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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.

Moray Marathon: Count to Five

I am a big fan of the television show Lost. Like many avid viewers, I was disappointed and let down by the eventual conclusion of the series two years ago, but over time the annoyance has faded and I’ve decided it is now time to go back to the island

I commenced my second viewing this week and am already completely sucked back in to the vortex. I’m already craving hours on the couch watching back-to-back mind-bending episodes, examining every scene and conversation for clues and significance which which will make more sense the second time around. I think this will be a very fine way to recover from tomorrow’s marathon in the coming days!

What has all this got to do with the Moray Marathon anyway? Upon re-watching the very first episode I was reminded of a significant conversation which occurs early on between two of the main characters, Kate and Jack. Jack, a Doctor, has a serious wound on his back which requires suturing and he asks Kate to do it for him but she is very afraid. To calm her nerves whilst she carries out the surgery he tells her a story about a time in his life when he was afraid, but had to face his fear and overcome it.

image/words: Lostpedia

“Well, fear’s sort of an odd thing. When I was in residency my first solo procedure was a spinal surgery on a sixteen year old kid, a girl. And at the end, after thirteen hours, I was closing her up and I, I accidentally ripped her dural sac; shredded the base of the spine where all the nerves come together, membrane as thin as tissue. And so it ripped open and the nerves just spilled out of her like angel hair pasta, spinal fluid flowing out of her and I… and the terror was just so crazy. So real. And I knew I had to deal with it. So I just made a choice. I’d let the fear in, let it take over, let it do its thing, but only for five seconds, that’s all I was going to give it. So I started to count: one, two, three, four, five. Then it was gone. I went back to work, sewed her up and she was fine.”

The message of the story resonated with me and made me reconsider my fears of re-visiting the marathon distance in a race. Fear and nerves are inevitable in sport – if you don’t have any then you probably don’t care enough about what you’re doing. If your dreams don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough.

Whilst you may not have a choice about whether you have fears or not, you certainly do have a choice with how you deal with them. When I last wrote on Tuesday, I was allowing my fears to creep into places in my mind and heart that I don’t usually let them and they were damaging my mental outlook, which is almost important as your physical strength for a race. When the fear is knocking at the door tomorrow on the starting line I will give it five seconds to do its job; to raise my adrenaline, to make my heart beat faster and to remind me how much I care about this – and then it will be gone. I will cross the starting line and the journey will begin.

One: Amazing partner who has believed in me every step of the way so far.
Two: Wonderful parents whose unwavering support will be waiting for me at mile 11.5.
Three: Times that I will have raced 26+ miles by tomorrow lunchtime.
Four: Hours and ten minutes is the time I hope to finish in.
Five: Aberdeen Fetchies that will be waiting at the finish line to welcome me home.

Cowards never start. The weak never finish. Winners never quit. Tomorrow I’m going out to take more than an hour off my marathon PB and the only thing that can stop me, is me.

See you on the other side.

~RwR

Moray Marathon – Feet and Fears

The Loch Ness Marathon. 2nd October 2011. Around 12:25pm and somewhere 13 miles from the finish. The pressure which had been building up in the outside of my right knee since mile 9 finally exploded in a surge of white-hot pain which left me crying out and seeing stars at the side of the course. 18 weeks of training had gone perfectly well, I came to the start healthy and well-rested, but for whatever reason that all counted for nothing when it came down to the actual marathon. The remaining 13 miles were three hours of the purest agony I’ve ever felt, but I crossed the finish line eventually in 5 hours, 12 minutes and 2 seconds.

I’ll never, ever forget the crushing, sinking, nauseating feeling I got that day when I realised my race as I had planned it was over. After the race, I felt burned out and disenchanted with running and spent the rest of the year recovering, both physically and mentally, before starting 2012 with the fresh new challenge of the D33 Ultra. The success of that race has given me the confidence to have another crack at the marathon, but the mental scars of the 26.2 distance have not yet faded and the ghosts of last October’s suffer-fest are never that far from my mind.

Once more my training has gone perfectly, with long runs executed exactly as planned, 5 runs a week completed and my weekly and monthly mileage records smashed once more But what does that really mean? Does it even count for anything? As previously proven, you can do everything right in training and then on the day you can just end up having a bad day at the office and your race is a disaster.

Recently I’ve been finding it harder to match my mental training with my physical – I know that anything can happen on race day, but I’m struggling to get over the mental hurdle that Loch Ness has firmly installed in my head. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m in the best shape of my life and running stronger than I ever have before; as far as my head’s concerned the outcome of the race is a lottery.

Part of this doubt will be due to taperitus setting in,  and part of it is due to nagging injuries which I’m paranoid about flaring up on Sunday. My ITB problems have never really gone away; I’ve just learned how to manage the tightness of the IT band on both legs better in order to stop a massive flare up. It is rare for me to have a run when I don’t feel some kind of tightness, usually on my left knee. I can ice and foam roll until the cows come home, but it feels no less likely to cause me trouble at any given time.

I am also suffering from Plantar Fasciitus on my right foot which is currently at the worst it’s ever been since I first got it last July, but it’s still ‘runnable’ for the most part. Other foot related drama includes a bone on the right of my right foot which has been sore since the D33 but has got progressively worse in the last few months, however I don’t feel it when I run. On my left foot, there is something very strange going on with the nerves in my second toe – since I got my new shoes, after around 3 miles it feels like someone is trying to cut my toe off with a piece of string. The first time I thought it was a piece of thread from my socks that had got caught, but there was nothing there. It is very painful and confusing; needless to say I will be seeing a podiatrist after this race is done.

The final fear is of my own doing, and it is the pressure I’ve been putting on myself on timing. I really want to do this race well and come home in a ‘respectable’ (for me) time. I’ve not told anyone other than Kynon what time I’m aiming for and I’m still not sure whether I will or not until after the race. I don’t want the pressure of others’ expectations on me as well as my own. I think I’m capable of finishing in this time, but I’m really not sure.

So in general, confidence levels at this point going in to the race are not terribly high. I can’t really say I’m looking forward to it and  just want it to be over. I’m not sure I’ll ‘race’ another marathon for a while after this – I much prefer the laid back approach of ultramarathons when it’s less about time or pace, and more about the journey to the finish line. I am dreading this race far more than I ever was the D33, and it was 7 miles longer! Running is supposed to be fun and enjoyable and right now I am experiencing neither of those emotions. I just want this over with.

 

 

Moray Marathon 2012: Enter the Taper

Unbelievably; my 9 weeks of training for the Moray Marathon is now complete and I now find myself in week one of a three week taper where my muscles shall rest and recover. The final long runs are complete, the miles are in the legs, and it is now time to concentrate on not getting injured, not succumbing to taperitus, and to concentrate on some serious mental focus for this race.

My dear blog; you have been somewhat neglected this summer, but with every notable run or adventure there has been a picture snapped and some commentary banked, ready for recapitulation when I finally sat down and wrote.

As you can see, July was a month full of big effort. I well and truly smashed my previous monthly mileage record and finished up feeling stronger than ever. I took two weeks off work and went to Stonehaven to stay with Kynon for the duration, deciding to treat my break as a ‘Low altitude training camp’ and balance plentiful training with plentiful time watching the 2012 Olympics!

Stonehaven was beautiful as ever for the most part, and I enjoyed many warm runs during the day, and many cold pints down by the harbour in the evening. Low altitude training it may have been, but low calorie it certainly was not!

We’ve certainly had worse summers, but there were days when training certainly wasn’t top of the agenda and I found myself living vicariously through the athletes on the television.

There were days when the haar was thicker than I thought I could imagine, and I found myself running through heavy fog, unable to see more than 10 meters in front of me. With vision obscured from side to side across the fields it was quite an eerie experience.

I also received delivery of my marathon shoes – the Autumn 2011 model of the Saucony Guide 5. As a die-hard Saucony Guide girl, I was somewhat distraught when at the start of the year they announced that they were lowering the drop of across the full range of their support shoes. I don’t have anything against low or zero-drop shoes, but I like what I like and I didn’t want it to change! I’m keen to try out more minimalist footwear, but not now in the height of training for an important race. I took to the internet and started hunting down sites which still stocked the 2011 shoes and found discount success at sportshoes.com.  I picked these up for £44.95 – a 50% discount! I think on payday this month I may buy another pair and put off the minimal transition just a little bit longer…

Kynon and I also had several walking adventures in our time off, including a strenuous hike up Bennachie:

And a scramble around the beautiful cliffs of Muchalls:

For my final long run I decided to repeat the 22 miler I completed in January which took me from my front door in Aberdeen, all the way to Kynon’s front door in Stonehaven, via the Deeside town of Drumoak. This time, I decided to do it in reverse.

This meant a steep climb out of Stonehaven ’til I reached the top of Elswick Mounth after 1,000ft of ascent in those first 6 miles. Here are some details:

It was hard work and a particularly hard way to start a long run, but turning around near the top for the view behind was lovely.

You can see Stonehaven and the sea in the distance.

The view from the top is so different than from in January! I remember then thinking how nice it was to finally see Stonehaven in the distance after coming so far…is was a little exhausting to know how far I had to go still this time.

The run went well though and I finished in a reasonable time. It did get very warm however and I began to suffer a little from the heat – I was glad to have worn a white vest and covered myself in sunscreen!

So now I’m back to work, my training is finished and I commence the taper. When I tapered for the D33 I ended up barking mad so I do hope this one goes a little more smoothly. My thoughts towards the marathon are as yet unconfirmed and I’m ruminating upon a post which will be a bit more in depth about this. I do feel prepared though, and part of me is looking forward to it, but there is a lot of demons from Loch Ness which are beginning to resurface so I need to work out how best to stay in the right frame of mind for now.

Til next time…

~RwR

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