Aberdeen Half Marathon – ‘race’ report

Once again an early weekend alarm woke me. 5.45am this time.

Today’s plan called for 18 miles, with the last 8 at goal pace for the marathon. Joanna had planned a long weekend in York with Rebecca, so I decided to enter the Aberdeen half marathon rather than do another long run on the same roads at home.

We lived in Aberdeenshire for almost ten years before moving back in 2013. Aberdeen will always hold a special place in our hearts, so it was nice to go back and race on familiar streets.

I got there for around 8.30am, parked at Union Square then went for an easy 5 mile run down Riverside, past my old office, through Duthie Park, and back up. I’d forgotten how lovely the park is.

I was back at the car by 9.30, topped up my water bottle, changed my top, loaded up with gels, and then wandered up to Union Street. I’ve never seen it so busy!

It was also lovely to bump into some old friends, both before, during and after the race.

However I wouldn’t actually be racing today. I’d agreed with my coach that I’d run the first 5 miles at easy run pace, then the last 8 at 8:23 – my goal Pace for the marathon.

On the easy run before the race I’d noticed that my heart rate was elevated by about 10 beats, and the same thing happened on the first 5 miles of the race. They felt much harder than they should have! I guess my body hadn’t fully recovered from Thursday’s track session.

By mile 5 the sun was out and it was getting warm, but miraculously when I upped the pace it started to feel easier. How does that work?

I got into a rhythm and started chalking off the miles. I managed to hold my marathon pace for 6 of the 8 miles. The 7th was in the high 8s, and then mile 11 was a shocker!

Passing the flag at mile 12 was a great feeling, and from here to the finish I was back on top of the run. Mile 13 was my fastest mile for the day, and I almost sprinted down Union Street to the finish.

So I ended the day with 18 miles in my legs, plus the experience of pinning on a number for the first time since 2015. It was good to get used to that again before the big day in 4 weeks time.

I’m gonna take a rest day tomorrow, run easy on Tuesday, then I have another goal pace run (12 miles) on Wednesday.

But right now I need food……

This week in numbers:

  • Miles run – 42.1
  • time on my feet – 6:19:58
  • Half marathons run – 1

#TBT – Putting the Social into Social Networking

Today’s #throwbackthursday post takes us back to 2010 and the second twitter meetup, or tweetup as they were called back then, that Johanna Basford and I ran in Aberdeen. She’s done alright since then!

On Thursday night a random group of folks descended on the funky venue that is Musa in Aberdeen’s re-styled Merchants Quarter. What was once the arse-end of town had re-invented itself, and was now hosting a new phenomenon, #themeet140.

The brain-child of @markofespect and @chris_hall1, themeet140 is an open invitation for folks on Twitter to get together for drinks, food & chat in a relaxed environment. Events have now run in London, Glasgow, Cambridge, and Aberdeen. Thursday saw themeet140 return to Aberdeen as an event in its’ own right this time, having shared the billing with Musa’s own opening night back in July.

The wonderful thing about themeet140 is the people. You finally get the chance to meet your twitter “friends” in real life (or IRL!). @ajjohnstone described it wonderfully as “feeling as though you’ve been dropped inside your own twitter feed”.

One of the things I really like about themeet140 is that no-one judges you. It’s not a business event, no-one’s handing out cards. You’re just as likely to speak to a student or a mum as you are an internet entrepreneur.

Speaking of which, right at the start of the evening I got speaking to this young lad who had arrived laden with bags & a guitar. Turned out he was en route south to an un-conference (google it). He was now living in Aboyne, having come back a couple of years ago from Silicon Valley where he counted the founders of WordPress as friends. I sat spellbound as he recounted tales of raising millions from VC’s and about the software he was now developing back in the UK that he believed would transform economies. Wow!

The lovely @rhinomittens told us how she got her twitter name (ask her!), whilst @mcaulay tried to explain how he manages to work 28 hours a day with no sleep!

People ate in small groups, but anyone was welcome to join them, in fact it was actively encouraged. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s kindness & friendliness in equal measure, values that society has long since forgot.

Personally, I love themeet140. I’ve been to Glasgow as well as Aberdeen, and every event is better than the one before. Come with no expectations other than to have fun, be open & willing to talk to anyone. And make sure that anyone shy doesn’t get left alone.

Yeah, it really does renew your faith in mankind, and suggests that maybe there is a better way to be.

Civic Pride

We’re just back from a week in Salzburg, Austria. One of the most beautiful cities we’ve ever visited. Also one of the cleanest.

We were also taken by how many people, young & old, were wearing their national dress on the weekend. There was a palpable sense of pride in being from Salzburg. In being Austrian.

Today I was in town early thanks to light traffic on a local holiday. So I parked up and went to Cafe Nero on Union Street. Walking down Chapel Street, I was disgusted to see rubbish strewn all over the street. Bins had been tipped over, but no-one was on hand to clean up. Moving onto Union Street and up towards Cafe Nero, I noticed how dirty the buildings and pavements were. The city seems resigned to it; no-one seems to care.

When we first moved to Aberdeen over 7 years ago, it was a regular winner of Britain in Bloom. It looked lovely & welcoming. Now we can’t even cut the grass. Weeds replace once beautiful flowers. Rubbish lines the main roads. Budgets have been cut they tell us. No money to spare.

And yet this is the oil capital of Europe. Sure, Salzburg is in the Alps, and is the home of Mozart, but I’d wager that Aberdeen generates more tax revenue. Salzburg manages to maintain several palaces and gardens and looks wonderful. We’re closing swimming pools and vital social enterprises.

Where did it all go wrong & what does this tell us about the City’s priorities & values?

The Evening League – an Aberdeen Institution

Every Tuesday evening, from the beginning of May through to the middle of August when the light starts to fade, if you drive out past Garlogie a strange sight meets your eyes.

The Evening League, an Aberdeen cycling institution, will be taking place. Sixty-odd people, and the word “odd” is used for a reason (!) will be riding up and down the Aberdeen to Tarland road on a variety of iron (or increasingly carbon) steeds. And they’ll be wearing the oddest and most revealing clothing you’ve seen in your puff.

Evening League 10TT May 2011

Looking like out-casts from some bizarre Dutch porn flick, in figure hugging blue lycra with pointy hats – maybe it was a Smurf theme – the cyclists of Deeside Thistle will be taking to the road for the weekly time trial.

The Race of Truth – just you against the clock. Many believe that the time trial is the purest form of racing. Typically over set distances of 10, 25 , 50 & 100 miles, the time trial is all about judging your effort so that you’ve nothing left by the end. Go too easy at the start and you’ll lose valuable seconds; go too hard and you’ll blow up. It takes years to learn how to pace yourself, how hard you can push, and at what point you blow up. All in pursuit of those magical two letters – a PB, or Personal Best.

But the Deeside Evening League is about more than that. And that’s why so many people don’t “get” it. “You’ll get 64 people doing the EL, but less than 20 doing Open Races”, they complain. There’s a reason for this. The Evening League is, for the majority, a social event. A chance to catch up with friends old & new. To chat about bikes & new equipment, the latest news from the Giro, or swap gossip about local racers; to compare our performances, we all know riders of a similar ability to ourselves. How did they get on? Did we beat them? He looked like he was going well tonight.

And it’s relaxed. At a race, everyone’s got their game face on, or that’s the newbies impression. In reality, races in Aberdeen are the friendliest in the country. But as a newbie you’re still a bit frightened. So many don’t even bother to try.

The evening league satisfies their competitive instinct, without having to get out of their comfort zone, and that’s absolutely fine by me. The beauty of the evening league is the sheer variety of people & equipment you see. There’s the serious racers, guys like me with our TT bikes, disc wheels & pointy helmets. Warming up on the turbo trainer, dripping in sweat when next to us there’s a guy who doesn’t know what a turbo trainer is, pulling a 1978 Raleigh Lo-Pro steel bike from the boot of his car, slipping on his wool DTRC jersey from back in the day and riding up to the start. Warm up? Why would I do that he says?

And the irony? He’ll likely kick my ass! Ha ha, you’ve got to smile and love it. My left brain kicks in when it comes to cycling. For me, with my power meter, data is king and my rides are all based on aiming for a target average power – 300 watts for a 10, 285 for a 25. The guy in the wool jumper? He’s just riding his bike as hard as he can. Maybe I need to try that some time.

For me the man that sums up the evening league just now is Phil Kelman. Phil’s a legend around these parts. Third in last year’s Scottish 25 and the winner of our evening league for the last couple of years Phil exemplifies, for me, what cycling should be all about. Whilst I’m doing an easy “race prep” ride the day before the Ythan Hilly a couple of weeks ago, Phil was out doing a 200km Audax ride. And he still raced, and won, on Sunday.

Phil thinks nothing of riding for hours on end, and eschews all that “look like a pro” shave your legs nonsense. Phil just points his bike in the direction he wants to go and rides. Hard. Commenting on a post on the forum about the national 10, which is in Aberdeen this year, Phil said “I’d love to ride that, it’s a fast course, but there’s a 600km (!) Audax the day before that I just HAVE to ride  so I probably won’t do it”.

Ride your bike ‘cos you love it, race if you want to, but just make sure you’re enjoying being out there.

Chapeau Mr Kelman.


I’ve never been the best of descenders, but after breaking my collarbone on a fast descent back in November (I was practicing taking corners faster when I came off!) and then another spill in Mallorca last week, my confidence has taken a big dent. I now descend like a little old lady and it’s getting me incredibly stressed. I was so tense descending down from Midmar today that my forearms hurt with the effort. People were passing me, and I was then catching and passing them on the flat. It’s bloody annoying.

The other big thing from today’s race was a major schoolboy error from me. I’d checked the forecast, which said winds up to 16km/h. When I left Inverurie it was flat calm, so as I was riding over I put the deep section wheels on my TT bike – 82 on the front and 101 on the back. On a calm day that would be a really fast combo for me. However, the wind got up, way more than was forecast, and my wheels turned into sails. I was being blown all over the place! Not great when you’re already a little unsteady on the bike!

I got round in just over 51 minutes, average power of 268 watts, and a nice high average cadence of 92. Considering I was freewheeling on the descents, I’m pretty happy with those stats.

My shoulder held out okay, although I need to start bulking up the muscle and have a session booked with Ewan Murray on Wednesday evening. That’s bound to help. I also haven’t done any core strength work over the winter as a result of breaking my collarbone, so that needs worked on too.

I suppose what today’s race has done is put down a marker for where I am on my road to recovery. The legs are fine, my weight’s lower than last year, but I’m not ready to race properly yet. Another month will make a big difference. I’ll be stronger, lighter, and with a lot of practice, much happier on the descents.

I’ll also not make that mistake with the wheels again. D’oh!

Broken Bones

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I crashed & broke my collarbone a couple of weeks ago. I wrote about it here.

Today was my first checkup at the fracture clinic since the crash. Just to make the day more “interesting”, we had about 3 or 4 inches of snow over-night in Inverurie. At 8am cars were getting stuck on the hill we live on! Fortunately Jo’s got snow tyres fitted, and we were going downhill, so I was okay.

Caught the 8.22am train into Aberdeen without any difficulty, and by 9am I was sitting in Tinderbox with a steaming mug of hot chocolate. 30 minutes later, after checking emails and twitter, I was in a cab and on my way to ARI, where, once again, I was whisked through the system.

A few people had warned me that it could be really slow and that I could be in for a long wait. So I packed a bag. I had my iPad, the latest Cycle Sport magazine (which arrived yesterday) and my headphones. I’d be fine.

Well, I never had time to use any of them! Turned out the lady at the desk was from Inverurie too. We shared a few tales of travel woe and the next thing I know she’s taking me through for an x-ray. I was in & out of there in a flash and was put in a queue to see the doctor, with my notes handed to me. I had barely finished reading them when the doctor called me through.

He was another young guy, had the look of a cyclist about him. He asked me a few questions about the crash & then he pulled my x-rays up on the screen. Today’s certainly looked better than the day of the crash, but as you can see the bone’s still in bits.

He wanted to take a proper look at it, so I was taken behind the screen and whipped my tops off. He had a wee prod around it and looked at my shoulder alignment. Definitely a bit shorter on the left hand side. He went to get the Registrar so she could take a look. She agreed, and we had a chat about the options.

I have very “pronounced” collarbones, so pinning it could cause problems. As well as the risk of infection, I’d always be left with a scar, and the plate would be very noticeable under my skin.

I asked if leaving it to heal naturally would mean it would be weaker and they assured me it wouldn’t – years ago it would always be left to heal naturally. They said it definitely wouldn’t affect my racing so we decided to leave it (although they’re going to run it past the consultant over the weekend just to make sure).

And that was basically that! I’d been in for no more than 30 minutes. I asked about training and he said it was fine as long as it wasn’t on rollers! Cut down on the painkillers, the pain should have gone in a week, and make sure to stretch & exercise the arm.

Back again on 7th December and we’ll see how things have progressed then.


Rising Westerley 100 mile timetrial

Rather than tell you about my woes, I think race organiser Isobel Smith’s race report sums up the magnitude and challenge of the day. Here it is, copied word for word.

Result of Rising Westerly 100 TT 29th August 2010
Promoted by GCRT
Start 7am Course AB100/2
Must be the worst day ever to ride a 100TT..
5am Raining and gale force wind ,
6am Drying out ,bitterly cold and gale force wind
7am Sun trying to emerge,still bitterly cold and gale force wind.
7.30am Sun gave up, raining,still bitterly cold and gale force wind.
8am Chucking it with rain and bitterly cold and gale force wind
9am Ballater turn , Guess what . Horizontal rain, even colder and
gale force wind
9.30 am Lost Joe Wilson. Hear he’s wrapped up in a sleeping bag in the Royal Albert van. Hypothermia had taken its toll. 55 miles covered.
Carlos even considered giving up.
10am Nae change in the weather and we’ve lost Keith Robertson. Eventually get call from a nice Bobbie to tell us he’d sought shelter in a hotel near Aboyne. They kindly wrapped him up in tinfoil , but not enough flesh on him to roast for Sunday lunch so
they gave him loads of tea instead to thaw him out..
!0.15am Hear that Dick Dasterly Stewart and Ali McGill had packed on way up to
!0.30.am Books open on whether Carlos will get under 4 hours. Nae chance.
Peterculter marshals wondering if the riders are ever going to appear.
At last Bob Brown struggles through the puddles ,a few minutes ahead of Carlos.
Stephen Cairns stops for a few minutes at Crathes to put on dry gloves and stock up on energy gels.
11 am Still some riders to pass through Crathes . Marshalls are cold and wet.
11.45am the sun comes out for the last couple of miles home but it’s still cold and blowing a gale.. Told that it was a head wind out and a head wind home.
Bob Brown first home, followed by Cairns . Where is Carlos? Will I send someone out to look for him? He’s been caught and passed.. How many have done that in Scotland?
The remainder bravely finished and John Campbell actually said he quite enjoyed it. Twas a challenge..One has to wonder.
Well done lads but dinna think the times will make for any changes in the BAR tables.
Must be a record 7 finishers