Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Survival of the Fittest - The Final Chapter - Edinburgh

The third and final Survival of the Fittest Race took place in Edinburgh and was definitely one of the highlights of the “racing season” for me. Not only was it a great race, but it was an awesome trip all together.

I took the train to Edinburgh Friday afternoon and arrived in time to get set up at the hostel, grab a bite to eat, and take a quick look around town. My hostel was situated right on the Royal Mile, which is the road that in medieval times went from the castle at the top of the hill to the town at the base (about one mile long as indicated by the name). Today, the Royal Mile is one of the highlights of the city, and there are tons of shops and interesting places all along it. Since my hostel was situated right in the middle, I was close to everything and had a great view of all the goings-on in the street (the first morning I was woken up by a bunch of men with kilts, rifles, and bagpipes marching down the street- it was a homecoming event of some sort).

The hostel itself was really nice, my room was about 3 times the size of anything else that I’ve stayed in, and was complete with plaid curtains, a luscious rug (first time I’ve seen a real rug in a hostel), and lots of comfy chairs in the actual room. Since there were a lot of “long-termers” in the hostel it made for a very lively and friendly atmosphere and I spent a lot of time just hanging out in the common room with the other residents.

Saturday after breakfast I met up with Daniel, a guy that I had met at the previous two races who had also come up a day early to check out the course. After stopping at a local market en route to the race registration we picked up our numbers and timing chips and headed out to see the course. We had initially thought about doing the walk-through and then hitting up one of the free walking tours but after looking at the course map we realized we’d see more one our own and would free to stop for food as needed. The course itself was by far the most scenic one I’ve run, with a start that ran down the Royal Mile, up a famous set of stairs called “Jacob’s Ladder”, through the park by the Observatory, around the base of Arthur’s Seat (which is pretty impressive by the way), through some more historic parts of town, and then loops around the base of the castle for a photogenic finish with the castle in the background. Given the fact that we were walking, stopping for food, and got off track a few times, our 5-hour walk-through went pretty well, and we got a pretty good look at the course for the next day. After the walk-through we headed back to our respective living arrangements and I went out looking for food. After a surprisingly good dinner at a local bar, I meandered the streets of Edinburgh for a while before calling it a night and heading to bed. (Pictures of Edinburgh to come in later article)

Sunday morning Daniel and I headed to the race early to talk with one of the reps for For Goodness Shakes (they specialize in sport recovery drinks- think glorified chocolate milk). I’d met the guy at the last race and he offered me a spot on the “Race Team”, which would give us a free entry, a sweet t-shirt, and VIP bracelets to the “Manager’s Tent” with breakfast and lunch stuff. We picked up the gear, as well as a bunch of other free stuff, and then started warming up. I’ll admit, it felt pretty cool to be “sponsored”, I think I could get used to that...
The sweet shirt that I got as a "sponsored" athlete.
The start of the race went well and by about 2km Daniel and I were in the top 10 places and steadily moving up the line. We traded leads a few times throughout the race and it was a huge boost to be running "in a team" again. Just having someone there to work with and draft off of is huge, and definitely made me miss the days of running in the pack.

The start of the race, I'm that fleck of yellow of the left.

Going through one of the "urban jungle" obstacles.
 By 6km we had moved up to 4th and 5th place and started battling it out with the 3rd place guy. It was pretty amusing because he was evidently a very good runner and would blow by us in the long stretches between obstacles.  Just when it looked like he had lost us, he would hit an obstacle and stop dead, a cycle that continued until a set of stairs and some hurdles sealed the deal and we were able to drop him. It did make me think a lot about the different skills involved in these races and how much the parkour training has definitely helped the past few months.  That said, I think that a good runner has the advantage over a good traceur, since the distances can be pretty crippling if one isn't used to them.

Up and over through the "Parkour Zone".
The last kilometer was rough but downhill so I managed to crank it up a notch. Daniel faded a bit at the end, but finished strong about 20 seconds behind me. We had talked earlier about meeting on the top of the wall to do push-ups but ended up doing it separately. After being inspired by Daniel’s push-ups at the top of the Wall of Fame at end the Nottingham race (I had a great view of them as I was coming down the final stretch) I decided to embrace the one-up-manship and popped a handstand after scaling the wall. Not exactly the best form in the world, but not bad considering I had just run a 10k …

Not the best form, but recognizable nonetheless.
Since I had crossed the finish line 3rd I finally got to partake in the awards ceremony, and even got to pop the champagne (first time shooting off the bubbly at a race- fun, but it's a shame I don’t like champagne). After the race Daniel and I took full advantage of our VIP access to the food tent and then headed back to the hostel to change clothes. After a quick change and a bite to eat we took the train to go to the GoApe adventure park in Linlithlow (more details in a later article as I’m still waiting for pics).

All in all, it was a very successful weekend and a ton of fun, even with the 8-hour bus ride back to London late Sunday night. I made off like a bandit with all the free samples, even more than the last few races, this time adding to the collection of granola bars and icy-hot-like cream with a heart-rate monitor, watch, body-fat monitor, water bottle, t-shirts, and a Camelback (I had to pay for the last one). And I wondered why my bag was so heavy as I lugged it through the airport…

*Photos are courtesy of the very over-priced race photography company.

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