Ring of Steall Skyrace Weekend

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.

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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.

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Lessons from the 2016 Balmoral 15 Mile Trail Race

Over a month ago, I ran the Glacier Energy 15 mile trail race around Balmoral Estate. I wish I could write that the race was amazing and that I got a new personal course record. I wish I could tell you that racing in my Inov-8’s went smoothly and will set me up well for Ring of Steall training. Finally, I wish I could write a timelier, proper race recap, but instead lots of living and weekly Primal Eye deadlines made that difficult. So here I am, a month on, having done a lot of thinking and learning along the way.

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Race goodies + my cat photobomb

In short, the Balmoral Trail Race didn’t go nearly as well as it did last year. I had hoped to best my 2:28:47 result from last year, knocking minutes off my time as I’ve (slightly arrogantly) grown accustom to, but that just didn’t happen. My time was instead 2:30:57, and rather than running the entire race and all of its hills, like I did last year, I stopped to walk a few times, especially during the last few hills. My feet hurt (real bad!) and my calves were so tight, and I finished the race with a huge blister on sole of my foot, below my big toe. I confess, I whimpered as well.

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My Significant 9 of 2015

You’ll have seen it floating about Instagram: Best 9 of 2015 – your nine top-liked photos, put in a nice picture grid to post on Instagram. While it’s a great way to see which posts your followers really liked (food in my case!), I thought my Best 9 photos for me were lacking in any kind of substance: while delicious, the photos didn’t capture any meaningful moments for me this past year. 2015 was a significant year in both good and bad ways, so to mark the past 365 (+5) days, I’ve put together the photos that I think captured my nine most significant moments of 2015.

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Glen Clova Half Marathon Recap

This race was a tale of two halves, with me relying on information from others to guide my expectations of the route. Leading up to the race, I had been told two facts about it: #1 it’s easier than the Stonehaven Half; you’ll have no problem with Clova; and #2 this race is so hard!!!! I wasn’t sure what to believe, but neither influenced my ultimate decision to just run this race. There wasn’t going to be any pursuit of a new 13.1 personal best – I think two in one year is enough – but I had hoped that I would still, based on these ‘facts,’ be able to run a sub-2 hour race in the least.

In the days before the race, I had been experiencing a dry cough in the morning, accompanied with mouthfuls of phlegm. While I had left my previous job because of how the stress was getting my entire wellbeing down, it appears my immune system still wanted to do me over. That, coupled with working with little germ ball children again, and the fact that I’ve still been more so 80/20 than 95/5 with my diet, led to a chest thing less than a month after my throat thing. Side note: I really need to get my act in gear because I don’t like all this being ill business!

Upon hearing me still coughing the night before the race, Pat queried my intentions for the next day. I clarified that I wasn’t going out to race the race, but rather just run around the route and hope for a time under two hours. I hadn’t even bought my usual Honey Stinger Energy Chews, and instead opted for the very paleo but sweet Nakd bars made of nuts and dates.

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Aviemore Half Marathon recap

In the week before this race, I wasn’t even sure it would happen. After yet another term of stress and feeling run down from it, I got a cold and throat thing the week before the half marathon that just wouldn’t go away. I assumed I’d get better as the week progressed and the race neared, but I didn’t. In fact, with just days to go, I thought there was a possibility I wouldn’t even start the race, never mind try for a good result.

But I wanted to run the race, partly because my mom was visiting from Canada and she had never seen me at a finish line before. Also, partly because, with its downhill course, the Aviemore Half is a PB shoe-in.

With two days before, I finally started to feel better. Even on the not-so-good days, during a long hill walk with my mom, I was able to breathe normally. My head didn’t feel heavy. I wasn’t coughing so much. I felt normal and slightly energized. I decided to chance racing and just see what happened, see how I felt. Had it been someone in my position, however, I probably would’ve advised to take it easy, don’t race the race, and possibly not even run it. But I’m stubborn like that.

Another running error I committed with this race was to wear brand new, never worn running shoes. I bought another pair literally the week before the race, thinking I’d get a run or two in beforehand, but with my illness I decided not to run at all, not wanting to add any more stress to my current state. I was going to chance illness, and also blisters. I was a running rebel.

Race morning hit a bit hard: I had been up throughout the night coughing, and as a result, didn’t get much sleep. In the week leading up to the race, I had spent so much thinking about ‘What if?’ rather than a race plan, that I spent my race morning quietly mapping out a last-minute strategy in my head. I tried to eat my usual breakfast of bulletproof coffee, fruit + coconut cream + Nutter Bomb, and veggie omelette, but was struggling with the lack of preparation race nerves, making it quite difficult to get through breakfast, never mind finish it.

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Stonehaven Half Marathon race recap

Back in April, I set myself the challenge of running a sub-2 hour half marathon. I chose the Stonehaven Half for this challenge. It has hills, many hills. And, it takes place in July when, typically, the weather is hot…. Not European continent or North America-heatwave hot, but hot enough to make it tough to run. Clearly, when I seek out challenges, I like to make things hard for myself!

I took a holistic approach to my training, which resulted in a new half marathon personal best in training – 2:04:xx, after having set my half marathon PB of 2:09:47 at the 2013 Aviemore Half. Training went well. I trained in the heat and incorporated many hills into my long runs. From what I’d been told about the race, the first four miles of the race were uphill, then the route levelled off, and the last four miles were downhill. My plan was to run the start steady with miles no less than 11 minutes (in case the hills were especially steep or long), then pick up the pace along the level section, and speed back into Stonehaven to a sub-2hr finish. That was my plan…

This would also be my first race running for Stonehaven. I had even bought a club vest to mark the occasion, and looked forward to being part of a ‘team’ and having an association again. I miss this from my days of playing softball back in Canada.

Race morning started with my usual, fatty and filling breakfast of a two-egg and vegetable omelette, fruit + coconut cream + Nutter Bomb, and a bulletproof espresso. While substantial and heavy, I ate this at 7:30am; the race started at 10am.

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Finella Hill Race recap

Summer in Scotland signals the arrival of highland games, a day of festivities held on a local estate, celebrating all things Scottish: Highland dancing, pipe bands, and highland games events themselves, like tossing the caber. Last weekend was the Drumtochty Highland Games, at Drumtochty Castle.

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Drumtochty is one of my favourite places to run: it’s got huge hills with landrover tracks cut through the forest by the Forestry Commission. There are miles upon miles of trails and tracks that will take you all the way to Stonehaven, 20 miles away. Drumtochty is also where I trained for my big Balmoral Challenge. And Drumtochty is where I ran the Finella Hill Race, a 6 mile up-and-down hill race, through the thick South Drumtochty forest.

Rather than do my last ‘long’ run of 6 miles to wind down half marathon training, I decided to enter this local race. I learned about it last year, and always being up for a new challenge and needing to run some hills in preparation for next weekend’s race, I entered. I did have visions of last year’s Johnston Tower Race last place finish, and with a field of only 19 runners altogether, I knew I had some hard work ahead of me.

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Balmoral Race 2 of 2: Glacier Energy 15 Mile Trail Race recap

2014 was all about pushing my limits, bettering my times, and decreasing the space between ‘I can’ and ‘I can’t.’ I entered the 2015 Glacier Energy 15 mile trail race – the BIG race of the Balmoral race weekend – as way of continuing to extend my boundaries and getting familiar with the unknown. I had also entered to Stena Drilling Tartan 10km, the day before this trail race, as another way to push my limits and challenge myself both physically and mentally. My Balmoral Challenge had been set, I had already succeeded in one race that weekend, what would happen in race #2?

All of my mental preparation and focus had gone into the 10km race; so much so that Pat and I referred to the 10km at my race, and the 15 mile trail race as his race. My race plan leading up to last Sunday was to treat this as a long run, but to also experiment somewhat with pacing over a distance longer than 10 miles. I was also hoping to run the entire race, but I wasn’t sure how I would fare considering our three double-digit long runs we did to train for this race consisted of many large, steep hills, all of which I walked up. Going by Rachel’s recap of this race from 2013, I knew to expect three big hills; if I could run all of them, that would be amazing, but I would have to see what the race brought and how I felt.

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Balmoral Race 1 of 2: Stena Drilling Tartan 10km recap

This past weekend was a big weekend for running, both in Scotland and the UK. There was the Virgin Money London Marathon, the Hoka Highland Fling (a 53 mile ultra marathon along the West Highland Way here in Scotland), and of course, the big race weekend at Balmoral Castle. My race weekend.

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As you may or may not know, I set myself a wee challenge this year. Not only would I run the Stena Drilling Tartan 10km (aka Balmoral 10km), but I also really wanted to up my game and enter the Glacier Energy 15 mile trail race. So, instead of entering one this year, one next year, I decided to enter both. I decided I would take on a big race challenge. My first.

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The Best (and Worst) of my Racing History

Welcome to Link Up Week at Eat Primal, Run Hard: a week of posts linking up to other blogs to spread the blog word! Today’s link up is with Jessie at The Right FitsMy Best (or Worse) of my racing history.

Best Finisher’s Shirt

Despite not enjoying the Edinburgh Marathon Festival Half, I really like the t-shirt. There’s something about the silhouette of the Mound and Edinburgh Castle on the rear bottom right of the t-shirt that I love.

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