Monday, September 21, 2009


I started writing this post this morning and just deleted everything I had written. It was just too boring and pointless. Let me set the scene for you very briefly and then dig into the meat of the matter..

Trip to Berlin went fine, snag was that SuperSal's luggage went missing so she had to get new racekit at the expo (she had her running shoes on during the journey as per previous advice from me apparently - the wisdom comes and goes and is, in any case, forgotten by me). Berlin was warm and congested, hotel fine, pasta dinner slow to come but delicious, glass of red wine seemed to allow me to sleep much better than before London (ie I slept this time).

Sunday morning, bright, warm and early, we headed to the start which was a 20 minute walk from our hotel through a beautiful park. The start area was fairly well organised, and though I had been seeded in a pen ahead of Sally (don't understand why as she is faster than I am) I was able to drop down into hers. The gun went off at 9am and about 9 minutes later we crossed the start mats. Within about 100 metres I felt one of the soft insoles, which I had tucked into my shorts, drop out. The right one. The one that I felt I might need. I couldn't go back for it though and so we carried on. The course was incredibly congested. It's a big race - 44000 entrants - and, unlike London, there is only one starting area. For the first 10 miles or so Sally and I were weaving and dodging to stay on pace. And the first 10 miles sped past pretty quickly. Right from the get-go we went out at a pace I would describe as "comfortably hard". Had a salt tab after 30 mins, my first gel (Hammer Espresso) at 1 hour. We passed the half marathon mark at 1:48, still well on target for a 3:40 finish. And then - I don't know. All through the first half of the race thoughts like "I'm not enjoying this" had been popping into my mind and I was trying to pop them. Then by mile 14 I noticed that I was feeling really nauseous, cold and shivery despite the fact that the temps were really warming up - it must have been around 23 / 24 degrees Celcius by now. I pulled over for a second and tried to be sick. No go. I told Sally who pep talked me. By 16 I told her that I felt my wheels were coming off. More pep talk. And then at mile 17 I saw a medical tent and made the snap decision to head in. Sally was shocked but by the time she registered I had gone off. I went in and said to the two women there "I am so cold. What is the matter with me?" They were completely unhelpful, said they had no idea and handed me a paper blanket. I sat down on a chair for a minute and then, all of a sudden (it was a day of impulse decisions, clearly) I thought no - this is not going to be a DNF. I said goodbye to the Boston Qualifier but I knew that, one way or the other, I could finish this thing. And so I got out of my chair and got back on the road, with my blanket around me. I ran with the blanket for another mile or so until I felt better and all of a sudden I felt okay again. I walked for a minute every mile, then walked in between as well. I got to the 40K mark and walked, got to the 41K mark and then - all of a sudden - I saw the finish and realised that if I pegged it I might just be able to run in under 3:45:59 - the cut-off. So I pegged it - and I did. 3:45:46 according to the chip time that has been emailed to friends and family... I walked through the finish chute not knowing whether to laugh or to cry - I thought I had probably BQ'ed but I also had the worst race I've ever had. Very strange. As I walked out towards the exit - I had made no plans to meet with Sally or her husband as we had never planned not to finish together and I had left no luggage - I suddenly collapsed to the ground with calf cramps. It was like I had been shot in the calves and hurt like hell. Various runners who were lying on the grass around me resting after the race came to my rescue and as I lay on my back on the ground. 2 men very kindly stretched and pulled my feet until I could get up again. Not the most glamorous of positions to find yourself in but by that stage I was totally beyond caring. They helped me up and I thanked them and just carried on walking. I really can't describe how I felt - I wasn't happy or sad, just relieved that it was over. I picked up my free alcoholfree beer (hmmm - not what I would have asked for but it was fluid) and just ambled back to my hotel where I freed my luggage from storage and could finally contact Sally to tell her I was okay and at the hotel.

Again - I'll spare you the details of the blow-by-blow - showered, changed, airport, flight, airport, McDonalds, flight, drive, home. Where my husband was waiting, super excited as he was confident that I had Boston qualified (he'd gone straight onto the BAA website and checked for the times and seen the 59 seconds grace period note). Bad night's sleep - adrenalin finally kicking in? - and here I am on the day after. My legs are sore, my back is chafed from the one insole I did run round the course with (what was I thinking?) but otherwise, I'm intact..

So how do I think about this race? Was it a success? I went out to Boston qualify - a goal that seemed utterly unachievable 9 months ago and, bearing in mind that the results are not yet official, it looks like I have. Or was it a failure? I lost the plot. Something went wrong physically - nausea is not an unusual feeling but I had it very early on in the race, straight after having my gels (which I've used all summer). I may have had heatstroke - the shivering and goosebumps was very strange. Though again, I've run in far warmer conditions. But more than anything else, I wasn't feeling. Normally when I run a race I am just full of it. Annoyingly so. Grinning, positive, driven - all these things. In London I relentlessly pushed a pace I had not run before and carried this on right up until I absolutely could no longer do it. Here I gave up. I was feeling quite blah for the first bit, hanging on mentally for the next few miles and then I just gave up. I thoughts things like "I don't ever want to run again". And yet. And yet I also got up off my chair at the medical tent. And got myself back in there. Looking at my pace on the Garmin, that slow mile with the medical stop was followed by an 8:19 mile. Pace wise I didn't really slow down until mile 23 when I started running plus 9 minute miles. Did I go out too fast? I think so. Sally was gunning for 3:35, I was gunning for 3:40. I should have let her go. However, had I not swooshed through the first half so quickly, I would not have slipped under the 3:45:59 mark. And then - I wish I could have found whatever I found at the 41K mark just a bit sooner. That last half mile was run at an 8:04 pace..

Or was it just a case of a bad day? I've had those in training, but never in races. Will it happen again? I guess if I keep racing, probably it will. At some point.

More to the point - what now? I have submitted my application to the BAA. But the Berlin results, so far, are classed as inofficial and according to the kind lady at the SCC Real Berlin office I spoke to this morning it will be another week or two before they are confirmed as official. I can't really imagine my time changing - the time I have is a chip time recorded on their website and on all the status updates. But I only have 13 seconds to play with so I'm not celebrating yet..

I wish that I had been able to qualify more conclusively. If I had a 3:43 in the bag I wouldn't be so worried. I also wish I had run a better, more consistent race. On the other hand - who knows what will happen? I may not run this fast again, for whatever reason. If I get a place in Boston, I think I will take it.

Finally - do I run Bizz Johnson, for which I'm registered, in 20 days? Why would I run it? To get rid of this awful feeling that I somehow failed. To run 26.2 fairly consistent miles. To run a good race. Perhaps - to Boston qualify more conclusively. On the other hand - what if I have another bad day? What if I run a worse race?

You can sense where I'm at. All over the place. Not sure where to go or what to do. Send me some wisdom peeps - I know you have your thoughts and opinions and I would like to have them.

And finally finally - thank you all of you who sent me texts, emails and messages of support, commiseration and congratulation. You are incredible. Truly.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Follow me!

The amazing Greg - who has just blasted his previous PR with a "bat out of hell / contained madness" pace - has found the email / SMS results service for the Berlin marathon. Bad news is you only get half marathon / finish times. Good news is they will let you sign up foreign phone numbers which is rare. For those of you who don't succeed I will try to update Facebook as soon as possible. See you on the flipside of 26.2 miles!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who's the dumb*ss?

Well - that would be me. Because I am the idiot who insisted on running a 30K race without checking out the course profile. Because I did not amend my race strategy when I realised that it was an entirely different race from the one I ran so successfully and confidence-boostingly (bear with me with this lack of grammar, I'm on a roll here) in London in March (extremely hilly instead of flat, on trails instead of roads). Because I kept thinking I could hit a sub 9 mile pace in it. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I wasn't is the answer. Thinking. I didn't think until at mile 17 it felt like someone was hitting the bottom of my left kneecap with a hammer. And I had to struggle in.

Since then my knee has bothered me. It has improved - weekly sessions with Jonathan have loosened the tightness in my quads and improved the tracking of my kneecap. It was never terrible - nothing like my knee pain last year when I could feel it coming down the stairs. I felt it in the last miles of my 16 miler a week ago. Nothing that stopped me, but it was there. After 3 months off orthotics, I have started wearing them again and this week's 12 miler went fine - no pain.

But what it has done is made me nervous. Everything else is looking good. I have been going through my average paces and workouts in my last training cycle and my average paces are up. What felt hard last time is comfortable now. My VO2 pace has gone up (or down - whatever - I'm faster) and my long run pace is a lot faster. I haven't missed many runs in this cycle and found them easier than I did the first time around.

I'm just nervous about my left knee. I took out my orthotics some time ago because in the space of a few days the orthotic on my right foot really started to hurt my arch. I was fine without and just carried on and have only started wearing them again, on and off, since I hurt my knee. I think I probably should wear them in the race but I'm terrified of what might happen if I suddenly develop this pain in my right arch. Right now - and I know this is completely mad but perhaps you'll understand - I'm thinking of taking 2 soft insoles with me tucked into my fuelbelt so that should my arch suddenly become unbearably painful I can take my orthotics out and put my soft insoles in. Kind of insane I know but it might just put my mind to rest. Hrmmm.

Or is all of this just taper madness? To an extent. Or just general madness. Plenty of that going around too.

Otherwise, however - thank you! You guys! What a response to my previous post! What an amazing bunch of friends I have in the running community (and all you lurkers out there - I can see you!) and what a point to prove about what running has brought to my life. Thank you so much - all your comments made me feel very virtually hugged. Wonderful. Can't wait to meet each and every one of you one day out running.

And that's what I'm trying to keep hold of right now. I run because I love it - and I truly do. Not always, not all the time, but most of the time I love it. I have trained hard for Berlin and really would dearly love to BQ. I'm thinking positive thoughts and visualising and all that good stuff. However, however, however - I also want to be okay with it if it doesn't happen. I even want to stop kicking myself for being such a dumb*ss. There's little point in it anyway..

So that leaves me here children. 3 days to go. Last run done yesterday morning (7 miles with 2 at RP - well kinda) and I've decided to ignore the 5 miler Pfitz wants me to do on Friday and the 4 miler he wants me to do on Saturday. I'm going to keep the juice in the box now. Sunday morning, 9 am, let's see if I can use my "bat out of hell" strategy again. I'm not sure whether you can track me - my bib number is F1864 - so far I've not managed to find a tracking website.

I'm going to run this thing. And then I will let you know all about it. I promise!