It’s OK, I’ve found the ‘CTRL’ button!

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I don’t often feel quite as in control of my running as I did yesterday. Don’t ask me why yesterday was any different from any other day. Maybe it was the weather? Maybe it was what I was wearing? Maybe it was what I’d chosen to carry? Maybe it was the route? I don’t know, but I felt ‘at ease’.

I had my last long run before my next race to complete, 14 miles. I’ve run further, so 14 miles was just 14 miles – I wasn’t perturbed by the distance. I decided to run an easy route  (it was a breezy day, I didn’t need to push myself over hills as well) and, after some experimentation, I had settled on a run/walk ratio of 2.5 minutes to 1. It was going to be a steady run building up endurance, not a race to the finish. That can wait for a couple of weeks!

The weather was perfect for a long run. It was, as I’ve said, a bit breezy, but as the wind was blowing on my face for the first seven miles I had the reassurance of knowing that on the way back it would be pushing me home. The temperature was also cooler than of late with the sun was just occasionally peeking through heavy clouds. Spot on long run weather. This would be the first long run I’ve managed to do in a oner for ages.

I had decided to ditch the chia gels I still have in the cupboard and look for something else. I left it late and ended up at Holland and Barrett just before they closed on Sunday afternoon. I chose citrus High 5 Energy Gels which I carried in the big side pockets of my new Ron Hill trail vest.  I also tool my Camelbak with 750ml of water and two High 5 Zero tablets. I had my Garmin…oh, and I wore my iPhone on my arm. I’m starting to feel a bit weighed down, I must admit! I bet if I ditched the lot I could run faster!

I tried not to pay too much attention to my pace, but instead just focus on the beat of my music and try and settle into a good rhythm. I didn’t want to try and run at my race pace and if I look too closely at my Garmin I start to speed up and this affects how I finish. I needed to start steady and finish strong. I looked only at the distance I’d run, just so that I knew when to turn home. I was, however, bang on pace and when Jeff Galloway said “You’re half way” I really was.

I took my gels (perfectly placed in my side pockets – easy to grab, no zips getting stuck!) at 4, 8 and 12 miles. They were more liquid than others I’ve tried, which made them easy to take. I just used them instead of water and ended up with 500ml left in my Camelbak when I finished. I’ll put less in next time. They were also very easy to open.

Until now I hadn’t looked at my Garmin data. My pace was fairly consistent throughout, although my first mile was predictably faster! I just can’t help myself! I find this all very reassuring; I felt good as I ran. I wasn’t slowing up and I wasn’t speeding up – not too much anyway. My running pace was 10 min/mile pace which, of course, was brought down by the walking intervals. It was an easy pace and I can see myself either being able to up that slightly in a race or lengthen the run. Running for an extra 30 seconds at that pace should be achievable.

I just beat the torrential rain we endured yesterday afternoon, it hit as I put the key in the door. I have a feeling I was being looked after.

After running I stretched out, made myself a lovely plate of scrambled (free range) duck eggs and toast and ran a very hot bath. I spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out with the dog, who appreciated the fact that I was stationary for longer than a few minutes, and icing my Achilles which had been a bit sore when I was running. Today I don’t feel as if I ran 14 miles yesterday, so something is definitely right!

What I’ve learned from this run is that I need to worry less about my pace and just keep it consistent. I can speed up from the half way point if I feel like it. I now have clothes and equipment which I feel comfortable in and which I’ll set aside for Fleetwood in two weeks. My only issue (and it’s a small one) is that my armband is rubbing, causing a burn mark. I was looking yesterday at something I can wear underneath it as a barrier, rather than spend more money on another armband. Maybe just some BodyGlide would do the trick.

So, in the meantime I must…

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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!

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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.

2014 – Bring It On

As the first day of 2014 it’s a very dull, rainy and windy one. Which is a terrible shame. I had high hopes last night in the local pub of doing fantastic things today. However I’ve long since found that plans made in the pub, Guinness in hand, are often poorly done. Instead I have cooked a hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie and started planning my race calendar. If you want my gluten free vegetarian recipe, please ask. It is delicious, even served with aging Brussel Sprouts.

After much deliberation and despite concerns about training inflicting further pain, I’ve picked three half marathons for 2014. I’ve chosen, and for very different reasons, the Edinburgh Marathon Festival Half,the Fleetwood Half Marathon and the Great Cumbrian Run.

2014 Races

The Edinburgh Half is part of a bigger running festival which also includes a 5k, 10k, a full marathon and a Team Relay (amongst other things). Last year I did the Rock’n’Roll Half in Edinburgh. It was a terrible weekend and I struggled in vain to better my GNR time on the day in gale force conditions. This year the organisers have decided to move the event to the end of June, possibly in an attempt to avoid bad weather (although as this is Scotland that mightn’t be possible!) This year, however, I thought I’d treat myself to a more PB friendly course and do it a month earlier when the weather might be a little cooler. I’ve gone the whole hog and booked the caravan into Silverknowes and bought us Park and Ride bus tickets to get us to and from the start and finish.

The Fleetwood Half Marathon takes place on the weekend after my 50th birthday so it will be my first of my fifth decade. Really I should be looking at lovely hotels and booking myself a pre and post race massage, but I’m guessing I’ll be checking out the local campsites and settling for a brisk rub down with a fluffy towel. This is known as racing on a tight budget! I don’t know much about this race at all.

Last year, in great pain, I completed the Great Cumbrian Run. This year I’m determined that my 13.1 miles won’t be as uncomfortable. It was nice to do a local half marathon (most of the local ones seem to take place on a Saturday and I have a gallery to keep open) and take in places I’d visited before in less arduous conditions. I’d like to run through the villages with more of a smile than a grimace! So that was on my ‘To Do Again’ list.

I’ve got a few other shorter races on my list – Kilomathon 13.1k, X Borders Challenge 10k (Gretna to Carlisle), Gallovidan 10k (Dumfries), Jedburgh 10k – but I haven’t entered any of those as yet. I think if I concentrate on completing three half marathons without huge problems that will be enough.

Goals

On my Daily Mile profile there is a section entitled ‘Goals’. Last year it said something like ‘To run a 5k in less than 30 minutes, a 10k in less than 60 minutes and to PB my half time”; this year it says simply

“To run my own race and not care what anyone thinks!”

That’s the only resolution I’m making, the only goal I’m setting. I’ve spent far too long worrying about what others say and think. This year I intend hold my head high and do my own thing, at my own pace.

 

Finishing the Great Cumbrian Run, in almost one piece!

Oh my goodness, where do I start? I’ve just completed what was a lovely half marathon route, but only just. The Great Cumbrian Run is a well attended race, with in excess of 1400 runners, which starts and finishes in Carlisle. Better than that, you actually get to start from inside Carlisle Castle, run out of the quadrangle, through the castle gates and into the centre of Carlisle city. How many races can boast that?

We arrived early, worried that we might not be able to park. In reality there was plenty of parking, although we didn’t try to get too close to the start/finish area – something I would come to regret at race finish! I collected my chip, attached that to my shiny Nikes (honestly, who wears WHITE trainers?) and took advantage of the plentiful toilets.

Starting at Carlisle Castle!
Starting at Carlisle Castle!

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More toilets than runners!
More toilets than runners!

At about 15 minutes to the off an official asked all the non-competitors to leave the area so I said goodbye to hubbie and went away to avoid the warm up. I wasn’t alone – lots of runners stayed well back, doing their own thing. I don’t mind warm up, what I hate are the pre-race stretches everyone is encouraged to make. You can almost hear hamstrings twanging.

We started bang on 10. The cathedral bells chimed us across the start line, the spectators cheered us on. We ran straight into the city centre, which was a delight. The route through was barriered off and lined with folk sending us off on our way. I found hubbie at the far end of the pedestrianised area, called and waved and headed off down Botchergate. It was odd running through a city I know well, running past bars and clubs I have frequented on lazier days!

I didn’t look too much at my watch. The hills caught my attention more! I had met an ex-pupil at the start who had done the race before and warned me about the hill heading out of town and another at mile 3. I think she left a few out, but those were pretty tough! We climbed up along London Road, heading towards the M6, before turning left and out into the countryside.

I hit mile 3 at an encouraging 30:22, but my plantar fasciitis was already making itself known.

We passed through the villages of Cumwhitton and Wetheral, both quite well to do areas, supported all the way by locals. I high-fived I can’t remember how many children; it was a bit like the Great North Run in that respect. The hills were hard work with many of us walking up the worst of them.

I made 6 miles in 65 minutes – again not bad pace for me, but by then my right IT Band had started to tighten up, a lot. On walk breaks I took to hitting it in order to get the blood flowing, but that worked only briefly. I was fine on the flat and on downhills, but uphill was very hard work!

I started to really struggle at mile 7, taking far too many walk breaks for a decent time. My mile times dipped to 12 and 13 minute miles as I began to limp. I felt strong – if my foot and ITB had behaved I think that I might have got a good time, but they didn’t and by mile 9 I was in pain.

I met another runner, Emma, who had been running since the beginning of the summer and was running for Ataxia, spurred on by a recent diagnosis of a young girl. We yoyoed a bit as I took walk breaks, but eventually crossed the line more or less together.  At a particularly anxious stage of the race for me, at mile 11, when I was in severe pain with both my instep/heel and ITB,  she came to my rescue. She ran with me through Rickerby Park, telling me about herself and then asking me about myself until we reached a hill that I just couldn’t run up. I took a walk break, but caught her up a bit further on. When she started to falter at mile 12 I took her hand and we ran together for a while until she felt better. This is the first time I’ve experienced this and without Emma’s help I might not have finished at all, despite my own determination. I needed an angel.

My app stopped short of the finish, about a mile short. I restarted it so that I could benefit from greatly needed walk breaks, but ended up just running when I could. As I ran through Bitts Park I kept Emma in my sights and just kept going. I saw hubbie as I rounded the corner into Sheepmount Stadium. I thought that I had a lap of the course to do, but it was only half a lap. I ran as fast as I could through the line, but by the end I was completely spent. I couldn’t lift my leg onto the bucket for the chip to be removed, the pain in my leg was that bad. I could hardly move, but saw hubbie just beyond the finish area.

I started to see stars and realised that this meant that I was about to pass out. I hadn’t noticed that my breathing had become rapid, shallow, raspy gasps and that I was running out of air. We made it to some seats and I took my asthma inhaler, starting to feel better within a few minutes. It was scary, but passed quickly.

The bling was very nice and I also got a T shirt which, in time honoured fashion, I am wearing!

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The walk back to the car was complete murder.

Having parked at the other end of Bitts Park we had to walk for about 10 minutes. OMG. My foot ached, my ITB was taut and my hips were sore. I was a total mess! However, after a quick change of clothes, a soya milkshake and a Nature Valley bar I felt better.

Having been home for a few hours now I have bathed, applied Deep Freeze to my legs and sat for the Grand Prix with my foot on an ice pack. I’m starting to feel slightly hungry and slightly more human. I will sleep tonight. In fact, I might not make it to tonight!

Special mention has to go to EventClip, whose fab clips held my number in place, didn’t spoil my vest and looked pretty cool. I saw one other runner using them as well!

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Get your Event Clips at EventClip.net

What next then? Well I am booked in to do the Jedburgh 10k at the end of October. Hopefully my foot will heal in time for that. I’m now considering buying a night splint to stretch my foot – hell, I’ve tried everything else! My next run will be a short  recovery run once my foot feels better!

Running with the Stars

My husband describes me as a star struck teenager. That’s not quite true, but I have been riding on the crest of a celebrity wave since yesterday.

We’re on holiday, staying at a campsite at Brora in Sutherland. It’s 50 odd miles north of Inverness and 40 odd miles short of John O’Groats, so not far off the top of the country. We arrived on Thursday and went for an exploratory walk out of the campsite to be greeted by a beautiful, fairly clean, sandy beach beyond the golf course that lies between the campsite and the shore. Please don’t tell anyone how wonderful the beach is because every time I’ve been down there it’s been deserted. There’s two miles of brilliant running when the tide is out, four if you turn round and go back. Apparently there’s another mile if you head up to the golf course.

On Friday morning I donned my Sketcher GoRun minimal trainers, collected my eager to run Jack Russell and headed beachwards. Unfortunately the tide was in and this made running quite difficult. It certainly slowed me down, especially when the sand was either too dry or too full of water. Finding a middle ground was difficult. However I persevered and managed a reasonable 5k in 35 minutes without trying too hard.

I wondered about heading out on Saturday as well, but as my hip flexor has been really tight of late, I decided instead to spend the day doing some walking and stretching. We walked two miles along the beach and a further three into town and back.

On waking on Sunday morning I could see that it was going to be another scorcher (we’ve been experiencing wonderful weather in the UK over the last few days) and decided that an early run along the beach was the best idea, so again I donned my GoRuns and hitched up the dog. We ran south along the beach to its farthest point before you have to turn towards the town and from there I could see a runner heading along the cliff towards us. Murphy hasn’t been very well behaved when he sees people on the beach, I don’t know why other than the one guy he did run after was walking in a really aggressive way – arms and legs flying about. I was wary of him chasing the runner (and perhaps biting him) so I kept an eye on how far behind us the other runner was. He wasn’t making up much ground, but by then I was throwing a few intervals into the mix, effectively stopping and starting. I decided to stop, put Murphy on the lead and let the runner past.

But the runner didn’t pass. Instead he stopped and came across to chat. And when he did I suddenly realised that I was talking to Ally McCoist, the ex-Scotland soccer player and the now Rangers manager. He asked me how long the beach was and, after me acknowledging who he was – OK, I admit it, I told him I was a big fan – we chatted a bit more before he shook my hand and ran on. The dog wasn’t at all bothered by him, so I chanced it and let him off the lead and followed Ally along the beach. By the time he reached the end of the beach I’d caught him up again and so I asked if he minded me running back with him as our pace was so similar. We chatted as we ran, about our families, the team, running and such-like. It was a very pleasant run and I wondered if should run at this easy pace with a partner more often. I felt comfortable and happy to run.

I left Mr McCoist’s company half way back to get back to the campsite, although I was happy for the company and the pleasant chat. Ally came across as a nice bloke, easy going and, well, ordinary. He wasn’t a “celebrity” in the bad sense of the word. He asked me as many questions about me and my life as I asked him about his (although I was careful not to be intrusive – I’m sure no one in his position likes being grilled about his personal life. I restricted my questions to his professional life.) We shook hands again and told each other how nice it was to meet each other. I wasn’t starstruck, just happy to have met a nice guy to run with.

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Delighted to be running with me, as you can see.

As you can imagine I was eager to get back and tell my husband who I’d been running with. So eager I managed to walk across a fairway with golfers teeing off. Oops. They missed me and I’m here to tell the tale!

The rest of the day was spent watching Andy Murray win the Wimbledon Men’s Title and Vettel win the F1 German Grand Prix and feeling decidedly unwell. After returning from my run we had a sausage breakfast. When I ate mine I sensed something was wrong, they just didn’t taste quite right. Subsequently I spent too much time on the loo or curled up in a sleeping bag yesterday afternoon and evening. I feel better today, although I’ve put my 8 mile long run on hold until later or maybe even tomorrow when my strength will have built up a bit more. I don’t think that I have enough in reserve at the moment.

Where I run depends on the tides. I could do several lengths of the beach or I could venture out into Brora. I know that it’s three miles into town and back, but I still need another five. I may have to buy a map or get a decent interweb signal at a local cafe in order to research possibilities. Heading out blind, I’ve found, isn’t a good idea when you’re running in an area you’ve never really been to before.

In the meantime I’m enjoying the sun and the peace. Life is grand.

Edinburgh Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon

Oh.My.God.

After making light of yesterday’s forecast, expecting much lighter wind speeds and for the predicted rain to have passed over, I felt a tad embarrassed walking down through the cobbled streets to the start of this half marathon. We had decided not to try and drive into town, but leave the car at Leith and bus it as close as possible to Holyrood. With the start at just after 9, we’d been told to arrive an hour early to allow for any hold ups. Ordinarily this would have been fine, but today the weather was rebelling. Wearing only a soft shell jacket for protection, I was drenched by the time we reached the bottom of the hill. Not the best scenario an hour before a race and with no shelter to take.

As we rounded the bend at Holyrood Palace, the full force of the gusting wind hit us. This was not going to be a pleasant experience or a personal best race. My first stop was to visit the toilets whilst the queues were still short. After finding a portaloo that the wind hadn’t already blown over, we headed across to the field.

I had filled a rucksack with as many things as I could think of that might help me at the before the start and at the end of the race. Nestled at the bottom of said bag were a couple of foil blankets collected from previous races and stored away for days such as today. Amazingly warm for such a thin piece of material and waterproof. Result.

We sought out shelter behind the Run 4 It tent, along with a few others, and waited for the start to be called. A very long 40 minutes later I stripped down to my vest top and sleeves. Looking around me, most people had opted for long sleeves, several layers and waterproofs. I was there with no sleeves, one layer and three quarter leggings. Was I mad? After kissing hubbie goodbye and giving my shivery, wet dog a pat, I headed off for my corral.

Finding my corral proved difficult and I ended up in corral 7 by mistake. The guy beside me assured me that it wouldn’t matter, so I stayed put. I wasn’t alone. I didn’t realise, but our numbers started with our corral number and there were many others in corral 7 with numbers starting with 8, 9, 10 and even 11. I stopped worrying. With the weather conditions taken into account, where I started was insignificant.

I had Jeff Galloway’s Half Marathon app playing on my iPhone and my Garmin for back up. Our chips were in our numbers, which meant that there was no faffing about with lace chips, far easier. When I crossed the line I hit my app/watch and I was away.

Starting in the faster corral actually worked out better for me. I tend to run faster during my run intervals than other people running the same overall pace as me, so I found that I was better paced being further up the field. I made sure that I kept right out of the way during walk breaks, because I know how annoying it is to be confronted by a line of walkers. I also quickly realised that my vest and arm sleeves were perfect. I was warm within minutes.

Mile 1 : 9:44

Even in the town the wind was dreadful. Combined with rain the conditions were some of the worst I’ve endured. In terms of people running, it was certainly more comfortable with only five thousand runners on the roads, rather than almost forty thousand in the Great North Run. Mind you, I still managed to get tripped up around mile 2, although how it happened I’m still not sure. I was going for a space, got through it and then all of a sudden someone ran right into the back of me. I’m fairly sure that I am easy to see, so how she managed that I don’t know.

Mile 2 : 9:56

What I soon discovered was that my trip had caused my juice bottle to fall out of my waist pack, a bottle full of SIS juice designed to last me the entire race. I was annoyed and a bit worried. I couldn’t remember what isotonic juice was on offer and wasn’t sure how it would suit me. Perturbed I stopped to collect water from the first station and, in an effort to calm myself down, I stopped at the portaloos behind the water station.

Mile 3 : 10.10

I was pleased with my pace, despite stopping for a toilet break (although the watch may have auto-stopped for this, I didn’t check and can’t until I get home.) However this joy was soon to cease. We had reached the shore and the wind and rain were waiting for us. The route took us down onto the promenade. I didn’t think the wind was too, too bad, but the long hill before dipping down to the shore was relentless.

Mile 4 : 10:09

I took my first energy gel at mile 4, following the pattern I’d set down at the GNR. The Powerade gels were a little thicker than others I had been having and needed washing down with water. Around mile 4 we were offered isotonic juice IN CARTONS! I’ve never seen this before. They were terrible to use, with juice spilling out from the open top. I quickly emptied my water bottle whilst on a walk break and filled it with the juice. I don’t drink a lot on runs these days, but I needed to know that I had enough to see me through.

Once we turned off the promenade the wind hit me. And so did the hills. Oh, and the rain, I almost forgot the rain. This combination was a killer. We hit hill after hill during mile five with the wind hitting us face on. My pace showed the effect.

Mile 5 : 11:21

Mile 6 was no better. Hills, wind, rain. Lots of all of these.

Mile 6 : 11:37

On the downhill stretches, and there were one or two, I just went with it and ignored walk breaks in a bid to regain some time. I knew I was going to be close to my GNR result by now as I was averaging a 11 minute mile. Knowing that I needed to speed up when I was confronted by the elevation and the weather was starting to get to me. I had to focus on running for four minutes as close to my race pace as I could, even when I was running up hill. Not easy.

Mile 7 : 12:14 (my worst mile)

As I finished mile 7 I took another gel, and on seeing that the organisers were giving out the same gels, I snaffled one to replace my bought one. Cheeky! By now we were climbing back up towards Arthur’s Seat. It’s a long and steady climb, eventually rewarded by a long downhill stretch to Holyrood Park. I, again, ignored the walk breaks and used gravity to push me on down the hill. I could hear Jeff Galloway counting down the miles and it sounded as if I wasn’t far off pace, but as I’d lost sight of the 2:15 pacer, I didn’t know how far away from this I was.

By now I’d decided that finishing below 2:30 would be nice.

Mile 8 : 11:31

We hit the town again, which meant more hills. Yaay.

I will never moan about the Great North Run course again.

Ever.

People had generously dotted pretty much the entire route, offering encouragement as these mad runners ran past. Considering the weather, I think that these folk deserved a medal as well!

Mile 9 : 11:32

Have I mentioned the hills?

We ran down through the Grassmarket and, inevitably heading down will mean that we will have to climb again. By now I was totally pissed off with the hills! I just couldn’t get a good pace going and I knew that I still had it in me, just not uphill anymore.

Mile 10 : 12:09

By the time I reached the town centre I was glad of some level running at last. My legs felt tired out by all the climbing they’d done, but were happier to run on the flat for a while. I was starting to yoyo with the same people, all of us were doing a combination of running and walking. I was pleased to see that there were running club people around me, making me feel a little less useless! I knew, as well, as I had about half an hour of running left, so I tried to up my pace.

Mile 11 : 11:51

Running across the Royal Mile meant that I wasn’t far from the finish. The course the took us down past The Mound, past Waverley Station and into Princes Gardens. I have to say that this is one of the nicest routes I’ve run, if you disregard the hills and the weather! The architecture and the sights were lovely, taking me through areas of Edinburgh that I didn’t know at all. I spotted some lovely looking restaurants, although I doubt I’ll ever find them again!

Mile 12 : 11:46

From mile 12 on the going was easier, mostly downhill and sheltered. I started looking out for hubbie and dog, but didn’t really expect to see them until the end. As I headed down Cannongate I knew I was nowhere near my Great North Run time of 2:22. I was disappointed, but it was a tough race and I’m not going to give myself a hard time over missing a PB. Doing a sub ten minute mile at this stage of the race was fabulous. I felt strong at the race end.

Mile 13 : 9:58

As I passed the palace the wind hit me again, but I pushed on through it, distracting myself by looking for my family. I found them just before the finish straight. I was aware of someone trying to overtake me and, spurred on by the sight of the finish, I sprinted for the line – which probably surprised me as much as the other runner!

Mile 13.13 : 9:08

I crossed the line at 2:25:10, well I think I did. There were three lines! I didn’t know which one to stop my Garmin at, so I went for the last one, just in case. Bearing in mind that I’m not sure whether my watch kept going when I was on the loo, I don’t think it really matters! I will get my official time in due course, but whatever it is, I’m happy with what I did.

I enjoyed the run, but wasn’t expecting the hills. The weather made the hills impossible and apparently everyone was affected with even the elite runners coming back slower than expected. My medal, well, see for yourself!

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I’m tempted to say it makes up for the hills and the weather.

After the race it seemed that the weather had caused far more chaos. The bag check tent was in danger of collapsing, so no one was allowed in. Instead bags were being collected by staff members and handed out, so you can imagine the huge resultant queues. The stage for the after race concert had been devastated, the wind having ripped the stage sides to shreds. The concert was cancelled. As I passed the portaloos I noticed that even the massive urinal loos had been blown over.

Luckily I’d given my bag to hubbie to look after so I only had to collect my tee shirt. The organisers had done well offering a Brooks technical tee, which is wonderful.

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The walk up to Leith Walk for the bus was hard work! As if I hadn’t seen enough hills!! The bus journey back to Leith was wonderful. I had a seat all the way home. Warm and comfortable.

Sitting here now in the caravan, having enjoyed a hot shower, a lovely lunch and the Chinese Grand Prix, I think we’ve got a great set up. We leave tomorrow for home, not racing home tonight because I don’t work on a Monday. I’m looking forward to vegetable frittata, new potatoes and salad and a nice glass of wine in celebration of the toughest race I’ve run…so far!

EDIT.

I’ve just sat and read this through and realised that not once have I mentioned the bands that were playing along the way! Just about every mile was marked by a rocking band, spurring us on. It was great to listen to and I just regret that we weren’t able to enjoy the concert at the end.

On being quiet and just getting on with it.

I take my blog writing style from the fictional Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City fame. Carrie, I feel, had that way of approaching subjects that are only important to a few select individuals and making them everyone’s latest big issue. My blog is read by few, probably appreciated by less, but is important, I hope, to one or two select individuals.

So, what is my latest big issue?

Not much, to be honest. I find myself blogging less about what I’m doing, even forgetting to blog about long runs, as the runs get longer and my free time lessens. As the title implies, I’m just running, getting the job done and getting on with life. And, sometimes, that’s all we can do.

(See, now that was a Carrie style metaphor for life. I can hear your impressed applause from here!)

I’m up to 11 miles now in my long run status in training for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Edinburgh at the end of my Easter holidays. I’m really looking forward to the whole Rock and Roll weekend. Hubbie and I have booked our wobble box (the caravan) into a good camp site nearby and I’m excitedly reading about the  many bands we will be listening both on the way round and in the after race concert at Holyrood. I will even attend an expo, my first proper expo! Even the Great North Run last year didn’t have an expo to attend, just a few races with one or two celebrities at the quayside. I can get my photo taken looking excited prior to the event – how cool. How very American! I’m secretly very envious of my US running pals who have fabulous pre-race, in-race and post-race photos. I get a pic taken in the caravan of what I looked like before and then a few blurry blob in-race photos to share. It’s terribly sad.

Last weekend I ran my 11 miles on the shore road. I was going to do two loops of my 5 mile circuit, but the weather has been so wet I doubted that the loop would be puddle free and, as regular readers, you will remember that a Scottish puddle is the equivalent of a pond elsewhere. Ducks swim on them. Dolphins have been spotted.

The weather was lovely, total running perfection. Calm, blue skies, sunshine and chilly. I went out fueled by porridge and banana and took an isotonic drink and a handful of dextrose tablets. I had downloaded a new running album, all rock songs, and was eager to see how they sounded. Although the original artists weren’t serenading me, it certainly wasn’t karaoke central. I was pleased by how well the songs fitted my pace and how good they sounded. If you want to download a bargain this is it: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/worlds-greatest-rock-runnning/id585790865

I ran fairly smoothly, although as usual it took me a few miles to feel comfortable. It’s as if I have a brief respite between feeling sluggish and then feeling knackered and the miles just whizz by, briefly. I was running at just under 11 min mile pace. I find running at below race pace tough. I’m meant to be building up my speed and seeing 11 min/miles on my Garmin really gets to me! I know that’s the point, long runs should be easy and are there to build up endurance and it shouldn’t frustrate me, but I’m just too competitive, so it does.

This week I’ve struggled with feeling “right”. I didn’t feel that my long run was particularly stressful. I recovered very quickly. I don’t seem to ache as maybe I should after a long run. I am tired, but I get no real muscle ache, just a bit of initial stiffness if I’ve been sitting for a while. Maybe I’m lucky like that or maybe the run:walk philosophy is keeping me injury free, I don’t know. Whatever the answer is, I’m not changing anything. It works for me. Anyway, what should have been an interval session on Wednesday got swopped for a recovery run and a short one at that. I’m meant to do two 45 minute runs in the week, a walk on Saturday and my weekend run. On Wednesday I could hardly put one foot in front of the other and ended up doing a measly 30 minutes and being really annoyed with myself. On Friday I knew that I was due for a straight 45 minutes run at above race pace and I knew I wasn’t ready for that either. I adjusted the speed (it’s easy done on the Jeff Galloway Half Marathon app) and this is what I heard:

“OK, I’m pleased that you are listening to your body. Let’s lower the pace.”

Isn’t that what we all need to hear sometimes? I actually did 30 minutes at 10.3 kph and the last 15 minutes at 11.3 kph, adjusting the pace on the hoof. And I felt good.

Today I have 800m intervals to do. I was toying with heading to a local track and doing them there, but there is a race on. So, unfortunately it’s an treadmill day. I say unfortunately because the weather is perfect for a long run and it would be great to get out there. If it stays like this I’m tempted to do a short recovery run tomorrow.

I will be fueled today by porridge and banana (I’m typing this whilst waiting for it to “land”) and a sports drink made by my son who has been studying sports nutrition this week as part of his B.Tech course. He has made a cheap and nutritionally equivalent sports drink out of orange juice, lemon juice and salt. It tastes fine and lacks added sugar that shop bought ones have. I hope that it works; I have a gallon of orange juice in my fridge. Maybe I should worry more about being a guinea pig. Last night I dined out prior to a concert on Beans in Tomato Sauce (which, I know, sounds like a can has been opened, but was actually very nice) served with boiled potatoes, green beans and carrots. I won’t divulge the starter and dessert. That’ll just spoil the picture you have of my carb and protein high dinner. Instead I will leave you with a video of the band we saw last night. The world’s greatest rock and roll ba-ha-ha-hand.