I Spy

Most of my generation and older will be familiar with the I Spy books by Michelin (or rather now by Collins in association with Michelin) and if you are not familiar with the books, you should certainly be familiar with the game.

I have spent a LOT of time at triathlons and other various races, at which, hanging around can just be simply quite boring. There have been a few occasions when I have been with mates where I have mentioned that I should write my own I Spy book for others in a similar position but equally as an athlete racing – playing I Spy is pretty fun!

So, here it is. It is, as it stands, a bit of ‘tongue in cheek’ and as much as I would LOVE to publish this as an actual book, I am not sure Collins would be too game for it. I may just email them any way to ask.

I Spy…..

Pre Race

  • Registration Tent – filled with hardy volunteers, mostly lovely and supportive – especially at Tri Club organised races. They understand!
  • Lost race licences and stressed athletes looking for said race licence (pre-race nerves).
  • Sleepy looking spouses and families who have been dragged along for the day.
  • Someone eating a banana/gel/breakfast.
  • The über-keen triathlete, rocking up with a full TT bike set up, with matching disc wheel for a super-sprint.
  • Lost safety pins. You can never have enough. Really!
  • The panic-strikened athlete who has forgotten *inserts important piece of kit* = panic-strikened athlete.
  • Discussion of race tactics – this is just a scare tactic…
  • Technical officials telling people to move their kit! Don’t try to mark your spot people! It’s just not on…. although that bright pink bar tape….
  • Race briefing – nod and turn up – usually a wise idea (like reading the race pack).
  • Maps of the race – because sign posting may be hazardous or you may want to just scare yourself about the elevation…. that you didn’t check before you raced.
  • LONG queues for the toilets – and possibly even someone sharing wet wipes – this happened at my last big race. He was a hero.
  • The athlete asking someone to help them into their wetsuit/zip it up. Common occurrence!
  • The athlete who has forgotten their body glide and asking if anyone has any lube to help them out!

Swim

  • Forgotten or lost googles. Take two pairs. This is sage advice.
  • The swimmers doing breast stroke – and feeling smug that your front crawl is OH SO GRACEFUL.
  • People swimming. Obviously.
  • Lost swim caps!!
  • Pontoons/deep water starts.
  • The swimmer who put a swim time down that was a bit too ambitious. We all know someone who will do this, claiming adrenaline will kick in on the day….
  • The swimmer who does extra laps in a pool based tri or swims a lot further than needed in OW. I know several who have done this!
  • A swimmer getting kicked. Inevitable, especially in open water. Rude people. Just rude – although some people see this as a sport in itself.
  • The swim being cancelled due to blue green algae or some other reason. Come on people – we are supposed to be hardy triathletes. Who wants to do a duathlon?
  • Swim cut short due to weather/other reason unfathomable to mankind – although at the inaugural (and only) Edinburgh 70.3 – I saw the sea and, well, yeah… wise move!
  • Swim buoys that cannot be seen. Without my glasses, I am NOT going to see that buoy around that far distant corner….
  • Kayakers – wise people. Usually lovely too. Major kudos to those supporting LONG swims.
  • A swimmer going the wrong way! (Bonus points if more than 3 swimmers are following) – watch the buoys people – I’ve seen this happen.
  • Flipflops littering the start line. Honestly do NOT understand why getting from T1 to the start isn’t given more thought in some races.

Transition  (T1)

  • Lost athletes. Walking transition before a race is a GOOD IDEA for a reason.
  • Athletes fiddling over watches – common in T2 as well. I’ve only just got the hang of mine.
  • Athletes who sit down to put on cycling shoes – again this is me. I am a very lazy triathlete.
  • The triathletes who have managed to master the art of keeping their shoes on their bike and put them on as they mount.
  • The technical official reminding people to put their helmets on before touching their bikes.
  • The athlete getting told off for mounting too soon.

Bike

  • A hybrid/mountain bike – especially in super/sprint triathlons – sometimes the sign of a novice/doing it for the sheer hell of it. It goes to prove that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t got the swankiest bike – I love seeing people getting involved.
  • An aero bike/TT bike – love the variety actually and the ‘oooooo that’s nice’ – I don’t get bike envy much any more but can appreciate a nice bike. It’s more amusing though in small local races when it might not be so serious that some people take it so seriously… if that makes sense.
  • Clip on TT bars – I’ve given mine away to a mate now I have a TT bike. I never really got on with them in terms of my position on the bike, but definitely useful and not to be sniffed at.
  • Trainers! Not every triathlete is there with cleats etc – does make for SPEEDY transitions though.
  • Drafting in a non-drafting race – just don’t. It isn’t a group ride.
  • Pointy helmets – you know what I mean! Aero/marginal gains! I will admit that I have been looking at new helmets…
  • Full kit w*nkers – I have nothing against this – I am just too tight to buy full club race kit. In all honesty though, in triathlon, it could just be a club trisuit… always good from a support point of view though as it makes athletes in your own club easier to spot and often volunteers and general supporter are far more likely to support in terms of ‘Go York!’ etc.
  • Lost water bottles. Easy done.
  • Gel wrappers strewn on the road side – actually against the rule – and littering is bad anyway – you managed to carrying this far, you can take it home!

Transition (T2)

  • A technical official or volunteer reminding someone to take their helmet off
  • Stretchy/Elastic laces – time saver in T2 if you are that keen.
  • Wetsuits strewn all over – it tends to still be reasonably tidy after T1…
  • Bikes racked wrong way.
  • Someone scoffing a gel or food before heading out to run.

Run

  • Run/walkers (this was me at my last race!) – nothing wrong with this at all.
  • Runners flinging themselves down the descents. This happens all the time anyway – free speed!
  • Walking runners until they see support or get near the finish line.
  • High-fiving support especially from small children.
  • Awesome support banners – way more common on the run – love them! The more insulting the better!
  • Someone handing out haribo/jelly sweets – yes we love you.
  • Amazing marshals who are dancing and enjoying it as much as you aren’t – there was one couple at Outlaw X this year on the back section of the run who were just incredible – I do not know how they kept it up.
  • ‘Only a parkrun left to go’ – yes I know – knowing doesn’t help!
  • Stretchy/elastic laces – mentioned again as they are just cool.

The end!

  • Hands up in the air in celebration of surviving – you all know what pose I mean!
  • The joyous support crew who finally think that they can go home – we all know that this is a big lie and that there is about to be lots of faffing and reviewing of said race.
  • Post race queue for a massage – thankfully I was so late/slow, the queue was minimal – I quite often skip them though.
  • Athletes who put on their race t-shirt on as soon as humanly possible, along side medal – yes you!.
  • Comparing results with friends/clubmates/rivals/enemies, and comparing to the nth degree.
  • Someone making excuses for times – everyone is usually guilty of this at some point. My run time at my last race was due to injury – but I was expecting a DNF.
  • Someone doubled up about to be sick – obviously raced hard and given it their all (me post XC or a CX race).

 

Other random things to look out for:

  • Bored spouses/children who have been brought along under duress with the promise/lure of food.
  • Varying degrees of race t-shirt bragging. Martyn Brunt wrote an article for Triathlon 220 on the subject of race t-shirt hierarchy.
  • Limping.
  • Athletes wondering around in Dryrobes or similar – they really are nice bits of kit post race!
  • A mass of VW Transporters in various colours. Definitely a popular mode of transport – I keep jokingly saying that if I had £5 for every one I saw/spotted on the road, I would be a well off woman. I stand by this, as my trip to the gym alone would have made me £20 tonight.
  • People consuming random looking concoctions post race.
  • Random things in post race goodie bags/pre-race goodie bags.
  • Random post-race prizes instead of a medal eg. A paperweight…..
  • Race branding on the most random of items (Ironman I am thinking of you!)

 

I am sure I have missed some bits off here to be quite honest, so I may add to it. This list has been in my head all summer – I jokingly said about adding bike brands are some are more rare than others (Ridleys are pretty thin on the ground in triathlon but in CX, common as muck!!) but then this would be a VERY long list.

Chillswim Coniston End to End 5.25 miles

The 31st of August 2019 may go down as a day that I decided never to swim again.

Temporarily anyway. I’m waiting for sleep and time to dull the painful memories.

It’s already fading as it is and I am beginning to think that I actually might have enjoyed it – in a type 2 kinda way!

So the decision to do the End to End was made nearly a year ago. A year ago when I went to watch and support friends. I walked up a hill to watch from afar – little spots in the water in the far distance swimming beautiful calm water in a beautiful calm part of the world. I was wishing I was in the water – not watching!

I decided that I would have to give it ago, and low and behold, Saturday morning came round and I found myself stood next to a lake wondering what I had let myself in for.

This weekends adventure started as we left York – I say we, as there was one of my mates, his gorgeous pooch and myself, all packed and loaded into the car and on our way – and already planning/researching an epic trip for next year! We stopped en-route at a fish and chip shop in Kirby Stephen that has not seen any modernisation in about 30 years (except maybe the till). They weren’t bad for all I mock. The second stop was Kendal before arriving quite late into Coniston. By this time we had already learnt that the swim had been put back five hours due to the weather forecast which meant we had time for a drink and chance of a lie in. Winning!

Morning came round and breakfast consumed – we wandered down to register and investigate the water (walk the dog and attempt some geocaching – we even bumped into Sean Conway!) and waste some time. Milling about waiting is actually harder than it looks. Our complacency though backfired as we realised the time – quickly scoffing some lunch before getting changed (I have NEVER put a wetsuit on as fast in my life) and heading to get the bus to the start line.

For once I didn’t feel nervous. I knew I could do the distance but that it might be uncomfortable – my kit was all ok, ear plugs in, hats on – even booties – which was a good call! Checked in, scoffed a snickers, stuffed one up my sleeve and finally got in to the water and off. And a water temp of 17 – I knew I could swim in that happily!

So far so good. Managed to keep up with one of my mates to the second food station. Was struggling a bit with sighting and a bit off initially but the first half was quite uneventful – I cant say easy – it wasn’t and some of the food stations meant getting so close to shore you had to walk out of the water. The real fun came between miles 3 and 4 – the sun had been out for the first half and considering the rain and wind of the morning – the afternoon was looking promising. Then the wind got up and the rain started. One the plus side I saw a rainbow and didnt notice the rain so much! Mile 4 or rather at the 6km mark, my shoulder started to give me issues and I debated getting out and DNF-ing. I am a bit stubborn though and I could not have worn the hoodie if I had so I carried on and the last mile was the worst!

After the fourth feed station pain, boredom and negative self talk started. My shoulder was making me miserable, I was struggling to see the five mile buoy and I misjudged the finish – like a few others. I also needed the loo – anyone who knows me, knows how hard I find it!

It seemed to take forever. All hopes of coming in in under three and a half hours were shot and I just wanted to finish. I have never been so happy to see a finish line!

The photos of me exiting the water say it all!

My mate was waiting for me as I wandered out of the water, down the finishing shoot and to the exit – first two things to sort were my need to go to the loo and food. Both satisfied – we got the buses back to the registration point. Lots of people around me mentioned that they had found it harder than last year and the conversations since suggest that a lot of people were about 20 minutes slower than they expected – which makes me feel somewhat better about the the 3:50 when I know I can do it in under 3:30!

Achy and sore, both my friend and I wandered back to our cottage and got showered before heading out for a drink and then eating tea. Wetsuits in the drying room, fed and watered, bed called. I have never been more happy to go to bed!

Still woke up tired though, but less painful memories of the swim!

As for the event itself – considering the delays – communication was excellent, organisation was excellent, the volunteers and safety crew were excellent and the whole set up fab. It really was worth doing and is worth doing – just because!

And yes, I was glad I wore booties and had snickers up my sleeve!

Will I do it again?

Ask me in a week or two!

Coniston Epic Swim 3.8km

Well what a lot of random fun was had!

This weekend just gone, I spent in the Lake District with a friend and a group from a mountaineering association in a bunkhouse in Coniston. I only knew my mate but had such a lovely time meeting everyone as well as eating lots and swimming lots!

I travelled up with my friend on Friday, in the rain, expecting a wet miserable weekend, only for the weather to improve greatly. The main purpose of the visit being swimming!

Saturday I did attempt to run – badly – my knee is giving me some serious issues – walked over to Hawkshead and then later swam in the still waters of Coniston, before a mini epic BBQ.

This was the Saturday – more important was SUNDAY!

Alongside my friend, we had booked on to the 3.8km Epic Swim. All well and good. A good training swim for Coniston end to end apparently (I swam 4km in my local lake earlier in the week remind myself I could actually swim!). We walked down to the start line – flip flops are the most annoying footwear ever = to the point that I am almost persuaded that crocs might be a good idea.

We were probably cutting it fine to be honest – but having already got my registration pack (advantage of mate having a pooch that needed walking – he went and got them!) it was literally a case of listen to the race briefing, dumping my bag and getting in the water.

Well, compared to the night before, the water was just a wee bit choppy. The night before, despite the amount of rain, was fairly warm and very still! We were (reliably) informed that the water temperature was about 17 – and in all honesty, it wasn’t really cold. I had taken my booties and gloves just in case but didn’t feel I needed them.

The route had changed – but that made life easier – just three laps rather than one short and two long. Only issue was that the wind meant that the chop was against us for the first half of the lap, but then with us for the second – I haven’t ever swum in conditions like it so wasn’t sure what to expect. Swimming into waves above your head and trying to sight was certainly interesting but no where near as bad/hard as I was expecting!

I found the first lap quite hard – and had to keep reminding myself that I could actually swim and the time didnt really matter, it just seemed to take a while for me to find my rhythm and mojo. I did though and by the second lap felt more relax and in the flow of it. By the third lap I was desperate for a wee and very happy to be swimming towards the exit point. I cannot pee in my wetsuit – which has now become my more pressing concern about the End to End swim!

I got out thinking my mate had beaten me – he hadn’t – he was 50s behind me! I couldn’t decide whether I have enjoyed it or not but I rather liked the medal! I was, however, very ready to go to the loo!

It was worth it though as I indulged in three breakfasts – including a communal fry up.

I also really enjoyed just swimming. Its the first time I have done just a swimming event and I really enjoyed it – it made a change from just running or cycling events – maybe thats the way to keep the love of triathlon alive – by doing the various disciplines in stand alone events?

Who knows?

What I do know though is that water fleas are actually a thing, and possibly the cause of the nasty bites/bruises I am now sporting on my legs!

The Weekend That Was Supposed To Be

Holkham Half Iron was today.

I was supposed to be racing it.

I didn’t.

Anyone that has been following this blog (hahahahaha) knows that I transferred my place to Outlaw X in September. A most wise and excellent choice. To the point that although the weather looked perfect – I didnt feel bad about not doing it. Although I did remind myself that I need to run.

So what did I do instead?

I surprised myself.

It is becoming a bit of a bad habit to say yes to the random things my mates suggest. About a week ago one mate sent me a link to race he had signed up for – up near Consett on Derwent Reservoir. Asked if I fancied it – and camping (with my new tent). Well bit of a daft question. I read through and debated it – but then it dawned on me I could use this to my advantage.

I decided I would use this as the perfect opportunity to head north (what a surprise!) and go cycle in my favourite part of the world – Northumberland.

I decided not to race but still go and camp and support my mate racing, while also riding my bike.

It was actually quite hard getting myself up and out on the Saturday morning to be honest – there was a little voice in my head wondering whether it was worth the money (fuel) and time going all the way north just to ride for a few hours when I could do a 40 mile ride at home. I had already printed off some OS maps just to keep in my pocket as I don’t have a cycle computer, and my bike was in the car – sod it. I overrode the little voice of doubt and thought it would do me good to go.

It was. Road trip central. I set off at half 7, donned in lycra from the start. I stopped at Scotch Corner as per normal and got some funny looks – which considering the lycra was unsurprising. I made Beadnell for 10.45. Driving North makes me so happy!

The weather was absolutely lovely but as I sorted out my bike and got ready to go (this is quite a quick process when you are on your own!) I realised that my route meant that I was going to be cycling back with a headwind!

Ah well.

My route was taking me towards Boulmer via the coast and then back round towards Lesbury and up to Rennington before heading over North Sunderland and into Bamburgh – this was a long tough slog actually – headwind and up hill – but the view was worth it (see the picture!). The other thing that made it worth the slog was the tail wind from Bamburgh through to Beadnell and some amazing speeds and top 10s on Strava!

It was bliss! I stopped eventually at the harbour in Beadnell for an ice cream before cycling back round to the car and heading back to Derwent Reservoir. It was mixed feelings though – it was an epic ride in terms of scenery and just sheer enjoyment – I was over the moon with myself at cycling so far away from home (without the usual back up) on my own! But equally – I really would have liked to have had someone to share it with. The joy of a good bike ride is like nothing else!

However I was feeling – it definitely helped reset the happiness/wellbeing button in my own head.

So looking forward to riding up there again and planning my next trip up there!

Sledmere Sunset Trail 10k

Sledmere Sunset Trail race on Friday night was a bit of a last minute (week) decision. I haven’t really run properly since Edinburgh Half Marathon so I knew it was never going to be brilliant!

I had managed to get a last minute place – in terms of – I had a place that someone didn’t want/need and it got transferred over, while I was sat in the cinema watching the trailers!

Anyway, back to the race. I tagged along with a mate who was running it and thankfully the weather had, for the most part, had improved. Considering the amount of times I’ve been through Sledmere, I have never stopped at the house so it was actually quite a treat to be there.

I registered, had a bit of a moan about how unfit I am and wandered down to the start line. The 10k did on mini lap – the 3.8km mini trail race route then did a longer loop around the estate. I have to say, the route, for 80% was really lovely – reasonably muddy but not XC style thankfully, undulating but few real hills as such (cant believe I’m saying that of all things!). I was doing ok for the first 5km – a bit caught up with slower runners but I wasn’t initially too worried – then we hit grass. I hate running on grass. Majorly. To me it is harder than sand.

From about 5/6km in to 7km, you had to run down the bottom of a long valley – and it was awful. Just energy/leg zapping grass. Even my mate at the end had a moan about that bit! Then a climb out and another run through the woods and down the trails. Apart from the grass, my only bug bear with other runners was down to the fact that very few were willing to fling themselves down the descents!

It started to rain at the 8k mark but my mate was already in – and I was happy for the rain just to cool off a bit. I pushed the last 2k – to an extent, as it was mostly downhill and then I heard my mate cheering/shouting at me to hurry up as I came to the finish line.

If I hadn’t been so unfit – I think I might have enjoyed it more – the scenery and setting was really lovely and doing an impromptu 10k during the week rather than on a weekend in the morning, was actually pretty good! The medal was also one of the nicest I have too! As for the organisation – that was top notch – as was the marshalling and cheering on. Driffield Striders put on a great event!

Same time next year I think!

Edinburgh Marathon Festival Road Trip 2019

What an absolutely epic weekend!

It should be clear by now that I love road trips and that this May has been full of them. It is possible that this weekend has been one of my favourites! All of them have involved eating a lot, drinking a lot and racing, a lot. All good I hear you say! Well you would be right!

There are two main parts to this – the races and the rest of it.

I’ll get to the races but I like chronological order. Possibly due to my inner historian. Anyway…

Background

Why Edinburgh? Why Edinburgh Marathon Festival (EMF) weekend?

Why not? One of my mates is doing Endure 24. He has signed up to run it solo. Edinburgh Marathon Festival formed part of his training plan of sorts (the 5k, the 10k and the marathon). Because our mates and myself are thoughtful, kind and supportive (knowing the likelihood of him reading this – we love you but we think you are a little crazy sometimes), we decided to tag along in support. In my case, with the thoughts of doing Holkham, I decided that it would prompt me to keep running as part of my own training. I decided to sign up for the half-marathon and then cheer on the marathon. I later signed up for the 5k after getting a discount voucher from EMF for my birthday. One of our other mates signed up for the 5k, the 10k and marathon out of support.

This is the result of post-swim/training discussions that result in all sorts of crazy, wonderful plans.

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities so it was never going to take much persuading to get me there. Any excuse!

The actual trip

So the actual plan of action. There was four of us going to race. We travelled up in pairs and made our plans. I managed to persuade my mate to book first class train tickets – making the most of my railcard – both to Edinburgh and back. This was the wisest decision ever, even if we did lower the average age of the travellers in first considerably. More on this later. My mate, in turn, proceeded to book the wrong tickets home – causing me mini-heart palpitations. Thankfully, he realised! He was also responsible for booking the hostel.

Plans in place we met on the station platform at lunch on Friday and took the train to Edinburgh – making the most of the complimentary drinks and food while doing a great deal of people watching and general chatting. I love traveling by train, and its even better first class! What bemused me most though was how little luggage I had compared to my mate – however I was NOT complaining about this later and was soon rather impressed with his travelling skills. All kudos to him!

Arrival in Edinburgh and searching for our hostel reminded me how many steps there were in the city. To be perfectly honest, I followed my mate so he could have lead me on a right merry dance and I’d never have known! I knew where we were staying would be pretty cool but it was better than I thought it would be. We were Hostelling at the Kick Ass Hostel in Grassmarket – it was genuinely the funkiest place I have ever stayed – in these cool pods! Towel rail, hooks, plug sockets, own mini light, AND funky colour changing lights, black out curtain and own locker cupboard. Bar, plenty of toilets and showers, kitchen etc. All for £30 a night! Winning!

So far so awesome. So first night involved eating pizza, finding our feet and drinking Guiness. Our other mates had got to Edinburgh but both were poorly. This turned out to be a complete bummer as it meant neither of them would be racing. At all. The whole reason we were there. These things happen though. An early night was had and the next day saw my mate racing the 10k, and then both of us doing the 5k. Which was a bit surreal to be fair. Doing one race after the other? Well, I say that, but that was my mate. Watching and then both racing – and the number of people/organisation was impressive. More about the races in particular can be found here.

Post race plan was pretty simple really. Back to the hostel, shower, nap, eat. All of which we did. Brunch and Supper, where I went back in February, was literally around a corner or two from where we were staying so we wandered over before heading into the centre for some retail therapy/drooling over kit. Mentally spending a lot of money. This was followed by tea (I did say we ate a lot!) at a place called Mamma’s in Grassmarket – really reasonably priced, really fresh and really good service. No curry this time. Pre race pasta.

Nerves were starting to kick in about Sunday though. I was feeling it – I suspect my mate was too but he wasn’t showing it as much as I was moaning about it! Constant weather forecast checking and me debating kit and whether I should have brought a long sleeved top summed up my evening! Although I warm up a LOT when I’m running.

Sunday morning came, and I crawled out of bed – my mate came to the start line with me – well actually, it would be more truthful to say he lead me to my race – I was just following his lead! Either way – my mate’s forward planning came to the fore – black plastic bin bags! Kept the rain off perfectly. Anyway – this isn’t so much about the races as the weekend. My mates race start time was two hours after mine so after I’d set off – I’ve no idea what he got up to!

I’m going to skip forward now to post race and getting back into Edinburgh as the race day antics can sit in another post (which I’ve linked above).

We got back into Edinburgh and hobbled back to the hostel – first priority was clearly Guiness. Naturally! Then showers and then berating our mate for not racing. Followed by more drinks in the Beehive. Although our poorly mate deserves some credit – we did manage to all meet up and he suggested Zizzi’s and it was lush! So the eating and drinking carried on. Full three courses for me and the tired marathoner and pizza and desert for the poorly one. There was an internal debate about a final drink but tiredness had kicked in and so we all parted ways and headed back to sleep.

And thankful for a 10am train.

Monday morning – the pair of us aching and stiff, and me suffering with some blisters hobbled about getting our stuff together before a morning coffee and checking out of the hostel. The walk to the station was slower than our original walk from the station. It was at this point where I reminded my mate that he would soon be thankful for first class tickets home. The train was packed down in standard and probably a lot noisier too! We definitely made the most of the complimentary food and drinks, the bit extra space and the quietness. Discussing our weekend, the medal haul and me suggesting another road trip (the key is to drip feed these idea!).

It was with mixed feelings that we departed the train in York – parting ways on the station as I headed to Piccadilly to get the bus back to my pick up point. Sad that the weekend was over, that the racing was over and that I had no more planned road trips. I am more impressed that I didn’t lose my mate over the weekend or that it was as laid back as it was.

I haven’t been so chilled in so long.

Clearly in my mind I’m planning my next road trips and how to rope my mates in….

Maybe I am the bad influence?!

Racing at Edinburgh Marathon Festival

For all I hate running – this weekend I loved it!

Its been a pretty epic weekend in some respects. My mate and I pulling in 5 medals between us.

I’d heard good things about the Edinburgh Marathon Festival from friends who had been and I never need much of an excuse to go north so cutting a long story short (the full story of the weekend is content enough for a blog post in it’s own right), there was four of us heading to Edinburgh to race.

In the end, it ended up being just the two of us racing as the other two were genuinely very poorly.

The racing started on Saturday. I was only down for the 5k but one of my mates was down for the 10k before hand. Feed and watered at breakfast we headed down to the start line – and I watched the start of the 10k race, and waited/watched for my mates return. So far so good, with a cheeky second climb on the 10k – my mate came in with a respectable time and we promptly headed for a cheeky coffee before the 5k.

Racing a 5k…

This seemed odd to me – being a distance I had never raced, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The route takes you around Arthurs Seat – my observations?

  • If doing a short race – such as a 5k, put down a faster than usual time. I tend to plod out a 5k in 32 to 35 minutes – although my last park run was 31 minutes. Anyway – I found myself near the back with all the runners who were clearly not runners, or just starting out. All kudos to them but I found because there were 1500 of us – and the route quite narrow, I struggled to run between to get myself out.
  • This was more of an issue in one respect as the route was a slow gradual pull up hill – so people who could possibly have run were walking – it was a tough pull in that respect but I know I could have slow run it quicker than walk it.
  • It’s over so quickly!
  • The views at the top are just amazing. The most scenic 5k I’ve run.
  • Benefit of a long slow climb at Edinburgh 5k? An awesome down hill which lead to some PB times on Strava in terms of 1km/1 mile etc distances.
  • I reckon, if I had put a faster start time and started further up, I could have smashed my 5k PB.

Did I enjoy it? Yes! Very much! And it was so well organised too!

Perfect racing conditions, good company and well organised. So far EMF was looking like it was going to be a lot of fun!

The Half Marathon..

I cant say I slept well Saturday night or that I was feeling particularly prepared (LSR anyone?!) but I knew that the course was flattish and had PB potential.

Nerves where there but the bigger debate was what to wear. The weather forecast kept changing and although I had brought a waterproof and clothing for post race – it was still all changeable.

Morning came round and I was sort of thankful I had liberated some instant porridge from Sainsburys the night before. Getting up at 6am and eating breakfast I was a little quite when my mate walked into the kitchen. Him contemplating his marathon and me my half. I was more than happy to know he was planning on coming down to the start with me. The forecast had changed and the rain was just drizzle (it saved the torrential for the start of the marathon!). Deciding against the waterproof – we wandered to the start – the hostel perfectly placed close to the start – and I dropped my bag off. I decided NOT to queue for the loo but I wish I had now – which will soon become clear as to why.

Theres not much to say in terms of the waiting and hanging around. It was so busy and so wet! It really was just a quiet waiting game. Thankful for my mates forethought on the bin bag raincoats!

I was near the back – think think id put down a 2:40 time – but my plan all along was 7 minute Ks – so I wasn’t worried about being so far back – it did mean though that I had a 15 minute wait from the gun time to actually getting over the line!

The start of the race though through Edinburgh is just lovely – downhill and down the Royal Mile too! Seeing the city from a different angle was really cool – I didnt over cook myself either. The first 5k flew by but this is where I kicked myself. I decide rather than queue and miss the start of the race (in hindsight a daft idea), I’d go at the 5k mark – but this lost me time that, if I had gone before, would have seen the official time be sub-2:30.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing though.

Anyway, back to the race – I managed to keep a good pace – right through to the 6 mile mark my head was in a good space and my feet still holding up. Breathing was perfect and I suspect that the slow runs on the treadmill really played a part here.

After the half way mark my feet, or rather toes, started to get sore and I knew I would get blisters. The second half of the race took us out to Musslebourgh and Preston Pans – fairly familiar places as I’d been to watch the half-iron last year. The atmosphere was good though – all the way round. The route fairly flat and my pacing consistent – I was even in a pretty good place mentally and enjoying it, but by the 8 mile mark I was trying to work out the maths as to how far was left in kilometres as well as how long it would take if I ran at a certain pace. I never quite managed to work it out (I spoke to my mate about this and he does the same in races). By mile 10 my right hip and glute was starting to complain too!

Either way – we reached the part of the course that had the switch back.

I hate switch backs. So the marathoners 10 mile switch back must be horrific.

The turn around point seemed to take forever to get to and my feet were so sore by this point. I kept glancing at my watch – I was looking at a negative split – my pace increased and I was feeling mostly ok.

I managed to work out that I might be able to get the sub 2:30. I know thats not fast but I was on track for a half marathon PB.

I still done know how I managed to push the pace at the end to the extent I did. At the switch back point it was sheer determination and a bit of run/walk strategy and clock watching that got me to the end. This wasn’t helped by the headwind that all the runners encountered on the switch back – I dread to think how demoralising this was for the marathoners (my mate and many others commented on just how awful it was!). The sign for 25 miles for the marathon appeared and I knew that there was only 1.2 miles between the finish and me. I went for it.

The finishing shoot appeared and I tried to sprint finish but as soon as I pushed harder I could feel that I might just be sick and eased back – just enough not to be. It was awesome! I had got round a half marathon, with very little walking and knew I’d got a PB! I was incredibly happy about this but I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.

Walking through to retrieve my medal and goody bag was well organised and clear. I really couldn’t fault the organisation. I went and retrieved my bag (very quickly – I genuinely was impressed with this!). Next priorities were actually getting changed and getting food. Next time I am taking a towel. I could have had a proper shower!

I got changed and had a bit of a chat with some of the women in the changing room and went in search of food – I had at least a two hour wait for my mate. A peanut butter and banana waffle and a cup of tea later, and I was sat chatting to some of the marathon finishers as well as a couple of blokes from Doncaster who were supporting their wives. Thankfully by this time the sun was shinning despite the wind. Now was just the waiting game – but a chance for me to contemplate how much I had enjoyed it – and how much my mindset had changed when it came to pushing (I think a lot of this is to do with racing TTs and my stubborn determination to push through the pain on them – I think its helping my running mojo).

The marathon… 

I didn’t do the marathon but I did go to watch the finishers and to keep an eye out for my mate. Time ticked by and I genuinely started to worry that I’d missed him. Thankfully I hadn’t – and I genuinely was relieved to see him come in. The headwind had had an rubbish impact on his race but such is life – that switch back was never going to be pretty.

The best thing about racing with mates is the post race review and chat – it is so much better when you’re with mates.

Once changed and ready – then came the worst bit of organisation/lack of local knowledge/only annoying bit of the whole weekend happened. There were a load of buses sat outside the playing field/school where the finish was. These were apparently the local and spectator buses.

We had a right walk to get the buses back into Edinburgh and paid £5.50 for the privilege! Then there was a faff sorting out which buses we needed to be on. Getting back to the hostel and talking to another lad who had done the marathon, what we should have done is just get one of the local buses back. £1.70 and less hassle/walking.

Despite this, on the bus back into Edinburgh, I was seriously contemplating and discussing doing the whole lot again next year!

So it must have been good!

And I have (temporally at least), found my running mojo again!

Rock’n’roll Half Dublin anyone?!