The weekend would start with a nice slow parkrun, before heading off to Aviemore for what was my favourite race of 2012. Saturday afternoon I picked up my two passengers and we headed out the road towards Aviemore. Well, I say towards. It was more like “towards” Aviemore, but never mind. That’s what I get for attempting the back roads with no sat nav. Despite this, Rachel and Suzy managed to convince me to take the correct roads and we arrived in Aviemore mid-afternoon, went shopping for pasta and other goodies and checked in to the Youth Hostel where the majority of our little group would be staying.
Registration (complete with free pasta and whisky) was only a five minute walk away. After we got settled in and Rachel filled the oven with what would turn out to be a banana bread, we headed off to register. Registration was busy, so it was a good job we arrived nice and early. We registered and then queued for the official race t-shirts (well, some of our group queued. I inadvertently skipped 80% of the queue). My little shortcut in the queue gave me time to go check out the free whisky offerings (I even managed to pretend I was actually enjoying it) and cry over nice Gore Tex jackets that I could not afford in the Run 4 It sale. Other things going on at registration was free pasta, a prize draw, and music. Shortly after some of the others started arriving, we headed back to the hostel to discover that Rachel had now made the kitchen smell like the best place on earth. Next we would all eat together in the hostel and have our own wee pasta party.
Having had very little sleep thanks to Mr Weird Snorer. He would snore once per hour, for around a second or two at a time – but extremely loudly. This went on for the whole night. Combined with feeling yucky on the bus and being tired, and the cold at the start area I would be Mr Grumpy until we got going. Once I got going though, things were great. I quickly warmed up and given I had ran a Marathon just two weeks previously, I was happy running the first three miles in 29:45. The first miles were through forests and past the Cairngorm lodge Youth Hostel with great views of Loch Morlich through the trees. At three miles there was a cracker of a hill (and the only significant climb of the race) which I did my best to push up. Unfortunately I fell short of running to the top by a couple hundred yards and watched Susan carry on. At the top of the hill there was the first water station, and I was pleased to see that they no longer handed out the brown peaty water. I know there’s nothing wrong with it as such, but there’s something psychological about a nice clear cup of water.
The next two mile were two very fast downhill miles, and while people around me seemed to be working harder in slowing themselves down I decided to let gravity determine my speed. I caught up with Susan again following an 8 minute mile and a 9 minute mile. The course then takes you round the side of Loch Morlich and through some thinner forest tracks, which made passing other runners a bit difficult. I was still going strong here though and running around 9:30 min/miles.
The last few miles was on the road and almost all downhill. After a few minutes of trying to keep up with Susan, who seemed to be having the run of her life, I decided not to push it and let her go. I settled in to a 9:30 pace until two miles from the finish. Here, I suddenly had all sorts of problems, including side stitches on both sides and a flare up of a sore anterior tibialis which I’ve been seeing physio for during the week. Weirdly, it started a few weeks previously at Crathes, left me alone for the the Loch Ness Marathon and then returned immediately after. Mile 11 was a slow 12 minute mile and would see a couple of my friends catch me here. I dug deep though and pushed myself to run the last mile at a 9:36 pace. The only problem I now have is that I only have two more chances this year to get a sub two hour half Marathon.
Overall, a great days racing. The medals are the same as last year’s, but always nice to get the new date on the ribbon. Very scenic run, fast racing and well organised with police presence at the junctions that mattered. Great start and finish areas. I’d have no problems running this one again, especially given the large number of people that I knew who were also running. The only thing left now was to head home whilst pretending not to like the No Doubt CD which Rachel subjected us to.
The service at SYHA Aviemore was particularly good and I feel deserves a special mention. Offers of help with our Pasta party and also allowing us to come back to the Hostel (despite having checked out already) and shower after the race was so handy. They also kept the kitchen open for us outside the normal hours so that we could get a coffee when we returned.
Gun Time: 02:09:44
Chip Time: 02:07:17