Sunday, 3 October 2010

Loch Ness Special

The Loch Ness Marathon was the culmination of another 3 months work for me and Lynsey. Early runs, late runs, long runs, expensive trainers, injuries, exhaustion, all for one day. We really made a weekend of this one though. Lynsey booked us a luxury Loch Ness lodge and we rallied the troops. Yet again our support answered the call and joined us in the lodge. I guess you could get away with advertising the accommodation as a Loch Ness lodge just by having it in the vicinity of Loch Ness, but this was right on the banks with panoramic views. The backdrop was breathtaking and I think I could have quite happily lived there forever. The lodge facilities inside matched the views, with luxury baths and showers, Turkish steam rooms and a hot tub on the balcony. I think this is what the Commonwealth athletes in Delhi could have done with! The prospect of drinking champagne in the hot tub on Sunday evening helped me and Lynsey get through the race! Lynsey, Ben and I arrived at the lodge late on Friday evening which gave us a chance to relax and acclimatise to the fresh Highland air.

View of Loch Ness from our lodge

The above photos were leaked to the 'Inverness Courier' showing the horrendous conditions endured by the athletes
Target

Originally I aimed to finish this race in under 2 hours, 45 mins but the more I learned about the course and the closer I got to the day I realised that this might be a bit ambitious and my first aim should be to get a PB, and hopefully at least under 2:50. To add to the hills, I also picked up an injury 2 weeks before the race. I have been feeling pain in my lower left leg, on the outside of my shin whenever I run. It hasn’t stopped me from running but it does hurt and probably affects my mobility.  That said, I was still going to be gutted with anything over 2:50.

The Course

The Loch Ness course was quite stunning and I find it hard to believe there is a more beautiful setting for a race. The route starts between Fort Augustus and Foyers, drops to the banks of Loch Ness, goes right along the eastern side of the loch and then into the centre of Inverness, finishing in Bught Park.  


Not me, but check out the course backdrop
Pre-race

On Saturday morning we went out for a short run to loosen up. It was really beautiful and the sun was shining down on us and reflecting off the loch. We had been out for less than a minute when we spotted what we thought was one of the mile markers for the race! It turned out that the lodge was almost right on the course! Mile 7 to be exact. This meant not only that we had a fairly easy journey to the start on Sunday morning but that our supporters would have prime views with a short walk from the lodge! Stroke of genius Lynsey! Leanne, Christa and Lyle arrived on Saturday evening to boost the support and the girls prepared us a lovely carb-filled meal.
Carb-loading in the lodge
We woke early on Sunday and made our final preparations, mainly forcing down some food. The combination of an early rise and nerves makes it difficult to stomach even a bit of toast.  The ever present Ben then drove us to the start of the race which was around 7 miles away. We were in the middle of nowhere. We were also the first runners there as most people would be coming on chartered buses from Inverness. It was nice not to have to get on a bus but we now had over an hour and a half to wait until the race start and the rain was starting to fall. We chatted with Bryan Burnett the race MC and a few other runners who had turned up early and got cups of tea to keep us warm. Oh and I checked my facebook and came across a few good luck messages which put a smile on my face! Then the masses arrived and I really started to get nervous. Lynsey and I said our good lucks and got into our positions. Bagpipers marched down to the start which was quite powerful in those surroundings. The conditions for a marathon were perfect. It was around 14/15 degrees and there was plenty of drizzle.

Miles 1-7

And they're off....

The race started on a wee bit of a hill, downhill is this instance fortunately. This allowed me to get a really good start which makes a massive difference psychologically. I passed a lot of other runners and was feeling good. Runners are often advised to go steady for the first half a race and wait until the 2nd half to  speed up but this isn’t a tactic that sits well with me. I prefer to go out hard and hang on at the end!  I managed to do the first mile in 5 mins and 20 secs which is faster than my 10K pace! I knew that it wouldn't be long until a hill turned up and slowed my progress but I was flying. 


If you click on this you can just about make Irn-Bru out on the left
It was fairly downhill until about mile 5 when we hit an almighty incline. This really wore me out and I started fearing for what else was to come in the remaining 21 miles. I was really out of breath by the time I got to the top but at least I’d made it. For the next couple of miles I tried to get back into my stride. Looking at my watch I was still around 3 minutes ahead of my target pace at this point so I all was rosy. I was already running on my own as well and couldn’t see anyone in front of me or behind me most of the time. I was getting closer to mile 7 where I was hoping to  spot our supporters just up from the lodge. I was actually slightly worried that they might miss me as I’d went out so fast! It later transpired that they’d got there in the nick of time with only a minute to spare. I heard them before I saw them. I can’t remember what they all shouted but they made some amount of noise (I think Leanne was the loudest) and then I shouted a lot of rubbish back! Inlcuding a few expletives. After that I couldn’t help thinking that it was gonna be another 20 miles before I saw them all again, that’s a lot of running!
Coming into view of my supporters
Too fast for the camera....
It turned out that Lynsey wasn’t far behind me. Here are some pics of her also flying down the hill! Ben, Christa, Leanne and Lyle then setup a Haribo station and blasted tunes from the car to provide support to the rest of the runners. I also remember running past a farmer who had setup big amps at his gate and was blasting out some Scottish tunes and shouting support – fantastic! You’d have thought that the support for a marathon along Loch Ness would be quite sparse, and it was but when we did get it it was excellent.

Lynz flying down the hill
Miles 8-16

I’m not sure exactly what mile it was, but I heard footsteps behind me. It was a guy and the Ethiopian female runner who I’d taken over earlier. I was to remain with this small  group all the way until mile 23! Dinknesh Mekash Tefera went on to win the woman’s race. She looked quite serene, and I couldn’t even hear her breathing. It looked quite effortless for her. I got chatting to the guy who was from Holland. He was aiming for 2:50 and we both agreed that we were going a lot faster than this pace but the three of us seemed fairly comfortable. We took turns to lead our little pack which kept me focused. None of us made a significant break at any point. It was almost felt like we were in the leading pack, it’s always a lot more interesting when you’re actually in with a chance of winning and part of a tactical battle. This wasn’t the case today but we were helping each other along and it would have been a lot harder had I been on my own. There’s not really a lot more to say about this section of the race, we battled on together at a decent pace fluctuating between 6 and 6:30 minute miles depending on how many hills there were! I was surprised at how comfortable and composed I was at this stage and my mind started drifting to Edinburgh and how long it took for me to start falling apart!

Miles 20-Finish

When we got to mile 20 I had two thoughts. The first was positive: there’s only 10K to go and I run at least 10K everyday without even thinking about it. My second thought was more negative: I’d just run 20 miles and I knew it wouldn’t be long until my body started really suffering. As I do in every race I started questioning if I’d able to finish. I managed to keep my pace up until mile 23 when things really started slowing down. My knees started seizing up a bit and it seemed like the onset of cramp. This panicked me a bit but this had happened at the exact same stage in Edinburgh. It eased off a bit but I had lost the Dutch guy and Ethiopian woman. I was now approaching Inverness on my own. Then I looked up and bearing in front of me was what at the time looked more like a mountain that a hill. The incline was ridiculous and not what I wanted at this stage of the race. It was getting really tough. It was at least flat now but my legs were failing and my energy reserves were dwindling. 
Battling
The next 3 miles felt like 10. At least there was support along the streets of Inverness. I battled along, trying to hold back the tears (and failing) as the pain started to really take hold. Then I heard a shout of “C’mon Jamie, you’re in the top 20 at least”. It was Lynsey’s mum, and her dad was positioning himself for a photo. This of course gave me a boost and by this stage I could also hear the muffled sounds of a microphone meaning I couldn’t be too far from the finish in Bught Park. I got another shout from a guy which really lifted my spirits “C’mon, don’t worry, won’t be long until you’ve got a hot cup of tea in your hands!” Fantastic! I’d say it’s during the last 3 miles that the support is most vital, you need anything to keep you going. Even although you’re so close to the finish, you still feel like you’re going to need to drop out. I eventually got to the River Ness but the finish was on the other side of the river so we had to run along to the top and then back again. At least the finish was in sight though. By that stage my priority was to put one leg in front of the other. Then I reached the finishing straight and managed to start a sprint finish. I could also hear Bryan Burnett, the MC, say “This was one of the first people on site this morning, he’s one of our first finishers as well”. It wasn't until now that I looked at the clock, which was at 2:47 and approaching 2:48. I crossed the finish line in 2:47:51, screamed a few “YEEEEES” “YEEEEEES” “YEEEEEES” (you may be able to view the video of this by clicking here) and then struggled to stay on my feet. I had to lean on the railings to keep myself up. A lady then walked me along to collect my medal and goody bag. Relief. I was ecstatic with my time and beating my PB by over 12 minutes.

Train wreck helped by Lyle and Ben
Happy with Christa and Leanne
Proudly posing with my medal on the River Ness
                                                                                  
Then I was reunited with my friends who had supported me so well over the weekend. As you can see it was quite an emotional moment for me and I was quite overwhelmed. It's no wonder considering what I'd just put my body through that day and the amount of time and effort I have dedicated to getting to that point over the last few months. I was also so relieved to have done myself justice with my time.

Lynz flying!
Meanwhile, back on the course, Lynsey was ripping it up. We got into position to cheer her on with a couple of miles to go. We couldn’t believe how soon she came into view! Lynsey’s PB was 3 hours 56 and because Loch Ness was quite a challenging course I must admit I wasn’t expecting to see her until around the 4 hour mark. But when I looked at my watch when she passed us it was clear she was going to absolutely smash her PB! She looked so comfortable and fresh as well, unlike me. Because of the layout of the course we were able to see her again by crossing the bridge so she got a fantastic support on the last mile as well. She crossed the finish line in an unbelievable time of 3:42:30 wiping over 13 minutes off her PB and coming 21st in the female open category! It is safe to say it was a highly successful day all round. To put Lynsey’s time into perspective, it actually qualifies her for an automatic place in the London Marathon in the ‘Good for Age’ category, which is how I qualified with my Edinburgh time. You can find the qualifying times here.

Lynsey and Ben

The gang with Nessie

We collected Lynsey and we both revelled in our glory with Nessie! We then headed to the pub for some well deserved beverages and a post race analysis. The pint of Tennent’s was probably ill advised as it wasn’t long before I started to feel sick. My body had been punished enough. Thanks to Lyle in particular for looking after me at this low point. After realising that Lynz had qualified for the London Marathon with her time we headed back to the lodge for some food and relaxation. And then later on, we fired up the highly anticipated hot tub and popped a couple of bottles of champagne! I instantly felt better.

Hot Tub Time Machine?
I've now had a whole week off any sort of running and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. The next big target is London in April so I have started planning out my training. I will be competing in other 10K and half marathon races in the build up to this so please keep following the blog! A big thank you to everyone who has supported me this year, in person, by text, by facebook and by following my blog, it really does keep me sane! Well relatively sane. And thanks to my mum and dad who have helped me when I've needed a new pair of trainers among other things! Thanks also to Leanne, Christa, Lyle and Ben for providing the excellent race photography which has allowed me to create such a detailed blog entry, but more importantly for carrying me and Lynsey through the weekend. Having people to make your meals, carry your bags and encourage you is priceless, and we've had that for Edinburgh, Glasgow and Loch Ness in one year. And to Voogy, great performance in the hot tub.


And finally another massive well done to Lynsey Rainnie who put in an inspirational peformance and continues to inspire and support me in my efforts.

Sláinte.

Time: 2:47:51 (PB)
Position: 19th/2489


3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the blog update. The lodge and surrounding countryside looks wonderful. A great achievement to smash your PB again. Hope you have a wee rest now. Well done to Lynsey on running such a great fast time and achieving a place in the London marathon - a great day to look forward to. Thanks to the support team! Lots of love. Mum xxx.

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  2. Is that the Yeti in 'too fast for the camera' photo?

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  3. Nice work Jamie!! Sarah's signed up for another half marathon in February. I've taken my running career to the next level as well, by signing up for the santa run next month, one day I'm pretty sure I'll be a motivated, toned crazy agile athlete like yourself.

    I love that the only appearance Voogy made on this update was in the hot tub. Classic Vog.

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