Our friends Ian and Emma (ex Kinross Road Runners) aka the Trail Monsters were coming over to the UK from Maine briefly for a wedding and thought they might like to do the Glen Clova half – so we signed them and us up for it a month or two ago...and then thought about training.
I've run a miserable bunch of half marathons this year. I ran 1.39 at Alloa in April and at the time thought it wasn't bad considering I'd been doing only long training in preparation for the Highland Fling – had I only known that was to be my best half for ages!
After the Highland Fling I was a bit injured so was disappointed but philosophical about running the Stornoway half in 1.44, then more disappointed to run the Benbecula half in 1.44 the following week and then about a month later really disappointed to run the Harris half also in 1.44. Was I never going to run faster than 1.44 for a half ever, ever again?
At club I was enjoying Gordon's hilly off-road sessions so I forgot about roads for a while and had a late season improvement in form, taking some Vet prizes in hill races. So right about the time we signed up for Glen Clova we were involved in running the Pentland Skyline and the Run of the Mill Hill race and still not giving much thought to the roads. I tried to go out and do some speed training on my own with mixed success. Its never easy without other people. A mixture of work things and hatred of running in the dark was getting in the way of me training with the club on a Wednesday evening after we'd moved back to the Bowling Club.
So come last week I had no idea how I could possibly do in a half marathon. I could be looking at anything from 1.38 to 1.50. The only tactics I could think of were to
- not go out too fast
- do my best
- not give myself a hard time - if it was going slow, I could always
- treat it as a training run!
The last tactic is my favourite. Most of the worst races you have would usually be a pretty decent training run...
On Saturday, Emma wasn't going to run as she's coming back from a knee injury and a hill run during the week had brought the pain back. Peter was suffering with an injury in his shin, Ian had a cold and I was – well I was well-rested but untested!
The weather in Edinburgh was pretty wild; windy and wet. The Berlingo was getting buffeted as we drove over the Bridge and up the road to Kirriemuir and beyond. We got to Glen Clova in plenty of time and the sky was – if not completely clear, then nearly clear – it was only raining a wee bit and the smoke coming out of the chimney of a nearby cottage was drifting aimlessly up into the sky – almost no wind!
I held back for the first mile but still got a sore stomach in the 2nd and 3rd mile and was trying not to get my head in a pickle about it. I don't know what it was – it might have been dread – but it resolved itself after mile 4 and the first water station. The course was much hillier than I remembered it being but this was suiting me – in terms of catching up others if not in terms of fast splits. Every uphill I would catch and overtake people. For a while I felt really good and started even having thoughts of pbs! Sadly this was not to last. Around mile 7, after we'd turned around to head back to the Clova Hotel, reality kicked in – not in a dramatic way but just in realising that increasingly my splits were taking longer and longer. I was in a loosely packed group of men and we exchanged places on the up and downhills without much competition. There wasn't enough wind to merit trying to draught behind others so we were running along side each other. I had a couple of stabs at lifting the pace again but each time I did this it worked for a while but then left me feeling more drained, so I settled for a more even pace for the last few miles hoping to pick it up when the end was in sight. The last few miles seemed to take quite a while and I had time to study the beautiful views of snow topped hills and the sad sight of rather a lot of squashed hedgehogs on the road. They were about the size of my feet length-wise and I found myself thinking that you could make them into slippers or some kind of shoe for grip on the ice. And they'd have cute faces!
At last – after more “undulation” we rounded a corner and the end was truly in sight! I picked up the pace, according to my Garmin, from a sedate 8 min pace to 6.30 pace for the last wee bit and overtook a couple of guys who did not respond. I got over the line in just over 1.42. Well at least I've improved on 1.44 so I'm okay with that. And it was probably a really good training run...
One of the features of the Glen Clova half – apart from its beautiful scenery (if the weather gives you a break) and the very natural circular 13 mile loop of a course (no Edinburgh half marathon-type doglegs and running round traffic cones) is that you get stovies afterwards, so Peter and Ian and I re-grouped and got our stovies and got warm again in the Glen Clova Hotel. Peter had run a bit slower than usual having to be careful of his injured shin – but still ran a decent 1.24 and was hopefully not too much more injured for running. Ian had run 1.35, not his fastest by far – but not bad for having a cold. All of us were quite pleased but not ecstatic with our performances – and having established that there was no chance that we'd luck any prizes we set off for the long drive home.
There was a stunning sunset on the way home so Peter was leaning out the van window a fair bit and snapping away.
I think that's the 4th time I've run the Glen Clova half and in recent years I've let the thought of the long drive and early sunset put me off wanting to do it, - but having revisited it I feel much more enthusiastic about it. Maybe we should get in early and book one of the hotel's bunkhouses and have a Portobello weekend up there. Then I'd be able to have a pint after the race...