grid’ in the week before the submission was not ideal, but I’d worked hard in the week before the race in order to really enjoy my weekend and totally dedicate my mind to the task in hand (the 53 mile race, not the 5,000 word research proposal…)

Kynon and I headed to Tyndrum on Friday afternoon to park up our camper van before getting the train down to Milngavie that evening. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed eating an entire loaf of fresh bread with cheese between us in the sunshine, with a cold beer for extra carbs. The finish area was utterly silent other than peaceful birdsong; how strange to think of the mayhem which would be happening here in under 24 hours time.

hoka highland fling finish

HHF05

In general I was feeling pretty calm about the race, but I had taken a couple of my favourite running books to read from on the train to really get my head in the game. I love Kilian Jornet’s ‘Run or Die'; the passion which he injects into his running is just as strong in his written word. I read the first few chapters before switching to Scott Jurek’s ‘Eat and Run’ whilst intermittently staring out of the train window. The beautiful hills of earlier in the journey had shrunk back into the ground and been replaced by low-rise council housing developments. Thick grey cloud is cloaking the outskirts of Glasgow and raindrops are now crawling across the train window, which is the only barrier between me and the hustle of rush hour commuters in the rain. Away from the Highland dreams and a return to reality; the journey had gone too quickly. The only way back was to run.

When the alarm went off at 4.15am I felt relaxed. Prior to falling asleep I had envisioned every element of the race and pictured how I would traverse the course. I had had at least 5 hours of good sleep which was enough, and I quickly set about making coffee and eating a rice pudding, banana, and a cereal bar. Everything had been laid out the night before so I didn’t need to think at all; just put my kit on, eat, and keep calm. When Kynon was using the bathroom I cast my eyes over Kilian Jornet’s Skyrunner’s manifesto once more; there was something about his words which was sticking in my mind and giving me focus. Kiss or kill. Besa o mata. Kiss glory or die in the attempt. Losing is death; winning is life. The winning and dying are metaphors in my case, perhaps less so for Mr Jornet, but his sentiments are the same as mine. The secret isn’t in your legs, but in your strength of mind.

5.20am and we have begun the short walk to the station, sharing the weight of the bag of drop bags between us. Kynon wants to chat, I prefer silence. I try to keep my mind clear of everything, but soon we’ve reached the throngs of people crowding the station car park and there are plenty of people to say hello to.

hoka highland fling 2015

We catch up with most of the Stonehaven Running Club runners and catch a photo as it begins to get light. The rainclouds don’t lift along with the darkness however and rain is still spotting down, but it’s a great temperature for running with no wind to speak of.

hoka highland fling 2015

We’ve timed our arrival perfectly and after a final photograph and a hug and kiss goodbye and good luck, Kynon and I part ways to our respective corals – him to the 12 hours plus, and me to the 10 – 12 hours. I’m not really sure why I’m in here or especially why I’m so far forward, but since I’m standing next to Amanda Hamilton I’m happy for the company and stay where I am during the race countdown.

hoka highland fling 2015

At 6am the first wave is released, and 90 seconds later we’re shuffling on towards the underpass and the eerie whine of the timing chips activating. Up the stairs and along the high street with cheers and waves, and then we’re down into Mugdock Park onto the muddy path through the forest.

hoka highland fling 2015

With thanks to Monument Photos – www.monumentphotos.co.uk

Milngavie – Drymen

My plan was always to take it very easy on the way to Drymen. Nothing below 10 minute miles, heart rate as low as possible, and conserve as much energy as I could. I stuck to my plan, even as hordes of runners streamed by me in the first few miles and bimbled along in my own head. It was very busy; the runners didn’t thin out until Drymen, and at points there were even elbow bashing as I fought to keep my place to the left of the narrow track.

I had been bursting for a pee since the first mile and had patiently waited until my usual spot behind a wall at about 8 miles which has served me so well in the last two years, only to find the gate closed and access for my straining bladder was prohibited. I hung on a few miles gathering fury at all the men merrily emptying themselves by the side of the trail – how dare they enjoy such convenience?! Eventually I conceded I would need to scale the railway embankment to relieve myself discretely, and lost a good minute to answering the call of nature.

In the approach to Drymen I was just…annoyed. Annoyed about a lot of things; too many people around me, the rain, I was too hot, my gamin wasn’t working…I just wasn’t really enjoying myself and couldn’t wait to get the flat section done and to get out into the hills.

hoka highland fling 2015

Picture by Iain Shanks

Milngavie – Drymen
Split time = 2hr 10m 46s
Race time = 2hr 10m 46s
491st place

Drymen – Balmaha

I ran straight through Drymen and enjoyed briefly seeing Shanksi and the relay team from our club. Jemma had caught up with me and we passed the miles up and to through Garadhban chatting which made the time pass quickly.

hoka highland fling 2015

Slowly but surely the clouds cleared up and as we approached Conic Hill, the sun began to shine!

hoka highland fling 2015

hoka highland fling 2015

hoka highland fling 2015

With Thanks to Monument Photos

The view from the top was stunning in the morning sunshine, especially as there was still snow on the hills in the distance.

hoka highland fling 2015

I walked down Conic carefully, practicing how I will descend in the West Highland Way race. Any other day of the week I could fly down,  but I really wanted to take my time. Any time lost here would be made up with my strength saved for later in the day.

Balmaha was a bustling fayre, with Big Davie the Polis in charge of his team of red-clad heroes. My drop bag was pressed into my hand and before I tucked in I was able to give George Reid a hug, who was waiting in the crowd cheering everyone on. I ate my custard and drank my powerade as I tried to re-fill my pockets – oops, no room. I hadn’t eaten anything other than a little cake bar so far. That wasn’t the plan at all. Hula hoops and cereal bar went on the communal table and I left the check point holding my buttery, but I really didn’t want to eat it.

Balmaha – Rowardennan

hoka highland fling 2015

All my early-morning frustrations about busyness and weather had long melted away and I really enjoyed the section to Rowardennan in the sun as it got warmer. My garmin wasn’t working but I did have a watch, so I had judged it by time – it was only going to be about a 1hr 45 minute run which seemed tiny. I tried and tried to get the buttery down but it just wasn’t happening so I conceded and took a gel instead. I just was not hungry – I felt absolutely fine, but didn’t want to eat food at all. What is this witchcraft?!

hoka highland fling 2015

The day was stunning and Loch Lomond had never looked better. Knowing the route better than ever meant I knew what was coming around every turn and I predicted my arrival time into Rowardennan perfectly. I refilled my water and again failed to take on more food from my drop bag, but enjoyed my 300ml bottle of Powerade – perhaps the magical blue juice was going to be my source of strength for the day.

Drymen – Rowardennan
Split time = 3hr 23m 29s
Race time = 5hr 34m 15s
493rd place (2 places lost)

Rowardennan – Inversnaid

hoka highland fling 2015

I left Rowardennan behind Mags and Scott from my club and soon caught up for some chat on the hills. Again, knowledge of the route allowed me to run a bit more of this section this year as I knew what was coming and where I could push on. We passed the point where I turned around at the training weekend and reached the start of the more technical part of the race which I always enjoy. I slotted into a conga line of runners all running at the same speed along the single track trail, which pulled me along from the front and pushed me along from behind in a steady rhythm over the ground. Without Garmin data I can only guess how long this section took, but it felt like I reached Inversnaid quicker than ever and this is when I began my steady upward climb through the placings. I don’t have much more to say about this section as it flew by so quickly. It was getting hotter though and I could feel a fine t-shirt tan developing; thankfully there was a refreshing breeze to keep us mostly cool.

Inversnaid – Beinglas

hoka highland fling 2015

Inversnaid had a crack team of marshals sorting everyone out quickly. I hoovered another custard and powerade and picked up some more gels, and left whilst chatting with Antonia. There was a tight group of about 5 of us who were running together through the technical section here. Thankfully most slower runners stopped to let us pass and I thank them for that, but the lochside is no place for headphones and blocking yourself out from your surroundings. Antonia has hit the nail on the head with this one so I will quote her words (emphasis mine): “Some runners wear headphones so we try to pass them whenever we can as they are unpredictable to run behind as they aren’t aware of us other runners. Don’t wear headphones in a race guys, enjoy the trail. If you can’t enjoy the trail, go back to the gym.”. 

I enjoyed running with Antonia, Scott, and Scott, but soon it was time to move on. My legs were feeling stronger than ever and for the first time in a 50+ miler, almost nothing was hurting. Usually my hip flexors, glutes and piriformus are complaining by this point and my feet are a bloody mess, but except from some of the usual foot pain in my bones I was feeling great from top to toe. I just had no desire to walk and ran all the way into Beinglas with the exception of yomping up a couple of steeper hills, and pausing to take a snap from near Dario’s Post.

hoka highland fling 2015

I saluted the man who I never got the chance to meet and continued to steam past runner after runner on my way to the final check point. My natural instinct was to reign it in, but again, my familiarity of the course was a huge help. I knew what was coming and every signal I was getting from my legs and body said go for it. Something special was happening. It was as exciting as it was worrying, but I wasn’t going to waste the chance I had been given.

Rowardennan – Beinglas 
Split = 3h 33m 40s.
Race time = 9hr 07m 55s
394th place (99 places gained)

Beinglas – Tyndrum

hoka highland fling 2015

With thanks to Running In Scotland

 

Arriving into Beinglas, the checkpoint was very busy. I was handed my drop bag and I kept walking looking for a space to stop and take care of myself, until I heard someone say my name and I saw Matt Williamson gesturing at me to come over. “What do you need, how can I help?” he asked; he quickly took care of refilling my camelbak and refilling my pockets with gels, as I tried to swallow as much custard as possible and eat some crisps for the salt. The sun had been shining all day and whilst a breeze had kept me cool, I had been sweating sufficiently to be covered in sticky, crusty salt. My fingers had swollen up too, and whilst I was feeling ok, I knew that a lack of salt and electrolytes could quickly give me a turn for the worse. When Matt asked how I was feeling I said I was terrified, that I’d never felt so good in an ultra and that I was frightened I might blow up. Looking at my watch, it was 3:15pm; I ascertained that if I could cover the final 12 miles in a decent pace it could be possible to even get under 12 hours – this was unfathomable to me, but the clock wasn’t lying. Matt wished me luck and sent me on my way, and I went out to give the last miles everything I had.

hoka highland fling 2015

In theory it was possible to cover these 12 miles in two and a half hours, but it seemed a lofty goal. Even with the sun still beating down I inexplicably still felt amazing, there was not a drop of fatigue in my legs and this was reflected in my continued efforts up and down the hills where I passed the steady stream of walking/jogging runners making their way towards Tyndrum. Cow Poo alley was a dream – it was dusty and dry instead of the usual shin-deep quagmire – and I reached the bottom of the hills above Crianlarich ready to tackle them strongly.

hoka highland fling

Thanks to Lucja Leonard for the photo and pop-up support!

 

This was the reason why I had so carefully walked down Conic Hill 30 miles earlier. My legs were fresh and ready to go, and I bombed the downhills like I was on fire. I let gravity do its job and glided down to the road crossing in a series of fearless descents. One day perhaps I will pay for ripping down hills like this and will trip over something and lose my nerve, but until that day, my legs were made for descending.

hoka highland fling

Crossing the A82 I knew I had 3.5ish miles to go. I nailed a caffeine gel. A quick look at my watch showed it was about 5:10pm; the gel would kick in in about 10 minutes, and then I would take another to get as much of a boost as possible into my last mile. Bleeeerrgh, I feel like crap. Hang on; 5:10pm. 3.5 miles to go. That’s 11 hours 10 minutes race time. That means, barring utter catastrophe, I can get in UNDER 12 HOURS. What’s that sparkly thing? Ooh, there’s another! F*&k, I’m seeing stars. I am actually seeing stars. No wonder I feel so rough. Shite, am I about to pass out? What if I pass out? What if I get to 1 mile to go and keel over and DNF? Ohshitohshitohshit better just keep running. Don’t do this to me body, come on, we’ve got this! Take another gel! Drink water! Count to 100! Just keep going!

One final cursory glance at my watch as I approached the piper in Tyndrum showed 5:4Xpm. A big lump in my throat formed as I pushed past one final runner in my approach to the last hill to the By The Way entrance, and there it was; that beautiful finish once again. Flags blowing in the wind ushered me along the red carpet to the finish and I raised my arms in a silent howl of victory.

hoka highland fling

With thanks to Clark Hamilton

hoka highland fling

With thanks to Clark Hamilton

Beinglas – Tyndrum
Split = 2hr 36m 12s 
Race time = 11hr 44m 7s
321st place (73 places gained)

A medal was hung around my neck and water pushed into my hand. I took a few more steps before the tears of disbelief came on thick and fast and before I knew it I was bawling like a bairn. Amanda had finished just before me and had scored a PB and we happy-cried on each other, before I moved on to blubbing all over Julie, Keith, Sandra and Sarah.

hoka highland fling

With thanks to Sandra Mcdougall

I don’t even remember Sandra taking this picture. Spangled doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt, but I somehow managed to get myself to a chair to eat some soup and drink some water in some steps towards re-joining the human race. Soon after Scott and some of the SRC girls finished and joined me as we all celebrated PBs (or first finishes, in Scott’s case). A congratulatory text from my Mother In Law confirmed my final chip time of 11 hours 44 minute and 7 seconds which took my breath away all over again. I had hardly dared to dream that I could get under 12 hours, never mind under 11hrs 45m. What had happened to me? Whose legs had I stolen? What had Matt put in my camelbak at Beinglas?

hoka highland fling finish

After I had gently come back down to earth, I got changed into some warm clothes and began the anxious wait for Kynon. Early reports suggested that he’d left Beinglas in good spirits and still running about 4:30pm which meant he would probably take around three hours to finish if he could keep moving well. I anxiously waited near the finish for signs of him until I spotted him come around the corner, and then headed back to the finish gantry to give him a big hug when he crossed the line.

hoka highland fling finishIMG_3633

Kynon finished in 13 hours 27 minutes and 41 seconds, and was a very happy man. His race was not without its difficulties, but like a true ultra runner he fought through and overcame them to finish strong and happy. I am very proud.

We spent the rest of the evening at the ceilidh rehydrating, before collapsing in the van for a few hours sleep. The changeable nature of highland weather was never felt more acutely than the next day, when snowflakes falling on my neck soothed my stinging sunburn, as we fought to tear down and store the finish area in intermittent rain, sleet and blizzards.

Phpt by John Arthur

Photo by John Arthur

 

Over a week later I’m back training happily with no injuries and no (read that again: NO) blisters to speak of! There are now seven weeks to go until the West Highland Way Race, so I have about a months more training to do. So what went right last Saturday? What can I learn that I can take away from this? I have a few ideas which I will cover in my next post, but it’s safe to say I remain delighted by my performance, which, relative to my own past experience, is probably the best run I’ve ever done.

Onwards and upwards… 7 weeks until the Big One!

hoka highland fling finish medal

West Highland Way Race Training – Week 10

West Highland Way Race Training
Week 10
west highland way race red wine runner

Last week was a welcome return to form with three runs and three cross training sessions, including a casual 30 mile hill run at the weekend. Unfortunately I have since been struck down with a stinking cold which has been somewhat of a disability this week…

Monday: 1hr Power Yoga
Tuesday: 7.5 miles – Club long tempo run on hilly route.
Wednesday: 1hr Body Pump
Thursday: 6 miles – Club interval session – 1km effort x 5
Friday: Rest and eating lots
Saturday: 30 miles – an 8 hour monster long run with my Saturday run crew.
Sunday: A couple of hours of tough digging in the gardening and a relaxed 30 mins of Ashtanga Primary Series

Glen Dye

We had planned a route to start at the Clachnaben car park in Glen Dye, then go out up and over Clachnaben, up and over Mount Battock, then down to Tarfside and Glen Esk, before climbing back up Stobie Hillock and down the other side to the Water of Dye, following its path through Glen Dye past Charr Bothy to the car park. This in theory ought to have taken about 6 hours for a total of 25 miles, but we went a little off route on two occasions which resulted in a lot of heather bashing. On the first occasion we took an incorrect turning and after sailing down a very steep hill at great speed, realised we were going the wrong way. We heather-bashed our way around the hill contours until we found the path again, and marvelled at the huge amount of white mountain hares we saw, which were still mainly white in their winter camouflage coats.  Our second re-route was the result of new tracks being made on the estate which we were running through which was very confusing when we were following an OS map.  Supreme map reading skills re-routed us over the hills, circumventing a huge herd of deer, and then had us hopping and skipping down another descent, splashing through bogs and streams and back on track to the finish.

Clachnaben run

glen dye 3

Glen dye 4 Glen dye 5 glen dye 6 glen dye 7 glen dye 8 glen dye 9

Glen dye 11

Having left Stonehaven at 6.15am, we reached our cars at about 3.30pm so it had been a very long day. I was glad to have sensibly packed extra food just in case, and happy that the weather was on our side. It was a stunning route with about 4,500ft of climbing and a real challenge underfoot at times, so a perfect sharpener for the Highland Fling in three weeks time. On Sunday I enjoyed the sunshine and worked in the garden, before getting my yoga mat out and working through the Ashtanga Primary Series slowly to stretch out my weary legs with some furry help.

yoga cat

Tomorrow I’m off to London for a few days with Kynon to stay with some friends. Amongst other things, I am looking forward to meeting some Twitter run chums for a sightseeing run, trying a Fierce Grace yoga class, and hopefully doing some parkrun tourism at Finsbury Park. As mentioned, I developed a nasty cold on Sunday and I haven’t ran this week – better to try and get back to full health than push the bugs into my chest! I always get fatigued after having a cold or virus and I’m very keen to take care of myself with a big race on the horizon.

I’ll be posting photo updates on my London adventures on my Instagram account; if you don’t follow me already, why not come along for the journey?
@rhinomittens

Instagram

West Highland Way Race: Training Week 1

West Highland Way Race Training, Week 1 – Week Beginning 26th January.

west highland way racelogo

It feels inaccurate to title this entry as ‘Training Week 1′ as years of work have already gone in to this journey towards Fort William. This is week one of the final six months of training which will lead to the start line on the Evening of the 19th of June, ready for the off at 1am on the 20th. I am still tweaking my final training ‘plan’ and working out how I will be fitting in the long weekend runs around various things I have in my calendar, so I won’t be sharing this on the blog just yet. I am basing my training loosely on the plan for a 100 mile race which peaks at 70 miles a week as seen in ‘Relentless Forward Progress‘, but allowing for plenty of flexibility if required. Races in the lead up to June will be the 33 mile D33 Ultra in March and the 53 mile Highland Fling, but the jury is still out about what kind of effort I will be executing at these.

This week was my first week back to regimented training of 2015, after a relaxed December of shorter runs and two rather sedentary weeks on holiday. I completed all my planned training and really enjoyed the feeling of working hard for the first time in a while! It was the last week of my Winter break from University so I had plenty of time on my hands allowing me to spread things out a bit and do a little extra at my leisure. Lets take a look:

Monday
AM – 8.4 mile run around Stonehaven in my new Hokas
PM – 1 hour Power Yoga

Tuesday
AM – 3 mile social run catching up with a friend
PM – 6 mile Club Run – Long Speed Intervals, 5 x 800m

Wednesday
PM – 2 mile run to and from 1 hour Body Pump class

Thursday
PM – 6.5 mile Club Run – including 30 minute tempo

Friday
REST

Saturday
23.2 mile trail run on West Highland Way

Sunday
3 mile hike – Balmaha – Conic Hill summit and back

TOTAL: 51.9 miles

—-

I won’t normally be doing so many sessions – 5 runs and two cross-training sessions will suffice, and I won’t be running on a Monday.

WHW training weekend

Picture: Sandra McDougall

 

It was of course the first West Highland Way Race training weekend of the year, and Kynon and I spent two lovely nights at the Oak Tree Inn at Balmaha with dozens of good running friends. Many more joined in for the Saturday run alone, with many completing the full 30 miles from Balmaha – Inversnaid and back. I hadn’t set a goal other than something over 20, but given I hadn’t done a ‘long’ run since November, I was wary not to get too carried away and over-cook it. It would be a pretty amateur move to injure myself at the end of my first week of proper training. I was also harbouring a cough which was making my chest tight so I knew I had to be wise. In the end I did 23 after deciding that I would do the same as my Stonehaven Running Club training group did last weekend which I missed due to jetlag.

It was great to be back on the West Highland Way again, and the weather was stunning. As ever, the climbs between Balmaha and after Rowardennan were steeper than I remembered but were a good indicator as to where my fitness is at the moment. On Sunday we climbed Conic Hill right to the summit to flush out the legs. It was absolutely stunning at the top! Here are some pictures of the weekend:

whw training 1whw training 3whw training 4whw training 5whw training 6whw training 7whw training 8whw training 9

Finally, I’ve decided to finally register my blog with Bloglovin'; so if this is your preferred method of reading blogs you can now follow my blog with Bloglovin.

RACE REPORT: Monymusk Hilly Half Marathon 2014

Monymusk Hilly Half Marathon
26th October 2014

stonehaven running club at monymusk  half marathon 2014

Time: 2hr 15m 26s
Place: 79th / 92
Gender: 21st / 26
Category: 9th / 10

Monymusk Hilly Half Marathon is a small race in its second year, organised by the Cosmic Hill Bashers. In its second year, it attracted a field of 94 to the Village Hall for the start at 11am, including twelve from Stonehaven Running Club as it was the final race of the 2014 SRC Club Championships. The terrain is described as multi-terrain with runners making their way across fields, along roads, on forest tracks and mountain bike trails. Also, the clue is in the name, and racers can expect a significant amount of climbing throughout the 13.1 miles.

Stonehaven Running Club met at the leisure centre to share lifts at 9.30am and we made it up to Monymusk around 10.15am. Unfortunately due to my innate ability to get car-sick in almost any vehicle when I’m not driving, I arrived feeling pretty rotten and sick to my stomach. This wasn’t a great start to the day but with some fresh air, water and a cereal bar I began to feel a little more human after I picked up my number, which was a bargain £10.

We met some with some other club ladies and all dithered over what to wear. The weather was actually quite lovely with the exception of a very strong wind, which seemed to change in temperature every 10 minutes from being icy cold to rather temperate. We knew the route would be exposed when we broke through the tree line ascending the hill, but climbing hills is usually pretty sweaty work so it was a tricky one to call.

At 10.50am there was a short briefing and then we were walked to the start around the corner. My right hand automatically flew to my left wrist ready to start my garmin, but once again I was reminded that in my haste to leave on time earlier, I had neglected to pick up this essential piece of kit from the kitchen table. It didn’t bother me to be running utterly blind, especially as it was a trail race and I wasn’t chasing a time, but there’s nothing like knowing how far you have to go when your energy levels drop towards the end.

The first section of the race took us on a steady uphill over a field on a grassy track, before we turned onto a country road for a brief downhill and then more and more climbing. I was grinding away at the hill, trying to keep a steady jog, but I just wasn’t keeping the pace of those around me and I saw the last of the Stonehaven ladies slip out of sight only about 2 miles in to the race. I didn’t really care; my competitive instincts had disappeared shortly after my guts started jangling like a set of church bells, and the previously experienced urge to vomit quickly made its presence felt once again.

This was frustrating, but what did I really expect having felt pretty ill shortly before and then gone from zero to running hard up a hill?! We’ve seen this phenomenon before this year, except at Braemar I did end up emptying my guts (in front of an unsuspecting child, no less) so what can be learned from this? 1) Drive myself to races. 2) WARM. UP.

Next, we turned off the road into Pitfichie Forest where the path was a wide and gravelly forest track. Still heading uphill I conceded to walk and continued to power up and up but breaking into a run wherever I could. The path got narrower, rockier and steeper and then we broke through the tree line and could see ahead where the hill side was populated by a small stream of neon ants climbing up to the summit.

Somewhere around this point I seemed to shake off the nagging nausea, and perhaps fuelled by the gorgeous views which surrounded us, developed a real spring in my step as the terrain became much more technical. I passed a couple of men and channelled my inner mountain goat hopping from rock to rock and over lumps of heather towards the marshall at the top.

As expected, the wind up on top of the hill was vicious but it was welcome as I was really overheating after the climb, which according to Vikki’s Garmin was a cracking 7 miles long. I began the controlled fall down the other side in delight as I was finally in my element; I love a technical downhill and enjoy letting gravity take its course without fear. I was ever-grateful for the superior grip of my Salomon Speedcross 3s which let me bounce all over the place without feeling out of control.

Monymusk Half Marathon Descent

I thrashed my way all the way down the hill and re-entered the forest where the path widened and flattened out. I lost a couple of places here which I had gained on the down as my legs had decided they’d had about enough for one day, and I struggled to find a rhythm again on the flat and easy road. It felt like I was stuck in 2nd gear; I wished I knew how far I still had to go as I was utterly clueless. The long haul up the hill had totally distorted everything in my mind.

After a welcome water stop I was told it was 4k to the finish. Ten more minutes along the road and the next marshall said 4k too! We turned off the road and headed towards the banks of the River Dee, and followed the river for some time along the bottom of a tussocky grassy field which was frustrating to run on. The soft grass sucked the last of the energy from my lifeless legs and I locked into a system of running for 50 breaths and walking for 20 which passed the time.

The next marshall said one mile left – excellent! The next one half a mile later said 2k left… I have never missed my Garmin more! I could deduce I was pretty close from the sounds of the road and my memory of the course map, so I tried to just enjoy the beautiful Autumn leaves around me and underfoot and the sunshine which was breaking through the trees.

A sharp right turn brought us on to the finishing straight, where after a long uphill run it was time to finally call it a day. The rest of the SRC girls were waiting for me which was kind of them; especially as there was soup and cake awaiting all finishers! My Mum had popped along to cheer us on as well as snapped a picture of me finishing:

Redwinerunner Monymusk Half Finish

 This smile was a bit forced – I was absolutely gubbed. The race was beautiful, but very hard work and a lot warmer than I’d expected and by the finish I already had a dehydration headache. I checked with the timer what my time was and was surprised to hear only 2 hours and 15 minutes – I had expected to be well over 2 hours 30, so despite it being a lifetime worst performance at Half Marathon distance I was pleased that my time wasn’t too horrific.

The other girls had come in between 1hr 56m and 2hr 08m and had all found it to be a very challenging course. In coming 6th SRC lady, I didn’t actually get any more Championship points as in my top 5 finishes in Championship races I have finished higher than 6th every time. Vikki came 5th SRC lady and was able to better one of her placings gaining another two points to retain her 2nd place with 89 points, and keeping me safely in 3rd with 87 points.

Unfortunately I will miss the prize giving ceilidh in January as we’re on holiday. I have one more goal to achieve by the end of the year, which is to reach the SRC Silver standard, which is defined as the following: Complete 5 formal events 1 of which must be a minimum of a half marathon and 3 of which must be over 60% WAVA. I obviously have the 5 events and the distance requirements sorted, but I need one more event at 60% WAVA. I’ll be attempting this at the Metro Proms 3k next Friday (or the December event if I’m unsuccessful) where I’ll need to run under 13 minutes 56 seconds. I can also attempt 60% WAVA at the Peterhead 10k where I’d need to run quicker than 49 minutes 59 seconds, which is a 45 second PB. That seems a lot more achievable right now than the 1hr 49m 40s I would need to run at the Fraserburgh Half Marathon, which is a 5 min 38s PB!

I’ve often said that I really don’t enjoy running ‘fast’ so competitions like this force me to push myself harder to unlock the achievements. It certainly shakes things up from my preferred ultra distances, and pushes me to train differently. Hopefully I will finish 2014 with a new PB or two and wrap up the year on a high!

Does your running club have a Club Championship or club standards? Do you take part? Do you feel it pushes you to run faster?