Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Definitely in the desert now....

The "desert proper" i.e. cold nights!
Unfortunately it didn't seem as if my cardboard box had helped me much, but as it turns out, that night had been colder than the first as there was a thin coating of ice on some of the water bottles in the morning.


We were getting into a morning routine now of putting headtorches on, trying to make breakfast (I was glad I'd brought packets of muesli and milk powder as well as porridge as hot water was not always forthcoming) and then packing up in the dark, while stripping down to running gear as late as possible.
With company early on in the day


Another briefing (or rather an inaccurate account of the distances to the water stations), some banter (so much so that I was actually facing the wrong way and chatting to Colin, a fellow Scot, when people started running) and we were off. 

No sunglasses in the morning light
Along the ridge of a dune
I found that I really enjoyed the first hour of running each day.....it was a perfect temperature, the light was beautiful and I could run without my sunglasses, and the sand was slightly firmer going (if you avoided the tracks). I'd picked up a few pointers along the way about aiming for the ridges of the dunes (but not right on the edge where it may crumble/slide), heading for darker rather than lighter sand, and looking out for vegetation as that gave me more grip. All seemed to be going well as I caught Aziza earlier this day, and to my surprise, even passed Flash before the first checkpoint (he'd been way ahead of me on both previous days). 

On the 4WD track 
Picking out the firmer sand
There was a sandy 4WD track to the second checkpoint which made the route obvious, but it wasn't the nicest thing when you heard a vehicle come up behind you. I know they were wanting us to get out of their way (as they needed some speed to prevent them from getting bogged) but I decided that they were actually there to "support" the runners so I wasn't about to flounder around in soft sand by moving off the harder spots I was picking out. Most vehicles were happy to take their time in passing, or even veer widely out into the surrounding desert, but some definitely liked to cut back in front of you, so messing up your planned footing.

Another dune? Lovely!!
I think I was filmed by one of the race organisers at the second checkpoint.....not my finest hour....as I poured yet another bottle of water over my head and commented "Another dune? Lovely! Who needs a beach holiday?"

This was because the route from this checkpoint (into the final 7k, which was actually more like 10k, so explaining how I'd apparantly made CP2 so quickly) went straight up a large soft done, which was clearly impossible to run up. As I finally plodged (hands on knees and push) my way to the top, I came across a photographer trying to direct me over the edge of some other dunes to run and jump to create some good pictures. I kindly declined and continued towards the flag I'd spied up ahead. 
Focussed on a flag ahead

After a few kms of soft sand, we popped out onto a surfaced road. Anyone who knows me would have thought that I would have jumped for joy at this, but I think I was too tired for that. The road seemed to last for ever....mainly in a straight line, but winding up and down so that distant runners ahead came into and out of sight. 
Coming out onto the road

Due to the late notice for my participation in the event, I'd had to borrow some shoes (with gaiters attached) from my friend Jo. Although I thought the extra shoes size wouldn't matter too much as my feet would probably swell, there was a gap slightly in front of the gaiter attachment where sand could get in, and so the front of the shoes seemed to take in half of the desert. This meant that my toes would bang against sand every step which wasn't exactly pleasant.....and I even found myself seeking out softer, sandier bits of road rather than the old sealed sections.

Having crossed a rather isolated finish line!
I closed slightly on the guys in front, but not by much, as it was rather hot and soul-destroying with the sun reflecting back up off the pale road surface. As this section was rather longer than anticipated, I was down to my last few drops of water (having only filled up 1 water bottle at the last checkpoint) when I spotted a flag off to the side of the road. From there it was a short "crosscountry" route to the final dune of the day....which had the finish gantry at the top of it.

Camp was down the other side of the dune and so, as we were there ahead of most of the camp being set up, it was again nice to chill in the one communal tent that had been erected, and chat to some of the faster runners who'd been there awhile (including Greg from my tent, and the very speedy Russian lady Natalia, along with Evgenie from the Ukraine.......though we joked about Natalia's temper flashes when the wind blew sand into the tent, or the poles looked like they were about to collapse).

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Late night "stop outs"....

It was dark by 6pm and so most people got into their sleeping bags and settled down for the night. I had tried to put off eating my dinner for as long as possible as I knew that if I ate early hungry, I'd wake up starving in the middle of the night. Still, as my tentmate Flash and I sat there tending a little fire to heat some water to rehydrate the food, we felt like dirty stop-outs even though it was only 7pm.

When it came to turning in after that, I realised my schoolboy error. The last stage was due to end on the beach, but we'd still be staying there that night and wouldn't return to the hotel until the evening afterwards, so we were allowed to hand in a small bag to have at the beach after the event. Unfortunately I'd managed to put my sleeping bag into that bag, and had just taken my bivvy bag with me (I'd planned it the other way round in case there was a sea breeze on the beach).......so even though I wore all the clothes that I had in my pack, it wasn't exactly the comfiest night when the temperatures dropped. Let's just say it was actually a relief to hear the "call to prayer" at 4:45am and know that the day wasn't far away!

Paying attention at the briefing
And they're off...
Day 2 was scheduled to be longer than Day 1, but by the time we had the briefing at 6:30am we'd already discovered that the "routebook" was rather a work of fiction. Distances and start times were rather variable (sometimes by as much as 2 hours which rather caught people unawares as they tried to get ready before dawn broke), and the water support points weren't always exactly as advertised. More to the point, they weren't always at the distances specified in the briefing that we'd get 10 mins before we started, so I (as well as others) ran out of water on occasion over the week (even though I wasn't wearing a watch, I did try to judge the distance I was travelling and so how long my water was supposed to last before I could fill up again).

Into the sand...
The field spread out quickly
Anyway, we were soon off and the day heated up. I started relatively slowly again, but the field quickly spread out. There were footprints going in several different directions in the sand, but as the race photographers also sometimes tried to convince you to change your route so they could get better pictures, I mainly ignored the tracks and aimed for the large way marking flags (officially every 500m but in actuality, whenever they felt like placing one). 

The "pretty" dunes (pretty hard to run up)
It was my first experience of the proper soft sand dunes.....which could be quite dispiriting to traipse up and down. However, each climb was rewarded by a great view (and helped you relocate the next flag) but there didn't seem to be many runners about. As it turned out, several people bypassed the dune section and ran around them on firmer ground to the first checkpoint (they were later penalised for this with small time penalties), so it was hard to know where you are in the field. I came out of the dunes and headed across flatter ground, only to find myself re-overtaking some runners who'd run round the side of that tough section.
Spot the flag.....clue:topleft

I passed Aziza slightly earlier on than the day before (but still between the first and second checkpoints) which gave me a bit of a buzz as I thought that I'd be left way behind once we'd started the desert running "proper". The last section was firmer terrain, especially if you ran just to the side of the 4WD tracks, and you could see the finish gantry from a long way off. It was still a relief to cross the line and be handed another nonalcoholic beer (I think I got pomegranate that day to compare to the pineapple flavour of day 1). 

The day had been shortened slightly as the sand was too soft for the 4WD and vehicles to take the tents/portaloos further along that route.......which might've seemed great at the time.....right up until you realised that the extra distance would still have to be covered later on. The tents hadn't yet been erected but as it was still morning, it meant that we could stood around and chatted rather than cracking into our food supplies too early.

The lovely Rosemary and Greg
We developed 2 new tentmates......Rosemary and Greg (actually in Oman on their honeymoon), as they were the only non-Italians in their initial tent. We thought "the more the merrier" (our tent was truly international.....we already had me, 2 Brits living/working in Oman, 3 Dutch, 2 from the Balearics, 2 Finns and a Swede living in England) and also that more bodies would help us all keep warm as the Bedouin tents are just 3-sided structures.

I had taken some cross stitch with me in case there was a lot of downtime to fill, but chatting and getting to know people (as well as discussing when and what we were all going to eat) seemed to fill the afternoon and suddenly the sun was starting to set.....time for dinner and then bed (with an extra cardboard box over the top of me, once it had been emptied of the water bottles it contained).

Friday, 1 December 2017

A heat shock acclimatisation.....

The route book I hadn't received by email!
In the "Big Brother Tent"...well Tent 4!
When my Croatian friend Nikolina suggested we run the Oman Desert Marathon together, I jumped at the opportunity to rekindle my love for multiday stage races. I like the fact that you get away from all the trappings of modern life, carry your food/clothes/sleeping equipment etc with you, and spend each day just running, chatting, eating and chilling out.

The race organisation promised to sort out the flights so I duly entered but then things became rather quiet. Nikolina appeared to decide not to do it, and nothing materialised re the flights. I resigned myself that it wasn't going to happen so turned my thoughts more towards whether to run the cross country in Northern Ireland or not instead. With a week to go, flight tickets materialised and it suddenly became a massive scramble to get organised. With the help of a couple of good friends, I managed to amass all the compulsory kit, sort out the lightest versions I had of what I needed and source lots of dehydrated calories. Unfortunately there was no time to find some sand to run on, or a sauna to acclimatise in (in fact, I actually saw snow before I left Scotland).

It certainly felt warm as we set off!
An overnight flight, a long wait at the airport (for an even longer transfer) with other runners, a last minute change of accommodation and plans, registration with last year's route detailed in the race booklet (!) random kit checks, meant that I was definitely ready for a nice meal and a good sleep on the Friday night.

Relatively good running terrain
We had a very early start for breakfast and then an hour's transfer to where the opening ceremony and first stage were being held. As one directly followed the other we were already in our running kit and only had access to the bags we were going to carry for the week. The location of the first stage was determined by politics as, instead of the described "downhill linear route to help runners acclimatise" we ended up doing a circular route so we could start and finish by the camel racing track by the palace of the future Sultan (and deputy prime minister). 

Going solo
This stage lasted about 20k but gave us a taster of the week to come (well a baby version anyway) as we ran across sand, up some small dunes, along dried up sandy creek beds and desert tracks/roads, and peered ahead for marker flags. It also gave us a slight clue (had we thought about it) as to typical Omani organisation (checkpoints not being exactly at the distances they were meant to be at, variable timings, route changes from the "route book" and in fact, and actual changes of distance for the stage. 

Into the unknown....
We finished with a long run back along a sandy track past the camel racing stadium and then a kilometre or so along a road into town. I had started the stage happily chatting at the back but seemed to work my way up the field as the run progressed. You were not always sure where you were in the field exactly as there was some slight variation between flags (officially about 500m apart, but not always so, eg 2 flags in the last 4K) for example, when I discussed having to duck under wires just at neck height to one of my tentmates at night, he'd seen none of them, but I did find myself overtaking a Moroccan lady about 12k into the day. I knew that she'd won the event in the previous year and had also finished second at the Marathon des Sables so I didn't think I could be doing that badly......although clearly we were a long way behind the head of the field (which included Natalya, the Russian lady who'd previously finished won and been second at the MdS).
Along the camel tracks

As it turned out, I finished second lady on the day and so was over the moon with my performance.......though I did gather that it was "the most runnable day" so I figured it would all be "downhill" in terms of results for me.....but then again, it didn't matter as I'd gone there to enjoy myself and run without the pressure of a result or any times/pace (I'd even left my watch at home).

Happy to finish and earn my (nonalcoholic) beer :-) 
Luckily I was able to swop tents from
 Tent 9 to Tent 4 with some fellow Brits
We were given a (very welcome) non alcoholic fruit beer as well as water at the finish and started cracking into the food supplies we were carrying (I was also allowed to change my shorts as I'd worn longer ones that day out of respect to the nearby houses at the start/finish) while awaiting the bus that was going to take us into the desert proper (in fact it was a couple of hours on the bus and then 30mins by 4 wheel drive.....until we became bogged in the sand and walked the last little bit to the Bedouin tents we'd come to call home).

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Friends and Family :-)

Maybe I was being very naive, but I'd honestly thought that once I'd worked out my 6 months' notice period and changed from being a GP partner to a locum, I'd have "more time". Time....you know....that precious commodity nobody has enough of, used for sleeping, cleaning, gardening, doing chores....and just generally relaxing.

As it turns out, I hadn't factored in important things such as how much my family and friends mean to me. I've always thought that I lived rather a selfish lifestyle, but actually I've realised that I'd probably do almost anything for a friend in need. This has meant that I've spent an awful lot of time in my car over the past few weeks, visiting friends near and far to support them when required (yes....running, eating and drinking with them, but mainly just being there and listening if that was what was wanted). I've also realised that although to my mind, my parents are still young, fit and active.....time does pass by and every minute I spend with them is precious.

38/40 and still hill racing!
DRC at Tinto Hill Race
Yes, I still love my work and my running, but recently I have been trying to fit everything in and so at times, I've been exhausted. Take last weekend for example.....I met a friend south of the Lake District to pass on a trophy for someone else who was unable to do so themselves and to swop some kit (I love the fact that we runners can call on each other to borrow random items such as a vest, a jacket, a scalpel or an anti venom pump). Then I drove up north to meet up with some friends for possibly the last time before "2 becomes 3" .....and we squeezed in a hill race, which several of my clubmates were also at (how my friend ran so well at 38 weeks pregnant is beyond me!).

A slight "sufferfest" at the 10K
Is it ever warm on Newcastle Town Moor?
After dinner I jumped in my car and drove down to see my parents as I didn't know when we'd next fit in a catchup. After breakfast the next day, and before meeting a good friend (who's had a tough time recently) for lunch, I squeezed in a 10k as I knew that would make me get out and run, even if I didn't really feel motivated to do so.

I drove for a couple of hours to get home, and then felt guilty that the out of hours service was understaffed so went in to work for a couple of hours. That evening I was so tired that I physically ached, but life's for living........I can't imagine being without my family and friends, and know they will be there for me if ever I need them, so what's a few hours of driving between us? 



Monday, 6 November 2017

Injury Management

Sometimes injuries stop you running completely, sometimes they "should" stop you running, but sometimes they can be "managed" and the skill is knowing which of these possibilities is right for you/your injury at that time.

I initially developed a problem with my right leg back in the springtime. Initially I ignored it (what runner doesn't?) but when it started to hurt everytime I ran, with a tender hard lump developing on the shin on each occasion, I decided it was time to rest it. However, this didn't really seem to alter it either but before returning to racing I decided that a trip to the physio was in order. An ultrasound didn't show any periosteal reaction so we figured it wasn't a developing stress fracture or reaction, and there didn't seem to be any evidence of tissue herniating through the fascia....so although I was none the wiser about what was causing it, I returned to running (albeit it would hurt on occasion....).


A windy checkpoint "on the Peak"
Roll on over 6 months and I still have the same problem - my shin can hurt depending on how I land (the part of my foot, the speed I'm going, whether up or down, the terrain etc), and the lump increase/decreases in size but it has got no worse. However, whether due to subconsciously trying to protect this leg...or the very odd running style I developed at the end of the 100K in China (the girls said that I looked so knackered that I was running on a complete lopsided tilt)....I suddenly developed tendonitis of my left ankle. Unfortunately I've had tendonitis before so I knew what the pain, the slightly reddened swelling and the crepitus meant....time to listen to my body and let it heal as best it could.

Part of the "event" map

My ankle seemed to be in favour of softer surfaces and so luckily the weekend's plans involved some more gentle off-road running in the Peak District. Three friends had combined their 40ths to host a "120th Birthday Event" which saw us split up into teams and find checkpoints in the hills round Glossup. We had to take pictures of the whole team at "base" checkpoints, and of 1 of a pair of runners we sent out to further checkpoints. We had a 3 hour time limit...which turned out to be almost the exact weather window of the day, as it turned very cold, windy and wet just as we headed back for warming pasta, tea and cake - a fun way of socialising whilst still getting out and doing a bit of running, but not aggravating my niggles!


With Jacquie pre-Hexham
Hexham 10K
Another gentle week then saw me testing my ankle out on road with a friend over 10K in Hexham. It was a new event and so we had no clue as to what the course would be like...as it turned out, it was mainly an out and back along a pretty country road, with a short run over a bridge and across a field to the finish, taking the distance slightly over 10K. My ankle didn't feel too bad (though the rest of me didn't feel too good....amazing how quickly you can feel that you've lost some of your fitness).


Running round the side of CatBells

A cheeky trophy at Hexham
I took it easy again, but then midweek realised that although my shin was still causing me hassle, the ankle no longer hurt and so I entered and ran the Derwentwater 10 at the weekend. I've done this race on several occasions in the past which puts me under pressure (I know, just from myself) to run it well. The course was changed last year to change from the old 9.8mile route to a 10.1mile one so it's rare for people to match their old times, but the fact that the weather was much better this year meant that my lower level of fitness and mojo almost equalled out so I was a mere 3s down on last year's time.


That's the ankle sorted then....and as for the shin...it's gone on for so long that I really must think about getting some proper imaging of it to ensure that I'm doing no harm by still running on it. Fingers crossed....

Friday, 20 October 2017

The "Heart Of Eden"

I had thought that York was going to be my last road race of the year, and I'd be "playing" more off-road but sometimes plans change last minute and you have to make the best of the situation.
I hadn't done quite enough races to count in Dumfries Running Club's Grand Prix for 2017 and it suddenly seemed feasible to take part it the Heart of Eden half marathon (the last counting race that I could make) on Sunday. I had been told that it was a really tough hilly course, so there would be no pressure to run a fast time - it was just a case of getting round to score some Grand Prix points, which was a bonus considering what I've ruin recently (yes, I know that most people step up their race distance, but I was breaking the trend and decreasing mine).
 
Carsharing made it a sociable trip down to Appleby - and it was fun to catch up with various friends at registration - the location of the race meaning that people had travelled both from the North East and the North West. As well as it being a Grand prix race for DRC, it was also part of the Eden Runners' Grand Prix and so they had a really good turnout (and I know several of them well).
 
Photobombing the Eden Runners
Unknown to me, my garmin had also been drawn in to taking away the "pressure to perform" as it had broken that morning, and so a clubmate lent me a simple stopwatch to give me some idea of time, although I'd then have to do mental arithmetic to work out my running pace! It was a very low key start with people milling around for club photos, a gathering of the rabble in the road and then we were off.
 
The start was a steep descent and so some people hared off down it. One of my clubmates Niall did this, as we all knew he would. It doesn't matter how many races he does, he's never quite got the hang of sensible pacing and so started off leading the whole race, whereas I deliberately hung back with some of my (more senior) clubmates. As soon as we turned a corner and hit the first (of many) climbs, runners started to go backwards. I don't think I changed my effort level to any noticeable extent yet I seemed to be moving right up to the business end of the field.
 
Not the flattest of race profiles
From there on in the route was an undulating one (though a lot more up than down to the halfway point) round the countryside of the North Pennines. I'd sometimes see people ahead of me on the road, but at other times I'd appear to be all alone as I neared corners, ran through trees, headed up hill and down dale. Although the weather wasn't the finest (with some brief patches of rain) there were still some great views on occasion and so I really enjoyed the "testing" course.
 
On the country lanes having
passed Niall
It was interesting to see the race unfold ahead of me (when I could).....apart from the race winner who headed off and was never seen again by the rest of us mere mortals. As expected Niall faded somewhat and was overtaken by Alan (another of my clubmates) after about 4.5miles. This was a significant event as Alan and Niall are direct rivals for the lead of the club men's Grand Prix. Alan looked to be moving slightly away from me and catching the guy in front of him, who was actually second in the race.
 
I passed another couple of men (on the uphills) and then realised that I was almost up to Niall. I was enjoying my run and had the breath to spare to thanks the marshals as we passed them, but I didn't think it would be very PC to comment on Niall's pacing strategy as I passed him so I just moseyed quietly on past. I didn't know what pace I was running, and although at times I did feel like just stopping (this seems to be a frequent thought in races these days.....note to self...work on mental toughness) the gap to the guys in front started shrinking.
No prizes, but nice trophies!
Alan had been in second place for a good while but was now back to third place. I caught up to him at about 12 miles and tried to give him a bit of encouragement. We had started with that steep downhill and as I'd been told that the race had a bit of a sting in the tail (and started and finished at the same location), I figured we'd have to go back up it at the end. I thought that the second placed man had been struggling slightly with the climbs so there was a good chance this final hill would be his undoing. Alan put on a little burst with half a mile to go, though just quietly, I thought that I was probably the best climber of all three of us, so I might even sneak past them both.
 
We headed under a bridge, turned a sharp corner and were suddenly right at the starting point (arriving via a minor road and so completely missing out the hill). I was gutted as this gave me no chance of chicking the guys with their sprint finishes, and so I settled for 4s behind Alan who was just behind second place himself. Still....not a bad run for me considering the recent few weeks, so I felt that I'd earnt my soup and shower!!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

York....Take Four....

I had been invited to run in the Yorkshire marathon before the China trip came off, and so I contacted them on my return. They have always been very good to me, and I enjoy going down there and meeting up with friends old and new, but I knew that there was no way that I could race it, and probably shouldn't even be thinking about running it, but wanted to honour a commitment.
The organisers were happy for me to come down and participate as I saw fit...the aim was to actually have a fun day out, and enjoy the atmosphere of the event without the pressure of trying to run hard, and see how much of it I managed. I was determined to be sensible and listen to my body, though I knew it would be hard to watch everyone run away from me off the start.
At Catterick parkrun
I did a parkrun on my way down, and although it felt like I wasn't going to manage to actually keep going for the full 3 miles, I actually ran it faster than I thought, so I formulated a plan for the marathon. I would run the first half at a steady 3 hour pace (if I could), and then when the 100k caught up with me, I'd either fade to a respectable 3:15 or be able to stop with no regrets.

Shona and I hatching our pre-race plans
It was quite odd to be able to just enjoy the build up to the race, while feeling for the other ladies who were obviously getting nervous as they had target race plans (one for sub 2:40, one for sub 2:45, one for about 2:45 and two for sub 2:55). I caught up with Shona Fletcher (who'd won the marathon 3 years previously and then had a break from racing for a year) and she had a similar plan of enjoying it, though she was going to start at a similar pace to me and then push on from 8 miles if she felt like it.

Chatting away....
....and waving to the photographers...
It was so nice to run down the initially steep hill (which did hurt my poor toe, still skinless from China), through the city, past the Minster and out into the countryside chatting and having a good time with Shona. The timing clocks along the road showed completely the wrong times, but we did seem to be clipping along slightly faster than we'd planned. However, I stuck to the plan of "taking in the whole race atmosphere" and managed to detour over to high-five the local vicar who comes out to support outside his church every year (I've always just run straight past before) and wave to people I knew taking photos en route.

I urged Shona to push on and not wait for me, as I realised that there was a 3 hour pacer running not far behind us, but she was happy to continue at the same pace, and some guys near us commented on how odd it was to hear ladies talking about ultras, triathlons and pacing etc while running a marathon. We passed a couple of ladies en route but made sure we were not chatting then, as it felt disrespectful.....and to be fair, the chat got less as the run became longer as I was definitely not as fresh as I could have been.

A "happy face"? In a marathon?
I had been needing a "comfort break" for a while, but every convenient place seems to have a car parked or supporters waving, but I finally decided that actually it didn't matter if I took a bit of time to get right away from the race route. I waved Shona on and said I'd see her after the finish. I then had to be disciplined in rejoining the run, as the temptation was to chase her to catch up again. 
Clearly enjoying it too much!

Still, I was just a few steps ahead of the 3 hour pacer by this time, so all was ok. I wasn't quite sure on the time as the clocks on the roadside had all been out, some wee fast and some were slow. Just after the halfway mark there is an out and back section to Stamford Bridge, which meant that I could cheer my friend Tracy on (looking strong in second place), as well as Shona as I ran the opposite way. I counted the ladies ahead of me and knew that I was 8th so I felt pretty good with that.

The next few miles ticked by, and they felt much easier than in previous years when I'd been pushing myself harder......in fact, I felt that I didn't need to take on the drinks or gels offered at feed stations (I actually finished still carrying the gels that I started with....but that may have been due to all the croissants I had for breakfast).

There was another out and back from 16 to 20 miles and as she came the other way, it looked like Tracy had now taken the lead so I have her a huge shout (so much so that the cyclist with her asked if she had a fan club). I'd somehow closed the gap back to Shona and could see a lady not far ahead of her that looked like she might be the first V40. I was feeling good so urged Shona to come with me as I eased past, but she didn't want to push further though urged me to go for the first v40 position (in fact she later caught up with a struggling clubmate and selflessly eased right back to keep him company right to the finish).

The course - showing some of the
"out and backs"

I passed the Knavesmere lady at about the 19 mile mark (I'd recognised her from previous York marathons so knew we were in similar age categories) and tried to keep running strongly to avoid her coming with me. A right angle turn took me down towards the last 6 miles. I distinctly remember those last miles as feeling rather long, lonely and a bit of a struggle in the past, but this time I rather enjoyed them.

It helped that after about a mile or so, I spotted a bike up ahead. I couldn't believe it, but the 3rd and 4th lady were almost neck and neck and not too far ahead. They must have been tiring as I didn't feel like I picked up the pace, but soon caught them up and when I passed them the cyclist came with me. I chatted away to him and he told me that I'd gapped by about 50m in just a few minutes.

The second place lady didn't look too comfortable just a bit further up the road, and it was an amazing feeling to slowly reel her in, while still being able to talk to "my" cyclist. As I passed her, the bikes didn't swop over, with the other cyclist congratulating me and saying that he hadn't expected "his girl" to be caught.

Moving into second place
I knew that I only had a couple of miles to go, but also that the lady I'd just passed was 11 years younger than me and had a faster marathon PB, so I expected her to come with me and then be able to take her position back at the end. My cyclist was great and in between talking about ultras (me) and ironman (him), he advised me of the gap.....10m.....20m....30m.....she's holding that gap.....she closed back (actually he said "she's dropped back" but I misheard....

My "recovery drink"

With a mile to go, the gap was almost 70m so I did have to put the work in to try to maintain my pace as I knew the final hill wouldn't be fun on tired legs. I kept my legs going up it (while being told when she'd turned the corner and started the climb behind me). The final section is downhill into the finish and I did my best to pick up the speed for that bit, as it would be gutting to be overtaken right in the final few yards in front of the spectators, but I'm not sure my legs managed to obey.

The "podium" with Dickie Bird

I was stunned to cross the line in 2:54 for second place (about a minute ahead of third) .....unbelievable from how I'd imagined it finishing, but the first thing I did was congratulate Tracy on her great win and new PB. As it turned out, I ran the fastest last 12k of the ladies (about 6 mins faster than Tracy but then again, she'd had such a strong run throughout the course that her winning margin was still 8 minutes). 
Showing Tracy how to drink!


Again, York came good for me........I achieved my goal of relaxing and enjoying the marathon while soaking up the atmosphere and en route support......and the surprise result was just the icing on the cake!