Monday, 30 July 2012

Harris Half Marathon - Garmin's for Geeks

Over the sea (bridge?) to Skye

 Now I’m not technologically minded (and pretty technically inept if I’m truthful about it) and to date have happily spent my life free of any form of gadgetry pre-fixed by “i” and still need Simon to work the DVD player for me. I have also managed to eschew much of the running related paraphernalia that Runners World and similar would have you believe you need such as plaster strips for your nose, hand held water bottles on the shortest of runs, knee length “Paula socks” and those necklace type things Paula is often seen wearing, after all why eat some form of chemical goo when a nice chunk of home made fruit cake will do the job?

  Now my blissfully uncomplicated approach to running and possibly life in general has been fatally undermined. Personally I blame Bert (Colonel Geek) and John (1st Lieutenant Geek) for achieving the impossible and persuading me that a Garmin would make all the difference in the world to my running and finally, after two extremely poor half marathons at Skye and Barra, I was persuaded. To be honest after the horror experience that was the Barrathon I probably could have been persuaded to try anything if someone had told me it would help my running.
The upshot of this is that now my entire running life is dominated by this evil little watch whose mission in life appears to be to remind me how slow I am or how few miles I have actually run. Simon is disgusted by my new found geekiness which is ironic as he is Mr Geek and I have yet to fathom out the reason why someone who has the latest of every computer related gadget ever invented has such a dislike and distrust towards my Garmin.

The first real test for my shiny new Garmin was to be the Harris half marathon. I suspected at least part of the reason for my previous two “disaster” half marathons was an over enthusiastic start to the race so coach van Tuijl told me to aim to set the Garmin for a rather sedentary 8 min mile pace and stick to it. I promised that I would try…
Uig at sunset the night before the race
On waking up on race morning the first thing i was aware of was the noise of the wind outside and my first thought was not "oh no, ive got to run 13 miles in this" it was "Oh no, ive got to sail accross the Minch in this" and sure enough within 20 minutes of setting sail I had joined the throng of green faced unhappy people sat outside on deck freezing their backsides off and staring fixedly at the horizon. Fortunately it was not a long journey and the rolling motion created by the swell of the sea abated as we reached the shelter of the Isle of Harris.
Choppy Seas
Mist...and choppy seas
  After registering for the race and catching up with friends it was time to board the bus taking the runners to the start line of this point to point course. This has the advantage of letting the runners see what is ahead of them so there are no nasty surprises mid race but equally it means you start the race under no illusions as to what is lying ahead, a bit of doubled edged sword really. However the best part of the bus journey is the chance to see the magnificent stretch of white sands of Luskintyre beach and the view over to the isle of Taransay, famous as the setting for Castaway, TVs first ever reality big brother style show. But I’ll forgive it for that as its very beautiful.

Luskintyre and Taransay (photo from a previous trip)
 Just before the bus delivers the runners to the start line there is the famous toilet stop where the bus pulls over and the runners pour out of the bus and run like a herd of lemmings towards the cliffs to find a suitable spot to take a comfort break. I always wondered what would happen if this race was ever televised… (And no, I don’t know what the collective noun for lemmings is)

By the time we had lined up for the race the wind had not abated one bit and so everyone knew that they were in for a testing day out. What I forgot to mention is that the prevailing wind is south westerly…..except on the day of the 2012 Harris half marathon when it was decidedly blowing in from the north. I set off behind a group of runners containing those whom I thought would be my main opposition such as John, Robin, Hamish (my heb half nemesis), Karen, Simon and Ross who had already said that he was aiming to run exactly the same time as me and so running behind this large group certainly gave me some shelter for the first 2 or 3 miles but then the group began to split up and I was left out on my own trying not to lose contact with the runners ahead. Because of the gale force wind blowing directly into the faces of the runners it became no easier to run the downhill sections or the flat sections as at least on the uphill sections you were getting some shelter from the hill in front of you. It was truly hard work against the wind and so any jealousy I had previously towards fellow runners, Nick and Susan’s hebridean cycle holiday which was to finish in at the Harris half marathon rapidly evaporated. If there was one thing worse than running into that wind it would have been cycling

My more restrained start meant that at no point in the race did I feel as awful as I had at Barra despite running the first mile faster than coach van Tuijl had told me to and I finished comfortably enough. The Garmin’s reassuring little beeps let me know exactly how fast I was running and exactly the distance and this also gave me something else to focus on – how far could I get before it emitted its next little beep?  I was surprised to pass Ross at around the 12 mile point as he was trying, without success, to flag down a car to give him a lift to the finish. John and Robin had got away from me as had Simon who yet again had shot off ahead of me, faded, recovered only to disappear into the distance again this time getting the better of John. My time was about 4 or 5 slower than I had been aiming for but most people seemed to have run about 5 minutes slower probably because of the wind and so I couldn’t grumble. The only problem was that now I was itching to download the Garmin to see the little charts and graphs of the race that it produces - hours of endless entertainment to be had in analysing them… .Bert has told me not to worry about this too much as the novelty value soon wears off…

Clearly the whisky we had necked at midnight at the youth hostel in Uig the night before the race had also helped – well it helped me as I was certainly more relaxed going into this race than I had been for the other two heb halfs. Definitely a pre-race routine to be repeated…
After a quick wash it was time for the prize giving and this was both the prize giving for the Harris half. As Harris is the last in the Heb half series the prizes for the Heb 3 are also handed out and Simon as the sponsor for the heb 3 had the honour of handing out the prizes. This time there was a bit of success for HBT who seemed to have been strangely absent from the Heb half series this year as the trotter team of Andrew, Jon and Graham won the team prize and Eilis won the women’s prize for the Harris half marathon. I picked up the V35 women’s prize so there are definitely some advantages to getting old. However nothing could have prepared me for the surprise of winning the V35 prize for the Heb 3 especially after the shockers that were Skye and Barra and to think that I had been so close to pulling out of Barra half way round – an important lesson there methinks!

It is also the day of reckoning in terms of the cumulative time for the Heb 3 and Eric was unfortunate to have missed his target time by a mere 27 seconds over the 3 half marathons but then I was pretty non plussed about my times too.

John wins...again

Simon presenting the prizes to the Heb 3 winners
 A large group of us went for dinner at the newly refurbished McDonald Motel now called the Hebridean hotel, which is now actually quite posh after a mega facelift, before going back to our usual post race haunt (primarily because the Hebridean hotel had run out of real ale) and then the news we had all been waiting for – the ferry back to Uig had been delayed. The “hoorays!”  went up and down the line and we settled down for a few more beers before catching the Harris booze cruise back to Uig.

Tasting some firewater that Jim had bought along

Its obviously good stuff!

Well that’s the heb halfs over for another year. Maybe by the time they start again next year I will have worked out how to download the info from the Garmin.

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