Friday, 28 August 2009

What next?

I am back on my skates - yeah!

Having completed my 1st ultra I have bathed in my glory ever since and not run at all!

This is why I call myself a reluctant runner. I don't "need" to run, I am quite happy if I don't. I recovered fairly quickly, but realized that it was only a few weeks to go until my Berlin Skate Marathon and I had only been on skates 3 times this year due to all the running. So 4 days after the Devil I was back for a short skating session and have been skating ever since as long as I have got time and the weather is good enough. This is the downside of skating, you can't do it in bad weather so not a sport recommended for Scotland.

I was then off to Germany for a week where I had 2 great skates in glorious sunshine with stops at a beer garden! I visited friends and family, followed by a weekend in London for the Christening of my god-daughter. I also met up with one of my friends in Germany who has been bravely battling breast cancer over the past 7 months with chemotherapy, an operation and then radiotherapy. Now there is a "race" for which you need all the physical and mental determination imaginable.

I am hoping to finally get under 2 hours in the Marathon, I have tried 3 times but each time it was raining and you were just glad to arrive at the finish in one piece. So there are 3 other Glasgow skaters going and we have joined a pace-line for a 1:50 finish. Quite ambitious, but if it is dry it might just be possible. Fitness wise I should be o.k. but I still have to train up some of my muscle groups that are needed for the skating.

I have also decided not to run the HM in Glasgow because I realized that there was no way I could fit in enough running at the same time. As I was hoping for a PB (incidentally also sub 1:50 :-) ) I would have had to do some serious sessions. So just now it is all about skating. I hope to reach my dream time so that I can lay the skating to rest a bit and just do it for fun and cross training during the summer and not with a time target in my mind.

Instead of the HM we will go up to Fort William to watch the Ben Nevis Race - something I have wanted to do for the past 2 years but it always clashes with the HM. I just can't imagine how these guys are getting up and down there so fast, so I must see for myself.

After Berlin I will take up running again and hope to get some experience in cross country running later in the year with the club. I am also looking forward to a few trail runs, maybe as part of the training runs. But I won't plan too much ahead and enter races early on in the next year as I get too entangled in training plans etc. I want to just "go with the flow", run and see where it leads me.

In my euphoria after the Devil I was going to go for the "triple crown"! I quickly came back to reality and realized that it involves sooo much training! So I will definitely not even attempt to get into the WHWR next year. Also I guess there will be a very large number of previous runners who want to do it next year in memory of Dario. And so they should. And I would not want to take away a place. And of course I just have to be there when Thomas gets to the finish line. I think I will deserve that moment as much as he does!

But if you look closely you will (soon - hopefully) find my name on the entry list of next year's Devil! The race and route is too nice to be missed! Maybe I can even get under 9 hours?!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

My 1st Ultra-Race

The "Devil o' the Highlands" 2009 - a 43 Mile (68km) footrace

Where do I start? Maybe at the end!

I finished! And Andreas, who I was running with the whole time, finished too!

And we exceeded all our expectations. If you read my pre-race blog, you will know that apart from finishing my target was to get just under 10:00. When we did our training run it was a hot day and Andreas had struggled. But I was not too keen to try for a sub 10 on my own and decided to run at least the 1st half with him and see. But as I somehow suspected, it turned out to be the other way round on the day. The weather conditions were perfect yesterday, dry, overcast and rain only at the end for a short time, and Andreas felt great the whole way. He pulled me along and through my difficult patches and we both finished after 9hours 22min and 59sec. In 78th/79th position from 100 starters. Absolutely b***** brilliant!
(Please note Thomas thought a sub 9:30 might be “in me” at some point, but even he was surprised to see us both do so well.) I think it is only slowly sinking in that I have in fact done this, though every time I try to get up I am reminded of my first ultra marathon yesterday…

Here is the longer version if you are interested.

During the past few days before the race I was convinced I was finally getting the swine flu myself as not only patients but a staff member had been affected as well. Then during my last short run on Wednesday a pain started in the back of my left knee and my right ITB made itself known after many years of silence. “It’s all in your head”, my husband confidently diagnosed and he was right. Yesterday my sore throat was gone and my legs, knees and toes were fine.

We stayed in the Kingshouse Hotel the night before and made our way to the start. Thomas had filled my rucksack with 800ml of electrolyte and we only noticed the night before that it was not our usual flavour (Tropical) but Lemon & Lime. Arrggh. I took a few sips before the start, but must have been drinking too much as it was empty just behind BoO. We had not planned to refill until Victoria Bridge. I had also felt this slightly sick feeling in my stomach the day before and put it down to nervousness, but I think I was starting to develop an acid problem and some inflammation in my stomach probably due to feeling under stress. Anyway I only realized this today when I woke up early and the same sick feeling was there again and intermittently today. (No, I am not pregnant!) If I had clicked yesterday, I could have just taken some antacids, but I blamed it on the gels/electrolyte drink (Lime & Lemon clearly did not help) though previously I have not had problems with gels or other sweets like jelly babies.
But it is good news in a way as I was thinking how could you run further than this if you are unable to take food/drinks on board? Not that I want to run further than this at the moment, but just in case …. :-)

Back to the race. We set off and from the start walked all the uphills, initially looking behind us a few times as the sweeper guy seemed very close! We started to talk to a few people and introduced ourselves which was nice as we kept seeing quite a bit of each other. There was Jon Cornall at the start and I wished him luck. He wanted to stay under 10h but quickly disappeared into the distance. We overtook him on the Devil’s Staircase, which was a big surprise to me. Then we met Karin who was out to do her 1st ultra as well. She was running all the uphills but remained in our proximity as we kept bumping into each other. Her longest run had been 26M and she had never been further than Kinlochleven. We overtook her on the downhill into Kinlochleven and she finished 22min behind us and was delighted. Then we got talking to Fletcher who had done the race a few times and we lost sight of him on Rannoch Moor but must have overtaken him in Kinlochleven as he finished a few minutes behind us. We got talking to Malcolm and Shan when crossing the Rannoch Moor, again both had done the race and were going for a 9-9.30 time. We were concerned then as this was not our plan, but they encouraged us and said, if you just continue to go at the same pace as now and walk all the uphills and can keep it going after Kinlochleven, you will get there in under 9:30. Well we did not quite believe it and lost sight of them on the downhill into Kingshouse, but thanks guys you were spot on! At that time we did not know yet that our strongest sections would indeed be the last two.

Time passed quickly and before we knew it we were at Kingshouse. I did not feel too great with this sick feeling in my stomach and was developing aversions to the gels and jelly babies but just continued to take them anyway. I did swap to plain water though from then on. Probably not the best idea either as towards the end I was feeling cramps coming on but they never developed into anything serious.

I had stopped at the bottom of the staircase to change my T-shirt and Andreas walked on as last time I had to wait for him at the top. Yesterday he had to wait as I could not catch up with him on the uphill. At the top one of the twins (I think Fiona) was there with her Ipod playing bagpipes and I paused and looked back and thought of Dario. The downhill into Kinlochleven passed quickly as we met Karen and George and kept running with them. I chatted to Karen about various things and before I knew it we were in Kinlochleven. Andreas and George had gone ahead slightly and I think Thomas was concerned when he arrived on his own! I had ordered a soup as I thought a change to something salty might be good. It went down well, but the portion was rather small! I asked for more and I think Thomas felt bad when he had to tell me that was it. He also told me off for not drinking enough and not taking enough gels as I had a couple left. To be honest I had been too busy chatting with Karen apart from the fact that I just could not stomach them anymore. And gathering from the numerous toilet stops I had throughout (5) I think I must have been well hydrated.

There was a big crowd of supporters in Kinlochleven and it felt great. Suddenly we felt we were in the middle of the race and not somewhere at the end. Apart from our own support crew we saw Jan waiting for Jon, Mandy’s support crew, and Caroline & Neal & Harvey were there as well greeting us. At this point we were slightly ahead of our 10:00 schedule and we left Kinlochleven feeling great. I felt the soup had done wonders and what followed was my best stretch of the whole race. I did not feel sick and we just kept going at the same pace as before. I eventually met Jeff in the middle of the Lhairig Mor, one of the remote rescue medics with whom I had exchanged emails as he wanted me to help out at some of the recent races as medical back up. Which I had to decline as I was either support crew or running it myself. We caught up with Mandy just before Lundavra and reached Lundavra much earlier than expected on a high. In fact some of the photos show me in a state of madness frantically waving at everyone that I have told Thomas not to put them on the web.

The surprise was to be greeted by Marie and Stevie from our running club (they were supposed to be Thomas support crew but had decided to come up anyway). Andreas changed into dry shoes as I promised him a “forest track” soon, but my memory must have been disturbed as it took a long while to reach the forest and it must have been the muddiest section of the whole race, especially as it started to rain very heavily. Today he threw out both of the pairs he wore yesterday! I briefly thought about changing my shoes/socks as I had noticed a blister but luckily Nancy, my blister expert, advised against it. She was right as I forgot all about it until the end when we continued. Thomas offered me more “homemade soup” and it tasted like a potato based soup that went down well again. He had felt so bad that there was only a small amount of soup in Kinlochleven that he went into Fort William to hunt for soup. (Welcome to the life of the support crew!) He could not get parked at Nevis Sport or the WHW finish to get soup from the cafĂ© and nearly ran out of time to get to Lundavra and decided to make up his own soup. He crunched up the Pringles (Cheese&Onion) we had in the car, poured warm water over them, dissolved them, mixed some milk into it and presented it to me as “home-made” soup. Well, it tasted good!

Unfortunately I started to feel slightly sick again and we lost contact to Mandy and Karen and George somewhere in the forest. But what became clear was that we were definitely heading towards a sub 10. And it would be even very close to 9:30. I said to Andreas to go ahead and get there under 9:30. But he said he would not without me. At the Braveheart car park Stevie, Marie and Thomas were waiting and Stevie shouted, maybe you can get under 9:30. How far is it? Andreas shouted back. Less than 1 mile. It was 9:15 on my watch and so I tried my best and we were running all the way back to the finish at quite a good pace and crossed the finish line after 9:22. As JK remarked I was rather emotional and again some of the photos should not be published but I blame it on the endorphins!

Lots of hugs and congratulations from everyone waiting for us – it was a great feeling!

Thanks to everyone who came to support me, my crew, Nancy, Thomas of course (though there is room for improvements on the supporting side :-) but I guess there won’t be many opportunities for him to try), our friends John & Colette, Marie & Stevie and everyone of the WHW Family who wished me luck and cheered me on. It was so important and really appreciated! The company of the other runners along the way was great and I must say I don’t know if I could have done it without the company of Andreas.

Some photos follow though they are censored!