Friday, December 31, 2010

My First Marathon

A lifetime ambition.  Something I thought I would never get to do.  A truly life-changing event.  This was the culmination of my positive mid-life crisis.  I am writing this on 31st December 2010.  Tomorrow, I will be able to say that I'm 40 next year.  Once, this would have filled me with dread but I feel younger and more full of energy than I did when I was 30.  The end of the year is typically a time for taking stock, evaluating your year.  I can safely say that 2010 fucking rocked and a huge-big part of that was running this marathon.  2010 was the year I ran my first marathon.  I haven't run another yet but I am sure that I will.

I religiously followed the 4hr Garmin-ready training plan from Runner's World.  Looking back on my training now, I think I probably ran too often too hard.  My slow runs were at my target marathon pace rather than slower.  I still find it really hard to run slow.  My standard pace seems to be between 8.30 and 9mins per mile.  Here's a typical long run from March.  My average pace is 8.51 per mile.  I should have been aiming for 10minute miles:
I also didn't stretch enough or rest enough in between runs.  I can remember doing some runs with my shins really aching before I set off.  I did have one period, I think in January, where I had to stop running because my shin-splints were so bad.

In February I ran my first half-marathon - The Great North-West Half Marathon in Blackpool.  This was also my first big running event.  I think I had entered a local 10k before this but nothing on this scale.  My race time was 1:46:50.  A really good time.  Again, a pacing fail, there were Runner's World pacers at the race and my plan was to stick with the 9min mile pacers but I got bored of that after less than a mile!

I was also learning some valuable lessons in running attire.  It was snowy and cold on Blackpool prom.  I still managed to overdress in my baggy denim shorts and fleece!  A bout of man-flu in late April meant that I missed a week of training and my longest run was 20 miles.  I felt good and prepared though.  My aim had always been to complete the marathon and was aiming for 4 hours but I wanted to be careful not to put pressure on myself by trying to beat 4 hours.

On to Marathon day.  A misty and damp start in Edinburgh.  People were applying sunscreen, Idiots!  An amazing feeling waiting at the start line of a marathon.  Checking out the people around me.  Hmm, that guy looks pretty fit, plus he has an Ironman tattoo.  Ipod loaded with podcasts, most notably, and foolishly, a phedippedations podcast with the title of, "Can Marathon Running Damage your Heart?"  I also had my power-songs, Black Eyed Peas - "Let's get it Started" among others.  Lots of nervous anticipation now.  People jumping up and down, a few hip rotations - good to feel that my hip still clicks out and back into its joint.  Liz Yelling was starting the marathon.  Checked my watch, good signal on the Garmin.  Lots of people kissing loved ones.  Come on!  Come on! BANG - we're. . . walking.  Yeah, it took a good few minutes to get over the starting line.  Now we're going though, this is it!  Butterflies on crossing the start line, I'm doing it, I'm actually going to run a marathon - FUCKING HELL!

Pace, Pace, Pace - stick to 9 mins per mile, stick to 9 mins per mile.  Mile 1 in 8.39 - really good considering that the start is the time when people, myself definitely included, typically go too fast.  Interesting to see that some people were walking already.  Fair enough if you want to walk or run-walk a marathon but why are you in the 4hr group?  First five or six miles are slightly downhill.  Feeling good.  Due to my religious following of the training plan, this is the first time in a long while that I've actually been rested before a run.  Here are my splits for the first six miles:

Split       Time
1              00:08:39
2              00:09:02
3              00:08:50
4              00:08:45
5              00:08:45
6              00:08:55

So far so good.  Really nice running around Edinburgh.  One thing I always enjoy about running in races is that you are allowed to run in the middle of the road.  Feels a bit naughty.  Heading towards Portobello beach now, still feeling good.

Pretty comfortable here.  Starting to think that sunscreen might have been a good idea though!  

Miles 7 to 13 splits:

7              00:08:52
8              00:08:48
9              00:08:41
10           00:08:57
11           00:08:32
12           00:08:46
13           00:09:05

Happy with that, pretty close to 9 mins per mile.  Isn't it?  Ok Statto, I've acutally ran 13 miles with an average pace of 8.49 (sound familiar?)  I was just over 2 mins ahead of schedule.  Note to people running their first marathon.  At this point, try not to think that you have another half marathon to run, that you are half-way there etc etc.

Miles 14 - 20 Splits:

14           00:08:58
15           00:09:14
16           00:09:13
17           00:09:05
18           00:09:03
19           00:09:13
20           00:09:22

Yep, slowing down a bit here.  Road heading out of Edinburgh into, what seemed like, the countryside.  This is where I saw the first runners heading back.  One thing I really don't like is when you run repeat routes or over the same route there and back.  The first runners were really flying.  For what ever reason, it didn't seem to help me to see the lead runners.  At about 16 miles, there is a little part where you run up a road so far and then turn around and run down the other side.  Again, not enjoying this part, I think because of the repeating parts of the course aspect.  At 17 miles the course went a bit cross country onto a dirt track.  Lots of complaining from a lot of people.  Also a few hills thrown in here.  The course then looped back around to start heading back into town.  I remember at mile 20 thinking, this is it, only 6 more miles!  Every step was a step further than I had ever ran.  I was really feeling the heat though and was finding it tough going.  Average Pace now at 8.57 which, although I have been slowing down, is pretty much spot on.

Last stretch:

20           00:09:22
21           00:09:26
22           00:09:42
23           00:09:27
24           00:11:21
25           00:15:38
26           00:11:56
27           00:03:35

Definitely not as pretty on this stretch (or was that my legs talking).  I was managing to maintain a 9.30 ish pace.  Hot as hell now, really hot.  Lots of spectators with water, hosepipes, sweets etc.  Lots of cheering.  Great support.  Then, after 24 miles, some fool tripped me up.  I wasn't hurt but I stopped running and had a drink, and because it was really hot, I had a big drink and then, when I tried to start running again, this drink sloshed and swayed around in my stomach and I couldn't run.  I walked for a bit, then ran for a bit, then walked a bit more but I couldn't keep running and walked most of the 25th mile.  This was my one mistake really.  Ok, I had not had a perfect race, I had slowed down (and I was wearing cargo shorts and no sunscreen) but otherwise, I thought I had ran well and executed my plan.  Towards the final mile, the crowd gained in numbers and the cheering and shouting pulled a run out of me.  Running into Musselburgh Race Course, the final stretch was over rubber mats laid over grass.  Some of the corners were a bit turned up and I remember concentrating, making sure not to trip on any of these mats.  

My other main thought was, "I've fucking done it!"

So, so, so, so, so stoked! Tears in my eyes as I'm typing this.  Go run a marathon!  Do it, now, just fucking do it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hannah's first Wainwright

Hannah is my daughter.  She was three in October and, for a while now, we have been waiting for a good day to take her up her first Wainwright.  Castle Crag is famously the smallest Wainwright and the only one below 1000 feet tall with a total height of 951 feet.  Despite its miniscularity, Castle Crag has a lot going for it, lovely views, steep sections and a 'proper' top to it (unlike some Wainwrights I could mention).

So, all wrapped up, we set off from Rosthwaite along the farm track towards the river:

Now then Hannah, pace yourself!

watch out for those puddles, and be careful you don't trip!

Doh! Quick pit-stop to change gloves and brush down muddy knees.

all better.

looks like some congestion up ahead.

I've always wondered how shepherds count their sheep without falling asleep.

this way mummy.

Oh, yeah, that seems a lot easier.

great fun.

and the view isn't bad either.

over the wall, not far now.

one down, 213 to go.

come on slow-poke!

we did it!

let's head back, I think I know a short cut.

At the Lakeland Pedlar afterwards, "I want that, that, that and that".

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Loch Ness 10k

I had originally planned to run the Loch Ness Marathon but training woes in the form of persistent ITB issues meant that I had to amend my plans and, as I had already booked a hotel, I entered the 10k.  With a few weeks to go and the strategy of resting not really working (largely due to my insistence on running during the rest periods) I took the decision to run with my wife, meaning going a slower pace than I usually run at.  I'm glad that I did this because, at about the 4 mile mark, I started to get the familiar ITB tightness.  I knew at this point that if I had tried to run the race fast I would have had to stop after about 4 miles.  Of course, it also meant that I got to run with my wife.

My wife works shifts and so often works at weekends and, while we both love our daughter to bits, it was really really nice to have a weekend away together (thanks mum and dad).  Having downgraded to the 10k meant that I could relax and have a meal and a drink on the Saturday evening rather than stressing about what I should be eating prior to a marathon.

We spent most of Saturday ambling our way up to Inverness.  We stopped at the Gretna Gateway outlet village where I raided The Gap's sale section (I'm really trying to consume less but I was on holiday!)

We had a pizza and a beer in Inverness.  Inverness is a great place.  A nice size but also in the highlands and with Loch Ness right there as well.  The only downside, which is also a great reason to live there, would be the distance from other places.  This part of Scotland is very much like the Lake District but more spread out and with less people.  We went for a powerboat ride on Loch Ness and I was really surprised that we were the only boat on the loch.  The equivalent place in the lakes would be Lake Windermere and you can't move on there for boats, people and other obstacles to tranquillity, peacefulness and navigation.

Sunday morning was rainy, raining with rain and raining it down.  We drove to the drop off point, dropped off our bag and then waited in the car for an hour and a half while it rained some more.  With about 10 minutes to go, we really had no option but to get out of the car and line up for the race.  Once we got started, the rain was barely noticeable.  The course was good, fairly level.  The only slight criticism would be the narrow roads at the beginning meaning that there was quite a lot of bunching.  This soon spread out and the last few kilometres were into town and along the side of the river.

Finish line = great, crowd = great, medal = great, t-shirt = great, goodie bag = great.  Really no complaints for a 10k.  Even got a tin of soup from Baxters, the sponsor.  We also had a ticket for a free soup and a roll after the race.

Our finish time (we both finished in exactly the same time) was 1hr 5mins and 59 seconds.  This was about a three minute PB for my wife.  We were in time to watch the elite marathoners come in which was inspiring.

We had dinner at Jimmy Chung's - Chinese buffet - all you can eat.  Not really our thing but it was ok and there were plenty of veggie options.

We stopped off for a tour of a whisky distillery on the way home.  Quite interesting and I liked the idea of being a whisky connoisseur until we tried it at the end - yuck.

Back home and onto the laptop to check the results.  I have to admit, although I enjoyed running with my wife, and it was good to run at an easy pace, I wasn't entirely comfortable with my position and time.  I'm very competitive like that!

Overall, it was a great race, really well organised and we had a wonderful time in Inverness and the highlands.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gambling with Clouds - Skiddaw Walk

I drive past Skiddaw a lot, meaning that I drive along the A66 from West Cumbria towards Keswick and Skiddaw, on a clear day, dominates the view across Bassenthwaite Lake.  More often than not, the top is obscured by clouds, but when you can see the top, it really is a magnificent sight.

Skiddaw is the fourth highest mountain in England with a summit of 3054 feet.

I last went up Skiddaw three years ago.  Since that time, I have lost weight and greatly improved my fitness to the extent that, what was a struggle and full day in 2007, makes for a fair to middling morning walk in 2010.  I'm not sure how long it took in 2007 but today, I was up and back down and enjoying my sandwich in my car in two and a half hours.

Today was also my first real hike since my dog emigrated.  That's a story for another blog post but it was good to be back.

Here's the route I took:

Up and down from Underscar with a slight detour to bag Skiddaw Little Man on the way back.  
About six and a half miles altogether.

The thing about going up Skiddaw is that you either pick a really clear, cloud free day or you take a gamble.  Of course, I took the gamble.

there's the top of Skiddaw (right behind all that cloud)

setting off from the Underscar car park (which means less climbing by about 800 feet).  
There's a bit of blue sky up there.  That sheep doesn't look too impressed.

Monument to two Skiddaw Shepherds and the first views over to the Newlands Horseshoe and beyond.

the winding path towards the summit

looking to the east, the sun is trying to break through

not bad to the south either.

and in the direction we are going...hmm.

I nearly turned around at this gate

but, suddenly...

it's all clear

Leaving the cloud behind, I have a feeling it wont be the last I see of it.

looking back to Skiddaw Little Man, see you on the way back.

Skiddaw summit off to the right, Bassenthwaite below

here comes that cloud again

the top is around here somewhere

Hmm, I'll have to take your word for it

I can't see a thing, let's head

thirty seconds later - all is clear

let's go and get that Little Man

nearly there


down below the clouds now

there were about 5 cars when I set off

got a big push ahead but the downhill will be fun

back to the car park.  Time to eat my sandwich and have a drink

Skiddaw sometimes suffers from the Eiffel Tower effect - when you go up the Eiffel Tower, you are not able to see the best part of the view, the tower itself.  Skiddaw from elsewhere:

from Walla Crag

from Cat Bells

Good to get back to walking.  Hoping to do some more in the autumn and winter.