Hasta la Vista, 2013!

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I am currently gearing up for a raucous New Year’s Eve here in Houston.  I’m planning on whipping up some cinnamon spiced pancakes, courtesy of Chef John’s dulcet voice.  Or plain spaghetti.  It depends on how settled my stomach is … Continue reading

Glen Clova 1/2 marathon 2013

Time: 2:09:52 [Results here]

Medal: No, but ‘back by popular demand’ was the Glen Clova 1/2 mug!

IMG_20131109_162400 Ronnie, Susan, and I were the only ones we knew who had managed to secure a place for this race.  Entries opened, and all 350 spaces were snapped up before the end of the day (Susan managing to bag space 349!).  Although all three of us had had a less than stellar week (Susan: exhausted, Ronnie: swollen leg, me: limping on sore foot), the forecast of clear skies and no wind, coupled with the fact that we missed out on this race last year, meant that we were committed to finishing, even if it meant walking over the line.

Susan and I were picked up outside my flat at 9:30, and we began the scenic drive towards the Glen Clova hotel and community hall, where registration, the start, and the finish were.  Although mildly alarmed by the temperature reading from Ronnie’s car (-1) and clear evidence of frozen things outside, we were hopeful that the sun would melt anything too treacherous/heat the place up a bit before the race start at 12.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by an array of club vests (translation: fast people), and felt a bit out of our depth when during registration as we listened to people telling their friends they would “take it easy today with a 7 minute mile pace.”  Susan and I agreed on a more modest 10 minute mile pace to jog along to, and left our music in Ronnie’s car.

Ronnie fervently checking out his race goodies outside the hall.

Ronnie fervently checking out his race goodies outside the hall.

About 10 minutes before the start, we emerged from the warm comforts of Ronnie’s car and made our way to the start, making ourselves comfortable near the back.  It’s not a chip-timed race, but quite frankly we were all just keen to get around in one piece.  The views in the valley were stunning, but I couldn’t help noticing a rectangular patch of trees which I referred to as the ‘Hollywood strip’, for reasons I doubt I have to explain.  I forgot to take a photo, but got one at a crappier angle as we drove home:

Hollywood Strip

Hollywood Strip

The starting horn went, and there was a mad rush of vested runners eager to get on their way.  It was kind of a relief that the three of us had decided to stick together, but as usual, Ronnie was picking up the pace (my Garmin was saying 8:xx minute miles at the beginning there), so Susan and I let him drift ahead, while I stopped at the top of a hill to readjust my sock, which was uncomfortably bunched up under the sole of my right foot.

Don’t let the sunshine in the pictures fool you; it was cold.  After having such a freakishly nice summer, it was a bit of a shock to the system breathing in icy gulps of air and running on stiff, unresponsive feet.  Frost does make things very pretty, however, so we opted to stop again (yes, I stopped twice in 2 miles, I was taking the ‘easy’ bit very seriously) to photograph some nature and stuff: IMG_20131109_152440The first 6 miles seemed to take forever, despite quality company in the form of Susan, and it was full of undulations; no major hills that made you swear under your breath, but enough to be a bit of a struggle.  A woman who had run the course before assured us that the way back was much nicer.  She did not lie.

At about mile 7, Susan and I were both feeling tired, but enjoying the race.  The miles started ticking by more quickly, and in my opinion, the views are nicer on the way back (bigger hills in the distance).  We even managed to spot some para-gliders coming off the hills ahead of us!

Taken from Ronnie's car on the drive home.  Tiny dots = para-gliders

Taken from Ronnie’s car on the drive home. Tiny dots = para-gliders

The course on the way back

The course on the way back

Around mile 8, out of some shrubbery to our right, popped Ronnie, who had been relieving himself (or burrowing a hole for warmth, who knows, it was freezing).  He said he was enjoying the race, and that he felt good, but he was starting to tire.  We slowly pulled away, but he managed to stay about 30 seconds behind us for the remainder of the race.

From about 10 miles, Susan and I were both pretty fatigued.  The course became a bit more undulating here, and we felt no shame in walking the inclines to save enough energy to look as though we were comfortable in front of the spectators at the end.  I mean, that’s important stuff there.  We crossed the line together in just under 2:10, and we were pleased enough with that.  Ronnie came in shortly afterwards, and we headed into the Glen Clova Hotel for some warmth, and to my delight, hot lentil soup and bread rolls!

Keen to get home before sunset (about 4:15 in Scotland this time of year – I know, it’s gross), we bundled into the car to finish our soup:

I don't know what I liked more: the flavour or the warmth!

I don’t know what I liked more: the flavour or the warmth!

IMG_20131109_152254

The keen-eyed people might notice the temperature is now a SCORCHING 2.5 degrees….

We only slowed at one point, so that I could snap a photo for two reasons:

1. mildy amusing place-name
2. atmosphere

IMG_20131109_231025

Today (Sunday), my foot is feeling a little tender, but I’m not limping like I have been for most of the past week, which annoyingly has meant a slight setback for my “get back into better shape” plan.  Hopefully, though, I’m back on track from this weekend after a half marathon, and an 8 mile recovery run on the trails today.

Dundee half DRAM 2013

Gun time: 2:01:24

Garmin time: 2:00:51

Medal: Yes

IMG_20130721_173001This is the first race where not only have I seriously considered DNS’ing, but I have also legitimately feared I would DNF.  Regular readers may now be used to the fact that I don’t take rest and relaxation before a race seriously, but Sunday’s half marathon was something else.  But hey, at least I learnt something, as I’m fairly sure I could cope with a half Iron Man without any further training.  It just wouldn’t be pretty.

I started off my week with a 6.5 mile run on Monday, followed by an 8 mile run on Tuesday.  Wednesday was a punishing spin and abs class, with a 30 minute warm up on the elliptical, and Thursday was my long run, 17.5 punishing miles.  Considering I’m a city dweller, most of my runs are relatively flat, so Thursday was noteworthy:

Screenshot 2013-07-21 at 17.28.31

 

Friday was a quick almost-four mile run up a hill and back down, and Saturday was a 60 mile cycle with Ian and our friend Dylan through Aberdeenshire hills.  My quads were not impressed by this:

Screenshot 2013-07-21 at 17.22.53

 

Yet we remained in good spirits, posing by a stone circle next to a farm:

Dylan and myself perfecting our catalogue poses.

Dylan and myself perfecting our catalogue poses.

Ian being the alpha male

Ian being the alpha male

After our cycle, Ian and I had an enormous dinner and felt hungover for the rest of the evening.  Obviously we need to tweak how much water/fuel we take in during these longer rides.  I reluctantly set my alarm for 6:30 am on Saturday night, and resigned myself to the fact that tomorrow was going to be unpleasant.  I have only myself to blame.

Despite feeling like I got precisely 3.7 minutes sleep, several time keeping devices assured me that Sunday morning had arrived, and I needed to get dressed and make my way to Ronnie’s for a lift to Dundee.  Sidenote: Ronnie has started his own running blog, and you could do worse things than click through on the link and have a read.  I was first to arrive, followed shortly by Susan, and finally Lauren, and her mountain bike.  You see, our lift was only one-way this time, as Lauren and Ronnie were heading off for mini-adventure straight after the race, so Susan and I were getting the train back to Aberdeen.  After using my master Tetris skills to slot Lauren’s bike into the car, we were off.

An hour later, we had arrived at Camperdown Park, and we quickly got registered.  The fact that it was a real effort to walk uphill to registration was not a good sign.  Neither was the fact that Susan was suffering pretty badly from car-sickness.  Ronnie was gunning for a good time, and while the half DRAM is ‘chip timed’, there are only timing mats at the end, so you essentially get a gun time.  Susan and I were feeling like crap, so we eventually persuaded Ronnie that he would be better off leaving us behind.  Turns out he was, because that’s the last we saw of him until the finish!  We were, however, joined by Teri at the start, who was up for an ‘easy run’, which is why she obviously decided to run with me and Susan.  Way to boost our ego.  I jest.  Kind of.

Before we had a chance to kill any last shred of enthusiasm, we were off.  The first couple of miles are kind of uphill through trails, and, like last year, it was pretty congested.  I knew this would be the case, but I also knew I would be hurting, so I actually didn’t mind the hold up (at one point we came to a complete stop).  I was seemingly in decent enough spirits at this point, if photographs are anything to go by:

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Teri and Susan are on either side of me in this photo, but obscured by people.  How inconsiderate of them.

We eventually came out of the trails, and then started going downhill on what seemed like a cycle path.  By this point the sun had come out, and I was feeling better.  My companions seemed to appreciate this heat a lot less than I did, but we kept a remarkably alright pace.  Strangely, it was even feeling effortless, and every time I glanced down at my watch, I was amazed to see that we were at least a mile further than I thought.  I guess delirium will do that to you.

Around mile 7, Susan was beginning to struggle, and told us she was going to take a walk break, but urged us to go on.  We decided we would take an extended walk break through the next water station to allow her to catch up, but she’d had a pretty shitty week that had caught up to her, and her race kind of fell apart here, we later found out.  Teri and I went on together, and nothing noteworthy happened.  At about mile 11, Teri decided she quite fancied a sub 2 finishing time, and tried to convince me to speed up.  Her words of motivation fell of stubborn ears, and I told her the only way she would get sub 2 is if she left me behind.  Which she did.  At remarkable speed.  She even caught Ronnie!

Just over two hours after I had started, I crossed the line feeling strong, and not sweating.  Unlike my friends, which I found out, to my horror, when I had to touch them during our group photo at the finish:

1073053_185320574978038_1389547861_oAfter the race, we got on the next bus back to the start, and began the mad rush to transport me and Susan to the train station.  We made our train with about four minutes to spare, and then finally had a chance to relax as we made our way back to Aberdeen.

15 half marathons, complete!

 

Loch Leven half marathon 2013

Time: 1:59:01

Medal: No, but as it was the race’s 30th anniversary, they splashed out on a commemorative tech tee for all finishers.

The back of the t-shirt

The back of the t-shirt

I’ll freely admit that one of the reasons I signed up to this race is because they were offering a tech tee to all finishers for the anniversary, even though it was clear that this would not benefit my medal haul in any way.  But there was a much more significant reason I decided to take part.  And it’s all down to a fridge magnet.

About 2 years ago, Ian, myself, and our friend Liell decided to visit Loch Leven castle, which happens to be on an island in the middle of, you guessed it, Loch Leven.  To get to the castle you need to catch a boat from the visitor’s centre, where we paid for our ticket and got in line behind a young family.

During our wait, a guy came up and started speaking to the young family.  It was one of those ‘Wow, small world, how are you doing?’ conversations.  He was soon joined by a couple of children pulling at his leg/drooling/making annoying noises.  Then came the wife/mother.  A flawless line cut.  I  was onto their game, and made towards them to articulate my unhappiness about the whole situation, but Ian told me it didn’t matter, because there would be enough room on the boat for everyone.  You can see where this is going, I would imagine.

There was not enough room on the boat.

As the two families sailed towards the island, I held my tongue like a responsible and mature adult, and once they were out of earshot, took out my rage on Ian, who was clearly irritated about the situation as well, but tends to be one of those people who silently simmers, whereas I will explode, act like a dick, and feel equal parts embarrassment and satisfaction after an angry episode.

Eventually, we got a boat to the island, and enjoyed the (beautiful, and totally worth going to visit) castle.  When we were ready to head back, we saw the same family boarding  (and filling) the boat that was about to leave, and had to wait, again, because of the size of their group. By the time we finally got back to the gift shop, it had closed.  This pissed me off because:

  1. I wanted to buy ice-cream, and I had been denied this option
  2. Every time I visit a castle, I buy a souvenir fridge magnet from the gift shop, and now my collection would be incomplete.

Number 2 was obviously more emotionally damaging than I first thought it would be, since over 2 years later I felt it was necessary to enter a half marathon on the basis that I could finally complete my fridge magnet collection. I swear to god, I do have social skills, and I have real friends.  I even have two who had agreed to accompany (and drive) me to Loch Leven:

Proof.

Proof.

[The above photo took, like, ten tries to make sure all of our heads were in shot.  We absolutely looked like assholes in the parking lot.]

Once we had registered, I quickly realized that I was under dressed for the weather, especially next to my two cosy companions with their base layers, and their running jackets, and their hats, and long sleeves.  I guess the freakish sunny/warm weather the weekend before had lulled me into a false sense of security, but who can blame a girl for wanting to get rid of her t-shirt tan?

Teri (happy and warm) and myself (the opposite of that)

Teri (happy and warm) and myself (the opposite of that)

I was ordered to 'smile!'

I was ordered to ‘smile!’

Anyway, the race sold out this year (600), so we huddled next to the other runners as we listened to the bagpipes before the start.  We had decided to run as a group, and set off at a very casual pace, especially as it took about half a mile for the crowds to thin out a bit and find a natural rythm.

Mile 1 – 9:11

Could this be the first half that I finish in under two hours this year?  That first mile felt fairly conservative, and Ronnie and Teri seemed comfortable as well, so we pushed on happily.  Of course, we were pushing on more than we had realized:

Mile 2 – 8:33
Mile 3 – 8:33
Mile 4 – 8:32
Mile 5 – 8:30
Mile 6 – 8:20

Now, my PB is 1:53:28, which is an average pace of 8:37.  I’m still not completely over Paris since I didn’t really give myself a break afterwards, and I hadn’t really rested properly, or been training specifically for a half marathon, so I already knew I was being dumb, and that logic would be right when it told me, “Rachel, you will not be able to maintain this pace.  Slow the fuck down.”   Logic is a bummer sometimes, and I opted for a more carefree approach to my new ‘Destroy my PB’ strategy that appeared out of nowhere, around mile 4.

Ronnie was starting to do his steam engine breathing, but I pleaded with him to keep going at this pace for as long as he could.  Teri was not offering much in the way of conversation either, so I knew we were all kind of pushing way harder than we had intended to.

Me (luminous orange) and Ronnie (black) at around the 6 mile mark.  Photo: Nichola Ritchie

Me (luminous orange) and Ronnie (black) at around the 6 mile mark. Photo: Nichola Ritchie

Ronnie knew I was keeping track of time, and told me to go ahead.  It is around this point that we had started heading back around the other side of the Loch.  Into some pretty strong headwind.  Oh, and up a hill, heralding the start of the course’s ‘undulations’.

Mile 7 – 8:40

This is when things got crappy.  I hadn’t really looked at the elevation profile for the course, and despite a veteran Loch Leven half marathoner warning us in the morning that the first half is relatively flat, and the second half was a mean kick in the teeth, I had chosen to believe that he was completely wrong.  It turns out he wasn’t, much to my chagrin.

Mile 8 – 9:33

Mile 9 – 9:45

Well terrific.  My excitement at running a killer time was killed just as quickly as it appeared.  Today was not going to be a PB day.  But I could still make it to the finish in less than two hours, right?  This became my new goal.  In a race that I started with no goals.

Miles 10 – 13.1 – ???

I stopped looking at my watch close to mile 10 when I got a stitch.  I tried to run through it.  I tried to slow down and keep running.  And then I was forced to walk for a couple of minutes until it went away.  When I started running again, it felt laboured, and somewhere around mile 12, Teri caught up with me.  The two of us ‘encouraged’ each other and we were blasted by gusts of wind from every direction except from behind, and we stuck together until the end, coming in, much to our amazement at that point, in under 2 hours.  For a relatively modest time, we were elated.  But our bodies were trashed.

Ronnie came in about 4 minutes later and was pretty happy with his time as well.  It was his most consistent run since he picked up his injury last year, so hopefully this means he’s back on track to start kicking my ass.  Unfortunately, it also means my running buddy will be too fast for me, so I’ll have to actually start racing properly again.  After today’s performance, that seems like it’s going to hurt a bit.

After the race, we all found a couple of other people we knew who were there for a chat and some orange juice, and then we headed back to the car.

But we weren’t done just yet.  Our final stop for the day was the Loch Leven Castle visitor’s centre, where in exchange for a couple of pounds, I finally got my fridge magnet.

Run Garioch 1/2 marathon 2013

Time: 2:10:xx (ish)

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

IMG_20130324_141655

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.

Screenshot 2013-03-23 at 19.49.34

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.

Forfar multi terrain half marathon 2013

Time: 2:10:09 [Results Here]

Medal: No

The girls, arranged by height - before the run.

The girls, arranged by height – before the run.

After walking about like a cripple yesterday, I would be lying if I said I was feeling ultra confident about getting out of bed in the morning unaided, let alone running a multi terrain half marathon.  In all honesty, if I hadn’t arranged to run with people in the first place, this could have been another dreaded DNS.  But during the 8 minutes it took me to walk from my bedroom to the toilet for my morning slash (roughly ten meters), I had convinced myself that a ‘short run’ would help ‘loosen up’ the concrete pillars that were my legs.  Ahhhh, blind faith.

I haphazardly chucked a selection of clothes into my duffel bag, along with some shampoo and deodorant (there were rumours of post race showers), and set about shovelling Weetabix minis into my mouth whilst browsing the BBC website and trying to ignore the fact that my hip flexors felt like they would, at any moment, snap.  I was somewhat calmed by the fact that I may not be the biggest gimp in our group: one of us was just coming back from a foot injury, one was suffering with some ITB issues, and one had run 16 miles the day before.  If anything, this race would be a social affair, not a PB hunting mission.

A happy camper I was not.

A happy camper I was not.

I was picked up just after 8:30am by Ronnie, despite texting him to say he could take as much time as he liked having his breakfast.  I had to literally pull my legs into the car after me, and for some reason this was funny as hell to Ronnie, who, when he inquired about how I was feeling, was immediately told to ‘Piss Off.’  I demanded we stop at a gas station so that I could purchase some kind of sports drink, and I bought him a coffee (I’m not a complete bitch), before we continued onwards to Stonehaven to pick up Kate and Rhona.

Totally immune to my grumpiness.

Totally immune to my grumpiness.

Once on board, Rhona and Kate joined in our spirited discussion about what finely honed athletes we all were, and we arrived at Strathmore Rugby Club in Forfar with an hour to go before the start.

We all registered and used the toilets, before heading back to the car to get ready and slowly brave the elements by peeling off warm layers of clothing.  We saw all the other runners warming up by running along one of the muddy paths, but we opted for ‘Olympic Kate Lifting’ to get the blood pumping:

IMG_20130203_163707It didn’t really work very well, because we all had numb toes and, I am convinced, the beginnings of hypothermia as we listened to the race briefing, had a minute of applause for one of the local runners who had passed away at the start of the year, and made our way to the start.  I can’t remember hearing a gun or a whistle, but we realized the pack was moving forward, so we all set off!

We had all been e-mailed a few days before to let us know that the course had been altered this year.  Apparently the notorious ‘water section’ of the course was deemed too unsafe, so the section was cut out, and a few more farm track/road sections were put in.  We had also been warned at the start that the weather over the past few weeks had been pretty bad, and that the land would be waterlogged.  This was no lie.

Within the first mile, Ronnie’s dashing new trail shoes looked like they had been on the business end of a dog with explosive diarrhea.  The ground was wet, the mud was slippery, there were enormous puddles, and I felt immediate regret about not wearing my sealskin socks (dumb me), as Kate had done (smart lady).

Conversation flitted between weddings, Paris marathon plans, local running events, and being a fairy about your new trail shoes (ahem, Ronnie), and I spent so much time paying attention to where my feet were landing to notice too much of the scenery at the start.  Then the course flitted between muddy trails and road sections, and I spent so much time paying attention to the conversation to notice we were on a slow (very slow)  incline for the majority of the run!

forfar multi terrain elevation 2013The majority.  Because that steep ass section?  Yeah, we all noticed that one.

This ridiculous incline came after one of the grossest sections of the course.  While the traditional water section was scrapped, all runners were treated to an impromptu water section that took a good minute or two to get through, and consisted of thigh deep, freezing water, riddled with shards of ice.  By the time we came out the other side, my legs felt as though they would shatter if I tried to run on them.  But they did not shatter.  It was around this point that we lost Ronnie.  Despite our ‘team’ approach, we all thought he would eventually catch up, and we all felt that if we stopped, it would be too much of an effort to get going again.  So we carried on.  Up the horrible hill.  We are a sucky team.

Forfar multi terrain half marathon route: 2013

Forfar multi terrain half marathon route: 2013

The top of the hill offered some beautiful views of snow-capped mountains in the distance, as well as the loch where we would finish.  There is also a monument at the top, but we never found out what for – we were pretty ready to be done at this point and there was a piercing breeze up there.

Unsurprisingly, my hip flexors were screaming during the entire descent, and I knew I’d suffer for this later, but I just grimaced and carried on, because we were pretty close to the end.  After the 12 mile marker, we started overtaking a few other runners and decided that we would finish in ‘team’ formation – a straight line – to symbolize our unity during the run.

Did I mention we were a sucky team?  Of course it ended up as an accelerating-to-an-almost-sprint finish.  But finish a half marathon we did.  At least nearly.  With the alteration of the course, the final distance was closer to 12.8 miles than 13.1, but you won’t hear any complaints from me about that.  A couple of minutes later, Ronnie appeared, but from the wrong direction, having taken a wrong turn at the very end.  He looked wiped out, and went to the car to sit down and eat something to recover:

(Rhona's photo)

(Rhona’s photo)

We decided to go and clean up – and I completely regretted wearing my ‘good’ trainers.

IMG_20130203_161739We found the ladies changing rooms, and quickly realized that the ‘showers’ consisted of a room with a bunch of shower heads on the wall.  Cosy.  Sorry to disappointing any readers hoping for a super graphic description of women soaping each other up – we were very modest and showered in our underwear, before getting into warm, dry, clean clothes, and heading for the “legendary spread” of food that was promised on the Forfar Road Runners website.  Unfortunately, as Rhona commented, we need to get faster if we want to enjoy a good selection of food.  I grabbed a couple of triangles of egg sandwich and considered myself lucky to get anything at all.  Then we had a beer and hung around for prize-giving while Ronnie and Kate got massages.

Once back in the car, we hunted down the 3 mile marker where Ronnie had dumped some gear during the race.  My struggle to get out of the car and complete the 5 meter walk to retrieve his bag clearly provided quality entertainment for everyone still inside the car, if laughter was anything to go by.  Yes, I heard you, you heartless monsters.  Then we dropped Kate and Rhona off in Stonehaven, before cruising back to Aberdeen where I have since spent some quality time with my sofa.

I anticipate a painful spin class tomorrow.

Houston Half Marathon (relay) 2012

Time: 2:00:48

Position: 17/57

Medal: Yes! (And technical t-shirt)

Despite being super tired from the Huntsville half marathon on Saturday (and getting next to no sleep, and BOTH of us failing to indulge in an afternoon snooze/early night), Nikki and I were totally looking forward to the Houston half marathon relay on Sunday morning.  Why? Well, let’s see:

  1. Even though it started an hour earlier than Huntsville, it was significantly closer and we had already picked up our race packets, so we could sleep in an entire hour later than Saturday.  I rose at the leisurely hour of 5:15 (Nikki was coming from her mom’s, so had to be up a smidge earlier).
  2. It was only half the distance.
  3. We were going to get another medal (Nikki is now firmly a medal whore, as she’s scouting for races we can score some at after she births what I can only imagine will be a super fast and super amazing child).

I was picked up just after 6am and we headed downtown, eventually following the enormous trail of cars trying to score free parking (we were successful). Then we started making our way to the race start, and began voicing our concerns over where to start, what happens with the relay teams, what to do with our stuff (I did not shed clothing as it was freezing), etc.  We figured we would get all the answers we wanted if we followed the people in running gear and race bibs:

We found the start line and heard over the loudspeaker that all second leg runners on relay teams (Nikki) should meet on the grassy section by the start/finish line, where they would await first leg runners (me) after we’d run.  Obviously.  There wasn’t much time and people were already starting to line up, so I peeled my extra layers off, told Nikki I’d see her soon, and wedged myself into the hoard of runners for heat.  The horn went, we edged forwards, and then the hundreds of ‘bleep’s went off, letting us know we should probably pick up the pace.

The sun was starting to come up, and it was pretty cool running through Houston’s downtown streets with zero traffic, weaving in and out of the skyscrapers.  After about 3 miles I found myself passing the start line, beginning the second loop of my leg.  I slowed down a bit to scan the crowd, and just when I’d given up hope of catching sight of her, I saw Nikki and heard her shouting encouragement!  I waved and kept going.

We ran along the Allen Parkway until about mile 4, and that’s where the relay runners became separated from the group.  We turned at a bridge, and started running back to the start line.  It was pretty cool being able to watch the mass of runners going in the other direction while a grand total of about 40 people were on your side of the road.  It did make for some pretty self-conscious photos around mile 5 (3 photographers aiming at you because there’s no one else around is less ‘I’m a Rockstar!’ and more ‘Fuck, where do I look?’.

After the stress of paparazzi, it was back under the overpasses and onto the home stretch.  I started to speed up here because I didn’t want any of the 5 people I had overtaken (yes, I counted) to overtake me, and also, I had a flight to catch that afternoon and all extra packing/showering/relaxing time was appealing.

Here I am coming into the relay changeover area.  For once, my face doesn’t look like it has melted, but this could be the sheer joy of seeing Nikki was there with my stuff mixed with the knowledge that I was done!

The woman organizing the handovers was apparently working alone but doing a kick-ass job, because Nikki was waiting for me and had her sweatpants off already.  I reached her, grabbed our stuff, and yelled ‘Go, go, go!’.  She sped off, and then looped around the start back onto the half marathon path for her lonely section until she met up with the half runners a few miles before the finish.

At this point I knew I’d have about an hour, so I collected my medal and headed to the event village where I had a free toothbrush thrust upon my person, and eventually found the food.  I took a moment to have my first ever ‘official’ finisher photo since I’ve never had the opportunity to without a queue!  Then I grabbed some water and a banana, then went back to the finish line to catch the freaks of nature that can run a half marathon in just over an hour.

Three guys came storming in about 2 minutes after I returned, and then more and more runners trickled in.  There was a little girl who seriously can’t have been more than about 8 who came firing into the finishers chute under 1:30:00, and I felt beyond sorry for the fully grown dude trailing her looking totally used.  Who lets kids do these things anyway?

I started noticing some relay bibs coming in (they were yellow instead of white), and kept my eyes peeled for Nikki, camera phone at the ready.  Just after the 2 hour mark (gun time), I spotted her, and blindly aimed my camera into the sunlight hoping to get her in the picture while shouting ‘Come on Nikki!’ or something similar, and making my way to the finishers’ area.  Here she is coming towards the finish:

After congratulating ourselves for getting a better time than yesterday on tired legs, I ushered her towards the food (bypassing the now heaving photo queue), and then we split (again, I had a flight…).  It was only at the car that I looked at the photo I took of Nikki (I hoped) and we both realized that I had captured the most awesome, flattering, and as much as I hate the word, dynamic (it just sounds like what pricks use to describe themselves on resumes) race photograph I’ve ever seen.  And that includes that ridiculously photogenic runner guy.  Witness the beauty:

I mean, that’s the kind of photo that has motivational crap written over it in Nike posters.  Ridiculously good.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous – I’d love a good race photo!

Anyway, back at my parents’ house we said our goodbyes and vowed to run again after she has become a mother.  I showered, packed, cried at the thought of leaving sunshine, went to lunch with my parents, and then had a ‘carve-off’ with my dad.  I stuck with the jail theme:

My dad went for a traditional face emoting ‘surprise’, not a festive take on a blow-up doll, as it first appeared:

And then it was time to head to the airport.  We swung by the diner my brother was working in so I could say goodbye (freaking out the customers with my crying weirdness), and then making everyone at the airport come to the conclusion that I had a fatal disease with more OTT crying.  I am really trying to get on top of that.

The flight home seemed to go ‘around’ Hurricane Sandy, but it was one of the most turbulent flights I’ve been on.  The ‘fasten seat belt’ sign went on after about an hour (of a 9 hour flight), and I can honestly say I never saw it off again until we landed.  I’m terrified of flying anyway, so I was white-knuckling it the entire journey home, getting zero sleep.

Upon arrival (late) at Heathrow, I had to pick up my luggage (no checking through to my final destination available – great), and switch terminals, pretty much running to the bag drop with my purse, jacket, very full duffel bag (containing medals) and 47 lb. suitcase, dodging travelers throughout.  I had to clear security by 8:05 to be allowed on the flight.  I cleared security at 8:05.  I was sweating quite a bit.  And then OF COURSE my flight was delayed.

After finally arriving home, and having amassed a ridiculous 8 hours of sleep in three days, all I can remember doing is showering, eating a handful of candy corn, putting my three new medals on my rack, and then collapsing onto my beautiful bed.  I knew work was going to hurt the next day*.

* Spoiler: It did.  We even had an after-school meeting.  Ugh, jet lag.

Huntsville Half Marathon 2012

Time: 2:18:04 (New PW!)

Position: 156/224  Category Position: 10/19

Medal: Yes! (And a technical t shirt)

This was never going to be a PB race.  This was going to be my first ‘international’ half marathon, and it was also going to be the first half marathon I would run with my friend Nikki, an old school chum that I hadn’t seen in years who happens to be 4 months pregnant.  But this wasn’t always the plan.

Initially, Nikki and I signed up to the Huntsville half marathon because it was a relatively small race, and looking at previous results, we had a chance of actually placing!  It was also pretty cheap to enter.  But this was all before she got knocked up (nb. by her husband; she is not some trashy harlot who knows she’s going to have to part with a lot of money on DNA tests to determine paternity).  She let me know about a month beforehand, and secretly I was relieved, because I was:

a.) still broken from the Loch Ness Marathon, and

b.) NOT accustomed to Texas heat and humidity.

Luckily, for me and everyone else running, a freak cold front hit the day before the half marathon.  I stepped outside bracing myself for instant sweat and sweltering heat only to realize I needed a sweater.  Whatever voodoo trickery was at work, I was grateful.

Nikki traveled up to Houston from Lake Jackson on the Friday afternoon, and we went straight out for food at Star Pizza.  Due to the aforementioned bun in the aforementioned oven, we did not have a pre-race beer.  I mean, I’d feel like such an asshole enjoying a cold one while my jealous, pregnant friend looked on, drooling.  After food, we went where any self-respecting runner who is in need of a Halloween costume goes for supplies: Wal-Mart.

Avoiding the indigenous Wal-Marters, we found what we came for: two black t-shirts, and white duct tape.  A pair of mummies?  Bondage fanatics? No chance.  For Huntsville, home of several prisons and dubbed the most well-known ‘gated community’ in Texas, we would be dressing as convicts.

My good self

Nikki (+1)

It seemed only appropriate as the half marathon root was 2 loops taking in sights such as the Huntsville Prison Unit (also known as the Walls Unit), which was the first state prison built in Texas, and the only prison older than 100 years surrounded by a wall.  The course also took in the Death Chamber, where all executions in Texas have taken place since 1924.  Cheery, right?  The full ‘Historical Tour’ of the route can be found here.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  We got to bed at a reasonable hour, and then woke up again at 4:30, which was a bitch.  By about 5am we were on the road to Huntsville, stopping only for gas (and some junk food, which is really hard to choose when you have to ‘browse’ through the bullet proof glass and pay through a reinforced drawer).  We arrived with plenty of time for packet pick-up, a toilet break, and a half hour power nap in Nikki’s kick-ass car (kick-ass rating increased by heated car seats because it was 44 degrees Fahrenheit – normal for me, ice-age by Texas standards).

About 20 minutes before the start, we decided to acclimatize.  We headed to the start area where we realized nobody else was in costume.  We got many appreciative comments, however, and it was pretty sweet being a minor celebrity (‘those chicks dressed as escapees’).  Before we knew it, we were listening to the national anthem (totally not used to this), and then we were off!

We had decided to aim for anywhere under 2:30:00, and to do this comfortably, we thought 10 minute miles was a good decision.  Unfortunately, we were running sub 9 minute miles for the first few, and Nikki hadn’t been running as much as usual due to, well, carrying around a human parasite and all.  We were also a bit taken aback by all the freaking hills!  Why were there hills?  Texas is supposed to be flat!  In hindsight, the fact that the running club organizing the race is called ‘Seven Hills’ should have tipped me off.  Either way, by mile 5 it was time for our first walk break. Nikki’s back had started to hurt, and she was suffering.  But I didn’t travel 4,000 miles to ditch her next to a prison, right?  Besides, we were nearly done with loop one of two, and we were doing alright!

We kept up with the run some, walk some (the walk breaks becoming longer and more frequent the more Nikki’s back became an asshole), and started to brace ourselves for the hills we knew were coming on our second run around the course.  We sensibly opted to walk the hills and not waste any downhill sections.  As always, the race photos depict the glamour of running:

Gorgeous!

Smouldering!

Erotic.

There is one particular uphill section near the 6/12.5 mile marker where a speed detector (for cars) picked up on the runners.  First time around, Nikki and I hit 7mph.  The second time it didn’t even register.  It was at this point that Nikki was really suffering, and I think I even offered a piggy back over to the finish.  We just kept moving forwards, passing the group of drunk college dudes that called out things like ‘Your hair looks nice!’ and ‘You have beautiful smiles!’.  As soon as we saw the 13 mile marker in the distance, we just went for it.  And for once, my asshole gene did not kick in and have me sprinting full-force across the finish line.  Nikki and I finished together, as a team.  And then hit the pretty sweet post-race spread!

Drunk college boys

Fairly certain that it was unnecessary for us to hang around for the awards ceremony, we decided to get out of the cold and get a couple of ‘tourist’ shots along the course.  We stopped outside the old prison, but a guard in one of the towers yelled ‘No photos!’.  So we crossed the street and pulled the old ‘reverse camera’ trick, capturing a senior runner, still on his second lap, in the background:

We also had to go in search of a t-shirt a girl had mentioned on the run.  A tourist shirt that we eventually found in the prison museum saying ‘I did time in Huntsville’.  It was only right.

And finally?  We did what we had promised ourselves we would do after the half marathon, because, after all, we had a half marathon relay the next day and we needed energy…..

 

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

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!
EDIT:

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: