2019 Smokies 10

I really enjoy the Smokies 10 ladies race and try to fit it into my race calendar. Last year it had to be rescheduled due to snow, thus I missed it due to a clash with another race and deferred to this year instead. A very different day, the temperature was mild (8C), but the wind was strong, gusting 45 mph if the Met Office are to be believed. Having felt at times like I was running into a wall I have no reason to doubt!

Registration was smooth, thankfully, as despite my best intentions I was cutting it fine for getting my two mile warm up in (alongside a toilet stop).

2019 Smokies 10

The real positive in the warm up was realising that it really wasn’t that cold. I was swithering as usual about clothing. I was definite on the shorts and vest. The decision was whether or not to wear arm warmers as well as gloves. Warming up made me realise the only risk of the wind was my vest blowing up and exposing more of me than I’d care to! No arm warmers, just gloves, decision made.

Lining up for the briefing was a strange experience. Usually you have to find your space and try to move forward a bit through the throngs of runners. Here, there was a big space in front of the line and nobody wanted to get too close. Chatting to a lady beside me we agreed that we should just move towards the line and others could get past us if needed. A short briefing and off we went.

2019 Smokies 10
Not loving the wind!

Rounding the first corner the wind hit! The runners had spread out a little, the leaders heading off and opening a gap, while a couple of groups gathered. I latched onto a group as I realised after being on my own that the gusts were too tough to battle alone. I did try to work with others here, at times moving towards the front and taking the lead before dropping back into the group again. It was amazing how tough it was; a gust could really slow you in your tracks! As a result, the pace was slower than I would have liked and I got the impression that was the case for others too.

Strava splits: Smokies 10

The first half of the run is slightly uphill with a couple of steeper inclines. I felt quite strong on the ups but was delighted to reach the point in the run where it starts to go down.

Smokies 10 Route

Obviously not as happy as the other ladies in the pack, as they all took off at some pace! It took me a moment to gather myself, get the legs into gear, and get going. When I did manage I felt strong and then enjoyed slowing picking people off one by one, targeting the runner in front of me until I caught them. I hope this is a sign of the marathon training going well as with an average of 50 miles a week for the last few weeks, and a solid week of training ahead of today, I’m happy with the paces I hit in this second half. There was definitely some wind assistance here too I think, at times a gust giving a push in the right direction.

Before long I could see the houses as we approached Arbroath again. This, and the 9 mile marker, gave me the impetus to dig deep again, picking up the pace for the final mile.

2019 Smokies 10

Having anticipated continuing along to the main entrance gate for the finish, I was pleasantly surprised to be pointed left at the near end of the campus. This proved a better finish, running down onto the playing field and along the grass, then up a steep little bank (only three steps, but I made a silent request to not be the one to slip and face plant) to the finish line. Thanks to Shona for the cheers! Much appreciated.

I was very happy with my finishing time. Having said yesterday I’d be disappointed if not sub-80, I did wonder if I’d manage given the wind on the way out. However, the end result was pleasing …

Smokies 10 Result

Goodie bag and t-shirt collected, and a brief chat with those who’d finished around me, I dutifully headed off to complete my prescribed cool down (another two miles). This did garner some odd looks as I ran on the opposite side of the road to avoid getting in the way.

Following a lovely hot shower I was rewarded with a long queue for refreshments but as always, the Arbroath Footers did us proud, and the baker’s sandwiches and cakes were second to none. Tesco did the healthy bit, providing some fruit. I’m saving my banana for my porridge in the morning!

Lovely to share the post run celebrations with friends from Jog Scotland Hazlehead and parkrun. Huge congratulations to Marion (Maz) for scoring a PB on her birthday! Way to go!

The upshot … this race never gets easier but is definitely worth attending. Always sells out and there’s good reason for that. I’ll definitely return (provided I get my entry in before it sells out!)

2019 Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon

I love this race. It’s my PB course. This year had to be different though. Training for a marathon, the training plan advised I run this at the sharp end of long run pace rather than as a race. Had I known I wouldn’t be racing in all honesty I’d probably not have entered as I’ve never believed you can put a number on and not get caught up in racing, especially when that number is 1!

Number 1: Metro Aberdeen do Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon

On the upside, running in Moray always means a visit ‘home’, and I thoroughly enjoyed my evening with Mum and Dad, as always being well fed, before a good night’s sleep alleviating the need for an early drive through.

Heading for registration, I met lots of familiar faces! Friends from Metro, Hazlehead Jog Scotland, Sunday running buddies, and even Orcadians. Fantastic seeing you all out in force!

I then headed back ‘home’ while the others waited to be bussed along to Kinloss, later chauffeured to the start by my folks, just in time to join the massive toilet queue and make it to the start.

More friendly faces were seen, both in the toilet queue and on the start line, and I enjoyed chatting to people along the way to Lossiemouth. I resisted the urge to get carried away at the beginning, good practice for the GFA start at London, I’m sure, as with lots of much faster people there I’m certain I’ll need to be at the back!

I enjoyed a chat with Elspeth and Peter – hope you made it onto the boat! These early miles felt like I was going quite slowly and I did have to use my watch to settle into the pace. However, settle I did, and the miles passed smoothly. Before I knew it we’d passed the maltings; the smell here always reminds me of childhood (not because my parents were partial to a drink, but because Dad was a Stillman)!

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On through the wooded section, the climb up from Burghead felt far more comfortable when running within my limits.

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Miles were ticking away nicely and I began to look forward to seeing my parents in Hopeman. Soon enough I spotted their car; as I approached they hopped out to greet me; many thanks to you both!

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A friendly toot as they diverted off the main road to get away from the runners, I chatted to others I met along the top road. This greatly assisted in whiling away the miles again. A small world, one of the ladies I chatted to recognised me from Fort William last year where we’d talked before the marathon. It was good to learn more about the world of ultra running – maybe one day.

After the final water station my competitive urge kicked in with a mile to go, and I enjoyed picking off a few runners on the last leg. The wind that had been slight seemed to pick up around the golf course. The final turn saw a tough finish into the headwind. Hats off to anyone who managed a PB! Not the easiest of days for it.

Tough finish into the wind at the 2019 Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon

Post run I was deposited at the community centre where, as always, the Moray Road Runners had laid on a great spread. Refuelled and refreshed, having caught up with a few friends, I stayed for the prize giving (congratulations Metro ladies & George), before heading ‘home’ for yet another feed!

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Overall time – 1:51:08, slower than usual for this course, but steady pacing and a strong run. A great day out again. Despite the wind, good conditions overall – sunshine and warmth in February. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Lumphanan Detox 10k: the baseline

With a total of 66.72 miles run in December (35.83 of which were during the last 8 days of the month) I was less than convinced about the prospect of running at all well at Lumphanan. However, with marathon training looming large on the horizon I felt I needed to get a baseline in order to start training realistically. This in mind, I set off on my wee jolly with friends, Ruth and Rosey.

I’ve done Lumphanan Detox a couple of times previously, on one occasion even running a PB, so am familiar with the course. There’s a tough start with a long hill but this then leads to some fast descent. While not being sure what I’d be capable of I did share with Ruth that I’d be pretty hacked off if I took over 50 minutes to finish. Please don’t think me elitist; while I appreciate that for many this would be a good time right now though that’s not what I’m shooting for and I want to give London (my one and only marathon this year due to the cancellation of Fort William) my best shot.

Arriving with loads of time, always good in my book as I like to faff, chat, warm up a little and go to the loo a few times, the registration hall was lovely and toasty. Conditions outside were pretty much perfect: 2C, clear skies, sunshine and no wind! Despite this it did feel pretty fresh and I debated both internally, and with anyone that would listen, about how many layers should be lost. Finally I decided to brave the chill and go for the vest and gloves (minus the base layer), agreeing with Ruth that wearing less clothes may make us run faster. Meanwhile due to other priorities today, Rosey sensibly opted for keeping warm and running easy, still banging out an impressive time and winning a prize in her age category!

Toilet queues were large just prior to the start with Ruth and I just making it around to the starting field in time to duck under the tape and join the line up a few seconds before the starting gun. It was at this point I realised my optimism about having a chip and starting after the gun would have been misplaced; we’d have been flattened by the onslaught had this happened!

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Quickly out of the village, the long slog up the hill begins. As always, some people take off a little over enthusiastically; I, meanwhile, prefer a more conservative start, especially with the knowledge of the hill climb ahead. Starting slowly, I managed to pass a few people, eventually the hill plateaued and the downhill began. This was a great boost as my legs had previously began to feel like I was carrying lead weights!

Running downhill gave me confidence; I felt good and was able to pick the pace up. I’ve not been running hard or fast for some time and it was good to know that I’ve not lost all speed.

Continuing on, we came to the farm track past the halfway point. This is another tough section of the course, although admittedly conditions here were excellent this year; very little mud and no puddles of significance. At the end of the track there’s a very short section where continued effort is required, mainly due to the change in terrain and the impact on tired legs, before heading back onto the road to descend towards Lumphanan once again.

The farm track at Lumphanan Detox 10k

This was where I felt the pace take it’s toll and I was grateful for the encouragement of a fellow runner who motivated me to pick up the pace again. He had the edge and left me further down the road, but I did really appreciate his words as they motivated me and got my legs going faster.

Lumphanan Detox 10k

The road to the village felt longer than it was. My legs were feeling relatively good but it was the breathing that was the challenge. By the time I rounded one of the final corners I was done and it was lovely to see clubmate Alison being a ‘race angel’, encouraging someone ahead of me and then shouting encouragement as I passed. The power of a friendly face!

Heading towards the finish area at Lumphanan Detox 10k

Running into the field I regrettably lost several places as I was pipped at the post by 3 others. On the upside, I knew I’d well and truly emptied the tank and had nothing left to give.

Final time: 45:18 chip time

Delighted with that. Well within the goal I’d set for myself and given the lack of focused training most certainly something on which to build.

Finally, great to see so many friends and club mates out today. Some cracking PBs and times today. Here’s to more to come in 2019!

A very Happy New Year to you all! What are your goals for this year?

Exciting Times!

I blogged a wee while back about having been accepted with a Good For Age time for the London Marathon in 2019. It’s been in the back of my mind as that’s the first training target for next year – keep plodding through the winter in order to hopefully make the start line in half decent shape, although the jury will remain out until we see what winter brings this year before an ‘A’goal marathon decision is made due to Fort William being on the summer hit list.

Anyway, today at lunchtime a colleague mentioned that the ballot results were out. I came home to this:

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I’ve entered the ballot on a few occasions previously (until 2013 when I missed the GFA time unknowingly by 12 seconds as I’d had no idea what the time was) but have had a few years free of disappointment while chasing other goals (such as a sub-20 minute 5k; I’ve done it once and fear it may never be repeated).

Accommodation for London is now booked, as are the flights, and all I need to do now is keep the consistent mileage going over the next few months until training begins in earnest.

Next target is Fraserburgh Half Marathon and then the Turkey Trot 10 mile race in Lossiemouth where the weather will hopefully be kind enough to allow me to bag my middle distance time for a Club Standard in my new age category (V45).

So, exciting times! I love a goal – who else needs a focus to get out there? And more to the point, who else is on the start line?

PIM Crathes Half Marathon

A comfortable time after Fort William, legs suitably recovered, I decided to try Crathes Half. As per last year I didn’t really know what I could achieve, but having turned 45 earlier this month my goal was to get sub 1:41 in the hope that I’ll follow up later in the year with a time to secure my 2nd club standard in this new age bracket. The short distance is in the bag already.

I happily accepted a lift out with clubmate Mike, back from Gran Canaria to run a few races. Thankfully I’d managed to secure his entry after a minor panic last weekend (I had one job!) where the race appeared to have closed before I got his entry confirmed! It appears it was just a glitch in the website and they went on to extend entries for a further few days.

The Metro contingent were out in force today and we met lots of clubmates on arrival, an impressive gathering given all the other runs taking place this weekend!

Metro Aberdeen Running Club do Crathes Half Marathon
The motley crew from Metro Aberdeen – no idea how so many of us managed to avoid looking at the camera!

While others headed off for a warm up, I opted for my usual pre-race routine of jogging to the toilets and joining the revolving queue! It’s amazing how well hydrated you suddenly feel before a race!

Joining the masses on the start line it wasn’t long before the off. I’ll be honest … I found the start somewhat frustrating as it was slow and I had to weave around quite a few people before I could properly get into my stride. Maybe not such a bad thing though all things considered as it is initially up as you leave the castle behind.

Determined not to let my watch dictate the pace I decided to run by feel, occasionally checking that I wasn’t going ridiculously fast as that’s always a danger early on. It felt good to be racing again. I’d been concerned that my speed had dropped in the run up to the marathon so it was good to find that a fast (for me) pace felt okay.

The second mile was downhill and this saw me running faster and passing a few people. Retrospectively, maybe the fast miles two and three were what led to the fatigue later, but at the time it felt good. Hindsight is a great thing in every aspect of life!

The sea of runners gave me something to aim for and I reeled in the odd one here and there, continuing to move steadily through the field. We headed off-road at mile 6 and with the slight descent I loved this bit, picking up pace and feeling like I was storming along. I’d happily run on terrain like that all day!

Going back onto the road was tough and my legs objected slightly, although nowhere nearly as bad as at Dyce Half. It became a bit of a slog here. I’d pushed hard and I still had five miles to go. I reminded myself that in a marathon I’d feel this way and the feeling would pass, doing a quick body scan to try relaxing the tension and focus on what felt good.

The downhill finally returned at mile 10 but I was a little more cautious, wanting to save some energy for the end recalling it being tough in the last mile. My pace was dropping and I was beginning to hurt, but took faith in the knowledge that there was less than a parkrun to go.

The final two miles were hard! My legs were heavy, breathing was not quite so relaxed and I just wanted it to be over! At some point around here I passed Graham who’s usually ahead of me but is battling an injury. Huge thanks to him for the encouragement. He told me there was a prize with my name on it and this just gave me the extra motivation needed to keep pushing.

There was another female, Kay, just ahead of me and I pushed her a bit to see what she had left in the tank. She responded by picking up pace again. This happened another couple of times before I finally caught and went past her. She very sportingly said, ‘well done Clare.’ Despite that I didn’t feel I could relax too much as I was pretty sure she’d be back before long.

I was delighted to finally re-enter the grounds of Crathes Castle knowing that I was on the home straight. I managed to pick up the pace, spurred on by the crowd support (thank you!) and the downhill finish, and was delighted to cross the line with a chip time of 1:36:55. The downside was that it was slightly slower than last year; the upside being that I was first Female Veteran.

Great running by so many people with Metro clubmate Kyle taking 1st prize and setting a new course record. There was also a prize in the Veteran male category for Jamie, with Ali taking the first female prize.

PIM Crathes Half Marathon Medal & 1st Female Veteran Quaich

Great to catch up with everyone post race. Most were happy with their times; a few disappointed. You know who you are: those who are poorly will come back stronger with a bit of rest and recovery, and those who ran well but are unhappy are their own worst critics and need to practise a little self-kindness! Listen to my Mum – she’s always said you can only do your best, and each of us did the best that we could today.

Onwards and upwards, next target for me is Fraserburgh. What about you?

Setting the bar: Aberdeen parkrun

It’s a run, not a race! However, it’s also a time trial if you want it to be. About to embark on a 12 week training plan to try and pick up some speed again I decided I’d run parkrun hard today. I’ll be honest – I’d hoped I would manage to run 21 minutes (or even 20:59); the reality is that I’m not in shape for that at present, finishing in 21:59 instead.

Despite that it was a good morning out (as always)! Meeting the 8:30 crew, on this occasion that was Alan only as I was a few minutes late and he waited for me, we caught up with the others on the lower prom. This is a fine wee recce to get the legs warmed up and assess the conditions on the course. Today it was very mild but there was quite a breeze to run into on the first half. Turning onto the lower prom at the halfway point it was still, sadly lacking a tailwind though.

No excuses today – just lacking the speedwork to run a fast (for me) 5k at present. It did amuse me somewhat how hard it felt to try and sustain the pace, particularly as people stormed past me on the last few hundred metres (Graham, Craig and Alastair to name but a few – look out guys; you’ve now got targets on your backs!)

Malcolm, one of our regular runners celebrated 150 runs today and kindly bought the post-run coffees at Satrosphere Cafe. Much appreciated and very generous indeed!

So, the goals have now been updated. I need motivation beyond the love of running to get out:

Pick up speed and aim to get under 21 mins again;
Run some faster times to half marathon distance by the end of the year.

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And the long term:
Get to the starting line of the London Marathon next year;
Run Fort William Marathon for the third time next July.

Virgin London Marathon Good for Age Confirmation

Racing for the fun of it: Peace Coaches Metro Dyce Half Marathon

The Metro Dyce Half Marathon (alongside the Metro Beach 10k in June) being our club’s bread and butter, it’s encouraged that we either run or help out. I’d swithered as to which was the best option but having had a few enjoyable recovery runs since the marathon I made the decision mid-week to throw my hat in the ring and run. I’d never intended to race as I wasn’t sure how recovered my legs were but there’s this thing of putting on the Metro vest and something happening in my mind/body; I just can’t help but put my race head on and try harder.

Not the best preparation, I decided to make fudge yesterday for the post-run spread. I’ve got this down to a fine art so that was no bother. The bit I struggled with was the white chocolate peanut butter balls. The recipe made it sound so easy! The recipe, however, is from a charity cookbook and I wonder if the lady who wrote it down missed out an ingredient! There was no way I was rolling anything into balls! A few more tablespoons of peanut butter and a splash or two of water later I finally managed. A couple of extra hours on my feet standing in the kitchen, plans to do my ironing, hoover etc were put to one side as by this point said kitchen looked a little like it had exploded!

However, the morning of my ‘fun’ run arrived and for once I was outside and ready when Alan stopped off to pick me up. He was most impressed. This was a first, and quite possibly a last too, hence it being noteworthy. We headed over to Dyce and were greeted by various friendly faces directing us to the parking area. More friendly faces appeared in the car park in the form of clubmates and parkrunners. Always a joy to see friends at races.

Heading for registration we got our numbers on and I secured the cooler weather by putting on my suncream. Having vitiligo I can never be too careful and have maintained my pale complexion well despite the heat this summer.

Lots of Metro vests were dotted around the registration point and outside warming up. Eventually I decided I probably should have some semblance of a warm up, aside from working my jaws with all the chat, and headed out to do some dynamic stretching (hope you’re reading this Helen!) and two laps of the field to get my legs moving. Weirdly, my legs felt very leaden and heavy at this point. Figured it didn’t matter as the plan had always been to run the first couple of miles and then drop back if need be.

Lining up alongside Alan I was a little concerned that we were awfully far forward again! It’s funny how at some races nobody wants to get too close to the start while at others you need to work your way through the throngs. A quick race briefing followed and then we were off, round the field and out onto the old Formantine and Buchan railway line. The first part of the route is on tarmac pavement and is slightly downhill. It’s a fast start and we went quicker than planned; always a danger doing this on a longer run as it usually means you suffer later! I was conscious of not wishing to slow down people behind us and having felt someone clip my forefoot when it was behind me I ducked in ahead of Alan as there was no space to drop back due to the proximity of others.

The changes to the route with the roadworks were not too traumatic and I settled into my run, the earlier leg heaviness having left me. I was a little concerned that I was maybe going a little too fast but figured it didn’t matter at the end of the day. This run was not about chasing times; instead, running as I felt and most importantly enjoying it.

Settling into the run, it wasn’t long before the first minor road crossing was reached and again, it was great to see friendly faces here and receive support – thank you! The water station was manned by clubmates and again, plenty of encouragement was shouted which was very much appreciated.

Further along I appeared to cause hilarity at the second water station by shouting a cheery, ‘Good morning!’ From the laughter that ensued I’m guessing that’s not up there in the top 10 high frequency exchanges. This party station was staffed by the lovely Fit Like Joggers and Metro alike. It was great to see the purple FLJ gazebo and hear their music as I approached.

Further along I started to see the return of the first runners. The lead runner was way out in front along with Roy on lead bike, and I really appreciated the vocal support offered by him (Roy that is)! The faster folks then started coming pretty quickly with Claire leading up the ladies. I’m sure I’ve said it before but I do love an out and back course. I really enjoy seeing the speedier people and marvelling at the apparent ease of their running.

The miles ticking away nicely and legs feeling pretty good, I now figured I should just keep on going as I was to get to halfway. Once again it was lovely to see a familiar face, Dino snapping away at the halfway turn.

Peace Coaches Metro Dyce Half Marathon
Thanks to Dino Roussais for the halfway turn photo!

From here I resolved to try and pick the pace up further knowing that the course is gradually downhill. I slowly started picking off the odd runner as I went. One or two commented that I’d found a new gear, my response being that I had no idea how long it’d last! Thankfully I was able to continue strongly, passing one or two others as I did so. Reaching the road crossing again I was very grateful to the marshals as I timed it to perfection to coincide with a taxi coming down the road. Thankfully the driver opted to be courteous and hold back, allowing me to cross without breaking my stride. I may not have been able to get up the slope at the other side had I stopped.

Not much further along I started to see the buildings on the outskirts of Dyce and knew by both this and my watch that I was nearly ‘home’. I was prepared for the slight incline to the finish, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the transition from trail to tarmac. I couldn’t believe how this affected my legs, honestly feeling like my shoes were stuck to the pavement as I tried to lift my feet on every stride. Fortunately this was relatively short-lived, although it felt like an eternity, and it wasn’t long before I reached the field in which the run finishes. A quick skirt around the perimeter led me to the finish with shouts and cheers of encouragement along the way. I was most delighted to receive my medal, water and banana, and even a can of beer.

Crashing out on the grass alongside clubmates, we exchanged stories of how our runs had panned out, cheering others in, before retreating to the Scout Hut for a fine spread and lots more chat. The prize giving later took place. Overall winners were Jason Kelly (also of Stonehaven) and Claire Bruce of Metro Aberdeen who ran another brilliant time. Meanwhile, I was both surprised and delighted to find that I’d ranked as 3rd Female Veteran, following behind the every awesome Hazel Wyness of Metro Aberdeen in 1st place and Ann Gallon of Stonehaven in 2nd. Full results are available here: http://www.metroaberdeen.co.uk

As always, thanks to the organisers and volunteers for doing our club proud!