Balmoral 15 mile trail race

Time: 2:42:07

Medal: Yes

IMG_20130428_140617I had been tempted to enter this race last year, but as I had only complete one painful half marathon when sign ups were closing, I didn’t feel comfortable committing to such a big distance, and ran the 10k instead.  This year, I didn’t even hesitate when I typed in my bank card number and clicked ‘Submit’.  What a nice way to shake out the legs after Paris, I thought.

Regular readers may have started noticing a few trends on here.  Like that I hate the cold.  Or that I am about as graceful as a drunk rhinoceros   In keeping with pre-race tradition, I managed to injure myself in a really stupid way.  Thankfully, it didn’t involve my feet or legs, popular injury sites in the past, but my finger.  Being absolutely destroyed by a closing door.  And so I woke up on race morning (after very little sleep, as I was celebrating a 60th birthday the night before and indulging in one or two adult beverages) with a swollen, bruised, throbbing, painful finger.  For reference, I documented the swelling by comparing it to the same finger on my left hand:

Guess which one hurts like hell.

Guess which one hurts like hell.

Obviously, searing pain is not enough to deter me from enjoying a pleasant day out on what was meant to be a very pretty course, and Ronnie picked me up at some hour that escapes my memory (but it was earlier than I was probably happy with).  Ronnie had recently pulled out of the Edinburgh marathon (in 4 weeks) as his ankle injury has prevented him from doing the training he needs, but he had signed up to this race as a training run in preparation, and he was determined to complete it.  The only problem being that he hadn’t covered a distance this long since the Loch Ness Marathon (last September), and he had found recent half marathons a struggle.  With this in mind, I told him I would stay with him and we would run at whatever pace he wanted.

Despite the sunshine when we arrived at the Balmoral estate, we were welcomed by strong, bitter gusts when we left the comfort of Ronnie’s car.  And then some rain.  And then about 8 seconds of warm-ish sunshine before the wind started up again.  We both took a while deciding what to wear, but still had time to enjoy a hot chocolate (or coffee, if you’re Ronnie) in the warm car before being called up for the race briefing.

Before I knew it we had started, and I remembered the relatively flat tarmac section from the 10k.  We followed this for a couple of miles, Ronnie feeling comfortable running strong, me feeling the effects of a late night and too much beer.  Soon we were on an undulating land rover path, and the fresh air and bursts of sunshine had me feeling a bit more human.  Miles 3-7 were good all around, dodging small rocks and holes and taking in the forest scenery.

The we reached a very obvious incline.  We powered up for a bit, but Ronnie was struggling and asked for a walk break.  We stopped and started a few times for the next couple of miles, running the flats, and taking walk breaks when the inclines became too much.  I tried to be encouraging, but I have a feeling that Ronnie was not feeling my buzz:

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I, on the other hand, was ECSTATIC that I was experiencing sunshine during a race in Scotland!  When there is sunshine (that actually produces some heat), nothing can get me down:

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The steady incline continued on the land rover track for a bit before going back down and passing by the mile 3/8 water station, before veering off and immediately going back uphill on rougher trail.  There were more walk breaks here:

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After less than a mile, the trail turned onto another rocky land rover path, and we were quickly out of the forest and exposed at the top of a hill.  It was rough underfoot, but relatively flat, but Ronnie was spent.

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We had bursts of running, and longer walk breaks, until eventually we were just walking.  Uphill.  There were some great views of Lochnagar, but the clouds were starting to roll in, as well as the rain.

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Lochnagar in the distance

The view behind us

The view behind us.

What goes up must come down, and soon we were back running again, enjoying the descent.  There were a few more undulations before we eventually reached the edge of the forest again, but with less than 2 miles to go, Ronnie and I settled into a decent pace and prepared to enjoy a downhill finish.

Except that didn’t happen.

Right when Ronnie finally started feeling confident that he could run to the finish, the course veered right, up a grassy, muddy hill.  Back to walking it was.  We heard gunshots in the distance (hunters, not murderers on the loose), and I managed to find a deer antler in the grass which I took with me as it was only marginally bigger than my hand.  And then, FINALLY, the last downhill stretch (which was very steep), before we saw the tarmac again.

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We started running just as Balmoral came into view, and I told Ronnie in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed to walk from this point on because there were spectators.  He agreed, and we soldiered on the finish line to collect out medal and t-shirt.  I had mentioned once or twice (or more) that I would love to get a Mr. Whippy (cheap vanilla ‘ice-cream’ with a consistency that is like a mix between actual ice-cream and Cool Whip) when we finished, but he seemed pretty ready to get out of there, so we went straight to the car, and got on the road home.

Balmoral 15 mile elevation

Balmoral 15 mile elevation

Turns out he wasn’t lying to me all those times during the run when he said he thought he was going to be sick, because we had to pull over to let him do just that.  I guess that means my job as drill sergeant for the day was a roaring success.  Thankfully, we made it to a supermarket for something to eat soon after, and got home without incident, and apart from some blisters and a bit of general soreness, Ronnie seems to be fine today.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same for my foot:

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Overall I really enjoyed the course, and taking it at a relaxed pace allowed us to really enjoy the scenery.  Whilst it could have been warmer, the weather was admittedly better than most we’ve had this entire year, so I won’t even complain about it.  I’d love to go back next year with a time goal, and I’m sure I wont be the only one returning.

Now off to ice my finger.

Cross training

I am definitely not one of those runners that is guilty of ignoring their cross training.  In fact, cross training is what I do most of, because I actually really like everything else I do on top of running.  Because I am a creature of habit, my weekly workout schedule usually looks something like this:

Screenshot 2013-04-23 at 22.16.31Obviously in the run up to Paris, the only running I was doing was on Sunday, which is not ideal, but I think my fitness was good enough to let me get away with that.  The next time I attempt a marathon, I want to have trained properly for it.  This may mean that I will not have time for all of my group exercise classes which I am not happy about, but as my next marathon isn’t until January, 2014 (unless I make some unwise, flippant decisions in the coming months), I have a while to wean myself off of my current class addiction, and try to create similar exercises I can fit in when time is actually available to me.

In June, my bank account allowing, I hope to take a spin instructor course.  I have already completed an exercise theory course and my first aid, and this would allow me to earn a little pocket money whilst still getting to do the workouts I enjoy, and hopefully at a time more suited to my schedule.

I would also love to buy a decent barbell and some weights, so I can pump some iron to cheesy metal in my living room at 3am to satisfy my meat-head tendencies.

The final thing I’ve been starting to do is slotting mini workouts into my day whenever I have time.  Usually, I do a quick search on youTube for things like ‘butt workout’ and follow instructions for 10-15 minutes   However, youTube is also the graveyard of odd videos, and I have stumbled across some hilariously bad instructional videos.  Like this gem, which is equally hilarious and creepy.  Still, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t feel my butt work when following along.  Yes, I’ve used it 3 times so far.

But following videos online is limiting, so this afternoon, after work, I met my friend Grant for a gym session after telling him I’d plan an hour of stuff for us to work our way through.  The result?  Success!  If you count working up a sweat before chicken fajitas a success (I do).  Here’s what we did:

20 minutes on the elliptical to ‘warm up’.  I once read somewhere that it takes about 15 minutes for the body to fully loosen up, and I tend to enjoy adding just a little bit extra onto everything.

3 sets of the following:

  • 20 squats
  • 10 lunges on each leg
  • 10 man push ups
  • 15 hip extensions on each leg (possibly the lamest exercise for a male to do next to his female friend in a semi-crowded gym, so props to Grant)
  • 30 second plank
Hip extensions

Hip extensions

5 minutes on the rowing machine

10 minutes of core (plank, side plank, toe taps, a bunch of stuff I don’t know the name for)

10 minutes on the step machine

But no running.  I’m still kind of fatigued after Paris, since I scoff in the face of sensibility and ignore all guidance that tells me that I should rest after a marathon.  I gave it 3 days, but then I was back at the weights and cross training.  However, I am still in my twenties (which I remind everyone about frequently, because February, 2014 marks my entry into my fourth decade of life), so I refuse to accept that I am not indestructible quite yet, thank you very much.

Anyway, Texas 2014?  I’ve got my eye on you.  And I WILL sort out a training plan for you that incorporates running regularly while I have my cross training liaisons alone in dark corners at unsociable hours while everyone sleeps.  And I’ll even throw in the fancy stuff, like hills, fartleks (never going to stop being funny), and mile repeats (sounds gross).  Because even though medals are sweet, I kind of want to see what I can do if I throw myself into one of these marathons, balls to the wall.

Boston 2013

Shortly after posting my recap on the Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll half, and after enthusiastically tracking Amy on the athlete tracker, I heard the news about Boston.

Thankfully those I knew of that were running are safe and well, but others aren’t.  I can’t get my head around the fact that someone would intentionally target the finish line of the marathon – an event that doesn’t associate itself with any religion, race, nationality, or political leaning – harming only innocent bystanders, supporters who were cheering their loved ones on, and runners who had nearly completed their goals.

I can’t help feeling uneasy about complaining about a crappy race when things have been so much worse for everyone yesterday.  My thoughts are with those affected, both physically and emotionally, and my complete respect goes out to everyone who stepped up to help in any way they could.

Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon 2013

Time: 2:05:40

Position: 2209/4361

Gender Position: 783/2269

Medal: Yes

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I signed up to this race KNOWING that is was to be held one week after the Paris marathon.  I know that there are a lot of people that run back to back marathons, or ultra marathons, and they are just peachy with that kind of thing, but a single marathon definitely still kicks my ass – or, more appropriately, quads.  Of course, having seen last year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll medals, I didn’t want to wait until 2014 until I had one of my own.  So I guess the lesson I have learnt from this whole experience is that impatience makes you do really dumb things.

After my Parisian mini-break, I enjoyed a couple of days of gentle walking and retail therapy (and finishing off the French treats I had brought back).  I also did some yoga, some weights, and a bit or cardio, and even went on a 5 mile run with a group of friends to test the legs.  Verdict: they were tighter than a nun’s asshole and I felt fatigued after about 200 yards. I was already not looking forward to this race.

On Saturday, Ian and I drove down to Edinburgh as we were staying with his sister’s family.  I had breakfast before we left, but we didn’t stop for lunch, thinking we would have something in Edinburgh.  What actually happened is that we dropped off our stuff, then went exploring Crichton Castle because, for a change, the weather was mild and the sun was out!  Plus, you can just drive to this kind of thing in Scotland.  This did involve a bit of walking, but it was an enjoyable visit:

Approaching Crichton Castle

Approaching Crichton Castle

Looking down onto the courtyard

Looking down onto the courtyard

Toddler included for scale

Toddler included for scale

There were some amazing views

There were some amazing views

And some interesting modifications...

And some interesting modifications…

By the time we got back to the flat, I had to head off to meet Jennifer and Darren (and eventually, Claudia) at a local pub as they were also running RnR and had suggested that we all make an effort to meet in real life as we had previously only spoken online.  I told Ian that if I wasn’t back for dinner, he should check all the alleys and ditches near the pub for my mangled corpse, though I was fairly certain that I was not going to meet a serial killer or a rapist (I was correct).  We had a beer and chatted about races we had all done/were planning to do (and I bought some crisps to appease my stomach’s growls), before everyone had to head off for dinner.

Despite an uncomfortable stomach at a previous Edinburgh race after a curry, I did not hesitate to destroy a North Indian garlic chilli chicken dish (and another beer), before relaxing and digesting for a while before bed.  As I drifted off to sleep, I thought how nice it would be to not have to wake up early and run 13 miles.  I was still not looking forward to this race.

The fact that the wind was howling and blowing the window in our room so much that it was making some pretty remarkable noises that woke us up several times throughout the  night did not make for the most peaceful sleep, and when my alarm went off I was definitely not looking forward to this race.

I forced some shredded wheat and banana down, got dressed, and glanced miserably at the rain beating off of the kitchen window.  I think you’re getting the point by now, but I feel it is necessary to emphasize that I did not want to be running this race.

Dressed, wearing my plastic poncho from Paris, and reluctant, I set off for Holyrood Park.  The wind had knocked over a lot of the road works signs on the road overnight, and had not let up.  At times, it felt like I might be blown off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, and with my head dipped, I pushed into the wind until I arrived at the start area, shivering, wet, and unenthusiastic.

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Claudia, Susan, and some others were also meant to be running, and once I’d spotted them, and taken another pre-race snap, we tried to join fellow runners packed into the marquees like sardines, but there really wasn’t any room inside to shelter ourselves from the wind and rain.

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We huddled together, trying to make light of the situation, but we were all freezing and keen to get this thing over and done with.  We eventually heard an announcement (but not actually what it said) and assumed we should probably make our way to the start.  Amazingly, there was a momentary break in the rain, so I pulled out my phone and tried to take a couple of photos.  Unfortunately, my artistic skills have been somewhat hindered by three facts:

  1. I’m wearing gloves and my hands are shaking
  2. My phone is in a ziplock bag
  3. I can’t actually see the screen

Please ignore part of my finger in the crowd shot, but I have included it because the guy in orange’s face pretty much sums up how everyone at the start was feeling:

At the start of the Edinburgh Rock 'n' Roll half marathon 2103 - we are all super stoked to be here.

At the start of the Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon 2103 – we are all super stoked to be here.

And I promise that Susan is somewhere on the right and smiling for this photo, but you’ll just have to take my word for that:

Part of Claudia, me, none of Susan.

Part of Claudia, me, none of Susan.  Also, when did I develop crows feet?!

While I was chatting to Claudia and Susan, I heard someone say my name.  I turned to my right to see yet another person I ‘knew’ from the void that is the internet, Jane, and then another!  It was a pleasant surprise to just happen upon each other like that, and good to meet in person.  The announcer mentioned something about a ‘slight delay’ (met my my audible groans, much to the hilarity of my company), but shortly after our scheduled start time, we began to set off.  I decided to keep my poncho on.  It was that crappy.

Susan, Claudia and I set off at a reasonably quick pace.  My legs were stiff and sore, but I was so desperate to get some blood pumping to my extremities as soon as possible, and sure enough, after about a mile my fingers started to tingle as feeling returned!  Susan was chasing a PB, and wanted to come in under 2 hours, so she was setting an aggressive pace.  Claudia had just come back from 2 weeks in Panama, and was puffing.  We told Susan to go for it, while we hung back at a handicapped pace, as the sun began to creep through the clouds and create some heat!

Somewhere between miles 2 and 3 (I think, my Garmin decided to be an asshole so was essentially good for telling me that my heart rate was higher that normal) I ditched my poncho, being a bit too optimistic about the weather.  Although we were still being hammered by 37 mph wind (according to RnR’s facebook page), the rain seemed to be lightening up!

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Until we hit the coast.  Then it started hitting us in bitterly cold sheets, and I missed my poncho.  It was around here that I lost Claudia.  I assumed that she had pulled an ‘Inverness‘ on me, but found out later that she was struggling, and had fallen behind.  It was also around here that I knew the rest of the race was going to be really unpleasant. My legs felt like lead, I was out of breath, and I was spending more effort navigating puddles and fighting against the gusts than actually running.  I also knew that this bit was the easy, downhill section, and I would be attacking some pretty hilly terrain on the way back to the finish.

Obviously having a blast.

Obviously having a blast with my linebacker’s neck.

Screenshot 2013-04-16 at 06.44.52The rest of the race is a blur of rain, wind, pain, and a few hardy souls who braved the weather to cheer for the runners with looks of pity.  My legs were done, so I ended up walking most of the hills. Even the growing crowds as we approached the finish line weren’t enough to make me try to save face by speeding up.  I struggled across the finish line and let out a sigh of relief before getting my medal, some water, and finding the man with the foil blankets as my fingers were starting to turn blue.

Glad to be done.

Glad to be done.

And then joining the enormous queue to pick up my t-shirt.  Still, I counted myself lucky that I hadn’t checked any gear, because those lines were even longer!  Lines of foil-wrapped, soggy, shivering runners waiting to collect their stuff was an unfortunate sight, and instead of hanging around to socialize, I started trudging back to Ian’s sister’s where I thawed out in the shower.

I understand that the organizers can’t do anything about the weather, and the fact that the wind speed was, apparently, 37 mph on average, meant that some of the marquees blew over affecting the system at the finish, as well as forcing the concert at the end to be called off as it was deemed too unsafe.  I also get that casual supporters are more likely to not want to stay outside in such miserable conditions.  But being promised a band every mile (I counted 5 in total), I was expecting something a bit grander than what looked like a bunch of hollowed out burger vans with a band you could hear for all of 30 seconds (if they weren’t retuning or taking a break).

My goal for this race from the start was just getting around it in one piece and getting the medal, which is, admittedly, rather fantastic, so I guess I can technically count this as a success, but I am so glad I have two entire weeks before I have another race because my legs absolutely are not in love with me right now.

Paris Marathon 2013

Time: 4:18:40 (PB!)

Position: 23,843/39,967  

Gender position: 3,107

Category Position: 1,548

Medal: Yes

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Despite the fact that I have been telling literally everyone I run into that I was going to be running Paris marathon, it hadn’t quite registered until race morning, when I hauled myself out of bed at about 5:30am, slathered myself in bodyglide and lycra, and haphazardly stuffed things deemed ‘important’ (race number, garmin, hotel key) into my bag.  I left my hotel and walked the deserted Parisian streets – well, about 3 of them – to Naomi’s parents’ apartment for breakfast.  Everyone was already up, and extremely dozy, as we stuffed breakfast food with as much appeal as cardboard into our mouths, and triple checked that everything was in order.

Once 7:30 arrived, Naomi, Rhona, and I, wrapped in our 5 euro men’s, long-sleeved white shirts, along with Naomi’s parents, set off for the start.  It was quite chilly, and I was glad we had made the effort to buy a throwaway layer to keep us warm in the starting pens, as we were very aware that being non-elite runners, there would be a substantial amount of hanging around before we crossed the start mats.

Thankfully, the skies were blue, and the sun was rising fast – a welcome change to the overcast and breezy weather we had experienced so far in France.  Before we knew it, the Arc de Triomphe was in sight, and the streets burst to life with fellow runners.

Approaching the start area.

Approaching the start area.

The three of us took advantage of the comparatively short toilet queues before taking some obligatory pre-marathon photos.  It is at about this time, it finally sunk in that I actually had to run a marathon – an emotional experience I felt Naomi’s dad managed to capture perfectly while I was lost in my own thoughts:

What. The. Fuck. Have. I. Done.

What. The. Fuck. Have. I. Done.

Maybe the fact that my foot had been screaming the past few days as we had been walking about Paris (thanks to my own stupidity), or the fact that my training (or lack thereof) consisted of only one (as in, less than two) run a week – my long run – was playing on my mind. Spoiler: the answer is ‘YES’, these two things were most definitely at the forefront of my thoughts before the start, and I was not a beacon of supreme confidence at this point.  Nevertheless, I shrugged off my lack of amazing preparation to smile/grimace/photograph badly with Naomi and Rhona:

My outfit, for now, like my thoughts, are more subdued.

My outfit, for now, like my thoughts, are more subdued.

Arc du Triomphe, from the other side.

Arc du Triomphe, from the other side.

After frantically putting our white shirts back on, we headed towards the start pens.  Rhona, who was initially using this as part of her taper for the Highland Fling, had changed her mind and was now going for a PB after a favourable performance at the D33 last month.  Because of the change of heart, she pushed to the front of the 4:15 pen with an aim to follow the 4 hour pacers.  Naomi, on the other hand, was gunning for 4:45 or faster, and was aiming to follow the somewhat pleasant backside of the 4:30 pacer for as long as she could!  In the past few weeks, I have only had a couple of simple goals for this race:

  1. Finish
  2. Run the whole way
  3. Beat my time at Loch Ness (4:30:08 – those 8 bastard seconds!)

Goal 3 wasn’t really all that important to me, and goal 1 was going to happen even if I had to crawl, but I was determined not to walk no matter how much I was hurting.  I hadn’t told anyone at the time, but my grandfather has stomach cancer, and a couple of weeks ago he was told he had anywhere from 1 to 7 weeks left.  The reason for my visit in 2011/2012 was not just a family visit, but a visit to see him while he was still well enough to enjoy our company, and I couldn’t help leaving in floods of tears.  The fact that he can still get up to have a few small meals, or potter around in the garden despite the pain he must be in makes me feel ashamed of complaining about a bit of muscle fatigue, and essentially I wanted to run this race for him.  For me, stopping to walk meant failure, and that was that.

I decided to start with Naomi, so we kept each other company in the pens, which is just as well, because we were stuck there for an awfully long time.  At 8:45 we heard the start for the elites, and then we danced to questionable tunes for the next 40 minutes wondering how long we had left, and trying to stop shivering (mostly, that was me).

Deceptively cold in the pens.

Deceptively cold in the pens.

Several thousand runners.  Ahead of us.

Several thousand runners. Ahead of us.

Suddenly there was a forward surge, and Naomi and I excitedly stripped off our warm shirts and crept forward, only to grind to another halt after about 5 minutes.  Stuck again, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re taking part in the world’s second largest (now official!) marathon.  A French couple, distracted by my chattering teeth, took pity on us and started vigorously rubbing our arms to try and warm us up, but I resorted to picking up an extra layer from a pile of discarded ponchos, which served me well for the next 5 or so minutes.

Finally, we surged forwards again, and when the start line came into view I ditched my outer layer once more, and pressed ‘start’ on my Garmin just before I reached the timing mats.  We were off!

The first thing that I noticed was how un-crowded we were.  I mean, I know that some of the elite runners were already halfway done, and others had been running for nearly an hour already, and yes, the street we were on was pretty wide, but at the start I didn’t feel at all boxed in or as if I had to dodge people.  I also noticed that the low sun was directly in my face, but I was happy to see it!

Naomi and I stuck together for about half a mile, before the adrenaline of actually starting dragged me ahead, faster than the pace I had planned to run.  I was going to stick with the pace I had run my training runs at (especially because I have Edinburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 marathon on the 14th), but I got bored of glancing at my watch and slowing myself down after about a mile, so I just ignored my pace and tucked in behind a couple of guys who seemed to be going at a similar speed to me.  They may have thought I was some weirdo stalker, but I don’t understand enough French to know what they were talking about, so I’ll just imagine they were complimenting that chick behind them with effortless grace.

The crowds, from the start, were amazing.  I didn’t think anyone would really be able to read the name on my bib, but I heard “Allez Rochelle!” shouted out regularly, and when you caught the eye of the person cheering, you couldn’t help but smile.  In fact, I think I spent about 90% of the entire marathon with a goofy grin plastered all over my face as I took in the spectators, the landmarks, the costumes, the panoply of languages overheard (Yes, I just did).  I think a special shout out to the pompiers of Paris is more than deserved, as the firemen made regular appearances along the course, even sitting atop a ladder that hung out over the runners like a bridge, cheering and shouting with almost drunken enthusiasm!  The following photo is stolen shamelessly from the Runner’s World website, and shows what I mean, though they were not in this particular location this year:

Allez, allez, allez!

Allez, allez, allez!

Every mile, my Garmin would beep, and on the occasions that I actually heard it, I automatically looked down to see my pace for the mile I had just completed.  Every time I looked down, it started with a 9, although I felt like I was taking an easy jog, and holding conversations with complete strangers whilst not at all out of breath.  Not such a big deal, considering I’d only done about 13 miles.

It was around the halfway point that I spotted an IRN BRU vest up ahead, a sure sign that I was approaching a Scot!  Sure enough, Fiona was a Scot, who happened to be living in France and running the Paris marathon for the 3rd (at least) time!  She mentioned the tunnels/underpasses as being the worst part of the race (at around miles 16-18), but confirmed that there should be no other nasty surprises on the sensationally flat course.  As visual evidence of how relaxed I was feeling at this stage, here is one of my official race photos that just happens to feature the IRN BRU clad expat chatting away with me:

I am actually considering paying for this race photo.

I am actually considering paying for this race photo.

Aside – I am convinced that part of my delirious happiness was due to being bathed in actual sunlight after possibly the shittiest spring I have experienced thus far.

Splits (miles 1-13):
1 – 9:47
2 – 9:47
3 – 9:34
4 – 9:42
5 – 9:46
6 – 9:37
7 – 10:05
8 – 9:44
9 – 9:44
10 – 9:51
11 – 9:24
12 – 9:29
13 – 9:37

Eventually, I lost Fiona, and continued on my way, dorky grin and all.  Water/refreshment stops were every 5k, and apart from the first one, I think I swooped by them all to pick up a bottle of cold water, which I would carry with me until the next stop and then replace (I am a fan of cold liquids).  I also indulged in most of the goods on offer – a couple of banana halves, some (delicious) orange segments, a couple of sugar cubes (because, why not?).  The only negatives about the refreshment stops would be the fact that they were all heaving with runners, so it was more of a sideways dodge towards the tables, and then a sideways dodge back out to continue running, which sucks on stiff hips, as well as the obvious perils of wet orange and banana peels strewn about the ground, especially when the ground happened to be downhill cobbles.  I watched a man completely crash out ahead of me, and I swooped down to retrieve his water bottle as he recovered.  It was rather spectacular (and I can say that because he was OK, and carried on).

At about mile 16, we veered downhill to run alongside the Seine.  It was fantastic running under all of the bridges with crowds of people on them cheering us on.  It is also about this point that my quads started to hurt, just like they did during Loch Ness.  What.  The. Fuck.  Thankfully, I am rather stubborn, and ignored the pain.  Also, as I was looking up at the spectators on one of the bridges, I heard someone shout, “Go Rachel Go!” and spotted Naomi’s family cheering fiercely from above!  I shot them a smile and a wave (and was told later I looked completely relaxed), and carried on, waving at all the boat passengers on tourist cruises that happened to be going past at the time.

We also reached some underpasses, which affected the satellite signal to my Garmin (hence the rather erratic splits for mile 16 and 17).  The inclines coming out of the underpasses actually weren’t that terrible, and I smiled (again – there was a bunch of smiling) when I realized that was the worst of it!  The masses of cheering crowds as you ran up the slight incline might have also helped.  At this point, the quad pain was still pretty bearable, and I continued on at a similar pace.

Splits (miles 14 – 18)
14 – 9:49
15 – 9:45
16 – 14:04 (underpass)
17 – 5: 19 (average pace for miles 16 – 17 would be 9:42)
18 – 9:46

From about mile 18/19, the course started getting narrower, and more and more people decided that stopping suddenly in the middle of the course to walk was a fabulous idea.  This meant a lot of highly painful ninja-esque dodging just to stay upright and facing forwards.  The crowds, whilst still amazing, also started to encroach on the course (to the extent that at one point I spotted spectators on the blue line that measures out the marathon!).  This also meant my split times started to suffer a bit, but in all honesty, they probably would have started to suffer at least a little without the added bonus of navigating a human obstacle course.  Because quads.

Splits (miles 19 – 23)
19 – 10:19
20 – 9:54
21 – 9:53
22 – 10:29 (ouch)
23 – 10:04

As soon as I passed the 23 mile marker, I just kept telling myself that I only had 5k left.  30 minutes, tops.  That’s nothing!  I tried to speed up, but noticed no great change in my pace.  I was really suffering now, but considering I’d come this far, there was absolutely no way that I was going to stop to walk.  At this point, some grunting commenced.

Miles 24 and 25 were a bit of a blur, and we were running through a park where spectator support was thinner than it had been, but that was OK, because I was saving my finale for the final mile (obviously – it would be stupid to bring on a finale at mile 4).  In the spirit of the Breakfast Run the day before, I decided to ‘represent’ one last time during my Paris jaunt, and as soon as I passed the mile marker informing me that I had completed 25 miles, out came the flag-cape for a victory mile!

'Murica.  Fuck Yeah.

‘Murica. Fuck Yeah.

More smiling.

More smiling.

Out of nowhere, we were onto cobbled roads surrounded by swarms of people cheering.  There were some enthusiastic “GO USA!” cheers (and a snub from a group of Canadians I waved to), and the announcer even gave me a shout-out as I crossed the line nearly 12 minutes faster than my first marathon.  As I had my Garmin switched to display pace and heart rate, I had no idea how I had actually done (though I pretty much knew I’d run a PB), so I was absolutely delighted to switch over and see the time:

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Splits (miles 24-26.2)
24 – 9:52
25 – 9:56
26 – 10:11
.2 – 9:30

I stumbled through the finishers’ area, collected my medal, t-shirt, some powerade, and a banana, and headed to our prearranged meeting spot to find Rhona (who finished in 4:05:xx, smashing her PB), and await Naomi (who finished in 4:39:xx, also crushing her PB).  Three finishers and three PB’s made for three happy ladies in need of celebration:

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IMG_20130407_152337And celebrate we did!  I have rarely tasted a cheeseburger as good as the one I inhaled that night, and I anticipate equal or greater pleasure from my cheesburger after the Texas marathon next January!

La Course du P’tit Dej’ (The Breakfast Run) 2013

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This gallery contains 9 photos.

One of the reasons I had enough clothes to justify checking in a bag as well as taking a substantial carry on for a 4 night trip was the Breakfast Run – a 5k fun run starting at Ecole Militaire … Continue reading

Paris Marathon 2013 – The expo!

Having never been to a proper race expo before, I was mildly excited about attending the  Paris marathon expo on Friday morning.  But also mildly concerned.  This is because it is necessary to have a medical certificate signed by your doctor in order to receive your race number.  Even though I had printed off the template provided by the Paris marathon website, and even though my two running companions, Rhona and Naomi, were desperately clutching their exact replicas, we couldn’t fully relax until we had them handed over and accepted.  It is this unnecessary fear that allowed me to forget about the cold morning as we waited in line for the expo to open at 10:

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Everything was really organized when we got in, and after getting the medical certificate stamped as ‘accepted’, we went on to collect our race bibs:

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Despite being in a city renowned for its style, I couldn’t be bothered styling my freshly cut hair, and opted for the ‘I decided 45 minutes extra in bed with wet hair straight out of the shower trumps effort’ was a far more appropriate look for a serious athlete.  You know, since we were meant to be conserving energy and such.

After picking up our bib numbers, it was time to fail to exercise some self restraint when it came to buying stuff.  Lots of stuff.  Despite planning on ‘just browsing’, there were so many stalls, and I ended up leaving the expo with a memento Paris marathon shirt, some sweet purple compression sleeves, and some new super pretentious shoes that even come with a card so you can register them.  Really.  I did like the colours, though, and Rhona swears by the ones she was given to test (which are a less fabulous off-white):

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The other cool thing about the expo was the Good Luck wall, where runners were invited to leave inspirational messages/their names/etc.  I was a little overcome with emotion when I spotted a runner from Albury, Australia, as that’s the little town my mum is from, and where my grandparents live (and also where I was visiting when I had taken up running again in December 2011).

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Considering one of my main goals for Paris was to run the whole way, no matter how much I was hurting, this simple message really meant a lot.  That didn’t stop me from being an immature asshole when I signed the wall, in anticipation of the ‘P’tit Dej’ 5k Breakfast Run the following day…

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There were kids around, so at least I had the decency not to actually swear, I guess.  Anyway, travelling with two highly patriotic Scots meant that I had to really step up my game to represent!  Obviously, I took this to mean ‘be the most obnoxious American abroad you can be’.

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After the expo, we had some lunch, relaxed a little, had some dinner, and then took a walk to let our food settle a bit, and to take in the Eiffel Tower light show at 9pm:

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After a quick stop at Naomi’s mum and dad’s Paris flat, I headed back to my hotel for a reasonably early night.

I am a walking disaster.

If you were to compile a list of things to do just days before a marathon, I can guarantee that unless you were compiling said list for someone you loathed, it would not contain the following item:

  • Bash your foot off of your friend’s baby gate with enough force to cause swelling and pain every time pressure is applied.

Except that’s exactly what I did yesterday.  I have been walking about on it (use it or lose it) and icing it with a chunk of frost from my minuscule freezer (I guess I can say I’ve defrosted part of the freezer as part of my super productive day), and it seems to be getting less painful, particularly in the shoes I’ll be running in.

Icing the foot - ignore the remains of a 6 month old pedicure.

Icing the foot – ignore the remains of a 6 month old pedicure.

Still, considering we all fly out tomorrow (!!!!!!!!!!), I had a lot of stuff to get done today. Stop one was the bank to let them know that if, oh I don’t know, a payment went through for a hotel in Paris, PLEASE so not block my card like you did when I went to Australia last!  I am assured that everything will run smoothly.  I will believe that when I am home.

Step two was groceries, because I am cooking up some killer pasta tonight.

Step three was travel insurance.  Essential.  Especially since I am such a klutz.  I mean, no more than 5 minutes after I left the travel shop with my insurance, did I manage to drop a shopping basket onto my nose.  I don’t know how either.  Unbelievable.  It is currently (hours later) still throbbing.  This is how I feel about what I have done to myself in the last 24 hours, which, by the way, are meant to be restful.  Relaxing.  Sedate.  Notice I did not say: self-destructive.

Feel free to admire my tinted lashes.

Feel free to admire my tinted lashes.

Still, I have managed to not tear a limb from myself so far, and I don’t really need to do anything too dangerous today, like peel a banana or use the toilet unaided, so hopefully I will not have to resort to drastic measures:

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In other news, two of our party of three (aside – that totally reminds me of ‘Party of Five’, which I loved) have decided to participate in the Breakfast Run, a 5k on the Saturday morning before the marathon on the Sunday.  Runners are encouraged to represent the countries they come from.  Luckily, Amazon does next day delivery, so now I have the flag, the tights, and the leotard to assault the eyesight of many with my stars, and stripes, and more stars:

906779_148872881956141_231277597_oUnfortunately, with all the errand running today I didn’t have time for the yoga class I was going to go to, but that’s maybe a good thing, since yoga and I do not really get along.  In fact, my yoga experience can be summed up in one image:

yogaHere’s to a relaxing and SAFE rest of the week (and beyond).  To everyone running Paris on Sunday, I’ll be the black and blue one!