Sunday, 3 December 2017

Water of Leith Half 2017

After many years of organising the WoL "Half" I handed over the honours to Angus and Andy, who did a superb job, leaving me free to run again this year. And it was FAB! I had totally forgotten how much fun it is, having become distracted by sorting handicaps and worrying over road crossings and route diversions. How delightful to turn up and be whisked up the road in a coach then run down the scenic paths through the centre of Edinburgh to a brilliant spread of soup and cakes. Just great!

Mary and I set off with plenty time to get to the coach pick-up point well before 9am. There is this leering hotdog character on the way, I only see once a year on WoL race day and today we had time to stop for a ketchup selfie. 

traditional start photo
Thanks to A&A

I took over the race organisation from Jim Bruce who moved away from Edinburgh and wanted someone on the ground to handle the local set-up. I felt it was time for a change and asked A&A enterprises if they would think about maybe taking over. Having seen the amount of effort they put in the assisted crossing at Roseburn one year. They have done an excellent job of it. They had free rein to either keep it the same or do something different. They kept it pretty much the same but had to deal with a couple of route changes and put their own spin on a few things. I think it has added a new energy while losing none of the previous - a good fun event primarily like a large running family of friends setting off in small groups down a fun route, handicapped to favour the non-elite.

great to see Cat back running after having a baby

his fault!

Mary setting off with the legendary Scott Balfour

Jim setting off like a proper man wearing just racing vest and shorts!
(so did I but I had a t-shirt on top.)

perhaps the boldest kit choice?
It was mild for December but sandals..?!

I had heard Nick had an entry for this and asked the organisers to start me alongside. I had heard he asked for 1.24 I think and thought if conditions were ideal, the route shortened by diversions and a following wind I might be able to keep up with this pace for the first half and then maybe fall back once I started puffing. This and the number 1 bib was the only concession Angus and Andy gave me. Except they docked a minute and set us off 83 minutes before midday. We were last out the blocks but it wasn't too cold a day for hanging around at the start line and fun seeing everyone head out in front wondering if we would see many en route. All this growing tension and the caffeine drink made me start like it was a 10k. Well it is downhill and my legs had mostly recovered from a tough session at club on Weds and the usual flogging on Thurs at Wintervals. Full steam ahead and don't spare the horses!

I can't remember exactly when I realised that 10k pace was going to end in tears. The first guy we overtook (making up a minute in 2 miles) said something about poor handicapping, despite my reassurance I was going to crash and burn any moment soon. 

Jonathan has been doing this Lanark Road bridge spot for many years. He warns folk about the slippy turn and makes sure nobody continues over to the canal. I sorted in my head what I had to tell him in as concise a manner as possible, that there were 3 runners behind. After which he could sweep down behind on his bike. It was a sign of damage done that I told him "three to come" and held up 4 fingers.

New for this year an alternative to the Balgreen Skatepark section. And one that got the thumbs up, running on the opposite bank to avoid works near the skatepark. Then following round on the pavement to the roundabout and turning the corner the marshal at the crossing pushing the button which just had time to stop the traffic. Nick, close behind, got the benefit of the diagonal while I was all the way to the crossing before the traffic stopped. Nick nicked in front again! Just before this I noticed the 8 mile mark bleep on my Suunto. I expressed to Nick a "slight regret" about the early enthusiastic pace and he agreed. Oh well, maybe he was feeling it too. (There had been no talking since about the first mile.) On the upside at least it was only 13 and a bit miles which meant that soon there would only be half as much again. Good news: it wasn't an ultra. 

this was my first time over this new bridge

and first time along this much widened path
(although I think the former had more charm.)

passed Isobel going up to Roseburn
She has been doing less on roads to avoid aggravating injuries.

We had been warned about this. Another diversion. Over 100 steps up to Douglas Crescent. (Favourite workout of Emma). I had thought I might need to get well ahead of Nick so that I could absorb his advantage on the steps. However he was right by my shoulder when we started. I "ran" the whole lot or rather took fast short steps the whole way up, but was trashed by the top and sure enough Nick eased ahead. I thought that might be the end of the story but shortly after overtaking Cat, Alan and Richard, (and others) we both left the Dean Village heading into Stockbridge together. 

The crossing at Pizza Express was not too bad (running between vehicles on one side, the other clear) then down the steps. I've no idea why I had the camera out at that point - on the slippy steps! Just asking for it!

You can tell from lack of photos I was now shredded. We passed Gordon and several others but had no breath for pleasantries. All I can remember is taking the road along Powderhall as the upper level was quite busy with runners. Into St Marks Park and wave hello to Iona St nearest point before head down and belt out last mile or 2. Oh look there is Mary! We could be doing quite well team-wise. Mary, Nick and I had been sitting together on the coach and so formed a team. Mary's radar picked up my breathing long before I went past so we got a nice hello I think. By this time I was wild eyed and in a heightened state, wiping the froth away from my mouth and trying not to scare passers by.

What a relief to go under the bridge and then see the finish on the other side of the water. There was someone just ahead and I chased them down going across the final bridge. This raised the pace to a sprint (Mr Suunto says 4.25min miling but I suspect exaggeration,) and I wasn't sure whether the footfalls behind were Nick, the guy or just my heartbeat thumping in my ears. The results say Nick was 3 secs behind. It didn't seem as much as that! We looked at the ground for some time. What a run!

Mary was in quickly behind.

Graham received the worst injuries of the day: a split lip and gashed hand. 2 small dogs ran out in front of himself and Jim B tripping up Graham. The best the owner could muster up was "they've never done that before."

Angus and Andy

While they said they hadn't taken on board how much there is to get right Angus and Andy made it all look easy and even emailed out the results before we got home from the pub. Jim Bruce dared them to run it next time as well as organise which is an interesting challenge and one that I never felt comfortable enough to risk, although I did cycle it one year and video-ed the runners.

The awards in the pub were quickly sorted out and nice and low key with fun spot prizes for tightest tights etc. Jim Scott was first over the line which I was very pleased to see as he has been out for a while but is now on the comeback with 2 new knees. First lady was Louise which was also a well deserved win. The boys also gave a couple of bottles of beer for fastest time of the day, (something we hadn't bothered with in the past being a not-the-usual-suspects kind of an event). However I totally approve of this as I was said person. Hurray! AND Mary, Nick and I won the team prize. Handcrafted booze from last year's team prize-ers Jim H, Graham N and Chris H. Is it safe to drink? The question should perhaps be Is it safe to wash my brushes out in?

Eric once again did the crew proud turning up with a car load of magnificence for our consumption. 2 types of hot soup and loads of cakes and goodies. And tea and coffee. I never usually get the benefit of this as I am busy with finish line stuff. This year I managed soup and a corner of excellent fruit cake, but was still a little too light headed to get the most out of this brilliant spread. I should have filled my pockets. (I did manage to rehydrate a bit in the pub.)

I believe Jim H was the artist behind these labels. 

Their team name originated just over a year ago when I was running up the Great Glen with Graham and Gregor, but that is another story. It's difficult to know the right occasion to make headway on these beautifully presented concoctions but I suspect it might be a running trip over the holiday season with others nearby. Or at least someone to call for help if required.

I think this year's course with diversions was a little longer than the usual 13.5 miles: nearer 13.75ish. I ran it in 1.26.22, crossing the 13.1 around 1.22+ which I was pleased about. Not just doing a mixed trail/road half at a decent pace but really throwing myself foolishly hard at it and just about surviving. I have been trying to avoid familiar races and challenges in favour of stuff I can get excited about doing. Rather than sleepwalk through the same old same old, at a depressingly slower pace as I skitter about the slippery slope that is aging. I totally loved this race and was high as a kite for the rest of the day, the way I was when I competed all those years ago, finding a downhill trail run; what could be better! Nice to return to racing it after years standing by watching others. I can't thank A&A enough for making this happen, they are proper gentlemen! 

top twenty results
(unable to post rest as it is just a file sent and not something I can link to)

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