Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon: the toughest half I’ve ever done!

I entered the Peterhead Half Marathon as the marathon plan said to race this weekend. However, the plan also advised a recovery run on Friday, race on Saturday (8 – 15k) and long run of 17 miles on Sunday. While I’m a bit of a stickler for a plan this didn’t quite fit in with my life this week, and with the Metro Coast to Coast Relay on Friday evening I had to make some adjustments. The weekend therefore took the form of 17 mile long run on Friday, recovery run on Saturday (including Aberdeen parkrun at an easy pace), and Peterhead Half Marathon today. This could be why it’s the toughest half I’ve ever done. It could also be due to the conditions today, or it could just be that it truly is an undulating course. Ask me next week if I’d consider going back again to test out these theories.

Heading out with a fellow Metro, Grant, who also did the Coast to Coast on Friday evening, I’d planned to run the Half and then go to visit the Peterhead Prison Museum as I’ve heard good things about it. I had a niggling feeling that I’d left something behind, but having had a quick kit check I knew my shorts were in my rucksack, I was wearing my vest and trainers, and I had my Garmin. Nothing to be concerned about there. On arrival in Peterhead though I realised what I’d forgotten – my purse! Thankfully I had enough fuel in the car to see us back to Aberdeen afterwards! The Prison Museum will have to wait for another day.

This was my first time running Peterhead Half. Grant has done it previously and had given me a run through of the route during the drive. It didn’t sound too horrendous – surely nobody would do it repeatedly if it was – although there was more mention of hills than I’d like. Having registered and changed, great organisation and good facilities, read minimal toilet queues, it was then down to the track for a couple of laps to warm up. We bumped into quite a few fellow Metros, most of whom were doing the 5k, with a few doing the Half. Richie gave a description of the route for Hazel and I as she’d never done it before either and I have to say that again there was lots of up and not very much down! Really selling the route well!

All too soon we were off, heading round the track and then out onto the streets of Peterhead, then quickly onto the old railway line path. I’d planned to have a conservative start, building up the pace as I went, as I wasn’t sure how much was left in my legs after the other weekend runs. I followed this plan for the first mile, running it in 7:37. My legs were feeling pretty good so I picked up the pace during miles 2 and 3 which were slightly downhill. The route took us out of Peterhead and onto smaller country roads. The field was small, less than one hundred runners, and it spread out very quickly.

Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon
3 miles in – Photo credit to Craigewan Photographic Club

I’d made a decision to carry my own juice in practise for the marathon as I need to practise taking on energy and was glad of this decision. While I understand the environmental benefits of giving water in cups, I really struggle to drink from cups on the run, ending up wearing the water rather than drinking it, or else having to slow down and break my stride, so I largely avoided the water stations available.

The miles ticked away, I wasn’t feeling fantastic, but nor did I feel awful. What I did find though was that the route really was undulating. I’ve had courses described this way before but I would say that Peterhead is the true definition of this: no sooner had the legs had a wee reprieve with a short downhill section than another uphill section appeared. Probably because my legs were already tired I found this hard work and quickly found the earworms, songs in my head, becoming less upbeat than normal.

Strava Elevation Profile (Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon)

I played Cat and Mouse with a couple of guys from Newburgh Dunes Running Club for quite a bit of the race before they left me in their wake during the last couple of miles. This was good as it pulled me along when they were ahead, and at the times when I was feeling stronger (they’d slowed for water) I gave them a marker. I think had it not been for these guys, as the field spread out further and the loneliness of the road kicked in during the later miles, I’d have been hard pushed to keep going strongly.

The final miles from 8 onwards were back into a headwind. I’m not sure that the windspeed was that significant, but it certainly felt tough. My ‘markers’ didn’t get that much ahead of me during the early stages of this battle so that assured me that although I felt (and was) going backwards it wasn’t any worse than others.

Strava splits (Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon)

Finally I reached the point of ‘only a parkrun’ but sadly lacked the ability to pick up the pace in the way that I like to. I felt pretty done and was really just trying to keep the legs ticking over with thoughts of the finish in less than half an hour.

Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon
10 mile marker at Inverugie Bridge: Only smiling as I see a camera! Photo credit to Craigewan Photographic Club.

I was so glad to see Alison and Sarah at around 11.5 miles. Having finished the 5k they were heading back out to support on the course and being told that I was currently 3rd female gave me renewed impetus to push on, or at least push to hold the pace. I had no idea where the next female was, but very aware that I couldn’t get any slower or I’d likely be caught!

Eventually the track and the finish area loomed into view. I’ve never been so happy to see the finish of a race and, despite receiving support from the marshal and a warning not to let Richie catch me, it was all I could do to keep plodding round the track at the pace I was going. Catch me he did, storming past on the finishing straight, and I trundled in behind him. The finish was excellent with runners being announced as they approached the line, and this confirmed that I was 3rd female.

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Masson Glennie Peterhead Half Marathon: the smile is one of relief to be finished!

Crossing the line I felt pretty rough! Receiving my medal and water I chatted with Metro clubmates but had a niggling feeling that I may be sick. The suggestion of water was a good one and calmed the nausea quickly – thanks for that!

Waiting for the prize giving there was time for a shower. I realised at this point that I didn’t have my Metro hoodie with me, deciding not to take it due to the warm conditions, and indeed aside from the sweaty vest didn’t have any club colours. Steve to the rescue, I was given the loan of a Metro jacket for the prize giving photos, and was delighted to receive the prize for 2nd Female Veteran.

This was a great day out for Metro Aberdeen with prizes across the 5k and Half Marathon. Great to see so many clubmates running well and ranking in their categories. Very well done folks!

As I say, the jury’s out as to whether I’d do this one again. Tough course, tough day, but it’s the tough runs that make us stronger (I hope)!

Metro Coast to Coast Relay: Leg 3, Culter to Banchory

The Metro Aberdeen Coast 2 Coast Relay is well underway as I write having started at 4:59 pm with the juniors dipping a hand or foot in the sea before setting off. They ran to Duthie Park, handing over to the Leg 2 runners who then carried the baton to Culter which is where we pick up.

I decided a couple of days ago that I’d run from home to Culter adding another 6 miles and giving me the 17 mile long run that the marathon plan has scheduled. For a fleeting moment I did contemplate meeting the Leg 2 runners on route and tagging along but they’re a bit fast, so I opted instead to run at my own leisurely pace, secure in the knowledge that I’d then be fit to make it to Banchory as planned.

As it transpired, I just made it to Culter in time! The forecast had suggested there was a risk of a rain shower and sure enough it came as I reached Milltimber. Knowing I had time on my side, I opted to shelter under a tree to allow the clouds to pass over. Unfortunately each time it appeared to be getting lighter it would then start pouring again. I finally got going and before long was approaching Culter Station.

Seeing the car park ahead I looked back to see the familiar Metro vests storming up behind me. No time to linger, it was literally a case of a quick hello to the assembled supporters before continuing on.

There were seven of us running Leg 3: Graham, Campbell, Alan, Grant, Jim, Vicki and I. We’d all been out on the recce run previously so knew what we were in for. I think we were all pleasantly surprised at how the evening panned out. Unlike last time when it was unseasonably hot, tonight we had a breeze and a lovely running temperature. We all agreed as time went on that it felt far easier than our recce – whether this was due to the cooler weather, there being a true purpose for the run or the promise of a post-run refreshment, we’ll never know!

Metro Coast 2 Coast Leg 3 on route: Culter to Banchory
Thanks to Tony McGarva for the photograph.

We took turns at carrying the baton with Campbell leading off and Graham handing over at the other end, rightfully so as they were our group leaders and a great job they did too.

We ran out along the old Deeside line with a couple of bits where you’re routed onto the pavement by the main road and it was good to see the familiar faces of Tony and Roy out with their cameras.

All went smoothly, the chat was good, and the group ran well together sticking to the planned pace for most of the way. Before we knew it we were approaching Banchory, and determined to finish together Alan suggested we all join hands on the run up to the handover point. This put a smile on all our faces and my only concern was that we might pull over someone with tired legs as enthusiasm kicked in and the pace picked up.

Handover done, we then headed to The Stag for a celebratory drink before being chauffeured in style back to Aberdeen. Many thanks to Graham, Jim and Alan for driving.

Celebratory refreshments in Banchory
Thanks to Campbell Hayden for the photograph.

Yet another of those great days where Metro Aberdeen show what a truly special club they are. Huge kudos to Tom and everyone else involved in getting this event together and safely onwards to those carrying the baton through the night and into tomorrow. A great team effort for great causes!

Huge thanks to Vicki for putting together this video montage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8Hu8skVZoo&feature=youtu.be
It’s truly epic!!

https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/metrocoast2coast

A weekend of running and the Metro Beach 10k

The marathon training’s going pretty well so I was looking forward to the Metro Beach 10k – it’s fast, flat, and usually by the time evening comes the wind along the prom has died down. This unfortunately was not the case last night …

My legs were tired from the weekend’s running. The long run has a nasty habit of hanging around in the background like a bad smell, so I opted to get it out of the way on Friday evening, heading up to Hazlehead on my own, and running solo 2 miles up the road, through Hazlehead, over to Countesswells, 4 loops of Kingshill, the hill at the other side and an extra bit on the flatter terrain before heading back home via Hazlehead once again. To say it was warm is somewhat of an understatement. On the upside though, the run was done. It was one of those character building efforts – what started off feeling easy ended up feeling rather tough.

Saturday saw me hit Aberdeen parkrun. To begin with I wasn’t sure whether my legs would be able to run at all so I opted to walk up round the bend on my warm up run. At this point I reasoned with my body and concluded that a slow shuffle may be an option, so did manage a warm up effort, then was most delighted to meet my sister which meant that we could run together, chat all the way around, and really not think about the miles that are Aberdeen parkrun. She’s getting better – the pace noticeably picked up on the home straight!

Aberdeen parkrun

Then on Sunday I’d contemplated a lie in but the body clock woke me in time to meet the Metro social gang. Once again, we hit the trails at Hazlehead and Countesswells for varying distances. I decided to opt out with Ali and do the 10 mile route (only one lap of Kingshill) as my legs were weary and didn’t fancy venturing around a second time. This also ensured that I’d have suficient time for my post run coffee at Cognito at the Cross before venturing up to Huntly to see Mum and Dad for lunch. Win win!

So, back to the 10k. I ran it last year (and have only just looked back at the diary to find I did it in 43:15). I don’t recall there being any wind then so hopefully that’s what I can attribute to the slowing this year. I went out with the intention of warming up for two miles. However, it was very windy, so I bailed and decided I’d just head out for a jolly and forget about the time. Anyone that knows me will also know that this was never truly going to be the case – the Metro vest was on so this does mean business.

The start was somewhat larger than previous years and everyone was ahead of the start line before having to move backwards. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so hemmed in during a race! I think the last time was Paris Marathon where I was surrounded by tall people and couldn’t see a thing. Suffice to say, I was relieved when we set off and the crowd started to thin out a little.

The headwind along the upper prom was tough, but the legs were fresh at this point (surprisingly so). Before long the Stones marshals were reached and it was a sheer joy to hit the lower prom with no wind! What a blast it was running freely along here, probably why it felt all the harder when we reached the Footdee turn and hit the headwind again!

The second stretch along the upper prom from Footdee all the way to the Stones was brutal! I honestly felt like I was going backwards (and in terms of time I was). However, as with elsewhere on the course it was lovely to hear shouts of support from the marshals (Bryan, the FLJs/Metros) and other friends and clubmates. By this point I think the best you got was a grimace, so please know that your support truly was appreciated!

The final stretch along the lower prom to the finish was again wind free and it was here that I was able to truly relax and enjoy the run. I was delighted to be feeling strong, both in mind and body, and very happy to complete the run in a time of 43:49. I went in with no idea of where I was at and ran faster than I have in any training session to date – so far the marathon training has focused on Endurance and Lactate Threshold. The next part is Race Preparation – wish me luck!

A little addendum: many thanks to everyone that supported our cause last night by buying fudge. Much appreciated! Alongside my work colleagues, you’ve supported me in banking £100 for our charities!

White Chocolate Fudge for Metro Coast to Coast Fundraising

Should anyone wish to donate further, please visit our Total Giving page:https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/metrocoast2coast

Metro Aberdeen Running Club

I’m struggling to recall when I joined Metro Aberdeen Running Club, but looking through the old race photos it appears it was in 2009. My first marathon was Amsterdam in October 2008 – no Metro vest.

My second, Lochaber in April 2010, complete with vest.

Anyway, that aside, I’ve very much enjoyed being a member of the club. Although I rarely go to training sessions now I do enjoy the informal Sunday runs, and love the camaraderie at races. Local races especially are amazing with so many runners in club colours and great support along the route.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of being Run Director at Aberdeen parkrun for the Metro volunteering day. As usual, the club turned out en masse to fill the roster and we had a sea of pacers from 18 – 34 minutes supporting others to achieve their goals.

This evening I joined my clubmates for a recce of our leg on the Coast 2 Coast relay. Running from Aberdeen beach all the way to Fort William, we’re taking on legs of various lengths. I have the pleasure of an easy leg: 11 miles from the outskirts of Aberdeen to Banchory during the evening. A far more appealing prospect than through the night and over tough terrain as some hardy souls will be doing!

Sunny evening on the old Deeside LineA wee stop to regroupAnother regroupFinal stop at ‘Sugar Daddy’ Brown’s car

It was a lovely evening, although somewhat hot and sunny for most of us. However, the chat passed the miles and before long we were on the outskirts of Banchory saying goodbye to Kirsty who had run from home and made up the distance, and then refuelling courtesy of Alan and his well stocked boot!

This is all being done to raise money for charity. The chosen charities between which the funds will be split are:

Braemar Mountain Rescue http://www.braemarmountainrescue.org.uk

and

Gathimba Edwards Foundation http://gathimbaedwardsfoundation.org

Here’s to a fine weather window across Scotland on 15th/16th June (although if we can be really cheeky, overcast would be good on our leg)!

https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/metrocoast2coast

Spectating at BHGE 10k

BHGE 10k is one of Aberdeen’s biggest races. As such it attracts lots of people from the local running community and is great fun for spectating! (Other races are available too: I’d recommend the Metro 10k and Dyce Half for starters)

Running a 10k didn’t fit with my marathon training so instead I opted to get my long run in yesterday, a lovely early start at 7 am, enabling me to finish my 20 miler at Aberdeen parkrun. I had the fun challenge of chasing the Tail Walker, and was very happy to meet Bryan and his son part way along the upper prom.

A very early night ensured I was fit and able for another early start. Picking up Alan, we headed down to Satrosphere, cheekily parking there as we intended to return there for coffee post-race. The Sand Dollar then provided a safe haven and breakfast of the BEST poached eggs and toast, while we chatted and spotted running friends both outside and in.

We reached the top of the Beach Boulevard just in time to see the Metro Aberdeen team photo. What a sight to behold – great to see so many of our clubmates out in force, and even better later on to see the ladies take a clean sweep of the top three places with Fiona Brian, Claire Bruce and Ginie Barrand claiming the top spots.

We watched the race get underway with the different waves of runners setting off, then heading back up to the top of the Boulevard to drive those around us mad with our enthusiastic cowbell ringing! Here we saw many familiar faces from both parkrun and Metro, alongside the lonely figure of Robbie Simpson who already had a clear lead.

Wishing to linger to see everyone but aware of the speed of the front runners, we decided to head over Broad Hill to our next vantage point where the ‘hill’ is. It’s not really a hill in the grand scheme of things; however, when you’re running hard it does take an effort and tests the legs as the final stretch is approached. On route we met Bill, a fellow parkrunner and the three of us hot footed it up Broad Hill. Just as well, as Robbie Simpson passed below as we reached the top. What an effort!

The spectators here were then treated to the medley of the cowbells as again we saw lots of familiar faces. What great fun it was! Time flew past as we watched runners of all abilities giving it their best. It was lovely to see so many friends and I was delighted to see my former work colleagues too – you were all great!

Finally we headed back to catch the prize giving and see many clubmates being rewarded across the categories. Huge congratulations to all the prize winners!

Thoroughly enjoyed my morning out. I will run the race again sometime; just not sure when!

Loch Leven Half Marathon: The First ‘18’ Miler of the Training Plan

I can’t quite remember why I signed up for Loch Leven Half Marathon; the only thing that springs to mind is that it was just to give me a race in the build up to my main goal, Fort William Marathon. It’s also a race I’ve only done once, way back in 2008 when I was training for my first marathon.

As it turned out, the Half fell on a weekend where my plan said I should run 18 miles. Those of you who know me will understand that I love a plan and will generally run the miles specified, unless of course I’m injured, so 18 miles it was. If you want to be really pedantic it turned out to be 17.96 miles, but I can live with that! I went a tiny bit over in other runs during the week so it balances out.

Pfitzinger & Douglas Advanced Marathoning

In light of the mileage I decided to make a night of it, staying in Kinross to ensure I would have fresh legs without the stress of a morning drive. While the Travelodge at the Kinross Services was not quite 5 star, it served my purpose well – cheap and quiet with a very comfortable bed, I zonked out early and fitted in 10 hours sleep! Despite this, I was still tempted to stay in bed for a few more hours.

Breakfast in my room was hearty – a porridge pot, banana, and pain au chocolat, washed down by peppermint tea and hot water. I’ve no idea after that why I was worried about having enough energy to make it round 18 miles! That’s probably enough to see several people round.

Setting off later than planned due to my bad time keeping – the more I have the worse I am, and I’d gotten engrossed in my book rather than heading for the shower – I made it to the Community Campus just before 10 am for registration. This turned out to be cutting it fine as the car park was hoaching so I ended up across the road at the medical centre, figuring it was Saturday and they’d be closed. I took advantage of running from here to registration, then having a minor panic as I had no idea where the start was and worried that I’d not find it when the time came if I went running due to my lack of directional sense. As it was, it was well signposted and there was no way you could miss it. I therefore headed along in that direction,  continuing round the town in a straight line from the start before doubling back, rather than turning right or left. I bumped into two Metro Aberdeen clubmates as I ran back along the main street, Helen and Sophie, and enjoyed some chat with them before continuing on. I timed it well for the start, arriving 10 minutes before the gun, which was perfect for joining the portaloo queue and getting to the line for the starter horn.

Conditions on the course were good. It was hot but a slight breeze gave a little cooling effect. I didn’t set out with a race plan, but the intention to run as I felt, my fear being that I’d run out of steam part way round if I pushed too hard. I necked a gel prior to the start – Torq are my current favourites; although they’re sweet they are very palatable, and so far haven’t been regurgitated unlike others I’ve tried!

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The miles passed steadily, I had a bit of chat with a few other runners, and before I knew it we were hitting the first incline of the day. There was nothing overly steep on the course, a few gentle undulations. The more I run the more I feel that this is no bad thing; it breaks the monotony. Another gel was taken at mile 5, just in case my hearty breakfast didn’t quite see me through.

It was only in mile 8 that I felt the effects of the earlier miles, my legs feeling very hard done by as I pushed up the incline. However, they eased as the terrain levelled out and I was able to push on again. From mile 10 it was mostly downhill and this was great! I enjoyed being able to relax and stretch out my legs, passing a few folks along the way. At this point there’s always the thought that it’s only a parkrun, something I have confidence that I can do no bother.

Continuing on, it wasn’t long before the cowbells at the top of the last very short wee slope up to the road were heard, shortly followed by the announcer at the finish. I love this – it’s a great feeling to have your name shouted as you approach the finish line, and alongside the wee groups of friendly spectators and cheery marshals this really did add to the race experience.

I was delighted to see my friend Hilary at the finish line, topping to say a brief hello before running off to beat the shower queues. It was very enjoyable thereafter, out in the sunshine watching others finish their runs. Metro Aberdeen did well – good times and happy runners – and it was lovely to share the race experience over lunch with Tim, Hilary’s husband, who had also run.

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Looking back at my previous run here, I took 10 minutes off my time so that was a boost. Added to that a lovely t-shirt that fits! What more can you ask for?!

Loch Leven Half Marathon

 

Cairn Bannoch and Carn an t-Sagairt Mor: A Blustery Day in the Cairngorms

Enjoying a ‘recovery’ week in my marathon training I eased back a little more than scheduled in order to enjoy some walking this week.

For a change we opted for something closer to home, two munros that Bruce has previously done but that were new for me and our walking companion, Bruce’s friend James. These two seem to favour an early start but I’d stipulated leaving no earlier than 8 am in order that I could enjoy something of a lie in for a change.

Heading for Braemar, we parked just a couple of miles along the road, and walked out towards Loch Callater and the Callater Bothy. Here we met the fine man that maintains the bothy and his lovely big, drooling dog. Enjoyed a blether with them before heading up the path towards Cairn an t-Sagairt Mor.

Starting out, the path that heads upwards just before Loch Callater

The path was very clear and we made decent progress along it. After our recent winter walking experiences it was a pleasure to have on lighter boots and to be able to see clearly what was underfoot! Checking the map, we made the decision to head for Cairn Bannoch, the furthest munro on our journey, returning via Carn an t-Sagairt Mor as it looked like an easy descent and avoided going up the rocky slope.

Heading towards Cairn Bannoch, our first summit of the day

Despite looking like a wee bit of a trek, it was surprisingly close and we popped up to the summit in quick time. I discovered the benefits of a sunhat are two-fold: the primary benefit being self explanatory – shading from the sun; the secondary benefit is that those of us with plentiful hair can see, as the wind blasted mane is kept in check to a greater degree than normal.

Summit Cairn, Cairn Bannoch

Stopping beyond the summit cairn we enjoyed our lunch out of the wind. It was here that walkers and runners converged with a variety of people having come in from a few directions. As always, it was good to engage in some hill chat.

We then retraced our steps and headed back towards Carn an t-Sagairt Mor. These munros are often done as part of a 5 munro day, the White Mounth munros, but having done Broad Cairn and Lochnagar on other occasions and not being a fan of very long days I was happy to miss these out. We were very fortunate, once again, to have clear views all around.

Looking down towards Dubh Loch

It didn’t take long at all before we were on the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, another ‘easy’ munro that has two summit cairns. Bruce advised that due to there being some debate as to which is the true summit we should visit them both. Given that they’re virtually within spitting distance of one another this did not prove too arduous a task.

 

The next step was to seek out the wreckage of the plane crash, one of the things that makes this munro unique. Alongside the fence posts on the cairn were bits of metal from the plane and it didn’t take us long to find the wing, casually tossed on the hillside. This has been there since 1956, and a full account of the incident can be viewed here: http://www.aircrashsites-scotland.co.uk/canberra_c-t-sagairt-mor01.htm

Aeroplane debris just off Carn an t-Sagairt Mor

It made me wonder how it must feel in that moment when you realise your plane is headed towards the mountain; probably best not to dwell on that.

It was very blustery here so we didn’t linger; there was also the thought of coffee and cake drawing us back to Braemar, so without further ado we turned towards the summit once again, then taking a route back towards Loch Callater. We quickly picked up a path and again made good time as we descended.

Views back to Loch Callater

The bothy was soon reached and it was then a few quick miles along the landrover track to return to the car park and subsequently to Braemar for the long awaited coffee and cake. A great end to a very enjoyable day!

Homeward bound, path back from Carn an t-Sagairt Mor