Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Alloa half marathon, 18 March 2012

It was PBs galore at the Alloa half marathon on Sunday, for the second of the club championship races. Weather conditions were well-nigh perfect, with bright sunshine, moderate temperatures and no wind, so we were all set for some good times.

The start of the race seemed a bit chaotic – lots of people still queuing for their numbers with five minutes to go to the start, and long queues at the loos, so I wonder if the numbers are getting a bit bigger than the venue can manage. Still, everyone got away eventually and got caught up in the general first-mile rush.

My target was a time of 90 minutes or better, and I’ve trained harder than I’ve trained before (that’s not necessarily saying very much), so I was watching my watch every mile to check schedules. It was slightly disconcerting to see the mile markers showing quite different distances to my Garmin – some of the markers were as much as a quarter of a mile out. Along the long straight stretch from Tillicoutry to Menstrie, my watch was telling me my time was fine, but if the markers were right, I was cutting things a bit fine. I was also getting a bit confused by the lack of sightings of PhilT – I hadn’t seen him in front of me at the start, so I presumed he’d had to start behind me and would come past me in due course. When it hadn’t happened by mile 5, I was wondering where he’d got to. It turned out that he had started in front of me, but wasn’t that far ahead – if I’d known I was less than a minute behind him, I might have pushed a bit harder.

Also unknown to me was the fact that Angela was tracking close behind me for the first half of the race. We’re pretty evenly matched over 10k, but we’ve never raced in a half marathon before, and I can foresee a few tussles over this distance in the future.

Graham, Susan and FionaMacD were swapping places and geeing each other along. Susan put in a terrific effort considering her shin splints – probably shouldn’t have been running at all, but top marks for the performance. The compression socks were very fetching, honest.

The hill at Menstrie was enough to slow you down a wee bit, but not so much as to knock your rhythm, and then there was a lovely hill to career down to the finish. I found myself in a group of five runners, all pushing hard, and I did have the slightly odd thought at one point that I was going to beat my target time so I didn’t really need to work quite so hard over the last mile – not exactly the attitude of a hardened racer!

I finished in 1:27:33, which beat my PB by over a minute and a half, so I was very happy. Phil was ahead of me and finished in 1:26:45, which was a bit down on last year’s time. Not far behind was Angela in 1:30:44, which was a terrific time for someone who hasn’t run the distance very much. Next to finish was Matt in 1:39:38, who’d rather sneaked in under the radar and we hadn’t realised he was running until I spotted him nearing the finish. Marathon training and a new baby are obviously working well for him.

Performance of the day was probably Jeff’s 1:40:22, to beat his PB by about 20 minutes. Mind you, his previous PB was set on the basis of virtually no training, so we’re probably a bit closer to seeing what he can really do with some good coaching. Next up was Elaine, putting in a fine effort in 1:48:27, followed not long after by Allan in 1:50:46. Allan was completing his second half in a week, having PBed by 10 minutes in Inverness the previous weekend, so this was a gutsy performance. Allan also had the added bonus of not being beaten by a gorilla (as had happened in Inverness).

Fi came in with a PB of 1:56:51, which she was very happy with, and then we had Susan, Graham, Kirsty and the dynamic duo of Colin and FionaL finishing together. To round a less-than-perfect day for Susan, her chip went missing during the race, so her time wasn’t recorded officially. She did, however, get the delightful bright yellow t-shirt.

And to round it all off, Kirsty very kindly hosted an after-race lunch for us all, with oceans of soup, mountains of sandwiches and plenty of cake, which was all very welcome.

As an indication of the strength of the field, the winner of the men’s race, Robert Russell, completed the 13.1 miles in 1:08:49, while the winner of the women’s race, Alyson Dixon, had a time of 1:13.32 and was using the race as part of her bid for Olympic selection for the marathon, and is now in Kenya undertaking high altitude training in preparation for the London Marathon.

Three go wild at the D33, 17 March 2012

As part of their 2012 campaign to run stupidly long races, Kerry, Nicola and Rhian headed to the north-west to run the D33 ultra. This is one of the SUMS ultras, and follows the River Dee from Duthie Park in the centre of Aberdeen out along towards Banchory and back again. When I suggested that it would be flat most of the way because it followed an old railway line, Kerry, very correctly, pointed out that the Glen Ogle 33 also followed an old railway line and was far from flat.

Anyway, they had lovely weather and put in sterling performances. Kerry and Rhian finished together in 5:09:59, and Nicola was a wee bit later finishing in 5:21:50. Considering Rhian didn’t know she had a place in the race until late Wednesday evening, she did remarkably well to get herself psyched for it. Frankly, they all did remarkably well – I’m in awe of the mental strength it must take to get yourself round something like this.

Kerry and Rhian were using this as a warm-up for the Highland Fling, coming up at the end of April – watch this space for a report on that.