Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Races are like buses

You don’t do any races for ages and then three come along all at once!

The first one on the 5th March was the ladies only Smokies 10 in Arbroath, a wee cracker, a challenging 10 mile route with food at the finish and a wee bottle of wine in the goody bag, what’s not to love. My training has been going well and at this time of year club training has tempo runs, perfect for me looking to do a bit of effort in a short race. This is the only race I give it massive welly from the start if I’m fit.  The weather was pretty good, dry, not much wind and not too cold. I went out hard as soon as we were off, feeling strong on the hills on the way out, thanking my wee hill rep sesh I’ve been doing in Culross, used gravity to my advantage on the down hill and kept pushing, I felt the mile markers were coming in fairly quickly, feeling strong all the way maintaining the effort and loved the wee change at the finish, stampeding over the playing field instead of up and round the entrance to the Leisure Centre.
Forgot to smile for Gordon Donnachie
Once I’d caught my breath and picking up my goody bag, I realised this was my third fastest Smokies, I was even third in my age category, this was my 24th Smokies, I have missed a couple over the years so considering I’ve been doing this race for over quarter of a century! I am really pleased with my run.

The next weekend,11th March, was the D33, first ultra of the year and to be done at a far more civilised pace,  for me it would be “just” a training run, I don’t mean any disrespect to the race it was just that the time I would finish in was irrelevant, but still a run of quality, pinning a number on keeps me focused on moving forward at a consistent pace, I wouldn’t be stopping to read the tourist information signs or wandering off route to look at something interesting, also the first race in the SUMS so the bonus of an ultra family reunion, hug fest! Not to mention the unique handmade medal and bottle of beer at the finish.
Think I'm gonna need a bigger shelf
Well worth getting up at a stupid time, picking up Pauline and driving up to Aberdeen for.  At registration there was no surprise seeing Julie, she’s volunteered and marshalled at every ultra I’d done for years...hang on...she has a race number in her hand...I was massively excited for her, it was an honour to help pin her number on.  (No spoilers, but if you need a wee bit of inspiration, here’s her race report)  The weather was positively balmy for Aberdeen (I still have flashbacks from the Aberdeen half marathon 1992 wearing a bin bag the whole way in August and finishing with the first stages of hypothermia) A light drizzle started around the same time as the race but it never got cold although the rain did get a wee bit heavier at times I still never bothered with my jacket. It’s a lovely out and back route with a fair bit on old railway line. Once meeting the leaders  on their way back I feel the miles just tick by concentrating on taking photos,  it’s great to smile and shout encouragement, sorry I had to dodge a few high fives,

I didn’t want smeary paw prints on my camera, I didn’t quite catch everyone’s photo but I did try. (photos) Pauline and I stayed together for the whole way although there was no plan to do so it’s lovely when it happens, and probably helps keep a steady pace when we start to tire. We only had a couple of walks, on the steep wee hill of the short diversion at a major roadworks on the way back and on the gentle long slog of a slope but I was having a gel, (a poor excuse, I know) There are no serious hills so your legs do get stuck in a rhythm that can ache also with this being my longest run since Glen Ogle 33 last year probably has something to do with it too!  We didn’t bother with drop bags but at the final checkpoint I paused briefly, Sean offered me a wee Prosecco, I did have a bit of a swither but just stuck with a few mouthfuls of coke, I think I needed the sugar more. Heading back to Duthie Park with around six miles to go, we were going back through the old stations, I had a wee mantra going round my head with the rhythm of a train, diddly-dum, diddly-dum, diddly-dum but with the words beer-at-the-finish, beer-at-the-finish, beer-at-the-finish, I eventually looked at my watch just to see where I was compared to last year’s time and could see I might finish a wee bit quicker than last year, a good incentive to not to let go the good steady pace we were maintaining.  Through the zig-zag path and into the park, a small child locked onto Pauline like a missile, I was impressed by her nimbleness in avoiding a collision (what is the protocol if you trample a kid in the sprint to the finish?)  Pleased to finish around three minutes faster than last year, confirming my training is going well and the bonus of another third in age category finish,
Pauline I will share the trophy but with Dod’s generosity we don’t have to share the wine, he gave us a bottle each. Pauline enjoyed a post race can of recovery, rehydration fluid, I had to make do with a chocolate Yazoo, hmm, not quite the same but I was driving, just had to console myself with the thought. “I’ll enjoy some when I get home.”  
photo from Tina McLeod 
Following weekend, 19th March, was Loch Katrine Marathon, a running festival raising funds and awareness for Alzheimers Scotland incorporating a 10km and half marathon as well. With this being a wee bit closer to home I picked up Sue at not such a stupid time in the morning and we were there in plenty time to have a pot of tea in the cafe, I spotted Chen... another photo shoot out with my amigo photographer on the hoof before the start!

This is also an out and back route with another opportunity to make runners smile, it makes me giggle to see the transformation in expressions when you point a camera at them! (photos) Although this is a marathon it has the feel of an ultra about it, maybe the abundance of weel kent faces and a fair few of them were running last week too! Again, the time on my watch would not be important, another quality training run with pals and if you are just time orientated this marathon may not be for you,  the scenery is stunning 

photo from Chen-Running in Scotland

and even with the randomness of Garmin and Strava the climbing is loads!  (Over the three times I’ve done this I’ve got variations between 1662 ft and 3,006 ft) But I have a rule for marathons, no walking allowed, I could shuffle on as though my laces are tied together but no walking, it didn’t matter the extra time or extra energy possibly used up, a training exercise in mental strength as well as the physical, no hill was going to beat me. The weather forecast wasn’t good but fortunately it turned out a lot drier than expected, just a wee occasional drizzle and a bit of a stiff breeze on the way out and  but once on the other side of the loch it was behind us, the gloves came off and sleeves pushed up, I was running and blethering with Andy for a fair bit and again loved the shout outs passing everyone, the most friendly marathon I’ve ever done, not a single person passes without a smile, wave or nod.

After burling round Norma, the human bollard at the halfway point,
I was still feeling pretty good, on the way back the wind was a bit stronger in my face,but looking forward to it being on my back once back on the north side of the water.  I don’t pay attention to my watch, just my body, I felt I was keeping the work rate even, pleased that after the D33 the previous week I wasn’t too weary, I made it up the monster hill at around twenty miles without walking and it was just the last four miles I had to work hard to maintain the pace, breathing deep and controlled I pushed on, glad the wind was now behind me, the sun peeped out from time to time but in my last half mile there was a short squally shower, at least was on my back! I finished into the arms of Julie and the biggest most awesome hug I’ve had. Audrey gave me my medal and I picked up my goody bag, ooooow, a buff scarf, can never have too many, my favourite race memento...after beer! A quick change into cosy clothes and back to the finish in time to see Sue finish,

boy was that wind fiercely freezing and whistling from the loch, well done the marshalls spending hours in it, pleased to see Sue finish strongly… it also meant we could go inside. After a wee catch up with pals and more tea, we headed home.

With many thanks to Arbroath Footers, Dod Reid, Karen Donoghue and Audrey McIntosh for staging great races with their merry band of helpers, I can’t do it without you.

I’m really chuffed with how well training is going, feeling strong and running well, Loch Katrine was around nine minutes slower than the last time I did it but that time I hadn’t run an ultra the week before! I have a few more races I’m looking forward to in build up to this year’s West Highland Way Race, the John Muir Way Ultra, a new one for me this coming weekend then the Fling at the end of the month and another new one to me in May, the Selkirk Ultra. I don’t take for granted it will all go according to the plan but hopefully I’ll have many happy miles before June. All roads lead to Milngavie.