A trip to Inverness is always nice. It's a lovely city but Mandy and I only seem to visit whenever there is a race on. Last weekend was no different.
The journey to Inverness
I had signed up to Inverness half marathon a while ago to keep me focussed over the winter months. This was going to be my first half marathon of 2016.
We booked our train tickets as soon as we could and get them for a brilliant price. £11 £22 each for a return ticket! (*edit - it was £11 each way, not £11 return! Even still, it was cheaper than taking the car)
The scenery on the way up was amazing. Usually when driving up the A9 all I see is the road ahead while Mandy looks around and admires the snow capped hills.
This time I could look out the window and admire the Scottish scenery. It was beautiful, even if it was overcast.
We had made a packed lunch for the trip but I'd forgotten my bottle opener so after a quick visit to WHSmith in the train station, I was all sorted for a bottle of beer with lunch while Mandy enjoyed a small bottle of wine.
Drinking the day before a race?
I know! We were living life on the edge! To be honest, I normally wouldn't but a beer with lunch never hurt anyone's chances of a PB. Did it?
We arrived at Inverness just after 2pm and checked in to our hotel where we were greeted with a bottle of wine in the room and a 3 course meal at night - Mandy is very good at sniffing out hotel deals!
Beer? Wine? 3 course meal?
I know! You wouldn't have thought I was going up for a race, a race I have been training for since the beginning of the year. A race I really wanted to PB at. What was this madness?
Don't stress...DON'T STRESS!!! Agghhh!!
Prior to going down for dinner I was stressing to the max. Trying to work out how to attack the hills during the first 4 miles of the course. What pace should I attack them at? What should I do if there was a head wind? What if aliens landed and changed the course? Everything and anything I could think of was playing on my mind!
I then got a phone call from a club mate telling me just to enjoy the run, stick to the pace I have been training at and relax. I had put in the hard training, all that was left to do was to race. It did calm the nerves and I really appreciated the call.
After a nice meal it was time to get some sleep and I woke the next morning feeling rested and ready to race.
Breakfast was a bowl of weetabix with some fruit, followed by sausage and bacon on toast, washed down with a coffee. Then the wait started. The race wasn't until 12:30pm. Mandy's race started about 10 minutes after the half and both of us just wanted to get started.
Eventually we checked out of the hotel, got a pre-race selfie and walked the short distance to the registration hall. We collected our numbers and event t-shirts and then chatted with friends.
After a short time I headed out to get a couple of miles in as a warm up. I met up with a couple of club mates and we followed our usual strides and drills warm up. Before I knew it, it was race time and at last, my nerves had settled.
The gun went and I watched my pace for the first mile making sure it wasn't too fast. The wind was behind us so I expected it to be slightly faster than target pace but I was comfortable with that. Between miles 2 and 4 there was a headwind but I had got myself into a small group of runners. Thankfully one of the runners was someone I know and have raced with before. Michael and I took it in turns to help shelter each other from the wind and make the hill climb a bit easier.
At about 5 miles Michael started to pull away from me, I felt it would be foolish to go with him. I was feeling a slight stitch coming on so I had to balance pushing hard and being able to finish the race.
Mile 6 I was feeling sick, this was when I knew I was racing.
Mile 9 was back in to the wind and my pace dropped a bit. I could see Michael ahead of me, it looked like he was also needing to work on his own, neither of us had anyone to shelter behind this time. It was hard going but I knew there was a long downhill section coming up and all I had to do was keep my legs turning over. Keep the effort level high and keep pushing.
Since I started running back in 2008 I always wondered what it would feel like to be able to run 10 miles within an hour. It's been an aim of mine for ages and yesterday I found out. It hurts!
I ran past the 10 mile sign in 58:54 and then just after the sign there was a speed camera. You know the ones where they flash up your speed? Well I registered on the sign with an 11 mph speed and a smiley face! This made the pain a little bit more bearable.
Mandy had finished her race by now and was standing around the 11 mile marker. It's always good to get a shout from her but I have found myself finding it harder and harder to acknowledge her during races, at most I manage a thumbs up. In the past I used to give her a smile or a quick 'see you soon' but not now.
Mile 12 I was catching someone up ahead and I just focussed on them, if I could catch them then I could aim for someone else, focus on them and keep on pushing on the final mile. I did catch him and I kept on pushing but the wind was once again in my face and my legs were screaming to stop.
I soon caught and passed the next runner and now my aim was just to keep that position. I couldn't catch the next guy although I did try and narrow the gap.
I crossed the line and looked at my watch, I did it. I smashed a PB and finished in 1:18:23. The results also show I finished 26th / 1668 and to top it all off, I was the 3rd counter for the Edinburgh AC Senior men's team and we won 3rd place for the team prizes!
The trip back to Edinburgh
As soon as I had finished, I cheered in a couple other club mates, had a quick chat with them but then had to rush off for a shower in the sports centre. We then headed for the train back to Edinburgh but first we went via M&S and bought a couple of miniature bottles of prosecco to celebrate!
Reading this blog back, it sounds like all we did was drink beer and wine and fitted in a couple of races while we were at it!
The train trip back was over in a flash and we were back in our flat by 7pm. A busy weekend but by far the most relaxing trip we've had up to Inverness.
I'd like to thank everyone who has listened to me stress about the race and has offered calming words either in person or social media. You are all brilliant. Thank you!