I am a Scottish record holder. Noone has gone faster for 100 miles in Scotland. How cool is that?!
And totally unexpected.
This was a race that I had my eye on as I thought it fit in perfectly with what I would need to do that weekend in prep for Challenge Almere-Amsterdam two weeks’ later.
I mean, I don’t know about you but if I have to do 100 miles with some effort, I’d rather know I’m doing them with a bunch of other likeminded nutters, than alone in the wind and rain at ridiculous o’clock on a Sunday morning…
Saturday was my first chilled day in what felt like months (probably because it was!). We have been so busy this summer and it was so nice just to do nothing! We went for a wee jog by Bennachie, followed by coffee the best carrot cake I have had in a while, and the afternoon was spent cooking and baking for our guests that evening. Oh, and I also spent a good hour prepping my bike after some excellent advice from Jon, but more on that later!
Because the Great Aberdeen Run was on, Kenny Wilson was staying. So was hill superstar James Espie, but more due to wanting to see us than anything race related (I’m not complaining – he brought a mean blackberry crumble!)! A lovely evening with lots of food and catching up meant I went to bed (a lot later than planned) but feeling chilled.
The alarm was set at 4am. I had very little sleep because – as you all know – I get terrible anxiety when cycling outside after my accident, and kept picturing me going eyeballs out on the A90, only for a lorry to plough into the back of me! Once again, I know I need to relax…as once again, it was the safest I’ve felt during a race!
After faffing around with nutrition – counting out FIFTEEN gels people! – and trying to calculate my caffeinated gel ratio at that time in the morning, I force fed myself some porridge and took a coffee with me. 10 miles down the road, the fuel tank went from 90 miles to go, to 0. Ugh! Luckily, I made it to Stonehaven without any issues.
Oh wait, it’s me; of course there were issues.
I think I ate too much the night before, and mixed with force-feeding the porridge as well as the night of little sleep and anxiety, I had to stop the car and I proceeded to throw up at the side of the road! This has NEVER happened, but I did feel better afterwards (I was ok, Mum! Promise!).
Registration was so quick and easy. Because athletes go off at different times, there was never any rushing around like at mass start races, and I got my gear sorted, caught up with the MIL’s friend Michelle (who did amazing!), and then just sat in the car to keep warm. It was really wet and about 6C outside. I didn’t feel the need to warm up, given I’d have plenty time during the race(!) and it was a short ride to the start line, where I tested that the bike still worked!
I asked a nice lady to pin my bib to my back, but I should have bent over into the cycling position because as soon as I got on my bike and started pedalling, 2 pins popped off my racing suit!
Bear in mind, I wanted to minimise waiting time outside as much as possible, so left with maybe 3 minutes to spare at the start line! Thankfully, a marshal helped me but was sans additional pins, thus my bib number did flap around quite a lot in the wind!
With 30s to go, I got held up by an official, made a couple of jokes (“nice bike”, “thanks – shame about the rider” etc!), and off I went, SO much more relaxed than an hour earlier!
A tandem went off at 7, followed by a few girls, and I was off at 7.08. Typical Debs would aim to tick everyone off as soon as possible, but today I just wanted to be patient. After a terrible cycle at Aberfeldy last week, I did NOT want a bad ride today, otherwise I would have ZERO confidence for Almere. I refused to bonk! Instead, I stayed relaxed and enjoyed the effort.
With no pressure (apart from not bonking) I didn’t care too much about the conditions. I don’t own fancy aero accessories etc but was thankful for my waterproof and fleeced overshoes, and some fleeced armwarmers I stole from Scott before he left for ‘Murica. And gloves I took skiing in Chatel last year!
Speaking of Scott – he has just launched a coaching business, Hold Fast – if you want coached by a triathlon legend (I hope he isn’t reading his or his head will explode), please give him a shout. Remember I only bought a bike less than 4 years ago and I’m not too shabby right now…
Those accessories, along with my actual phenomenal kit, kept my comfortable AND fast the entire ride. I was on my Felt IA2 (which is the most comfortable bike I have ever rode), my POC aero helmet, my Speedhub speedsuit, my BONT cycling shoes AND with a MASSIVE THANKS to Jon, a couple of aero bottles (ok he has helped me significantly more than lending me water bottles BUT that’s for a separate post!)
I broke the ride up into separate distances, which I think made the 100 miles a lot less intimidating. It was 5 miles from Kineff to Stonehaven, then 20 to Stracathro, so I think subconsciously I did a 5/20/20/5/5/20/20/5 breakdown, if that makes sense, given that it was 2x out and back.
I passed Sarah, who went off a minute before me, just after Stonehaven. I know of her from the triathlon world (she, too, has a long distance race coming up so had the same plan I did!) and she actually did Aberfeldy the previous week, too! She looked frozen and was even wearing a jacket due to the conditions.
It was near Inverbervie that I think I became front individual (the tandem was still ahead, but because girls go off first, I was almost leading like at the Scottish 25 mile champs).
About 15miles in, the rain was so heavy that I couldn’t see through my integrated shades. I ended up frisbeeing them to the Stracathro marshall (sorry!), then realised afterwards it could be dangerous riding without glasses too. My poor eyes weren’t protected!
It did make me focus more. Now that I could see, I felt more confident and put out a bit more power. Out and backs and loops meant you could see where people were, so after Stracathro I tried to see if I could spot the girls (and guys!) behind!
The wind was kinda everywhere. As I said, if I knew there was a record within reach, I would maybe have ridden tenser, being mad that the course was so windy (and HILLY by the way!), but I wasn’t bothered. I really wanted at least a podium, and knowing how I did at the 25, I secretly hoped to get the same if not win it. And everyone was stuck with these conditions.
I’d be in the TT position, feeling ok, then suddenly the tree line would run out, I became exposed and had to really focus to stay upright at times. Other times, you think you were riding into a headwind so you would be fine at the turnaround, but would feel that same headwind! How is that even possible?! Only in Scotland (which, scientifically, is a contributor to much slower times up here than even the likes of England)…
I felt great the whole way, have absolutely NO idea what I was thinking about for 4 hours until BOOM, the turnoff to Stonehaven and the 5 miles to Kinneff.
Actually, that’s a lie. I passed the tandem with about 15 miles to go, shouted something motivational, and then got pied. So for about 5 minutes I was wondering why they didn’t hear me. Maybe it was the wind.
Holy moly that was tough.
The only real part of the race where I felt like I could walk faster than I was cycling. The headwind was just horrendous! Any chance of a sub 4.15 was gone in an instant.
Again, I just kept telling myself that everyone was suffering and I just have to keep the effort the same.
It was also uphill. So that hurt a lot when you have 95 windy rainy miles in your legs.
Ugh. Anyway I got through it, totally forgot the course and thought the finish was “just at the top of this hill” only to find it was a couple hills later. And when I did actually reach the finish, I was really confused because there was no official there (*note he WAS there but was so cold and wet, he was sitting in the car that was parked at the finish line*) so I thought that was maybe the turnaround from the half way point and kept pedalling. Nope, that was definitely the finish.
So no sprint finish, but still dipped into the 4.17s and an average speed of 23.4mph. Next time I would prefer NOT to stop at the half way point to then describe my water bottles to the relevant marshal, only to go through a couple before finally finding my one, to then refill a bottle and swap out another bottle while stationary, only then to commence cycle lap 2. Yes, it broke up the race into 2x50milers, but I’m pretty sure I lost a minute or 2.
Too bad Debbie nae mates had no friends as they were all at the Great Aberdeen Run (and did awesome! 2 x silvers for my sleepover boys!).
Back to my car, a quick change and well done chat to Kyle Gordon (who got the men’s record, bettering Jon’s by 10 minutes!), and off I ran 5 miles tempo (boy was it windy and hilly), 1 mile easy. I passed the tandem guys who had just finished, congratulated them (again) for their efforts, got pied (again), gave up on them, sat in the car, wishing I was lying in the fetal position, another change, and it was time for food.
What an amazing spread of food! I love food.
Presentation was quick which was awesome and something I wish happened more. While I was sitting watching all the prize winners, I got a tap on the shoulder…
“Soooo, we’re pretty certain you also got the national record today” (the winning male made it clear he was going for it).
“You’re pretty certain or certain?”
“Well, we don’t have wi-fi to double check”.
“Oh, ok. Well just keep me posted”.
I had NO idea how to respond to that! Should I be excited? Nervous? Frantically checking signal phone signal? Instead, I realised that even if it wasn’t a record, it must have been close, and that’s a pretty big deal. So I got a little emosh. Then realised I had no mates, so tried not to well up.
I drove as fast as I could (within the speed limit, Mum) to Aberdeen to meet Kyle and co. Because the run was still on (I think the half marathoners had been going for 4 hours at this point!), I abandoned my car about a 10minute walk away. Turns out that was a blessing in disguise for recovery, but not good mentally as I was dying to tell someone!
I couldn’t last the 10 minutes, so called Lewis pretty much as soon as I locked the car!
“How did you get on?”
“Yeah it was ok.”
“So I may now be the national record holder.”
Hahahaha that was an awesome conversation! I like making coach proud! 🙂
In no time I was at the café, hung up on Lewis, went in the door, saw the troops and out the news came! I couldn’t hold it in… I was too excited!!
And what a group of guys I was shouting at! Tom (fellow podcaster with Kyle!), Fiona (just picked for the Commonwealth Half Marathon Champs), Kenny (ditto to Fiona and our sleepover buddy) and Kenny’s coaches! Then Fraser joined us, followed by a Radio Scotland DJ.
Anyway, it was lovely chatting away about our race experiences, then we left to go and see Mum and tell her the news. I actually considered swimming as well to make it a monstrous training day, but cut myself some slack and chose friends and family (and food. Never forget the 3 x Fs) instead!
I know I can go faster that that for the 100. The conditions weren’t the best, it was hilly, and as Jon explained to me (he’s a good mentor like that…) there are LOTS of improvements to be made on positioning and extras alone (eg aero gloves – who knew that was a thing!).
It’s an exciting prospect and I can see myself doing some more time trialling, but for now the focus is on Challenge Almere THIS Saturday!!!!
You can follow me here: http://live.challenge-almere.com/
I’m bib number 12!
Please wish me all the (mechanical) luck in the world – I have no idea how it will go – 10 hours of racing is so intimidating! – but I have worked as hard as I could! And the field is STACKED, so it will be an exciting race!