Tuesday, September 29, 2009

27th New Forest Marathon

Sunday 27th September saw the Westgates at New Milton for the 27th New Forest Marathon. To set the scene, I had come out of “marathon retirement” after my humiliating defeat by Lesley at the Cornish last year when she left me for dead. Her plan was a sub 4 hour PB. Neither of us had done a huge amount of training for this race. Nine minute mile pace would get her about 4 minutes under four hours, my target was just to beat her, and my plan was also nine minute miles with three or four slightly faster ones thrown in to establish a buffer.

We stayed in B&B one mile from the start and were in plenty of time and very relaxed. Contrast this with half-marathoners panicking to park up and get to their earlier start with the large car park full. (Their race was in fact delayed by 15 minutes but latecomers weren’t to know that as they rushed around). The day was wall-to-wall blue sky; barely any breeze and it did turn out fairly hot in the sun. Fortunately there were loads of water stations and buckets of water in which to plunge your individual sponge. Well done the organisers, marshals and helpers.

With chip times it was a leisurely trot across the start line. My nine minute mile plan might from one point of view have been optimistic as my longest training run two weeks earlier failed to maintain this pace leaving me walk/running from mile 13 to 18. But for some reason everything felt good at the New Forest and I did the first seven miles at eight-minute mile pace! The sun was out, it was pleasantly warm and everyone seemed in good spirits. As the miles ticked over I deliberately slowed my pace to conserve energy but was still well ahead of my nine-minute mile schedule. As a mental exercise I kept multiplying the miles by nine minutes, then by eight minutes and then feeling slightly smug as I worked out how much I was up on the deal.

A thought occurred to me, if I felt good then Lesley was probably feeling equally good and would probably not be as far behind as I had hoped. By mile 20 I was still about 16 minutes up on the deal. In fact I was enjoying this marathon more than any I had done, and was beginning to think I could get to the finish without walking or worse.

Near mile 24, within about 50 yards this euphoria vanished. I felt so uncomfortably sick that I couldn’t even walk! Solution – fingers down the throat to relieve the stomach! I was really despondent now after such an enjoyable 24 miles. Hastily I tried to calculate time and distance. It seemed I had about 35 minutes to do about 2.2 miles with the threat of Lesley tracking me down! I tried to run but felt too queasy; all I could manage was trot/walk. This was so demoralising and loads of runners went past. Not long after the 25-mile mark Alan Littlejohns caught me up as I was walking, after a few words I was spurred on and ran with him for a while. Then I was sick again, then I nearly died when I thought I heard Lesley’s voice, then I caught Alan – he was now walking. Then he started running again, and the last quarter of a mile was hell. By some stubbornness I managed to finish in 3:49:52. And not long after I saw a very tired looking Lesley cross the line in 3:58:17 knocking a fantastic 8 minutes off her previous best. This also won her first FV50 prize.

For the record I was sick again eight times before my shower, seven after the shower and seven at the kerbside before we left New Milton. About one and a half hours later it was as if someone waved a magic wand and was finally able to nibble some food and sip some water. I think I’ll go back into “marathon retirement”.

Lesley’s bit: Yes I had my nine-minute mile schedule, I even had it typed and stuck to my running bottle. Shame it was too small to read on the day! Anyway, I also stated well, and covered the first three miles in about 25 minutes which was much faster than I expected and I tried to slow down. At 6 miles it was 51.50, but then we reached the first of the two off road sections and the pace did drop off a bit, but was still 2:03 hours at 14 miles. After that it started getting a lot harder. Couldn’t work out the calculations for the pace, but had it in my head that I had to reach 20 miles by 3 hours, but did that allow for the point two miles at the end? Couldn’t work it out so kept plodding on, the scenery was lovely, some shady bits with lots of trees and some exposed bits of open country with grass verges to run on, but very few landmarks. So eventually I started counting paces and finally got to the 20 mile mark at just under 3 hours. The next six miles were a bit of a blur, forgot to look at my watch some of the time and failed to do the sums when I did. There was a jelly baby station at 24 miles but I was too tired to cross the road to it!! I think the time here was 3:40. At 25 miles I could have happily laid down at the side of the road, but pushed on by visualising the last mile of a training run back to home. Was so glad to cross the railway bridge as even in my hazy state I remembered it was just before the last turn towards the finish. Could see buildings ahead, and moments later had reached the last turn and there was Richard, on the floor right next to the finish line. I anxiously checked the clock but it was still on 3:58 and some seconds. Although I was really pleased to have made it under 4 hours I was just too tired to enjoy the moment. It took some time to recover enough even for a shower, and to check the results pages where I found, much to my surprise that I had won a trophy. The time also gets me a “good for age” place in the London Marathon, should I ever decide to do another marathon, but at the moment I’m joining Richard in his “marathon retirement”.

Well done to Jenny Moore who was not only first lady but 7th overall in a fantastic time of 2:57:18.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

36th Real, Berlin Marathon

- celebrating 20 years of Running Without Boundaries

The Training started with a 12 week training schedule at the end of June - in a heatwave. I have (un)fond memories of a 13 mile training run in Richmond Park which was supposed to include 5 miles at marathon pace. The only time I achieved anything like marathon pace was when I spotted a water fountain and managed to briefly unstick my parched tongue from the roof of my mouth. It got better (and colder, and wetter) and by the end of the 12 weeks I felt fit enough to start the 12 week programme and do it properly. If only we'd started at the end of April...........................

The Nutrition included trying to get down to "ideal" race weight and therefore meant cutting out all those delightful empty calories consumed at the pub. The ultimate sacrifice came with the last pint of beer enjoyed on 31st August - I really didn't think I could do it but the next one had to wait until 5.45 (German time) on 20th September. Was it worth it? Hell no!

The Preparation went well until I got a sore throat and temperature a fortnight before the race. Good races at the Beast and the September 5k increased my confidence but then I caught another cold a week later. How is that possible?!!

The Trip started badly with a nightmare journey from the airport to the hotel (involving an underground train which suddenly started going backwards returning us to where we had just come from!) and a very late night, followed by only 2 hours of sleep thanks to a group of teenagers running up and down the corridors, screaming and slamming doors until 4am and then getting up and starting their noisy behaviour again at 6am. Unable to leave the hotel from hell due to everywhere else in our price range being fully booked we invested in ear plugs and at least got some sleep the following evening. We spent way too much time on our feet on Friday and Saturday and on Saturday evening joined the rest of Yeovil Town RRC for a meal which was booked for 6.30pm. The food, which was mediocre to say the least, finally arrived at about 8.15pm foiling our plans for a very early night.

The Day started at 5.15pm. Having selected the hotel from hell due to it's proximity to the railway station, the trains weren't running every 10 minutes as normal due to "technical difficulties" which meant we had to catch a train at 6.24 which got us to the start at about 6.40 - giving us well over 2 hours to hang around before the race.

The Start saw the traditional team photo before we went our seperate ways to drop off bags, queue for loos and enter our respective starting pens. Martin and I were together in Pen D. Already it was a very hot, unseasonably hot for the time of year. A prompt start at 9am and it took us just over a minute to cross the line and a very slow start due to the crowds of people who had decided to start much nearer the front than they should have. Tim Hawkins from Yeovil finished in 144th place and a time of 2.37 and said he overtook about 500 people in the first couple of miles!

The Race saw Martin and I jogging the first mile well under target pace but as soon as we got going properly Martin cruised ahead and I began panicking about maintaining my sub 3.15 pace.
By 5km I was well on target despite the slow first mile and felt quite comfortable. However, I was not prepared for the crowds and found it very difficult to maintain even running. There were some bottlenecks where everyone slowed and I was continually having to dodge and weave to try and maintain the pace. The water stops were a complete scrum - drinks on one side only and in cups not bottles. I think I lost 20 - 30 seconds at each one, people were picking up a cup and then stopping to drink causing everyone else to pile in the back of them and underfoot was like a skating rink with discarded cups and water. On the other hand it was far too hot to risk missing any of the stops and each one became an energy sapping exercise in survival. I had studied the course in detail in advance and learnt about all the famous historical sites we would be passing by. I really tried to pay attention but I must be honest - I didn't see any of them. The race became a blur of constantly checking the average pace on my GPS, trying to maintain the pace and trying to stay hydrated in the increasing heat. At 25km I was still just under target pace but an upset stomach meant I had to dive into a portaloo and by the time I re-emerged I was off target and I never regained it. The last 2 miles my pace dropped right off and keeping going became increasingly hard. Turning the corner into Under der Linden Strasse I could see the Brandenburg Gate ahead and I knew the finish was just the other side - it was the only land mark I didn't miss! I crossed the finishing line in 3.16.23 and almost immediately found Martin on the other side, waiting for me under the guise of pretending to be sick so that the officials didn't move him on! I soon learnt that he too had not achieved his goal sub 3 hours and had finished in 3.08.10, also beaten by the crowds and heat.

The Post Mortem found that it wasn't our fault!!! Although we were both disappointed after all the training and preparation (did I mention the no alcohol?!) given the conditions we had to accept that it could have been a lot worse.

The Stats make me feel a lot better. I was 4th Yeovil runner home, 10th in my age group and 122nd lady overall out of 7060. Of our team mates 3 achieved PBs, all finished safely and unscathed and most were happy with the times they did.

The Highlights were the first pint of beer in 20 days, the second pint of beer in 20 days, patting Gebrselassie on the shoulder at the awards ceremony despite the best efforts of his bodyguards to keep the peasants at bay and finally, finally, managing to set off the metal detector at the airport on the way home with the pin in my leg after 4 years of trying!!

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Corfe Beast

Anxious not to repeat last month's near fiasco at Hove, we set three alarm clocks and managed to arrive at Corfe with an hour in which to prepare for our ordeal. This race has a reputation for being tough, with two extremely gruesome climbs. either one would be enough to ensure its reputation. Not to say that the rest of the race is easy. The first climb out of the valley is gruelling enough to reduce many to a walk. including myself, but not Dave Webb who had followed closely over the undulating first 2 miles, and as soon as I started walking was immediately past and away. Somehow I didn't notice him performing this manouvre, and for the rest of the race was expecting him to catch me up. I was finding it a real challenge to maintain a good pace, which I put down to starting a bit too quickly to avoid congestion at the first couple of footbridges and stiles.
The course wended its way south, reaching the coast at about 6 miles, at which point there was a brief opportunity to admire the wonderful view west from the 400 foot cliff before the path plunged about 300 feet at a 40% gradient then immediately recovered its altitude at what appeared to be an even steeper rate. As usual I gained several places with a recklessly fast descent, but gave up most of these on the way up, having to stop at least twice. The whole thing is a bit indistinct in my memory and seemed to last much longer than the 4 minutes that I timed on my watch. I can't remember feeling closer to total exhaustion since the MOB coast, but at least then I had the excuse that it was 28 degrees, I was carrying a 20lb pack, and had already run 20 miles. (my beloved reminds me that at many points during the worst of that experience she was carrying two 20 pound packs, as well as pushing and pulling as necessary to get me to the top). But this has already been reported at great length by the lady herself.
So, finally reaching the summit, the track levelled out and turned inland for a mile, allowing me to recover a few dregs of strength and a semblance of running form. The track then turned back to the coast, and the brutal climb to the top of the cliff looms, then is upon you. This starts with a relatively easy section before it becomes a straightforward grind of 169 (oh yes I counted them, and it didn't help take my mind off the pain) steps. At 100 I turned around and through the monochrome haze of my oxygen starvation I thought I spotted Phil's (or could it be Dave's?) grey (officially silver) shirt. This momentarily spurred me on, but I had to stop at least three more times before I reached the top step and staggered along the still climbing trail to the very peak of the cliff path. There it turned inland for the second and final time and I knew then it was pretty much downhill from there. It would be going too far to say that I could relax and enjoy this part because I was desperately tired but still expected to be reeled in by Dave or Phil, or possibly both. The one person I didn't expect to be right behind me was Lin...
Anyway I pushed on, reaching Corfe common and after a final few testing undulations (testulations?), the finish. Sprinting home to the encouragement of the spectators, some of whom seemed to know me by name, although I couldn't spare the energy to work out who they were, except... that looks like Dave? But how could it be? But it was! Over 5 minutes ahead of me, he had had a great race. He briefly had time to explain where he had got ahead of me before I spotted the familiar figure of our illustrious chairman, chasing a slim figure in a Yeovil shirt who I realised with delight was LIN! I could hardly believe it since she had been suffering from a nasty sore throat and other flu-like symptons and had considered not starting the race. What was even better was to hear that she was first lady. What a result!
Here she is collecting her prizes.
Lin's bit:
In the unlikely event that anyone is still awake.............. the Beast is one of the must-do events in our running calendar. It's a great race, very tough, very scenic. Therefore despite feeling like s**t, I knew I couldn't miss it for the second year in a row. And as you will already have guessed I'm quite glad I didn't. Only a few things to add to Martin's (I'm thinking rambling, he's saying comprehensive) report.
One: great support from Phil on the final few miles - he seemed more concerned that the second lady might overtake me than I was.
Two: having overtaken him on the first set of steps he would not have caught me up so easily later on if I hadn't been sick
Three: If I hadn't been sick I would have had a much closer snap at Martin's heels, maybe it's time for him to start looking over his shoulder again?
Four: Thanks to Jackie for bringing to my attention the bloke in the red lycra shorts which he appeared to be using to store a variety of garden produce.