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!

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:

Screenshot 2013-04-03 at 15.01.14

 

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!

 

 

Una semana

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

¡Una semana hasta el maratón!

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

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

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

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

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

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Besos y abrazos.

xox

Potentially useful phrases for the Paris marathon

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

My quads say ‘no’.

Four weeks until Paris!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If consistency is key, I suck.

Considering I have run a grand total of one excruciating, poorly executed, full marathon, I am hardly what anyone would consider to be an expert.  I am fine with that.  I have, however, done a lot of reading up on the best ways to train for a marathon, and the thing that seems to be common in all training programs, from ‘I just want to finish with my legs still attached’ to ‘5 minute miles?  No problem, sucker!’, is consistency.  Well, shit.

After Loch Ness, I had a few more races in 2012, but from about mid-November my weekly mileage dropped.  Significantly.  Part of this was down to the fact that I felt like I had earned a break, and part of it was down to my very, very, very painful calf/shin combo.  A pain that was bad enough that every time I even considered going for a run, my shins would speak up:

areyoukiddingme

This pain stayed with me through December, and while it is still lingering, the rest has made a big difference.  I’m no longer wincing every time my left foot makes contact with the ground, but it isn’t perfect – that’s why I’m getting regular sports massage where my leg is turned into mincemeat, and I cry, and I squirm, and I shout obscenities, for £38 an hour.  Bargain.

While the rest has obviously benefited me in the sense that I have less pain, I am acutely aware that I am running a little bit behind in my training, highlighted by the fact that the two lovely ladies I will be going to Paris with are currently doing some monster long runs.

Plagued with guilt, and ignoring all sensible advice, I have opted to ramp up my long runs, despite doing little more than zero miles throughout the week.  My last 3 long runs were 10.5, 15.35, and 17.5 miles.

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Now, before you throw a side eye in my direction, I’m not doing nothing throughout the week.  I do spin twice, weights 2-3 times, and plenty on the elliptical machine to keep fitness up.  However, it isn’t running, so I’m going to start sneaking a few extra runs in here and there to stop my training from looking like this:

Mon: gym stuff
Tues: gym stuff
Wed: gym stuff and half-assed 2 miles on a treadmill
Thurs: gym stuff
Fri: gym stuff
Sat: gym stuff
Sun: LONG ASS RUN

I mean, what I am doing just now has consistency, of sorts, but not the kind I want – running consistency.  Hopefully, as spring gets closer, I will be worried less about a spectacularly catastrophic, ass-over-head fall on the ice, and can enjoy being blinded by the early morning sun, risking a head on collision with a bus instead.

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This weekend will be the Forfar multi-terrain half marathon, and I’ll be running with a group of myself and three others at a relatively non-killer pace.  Our aim is to get some miles in and demolish the ‘gigantic feast’ that we are promised will be presented for hungry runners upon finishing.  A ‘drop-down’ week, if you will.

“Thank fuck.” – my legs.

I am a disgrace to my gender

Despite looking the picture of femininity in some of my earlier childhood photos, there were warning signs that, according to some standards, I was going to be a failure as a chick.  Here is a photo of me and my little brother at Christmas in Indonesia:

We got wooden owls.  My brother is demonstrating his 'owl' face.

We got wooden owls. My brother is demonstrating his ‘owl’ face.

This picture stands out to me because my mother had obviously just brushed my hair.  I distinctly remember having my hair brushed, on average, 3-4 times a year, usually under duress.  Hair brushing was a waste of time, and the bristles on brushes were really scratchy.  No thank you.  I am also fairly sure she would have tied that blue ribbon on my dress into a bow, but it became unravelled, possibly when I was doing whatever caused my bangs to look as though I’d just had my face licked by a dog. I now introduce exhibit B.  Still wearing a dress, my excitement at wearing said dress and being photographed wearing it are evident…

Say cheese!

Say cheese!

…ly non-existent.  At this point, tying my hair up is less hassle than trying to make me brush it.  The real solution, as my mother soon discovered, was just to get rid of the hair altogether:

Class photo! (In our PE kit, for some reason)

Class photo! (In our PE kit, for some reason)

I am the one to the right of my friend Jen, who had the most amazing ‘fro, I think we can all agree.  My bouffant bowl-cut is less amazing.  And, as an aside, the boy on the far left is fabulous.  With little hair to take care of, I continued my descent into failed womanhood, never learning the all-important skills of blow-drying, crimping, curling, using hair products appropriately, etc.  But these are definitely not my only feminine flaws.  I can list countless ways in which I feel sub-female, but instead I’ll list 5.

1. I cannot paint my fingernails.

Well, I can, but really badly.  Generally if you end up with the same amount of nail varnish on your skin as on your nails, you’ve gone wrong somewhere.  Now, if I ever find I really want to paint my nails for an occasion, I’ll do them about 3-4 days in advance, then do lots of dishes.  I find that the abrasive sponge scrubs the polish off my skin, but not my nails.  Then I just need a top coat, and it looks nearly good.  I would say that I am equally crap at applying eye-liner  but in truth it’s only when I’m doing one side, and that’s only because I’m blind in the other eye, so I’ll cut myself some slack there.

2. I do not wet myself over babies.

Because really, one person wetting themselves in a situation is quite enough, unless you’re into watersports, then I guess the more the merrier.  Generally, I find childbirth revolting.  Don’t get me wrong, I know I came from my mother’s vagina, and I am eternally grateful to my parents for choosing to procreate, but every time I learn something new about childbirth, it puts me off the idea of having my own even more.  I remember knowing that babies came from inside their mother’s bellies, but upon careful examination of my own stomach, could not work out where from, since I met significant resistance at the end of my belly button.  I asked my parents, and they fully explained.  Fully.  My dad even drew diagrams.  My parents told me that when I started a new school (I was about 5-6), the teacher asked us all to write a couple of sentences about where we were from. Apparently I wrote:

My name is Rachel.  My mommy met my daddy.  They did sex and I was born.  Then I came to [insert school name here].

So it wasn’t like I didn’t know the drill.  But then came sex-ed class.  And the video of a woman giving birth.  There was a lot of screaming, a lot of gross looking flaps of skin, a lot of blood, and one ugly, wrinkled, sticky baby to show for it.  I could feel my thighs pressing together, it was that traumatizing.  And then I found out more. Pregnant women can suffer from all sorts of nasty stuff.  Haemorrhoids.  Morning sickness.  Craving pineapple on pizza.  Complications.  And then there’s that whole thing about apparently crapping yourself during birth. Oh, and I never knew what the word ‘episiotomy‘ was until recently.  When I searched that on Google  I could almost swear my legs were crossed 83 times.  I have so much respect for mothers.  Because ouch.

Re-reading what 'epiostomy' means.

Re-reading what ‘episiotomy’ means.

There are certain situations in which babies are OK, however.  When they’re asleep, when they’re happy, when they’re clean, and when they’re not eating.  In fact, at a party last night I requested a shot of the baby (a couple of new parents dropped by for a couple of hours), and it was one of the cutest babies I’ve pretended to fly around a living room with machine gun wings, and then make dance to rock music.  Plus, when it touched my face, his tiny hands weren’t covered in baby food.  And after 5 minutes, and a faint whiff of fart, I could hand him back to his parents.  While I’m not denying that baby made me smile, I don’t want something that size exiting something that currently struggles to accommodate something the size of a cucumber.  I would like to stress I did not say ‘an actual cucumber’.

3. I do not want to have sex with that kid from Twilight/’World’s Most Desirable Men 2012′

For research purposes, I scanned through Glamour magazine’s Sexiest Men of 2012 and can only say that out of the ONE HUNDRED men they list (a bit overboard, really), I would count 4 as attractive. For the record: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo Dicaprio as a fatter, sleazier looking guy than he was during the Titanic era, RDJ, and James McAvoy, but all of these were chosen because they come across as really likeable people in interviews, or have played characters that I want to pretend the actors are like in real life.  So, basically not 100% to do with their looks.  And not 100% to do with reality.  You should probably not judge the other 96 guys too harshly, however, as I am a person who favours David Bowie in his mullet/glitter/eyeshadow/drugs phase and Steve Buscemi.  

4. I would fail a class in complimenting 

Generally, the people I hang out with most frequently have a penis.  This is partly because all of my girlfriends have moved away and are currently dotted around the USA while I freeze my ass off in Scotland, and partly because outside of school, it’s kind of harder to make friends because you aren’t forced to see people every day, so keeping in touch can kind of fall behind.  But when I am in the company of females, I am blown away by how nice they are to each other.  They say things like ‘I love your hair’ and ‘that dress is beautiful’.  They notice that you have (badly) painted your nails.  They do things that boys do not do, and that make me feel a tiny bit awkward sometimes.  If I receive a compliment I usually go a bit red and mumble a thank you, because I don’t know what to do with it.  If I try to give a compliment, I come across sounding like a creep.  Because who wouldn’t sound weird saying: “I like your tights.  The darker colour really emphasizes your calf muscle.  It would make a nice steak if we were all stranded on a mountain and had to start eating each other.”?  Nobody, that’s who.

5. I’m atrocious at flirting

Not that flirting is a skill that I require, what with being in a long term relationship and having the moral backbone to not sleep around, but when I have found myself single, I am retarded at picking up on signals.  I mean, my friend Grant frequently accompanied me as my wingman, and had to tell me when I was being hit on.  My finesse in matters of courting pretty much extends to approaching a male I am interested, saying, “I am Rachel, if your personality doesn’t suck we could be licking each other’s teeth later, please indicate your level of interest.”  Not particularly suave, but then I usually get distracted by a song that I just HAVE to dance to, or end up challenging people to drunk push-up competitions.

These days, Ian often makes comments about men I end up speaking to in bars about various things.  Usually, I have become embroiled in an argument and am enthusiastically fighting my side, and I would say I win 90% of the time (sometimes because the other party is too drunk to keep arguing, sometimes because they eventually come around to my way of thinking).  Ian, however, tells me that they only submit because they think I might sleep with them.  I’d rather keep on believing that my debating skills kick ass, and that Ian can become irrationally jealous of hairy men in bars.

Although I think it’s tacky, I am kind of in awe of chicks who can flirt their way to a free drink without making the man feel like he is being used.  I tried that once.  It went a bit like this:

Me: Hey.
Guy: Hey.
Me: Are you buying a drink?
Guy, holding wallet, at a bar: Uh, yes.  Yes I am.
Me: Cool.
Guy (raising eyebrow): Are you trying to scam a free drink?
Me: Yeah.  I’m not doing very well, am I?
Guy: Definitely not.
Me: Cool.  I appreciate the feedback.

Despite all of my shortcomings, I do have boobs, and according to Ian I display fairly stereotypical symptoms of PMS, so I guess I’m not a complete failure.  I find that running has helped to introduce me to a bunch of other wonderful, flawed women.  Ones that would rather hurl themselves into muddy bogs than get manicures at the weekend.  Ones that are not self-conscious about grunting and sweating in public.  Ones that are glad that they look like crap after a workout, because it meant they put in the effort.  And ones that come on 15 mile runs with me when the weather is like this:

Deeside railway line (January 20th, 2013)

Deeside railway line (January 20th, 2013)

And with that, my second long run of over 15 miles is done in preparation for the Paris marathon.  Thank you, ‘ladies’*, for the company!

At the halfway point today.

At the halfway point today.

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Me and Ronnie, trying not to slip on the ice.

Here’s to being a failure!**

*And gentlemen.
**And yes, I know that you do not need to be good at all of these things to be considered a woman.  I am also aware that the implication that being a woman consists of such trivial things could be considered offensive to women in general, but whatever, have a hissy fit.