A month ago yesterday was the Ring of Steall Skyrace, part of a phenomenal weekend put together by the Skyline Scotland team, Ourea Events and the amazing people that make up the mountain running community.
This was my big race of 2016. I was trying something new (skyrunning: big ascents, tough terrain), flirting with ultra running time-on-your-feet territory, and pushing my boundaries physically, but most importantly, mentally. I learned so much about myself during the entire training period, about what I can do, how my mind puts limitations on my abilities, and how to continue to push through mental barriers. In a way, when it comes to trail running, I grew up.
The weekend started with a drive in the dark from our home in Aberdeenshire to Kinlochleven, the location of the Skyline Scotland race weekend, as well as Ice Factor, the very important event centre. Pat and I arrived at Ice Factor with minutes to spare before registration shut. Thankfully, we were the only ones registering at the time, despite the many competitors lingering about the place. We picked up our race bibs and maps, got our dibbers fastened onto our wrists, got photos taken, picked up our complimentary race t-shirt, and got our kit bags checked by staff. We also impulse-purchased the Skyline Scotland hoodies. It was then off to our accommodation to attempt to unpack, unwind and get some sleep before the biggest race of our lives.
Fun fact: I love cake. Another fun fact: I also love rhubarb. In fact, rhubarb desserts are my absolute favourite. So imagine my surprise last spring when we discovered a rhubarb plant growing in our garden. I was very excited!
My love for all baked things with rhubarb was cultivated at an early age. I remember my mom making rhubarb jam, rhubarb platz, and rhubarb crisp, and my Grandma Dumaine’s rhubarb pie with tapioca is to die for! Though my own plant is small, and already almost decimated from making this cake once and batches of Cookie and Kate’s Rhubarb and Chia Jam, I’ve been able to source rhubarb elsewhere: colleagues at school, a client of Pat’s. His client has so much rhubarb, I’ve been told I can get a few pounds each week! Watch this space for possible further rhubarb recipes this summer.
This year I’ll be running the two most challenging races of my life so far:
- The Ring of Steall Skyrace: a 16 mile trail and sky race summiting and running along the ridges of four Scottish munros. The race has a total altitude gain of 8200 feet (or 2500m), and is the most dangerous trail and hill running I’ll probably ever do. This race takes place Saturday, 17th
- The Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon: my very first marathon, on the 9th of October. I’ll be running it with my Primal Eye boss and blog friend Georgie from Greens of the Stone Age.
With fifteen weeks until the Ring of Steall and eighteen weeks until the marathon, training needs to start now. I am shitting myself. There is so much – too much – to think about for these races. On top of the usual day-to-day work to-do list, meal planning and prepping, and trying to be a free-lance writer, most of my thinking has been focused on these races and my many complications involved with them. These complications, or worries, are pretty stressing, and I’m making my way through each one, trying to find a solution.
25 January in Scotland is Burns Night: a day to celebrate the work of Scottish poet Robert Burns. People don tartan, recite Burns poetry (in Scots no less), and dine on a traditional meal of haggis, neeps (mashed turnips), and tatties (mashed potato). Across the country, local Burns Suppers are held, all culminating in a ceilidh.
While we didn’t have haggis for our actual Burns Supper this past Monday, we did have Rumbledethumps, a traditional Scottish dish originating from the Scottish Borders, close to England. Aside from being delicious, Rumbledethumps is a marriage of root and cruciferous vegetables, as well as tubers, all grown in Scotland. Typically, it contains potatoes and boiled cabbage, but this is a recipe of variables: you could also add sweet potato, squash, pumpkin, turnip, or even parsnip to the mash. My recipe adds carrots. You can add your preferred cheese too.
Pat has entered the D33 Ultra marathon for March. It is a 33 mile out-and-back race from Aberdeen to Banchory and back. He has just started training for it, and being the supportive wife I am (read: I actually just need to push distance beyond my comfort zone of 8 miles lately), I elected to join him on his long runs. They started last week with a very hilly 11 miles of landrover track through the woods of Drumtochty. This past week, Pat decided to increase to 15 miles, and reluctantly I went along.
I say ‘relucantly’ because realistically, I shouldn’t be increasing distance so much, so soon. At this time last year, I was half marathon fit and mentally, I would’ve been comfortable with a 15 mile run. This year, my current long run fitness is at the 8 mile mark – I can bang out an easy 8 mile run with no adverse effects. My hips wouldn’t ache, I wouldn’t feel tired after the run, I’d be fine to get on with writing, meal prep, cleaning, whatever for the rest of the day. And I wouldn’t feel the after-effects of stiff muscles and tiredness the following day.