Red Wine Runner

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Edinburgh Spartan Race | Spartan Beast Race Report

Edinburgh Spartan Race 2017
Spartan Beast – 15 miles

Edinburgh Spartan Race Medal

5 hours 40 minutes 25 seconds
‘Open’ Category
346th of 869
51st of 196 Females
14th of in 38 in Age Category

This time a couple of weeks ago, I was seriously considering my life choices. By 11am, I had been up since 6am and had been running up, down, and around the Pentland Hills in lashing rain and wind for nearly two and a half hours. Two months prior, I had been challenged by the race to take on the event of my choice from the Edinburgh Spartan Beast, UltraBeast, and Sprint weekend. This event was two days of obstacle course races which promised to challenge mental strength, endurance, grit, and perseverance as we tackled challenging obstacles in addition to running over punishing Pentland hills and terrain. I’m usually up for a challenge, so I decided to give it a go…

Spartan Race Edinburgh Route Map

From the events on offer, I selected the Beast distance which was stated to be between 12-14 miles. I was tempted by the UltraBeast until I saw it was a double loop of the Beast course, and thought that doing the course once would probably be enough. Spartan kindly offered me a place for a friend as well, so, being the generous wife I am, I signed Kynon up so that we could share the experience together.

spartan race logo

If you are a regular reader of RedWineRunner, you will know that I have never ran an obstacle course race before, but that I am a regular competitor in Scotland’s toughest and longest off-road ultramarathons. Distance, climbing, and endurance are my bread and butter, but I rarely step foot in a gym. Functional training looks like fun, but I never have time to go to the outdoor boot camp classes I see happening around Edinburgh. As a result, I can run for (actual) days but I don’t have a great deal of upper body strength beyond being able to bust out some push ups on command, and flex a mediocre gun show on occasion. My right arm is stronger than my left, as that’s the one I lift my pints with.

Earlier this year I shared my thoughts on tackling my first obstacle course race, and why I had decided to take part in a type of event which I have been known to be quite disparaging about. You can read the post HERE, but to re-cap; I always strive to provide evidence-based argument, and I was keen to see what all the fuss was about regarding obstacle course racing. It’s one of the fastest growing and most lucrative sports markets in the world, and a lot of people seem to be quite intimidated by it. To be a ‘Spartan’ is to allegedly have bragging rights, to have proven yourself against something (the thing is not actually defined – but it is said “You’ll know at the finish line”) and to have a selection of Spartan-branded ‘bad-ass’ pictures to share on your social media accounts (defined as a finisher benefit in race communications).

None of these factors hold any real draw for me at all, but I certainly was not intimidated by the concept of throwing myself around an obstacle course, even if some of it is was fire.  So, I accepted the challenge and went undercover to try and understand the mentality of the Spartans and their sub-culture. What makes people spend all their money to come back to these races around the country? What would being part of the Spartan Family feel like? And what on earth was I going to find out at the finish line?!

Edinburgh Spartan Beast

The awful weather was never going to be in doubt. The forecast all week had been for rain and wind all Saturday, but given how wet I knew I would get anyway, I didn’t really care. We arrived at the Spittal Farm site about 7.30am and got parked up before heading to the Race Festival. Spartan Race offers camping; useful since it’s in the middle of nowhere, so many people had elected to stay over the night before. This meant there were food trucks, coffee trucks, plenty of toilets, and a fairly genial festival atmosphere despite the rain. It’s worth noting that I obviously didn’t take my phone with me on the course, but I also didn’t take any pictures at the start because of the weather, so all photos from now on are used with kind permission of Spartan Race.

Edinburgh Spartan Race

The race crew provided fantastic service and we were able to check in and get rid of our bags quickly and easily. We then sat down on some hay bales, ate some bananas, and took in the atmosphere. Edinburgh Spartan Race is a huge event, with waves of competitors starting from 6am to well into the afternoon. This meant there were 100s of people wandering around, upon whom I made the following observations:

  • Nearly everyone wears branded kit to participate – you enter the race through the Merchandise tent, and you can buy everything from Spartan shoes, to leggings, to iron-on patches.
  • OCR teams and clubs are a thing – lots of people were wearing custom team kit, which looks a lot slicker than your average running club vest.
  • It was a really international event! There were dozens of different languages being spoken, in addition to large numbers of Americans and Canadians, and over 30 countries were represented.
  • OCR racing has a very diverse participant profile and puts the Scottish Ultra scene to shame.
  • There were a number of people walking around on crutches or in orthopedic moon boots. This seemed to be a badge of honour.
  • Even though they were about to trek around an obstacle course, some people still wear costumes. There was a man in an actual Spartan outfit.
  • OCR racers don’t know how to use bins. The amount of litter being thrown around was atrocious.

We didn’t have too long to wait until our start at 8:40am, but in the meantime we chatted to Abby and her husband Jamie. It was nice to meet Abby in real life and they shared some last tips for survival with us. We had both elected to wear finger-less mountain bike glove-mitt things to protect our hands – apparently this is quite controversial in the scene, and you are either in Team Glove or definitely not. Maybe this is like the minimal/maximal footwear debate in ultras? Who knows.

At the start, there was a lot of shouting. A lady had a microphone and people were responding with vigour to her shouts, and jumping and cheering a lot. It was all a bit enthusiastic for first thing in the morning for me, and I also couldn’t hear what she was saying. However, off we went, and our big adventure had begun! I felt quite excited until I had to stop running after 50 meters to queue to traverse a small stream, and I hoped that this would not be a theme for the day.

Edinburgh Spartan Race

Over the whole course there were over 30 obstacles. I’m not going to describe each one as I don’t have all day and neither do you. The first ones were mainly climbing over things and going through mud pits which was all fun and games, until we got the the first significant water obstacle. This was constructed using the natural environment and utilised a huge pond full of reeds, upon which was floating a large, wooden ladder-shaped construction, where the ‘steps’ of the ladder shape were actually about 3 feet wide. The challenge was to get into the water and then swim under the three wide wooden planks. This didn’t seem too bad from a distance, but when you were actually submerged in the freezing water, with your muscles paralysed with cold, getting underneath a flat, floating structure and out the other side safely, provoked a genuine ‘fight or flight’ fear reaction in me. For a second I wasn’t sure if I could do it, and nearly ducked out to do the 30 burpee penalty for skipping the obstacle, but my brain kicked in and took control – I’m in charge of what scares me, nothing else – and I took a deep breath and swum under.

HORRIFIC BRAIN FREEZE. I can’t describe the shock of the cold – I’ve never felt anything like it before other than being hit directly on the head with a blunt object. I emerged on the other side gasping and hyperventilating, before taking a few seconds to calm down and then swimming under the second, and the third. Getting out of the water, I jumped up and down and jogged around to try and regain full control over my body, and waited for Kynon to complete his burpee penalty after he decided he couldn’t do the obstacle. We went on together, and that was the last time I was dry until I finished five and a half hours later…

Edinburgh Spartan Race

The next few hours were a Tour de Force of physical challenges – not just climbing over and under things, but dragging breeze blocks on chains, balancing on posts, memory tests, carrying sandbags, tyres, buckets of stones, swimming across a loch, and huge leg sapping climbs to the summits of the hills. I can’t deny that this event was TOUGH, and challenged me in ways which I’ve never experienced. To that end, I also found I could do things that I didn’t know I could – apparently I’m actually a pretty solid contender in carrying a 20kg sandbag on my shoulders up and down a hill on  uneven, wet and treacherous terrain. I passed dozens of people collapsed around the carrying course, some just lying on the ground crying next to their sandbags. Guys, cheer up – you are PAYING to do this.

Edinburgh Spartan Race

Mentally, the course was designed to mess with your head. You could see what was coming ahead in some places, and the carrying challenges were especially cruel as you could see how far your had to carry your bucket of rocks up ahead and how far you had to climb, only to come right back down the the start. There were some running sections between obstacles which were simply a hill rep – down half a mile over wet tussocky reeds and grass, around a cone, and back up again, just to be particularly cruel.

Edinburgh Spartan Race

Don’t forget  the weather of course – the rain continued to lash down and the wind made the conditions on the tops of the hills very, very harsh. There was thick clag (fog) on the tops which at times extended all the way down to the Race Festival. Visibility was very poor and sometimes down to only a few feet in front of you. I’ve said this before, but, welcome to Scotland in July…

Edinburgh Spartan Race

Teamwork is a major part of many people’s Spartan Race. Operating as a pair we weren’t very efficient at climbing over the huge things, but just having someone there to encourage you was good. Sometimes other Spartans would help out too, but I didn’t see too much of the collegiate atmosphere which so many websites write about. On one occasion I helped a girl over a barrier and then she just ran off instead of helping me too – cheers mate, much appreciated. So I was glad that I had Kynon to keep my spirits up; that is, until he was done at about 10 miles/3h 30m in. The less said about this the better, probably, but the weather, lack of food and water, and water submersions took their toll and he was definitely done for the day when he was visibly blue, talking nonsense, and with numb hands and pins and needles in both arms. It’s not very nice to use your recently acquired Outdoor Emergency First Aid training on your own husband, nor to have him carted away with a body temperature of 35C and for you to keep going on the course, but I wasn’t going to let the Beast get both of us.

Edinburgh Spartan Race

You might understand that I had a bit of a sense of humour failure at this point. I was royally fed up of being wet and cold, I had no idea how far I had to go to the finish or how long it would take, and this daft event with its stupid testosterone-fuelled, all-or-nothing culture had hurt my husband. Amusingly, it was just after this that the event photographers popped up.

Edinburgh Spartan Race

Edinburgh Spartan Race

So I charged on, sprinting past dozens of people who were just walking between the obstacles at this point, and just tried to get done as quickly as possible. I noticed that I was passing people from the elite and competitive waves which started before us, and there were no other women around (and actually, few other competitors in general). I wondered for a bit if I was going to inadvertently show up and accidentally place in my age category, which I found hilarious especially since I’d spent ages hanging around with Kynon when he was sick, and had done several time-consuming burpee penalties for failing obstacles.

Edinburgh Spartan Race

The route took you cruelly close the the finish before fucking off up another hill for another mile to carry some logs, and then you came back down to the finish area. “Well done lady! You are putting all the men to shame!” said a marshal. Cool, but I just want to get this event done so I can make sure my husband isn’t dead.

Edinburgh Spartan Race

The last obstacles were right next to the finish festival. I gave them my best shot but I just couldn’t do the ‘Twister’ hanging traverse thing, and found myself doing more burpees in front of a handful of fed-up looking bedraggled spectators.  The final obstacle was two 8 foot walls which, by myself, I tried to get over and failed. No cheering, no encouragement, more burpees whilst people just stared at me throwing myself repeatedly into the muddy ground. This is what I found out at the finish line.

Edinburgh Spartan Race

Five hours and forty minutes later I took the ‘Fire Jump’ in my stride, declining the opportunity for the bad-ass social media photograph, and finally finished the race.  Having consumed 200 calories of gels in since my previously consumed banana at 8am, I was delirious with hunger and consumed the finish-line offerings like a rabid dog – I’ve never been so excited to drink a bottled bro-tein shake in my life.

I can imagine that if it had been a lovely hot July day it would have been great to dry out in the sunshine and enjoy a burger and a beer, but I was just so cold and done that I wanted to get home as quickly as possible. I got my kit bag and headed for the showers, only to find that they were just water bowsers with hoses. I couldn’t handle any more cold water, so I peeled off my wet clothes and struggled into some dry ones, and it was finally time to go home.

Some Closing Thoughts

  • Spartan Race is an extremely well-organised event, and it’s easy to see why it costs as much as it does to participate. The course was very well designed, and decorated with some very high quality obstacles. I would have liked to see some fuel on the course though – there was one water stop with bananas, but other than that the only thing which was on offer was water.
  • The litter situation was completely unacceptable. Participants were throwing litter away all over the course – in Scottish Hill and Ultra races, this is an offence which will result in disqualification. Hopefully Spartan Race collected it all, but they need to do more to change participants’ attitude.
  • The medal is amazing; very heavy duty and good quality, strung on thick, satin ribbon. Attached to it is a segment which you can use to complete a memento of completing a ‘trifecta’ of Spartan events. The Finisher TShirt is also great quality and very soft technical fabric.
  • Unfortunately, the ‘Fast Pass’ is a complete rip-off. I purchased two £12.50 ‘Fast Passes’ which give the user the benefit of ‘free’ parking and bag-check (usually £5 and £2), the ability to skip queues, and 10% off merchandise. Firstly, there were no queues and even if there were any later on, there was no dedicated FastPass lane. Secondly, in order to get any value from the 10% discount, you would need to spend over £55 in merchandise before you would see any benefit. So, I paid £24 to park one car and check two bags – things which could be purchased on the day for a total of £9.
  • I requested a breakdown of results from Spartan Race for the Beast, since it was clear that the race had taken its toll on a lot of entrants. Allegedly across all waves in the Beast, there were 1135 starters, and 1134 finishers, so only one DNF. Given that there was a guy who was literally unconscious in the ambulance with Kynon when he was being taken off the course, I’m reasonably convinced there were at least two… and that’s without going into detail about the dozens of other people in the medical tent. Kynon also received a ‘Congratulations on Finishing’ email the next day despite not being included in the race results, so I am not convinced about the accuracy of the race result processing. I’ve requested further updated results or comment from Spartan, but they are satisfied that these statistics are accurate.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to have experienced this type of event for the first time. OCR racing is a different world from normal running, and is clearly developing a thriving community with their own standards and traditions. There’s no denying that the weather impacted my enjoyment of the event, but in general, I’m in no hurry to return to the Spartan or wider OCR scene. Kynon was fine once he got warmed up and fed, but I don’t think he’ll be back either…

Once again I’ve found that smaller, low-key events are what I enjoy the most. Thankfully there’s a wide selection of events out there to suit all tastes, so I’ll leave the Spartans to do their thing and I’ll go back to ultramarathons.

Did you take part in the Edinburgh Spartan Race?
Have you ever taken part in an event like this?

 

 

Past, Present, and Future

Where I’ve Been

  • I ran the Speyside Way Ultra at the end of August and I finished in 7th Senior Female in 7hr 14m 6s. It was really, really hot, and I was kind of under-trained. It should not have been as hard as it was, but I was really pleased with how I paced it. I had a major wobble at about 25 miles, but then I got angry at myself and passed around 20 people in the last 10 miles. Still got it.

speyside way ultra 2016

  • I went to Ibiza for two weeks with Kynon. I sat on a beach and read for two weeks straight which was magnificent. We went to see Faithless one night which was the most expensive fun I’ve ever had; £36 for two rum and cokes in the club was ludicrous, but £30 for two cocktails at Cafe Del Mar earlier on as the sun went down was worth every penny.

cafe del mar

  • I did some stat crunching the other day and I realised I’ve now ran 23 marathons or ultramarathons, and 93 races in total. This blows my mind a little. I don’t feel like I’ve ever run over 10k right now.

Where I am

  • I’m still failing hard  every time I try and get back into training consistently. My peripatetic lifestyle between Edinburgh and Stonehaven throws constant challenges at me, and to a certain extent, I’ve let myself become a victim of my own circumstances. It is a seemingly endless battle which saps a lot of my strength.
  • I’ve only ran 731 miles this year. I have no races booked and this is a huge contributer to my current feelings of a loss of sense of self. Running used to be a huge part of my life, and now it’s just…not.
  • I’ve got kind of…fat. My body shape has changed a lot since I basically stopped being a runner, and it’s pretty distressing. A lot of my clothes aren’t fitting comfortably, including my active wear, and running feels different when you’re heavier. Things rub, shake, and jiggle, and it feels like you’re swimming through treacle. I’m trying to train using someone else’s body.
  • I get to live with this beast during the week though – have a picture of Central Scotland’s fluffiest cat to break up the self loathing a bit:

gracie

  • I still love my new job, and embrace the challenges it offers. They’ve recently introduced a flexible working policy, which has allowed me to start running at lunchtime. This works well for me, because when I get home, I am devoid of energy or motivation to do anything other than flop…like tonight. I work within a mile of this lovely canal though:

union-canal

  • I still haven’t joined a running club. I know I should, but I’m actually questioning whether I’m fit enough to survive a training session at the moment. I miss running with other people. I try and run with my friends in Stonehaven when I’m up at the weekends, but I always end up drinking too much to be out running early with them, or indeed, at all. Since Kynon and I only see each other at the weekends and I only see Stonehaven every other week, the pressure to burn brighter for shorter is real. Work hard, party hard…but where has train hard gone?

Where I’m Going

  • I know where I’m not going – I’ve received rejections from both the Tokyo and London Marathon ballots, so that clears up some decisions about Spring 2017. Kynon and I are going to enter the Chicago ballot as well when it opens soon though – sooner or later I have to get a place for something…
  • I know I have to bring some kind of structure into my running life if I’m to salvage anything from the last few years of running. Goals need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-specific.
  • I’m starting with micro-goals: I live near Blackford Hill and use the steep steps on the West side to train. I want to be able to run all the way from the bonfire pit at the bottom to the bench at the top by Christmas. At the moment I can run about half – right up until the point where the stairs get really steep.
  • I have to enter some races and I have to fully commit to them. In the first half of 2017 I want to run the D33 and the Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra, in preparation for a new race, the Tyne Trail Ultra – a 93 mile run from the source of the Tyne to Tynemouth. I went to University in Newcastle, so this race will great for me, but I’m hesitant to enter just yet. One step at a time for now is perhaps wise.
  • In the second half of 2017, I want to run the Devil o’ the Highlands again, and the Glenmore 12 hour again. I must mark the opening dates in my diary, if only to ‘unfollow’ the Facebook groups after entering, in order to get away from the circus of daft questions and poor grammar…
  • I have to find a way to lose this extra weight, and I’m hoping that regular training will shift it. I’ve been ‘hoping’ that for the last year though and it’s not enough. I turned 32 the other day and never have I been more aware of how quickly middle-aged spread sets in as soon as you eat anything nice. I had birthday cake three times last week and a pizza on my birthday, and I feel like I need to start wearing scrubs to work as my jeans are cutting me in half.

That’s all I’ve got for now; just some small nuggets of insight into my current life. It’s always hard to post a blog after a big break;  I never know where to start or what to say. It’s been over two months since my last post and I rarely have the time nor the inclination to write much these days, but since I’m still paying for my hosting and I’ve just renewed my domains, I should really make it more of a priority. It’s unfortunate that much of my new job is creating, strategising, and analysing content, so coming home at night to do it all again makes this bit of fun into a bus-man’s holiday.

I’ve also fallen out of love with blogging in general… I’ve given up reading most of the blogs I’ve been following for the last few years as they have all swung largely in the same direction of courting brands to gain the coveted crown of the word ‘Influencer’ in their social media biographies. There are a handful of blogs out there who I still enjoy reading regularly and who consistently produce high quality visual and written content, either with brand partnership or otherwise, but in general I am exhausted with the saturation of partnerships, sponsorships, and ambassadorships, and the general need to stop and document every single training run with a selection of self-timered pictures of you looking like a very serious runner. I just don’t really want to to read about that any more.

However, I don’t want to stop writing Red Wine Runner as I like to have a record of my own experiences at races, and it’s nice to share that with others sometimes. On the other hand, it’s beginning to make me rather uncomfortable the amount of times people come up to me in public and want to talk to me about this blog. I can vaguely handle it at races, but in the last couple of months I’ve had some particularly odd encounters in non-running situations, and a couple of my SRC clubmates got asked if they were me whilst they were at races recently. I guess it may be too late to get that particular genie back in the bottle, but for the record; I can be a rather awkward penguin at times offline, and I can find dealing with strangers without context pretty challenging. Also, I am nearly 6ft tall with neon red hair – I’m not short with dark hair, or Canadian. So there’s that too. Finally, don’t ever pull your car over next to a runner out by themselves and ask if they’re Red Wine Runner, regardless of how much you think they are or not. Because that’s creepy as hell, and you’re an asshole if you do that.

a-very-angry-penguin source

I wanted to finish with a Socially Awkward Penguin meme, but I’m not in the mood for a lawsuit with Getty. Please enjoy this Very Angry Penguin instead, and consider it my reaction if I get kerb crawled again.

Edinburgh Life

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m writing this from my couch in Stonehaven with day two of the Olympics playing on television in the background. I should be basking in a post-run glow,  having just completed my last long run before the Speyside Way Ultra, but instead I’m feeling a little queasy and quite frankly, a little traumatised, after suffering a great disagreement with some food I ate last night. I thought I’d take this rare opportunity of spare time to write a catch-up post and attempt to compensate for my inconsistent blogging of late.

edinburgh castle

Life in Edinburgh

I’ve been living in Edinburgh for a little over two months now and have settled in to my new job well. I work in the city centre and have been enjoying walking three miles to and from work every day, exploring the opportunities that my new location has on offer, and soaking up the amazing atmosphere which Edinburgh is famous for. It is not without its challenges however, and now that initial sheen of excitement of living a new city has worn off,  working through various issues is testing my patience at times.

forth road bridge

The biggest frustration is that I am still living in Edinburgh by myself; I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned that here, but Kynon is still working in Aberdeen and living in Stonehaven with Saskia. I get the train down to Edinburgh at 6am on a Monday and arrive back in Stonehaven at 9pm on a Friday. It is a tiresome lifestyle which has presented considerable barriers to truly settling into my new city and making new friends. After commuting, work, and training has been done, there is no time to do anything else but eat and go to bed.

edinburgh

That makes me sound very disciplined, but as anyone who might follow my Strava account would know,  I’ve not been running all that much!  So far for me, 2016 has been the summer of bugs… the first two weeks I was in Edinburgh I had a nasty cold with a cough that took ages to shake, and then a couple of weeks after that I caught another cold which turned into a chest infection which took two weeks to clear. It has been so frustrating and I feel like my fitness has really taken a hit with a lack of consistent training.

Speyside Way Ultra Training

My ‘goal’ race this summer is the Speyside Way, and I’d been hoping to train strongly over the summer in hope of being able to claim a huge PB. Last year I ran it conservatively as I ran the Fare Challenge the next day, so there is a big chunk to come off my time. However, my training has been severely impacted by having two periods of illness, and has lost all sense of direction. I had written a plan for myself to include speed and hills each week as well as an easy run and a back-to-back at the weekend, but I’ve been lucky to complete even half of my scheduled sessions and there has certainly been no speedwork to speak of.

In terms of long runs this summer, Kynon and I ran to Musselburgh and back one Saturday for a 20 mile run, but I had to bail at 14.5 miles due to my chest infection.

edinburgh

We had a successful 24 mile run from Stonehaven to Aberdeen via Drumoak.

edinburgh

We attempted a Pentland Skyline run (16 miles) in lieu of the Fort William Marathon (*more on that below) but ended up cutting the route short at 4.5 miles because it was just.so.damn.hard and I wasn’t coping with the massive elevation. In total the run came in at about 8.5 miles in two and a half hours. I was so disappointed and embarrassed – the route just chewed me up and spat me out, and provided a sharp reminder of what poor shape I’m in right now.

pentland skyline

And then there was today’s planned 20 miles on road, which has just not happened. Thankfully, after 15 ultramarathon finishes, I am blessed with the kind of daft confidence which means I know I will still complete the race, but I didn’t want to just ‘complete’ this one. I will give it everything I’ve got, but I suspect my performance may not be anything to write home about. I finished in 7 hours and 4 minutes last year; I was hoping to take an hour off my time and perhaps even duck under 6 hours…

* Unfortunately I was unable to use my place in the Fort William Marathon because of accommodation difficulties, and big issues with transport. I have no car down in Edinburgh and ScotRail ever so kindly were striking on the day of the race. There was really no way to make it work, so I had to email my apologies and DNS the race 🙁

Where do I go from here?

I feel like a bit of a lost at the moment, as I have done for much of the last year. It is very hard not to compare myself to where I was X months ago and long to be that thinner, faster version of myself. After 8 months of unemployment, I’ve not been in a good place mentally or physically for quite a while and I need to recognise that coming back from that cannot happen overnight. I know I’m going in the right direction with a new job and a new career, but it really doesn’t help that the circumstances under which that is happening means I am living apart from my husband and all that is dear to me. It is making it really hard to move on when I’ve still got one foot stuck in a different city, but that’s just how it has to be right now.

Obviously Edinburgh offers a wealth of fitness opportunities and I have been paying attention to what is happening, even if I haven’t trying anything new yet. I have chosen a running club to try out however I haven’t made it along to a session yet due to my colds, but I think this week might be the week I’m ready to put my brave pants on and go and meet some new runners. Also this week and throughout the rest of August, the Edinburgh Lululemon store is running free lunchtime fitness classes to celebrate the festival. I work just around the corner so it’s a perfect location, and doing something a bit different (like Piloxing or Voga!) will be fun.

There is also the crazy concept that is ‘Project Awesome‘. A free fitness class on top of Calton Hill every Wednesday morning…at 6:30am. I really like the idea but I just can’t see how I can make it work with that early start. My Achilles heel in fitness is my hatred of early mornings – in fact, if only I could train myself to do my running before work (perhaps even running to work) then I could free up my evenings to enjoy Edinburgh a bit more. I’ve said a few times – I wish I could clone myself so I could join an evening class or a musical group, and still keep up my (meagre attempts at) training, but the only way around that is to embrace early morning exercise…

To conclude; I’m not really sure what I’m doing next, but I know I’m looking forward to Speyside in two weeks and I’m beginning to think about 2017 races too. Preliminary thoughts are perhaps a repeat of 2014, with a D33/Fling/Cateran build up to the Great Glen Ultra, with hopefully a road marathon in there too. I’ve entered both London and Tokyo Marathon ballots, so when the inevitable rejections come through for them, then I will look at some other options around Europe for marathon fun.

edinburgh

Have you ever had to live and work apart from your partner?
Are you an early morning runner? 
Have you entered any 2017 races yet?

Moray Marathon Miscellany

It’s approaching the end of July and I now find myself with but only two and a half weeks of training left before the T-A-P-E-R kicks in! That means two weeks punctuated by two more big 20+ mile runs and a recovery week in between.

Training continues to go well, and for the last couple of weeks has looked like this:

Last week was a recovery week, which was sorely needed. I could feel myself beginning to burn out and grow tired of the effort and motivation required to keep getting out there day after day. The 20 miler I did was another super-early effort and I was out of the door by 05:45 into a grey and quiet world. I decided to take the same out-and-back route I had done for the 19 mile run the previous week, but to just add on another mile.

I was lucky enough to see the sun peek through the clouds ever so briefly around 0630 but it didn’t last sadly. For the most part the run went ok; less pain than the week before and only a minor moment of run-rage when my legs just seemed to be giving up on me at around 8 miles. As ever, it all worked out in the end though – all I needed to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and stop complaining.

Two days later I was heading out for my normal hilly 6 miles around Stonehaven. I usually try and do this run fast but since I was in ‘recovery mode’ I ignored the garmin and just decided to enjoy the beautiful evening.

Stonehaven is such a beautiful place to run; lovely coastal trails, quiet country roads, plenty of testing hills, and lots of new things for me to explore. Since I wasn’t paying attention to pace or time on this run, when I passed a set of landrover tracks leading off into a forest on the Ury Estate I decided on a whim to follow them. That decision led to finding a further 3 miles of off-road trail to follow, a river to cross to cool down and lots of ups and downs.

I was so excited to have found this great new trail, until it ended abruptly at the edge of a field of thistles and nettles. I could see in winter it would be ok to cross but in the height of over-grown summer, all I could do was turn right back around. I took a breather for a few moments and watched in awe as two huge eagles soared above me, wheeling around in circles and calling to one another. On the way back to the road I disturbed a badger who gave me a filthy look before rustling off back into a bush, and it seemed like every corner I turned there were herds of rabbits scattering away to either side. It was hot, sweaty, and I ran 4 miles longer than planned with no water or fuel; but that run was exactly what I needed to get my running ‘mojo’ back. An adventure by myself in the middle of nowhere with only badgers, birds, and bunnies for company – an excellent way to remind yourself of the answers to the ‘why the hell am I doing this’ questions that pop up now and then in the depths of training.

The following weekend would be the first weekend that I hadn’t done back-to-back long runs in a long time, as Kynon and I travelled to Edinburgh to attend the wedding of two of his dear friends. We arrived on the Friday afternoon and took the opportunity to burn off some of the expected excess of the weekend by going for a very pleasant 10k run around Arthur’s Seat first thing on Saturday before the celebrations began.

It was a gorgeous morning for running – we were out of our hotel before 8am and were dripping in sweat not long after. One thing did perplex me though; our fellow morning runners seemed so unfriendly! I smile and nod to every runner that I pass and usually get about 95% return on my smiley output in Aberdeen, however everyone I smiled to out on Holyrood Park Road on Saturday morning studiously ignored my greetings and never as much as cracked a smile. I’m sure it was nothing personal; I was assured via twitter later on that all of the nice runners in Edinburgh were at the Musselborough 10k so that clearly explains it…

A few hours later we were looking a little less sweaty and somewhat more respectable for the wedding ceremony and reception. It was held at The Hub in central Edinburgh and it was a beautiful day!

All the fun is over for the next couple of weeks however, and I’m right back on it this week with 10 miles in the bank already. 10 more tonight, at least 5 tomorrow and then a 10/22 back-to-back at the weekend will make 57 for the week equaling my highest weekly mileage ever – I know I shouldn’t overdo it but I’d really like to break my record so I’m tempted to go a little further tomorrow to push myself further towards 60…

I will close with some pictures of a cute new friend I made last night;

I came in from my run to find this handsome chap fast asleep in the vegetable patch! I sat down to do some stretching and he decided that it was most definitely time for a cuddle.

He hopped into my lap and made himself immediately at home! He didn’t shift for a good twenty minutes so I took the time to catch up with some blogs on my phone. It later turned out (via twitter no less!) that Handsome Chap’s name is Hector and that he lives across the street from Kynon.

Hector really likes to get comfy – when I left for work this morning he was curled up in that vegetable patch again – this time in amongst the spinach! Who could disturb a such sweet kitty as this?!

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