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

 

Loving the trails again!

For a while after the marathon last July, and over the winter, I felt like I’d lost the love of running. Maybe as I didn’t have a goal? I think I need to have a purpose and something to strive for; although at times I do enjoy running for running’s sake, I’m definitely better when I’m focused.

Today I had to run 16 miles, my longest run in some time. It was scheduled to be a 6 mile warm up followed by 10 miles at marathon pace. I decided to break the rules!

Having run a ‘hard’ 15 miles last week I figured that counts as a marathon paced run. There’s also the challenge of figuring out what marathon pace actually is for Fort William. The undulating, multi-terrain course doesn’t lend itself to the calculators in the same way as a road run. Last year I trained to a notional road pace and did these MP runs on flat pavements figuring I’d get the benefits later in the year. This year I’m open to suggestion on what’s the best approach, today opting more to run by feel.

Setting off before 8 am, the plan being to catch the Metro social Sunday crew for coffee later, I headed from Hazlehead over to Countesswells. It was slightly chilly but the sun was out and I truly loved running today! I ran with a smile on my face, enjoying the freedom, the fresh air, and even the three loops of Kings Hill. I genuinely do believe that more daylight is making me feel much better on the whole.

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It was one of those great days when everything comes together and a true feeling of flow is achieved. Having just tackled the final slope, I was on the way back towards the car park when I stumbled upon the Sunday gang. Timing couldn’t have been better!

A very enjoyable end to the run with lots of chat for the last few miles and even company up and down the reps lane to round off the miles! Perfect 👌

Trac Run Balmoral 15 Mile Trail Race

This year I decided to enter the Balmoral 15 mile race on a whim as it fitted with my marathon plan (which specified a 15 mile long run). It’s always good to run somewhere different and given that I’ve only done this race once before, way back in 2012 when I found it very tough, I decided to give it a bash.

I’d planned a leisurely drive out to allow plenty of time for parking and walking to the start. Given the fine weather that we’ve had I had no doubts about clothing – shorts and vest all the way. Fine in principle, most unlike me though as I usually have various options packed just in case, ultimately opting for shorts and vest after dithering for considerable time, and I did start to question my decision as the temperature started to drop on the way out the road and a few spots of rain began to fall on the windscreen.

It proved to be chillier than expected while waiting for the start and I was therefore delighted to avail myself of the shelter offered by the Fit Like Joggers tent. Thanks David for the hospitality! This lovely group are going from strength to strength – it’s so good to see!

I also bumped into Kirsty, fellow Metro runner, who kindly gave me a spare pair of gloves to keep my hands warm until the start. Very much appreciated!

Trac 15 Mile Trail Race, Run Balmoral

Time passes quickly when chatting, and with a few fellow Metro runners around it didn’t feel long before the call up to the start line. As the toilet queue had taken longer than anticipated, this resulted in a quick dash to dump my bag at the FLJ tent with not much time to think about anything else – no bad thing as I still sometimes find myself on a start line wondering why I’m there.

Trac Balmoral 15 Mile Trail Race
Thanks to McGarva Photography for the photographs: http://www.pbase.com/mcgarva

The route heads straight out on a tarmac road, progressing to fire roads and land rover tracks. My overall aim was to run faster than my previous attempt (2:21) and ideally around 2:15. I’m not one for doing races as training runs – if the Metro vest has a number on it I’m racing! However, I had to be mindful of the fact that last time I ran 15 miles was, I think, in The Illuminator.

I’m a bit vague on the detail of the race, but I can recall loving it most of the way. The trails were good, the weather was kind with some sun now and then, and the wind didn’t have any adverse effect. For much of the run I was smiling, both inside and out.

The climb up towards Lochnagar was not the climb I experienced last time: more miles in the legs, consistency of training, and a lot more hill walking have contributed to better leg strength and overall endurance. I have to say, I was very surprised when I rounded a corner to find that I had done most of the ascent.

Strava Profile, Trac 15 Mile Trail Race, Run Balmoral

There was a wee bit of everything on the route: tarmac, fire roads, landrover tracks (stony and grassy), and a wee bit of single track to keep you on your toes.

The descent was fast. Having been disappointed at The Illuminator to lose quite a few places on the descent I’d determined to better my skills, the geek in me leading to YouTube, and viewing had suggested using the arms to balance and allowing gravity to do the work. I put this into practice, and combined with being able to see the trail ahead, better than in the dark, it did improve my descent times. Exchanging pleasantries with another runner I commented that we were now less than a parkrun from the finish.

As promised, there was then the sting in the tail at around 13 miles. I’m sure this wasn’t as hard as it felt, but the ascent here felt tough.

I was breathing hard, which I hadn’t been until this point, and it took all my determination to keep running;on the upside, there wasn’t a stream of people passing me so we must all have felt the same! Finally, a steep descent saw us drop back down to the tarmac road and from there the finish was in sight – a very welcome sight it was too!

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Lovely to receive the vocal Metro support on the approach to the finish – thank you! The announcement of all the runners crossing the line also adds to the special finish. Water, medal and t-shirt collected it was then time to congratulate my fellow runners and head back out to cheer others in.

Run Balmoral, 21st Event

Huge congratulations to everyone that completed the Devil of Deeside – two events on Saturday (5k & 10k) followed by the Duathalon & 15 mile run today (Sunday); you’re all superhuman!

Finally, thanks to everyone that helped to organise or volunteered today; your support and encouragement along the way was most welcome!

Official time: 2:01:35

Pretty delighted with that – thanks to my Dad for highlighting that this is in fact a PB! The rarity of the 15 mile race experience meant I’d not quite registered that! A great day out; hopefully I’ll Run Balmoral again before another six years passes.

Marathon Training Begins …

Having lacked focus since dropping out of Fraserburgh Half Marathon (in favour of going away to celebrate Mum’s 70th birthday), I decided that I needed a focus, and have therefore made the decision to follow an 18 week training plan in the lead up to Fort William Marathon.

The year got off to a reasonable start with steady miles, but for four weeks I’ve done little or nothing (3 weeks with 7 or 8 miles a week, then a complete rest last week). The upshot is that I am focused and raring to go, at least in my head. I’m hoping the body will follow suit shortly.

I love a plan and favour Pfitzinger and Douglas. I’ve used the plans from the P & D Advanced Marathoning book for my last two marathons and therefore decided to stick with it. This will be a new venture, following the 18 week, up to 55 miles, plan, as previously I’ve done 12 weeks or less. That’s been on top of decent base mileage though, something I feel I’m lacking this time.

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The first mesocycle is all about building endurance which is exactly what I need to do just now. Despite it being a shock to the system I have enjoyed my runs this week. As with all plans, it adapts to fit around life quite nicely, so I ended up doing two runs at the start of the week and two this weekend.

Monday night saw a lactate threshold session, with four of the miles at half marathon pace. Given that this pace was last used in February for Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half it was a bit of an effort to get there and hold it, but I did it. Tuesday saw a far more sedate affair with a lovely session on the Deeside line with Ali and Alan. It’s so good to be able to get back out in the evenings and see some daylight!

Yesterday was a recovery run. Conditions were perfect at Aberdeen parkrun and there were lots of personal bests recorded, including those of my sister and niece. Very well done to them both. I thoroughly enjoyed my run with them, although the younger of the two did try to escape, managing to get a few seconds clear and holding this to the finish, spurred on by her auntie hollering encouragement from behind along with an alert that her mum was starting to pick the pace up on the final stretch.

The legs felt a bit weary as we set off today from Hazlehead. There were five of us to begin, two intending on doing a shorter distance. Conditions were perfect, hardly a breath of wind, and the sun was shining brightly with a wee touch of ground frost remaining due to the clocks having changed. I love the peace and tranquility of running in this area, and it was particularly noticeable running round Kings Hill where the birds could be heard singing in the trees. As always, time passed quickly with the chat along the way, and before I knew it I’d been round Kings Hill twice and was on the way back to Hazlehead. As is traditional, the run ended with coffee, by this time we were a twosome, and had timed it to perfection, hitting Cognito at a quiet moment.

Therein ends Week 1: 34.88 miles and one session of Pilates. I’ve got the plan for Week 2 written through the diary but am not looking further ahead than that. I know what’s in store and will just take it week by week, run by run.

Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon: Running on ‘Home’ Turf

I love races in Moray as that’s the area that I still consider home, despite having now lived more than half my life in Aberdeen. Racing here also has the advantage of an easy start with the great hospitality provided by my Mum & Dad!

Arriving in Elgin late on Saturday afternoon the pampering started: cup of tea and a fine piece. This continued throughout the evening with dinner provided (a great pre-race fuelling meal of steak pie followed by sticky toffee pudding) and an evening cuppa. I then enjoyed an early night, in bed by 9:30 pm (awesome!) and a long sleep, rising at 7:30 am. Bliss!

Usual breakfast of porridge (today with dates) and a peppermint tea, I was fuelled and ready to go. Headed off to Lossiemouth (or Lossie as us locals know it) to collect my race number and exchange pleasantries with running friends before heading back home to be driven to the race by my ‘support crew’.

We arrived just behind the buses and I headed off for a short warm up before joining the toilet queue. Having misunderstood the location of the toilets I thought there was no queue so did my dynamic stretching routine as per Physio Helen’s instructions. I was then somewhat alarmed when I did find the loos as the queue was longer than anticipated! Apologies to Mum & Dad who essentially had the last of my clothes thrown at them as I shouted ‘Thanks’, they called ‘Good Luck and I ran for the start line.

The upside of this was that I had no time to have pre-race doubts creep in, although to be honest I was out for fun and really quite mindful of that. Training has been somewhat lax of late and I’ve not done a great deal of mileage with only the odd quality session thrown in. The plan was therefore to run a decent pace, hopefully not blow up, and establish a baseline for when marathon training starts.

With this in mind I wished the Metro folks around me a good run and we were off! The weather was kind to us – shorts and vest with gloves was more than adequate – and the only disappointment was the absence of last year’s tailwind.

A lovely course, the route follows the road along from Kinloss to the Maltings where a homely smell greeted me. Dad worked in Glenmoray as a stillman for many years so this smell reminds me of him, although I seem to recall being less fond of it when the car was stinking after a night shift. These early miles felt comfortable and my aim was to hold the pace throughout if possible, conscious that this may not work!

Before long we came to the first water station and the pace was knocked off briefly as I’m not a fan of water in cups. I find it hard to drink and often end up wearing it instead. I was not disappointed.

Coming up to Burghead the main ‘hill’ (it doesn’t really merit the term ‘hill’ but is steep in comparison with the rest of the course) put the legs to the test. I opted just to slow the pace down with a view to picking up on the flat again and this served me well. Along towards Hopeman the pavement was up and down with dropped kerbs which was a little frustrating. I therefore took my chances and ran on the road. Thankfully most drivers on the route were very courteous.

Leaving Hopeman, I was pleased to see Mum & Dad’s car. As I approached they rushed out to meet me, Dad timing his run perfectly to catch the gloves that I threw in his direction, shouting that they’d see me in Lossie.

The next part of the route sees a flat stretch and then the final wee drag before the 10 mile mark is reached, after which it’s all downhill or flat, and I had the happy thought of ‘its only a parkrun!’

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This thinking proved positive indeed and allowed me to push on, passing a few people along the way. Before I knew it I was heading towards the final turn in towards the end where I saw Mum & Dad again and received their cheers of support.

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I was absolutely delighted to finish in a time of 1:36:10! Not a PB, but knowing I’m not in PB shape, this really is a time that I’m happy with.

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As usual, a great post race feed, one of the joys of club races! Then ‘home’ for a relaxing bath followed by a great Sunday dinner! I may just move back!!

Huge thanks to the organisers, Moray Road Runners, for another great event and to all the volunteers who helped things run so smoothly.

Congratulations also to all the runners, especially my Metro teammates who did so well with prizes in various categories and quite a few PBs! Great to be part of such a club. Here’s to continued success this year!

Not the Planned Long Run

Usually I enjoy running long – not today though! It was one of those days that sadly didn’t work out the way we’d planned it. It felt long, it was slow, and it truly did feel like we’d been out forever by the end of it.

The plan had been to meet Ali at 8 am, run for an hour around Hazlehead, get 6 miles in the bank and then meet Marie. We’d then all head from Hazlehead over to Countesswells sharing lots of chat and putting the world to rights, all the while running effortlessly round the trails.

The reality, however, was quite different! Having been delighted to get up to find a clear windscreen, I then found myself at Hazlehead with a car park resembling a bottle! Neither Ali nor I are fans of ice running and this therefore got us off on the wrong foot from the outset. It appeared that we may be in luck as the start of the Hazlehead parkrun route was clear and only the usual open bits were iced over as we progressed up past the golf course. However, the gate to gate section at the top of Hazlehead was again very icy and at this point we decided we weren’t risking going any further. Resigning ourselves to going up and down several times over to clock up the miles if required, we retraced our steps.

An attempt to continue around the parkrun course was foiled by an icy path towards the ‘bus shelter’ at the top of the golf course. Running along the edge of the grass rethinking our plans we then went on to complete a loop of the Hazlehead housing estate. This saw us less than impressed, albeit perfectly timed, as we made it back up the reps lane to find not only Marie, but also Ruth and Tanja waiting to greet us.

Repeat: up the track to the gate; contemplate icy section – bail. Run back down. We then found ourselves heading out to Kingswells, along the infamously icy bike path (which wasn’t that bad today at all, just the odd patch, but having been diverted from the planned trails this was enough to add to the scunnered feelings). Back in the old road (now bus route), along Lang Stracht, through Woodend, and then down Springfield Road to finally get another trail section in, we then again found ourselves on the track up to the gate one last time.

A final up and down and up a bit / down a bit on the reps lane saw us complete the run. Don’t think we quite put the world to rights, but we did mump and moan quite a bit, wishing our lives away in favour of longer, lighter nights and better days to once again have the freedom of the Deeside line and the joy of not worrying about where you put your feet!

Not long now … these are the runs that make us! 16 miles, 2:44:19