Monday, 21 September 2009

Berlin Marathon rocks!

What an incredible weekend we had in Berlin with great PBs all around and what a finish to a season that has not gone too well for Thomas. It was just perfect with great weather (too hot for some), blue skies and sunshine all the time.

I am still looking at my watch where I have saved my finish time just to make sure it is actually true! But it is official. My chip time for the Inline Marathon is 1:41:41. Never in my wildest dreams did I think of a time like this. I considered 1:45 well out of my reach. After failing to beat 2 hours three years in a row, mainly due to bad weather, I had joined the 1:50 paceline which I thought ambitious but not impossible in dry weather conditions.

The paceline is organized by Experts-In-Speed and the 130 participants met up 5 hours before the start to be divided into the groups and practise. There was already an electric atmosphere in front of the Brandenburg Gate in glorious sunshine. I met up with my 2 fellow Scottish skaters, Don who would be in my paceline and Marcello who was going for 1:35. Unfortunately our group was very big with 20 people of very different ability. There were 3 "pacers" or guides, but it became clear that it would be very difficult to keep the group together. There were 3 fairly small girls just behind the leading guide as well as others whose technique did not look great and the group kept falling apart. So much for drafting. We changed the order around with Don & I among the first 6 and it worked much better. It is all about keeping the rhythm of the skater in front, keeping only a small distance so you benefit from the drafting and trusting them that they will warn you about obstacles, bends etc. We then had a discussion about the aims of each of us, i.e. just staying together as a group without being too focussed on the time or going for the time no matter what. The guides tried to persuade 2 people to join the slower group but they wanted to stick with us. There were 6 of us who wanted to go for the time and I was certainly up for it and did not want to hang about.

So we left it at that and all met up again 30min before the start at 3.30PM. We got into our starter block and the 3 slower girls were gathering around the leading guide and I was getting concerned that they would just line up behind her and break up the whole paceline again. So I said to Don to stick closely behind me and I would try and get us into a good position. This was the time to throw your towel onto your sun-lounger! I am German after all. The other faster guys were also keen to get organized and as the start approached and we were trying to sort out our formation I actually ended up in 2nd position just behind the leading guide. Perfect! I could even still see some of the road in front of me which helps to reduce the risk of falls. Don was right behind me and off we went. What came were the craziest 5K I have ever skated. Imagine 7000(!) skaters trying to get away and jostling for positions. There was so much pushing and crossing of all the other skaters around us that I just tried to hang on to the leading guide who was trying to get us out of this crowd and into a bit more space. Only 200m after the start the message came "Don fell" which I had not noticed as he had lost contact with me when it all started. He would get up again and try to join the group or get into the next one, I was sure. So on we went at some speed. In the first sharp right bend we lost 2 more people and the group had already divided itself into 6 at the front and the rest had either fallen or split into 2 other groups.
Don managed to get under 1:50 and arrived in 1:48 having been picked up by a different paceline-group. He was delighted. He is in the M70 group by the way!! And one of the few Inline Instructors in Scotland.
I was still in 2nd position where I stayed most of the time able to copy the guide's rhythm perfectly. The rest were happy in their positions so we did not change much until half way point when we noticed we were actually going much faster. We crossed the HM point at 49min! Our guide was getting tired and we took turns at the front and I was still feeling great. When I was at the front I was actually ordered to slow down as we were loosing a couple of people. This kept happening, some getting tired, wanting to slow down a bit, the rest still feeling strong. When I was back in 2nd position the 3rd guy kept loosing contact so I stretched my arm backwards a lot to pull him in again. I was so enjoying the skate that it is very difficult to describe. The speed, the excitement, the concentration, and all that in glorious sunshine feeling the wind in your face.
The decision was made to stay in this smaller group even if we had to slow down a bit but we knew the time would be good anyway. And this is what it is about.
You work together in your group and benefit from each other. The group at the start had been too big and inhomogeneous to get this group feeling but the six of us at the front had now worked together since the start. So we finished it together and I just could not believe my time. It is incredible! Especially knowing I could have gone even faster and probably get under 1:40. It is like trying for a sub 4hour marathon as a runner, knowing on a brilliant day it might be 3:55-3:50 and suddenly finishing in 3:35.
Where did it come from? I really don't know. My endurance must have been really good still from all the running. I only went back to skating 4 weeks ago. And I was going to hang up my skates if I had got to sub 1:50 and concentrate on my running. Now I suddenly see that I can go much faster, maybe I should try for a 1:35 next year? What if I get faster skates with bigger wheels? It is certainly a good time to stop skating for the winter - on an incredible unexpected high!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Ben Nevis Race Pictures

As promised here is a link to our Ben Nevis Race Pictures
Warning: there is loads of them ;-)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Spectating at the Ben Nevis Race

Well, at least that was the plan! But for once the weather forecast was right and the rain just kept pouring and pouring. Nevertheless we left early on Saturday morning for Fort William hoping that it might get better.
We set off from the Youth Hostel towards the Green Wall, as advised by Bob Allison, for the best viewpoint just below the small Loch. We arrived a bit early, i.e. 12.45 with the race starting at 13.00 and nearly got blown off the path by the mountain rescue helicopter that was dropping crew members off onto the path for the race. Reaching our "viewpoint" it also became clear that today there was no view. You could hardly make out the contours of the Green Wall, never mind any runners coming down it later on.
And it also turned out that Tom's 10-year-old Goretex jacket had reached the end of its goretex life and had become completely waterlogged causing him to be very cold indeed. So we decided to turn around and see the runners coming through further down the path. We actually picked a good spot where they all had to cross a small stream. Thomas took lots of photos with the camera sticking out from a plastic bag that was over his head! Most of the runners though did not even look up even when we called out their numbers and in some cases even their names! I guess they were just keeping their heads down and trying to get on with their task. It was a very wet one! Well done to everyone who was brave enough to start the race on Saturday.
We saw a few familiar faces, Sarah Ridgway and surprisingly George Cairns only 1 week after the UTMB. Bob Allison, Jim Alexander and Karen from Strathearn Harriers who ran the Fling this year, Jean and Angus Bowman.
We went straight to our B&B to get dried off and later had a very nice meal in the Lime Tree restaurant. The next morning the weather had not changed and we nearly went straight home. Not before checking out Nevis Sport though.
And surprise, surprise the horizontal rain turned into drizzle and Thomas could not resist to run from the Braveheart Car Park to Kinlochleven. I drove round and made my way up to the Lairig Mor from the other side. We then ran down into Kinlochleven together and I enjoyed my 1st run since the Devil very much! The rain had stopped and there were even a few sunny spells at the end!

There will be a link to a lot of photos once they are all uploaded. Those who would like the original size please send us your email. Sorry Bob but yours are all out of focus :-(