Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Rule your mind or it will rule you

"The world is a looking glass. It gives back to every man a true reflection of his own thoughts.  Rule your mind or it will rule you." ~Buddha

Never was this more true than during the marathon. However I am getting ahead of myself. The first thing you want to know is time.....everybody seems to be that you are "judged" on it, even if the person asking has no idea what is good or what is slow. That's not meant to be slating those who ask, it is just that as a rule that is always the first question. As a slower runner I always wince when people do. I know there are people at the running club who can run sub 3 hours for the marathon or near to it, so it makes my time seem incredibly slow by comparison. This year I completed the course in 6hours, 38minutes and 31seconds. 6.38.31. My previous time of 5.44.24 unlikely to have been bettered with my lack of training and my weight management issues, so to be fair, getting round was indeed the challenge, and this was the challenge I suspect for most of the charity runners, and slower runners who, like me, were hobbling along exhausted towards the end with all energy reserves used up, but that dogged determination to finish.
The day was long, we left home on the coach at 5.45am, arriving at Blackheath just after 8am. Time to head to the Blue start and the loo queues before putting our kit bags onto the many lorries to be ferried to the finish. The start seemed to come all too soon. 9.45 we were off, well we were moving towards the start line and 15 minutes later the start time mats were crossed.
Pace bands pre-printed to help me make it round between 6.15 and 6.30 (as all my race predictions were 6.20) were firmly stuck around my wrist and I avidly scanned at every mile to see how I was doing. Ahead of the pace for the first few miles, I knew I would fade later, and feeling comfortable just stuck with it. Each 5k mat crossed, each mile marker noted by my lap counter on my garmin, each step getting me closer to the finish line, but a long way to go yet.
A man alongside me shouting that he "was going too fast to make his expected pace" I wanted to tell him to make the most of it while he still could, I suspect he, like me, would be fading towards the end. After mile 1 we headed through the Olympic shooting event, nicely sealed off from the road we heard it but were not motivated to move any quicker to get away from it, my hope for speed thwarted. Passed a girl hobbling along and asked if she was OK, apparently had broken her leg last year doing the marathon so was back to try again. Poor girl 26 miles of hobbling would be crippling, I wonder if she made it.
Jog/walking along approaching Cutty Sark at 6 1/2 miles, I knew I would see first sight of some of the running club group who had come up to support and was on them almost before they noticed. Was feeling quite good at this point. A deliberate Run/Walk strategy meant that the walk times started to become longer as i tried to save my energy for later. Tower Bridge at the 20k mark was walked up to and run down the other side. So many people lining the bridge and all the streets so far, the support was deafening in places.
Heading for the half marathon point I veered to the centre of the road to see if I could see anyone heading back along the road working their way to the finish, and spotted another Totton runner, she was looking good and finished in 4hours 4 mins, I knew I still had a long way to go, making half way in 3 hours and 3 mins. Still good time, and still feeling fine. Got overtaken by "Big Ben, The Gherkin and St Paul's" not a great feeling, but I did manage to get past the Blackpool tower. So many people wearing costumes which in the heat would have been almost unbearable and in the wet getting so heavy.
Carb gels taken on board and Lucozade sport being drunk to keep energy levels up I started to flag at around 17 miles. The legs suddenly became heavy and I could start to feel the energy drain away. Reading lots of other runner posts on one of the forums afterwards, I discovered that mile 17 seems to have been a problem for a lot of people, even the faster runners, maybe the area we are running through at that point, but anyway mile 18 approached and the running club crew were there again in support, which really lifted me, but now I had resorted to a fast walk with minimal jogging. The head started to feel a little light, I knew my energy levels were dropping, all I could think was, "might be better to stop" and "will I hit the wall", that nasty nagging voice trying to get me to give in. Hah!, that little voice doesn't know me well then. I took another gel and spurred myself on again, then flagging again I got to mile 21 and there unexpectedly were the running group again shouting and screaming for me, and also the charity support group shouting for me. Never have I been so grateful to have myself boosted, and immediately I started saying to myself, "OK time to pull yourself together and get to it, no getting light headed here thanks we are on for the finish, only 5 more miles we can do this" immediately my head seemed to clear, I was positive and moving forward and I was going to finish, I had no doubt about that. I decided that if I had to walk then I would and that was it. Still checking the timings, I knew I wouldn't be too far off the 6 1/2 hours, so set to completing and see what happened. Striding out, the heavens opened and gale force winds it seemed like started whipping all the discarded rubbish around, along with the rain which was now falling steadily. I managed to get my prepared bin bag out of my waist pack and put it on, must have looked pretty funny as my arms were trapped in side, but was see through so that my name for motivation purposes was still visible.
The determination grew stronger as I strode to the finish, completely unaware at this time that someone had lost their life on Birdcage walk earlier on, (RIP Claire Squires), and as I approached there was a feeling of emotion welling up, I knew there was less than a mile to go as I headed towards Big Ben (the real one) and turned the corner. Ahead the 800 metres to go sign and I am wondering if I have anything left to give to manage a trot to the finish. Someone tried to cross the road in front of me and just laughed when I said "please don't" no way I could have taken a stop at this point or a diversion to avoid them. I removed bin bag to make sure I could get a decent finish photo and kept walking.
The announcers at the finish suddenly stating they were going off the air soon so I needed to check out my sprint finish. Turning the corner at Buck House (and I did look to see why I had missed it last time, but it is set back and not directly visible) and tried to wind my legs up for a trot, amazingly they worked and I immediately thought, "why didn't I try them before and get there a lot quicker?". Still, the finish line approached, I was prepared for the emotional hit, but think I must have been through all that already. Crossed the line and stopped to have the tag removed from my shoe, collect my medal and go for a finish photo, before collecting goodie bag and hobbling the long line of lorries looking for my race number section to get my own bag back. The legs had given up, the feet would no longer move me forward, I was now hobbling and shuffling. Amazing how I had been capable of moving fairly reasonably before the finish, but suddenly, no movement possible without pain. Adrenaline is definitely something useful there.
Post race reception for the charity was nearby, I hobbled up the steps to get to the Royal Society, and was welcomed through the door with a round of applause like a hero, made me feel very proud. Another photo taken, a congratulatory chat with Amanda Mealing the actress who played in Holby and a ticket received for a massage, along with a goodie bag of food.
The massage was welcome if a little painful and removing my socks revealed blisters all across the back of my heels, running shoes are not made for walking in obviously. Now wish I had brought sandals with me instead of my walking boots. But, blisters dealt with and patched up ready to make the journey home.
A long slow hobble to Waterloo station to get a train home, with a lovely comfy seat for over an hour, then home, at last.
Another marathon done, yes I was relieved to have finished, but I knew I would. The ballot for 2013 opens on 30th April; I am tempted to enter. I have a PB to obtain for my time from 6 years ago, and I know that this time I will be training more consistently and much better (famous last words).
So what next?
Well this blog may continue, but will have to change the name a bit, maybe a new blog to follow any future race progress, but also I have accepted a role helping at this year's Paralympics, and may yet get one for the Olympics, so looking forward to the training and support for that. In the mean time I go with my heading and say how very true..

"The world is a looking glass. It gives back to every man a true reflection of his own thoughts.  Rule your mind or it will rule you." ~Buddha

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Convict..... I mean Runner number 18484

Well the day fast approaches. Hard to believe that I started thinking about this 2 years ago and now it is almost here. Mentally I feel prepared, physically I know I should have been much better prepared, but then I suspect that everyone says that regardless of their actual training up to the day.

Think it is going to be a long cold day, so disposible handwarmers have just made my shopping list. Just checked the weather forecast - showing partly cloudy around the start time, then raining by 1pm getting lighter rain showers by 4pm and into the early evening. Ah well at least it will be cool and overheating isn't likely.

Pasta party this evening as a gesture from the running club to wish us all good luck, if only my running skills were as good as my organisational skills I'd be laughing in the face of the marathon now.

The last couple of weeks since my "trot" have been fairly "tapered". After never wanting to run again I knew that was not the way to get round 26.2 miles, so a nice sunny Good Friday saw me taking off to run to my Parents house and back on a beautifully prepared route. Plan was a choice of 6, 7 or 9 miles, one for out and one for back. Went with the 7 to get there (planning the 9 to come back), set off, got completely disorientated at one point and was heading in totally the wrong direction (easily corrected) and had to turn back at another place as the path I had thought I could use turned out to be a private drive blocked by large iron gates....hmmmmmm, "right to roam" sprang to mind at that point, but hey in the end 8 1/4 miles later I was enjoying a nice cuppa with my folks. An offer of a lift back was tempting, but needed to work the now tired legs and see how it went. Chose the short and direct route of 5 3/4 miles back, total 14 and no after-effects. Think I am ready, now just to extend it to 26.2.

With no other run during the week and my exercise classes (except one Bokwa) also missing due to holidays etc I waited until the Sunday to have another little trot out of 4 1/2 mile, took me an hour, had to push for that...sooooo slow. But hey legs felt good, a bit of pace was there, so now bring it on.

Marathon Expo attended, number collected, convict picture taken for the Wall of Fame (see pic above), goodies collected from charity stall, pasta eaten, lucozade marathon survival pack acquired, pace bands woefully inadequate as they only go up to 5 1/2 hours. Pah!!! will make my own then, or as was helpfully suggested maybe I should have picked up a 3 and a 3 1/2 band and could have added the times together, that would keep my mind occupied eh?

Nothing else to do now except iron the letters onto my running vest, pack my bags, eat pasta, rest up and then...........will let you know on Monday :-) Oh and if you want to put some pennies into my charity fundraising pot for Prostate Cancer please follow the link, it will be open until the end of July so plenty of time.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Trot round the plot

Trot round the plot was the alternative name that my friend gave to the half marathon distance race we had both entered. Actually titled "Bolt round the Holt" I think her interpretation was probably far more accurate as for me there wasn't a lot of bolting going on. With 3 weeks to go to the marathon, I had yet to achieve a half marathon distance, not a good place to be, so headed off to take part in a trail event of 21k to see how I held up. A last minute change saw 2 of us entered for the 21k and and additional one for the 10k, on a suddenly chilly day after some glorious March sunshine.
Arriving in the car park field, we headed to register and claim our chips and numbers, found where the finish was (always important to know where you are finishing, and then off to prepare ourselves for the run.
Determined to get around, they lined us all up, setting the racers off in groups. 5k runners first, then 10k runners, then the 21k runners. (Well i say runners....) Not surprisingly within about 400metres I was trailing nicely, and with a 1k loop to do at the start then twice round the 10k lap, I knew it was going to be a long run. Can't call it racing, although I guess in effect the race is against myself and my mental strength to continue, when it would be so easy to say "sod it" and give up. I was happy with my pace, I do seem to have a little more of it when being race timed, even though for most it is slow, it is quicker than I have managed in some training runs, so I think it is all relative.
The course had few marshals, not a problem for directions, and sometimes i find their empty encouragement a little sickly (though some do genuinely mean it others seem to be just saying it and pitying you round) and the route was clearly marked with arrows, and it was very pleasant scenery to run through though extremely undulating with a few hills thrown in for good measure. I walked up a long incline and apologised to the marshal sat at the top, that it would be a long wait for me to get round for the next loop, while ahead of me I could see people already looping back to join the 2nd circuit. I wondered how long before i was lapped, and how I could minimise the damage of being overtaken by too many.
I surprised myself by running (or trotting) a lot more than I thought I would and was joined by a man on a bicycle to check I was OK and to let me know that I had the "dubious honour of being the backmarker" me something I didn't know. He zoomed off to find the next slowest with my "don't tell me I don't wish to know how far ahead they are".
Joined by a 2nd cyclist "Angus" the "sweeper" of sorts as he kept disappearing and then coming back to find me later.
The first water station at 5k was already devoid of refreshments, just as well I was carrying my bottle then.
At 5 miles I had my first runner pass me :-( they were heading for home, I was heading for my 2nd lap. As the course split between "head to the finish" and "go round again", I spoke to the marshal there and said I had enjoyed it so much I was going round again. Waiting at the water station my 10k buddy, with gel and water to give me a boost. Famous last words "I'll trot with you for a while to keep you company and cool down a little" well the cool down trot turned out to be the whole 2nd lap and I must say the company was nice (though I am so used to running alone I find shouting at myself is fine, someone else shouting at me is irritating). The Garmin beeped for low battery, arrrrggggh no....... only 8 1/2 miles gone. So back up plan and "buddies" Garmin activated to capture the last few miles.
Same marshal at top of the long hill I had walked the first time, looked at me and said "Are you sure you want to carry on?" Hmmmmm red rag, bull and "of course" knowing full well she was obviously desperate to get home and would have to wait for me to go round part of the loop to pass her again.
Repeated loop was nice, I remembered where I was and could push myself to each marker, including watching people up in the trees on the Go Ape course.
Lady marshal however, did not wait around for me to return to her agan, she had gone leaving just a lonely yellow arrow to direct me.
Passing the water station for the seond time revealed 2 little cups of water on their own waiting for us. Angus had previously caught us up to see how we were doing and must have organised it ....bless.
With no-one else on the course now, it was starting to get to "severe talking to self" stage, but eventually the finish line approached and there were still a couple of people there to hand over my goody bag and medal. "I don't think anyone deserves this more than you" she said as she put the medal round my neck. Hey I did the same distance as everyone else, just a lot slower. in fact about 3/4 hour slower than the next to last. Oh dear!!! Marathon time prediction has shifted to a further half hour from previous predicted time, but I think i may ignore that, after all the marathon will be road and flat :-)
Oh and the garmin survived the remainder for the race, though it lost its power button and the battery is not great at holding a charge, so, a quick call to Garmin in Totton and it is now off to Garmin heaven to be "refurbished" while i get a nice new (well refurbed) one back, which i hope will have good battery life and get me safely round the marathon in a good time. Now wouldn't that be nice. check out a nice photo of me almost looking like I am running.