Friday, 28 February 2014

Smashing it in Seville.....

I wrote the previous blog post the night before the marathon.....little did I know what "Race Day" would have in store for me.....As I was leaving my room to go to the lift, I was stopped by Elena (Spanish 2012 Olympian) who told me that the lift was broken and so we all needed to go downstairs via the fire escape. Instead of taking us out at reception, this brought us out right into the street. We were all going to be taken to the start by bus at 7:30am, and so when a bus pulled up, we all climbed aboard. I saw Barbara (the Spanish speaking, French/Irish athlete who had run the race the previous year) and Pamela (the top Kenyan lady) and a couple of other Eastern European Elite runners also on the bus so decided it must be going to the right place.When the bus dropped us off, I followed Barbara as she led us to the stadium - this was where the Elite warmup area had been the previous year, but apart from the general public baggage dropoff, the stadium was deserted. We wandered most of the way round it, and even asked several people in high-vis jackets for help, but nobody knew where we should go. In desperation, we walked at a brisk pace towards where we thought the start of the race was (with me trying to swallow a jam sandwich as we walked). Having hopped a few barriers, we finally found the "elite tent" about only just about enough time to queue for the portaloos, do an abbreviated warmup and get changed. I handed over my passport to the Elite Coordinator and was assured that my bag would then be waiting for me at the finish.

Where's Wally (AKA me) ?

Standing behind the Elite men on the startline, we were invaded by the people from the pen behind, jostling their way forward so that they could get as good a start as possible. When the start sounded, the pressure from behind became so intense that within the first 10 seconds I was tripped and knocked to the ground, bruising and scraping my knees and elbows. I tried to get back to my feet but was pushed back down again by a runner accidentally treading on me. As I turned towards the oncoming runners, all I could see was hundreds of legs and feet bearing down on me. I fleetingly thought "this is how people get trampled to death" and let out a long loud bellow of "NOOOOOOOOO!" to try to get people to avoid me. This cry was cut short as my face was smashed down into the concrete by the ongoing flow of runners and I also felt people stand on my chest.After what seemed like forever, but in fact was less than a minute, the flow of runners seemed to slow down and a kindly Spaniard (well, at least I think he was Spanish) spread his arms wide to divert oncoming runners wide around me, and helped me back onto my feet. It is amazing to think about how many thoughts must have run through my head in the next few seconds.......I debating finishing my race there and then, but realised that my limited Spanish probably wouldn't reunite me with either my bag, my passport or the hotel. I also thought that if I didn't get on and run, then I might be too scare to ever race in the future. Another thought was that I hadn't gone all the way to Seville to run for less than 10 seconds. I did remember that the route passed by the front of the hotel so I could drop out there, if I started and felt unable to continue.How many of these thoughts were actually conscious ones is anyone's guess, and how much the adrenaline kicked in, but I was shortly on my feet and running down the road into the sun.

My poor nose!

At first I thought I had tears running down and dripping off my face, but I quickly realised that it was blood, as my gloves became soaked with my attempts to stem the flow. A man looked over at me, did a double take, and then kindly took out a packet of tissues and handed me one.

I had to weave in and around people in order to pass the 4hr, 3hr30 and 3hr pacers (who had all gone ahead of me in my downtime). Intellectually, I knew that I should work my way back up the field gradually, but adrenaline must have really kicked in, as I seemed to be flying down the road without a huge amount of effort, and I also did not want to get stuck running the pace of the field where I was when I'd resumed running. However, I was really surprised to be back up with Marthe (Norwegian) and Esther (Spain) by the 3 mile point, as I knew that they were planning to run sub/around 2:38. I couldn't see Barbara but as her target was in the low 2:30s, she was some way ahead. I had to check myself to ensure I then settled into a pace with the others, and tried to steady my breathing. I had initially thought that the pain in my right hand side was due to some panic breathing, but it didn't seem to go away so I realised that I must have done some damage to myself in the "fall". My knees stopped bleeding quite early on, and my nose had almost completely settled down by the 10k mark, though I had to be careful not to restart the flow, whenever I picked up a sponge to use near my face.

Catching up to Marthe

I don't think that Marthe realised what had happened to me, as she seems to be taking the pace from me, tucking in just behind, or just inside on the corners. When Esther dropped back slightly, the man with the "pacer" bib did so as well, so I realised that he was there purely for her, and not for our group.

We ran down the right hand side of a broad avenue and then turned sharply to the right. Too late, I realised that we had already passed the hotel (on the other side of the road), but as I had now settled into a rhythm, I just kept going, hoping to get some indication of the time at the halfway point.

It was another great surprise to see that I was very close to my original planned pace at the halfway timing mat. If I included the time I'd spent on the ground, this meant I had run the first half faster than anticipated and I guessed that I would probably pay for those adrenaline-fuelled panic miles later. 

We had been told in the technical meeting that our bottles would always be on a table on the right hand side of the road in numerical order. I knew I had a drink labelled for me at the 25k point and so I headed to the right hand side of the road, as the temperature was increasing and I was getting thirsty.

Unlucky......there was nothing there, as the bottles had been put at the left hand side of the road. Still, I knew that I had another bottle 10k down the road, and so I was happy just trying to grab a plastic cup of water from the helpers, and swallow the sip of water that didn't spill out. At the 35k point, the drinks were on the right as described, but just in a messy jumble, so again I had to choose whether to stop and find mine, or just grab a plastic cup of water - I went for the latter.

As we headed into the last 5-6miles, I was still debating the folly of having continued the run, but I was not going to give up and be beaten by a situation out with my control. I was finding it rather hot and dry again this point, and wondered if onlookers cheered me on as I looked like I needed it (I had no idea what my face and legs looked like). Finally we turned of the main road and headed into a park, which had a mixture of some shady paths and open sunny areas. As we ran round a large circle on big cobblestones in front of a palatial building, I could see runners in front and behind me. From the park we continued on the larger cobbles through the centre of the city. The streets were narrow here but there was vocal support from the locals which helped me along.

I suddenly spied Barbara up ahead and seemed to be closing her down, but with about 3 miles to go Marthe seemed to get a sniff of her first sub 2:40 and left me trailing in her wake. I thought Barbara might come with me when I passed her, but as I ran over the bridge across the river I couldn't see any other shadows except for mine.

In the ambulance post-race!
The last few miles were definitely the toughest ones of the race for me. The crowd support had disappeared entirely (as had the earlier adrenaline rush) and I felt that I was just out running some hot, lonely miles. I could see the stadium in which I knew we finished, but the course did not take us straight to it - in fact we seemed to skirt around it for about a mile and a half. A few people had come out to line the corner when we turned into the stadium, but as I ran under the stands, I was desperately worried about falling again, as the contrast from bright sunlight to dark shadows was so strong. I made it and came out into the sunshine, but still had 300m to run round the track.....

Waiting at the hospital

I tried to ignore any pain I was feeling and focused on trying to finish as strongly as I had at Comrades.

I knew I had made it home as 4th lady, but wasn't sure of my time as the race medics converged on me literally as soon as I crossed the line. I was taken off to be assessed in the medical room, and then sent to hospital by ambulance (where they actually wanted to admit me for 24hrs to see the plastic surgeons about my broken nose).

Some strange looks at the airport!
I didn't know my actual finish time but I did plead with the medics to be given a finishers' medal before they whisked me away (amazing how much you want a hard earned trinket like that).

I later learnt that I had "run" 2:41:27 - definitely slower than I think I'm capable of, but not to be sniffed at, as I'd proved my fitness and determination in the face of adversity #nevergiveup!

Runningmutt aiding my recovery!

Race photos courtesy of: Maratón de Sevilla/JJ. Ubeda

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Marathon prep......

If I had actually scripted something to suggest that it wasn't going to be my day, I don't think I could have done any better!

My suggestion of a cheeky weekend in sunny Spain (to drive away the February Blues) was obviously not too appealing to family and friends (they're clearly all ducks and enjoy floods too much!) so I headed over there alone.

Sitting in the back row, I could still see into the cockpit!

My route took me via Manchester and Lisbon, but 3 hrs spent at each of those airports is definitely enough for one trip! The first surprise was while waiting to board the flight from Lisbon to Seville. A member of the airline crew came round and checked everyone's hand luggage - it was going to have to sit on your lap, so if it was slightly large/heavy, it had to go into the hold. This should have been a clue as to the size of the plane, but it went over my head, so I did a double take when we were taken out to a small propellor aircraft with a ladder to climb in order to get onto it. There were 5 rows of seats (1 seat on each side of the plane) and if I'd been sitting much further forward, I'd have been flying the plane myself. There was a "comfort pack" on each seat, which contained a bottle of water (v necessary when hot air blasted out at your feet), a sandwich and a pair of ear plugs! No room for am air hostess so the pilot shut the door and we were off......though I have to admit there were amazing views flying at such a low altitude!

A page I found in the race magazine

At 11:30 on the Saturday morning, the Elite athlete coordinator drove us to the expo. Unfortunately, he then put the wrong type of petrol in the car and so we ground to an unceremonious halt on a main road. Cue me flagging down a taxi for myself, the current Norwegian marathon champion, her dad, and the current male Swedish marathon champion so that we could get back to the hotel (we had been the "English speaking" car, and the organiser stayed with the vehicle for a tow). This meant we had to rush to make lunch before they stopped serving it at 3pm......and I was famished (despite having gone overboard on the buffet breakfast earlier), as you might have guessed, the all-you-can-eat buffet style got me again! Lying on my bed later that afternoon, I seriously hoped that everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong.....

The shorts looked OK until you tried them on
Almost, but not my Spanish roommate then arrived......with her boyfriend in tow (who also turned out to be her pacemaker). Adjacent twin beds with a previously unknown female is fine with me, but not for the three of us, so luckily the hotel were able to procure another room (phew, I didn't have to hide my chocolate stash and pretend to be a "proper athlete"!).

The "technical meeting" did make me wonder what I was doing there. It was no problem letting my mind drift when they talked about the two different paced groups for the going through halfway in 64mins and the other in 66mins. I could also ignore the Kenyan ladies' pacer asking if 74-75 was ok for the half, while the Spanish Olympian (who thought she recognised me from London 2012........she was sadly mistaken!) had her pacer targeting 76. The comedy moment for me was when I was introduced to 2 ladies who "might be running at your pace"......they've just returned from 2 months of training in Iten, so I don't think I'll be much company for them! Oh well, at least I got my goodie bag....complete with a pair of shorts that would make the Cheeky girls look fat, and a March 2008 edition of Spanish Runners World magazine :-)

After that catalogue of disasters......what else could go wrong?????

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


........and I'm not talking about the street dance crew, though I do have to confess to enjoying watching Ashley Banjo getting the whole of Stockton to dance!

Strictly Live

It is easy to become isolated when you have your own room at work, and also live and train mainly on your own. Some people might call it "getting into a routine", but others may call it "getting stuck in a rut". Add in some poor weather, a few coughs and colds, and every niggle can develop into a major issue in your mind, and you run the risk of developing a bad case of the CBAs!
I decided at the start of the year that I would try to avoid this happening - though not really as a "New Year's resolution" because that could lead to feelings of guilt/failure if I was unsuccessful. 
It's going well so far, as I've been enjoying doing many different things....

Running-wise, I've been up to Glasgow and run with a group of similar-paced friends, down to a Half Marathon with some lads from Carlisle, and away to a new parkrun with one of my closest friends (who was doing his first ever one).

At the athletics

However, it has been the other parts of my life that have been the busiest......but just don't mention work!

On the big screen at the Emirates

Seeing my parents over New Year, a trip away for some sun with a good friend, watching an amazing afternoon of athletics at the Emirates arena, a fantastic trip to see Strictly Come Dancing on Tour, watching the rugby in Edinburgh, and having some good times catching up with friends old and new in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dumfries - all of these have set me up to start the year as a balanced rounded person (hopefully not too rounded physically) and long may it continue!!

Coming up....yes, there'll be some running...but also some weekends away to catch up with friends, and I've just agreed to play in a Mozart variety really is the spice of life!