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.
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.
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.
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 Fits – My 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.
It all started with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty… Well, actually it started with me getting bored with just road running, wanting a new challenge and switching to running the trails and hills around us. I entered this as a new challenge for myself and to try a different type of race. The days leading up to it, however, I became a bit worried. I hadn’t done much hill-specific training and running lately, and had a 24 hour stomach bug this past week too. I know my fitness is the best it’s ever been – last weekend’s massive 10km PB shows that – but running a road race pales in comparison to an off-road race with a massive elevation gain. I would be basically running up a small mountain, with a healing stomach. Would I be able to do it?
I was also trying out some new fuel and recovery food. I know, not a good idea for a race…