Loch Rannoch Marathon : Race Report

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If you like your marathons to be scenic then this is the marathon for you. With a loop at either end you basically just run round the loch. If you want your marathon to be flat – then this is not the marathon for you. I heard the route called “undulating” but that is a fairly mild description I would suggest. In fact there is an elevation gain of 631 feet!

But let’s cut to the chase. If it’s possible to be disappointed with a 9 minute personal best then that is how I feel about the race. I went into the race more confident than I have ever been for a run. My training had gone superbly; my fitness and strength felt good; I had a clear plan and objective which would see me complete the run under 3 hours 30 minutes.

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I set off quickly and happily. My plan was to run the first 13 miles at an average pace of 7 minutes 45 seconds a mile. But my competitiveness took over and I tried to keep up with the folk round about me rather than run to my plan. The first two miles were 7:14 and 7:07. I knew I was too fast but reasoned that I could slow down. But it didn’t happen. Mile 3:7:22; 4 :7:10; 5:7:27: 6:7:39: 7:7:24; 8:7:23 and so on. Because I felt strong and confident my heart was telling me : “You’re strong – you can keep this up and slow down on the second half.” My head was telling me that I was too quick and I was going to suffer in the second half. Stupidly I let my heart take control.

My other issue was that the three gels which I had put in the pocket of my shorts had fallen out in the first mile and I had nothing to sustain me other than jelly babies. This was another reason to slow down but again I was stupid.

I completed the half marathon in 1 hour 38 minutes – ridiculously fast. Even at that point I knew I was in trouble. The loop to the half-way point took us uphill and my legs started objecting. After we turned there was another sustained hill which was a real struggle. Mile 14 took 7:52; mile 15 : 8:16. There was a slight recovery in miles 16 and 17 where in a flattish part I recorded 8:03 and 8:02. But I knew even then with 9 miles to go that I was in deep trouble. My right calf was making it’s presence felt; my cadence had dropped; my breathing was laboured; the promised water stations weren’t there and I was getting sick of the jelly babies. I tried every positive strategy I could think of but nothing was working. From there to the finishing line was, to be honest with you, pretty hellish.

To be out of energy with 8 or 9 miles still to go is a horrible feeling. A voice in my head kept saying : “Stop! Give up! You’ve had it!” But I kept putting one foot in front of the other. More than anything I was annoyed with myself for bringing this situation on. Giving up is never a serious option for me. I determined that one way or another I would get across the finishing line. Mile 18 : 8:20; 19: 8:35. After mile 19 I tried to take stock. Physically I was ready to stop. Due to my fast start a decent time was still possible. But my sub 3:30 minutes dream died at that point. I realised how spent I was. I reassessed possibilities. For the first time in my running career I acknowledged that I would allow myself to walk the uphills. I mentally adjusted my target time to sub 3:35. Just then a water station appeared. I stopped and to celebrate downed an entire bottle in seconds. Next mile 9:05. From then on I walked the hills. I now knew what people mean by the expression “hitting the wall”. In great pain and exhaustion I kept going as best I could. Mile 21:8:49; 22:9:05; 23:10.03!; 24:9:37. In the midst of the darkness there were shafts of light. The runners who were passing me gave amazing support and encouragement. Some asked if I was okay; most shouted encouragement  and support. It was fantastic and although I was too exhausted to thank them at the time I unreservedly do so here for helping me keep going. Mile 25:10:12 and mile 26:9:52. Here I am near the end – literally and metaphorically.

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Even the last 400 metres seemed to take forever. I was keeping to the time required for a sub 3:35 finish – but only just. As I turned for the final finish I turned left too soon. Someone shouted to me to alert me. I tried to change direction but my legs went from me and I fell flat on my face. Somehow I got to my feet and staggered over the finish line. For around 10 minutes I felt a bit ropey but several mugs of tea revived me and I gradually recovered. My time was 3 hours 34 minutes and 39 seconds. But it was a badly run race and I only have myself to blame!

Four days until Loch Rannoch Marathon!

I’m really looking forward to my second marathon this Sunday. My training has gone spectacularly well. No injuries, good runs, excellent times (for me!) and I feel that in terms of strength, fitness and weight I’m pretty much exactly where I want to be.

 

This isn’t Loch Rannoch but it serves as a reminder of how great it will be to run surrounded by beautiful Scottish scenery. I’m aiming to run a personal best – my time in the first marathon I ran was 3 hours 43 minutes 41 seconds so that’s the first target.IMG_0303

The forecast for Sunday isn’t too bad. Cool with a very light breeze would be ideal!

Marathon training week two

Well there’s a title I never expected to be writing again.

I don’t normally enthuse about anything but I’ve had a great time since entering the Loch Rannoch Marathon. It just feels so right to be working towards something big but achievable. Better still the doctor has cleared me to run. She asked a few questions and then took my blood pressure. It shows how much I want to do this that before she tested it I told her that my blood pressure is always considerably higher when I visit the doctor due to “white coat syndrome.” In the event the pressure was fine, almost normal in fact.

And I’ve had an early birthday present of two very important helpers :

It’s a rubbish photo but it is in fact a Garmin Forerunner and a heart rate monitor. Don’t ask how they work but they tell you everything you need to know when running about time, distance, pace, cadence(strides per minute), heart rate, elevation gain and so on. After the run it produces reports which geeks like me can pour over for hours :

 

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Because I’ve been running regularly all year my basic fitness levels aren’t too bad and as a result the first week of training has been pretty straightforward. It will get harder though!

Progress Report

I took a lot of confidence from my time in the Alloa Half Marathon. Not only was it a huge personal best but it showed me that I can run at a faster pace over a longer distance than I believed possible. Now, as regular readers will know, the ten week training programme for the half marathon was in fact a sprat to catch a mackerel. By building strength, fitness, endurance and speed I hoped it would, when transferred to a much shorter distance of 5k, give me the long held dream of running a 5k under 20 minutes. So after Alloa I had an easy run on Wednesday last week followed by interval training on Thursday. I rested on Friday, stuffed myself with carbs and told myself that I was going to have a really good effort at achieving my dream at Edinburgh parkrun last Saturday.

Saturday dawned dry and bright. There was an 8mph easterly wind so the first 2k would be into the wind but crucially it would be behind us on the way back. Having had 120+ failed attempts at running under 20 minutes I not only know the course inside out but also the times I need at each stage to achieve the goal. At 1k I was 5 seconds behind target. At 2k I was 7 seconds behind target but on the plus side I had been running into the wind and I still felt fairly strong. At 3k I was close to target and at 4k I was two seconds ahead. I mentally took stock. I needed to run the last k in 3 minutes 41 seconds. I needed to be at the trees in 18 minutes 45 seconds. I made that my target and tried to maintain a good pace. I reached the trees at 18 minutes 40 seconds – five seconds ahead. All I needed to do was keep going. I tried to kick but it wasn’t quite there. In desperation I counted breaths. Soon I could see the finish flags and dug deep one last time. As I crossed the line I looked at my watch and saw 19 minutes 55 seconds. I’m not sure I was ever so happy to see that time. Here’s a blurred photo of me almost at the finishing line. Apologies for the pink shirt. Alloa Half Marathon were clearly catering for the female runner when they chose the shirt colour this year.
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My finishing time was later confirmed as 19 minutes 54 seconds. I am so happy and not a little relieved! Two running personal bests in a week seems a pretty good reason to take a break from running for a while. Doubtless in due course there will be a new challenge. I’ll let you know.

Edinburgh Marathon

The marathon season is in full swing. And this week it is the turn of Edinburgh. Even if you’re not a runner then if you live in Edinburgh you might have been wondering what on earth has been getting folk up at ungodly hours of the day and in every type of horrible weather to go out running. Yes marathon training. This year I’m spectating not running but I still remember the dual feelings of intense anticipation and major panic that I was experiencing in the lead up to the marathon this time last year. I know quite a few folk running the Edinburgh marathon this year so I’m looking forward to cheering them on. For them the training and preparation is over. All they need is some decent weather and the mental strength to keep going. Because as they see that wonderful finish line you can be sure that there will be hundreds of people cheering them on
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I’ll try and take some photos on Sunday so that you can experience a little bit of this year’s Edinburgh Marathon.

Positive thinking required!

Here are three random things that I have learned in life :
If it sounds too good to be true then trust me it is too good to be true.
Never trust a politician when an election is looming
If a sports tournament is billed as gentle and relaxed then you can be sure that it will be ridiculously cut-throat and over-competitive.

But what about the saying : You can if you think you can. Well there is some truth in that but not the whole truth. My running goal this year is very straightforward. I want to take two measly seconds off my 5k personal best. So why has it not happened already and why is my stupid head trying to tell me that I can’t do it?

I can answer the first question easily. I lost fitness and put weight on over Christmas. Since Christmas the weather has not been conducive to fast running. I haven’t even run a competitive 5k this year. I have been training but I was on holiday last week and I can feel the weight gain round my waist.

So why is my head telling me I can’t do it? Well firstly because I was pretty fit when I set my last pb. I don’t think I’m near that. Secondly breaking 20 minutes is a psychological barrier. It will be very demanding physically and I’m not sure I’m prepared to give that amount of effort and fail again. I’ve been enjoying volunteering at parkrun and to be honest I’ve been turning up so relieved that I don’t actually have to run.

My plan was to lose weight, train hard, wait for a wind-free Saturday then turn up at parkrun and break 20 minutes first attempt. I certainly don’t want to turn up, run flat out and run 20.05. But now I’m thinking I need to do a run just to see where I am in terms of fitness and time. I’m trying to work on upper body strength and to build up the interval training. These are the key things.

The first Saturday I can do run parkrun is a week on Saturday. I might try for that. If I think I can!

Still alive!

I’m still alive (and kicking) and apologise for my absence from blogging even if it has given you some relief from my rambling gibberish. Truth to tell I fell into superstition. Each week I didn’t blog my running at parkrun seemed to improve and my long held dream of breaking 20 minutes suddenly seemed possible. I didn’t want to jinx it by blogging so held off and held off until I can hold off no longer or I won’t be able to wish you a very merry Christmas!

So what was behind the improvement in my 5k times? Well two things at least. Firstly I changed my interval training after reading a running blog. Secondly I have been doing physical exercises to build muscle strength. But don’t worry – I haven’t completed the treble by losing weight. Or else this would be a success story rather than an admission of failure.

Four weeks ago I ran a personal best 5k of 20.01. Agonizingly close to sub 20 minutes! Two weeks ago I ran 20.02. Still close. But now I’m resigned to the fact that I won’t do it this year. The weather conditions are now firmly against further improvement. But I do believe now that it is a possibility. And that is a major step forward. This Saturday all being well I will complete my 100th Edinburgh parkrun. After that I’m taking a break from running to enjoy all the festive food and drink. I expect to put on a stone of weight. I’ll keep volunteering at parkrun to encourage my pals and enjoy their successes.

I’ll try and post some pictures of the 100th run next week but I would like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and all the very best for 2014!