RACE REPORT – Stirling Aquathlon 2014


Official time: 37 minutes and 04 seconds

Overall position:49th/121

Gender position 11th/57 (7th/37 senior ladies)

Medal: Yes


I’ve been thinking about trying a triathlon for a while now so when my friend Kat suggested giving and Aquathlon a go, I said yes immediately. Was there any better way to ease my way into the world of multi sport than with my two favourite activities? I signed up there and then.

Stirling Triathlon club were the hosts of this event and it took part at the National Swimming academy up at Stirling University, which was where I went to Uni (all 13 years ago now!) and I am always more than happy to revisit the campus. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and once registered (which took a bit longer for Kat as someone else had been given her number!!) we pottered about, had a look at the transition area (a first for me!), set our shoes and towels and then went for a tea and a flapjack as we still had tons of time to kill before our heat.

Kat and I setting up in the transition area. Me pretending I've got the slightest idea what I'm doing! Photo - Stirling Tri
Kat and me setting up in the transition area. Me pretending I’ve got the slightest idea what I’m doing! Photo – Stirling Tri

The event consisted of a 750m (30 length) swim and a 5k run. I hadn’t swam competitively since I was 16 and even though I’m in the pool every day teaching, I can’t remember the last time I timed myself swimming! On entering the race you had to submit your time for 750m so the lanes could be seeded in order of fastest to slowest. This was my first big mistake. I had a total guess at a time and then the following week went and completed the distance in training at about 75% effort and was about a minute and a half faster than the time I’d submitted. By now it was too late to say to the organisers as they’d already sent out an email with lane order, so I’d just have to see how it went on the day….

The carpet to transition after you come out the pool. About 500m of barefoot running!
The carpet to transition after you come out the pool. About 500m of barefoot running!

Kat and I were in the same heat in lanes next to each other, so when it was time to start, we gave each other a final thumbs up and off we went… for all of about 20m before I swam straight into the feet of the person in front. Now, I know it’s my fault for putting in the wrong time, but there is meant to be lane etiquette of moving aside if the person behind you catches up. I’m guessing the Ultra running rule of “don’t be a dick” does not comply with triathletes. A few taps later and I still wasn’t allowed by, so I gave a gentle ankle grab to be a bit less subtle… but still no budging. I tried not to get frustrated as after all, this was my fault for being in the wrong lane… but come on!!! Soon enough the 30 lengths were over, I hauled myself out the pool and ran out the fire door of the pool and across the grass and red carpet down to transition. Again something totally new for me and I felt a bit lost! I had decided to bring my trail shoes as they already have lace locks on them and are easy to slip on, but it didn’t help that I ran straight past them! Eventually I found them, quickly dried my feet, shoved on my socks and shoes and picked up my race belt with attached number and I was back out in all of 35 seconds…. not bad!! The run route was 2 loops of the uni campus which went across the sports field, up a very sharp hill (which I remember stumbling up and down in my uni days!), round the back of the industrial estate, back down the hill and round half the running track before heading across the grass fields and back to the pool. It was a great route but running after swimming is a weird experience – I couldn’t reset my legs and running while soaking is HARD! I have a new found respect for anyone who does an ironman – you are total legends and one day I hope to be part of your crew!

I gave it my all on the last loop and flew across the finish line with my arms in the air and a huge grin on my face. I was given a goody bag (containing milk and water) and a lovely medal. I went across to get my time printed out and wait for Kat to finish and she also flew across the line with her arms in the air and the biggest smile – quite the come back for having had such an awful year post injury!! We were both elated with our times and once we were changed we headed to the pub to celebrate with wine and amazing food.

Done! Full tri next!!
Done! Full tri next!!
Nothing beats a post race wine!
Nothing beats a post race wine!
Kat in her funky egg chair
Kat in her funky egg chair

I’m definitely going to try another aquathlon and see how I get on with a better swim. Considering how shattered I was, I was still only 30 seconds off my 5k pb so thats also a bonus! Next time however, I will NOT go to CX works and metfit the day before a race. My calves and bum were KILLING me!!! One day I’d love to do a full triathlon, but I need to buy a road bike first. Or a nice person could just buy me one???

Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – RACE REPORT!

Official time: 1:53:49

Overall: 1181 out of 4361

Division: 51 out of 393

Gender: 273 out of 2269

It's glittery!!
It’s glittery!!

I had been looking forward to this event for months for a few reasons. I cannot lie, the main reason being the awesome medal, but also because it’s a much bigger and more structured event compared to the others I have taken part in this year. However from the minute I woke up and heard the wind howling outside I knew I was going to be in for a hard slog. I awoke before my alarm at 5am and after a bit of tossing and turning, trying to get back to sleep I eventually gave in and got up. Clearly it was even too early for my dog to as she was snoring away merrily and I had to prod her to get her up!! We went out for a short walk and by the time we got home we were both drenched. Not a good outlook for the upcoming race. Hoping it would clear by the time I got through to Edinburgh, I set about making my usual pre-race breakfast of porridge with banana and a few cups of strong coffee and I was ready to go.

I left slightly earlier than was necessary as I was worried about parking in Edinburgh due to all the road closures. However as I was so early I easily found a space in back road with time to spare for a quick trip to Tesco to stock up on bananas and Lucozade. Sitting in the car as I waited to head down to the start area, I started to worry a little about the race. The car physically shook with the strong winds and the rain was battering off the windscreen. I have had much more pleasant runs this year so far and I have always chosen to wear either long sleeves or a t-shirt, but idiot Iona chooses this one to debut her vest wearing for the year. Eeeek, this could have been a bad choice! But it was too late to worry now, so I packed what I needed in my backpack, braved the cold and took off my tracksuit bottoms, put my hood up and joined the hundreds of other runners making their way down to the starting area at Holyrood Park. I had plenty of layers on for now, but it was only a matter of time before I had to ditch them at the bag drop and make my way to the start line. The wind was fierce and the rain was driving into our faces but I was trying  not to let it get to me – I still had a good few hours of this by the looks of things! A few portaloos had already been blown over by this point which added to the already huge queues of people waiting to go one last time before the race and I needed to join them, not looking forward to the long wait, but luckily I found a short queue. It was then time to brave the cold and get ready so I dropped off my stuff at the bag drop and went to meet Jemma who had got the bus through from Glasgow. As we stood shivering at the starting area we once again wished we had remembered bin bags to wear up until we started – next time for sure! The race was delayed a few minutes at the start due to the weather causing problems on the course that had to be sorted, but not long after 9.15am the first wave were off! We were at the back of the third wave and soon as we were over the line we began to dodge people and try and get a good fast start. The road is pretty narrow for the first mile or so and we found ourselves dodging in and out of people to try and get through the crowds and set a sensible pace. By the time we rounded a corner and came up to 2 miles people had spaced out a bit and we were finally moving!

Soaked through and not even started. :(
Soaked through and not even started. 🙁

The first few miles flew by. The weather had eased up a bit but it was still pretty windy however this wasn’t dampening anyone’s spirits! There were live bands dotted about the course and despite the weather they carried on and boosted morale. The course was flat and fast until we got down to Portobello where side winds hit us hard for a shirt period of time. As we rounded a corner and progressed down to the promenade we had a sudden boost with tail winds and it was greatly appreciated! Miles 4, 5 & 6 saw us running through residential areas and back up towards the other side of Holyrood Park. The rain was still horrific and my feet were absolutely soaking but I wasn’t going to let this weather beat me.

Mile 1 – 8:16

Mile 2 – 7.48

Mile 3 – 8:06

Mile 4 – 8:20

Mile 5 – 8:45

Mile 6 – 9:01

At mile 6 we met the first of the hills. Not too steep, but it was a long one and my legs screamed at me. I took a gel about 6 miles in and instantly felt it in my legs – just the boost I needed. This is the first race in a long time I have completed without listening to music at all and it was really nice to have a chat with Jemma on the way around as well as listen to the bands and cheer on other runners! Miles 7 and 8 saw us coming into Holyrood Park and hitting another hill. With side winds. And rain that felt like it was stabbing me. Ouch. However what goes up must come down and we absolutely flew back down the other side! A combination of a descent and tail winds took our split down to a pace time of 7:06 at one point and we had to laugh – that was slower than some runners pace for the entire race!! As we headed out of Holyrood Park and back into the centre of Edinburgh I could hear the P.A on the other side of the park congratulating the runners who were just coming in to finish – Uhhh, I still had 4 and a bit miles to go!! Those people are crazy fast!! The next few miles were an uphill slog through the Cannongate and looping round past the Meadows and back past the University of Edinburgh. This was the toughest part of the race for me where my legs just wanted to give up on me. My breathing felt good, I felt strong on top and in my head I was desperate to push up that hill, but my legs were aching and my foot was giving me grief again. For a while the arch on my left foot has started to get sore after long road runs, (which is probably due to my crazy flat feet!) so I’m guessing it’s time to go and see someone about it. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to things like that but if it’s going to affect my running, I’ll get to it pronto!

At the top of the hill we took a sharp right where a sudden gust of wind caught me and nearly took my feet out from under me. This seriously was the toughest race I have ever taken part in. I knew I wasn’t getting a pb from about 5 miles in, but I could probably get back in about 1:55 if I kept up my pace, which I’d still be really happy with! At mile 10 we were on a long flat road going through the Meadows and an American man on the pavement suddenly shouted loudly “3 miles to go, you’re 3 miles away from that pint!”. Unfortunately I had the car with me, so I couldn’t indulge after the race, but this comment really spurred me on again and I caught back up with Jemma, who had got away from me a little. I took another gel at 11 miles to get me up to the top of the last hill and then I was finish line bound! The course took another well appreciated down hill route and I used this as my launch pad to speed up for the last few miles. Through Princes Street Gardens, past Waverly station and plenty of cheering tourists and back down the Royal Mile towards the finish line. There were a couple of guys on microphones shouting everyone on at 12.4 miles and them reminding me I had less than a mile to go made me dig deep. Another amazing downhill stretch gave me another boost right to the final 0.1 of a mile where I pulled everything I had left together and tried for a sprint finish. It wasn’t the fastest but I did manage to get past a few people right up the line where I put on my biggest smile for my finishers photo.

Mile 7 –  9:23

Mile 8 – 8:44

Mile 9 – 9:06

Mile 10 – 9:23 (where my legs just said no!)

Mile 11 – 9:05

Mile 12 – 8:42

Mile 13 – 8:07

0.1 – .49.1

As I shuffled through the finishers area to collect my medal I suddenly felt elated. It wasn’t a pb and it wasn’t a comfortable run by any means, but I felt brilliant and it was another half marathon in the bag!

Then came the downside to the race. During the race the staff had to move all the bags due to high winds and the tents where we were meant to pick up our t-shirts had been taken down through fear of them blowing away. This meant instead of a very quick bag pick up and t-shirt grab we had to queue for our bags as very few staff ran in and out of the tents to get them. The queue was massive, no one quite knew where they should be standing and this lead to many people skipping the queue and others just being left baffled while trying their hardest not to blow away in their amazing silver space capes. I think if it hadn’t been for these capes my hands might have fallen off as after half an hour or so of waiting and shivering my finger tips turned completely white and lost all feeling. Not good! I had somehow come away with 2 space blankets, so I used the spare one to make a snazzy silver hand warmer and kept myself amused by jumping up and down and talking to people around me. EVENTUALLY (over an hour later!) we got our bags back, headed for the t-shirt queue and went to find somewhere to get a hot drink. I think that was the best cup of tea I have ever had.

The feeling has finally come back to my fingers.
The feeling has finally come back to my fingers.
Jemma and her fly away space cape!!! I was so thankful for these.
Jemma and her fly away space cape!!! I was so thankful for these.

All in all, I did enjoy this race. The weather put a bit of a downer on the event but you can’t help these things and I’m sure I’ll run other races in similar conditions – I do live in Scotland after all!

Forward planning…

With 2 days to go until the Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon, my 5th half, I couldn’t be any more excited. The thought of running with 5000 or so other people is really appealing to my competitive side, seeing as the majority of the races I have taken part in over the past few months have only had a couple of hundred people taking part. Most of these people have been club runners and hell they are fast! Although my times are improving (I have taken 10 minutes off my half marathon time and 7 minutes of my 10k time since I started racing), I’m still placing quite far back overall. The last big race I ran was the Great Scottish Run where I placed 1460th out of 7770 runners so this weekend I would definitely like to place top 2000. I think that’s possible….

All week I have visualised the race in my head. When I entered the race earlier this year I put down my finishing time at around 1:50:00, but since then I have smashed my pb by a whole 5 minutes taking my time down to 1:48:11 and I know I have more in me. I haven’t raced this route before but I’m aiming for a pb and I think if I can sneak forward into the 1:45:00 corral I’ll be more determined to keep up with those around me. I finally splashed out on a Garmin Forerunner 410 last week and I can’t wait to try it out properly in a race. A while back I said I didn’t want one as I quite liked using Endomondo on my phone, but as my phone gets a bit older my battery can’t take the stress of gps, music and Endomondo all running for any great length of time. I think I would be heartbroken if it gave up the ghost in the middle of a race and seeing as it has already totally drained my battery while out on long runs the chances of this happening any time soon are quite high. Also being away somewhere on a long run and my phone dying scares me in case I fall and break something and can’t drive home. I’m known for being super clumsy, so this is bound to happen some day!
So, welcome into my life my lovely new Garmin!!!

Ahhh, a new toy...
Ahhh, a new toy…

I did sway with getting the 110 as it’s a bit more girly, but I liked the added features of this one. It’s a bit chunky but, again, seeing as I’m so clumsy I’m pretty sure this will be indestructible for me. I just need to remember to take it off when I’m in the pool teaching!! For some unknown reason I received the instructions in every language except English, so my poor husband Craig had to deal with me footering about with it, beeping every possible button and getting frustrated with the bezel, until he informed me I could download the instructions and didn’t have to guess how it worked. Yep, slight blonde moment there!

So off my shiny new Garmin and I go to add another medal to my collection. I’m aiming for 1:45:00 – 1:50:00, seeing as I don’t know the course. I’m hoping if I can stick to around 8 minute miles I’ll come in under my expected time. Now that I’m a serious (ha!) runner, I’ll actually be a bit gutted if I don’t bring home a PB. Time to rest up until Sunday…
Good luck to everyone running it and hopefully I’ll catch some of you there!

Race report will follow 🙂