Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Long Beach Marathon

After another sleepless night due to our delightfully noisy neighbours the alarm went off at 2.45 am and I have never felt less like running a marathon.  I came so close to blowing it off but I managed to convince myself that I'd start and if it felt really awful I'd just pull out. We were fortunate enough to get free entry since I met their elite criteria so nothing would be lost..... It seemed ridiculous to be eating breakfast at 3 am but with a 6 am race start that's what we had to do.  At least there was no stress involved in getting to the start, we left the apartment at 5.15 am and strolled there in 20 minutes or so.

Once we got to the start and started soaking up the atmosphere I began to think, ok, maybe I can do this. We positioned ourselves ready to get to the front of the field and as soon as the start funnel was opened up we rolled under the barriers and beat the rush - only to hear the bad news that the start would be delayed by 25 minutes due to safety issues. Just what we needed! Finally at 6.25 am we were off. Martin was in charge of pacing, my inclination is always to go off too fast and it was still just dark enough that I couldn't check pace on my GPS. Our target pace was 6.45 and it felt so easy for the first few miles as we crossed the river and headed down towards the Queen Mary. A few girls had gone off fast in front of me and it's a fairly good indication of how negative I was feeling that I didn't immediately give in to the urge to give chase.

As we ran along the scenic area on the shoreline past the Aquarium we reeled in the girl in 3rd place and I was just congratulating myself on moving into the placings when another girl overtook me and opened up quite a lead. We stayed on the pace and started the long section across the beach gradually catching up and passing one other female. Just before the half marathon split we caught the girl who had overtaken us a few miles earlier and exchanged a few pleasantries as we passed her. It took a while to shake her off but now I was in 2nd place, I knew I had no chance of catching the leader but I badly wanted to maintain both position and pace.

The miles ticked off and it became apparent that our GPS' were measuring the course long which meant that we weren't as well on pace as we had thought. We completed the out and back at the Marine Stadium and crossed the half way point in 1.29.33. It was already a given that we weren't going to achieve sub 3 today so I suggested we aim for 3.02 instead and hang onto the pace as long as we could. I could tell that Martin was struggling a bit already by his breathing and tried to encourage him to stay with me, which he gamely managed until after we had passed through the University campus - but then he gradually began to drift backwards.

The lack of long runs in our training was already telling and our pace had dropped off still more. I hate feeling so tired with 6 miles to go but there was nothing I could do except grit my teeth, dig deep and hope that I wouldn't be caught. A couple of times I tried glancing back, I could still see Martin and I was fairly sure there were no females closing in...but I couldn't be positive. I must be honest, the thought of the prize money was really the only thing that kept me going!

It was such a relief to hit East Ocean Boulevard and know that the end was finally within reach. Running past half marathoners gave me a bit of a boost but the tiredness remained and I so badly wanted to stop.  When the 3.05 pacer passed me with 2 miles still to go I really thought I'd blown it but he was finishing a bit fast and I crossed the line in 3.04.56 having maintained my second place.  Martin came in some 90 seconds later for the usual emotional reunion. I always find myself in tears at the end of a marathon!

As we headed away from the finish area we were intercepted by a volunteer who said she was to escort us to the VIP tent! How exciting and flattering was that! In addition to the very handsome finisher's medal and well stocked goody bag we were both given great Long Beach Marathon towels, I received my 2nd place trophy and we had a veritable feast of food and drink at our disposal. Sadly I can never eat straight after a hard run (although I always manage to make up for it later on) so I only managed some fresh fruit and coffee but Martin did his best to take full advantage and had the chefs make him a special vegetarian omelette!

Later we reluctantly left the festivities and headed back to our apartment for a much needed shower and change. On looking at the results, which were already on line, we discovered that Martin had finished 1st V55, so we headed back to pick up his medal and enjoy our courtesy visit to the Aquarium.

All that remained was to chose the venue for our evening celebration and as we really wanted some beer we went to the Beachwood BBQ and Brewery where we enjoyed a sampler selection of their finest beer and some excellent Albacore. What a day and how differently than expected  it turned out.

I love Long Beach, who needs to sleep?!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

View From the Back of the Pack(s)

The latest two articles from Dave Webb:

The annual Maiden NewTen Madness race means it is now a club tradition, on the 2nd Saturday evening in August, for some of us to don hi-viz jackets and spend a couple of hours scattered around the local countryside. Our job is to encourage the runners and point them in the right direction, which can get a bit repetitive. There is a limit to how many ways you can say ‘Well done. Turn left’. Amongst this year’s runners we were pleased to see 2 of our newer recruits, the speedy-sounding Lesley Fox and Felicity Quick. All the competitors are spurred on by the prospect of cakes at the finish, but for the potential prize winners there was the extra incentive of one of Chrissy Ashley’s delicious lardy cakes. I’m sure that the medal winners at last year’s Olympics would have much preferred to receive one of Chrissy’s lardy cakes along with their medal, instead of the usual bunch of flowers. We would like to thank Chrissy and everyone who helped with the race.
In fact the question of race mementoes is important for both runners and race organisers. Runners in the Battle of Sedgemoor 10K at Langport have for years been presented with a bath towel. I last ran the race in 2009, and my co-runner in life’s race, Jackie, advised me that my towel needed refreshing, so I entered again this year. The route seemed to have developed several hills over the last 4 years, defying the usual speed of geological change, so by the finish I had worked up a sweat which called for a dab from the commemorative towel. Imagine my disappointment then to be presented instead with a bottle of water, a banana and a coaster. I consoled myself with the thought that the original protagonists of the Battle of Sedgemoor, in 1685, probably received neither the towel nor the coaster, nor even a lardy cake for their efforts. 
As well as the club’s summer Poundbury 5K series, there is now a ‘Park Run’ in Weymouth each Saturday morning. A total of 14 different members have run 5K races in the last month or so, prompting this month’s running question which asks how best to achieve a fast finish. The usual advice is to include some repeat sprint sessions in your training, and maybe to do a decent run first to get used to running fast when already tired. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, says that pacing yourself is crucial, ie start slow, don’t go too fast in the middle, and don’t speed up too soon. In other words, walk all the way and then fall over the finish line.
I have previously mentioned our forays into multi-sport events, like triathlons, duathlons and speed hairdressing. In August, at the club barbecue, we extended our repertoire by adding welly-wanging, rounders and a curious event in which competitors pick up a cereal box from the ground with their teeth, without their hands touching the floor, and with the height of the box being reduced each round until only the base of the box remains. This event showed that yoga practitioners and young people are the most supple, and that tall men can do themselves a mischief. Frank Poe won the welly-wanging with an impressive 39 metre throw, 1st prize being a big courgette, while Jackie England and her team-mates surprised us by showing that rounders can be a contact sport, more akin to rugby.

Finally, I can report that the fastest hairdresser in the west, Charlie Spencer, was one of 5 club members who tackled ‘The Beast’, a notoriously challenging coastal course from Corfe Castle. Charlie was so chuffed and proud that, by the finish, she was also the most emotional hairdresser in the west, enjoying the feeling of personal achievement within a supportive team.

When people tell us ‘You couldn’t run a race’, it’s hard to know if they’re talking about our running or our organisational skills. On the race-organising front, August 10th sees the 9th edition of the ‘Maiden NewTen Madness’. The route is a mixture of roads and tracks, including some decent mud in Wraxall Lane and along the riverbank. Any visiting townies will know they have been in the countryside, though they may be consoled by the cakes at the finish.
We have also been organising a summer 5K series this year, on a 5-lap circuit in Poundbury. The advantage of a multi-lap course is that it is harder for people to get lost. The disadvantage is that it requires people to count to 5. On our practice event, in May, Charlie Spencer attempted to count the laps of the passing runners, which grows more complicated as the faster runners lap the slower ones. We discovered that, while she may be the fastest hairdresser in the west, she is not the fastest counter in the west, so we decided to make runners responsible for counting their own laps. The races have gone well, though it would be good to see more runners. The last of these races is on 28 August, at 7.30 from the new Poundbury Leisure Centre.
A hazard of summer running can be the overgrown footpaths, and particularly the proliferation of nettles and brambles. Apparently the Romans introduced stinging nettles to Britain, to keep their soldiers warm in these chilly Northern climes. Jackie Webb certainly seemed somewhat heated when she slipped in the mud, pirouetted gracefully through the air, and landed in a nettle patch.
The summer season prompts this month’s running question, which is whether to run while you’re on holiday. When I sought the views of my co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, I discovered that he himself had gone on his traditional annual holiday, a house swap with his brother, Will, in Dorchester. I can report, though, that Mr Will Knott-Bother does not plan to run anything except a bath while he is in our midst. For my part, I have enjoyed some fantastic runs on the Pembrokeshire coastal path and the Lakeland trails in recent years so I will definitely be packing my running shoes. Some club members have taken it further, and have organised holidays around training camps or overseas races. Visitors to Dorset also seem to be ready to run. During the summer holidays a number of ‘unlicensed’ runners have been spotted in the local lanes.
Some club members prefer not to race, but others have been busy pinning on their race numbers. 5 Maiden Newton Runners competed in the Durberville Dash at Wool, 8 members ran in the Haselbury Trail 10K, and 6 were at the Shaves Cross Mini-Marathon. Given our tradition of getting lost it is remarkable that 6 people succeeded in even finding Shaves Cross, in the depths of the Marshwood Vale. Others of us have managed to get lost closer to home. Dave ‘Wiggo’ Butt got off his bike to join me on a long Sunday morning run which involved us going round and round in circles in the long grass at Kingcombe, while a group of us could be found wandering aimlessly through woods near Chetnole on a Wednesday night run.
We are always looking for new members; someone with a decent sense of direction would be most welcome. We are also looking for a ‘larger’ runner to join us, since we have a spare XL vest that we are seeking to fill. Any local runner, no matter how large or small, or how slow or fast, would be welcome to join our happy band.

Dave Webb