Thursday, 21 June 2012

Spring cake eating and whisky drinking (with some running)

And there it was, this huge unspoken issue, the “elephant in the room” if you go in for the current popular American Pysco-babble. Valentines Day. There, ive said it. Interestingly enough it was Simon who was to utter those simple few words which are enough to scare the life out of a well practised unromantic cynic – “we really should do something to celebrate Valentines weekend”. And then it was out there…and the look of realisation at what he had just said crossed his face was something akin to that of a startled rabbit in the headlights as the implications sunk in. A romantic weekend away during the 6 nations rugby would mean missing the Wales match and I could see his little brain racing as he frantically tried to think of a way to dig himself out of that one. My own wee brain was similarly preoccupied as a romantic weekend away could seriously impinge on VRT (valuable running time).
Who says romance is dead?

A compromise was swiftly reached (never under estimate the power of panic) and it conveniently turned out that the Cupar 5 mile road race was on the Saturday afternoon which would allow me to run while Simon could watch the rugby leaving the evening free for the traditional Valentines posh meal. As it turned out the Wales game was on later and in a surprise u- turn Simon was a last minute entry in the race.

The Cupar 5 has been held for about 30 years and the race field of this friendly Fife AC race has grown until this year it reached a new record of 315 starters (307 finished so we must of lost 8 en route – where? How? Were they ever found again?). The route is an “out and back” along a traffic free lane which is pleasantly undulating and twisting and this year the stiff headwind for the first half of the race was the main talking point in the post race chat

Simon, having only been back training for 4 weeks after a 6 month layoff through injury, started right at the front and tried to outrun Derek Hawkins. For those of you who don’t know Derek Hawkins was the winner of the national cross country championships the previous weekend and so needless to say I trotted past a wrecked Simon at the half way point and took the opportunity to yell unsympathetic abuse, of course this just encouraged him to dig a little deeper and he beat me by about 20 seconds. My own race plan was to try to keep Lorraine Brown in sight for as long as I could but my race was a bit lack-lustre and I struggled to get out of a low gear as was the case in the previous weekends’ cross country race.

Simon elbows his way to the front
 City of Edinburgh AC had appeared en masse and seemed to do well in the prizes although Garry did the ungentlemanly thing and sheltered from the headwind by running behind Victoria for the first half of the race. You can’t deny it Garry, there is photographic evidence…

The post race tea and cakes at these Fife AC races are a great way to catch up with folk who you haven’t seen for a long time. Simon did a run past and grab of a handful of cakes and made it to the sofa in time to watch the rugby while I stayed and caught up with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long time.

Fortunately for me there was another rugby match on the Sunday which allowed me to escape to run over some old training routes through the Fife countryside.

View from the tower of St Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews Cathedral

The Tower

The tunnel under St Andrews Castle


Race preparation
The best laid plans of mice and men…and Lynx pack runners…The arrangement was that Mike would pick John up and then we would all meet at Eztek and travel through together in one car. Except that Mike appeared without John. Fail. Plan B was activated and 45 minutes later we were on our way. (Plan B included hurried phone calls and extensive grovelling by Mike)

John’s sister Joanie was kind enough to let us stay and feed us all for the weekend at her stunning house situated near Inverness and so pre race prep involved lots of eating drinking gazing out of the window at the view while teaching Bert the fundamentals of Rugby Union.

Heres one i made earlier. Not.

 Saturdays weather was a little windy but on waking up on race day the wind had died down giving perfect race conditions, cool and calm. An early arrival at the start allowed a pre race coffee at the garden centre café which is something, in my opinion, all good pre race routines should feature, especially if chocolate or cake is also included.
More race preparation....
 Like Cupar two weeks previously this race also had a record field of entrants this year and so finding the perfect starting position on the start line was a bit of a challenge which I managed to not get quite right leading to a very slow first mile spent weaving my way through the field.
At mile 5 I had passed a soldier running the race in full army gear and I didn’t think anything of it until I heard him shout my name – It was Andy McMahon from Stornoway RC and I have yet to establish exactly why he was running in full army gear but he was carrying a tape recorder and was interviewing other runners in the race and asked if he could interview me so I trotted alongside him for a wee while chatting. Equally I have no idea what the interview was for or who would be listening to it as Andy was fairly peppering it with colourful language, I can only assume he wasn’t finding running in full army gear a particularly easy task. At about mile 7 I passed Kirsty who seemed to be having a bit of a grim time of it and we exchanged a few words but I don’t think either of us were really in the mood for much chat and we passed each other a few times before mile 10 and then only met up again at the end of the race.

After a slow start by mile two I had got into my stride and pretty much kept an even pace going and overtaking runners in front until the last two miles when the lure of the finish line in sight kicked in and I speeded up a bit especially when I heard Carrie shouting “HBT” from the sidelines and saw Rob Taylor on his warm down run. The race finishes on the track which is lined with spectators and so I mustered up a crowd pleasing sprint finish to over take someone in the last 20m and then immediately wished I hadn’t bothered as I wobbled across the finish line with both my quads cramping up. With such a large number of runners in the race I had never once caught sight of John or Mike in the race although I had shouted “well done Mike” to someone who had ran past me during the race and looked rather startled - and as well he might as he wasn’t Mike. Equally I hadn’t seen Susan Harley from Fife AC during the race although I had expected her to be finishing in around the same time as me and so it was good to finally meet up at the finish of the race.
It transpired that John had finished in front of me, Mike slightly behind me and Bert had finished well ahead of us all in a new best time so it was a good day out for all and I was happy to have finished a good few minutes quicker than I expected.

The race was dominated by Eritrean runners taking the top places unsurprisingly perhaps, but a Hunters Bog Trotters team of mountain running specialists scooped the team prize and, true to form, were nowhere to be found when the winners were announced.

Then it was back to Joanies house for showers and more food and drink, and there was plenty of time to relax as Bert, the designated driver, decided that he really needed a nap before driving back to Aberdeen so we let him get his beauty sleep while we relaxed. The amount of lazing about and eating and drinking that was involved during these two days seemed barely compatible with a half marathon event and by Sunday evening the whole weekend had taken on a dream-like quality by the time we drifted back to Aberdeen.


Happy Birthday Mike
This is a great weekend of running and community events put on by Hunters Bog Trotters Geoff and Ali. The weekend kicks off on the Friday night with a pasta party in the Braeriach hotel on the main street in Netwonmore to allow the runners to carbo load for the race the following day and in true runners style (or is it just me?) the eating and drinking theme continues throughout the weekend. The Lynx Pack dream team stayed at the Balvanich Hotel worth mentioning because this hotel, most unexpectedly, has a swimming pool and a sauna to help with post race recovery.

The elite Lynx pack team members were concerned about the race time keeping.....
The race itself is an “out and back” 10 mile route from Newtonmore through Kingussie and its pretty flat and traffic free. The turn about point just outside Kingussie meant that you could keep watch on where others are in the race which at times was a welcome distraction and at other times a bit of a worry. Simon again had set out fast and faded. Apparently he had missed the start and so had come haring past Innes, Myself, Mike and John in the early miles and had "almost caught Bert". And thats his story and he's sticking to it.....
Bert had set out fast and didn’t fade. The race also saw a rare race appearance from Innes who was getting back into fitness for the Barra half marathon in July.
 I hung in behind John for the first mile then moved away once I realised he had slowed and I spent the rest of the race battling it out with a runner from Perth road runners which resulted in a pb for me although some of the garmin wearing geeks were only too keen to inform me that the course was short. Despite that my calculations tell me it would still have been a pb….. definitely....with no shadow of a doubt....

And then it was back to the hall for the prizes and, more importantly, the tea and cakes. It is a community run event and many of the prizes were donated from local businesses but unlike the friendly reception you usually get at these little local races the ladies serving the tea were truly terrifying. I think they were from the Newtonmore flower arranging club or similar. I made the mistake of asking for a clean knife and got the distinct impression that I was lucky to get away without having the said implement embedded between my shoulder blades. I can only conclude that flower arranging in Newtonmore must be on a par with the shinty for violence.
John was pleased to win a prize
Bert was VERY pleased to win a prize
The all important cakes
The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying a range of activities in the sunshine including watching the shinty, sitting outside the pub with a pint or having afternoon tea in the garden of Eric and Linda Dodd’s fabulous new house. Sunny weekends now seem like light years ago.
Some folk really weren't that interested in the shinty

some watched

in the glorious sunshine

and tried to make sense of the rules and who was winning

more tea and cakes

and beer
Team Lynx pack then went on to the Silverfjord in Kingussie for dinner which is highly recommended before going back to the hotel for a few drinks and finally only the hardcore party animals were left to go to the disco in the village hall. In previous years the after race party has always been a celidh but for some reason this year the celidh had metaphorphosised into a disco which Mr Carlsberg might have described as “probably the worst disco in the world”, in fact it was so bad it was good. The worst music ever, the worst drink served ever and some very strange people in attendance (other than us). However, you know you’ve had a good night when you arrive back at your digs wearing a banana costume that you didn’t start the evening wearing.
In case you are wondering the banana suit was nicked from under a chair in the hall but was sheepishly returned the next morning

The next morning at 9am sharp (ouch!) was the Hangover mile which we all passed in the usual blur of misery and discomfort before we were able to consol ourselves with a large cooked breakfast. Happily even those who hadn’t made it to the disco and who had sneaked away for an early night looked in just as bad form and even more happily for me I wasn’t forced to wear the banana costume during the race.

The winners of the hangover mile (the least hungover people there perhaps?)

Sunday was another gloriously sunny day and so to continue the eating and drinking theme a trip to the cake shop at the Norwegian plant nursery near Kincraig was the choice of activity for the day and a great choice it was too, we were able to sit in the beautiful grounds of the nursery enjoying amazing cakes and listening to the woodpecker in the trees. The coffee shop has a small glazed porch type of area where you can sit and watch the birds and squirrels climbing on the trees and ropes and eating from the various bird feeders attracting them there.
It was quite an effort to drag ourselves away and start the drive back to Aberdeen after yet another great weekend.

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