The Great Winter Run 2014

The downhill section!
Pic from greatrun.org

That’s it – the first race of 2014 is well and truly under my slightly expanded festive belt. This race has become a bit of a pilgrimage for us. The 5k I had entered was part of a much larger festival featuring some world class cross country running. Unfortunately this had meant that the entire event had been moved back a week due to TV scheduling, something which had also meant that it wasn’t worth opening my gallery after the Christmas break for a day only to close it again the next day! I know that I wasn’t the only runner who would have preferred the run to have been on the previous weekend. I hope next year that it is moved back!

We arrived at the hotel in Leith, some two miles out of the city centre, late on Friday afternoon. After checking in we went across to the Ocean Terminal (which houses shops, department stores, a large cinema complex and many restaurants) and headed for Bella Italia where I knew I could get gluten free pasta and pizza. A mixed bean salad and lemon risotto was a welcome pre-race meal – filling and packed with energy. We retired early and, having turned off the noisy ventilation, enjoyed a good night’s sleep. My only worry was sleeping in. I’d set my phone alarm to wake us up, but as it was a new phone I was worried I’d done something wrong! I hadn’t and we were eventually woken by “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.” It was a cold, frosty but clear morning with ice on the ground and bright sunlight bouncing off the buildings around us.

We’ve got the journey to Holyrood Park down to a fine art. The 35 bus runs every 20 minutes, collecting us from immediately outside the hotel and deposits us a short walk from the park just 10 minutes later. I’d decided that catching the 10:08 bus was cutting things a little fine and so decided on the 9:58 bus instead. The race wasn’t due to start until 10:45 and I didn’t need to check my bag in as I’d put what little I needed in my rucksack and hubbie would hang onto that for me. We wandered around a little bit, but the grass was very muddy after a huge amount of rain and it was very cold. Rather than risk getting chilled I went into the baggage drop area to take off my jackets, put my phone arm band on and find a silver foil sheet from my bag to wrap around me. These are amazingly effective and more than made up for me losing two coat layers.

By the time I’d wandered to the start area the warm up had already started. I entered the back of the green corale and joined in with what I could (whilst hanging onto a silver sheet). Before I knew it the hooter had been hooted and we were off!

I’d set my Jeff Galloway 5k app to 9 min miles (which was pushing it a bit for both me and the course!) and running 4:1 intervals. The predicted finish time it had given me was just under 29 minutes. If I was fitter this might be possible, but truth is I’ve had to rein my running right back recently. This has just about cured my Plantar Fasciitis, but also left me gloriously underprepared for anything!

You run along for a quarter of a mile and then you start to climb. And climb. And climb. And climb. In fact you basically climb for three quarters of a mile going from 40m up to 125 m in that time. It’s tough and I’m incredibly envious of those people who can run the whole thing. I managed to stick to my run:walk schedule for the first two intervals, but then I got caught behind slow runners and walkers. I do wish that they would, like I do, think about others  trying to get around them and move across to one side. The path is narrow and it’s packed. If you get folk running slowly, especially with running partners, they effectively form a slow moving wall in front of you. After a walk break I was stuck behind a wall and tried to run on the sift grass to the right of the path, but this just zapped my strength and I ended up walking again not long afterwards. Next year I’ll keep right across to the left and see if that helps!

elevation

My first mile reflects the hill climb, the running walls and all too frequent walk breaks and came in at 12:19. Although the climbing continues after the first mile it does so at a lesser pace. I managed to pick up my pace and stick to the set walk breaks. And enjoy the views! On the climb all you get to see are loads of backsides! Once you get to the top of the hill the whole of Lothian opens out in front of you and you feel as if you are on the top of the world. Enjoying the view also gives you chance to enjoy the race. Mile 2 came in at 10:31. Better, but my average pace was still over 11 min/mile pace.

The views from the top are amazing! Pic from greatrun.org

However the best bit about this race is the last mile. It’s downhill. Well pretty much all downhill. Flat out downhill. Magic! I picked up my heels and leaned into the hill and went for it as safely as I could. I felt good. No heel or calf pain, but a little hip pain in my right hip. It was nothing that was going to slow me down. My best pace was 7:04 min/mile.

The last third of a mile is on the flat and I must admit I was tiring out. Last year I had my hubbie to spur on to the finish and this spurred me on. This year it was all about me. I had to focus on catching someone ahead of me, so I randomly chose a  girl ahead and raced to catch her. Amazingly I caught her as we crossed the line. My last mile was 8:34, one of the fastest miles I’ve ever run.

My medal and T-shirt
My medal and T-shirt

My 3:13 miles came in at 32:34.2 Garmin time, 32:35 chip time giving me an overall pace of 10:25 min/mile. I am happy with that. If I’d had less time off through injury, trained more and covered more miles I might have been a little disappointed not to get closer to 30 minutes, but instead I accepted the time gratefully. I’d knocked 4 minutes off last year’s time (chaperoning my hubbie), run my own race (pretty much) and not suffered any real pain as a result. Today I’m a bit stiff in the right hip flexor and unsurprisingly my quads are aching like mad! I’ve done  30 minutes of yoga this morning which has helped with the muscle ache and stiffness. At least the aches show that I tried very hard!

I received an excellent Goodie Bag as ever, complete with a T-shirt and medal. Unfortunately there wasn’t one thing in the bag I could eat – everything either had nuts or gluten in it! Hubbie thinks that it’s Christmas all over again!

The Goodie Bag!
The Goodie Bag! Full of gluten and nuts – arghh!

We didn’t stay to watch the cross country. We had to get back to the hotel so that I could shower and vacate the room before 2pm. As it was we were out before 1 o’clock and then went for a very cheap lunch at the Handmade Burger Company in the Ocean Terminal. I’d been given a voucher for a £1 burger which meant that we only paid full cost for one meal. On the menu there were a few gluten free vegetarian/vegan options and I chose a chickpea and quinoa burger – which was delicious. Highly recommended!

Will I do this next year? Yes, of course! It’s expensive for a 5k, but not as expensive as some events I’ve recently seen advertised. I’m determined to conquer that climb! I’d love to knock a minute off my time, at least! Above all I like the fact that we are in a city I love. We make a weekend of it – enjoy relaxing in familiar places, visiting favourite haunts. It’s not just about a race; it’s about tradition.

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