3 days and counting.

Paranoia about the marathon (Will I finish?  Will I get an embarrassingly bad time?  Will I shit myself, or fart really audibly in front of a group sans music?  Will I end up in the hospital instead of the pub?) has well and truly set in now.  I can’t remember a Thursday (at least in the last few years) when I have wished to have Monday back so badly.  I feel unprepared.  I feel fat (thanks a bunch, tapering).  I feel terrified.

It is not normal for me to exercise so little during a week.  I have only done a couple of weights classes, one (ONLY ONE) spin class and a yoga-esque class.  And now I’m done until the big day.  Where did my week go?!
At least I have made things slightly easier on myself.  Followers of my posts may remember that I was planning on going to a wedding in Edinburgh on Saturday, ending up in Inverness around midnight, and waking up at about 5am on Sunday to get registered.  Well, that’s off.  There were too many things that could have gone wrong (not least having me wearing heels and enjoying an adult beverage), that I have decided not to attend the wedding.

I’m not a complete bitch, as this is the couple’s second wedding.  Their first (and legally binding) ceremony was last October in Edinburgh, and was attended by about 10 of us in total.  The ceremony was at the registry office, and we all went for a meal and drinks afterwards.  As proof that I don’t just skip people’s weddings on a whim, here is photographic evidence of me (the mature one giving bunny ears) with the bride and groom on their big day!

I’m available to ruin any photos: weddings, anniversaries, christenings…

Even though I now have a bit more time to get organized (and continue to freak out), there doesn’t feel like enough time in between my impending shower (give or take 15 minutes in the future) and the impending marathon (less than 72 hours away – it’s not cool I can count down in hours instead of months).

One Week.

This is what graces the homepage of this site:

And while I am kind of stressing enough about the fact that I actually have to run a marathon, I have now also come down with a cold (occupational hazard – kids = germs).  Aberdeen schools have a long weekend at the end of September, so I should have been enjoying 4 days off with my boyfriend doing fun things, enjoying myself, and trying to resist the urge to do impromptu long runs to counteract all the food I’m eating.  Instead, I’ve spent most of my time this weekend here:

Whilst my boyfriend has come up with one or two fun things we can still do in this particular location, it isn’t quite the hill-climbing, mountain biking, sunshine-filled, non-running stuff we had hoped we would be doing.  And yes, I’m talking about playing minesweeper on my phone and watching clips like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s recent Magic Mike spoof on SNL, obviously.  To make matters worse, it’s Ian’s birthday tomorrow, and it is going to involve me moaning about being ill.

I guess if I’m hunting for the silver lining in all this, I’m getting plenty of rest, which is something I know I wouldn’t be getting if I was 100% right now.  But hopefully I can have a little jog and a weights class tomorrow, if I’m feeling any improvement, just to stop myself from tearing up the carpet in my flat out of frustration.  And also to counteract whatever Ian’s birthday eatery of choice does to me.

I’ll give you three guesses to decide how I’m feeling today:

Clue: it’s not ‘cheerful’ or ‘enthusiastic’.

Trying not to dwell on the fact that I’m running a marathon in nine days. Did I mention I’m running a marathon?

There are 9 days until my first marathon and I am calmly freaking out.  This basically equates to looking 100% laid back, but inside my brain my thoughts are basically an endless stream of what-the-fuck’s.  I know my physio said to avoid running (and any impact activities) until the big day after the Crathes half, but I am a grown ass woman, and I can make adult decisions on my own, thank you very much!
Translation: Last night I went for an 8.5 mile run in the rain on the trails at Hazelhead Park.

The colder weather is coming in, the sun was out (when I started), and I guess I needed to know that I could still run a decent distance without collapsing in a heap of pain.  Plus, I figured if I was going to create more pain, it would be better to test things this week rather than merely days before the marathon.  It turns out my calf/shin is still sore, but it has majorly improved since last week (and the 2, 3, maybe 4 weeks – how long did I ignore this – before).  So I might have to have another test run (like 6-7 miles) this weekend, and then maybe a short run next week.  You know, just to be sure, or something.

Anyway, in less boring injury related news, I am celebrating my Friday off (I get Monday off too, thank you September long weekend!) in style!  I went to an abs class this morning and then did Body Pump.  After that I met Ian for lunch (a curry and beer – still in my gym kit, nothing but class), and I’m feeling suitably merry as I type!  I also picked up some essentials for next weekend (and have one or two things I’m going back into town for later).  These include:

  • high 5 gels, even though they have Cliff Shots along the course – I am not used to them.
  • Smuckers peanut butter and jelly (strawberry) from a shop that sells unhealthy American food for about 10 times the retail price.  This is my ultimate pre-race meal, with bread, obviously.
  • a cheap ipod shuffle, for ONLY running tunes, and so that I don’t risk destroying my fancy (and not cheap) Sony mp3 player
  • New running tights (because why not?)
  • Beer (for my fridge, to greet me upon arrival back home)

Anyway, the beer I consumed with lunch is telling me I need a siesta before I head back out, so I think I’ll get on that, STAT!

Crathes Half Marathon 2012

Time: 2:04:57  Personal Worst! Results here.

Medal: Yes!

This was meant to be my last long run before the Loch Ness Marathon in two weeks (what?!) time.  Turns out, this is likely to be my last run before the marathon.  This is mainly due to the fact that bastard left shin/calf is hellbent on being painful, tight, and generally a pain in the ass.

Even at the Great Scottish Run a couple of weeks ago, I was hurting.  I continued to hurt, but like a tool, also continued to run, for the next week until finally, last Sunday, I ran 6 miles (out of a planned 16) in crippling pain and near tears.  Since then, I have been for physiotherapy twice, a sports massage once, and, until today, out for a run a grand total of ZERO times.  I’m not being a lazy beast, for the record, as I am still doing spin and weights regularly, but this is totally not where I wanted to be two weeks before my first marathon.

Anyway, I was in two minds about actually doing this race all week.  I was sore even just walking, and my physio had given me that nod-and-smile-and-don’t-let-her-see-me-roll-my-eyes thing when I told her I was planning on running today.  She did her best to gently loosen up my ‘grisly, knotted’ leg, gave me some tape to put on this morning, and then, in hushed tones, told me unofficially to take drugs (ibuprofen).  I smiled, told her I’d just grit my teeth, wear the tape, and ice afterwards.

Her response: ‘What colour tape would you prefer?  We have black or pink’.

My answer: ‘How bright is the pink?’

‘Extremely’ – my physio

So looking like a neon dream, I was picked up by Ronnie and driven to Crathes Castle.  Deciding to arrive at 11:15 for a 12:00 race was not the most intelligent idea, and the parking lots were full by the time we arrived, forcing us (and the other latecomers) to park on the side of the road.

We made it to registration, grabbed our technical t-shirts (which are very swanky, for the record), and then I left Ronnie to find the bag drop while I joined Rhona in her quest to find the loos.  After the toilet stop I ran into Teri (who, without any training whatsoever, completed her first two half marathons in the last few weeks in 1:48:xx and 1:38:xx – sick), and then we were spotted by Dawn, who was running her very first half.  At this point we were in the starters’ mass, but no sign of Ronnie.  We lost all sense of time as we chatted and were stunned into gear when we heard the horn go off.

And off we went!  Teri was nursing a bad cold, so she decided to run with me and aim for 2 hours.  Immediately we noticed the heat!  It was probably around 20 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – beautiful!  But for running, tough going (to everyone suffering in the US with your heat waves – I know!  But to folk accustomed to Scottish weather, this is akin to being stranded in the Sahara). Teri and I stuck together and chatted the whole way, which was nice.  My leg hurt, and she was ill, so we soldiered on like invalids and spoke of ice cold water, then ice cold coke, and finally beer.

It kept our spirits high.  The very nice family who created a backyard water station with their kids helping fill up paper ‘Princess’ cups with beautiful cold water was possibly the highlight of the course.  There were 3 official water stops on the day, and while this would normally be fine for mid-September in Scotland, the freak heat made them seem miles apart (yes, I’m aware they were literally miles apart, but I mean like, several hundred).  I also enjoyed every person who said hello because they recognized me from the great wide internet (Pete, I’m looking at you – and I hope whatever you pulled today is easing up, because you looked like you were partying in Pain City!).

The course was described as relatively flat, and I’d have to agree with that.  The long, slight incline towards the end of the course was not very pleasant, but overall nothing nasty.  Behold the elevation profile!

Crathes Half Marathon elevation

Not too evil, I think you’ll all agree.  In the last 500 meters of so, Teri sped up but my calf/shin was killing me so I resigned myself to not sprinting at the end.  The fact that some dude totally smoked me just before the finish line was a bit of a kick in the teeth, but whatever, fuck him.  I crossed with my name being announced over the loudspeaker (always a cool rock star touch), collected my medal, grabbed some water, and then accepted a hug from Teri (who nearly strangled me with her bicep, unknowingly – I hope).

As we hung around and found more and more people we knew, we were all pretty disappointed with our times.  Today marked a personal worst for me (totally not worried about marathon time – I’m lying, I’m concerned), as well as for Teri, Ronnie, and a good few others.  At least Dawn stormed home with a PB!

I’m back home, showered, and soon to be fed, and while my leg is in pain, it doesn’t feel quite as bad as it did after my 6 miles last Sunday – so there is hope!  While I’ve been ‘strongly urged’ not to run again before Loch Ness, I might see about a wee test run next weekend if I can get through this week in less pain than last (Queue my physio exhaling dramatically and burying her head in her hands).  And as a parting gift today, here is the course map for the Crathes Half Marathon:

Crathes Half Marathon course map

How not to attempt to reach the summit of Ben Avon.

The weather forecast for Saturday was amazing.  Warmth, sunshine, no rain, no cloud, no snow, no hail (we’re in Scotland, so you need to check ALL of these things).  And what better way to get some exercise than a delightful trip into the Cairngorm mountain range for some mountain biking and cycling to break up the monotony of running.  Am I right?

Ian, Dylan, and myself set off early Saturday morning with big plans.  We were going to park just before Braemar at the Keiloch car park, cycle 7-ish miles, ditch our bikes, and then hike to the summit of two munros (Scottish for mountain with a height of over 3,000 feet), then cycle 7 miles back, making it back to Aberdeen with plenty of time to drop Dylan off at 6:30pm to babysit his nephews, and even more time for Ian and I to shower and make it to dinner at a friends.  We estimated that all of this (cycling and hiking) could be done in about 5 hours, seemingly a reserved estimate.

We arrived, a bit late, just after 9:30 am.  The sun was blazing, the skies were blue, and spirits were high.  We indulged in a light snack while we took the bikes off the bike rack, checked the map, and estimated that the cycle portion of the journey would take roughly 45 minutes, possibly an hour.  We were expecting good trails, beautiful views, and happiness.  This was our first miscalculation.

When we set off, we were cycling on paved roads.  Lovely.  Our laughter echoed through the trees, mingling with birdsong and delight.  The road turned into a dirt road.  How quaint/pleasant/charming/blah.  The dirt road turned into dirt tracks.  What a bunch of adventurers we were!  Although the pace had slowed (the entire cycle there was slightly uphill), we knew we’d be flying on our way back.  At this point there was little concern.  Then the dirt track turned into a dirt track cloaked by miniature boulders.  A tad on the bumpy side, and holy shitI nearly went face first into the ground but my ninja-esque reflexes meant I somehow remained on my bike.  Bastard rocks and the instability they cause.  Then…. what the hell is this?!  A steep incline on a narrow, bumpy path which forces us to push our bikes uphill through heather, rocks, and whatever else grows in hell.  This went on for, oh, say, 30 minutes.  It was unpleasant.  But FINALLY, we reached the place that the internet had assured us became ‘really good to cycle on’.

The internet is a douchebag liar.

While the path COULD have been pleasant, and time-saving, to cycle on, there were approximately 17 trillion drainage ditches that did not feel safe to try and jump/cycle over.  Some were shallow, some were deep.  All sucked.  We soldiered on until I heard a ‘Woooooah!’ from behind.  Dylan had a puncture.  Ian had to turn back as he was the one carrying the ‘bike emergency kit’.  Turns out there were two punctures on Dylan’s inner tube.  Here are the boys fixing this problem:

Ian demonstrating tire repair skills whilst showing off our group uniform of profuse back sweat.

It was a bonding experience for the two boys:

Proof here.

As you can see in the video, at this point, we were all still relatively chipper, though I had voiced one or two (thousand) opinions regarding being unhappy with the cycle path.  All ignored by Ian.

Proof that I am still smiling.

Once the puncture was hastily repaired, we set off again.  No more than 5 minutes later, however, we hit another delay when I tried to cycle over one of the drainage ditches, hit one of the rocks hard, and went flying over my handlebars in a spectacular fashion.  I had sense enough in mid-air to hold up my arms to save my face, and also to make sure that the face of my (not cheap) Garmin was facing away from the ground!  Unfortunately, this did not bode well for every other part of my body, as I hit the ground with force, and my bike landed on top of me.  Dylan kindly untangled it from my legs and I inspected the damage while Ian, who was ahead, came back to see what was taking so long.  I landed hard on my knee, and knew that I would be sporting a kick ass bruise for a while:

Bruise on the outside of my left knee, as pictured on Sunday night. Please ignore ridiculous tan line.

I also grazed my right forearm and my left hand, and parts of my leg.  It stung quite a bit.

Blurry photo of forearm

I also managed to fall in such a way that my vagina padding (I don’t really know how else to describe that particular area) landed hard on a stray rock.  It was sore, and remains tender.  No photo attached.

After brushing myself off, and being grateful that I had put long sleeves on during the puncture repairs, we continued for a while, but we were slowed down as Dylan and I decided to dismount every time we came across one of those pesky drainage ditches.  This meant that having a bike at this point was more of a burden than anything, and we convinced Ian that this is where we should ditch them.  Reluctantly (but wisely) he agreed, and changed into his hiking gear.

It was at this point we had our first time check.  What we thought would take us just under an hour had taken us just over two and a half.  Even with the cycle portion being mainly downhill on the way back, the treacherous terrain meant we wouldn’t be much faster.  If we were to get Dylan back in time for his babysitting duties, we had only two hours to hike.  Despite this, we decided to set off and see how far we managed in an hour, and then decide what to do.

I led the way along a path with a slow but steady incline.  I was already tired by this point, especially after a 10 mile trail run on Friday evening after work, but we were making decent progress, so we kept going.  Until we didn’t.  Mr. Map Man (Ian, who had delegated himself as the trek leader because he is just soooooooooooo amazing at map reading and all that) said that we weren’t on the right path, even though I pointed out that we were still heading in the right direction.  He pointed to a spot on the map where we “definitely were”, and said that the path would soon go back down the mountain before going up again, meaning we would lose all the height we had just gained.  Dylan and I looked at the path ahead which clearly climbed steadily before breaking into two paths, BOTH of which only went up.  I said I wanted to continue on the path because it was obvious that the path did not “go down” any time soon.  I was overruled by Map Man.

We went off the path and headed up a steep incline on the side of a mountain.  I was moody, and complained that as it was nearly 2:00 pm and I hadn’t really eaten since breakfast at 8:00 am, I needed food.  Immediately.  The Mapped Master said we could “reward our efforts” by eating at the top of the ascent.  I reminded him that food = fuel, and I was lacking energy, so if he wanted to see the summit, I needed to eat.  The compromise was that we would eat halfway up.  The beginning of this extra shitty experience is indicated by the red arrow on the elevation profile of our ‘adventure’ below.

Attempt to reach the summit of Ben Avon

We had lunch, continued to the top, and then tried to work out where the official ‘top’ was (the highest point – it doesn’t count if you don’t make it there).

Now, surely from atop a freaking mountain, you could see where said freaking mountain looked highest.  I located what I believed to be the top, and point it out to Map Man, adding that the path we were on looked as though it led straight there. He, after carefully assessing his precious map, dismissed my crazy ideas and pointed in the opposite direction.  We walked onwards, heading towards a summit that Map Man believed would yield a view of the official top once we were over it.  What it actually yielded was a sheer drop and about 15 miles of wilderness below.  Another careful study of the increasingly useful map seemed to indicate that the summit I pointed out, that we had actively been distancing ourselves from, was in fact the official top.  However, at this point, we only had enough time to turn back, as we had officially run out of time.  Ian was grumpy about this.

“The most masterful map reader on the planet” – Nobody

Masterful map reader, Ian, told us the ‘path’ (no path existed) he intended to use for the ascent was “this way”, and we would be taking it back down to the bikes.  We passed some cliffs and stuff, which for some reason, were not on the map in the place where Ian said we were.  He brushed many things off saying it was “an old map”.  My confidence in his navigation skills were plummeting, but we had some nice views to keep us sweet.

Loch in the mountains

We got back to the bikes (eventually) and Dylan realized his tire was flat.  We pumped it up, hoping that the speedy job we did earlier would hold up for 8 or so miles.  As we were running so far behind schedule, Dylan and I went ahead while Ian changed back into his cycling stuff.  You could really notice the downhill advantage (in between the crappy drainage ditches), and we were doing relatively well.  I stopped at the drainage ditch I had my fall at to take a ‘survivor’s photo’:

That round rock is the main culprit.  Ian in the distance.

And Ian approaching.

Just as we were about to get going again, Dylan heard a hissing sound from his rear tire (again).  Punctures number 3 and 4 had reared their ugly heads.

Puncture repairs, part 2

We were pretty much not having fun by this point.  The first attempt at repairing the new punctures was unsuccessful, and set us back even longer.  We were overtaken by a pair of cyclists we had overtaken earlier (they had a puncture) and we would overtake them again later (they had another puncture).  We were overtaken by walkers….  The clouds started to roll in.

Clouds. And mountain.

Knowing that we would be late, we tried to get a bit speedier once we got going again.  The OK-but-riddled-with-drainage-ditches section ended, and the spattered-with-miniature-boulders-and-scarily-downhill section began.  After my tumble, I became very friendly with my brakes, and refused to just let go and ‘enjoy’ myself.  Just as the rocky path turned into the dirt track section, Dylan’s tire went flat again.  It was decided that he would run, pushing his bike along, and Ian and I would cycle ahead and get the bikes onto the rack, and get the car ready to go.

When the track turned into country road, and then into paved road (downhill), I began smiling again.  We got back to the car and waited for Dylan, who showed up about 15 minutes later.  We got the bikes onto/into the car, and set off.

To cut a long story short, we didn’t manage to get to either of the tops we had planned to, Dylan was one hour late for babysitting, I am in a significant amount of pain today, and Ian has the navigational skills of a blind, dying goldfish (I may be exaggerating as yesterday is still fresh, but Ian has successfully navigated many times before).  It turns out, if we stuck to the path, it would have taken us directly to the top of Ben Avon.  It also turns out that where he THOUGHT we were for the entire journey was not where we actually were.  He was totally off.  He also, reluctantly, agreed that we should have maybe ditched the bikes earlier.

Ian, reading this: “Rachel!  That’s not fair!  I was only slightly off, and I got us almost to the top!”

Either way, we spent a sunny Saturday cycling and hiking through nearly 22 miles of nature, so it wasn’t a complete failure, unlike my ‘long run’ today.  I had planned 16 miles, but my body vigorously protested to that thought when I woke up this morning.  In the end, I managed 6 slow miles and called it a day.  At this point, finishing the marathon in 3 weeks will be enough.

And since this is a running blog, essentially, and features medals, here is a photo of the medal Ronnie got today at the Braemar half marathon (the colourful one), and the medal he got for the Moray half marathon last weekend (in the middle) along with the BRG Coastal Challenge medal we both got back in August for the 17.5 mile run along the coast:

L-R: BRG Coastal Challenge, Moray Half Marathon, Braemar Half Marathon

+200 points to anyone who actually read that entire post (redeemable in favours (non-sexual) by me upon earning 7,000).  Until next time!

Great Scottish Run 2012

Time: 1:59:40

Position: 4357/8724

Medal: Yes!

Today I completed my 5th half marathon, after completing my very first half marathon in March.  I have my sixth half marathon in two weeks time, and my marathon debut is four weeks today.  That is terrifying.

Today started early.  I was staying with my friend Anna, who is an old school chum.  She had entered the 10k with some or her workmates to raise money for charity, so even though she is moving to China on Wednesday and in the middle of packing up her life and everything, she couldn’t shrug off her charitable duties – very noble!

I got the train to Glasgow on Saturday afternoon and met her during the awkward phase of saying goodbye to people she works with (apart from those doing the 10k in the morning).  Once the emotion, hugging, card giving, and speech was over, we headed out for pizza and beer, and about 6 years worth of catching up on gossip.  Being sensible, however, we were back at hers and heading to bed at a reasonable hour.

When we were up, we got everything together, and headed towards the Subway to get to the start line, via the meeting point for her coworkers.  Unfortunately, the subway opens later on a Sunday (in this day and age?), so we got a taxi into town.  By the time everyone had made it to the meeting point, there was just enough time to say ‘Good Luck!’ before the 10k runners were lining up.  I wont lie, I totally wished at this point that I hadn’t switched to the half.  I was tired after three consecutive 8+ mile runs on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings.

Anna looking stoked about the fact that she was about to embark on a 10k on a Sunday morning.

George Square, where both races were starting off, was packed with runners and spectators.  Just as I found a decent vantage point, the elite runners were off!  Despite a very uphill start, they were tearing up the road:

The first 10k runners set off!

The original plan was to meet Anna at the finish of the 10k, then make my way to the start of the half marathon.  Unfortunately, the finish line was further away from the George Square start line than I had anticipated.  I dumped my stuff at the bag drop and luckily ran into one of the guys who I had met earlier that was running the 10k with Anna’s crew, as I was holding onto a pink hoodie for one of them!  Then I started following the other straggler half participants who were making their way to the start.

Despite being about 78% desperate for a pre-race port-a-loo pit stop, there wasn’t enough time to queue for one and make it back to my muster, so I figured I’d just have to deal with it and use one of the toilet stations along the way if I got desperate (I didn’t).  I had a brief chit-chat with a few people around me, because there was no shortage of people to talk to and did a last minute check that I had everything I needed in my waist pack (Yes, plus about a kilo of crap I didn’t).

At the start line, looking ahead.

Before I knew it, we were off!  There were cameras everywhere, and a chopper flying overhead.  There was a red double decker bus to the ride of the start, and as I passed it I looked up to see Freya Murray waving down at the runners smiling (I smiled and waved back).  Thousands of runners hoofed up the first big hill and everyone started finding a rhythm.

The course was varied, as we went through residential areas, public parks, the city center, and even part of the motorway, so there wasn’t really any danger of getting bored of your surroundings.  As someone who has rarely visited Glasgow, it was fun to come across places I actually recognized, like Pollock Park.  I even ran past one part of the park that I vividly remember being at with Ian about a year ago, where we had been looking at Highland Cows and noticed that one of the several trees lining the fence had actually grown around the fence!  I smiled as I ran past it, and then grimaced when I noticed I was rapidly approaching another incline.

Although not racing for time, I couldn’t help (as always) noticing that with just over 3 miles to go, if I belted out the last 5k I had a shot of coming in under two hours.  I debated what to do for maybe 4 milliseconds before rolling my own eyes, calling myself an idiot, and speeding up.  I must have easily overtaken over a hundred people in the last stretch.  Easily as in, ‘no less than’, not easily as in ‘with no effort whatsoever’.  Because I fully admit I was breathing out of my ass when I crossed the finish line. My finishers’ photo will yield gritted teeth and a scowl, but, thankfully, no projectile vomit, which for moments was a very real possibility.

After crossing the line, grabbing my medal, goody bag, water, and banana, and doing some stretching, I headed to the bag drop for my stuff, and then began the unnecessarily complicated task of using public transport to get back to Anna’s, where she was doing ‘packing and moving stuff’.

In reality, she was doing ‘drinking champagne and eating stuff’ with a friend, which I was obviously keen to contribute to.  I must say, this was a delightful post-race snack:

Meal of champions.

In fairness, she was preparing for a pretty strenuous afternoon of labour, whereas I was preparing for a less strenuous snooze on the train home.  After a shower (heavenly) and realizing that the train I needed to catch required me to leave quickly, we hugged, said goodbye, and agreed that less than half a decade should go by before we meet up again for more old school gossip.

In moderate pain, but exhausted, I settled into my train seat before starting to doze, waking up here and there with the knowledge that my posture was ridiculous and my mouth was wide open, but not caring.  And now, from the comfort of my sofa, I bid everyone goodnight!

Happy Monday everyone!  The photos are already out for the half marathon, so I did a tactical print-screen-paste-in-paint-crop job to a couple of my less horrendous shots.  I have included an arrow in the first photo to be helpful, but also to highlight that, for maybe the first time ever, I actually remembered to stop my Garmin.  Unfortunately, it means I kind of look like a douche.

The second (and final) photo I’m including was taken during the lung-collapsing final 3 miles, when I was busting a gut to finish in under two hours.  My facial features appear to have melted into my pasty skin, but what’s left of muscle tone in my face shows true determination, at least in my opinion.  I even took my headphones out to listen to the crowd as though it was the final lap in the Olympic stadium.  Let it be known that I was in pain: