.......and I say that 3 races in a week is too many!!
Each race did have a purpose though, which is why I did them all. The first was my club hill race championships - which was great for the sociable nature of the post run chat both out at the hill and back at the club over pizza in the bar. The second was the Scottish National 5K championships, which was a distance completely out of my comfort zone for racing, and so was a totally new challenge for me. The final race was the Lillaebelt Half Marathon in Denmark, which I was running in a Scottish vest as part of an invited team.
With my clubmate Jim after the 5K
The 5K championships were midweek in Edinburgh, so I had to rejig work slightly (ie I started surgery at 7am) in order to be able to make the race. The plan was to drive up via Glasgow to pick up my friend, but unfortunately she had a last minute hold up at work and couldn't make the race....so I ended up giving 3 others a lift across.
I have to admit that I did not enjoy any part of that 5K......it was certainly an experience to be running on the limit of my lactate threshold for the whole of a race.....and it would definitely be better run with fresh legs. There was quite a lot of drama within the race itself, and I don't just mean people dropping out. The course narrowed significantly within the first Km, up to the turn....and I found myself almost stopping dead at the pinch points as I was held up by several men who sprinted off at top speed and then slowed significantly after about 400m (though it probably gave me a vital chance to catch my breath). Although the race was significantly shorter than anything I usually run, it felt like I was never going to make it to the finish line. I was quite disappointed with my run......both my time and position....but on reviewing the results, I consoled myself that although I'm no speedster, I had held my own and been faster than the marathoners.
The star of the show for me (apart from Elspeth who won the ladies' race in a faster time than her track 5000m PB) was definitely Fiona Matheson (again). Fiona was even more caught up in the early race congestion, to the extent that she tripped up and fell over. Luckily nobody crashed into or kicked her and she managed to get up and continue running. Afterwards, she said that she was so glad that she didn't look down and see her bleeding arm or leg or she might not have carried on, but instead she just pelted on round the course to work her way back up to an amazing 3rd place in 17:02.......who knows how quickly she might have run without that upset??!! To completely round off my day, I had a nightmare trip home - after dropping the guys back home in Glasgow, I was on the wrong end of a random decision to close the motorway for night roadworks, and so I ended up detouring round the countryside, and got home about midnight!
This is the second year that Scottish Athletics have sent a team of runners over to Denmark to take part in the Lillaebelt Half Marathon, though English Athletics have been sending runners for several years. Fiona wasn't sure how she'd feel after the "excitement" of Wednesday night, but as I headed for Glasgow airport after work on Friday, she texted me to say that she was "good to go" - great news! We met up with Scott McDonald at the gate before boarding, and then with our other teammate Andy Douglas down in Stansted, as we had to change from Easyjet to Ryanair.
Fi showing off the double bed!
We were picked up at Billund and driven to Middelfart, eventually arriving well after midnight. Fiona and I heard squeals of dismay from the lads as they entered their room and found that there was only a double bed there, but then Fi was equally disappointed to find no kettle in our room for a nighttime cuppa.
We had to wake the lads up for breakfast the next morning, but then headed down to pick up our race numbers (and the t-shirts I managed to procure). Unfortunately (just for a change) my name had been spelt incorrectly on my bib, and they only had 4 bibs printed with Scottish flags on them, so it was either have the correct spelling on a plain bib, the missing letter added in with a felt tip, or just wrong with the wrong name. I went for the latter option - it wasn't as if it was the first time, and it certainly won't be the last!!!
After some "relaxation" time, we headed back down to the start around 1pm. A quick warm-up later (warm being the operative word, as it was 18 degrees and the wind had really picked up) and we headed to the front of the 11,000-strong field. I vaguely understood the Danish countdown and we were off, round the twisty streets through town.
In the second mile I found myself being pushed wider and wider across the road by Kim, one of the English runners (who I'd actually raced at Lochaber) and when I looked down at my garmin, we were running a faster pace than when I'd run my half marathon PB earlier in the year. I decided to be sensible and back off the pace, but unfortunately it meant that I then ran the whole of the rest of the race running entirely on my own (though that does seem to be the norm for me in races these days). For the next 6 miles, I could see Fi and Kim working together (taking turns to lead, though apparently never exchanging a word) into the wind about 300m ahead of me, but I couldn't drive myself to catch up to them. I didn't really notice a tail wind when we had first run across the long road bridge, but there was certainly a strong headwind as we returned.
Not only had we just climbed up a slope from shore level but as I rounded the corner onto the bridge, I felt like I'd just run into a wall. There was no-one around to shelter behind so I just had to get my head down and push on into what felt like a gale. My stomach had been playing up with some dodgy cramps for the past few miles, but it was such a relief to see portaloos as soon as I turned away from the bridge, though I found it almost impossible to get back into my stride later. The last few miles felt like a nightmare long run rather than a race, but I was so glad to head into the final straight. I'm told that I looked strong coming into the finish, but that was probably just the relief at knowing the gut torture would soon finish. I had taken so long to run the race that the prize giving was already in full-swing, but it was quite inspiring to be running down the finishing straight hearing them announce Scott's 3rd place (in only his 2nd half marathon)!!
Making friends with the hotel frog
5am at the airport
Putting the run to one side (as I don't like to dwell on a poor performance - and we all have them - as soon as the sun has gone down on it), the rest of the day was really fun.......blagging 4 race jackets, enjoying some good chat on a cool down jog, a nice meal, and fun team banter in the bar afterwards. The race director came and joined us for a drink, so we all thanked him for inviting us over.....and he promised to look into the final results (some ladies' numbers had been sold on to male runners, so affecting female positions) as well as explaining his plans for next year's race, which seemed to involve having a beach (with beach volleyball games going on) at the side of the route!
Looking back, it was a great weekend - spent with good company, making new friends, eating Danish pastries and getting race experience in another country!