Red Wine Runner

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Moray Marathon – RACE REPORT

Moray Marathon

2nd September 2012

Time: 4hrs 19 mins 30secs
Position: 106th/141 finishers
Gender: 21st/33 female finishers
Category: 7th/ 10 Senior Ladies

Kynon and I travelled up to Elgin the night before the race and stayed at the Eight Acres hotel on the outskirts of the town. It was a bit of a last minute luxury decision to stay Saturday night; Elgin is only about 2 hours’ drive from Aberdeen but I decided the extra expense was worth the peace of mind of arriving the night before, and of course the extra time in bed.

When we got to the hotel we decided to get the most out of our stay and use the leisure facilities. I was bouncing off the walls with pent-up energy and nerves so was glad to have a gentle swim, and also enjoyed some time in the jacuzzi and sauna to really relax my muscles. My ITB had been tight since my last run on Thursday but other than that I was feeling in peak condition.

We met Naomi and her Dad for dinner – simple, staple carbs at the local Wetherspoons. I had vegetarian sausages, mashed potatoes and peas with gravy, and a side of steamed vegetables. I can’t say I really enjoyed it – I was too nervous to have any appetite but I shovelled it down anyway, knowing that I had to eat.

Kynon and I were back in the hotel by 8.30 after a gentle walk home to digest our dinner along part of the route as the sun set. I was still so nervous and wound up; I spent time sorting and organising all of my things and going over the plans with Kynon before doing some final foam-rolling and settling down to watch some Paralympics in bed. I wasn’t in the least bit tired and my mind was going like a freight train but at some point I fell asleep. I had a restless night however, and awoke several times throughout the night as the sky grew lighter and the countdown to the start continued to decrease.

0600 came and my alarm shrieked into life but I was already awake and staring at the ceiling. Sick with nerves, I went through the motions of the race morning ritual without much thought: Make coffee, get washed, drink coffee, apply bodyglide, get dressed, eat porridge, tie hair up, put some mascara on, check fuelbelt, check gadgets. I sleep-walked through all of this and suddenly an hour had passed and it was time to go downstairs and check out the breakfast buffet.

I had taken breakfast supplies with me despite booking the room on a B+B basis as I wasn’t sure what food would be available. Breakfast was served only from 0800 which was disappointing, but we’d been assured that there would be a continental breakfast available from 0700. What they should have said was – there will be cereal, milk and juice laid out… I had drunk all the coffee in the room and would have killed for some more with some toast, but it was not to be. I had some muesli and some orange juice.

We left the hotel at around 0800 and made the short drive to the town hall to register. Parking was plentiful and registration was done quickly since there was no queue. I got my number and race t-shirt and took the first of many trips back and forth to the bathroom. We hovered about a bit and decided to go back to the car; I was just a total wreck of nerves and didn’t want to be around others. I couldn’t for the life of me work out why I ever thought doing another marathon was a good idea, I felt physically sick and shed one or two nervous tears on Kynon’s shoulder before I counted to five and managed to pull myself together. He was doing an excellent job of keeping me as calm as possible and should be commended for getting the balance right between sympathy and tough love.

 

I caught up with Naomi who was definitely sharing my nerves as well. We spent some time nervously chattering with the other ladies from Fetch who were running the Half Marathon, and when it was approaching 9am I decided to turn my Garmin on. The power button didn’t respond. Pushing it again and again proved fruitless – the damn thing was not turning on at all. Frantically I asked around to see if anyone knew the buttons to press to ‘reset’ the Garmin 305 – it had done this once before and I managed to reset it but I couldn’t remember what to press. Marie’s husband managed to breathe some life into it but immediately it gave the alert that it was low on battery. The red mist descended – what the f*%k was it playing at?! I had made sure it was fully charged the night before and the charge obviously just hadn’t taken – again; this has happened before, but never at a race.  I freaked out for a brief minute until I realised there was absolutely nothing I could do. My best option was to carry Kynon’s stopwatch and write down some splits on my hand for 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles and hope for the best. Could I run a race blind?

At 0915 there was no point in delaying the inevitable any longer and we made our way to the start. It was as low key as I imagined – a simple inflatable start/finish gantry and about 100 lanky, serious runners  in club vests hanging around with family and friends. I was happy to see my friends Ryan and Sheenagh at the start – Ryan’s family are based in Elgin and they happened to be visiting this weekend so they came out to support me which was great. We took a couple of pictures and then it was time to line up.

With Naomi – Picture by Ian Sharp

Picture by Ian Sharp. Inspiration by Mo Farah.

There was the briefest of race-briefings which I heard absolutely nothing of, and then a countdown. My nerves were gone and I was excited to FINALLY get started. 5…4…3…2…1…

 

It’s the silence at the start of races which never fails to surprise me. After the first few hundred meters have passed and the cheers and claps of your supporters have faded, all you can here is the slapslapslap of trainers on asphalt and the sound of clothing brushing with arm-swings. I didn’t think too much about the task ahead of me – I had done enough worrying to last a lifetime and I had exhausted all possible thoughts about the race. I was so glad to be finally started and embraced the feeling of unknown potential I get at the start of every big effort. Anything can happen in a race this long! Even good things!

 

The course wound its way out of Elgin along pavements and the side of minor roads. The field was immediately spread out and we were running in dispersed single file by the first mile. I was clinging to the last bit of power in my garmin – at least it had lasted long enough to allow me to gauge my pace at the start and avoid going out too fast. My plan was to maintain 9:30 pace and to hold that as long as possible into the race and then see what happened after 20 miles – hopefully I could speed up.

I knew to expect incline by mile 3 but it really wasn’t that bad – the hill came and went without much event, as did much of the first 10 miles to be honest. My Garmin gave up the ghost at mile 4 and then I knew I just had to latch on to that pace and not budge. I passed a few people who I thought were slowing down and I was a bit worried that I was speeding up, but I was confident enough to pass them and in hindsight it was the right thing to do as they finished well after me.

I had arranged to meet Kynon at Burghead which was about 10 miles in to the race and therefore the first major milepost for me. I saw him pass me in the car some time before then so I knew he’d be waiting – I was so happy when I saw him in the distance! Coming into Burghead there was beautiful views over to the cliffs of the Black Isle – I had been looking forward to this part of the course which ran parallel to the coast and is a beautiful part of the world.

 

I reached Kynon at 1hr 37m – roughly 2 minutes behind schedule, but then he may not have been waiting at exactly 10 miles so I really have no idea of my timing. He had a bottle of blue powerade for me that I sipped from as he jogged alongside me for a minute or two. We had a quick chat about nothing in particular and then I gave him the juice back and we parted ways. So far the weather had been reasonably cool and cloudy but the sun was beginning to come out and it was warm! As I climbed out of Burghead I began to feel the heat coming off the tarmac and hoped that the clouds would stick around.

Picture by Ian Sharp

The next milestone for me was my parents waiting for me at Hopeman at around 11.5 miles. I was feeling great and was all smiles as I passed them – I was so happy to pass them with a big grin.

 

The sun was blazing by now and I was getting a bit warm so I poured water over myself and wet my buff to keep my head cool in the sun. I also decided to turn on my music and put one earbud in as we were running on a safe pavement beside the road. One of my favourite things about this race was the DESCENDING mile markers counting down. Seeing the big miles disappear quickly and more achievable distances appear was a great boost – 12 miles to go? Easy money!

The road between Hopeman and Lossiemouth is loooong and straight. The only other runner I could see was about half a mile ahead so I was racing on my own. Notable things from this section mainly involve roadkill – a bifurcated deer; the fresh remains of which were ALL over the road, a partially skinned rotten rabbit and a badger upside down on the verge. All somewhat traumatic for this animal lover. Other than that, everything was going fine and I remained within a couple of minutes of my schedule and I was yet to walk. I was just locked in to my pace and ignoring any discomfort – my ITB still felt tight but it was not worth worrying about.

The next meeting point was 15 miles in at Covesea. I could see some cars in the distance so I knew Kynon was waiting, however I also saw some red and yellow balloons which could only mean one thing – Fetchpoint! Maz and Sheri had travelled up with their daughters to cheerlead for us all and it was such a lift to see them. I took some more powerade from Kynon and we had another short jog and chat.

No, I don’t know what he’s doing either.

I powered on to Lossiemouth. As I entered the town I saw no signs of the race – I could have been on a long training run for all the evidence there was of the marathon. The odd gel packet and bottle on the ground let me know I was still on the right course, and there was one or two marshals situated at turnings who kept me right as the route wound down to the harbour front. I was getting tired now and my stomach felt a little queasy so I decided that I would walk through the water stop here and take a proper drink as was feeling properly thirsty and I didn’t want to swallow lots of air. I turned a corner and suddenly Ryan and Sheenagh were there – Noooo! The first time I walk in 19 miles and my friends see me! I can’t have walked for more than a minute though and quickly kept moving forward along the harbour beside the packed cafes. There were no claps and cheers of encouragement though – everyone looked at me  as if I had two heads as I was running by!

 

Kynon was waiting for me at 20 miles and again I was very glad to see him; things were getting tougher as I was getting fatigued and a muscle in my back was really stiff. I power-walked with him and he gave me a pep talk and told me he’d see me in less than an hour in Elgin. 6 miles to go – easy, easy!

It wasn’t all easy though; of course the last few miles went on forever and ever. I demanded that my legs kept on doing as I asked and kept running – I was annoyed that I couldn’t see my pace as I felt like I was pushing really, really hard but I knew that I’d probably be struggling to get under 10 minute miles. Or was I? Part of me was glad that I didn’t know and could just concentrate on running as best I could. Every time my weaker side thought about walking and just forgetting my time goals, I told myself “What – did you think this was going to be easy?! Just because you’ve done the hard training did you think the race would be a breeze?! NO! You have to FIGHT for this! Now RUN”.

The final miles ticked down: 5…4…3…2…1. The last three were in direct sun and straight into a headwind which was really hard. The muscle in my back was agony and I was desperate to lie down and stretch it out. I passed one or two more people until I entered Elgin and I was on my own for the last mile. My stopwatch said 4hrs 11 so I knew if I worked hard I’d slide under 4:20 happily.

The town looked so different than it did earlier in the morning, now bathed in sunshine. The streets were deserted though; it was almost eerie in places as my fatigued mind started thinking about zombie movies like 28 Days Later. In the distance I could hear a man’s voice and a megaphone – the finish! I could almost taste the glory! The course re-entered Cooper Park in the shadow of the ruined Cathedral and the last 100m in the park was a glorious straight with spectators on either side. I saw Ryan and Sheenagh first on the left, and then heard Kynon bellow my name from further up. The Fetch girls were a vision of red and yellow on my right as I flew past them and finally, the finish line was in front of me.

Picture by Ryan Roberts

I ran hard right to the end and slowed to a wobbly walk as soon as I was under the clock. I took two steps before my stomach heaved and I bent over and retched heavily and loudly several times. The queasiness that had built up over the last few miles had been peaked by my sprint finish and my stomach needed to empty itself except there was nothing in there! By the time Kynon had run over to congratulate me I was on my knees on the grass verge retching and struggling for breath – he said he wasn’t sure whether I was going to throw up or cough up a hair ball.

The need to retch quickly subsided however and I was able to straighten up and fall in to his arms – “4 hours, 19 minutes, 30 seconds. I am SO proud of you!” he said. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry really; my Fetch ladies came running over, Ryan and Sheenagh were there too and I had lots of congratulatory hugs with everyone. Someone had handed me a medal at some point and Kynon put it around my neck for me and gave me some juice; I was overwhelmed with happiness and couldn’t believe the race was over – what an incredible PB! Fifty-two minutes off my previous time!

The next half hour was spent basking by the finishline in the sunshine and the glory of achievement. The stiff muscle in my back started spasming badly though and I could hardly straighten or lift my left arm so I took some ibuprofen and hoped for the best. I needed some help to put my new race t-shirt on though!

This is the Mitchellbot, by the way…

We were expecting Naomi at around 5hrs and after nervously waiting for her for 10 more minutes she appeared around the corner into the park running strongly and wearing the biggest smile; one reserved only for those who have achieved something truly great for the first time. Naomi completed her first marathon in memory of her Grandmother in a time of 5hrs 10mins and 14 seconds.

 

After finish line celebrations were concluded we headed back to the town hall en masse to change before heading off. Being such a small, fast race there were not many runners left but we were still able to get a sandwich and a cup of tea. Sitting in the car on the way home I couldn’t believe how easily the whole race have come together in the end; it had passed so quickly for me and without any drama whatsoever. What on earth was I going to blog about?!  I had just achieved what I set out to do by putting one foot in front of another and doing so until I reached the finish.

 

My legs were feeling great; a little stiff in my ‘duff’ knee but otherwise fine. My feet had escaped largely unscathed apart from one nasty blister entirely removing a nail stump from its bed. The ibuprofen did the trick on my angry back muscle and it relaxed and stopped hurting soon after. I was annoyed that I didn’t have my Garmin splits to pour over and examine my pace, but I was most pleased about the fact that I had ran 19 miles without walking – the furthest I’ve ever gone without a walk break.

I wore my medal with pride for the rest of the day until Kynon took me out for a celebratory curry and a couple of beers at Brewdog. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little stiff when getting up for work the next morning, but two days later only a little tightness remains in my quads and I’m looking forward to a recovery jog tomorrow if the weather is right. I’m taking it easy this week but I’ve already signed up for my next race which is the Crathes Half Marathon next Saturday and am on the hunt for more challenges to finish up the year with.

 

I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in the last few months for this race, but it’s all been worth it. Brewdog: I’m sorry I’ve stopped spending half my salary and time in your bars and on your beer; it’s not you, it’s me. The hangovers were slowing me down. Scott: I’m sorry our flat is always covered in freshly washed running gear drying and that the washing machine is always on the go – it’s been a sweaty summer. Family: I’m sorry that you rarely see me anymore, I promise to try harder to figure my work/life/run balance out. Non-running friends: I’m sorry you never see me any more either, but thank you for your continued support of my lunacy. There’s always room for one more on a run if you want to join in.

I might not have reached the magic 4hrs 10mins, but a 52 minute PB? I’ll take it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that about the marathon again! That time is for every 5am weekend start, every agonising back-to-back, every dazed and stiff pre-work mile, every exhausting post-work mile, every turned down afternoon in a beer garden, every shortened night out and every turned down party invitation. Good things don’t come to those who wait; good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up.

Baker Hughes 10k 2012 – RACE REPORT

City of Aberdeen Baker Hughes 10k 2012
20th May 2012
Chip time: 51 minutes 33 seconds
Place: 1117th / 3652 finishers
Category place: 101/863

I woke up at 6am on Sunday, excited for my third attempt at the Baker Hughes 10k and was delighted to be greeting with bright sunshine and cornflower blue skies upon opening my eyes. It was a beautiful clear, calm day! I leapt out of bed and busied myself making breakfast; which was cold overnight oats (porridge oats and milk, left overnight in the fridge to soak) with seeds and dried fruit, cranberry juice and coffee:

I was planning on walking/jogging down to the start as it is 3 miles from my house and I felt that would be both a suitable warm up and would avoid any car parking/public transportation problems at the race village. Everything had been laid out the night before so the morning routine would be flawless, but I still found myself running around fussing about silly little things. Nerves amplify feelings and I was feeling the usual race-morning stresses, but still excitement was the overwhelming feeling as I looked forward to meeting all of my friends and putting in a good shift on the road. It felt great to pin on a number again and know that I was going to leave nothing out on the course – I was going to run as hard as I possibly could that morning and be the fastest runner I’ve ever been.

The journey down to the beach went quickly; Kynon and I walked a mile briskly and then ran a gentle mile and then finished up with a walk alongside the many other runners making their way to the start.

Reaching the beach I was curious to see if the usual brisk winds would feature on the Esplanade; the beachfront is notorious for being windy even on what would appear to be the calmest of days, but there was only a light breeze which offered some relief from the sun already beating down strongly at 0830. Although I’m not a fan of running in great heat, it was a huge relief to have lovely weather for the race after the continuous barrage of rain wind and snow (yes!) which we’ve had for weeks.

We arrived and started looking out for familiar faces. At last count, there were SIXTEEN of my friends who running this race! I didn’t have to look far before I nearly tripped over my favourite Gin-soaked Jogger, Claire, who was running for local charity, Befriend A Child.

After speaking to Claire and her boyfriend Adam, we spotted Ryan and his enthusiastic supporter, Sheenagh, who snapped a couple of pictures:

With Jim, Kynon, Brian and Ryan (pic by Sheenagh)

There was an awkward mass aerobic warm-up, which we all carefully avoided whilst making last minute preparations for the race. I had a bag which I was planning on depositing in the bag drop, but Sheenagh very kindly offered to look after it (thank you!) so I didn’t have to worry about my valuables being unattended. I took a High5 gel just before it was time to get in to our corralls, we wished each other good luck and went our separate ways.

pic by Sheenagh

Kynon and I elected to enter the 46-50 minute corral and head towards the back. Nerves were building at this point and we both stuck on some music and just focused on visualising the race. I was planning on maintaining a minimum of 8:20 miles for as long as I could and then see how I felt in the last mile or so. My biggest concern was blowing up too soon and running out of steam. I knew my knee would be ok – I could run through any pains that occurred but the only potential problems would occur due to incorrect pace execution at the start.

As far as I’m aware the race started on time at 0930 and before I knew it I had crossed the start and was on my way. Past experience made sure I started tight on the left hand side of the crowd to avoid having to take a wide turn at the first corner; I sneaked around it deftly and then the race really began.

Kynon and I had planned to run together as long as possible and for the first mile or so we were side by side. There are a lot of tight turns in the Baker Hughes 10k course so it’s important to run the tangents so you don’t lose precious time by adding distance. I was religiously checking my watch and kept my pace on or below 8:20; I kept having to reign myself in though as the temptation to let my keen legs run off madly along with the crowd was huge. I kept on looking down and seeing 7:xx, which is great, but I knew I’d struggle to hold that for anything longer than a few miles.

The course curls around the harbour before making its way on to the South end of the Beach Esplanade; we ran past many warehouses and supply vessels with workers standing outside clapping and cheering, or just looking on in amusement. Support is always thin on the ground at this point but soon, after a short incline, you find yourself at the end of the Esplanade looking North up the coast and you can see two miles worth of runners and supporters stretching ahead of you.

Up until this point Kynon and I had been near each other, taking turns to lead the pace. At least that’s how it felt in my head – I don’t know whether it was intentional on his part! Around the 4k mark he stopped appearing in my peripheral vision – I later found out that this was when he started having problems with a hip flexor and slowed to a walk to stretch it out. Somewhere around this point Rachel passed me; ‘Keep up!’ she said! Challenge: accepted!

I kept on pushing though and glided through 5k in 25 mins 48 secs which was bang on target for a new PB. Shortly after 5k there was water which I happily poured over myself; I don’t think it can have been much warmer than 15C or so at that time in the morning, but working hard in direct sunlight felt very uncomfortable for this winter-hardened Scottish runner. I took a few sips and washed out my mouth; I didn’t NEED the water to drink and I didn’t want to give myself a stitch by gulping it down.

Mile 1 – 8:06
Mile 2 – 8:29 (???)
Mile 3 – 8:13

I don’t know why mile 2 was so slow…

The 10k race is a funny beast – it’s just over so quickly! After the 5k mark it felt strange to be thinking that I was over half way done and that the pain would be over soon. I just kept pushing on down King St, never letting myself take the foot off the gas and telling myself I had no excuses – this is only 50 minutes of your life, you are not in that much pain, stop complaining. You know how it feels to run 3 miles and know you’ve another 30 miles to race, so to only have 3 to go today is a luxury – HTFU!

I had been told that my Grandad was going to come down and try and see me on the course. This meant a lot to me as he’s never seen me race before; I was looking ahead anxiously trying to spot him at the point where he said he’d be, and I saw him! I pulled out of the crowds and took the corner wide whilst waving and smiling; he gave me a big wave and a cheer which was a huge boost at a point in the race when I was really starting to hurt – 8k.

The course made its way around the high-rise tower blocks of Seaton and along the long, flat straight of Golf Road. In all honestly I started getting tunnel vision here and I really remember nothing of note. All that mattered was getting to that finish line as soon as I possibly could, but still leaving a little in the tank to tackle the cruel and challenging  hill by Pittodrie Stadium in the last kilometre. I began to get a stitch in my right side which impeded my breathing and caused me some nausea, but I was able to ignore it despite the nagging pain.

I reached the Hill and shortened my stride slightly and leaned into the incline. It always lasts slightly longer than you expect, and the extra bit at the top just when you think it’s over is a killer. I passed Rachel again on the hill and then finally reached the sign merrily proclaiming “400m To Go!”

Please don’t puke. Please don’t puke. Please don’t puke!

The stitch in my side was stabbing away and as I tried to push harder going down the other side of the hill I felt the bile rise in my throat. I just couldn’t get my legs to go any faster! My heart was thumping and I was wheezing from the exhausting of hauling up the hill; it’s a real sting in the tail of what is an otherwise flat race. Normally as this point I’d be accelerating into a full on sprint; Rachel pulled up next to me and we ran together for a few strides getting faster and faster but then I plateaued and she out-kicked me and sped off.

Mile 4 – 8:18
Mile 5 – 8:19
Mile 6 – 8:10
0.27 – 1:57

I willed myself onwards through the last few meters; the crowds were a blur and I felt like hell but I knew it would be over in mere seconds. Line crossed, garmin stopped, lean forward, stagger onwards, quell nausea. I looked at my watch which read 51:32 – a new PB; job done.

Rachel came up and we congratulated each other on a good fight as we staggered up the finish gantry. I grabbed a couple of bottles of water for us, but had I known that this would be all we’d get at the finish line I’d have taken two each. This is where my only complaint about the race this year comes in – there was absolutely nothing at the finish line for runners other than a 330ml bottle of water! No goody bag, no bananas, no lucazade/crisps/cereal bars…nothing of the usual post-race snacks that even the smallest of races manage to provide. Once you were out of the finish chute there was no more water to be had, and as far as we could see there was nowhere else to get food other than a couple of burger vans. A big problem! After a tough effort you need a pick-me-up; at the very least a banana or something sugary like an energy drink to tide you over. On a day like Sunday where runners were coming in DRENCHED in sweat; they needed more than 330ml of water. Baker Hughes is already at the expensive end of the races available in the North East and up until this point I’ve always thought the £21 reasonably justified since you get a closed road course, t-shirt, medal, water and food; however I was very disappointed to not receive any sustenance after crossing the line this year. In the end we had to crash the sponsors hospitality tent (sorry Baker Hughes…) to get something else to drink and found some fruit juice and milk.

Anyway; shortly after I crossed the line I found Sheenagh with Ryan, who had stormed home in 48:03, next up was Kynon in 52:44, Brian in 56:20 and Emma in 58:03.

Pic by Sheenagh

Lots of smiley, happy, running friends!

Shortly we managed to finally catch up with the rest of my crew who we’d missed at the start – Niall, Scott and Fiona – who came in at 59:35, 1:05:27, and 1:05:13 respectively. Unfortunately for whatever reason we didn’t get any pictures together! Perhaps everyone was too hot and excited to stand still for long enough; never mind, we’ll just need to do another race together soon 🙂

I was really pleased with my race. I know I didn’t hit my sub-50 goal but I feel that I gave it my all on the day and ran what I was capable of on Sunday morning. There will be a sub-50 in my future at some point, but I’m not worried about it for now. I don’t intend on doing any more 10ks in the near future; I’m toying with the idea of the River Ness 10k at the end of September as so many friends are doing the Marathon that day and I’d like to come up and support them, but for me right now all roads lead to distance, not speed. I had an odd feeling of dissatisfaction after the race on Sunday; it was just too short, not challenging enough, it didn’t require enough effort. I felt like I had so much more to give, further to go, longer to run. Even despite a new PB and pushing myself to what at that moment in time for those 51 minutes felt like my limits, I was left feeling a little empty.

What I did get from the day, was the amazing warm fuzzy that comes with running with friends; the shared experience, the highs and the lows, the stories at the finish line, the sweaty smiles. Running is an individual sport but there is nothing that I love more than sharing with with my nearest and dearest. Afterwards, we all met up in a pub for a slap up lunch and drinks and enjoyed the rest of the sunny Sunday. Young, old, fast, slow, first timers, old hands; we are all runners.

Picture by Claire

PB Prosecco!

Scott, Fiona and Niall

Adam and Claire

Kynon and I

Next up for me is the Dunblane Hydro 7.5 mile road race on Sunday with Kynon. This will dove-tail nicely into some more concentrated Half Marathon training for the Stonehaven Half on the 1st of July which will lead perfectly into 9 weeks of training for the Moray Marathon on the 2nd of September.

My First DNS

This has been a bit of a tricky blog post to write. My feelings are kind of all over the place regarding this and I’ve been putting it off, but I can’t do that forever. I suppose it was only a matter of time until this happened – every runner has to experience it eventually – but unfortunately I DNS’d (Did Not Start) my race on Sunday; the Petrofac Challenge 15 mile Trail Race.

For the last two weeks or so I’ve been having mild-to-moderate ITB pain in my left leg. Not enough to stop me running, but enough to have me spending concentrated time with my foam roller and using an ice pack when I can. Since I’m getting well-versed in dealing with my problematic left ITB, I was happy to just keep training and running as normal and manage the pain myself as I saw fit. This Saturday however, I completed my progressive run as planned by running to Parkrun and then running the 3.1 mile Parkrun route hard (I finished 5th lady in a time of 24: 58) but was feeling pretty acute pain in my knee when walking around after I finished. I took advantage of a lift home from a friend to avoid running home again and quickly got ready for the Brewdog AGM which I was attending that afternoon.

I was quietly concerned about my throbbing knee but took some ibuprofen and hoped that like it had done after  other recent runs, it would calm down within a few hours. Unfortunately the AGM involved a lot of standing around and as the afternoon went on, my knee became increasingly sore and the familiar ‘creaking’ feeling of an incredibly taut ITB became more acute when I bent my knee. I realised I was going to have to make a decision – was running a 15 mile trail race for fun the next day really the best decision I could make for my body?

It was obvious really – of course it wasn’t, but I was reluctant to accept that this was the case. If I ran the race then the chances are it would either finish me off in terms of being able to continue training hard for Baker Hughes, or I would end up injured on the course and face the prospect of a DNF (Did Not Finish) and the end of my sub-50 hopes. Also as an Aberdonian, the notion of wasting money entering a race which I wouldn’t run was galling!

My furrowed brows and deep thoughts had not gone unnoticed at the AGM and my friends wondered what was bothering me but I was embarrassed to admit what was going on in my head. How does the saying go again? “DLF (Dead Last Finish) is better than DNF (Did Not Finish) which greatly trumps DNS (Did Not Start)”. Great, thanks. Now, I’m at a Brewery’s AGM – where’s the damn bar?!

That is not a real tattoo unfortunately, but does anyone want two tickets to the gun show? The Fitness Yoga classes and weights I’m doing have been shaping up my arms very nicely recently I feel!

Here I am with three of my best buddies and fellow Aberdeen Brewdog regulars; Scott (my flatmate), Fiona and Niall.

Representing Brewdog Aberdeen.

Needless to say I enjoyed the rest of the AGM very much – as a shareholder I’m proud to have been able to invest in a brewery and attitude I believe in and am a proud, card-carrying Equity Punk.

The next morning I was wide awake at 7am, brow furrowed again wondering if I’d made the right decision. One step out of bed when I put my weight on my knee confirmed it, and I promptly slathered the joint in ibuprofen gel, turned my alarm off and went back to sleep.

I spent the rest of the day in a tremendous huff; disappointed in my body, embarrassed to admit that I didn’t run to my friends and parents, and gutted at how my training was falling to bits so quickly. (And also trying to figure out how to blog about this disappointment). I KNEW it was the right thing to do, but to not even start something goes against everything in the standards I set for myself in life – always try your hardest, always give it your best, don’t wimp out in the face of adversity… In this case I have to adapt my train of thought however; it was a preventative action, I have to keep my sights on the bigger picture and my goals for the rest of Spring and beyond.

So what now? Well yesterday I returned to the SPEAR Performance clinic at Aberdeen Sports Village who treated me for my ITB issues after the Loch Ness Marathon, and had my first experience of Sports Massage. I had booked an hour-long appointment and I have to say I was a little unsure of what to expect at first but I really enjoyed it! I knew to expect some discomfort to say the least, but I found the pain to be good pain – a release of sorts. The whole experience was oddly exhilarating and I left feeling totally flushed out and about 10 feet tall! I have not experienced any pain so far today and I’ve been advised to train as usual, with religious foam rolling and icing after runs, and to come back in 10 days for a follow-up. This will allow my therapist to examine the muscles in more detail and perhaps establish whether this is an injury related to something to do with alignment or whether it’s just a reaction to my change in training.

Tonight I’m going out for 6ish miles in between day work and evening work, and will hopefully be able to throw in a few tempo miles in the middle depending on feel. It’s safe to say the wheels have come off my previous training plan entirely, but I refuse to let go of the sub-50 goal yet! Perhaps it won’t come as easily as it might have done, and it may even be a fluke on the day; but it’s happening. 17 days.

Back on track

Hello there! After the phenomenal experience of my first Ultramarathon last month I have enjoyed three weeks of much needed rest and recuperation from training and blogging and am now itching to get back in to the swing of all things running. Much as I loved the incredible experience of training for the D33, I was wary of taking recovery seriously and not risking burnout. I had made a lot of sacrifices in the first three months of the year for my training and there were a lot of people to catch up with, family to see, jobs to do, babies to meet, and friendships to rekindle. As I work at a University, the Easter holidays were an ideal time to take off for a few days with some friends as well, and I enjoyed a well earned break from everything that’s been going on recently in London.

In terms of recovery from the Ultra, everything was very straight forward. I found it very hard to move the next day, but just due to muscle stiffness not any pain or injury. I had some fairly gnarly blisters and the ends of the second toes on each foot were in a terrible state (they are longer than my big toes). One of them has gone numb, which was quite alarming at first, but a similar thing happened after the marathon last year and the feeling eventually came back. I did a couple of yoga classes, but other than that my physical activity since the race has been slim to none – as I said above; complete rest and recuperation!

Last night was the night I finally got back in my trainers again and enjoyed a 10km run around Stonehaven with Kynon. The plan was to do a progressive run – 2x 10min miles, 2x 9 min miles and 2x 8min miles. This sort of happened, but not quite; our splits were:

9:33 / 9:43 – Too fast!
8:55 / 8:41 – Nearly right…still too fast.
8:14 / 8:32 – Too slow!
Total time for 6.21 miles – 55:16

If I’m honest, I started to flag a bit in the last mile and just couldn’t quite hold the pace. I could make excuses about being hungry (which I was) and dehydrated (Rhona in non-training mode drinks coffee all day at work instead of water) but really I’m just a bit out of shape. I probably could have done with one less week ‘off’ but that happened to be when I was away on holiday so it was rather too easy to extend my period of leisure.

Never mind! I’m actually quite excited about throwing myself into some intensive training over the next five weeks until the Baker Hughes 10k where I’ll be having a good crack at a sub-50 minute attempt. If I don’t get it then at least I’ll have a good idea why, but you never know…

Unfortunately I am insanely busy for the next month with a combination of work and social committments which is going to make training rather awkward. I expect to be fitting in early morning pre-work runs at least once a week but since it’s Spring time, the idea of jumping out of bed at 5am in the morning to run actually quite appeals since it will be light and the weather less temperamental. I haven’t written a training plan yet but I am mulling over several ideas and seeing how they fit around my calendar. I hope to publish that here early next week to co-incide with the start of my 5 weeks to sub-50 plan.

Before all that however, there is the small matter of the Rock n Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon on Sunday! I’d be lying if I said that this race, despite it’s obvious glamour and impressive image, has been at the front of my mind recently; but I’m really looking forward to it. After years of reading hundreds of American blogs and race reports about Rock n Roll races I’m keen to experience one for myself. This is the very first outing for the Competitor group outside of the United States so all eyes are on them to see how they cope with this new challenge. The race was formerly the ADT Edinburgh Half Marathon and they controversially took over the race management just one year after the ‘Gold Runner’ scheme was launched, where many runners invested £99 to receive entries and VIP treatment for the ADT Half for life. There are many varying opinions about the Rock n Roll race franchise knocking around on the internet, but I am waiting until I’ve crossed the finish line on Sunday before I fully form my own.

I will be running this race for fun – no pace plan, no music and no goals other than to just enjoy myself and soak up the promised fantastic atmosphere as we rock around the streets of Edinburgh.

So, let me leave you with some snaps of what I’ve been up to the last three weeks…

Instead of double digit runs after work – a lot of relaxing Brewdog in the evening sunshine on my back porch!

I got a somewhat drastic new hair cut. It’s very short at the back but I love it!

I drove from Aberdeen to London with two friends – a long trip but lots of fun.

We enjoyed a lot of breakfasts in the sunshine in this back garden. Thanks so much to Mark who hosted us for the week.

In a break from the norm, we visited another brewery – Meantime, in Greenwich.

I rode a Boris Bike twee-ly around London in a spotty dress in the sunshine.

I enjoyed cider and vegetarian food in Hammersmith.

I visited Brewdog Camden…

…and helped deliver a very important gift for the Camden Brewdog bar! Niall created “Bracken Stackin’ ” which you can read about on his new blog, Running With Power Tools.

 

Then after a lengthly drive home to Aberdeen in Bank Holiday traffic, I hopped on a plane to Manchester to attend the Resistanz Industrial Festival in Sheffield.

…and that has been the last three weeks.

 

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