Red Wine Runner

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Monymusk Hilly Half Marathon 2014 – RACE REPORT

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?

Forfar Multiterrain Half Marathon 2014 – RACE REPORT


Forfar Multi-Terrain Half Marathon
2nd February 2014
Time – 2 hours 49 seconds
Place – 122/164 finishers
Gender – 20th/43 females
Category – 11th/20 F Senior

After running this race last year and enjoying it so much, it was never in doubt that I would be making the return trip to Forfar for another go. Entries opened back in November and I was lucky to have set a reminder in my calendar of the race opening date and time as the race sold out in 24 hours.

Before moving on to the detail of the race I feel I have to comment on the fact that there were 250 places sold within 24 hours back in November, but only 164 runners showed up on the day. This is another layer of lunacy which is emerging from the recent soaring popularity of running races – people obviously snapped up their place with the best of intentions, but two months later decided for whatever reason not to show up. Given that the race was such great value (£9 unaffiliated) people obviously didn’t feel too put out by sacrificing their entry fee either. I can’t imagine how frustrated the race committee must have been when they expected around 250 runners to show up and then only had 164 on the start line. What’s an RD to do though? Small races can’t handle transfers, deferrals or waiting lists; if you put the prices up people grumble and then expect more for their money; you could have an ‘on the day’ standby option for people willing to risk it,  but that brings in extra complications and potential accusations of the race being greedy with entry fees if they don’t give refunds to those who DNSd.

The rise in enthusiasm for racing is wonderful, but the problems that come alongside it are starting to piss me off. I believe that the convenience of services such as EntryCentral are contributing to high DNS rates as it is so easy to enter a race 6 months in advance on your phone on the hoof without thinking about how it will fit in your training plan or if anything else might crop up in the intervening time. I hate the fact that you now have to be sitting in front of a computer hitting ‘refresh’ until a race opens to guarantee yourself a place in a popular race, only to show up on the morning to find nearly 100 people have not bothered to do the same. The Highland Fling sold about 80% of its places within 24 hours, and already 50 people have pulled out. Thankfully the organisers are taking the time to do a second wave of entries to fill these vacated places for those who missed out in the initial launch, but who needs that extra administration when you’re already knee deep in planning a race?

My renegade solution for small races is to bring back paper entries. If you want to do a race you should have to go to the bother to physically print off a form and send in a cheque or your bank details, and then await your confirmation. This is a pain in the arse for racers, but it means you have to be at least a little bit serious about entering an event and would cut down on frivolous entries submitted on a whim because you get a text from a clubmate saying “OMG the X race is open and half the entries are gone already – sign up b4 u miss out 🙁 ” and then when you look at your calendar 3 months later you realise you actually need to do a 28 mile hill run that day/you get invited to a party the night before/you’re mid-training cycle and exhausted, and because it was only a tenner you nix it for a different option and yet another entry goes to waste.

Naturally there will always be a small percentage of drops outs due to injuries or illness, that’s unpreventable, but I think we need to review how modern race entry works because I don’t think we’re heading down the right path.

Are you an RD or on a race committee? What do you think? How does it feel when a tonne of folk don’t show up? How would you solve these issues? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Anyway; with that hand grenade out of the way I can move on to the tale of the actual race. After a week of horrid weather Sunday dawned bright but breezy and Ronnie picked me up from Stonehaven to head down at around 9.15am. In light of the above rant, ironically our carload was two runners down (Kynon had food poisoning and Rachel had a strained calf), but Ronnie and I enjoyed a good catch up on the way down and tried to ignore the fading sunlight and looming clouds.

We got into Forfar around 10am and were directed to an industrial estate to park. We managed to find our way back to the Rugby Club to register and picked up our numbers quickly and enjoyed the warmth of the room whilst saying hello to others we knew. We went back to the car to get our kit bags and left them in the changing rooms, safe in the knowledge that whatever happened out on the course there would be a hot shower waiting for us.

20140202_104802with Ronnie and Claudia

At 10:55 am we were called up and stood on a rugby pitch in a cold and strong wind. The RD gave a detailed briefing which I attempted to listen to carefully until the noise of runners around me chattering consumed his voice completely. A huge roar of “QUUUIIIIIIEEEETTTTT!!! SHOW HIM SOME RESPECT!” suddenly came from the mouth of a young Hash House Harrier on my right which shut everyone right up and was appreciated by many. It was disgraceful how noisy it had got with people completely ignoring the safety directions – given that there were plenty of opportunities to get lost or fall foul of the course they were really doing themselves a disfavour by being so rude.

The start was a mass stampede across the rugby pitch and onto a gravel trail which followed around the Loch. As soon as we came out of the sheltered tree-lined rugby pitches we were buffeted by some stiff wind and I decided that I would not be hanging around on this course and wanted to get back in the warm s soon as possible. I hadn’t set out with a goal in mind, but wanted to do the course faster than last year’s 2:07 and give my legs a good blast on the nice downhill heading back to Forfar.

Mile 1 – 8:51
Mile 2 – 8:46
Mile 3 – 9:07

I ran behind Claudia for a while as I settled into my pace and the field spread out. The first four miles are on road before you turn on to a mile on farm track with deep puddles all the way. Many runners attempted to run around the puddles or along the raised edges of the tracks but just like last year I charged straight down the path as the crow flies and climbed several places in the field by not caring if my feet got wet. At least the puddles weren’t coated with an inch thick crust of ice like last year.

Mile 4 – 9:02
Mile 5 – 9:26
Mile 6 – 9:37

Mile 5 had a long muddy hill, where I was very grateful to be wearing trail shoes (my Salomon Speedcross 3s) and mile 6 took us back on road to the one water stop and another turn off to another muddy trail which lead us past the fragrant landfill site to the second water obstacle of the day. It presented itself as the ideal opportunity to rinse off your shoes and mud-splattered race, either that or it was an ice bath about an hour too early; but once again we waded through 400m of very cold water which got progressively deeper up to just above the knee on me. Last year it was to the upper thigh and the water was full of sharp, shattered ice; so it wasn’t obvious, but it was a pleasant improvement.

Mile 7 – 9:07
Mile 8 – 10:15
Mile 9 – 10:32

The route continues to skirt around the outside of town until it went through to the back of an unassuming housing estate til we reached the foot of the Balmashanner hill. The path was gravelly and steep, and it got steeper until I slowed to a powerwalk and pushed myself to the top, where there were beautiful views right across to the lower Cairngorms which were covered in snow. Mysteriously it was raining at the top of the hill, so as I crested it and began the fast decent I caught quite a refreshing shower right in the face from the wind.

Mile 10 – 12.26
Mile 11 – 8.39
Mile 12 – 9.11
last 0.68mi – 5.50 (course was short)

It was downhill all the way to the bottom of the hill and on back to the town. I started to push at about 10.5 miles and began overtaking those up ahead who had lost pace. I had one satisfying moment when I overtook a guy and about 20 seconds later he decided he wasn’t going to have any of that, and sped up to re-take his place in front of me. He couldn’t hold the pace though and as I drew level with him I pushed a touch harder and he kept up for a bit until I burned him out and dropped him.

The most unpleasant part of the race was running along the bottom of a freshly ploughed field. The ground was so unstable that it felt very treacherous on the ankles and my legs were all over the place. We finally reached the industrial park next to the rugby club and I knew the finish was near; I wasn’t sure if they would have extended the course to make it a true 13.1 miles though so I didn’t get my hopes up. The nearer I got to the rugby pitches I more I realised it was going to be quite short of 13.1 miles again, but I couldn’t have cared less. I worked hard right to the finish line and cruised in happy with my race, and very happy to have taken 7 minutes off last year’s time.

The finish was the most low key ever, with one or two spectators and some officials. The only people I knew at the race were still out on the course so I didn’t hang around and just went straight to the changing rooms to clean up, excitedly thinking of the spread of food which awaited. If I could have changed one thing about the race it would be to have water available at the finish line. It’s not a huge deal, but being able to have a drink when you’ve just emptied yourself on two hours of running is lovely – I was very glad to have had the presence of mind to pack some Powerade in my bag to chug.

Cleaned and changed I hit the bar and was faced with trestle tables groaning with every type of sandwich and cake imaginable, and nine, yes; NINE different types of soup. I take it back Forfar Road Runners – I don’t care about water, I’ll rehydrate with your Broccoli and Stilton soup and a pint of lager any day of the week.

So yet again another stellar day out in Forfar. It was lovely to speak to some readers over the course of the day, and most people I knew seemed to have great runs. In the end the weather was perfect and a rare dry day in the ocean of torrential rain we’ve had lately. This weekend sees a 24 mile 5-peak hill run out at Banchory with a gang of Stonehaven runners and some Aberdeen friends and the forecast is absolutely abhorrent. Between rain, snow and swollen rivers; forget the trail shoes – I’m packing my flippers.

Cheyne Hill Race – RACE REPORT

15th August 2013
Cheyne Hill Race

44m 45s
42nd/47 Finishers
8th/11 Females
4th/6 Female seniors

Last Thursday I ran the Cheyne Hill Race which is a tiny, old-school hill race ran by the Cosmic Hillbashers running club. It takes place about two miles out of Stonehaven and is in our club championships so I had no excuse to miss it.

I picked up three girls from my club and we drove up to save our race legs. We paid our £2.50 entry and hung around with the 47 other entrants waiting to start, who were mostly tough and weathered hill runners with arms and legs like knotted string. Despite living so near I was not familiar with the route at all and was a little concerned I might end up going off piste, but following the runner in front – how hard can it get, right?

The start was straight up hill from the first step and not having warmed up, my calves and lungs were quickly burning. I overtook a few on the single track path and continued my effort to start my races more assertively and try and place higher up from the early stages in small races like this. After a mile the field had spread out a little and I could no longer see the person in front, nor hear footsteps from behind. The path I was on broke free from the forest and I was running on a narrow path through heather and after a moment or two I realised there was not another runner in sight ahead or behind me. Having studied the course map before I knew roughly the direction to head in so I kept on going along the path, hoping to see someone else at some point and then rejoin the race. I caught a glimpse of a neon disappearing behind some trees about 300m below me, so I started galumphing (there is no other word suitable) over the heather to follow them. Unfortunately there was a fence to climb over, and some rocks that I tripped over, and the heather and bracken was up to hip height at times so my legs were being scratched and torn at. I eventually saw a piece of tape tied to some heather which showed me I had rejoined the route, but when I paused to catch my breath I heard or saw absolutely no-one near me.

Well, shit. Dead last it is then. I had been pleased to have got ahead of the other Stonehaven girls at the start and was hoping to be the first Stoney lady home for the maximum championship points available, but the opportunity for that had clearly come and gone. I jogged on pretty annoyed about the situation, and baffled as to how I’d managed to get off course just over a mile in to a 4 mile race! I cringed with embarrassment of the thought of finishing in last place and having to run in with everyone waiting for me, but still; a dead last finish finish trumps did not finish, which greatly trumps did not start…

I tried to run as hard as I could, but I assumed I had run a lot extra so I didn’t know how long my race would be. At about 3.5 miles I caught a glimpse of someone ahead of me and that spurred me on to sprint and try and get past them – anything to not be last! Not long after I came across Vikki and Geri from the club who had also had a bad race and were very surprised to see me coming past them from behind as they thought I would have long finished. I wasn’t in the mood for hanging about so blasted on and managed to overtake two more people to vaguely salvage my race, but I couldn’t quite catch Rebecca who finished one place and 59 seconds ahead of me to be first Stonehaven lady.

All the lads in the club had wondered what had happened to us and why we’d taken so long. Unfortunately we’d set ourselves up nicely for some terribly sexist jokes about female navigation and our ability to read a map. My only defense is that I hadn’t ran the course before and some of the course markings weren’t particularly visible due to thick summer vegetation, but in the end it’s my fault I took a wrong turning.

I finished in 44m 45s and 4th of 6 Senior ladies. Having ran my maximum of 5 club championship races to count towards the competition I’m now in 2nd place behind Vikki (who has also run 5). I can’t do the next two so I’m hoping I can finish higher than 7th place at the final race in the Championships, the Fraserburgh Half, so I can use that to replace my poorest scoring race, the Aberdeen Beach 10k, and improve my points a little more. I very much doubt I will place in the Championships by the end of the year, but I’d like to finish with as many points as I’m capable of.

No pictures to share unfortunately, as we were all so cross at getting lost and so scratched and covered in mud that we all wanted to get straight home to a bath and a beer! I really liked the course though and will return to recce it in more detail soon. Thanks to the Cosmic Hillbashers for putting on a  great, friendly race to break up the working week!


Sub – 4 Marathon Training Update

I’m half way through my marathon training and looking over the blog in the last couple of months recently made me realise that the content I’ve been posting has been mainly race reports. During the training for my first marathon and ultra, I posted weekly updates and musings on my experiences which kept the blog posts much more varied and I don’t know whether to return to that format or not. I get bored by reading others’ weekly training reports so I certainly wouldn’t to inflict the same on my own readers, but then if the blog is just a stream of races with no training to reference from then what is there to tie it all together?

I feel like my training is going well, but lately I’m constantly having to make changes and adaptations to fit it around the rest of my life. How annoying when you can’t make running your number 1 priority?! Thankfully this hasn’t affected my weekend long runs, but my running during the week has been a bit jumbled with lunch-time runs being deferred to evenings and some evenings being skipped. I feel like I lack consistency but I think that speaks more for the rest of my life than my commitment to my training.


Last week I had a great morning out with Vicki and Kate. We all wanted to take part in the Laurencekirk Hill Race, but also had long runs to complete. Since the Hill race is only 3.7 miles long we decided to run to the start instead of drive, and left at 7am to cover the 18 miles on the back roads. It was a glorious morning but very warm, and I drank 1.5 litres of water along the way. Like the rest of the country we’ve been “enjoying” an actual summer which has made for interesting training for a cold-weather runner like me.

The race itself was a bit horrific, but it was always going to hurt trying to run straight up a hill and then fly down again, so I don’t think it made much difference whether I’d ran 18 miles before or not. Physically I was a bit pooped but my legs were fine. I would never normally elect to do a hill race but it was part of the Club Championships and I needed the points for taking part. Luckily not that many Stonehaven ladies showed up as I was third last in the race but still was able to get 15 Championship points for coming 6th out of 7 ladies who ran. I finished the 3.7 mile course in 36.40, and then didn’t move for the rest of the day.


picture by Iain Shanks

My weekly sessions are currently based around Yoga and a gentle shake-out run on a Monday, either a lunch-run or a Club run on Tuesday, mid-week middle distance on Wednesday (8 – 10 miles), lunch run on Thursday, rest Friday and Long Run on Saturday. There should be another 10 miles at the weekend to finish off the week with a back-to-back, but the last time I managed to make that work was about a month ago. I’ve been running between 40 and 50 miles a week which feels right for me at the moment – I’m not tired and I’m not sore, but I still feel like I’m working hard.

I am hopeful for a successful execution of training in the next fortnight, as the last week of my plan before taper is when I’m in Hungary for work. This is likely to severely disrupt my runs, but hopefully I’ll get out for a few short trots. It will be extremely hot but my hotel has a gym, so if it is un-runable outside then I can resort to the dreadmill.

I had a good run at the Dundee Half Marathon yesterday, which although was tough going at times I managed to come home with another new PB after a near-perfectly executed marathon race-pace run. I aimed for 13.1 miles at 8:50min/mi and finished up with an average of 8:47; even though my training might be a bit haphazard, I’m clearly doing something right as that’s spot on for sneaking under 4 hours in 6 weeks time.

I can’t believe I’m half way through this marathon training already, but life is really sneaking past at a rate of knots. Before this weekend, hitting my sub-4 goal seemed like a bit of a pipe-dream, but after the Dundee Half it feels far more within my grasp. Race report on that will be swiftly forthcoming…

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