Monday, 30 September 2013

Loch Ness Marathon 2013

 Will I?  Won't I? Should I?  Shouldn't I?  Can I really be bothered?  All of those questions were going through  my head for 2 weeks after Glenmore.  I don't know if I was just tired, or whether it was just the slump after having such a phenomenal experience at the G24 Trail Race but I really didn't want to go to Loch Ness.  It was probably exacerbated by the fact that John is still suffering with his achilles injury and there was no way he was going to get to race - He got the great news last Wednesday that he had secured a place in next year's Boston marathon, but he had hoped to get a good time at Loch Ness to improve his starting postition... he's not been able to run properly since July and although he's putting a brave face on it ( most of the time ), you cen tell he's hurting :-(
I was also, I think, feeling a wee bit guilty that I'd had a good couple of months running when he wasn't able to and whilst he's a great supporter, I still know that he'd rather be running!

As last week wore on, I guess I made up my mind that I'd go - we decided to wait til mid week and see how his leg was, before deciding as we'd had a great wee day out to Cumbrae last weekend and had taken the ferry over from Largs, run round the island, 10miles, then got the ferry back.  He didn't seem to have too much of a reaction so was hopeful that he'd be fit enough to pace me round even though he couldn't race for himself.  Our accomodation was booked and paid for so I would have lost the money had we not gone and we decided on Thursday that we'd go and chatting on facebook to a friend who was doing Loch Ness as her first marathon almost got me excited about it...

We headed up the road on Saturday morning leaving in a real Autumn mist, but it cleared by the time we got to Aviemore where we couldn't get into our venue of choice for lunch so made do with a second rate offering in another establishment - to which I probably won't return.
A horrendous traffic jam getting into the city, caused by a broken down car held us up for a good 40minutes, but we got to Bught park in glorious sunshine and registered and picked up our numbers.  Caught up with Fiona and Pauline, Ailsa and Krysia as we wandered about then headed to our guesthouse then out to dinner.  I slept well on Saturday night, though I dreamt that John wasn't going to run with me as planned, and true enough when he got up his achilles was grumbling - I blame the traffic jam and sitting with his foot in one place for so long :-(  We had an early breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage & tomato - John also had mushrooms and beans :-)  Many of the other runners were tucking into porridge and banana or toast, and were giving us some strange looks, but each to their own!
Just like New York and Niagara Falls marathons, you get bussed to the start so it was off early to get the buses, a wee jog along the road and John knew that it wasn't a day for a run, so a quick reorganising of the stuff that he'd been taking in his bag and we headed across to the buses.  On the way we bumped into the lovely Emma so I had company on the journey to the start - you're an hour and a bit to Fort Augustus then up the hill to the start line - this has to be the most spectacular start line of my 15 marathons - eat your heart out NYC!
start line
A quick hug and a hello with the superfast couple that is Owen and Lindsy then Emma and I met Audrey and we got into the start corral.  Secret here is to huddle in and keep warm, it wasn't cold, it was a bit windy being on top of the mountain though!
The race started and we were off - it's quite something to cross the start mats and have the pipe band playing on either side of the road :-)
The first 5 miles is pretty much all downhill, and we went off way too fast!  Even though I know not to and would remind anyone that, I still did it!  Faster than I have ever run in my life!  Crazy!  But I was loving it!  We were very quickly on the sheltered side of the mountain and the wind disappeared, the sun was out and it was really warm, but it was such a glorious morning to be out running!  Some awesome downhills meant I managed to motor on and was through the 10mile and half marathon mark faster than I've ever been before.  I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I am the most awful pacer ever!  I just can't do it :-(  My strategy, such as it was, was to be disciplined and run/walk and I managed this well until about mile 15 when the run intervals got a wee bit shorter, but I did still manage to keep the walk intervals to 30seconds and was recovering fine in that time.  The famous 'monster hill' is at mile 18 and the signs before it are amusing but the hill itself isn't so bad, it's just a long, long uphill, the hills between miles 5 and 7 are much steeper though shorter.  I coped well with the hills, keeping my run/walk going and 'ultra marching' when necessary - I was surprised at how many people I passed who were running albeit slowly up the hills when I was doing my 'ultra march' but I felt strong and managed to keep it going.  Up the hill at mile 19 and I could feel a butterfly in my left calf muscle - the muscle was twitching but wasn't sore, just 'fluttering'.  Some nice downhill stretches to keep me going and a best ever time for 20miles as well.  I was feeling confident that I was going to get a new PB - I was hoping to go under 5hours for the first time ever, my PB being 5:02:38 and doing the sums in my head I felt I was maybe going to get about 4:57ish.  At mile 22 a lady in front of me stopped dead - her right calf was completely solid and poor soul, she couldn't move, she couldn't put her foot down, she couldn't walk never mind run!  Then, at mile 23 the butterfly returned wearing pit boots and he brought his friend with him!  Both calves were twitching and cramping!  I was terrified that I was going to suffer the same fate as the poor woman I'd seen up the road and I was determined to keep on moving I wasn't going to have to pull up - even if it did mean no PB :-(
It was good to see John at this point as felt better for shouting to him that it was "fkn sore!"  The last 2 miles really were run as hard as I could in short bursts then slow down to try to prevent the cramp seizing!  Along the riverside and over the bridge then the last turn of the course, a sharp left onto some cobbles wasn't pretty and the first of a few involuntary squeals and perhaps a wee sweary word were uttered.  All the way along here I was checking my watch and trying to do the sums, was I going to make it?  I knew it wasn't all that far to the finish but it seemed like a long, long way and a couple of times I did have to stop for a second to squeeze my left leg to keep it moving, at this point I reckoned I'd no chance of a good time any more.  Past the last marshalls and there's the big inflatable Nessie, this is about 200m or so from the finish and I could see the clock which said 5:02:something so I knew it would be close because that was the gun time and the chip time would be a wee bit faster.  I pushed even harder at this point - not for the time now, but because there was a  bloke in front of me!  A much younger bloke at that, and those of you who know me well, know that I can't help it, I have to try my hardest to pass him - I don't know why, I can't help it but by god it doesn't half spur you on when you think that there's nothing left :-)  In the end I did beat him by a good few seconds, and his pal :-)
John thought I'd got under 5, but my Garmin said 5:00:06 so I wasn't convinced, but I did know I'd got a new PB regardless!  In the end my time was 5:00:01 which has amused John as he's been teasing me about 2 seconds ever since but I'm not upset about it, there were lots of places I could have saved those 2 seconds - I had to stop for a pee and couldn't 'go' any faster!  I maybe could have kept running instead of stopping to rub my calf but I was so terrified of a total seizure!  I should have pushed past some folk that I stopped behind for a second or two... and so you can go on and on, but at the end of the day, I got a new PB and I'm in one piece today, so my 15th marathon was, in my book, a success.
This is not the most flattering race photo (are any of them?) but I'm quite proud of it, I was hurting like hell and I think possibly squealing again at this point - or uttering an expletive (or both) but I was still working as hard as I could.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

What did you eat?

OK I will start this post by saying, that this is a very very personal choice, and is no way intended to be controversial so I have no intention of entering into debate about it.  I am writing it because a few friends are aware of my choice to try to live a low carb lifestyle, and have asked me to write about my fuelling for my race at Glenmore.  If you are reading this, then chances are that you already know that this weekend I ran a 12 hour race, and am absolutely delighted that I managed 50.36 miles!  So, it comes with the caveat that it worked for me, I am not advocating it for anybody else :-)

I have been trying to follow a low carb lifestyle since January 2012 and I think making a pretty good job of it - most of the time... yes there are times when we all have 'wee wobbles' but get back on it again and off we go.  The main reasons for this are to help with weight loss and to teach my body to burn fat for fuel, not to rely on carbs/sugar for fuel.
I ran a 43mile ultra at the beginning of August and fuelled on hard boiled eggs (3) organic baby food (2 pouches) yoghurt pouches (4) a couple of spoonfuls of rice pudding (to keep John happy) and an energy gel.  I drank an electrolyte drink and water from my hydration pack, 2 cans of espresso shot coffee drink and a can of Gin and tonic with cucumber.
John also runs and also eats low carb - he'll eat what's put in front of him :-) wasn't at all convinced beforehand that this type of fuelling would work, but he conceded afterwards that I must have got it pretty well right as I was at no time stressed, was lucid and put in a good performance.
So, to this weekend... Saturday's race wasn't starting til 12 noon which was good in that it gave more time to be up and awake before eating, I was always one of those folk who had to eat within half an hour of getting out of bed, or I was a mega grump, until I did a zero carb week a couple of weeks ago, since then I have hardly ever felt hungry but I wanted to make sure I'd had something substantial before I set off, so at 9.30am I had a large sirloin steak, 2 fried eggs and some strong black coffee - ACE!
(I'm not sure if I would want to eat that at 5.30am for an early morning race but will need to work on that one)
The race was a lap race, this meant that I didn't need to carry anything and could graze from my support table every lap.  It was 4 miles a lap and after settling into a rythm of about 55-65min a lap from lap 5 onwards I ate (in total):  half a hard boiled egg, 1.5 babybel cheese, 1 peperami, 1 pouch of babyfood - (apple, banana and pear I think), a 10cal jelly tub, half a banana (1/3 of which went in the bushes) a handful of blueberries ( a couple at a time), 1 espresso shots coffee can, 1 G&T, 1 can of 'fat' ginger beer and a few sips of water & electrolyte drink.  Yep that really is all in 12 hours...
At NO point in the race did I have an energy slump, neither physical nor mental and can honestly say I enjoyed every single minute of it.  It is probably the best race I have ever run and I felt amazing, mentally I was totally in control the whole time, and physically I felt like I could have just kept on going.
I'm not sure where this sits in terms of advice but can only speak from my own experience and I have never, ever felt this good.

Monday, 9 September 2013

One more off the Bucket List!

Most of us have one, we don't all own up to it, or share it, but most of us have things we want to do in/with our lives...
Since I started this running malarkey, I have always wanted to see if I could
a) run for 12 hours
b) run 50miles or more

This weekend I was lucky enough to achieve both!  I was fortunate to get a place in this year's Glenmore24 hour trail race, a fantastic event organised by Bill Heirs and Mike Adams, widely known as BaM, ably supported by a fantastic race crew.

There are 2 events, the 24 hour race and a 12 hour race, both of which start at noon on the Saturday of race weekend.  As you might be able to workout for yourself, the 12 hour finishes at Midnight and the 24 hour at 12 noon on the Sunday.  Format is that you run a 4mile loop around Glenmore forest, varied and undulating terrain I think is a fair description, as often as you can in 11/23 hours, then with 1 hour the small loop is opened.  When runners finish the loop they're on after this point, they don't go back out into the forest but stay on the small loop until the time is up.
I entered this race after the disappointment of being ill in April and unable to run the Fling, and wasn't sure how I'd cope with the lap running, as opposed to point to point, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a beautiful route, there was stony 'rooty' trail, then smooth forest road, there were steep uphills and a phenomenal downhill, there were stunning views of the forest and Loch Morlich, huge fat slugs and toads in the road when it rained at night, the biggest ants I have ever seen, the cheeriest marshalls manning the water station just past half way, the ever-smiling Ada with her helpers and the clock, registering every lap (not a job I fancy! Way too much responsibility and hard sums!!) and awesome support from all the supporters camped in the field as well as the other runners out on the course.  Maybe you've kinda got the gist by now, but I had an absolutely brilliant time :-)
We drove up to Glenmore on Friday after work and pitched our tent in the Hayfield, then we pitched another 2 tents which we were loaning to friends for the event.  Once we had organised our accomodation we took our chairs and John took his sweeties and his carry out and we joined fellow runners and friends in the 'cinema' to watch the latest Anton Kupricka film, the film itself wasn't outstanding but the giggles and tears of laughter (or induced by the smoke from the bonfire) made for an enjoyable evening, we headed off to bed at a reasonable hour.  The rain was of monsoon proprotions during the night but it didn't prevent me sleeping although I dreamt that I'd forgotten to pick up my shoes before leaving the house, half-woke and convinced myself it was ok, I could run in my new ones which I'd worn to travel up the road in, then just after 6 woke again and told my long suffering and still half sleeping hubby that I'd forgotten my shoes but it didn't matter... (and no I'd not been drinking the previous evening...) 
The field was like a marsh as we sploshed our way to the well appointed portaloos - ladies and gents(!)  and it looked like it was going to be another wet ultra for me - both my previous ones this year have been in pretty hellish weather...
A wee hour snoozing then it was time to get up and make coffee/breakfast.  No porridge for me this time, I'd decided to try something different and had sirloin steak and fried eggs.
As we enjoyed our breakfast, the rain eased a little and as others started to rouse and go about their business, the conversation turned to the forecast being that the rain was to stop by about 10am.  True enough, the sky started to brighten and by 10ish, the sun was out and the rain had stopped.  I picked up my number and vest from Ada at the registration tent, then we had a wee mooch around the x-bionic 'shop' and I treated myself :-)  I had pre-ordered some 'bionic pants' for both John and myself but I also splurged on a new running bag/vest...
Soon it was time to get kit sorted, number pinned on and then it was the race briefing.  By this time we were enjoying glorious warm sunshine and the first point Bill made was "there's some flooding on the course so you're going to get wet feet"  He wasn't joking either!
12 noon and the horn went, the race was underway!  It was a bit surreal to be heading off on a long run with no bag on my back, no gel in my pocket, nothing, however as we passed our support tables every 4 miles it was the potentially running equivalent of the all-you-can-eat-buffet (however I hardly ate anything but that's another conversation for another day... steak and eggs is definitely the way forward for me now!)

Ok I'm conscious I'm starting to ramble a bit here so I will try really hard not to give you a lap by lap account, suffice to say that I ran the first four laps too fast - but fortunately didn't suffer in the long term - even though I saw a facebook post from John which said at 2 hours in I was going too fast and it wouldn't be pretty 10 hours later - glad on this occasion to have proved him wrong - my theory such as it was being that if I could gain some time in first few hours it would hopefully be in the bank if the wheels started to fall off later.  My ultimate goal was to see if I could get to 50miles, but I was happy to accept anything over 44miles as that was a PB.  The weather was stunning, really hot for first few hours, course was beautiful and the banter and support out on the course was fab ( I think I've maybe said this already...)
I managed to settle myself after about 4 laps and was happy by then that if I could do a lap an hour I should manage 12 laps (48miles) so might just make the magic number.  It's weird and I don't know if others felt the same, but 2 things really struck me, I didn't really feel like I was going round and round, and I also wasn't really aware of the passage of time.  Starting at noon meant that race time/real time were pretty much the same but I had no real concept of  the rest of the world, the time didn't mean anything, for me it was just about ticking off the laps.  I think I was pretty consistent with my lap times and it certainly felt good, at no point at all did I have a slump of any sort, neither mental nor physical, I just enjoyed myself, I exchanged pleasantries with fellow runners when I saw them, I was happy with my own company when there were no others around - bear in mind that the 24 hour runners were doing the same course, and I expected to see more people than I did but there were some long gaps when there was nobody else in sight.
After 9 laps it was time for headtorches as it was almost dark by then, at the same time David Ross asked if he could keep me company for a lap, it was great to have him to blether with and the extra light just to build my confidence running in the dark, having been round the course a few times already, it wasn't too different trying to navigate in the dark, it almost seemed easier at times, as you didn't see the up hills, you just felt them!  Next lap I ran on my own and that was the only rain, I was up at the top of the hill when the heaven's opened, it got quite cold as I got wet and the toads came out to enjoy a soaking but it made for an interesting run downhill trying not to stand on them and not knowing if it was a toad or a stone on the path, I'm sure one of them jumped against my leg as I definitely got something cold, wet, and solid splat against my left leg as I ran down the last hill (fortunately had my calf guards on so didn't get a slimey leg!)
I was absolutely elated when I ran through the arch at the end of lap 11 as this was me into PB territory and still had time to go around again :-)  I stopped to change back into my vest and put my jacket on and David asked if he could join me again, so off we went on lap 12 - it's hard to explain but lap 12 had such a magic ring to it :-)  Stopping at the water station to say thanks again to Alice and Julie, I finished Alice's G&T in preference to water or energy drink then off I went again on the last big climb of the night, last run down and past the tiny wee bit of the route where you could meet runners heading out on the loop, there were still the 24hour folk passing and there were still calls of 'well done' and 'good job' going in  both directions :-)
Last pass under the arch, last wave from Ada and it was onto the short loop, manned by George and his crew.  This loop was round the outside of the campsite and apparently 0.22 of a mile in length, it had the horrid wee uphill and then a steep wee downhill then round we went again, and again, and...
I couldn't believe how competitive I felt at this point, I remember John saying to me when I'd done 12 laps that that was me at 48miles and still had 35minutes so I could do it if I pushed hard, and boy did I push hard!  After one lap of this course it was off with my jacket and back into vest and shorts - almost midnight and I'm racing round a field in the dark as hard as I can in vest and shorts???? (at my age??)
What a buzz!  Everytime you reached the bottom of the wee hill you had to shout out your number so that it could be recorded, then with 10mins to go George handed each runner as they passed, a tent peg with a label with your number on it.  The instruction was that when the horn sounded the end of the race you had to put the peg into the ground beside the marking tape, and I remember thinking 'what are you giving that to me now for I am going round at least twice more' :-)
Then the countdown started, less than 5 minutes, less than 2 minutes, 1 minute to go, 5,4,3,2,1!  I pushed the peg into the grass near the top of the wee hill and Jenni who was just behind me called to me, a quick congratulatory hug and we headed down to meet our folks.  John had come over to the finish to meet me, so after a few hugs and well dones from/to other finishers, we went back to the tent so I could get a jacket and trousers, we sat by our table for about 5mins or so watching the 24 hour hardies continuing on their way, and admiring the incredible display of stars in the inky black sky then made our way over to the big tent to join others and get a warming cup of tea and a seat.  I was in a funny place at this point as I was delighted I'd run for the 12 hours, delighted I'd definitely got a new PB, but at the same time just a little bit disappointed as I thought I had managed 49miles and odds, my watch hadn't started bang on the start so I knew it wasn't going to be accurate but didn't know how close or far off I was...
The gazebo was adorned with banners and balloons and at about 20 past midnight the assembled company burst into a rendition of Happy Birthday for Victoria Shanks from Stonehaven (who celebrated her 40th birthday by running 100 miles!) She declined the offer to carry her birthday balloon on her next lap but did wear her badge and stopped long enough to blow out her candles and take a piece of cake!
A wee while sitting/standing/stretching and blethering then off to bed for a few hours.  Shivering and chittering I eventually fell asleep and slept until just after 5am.  I got up, dressed and headed out to see how the all-nighters were doing, had a cup of tea and a chat with some friends then went back to the tent as John was getting up.  After breakfast and catch up we supported our friends who were still out and John took over support for Noanie to allow David an hour or so's well deserved sleep.  Noanie is an absolute phenomenon, who went on to smash the Ladies course record by running 126.2 miles but it is her story to tell and all I will say is WOW!
Sitting in the sun supporting the finish of the 24 hour race was great fun, these runners too, many of whom were on their last legs, were going through the same as I 12 hours earlier, you could see them pushing harder and harder to get as many short loops in as they could - our brain does weird things to us...

I think this is probably more than enough, there are lots and lots more memories and tales and reminiscences, but to sum it up, it was absolutely definitely the best race of my life.  I watched some wonderful friends achieve incredible distances in the 24hour race, I shared a great 12 hour race with other friends, some of whom have run further in other races, some like me who had reached new heights, but all of whom gave their all on the day/night.  The icing on the cake for me was when we got our official results at the prizegiving and I had run 50.36 miles :-)  I'd done it!  I'd ticked off 2 bucket list goals in one go!!
We spent a great weekend in a lovely place with friends and made new ones, witnessed all sorts of feats of human endeavour, shared smiles, tears, elation and disappointment and had an absolute ball!

vest and medal