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.

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