18 April 2011

Taking Back Dun-Èideann...Part Dos

Sorry about the delay in posting part two. Less than 24 hours after running a 1:35:10 half marathon (!!!!!) and returning home to London, I was on the move again, but this time farther afield to Oslo, Norway. I arrived home at 2am yesterday and was up at 9am to spectate at the London Marathon (I am terrified about my own marathon in just 3 weeks!). After uploading some 240 pictures from Oslo to Facebook this morning, I went out and ran my final 20-miler. I am proud to say that I ran straight through to mile 15 before needing to stop - and then only because I needed to try out one of my 'natural' energy bars for fuel. While an excellent multi-tasker in other non-essential things, I lack the ability to chew and run. Or drink and run for that matter. (This is a bit of a problem since I have a tendency to forgo water stops simply because I don't want to slow down to drink. Clearly self-preservation is not high on my list.) This meant that the last 5 miles were very painful. At 19.25, I had to walk and give myself a pep talk to get through the last mile. (Said pep talk being less peppy and more along the lines, 'You can do this. Friggin' move your butt' although considerably less PG.) Total time spent running: 2 hours, 43 minutes. I have no idea how I am going to bust out an 6.2 additional miles on May 8th, but I plan on learning some Shakespearean curses in the next 20 days (!) to add to my 'pep talks'. (I'm running in the Shakespeare Marathon in Stratford-upon-Avon and need to keep with the trend.)

Since I now have no inclination to leave the sitting position for the rest of today, you can expect a post about Oslo this evening.

In the meantime...my Edinburgh Half Marathon race report.

 Sunday, April 10th - race day - dawned bright and early for me. My alarm went off at 5:30, startling me so much that I practically fell out of the top bunk at the hostel. (Fact: I used to have a bunk bed when I was younger but fell off the top bunk so often that I was banned from using it. Maybe this is how my insomnia started? Fear of death by impact incurred mid-REM cycle?) All runners have their race day traditions and mine is to become hyper-organized. My race clothing was already laid out, my bags packed, the pins in my race number. And so I was dressed and in the hostels 'chill-out room' (TV room) by 5:45.

I had my standard pre-race fare of pita bread with banana and peanut butter before heading out into the brisk Scottish morning at 6:30. This would have been perfect had the race started at, say, 7:45. But it wasn't slated to start until 9 and so I ended up arriving at Meadowbank Stadium (host of the 1970 and 1986 Commonwealth Games) 2 hours early. The first hour of waiting was a bit cold (since I had to put my bags on the baggage truck for transport to Musselburgh), but at least I avoided a repeat of the Patrick Henry Half Marathon. (At my first half marathon, the PAtrick Henry in Ashland, VA in August 2010, I literally had to make a running start to the race. Despite leaving very early from our hotel (5 miles from the start), my mother and I got caught up in the traffic to enter the park and, by the time we had parked, I had ten minutes to travel the half mile to the race start and hit the porta-loos. It was stressful.) 

Being early provided the additional benefit of giving me ample time to warm up. I jogged a few laps around the track, did some striders, and generally made a fool of myself by grooving along with the music that was playing. As members of my family can attest, 'America's Next Dance Star' I am most definitely not. Yeah, I was ridiculous. People stared. 

At 8:50, the call came for all runners to assemble in their holding pens on the inner field of the track. I joined the 1:30-1:45 pen since my goal was to achieve 1:35. (Ok, to be honest, I was really shooting for 1:33. Miracles can happen, right?). This was my first time in a race with pens organized by time and I found that the arrangement worked nicely. BEginning with the elite athletes and the sub-1:30 pen, each group of runners was individually walked to the start line so that by 9:05, 3/4ths of the track was filled with runners. Presumably the starting gun went off at some point, but I never heard it. Instead, the people in front of me started jogging towards the starting mats, slowed to a walk ('Oh look, we're running. Right, just kidding!'), and then started running. The race was on. 

Overall, I had a great race. The course took us out of Meadowbank through the neighborhoods of Restalrig in Leith, along the Victorian seaside esplanade in Portobello, and into Musselburgh. At mile 7 we passed the Musselburgh Racecourse where the race would finish. It was more than a little frustrating to pass the finish knowing that you were only at the halfway mark. Equally frustrating was the fact that the rest of the course was and out and back. As I hit mile 8.5, I began to see the leaders passing me on the left side of the road. I knew that the turnaround point was somewhere up ahead, but it seemed like it was never going to arrive. At long last, it did come and I prepared for the remaining 3.1 miles. Up until this point, I had felt great. Aside from a minor incident with the ankle timing chip that made me stop at mile 1, I had never felt stronger. But 10 miles of pounding the uneven and stony asphalt in Musselburgh and Prestonpans had taken their toll. I spent the last 3 miles just waiting for the race to be over and hoping that I would hit 1:35. The race finish was wonderful. The course veered onto the homestretch of the Musselburgh Race Track and past the grandstand filled with spectators. Afterward, I accepted my medal and all but collapsed in the grass beside the track. I had sprinted the last 1/2 mile and was exhausted.

After the race was over there was a bit of controversy over the race length. My Garmin had registered the course length as 13.44, but I had thought perhaps that I had started it too early.However, it seems that others had noticed that the course was longer than it should have been and registered an inquiry to the race organizers. They re-measured the course and, lo and behold, it was too long. It turns out that the person in charge of positioning the cone for the turnaround had placed it further than it should have been. This meant that our times were re-adjusted and so I hit the 1:35:10 mark. I was 16th in my age division (females ages 17-39), 284th according to my gun time, and 22nd in my gender. Not bad for a race with 3019 finishers! This was a new PR by 14 minutes. I would like to say that I am proud of my time, but in reality, I could not have done it without the support that I received from my friends, family, and fellow runners. Thank you. 

And now the countdown is on until the marathon. 20 days. I'm scared sh*tless. Seriously. I saw what happened to people hitting the wall at miles 22 and 23 in the London Marathon. What if this happens to me in Stratford? After all, it's not like I have my family there to come looking for me if I fail to turn up at the finish. I'm plagued with doubts about this race...but I will ultimately end up running it. I have a feeling that I am more suited for the half-marathon distance than the full 26.2, so this will most likely end up being the only marathon that I end up running. (My family is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief at this.) 

That said, I plan to keep on racing. On the 29th of May I am going to take another shot at the Patapsco Trail Run in Catonsville, MD. I ran it last year with my ex-boyfriend and it seriously kicked my ass. A '6 to 7-ish' mile run with few flat bits, it cuts across railroad tracks ('There was a train derailment earlier this year so watch out for debris') and a waist-deep river ('British troops got swept away here in the 1770s'). And on June 19th, Alex and I are 'running' the Rebel Run, a 5k race with military-style obstacles and mud...lots and lots of mud. Since Alex is off to the Air Force soon and I hope to join the Navy, we are going to use it as boot camp prep. I fully expect to ruin a set of clothes and possibly by dignity, but at least I get a free beer at the end. (Note: This would be so much better if it were whisky, but we can't get everything we want in life.) 

Coming soon: Oslo!

Added note: Today, Kenyan Geoffrey Muttai won the Boston Marathon in 2:03:01. This is the fastest marathon ever run. All I can say is: Oh. My. God.

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