Una semana

While my French remains shabby (at a very generous best), I’ll fall back onto high school Spanish to give this an appropriately foreign twist:

¡Una semana hasta el maratón!

I can’t believe how quickly this cycle of training has gone by (maybe because it has not been particularly gruelling on the running front), and I can’t help feeling mildly under-prepared when I consider I’ll be expected to run 26.2 miles in a week’s time, all as part of an enjoyable ‘mini break’.  Regardless, I’m feeling pretty laid back about the whole thing, and I’m quietly confident that I’ll manage to sneak in under 4 and a half hours without punishing my legs so much that they will be rendered incapable of carrying me through the Rock n Roll half in Edinburgh the following weekend.

I thought a lot about time goals for my first marathon and everything kind of fell apart in a painful way, so considering my one-run-a-week approach to training this time around, my main goal is to comfortably (relatively) finish this bad boy.  I’ve already signed up for the Texas marathon next January, so hopefully I’ll be in better running shape to give a time goal another shot then.

Apart from the whole running a marathon thing, myself and two friends will have some time to explore Paris.  Considering my last Parisian experience was tarnished with lost luggage, a shitty hotel, and having to be there a couple of days before Christmas only because I had missed my connecting flight, I am determined to make this time around at least mildly more pleasurable.  I have already earmarked a gelato shop that I will visit once at every available opportunity.

Now.  Apparently you’re meant to eat chocolate today, so I’m off to find something delicious that is not egg shaped.  Chocolate almond florentines, perhaps?  Or a snickers.

Oh, and if I seem a bit calmer just now, it’s probably because the snow has pretty much all melted (finally) and the actual sun has been out for the past couple of days!  It’s still cold compared to what it should be like at this time of year, but at least I’ve been able to wear capris instead of long tights this weekend for both of my gentle 8 milers.  Unfortunately, that meant I had to take the time and effort to shave off the winter coat on my legs.  You’re welcome for this:

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Besos y abrazos.

xox

Run Garioch 1/2 marathon 2013

Time: 2:10:xx (ish)

Medal: Yes (though the same as last year’s)

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Anyone who knows me and regular readers of the blog might be aware, thanks to a few minor complaints here and there, of my intense dislike of the cold.  In case it isn’t clear why I was not looking forward to this race, I would like to clarify that I really do hate cold weather.  Today’s forecast? Freezing with a chance of extra freezing.

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No thank you.

To make it even more difficult to get out of bed this morning, my name didn’t even appear on the online start list.  You see, the really shitty company that was responsible for entries and timing are really shitty (from personal experience), and had wiped a handful of entries from the half marathon, even though they were more than happy to charge us for our place.  On the day, it was also discovered that racetimingsystems had managed to screw up the chip timing, so it was just gun time results for all races!

I had phoned Garioch Sports Centre about the start list issue on Friday, and was told that as long as I brought proof of payment I would be allocated a bib.  What I was not thrilled about, however, was having to wait until after registration closed to receive my bib out of a selection of bibs that had not been picked up, because it meant that I had to hold onto my phone (with a screenshot of my bank statement) and by the time I had my bib there was no time to stash it in Ronnie’s car.  For the record, today I was Jon Bell, and I think I looked rather youthful for someone born in 1974.  An impressive set of moobs, however.

IMG_20130324_150657Despite all of these reasons that made it so, so easy to decide to not bother and stay in bed, there was one nagging reason that stopped me from being such a wimp.  I had promised to run this with my friend Grant, who I had ‘enthusiastically encouraged’ to sign up for his first half marathon with the promise of enjoying the run together.  I sometimes wish people would say ‘no’ to me more often…

Just like last year, there was a lot of squeezing amongst people to get into the main sports hall to register.  Ronnie was the driver for today’s run (of course), and today we were joined by Teri, Rhona, and Mark.  We we all running the half marathon apart from Mark, who had his sights set on the 10k.  After running into several familiar faces/chatting/using the toilet/registering/hanging about to get a bib, we had about 15 minutes before the start of the race.  The four of us, plus Grant (who arrived by bus), made our way outside into the horrendous cold, and then to the starting area.  Did I mention the cold?  Because it was cold.

As my running jacket didn’t fit over the voluminous layers I had chosen to wear to prevent my frozen body from being discovered in a ditch when this freak weather decides to piss off, I had to be more creative with my outfit.  Initially, I had toyed with the idea of wearing a fleece monkey onesie, as it was very cosy, but settled on several thermal layers with a thick (and, as I would discover, quite weighty) Australian rugby jersey.  I stuck with a single pair of thermal tights, one pair of gloves (though I was considering two), plus two buffs, and a very bright woolly knitted hat.

I meant business.

I meant business.

There were one or two smirks at my choice of kit, and probably several runners who thought I was maybe a first timer who would be panting heavily and stripping sweaty layers from my body within the first couple of miles, but can I reiterate that I HATE THE COLD!  I also didn’t look quite so ridiculous when the horn went, and we all found ourself running into a snowy headwind.

Rhona pushed on ahead, as she was spurred on by her recent success (and beasting effort) at the D33 ultra last weekend, but Ronnie, Teri, Grant, and myself stuck together.

The first few miles were fairly uneventful (I’m choosing to omit the extended essay I COULD write on how much the cold was aggravating me, but I think we all get the point now), and we were chugging along at conversation pace fairly happily.  Unfortunately, this did not last, as Ronnie started feeling the strain, and despite the group slowing down to let him keep up, his injury and recent time off regular running were causing him to struggle, and he waved us on.  Not content with this, I urged Teri (who had informed us all the she needed a bathroom stop) to find some shelter and take her time, to allow Ronnie to catch us up.  It also gave me a moment to take a couple of pictures:

Snow, snow, and some snow.

Snow, snow, and some snow.

Looking back at the runners behind us, and Teri having a slash off on the right.

Looking back at the runners behind us, and Teri having a slash off on the right.

Ronnie caught up just as Teri had sorted herself out, and we set off again.  Unfortunately upon starting up again, Grant’s knee began to protest, Ronnie slipped behind again, and then Teri’s knee started acting up.  Overcoming adversity, we plodded onwards (and upwards, and downwards) into the biting wind, and even broke into song halfway through (a tradition I may have to stick to after having more success at mass participation this time round).

The rest of the miles were a bit of a blur, and I started to lose the ability to talk properly (because my mouth was so cold).  My ass also went numb, as did the entire front of my body.  I remember being grateful that the course was altered (for safety reasons) and the two notorious hill sections were cut out of the re-route, and I was pretty pleased when Grant and I passed the 12 mile marker (Teri had gone on ahead), as I was not comfortable with how cold it was.

At this point Grant was really struggling because his knee was hurting pretty badly.  I tried my motivational ‘Nearly there!’ stuff, as well as my tough cop ‘Don’t be such a bitch!’ stuff.  Neither had much of an effect, though, because Grant was pretty determined to get this thing the hell over with all on his own.

Finally, the finish line was in sight, and after a heavy dose of swearing and grunting from the male half of the group, Grant and I crossed the line together, and I left him to bask in the glory of finishing his first half marathon wince, look miserable, and give me the finger.  We found Rhona (who might have secured a PB by a few seconds!), and Teri, and went inside to stretch and take a cheerful group shot before going outside to cheer in Ronnie:

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Once we were all ready, we took our medals, tech shirts, and slightly thawed bodies back to Ronnie’s car in the Morrison’s parking lot, before Rhona, Teri and I raided the bakery section of the supermarket.  Strawberry jam donuts cure everything, for the record.  I nestled into my seat, blasted by the heat and wrapped in a foil blanket, and spent the car journey home regaining feeling in my extremities.

Fuck me, it was cold.

Inverness Half Marathon 2013

Time: 2:01:17 (CR)

Position: 991/1566

Medal: Yes (though it’s the same design as last year)

IMG_20130319_172449The Inverness half marathon was my very first half marathon last year.  It was fairly disastrous, and I ended up getting a stitch halfway through and having to walk quite a bit.  While I wasn’t planning on racing it this year, I did want to put in a better performance than 2012, and my main goals were:

  1. Finish comfortably (after all, I have to run a marathon in less than 3 weeks)
  2. Not walk
  3. Beat last year’s time

Just like last year, it was going to be a there-and-back on the day kind of race.  Ronnie picked me up at about 8, and was subjected to my teenage tastes in music (as I had rummaged through an old cd case and found some classics), and along the way, we both remained unamused at the sleet battering the wind shield.  The forecast was not great.

We arrived at Bught Park in Inverness with loads of time to spare, and wasted no time in getting a parking space on the pebbles next to the field where the majority of people would be parking.  Or so we thought.  Because it was so wet, the field couldn’t be used for parking and everyone was told to try and make alternative arrangements.  I guess we kind of lucked out!

Ronnie's car, and some others, next to the field with NO cars.

Ronnie’s car, and some others, next to the field with NO cars.

Once parked, we braced ourselves against the cold wind and made our way to the hall, where we registered and picked up our tech shirts (which were pretty much identical to the Loch Ness marathon ones from September).  After that, we both took advantage of the small toilet queue, and bought some lunch (egg sandwich – delicious!), before sitting down with a couple of familiar faces for a chat.

The hall

The hall

While people watching (we spotted a Superman, a leprechaun, and a tin of SPAM – it was Saint Patrick’s Day), I caught sight of Paul, one of my team mates from Tough Mudder.  After a quick catch up, Ronnie and I decided we’d better ditch our warm clothes, get in the toilet queues, and head to the start line.

During the last (loooooong) toilet break, I met a fellow medal hunter, and also ran into Claudia, who was going for a PB, and asked to run with Ronnie and myself.  The three of us made our way outside as the bagpipers had already started to lead the runners to the start line.  Last year I remember a cheesy warm up, but I think we were too far back this time around, because I didn’t hear or see anything.

Eventually we were off!  I wasn’t too fussed about weaving in and out of people, and decided to just stick to everybody else’s pace until the runners became more spread out.  Claudia was not thrilled with this, and, unbeknownst to be, slipped through a gap and charged onwards.  Although Ronnie saw her, I did not, and after a few minutes realized Claudia was not longer behind us.  She had been having a lot of knee pain recently, so I tried to slow the pace a little to see if she would catch up, and kept asking Ronnie if he could see her.  I’ll admit, I was a little confused when he didn’t look behind him, but didn’t really question it, and we kept going.  Considering it was a cold and wet day, I hoped her race wasn’t going to be too miserable (which obviously it wasn’t, since she was well on her way by this point).

I had told Ronnie that we would stick together, and I would be his motivator.  There was a lot of “Keep it moving!” and “Charge up that hill!” and “Don’t be such a girl!” coming from my direction, and for the most part, he seemed thankful.  At 6 miles, he mentioned that he was now on his longest run since the Forfar Multi-terrain half marathon in February, and I urged him to push through any pain, unless it was coming from his ankle (which is recovering from injury).  Unfortunately, at about mile 8, he had a problem with his shoe, and every time I looked back, he was further and further behind.  His face told me he wanted no more motivational ribbing from me, so I kept going, at this point ploughing through the rain.

I smiled for every photographer I saw, said thank you to all of the super enthusiastic spectators, and tried to chat with anyone that was still in good humour.  Before I knew it, I was crossing the bridge again, and less than two miles from the finish.  I kept a steady pace until, roughly half a mile from the finish, I spotted Leslie (one of the familiar faces from earlier on) up ahead.  Unfortunately, this meant it was game on!  I started accelerating until I was just behind her, then coasted until right before we entered the stadium for our ‘victory lap’.  Like a complete bitch, I overtook her, and sped up conservatively for the finish (please note my St. Patrick’s Day effort):

Screenshot 2013-03-19 at 17.22.50After I finished, I waited for Leslie to come in and congratulated her, before grabbing my medal, goody bag, and some water, and moving out of the finishers’ area.  This is when I saw Claudia, and because I thought she was behind us, I assumed she had DNF’d, and braced myself for some consolation chat.  Happily, though, I was oblivious to her early surge, and she had smashed her PB by nearly 20 minutes.  We were both freezing by this point, and she went inside, while I went to wait for Ronnie to finish.

Violently shivering, I cheered Ronnie in, and instead of hanging around, headed back to his car for some heat.  Luckily, the gym chain we’re both members of has an Inverness branch, so we went there for a hot shower with no queues, indulged in a freshly squeezed orange juice, and headed back to Aberdeen.

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And of course the sun and blue skies emerged once we were on the road.  Because why wouldn’t it?

Potentially useful phrases for the Paris marathon

  • Où est la ligne de départ pour le marathon? (Where is the start line for the marathon?)
  • Combien coûte une bière?  (How much is a beer?)
  • Pouvez-vous envoyer un cheeseburger dans ma chambre, s’il vous plaît? (Can you send a cheeseburger up to my room please?)
  • Où est l’ascenseur? (Where is the elevator?)
  • Pourquoi est-il pas de ‘massage’ sur ma carte du room service? (Why is there no ‘massage’ on my room service menu?)
  • Où se trouve le plus proche toilettes? (Where is the nearest toilet?)
My quads say 'no'.

My quads say ‘no’.

Spring in Scotland

Ian often gets annoyed at how much I complain about the Scottish weather.  He thinks I’m overreacting when I moan about being “freezing”, but the fact that my fingertips are literally blue, and half of my fingers have zero colour in them, and my speech is slurred because my mouth is too cold to talk kind of makes me believe my complaints are justified.  Oh, and this, the weather in SPRING:

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IMG_20130313_072917I mean, I had to practically ice skate over section on my way home from my sports massage last night.

 

Four weeks until Paris!

Yesterday was my last beast of a long run before the Paris Marathon, and it was my longest ever training run – 23 miles!  Training for marathon number 2 has been, seemingly, much easier than the first time around, and despite starting off with a bit of an injury, and managing to bag only 1-3 runs a week, I’m feeling stronger and more confident than I was four weeks before Loch Ness.  Maybe it’s because I’m not stressing out about it as much (since I know now that even if I feel horrendous from mile 9, I CAN finish a marathon).  Maybe it’s because I haven’t been killing myself as much during the week with monster ‘mid-distance’ runs at a faster pace than necessary.  Maybe it’s because I have been more consistent with gradually upping my long runs, and including adequate drop-down weeks (bliss, by the way).

Just for comparison, here are my ‘long runs’ from Loch Ness next to my long runs (and expected runs over the next few weeks) for Paris:

Loch Ness: 16   7   10   16   13   18   5   20   17.5   13   10   13   9   26.2

Paris:  10.5   15   17.5   13   19   16.5   21   10   23   13   13   8   26.2

I mean, I’m no expert, but my Paris plan looks WAY better than my haphazard approach to training for Loch Ness.

The other thing I have been sensible about is sticking to a steady pace for all of my long runs.  Instead of starting out thinking ‘I’ll slow down when I get tired’, and looking down at my Garmin to see I was running 8:xx minute miles, I have dialled WAY back, and now aim to average 10 minute miles throughout.  I realize this is a practically geriatric pace for some of you speed demons, but I’m still trying to get rid of a stubborn ten pounds I put on after surgery a couple of years ago (but I’ve lost the other 20 – seriously, not being able to work out is not fun), and I am also still finding my marathon feet, so just finishing kind of gives me a semi.

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Anyway, what I have noticed with these slower runs is that I don’t feel completely disgusting after 13 miles, and I have even managed to run 21 miles non-stop!  In fact, yesterday’s 23 would have been non-stop, but being a bit of a dick and not really eating much for breakfast meant I had to stop for some hula hoops and orange juice, and I opted to walk while I was eating because it was freezing, and standing still would have resulted in the loss of my extremities.  In fact, I have felt so strong that during both my 20+ milers, the thought of going that extra 3/5 miles did not reduce me to tears or make me question my sanity.  It felt achievable, and I was even tempted to just go for it, before my various running companions rather aggressively urged me to not do that because we all just wanted our now traditional post run hot chocolate.

Admittedly, I was feeling fatigued at the end of the long runs, and I have adopted a new mantra of ‘fuck you cars’ which I repeatedly murmur in my head grunt aloud whilst crossing a street brazenly in front of drivers, because stopping and starting is a complete bitch when you’re half a mile away from finishing, and people in cars can just fucking wait.  I did also run into a bus stop near the end of yesterday’s run because I genuinely did not notice it thanks to minor delirium.  But considering the 21 and 23 mile runs, had I continued at the same pace, would have both been faster than my time at Loch Ness, I am stoked. I mean, I wasn’t even (that) angry when I got home yesterday afternoon and the sun decided to come out despite playing a very successful game of hide and seek all morning:

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Having run 23 miles, just sitting on my sofa causes extreme happiness.

I am also stoked that I will be back on the medal-collecting train next weekend, as I have the Inverness half marathon (which is officially my nemesis after last year, and I am in two minds about whether or not to race it), and the following weekend is the Garioch half marathon, which I dread thanks to my hilly-as-fuck experience at the 10k last year.  But  since this is a relatively positive post, I’ll end on a high.  I am beyond ecstatic that I ditched the gym yesterday and got in my long run instead, because this morning?  Well, THIS is what I was greeted with when I drew back my bedroom curtains:

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Arbroath Smokies 10 mile Race 2013

Time: 1:27:00  [Results here]

Position: 114/311

Medal: No, but we did get wine and a t-shirt!

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Having run this race last year, I knew that I should be expecting some hills.  The plan for this race was never to race all out (despite my shaky willpower when it comes to reigning it in sometimes all the time), because it was basically my long run for the week.  This plan was partly successful.   I’ll start from before the start.

Stuart and Naomi picked me up just after 8, then we swung by Claudia’s to collect her, fresh from her trip to Oslo.  Claudia didn’t have a guaranteed entry, but had planned to pace a fellow runner, Carol, around the course whether she was wearing a bib or not: a noble gesture!  We arrived at the sports hall in Arbroath shortly after 9.  The race didn’t start until 11.  Needless to say, we were not pushed for time, so we took advantage of zero toilet queues, registered (even Claudia), and then found ourselves a comfy patch of hallway and chatted to people we knew as they trickled in.

Naomi and Stu

Naomi and Stu

Ishbel and Claudia

Ishbel and Claudia

Me

Me

Pre-empting the mass exodus, we left the sports hall with about ten minutes to spare before the start, and headed towards where the start line was last year, partly to become accustomed to the cold, partly to allow our Garmins to find a signal.  We were soon joined by the rest of the runners, and, like last year, failed to hear any race briefing (if there was one), or signal that the race had started, and started running as the crowd moved forwards.  Off we went!

I started next to Naomi and Susan.  Naomi will also be running the Paris marathon, so it looked like I’d have someone else to run around the course with, since neither of us were concerned with time.  Susan was racing, and she wanted to come in under 1:45:00 (totally achievable), so she stuck with us from the start as well.

The first couple of miles were ‘undulating’, and we knew that the bigger inclines were coming up.  We managed to stick together, and had a pleasant chat for half an hour or so when Susan and I pulled ahead.  I told Susan that I wouldn’t look at our time or pace until after 5 miles, and then we could work out what to do about hitting her goal.  It looked like I had become a pacer!

At the halfway point, I glanced down at my Garmin for the first time and noticed we were streets ahead of Susan’s goal time, which I told her, but we didn’t slow down because we were now on the glorious ‘downhill’ part of the race!  Seeing 7:xx staring up at me during what felt like an average effort felt pretty badass (even though, as I said, we were definitely going downhill).

At about 6 miles, my plan fell to pieces.  Up ahead of me I spotted a woman wearing the same shirt as me.  I don’t even know why that was important to me, but the thought of her finishing before me was not OK.  I glanced back and noticed that I had pulled away from Susan a bit, but she looked strong, and there was only slightly more than a 5k left in the race, so I charged onwards.  After about half a mile, I caught up with same shirt (obviously complimenting her on her impeccable style), and then pulled ahead, setting my eyes on my next victim.

I was aware that my breathing was becoming more laboured than it had been for the first 6.5 miles, but that flip had been switched inside my brain that made me crave the high of overtaking people.  Last year, when I ran this race, it was the longest race I had ever done at the time.  I remember being absolutely decimated by mile 8, and thinking the road back to the sports hall would never end.

As I ran past the mile 8 sign, I felt strong, continuing to pick runners off one by one.  I told myself I wouldn’t let anybody pass me, and I didn’t.  I was smiling, the sun came out from behind the clouds – I felt invincible!  Before I knew it, I was skirting the sports hall and running into the muddy finishers’ chute on the field, to rapturous applause (in my head).  I was asked, “Red, white or rose?” as I was offered my goody bag, and then found Ishbel, who remains speedy and crossed the line in a cracking 1:21:38!

I glanced down to look at my time, and despite taking nearly two thirds of the race relatively easy, I had only come in a couple of minutes over my PB!  I didn’t have too much time to think about that, as Susan flew around the corner, and finished in a goal-crushing 1:29:29!  Naomi came in a minute or two afterwards, and we all went inside to discover what delights were on offer this year.  It turns out, quite a few:

IMG_20130303_163021Now, I wasn’t completely done for the day, as I had set myself a challenge on Facebook without really thinking it through, where I would do a push up after the race for every ‘like’ I got on a post.  Well, I can assure you that true colours were shown when so-called friends decided to share this with everyone they know, and several strangers helped to push my total up to 50.  With an official counter and photographer, I blasted out the full 50 push ups, on my toes, in a row, before collapsing in a heap for a minute or so, though I am sure my form suffered quite a lot during the final 10:

Halfway through

Halfway through

After my heart rate was back to normal, more and more people we knew finished and came in for something to eat and drink (there really is a decent spread at this event).  We had a section of the floor where we got comfortable and waited for the raffle to begin, holding our race numbers close.  I have no idea what I’m looking at in this photo of all of us after the race:

601778_10200558441944982_784628809_nAs I never win anything in raffles, I was not holding my breath.  But when the prizes were nearly all gone, I heard my race number called out, and went up to collect my very own shrink-wrapped Arbroath Smokie, which you can see in the photo at the very top.  Quite a fitting end to the 25th Anniversary of the event, and thankfully, well sealed, since we all had to drive back to Aberdeen.