This week has been hard to settle into. The weekend was so jam packed and brilliant fun that coming straight back to work without any time to reflect has been hard! I’m mostly shocked at the amazing weather we were blessed with during our adventure. It was like being abroad for the weekend and really took me by surprise. We seriously couldn’t have asked for anything better!
On Saturday morning, Jemma picked me up and we headed North to Aviemore where we had planned to meet Rhona and a couple of her friends from Stonehaven running club, Kate and Ali. The main purpose of the trip was to race the steam train back to Aviemore on Sunday (a planned event, not just because we’re crazy!), so we decided to go up a day early, meet up with some fellow runners and have a lovely run around the Caringorms. Ali had planned a route up and around Meall a’ Bhuachaille and we were so lucky to have the weather on our side as the views from the top were breathtaking! The sun was on our backs as we ploughed up to the top (through the snow!) and after a quick breather and some posing for photos, we started our rather quick descent. The run back down the other side was exhilarating to say the least! From the bottom a trail run lead us to the Green Loch where we had a quick paddle to cool our feet down. The loop was about 6.5 miles of gorgeous trails and Ali couldn’t have planned a better route for us, so huge thanks to him for that!
After a quick trip to the shops, we headed back to the campsite and set up our barbecues. You couldn’t get camping weather any better than this, we were so lucky! We had a lovely feast of savoury and sweet food, the drinks were flowing and we had sunlight until around 11pm when we were greeted by a full moon and a blanket of stars in a cloudless sky. Perfect. If only I could say as much for my nights sleep. Camping and I are still not the best of friends….
On the Sunday we were up bright and early to head down to Aviemore for the race against the steam train, which was organised by the Cairngorm Runners and was probably the most enjoyable and fun race I have taken part in. The aim of the game is to beat the steam train back to Aviemore – around 45 minutes to run 4.5 miles miles. We met and registered around 10am we were taken by bus to Aviemore train station. Once at the station we were met by a piper and handed tickets to board the steam train to Boat of Garten.
The train was packed with excited runners and their friends and family, and once at Boat of Garten we all hoped off the train to assemble a few hundred metres down the road in the forest. A quick pep talk later and we were on our way – with 45 minutes to go until the train caught up with us back at Aviemore. I wasn’t for letting it beat me but with legs still a little achy from the previous day I wasn’t sure what pace I’d be able to maintain for the 4.5 mile course. The trail was lovely and flat with just a few ups and downs throughout – such a scenic course with the back drop of the snow topped Cairngorms, and I somehow managed to keep a pretty quick pace up and pelt back to Aviemore in 37:54 (watch time, 38:01 gun time) and had plenty time to collect my medal, water and one of the best goody bags ever (which contained a sports bottle, energy bar, energy gels, North Face lip balm, high 5 tablets and discount vouchers) before the train pulled back into the station. All for £14 – bargain!
And with that our amazing weekend had to come to an end. The race was over as quickly as it had started and it was time to get back to reality. I’d definitely do this race again and I can’t give enough credit and thanks to the organisers and everyone that helped out on the day. The weekend was brilliant and it was so nice to meet new people who are as passionate about running as we are and I hope I get the chance to do something similar again in the future.
However, trying to get my legs to become friends with me again is another story altogether….
What a quick weekend that was. I feel like it was just half an hour ago we were dropping the dog off at Craig’s parents and hitting the road down South for a very quick weekend of running, meeting new people and spiders. Yes, spiders! Craig is an avid tarantula keeper and has been frequenting the BTS (British tarantula society) show in Coseley, near Wolverhampton for years now. I originally was going to join him just for a weekend away and to help out at their stall, but when he suggested I look to see if there were any races near by that day, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing so already! So a quick look on Runner’s World lead me to booking into the Cobra Classic 10k in Hagely, just 12 miles down the road from where the show was being held. Brilliant.
On the Saturday morning we were up bright and early to pack up the car and head over to Stirling to pick up some of Craig’s friends. By 11am we were on the motorway and come 4pm we were settled into our hotel and ready to catch up with others over dinner and drinks. I devoured my dinner of scampi and chips, had a good laugh and got to put many faces to names that Craig had mentioned many times over the past few years. I headed home way before the rest of them to try and get an early night, but ended up getting sucked into watching the farce that is Eurovision. Oh my!
Race morning arrived and I bounced out of bed, feeling really good and ready to run. I had my usual pre race breakfast of cereal with a banana and a few coffees. I opened the curtains and the room flooded with sunlight – this was going to be a glorious run. It was 8am and already roasting!! We checked out of the hotel, I dropped the guys off at the show and then made the few mile journey down the M5 to Hagley where the race was being held. As I drove along the leafy dual carriage way I started to spot ‘caution, runners!’ signs, and thought to myself that this course was looking nice and flat. I really, really wanted to get a PB in this race as in the few weeks I have been training with The Wee County Harriers I already feel stronger and more confident in my running ability. And if the course was as flat as I thought it was, we were laughing! I got to the rugby club just in time to see the 3.5k fun run start and sat in the sun to watch that. After a few toilet visits and a quick dash back to the car to get my sunglasses I was ready to go. We all headed down to the end of the car park and then around about 10:30am we were off! There were loads and loads of club vests around me and I started to worry I’d be left behind, but to my surprise and delight I took off really quickly and felt really strong. The first few miles were along a narrow path that ran along side the dual carriage way and I was glad I’d got a fast start as there wasn’t much room for overtaking for quite a while. The first 3 miles were FAST and I’m sure I clocked around 22:xx but my timing was completely messed up so I can’t be sure. There was a drinks station at 5k and I tried desperately to drink from a cup and run but failed miserably. I usually run with a sports bottle but in my panic to find where I was going I forgot one and on such a hot day I really regretted it. I wasn’t stopping or slowing down to drink it properly so after attempting and failing to drink it, I launched it at my face and carried on. And then I hit the hill. I have no idea where I read, or thought I read that this course was flat, but I now know I must have made that up or imagined it because in the heat and with these hills this was probably one of the hardest courses I have ran. The next 2 miles were slow and sluggish and as I came off the the first big hill my legs just sighed and started to drag. I could see the road was long and flat ahead of me so I tried to pick up the pace but then came the next hill. I could see lots of people walking ahead of me and again this surprised me but soon found out why. This hill was much steeper than it first seemed! The marshall at the top of this hill directed me across the road and into some beautiful lush green fields that seemed to go on forever. I could see lots of multi coloured dots bobbing around in the distance and realised I hadn’t fallen that far behind the guy I had chosen to pace me so that cheered me up a bit!
The final few kilometres were along single track farm roads and with a final push up another hill I heard a marshall shout “come on Bab!” (love that in their accent!!) “this is the last hill, I promise. It’s all downhill and flat from here!”. And it was. Apart from nearly getting run over by a tractor as the farmer obviously wasn’t going to stop or slow down for anyone, especially a few hundred runners!! Soon enough I could see the finish line at the other side of the rugby pitch but by now I was all out of energy, feeling like I could possibly melt into a puddle of sweaty goo at any point and didn’t even have a second thought about talking myself out of a sprint finish. I happily plodded across the field at a steady pace, through the finishers chute to collect my medal and goody bag and straight over to a shaded area to get as much fluid back in to me as I could. Immediately feeling better, I looked at my watch to see what time I had stumbled in at and to my surprise my watch said 51:14. I know I had problems with buttons right at the start and didn’t get my time right on the line, but when I looked at the official results I apparently came in at 53:16. It wasn’t chip timed so I have no idea what has happened, but I am more than slightly confused. However at the time I was just too hot to care!
Over all it was a great race with a mixture of road, trails, hills and fields to tackle in a blazing 22 degree heat. I know that’s not very hot at all, but when nearly every race and training run for the past year has been in the rain, snow, hail or winds so strong I get blown off my feet, it was a welcome change but also a challenge. Can’t wait for more of the same, however next time I’ll be better prepared!
After the race I hung around for the prize giving and then sat in the sun to eat a cake or two which had been kindly donated by friends and family of the running club. Cakes after races are always good so many thanks for those!! Eventually I felt I’d had enough sun and got into my hot box of a car to head back to Craig at the show in Coseley. The show ended about 4pm and the guys had a really successful day, both buying and selling and Craig also won first prize in the photography competition for which he was awarded a lovely plaque. Hoorah!! After all the excitement and awards of the day, we hit the road for another long journey back to normality.
Normality is boring. Bring on the next challenge…..
Busy, busy, busy. Work is really kicking me up the backside as I try to get yet another block of swimming lessons sorted in a very short period of time. However, after today we trudge on through the last 8 weeks of yet another block….. and then it’ll be the summer holidays?? Nah, that can’t be right. The trees aren’t even green yet! What’s going on this year?
Yet again, time is flying by and I was shocked to look at my calendar in work and see that April had whizzed past and we were into the second week of May already. I seem to have blinked and lost 3 whole weeks, yet in that time I have been unbelievably busy with work, running, family and everything else in between. Life really does seem to be in constant fast forward just now and this year has been the fastest so far. I think one of the main reasons I want time to slow down is because I’m heading for the big 3-0 this summer, but the less said about that the better thank you very much!
One of my big accomplishments in the past week, and something that can now be ticked off my to do list, was finally joining a running club. Something that I have wanted to do for many years but has always been put on the back burner with various excuses of working late, being knackered and mainly just being overly shy. But I did it! I went along on a lovely, if a bit windy, Tuesday night for my first session with The Wee County Harriers. Which just happened to be hill reps – oh joy! But I felt great and the people who I had been in contact with through facebook and email made me feel so welcome there. I really look forward to attending training after a hard day of working with screaming kids and to run off all the stresses of the day, and I can’t wait to go to my first race with them as part of a team. It’s the little things!
Speaking of running off the stresses of a hard day, it’s amazing how running can make you feel. It’s a release and an escape from all things that wind you up, get on your nerves or just make you want to scream. A long run with a beautiful backdrop can make you smile and forget anything that made you want to headbutt a brick wall. Last month marked the anniversary of a year of running ‘properly’ for me and as I look back I feel really proud of what I have achieved. Not only have I brought my 10k time down by near enough 10 minutes but I can now easily bash out a half marathon in a pretty respectable time and I have my sights set on bigger and better things. This time last year if you had asked me if I ever fancied running a marathon I would have laughed and said no chance. I had sworn off half marathons after my first attempt at Alloa in 2011 which killed my knees and made me ache all over and now a couple of years down the line I am happily considering running a marathon and then who knows what after that! A year of commitment and hard training for something I love and am really passionate about is paying off and after every run I feel stronger, and more determined to smash PB’s and set new goals for myself. This time a year ago I was happily entering races, just for the fun of entering them. I wasn’t expecting to beat anyone and was happily plodding along near the back of the pack. I can now happily place myself in the middle of a group of runners and know that I won’t be overtaken by near enough everyone within the first 10 minutes of a race. I don’t ever see myself being an amazing runner as I’m just not built that way, but for now I will do what I can to run to the best of my ability.
Speaking of runs that help you relax and release, I came across the most amazing trail run on Saturday. I went back up to Callander, where we ran the X 10K last month and set off from the woods along a single track road. The road was lovely and quiet and took me right along the shores of Loch Venachar. With very little traffic, I happily plodded along the side of the road one with ear phone in, hoping that no maniacs would fly down this road and have me jumping into a ditch. It was beautiful and sunny to begin with but typical Scotland, a few miles in the heavens opened and I was drenched within minutes. Not that I was complaining, it was actually really refreshing. It was one of those runs where I had to stop to open and close gates, climb over stiles and hop over cattle grids to run through fields of Highland cows. It was glorious.
And a couple of hours later I was back at my car having clocked up just over 15 miles. As I said earlier, once upon a time a marathon was something that not only did I never think I could manage, but never really appealed to me. I thought I’d get bored running for that length of time! But after 15 miles of scenic Scottish countryside, I could have gone further and my opinion of what I am capable of of may be changing….
This is the second year running I have completed the Run Balmoral 10k race and it was even better than I remembered. I had high hopes for this race as the last time I completed it I hadn’t been running for very long, so after a year of proper training and many, many races later, I was ready to tackle the infamous hill again.
Jemma got the train through to mine from Glasgow on the Friday night as we had quite an early start the next day and hoped to get there with a bit of time to spare. However, sitting on the couch at about 1am, chatting and planning our morning, Jemma asked me what time I thought we should get there as we’d need to leave time to pick up our race packs. I had a giggle, thinking she was joking and said that we had them sent out weeks ago. She then thought I was having her on and only believed me when I went go get mine! Oh well, an unscheduled trip to Glasgow the next morning it was then! Not that I minded at all and it gave Jemma the chance to pick up a few other bits and pieces she would need for the weekend and for me to pick up various items of clothing that I had left at their flat over the past few months! So by 10:30am, after a hearty breakfast of porridge with nutella and a few cups of coffee, we were leaving Glasgow behind us and heading north to Balmoral. We stopped in Perth to pick up various goodies for after the race, including some fine ales for Jemma and a few cans of gin and tonic for me (for once we had driven home of course!), had a quick dash to the toilet, filled up with diesel and we were off again. I somehow managed to take the wrong road out of Perth and had to detour through Coupar Angus. I don’t think this should have added too much time on to the journey but we got stuck behind a car towing trailer which was swaying all over the road and put me off overtaking. We finally got in front of them and we were back on the very windy road up through Glenshee and over towards our destination.
One of the things I don’t like about this event is the amount of cars that descend upon the tiny village on race weekend. There are 3 different races on the Saturday and the event organisers do very well to make sure the cars are all parked in different areas to allow people to leave after their specific events, but it’s still a lot of traffic considering there is only one road in to the estate! We finally got there with about an hour to spare, but take off 10 minutes to park and another 15 to walk up to the starting point and I was now starting to worry we were pushing it for time as we still needed to get to the toilet and drop off my bag. At 1:45 pm there was a minute’s silence for the Boston marathon and after a whistle blew to mark the minute was up, the field erupted into applause. With the start time now fast approaching it was another dash over to the bag drop as we squished all our belongings into my backpack, pinned our race number and tags on, made sure our sunglasses were at the ready and with an exaggerated leap over the fence to our estimated starting area, we were finally ready to go. With 3 minutes to spare! Run Balmoral is a huge event. For such a remote place it always amazes me how big this event is and with all the families and supporters that come along for the races, it’s packed to the rafters. And with last years time to beat, I wasn’t going to be squished to the back as I knew how difficult it was to get a fast start as the first 2 miles were along a rather narrow track. However there were so many runners all standing along a very narrow road and it was very hard to get to where I guessed I should be standing. Once standing there I overheard quite a few people saying they didn’t know where they should be standing ‘so just stood here’ and guessed there might be some squishing and pushing to deal with after all. The foghorn went off just after 2pm and after a few waves of shuffling forward, we crossed the starting mat and we were on our way. I knew I needed a fast start as the hill would bring my splits right down but as predicted I had to duck, dive and zoom up the grassy verge to get by big groups of runners. Finally I seemed to be running in a straight line and the pace began to pick up.
Mile 1 – 7:42 Mile 2 – 8:06 Not too bad a start considering the sheer volume of people and wiggling all over the path I had done.
And then came the hill. I have trained my butt off for months knowing this would be tough, although I had done worse. But oh.my.god. It still got me. I don’t know if it’s because my foot is still giving me grief or because I had been so tired the previous week at work but I found it really tough. Not as tough as those who decided to walk as soon as their foot hit the hill.. come on people, you were pre warned there was a hill involved!! However, I pushed right to the top, albeit slowly – no more than a foot dragging jog as I got to the summit and was overjoyed to see the piper. I had my music on really loudly this year so I didn’t hear him, but I gave him a cheery smile as I sped on by towards the water station. I launched a cup of water at my face and felt the power automatically filling up in my legs again as I hit the first part of the descent. This was it, I had slowed down but I could still make up for lost time in the last 5k and catch Jemma who was bounding out of sight in the distance.
Mile 3 (up the hill) – 10:05 Mile 4 – 7:34
I glanced at my garmin at one point going down the hill when I felt like I was flying. It said I was running at a 6:xx pace. Wow, these hills were excellent, and they just kept coming! The following 2 miles really helped me get back on track and as I ran by the 8km signpost I felt strong. I suddenly had a flashback to this point in the race last year and inwardly grinned at how good a felt compared to how dead I was on my legs then. What a difference a year can make and I’m glad I’m putting the effort into all of my training runs because this is why I do it. To notice the improvements in my strength and stamina and to finish a race with obstacles like this one and still having power in my legs and a grin on my face.
Mile 5 – 7:44 Mile 6 – 7:56
The last mile and a bit brings you back towards the castle and through the crowds of spectators cheering you on. As much as I love having the support this is one race that has bugged me 2 years running at this exact point. The kids are getting more and more desperate to get a high five from the runners that they come further and further into the path to reach out and the path gets narrower on both sides for the runners. At one point a guy ducked right across in front of me to get to his daughter who was on the opposite side of the path and although a nice gesture, he didn’t look behind him before he veered across and I almost ploughed into the back of him. Seconds after that, a kid decided he wanted to be on the other side of the path and ran out among the runners – so very nearly tripping up the woman in front of me. Not a wise move!! However, the cheering is a very welcome factor at this point and really helps you give it your all for the last little section of the race. I could still see Jemma’s ponytail swishing about in the distance ahead of my, but by now I could tell she had her serious face on and was going to finish strong. I wasn’t going to catch her this time.
The final section of the race loops back around on itself, goes down a steep hill and onto the flat path along to the finishers chute. I still felt like I had more so I pushed and managed a sprint finish. Or what I think was a sprint finish after such a hilly race. Whatever I was doing, I was NOT going to let the man beside me pass me as we flew along the final flat, but he got me in the last few meters. I will blame the fact I don’t have long legs. Any excuse….
Jemma was waiting for me at the finish line with a huge grin on her face and together we went to collect our medals, t-shirts and water. I remembered to stop my garmin right on the line and once again it registered just short of 6.2 miles (6.19 this time!), but I’d clocked 50:38 and Jemma came in at 50:01. That’s 5 minutes off my course time for last year and if it hadn’t been for my slow plod up the hill, it would have been very close to my PB. Not bad at all!! The adrenaline soon kicked in for both of us and we were buzzing all over the estate talking rubbish. I actually got a twitter message later that day from someone who had spotted us ‘on a gel frenzy’ in the run for it tent. I couldn’t have described it better myself!
I was worried about getting back out of the car park as last year it had been a mess and taken us over an hour to get out of the field alone, but having waited a little longer to get some food and have a sit down after our race I think we missed most of the madness. We were back on the road within 15 minutes and home with plenty of time for pizza, gin and ale with Craig, who had been away being a radio star that day!
I’m very glad I went back to run this course again as it makes me realise my training is really paying off when I look at not just my time but my overall position and ranking. Not bad, not bad at all! On the whole I have to say it’s an amazingly well organised event considering the number of people who attend and the event staff were very helpful. I think now that I have beaten my time, I wouldn’t go back for the 10k as it is a bit of a trek for us, but maybe we’d try the 15 mile trail race next time. Always on the look out for the next adventure! With weary legs and heavy eyelids it was time for bed…. and to prepare for round 2 with the Balfron 10k the following day.
I have been meaning to update for a over a week now but things just keep getting in the way. The Easter holidays flew by and I was snowed under at work, stressing and worrying about the organising and planning of the new block of lessons, and now here we are, 2 weeks into the new block and time is just going too damn fast! My working days usually fly by from the minute I clock in to the minute I clock back out and by the time I get home and have my dinner I am already planning on going to bed! I am really appreciating the lighter evenings and they are really giving me the boost I need to get back out and clock up some miles but I have recently felt like it’s a real struggle to find the motivation and energy I need to get out there. Since the Edinburgh half two weeks ago I haven’t managed a run longer than 8 miles. By the time I finish teaching at 6pm I can’t describe how hungry I am, so dinner is always a priority as soon as I get in. I wait for a bit for dinner to digest and by the time I’m ready to head out for my run it’s pushing 8pm and I don’t want to head too far from home with the light fading…
Whining aside, it has been a great month for racing. The Edinburgh race really made me up my game and made me realise I was tougher than I thought when it comes to running in horrific weather conditions. And I think horizontal rain and 37mph winds count as slightly horrific!! Last weekend brought us the Callander X 10K and it was fabulous. Easily one of the most scenic races I have completed and a good challenging run too. It started at the bottom of a hill and after a minute or so of road running we turned sharply and started our ascent up a rather steep trail. It wasn’t a busy race but the trail was very narrow to begin with, so there was a bit of darting about through people trying to find a comfortable position in the pack. The race was described as 40% tarmac and 60% trails, and the first 2.5 kilometres were all off road, quite muddy and rather steep. I was glad I had swayed towards trail shoes for this particular race! I pushed really hard for the first section to try and get past people that by the time the second section of hills came I just felt useless. My run became a bit of a shuffle as the hills got steeper but before I knew it I could hear the piper at the summit of the hill and I was fast approaching 5km. The descent was amazing, I suddenly had the wind in my sails and I used the downwards slopes to make up for lost time on the way up. The trails were absolutely wonderful and with a snow capped Ben Ledi as a back drop I couldn’t help but smile as I speedily made my way back downhill and onto the roads. The road took us back up some serious hills and I could see the fast runners in the distance at the top of the hill and sighed as I realised I had to dig deep and push once more to get up to the top of this one. I was running low on energy by now as I’d really pushed to get my splits back down into single numbers after the last lot of hills so this next lot of hills wasn’t a welcome feature! By now we were about 7.5km in and I could see the trail leading back down into Callander so I just let my legs go and flew down the last lot of hills. I kept glancing back and could see Jemma in her bright Alloa half t shirt not far behind me and she is FAST coming down hills, so that also gave me the final push I needed to speed up. The last 2km were lovely and flat, following an old railway path back in Callander, crossing and old metal bridge and down a final slope back to the finish line. Done. The race wasn’t chip timed so going with my garmin I got 52:40 but my official race time was 53:04. However my garmin only registered 6.09miles, so not quite sure what happened there. But under 55 minutes for a tricky hill race will do me just fine!
My little brother had come along with Jemma so it was nice to have some support at the finish line and then once Jemma finished we all trotted off for a lovely burger from the BBQ the event organisers had put on for us. The weather was gorgeous throughout and I would highly recommend this race to anyone who loves trail running or just wants to give it a go! We got a goodie bag filled with tasty treats and also an amazing mug – as much as I love a medal, a mug is just as good as you get to use it daily and with the amount of coffee I drink, this is definitely useful.
Although I feel like I have been running on empty, I have been working hard in the gym during my lunch break. When you finish work for the day, the last thing you want to do (well, me personally) is return to said place until the following day. I work in a sports centre and get the gym and classes for free, but I find myself unable to go back after I finish as 9 hours a day there is long enough!! I go to classes at weekends and I’m desperate to try out Metafit which has just been introduced to our timetable, so we’ll see how I get on with that along with my circuits on a Tuesday. During my lunch break I’m completing a weights circuit 2 days a week and a cardio/abs set on the other 2 days. I wish I could fit in a swim as well (seeing as I’m already in the pool for about 6 hours a day!) but there just aren’t enough hours in a day. Where does time go?! I’m also looking into joining my local running club, The Wee County Harriers. They train 2 evenings a week, starting from my workplace and also at the weekends so I just need a little confidence boost to go along and join them. That’s my one of my goals for this year, along with a 46:xx 10k time and a 1:45:xx half time. I think that’s just about feasible.
I ran another 2 races this weekend which were both awesome. Race reports will follow later this week!