Too many holidays and a change of heart.

I’ve had a fantastic summer so far. 3 weeks of sailing around the Baltic sea with Craig and my family and managing to visit Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden, as well as many islands in between in that time….I’ve now come back to reality with a bump.

My plans for the next few weeks were originally:
– Get back to training asap after doing very little while away
– Run the Highland Perthshire marathon in September as a long training run
– Try and beat my PB at the Stirling 10K (which would mean a PB in every distance this year!)
– Run the Clyde Stride 40 mile ultra at the end of September.

However, for a while now I’ve not been feeling the drive to run the Clyde Stride. When I think about how excited I was before Glen Ogle or Strathearn, I realise I’m not getting the same feeling about this race. Whether it’s because I haven’t managed to go and run any of the route in advance or because I’ve done very few miles in the past month, I just wasn’t looking forward to it. So instead of running a race I wasn’t particularly feeling up for, I decided (with very little persuasion from Jemma!) to sign up for the Loch Ness marathon and see if I can break the elusive 4 hour barrier time before the year is out.

Not really anywhere to run out here....
Not really anywhere to run out here….

I’m much more excited about running Loch Ness again as now I know the course and I know where the hills are. I know not to go out too fast on the first downhill section and also not the give up on the nasty hill around 19 miles in. I know to take more gels and carry some paracetamol in case my knee starts to hurt again. Running a marathon in under 4 hours is my ultimate goal for the rest of this year. After taking 12 minutes off my time at the tricky Strathearn marathon, I feel I should be more than capable of it on this course, but after swanning around on holiday for weeks, has all my hard work and training taken a back seat?

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With 4 weeks of hard work ahead of me, it’s time to really put some effort in.

Strathearn Marathon – RACE REPORT

THE STRATHEARN MARATHON 2014

Official time: 4 hours 4 minutes and 05 seconds

Overall: 87 out of 150

Medal : No, but we did get a super technical tshirt

When Jemma signed up for this race last year, I was at the stage where I thought I’d never be able to run a marathon. I was just about comfortable with half marathons and I had just joined my running club with the main aim being to build my confidence in running and improve my speed over shorter distances.

Fast forward a year and many, many, many miles later (including a marathon and an ultra marathon!) and I was signing up for the Strathearn marathon without a second thought. After having to pull out of the Lochaber marathon in April I was keen to make this my big race of the year. My plan wasn’t to race it but more to get out and run it comfortably and get through without the pain and fatigue I’d felt at Loch Ness last September. If I got a good time then it’d be a bonus, but being able to drive home afterwards was my main goal!!

Race morning came and I was up bright and early to have a big breakfast of porridge, an electrolyte drink and some coffee. I took my dog up to the park for a short walk and to try and calm my pre-race nerves before I picked Catriona up at 7.15am. Just before I left I checked the forecast and with promises of “scattered showers, overcast skies and light winds” I slathered a little sunscreen on my shoulders and then didn’t give it a second thought. First mistake of the day…

The race begins at Cultybraggan camp which was first used as a prisoner of war camp during World War 2 and then later as an army training area. These days it’s owned by the Comrie Development trust and is used for a variety of projects. We met up with our team mates, registered and plodded about saying hello to various people for the next half an hour. At about 8:20am we decided to get in the toilet queue and then make our last-minute preparations for the race. I’d read on the race brief email that there was a tap available on the campsite but no one seemed to know where it was and then spent a stressful few minutes panicking I had no water and trying to find one! I eventually found it, got my bottles sorted and then bumped into Rachel who had signed up just a few days before and was using it as her last long training run before a big race in a few weeks time. By this point the sun had really come out and I cursed myself for lending my husband Craig my sunglasses to take away on his bands tour with him!

Everybody in!!
Everybody in!!

We all gathered for a quick race briefing just before 9am and then with a count down from 3, the 190 or so runners were off on our 26.2 miles journey around this beautiful part of the country. First off was a lap of the campsite and then it was out onto a minor road for the first 4 miles of the race. And they were pretty much all up hill – superb! You don’t join the Wee County Harriers to run on flat surfaces I can tell you and straight away I could feel that my training was going to pay off. This was by no means and easy course!

First lap thumbs up and the last decent picture of me en route!!
First lap thumbs up and the last decent picture of me en route!! Photo – Gordon Donnachie
After the first set of hills and glad to be on the flat! Photo - Gordon Donnachie
After the first set of hills and glad to be on the flat! Photo – Gordon Donnachie

I settled into a comfortable pace and enjoyed the scenic landscape as I plodded on up the first set of hills. About 5 miles in the road evened out a bit and then from 7 miles there was a lovely gentle downhill section that lasted a few miles. At 10 and bit miles there was the first of the personalised water bottle stations and having guzzled most of what I had on me already, I swapped the bottle I had on me for another one full of tasty electrolyte water. We took a sharp turn out onto the main road for just over a mile and then in the distance I could see our next obstacle – the old Roman road. The term ‘steep’ would be an understatement, I couldn’t see the top of it! I slowed my pace right down and power walked up remembering how I had run up hills early on at Loch Ness last year and majorly regretted it about 20 miles in. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again and as it was only getting hotter and hotter I could see things getting messy further on in the race if I didn’t take things easy now.

Enjoying a slight downhill section after the horrific hot climb.
Enjoying a slight downhill section after the horrific hot climb. Photo – Clark Hamilton

By now I was really looking forward to the next water station so I could grab a bottle of plain water. Mainly to tip over my head but also so I could wash the taste of electrolyte water away. Note to self – the tropical one was not something I looked forward to drinking. I’ll stick to summer fruits in the future! The miles ticked by and I was feeling pretty fresh – slowing right down on the up hill sections and taking my time on the down hills so as not to ruin my quads. The rain came on at around 17 miles and it was a welcome and refreshing change however it didn’t seem to know which way it was falling and came down in all directions. Makes running exciting I can tell you! We came into Crieff just after the 18 mile mark and ahead was the second of the two personalised water bottle stations. I was glad to pick up another bottle with a different flavour in it and I drank hungrily from it. Coming out of Crieff we were met with yet another hill but this one had Stewart from the Wee County Harriers on it who was cheering us round, catching us at various stages of the course and taking pictures of our deteriorating performance! There was no way I was walking this one and kept the momentum going, powering straight to the top. By now my feet were starting to hurt and I had a slight pain between my shoulder blades but it was more annoying than sore. I was this far into the race and things were feeling pretty good, what was going on?!

The next few miles were a bit undulating and every time I saw a hill I made myself run up it and then slow down on the decline until I got my heart rate down a bit. At one point I slowed to a walk to take a drink and then struggled to get my bottle back in my belt. The guy behind me caught up, slowed to a walk to help me and then said “come on!” which got me back to a run , so whoever you are thanks so much for that! Not sure how much longer I would have walked had it not been for that. At 23 miles I got into a bit of a negative mind-set and started feeling a bit light-headed and sick but there on the horizon was another water station and some very, very cheery marshals who were just SO encouraging! The Strathearn Harriers are our neighbouring club so all the Wee County Harriers got extra amazing shout outs and to the lady who cheered my on going by 24 miles and told me I was looking amazing, Thank you so much! I definitely didn’t feel it at that point but you definitely spurred me on just that little bit further. And then the guy at 25 miles who told me my socks were amazing – you also pushed me on just that little but more. At this point every single cheer and shout helped, especially the little kid in Comrie who was cheering us all on and telling us we were nearly there – what a star! The last mile is along the road which runs right beside the Camp and you can see the runners entering the camp and the announcer shouting everyone’s name as they cross the line. So very, very close…

I glanced at my watch for the first time in miles. I knew that sub 4 was well out of the picture but coming along the last road I noticed my watch had just ticked over 4 hours!! I pushed through, back into the camp and onto the finishers straight to hear my name being called over the tannoy and my club mates cheering me on. I grinned and blasted over the finish line in just over 4 hours and 4 minutes. That’s just over 12 minutes off my personal best – how did that happen? I collapsed on the grass and tried to stop my legs from shaking and once I’d recovered I went to congratulate all my friends and cheer everyone else in.

First smile for miles. Clock watching with glee!
First smile for miles. Clock watching with glee!

This marathon was wonderful and I’ll definitely be back next year for another shot. The organisation, marshals, volunteers, set up, setting….. it was all perfect.I much prefer this type of race to the bigger commercial ones and with it being so close, I just can’t refuse.
My only regret is that I didn’t put sun screen on my face. Rocking the tomato look at work today got a few giggles from the kids!

Bring on the sub 4….

Post run celebration with Catriona.
Post run celebration with Catriona.

The Mull of Kintyre Half Marathon 2014 – RACE REPORT

THE MULL OF KINTYRE HALF MARATHON 2014

Official time: 1 hour 56 minutes and 07 seconds

Overall: 88 out of 211

Category: 17th out of 40

Medal : Yes

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This race had been a Christmas present from Jemma and something I had been looking forward to for months. The day before the race Jemma and I decided to go and stay with my parents who were up at the boat in Loch Melfort. This at least took some of the pressure off for race morning although we’d still have an hour and a half to travel from there. We settled in for the night and enjoyed a lovely dinner and a few bottles of fizz. As you do the night before a serious race of course…

Race day came and when I woke up at stupid o’clock to see the rain pelting off the deck, I couldn’t think of anything less I wanted to do than race. With fingers crossed for better weather, we had our breakfast and a few cups of coffee then said our goodbyes and got on the road down to Campbeltown. With window wipers on full blast and windows steaming up every 2 minutes, I tried to lighten my mood but running in heavy rain is something I just cannot stand. Drizzle is fine. Or for a short distance heavy rain is fine. But 13 miles in the pouring rain was something I could live without. The journey down is a beautiful one, but when you’re stuck behind a couple of patient transport buses and with no possibility of overtaking it can get slightly tedious…

We arrived in Campbeltown with plenty of time to spare and set about getting our race numbers and finding a shop to buy some juice. By now the rain had stopped and it was starting to brighten up and as if by magic, so did my mood! Race numbers and time chips in place, we were ready for action! We’d decided months ago that this wasn’t going to be a race for a time by any means. This was one of the most beautiful places in the UK and there was no way I going to sprint around with my head down and miss all the beautiful views. Plus I was still feeling tired from giving it my all at Loch Leven a few weeks before, I needed time to recharge!

Pre race aerobics. Why on earth not?!
Pre race aerobics. Why on earth not?!
Serious pre race preparation going on here....
Serious pre race preparation going on here….

15 minutes or so before the race started everyone gathered in a field and began a pre-race aerobics workout along with a very energetic instructor up on a stage. Jemma and I bopped about outside the pen and threw a few shapes of our own. Why on earth not?! The sun was now out and all the serious runner types were mingling around the start line looking on with interesting facial expressions. Just before 10:30am everyone else joined them and with a count down of 3-2-1… we were off! The 10k and half marathon both started at the same time this year and just over half a mile in the 10k runners took a sharp left and left us half marathon runners climbing the long and gradual ascent out of Campbeltown and onto the beautifully scenic roads out to Machrihanish.

Photographer = spotted!  Photo - West Coast Photos
Photographer = spotted!
Photo – West Coast Photos

Miles 1-3 were along the main road out of Campbeltown before turning onto a side road and heading up another incline. We had said we were going to run about 8:30-9 minute miles and enjoy having a plod, but straight away we found ourselves galloping along at 8 minute miles and several times had to slow ourselves down quite a bit. Heading up to Machrihanish there was bit of a nasty hill so I put my head down and pushed up to the top. When I got to 5 miles I turned to grin at Jemma as I had noticed her shadow sitting on my shoulder the whole way up the hill, only to met with someone else. Sorry to the random who I was manically smiling at, I was just happy to be at the top of the hill!! Onwards, and mile 5 took us onto the golf course, up and over the dunes and then down onto the beach. Wow. It was just amazingly beautiful!

Photo - Kintyre Forum
Photo – Kintyre Forum

Running on sand = difficult! But this was perfect practice for the Black Rock 5 race which I am running again in 2 weeks. A brilliant race in Kinghorn in Fife and this year there are over 1000 people doing it. I can’t wait!
The beach section was an out and back loop of about a mile in total and on the way back I clocked Jemma and gave her a whoop and a high-five. We were both having so much fun!! I leapt across a river, ploughed through the soft sand and back up the bridge to the dunes. This section was really tough and my hamstrings were starting to feel like they had taken a beating. Finally we were back on the road and I decided now would be a good time to take a gel and some water as it had suddenly got really, really sunny! The route followed the same road back for another mile and then took a sharp left and onto a different yet just as undulating road back to Campbeltown. About 10 miles in I felt my pace really slow and I got really thirsty. Just how hot was it now? The last few miles saw us rejoin the main road and enter Campbeltown from a different direction and thankfully on a descent. By now I was really sore and tired and just ready to finish. Coming round one of the final bends I took my earphones out and dropped one of the covers so had to do a quick about turn to scoop it up, nearly tripping up the poor knackered man behind me. I couldn’t say sorry enough but he just laughed thankfully! Coming up to 13 miles the crowds thickened and everyone was cheering us in. The announcer at the finish line was clocking everyone’s numbers and shouting out their name as they came across the line which was just a lovely way to finish!

Photo - West Coast Photos
Photo – West Coast Photos

I was given my beautiful medal, t-shirt and goody bag and stumbled round to find some water. By now it was roasting and my shoulders were quite sunburnt. What a contrast from a few hours ago! I stood by the finisher chute to shout Jemma in and then we both collapsed on the grass for a few minutes to compose ourselves.
On the way home we stopped to take a few photos on Westport beach – another stunning beach on the west of the Mull of Kintyre. Such a beautiful place and somewhere I hope to visit again in the future.

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This was an absolutely stunning race that I hope to do again in the future, if even just to visit the beaches again! The goody bag was fantastic and I somehow ended up with 2 buffs in my bag. Don’t worry, they’ll get good use this winter!!

Thanks to everyone who helps make this race such a success and one of the most popular year after year. The medals are amazing. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next year!!

Post race sweatyness. Lovely!
Post race sweatyness. Lovely!
Loving my t-shirt!
Loving my t-shirt!

Race route photos from

The Loch Leven Half Marathon 2014 – RACE REPORT

LOCH LEVEN HALF MARATHON 2014

Official time: 1 hour 46 minutes and 28 seconds

Overall: 213 out of 532

Category: 23rd out of 102

Medal : Yes

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The Loch Leven Half Marathon was my first proper race of the year. After bouncing back following a course of iron tablets and a few months of amazing training, I was more than ready for it. With my ‘A’ race of the year being the Strathearn marathon in June I felt this was the perfect distance to stretch the legs at a good pace and see how I was feeling after 13.1 miles of pushing myself.

Kirsty came to pick me up on the Saturday morning and along with Susan and Andy, we made our way through to Kinross for race registration. We got there with plenty of time to spare, found parking easily and met up with the rest of our club mates at the school campus. Everyone has been training extra hard over the past few months for the marathon so all of us were feeling a bit sluggish and heavy and had the same outlook of ‘go out and see how we feel along the way’. Numbers on, final kit choice changes made and countless toilet visits later, we left the school campus and made our way a mile or so along the road to the starting area. The nerves were really starting to kick in. Even though my training had been going really well up until now and I had been feeling great, I still wasn’t convinced I’d be able to perform well on the day. But as always, at this point I could do no more and there was only one thing I could try and do – go out and fake it til I make it.

We all wished each other good luck, squished in for a few “welfies” (aka – ‘wee county harrier selfies’!) and before we knew it the horn had sounded and we were off! I got a pretty good start having chosen to set off at the side of the pack and passed by a few people who were all running side by side and taking up the majority of the road, until I nearly rear ended a guy who just stopped dead in front of everyone to fix his lace. My race was nearly over before it had even started! However, once were out of the starting lane and out onto the main road the pack spread out straight away and the race had properly begun. Here goes nothing!!

What a gorgeous bunch we really are!
What a gorgeous bunch we really are!

The race route follows the main road out of Kinross for 2 miles and then turns on to a quieter road that runs along beside Loch Leven. Even though there were countless signs advising drivers to slow down and that there was a race on, impatient drivers who couldn’t slow down or wait just a few more minutes were whizzing along beside us and cutting it very fine along side some runners. At one point later in the race I actually got knocked off balance by a gust of wind from a bus cutting it tightly around me as it overtook, but I’m sure the less said about that the better!

Runners taking over the road on the way out of Kinross. As we do :)
Runners taking over the road on the way out of Kinross. As we do 🙂

The first few miles flew by. I was trying not to look at my watch and just run my race comfortably, but I couldn’t help it and every time it caught my eye I was seeing 7:xx. So that was it, I was running a good race so far so I thought I might as well see how long I could keep it up. What’s the worst that could happen? I’d get to half way and feel a bit tired and then have to pull my pace back a bit? If so, then so be it. For now, the race was on!

    First half splits – 7:52, 7:40, 7:51, 7:58, 8:03, 8:00, 8:01

I had been pre- warned that there was a pretty nasty hill at about 8 miles just as you come into Scotlandwell, so with this in mind I downed a gel at about 6.5 miles and prepared for the worst. I somehow sailed up the hill, ticking off people one by one as I went. Where was this power coming from?! I was deep in the hurt locker and it wasn’t all plain sailing, but I flew out of Scotlandwell and onto the flat again just as my watch beeped 8 miles and I noticed I’d managed to keep my pace to 8 minute miles even up the hill! Feeling awesome I pushed on, knowing I was now comfortably over half way and I just had to keep this pace up to the finish line. By now the sun had come out of hiding and it was slightly too warm. There were 4 water stations on the course but unfortunately the bottles we were given didn’t have lids or sports tops, so it was a case of take what you can when you get it and then have to ditch it soon after or you’ll just spill at all anyway! I gulped down what I could and then poured the rest over my head before launching the bottle in the bins supplied just after the water stations.

Coming out of the last village on the route, I managed to pick my pace up a bit more and still comfortably running I glanced at my watch to see that unless disaster struck, I was more or less guaranteed a pretty big PB. My brain was a bit fried by this time and I had to concentrate hard to make sure my sums were correct. That’s my excuse for my race pictures being so awful. I knew fine well the camera was there and he actually yelled “SMILE!” at me, but this was the result…

"overtake, overtake - tick, tick... 3 miles to go, stick to this pace will make a pb?? Too much to think about, better stick out my tongue..."
“overtake, overtake – tick, tick… 3 miles to go, stick to this pace will make a pb?? Too much to think about, better stick out my tongue…”

The guy in front of me in this picture was one of the people I overtook on the uphill, but he managed to get past me again on the downhill and in doing so he started talking to me and telling me what the rest of the route was like. He really spurred me on and in the final mile and a bit he kept looking over his shoulder so I made it my goal to stick with him right til the end. The last mile was lovely and flat and followed an old railway route back into Kinross before cutting through a housing estate, up a sneaky steep hill and back onto the main road before turning sharply onto the grass of the playing fields to the finish. Still feeling strong I put my head down to push as hard as I could. Yes I could catch a few more people on this last stretch – tick, tick, tick. Yes, I still had something in my legs and YES! I could manage a sprint finish across the grass with a smile on my face and my arms in the air! I glanced at the race clock as I flew through the finishing chute and grinned as I got my timing chip cut off my shoe. A ONE MINUTE 47 SECOND PB?? YES! I’ll take that!! And first lady from WCH home as well! My smile couldn’t possibly get any bigger! My legs had turned to complete mush by now and my leg was shaking like jelly as the poor man tried his best to make sure he was just cutting off my chip and not half my foot as well! I staggered round to see my team mates and collapsed on the grass with a feeling of utter glee.

    Second half splits – 8:25, 8:23, 8:11, 8:02, 8:02, 8:09, (0.1 – 1:27)

I stood and cheered in all the rest of my team mates before Kirsty and I decided to call it a day and head home before the chills set in.

The goody bag contained a lovely medal, an awesome tin water bottle and the usual banana, water, chocolate and also a voucher for a drink and something off the bbq which had been put on for the runners. Not bad for a pretty cheap entry price of £18 (I think). I really enjoyed the race, everyone was very friendly and the race was well organised and marshaled. Thanks to all the lovely marshals who cheered me on throughout the race. I’ll definitely be back next year!

Race Route Photos – Gordon Donnachie.

Enthusiasm level = 0 (and a Devil’s Burden race report)

Hello February, you’re here already?

My training for January never really did pick up. I felt sluggish and unmotivated for the majority of the month, so I decided to have a change from running and try various classes instead, as well as getting back into my gym routine. I work with a bunch of people who are pretty gym obsessed, so it’s hard not to be inspired when they are bouncing off the walls full of endorphins! So cx works, metafit, body combat and spin have all been mixed into my weekly routine, as well as still trying to clock a few miles here and there. Last week I decided to take a break from running for the whole week and when I returned to training on Tuesday and was met with a speed session on the track, I didn’t even grumble. I actually really enjoyed it, snow and all!

My body still feels tired. Much better than I did this time a month ago, but my ability to run for long periods of time has decreased along with my speed. I’m just so annoyed that I ran an ultra and a marathon just 6 weeks apart at the end of last year and now I’m struggle to finish a 10k without feeling sick! Gutted isn’t the word but I know I just have to bide my time and eventually I’ll get back to how I was….

Anyway, the main point of this post is the rather long overdue race report for the awesomely wet, windy and cold Devil’s Burden relay race at the end of January. The race is an annual event held by Fife Athletic Club and pulls in the hardcore hill runners from all over the country and also people like me, who just enjoys a day out in the hills! Initially I wasn’t going to sign up for this as I was focusing on making the Devilla 15k my first race of the year, but with some arm twisting from my club mates I decided to give it a go as all I’d heard about it was how fun it was and what an amazing club day out it could be. So at stupid o’clock on the 25th of January some team mates and I met at the local sports centre to work out car shares to get to Falkland in Fife. Our club had 3 teams running and as the first teams started at 9.30am we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get prepared!

The race is run in 4 legs with the 1st and 3rd leg being run by single runners and leg 2 and 4 being run in pairs. The first leg begins in Falkland and heads over to Strathmiglo, the second leg goes from Strathmiglo up and over the West Lomond hill and zig zags its way back down to Kinnesswood. Leg 3 then goes straight back up the hill from Kinnesswood to West Balgothrie and then the last leg from West Balgothrie up and over East Lomond back to Falkland. All in it’s a 31km race and it’s definitely a toughie!

WCH ready!
WCH ready!

I was running leg 2 with the awesome Caroline Strain who is a seasoned hill runner. I didn’t realise that even though it was only 6 miles it was to be probably the toughest 6 miles I have ever run! We set off along a dirt track that led on to a tarmac path for just over a mile. Stopping briefly at our first check point to stamp our card I clocked the hill in the distance and the countless high-vis dots bobbing their way up to the top – very few of which were actually running which made me think we were in for a hard slog! The route goes up to the top of West Lomond and back down the other side and just as we reached the summit we had a lovely little flurry of skin piercing hail stones. Perfect for trying out my new jacket (which is awesome by the way, unlike the one I wore for the ultra – GO33 2014 here I come!) and I now realised why the race oraginsers had insisted on full body coverage – it was FREEZING! There was a photographer on top of the hill who must have been freezing and as we weren’t taking the race too seriously, we stopped to pose for some photos!

Caroline and I at the summit of West Lomond. Hail, wind and rain all at once, just lovely!
Caroline and I at the summit of West Lomond. Hail, wind and rain all at once, just lovely!
The WCH sign for "I'm clearly loving this!"
The WCH sign for “I’m clearly loving this!”

Our next few miles were on boggy terrain and this is where I wished I’d invested in some gaiters as my poor ankles were freezing. On the way down I tripped over a root in some heather and face planted into some mud. No damage done so we had a little laugh about it and then onward up the next hill! Fingers numb, feet soaking but upper body totally dry, we plodded on towards our last check point. Our last half a mile or so was a near vertical descent into Kinnesswood and I was so greatful for my trail shoes. I think I only slipped once but luckily out of the sight of the crowds who had gathered at the bottom of the hill to shout us in! We passed our check card over to Scott who was running leg 3 on his own and then with no time to rest, had a mad dash back to the car to drive over to the next check point to meet him.

Waiting at check point 3. Just how many layers can we wear?!
Waiting at check point 3. Just how many layers can we wear?!

Liz and Anne were our final leg runners and as we watched them disappear out of sight, we finally caught up with our other team mates who had been in the 10.30am start. With the last leg runners all on their way, we made our way back to Falkland to meet up with them at the finish line and enjoy the fabulous spread of soup, cakes and sandwiches put on by Fife AC. Even though I’d had a complete change of clothes and was wearing gloves, I still could’t warm up so I left my team mates to prop up the bar in the pub and headed home to wear my duvet for the rest of the day!

This was a fabulous event and I’ll definitely enter again next year, but maybe I’ll try something other than leg 2….