Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Race Report: Fraserburgh Half Marathon

First I was going to run this race and then I wasn't and then I was again and I'm really glad I eventually did because it is a really great race :-) Basically I went off half marathons a bit after failing to get a PB at Crathes (not the race's fault, it was lovely) but I didn't enjoy it much on the whole, and first I thought I would target Fraserburgh for a PB, then my training went a bit to pot, and I thought sod it, I won't bother. Then my friend Maz said why didn't I run with her and try to pace her to a sub-2:15 (her PB being 2:17:59), and that sounded like a good idea so that's what we did.

We headed off on the Fraserburgh road trip in the Maz-mobile complete with Scott aka Tall Loon aka Mo Bro who was doing his first half, and Annie who wasn't running it but was going along to support and do a 4 mile run around Fraserburgh while we were racing.

We made good time to Fraserburgh and went to register in the manky pavilion with the horrible non-working toilets (the only downside of the day really, and not much of one all things considered), and met up with various folk.

The race started in a field and then headed out along the road and doubled back on itself for the first wee bit, which was a bit odd but gave us a good chance to survey the rest of the field as they ran back! Maz, TL and I all set off together and were very near the back at this point. TL got a "go mo bro" shout-out :-) Then headed off along the main road for a dull but short slightly uphill drag, and after that we were into country roads, parks, trails etc which was lovely. It was quite flat, but with some up and down undulations but nothing long or major.

(I am actually in this picture, just hidden behind the extreme tallness of Scott!)

I was supposed to be pacing Maz but she didn't need that much pacing really, so my pacing mainly just amounted to the occasional "Are you sure you want to be running this fast Maz?" :-) and boringly regular updates on how far we'd gone and at what average pace. Between us however I think we paced it pretty much perfectly and had the satisfying experience of picking off runners one by one over the whole second half of the race, I don't think anyone overtook us the whole way except for one girl at a water station and we soon caught her up again :-) We didn't walk at all apart from a short bit at the top of a hill for Maz to catch her breath, and a short stop at a water station in mile 7 (when my Garmin went onto auto-pause which perhaps thankfully put the kibosh on my pace updates! Note to self: turn off auto-pause for races!). And we actually managed a negative split :-)

At 9 miles TL went ahead a bit and we shouted at him to go on, he protested a bit but was soon persuaded and zoomed off into the distance never to be seen again (well, not till the end). We last saw him as a tiny fluorescent speck way up ahead. He finished in 2:08 having made up loads of time in the last 4 miles.

The last few miles back into the town were great as we kept a good pace, continued overtaking folk (lots of whom seemed to be really struggling by this stage), as soon as we saw anyone in the distance we knew we would be passing them. Back down the hill we had gone up early in the race, across some roads and roundabouts, bit of confusion at this stage about exactly where to go but we made it back into the field, saw 2:13 on the clock and ran for the finish (nearly missing the funnel in my case but let's draw a veil over that). :-)

Maz had a little cry at the finish line, and who wouldn't after 13 miles of my company ;-)

Lots of PBs and lots of fantastic running from all concerned. Maz ran really well and was very strong and great company throughout, I have no doubt she would have managed a PB anyway but it was nice to be a part of it :-)

Mile splits:
# 10:25
# 10:03
# 10:11
# 10:02
# 10:24
# 10:07
# 10:25 (this was actually 11:25 due to stopping at the water station)
# 10:07
# 10:19
# 9:55
# 9:57
# 10:20
# 9:27

Final time was 2:14:06 although it wasn't chipped so probably should've been several seconds less!

Fraserburgh Running Club who organised the race really pushed the boat out and it was the most amazing value for money, for my £14 non-affiliated entry fee we got: a long-sleeved technical t-shirt (admittedly my "small" t-shirt was more the size of a small tent, but hey), a massive spread of unlimited gorgeous free food and drink after the race, a goody bag with medal, sports drink, banana, crisps and chocolate bar, loads of fantastic high-quality pics on the website and Facebook which were free to download, etc.... Hats off to Fraserburgh Running Club, you are brilliant!

I might EVEN go back next year to try for a PB :-O

Pictures courtesy of Fraserburgh Running Club.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Book Review: The Ghost Runner by Bill Jones

The mystery man threw off his disguise and started to run. Furious stewards gave chase. The crowd roared. A legend was born. Soon the world would know him as "the ghost runner".

Bill Jones first heard of the "ghost runner" in 1984, nine years after John Tarrant's death; researching a documentary about the Salford Harriers, an interviewee pushed a slender, battered paperback into his hand. The book, an Athletics Weekly publication, was John Tarrant's hastily written autobiography, also entitled The Ghost Runner. Unfortunately John's literary talent did not match his running talent and the book was not well written, but the story was absolutely compelling and Bill Jones quickly became haunted by this "ghost", determined to learn more about him, and ultimately to tell John's amazing story as it deserved to be told.

Subtitled "The Tragedy Of The Man They Couldn't Stop", it is a moving and inspiring story, yet the character who emerges from this book is not always easy to like - "self-centred, destructive and lacking in emotional intelligence", driven by anger and a burning sense of injustice. But John Tarrant had much to be angry about. Born in London in 1932, due to his mother's illness and later death and his father's conscription in 1940 he spent much of his childhood in a brutal children's home, his only companion and support his beloved younger brother, Victor. It wasn't until 1947 that the brothers, now 15 and 13, finally left the home, moving to Buxton in the Peak District with their father and newly-acquired stepmother.

There wasn't a great deal for young men to do in Buxton and when a new craze for boxing swept the town, John took it up with alacrity. Although he was never destined to be a particularly successful boxer, his years of surviving the harsh regime and defending himself and Victor against the bullies in the children's home had toughened him up and taught him to fight, and he participated in several matches over a couple of years, receiving a total of £17 for his trouble. This paltry sum was to prove his downfall. Discovering on the fells around his home an abiding love and talent for running, when John wanted to join a running club and enter races, dreaming of the success he was sure he was capable of, he was forbidden by the authorities to do so. Thanks to that seventeen pounds, honestly if naively declared, his amateur status had been compromised; he was banned for life, at home and abroad.

Confident that reason must eventually prevail, John embarked on a campaign of letter writing to the relevant authorities, only to be met by rejection after rejection. By this time married (in 1953) to the unswervingly supportive Edie, and working as a rather inefficient council plumber - the first in a succession of jobs which always took second place to running - John, aided and abetted by his brother Victor, embarked on a drastic course of action. If he wasn't allowed to run officially in races, he would run them unofficially, heading to the start line in disguise aiming to jump into the race at the last minute, where he would quickly speed to the front and stay there until he either won or collapsed of exhaustion. His intention: to show the powers that be just what he was capable of, and his genuine desire to run for the sake of it rather than for reward. Thus the ghost runner was born, quickly seizing the imagination of the nation.

Though officialdom refused to recognise his existence, John was welcomed and warmly supported by his fellow athletes, most of whom understood and sympathised with his predicament. (Former international athlete and main rival, Arthur Keily, even wrote repeatedly to the AAA pleading John's case, without success.)

The Ghost Runner is an incredibly good read, following John's running career from his first "ghost" outing at the Liverpool Marathon, to setting world records at 40 and 100 miles, and to South Africa where he ran the Comrades Marathon - a race which became an obsession for him - as a "ghost" and later defied apartheid as the only white man running alongside the black and Indian athletes who, like him, were barred from official races. In the process he earned himself the love and respect of many who were battling for equality in South Africa.

Although Bill Jones never, of course, met John Tarrant, in researching his life he received full and warm co-operation from John's family - his long-suffering, ever supportive widow Edie, son Roger, and indispensable brother Victor, all of whom deserve medals of their own - and found that many others, including John's running contemporaries, were only too happy to talk to him, and indeed believed the telling of John's story was long overdue. Hence, a clear picture of the man and his remarkable, if all too short, life emerges from this gripping book.

You would need a heart of stone not to be moved by this story (the last few pages had me in tears), which can also frequently make the blood boil. John may have been "the man they couldn't stop" but he was also engaged in a fight he could never win, constantly knocked back by the intransigent authorities, who refused to accept that £17 earned as a not particularly good teenage boxer did not render him a money-tainted "professional" for ever after. (Ironic, when money was the one thing John never had.) John wasn't the only person to fall foul of the elitist "cult of amateurism" which was unforgivingly enforced by the upper echelons, but he was probably the most determined to resist, and became a constant thorn in the side of the AAA.

The Ghost Runner is a great read, packed with fascinating incidents and characters, and extremely evocative of the post-war social and political period it describes. There are some extraordinary descriptions of races, including an attempt at the 50-mile world record which took place on a dilapidated Durban track periodically illuminated by flashes of lightning while rain lashed down flooding the track knee-deep in places, fighting broke out between rival gangs, and a local band continued playing regardless.

I would recommend anyone to read the book; it’s a terrific and thought-provoking story of a man whose life and achievements deserve to be more widely known.

Friday, 14 October 2011


Not the kind that threatens the lives of innocent runners minding their own business at the extreme edge of the public highway, although I could easily write a blog about that too. In fact just the other day I was thinking how entirely the roads now seem to belong to the car (and the white van and the giant articulated lorry), except for the one near us which currently seems to belong to the students who blithely mill about in the middle of it at all hours of the day and night having never, apparently, been taught the Green Cross Code.

Anyway, I didn't mean that kind of traffic, but the quieter, if no less dangerous, sort which takes place on this here internet. Much to my delight, I have just discovered the "Stats" section on my blog account, which tells you, among other things, from whence my visitors are coming. The blog isn't widely publicised, since my posts are sporadic to say the least, and I'm always vaguely amazed when anybody apart from me reads it, but evidently a few occasionally do, and this stats thing tells me how they get there. Quite a lot are from other blogs who have been kind enough to list me in their "blog rolls", and a surprising number are from Neal Jamison's ultrarunning blog on which he kindly linked to my review of his book, which is quite exciting, though I didn't realise until I looked at the traffic thing and noticed how many hits were coming via Neal's blog...

Most interesting however are the Google search terms which (often mysteriously) lead people in this direction. These include "prom sport" (okaaaay), "bad run before half marathon" (fair enough), "for her new wellies" (????), "giant inflatable Nessie", and my personal favourite, "people walking out of river" (??????). It also shows, along with really awesomely interesting stuff like which browser they use, where readers are from, with the UK unsurprisingly topping the list, the USA in second, and honourable mentions for Germany, Russia, France, Netherlands, Canada, Ireland, Australia and Japan! I had no idea I was so international.

In other news, it's Aberdeen parkrun number 2 tomorrow... I wonder if we will get more or less peeps than last week's inaugural 99? And equally fascinating, to me at least, I wonder if I can (a) beat my PB, and (b) retain my coveted crown of first over 40 woman at the Aberdeen parkrun?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Not exactly my name in lights on Broadway but...

.. something even more exciting... a mention in the back pages of Monday's local paper under Local, National & International Athletics Results, admittedly in very small print and thanks to a somewhat undistinguished 5k time in a field of 99 runners, but hey, first over 40 woman at the first ever Aberdeen parkrun, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, innit? :-)

A small thing but it has made me happy today.

Thanks to Vikki for pointing out my brief moment of running "fame". :-)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

It's a mad world inside my head

I was looking forward to the new-this-year, National-Trust-organised Crathes Half Marathon, as it had the potential to be (a) a lovely race on country roads, starting and ending at Crathes Castle, and (b) a reasonable PB opportunity. It was allegedly flattish, unlike any other half marathon I have done previously, and weather permitting, I thought I had a good chance of taking a few minutes off my PB, maybe even achieving the coveted sub-2. I'd trained assiduously and I felt in reasonably good form.

Rocked up to the castle about 11am and caught up with various Fetchies, including Ultracat, weekatiepea and family, Mother Duck, Nywanda (resplendent in skull print leggings) and family, AngusClydesdale, JohnRitchie, and Corrah and Duckinator who were on Fetchpointing duty.

The weather was pretty good, certainly compared to the previous day and night when it had bucketed down ceaselessly. Maybe a smidgen warmer than would have been ideal, but certainly nothing to complain about (or use as an excuse).

Everyone milled around the start line and the pipers piped and the announcer announced and we were off. I set off with a determination to stick to my pace. The beginning was fairly narrow and congested, but soon spread out and I ran the first mile in a pace-perfect 9 minutes. The second one was 8:32. Oops. But it did contain a fair bit of downhill. Third and fourth were 8:50 and 8:48, and I was ahead of where I needed to be for sub-2. Maybe I'm going a bit quick. But I felt comfortable enough and was thinking (oh fatal error!) that a bit of time in hand may stand me in good stead for the later sections of the race.... Thinking, I might actually do this. Just got to keep going at 9-and-a-bit mile pace. I can do that.

However. Miles 5 and 6 were getting slower - 9:20 and 9:46. Mile 7 was slower yet at 9:52. I was still just about on target overall, but no longer ahead of it, and the splits were deteriorating. Maybe I set off too quick. But it wasn't that quick - it's not like I was doing 7-minute miles. I know I can run at that pace for longer than that. Still, something wasn't right. Mentally, I didn't feel good. I had half the race still ahead of me and it felt like a long way. Why? I can run 13 miles - I can run considerably further. But I was bottling it. I knew if I started to take walk breaks, it would be fatal. I started to take walk breaks.

The remaining splits make painful reading: 10:10, 10:35, 9:29, 11:17, 10:54, 10:17. Not only was I way off sub-2, I wasn't even going to get a PB. I needed to HTFU but neither brain nor body were co-operating. Around 10-11 miles I started thinking Dark Thoughts, along the lines of "Why am I doing this when I'm clearly rubbish at it? I can't run fast and I have no endurance. I should give up trying to do half marathons and marathons. In fact I should just give up running altogether and concentrate on something I'm actually good at. Tetris, or crosswords, or something. I'm never doing another race." I did snap out of it somewhere between mile 12 and the finish line. But quite clearly, I need to work on my mental toughness.

That said, it was a lovely race in many ways, even if I spent a lot of it head down, just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. It was well organised and the location was fab. I spotted various local landmarks en route, eg Claramac in multiple locations, MikeR on his bike at mile 3, and Duckinator and Corrah Fetchpointing just before mile 10! I didn't register till later that Duck was videoing throughout... Also heard someone bellowing from behind at me to get a move on at around the 11 miles, which turned out to be Sophster! She came breezing past shortly after. Chatted with various folk in the second half, mainly about the not-quite-as-flat-as-we-were-led-to-believe-ness of the course, although to be fair, looking at the elevation profile afterwards, you could hardly call it hilly. I got a rather too late second wind at about, er, 12.75 miles, spurred on by the proximity of the finish and the final downhill, and coasted back to the castle with a disappointing 2:07:03 - over a minute outside my PB, which was set earlier this year on a hillier course and hotter day.

Everyone else did well - PBs for Mother Duck (2nd lady), JohnRitchie and weekatiepea, and much all-singing all-dancing entertainment was evidently had en route by Nywanda (doing it as a marathon-training long run) and AngusC (doing his first half in 20 years).

All in all, this would have been a great race if I'd just been doing it for fun and not worrying about a time, but given that I was hoping for a PB, it was a bit of a disappointing day for me. People keep telling me it's mental. (Or maybe they're saying "You're mental".) Either way, they're probably right. However, it's made me more determined to crack it next time, and my plan of campaign is, in a nutshell, "train like mad" ahead of the Fraserburgh Half on 20 Nov. I'm thinking a lot more race-pace runs to give me confidence....

And I have no doubt I will be back to Crathes next year for another crack at this race and another very nice t-shirt :)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Ballater 10 Mile Race Report

A quick Ballater blog while it's fresh in my mind and before I go on holiday....

This was my second attempt at this race, after a fairly horrific effort last year. (It was a warm day. There were hills. I was slow. I finished in 1:43:47 and swore never to run it again.) Oh.... Well, I had one more PB to get to complete a clean sweep of PBs in 2011, and in the absence of any other handy 10 mile races, it looked like it had to be this one. Anyway, the horror had faded slightly in my memory and I was very confident of a PB this time round, even if not a huge one, given that the hills were likely to be still there.

We managed to get there on time (always a challenge) and I even managed to get registered and go to the loo without too much of a rush, although the little one then decided to have a fit of "Mummymummymummy" clinginess and I wondered if I was going to have to run the race with a four-year-old attached to my leg. Finally managed to disengage her and head to the start, where we lined up and were sent on our way at 12pm.

It was still warm, and the route was still undulating (very little of it seemed to be flat), but in a direct reversal of my experience at the Stonehaven Half a few weeks ago, the hilly bits weren't as bad as I remembered them. The first 6 miles is on country roads, and yes, they undulated. There were up bits and there were down bits with rather more up bits in the third mile (9:36) and rather more down bits in the fourth (8:44), but none of it was dreadful. Having spent the first few miles dreading a remembered hill at around 5 miles, which had achieved Everest proportions in my mind, the reality was less than I feared. I still walked a bit of it, but managed that mile in 10:02 compared to last year's, er, 11:45. The 6-mile marker took us off-road onto a rutted track, another bit of the race of which my memories had not been fond, and I was starting to feel a wee bit tired at this point, but decided to hang on to the back (not literally) of the guy in front of me who seemed to be going at roughly my pace, although his occasional groans of anguish were a bit off-putting. At about 7 miles, actually I can't remember where it was, we had to cross a bridge, which everyone walked across, I'm not sure why, perhaps we were not allowed to run it? Soon after, we were back on to the road again, and the anguished groaner decided to have a little walk, at which point I went past him.

The route is a pleasant one, quite varied, shame about the number of squished rabbits, or rather ex-rabbits, along the way but I tried not to look at them too closely, though narrowly avoided treading on, or in, one. I also seem to remember a "Caution - Squirrels Crossing" sign at one point, though I may have hallucinated that.

I was quite glad I'd decided to take water with me in my Camelbak waist thingy, although I normally wouldn't bother for 10 miles, but it was warm and thirsty work and there was only one water station at about halfway. I got through most of my bottle. The 8th mile, on a busy-ish road where several vehicles seemed to come perilously close, felt quite tough, but the 9th was largely downhill and I ran this in my second fastest split of the race - 8:54 - though it probably should have been quicker. By the 10th, we were heading onto the narrow path amid long grass which I remembered from last year, and I was flagging considerably, but the sums I'd been doing in my head all the way round assured me I was on for a good PB and on I plodded. Heading back into the field, I saw husband and daughter by the playpark, and a few moments later Mother Duck, who naturally had finished some hours earlier, shouting encouragement. The final lap of the field (having already passed behind the finish line) was painful, but I managed to put on a sprint at the end and overtake the woman in the blue top who'd been close to me for most of the way.

The result: 1:33:52 - a PB of very nearly 10 minutes. I was very happy with this since I had predicted 1:38. Would have liked to have finished a bit stronger, but I ran every mile significantly faster than last year, which is satisfying. It's a challenging course, but it felt easier to me this time despite being another warm day, which reflects my increased fitness (I hope). I may have to go back next year and try to knock a bit more off.....

Goody bag was OK, with a humongous blue cotton t-shirt, bottle of Lucozade, banana and the ubiquitous cereal bar, but sadly no chocolate this year, much to the disappointment of the little one who last year had polished off the lot in the car by the time we got home.

Mile splits, with last year's splits in brackets just for the hell of it - what took me so long last year, especially in miles 4 and 5???

* 9:01 (9:34)
* 8:58 (9:45)
* 9:36 (10:49)
* 8:44 (10:00)
* 10:02 (11:45)
* 9:04 (9:51)
* 9:47 (10:53)
* 10:20 (11:07)
* 8:54 (9:25)
* 9:24 (10:41)

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Mile Magic

When I first started running (run-walking, if we're being precise, back in those long-ago days of, er, 2009), a mile seemed like a long way. Running a whole one seemed like a distant dream. Nowadays, of course (now that I'm a super-duper experienced runner *ahem*), a mile sounds like nothing much, but it can still on occasion feel like a long way when you're in the middle of it, and it certainly looks like a long way when represented by four laps of an enormous outdoor track at the Aberdeen Sports Village.

The third Aberdeen Fetch Mile was chilly (where is the summer?) but had a great turnout, with several excellent newbies attending (many of them lured in by Mrs Shanksi, who wasn't even there!) and PBs galore. Due to the numbers and the logistical issues of having enough people to time, etc, we finished up having three mile races. (That's "3 x mile races" not "three-mile races", obviously.) Having knocked 49 seconds off my previous time at the last mile for a PB of 7:30, I knew there was no chance of doing that again, and was hoping just to more or less equal my PB or, hopefully, shave off a second or two. I haven't been doing a lot of "fast" running lately, though, and having attempted some 400m intervals on Thursday at 7:30 pace, had found it pretty arduous, so I wasn't very confident of a good time.

After some cracking running in the first and second miles, we were off in the third one. I got off to a hesitant start as I fiddled with the button on my Garmin. Hamster 1207 and Nywanda were off like rockets, with the rest of us a bit slower - I slotted in behind weekatiepea and plodded along the first couple of laps at around 7:15-20 pace, I think. Woodland Warrior came zooming past at one point quite early on - no idea what took him so long! The wind was strong along the back straight and it did slow me - and everyone - down a bit. I managed to get past Katie near the beginning of the third lap, then noticed my shoelace was partly undone, oops. Well, I wasn't going to stop and fasten it, and I wasn't actually tripping over it, so it just had to stay that way. Nywanda was slowing down by now (no wonder, as she'd done a hellish sounding hill race a couple of days earlier) and I managed to overtake her around 100m into the fourth lap. Hamster and Woodland Warrior were way ahead! Although I was huffing and puffing and generally feeling like I was about to drop dead, I managed to finish the final lap strongly and clocked a time of 7:11 - a PB by 19 seconds - which I was delighted with. It also boosts my WAVA up to over 63% - pretty meaningless really, yet strangely satisfying.

The 100m relay which we finished up with was fun, although my baton-handling skills clearly left a lot to be desired. Mother Duck did manage to get it off me in the end.

A successful morning all round, with lots of excellent running, but special mentions for Duckinator who logged the fastest time of the day with 5:41 (a big improvement on his previous time), Halfpint who knocked an astounding 1 minute 9 seconds off her previous time to win the "most improved" trophy, and Corrah who deservedly won the prize for the best sprint finish with a heroic final 50m.

Now turning my attention exclusively to HM training..... well, after Sunday's 10 miler at Ballater... I have a score to settle with that race.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sub-2 RW schedule experiment, week 2...

Week 2 of my RW sub-2 half training schedule experiment is done, and I've been following it to the letter... well, kind of. I've been doing the speedwork and the long runs (oh, and the other runs) slightly quicker than designated, but I'm hoping that's OK, as long as the long runs and easy runs are at a conversational pace, which they are, or would be, if I had anyone except myself to converse with.

Tuesday's 5 miles easy was OK, but I really didn't feel like going out to do some one-mile intervals on Thursday night, because I felt tired, so tired in fact that I fell asleep while putting the little one to bed and only the discomfort of being squashed into a toddler bed unable to stretch out my legs forced me to get up again. Even though I didn't want to go, I followed the time-honoured tactic of putting on my kit anyway and of course it worked, as it always does, and I headed out of the door at 9pm to run 5 miles including 2 x 1-mile intervals at 8:25 pace. Actually at 8:06 and 8:07 pace. I was quite pleased with this, particularly as the second one was on a slight uphill gradient.

Friday we took the little one swimming and I ran back 4 miles from the pool, which felt like much harder work than it should have done, given that I did far more splashing around pretending to be Nessie (under instruction from the little one, I should add, not by choice) than actual swimming. My swimming is hopeless anyway. I can just about manage the world's slowest breaststroke but I'm not even sure I'm doing it properly. "Learn to swim better" is on my to-do list, but if I'm honest I've never liked it much, although maybe that's largely because I've never learned to do it properly...

Sunday's long run - a mere 8 miles at this stage - was much better. I got him indoors to drive me to Drumoak and ran back along the old Deeside line. It was lovely, if a bit hot in places. I barely looked at my watch and just tried to keep my pace at a slow, comfortable level and later found I had done the 8 miles at 9:53 pace rather than the plan's 10:30. Oh well. The first mile was the slowest at 10:19, but by about mile 4 I was well and truly warmed up and had that lovely feeling of being able to run forever. I had to stop once, on a narrow bit of path when a whole load of cyclists came past, but otherwise plodded on very happily with remaining mile splits of 10:00, 9:38, 10:00, 9:58, 9:49, 9:43 and 9:36.

I will get this sub-2!! Although even more than that, I want to get the coveted 60+ half marathon WAVA to go with my 5k and 10k, which in my case I think is about 1:58:something. Hmmmm, better check that....

Sunday, 10 July 2011

RW sub-2 half training schedule experiment

I'm running my 4th half marathon, the inaugural Crathes Half, in 10 weeks, and, as if by magic, this month's RW has a 10-week sub-2 training programme which is, it assures me, failsafe, foolproof and WILL get me to 1:59:59. (Faster would be nice. But 1:59:59 would do.) I'm not sure if this plan will really work, but it does look eminently doable so I might as well give it a go.

So, my cunning plan is to stick to RW's allegedly failsafe foolproof sub-2 schedule to the letter and see if their claims prove true. Place your bets now. (Not literally, it's obviously far too early....)

The same article has a little table with indicators as to what you should have already achieved to stand a good chance of breaking 2 hours... a current PB of 2:04-2:06 (favourable conditions) or 2:08-2:12 (not so favourable conditions), a 10k time of 52:51-53:56, etc. With a HM PB of 2:05:50 set in March on a warmish day on a hillyish course (we'll draw a discreet veil over my most recent attempt at the distance in Stonehaven) and a 10k PB of 53:16 set in June, I should, in theory, be on track.

Anyway, that's the first week done and dusted. Two easy runs of 4 miles each on Tuesday and Friday (Friday I went to the gym first and ran home), 5 miles on Thurs with 3 at 8:54 pace (I did them just slightly quicker in 8:52, 8:49 and 8:38) and an 8 mile "long" run today at 10:30 pace. I was determined to stick to this pace as best I could, because I do often tend to go a bit quicker than I probably should on long runs, and accordingly set up my Garmin to show average pace only. After a slowish uphill first mile, I pulled it back to 10:30 in the second and tried to stick to that, finishing with an average pace of 10:24, so not far off.

It being the first Crathes Half, I don't really know what it will be like, though they maintain it is "quite" flat. Of course, "quite" flat could mean almost anything. There are also a couple of off-road bits, apparently. So it might not be the absolute perfect choice for a PB, but then again it can't possibly be worse than the others I've done so far (Stonehaven twice and Garioch once). Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Personal Worst

Before running the Stoney Half for the second time (the first having been last year), I was blithely telling anyone who asked, or even didn't, that it really wasn't that bad and the hills weren't as awful as they were cracked up to be. I was hoping for a PB, but at the very least I was hoping to beat my 2:10:20 from last year, when it was my first half marathon. I'm a good bit fitter now than I was then, so it seemed a reasonable ambition.

I should have known that misplaced confidence would come back to bite me on the backside. I can only assume that either the hills have grown since last year, or (and this may be the more likely explanation) that my memory had conveniently blocked out the reality. Rather like childbirth - if you actually remembered what it was like, you'd never do it more than once.

The day was a hot one, which did not bode well. However, I told myself hopefully that I'm better at running in the heat than I used to be, having forced myself to do it on the rare days when we get the sun. I was a bit worried, but not that worried. After all, there's nothing you can do about the weather. Apart from apply sun lotion in plenty of time. Oops.

I reached the park about 10.30 for an 11.15 kick-off, and met up with lots of Fetchies, including the Shanksis on the organisational side (Mrs S was doling out the numbers), Torry Quine, Halfpint, Maz 1974 and Erin on the Fetchpointing side, and Holburnmum, Redwinerunner, Woodland Warrior and MikeR on the running side. (Sorry to anyone I have missed. Brain may be suffering sun damage.)

We lined up for the start and once again the gun going off took me by surprise, but I set off fairly smartly and ran the first two miles in a not quick, but not too bad given the undulating-ness 9:45 and 9:15. The only "issue" I had at this time was that I was still carrying the water bottle I'd set off with - it was nearly empty and it was getting on my nerves, but I couldn't find anywhere to dump it. I disposed of it at the first water station, though only to replace it with a full one. Actually I was lucky to get water from that station, as apparently they ran out shortly after - I can only surmise that either there weren't enough bottles for all the runners, or thanks to the heat some people were taking more than one.

The hills proper started around this point and things began to go a bit pear-shaped. I did a bit of walking. Actually I did a lot of walking. I palled up around this stage with a girl in a red top called Susie, and we ran together for a bit until I decided to do a bit more walking and she went ahead. I kept her in sight for most of the way but didn't quite manage to catch up. It was REALLY HOT, and flies were buzzing around my head - very irritating. A man came past in a van checking people were OK and asking if anyone needed water (given the lack at the water station) which was nice. By this stage I was going so slowly that I knew unless I made up a hell of a lot of time in the second half, there was no way I was going to PB or even beat my last year's time. I got to 10k in 1:06:10 - that's the slowest I've run in quite a long time!

The 6 mile point was however enlivened by arriving at Fetchpoint :-) with water sprays (heaven), jelly babies and Eye of the Tiger! It gave me a boost but unfortunately all too quickly receded into the distance and I was left to my own devices again! However there was a bit more shade for a while, and running felt easier when I wasn't in the full glare of the sun. We then turned onto the main road and a long downhill stretch, where I didn't manage to make up quite as much time as I'd hoped (I ran even this stretch quicker last year). The road was open to traffic and quite a lot seemed to be coming past. I got to 10 miles in 1:43:58 - pretty slow. There was downhill but also some uphill (nothing major, but it felt like it) and the Run Walk Strategy again came into play.

Finally we were heading back into the town, past the Academy and across a roundabout. I began to feel slightly better and overtook a few people who had overtaken me earlier. At last we turned a corner to see the sea ahead and a kindly marshal assured me it was all downhill from here. "I've heard that before!" I said. No, she promised, it was true this time.

I caught up with Susie with about half a mile to go. She was struggling a bit, and we stuck together to the finish, managing to encourage each other to keep going! We ran into the park and along the path and when the finish line was in sight I said "race you to the finish" so we both managed to put on a bit of a spurt. I think I finished one second in front! And promptly got my medal draped round my neck by Mrs Shanksi :-)

My chip time was a disappointing, but unsurprising, 2:14:01 - 4 minutes slower than last year, and 9 minutes outside my PB! However my hopes of sub-2 had evaporated in the heat very early on, and even sub-2:20 was starting to look unlikely at one point, so I was relieved the time wasn't worse! I think there were a few DNFs and I know at least one person who collapsed after 10k and had to be taken off in an ambulance (she's OK), so I'm glad I finished.

My next attempt at this distance will be in 10 weeks time at Crathes in September (since we'll be away for Dyce in August) and as luck would have it this month's RW has a "10-week sub-2 hour half marathon plan" in it so I might just give that a go....

Well done everyone :-)

Saturday, 25 June 2011


Kind of wishing I'd signed up for Loch Ness Marathon this year, though it's too late now. I loved it last year and I keep getting little pangs when I hear about other people doing it, like, "that's MY race!". Next year, for sure. Running Edinburgh in May kind of reinforced for me the things I liked about Loch Ness, because it was a... DIFFERENT experience. Not an entirely bad one, and many of the things that were bad were not the fault of the organisers, but Loch Ness was just - better. It was smaller, the route was nicer, the finish was much better. My husband and daughter were there to cheer me on a few hundred metres from the end, and I was able to find them straight away afterwards. People handed you things/said well done/hung your medal round your neck, as opposed to the whole mill around aimlessly/rummage in boxes/not know what the hell was going on experience which is what I mainly remember from the finish area at Embra.

Admittedly, LNM does have that whacking great hill just exactly where you don't want a whacking great hill, and I'm sure if I do do it again I'll be swearing at (a) the hill and (b) myself for having conveniently forgotten how bad it was, but hey, a hill's a hill, get over it. There were compensations. Going downhill, for instance.

I suppose you could argue that going back to the same event denotes a lack of adventure and that would probably be true, because the other big thing I have my eye on next year is D33 :-O a race which practically runs through my backyard. The route may be (is) familiar - I've run it, or sections of it anyway, many times, yesterday for instance - but the distance, 33 miles, certainly isn't. Familiarity may breed contempt in some cases but there's also a sense of reassurance, for me, in knowing what lies ahead - in terms of terrain, if not how I may be feeling at 26+ miles. I guess I was at the back of the queue when senses of adventure were being handed out. Admittedly, the temptation to take a detour to my house and a nice cup of tea on the sofa at around 29/30 miles when my legs will doubtless be in bits may be strong... can only hope the lure of the finish line/medal/beer/ability to say "I've done an ultra" will be stronger.

But when a race you really want to do is right on your doorstep, it would be rude not to. Wouldn't it?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Blowin' in the wind: The Running Shop Aberdeen Beach 10k Race Report

It’s always, always windy down at the beach. Or “Es ist windig”, as we would say in our house, since for some mysterious reason ever since son did his German Higher, we always have to converse about the weather in German. Es regnet. Es schneit. Es ist neblig. Etc.

Anyway, last night was, as ever, a windy night down at the beach, though a warm and sunny day in general. (Es ist sonnig. We don’t get to use that one much.) And I was running a 10k, and I was determined to get a PB, not least because a whole load of points had been bet on me to do so :-O My PB was 56:55, but I was aiming for sub-55 – a 25:02 5k last week indicated that this should hopefully not be beyond my powers. I think this is the fourth time I have run a 10k along the prom and the weather has been uniformly horrible every time, but last night was actually pretty nice apart from the aforementioned wind, which I’m sure I shall be mentioning a few more times before the blog ends.

These 10k along-the-prom races are fairly low key affairs with the start and finish lines being slightly nebulous concepts. None of your fancy timing chips or anything like that. However, it was the fullest I’ve ever seen it (the first one I did, in Dec 2009, only had about 80 people, probably because the ground was covered in snow and ice...). I’m very bad about estimating numbers but there seemed to be a few hundred people all milling about last night with loads of people I knew running – lots of people from Fetch, two of the mums from nursery, etc.

I positioned myself near the back and the race unexpectedly started before anyone was ready. Oops! Off we went along the upper level of the prom. Very congested for the first 100m or so but it quickly thinned out and I settled into a slightly-too-quick-probably 8:10-ish pace. The two mums from nursery were just ahead of me – one, Nicola, I knew to be slightly faster than me (sub-2 half marathon, and she ran 54 mins at Balmoral 10k when I only managed 59 thanks to That Hill). I figured I would try and keep them in sight for as long as possible.

The route consists of a lap and a half of the upper and lower prom, so obviously it’s very flat. The first 2k felt fine and I went through the first mile in 8:11. I thought this might be a bit quick, but actually I was quite glad to have gained a bit of time as when we ran down the ramp and turned onto the lower level, the wind hit me full in the face and running suddenly became much harder work. Second mile was 8:33 and third, which was all on the lower level, a lot slower in 8:50. It was a relief to turn onto the upper level again (and out of the wind) at the 5k mark. I’d got to 5k in 26:31, though, so was well on target for my sub-55 goal.

As I ran up the ramp to the upper level I passed one of the nursery mums who had slowed to a walk, having probably gone off a bit too quick. I gave a few encouraging (I hope) words and managed to pick up my pace a bit now the wind was behind me. I could still see Nicola up ahead. I went through the 4th mile in 8:34, passed TQ and Corrah who were cheerleading opposite the Leisure Centre, got a bit of a second wind and ran the 5th mile in 8:11. I passed a few people at this point and caught Nicola up at around the 8k mark, and had a wee chat. She later said I had spurred her on as she had been tiring at that point! I was feeling quite good at around 8k but I knew we were doomed to turn back onto the windy lower prom for the last 2k and sure enough, down the ramp we went and into the gale again. I really struggled in the last mile, and it was my slowest in 8:54. Nicola was coping with it a bit better and had gone ahead. However having got to 8k in 42:04 and to 9k in 47:32, I knew that short of a complete disaster I was definitely going to get a PB and be well under 55 minutes.

The last bit always seems really interminably long, when you can see the people at the finish but it seems a long long way to get there (even when it’s only a couple of hundred metres). I was going pretty slowly, but could hear shouts of encouragement as I got nearer and one of my speedy Fetch friends then ran alongside me for the very last bit, shouting at me to get a move on as everybody was waiting! This gave me just the kick up the backside I was needing to get to the finish! I didn’t notice the official time on the clock but I had 53:16 on my watch :-):-):-) so not a bad PB, three and a half minutes off my last one (set on the same route in January!). Think official time will be a bit higher as I started near the back and started my watch when I crossed what I thought was roughly the start line rather than when the gun went off.

I was happy with my time, a bit disappointed that I faded badly in the last km – the wind certainly didn’t help, but I was tiring by then also. However I don’t think my pacing was too bad all in all. I had initially thought I would aim for around 8:45 miles but now think that was unambitious as without the wind factor (sorry to keep going on about the wind factor) I would have been below that the whole way. My overall pace was 8:33. Conditions are very rarely ideal though, this is a flat but windy course, other times the weather might be perfect but the route hillier, it’s not often everything comes together to provide dream PB conditions. I’m happy to be steadily reducing my 10k time! (And to have achieved another WAVA of over 60%.) Maybe one day I will run a 10k time beginning with a 4, you never know…

There were lots of PBs last night, wind notwithstanding, but good running (and supporting) all round, well done folks :)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Getting technical

Well – by my standards, i.e. Not Very :-) However I had bought the Pfitzinger & Douglas (henceforth to be known as P&D) Advanced Marathoning book, which is a bit of a joke really as I am far from an Advanced Marathoner, but since everyone on the Edinburgh Marathon (Fetch) thread was raving about it and I am never one to eschew a bandwagon, off I trotted to Amazon. It duly arrived and turned out to be a very good read, even if some of the higher-mileage training schedules are downright scary. I don’t think I’ll be running 100 mile weeks any time soon, but the up-to-55 miles-a-week schedule looks distinctly more achievable when I do decide to bite the bullet and enter another marathon.

Since I'm not planning another marathon this year, the book purchase could be seen as being a bit redundant really, but what it did do was get me thinking about the pace I'm doing my runs and the reason I'm doing them and that if I want to improve, which I DO (two half marathons and a 10k coming up and I really want to knock spots off my previous PBs) maybe I should be a bit stricter with myself about what I'm doing and how fast, rather than just going out and doing whatever I damn well feel like.

So what I have done is to put my recent 5k time of 25:02 (my most recent, and so far best in WAVA terms, race time) into the McMillan Running Calculator, and this is what it came up with -

Endurance Workouts Pace/Mile

Recovery Jogs 10:49 to 11:19
Long Runs 9:49 to 10:49
Easy Runs 9:49 to 10:19

Stamina Workouts

Steady-State Runs 8:50 to 9:06
Tempo Runs 8:28 to 8:50
Tempo Intervals 8:21 to 8:39

Speed Workouts

Middle Distance Runners Long Distance Runners
400m 1:47.8 to 1:52.4 1:49.9 to 1:56.3
800m 3:39.9 to 3:50.0 3:49.7 to 4:00.3
1000m 4:47.1 to 5:00.4 4:54.2 to 5:05.5
1200m 5:44.9 to 6:00.5 5:53.0 to 6:10.9
1600m 7:50.7 to 8:08.8 8:00.7 to 8:18.4
2000m 10:00.9 to 10:18.2 10:11.0 to 10:23.0
(sorry about spacing, I can't seem to figure out how to do it in blog)

which once I had recovered from my head exploding, looked about right to me. Assuming that my HM pace is 9m/m (I haven't actually run this pace in a HM but it's my goal pace for a sub-2 and should be achievable), that means doing long runs at what works out as very close to that pace plus 10-20% which - hurrah! - is what P&D say you should be doing. Admittedly with marathon pace rather than half, but I figured it would still work.

So yesterday I headed off for a 9 mile run (my longest since Embra a fortnight ago) with the intention of sticking to the suggested range, i.e. 9:49-10:49, and aiming to do what P&D suggest and make the last few miles closer to 10% than 20%. And it worked :-)

10:28 10:03 10:02 9:50 9:51 9:58 9:56 9:56 9:41

Fairly flat route except the first half mile is uphill and the last 3 miles a very gradual uphill, a few other inclines along the way but nothing drastic.

This felt like a comfortable pace and I wasn't too knackered by the end. OK, it's *only* 9 miles so hardly qualifies as a P&D style long run, but gets my HM training off the mark.

Planning some 1000m intervals on Tuesday at 8m/m pace, ahead of the Beach 10k on the 14th June.


Friday, 3 June 2011

A plod along the prom: Aberdeen Disability Sport 5k Race Report

In retrospect I'm actually quite pleased with last night's 5k performance down at the beach. I was gutted at the time to see 25:02 on my watch at the finish (no official times yet, but it wasn't chip timed or any fancy stuff like that). If the official time comes up lower I will definitely be claiming that one, since I started at the back, and as ever with these races, both start and finish lines seemed fairly nebulous concepts. (And I clocked 5.05km on my Garmin too.)

Anyway sub-25 or no, it's over 30 seconds off my previous 5k PB which was set less than a month ago at the Dunecht Dash, and given that it's only 11 days since the Edinburgh Marathon (about which the less said the better) and yesterday was one of the hottest days I can ever remember round here (a bit cooler by 7.30 in the evening, admittedly, but still very warm), I don't think it was too bad a result. And it has boosted my WAVA up to over 62% Geeky, moi?

Most importantly, I did manage to salvage some pride by finishing ahead of the wee girl in the club vest who kept coming past me for about the first 2.5k. (And I do mean a wee girl. She was about 9.) And yes, there was a point when I thought, here I am, struggling to get past a 9 year old, maybe my running is not quite as fabulous as I would like to pretend. But mainly, good for her, I wish I'd been doing that when I was that age instead of waiting till I was over 40!

A nice race on a lovely evening, which (unlike some despite their claims), really did cater for all abilities with several people still coming in around or after the 40 minute mark.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Chickens, cheers and a painful second half: Embra 2011

*sings* Where do I begin...

Brace yourselves, it might be a long blog. Warning - contains scenes of "digestive discomfort" :-O

Edinburgh was to be my second marathon, and I was very hopeful of a PB. My first was Loch Ness last October, a lovely marathon but not what anyone would call flat. I managed to squeeze under 5 hours with a time of 4:55:07. This year, I'm fitter and faster than I was then, and with Edinburgh being a much flatter course, I couldn't see what could possibly go wrong.

We headed down to Edinburgh on the Saturday, and took the little one to the zoo on Saturday afternoon. I was a bit anxious about the weather, since everyone I spoke to seemed to be predicting meteorological horrors of one sort or another, but it actually held out quite well - quite windy at times, but nothing too drastic. We had a nice afternoon during which I tried to do as little walking as possible, not entirely successfully, and played "spot the marathon runner". Then went to our B&B in Colinton (very nice, I can recommend it) and out for a meal at a local trattoria recommended by the B&B proprietor. I had a larger-than-usual meal of bruschetta followed by some lovely pasta followed by stranoffee pie (like banoffee pie, but with strawberries). All very delicious.

My plan was to get the bus into town in the morning, which since I don't know Edinburgh I was a little bit worried about, but I did a recce of the bus stop, double-checked the times and everything seemed to be in order. Got to bed early and had a reasonable sleep, though I woke up at 5am (bit early considering I didn't have to leave till after 8) and couldn't really get back to sleep after that. I did feel nervous, but not excessively so I don't think. Dressed, pinned my number on, checked I had everything I needed, hoped the Sellotape on my Garmin strap would hold out (it did) and went down for breakfast about 7.45. I met another guy there who was doing the marathon - his first one. His girlfriend was there too but she wasn't running. I ate a bit of porridge, a small bowl of rice crispies and a piece of toast, couldn't really manage anything else, then said goodbye to husband and daughter (who were planning a trip to Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World), and off I trotted to the bus stop. The weather wasn't bad. A bit cool and showery, but those are probably my ideal running conditions!

I made it to the start without incident - I'd been a bit doubtful which stop to get off at, but lots of runners got on the bus, so I just followed them - and arrived at Regent Road to see the baggage lorries, the starting pens (purple at the back, gold - my one - second back) and loads of people already milling around. I headed straight to the Portaloos, where the queues weren't yet too bad, then drifted about a bit, chatting to a few people and generally soaking up the atmosphere. At about 9.20 I thought I'd better take off my warm outer gear and put my bag on the lorry, but no sooner had I done so than the weather turned cold, windy and rainy and I spent a miserable 15 minutes or so huddled under some trees trying to keep warm! Found I was needing the loo again and went in that direction, but the queues were very long by then and since the announcer was already asking people to go to the pens, I didn't feel I had time. Probably a mistake.

We gathered in the gold pen (all this pen business is a new experience for me, since Loch Ness is a lot smaller and they didn't have them there), while the weather changed from sunny to cold and windy and back again several times, and finally we were off - on the long shuffle to the start line. I reckoned it took about 10 minutes to reach the start line, but I didn't actually check the time when we crossed it - also a mistake, as it turned out. I was surprised at the speed with which most of my fellow gold people took off after the start! - given that they had all, presumably, put down similar time predictions to me, but were going off way faster than that. I was determined not to do that, though, and in fact didn't feel particularly tempted to, as it took me a while to feel I was warmed up and into my stride. I'd had a loose plan of aiming for 10 minute miles and seeing how I got on, but the first mile was a bit slower than that in 10:28. Then picked up a bit and ran the next several miles mainly just above or below 10 mins, apart from the 3rd one which was a bit quick in 9:38 (though largely downhill).

To be honest my memory of the surroundings is a bit hazy! We ran through city streets where spectators were applauding, and then along the seafront. There were Portaloos a few miles in and I did consider stopping, but the queues put me off. However, by 8 miles I couldn't postpone it any longer and dashed across a grassy bit to where there were about 5 Portaloos with a small queue. This obviously wasted a few minutes, but because my Garmin went onto auto-pause I wasn't sure how long, and this proved to be my next mistake because after that (and not having checked the exact start time) I didn't really have a clue how long the race had been.

Things went along OK for the next few miles - followed my fuelling strategy (tried and tested in previous races and long runs) of Shot Bloks and the odd gel, and up until about 17 miles I was on course for a good PB. Passed Fetchpoint at about 10 miles (? - can't quite remember) which was awesome, the red and yellow balloons were unmistakable! I was wearing my Fetch top and really enjoyed the calls from spectators as well as at Fetchpoint.

We were into the out and back section and I think the turn into the Gosford House grounds was about 17 miles. It was around this point that I started to feel quite unwell (though the chickens pecking away at the side of the path did cheer me up a bit). However I was developing quite a sore stomach and by the time we emerged from Gosford House I was on red alert for the next toilet! I think I must have made about 4-5 loo visits after that :( Every time I saw a Portaloo or a public one I was heading towards it like a homing pigeon. Even so my stomach was really sore and no sooner had I been than I wanted to go again :( My legs were also pretty tired by this stage and since I didn't dare take anything other than water, my energy levels must have dropped a lot. There was a fair bit of walking, especially around miles 22-23 which was a low point. I seriously wasn't sure I could keep going at this point - I was feeling sick as well as having a sore stomach, and felt like I was going to throw up a few times. My husband texted me at about 23 miles to ask how far I was, and I texted back to say I was struggling! I think he was worried I wouldn't finish! By this stage though even though I didn't feel like it at all, there was no way I was not going to finish even if I had to walk the rest of it. The massive headwind wasn't helping though! Still lots of encouragement from spectators and people going the other way, which was great, and Fetchpoint again gave me a lift (not literally although I could have done with one by this stage!). By this point I was doing a run a bit/walk a bit more "strategy" (ha!) and counting down the fractions of a mile to the finish.

I'd long since given up on my vague target of 4:40 or less, which I'd amended to 4:45, then 4:50, then a PB of any description, then just to finish in under 5 hours! Because of the time I'd lost going to the loo I really wasn't sure how long the race had taken. I thought I should manage under 5 hours but that I had blown my chance of beating my 4:55 PB. I was determined to finish with some semblance of dignity though and somehow managed to pick up the pace a bit in the last half a mile, especially when the noisy-spectator-lined final stretch approached, and even managed a sprint finish. Well, it felt like a sprint finish. It was actually about 9:15 pace but by that stage it felt very fast indeed! The clock said 5:06, my watch said 4:47 (and that I'd run 26.38 miles), I knew my chip time would be somewhere between the two but I had no idea what it would be.

There wasn't really any guidance or information on where to go at the finish line - or if there was I didn't see it - I just followed everyone else, met up with a Fetchie who had finished a couple of minutes before me and joined the crowds milling around for medals, goody bags, t-shirts, baggage reclaim, etc. It was all quite confusing, especially in my already confused state! The "Reunion Area" was nearby but looked like mayhem. I also heard someone saying that the big screens, supposedly for spectators to watch the finish, weren't working. My phone also wasn't working ("network busy") but a text came through from my husband saying that he hadn't managed to get to the car park, although we had bought a car park ticket, and the little one had fallen asleep in the car. He had managed to get a space on a side street some distance down the road. I couldn't phone him so I set off walking among the throngs of people hoping to find the right place. It felt like miles and I wasn't even sure I was going the right way! I think if I had found I had gone the wrong way, I would just have sat down at the side of the road and burst into tears. I wasn't far off doing that anyway. Luckily just as I was about to collapse in a weeping heap, I spotted what looked like the right road, and another runner kindly pointed me in the right direction. My mood was also lifted when the text with my official finishing time finally came through, and said it was 4:52:02 - much to my amazement, I did manage to get a PB :-):-):-)

I was very happy to make it back to the car, where daughter was fast asleep after a busy time at the Butterfly and Insect World where she got to hold a snake and a tarantula :-O

I don't know what caused the problems I had in the last 10 miles or so. I hadn't really eaten or drunk anything different from what I have had on other occasions. I didn't dare to take any more Lucozade or gels etc though, and that obviously didn't help my energy levels towards the end. I just felt terrible that whole way and I can't honestly say I enjoyed the race as a result, which is a shame, as I'm sure I would have otherwise. My stomach still felt bad all the way back up the road to Aberdeen, although I feel OK today.

Very relieved to get a PB, but also disappointed that I didn't do better. By the end though I was swearing never to do another marathon! I'm sure I will eventually, but I'm not sure these big races are for me. The finish was a logistical nightmare! It just seemed like mayhem, especially given that I was already dazed and confused! It was just as well husband and daughter didn't come to the finish, since they wouldn't have seen anything and would just have had to mill around in a big crowd for no reason. The Edinburgh course itself was OK, and the support was great especially at the end and at Fetchpoint, but I think if I do do another marathon, it will be a smaller one. (Unless my VLM ballot entry comes good, of course :-O)

Well done anyway to everyone who ran and thanks for the support :)

The awful statistics:

10k: 01:03:06
Half: 02:16:16
30k: 03:17:13
Marathon: 04:52:02 :(

Monday, 9 May 2011

Nice weather for ducks: Dunecht Dash 5k race report

Yesterday I ran my first 5k in quite a while, the Dunecht Dash, and despite it being two weeks till Edinburgh Marathon I had high hopes of a PB here. My PB of 26:45 was set last year (although it was at the Big Fun Run which I still maintain was short of 5k). I'm a lot quicker now than then so I was hoping I could knock a bit off even that overly flattering time. Sub-26 was a theoretical target but I thought that was unlikely, but would have been happy with any sort of PB. Dunecht Dash is a smallish race held within the grounds of Dunecht House, pretty flattish although with a bit of undulation and a slight uphill incline at the end.

We had been organised into Fetch teams of five - Fetch-tastics and Fetch –Defenders, just to compete against each other for a bit of fun, and I was in the second lot. Teams were led by the very speedy Mother Duck and Duckinator, who were also battling among themselves for 5k supremacy. (Please note all names used here are Fetch forum names rather than real names!!) The weather was, it is fair to say, absolutely crap. It was raining and cold and misty and generally rubbish. I couldn't find anybody to begin with as they were all huddled inside waterproofs and therefore well disguised. I didn't have my glasses on so short of going up to each person individually and peering under their hood, identification was a problem. I managed it eventually. The pre-race hanging about was not a lot of fun weather-wise – I don’t mind running in the rain but I do mind standing around getting cold and wet!

Finally the call went out for the 5k. There was the inevitable 5k jumping-about-to-music warmup, and I embarrassed myself jumping about idiotically for a couple of minutes, though more to avoid freezing than to actually warm up. Then we shuffled along to the start line, where Nywanda told me off for starting too far back, which was probably right enough as when the gun went off I had to run up on to the grass verge to pass people. Did the first kilometre in 4:58, which was probably a bit quick for me, but there was quite a bit of downhill. Second and third kms were both in 5:04, so I was doing a bit over 8mm pace. I managed to pass a few people. Looked back a couple of times and saw that Nywanda was just behind me up until (I think) about 3km when she must have slowed a little. The fourth kilometre passed in 5:03, while I wondered when the uphill was going to come, then finally I was into the last stretch with the finish line in view and a slight uphill gradient. I was quite tired by this stage and my pace dropped off a fair bit with the last km being in 5:21. I finished in 25:35 on my Garmin (with a distance recorded of 5.04km) so I was very happy with that, a PB of over a minute, although I would have liked to have held the pace a bit better in the last kilometre It wasn't chip-timed and my official time came in at 25:41, but since it took several seconds to cross the start line, I’m sticking with the Garmin time on this one. Overall pace of 8:10, anyway, and a sub-25 target to be aimed for...

Also pleased to gain another WAVA of over 60% (61.29 to be precise)

I worked out later (how sad am I) that I had finished 20th out of 63 women, so in the top third of women even if in the bottom half of the race overall. This made me happy. (It doesn't take much.) I was 10th out of 24 in the FV category.

I finished 2nd in our team, woo! (although well behind the first placed people/ducks and the 2nd person in the other team, who was Thistle with a fantastic time of under 21 minutes, which also gave her the prize for 1st FV, yay! and was also 4th woman overall!). The battle of the ducks was won by our team captain Duckinator although Mother Duck was 2nd woman overall and first FSV.

We cheered all the others back in - Nywanda who was less than a minute behind me (with a new PB), BrianJ, mol, Maz, TQ and Corrah (both with great PBs). Corrah had a Fetch mobile guard of honour for the last bit! I'm sure we had the most supportive teams - hurray for the power of Fetch!

Well done everyone :)

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Close encounters of the bird kind

So there I was, 13 miles into a 20 mile run, plodding along a quiet country road minding my own business and pondering the true meaning of the word "undulating", when suddenly something hit me hard on the top of the head.

In the ensuing split second, while emitting a girly shriek, the following thoughts passed through my mind:

1) Ow
2) WTF?
3) Maybe it was a branch falling off a tree
4) Maybe it was a homicidal maniac who loiters around quiet country roads on the lookout for lone female runners to bash on the head.

Before I could pursue this worrying train of thought, however, a flapping of wings and a swooping away into the trees revealed the culprit to be a large bird of unidentified species. An avian assassin, in fact, which apparently thought it would be a good idea to dive bomb my head.

Having confirmed that there was no-one around with a camera, and recovered from the shock of this Hitchcockian encounter, I was able to continue my run. Top of head is still slightly tender to the touch, however. Who knew our feathered friends could pack such a punch?

Distance: 20.01 miles
Time: 3:30:15
Average pace: 10:30
Weather: Hot
Unprovoked assaults by wildlife: 1
* 10:53
* 10:23
* 10:21
* 10:13
* 10:16
* 10:13
* 10:13
* 10:09
* 10:07
* 10:19
* 10:20
* 10:49
* 10:04
* 11:54
* 9:44
* 10:39
* 11:22
* 10:35
* 10:47
* 10:48

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Fun fun fun in the sun sun sun

Well - kind of :)

My heart sank when I saw the bright sunshine yesterday morning, not because I'm some kind of vampire with an aversion to sunlight but because it was the day of my 20 mile long run, and I had to do it then because I'd booked time off work specially, and I really don't like running when it's hot. But I'm telling myself that it's all good training for Edinburgh Marathon which will no doubt once again have tropical temperatures.

Got myself all togged up in all my fab gear: new Balmoral 10k t-shirt, Camelbak bottle belt (containing Nuun-enhanced water), sunglasses, dodgy HRM, sellotaped-together Garmin, MP3 player with latest episode of Marathon Talk on it for entertainment purposes, etc. My plan was to do the same 3 mile loop as last week and then head off along the Deeside Way (mainly off-road). Basically the same as last week's 18 miles but going a bit further before turning back. I am a creature of habit. (An added incentive was the prospect of seizing some Conquercise zones.) I took with me a packet of Shot Bloks and, rather warily, an out of date Lucozade gel (Best Before End Dec 2010). I can't really imagine them going off, but they taste crap enough when in date so heaven knows what horrors an out of date one might unleash.

Legs felt heavy for the first couple of miles, and although I know it usually takes me this long to get properly warmed up, I was thinking oh no, this isn't going to be good. But I did get a bit more into my stride and the first few miles were shady enough not to be too uncomfortable. Then emerged into the rockier and less shady section of the run, thankfully there was a cooling breeze.

HRM was all over the place, particularly in the first few miles, going way up high, even though I didn't feel I was exerting myself unduly. I don't think it's working properly. I kind of hope it isn't, because if my heart rate is really like that it's a bit alarming. It suddenly shot up to around 200-220 at mile 4 and stayed like that for about a mile, for no apparent reason, then went down again. It wasn't uphill and I wasn't running faster.

I got to the point where I had turned back last week and had to push myself a bit to keep on going, especially since this involved going uphill a bit before emerging on to the main road at Drumoak and running along that for a short while. Not my favourite part. Marathon Talk was evidently an extra long episode, because Tom and Martin were still talking in my ear (interviewing Louise Damen at this point). I was feeling quite tired and hot, had been taking the occasional Shot Blok and regular water, considered the gel but couldn't face the sugary gloop and was a bit concerned about it upsetting my stomach, so I gave it a miss. I maybe should have had it, though, because after turning at 11.5 miles I started to feel I was struggling a bit and "adopted a run-walk strategy" (ha!) for some of the remaining 8.5 miles, but split times were still reasonable albeit a bit slower than in the first half.

Felt completely knackered by the last mile, though, and wondered how I am ever going to manage 6 more miles in Edinburgh, especially if it's hot. I will, though.

On the positive side I managed 20.03 miles at an easy pace in 3:32:22, knee was OK, and legs actually feel fine today. Though the dreaded DOMS yet be lurking ready to pounce! Oh, and I gained 2 Conquercise zones, the Deeside Way WILL one day be mine :)

Mile splits:

11:03 10:13 10:20 10:50 10:14 10:13 10:37 10:38 9:43 10:00 11:02 10:05 10:47 10:52 10:49 10:38 11:11 10:58 10:29 11:27

Monday, 25 April 2011

Training/panicking update...

So, my Edinburgh marathon training, having got off to a good start following Dave Kuehls' programme (not that I'm aiming for 4 hours, I don't think that's realistic for me at the moment), then faltered a bit due to dodgy knee problems. I'm still not 100% confident about knee (it isn't twinge-free yet), but running doesn't seem to aggravate it unduly and physio says I'm OK to run, so I'm kind of back on track (as opposed to back on "the" track, where I haven't been for ages).

I managed an 18 mile run last week with relatively little problem, and an 8 mile tempo run at 9-minute mile pace last Tuesday, which is the fastest 8 miles I've ever done by loads, but I'm a bit anxious, for some reason, about tomorrow's planned 20 miler. It's been quite warm today - hopefully tomorrow will be cooler. I'm going to have to do it anyway as I've booked the day off work and it's the only long-run opportunity I'll have this week. Assuming I survive it, I'll hopefully do another 20 or thereabouts the following week and then start tapering...

Not feeling as well prepared as I could be, or had hoped to be, but fingers crossed by marathon time I will have done enough to get me round in a reasonable time. I know I'll be disappointed if I don't get a PB, and I think a PB is very doable given my current one, but I know some factors (the weather, mainly) will be out of my control.

Haven't even started thinking about the logistics of the whole thing yet - B&B is booked, but travelling there, travelling home, seeing people before/during/after the race, etc etc is all still in the realms of mystery at the moment.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Balmoral 10k: The good, the bad and The Hill

Mixed day out at Balmoral 10k yesterday...

Bad Things:

* Arrived late, stuck in traffic at 1.40pm when race was due to start at 2 and I knew there was a long walk from the car park (field) to the start. Hopped out of the car as soon as we turned into the car park (field) and ran to the start (along with many others, I should add), arriving a couple of minutes before 2, then immediately had to stand in the queue for the Portaloo as I was desperate. Heard the announcer starting the race while I was in the Portaloo and tagged on to the end of the luckily slow-moving crowd. I fully accept that this was all entirely avoidable and My Own Silly Fault for not setting off earlier.

* Spent the first couple of miles really struggling to settle into any kind of pace as it was SO crowded. Was weaving in and out of runners, up on the grass verge, etc. First mile was 9:41 and second 9:33 so it could have been worse, but I know I can run faster than this in a 10k.

* THE HILL. Not a Bad Thing as such as I knew it was coming. I saw two Fetch tops ahead of me near the beginning and caught up with TQ and Nywanda (who was looking very splendid in kilt, socks and face paint). I walked up most of THE HILL, but fast(ish) and managed to overtake a number of slower walkers. The few people who were running weren't doing so significantly faster than I was walking, so walking seemed the sensible option. Managed this mile in 12:38.

* Not being able to find husband and daughter for ages at the end of the race. Mobile networks not working for ages. Gah!

* The long long walk back to the car park in the rain with a tetchy four year old.

Good Things:

* Managing to pick up the pace in the last three miles (once the crowds had thinned out). Did miles 4-6 in 8:35, 8:39 and 8:37, and overtook loads of people, which was quite satisfying. I was relieved to finish under the hour in 59:21, having thought at the halfway point that I would have come in well over the hour!

* Took more than 6 minutes off my Balmoral time from last year, and confirmed that I am MUCH fitter now than I was then, as (hill excepted) it all felt much easier this time.

* Gave the skort its first public airing (see pic), and no-one laughed. Or if they did, I didn't hear them. It was v comfy to run in.

* Wore my Fetch top and was encouraged by a few shouts of "Go Fetchie!".

* Lots of support towards the end, high-5s from kids, friendly marshals.

* Saw various people at the end, sorry I was a bit distracted due to husband and daughter being AWOL! I promise I will be better organised for Dunecht in two weeks.

* Got a nice new t-shirt (see pic).

Having done this race two years in succession I'm not sure if I will do it again. It's a nice run but it's just too crowded (there were more people this year than last) and the last-minute panicked dash from the far-distant car park (field), not to mention the long walk back at the end, stressed me out. Admittedly some of this is entirely avoidable if we were only more organised, but we never are when travelling en famille.

Well done everyone :-)

Comparison of 2010 and 2011 split times:

2010: 2011:
# 9:55 9:41
# 10:17 9:33
# 13:32 12:38
# 9:27 8:35
# 9:53 8:39
# 10:26 8:37
# 2:12 1:45

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Long run, and other people's long runs

I had a busy schedule of VLM-watching and Scottish cup semi-final watching on Sunday (not that I managed to see much of either in the event, just as well in the latter case) so I did my long run - 18 miles - on Saturday. I was a bit worried about this since last week's hot and bothered 14 had been such a struggle. As it turned out, though, Saturday was a good day for it as it was much cooler, Sunday turned out to be hot, as people who were racing that day may possibly have noticed. I did a short 3 mile loop from near my house and then headed off along the Deeside Way towards Banchory, turning back towards home at the 10.5 mile point to make it up to 18. Felt a lot better than last week, tried to take it really slowly, stopping to walk for a minute or so every 2 miles and drink a little water/eat a Shot Blok. The "walk breaks" did increase a bit over the last few miles, but I managed to run most of it, certainly a lot better than last week and was happy enough with splits of

* 11:03
* 10:14
* 10:26
* 10:30
* 10:20
* 10:20
* 10:16
* 11:09
* 9:57
* 10:36
* 10:32
* 10:28
* 9:58
* 10:19
* 10:32
* 10:32
* 10:34
* 10:13

18.01 miles in 3:08:03, average pace of 10:26. Knee fine. I think it twinged twice later on in the run, but it never came to anything.

Actually really enjoyed this run, lots to see, deer, horses, loads of rabbits scampering around the place, some Jemima Puddleduck-lookalikes round a pond, oh and about a zillion cyclists, and a few other runners too.

I did manage to watch a fair bit of the women's race and again pondered the eternal question of why (some of) the elite women run marathons in their knickers. I was so impressed by the winner, Mary Keitany (wearing shorts, incidentally) who looked so comfortable the whole way round and made it look easy! Jo Pavey did really well too. An awful shame for Liz Yelling though who didn't have the race she must have hoped for at all, but well done to her for seeing it through. Unfortunately I didn't get to see much of "the masses", had been hoping to spot a few people I know but unless they were dressed as a giant nurse, camel or Puff the Magic Dragon there was no chance. I did glimpse a couple of people in Fetch shirts though.

Well done to everyone who ran :-)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Book review: Running Through The Wall

Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon - Neal Jamison (ed)
(Breakaway Books, 2003)

I’ve never run an ultra – I’m not sure if I ever will. To be honest, the idea of running that far fascinates and alarms me in equal measure. 26.2 miles remains the furthest I’ve ever run, and I’ve only done that once (soon, hopefully, to be twice). I’m very intrigued however by the idea of what it’s actually like to do an ultramarathon, so this book, consisting of 39 first-person accounts of running various ultra distances, immediately appealed to me.

A huge variety of people have contributed their experiences – from the Type 1 diabetic (Tim Morgan) to the guitarist in a rock band (Michael Dimkich); from the people who win races (Ann Trason, Tim Twietmeyer) to the ones who plod along at the back, hoping only to finish within the cut-off time. Some are veterans of dozens of ultras, others have only run one, some DNF. All are included here. Ultrarunning often seems to be a family affair, with husband/wife pairings and a father/daughter combo (Ed and Lisa Demoney) sharing their experiences and many runners paying tribute to their support crews of family and friends..

I hadn’t originally heard of most of the races, which range from 50k upwards, although by the end of the book I felt quite familiar with many of them. A number of races, such as the popular Western States 100, the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 and Hardrock 100, among others, make several appearances, and Blake Wood and David Horton recount their experiences of the ridiculously impossible-sounding (and eccentric) 100-mile Barkley Marathons, an event which very few have ever completed, and if you read the description of it in the book it’s perfectly obvious why. (It also incorporates a 60 mile “Fun Run” (!) which sounds like anything but.) One event which didn’t feature, but which I would have been interested to read about, is the Badwater ultra – I guess I’ll have to go elsewhere for that.

There's also an account of a 24-hour event which Kevin Setnes describes how a run-walk strategy helped him to win, running over 160 miles and setting a US record in the process.

I was interested to learn that a number of the races described seem to follow a lap format – typically around 4-5 laps, but in one case (the Umstead 100, recounted here by Tim Morgan) as many as 10. My immediate reaction to this was quite negative but on reflection I suppose it could have its advantages in long and difficult races, particularly with regard to the frequency of support crew/aid stations. Familiarity of terrain after the first lap could be a good or bad thing. I still think 10 laps of 10 miles sounds a bit deadly boring, though. Having said that, there are of course 24 hour track races (and Kevin Setnes in this book ran multiple 1.1 mile laps of a small lake to set his 24 hour record) so I guess it’s not necessarily an issue.

Most of the races covered are American, but we also get to hear about a women’s team taking on – and hoping to win - the Hong Kong Trailwalker 100k, and Jurgen Ankenbrand’s account of his experience at the Marathon des Sables.

Some of the stories are quite emotional and I was particularly struck by Catra Corbett-McNeely’s account of running and racing after the death of her mother, and Tracy Baldyga’s experience of how running ultras helped her deal with severe and enduring mental illness. There’s also an honest and affectionate tribute to Joel Zucker, who tragically collapsed and died in 1998 after completing his third Hardrock 100.

Most of the stories are well written and very interesting to read. Admittedly there’s only so many times you really want to read “I got up at 4.30am and ate my cereal before heading off to the start”, but on the other hand the logistics of such things are an important component and it is good to know how people go about their preparation.

By the end of the book I found I’d lost most of my perspective on how far 100 miles, for instance, actually was. After reading so many accounts of running scary distances, they had started to seem normal. 50 miles sounded quite short, really. A mere marathon sounded like the equivalent of a gentle stroll to the post box and back. I needed to go on a long training run to bring me back to reality…. There are some amazing achievements described herein, from Stan Jensen’s completion of the “Last Great Race” of six 100-milers in 4 months, to the people who overcame incredible odds to run at all.

All in all I found this a very interesting read. As each story is short and self-contained, it’s easy to dip in and out of, and there is lots of interesting and inspiring stuff. Great when you are needing a bit of extra motivation.

So will I ever run an ultra?… well, maybe…

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Upping the tempo

I’d fallen behind a bit with my marathon training programme due to the old knee issues *yawn*, but although its royal knee-ness is not back to 100%, running doesn’t seem to be aggravating it and the physio said I was good to go so I’m trying to get back on track. Sunday’s hot and bothered 14 miles wasn’t a great start (although I did manage it at a reasonable pace considering the heat of the day) and I wasn’t feeling very confident about yesterday’s scheduled 6 mile tempo run.

I’ve kind of given up on the 4 hour schedule (that was never more than a pipe dream anyway) but thought I’d have a go at doing my tempo run at the pace dictated by the 4:15 schedule i.e. 9:20 to 9:25 pace. (I think the 8:45 tempo pace of the 4 hour schedule is a bit beyond me – I can manage that OK for 3 miles, maybe 4, but I didn’t think I could keep it up for 6 miles.)

I’m still lousy at pacing however and the first mile was too quick in 9:05, the second even more too quick in 8:54, oops. I was afraid I would slow down a lot in the second part of the run, particularly as that has a few more (slightly) uphill parts and the weather was still quite warm. Third mile was 9:09 and the fourth, which included a shortish but steepish hill where I was running at over 10 minute pace, was not surprisingly a slower 9:27. Back on the flat however my pace picked up to 8:57 in the fifth mile and a rather surprising to me 8:30 for the sixth – an overall average pace of 8:58. This is well speedy by my non-exacting standards and in fact gave me my fastest 10k time ever: 55:47, over a minute off my current PB! The pace felt OK, not overly difficult for me, although my heart rate was an average 169bpm which might tell a different story! (And up to 221bpm at one point, although I think that may have been a blip as it was just once, went straight back down again and was at a random not particularly demanding point of the run.)

Obviously I’m not going to be running anywhere near that pace in the marathon, though I’m still, as ever, befuddled about pacing and what time to aim for – maybe a few more long runs will give me a better idea – I know it’s the long runs I really need to be getting under my belt (what a weird phrase!) at this stage, and I’m behind where I should be in that regard. I still have at least 3 weekends before thinking about tapering, though, so I’m planning on a 17/18 and a couple of 19/20s. Hopefully that should be enough to set me up not too badly for 22 May.

Distance: 6.29 miles
Time: 56:27
Average pace: 8:58

2:25 (0.29 miles)

Monday, 11 April 2011

Hot and bothered on the Deeside Way

After a couple of light-ish knee-related weeks I wanted to do a long run today, and accordingly got the other half to drive me out to Banchory so I could run back along the Deeside Way (the first time I've ever done the whole thing). I'd figured out that Banchory to my house would be about 14.5 miles, so had formulated a half-baked plan to extend the run a bit and make it up to around 17, given that the longest run of my marathon training so far has been 15. This didn't happen.

I'd been listening to Jeff Galloway extolling the magical virtues of walk breaks on Marathon Talk (he made them sound like the best thing ever in the history of the world, bar nothing), and although I wasn't entirely convinced, given the weather today (HOT) I thought it might be a good opportunity to give it a try, so decided that from the start I'd try walking for one minute in every mile. I suspect this may be less than Mr Galloway recommends, but it seemed worth a try. I kept this up for the first few miles (using the walk breaks to drink some water and scoff a couple of jelly beans) but from about mile 6 I started to struggle with the heat and the lack of shade (though to be fair, there was at least a slightly cooling breeze much of the time) and found myself wanting to walk more often I also probably set off too quick for a long run and suffered for it later (though on a cooler day that pace would have been more maintainable).

This route is most of the return leg of the D33 ultra which I was entertaining romantic notions about running next year, and I still might, but after running a bit less than half of it today I'm certainly under no illusions about the difficulty. Not that it's a difficult route - it's largely flat, with a nice bit of variety of terrain - but 33 miles out and back.... well, hats off to those who've done it

There were LOADS of people out along the path today, mainly cyclists (including a group of elderly people who were cycling barely faster than I was running) and several points where I had to dodge cyclists/walkers/dogs all converging on me. First time this year I have seen lots of people out in shorts/t-shirts/strappy tops (female)/no tops (male). Hardly any other runners, though. (Although I did see a shirtless one [male] at one point.) Was slightly annoyed by the people who walk three or four abreast on a not-that-wide path and show no signs of moving over just a little bit to allow me through. Not that I think I have right of way or anything, but it seems a bit rude to not even bother to acknowledge the approaching person.

I did get lots of smiles and nods from other cyclists/pedestrians though, probably amused by my bright red face and general air of knackeredness.

By the time I got to the familiar territory of "within a few miles of my house" I was feeling pretty wrecked, running out of water and finding it hard to get going again after the walk breaks (my knee seemed to stiffen up slightly while walking) and basically there was no way I was going to keep going for another 3 miles or so, so 14-and-a-bit it had to be. Will definitely do the 17 next week, though, as Edinburgh is starting to feel perilously close...

Distance: 14.19 miles
Time: 2:32:38


# 10:07
# 10:09
# 10:14
# 10:05
# 10:25
# 10:41
# 11:08
# 10:36
# 11:50
# 10:23
# 11:23
# 11:47
# 10:51
# 10:48

Average pace: 10:45

*mops brow*

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Keep on keeping on

I was quite taken yesterday by this clip of 91-year-old Canadian athlete Olga Kotelko. I love the way expectations are challenged by seeing white-haired old ladies doing things you don’t really expect white-haired old ladies to be doing – running, jumping, throwing hammers, hugging each other in a celebratory fashion. Why does society assume sport is only for the young, or at least, the not-old? Olga is clearly remarkable in her achievements, but there are plenty of older people out there being far more active than the commonly-held beliefs might lead you to think, when we are largely inclined to view “the ageing population” en masse as a burden, unable to contribute to or participate in society. Admittedly, old age tends to be accompanied by physical and/or mental decline to a greater or lesser extent, but nonetheless many people do remain remarkably healthy mentally, physically or both.

I also like the way Olga says people keep asking her what her secret is and she says she doesn’t really have one, she just carries on from day to day. It seems to me that whenever someone over a certain age achieves, well, anything really, including continuing to exist after a certain point on the calendar, people always want – understandably I suppose – to know what their “secret” is. You see it in the paper, when there is an amazed piece about someone becoming a centenarian or running a marathon in their 80s or whatever, and usually it’s obvious that the person in question doesn’t really know how to answer. Because there probably isn’t one, really. Good genes tend to help, as may particular lifestyle choices, and avoiding being run over by a bus is generally a good tactic to employ, but none of those things are exactly well-kept secrets.

My lovely nana, Elsie, who died in 2009, two weeks short of her 102nd birthday, used to get quite embarrassed when people asked her what her secret was, because she never knew what to say. She wasn’t exactly an athlete, given that pie-making (she spent many years working in a bakery), tea-drinking and telly-watching never became Olympic sports, though she did pride herself on her ability to touch her toes when many people 20 years her junior could barely get out of a chair. Admittedly her toes weren’t very far down, as she was well under 5 feet tall in her later years. But anyway, she herself didn’t know what the secret of her long and mainly very healthy life was. Rather like Olga Kotelko, although less dramatically, the only thing she knew how to do was keep on keepin’ on*. It took her strong heart three days to finally give up on life after suffering a heart attack, and she died the way she’d always said she wanted – during the night in her own bed, her family (my mum and I) around her.

Age is a number, it doesn't have to define you.

*with apologies to Zimmerman, R.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Garioch Half Marathon Race Report

I was a bit unsure about whether to run this, what with the dodgy knee-ness of the previous week or so, but on the other hand I really wanted to do it and the knee seemed a bit better on the Saturday, so I did. And yes, I am an idiot and yes, I am suffering for it now, but apart from a couple of sore spells the knee held up pretty well during the actual race.

It's put into perspective anyway by the horribly sad news that a 34 year old man collapsed and died after running the 10k which was also held on the same day. There's nothing really to be said about this which doesn't sound completely futile, but thoughts are with his friends and family.

The race itself was the first running for the half marathon, although a 10k has been held for several years. I did the 10k last year (only the second one I'd ever done) and it was a hot day then but yesterday was, I think, even hotter with several people apparently suffering from dehydration. Met up with various pals and people I knew from different places (Fetch/work/nursery), some of whom were doing the 10k and some the half. The half marathon started first and followed the same route as the 10k for a couple of miles before diverging at a junction. My fears about going the wrong way were unfounded as it was pretty clearly signposted even for someone with my legendarily poor sense of direction.

The race was mainly on country roads and was pretty hot and undulating, especially in the second half (killer hill at about 10 miles!), and there didn't seem to be a lot of shade. Given the temperature I decided to carry a water bottle with me and was glad I did. I later heard that quite a few people had suffered from dehydration. Knee held up pretty well until about 5 miles when it suddenly launched an unexpected attack and I had to stop and walk for a minute. This eased off quite quickly though and I was able to carry on running. The same thing happened twice more (downhills seemed to aggravate it which was annoying as I normally struggle through the uphills looking forward to the downhills, but I couldn't really do that!) but the pain never lasted long and apart from a couple of miles I managed to make quite good time for most of the way, finishing in 2:05:50 - a PB. Hopefully on a less hot and hilly course and without a sore knee, I could manage a quicker time, given that I ran the first 10k in not far off my 10k PB, and the first 10 miles seven minutes quicker than my current 10 mile PB! Shame I can't count it as an official PB.

I think the heat and difficulty of the course knocked a bit off everyone's potential times, but nevertheless everybody did really well.

Splits: 9:27 9:04 9:27 9:00 9:37 9:52 9:45 10:43 8:51 10:44 9:43 9:22 9:27
Average pace: 9:36