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?!

Holkham Training – Week 9

Slowly starting to find my mojo again I think. This week was, in some cases, an improvement on last weeks. Doing Alnwick Sprint has helped I think and this weekend’s club trip away has also helped too, so I feel a bit more positive about next week, about my training and about maybe throwing in some sportive!

Swim – 0km – VERY unusual even for me. I didnt even swim in the Lakes – however, I think I may be suffering a bit from swimmers ear after Alnwick Tri. They are very cracklely!

Bike – 47.6km – Not ideal and less than I would have liked and in one day too. I did a 6 mile TT in the evening on Thursday – as I love a good TT but… it was so hilly! For a six-miler come and try event, I think it might have put a few people off! The rest of the mileage was a loop around home on my own, I feel pretty happy with the bike in respect of its comfortable but I need to really be upping my distance.

Run – 19.1km – More than I have done in ages! This consisted of three runs – one short slow dreadmill run, 5km Parkrun at Keswick and the 10km trail race. I actually enjoyed all of it too. I am hoping this is a sign from above?!

Ive been looking at my timetable for the next week – my biggest concern is the bike – I am off to Edinburgh next weekend for running races but I need to cycle – I’m just not 100% sure how I will fit it in yet. We will have to wait and see (she says, looking at sportive for June!).

Ultra inspiring!

If you haven’t heard of Nicky Spinks – go look her up. She is amazing and inspiring and ever so modest about her achievements.

I recently went to see a talk given by her at a local running club event. This is the second time I’ve seen her, and I had an idea of what to expect. There was the usual background story of her childhood and how she ended up running, as well as more recent stories relating to her more recent triumphs such as the Double Bob Graham in 2016. She also won The Ultra Tour Month Rosa this year.

I’ll admit I would rather do an ultra than a marathon (I think it’s a mindset thing) but I’m not sure I could go this far – I love swimming so much more, but when looking for inspiration, I don’t think that matters – it really is all about mindset, perseverance and everything that goes with it, regardless of the sport. Inspiration can come from anywhere so…..

If you need inspiration – she’s a definite candidate for fulfilling that role. Far be it from me to tell you all about her exploits and amazing achievements – go and look at her website here.

IBIZA! Part One – ETU Championships

Getting of the plane at Leeds Bradford Airport a couple of days ago was a bit of a shock to the system. Six days of glorious sunshine and warm weather, watching friends race and generally chilling – fabulous!

I will be honest – I wasn’t sure what to expect. Ibiza’s main reputation is that of party island but all the main clubs had their closing parts around the weekend of the 6th of October and as we arrived, many bars and hotels were closed or closing for the winter. It is quite a strange feeling being somewhere that is slowly closing down.

Clearly not there for the party scene, this week Ibiza has been the host to the ETU Championships – which was actually the reason for me being there. Initially this trip had been planned and booked while still with the ex. When he left me, I had him cancel the original holiday so I could rebook it. After seeing my mate’s hotel, I wish I’d rebooked into their hotel (it was lush and would have been worth the extra expense. Lesson learnt there!). Anyway, back to the important stuff – the reason for being there was the fact that some of my friends and club members had qualified to race representing GBR in their age category, so I headed out to go and support. A most excellent excuse for a holiday.

We touched down in Ibiza on the Saturday – the first day of the championships. The first race to affect our group was the Standard Distance Duathlon in Santa Elulia on the Sunday. When I arrived it was to find my friend, who was racing, slightly panic stricken – the transition had moved (washed away off the beach the night before due to an unusually high tide) and confusion over the race route, which had changed numerous times. Either way, push come to actual shove, everything went well, and certainly better than the previous day’s sprint duathlon by all accounts. We took it in turns cheering my friend on as me and her partner kept and eye on the children playing on the beach (a whole afternoon in the sun on the beach was blissful). At the end however, we all made a beeline for the finish – to which there was a total of 10 of us cheering her in to a marvellous sprint finish! First day of racing over, my friend could start enjoying her holiday!

The second race I was in Ibiza to watch was the Aquathon on the Wednesday evening – and what a glorious evening it was for racing! A 1km swim and a 5km run, with three club members racing into the sunset, it was always going to be fast and pacy. Eight of us stood waiting patiently near one of the switch backs for the race to start – and waiting for one of our club members to pass us. While we waited and watched, it was inspiring to see the elites go past but also the parathletes too. We had a good vantage point and were at one of the quiet points – until our first club member and friend ran past, at which point we made a mad dash to the finish. We were so close! Most of us managed to get stood on one of the seating blocks along the front and had an excellent side line view of one of the switch backs as well as the finish line, both of which provide amazing moments, sprint finishes and some more amusing moments. We were also an excellent home cheering crowd for our members as we watched and cheered loudly. All doing well as the sun set.

Race Day.jpg
Duathlon

Once everyone was in though we all made our way back to our own hotels but not before agreeing to catch up for drinks. Well, I say that. One was staying with family and one disappeared off drinking with other age groupers into the Irish bar that was still open along the front. The rest of us meet up at one of the hotels along the front where they were staying to celebrate the end of season and the fact we were all in Ibiza. Cocktails and laughter flowed – included one of our club coaches (I feel my work as social sec here is done!). It was about 1.30am before I rolled back at my own hotel, with a 6.30 alarm for our transfer to the airport. I wasn’t really looking forward to the impending hangover.

An impending hangover that, thankfully didn’t materialise – more just tiredness! I was actually quite gutted to leave in one respect, knowing that some other club members were just heading out for the Middle distance race on Saturday, but alas, all good things must come to an end and as we boarded the plane, I was debating whether I should book in some races abroad next year – although after seeing the stress that can comes with racing abroad – I know I will need to be mega organised!

Decisions decisions!

‘Don’t make a permanent decision for your temporary emotion.’ Unknown

I’ve been meaning to write for a few weeks, but as always, life gets in the way. I’m about to fly out to a small island in the middle of the Med to support friends who are racing.  Discussing this and next years race season with one of my friends last Tuesday has made me realise I really need to decide now what I want to do next year race wise. It has been on the back of my mind for a few months really but my training is currently aimless and even though I know I should be building my base fitness – what am I building it for?

This is where the quote comes in above as being quite apt. As for permanent decision – not long after the split up, I bought another bike (ok not a permanent decision but still!) and I bought a business (a slightly more permanent decision!). Why is this relevant to my training/life/race decisions? Well, the thing is, I’ve been debating going long course next year and to me, this is a bigger commitment than the business – maybe not so much money wise, but certainly time wise. I’ve a half already booked (its not up on my ‘Races’ page yet for various reasons) – I’m doing this with some friends. I know I can be race fit for this as my base fitness has improved massively already since the summer. I’ve proved I can do the distance in the swim and the bike – running is just the thing to conquer next.

The issue is – what else do I want to do?

There are so many awesome races out there that I could do.

I’d like to go long course, but I’d like to do Coniston End to End swim. I’d like to do Red Bull Time Laps too. I’ve even been asked about doing Brecca Swim Run at Coniston.

I’ve not wanted to make too hasty a decision as if I do go long course, it has to fit in with my half-iron in July and my life in general. If I do go long course I also need to make far more serious commitment to training but it also means I have to be more careful planning out the rest of the season so I don’t over do it.

I need to be making the decision and soon.

I always said 2020 would be the year, but that was 12 months ago and a lot has changed, but I am worried that I am thinking long course next year to prove a point and therefore potentially for the wrong reasons. I know I have nothing to prove but still. Experienced and unexperienced friends alike all have their opinions but even on their advice, I still need to make the decision. And soon.

Having never properly planned my race season and going with the flow, this is proving to be a tougher decision process than I thought! Maybe five days on a sunny island, surrounded by friends and triathletes will help me make my mind up!

Triathlon X Half Relay Antics

‘Empathy is about finding echos of another person in yourself’ Mohsin Hamid

I’ve rewritten this post more times than I care to remember before publishing. For various reasons – including being too wordy! September was a very busy month – three out of five weekends saw me travelling to the Lake District, all because of some link to the Tri Club, so not all bad.

So, why was I back in the Lakes?

The last Bank Holiday in August, a group of us went open water swimming. Not an usual event considering we’re triathletes, but this time, one of my friends – who doesn’t like swimming at the best of times, had a mini panic attack in the water. This led to a conversation about the fact that she had signed up to Triathlon X half and how she felt she couldn’t do it anymore. Two of us offered to do it for her if she could do it in relay. That turned out to be me. I had planned to come up anyway to cheer her on as I had nothing else on. So a couple of emails back and forth later and I was entered into Triathlon X half to do the swim! Now, TriX has a reputation. It is possibly the hardest triathlon (half and full) in the world. I definitely had the easy part. To put it in perspective, I was done with the swim by 8.44 – she was only finishing at 5pm – and she is an Age-group standard athlete for duathlon. If you want to see the elevation involved, I would just go search it if I were you.

Back to the race planning  – after a few conversations back and forth, I booked my own accommodation. It’s the first time I’ve stayed in a YHA on my own in a dorm room. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was actually ok. It is nicer having your own room but for £27 and to be located right next to the start line, I wasn’t going to complain. I hadn’t booked breakfast knowing that I would be swimming and up early (6am to be precise). I also didn’t check out when I left for the swim. Knowing I’d be finished before 9am, I decided to wait so after swimming I could go get a shower. This turned out to be the best plan ever – who doesn’t want a warm shower after swimming in a cold lake?!

Drinking coffee and eating some oaty breakfast bar I heading over to transition and met my friends. Dressing in neoprene – literally head to toe – hat, gloves, booties as well as wetsuit was more than novel compared to normal. I had been feeling ok about the swim until the night before. Then nerves started to kick in. Although I’ve been swimming again more regularly, this was going to be my longest continuous swim since Leeds Tri in June (1500m) and the water was a lot colder than I normally like to swim in.

The actual Swim 

I can now say I have a far better understanding of what my mate feels about OW swimming.

Not that I am not empathetic – just that I have a better understanding and wish there was more I could do to help her.

Water temperature was 13.3 degrees. Coldest I’ve been swimming in for a long time, especially any distance! It was definitely warmer than it was in April though. It was a deep water start and there was about 135 of us but there wasn’t too much of a washing machine effect as normal – although I started near the back. I spent the first 3/400m wondering what on earth I was doing? Debated getting out, decided I hated OW swimming, wondered how I was going to make it all the way round etc etc. It was awful. I’m not usually negative when I’m swimming but the first part was just awful. If this is even a fraction of how those who dislike/hate swimming feel – wow. This was bad enough and I am a fairly confident swimmer and love being in the water normally.

I finally found some sort of rhythm after I got past the first triangular buoy at about 800m and started to enjoy it. I was surprisingly warm (thank you neoprene!) and took it steady – to try and save my shoulder. The last 200m were cold and long but I was apparently smiling when I got out. Was a bit annoyed with myself as my time was 44.17 and I know full well I could have done a sub 40. My mini stress at the beginning and have to physically stop a couple of times to sight properly and get my bearings definitely didn’t help. My shoulder still isn’t perfect either but it’s only twinging a bit at the moment. I really need to rest it up I think and make sure I keep stretching it out.

I will point out though, that I was smiling when I got out – and dare I say it, I finally managed to enjoy it!

Racing in relay

Racing in relay was new, but the nature of the race (see comments about about elevation), meant I was actually quite glad I’d finished. I definitely feel I had the easiest part of the race. There was a picture of my friends stood watching the swim looking so worried. It turns out they actually were. A few got out during the swim and DNF’d – that worried them. The temperature worried them. My mates nerves got to her. The picture in question is worthy of a caption competition to be fair!

I got out of the water and hung around long enough to see my friend disappear up the road on her bike and I went and got a shower and changed. It was going to be quite a long day. I wasn’t completely on my own though. My day consisted of eating and drinking and generally wandering about until about 5pm when my friend finished. I do not know how she did it, and I am in genuine awe of her achievements. She is so unassuming, quiet and quite shy – I don’t think she realises her own strength, stubbornness and determination. I suppose that’s why I love her, and was more than happy to jump in a cold lake for her. I’d do it again too!

Time Trial Novice

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” — Arthur Conan Doyle, British author

Apart from Sherlock Holmes being my favourite fictional detective, I rather like this quote from Arthur Conan Doyle. Yesterday was a horrible horrible day, not work wise, just life wise, but tonight, I ended up at the local time trail – I blame one of the lads in the club (who last night was mistaken for my husband, to which I came home to a text referring to me as wifey – this has amused me greatly) but in all honesty, it has done me good. I did one two weeks ago, a rolling and undulating 13 miler – which nearly finished me off, but tonight’s flat-ish 10 miler was mint!

It had the advantage of being reasonable local (second nearest TT route I think), mostly flat and known territory and a beautiful evening for it. I’d gone straight from work and was actually pretty early. A few lads, or rather, gentlemen, from the club were there and some familiar faces too. So far so good. Now, this was only my third ever TT and I’m still finding my feet and tonight for some reason I actually felt nervous. I was honestly also rather surprised that there were only 15 of us.

For once, I wasn’t near the back setting off (9th out of 15 compared to 18/19 last time) – put simply, the TT went ridiculously well for me too. I was without a doubt, the slowest one out tonight but… I came in with 31:32, that’s an average of 19mph so I’m pretty happy with that. I spent the first four miles or so wondering what the hell I was doing for, and the last six miles wishing I had eaten a bit more and feeling marginally sick, and finished with a smile! Despite being overtaken by a club mate and trying so hard to keep within a minute of him (I failed by about 35 seconds).

Problem is tonight, I really enjoyed it! I would have been happy to be under 35 minutes with my current fitness but obviously losing a stone has its advantages. I just wish I’d started earlier in the season! Far too happy after tonights race. Proper endorphin rush. After the last few days – pushing it hard on the bike has done me some serious good!

Next time I have a bad day, I’m going to try riding it out.

Maybe with the pearl bracelet, you know, for added glamour!