Red Wine Runner

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Race The Steam Train 2013 – RACE REPORT

Race The Steam Train

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26th May 2013
Gun time: 40mins 54 seconds
Finish Position: 87th/169
Gender: 34th/96
Category: 16th/ 45

It’s hard to tell when this day began. Was it when I finally gave up on sleep and emerged from my tent at 7am? Was it when the screaming bairn in the tent nearby woke the entire campsite up at 05:30am? Was it when the dawn chorus broke into life and the birds turned the volume up to 11 around 04:30? Or was it every half hour prior to that when I woke up shivering in the near-zero darkness of the Cairngorms in Spring? I think I’m making my point well here; I did not get a good nights’ sleep before this race. I love the idea of camping, I really do; but in practice it’s just such a pain in the arse. And the neck. And the back. And the hips. And the legs, especially if you ran up and down a Corbett the day before.

I dragged myself out of my 1-man tent some time after 7am and headed to the shower-block to attempt to defrost a little. It had been COLD the night before, and despite in addition to my thermal sleeping bag wearing thermal running tights, leggings, sweat pants, hiking socks, thermal base layer, t-shirts, two sweat shirts, a woolly hat and running gloves, I had been a very cold individual indeed. On return to our tents I discovered everyone else was beginning to show signs of life and seemed to be in good, albeit sleepy, spirits.

The weather was overcast but not too cold, and thankfully dry. I ate some breakfast whilst sitting in the front seat of my car appreciating the padding on my aching muscles. Initial thoughts that I’d escaped any residual stiffness from the day before had been premature and I was tightening up like an Aberdonian’s wallet as his round approaches. I counted up what I’d drank the night before and noted an impressive 5 different types of alcohol – that certainly wasn’t helping get me going any quicker and I felt dehydrated and in want of a large fry-up. My supplies dictated otherwise though, so I sucked down two cans of red bull and some bananas.

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We arrived at registration about 9am and found parking easy and plentiful. Registration was as swift as it always is at a small race and we passed the time standing in portaloo queues bemoaning how stiff our legs were. Iona and Jemma disappeared and then reappeared with cups of coffee and Jemma was clutching a chicken curry pasty – just the thing to blow the gin cobwebs away. We’re serous athletes, don’t you know!?

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The first stage of the journey was via a shuttle bus which took us to Aviemore Station. Jemma went awol here and ended up missing the first shuttle, and leaving us in charge of her coffee and pasty.

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The Strathspey Steam Railway is a volunteer run railway conservation project which runs trains from Aviemore to Broomhill all year and is a big tourist attraction. They have lots of associated events and do dinners and other fun things on the train as well.

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We were shown on to the train and took some seats and awaited the arrival of the second shuttle bus which would hopefully contain Jemma!

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It was lovely and warm on the train, and very comfortable. It was definitely the most fun I’d had before a race ever!

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The train journey took about 15 minutes. The runners alighted at Boat of Garten and the train continued to Broomhill. The premise is that by the time the train is ready to leave Broomhill to make its return journey, the runners have reached the start line and are ready to go. Race control is in touch with the train control; they give a signal when the train has left and that’s when it’s time for the race to start.

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This was our nemesis. We were told it would take between 43 and 45 minutes to cover the journey back to Aviemore so that’s how long we had to run the 4.6 mile race.

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It was a short walk to a sports centre where we were able to have one final toilet stop and a warm up if required. My legs were so sore I wanted to move them as little as possible so I thought I’d save the pain for the race.

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Ali, being more of a racing snake than we’ll ever be, made his way to the front of the race while we wiggled through into the front half. There was a great mix of runners in the field; from total machines to people who were taking it a lot less seriously and several runners with dogs too.

The run took place mainly on trails and I had decided to wear my cloud surfer shoes for some extra oomph. This was the shortest race I’d done in a long time so it was strange thinking that I really didn’t need to strategise any more than “Start running, run as fast as you can, finish”. I thought that keeping under 9 minute miles would be a good aim, but coming off the back of most of a month sitting on my backside drinking beer and eating cheese, I was aware that may have been a bit ambitious.

Taking into account the former as well as the attacking trilogy of lack of sleep, hill running and a fair bit of booze the night before, I was quite pleased to be drifting along at 8:30ish pace for a while. That lasted about 5 minutes before I started huffing and puffing like the proverbial steam train itself. The trail was quite undulating and that made any kind of brisk pace a bit of an ask for me.

Ignoring my body’s moaning, I pushed on and reminded myself that it was only 40 or so minutes of pain, and this is  what happens when you don’t run for a while. Regardless of how much of an arse it is running 50+ miles a week at times, it sure is quite handy when it comes to having to go somewhere quickly and it hurts a lot less. I felt like an uncoordinated sack of flabby potatoes when I ran and I didn’t like it very much. Or the creeping nausea/gurning hungry belly/stiff and janky legs.

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Off to the left is vaguely where we were running the day before. Even though it looks cloudy it was actually very muggy and humid; I was far too over-dressed in a long sleeve top, t-shirt and club vest, so added to my list of woes was “perspiring like a pig”. Whatever else happened though, I was not going to let myself walk. My fragile goal of sub-9 miles became “just keep running” and that was more than enough for my broken, out of shape, gin-soaked self.

Splits: 8:37 – 8:48 – 9:06 – 8:52 – 5:31 (0.6m nubbin)

I was pretty glad to see the finish and be able to stop running. It’s times like this when the whole completing the Highland Fling race thing seems even more like a dream – at that point I didn’t feel like I was capable of running for 53 minutes, never mind 53 miles!

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This picture just about sums it up. Am I not done yet?!

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The finish was right into the car park of the Cairngorm Brewery, and we were handed a gorgeous medal with a train on it and a fabulous goody bag.

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We all beat the train, but Ali well and truly trounced it in 30 minutes and 12th place. Iona was next, followed by Jemma, then it was me, and Kate following close behind.

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The Cairngorm Brewery was open for tasting and shopping, but I was most disappointed to have to drive so I had to abstain. The vouchers in the goody bag are a great hook to get us to come back though; I hadn’t been to Aviemore in years and I hadn’t realised what a mecca for outdoors people it is. The main high street has every single outdoors shop you could think of – I could have spent hours looking at new kit if I hadn’t had to get home.

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Check out this swag – big race organisers take note: this race cost £14/£12 SAC and we got all of the above, plus bus transfers and a train ride! This is most definitely the best value for money race I have ever done, so big congratulations to the Cairngorm Runners for pulling off a total blinder. I sent an email of thanks to the race director the next day – they really deserved some recognition for a brilliant job.

So in conclusion – fabulous race, beautiful area and a cracking town. But I still hate camping. Next year I’ll be checking into the MacDonald Aviemore resort hotel and arriving on the start line refreshed and rested – that train better watch its back…

Fraserburgh Half Marathon 2012 – RACE REPORT

Fraserburgh Half Marathon 2012

18th November 2012
Gun time: 1hr 56m 9s
Position: 162/242 finishers
Gender: 37/82 Ladies
Category: 16/34 Senior Ladies

Another end of season, and another great day out at the Fraserburgh Half Marathon, affectionately known around these parts as the Broch Half. Last year I finished up my racing year there with a brand new half marathon PB of 2:07.17, slicing 8 minutes off my first attempt at the distance 5 months previously at Stonehaven. This year I’ve somehow managed to carve a further 11 minutes off and my PB now rests firmly under 2 hours – a 19 minute improvement since my first half. It’s not just the time that is coming down though – last year at the Broch I placed 37th out of 67 in my gender and only 22nd out of 28 in my age category. There was a slight increase in numbers taking part this year but I am pleased to finally be worming my way out of the back of the pack to the middle in these smaller races.

The day started off with a complete catastrophe. A real, race-ending catastrophe. Kynon and I spent the night before the race in my now empty flat in Aberdeen (I have a week left on the lease) as it is 15 miles closer to the Broch, and when I was getting dressed I realised I had forgotten one crucial component of my kit. My sports bra. I was being picked up in 45 minutes and I was missing the one thing which would prevent me from running that day – it would have been less of an issue had I forgotten my running shoes.

Kynon, my knight in shining armour, leapt out of bed and threw on some clothes and jumped straight in the car back down the road to Stonehaven to get it for me whilst I sorted the rest of my kit and ate my breakfast. Thankfully Naomi was happy to wait a little bit and at that time of the morning on a Sunday there was no traffic on the roads at all so he was back within 40 minutes. My sweetheart, my saviour – thank you so much darling!

We were on the road with Naomi soon enough and enjoyed the sunny drive to the Broch. Sheri was supposed to be with us too, but unfortunately she succumbed to an ear infection and was unable to make it. Upon arrival we were greeted with brilliant sunshine but a bitter cold, finished off with a cutting wind.

Shivering, we quickly huddled into the sports pavilion to register and to pick up our race garments – another great quality long-sleeve top. Unbranded and in a choice of colours (bright orange for me!), I suspect I will get just as much use from this top as I have done with the one from last year. We also got our goody bags, which I found most odd; why on earth were we getting them at the START of the race?

It was SO cold! Ironically I knew it would be the kind of weather that would result in me being warm and possibly too hot within a mile of the start if I wore too much. In the end I went for calf sleeves and running skirt on bottom, long-sleeve top and fetch t-shirt on top, with arm warmers and gloves which could be easily tucked into my race belt when I got too warm.

Soon we were surrounded by plenty of familiar faces, all equally cold and wearing plenty of layers to retain the heat. The Fetch roll-call was: RedWineRunner, crooked-smile, Old Croc, mrsshanksi, weekatiepea, SillyFencer, HalfPint, MotherDuck, the Duckinator AberdeenDavid, Claudinaha and Corrah – a great turn out!

We only managed to herd a few of us together for a picture at the start – L-R – crooked-smile, Old Croc, RedWineRunner, WeeKatiePea and her baby runner in training, and mrs shanksi with her runner in training.

Mrs Shanksi (aka Vicki who I supported at the West Highland Way race this year) had originally been recruited to pace Sheri to a sub-2 half, but since she was now without her charge she was at a loss for what to do in the race. I quickly suggested that she could extend her pacing duties to run with me and see if we could get me firmly under 2:00. After a quick discussion of tactics we decided that we’d go for sub-9 miles with a view of coming in around 1:55. This seemed quite ambitious to me initially but I was happy to step up my game. WeeKatiePea was going to run with us as well and try and stick with us as long as possible – this was her first race back after having her baby 6(?) months ago.

11am came and we reluctantly shed our outer layers and lined up ready to go. A quick blast of an air horn and the 242 of us were off on the initial loops around the park which make up the first mile and a bit of the course.

This meant that the supporters were able to see us two times before we took off into the distance through the wooded private estates and exposed country roads of the rest of the course.

Photo by the Duckinator

The first few miles flew by because we were chatting away like mad. I was charged with leading the pace but I really had to pay attention as we were coasting in the low 8s when we needed to dial back to about 8:50s

Unfortunately I somehow did something to my garmin which caused the splits to go, for want to a better word, wonky. You can see in the above shot that I’d rolled my sleeves up already and in order to do that I’d had to loosen my garmin and I think I must have hit the lap button. I heard it make a noise but I assumed we’d just passed a mile marker – I don’t tend to look at the mile counter on my garmin in races. However the next time I looked I saw it was paused – how had I done that as well?!  Analysing the data later it had been paused for about 40 seconds and lapped at .3 of mile 2 which set the lap alerts (set for each mile) completely out of kilter. I didn’t let it bother me however as all I really needed to see was average pace, but I was annoyed that I’d completely buggered it up so early in the race.

The route leads out of Fraserburgh up a hill before turning off the main road into a private estate. There is a lovely wooded section to run through, but this year it was very muddy and icy which made conditions challenging. The sun was very low in the sky one we got out of the woods and I was glad to have my sunglasses on. Despite being familiar with the course from last year, it was hillier than I remembered and there were plenty of undulations to keep us on our toes.

Chatting away merrily; Vicki, Kate and I were sailing along at quite a pace and I kept on being confused at how easy it felt to be so comfortably under 9 minute miles. I was a bit scared in case I bonked later in the course but I was feeling so good that seemed impossible. We ran though a water station at about 7.5 miles and I took a few sips to wash my mouth out and then remembered I ought to take a gel. Normally I spend the whole first 5 miles of a half look forward to taking one at mile 5 and I’d completely forgotten!

Kate stopped for a proper drink and slipped behind me and that was the last I saw of her. Vicki ran behind me with her for a little while longer before speeding back up to join me at 8 miles, which I remember her saying we passed in 1hr 12 minutes which was excellent pace. I was still ignoring my accumulated race time on my garmin so I was pleased to hear our progress.

The reason I ignore the accumulated time these days is because after a couple of years of training, I seem to have embedded certain times as mile posts when I’m out for runs and depending on what side of them each individual run falls it can usually affect my mental outlook. As I get faster I need to stop doing this, as for example in a steady training run these days I usually hit 8 miles in around 1hr 15 so when I heard we’d done 8 in 1hr 12 my initial reaction was ‘Must slow down, don’t want to burn out’. Other mile posts are – 6 miles – slower than 55 mins? I’m having a bad day, and 10 miles – slower than 1:38? Having a very bad day.

Photo by Broch Photo House – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Broch-Photo-House/

I digress. Vicki and I continued on, now faster than ever. We tackled the off-road section on the old railway line by her running in front of me and setting the pace, and then once we were back on the road and heading back to the finish I lead for a few miles. I had warned Vicki that I tend to do huge negative splits on Halfs and this course would be especially prone to it due to the easy downhill last 5k. It was all going exactly as I planned as we ran comfortably under 8:30 minute miles. At around 11.5 miles I was starting to get out of breath so the chat had to stop and Vicki pulled ahead with an aggressive pace to bring me in for a strong finish as I clung to her feet.

I remember last year I got a horrible and debilitating stitch at 12 miles and I was wary of pushing too hard too soon – I needed to keep a little bit left in my legs for a final explosive push across the park to the finish. I tried to remember a feeling I got last week in my sports conditioning class of all places, of feeling like I was flying when I was sprinting up and down the hall and around cones; I remembered how fast and graceful I felt and how the power exploded from my legs – I was able to focus on that feeling and enjoy the final mile, I’d never felt this strong in a half before.

When we turned off the main road and we could see the finish I finally felt that delicious and longed-for feeling of relief, knowing that it would all be over soon. Now was not the time for taking the foot off the gas, my lungs were burning and my vision started to blur as I diverted all energy to pumping my legs as fast as possible. I knew it would be a PB, but by how much?

Picture by Old Croc

Into the final couple of hundred meters and there was a tiny hill to descend on our way into the park. I used this as my launch pad to release the final reserves of energy I was saving for a champagne finish. “On you go Rhona, finish strong!” Vicki called out as I passed her and the girl in front of us, raising a hand in acknowledgment. Rounding a corner and seeing the small crowd waiting I heard Kynon’s bellow above all of the noise: “C’mon Rhona, GO FOR IT!!” and that was a further push I needed to pass three more runners in the last stretch. It lasted forever with an agonising gradual incline on grass, but I finally stomped my foot down on the spray-painted line on the grass and looked at the race clock.

Photo by the Duckinator

Photo by the Duckinator

1:56.09? A three minute PB – I’ll take that!

A stagger down the finish chute and moments later I was in Kynon’s arms with steam coming off me in the chilly midday air. My 9th Half marathon and another PB blagged – sooner or later this is going to stop happening and I’ll need to actually do some targeted training to make further progress, but we’ll let future RedWineRunner worry about that for now.

When I’d got my senses back, I realised that there was no water or food at the finish and I was gasping for a drink and some sugar. Of course – we’d already been given our goodie bags, which were back in the car along with the rest of our kit… After locating some fluids we waited for Naomi to come in and cheered her across the line with Claudia who she had ran with and pushed to a new PB in 2:17.

I saw a couple runners with medals, but most were not wearing one which is very odd for a race finish area. I had just assumed that sadly there was no medal this year, but on further investigation I was told that they were handing them out back at the Pavilion where we had registered. Again, most odd, but I headed over to investigate with Naomi. When we enquired politely about what the situation was with a member of race staff, they snapped at us telling us that they’d run out but that we’d got our tshirts and goody bags at the start, had we not? Were we not happy enough with that?! I was completely taken aback by the aggressive response and walked away slightly dazed – had that actually just happened?! It was completely unnecessary and not in the slightest bit apologetic. If they’d just said that there had been a tremendous entry and they simply didn’t have enough for everyone on the day then that would have been fine but to bite runners’ heads off as though we were asking for their first-born child was totally uncalled for. If you offer a race memento, a shirt and a goodie bag in your race entry then entrants have every right to query when for whatever reason your offerings cannot be met. We were not the only ones to be given such a discourteous response and we left with a really bitter taste in the mouth which is completely out of line with every other aspect of this great race.

None of the Fetch group received a finisher’s medal despite finishing between 1:35 and 2:17. No-one at the finish was telling people to collect a medal at the Pavilion and I find it most bizarre that they weren’t being given to finishers as they, well, finished. However, the race has redeemed itself by announcing via Facebook that since they had run out, all finishers who didn’t receive a medal would be sent one if they asked, which seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Despite the unfortunate ending to the day, I had yet another wonderful race in Fraserburgh and will be back next year to see if I can finish 2013 with another PB. Maybe next time I’ll stick to my training and really come up with something to write home about? I know there’s still a lot to come off and I hope that in joining Stonehaven Running Club and training regularly with my new running comrades for the next year will unleash my inner speed demon, which I know is just dying to get out.

I’ll finish with a huge vote of thanks to Vicki who was an amazing pacer – I couldn’t have got this PB without you!

 

Moray Marathon – RACE REPORT

Moray Marathon

2nd September 2012

Time: 4hrs 19 mins 30secs
Position: 106th/141 finishers
Gender: 21st/33 female finishers
Category: 7th/ 10 Senior Ladies

Kynon and I travelled up to Elgin the night before the race and stayed at the Eight Acres hotel on the outskirts of the town. It was a bit of a last minute luxury decision to stay Saturday night; Elgin is only about 2 hours’ drive from Aberdeen but I decided the extra expense was worth the peace of mind of arriving the night before, and of course the extra time in bed.

When we got to the hotel we decided to get the most out of our stay and use the leisure facilities. I was bouncing off the walls with pent-up energy and nerves so was glad to have a gentle swim, and also enjoyed some time in the jacuzzi and sauna to really relax my muscles. My ITB had been tight since my last run on Thursday but other than that I was feeling in peak condition.

We met Naomi and her Dad for dinner – simple, staple carbs at the local Wetherspoons. I had vegetarian sausages, mashed potatoes and peas with gravy, and a side of steamed vegetables. I can’t say I really enjoyed it – I was too nervous to have any appetite but I shovelled it down anyway, knowing that I had to eat.

Kynon and I were back in the hotel by 8.30 after a gentle walk home to digest our dinner along part of the route as the sun set. I was still so nervous and wound up; I spent time sorting and organising all of my things and going over the plans with Kynon before doing some final foam-rolling and settling down to watch some Paralympics in bed. I wasn’t in the least bit tired and my mind was going like a freight train but at some point I fell asleep. I had a restless night however, and awoke several times throughout the night as the sky grew lighter and the countdown to the start continued to decrease.

0600 came and my alarm shrieked into life but I was already awake and staring at the ceiling. Sick with nerves, I went through the motions of the race morning ritual without much thought: Make coffee, get washed, drink coffee, apply bodyglide, get dressed, eat porridge, tie hair up, put some mascara on, check fuelbelt, check gadgets. I sleep-walked through all of this and suddenly an hour had passed and it was time to go downstairs and check out the breakfast buffet.

I had taken breakfast supplies with me despite booking the room on a B+B basis as I wasn’t sure what food would be available. Breakfast was served only from 0800 which was disappointing, but we’d been assured that there would be a continental breakfast available from 0700. What they should have said was – there will be cereal, milk and juice laid out… I had drunk all the coffee in the room and would have killed for some more with some toast, but it was not to be. I had some muesli and some orange juice.

We left the hotel at around 0800 and made the short drive to the town hall to register. Parking was plentiful and registration was done quickly since there was no queue. I got my number and race t-shirt and took the first of many trips back and forth to the bathroom. We hovered about a bit and decided to go back to the car; I was just a total wreck of nerves and didn’t want to be around others. I couldn’t for the life of me work out why I ever thought doing another marathon was a good idea, I felt physically sick and shed one or two nervous tears on Kynon’s shoulder before I counted to five and managed to pull myself together. He was doing an excellent job of keeping me as calm as possible and should be commended for getting the balance right between sympathy and tough love.

 

I caught up with Naomi who was definitely sharing my nerves as well. We spent some time nervously chattering with the other ladies from Fetch who were running the Half Marathon, and when it was approaching 9am I decided to turn my Garmin on. The power button didn’t respond. Pushing it again and again proved fruitless – the damn thing was not turning on at all. Frantically I asked around to see if anyone knew the buttons to press to ‘reset’ the Garmin 305 – it had done this once before and I managed to reset it but I couldn’t remember what to press. Marie’s husband managed to breathe some life into it but immediately it gave the alert that it was low on battery. The red mist descended – what the f*%k was it playing at?! I had made sure it was fully charged the night before and the charge obviously just hadn’t taken – again; this has happened before, but never at a race.  I freaked out for a brief minute until I realised there was absolutely nothing I could do. My best option was to carry Kynon’s stopwatch and write down some splits on my hand for 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles and hope for the best. Could I run a race blind?

At 0915 there was no point in delaying the inevitable any longer and we made our way to the start. It was as low key as I imagined – a simple inflatable start/finish gantry and about 100 lanky, serious runners  in club vests hanging around with family and friends. I was happy to see my friends Ryan and Sheenagh at the start – Ryan’s family are based in Elgin and they happened to be visiting this weekend so they came out to support me which was great. We took a couple of pictures and then it was time to line up.

With Naomi – Picture by Ian Sharp

Picture by Ian Sharp. Inspiration by Mo Farah.

There was the briefest of race-briefings which I heard absolutely nothing of, and then a countdown. My nerves were gone and I was excited to FINALLY get started. 5…4…3…2…1…

 

It’s the silence at the start of races which never fails to surprise me. After the first few hundred meters have passed and the cheers and claps of your supporters have faded, all you can here is the slapslapslap of trainers on asphalt and the sound of clothing brushing with arm-swings. I didn’t think too much about the task ahead of me – I had done enough worrying to last a lifetime and I had exhausted all possible thoughts about the race. I was so glad to be finally started and embraced the feeling of unknown potential I get at the start of every big effort. Anything can happen in a race this long! Even good things!

 

The course wound its way out of Elgin along pavements and the side of minor roads. The field was immediately spread out and we were running in dispersed single file by the first mile. I was clinging to the last bit of power in my garmin – at least it had lasted long enough to allow me to gauge my pace at the start and avoid going out too fast. My plan was to maintain 9:30 pace and to hold that as long as possible into the race and then see what happened after 20 miles – hopefully I could speed up.

I knew to expect incline by mile 3 but it really wasn’t that bad – the hill came and went without much event, as did much of the first 10 miles to be honest. My Garmin gave up the ghost at mile 4 and then I knew I just had to latch on to that pace and not budge. I passed a few people who I thought were slowing down and I was a bit worried that I was speeding up, but I was confident enough to pass them and in hindsight it was the right thing to do as they finished well after me.

I had arranged to meet Kynon at Burghead which was about 10 miles in to the race and therefore the first major milepost for me. I saw him pass me in the car some time before then so I knew he’d be waiting – I was so happy when I saw him in the distance! Coming into Burghead there was beautiful views over to the cliffs of the Black Isle – I had been looking forward to this part of the course which ran parallel to the coast and is a beautiful part of the world.

 

I reached Kynon at 1hr 37m – roughly 2 minutes behind schedule, but then he may not have been waiting at exactly 10 miles so I really have no idea of my timing. He had a bottle of blue powerade for me that I sipped from as he jogged alongside me for a minute or two. We had a quick chat about nothing in particular and then I gave him the juice back and we parted ways. So far the weather had been reasonably cool and cloudy but the sun was beginning to come out and it was warm! As I climbed out of Burghead I began to feel the heat coming off the tarmac and hoped that the clouds would stick around.

Picture by Ian Sharp

The next milestone for me was my parents waiting for me at Hopeman at around 11.5 miles. I was feeling great and was all smiles as I passed them – I was so happy to pass them with a big grin.

 

The sun was blazing by now and I was getting a bit warm so I poured water over myself and wet my buff to keep my head cool in the sun. I also decided to turn on my music and put one earbud in as we were running on a safe pavement beside the road. One of my favourite things about this race was the DESCENDING mile markers counting down. Seeing the big miles disappear quickly and more achievable distances appear was a great boost – 12 miles to go? Easy money!

The road between Hopeman and Lossiemouth is loooong and straight. The only other runner I could see was about half a mile ahead so I was racing on my own. Notable things from this section mainly involve roadkill – a bifurcated deer; the fresh remains of which were ALL over the road, a partially skinned rotten rabbit and a badger upside down on the verge. All somewhat traumatic for this animal lover. Other than that, everything was going fine and I remained within a couple of minutes of my schedule and I was yet to walk. I was just locked in to my pace and ignoring any discomfort – my ITB still felt tight but it was not worth worrying about.

The next meeting point was 15 miles in at Covesea. I could see some cars in the distance so I knew Kynon was waiting, however I also saw some red and yellow balloons which could only mean one thing – Fetchpoint! Maz and Sheri had travelled up with their daughters to cheerlead for us all and it was such a lift to see them. I took some more powerade from Kynon and we had another short jog and chat.

No, I don’t know what he’s doing either.

I powered on to Lossiemouth. As I entered the town I saw no signs of the race – I could have been on a long training run for all the evidence there was of the marathon. The odd gel packet and bottle on the ground let me know I was still on the right course, and there was one or two marshals situated at turnings who kept me right as the route wound down to the harbour front. I was getting tired now and my stomach felt a little queasy so I decided that I would walk through the water stop here and take a proper drink as was feeling properly thirsty and I didn’t want to swallow lots of air. I turned a corner and suddenly Ryan and Sheenagh were there – Noooo! The first time I walk in 19 miles and my friends see me! I can’t have walked for more than a minute though and quickly kept moving forward along the harbour beside the packed cafes. There were no claps and cheers of encouragement though – everyone looked at me  as if I had two heads as I was running by!

 

Kynon was waiting for me at 20 miles and again I was very glad to see him; things were getting tougher as I was getting fatigued and a muscle in my back was really stiff. I power-walked with him and he gave me a pep talk and told me he’d see me in less than an hour in Elgin. 6 miles to go – easy, easy!

It wasn’t all easy though; of course the last few miles went on forever and ever. I demanded that my legs kept on doing as I asked and kept running – I was annoyed that I couldn’t see my pace as I felt like I was pushing really, really hard but I knew that I’d probably be struggling to get under 10 minute miles. Or was I? Part of me was glad that I didn’t know and could just concentrate on running as best I could. Every time my weaker side thought about walking and just forgetting my time goals, I told myself “What – did you think this was going to be easy?! Just because you’ve done the hard training did you think the race would be a breeze?! NO! You have to FIGHT for this! Now RUN”.

The final miles ticked down: 5…4…3…2…1. The last three were in direct sun and straight into a headwind which was really hard. The muscle in my back was agony and I was desperate to lie down and stretch it out. I passed one or two more people until I entered Elgin and I was on my own for the last mile. My stopwatch said 4hrs 11 so I knew if I worked hard I’d slide under 4:20 happily.

The town looked so different than it did earlier in the morning, now bathed in sunshine. The streets were deserted though; it was almost eerie in places as my fatigued mind started thinking about zombie movies like 28 Days Later. In the distance I could hear a man’s voice and a megaphone – the finish! I could almost taste the glory! The course re-entered Cooper Park in the shadow of the ruined Cathedral and the last 100m in the park was a glorious straight with spectators on either side. I saw Ryan and Sheenagh first on the left, and then heard Kynon bellow my name from further up. The Fetch girls were a vision of red and yellow on my right as I flew past them and finally, the finish line was in front of me.

Picture by Ryan Roberts

I ran hard right to the end and slowed to a wobbly walk as soon as I was under the clock. I took two steps before my stomach heaved and I bent over and retched heavily and loudly several times. The queasiness that had built up over the last few miles had been peaked by my sprint finish and my stomach needed to empty itself except there was nothing in there! By the time Kynon had run over to congratulate me I was on my knees on the grass verge retching and struggling for breath – he said he wasn’t sure whether I was going to throw up or cough up a hair ball.

The need to retch quickly subsided however and I was able to straighten up and fall in to his arms – “4 hours, 19 minutes, 30 seconds. I am SO proud of you!” he said. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry really; my Fetch ladies came running over, Ryan and Sheenagh were there too and I had lots of congratulatory hugs with everyone. Someone had handed me a medal at some point and Kynon put it around my neck for me and gave me some juice; I was overwhelmed with happiness and couldn’t believe the race was over – what an incredible PB! Fifty-two minutes off my previous time!

The next half hour was spent basking by the finishline in the sunshine and the glory of achievement. The stiff muscle in my back started spasming badly though and I could hardly straighten or lift my left arm so I took some ibuprofen and hoped for the best. I needed some help to put my new race t-shirt on though!

This is the Mitchellbot, by the way…

We were expecting Naomi at around 5hrs and after nervously waiting for her for 10 more minutes she appeared around the corner into the park running strongly and wearing the biggest smile; one reserved only for those who have achieved something truly great for the first time. Naomi completed her first marathon in memory of her Grandmother in a time of 5hrs 10mins and 14 seconds.

 

After finish line celebrations were concluded we headed back to the town hall en masse to change before heading off. Being such a small, fast race there were not many runners left but we were still able to get a sandwich and a cup of tea. Sitting in the car on the way home I couldn’t believe how easily the whole race have come together in the end; it had passed so quickly for me and without any drama whatsoever. What on earth was I going to blog about?!  I had just achieved what I set out to do by putting one foot in front of another and doing so until I reached the finish.

 

My legs were feeling great; a little stiff in my ‘duff’ knee but otherwise fine. My feet had escaped largely unscathed apart from one nasty blister entirely removing a nail stump from its bed. The ibuprofen did the trick on my angry back muscle and it relaxed and stopped hurting soon after. I was annoyed that I didn’t have my Garmin splits to pour over and examine my pace, but I was most pleased about the fact that I had ran 19 miles without walking – the furthest I’ve ever gone without a walk break.

I wore my medal with pride for the rest of the day until Kynon took me out for a celebratory curry and a couple of beers at Brewdog. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little stiff when getting up for work the next morning, but two days later only a little tightness remains in my quads and I’m looking forward to a recovery jog tomorrow if the weather is right. I’m taking it easy this week but I’ve already signed up for my next race which is the Crathes Half Marathon next Saturday and am on the hunt for more challenges to finish up the year with.

 

I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in the last few months for this race, but it’s all been worth it. Brewdog: I’m sorry I’ve stopped spending half my salary and time in your bars and on your beer; it’s not you, it’s me. The hangovers were slowing me down. Scott: I’m sorry our flat is always covered in freshly washed running gear drying and that the washing machine is always on the go – it’s been a sweaty summer. Family: I’m sorry that you rarely see me anymore, I promise to try harder to figure my work/life/run balance out. Non-running friends: I’m sorry you never see me any more either, but thank you for your continued support of my lunacy. There’s always room for one more on a run if you want to join in.

I might not have reached the magic 4hrs 10mins, but a 52 minute PB? I’ll take it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that about the marathon again! That time is for every 5am weekend start, every agonising back-to-back, every dazed and stiff pre-work mile, every exhausting post-work mile, every turned down afternoon in a beer garden, every shortened night out and every turned down party invitation. Good things don’t come to those who wait; good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up.

National Running Day!

Today is National Running Day!

Make your own cheesy badge with corny inspiring slogan HERE

So for most of the United Kingdom, the last couple of days have been National holidays to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubliee. In Scotland for the most part we’re slightly less excitable about the whole thing, especially in Aberdeen as Monday was not a bank holiday for us and most people I know went to work yesterday as well. However if any day deserves a national holiday I’d say it would be National Running Day, which is of course TODAY.

To mark National Running Day, I very excitedly filled out my application form and signed my cheque for my next marathon – MORAY!

This evening I will also be doing a race – the Nuffield JogScotland Aberdeen 5k – although looking out of my window right now it seems like the last thing anyone sensible would want to do.

Summer in Scotland. You cant beat it.

Did you know – I have never raced a 5k before? I’ve done plenty of Parkruns and a few Cross Country 3 milers, but I’m yet to pin on a bib for a 5k race. I’m just doing this for fun with friends and am not in PB shape at all and I expect the course will be muddy and crowded, but you get a medal and what better way to celebrate National Running Day.

RunningDay.org has a list of Top 10 Ways to Celebrate:

1. Declare your passionPeople run for millions of reasons, and we want to know yours!

I think it’s fair to say that I’m a massive running evangelist and anyone who knows me, knows I’m a runner. I love running and I love to talk about running, I love people who love to talk about running. Running, running, running. Passion: delcared!

2. Bring a runway to workSwap your loafers and heels for sneakers and you’ll be
dressed to the nines for National Running Day.

I suppose where I’m least known as a runner is at work; work Rhona is very different from non-work Rhona and I do try and keep the two seperate for the most part. Once upon a time however I was known for walking around the office in the highest of heels, which have now been replaced by ballet flats and comfortable mary janes. Slipping into stilletos on a Monday morning after a 50 mile week began making my life hell so those days are gone, however I don’t know if I’ll ever be a lunchtime runner. For the record; todays footwear are purple mary jane…

3. Morph your friends into running fiends – Friends don’t let friends just walk on
National Running Day!

Tonight I’ll be braving the inclement weather with Kynon, Naomi, Sheri and a few other Fetchies; I’ve met some of my dearest friends through running and lately it’s been wonderful to see that some of my other dearest friends are dabbling in running themselves.

4. Change Happy Hour to Running Hour – Shake things up by adding a run to your postwork plans. Head out at 5:00 p.m. with some co-workers and relax over miles instead of cocktails.

Whilst there’s no denying that more often than not my post-work happy hour these days involves putting on some trainers and knocking out some miles, I can’t say I see myself popping out with my colleagues to run any time soon. I am, however, a proponent of the formula: Work+Run = Beer. When I do hit a happy hour I make damned sure I’ve earned it.

5. Strike new ground – Seize the day and take the road you’ve never traveled. Who knows? You might find a new favorite running path to spice up your summer.

After moving to a new area of Aberdeen in December I’m still finding new trails and ways to quickly get away from cars and houses into the countryside. I’m blessed with many ew trails to explore in my area.

6. Give the gift of happy feetDonate to organizations that support youth running, like Shoes That Fit. They’ve assisted in getting 800,000 pairs of sneakers on little feet– just think of all the miles you’ll help them run!

I keep promising myself that I’m going to sign up for volunteer shifts at Parkrun but am yet to do so – bad runner, I need to start giving back to my running community.

7. Make running run in the familyThey have your eyes, but what about your
endurance? Leave the bikes and baseball bats in the garage and run around the
neighborhood with the kids. Keep things interesting with a short race to see who is the
fastest.

No thanks – I’m child-free and intend to remain so for the rest of my life. Children and I don’t see eye-to-eye in more ways than one so I’ll stick to out running them on the trails when they try and chase me.

8. Choose a running resolutionKick off a new fitness goal on National Running Day. It can be anything, including adding five minutes to your next run, running a new distance, or signing up for a road race.

Done and done. You can expect to hear more about my marathon training (which started on Monday!) this weekend.

9. Take advantage of the great outdoorsRunning outside beats spending all your time on the treadmill. Step out the front door and away from the gym to take in a bit of nature during your afternoon run.

I can’t remember the last time I was on a treadmill and plan to keep it that way. I live in the most beautiful country in the world – why would you choose to stay on a treadmill when given the choice?

10. Treat yourself like a championSet yourself up for success by indulging in your
favorite post-run snack, sporting your lucky t-shirt, or helping your feet to a new pair of
sneakers.

You don’t need to tell me twice! After tonight’s soggy race I think I will be straight in the bath with a glass of wine, probably still wearing my medal.

That’s all for now; a small race report and more on marathon training to come later in the week. For now I’ll leave you with one more picture; here’s me coming home to a storming new mile PB at the Aberdeen Fetch Mile on Sunday. A gut-busting, puke-inducing 06m51s!

Picture by Ian Sharp

Who knew I had it in me?! I’m delighted. Happy National Running Day – now go and RUN!

 

 

 

 

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