Long Run & Clachnaben Walk

After yesterday’s wind we woke to a calm day today. Unfortunately this also meant ground frost and disappointment for the golfer of the house (no winter eclectic competition due to winter greens). Thus, he fancied a hill day instead. The runner of the house had other ideas though, in the shape of the first 16 miler of the marathon plan.

Off I set, a fraction later than planned – the only thing I’m ever on time for is work – and the planned four miles before meeting the Social Sunday gang turned into three and a bit instead. I made it up to the gate and all the way back down to the car park unfortunately. Picking them up part way would have made things a little easier on the legs!

Alan had amassed a fair crowd, twenty runners he said. I was glad of not having to stop and just kept on back up the side of the golf course at Hazlehead. Chat was good, pace was comfortable, and before I knew it we were at the road crossing for Countesswells. I must apologise to my fellow social Sunday runners as this was where I became antisocial. We generally regroup at this point, but my logical head was thinking along the lines of, ‘if sixteen miles is the furthest you go on this plan and you want to stand on the start line believing you can run twenty six miles, you’d better just keep your body going!’ So I muttered something about being antisocial and headed on solo.

Twice around the lovely Kingshill, I felt comfortable in the pace and ran steady, finishing back at Hazlehead under the sixteen miles which meant bimbling up and down the reps lane briefly.

Timed well, the hard core of the Sunday gang (Graham, Alan and George) then arrived, having completed their miles, and the most important part of the run, coffee, was had in the warmth of Cafe Cognito alongside some other reprobates who had knocked out their miles and headed down a little earlier.

The legs felt good, thankfully, as the golfer of the house messaged suggesting an afternoon walk. Headed out to Clachnaben for a lovely walk in the afternoon sunshine.

The view towards Clachnaben

Prepared for snowy conditions we were pleasantly surprised to find the hill clear. A fairly gentle climb, the wind picked up towards the top necessitating both down jacket and shell. We encountered only one small section of hard packed snow / ice, and being rather precious about my legs at the moment the Kahtoola spikes went on for me; Bruce managed fine without his.

Soup at the top was tasty, turned around and headed back the way we’d come. Legs felt good; it was only when we stopped off at Asda to pick up pizza I felt the efforts of the day. Hopefully short lived, another week of the plan completed.

Ice, snow … the joys of winter training

This week the weather has been somewhat irritating. Being Winter ‘bad’ weather is to be expected; sadly it does not assist in the enjoyment of winter training. Making it through our long run last weekend, only having a short section of icy ground that was avoided by running along the verge, I felt positive about the week ahead.

However, by the time Monday came, the thaw and subsequent freeze saw pavements becoming a little more treacherous. I opted to run around the local playing fields in the early morning, a joy as the snow was crisp, and I had the pleasure of seeing two foxes and a deer. The day was rounded off with a sports massage and positive comments from my therapist about the healthy state of my legs!

Tuesday saw me head indoors to endure the treadmill. Another early morning run, surprisingly I got into my stride and enjoyed the session of reps by the end. Just as well! The icy thaw and freeze continued meaning Thursday’s tempo was also safer on the treadmill. I don’t think I’ll ever love it, but am growing fond enough of the ‘dreadmill’ to accept that if needs must I can in fact bang out the miles without dying of boredom.

Friday saw a significant thaw, albeit still cold, allowing me to run my easy miles around the park after work. I must have looked a real site. Having forgotten my gloves, I wore my leather driving gloves to keep my hands toasty. I’ve managed to lose one hand, thankfully opposites, from two pairs, so had one black and one brown. They did the job!

This morning I woke up with the intention of getting a long run done, hopefully permitting me to walk tomorrow. I was amazed to see the snow dinging down outside my window, a fair bit having fallen overnight. Snow is far more pleasurable for running; I’d even go so far as to say it’s fun! Yaktrax on, I opted for the beach promenade, running the Aberdeen parkrun route and chatting with friends along the way – thanks Bryan, Graham, Colin & Alan for helping me to pass the time!

Opting to continue running in order to get all my miles done before the end of parkrun, I continued to Footdee, then running a little further, back and forth along the lower prom to ensure I didn’t run into the onslaught of parkrunners at 9:30 am. Shockingly bad at maths on the run, I then ended up significantly behind them, even the Tail Walker having passed the stones by the time I reached them!

Running to start Aberdeen parkrun - late!

Running back to the start, I exchanged pleasantries with Nik as I turned and began my ‘official run’, advising that I’d probably just be on a freedom run due to by bad timekeeping! A little injection of pace saw me pleasantly surprised on two fronts – one that I was able to do it, and two, the tail walker was in sight! I managed to catch up by the Beach Ballroom and was then able to relax a little on the lower prom.

14 miles banked, another parkrun logged, what’s not to like?

Successfully caught the Tail Walker at Aberdeen parkrun

Marathon Training is Underway with the Hanson Method

Marathon training is now underway for London. After much deliberation, browsing of plans and reading reviews and blogs, I have opted to shake things up a little. I was a bit disappointed in my last marathon attempt, Fort William, finding myself a few minutes slower than the year before despite having completed a longer marathon training period. This may have been due to a lack of base training prior to commencing the plan, but regardless, I felt the need to do something different this time around. I’ve therefore opted to go with the Hanson Marathon Method instead:

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The key difference between this plan and anything I’ve done before is that the long run tops out at 16 miles. There is lots of explanation in the book as to why this is, backed up by solid research, but the simple way of describing it is that the consistent volume of running throughout the week leads to cumulative fatigue and the body therefore gets used to running on tired legs, particularly on the long run. Thus, the 16 miles should be more like the last 16 miles of the marathon rather than the first.

Having read a few posts in the LHR Running Community group on Facebook it appears that many runners do well off these plans. There are some that add a few miles onto their long runs in order to still their mind, not quite trusting that the plan will work its magic. Personally, I love a plan and will therefore commit to it and do as it says, barring illness or injury, otherwise I won’t know if it’s worked for me. My thinking is that if I’m going to fail dismally and end up walking for miles, where better to do it than London! I’ll be guaranteed to have people to chat to; the only downside, as described by a running buddy who had a howler of a race here, is that you also have to endure 10 miles of people encouraging you with shouts of, “you can do it!” while knowing that in actual fact you can’t! At least not today. NB: the experience of aforementioned friend was not in any way related to Hanson!

The first three weeks of training have gone well. I’ve been running 6 days a week with Pilates on my rest day. I have to say I’m quite enjoying knowing that I go for a run without having to think about weather etc; consistency is key and this is what I have to do. I’ve been slowly building up the mileage, starting with 41 miles in the first week, so far managing to hit my target paces. Another key feature of the plan is that you run the easy runs at a very comfortable pace, with three ‘SOS’ (Something of Substance) runs a week that include the long run. This means having to rein yourself in on shorter runs, but I’m led to believe that as time goes on you truly are grateful for the opportunity to run slowly.

I was extremely glad of the company of my Sunday running buddies from Metro today. The weather this morning was foul, at least when looking out the window, with rain and high winds. Thankfully, the rain of last night had cleared the ice from our regular forest trails, so we managed to seek sanctuary in the woods, enjoying shelter from the winds to quite some degree, and only once really getting the benefit of the stormy weather as the sleet pelted straight into our faces at the top of Kings Hill. Considering the time we were out for this was pretty good going!

Delighted to have banked the miles, today’s character building long run ended with coffee and chat; always a delight to warm up in the cosy cafe. Thanks run chums – I really do appreciate you!

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?

Sunday Fun: Duthie Junior parkrun is 1!

Back in August I had my first experience of Junior parkrun, having the privilege of being the Tail Walker and Run Report Writer. (The run report can be found here: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/duthie-juniors/news/2018/08/06/the-view-from-the-tail-5th-august-run-report-event-45-2/)

So, you can imagine my delight when my Aberdeen Parkrun buddy, Cynthia, asked if I’d be willing to be a Teletubby for the 1st birthday celebration. I was even more delighted when I found out that I could be Po, red being my favourite colour. Alongside Cynthia as Tinky Winky, we had Alison as Dipsy, and Carolyn, also celebrating her own birthday, as Lala. I won’t tell you how old she is as that would be wrong, but let’s just say she doesn’t look it!

Our mission was top secret, a surprise for the youngsters and Cynthia had plotted a cunning plan. After a rendezvous with the other volunteers we’d head up and around the flag pole hill to change before running down for the warm up. We weren’t sure of the reception we’d get as none of us were sure if modern day children would know who the Teletubbies were! This fear was swiftly allayed as a young ‘man’ appeared quietly stating, ‘Over the hills and far away, the Teletubbies come to play!’ as he made his way up to the flagpole.

There followed a little debate as to who should lead the charge before we headed down, waving to the gathering throng of children as we went. High fives and lots of ‘eh ohs’, Carolyn in particular excelling in this. Then it was into the warm up, led by Tammy. There’s a reason why she’s fast, and she led a warm up with great gusto that certainly got our heart rates up and the sweat pouring off us! By the end of our run we all had new found respect for anyone that runs a marathon in fancy dress!

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We agreed on our strategy for the run – we’d do one lap, then cheer everyone home. The youngsters set off, many at a very swift pace, and we bimbled around the park, high fiving the marshals and kids, and waving at everyone we met. This was lots of fun! By the time we were finishing our lap and drawing breath the front runners were coming in!

We clapped and cheered the junior runners home. Spider-Man had some impressive moves in the funnel, and quite a few others were in fancy dress for the birthday party. I decided to head back out, running the course in reverse, and had the pleasure of joining someone on her very first parkrun (accompanied by Dad, I hasten to add) as she’d just come of age for running.

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There was then an opportunity for the adults to run. This was a one-off and not endorsed by parkrun in any way. Tinky Winky and I lasted the two laps (and didn’t come last!) while Dipsy and Lala copped out after one. In her defence, Dipsy does have a gammy knee and probably shouldn’t be running at all at present. What amused us most was that Kyle Grieg was making a guest appearance in his Team GB kit as part of the #teamparkrun event. Having completed the run with the kids it appeared he was no match for Tinky Winky, dropping out near the bottom car park. Go Tinky Winky!! (Let’s not tell her I saw Kyle FLYING on the Deeside Line later in the morning; I honestly don’t think he’d have managed that pace had we not helped him warm up).

More photos, some lovely nibbles (Tinky Winky it seems is rather partial to fruit, while Po can’t resist a bit of cake), we finally had to part with our (sweaty) costumes. Huge thanks to Nik for lending them for the occasion.

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In true parkrun style the day finished in the cafe. Happy Birthday Duthie Juniors! What a great event and so lovely to see you reach the milestone in style! Happy Birthday to Carolyn too – enjoy the celebrations!!