Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Skye half marathon - changed days.

Race Bling
Its not known as the misty isle without reason

After a crappy week at work and a late-ish departure my general mood was much improved by fish and chips at Granton on Spey. It works every time. My running mood wasn’t though, I have been feeling rubbish for weeks other than one brief flurry of actually feeling ok in a mountain run in Romania which remains an anomaly to the current overall fitness situation. My last race, a mere two nights before setting off for Skye, was 8 minutes slower than my best time. “So what?” you say. It was only over 5 miles, that’s what. Project that over a half marathon course then I was looking at…well, a very long day out on Saturday.

As we left an overcast, chilly (for June) Granton and headed west towards Achnasheen and Loch Carron the weather improved dramatically, beautiful clear blue skies, stunning evening sunshine and mountains with light mist skimming the tops in an Everest style plume. Even my spirits were lifted at this point and I’m only sorry that I have few photos of it. Trying to take photos out of the car window while Simon threw the vehicle round corners like a Lewis Hamilton wannabe was just a no no, I couldn’t afford to lose the fish and chips I had just consumed. Simon is tetchy about me eating fish and chips in his car as they make the car smelly and I’ve been consigned with my supper to many a park bench and shop doorway so I warned him he had better be careful as I’m not sure he’d be delighted with the smell of regurgitated fish and chips in his car. Actually if I recall I threatened to throw up in the hood of his hoodie.
Evening sunshine on the Cullins
We got to Portree, quickly checked into the B&B and then went straight off to the pub. The usual suspects were in the Tongadale (something that’s guaranteed to cheer me up) but it is noticeable how quiet the pubs seemed despite there being nearly 1000 people descending on Portree for the race. It is not how I remember the night before the race from my early days of coming to the Skye half marathon in the 90s, the pubs used to be buzzing. Changed days. It was a lovely clear summer evening when we wandered back to the B&B and so there was a general feeling of optimism about race weather and I felt smug that I had actually remembered to pack the sun cream

Enjoying the summer evening
My smugness was short lived. We awoke to heavy rain and thick clag and most concerning was the strong wind. Although I was starting to dread the race the only thing stopping me feeling too sorry for myself was the fact that John and Hamish were camping. It’s true what they say – there’s always someone worse off than you.

I settled for a vest over t-shirt combo should we be running into driving rain at some point but to be honest at times I felt a bit too warm. There were over 700 starters in this race and I was getting irritated trying to fight my way to registration, the bag drop off and the toilets. I remember when the field barely reached 200. Changed days. As I had no great expectations for the race I didn’t find the crowds on the start line an issue this year when usually I get rattled with people getting in my way. The gun went and I was carried along slowly with the mass of runners. As you might expect I didnt take a camera with me so no race photos this time. The low hanging mist and cloud somewhat spoiled the views anyway.

The first two miles were probably the worst, I really did contemplate calling time on things at the two mile marker but happily matters, if not my pace, improved over the rest of the run. The stampede of people who passed me in the first 4 miles had slowed to a trickle by about 7 miles then pretty much stopped altogether by the time we hit THE HILL. It may have been coincidental but we hit THE HILL at approximately the same time as we started running into the strong head wind and although I wasn’t exactly feeling fantastic I took great (some may say cruel) pleasure in overtaking those unfortunates who were obviously having an even more torrid time of it than me, that is the ones who were either walking or had stopped by the side of the road. There’s nothing quite like someone else’s suffering in a race to make you feel better. Don’t try and deny it, you know it’s true!

I felt as though I had gone a bit quicker over the last two miles but as I haven’t yet downloaded my Garmin so that may not be true however I am enjoying the blissful ignorance that I might have managed more than a slow plod for at least 1 mile of the damn thing. So I trotted over the finish line, sniffed in disgust at my time and then wandered off for a swim. My legs are usually totalled after the Skye half but this time other than a niggly shin I had barely a twinge so I obviously didn’t go hard enough…yet I felt incapable of going any harder. How does that work? Anyway I spent so long sulking in the sauna I missed the post-race cakes and the prize giving was well underway by the time I emerged. It was nice to see a local winner of the women’s race and the local women’s team do so well. Strangely enough the men’s team winners HBT all appeared to collect their prizes devoid of the uniform brown kit. Noticeably the tribal start line chant of “HBT” was also absent. Changed days.
The Skye legend ran with number 1000 (c Isle of Skye Half Marathon)
Ruiaridh was 1st V40
Aberdeen runners in the audience
As I had started further back in the pack I hadn’t seen Simon or Robin or Davie on the start line as they all had started and finished well ahead of me, Heather had skipped past me at about the 5 mile mark chatting away happily, but before we went to the pub to meet up Simon had his press obligations to fulfil. The theme of “changed days” seemed to be the line the interviewers were pursuing – how has the Skye half marathon changed since Simon set his record in 1986? I sometimes wish Simon would steer away from the topic of how much slower todays runners are compared to the 80s. It might be true but….well…is it really how you win friends and influence people? Mind you, I don’t know why they should be spared, he’s already told me I need to lose 10% of my body weight if I want to run faster.    
"When i were a lad runners were faster and cake was bigger..."
I have to concede, grudgingly, that he is right though, the increase in participants has not led to a corresponding increase in standards (and I am a greedy little porker). If you can be arsed then try comparing the top 10 from these three years in the mid- 80s against the results from last Saturday. Don’t forget in the 1980s the Skye half marathon was over a longer 13.8 mile course rather than the 13.1 mile course that is used now.

Back when the race started and finished at the square... I dug this one out of the attic
.....and the Pier Hotel used to be a regular haunt
Finally we all settled ourselves into the bar of the newly refurbished Portree hotel to catch up, exchange race stories and watch a certain football match. 

Celebrating a win
Ultra runners Ruairidh and Cath were using the half marathon as training runs for big races later this summer

Oh dear. On the slippery slope
John and Hamish ran round together
Scotland actually appeared to do quite well so maybe “changed days” isn’t an entirely inappropriate theme for this blog. A few beers in and one person in particular, naming no names, got a little bit rowdy when Scotland scored, sending beer flying over innocent bystanders and breaking glasses. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad had the beer not been followed by wine everywhere the second time Scotland scored.
Can you guess the culprit from the series of photographs below….?

After the first soaking...
And there goes the wine...
After a quick change of clothes/quick rinse for those who had been showered with beer we made it to the restaurant for dinner to probably the finest meal I have had in Portree. It was perfect.

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