Friday, June 15, 2012

Scotland: Of course there was a running race

Edinburgh Castle

It was totally by chance.  We'd picked our travel dates for this trip purely based on the friend's busier schedule.  But wait, K researches and finds out that the weekend we were planning on being there was the weekend for the Edinburgh Marathon and Running Festival.  Bonus!

The full marathon and half were on Sunday (the day we were flying out of Glasgow) but on Saturday there was a 10k and what was called the International Breakfast Run.  Sign me up!  We booked our B&B early expecting the city to fill up and this was a good call.  Almost 27,000 people took part in the various events on Saturday and Sunday.  Our B&B was just a mile walk to the start/finish area.  Perfect.

We got in to Edinburgh Friday afternoon and dropped our friends off at the train station.  The week had gone so quick and we'd seen and done and tasted so many things it seemed.  It was a great way to travel and I'd surely do that again with them given a chance.

We drove over to packet-pick up. There were some interesting differences at this non-American race.  All bib packets were mailed to all UK runners.  Considering there were 27,000 runners in all the events, that was a lot of post!  Turns out, they mailed K's bib.  We had it waiting for us when we got home.  They were able to give him another of course.  No Expo.  Really?  I was all primed wanting to buy some momento of running in Edinburgh and try some different sports related drinks/eats at the Expo.  Nothing.

We went wandering around the area on the gloriously warm and sunny day.  Packet pick up was in the area of the new Scottish Parliament building (still being built when were were there last) and Holyrood Palace.  Last time, the palace was closed as the Queen was there as it's the home of the royal family when in Scotland.  This time?  I was hoping it would be open.  No such luck. Some dignitary was in town.  harumph.  Strike 2 for the Holyroodhouse. 

International Breakfast Run
WE had a good Italian dinner at a small restaurant within walking distance of our B%B and were up bright and early for the race the next morning.  That was mostly because we had east facing windows and the sun was up fully at 4:30 am.  Yeah, it was going to be a warm one!  I was really happy to just be racing a 10k and nothing longer.

Racing?  Mostly.  We'd done a lot of walking every single days and some days my legs and feet just ached.  But overall I was feeling pretty good by Saturday having adjusted to the all pork (breakfast) and alcohol (beer and scotch in evenings) diet.  Hey!  I was on vacation and I didn't forget that.

The International Breakfast Run was a blast! Only about 50 runners showed up (it was a separate registration fee and event) but that was perfect.  We set out with a police escort up to Edinburgh Castle via the Royal Mile. There we were greeted by some council member blahblahblah.  Mostly we took pictures and marveled at the beautiful morning and no tourists.  The Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle are normally swarming with touristy crowds.  Another jog back down (cobblestones are hard to run on!) and we were back.  Technically we could get porridge (oatmeal) but with only about 20 minutes between finishing the breakfast run and the start of the 10k i was more concerned with finding a port-o-potty and checking my bag.  Yeah, the lines for the port-o-potties was too long.  I ended up going in the shrubbery.  Some things do not change!

Holyrood Park - trails and roads
I was in the first corral for the 10k.  How many runners?  2,000!  I chatted with the gal next to me about the race and the event and just was happy.  Running a race like this is a great way to get a local feel for the area.

And we were off.  I'd seen the course elevation and knew it was hilly but I still wasn't prepared for how hilly it was!  I got out at the pace i wanted (8:10) and expected to be slower on the uphills.  It was sunny and hot and the course was exposed.  But that meant we had fantastic views off of the hills of Holyrood Park.  I am not kidding. What a great park to have in the city and i know it is a popular place for runners, walkers and bikers.

Adulterating the oatmeal!
Did I mention it was hilly?  I knew i was keeping a good effort for pace and was hoping to come in around 50 minutes for this course.  The last couple miles were tough.  There was a great long downhill (nice!) to an additional loop around a small lake and through a small village.  Very cute.  Then we got onto the Innocent Railway, a former railroad.  It was tortuously hot through here with a ferocious headwind.  I battled and was quite surprised to see a tunnel on the former railway line although we didn't go into it.  Another hill and then a downhill finish.

I'd been playing leapfrog with a guy in orange.  I'd pass him and he'd pass me back.  We did this a couple miles. I passed him again and he'd pass me back.  Something do not change even if you are racing in another country. He did not like being chicked!  I think he started his surge to the finish too soon with one of those leapfrogs because i blew past him with still a half mile to go. I'm happy with that!

Porridge Time! with Holyrood Palace. 
50:23 is my official time.  For some inexplicable reason, full results are not posted for this event.  But evidently I placed 3rd in my AG which really surprises me and I actually question this result.  I was 189th overall finisher. Whatever.  I ran well for the course, conditions and vacation!

There was really no food available after the race except for a small oat bar in the finisher's packet.  I was getting shaky while waiting for K.  I did down a water with an electrolyte tablet (provided in teh finisher's packet).  That helped.  Did i mention it was hot?  I got a tan while racing hot.

But the best difference for racing was finding the Porridge Truck and buying some oatmeal with a shot of whisky in it!  Delicious!  Yeah, they just had a big bottle of whisky there on the counter.  I can't even imagine this happening in the US.

Exploring Craigmillar Castle
We did find a small tent with memorables from the race.  Of course I'd not brought enough for porridge (and whisky!) and a shirt.  But they were able to hold stuff for me.  We went back later and found everything picked over.  Yep, rather different than the US and the mass marketing which happens at RnR running events.  I was delighted with my UK olympic shirt and K found a nice running hat.

We poked around Edinburgh more and did some smaller but nice museums.  Truthfully the crowds of tourists were a bit much after the peaceful countryside we'd been in and we kept our touristy activities to a minimum.

But we did find one last castle to go exploring before heading off to the airport the next day.  And it turned out to be one of the best castles.  Built and rebuilt and expanded with tons of passages and rooms (roofed rooms) to explore, e had the entire Craigmillar Castle to ourselves with great views of Edinburgh and the countryside.  I'm still making happy little sighs thinking of our travels.  That was a vacation!
Thanks Scotland!

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