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Time:
24-Sep-17 10:03 am
Duration:
05:17:03
Distance:
42.3 km

At start of year, my nephew, Ben, mentioned he was running Loch Ness marathon. I Decided to join him, as I’d always planned a marathon at some point, and this seemed the ideal opportunity. At the time, it seemed like a long way off, not until September.

Coming up to the event, my training had gone OK -  I’d had a couple of 10 – 12 mile runs about 6-7 weeks out, but I managed to get sick for a couple of weeks shortly after that. My longest run was 16 miles a week before the race.

I’d booked accommodation in the Premier Inn in Inverness, as it was only a short walk from the race village for registration and transport to the start. On the Saturday night we met up with my nephew, brother and mum for a beer and something to eat. The restaurants were pretty busy and it took us a while to find one with a table available. After food, it was back to the hotel for an early night.

Race morning started at 5:30 for a breakfast of cornflakes. From the hotel, it was a short walk to the pick-up point for the race. I met up with my nephew and from there, we were bussed to the start of the race (about an hour’s travel) at the south end of Loch Ness (opposite Invermoriston). We left the busses and walked a short distance to the start area. The start was on an exposed moor and it was cold windy and horizontal rain. We were glad of the bin bags we’d brought for insulation! On the plus side, there were plenty of portaloos for the 2500 starters.

We were piped off at the start by a school pipe band. The route is downhill for first 5-or-so miles, which meant we were less exposed to wind and rain as the road dropped down to the loch side. I ran alongside Ben for the first couple of miles, slightly ahead at times and slightly behind at times. I lost sight of him after about 6 miles and didn’t know if he was ahead or behind.  Just after the 6 mile point, there was a large-ish hill where I walked up it. From then on, the route is undulating. I went through the half-marathon point at 13.1 miles in 2:20, and still felt OK. However, after 17 miles the wheels came off and I was reduced to walk/jog. At least at that point the remaining miles were in single figures. With 6-or-so miles to go there’s a long hill which seems to go on forever. After that point, we were back on the outskirts of Inverness with only a short-ish distance to go. The final part of the course follows the river Ness past a number of pubs and hotels, then crosses the river and follows the other bank back to finish in the race village at Bught Park. I managed to run most of the way back from the bridge and finished in a time of 5:17:01, a bit longer than I’d hoped, but not too back considering the training I’d done. My nephew, Ben, finished almost an hour behind me in 6:15:33.

Post-race, we heading into Inverness for beers and pizza (and a lot of garlic bread!) at the Black Isle Bar.LN Marathon

Huntly triLast weekend, I competed in the Huntly Triathlon, another event in the MPH-sponsored Aberdeenshire Council Triathlon Series. It’s based at Gordon Schools & Huntly swimming pool, about 45 minutes’ drive from my home.

I’d seeded myself with a slower swim time that at the Turriff race, with the hope of being in a lane with swimmers of a more comparable speed to myself. Luckily, this seemed to by the case and I ended up swimming with someone who was more-or-less the same speed as me – we completed the swim a few seconds apart, although I took a little longed exiting the pool as I moved across a lane-or-two to use the ladder.

Once out into the transition area (there was a run from the back door of the pool to the car park where the transition was setup). I had a fairly quick (for me – still putting on socks) transition, and ran with my bike up to the mount/dismount line.

The first part of the bike runs through the town of Huntly and out onto the country roads. The section through the streets is quite twisty with some sharp corners. I was a little surprised to be passed by another cyclist on one of the sharp, blind corners! However, it was early in the bike leg, so I didn’t bother to chase him down yet. Once out of the town, the bike runs along the A96 main road for a short while before turning onto quieter, more rural roads. The route runs through the surrounding farming countryside, before heading in to the village of Rothiemay. Shortly before the turn-off for the village, I managed to pass the cyclist who’d passed me in the corners in Huntly.

The route to Rothiemay is fairly flat with a few undulations and a final drop into bridge before entering the village itself. Once in Rothiemay, the route turns back towards Huntly, following the River Deveron. From this point, the road climbs gently, before a drop back into Huntly. The course turns back into Huntly, and returns to the pool via a couple of narrow streets with a couple of tight corners to watch out for.

The run heads out from the swimming pool towards Huntly Castle, then follows the edge of the rugby pitches into some industrial units. From there, it rejoins the bike course back to the swimming pool. I managed to run the first 1.5 km a bit too fast, then had to stop for a walk/jog break. After that point, it was a walk/jog back to the finish. I misjudged the barriers on the pavement at the swimming pool and had to run a few extra yards when I realised I couldn’t cross the road to get to the finish line.

Overall, I was happy with my race – certainly, I have a better swim that at Turriff, and felt stronger on the bike. The run still let me down a bit, though.

On Sunday, I took part in the Suie Classic, an 87km ride that’s part of the Great Inverurie Bike Ride (GIBR). The GIBR’s been on the go for a number of years, as a 25 mile ride – I’ve done it a number of times as part of a work team or with friends. Last year they introduced the 54 mile Suie Classic, which adds a loop of 30-odd miles to the 25 mile route. The loop follows the river Don through the Lord’s Throat, then climbs over Suie hill, and returns through Auchleven, then back up the Lord’s Throat to Monymusk and on to Inverurie.

Groups of about 20 riders were started at 5 minute intervals – I started in the second group, and avoided the temptation to fly up the road with the lead riders! I rode with a couple of others for the first few miles and noticed a creak in my bike – for a start I wasn’t sure if it was my bike or one of the others in the group. Anyway, it didn’t sound anything major, so I just carried on – I’d have a similar creak in Lanzarote a year-or-two back and it turned out to be some relatively minor.

I took it fairly easy for the first 20 minutes-or-so, riding with a group of others. Then, as we started the short climb into Chapel of Garioch I rode away from them. Apart from one or two riders I passed on the climb from Chapel of Garioch to Blairdaff, I was pretty much alone until I turned onto the road through the Lord’s Throat. It’s quite scenic along here, following the river Don. There’s a couple of short, sharp climbs here, where I passed another couple of riders, not catching anyone else until I turned onto the Suie Road.

It’s about 10km from the turn off to the summit of Suie, mostly a gradual climb until the last 2km-or-so, where the gradient is between 8-10%. The road curves through the trees at the top, and, since I’d never been across this hill before, I had no idea how much further it was to the top. It was a great relief to see the photographer at the side of the road, as I knew this was the top. There was a drinks station setup in the car park at the top, but I decided to keep going, especially since it had started to rain on the climb.

The descent from Suie was pretty steep – 12% in some parts with a couple of sharp turns. My brakes were squealing a bit and I was at the limit of my stopping power on some parts – a good case for disc brakes! The descent shallows out a bit then descends to Auchleven, when there’s another climb of about 1-1.5km at 7-8% before completing the loop back to the Lord’s Throat road.

Coming back alongside the Don, there were a number of people having picnics and paddling in the river – it was quite tempting to stop and join them, but I knew I’d struggle to get going again. Just before joining the remainder of 25 mile route, I stopped to help another cyclist with a puncture – he’d fitted a new tube, but couldn’t quite get the final part of the tyre bead on. We put a bit more CO2 in the tube and the type popped back onto the rim.

Once back on the 25 mile route, there was a loop round Monymusk – there were a couple of short climb, and the road surface was noticeably worse than the rest of the course. Once back in Monymusk, I stopped to refill my water bottles and was caught by puncture guy, who again thanked me for the help. Cakes and tea were available in the local hall, but, whilst tempted, I decided to press on for the finish.

The final part of the course runs back to Inverurie through Blairdaff and Burnervie, before passing Inverurie hospital to the finish. This section has a few short climbs, made all the harder by being at the end of the ride. On this section I passed a few other riders, mostly from the 25 mile ride and a couple of family groups from the 13 mile option – it’s good to see families out as a group enjoying cycling.

Final time for the route was 3:48:00, with a moving time of 3:45:12, 79th out of 170 finishers. I’d hoped for 3:30-ish but considering I haven’t had many long rides leading up to this event, I’m happy with that. I’ll certainly consider doing this event again, if I can manage to get in some more long training rides before it.Suie Classic Route

The Turriff triathlon is a close as I’ve got to a local event. It’s about 6 or 7 miles from my house, based at the local sports centre I use for swimming. I’ve done the event a few times, the first being in 1997. There’s the choice of a Short (400m/20k/3k) or a Spring (760m/20k/5k) events. I’d opted for the Short, given my lack of swim practice recently. There were about 120-130 entrants speard over both events.

Swim

I was in the second heat, with two others in my lane. I’d put my swim time as 10 minutes for 400m in the entry form. Once the swim got going, the water was quite choppy. My technique started to get a bit sloppy after half way and I started taking a brief rest at the end of each length. I was passed by the other two in my lane. I completely lost count of the distance I’d swam and was surprised to see the lap counter indicating to the other two in my lane that they were on their last lap – I’d thought we still have further to go. Getting out of the pool at the deep end was a bit of a struggle – there’s no ledge to stand on and launch yourself up like there is in some other pools.

Swim time:  00:10:41 – pretty much as expected.

Transition

The transition area is about 300 m from the swimming pool, through an underpass on the main road. I’d left my trainers, bike top and gloves at the exit of the pool, put them on then ran to the bike. I also accidently picked up someone’s googles at the exit, thinking they were mine, until I realised that mine were around my neck – I passed them to the organiser in transition. Putting on my bike shoes took too long – I’d forgotten to leave the straps open for the quick entry – that was the whole point of buying tri-specific shoes! I’d also decide to put on socks, as I’ve had problems with blisters before when racing without them, which took a bit more time. The run out of transition is a short up hill to the mount line – fun in cycling shoes.

Bike

The bike starts almost immediately with a hill. It’s quite steep for first couple of kms, then levels off to a more undulating climb to the 7 kms point. I’d kept my effort steady up to this point and I’d passed one other competitor – I’d had to hang back before passing as the road was a little too twisted to be able to see any oncoming traffic.

After the right turn at 7kms, the road climbs for another 1-1.5km. On this section, I passed another entrant, and spotted a couple more, further up the climb. From the top of the climb it was a fast downhill with a couple of tight turns and a quite rough road surface. The course then turns onto the main Huntly road, and continue back into Turriff.  This section is mostly downhill with a couple of short climbs. It was on one of these climbs that I managed to pass another rider, and one more one the downhill section.  Coming back down to the transition, I had cramp in right calf down the last hill. The run from the dismount line to the bike racks was downhill, so running this in cycling shoes didn’t help!

Bike time: 00:48:40

Run

The run section is an out-and-back along the last few km of the bike route. It’s a climb for about 750 metres, then level out. It’s on pavement for the first 1.25 km or so, then on the road to the turnaround.

Once off the bike, I couldn’t get into a good stride pattern, and could only take only short steps. I Stopped to walk for 1 minute at 1 km point and again at 2 km, then ran back to finish.

Run time: 00:18:20

My final time was 1:24:37 for 19th out of 28. I later discovered I was 3rd in Age Group (Super-Veteran), 30 seconds off second place.

Turriff2017

Not the performance I’d hoped for.

I’ve completed this race a few times in the past, with a course best of 52:47, albeit on a slightly different route.

The weather was nice on the day – sunny, but a bit cool – ideal running weather.

The route starts at the Garioch Sports Centre, then passes through Inverurie out into the open countryside. It then re-enters Inverurie and loops though a couple of housing estates (one of which is still being built) and back to the sport centre.

I’d trained reasonably consistently coming into the event. However, on the day, I just didn’t have the speed that I’d expected – last time a ran this, I finished in 52:47 after a similar build-up (Lanzarote training camp, followed by consistent runs back home). This time, however it became evident from the start that I wasn’t going to come close to that – every time I tried to speed up, the legs just weren’t there – I ended up briefly walking at a couple of points after the 5km point and a couple of the climbs through the new housing estate. In the end, I finished in 58:21. I’m not too unhappy with this time – after all, you can only do what your legs will let you do on the day.

Yesterday, I ran the Fraserburgh Half-Marathon. This was my first road half since 2007 – I’d originally wanted to do the Crathes half, but, as usual, I waited too long to enter and it was full. My primary aim was to break the 2 hour barrier, or at least to be close to my last road half-marathon time of 2:07.
The weather at the start was dry, but there was a chilly breeze off the sea. The course leads out of Fraserbrugh down the A90, then turns off and loops through the countryside, taking in part of the old Fraserburgh-Aberdeen railway line, now a long distance path known as the Buchan Way. After going through the six mile point in about 53 minutes, I felt that my target of sub 2hrs was still on, but soon after that, my pace began to flag, and the lack of long distance training runs became apparent.
At the end of the loop, the course re-joined the A90 to head back into Fraserburgh. Just after entering the town, and in plain sight of the finishing line, the route takes a 1.5 mile loop through the neighbouring housing estate, with a leg-sapping climb adding in the middle. As I crossed the finishing line, I saw my time was 2:08:21, not quite as fast as I’d hoped, but within a minute of my last half-marathon, set almost 10 years ago.
All-in-all, a good, well organised race. For another (and better written) perspective, visit Rhona’s race report at http://www.redwinerunner.co.uk/2015/11/16/race-report-fraserburgh-half-marathon-2015/