The Devil of Deeside – Day 1

Insane, ambitious, crazy, challenge-lover are some ways to describe entering this or, as my mum said when I told her when I was in for the London Marathon nearly 20 years ago, “you’re off yer heid!” I wonder what she would’ve said about this?

Late last year, Allison drew my attention to an article about Run Balmoral celebrating their 20th anniversary by offering a package to do all 4 of their adult events in 2017. The events are 5k, 10, Duathlon and 15 mile Trail Race and I barely read it before signing up. I thought that it looked ‘fun’ and it brought back wonderful memories of Edinburgh in 2014. I had run the 10k race that year, enjoyed it and so it made perfect sense to sign up. I had also signed up for the Edinburgh Ironman 70.3 so thought it would be perfect training for that event. I didn’t really pay too much attention to the fact that it was to be just 2 weeks after Paris and I would normally be looking to run 10k or something to get back running again.

We were given specially designed t-shirts and asked to wear one on each day and as the day arrived, I packed my stuff and headed up to Balmoral. The Saturday is a really busy day with lots of other events going on for kids with some races and other activities so it’s a real family day out. The 5k wasn’t starting until 12.30pm so I didn’t have to get up too early for the 90 minute drive north.

I got myself ready and then lined up on the start line along with everyone else. There were over 100 sign-ups for the Devil and so it was easy to spot my fellow crazies. When you’re doing multiple events, it’s difficult to know how to pace each one unless you’ve specifically run back to back in training. I didn’t. I thought the 5k should be steady so I could keep something in reserve for the 10k. That worked until the gun went off and my legs decided to go for it! We followed a slightly out and back course, heading out just over a mile, going round some cones before heading back then going off on another path that went parallel to the first one, beyond where the finish line was before looping back round in front of the castle and to the finish. A nice run done in 19:35. I was pleased with that as I haven’t run that distance specifically in quite a few weeks apart from the Paris Breakfast Run, which was more of a jog. A few other runners I spoke to had the same pacing issue I had and so the 10k would be interesting!

5k done!

The challenge with doing multiple events isn’t really what happens during the actual races but how you recover between them. I sat in the sun, sipping on some energy drinks then started jogging and doing some mobility exercises to warm up for the 10k. This race started out following the same path as the 5k but instead of doubling back, continued onto track and began “the hill” that this race is well-known for. The hill is a 300ft elevation stretched out over 1.2km and a good test. Once you conquer the hill, you’ve got the best part of a mile on the flat before you come back downhill then another mile to the finish. The teasing bit is at mile 5 as you’re running parallel to the finish on a path slightly higher up, you can see people crossing the line and stopping but you’ve still got a mile to go!

The great thing about this race, along with the 5k, is that there are lots of people lining the course along that last mile giving you a great cheer and lots of kids with their hands out looking for a high-five as you go past. Sometimes you just want to concentrate on getting to the finish but on days like today, nothing beats the fun of high-fiving every child’s hand on the way past. The distraction can be a good thing!

2 medals!

I made it round the last bend and managed my customary sprint finish, passing a couple of people who had passed me before we got to the last straight. These races felt harder than when I did both distances in Edinburgh in 2014 as that day the 10k was first so the 5k was somewhat easier afterwards. Job done! The running part was anyway. My hopes of a quick escape and get home early were dashed as I was walking back to the car, came to a fork in the road and couldn’t remember which one I had come in on and couldn’t see anything around that felt somewhat familiar so just guessed and went for it. It became clear that the car park I was approaching (there were 5 in total) wasn’t the right one. I asked one of the stewards for help as I didn’t know which number car park I was in! He pointed to one that seemed to be in the distance and then gave me some directions on taking a short cut to get there.

Post race 99. Just because

Following instructions isn’t usually a major problem for me unless I’ve run quite far before hand! The shortcut took me to a road but I didn’t know whether to go left or right so I went for right as that’s where everyone else was heading. I kept walking but still couldn’t recognise anything that resembled the car park or the path that I had followed to get to the start. I eventually found myself on the road that I came in to the estate on and remembered the route from there and quickly found the car park and my car. As I was driving out, I saw the end of the shortcut I had taken, it was only 100m from the car park but I had walked off in the opposite direction! Gutted!

The walk back to find the car felt like harder work than both races! The journey home was fun also. A 90 minute journey broken up by an enforced stop at Glenshee Ski Station cafe for a double espresso to keep me awake for the remainder of the drive home. There were plenty of tourists in and it was slightly amusing that the young guy behind the counter took that British tradition of communicating with foreign tourists by speaking slowly in a very loud voice!

No helicopter scones, only plane ones….

Home, rest up and get ready for Day 2!

Something For The Weekend – London Marathon Special

It’s nice to listen to music to get us ready for a run or to keep us going during a run so I thought it would be good to share some tunes that we can add to our playlist, maybe songs by artists we wouldn’t normally listen to or simply tunes we’d forgotten about. The main purpose being hopefully we can inspire each other with our music selections and why we’ve chosen them.

Every week, I have chosen songs to listen to on training runs but as it’s the London Marathon this weekend, I heard a song on the radio this morning and thought this would be the perfect song to listen when you’re getting ready, on the train to the start, while you’re milling about before the start or even if you’re not doing the marathon and only going for a training run, you can listen to this too and get the benefit from it.

I choose songs for their lyrics most of the time and usually the lyrics are aimed at helping us to dig in when the going gets tough and we need a boost but this song is perfect for getting us in the right frame of mind to start the run.

A positive frame of mind at the start can make a massive difference to the quality of the run.

This week’s choice is an updated version of the classic Kate Bush song, Cloudbusting by Just Us. If you’re running this weekend, either in the marathon, another race or in training, listen to this song and recite the lyrics to yourself.

“Cause every time it rains
You’re here in my head
Like the sun coming out
Ooh, I just know that something good is going to happen”

Have a great run 🙂

A Weekend in Paris Marathon Part 3 – The Marathon

The day arrived, the moment we’ve been working towards since the run of the year or before then. I felt relaxed when I got up and we went down for breakfast. This may have been largely down to knowing that our hotel was only a few minutes from the start and finish. Security was much tighter than previous years but was also a lot smoother and it’s clear that they’ve learned and developed a better system each time.

Running Kit Ready

 

We took a walk down, got our bags in then made our way to the Champs Élysées and the starting pens. I had missed the 3:15 start and was happy to join in with the 3:30 runners. Once inside the starting area, the 3:30 guys had already started as I went for one last trip to the toilet. Unfortunately, when I came out, the 3:45 runners moved forwards and were awaiting their start so I had no option to join them. The runners are spread into sections on the left and right side of the road and I was surprised when the countdown lead to the runners on the other side of the road go first. When you’re in this position, it’s only a few hundred runners who are going but feels like everyone who entered was going except us! It wasn’t long before we did go.

On the start line

I had written this race off as a 26.2 mile training run due to the hamstring/pelvis problem I had in the build up to the run. The niggle wasn’t a concern as much as the training I had missed as a result so I started running just to enjoy it and see how things would pan out. The first few miles were on target pace but wasn’t getting too carried away as there were lots of runners in the 3:45 section who were clearly not going to manage that time and I wanted to avoid zigzagging and end up running further than 26.2 miles as I had done last year.

Everything was going very well, gel at 5 miles then another one at 10 miles and it was starting to feel a lot smoother than many of my longer runs in the build up to this day. I went through halfway in 1hr 45mins and I thought I could get under 3:30 as I would get more space to run into and I was feeling pretty good at this point. That all changed very quickly.

Orange smiley selfie with Eiffel Tower behind me

I was aware by 15/16 miles that it was starting to feel a lot harder than I’ve experienced before but couldn’t work out why. It started to get hotter with the temperature rising to around 24/25 degrees. I don’t know about you but we’re lucky to get that in Scotland in the summer never mind in the Spring! I started to look forward to the water stations, the bonus stations they had with hoses creating impromptu showers and additional buckets of water with cups. I went under every hose, took a cup of water from every bucket, some to drink and more to pour down the back of my neck.

I started to find the run becoming harder mentally as much as physically. I felt my hamstring twinge around 18 miles so I stopped, walked for a bit, did the exercise I had been doing every day then started running again. My thoughts of running sub 3:30 quickly changed to just getting to the finish, a situation I’ve never been in, even in my first marathon! A few more times, I walked, stretched then started running again. I did the old Parkrun countdown of 3 then 2 then 1 Parkrun to go but they felt like really long Parkruns!

When I got to the last 5k, I gave myself a kick up the backside and decided to push on. What I mean by that is I didn’t stop. I was still taking water on board/throwing it over myself at every opportunity and everyone around me did exactly the same. Soon it came to the best bit, mile 26 and I could feel myself wanting to speed up but I held back until we got into Avenue Foch and then put the foot down and sprinted to the line. That was the best bit as I passed so many people to the line. My immediate thought though was that was the toughest marathon I’ve ever done and still feel that way. I made my way up the street, collecting my medal, t-shirt, poncho then to the best bit. The cut up oranges. I had a few on the way round but after you’ve crossed the finish line, they are the best things you’ve ever tasted in your life! They are full of flavour, juicy and just amazing! Just what is needed after a race like that!

Finished!

 

I got my bag, some bottles of water then made up my Science in Sport Recovery Drink and had that while I waited for Allison. I half expected her to go flying past me but as I later discovered, she struggled as well as did just about everyone I’ve spoken to since. There were certainly many people visibly struggling and some getting medical attention as a result of the heat.

We took some photos and then made our way back to the hotel for a shower and a lie down before getting ready and headed to Frog XVI, a British pub in Paris that we’d been to a couple of times previously and met up with some friends, I hadn’t previously met, from UKRunChat. UKRunChat is an online running community on Twitter and had got to know the others from the chat hours and some direct messages in the build up to the event so it was great to meet them and have a few beers.

Finishers T-Shirt and Medal
Well-Earned Beer!
The UKRunChat crew

Reflecting on the race, I am not disappointed as I had previously written off my original target and see this as another race to learn from. Sometimes a race doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you can control your pace, your nutrition/hydration but you can’t control the weather, especially when its hot and you’ve spent the majority of your training wearing thermals! It’s important not to beat yourself up about it but learn from it and use it to improve the next race you do.

Onwards and upwards as they say!

A Weekend in Paris Part 2 – The Breakfast Run

If you’re ever across in Paris to do the marathon or just to cheer on others then sign up for the Breakfast Run! To me, this is the best 5k event you’ll ever run. It’s seldom I say things like that and let me tell you why.

This is an event where speed is not important and time/pace etc isn’t even measured. This event is about bringing people together from all around the world, a celebration of running. We spend our training runs measuring the distance we run, the times we run and focus on our individual performance. This event is different, it’s about being part of a global community where everyone fast and slow run together and stop to take photos with each other. This is about running with friends, the friends you have come with and the friends you are now making. This is about being part of something bigger than yourself, being part of around 3000 happy people having fun.

Before the start of the Breakfast Run

It’s billed as 5k but it’s not timed, isn’t really 5k and, to be honest, no-one cares. It costs €12 to take part, you get a t-shirt and breakfast at the finish. The first you realise the power of this event is when you step out from the Metro at Palais Royale to a sea of people all wearing the same top as you. The magic of the event for me is that they encourage everyone to wear the colours of their country and hand out little flags of the countries at the Salon du Running when you register. I’ve always worn my kilt, which always draws attention and it’s nice to then be asked to be in photos with runners from every corner of the world.

There’s a truck with music playing and a sea of big flags just behind and this is when the run starts. It’s more of a slow jog as we make our way round to the Place du Carousel where the famous pyramid is so we stopped there for a photo even though we’d only run a few hundred metres. We’d met up with Stefan, a German runner we’d met at the after-party at last year’s marathon and started running with him but lost him at this point. We continued, crossing Pont Royal and onto a path along the banks of the Seine, passing Museé d’Orsay along the way. It was a great spectacle to see a sea of flags from all the different nations being represented and blue t-shirts. The Brazilians and Argentinians were fairly noisy as were the Australians every time we went under a bridge!

The run is impossible to go fast in, partly because of the crowds and also down to the fact that they have a bank of runners stretched right across the street so that no-one can get past. It wasn’t long before we got into familiar territory – within view of the Eiffel Tower where the finish is. They had changed the route for this run as it used to start at the finish line of the marathon, weaved its way around the Trocadero and the stunning photo opportunity crossing George V bridge in front of the tower but whether the change was down to security or not, it was nicer to run along by the Seine. Apparently Tom Cruise was filming scenes for Mission Impossible so maybe we’ll be in it?

A sea of runners of all nationalities

The last bit of the route took us round to the finish, where everyone almost feels reluctant to cross the line! Once across the line, it was great to meet up with Tina Chantrey from She Who Dares Runs, who had been looking out for Allison. We then joined the queue to get breakfast, which consisted of a croissant, pain au chocolat, banana, coffee and a bottle of water. This has been a bit of a bun fight in the past but was very well organised and a much smoother process. We went into the Champs de Mars to eat breakfast, take some photos, be in some photos with other runners then walked across to meet up with Simon, Paula and their friends from Dundee who we shared our flight with the day before.

Runners taking photos during the run
Breakfast
After the run

For what is a very slow 2.5 mile run, the Breakfast Run will leave you with just as many happy memories as the marathon will and will make you fall in love with running all over again.

Next Up – The Marathon

A Weekend in Paris Part 1 – Salon du Running

Coming to Paris feels very familiar and much less stressful for us now. This was our 5th visit, our 4th consecutive, and so we know what we’re doing, when and how to get to most places. We always make a point of going straight to the Salon du Running as soon as we land as it’s usually much quieter on the Friday compared to the Saturday so there’s more time and space to walk around, check everything out without feeling rushed or crowded. There’ll be enough of that on marathon day!

Fortunately, we bumped into my friend Fiona at the airport, who is from Perth and lives and works in Paris, had been over visiting family and was come back for the marathon. She was able to pass on a great tip for travelling to the Salon du Running as it’s usually a fair trek across the other side of the city. Following her advice, we took the B train to Cité Universitaire then switched to the tram to get us to Porte de Versailles. Saved a lot of time and hassle. Thank you Fiona!

Registration and Expo is always where the excitement starts to build ahead of a big city marathon and the Salon du Running is no different. You can’t help but feel your heart beat a little faster when you approach the venue and see all the event banners and colours stick out. There were bag searches on the way in but that’s standard practice these days and is not really an issue given events happening in London, Germany and previously in Paris. The first step is always to hand in the medical certificate, get it stamped then proceed to get your race number, walking past the display of the medal, finishers t-shirt and the prize for the winner if you are lucky enough to run the race of your life and beat the Kenyans! Once you’ve got your number, your race bag (a fantastic souvenir that gets better every year). This is where you’re likely to gulp with the sense that it’s all beginning to feel real now where after all the training, you’re about to run a marathon!

This is what you’ll get and what you could get if you run fast enough!

Thankfully, you now enter the Expo bit where, for runners, feels like you’re a kid in the biggest toy shop. First of all, there’s the race wall to pass where everyone’s name is on. The shopping bit can be very dangerous as you want to buy everything. If you can get through the souvenir section, or indeed the rest of the Expo, without maxing out your credit card then you can definitely run a marathon! I wasn’t that bothered about buying anything as I’ve probably worn the souvenir t-shirt I bought last year once and tend to wear the breakfast run or the marathon t-shirts more on training runs.

We stopped off at the Pasta Party as we hadn’t really eaten since the lunchtime pastry with our coffee at the airport. For €12 we got a tub of Penne Bolognese, some bread, a crêpe (we went for the Nutella option) and a beer. I think water may have been an option.

Pasta, Crêpe & Beer. Go on then!

There are lots of photo opportunities which are always worth stopping for and there are great messages, not only motivational ones but also the value of recycling the empty water bottles and the food waste from discarded banana and orange skins at every water station.

Always a good visit!

Next Up: The Breakfast Run

Something For The Weekend

It’s nice to listen to music to get us ready for a run or to keep us going during a run so I thought it would be good to share some tunes that we can add to our playlist, maybe songs by artists we wouldn’t normally listen to or simply tunes we’d forgotten about. The main purpose being hopefully we can inspire each other with our music selections and why we’ve chosen them.

Sometimes you just need a tune to get you going, to blow off a few cobwebs or tease you out from a gentle run. This song does the trick.

This week’s selection has been a constant on my playlists ever since it came out a few months short of 10 years ago and I was excited to hear it the other day as a listener’s choice for Workout Wednesday on Adele Roberts show on Radio 1.

This song might be from an artist you’ve never heard of or possibly never even heard this song before but it’s an all-time classic for me.

This week’s choice is Flux by Bloc Party. Enjoy

What’s top of your playlist this week?

Paris Marathon Training – Week 14 – Race Week!

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? It only seems like a week or two ago that I stepped up my training for Paris and it’s within touching distance! Well, actually, at the time of writing this, I’ve already done it. I wanted to write this towards the end of last week but excitement and nerves meant that I had the attention span of a small child with a sugar rush.

Here’s how last week unfolded:

Monday
I get asked to cover a class from time to time at Gleneagles Hotel, which is only 16 miles away for me and on this occasion, I was asked if I could take one of their guests out running as she was training for a marathon and so I did. I discovered that Gina is training for London, her first marathon, and needed someone to help her with a couple of her training runs and so I was happy to pass on some tips to prepare her for her marathon and also distract her every time she asked if she could stop and walk to find out if she really needed to stop. She didn’t stop and sprinted when we finished our 90min run!

Tuesday
I met up with Gina again but this time for a shorter run and worked on a few things like visualisation to get her mind ready for the challenge. I always visualise the finish I want in every race then work back the way and so I wanted her to be able to do the same and that way she’ll find it easier to pace. Gina responded really well to this and she told me at the end of our session that she was feeling a lot happier and more excited about the race. That was nice to hear 🙂

Wednesday
Mobility day. I’ve been working on mobility exercises for my pelvis and these have been working as I didn’t feel my hamstrings at all in either of the runs. I know the hamstrings weren’t actually the problem, it’s just that I was feeling the discomfort there.

Thursday
Busy day at work so very little time for exercise, not like I was going to be able to do much anyway at this stage that would make any difference other than mobility work.

Friday
Travel. I had a couple of early PT appointments then it was home, quick change then drive to the airport. We went straight to Registration and the Expo when we arrived so that was pretty good. It’s always nice to get that done quickly so we can relax on the Saturday.

Saturday
Breakfast Run! More to follow in a dedicated post but one of my favourite features of the Paris Marathon is the Breakfast Run, an event where the focus is on bringing people together for a fun jog and make new friends. Essentially, what running is all about.

 

Sunday
Race day! Again, I’ll go into more detail in another post but all I’ll say just now is that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running, you always learn something from every race that ultimately makes you a better runner. I didn’t quite hit my target of sub 3:15, I had given that up as an outside chance at best as I was aware that my lack of quality runs over the last few weeks meant a loss of relative fitness. I thought I might still get under 3:30 but had to settle for 3:48 and was actually just happy to finish the race!

The surprising thing for me this week as that I didn’t manage to fit in a swim and I missed it! I’m happy though as I was pretty good with the mobility exercise I needed to do to help my pelvis and it worked as well as I could have hoped as I only started to feel any discomfort from mile 16 onwards.

This coming week will be about getting some quality rest along with continuing my mobility work so I can recover quicker and get back to running at my best again soon.

How’s your training week been? How do you deal with the build up to a race?