The weather promised to be nice, a little cloudy, warm but not too warm, no rain and a little sunshine peeping through the clouds. It was overcast at the start then brightened up – just right, if a little warm on the route.
I entered Skye Half Marathon just after it opened. It gave me a reason to come visit a good friend of mine from home, Sheena. If I’m honest, I think I was more excited about seeing her for the first time in 5 years than running the race, but when race day came, I was pleased to be doing another event.
At around 10 minutes to go, I noticed that in the rush to get there I’d left my iPod in the car. On events, especially small ones where you’re likely to be on your own, or in single file, I like to run with one ear of music in to keep me going. I was going to leave it but nipped back to the car to get it. Good thing I did as Eminem helped me to push on a few times.
5 minutes to go and we all started to walk behind a pipe band a short distance up to the start line. A nice touch I thought. I weaved my way up to the front. I’ve never started at the front, but today I thought I would start off with the big boys. I knew I wouldn’t be carried away by their pace, and thought those who were faster than me would overtake me.
A quick countdown from 10 and we started. I went into the race not believing I could get a PB. My training had been strange, I was running to my heart rate but not seeming to get the results I wanted (sub 7:30 min miles) from pushing my heart rate high. So I kind of figured there was no point in pushing it. Enjoying it was more important.
Before I crossed the start line I was adamant I’d just run nice and easy and enjoy it, heart rate around 150-160. But as the race started I easily pushed my heart rate up to 160 and 165, and felt good.
The immediate 3-4 mile hill at the start meant i had to be clever about how hard I pushed it. But I think I nailed it, and quite a few people passed me. I noticed (but didn’t count) quite a few women passing me.
As expected, the scenery was lovely. In the first 3-5 miles I was taking it in and enjoying it. Running along single track roads, big cloudy skies above, hardly any wind until about 5 miles when it came at us from the left. I thought, that might be a tail wind back to Portee when we head back to town. And it was. 🙂
I spoke to a few people on the route, and even met two people I knew in the leisure centre before I started. Barry was dressing up as iron man with his friend (ouch that’d be hot), and Roddy a running network coach, taking the picture. Barry ran past me at the start and I had to explain to another runner that I knew him after I’d jokingly shouted ‘nice ass’!
At mile 6 I ran with spoke to a nice talk guy from Edinburgh, Angus. I’d spoken to him once already after commenting on his height. And this time he told me it was his first half. He’d noticed I was fast in the downhills, and said to me to go if a hill took me.
I already careered down a hill at mile 5 after one too many women overtook me. The caffeine perhaps kicked in (two pro plus and a caffeine gel already, after two weeks off it), and I flew down the first down hill. My first sub 7 min mile of the race. It was great fun.
I could almost feel people staring at me thinking I was crazy as I passed them, but I love it. I really feel like I’m getting good at pushing up the hills and taking advantage of the downhills (and flying down them).
I didn’t even think of my cape once the whole way round, but I was feeling good. Heart rate was away up at 167-170 most of the way. I kept pushing on. After mile 7, we turned a corner and headed back to Portree. The slight promised wind was behind us, and we now had the long steady horrible climb ahead of us. Miles 8, 9 and 10. This is where I came into my own.
Running single file up the right side of a main road, nice and steady, bit by bit, we climbed, and climbed and climbed. I couldn’t remember what mile on the course the hill stopped, but it seemed to go on forever. It was then I started to over take people. (Great feeling).
Pushing on and on, one by one, I steadily overtook people. One guy I ran next to, for some reason we were silently running side by side, but I had a feeling we were helping each other stay strong. Not knowing where the end of the hill was, I lost track of the distance or mile splits, and just kept pushing on. My slowest mile split was 8:00 min mile up that hill.
I passed a lady in a brown vest who had nice yellow saucony Kinvaras on and commented that they were nice. Then I passed a few more guys, and had another woman in my sights, one with a club vest on. I’d noticed her pass me at the start and I thought to myself, I wonder if I’ll ‘get’ her before the end.
My legs were starting to feel it by this point, but I was still pushing through. I overtook club lady, (the last lady I overtook that day), and kept on going, up and up and up. 10 miles came and I thought it was meant to be going downhill soon. Arg!
I knew from my mile splits going off, 7:48, 7:25, 6:45 etc, that I might be in with a skin chance if beating my PB. I knew it ended with 19 seconds, but couldn’t remember if it was 1:38:19 or 1:39:18. I was taking my Garmin time as my result (as always) and it was about 0.1 miles ahead if the course, so I knew I’d be stopping it before the finish line anyway.
At the top of the hill, I looked at the time on my watch and I figured out that if I did the downhills well, I might be in with a chance of coming in under 1:38. I powered on down the hills, letting gravity take my tired legs and body down. By this point I’d poured a few bottles of water over my head, drunk plenty water from my water pack and had THREE caffeine energy gels. (I had the same amount for my marathon! But I thought, why not, one every three miles!)
As I got to 11 miles in, I looked at the time, and again at 11.1 miles. At 11.1 miles, I was 1:24 in, and I knew if I took advantage of the down hill I might be in with a chance of getting my PB, which yesterday, I didn’t think was possible. I just needed to get sub 7 minute miles and I might be close to it.
The 11th mile ticked off at 6:45, good stuff. I overtook quite a few more people, running strongly, legs stretched out, powering on down the hill. I’ve no idea what my heart rate was, but it was getting hard. Into Portee with just under a mile to go I really put the gas on. I knew I could hold on for the short distance that was left.
Looking back, my avg HR was around 171 for the last 5 miles, (92%). For the last mile my avg HR was 174 / 93%, maxing at 177 / 95%. I’m not sure I could have given it any more.
The crowds, support, water stations and marshals were great. I felt like I flew past the last water station, legs out stretched I declined taking anything, and focused on the job in hand. Half a mile to go and it felt like the longest half mile ever. Still downhill, and I knew where I was by this point, but it was still hard. And I had no idea if my PB was in grasp or not.
The last mile ticked off at 6:55, not bad for the last two miles in a race, it felt like perfect pacing. I ran down the hill just before the end and just before the finish, in front on the crowds, my Garmin ticked off 13.1 miles.
I powered in up to the finish line, knowing that my Garmin time was 1:38:07. I knew the seconds had to beat 19 and the minutes had to beat 39 or 38, so I was over the moon that I’d run this tough half, faster than I’d run any other one before. 🙂
Where times come, I only compete with myself, and this was a biggy as right up to the start of the race, I really didn’t think I had it in me. Right until I got on the course. I honestly thought there was no way it could run 7:30 min miles on average, but the wonderful Skye hills (210m of elevation) were my friends and they helped secure a PB of 12 seconds.
I later found that my chip time was 1:38:30, I came in 84th overall (out of 450) and was the 8th lady home (out of 176) (5th senior). I’d also run a 2 minute minute negative split, and pushed my hr up to 95% / 177. My avg hr was 90% / 169. Garmin training effect 5.0 of course.
I hung around the end, chatting with and congratulating other runners. In the throes of finishing, I remembered I’d accepted some well needed water from a young girl, but shock horror I’d refused the offer of a mars bar! After a few minutes of stretching I went back to get one from her. I chatted some more and got the obligatory after shot or two.
Then I went back to my car and got a shower and a change in the leisure centre. Totally pleased that I’d done my best and done so well. I’ll never be the fastest runner, but I love it when I run a race well, and when I surprise myself sometimes.
The Skye Half Marathon was a great event. Well organised, nice touches, lovely scenery, and a nice small field (of 450 – the largest they’d even had). I realised after that we didn’t get a ‘goodie bag’ as such, but we got a good Tshirt, a medal, a mars bar, plenty of water, food and changing facilities – what more could you ask for? They could teach the big events a thing or two, that’s for sure.
The local paper said the course had been described as the toughest half marathon, but I disagree. Sure there were a few hills, but what goes up has to come down and it’s downhills for me that make a run fun, challenging and enjoyable. The scenery helped a lot, as did the crowds, marshals and well wishers.
I went back to Sheena’s afterwards in my race Tshirt with my medal on. She was well proud of me and gave me a big hug for doing so well. We spent the afternoon chatting and baking a coffee and walnut cake (no walnuts in her larder though, so it ended up being a coffee and coffee cake). I enjoyed making the icing, and she made the cake halves.
I abstained from having a nap and just took it all in instead. A nice relaxing afternoon, with some cake, followed by a roast chicken dinner, and strawberries and ice cream and some more cake later (!!) before bed. 😉 I’d earned it.
The day after I drove home, with sore arches of my feet, I was walking funny and struggling slightly with stairs lol. I was tired too, but apart from that not too bad (sore calves which would wear off soon). Rest n recovery now. (Apart from in my sleep, apparently I was running in my sleep last night!)
Results here: http://www.sportsystems.co.uk/ss/results/Skye%20Half%20Marathon/1459 Garmin here: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/520318800