Wednesday, 17 December 2014
The race did start on tarmac in the small village square, but within a kilometre we were on a muddy trail winding through vineyards and other crops. As we started to head up a steep hill, we were then directed off on a very undulating rough trail loop of about 3Km. It was then back along the muddy paths back to the village with a final sprint up the hill to the square.
It was rather unusual for me to turn up to a race and run without knowing the terrain, the surface or the distance and so be wearing totally the wrong shoes, but it was fun anyway. I also realised how much I have become used to having my "normal" amount of food and drink around if I'm running. I generally keep my cupboards full at home as I have rather a large appetite, but my friend shops as and when he needs things as he doesn't eat nearly so much as me. I was hungry when we got to the village, never mind after running, but luckily always have some bars stowed away in my bag for emergencies (thankyou Creative Nature for saving me both pre- and post-run) so disaster was averted!
|Paella and beer - bliss!!|
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
Two and a bit weeks back at work seemed to have flown by, and I found myself back on a plane heading out to Doha again, though this time I wasn't going solo and was proudly wearing my Team GB kit. This time, I found it harder to get my head round the fact that I was going there to race - partly because 100K seems like an incredibly long way to run, never mind race, when you actually stop and think about it - but partly because I'd been out there so recently on my own. This meant that I was one of the most "experienced" team members. I'd sent everybody feedback on the course, the turns, the underfoot surfaces, the heat, the humidity, the customs, the food, the feed stations etc etc before we travelled, but I also took several of them on recces around the route when we got there.
|Room 606 shenanigans!|
The few days before the race provided an excellent opportunity to catch up with running friends old and new - and I also really wanted to attend the medical conference and tour of the sports medicine hospital that had been arranged. Unfortunately it was not to be - as that was the morning Ellie and I were summoned early in the morning by a knocking at our door and "drugs testing!!".
|Waiting for blood tests|
|Go Team GB (with Ellie and Jo M)!|
Oddly enough, we were all made to walk across the start line and back again to check that the chips were working - we were tightly packed as a group so I have no idea how they would identify if one wasn't. No big deal was made of the start and suddenly we were off.....
Don't worry, I'm not going to give you a K by K or mile by mile account of the race....or even a lap by lap one (as that would really help anyone with insomnia), mainly because I cannot really remember the whole run that distinctly. I would sometimes find myself running past the feed stations having covered a lap wondering how I'd got there as I was sure that I'd only just passed them! I'm not sure that I can really claim that I was "in the zone"....more like I'm just a bit of a space cadet!!
|Emily, Ellie and myself pre-race.photo:irunfar|
Although there was a large number of participants in the race, and a good competitive ladies' field, I found myself running alone by halfway round the first lap. This was at total odd to my only other 100K when I had ladies to chat to for about the first 40K. I guess I've done many lonely runs since then, so it didn't really bother me and I just tried to settle into a comfortable pace. Some things were the same as the 50K - that familiar hard surface underfoot and the call to prayer sounding eerie in the night - but others were new to me - the temperature was a good 10 degrees cooler, the cooling stations had moved, and even the official feed station was in a totally different place!
|1 bottle to drink, 1 bottle as a shower!|
We had all agreed to look out for and support each other during the race (which was another difference from the 50K, when I only really had Paul Martelletti to wave/chat to) - and we had decided to do it in a rather tongue-in-cheek American way, so there were plenty of "Good Job!"s and "awesome"s as we spotted each other. I didn't want to offend anyone by accident, so when I was running near Meghan (Team US), I gave Ellie an encouraging "Jolly good running old Bean!" shout instead! It was nice to recognise so many runners from other countries as well, so it was actually quite sociable with all the waving and cheering.
I hadn't quite covered 25K before I was lapped!!! The young Russian (Vasily) was flying, but he did seem to be working very hard so early on in the race (if he'd carried on at that pace he'd have lapped me 4 times!!)...and indeed, he paid for it later as he faded back to 8th place! Incidentally, he (along with a couple of Russian ladies) wasn't wearing his National vests, so it wasn't clear until you were right up next to them (so you could read their numbers, names and nationalities) that such runners were competing in the World Champs. A little while after he passed, a huge chasing group containing Americans, Japanese, Italians etc nearly ran me over as they motored past. I was surprised not to see any Brits amongst them, but on a positive note, it meant that I then had the anticipation of being lapped by my teammates so taking my mind off running several more kilometres.
I could see that Ellie had moved smoothly into the lead a way ahead of me, and Jo was running strongly a few places behind me. I had steadily progressed up the field and gradually closed up on a couple of ladies as we approached the 50K mark. Without changing pace, I moved past them, which put me into second place in the field....not really where I wanted to be at this point in the race. The Japanese lady that I'd just drifted past then suddenly shot past me 2K later. I felt like I was going backwards....either that or that she was running a 10K, as it was an impressive sudden burst of speed, which certainly meant I had no inclination to go with her. I was slightly worried she'd power on up to Ellie, but no fear of that with Ellie was looking so strong and comfortable.
|Not exactly a 5K "loop"!!|
There were other things to notice to while away the time, such as a Swedish guy who had decided to run for a while carrying his shoes before replacing them on his feet, and a Latvian guy who was doing the whole thing in "barefoot" shoes! The mens' race was also heating up, and I could see positions changing at the front end when they came past me. I was so jealous of them when I realised that they were almost finished whereas I still had several laps to go, but at least none of the British men lapped me more than once in the whole race!
I know I definitely slowed down for a couple of laps later on in the race (and my splits confirm this). I guess I could blame my stiff achy back, but if I'm honest, I think that I mentally switched off for a bit. Ellie was motoring away up front....so much so that I no longer saw her at the switchbacks, and there seemed to be no real movement in the field around me, whatever lap the runners were on. I found myself take a quick stock of my body in the penultimate lap.....my legs felt ok, I wasn't running out of energy, my back wasn't that bad as long as I kept moving.....so the problem was definitely in my head.....I guess that if I include the 50k and other runs while out at both the events, I was almost on my 40th time round the route - enough to drive anyone insane!
Ellie had run a fantastic race, and just got stronger and stronger to win with a huge margin in 7:30:44 with Jo also excelling to finish 4th in 7:43:30, which meant that we were easily the leading team. The Japanese ladies had a great day for silver team medals, and the American ladies took team bronze (the Russian ladies would have had this honour, but unfortunately they had not obeyed the race rules by not wearing their national vests and so were disqualified from the team results)!
Some things seem to only happen in events of this distance/nature. For example, it was slightly odd to lap a man after having run 97K and have him comment on how "nice my legs were"!!!! I'm not sure that runners competing for different nations would be as encouraging and supportive of each other in a shorter race either, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong.
|4:30 am - Photo:irunfar|
Friday, 21 November 2014
Some people dread running in the summer, as they fear dehydration, or just looking unattractively red in the face and sweaty. Others worry about the winter, and the hazards of snow and ice, slowing you down and causing slips and falls and hence injuries.
One season that a lot of people forget about is the autumn - this brings to mind beautiful sunny days, with cool crisp mornings. Leaves are turning to beautiful shades of golds, browns and reds and all is well with the world.
|?Early Lyme Disease|
|Bubbling up in the path|
|A disappearing path..|
Saturday, 15 November 2014
It was the same for CurraNZ (a New Zealand blackcurrant supplement from Health Currancy Ltd), as I first heard about it from a runner I overtook in the later stages of the World Mountain Running Championships at Pike's Peak in August. Because of this, I was in two minds about the supplement, but by the very next morning, he was out running again in the mountains with no ill effects, and certainly seemed to have recovered very quickly. I, on the other hand, am not so good at eating and drinking to aid recovery after a race or a hard run. This is partly due to the fact that I do not like to drink milk/milky things, and so have an aversion to many of the recovery shakes on the market.
|More info on www.healthcurrency.co.uk|
Decision made......I would try CurraNZ after my running break, to see how it helped me build up for my next challenge, the World 100k Championships.
I regained my fitness fairly quickly after my break, but was unsure whether I could put any of this down to the supplement, or whether it was just thanks to having had some well-earned downtime. I'd certainly had no ill effects, so decided to carry in taking it.
I have had some good results in the races themselves (who would turn their nose up at winning an unexpected silver medal in the World 50K Final?) and moreover, had some good training sessions straight afterwards. For example, I ran some 800m reps on the track with my clubmates only 5 days after the marathon, and again some fast (for me) 400m reps the week after the 50K.
Tuesday, 4 November 2014
Race Day for the 50K in Doha turned out to be rather a long day.
I started out as a supporter for the 5 and 10K races which kicked off at 7am. I met my new-found relative Carolyn and we watched and cheered as her husband (Ron) and daughter (Natasha) set off to run their first ever 5K race. The course was slightly different to the loops that we were due to run that evening, but it meant that we could see the runners at several points and cheer them on. Andi Jones had a clear lead when we saw him for the first time just after the 2K mark, and I wondered if he would get round his second lap of his 10K before the others finished their run, but the conditions slowed him down (first 5K in 15mins, second 5K in 17:20). Ron ended up with a surprise 3rd in category prize, while Natasha was 9th in hers, but had taken it easy with her friends for most of the run and so knows that she has plenty in reserve next time she gives it a go (I was glad she hadn't tried harder as it meant that I could use 9th place as my target for later on)!!
|Andi leading the way in the 10K|
|With Natasha post-race (pre-8am!)|
An evening race is not something I'm familiar with - I'm used to getting up, having breakfast, panicking and then running - so I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself for the rest of the day. Somehow I managed to pass the time dozing, snacking, reading etc until it was time for a late lunch. I figured that this might give me time to digest my food properly without being too hungry pre-race....and from the number of us in the restaurant, it was clear that many of the others had a similar ideas!
I'm not sure that partaking of a chocolate fountain and popcorn stand is recommended pre-race nutrition, but I figured that it would give me some much needed energy later....and was just plain too good to miss!!!
We had been told to muster in the Athlete's Village at 5pm - this was really just an enclosure outside the hotel, right by the race start, and as the race wasn't due to start until 6pm it didn't seem necessary to stand around in the heat. Paul Marteletti and I wandered out at about this time to claim a "table" on which to place our drinks/gels, and were amazed to see people "warming up" and doing some strides. I thought it was all about keeping your body temperature as low as possible for as long as possible, and so retreated back to my room to get ready.
It was dark when we made our way back to the start area at 5:45pm, but it was a friendly sociable atmosphere as we joked with other international runners and those in the open race - and it was nice to see Andi and his family who come back to support us fellow Brits (there were 2 British men and 2 British ladies in the Elite field).
I started in my usual position - away to the side and several rows back from the front. The darkness made it seem more likely that some trampling could happen, but luckily people were sensible and realised that there was no point haring off at the start of a 50K race (the 19 first leg relay runners only had 10K to do, but thankfully the organisers had arranged for them to start 5 minutes after us).
My main goal in the preceding day or two was to identify Emily Harrison so that I didn't go off and run with her in the race. I knew that if I did, then I would live to regret it as she's such a speedy runner - (having a 2:32 marathon and a 3:15 50K qualifier to her name, and thinking of targetting the US 50K record of 3:12 depending on conditions).
|2 of the lovely running surfaces!|
Due to the timing of the race, we heard the "Call to Prayer" early on through the loud speakers around the park - it was slightly surreal to be running in heat and humidity, in the dark, over tiles, while listening to that....we really fel that we were truly in the Middle East!
We passed the international feed tables just before the end of the lap, with several runners calling out their requests to their support crew as we ran along parallel before turning and passing the tables. Having no "crew"I had left bottles out lined up on a table (some with gels attached) so that I could just grab them myself as I passed. As I approached the table, I couldn't spot the bottle of water I'd wanted for that lap.....it just wasn't there anymore. As only the elite men had passed by, I figured that some local kids might have moved it, but I later found out that it was one of the men, who'd turned up to the race with no drinks or nutrition of his own - and just thought it was OK to take other people's!
We were still running comfortably at a pace where we could chat, so when I mentioned my missing drink, Emily made sure that I knew where the next feed station (provided by the race organisation) was, so at least I knew I could get some water in a little over a mile's time. I made sure that from then on in, I would always avail myself of any feed station I passed, usually grabbing one or two bottles of water - one to go straight over my head to try to keep my core temp down, and the other to sip a bit of before sending it the way of the first.
I felt that I was maintaining a steady comfortable pace, so when Valeria shot past me again, I wasn't drawn into picking up the pace, and she was behind me again by the next switchback. The nature of the course meant that you had several opportunites to see those behind you, and so I could see the field spreading out. The next couple of laps seemed to tick by with us all maintaining our relative positions - though at one point Catrin opened up a gap, but it subsequently closed up again. I don't like to have too much liquid in my stomach without eating, so i was glad of the slight seedy nature of the gels I'd brought with me (when I got them, it was joked that they would last an extra long time, as I'd be spending most of it picking seeds out of my teeth due to the real fruit components!).
The switchbacks also enabled me to see the leaders of the men's race approaching from behind me, but I really wanted to get past the 25K mark before they lapped me, as that meant that they (hopefully) wouldn't lap me twice within the same race! The leading pack (3 of them running close together) didn't catch up and pass me until 28K so at least I'd achieved one of my targets!!
Emily had moved ahead of Catrin in my race, but I don't think that she had really picked up her pace, as I also then caught Catrin and moved past into 2nd place, though I didn't really move very far ahead of her. Coming through the start/finish line at 30K, I heard them announce Emily as the race leader......and then I crossed the line....to silence!! A few paces down the road into my next lap, I heard the announcement that they were waiting for the second placed lady (and they expected Catrin) to see what the gap was. I felt slightly aggrieved that I'd run by unnoticed, but it turns out later, my chip hadn't registered on that occasion (as happened to several of the men). Some people following back home seemed to think it had taken me 42minutes to do a 5K loop, though luckily most people worked out that that was my time for 2 laps, ie 10K.
|Passing the "international" tables|
By then, it became a countdown of laps to the finish. I could usually see Emily up ahead of me (with a cyclist accompaniment) and I could see that I was starting to stretch the gap from Catrin when we ran the switchbacks. Another man passed me, but then I overtook the Kenyan man who had been leading the race (well, when I say "overtook", he had been lapping me!). Due to the nature of the course, I had seen Paul and the Irish runner behind him for a few laps, but was surprised that they didn't speed by me, so they must've been slowing down (relatively) in the heat and humidity.
I looked forward to the end of each lap as you got to see familiar faces at the feed stations (one of whom commented that - as in Glasgow - I always seemed to be smiling) and you got to take on your own nutrition, so I was very unimpressed to get there and find out that my bottles and attached gels had disappeared. I was feeling a dip in energy (and surprise surprise, my stomach was protesting that it was empty!!) so this was a major blow. I put it down to runners in the open race, or local kids, but again found out later from other athlete's support teams, that one of the international runners had been helping himself to my supplies! Not very sportmanlike behaviour - it could have cost me a place, and certainly gained him places...and hence prizes!!
Carolyn and Ron had come back to support me after the morning's race, and so it was lovely to see them for my last few laps - a familiar face is always a great boost!
Paul finally caught me at just before the 43K mark and so it was nice to be able to chat briefly. I was so jealous of him being on his final lap, whereas I still had a further one to run. Paul suggested that I use any of his remaining gels to make up for my missing ones as he was about to finish, but I wasn't keen to use any other competitor's nutrition, especially without really knowing how my stomach would take to it. I gave Paul a shout to finish strongly and then waved one finger at Carolyn and Ron telling them I had one lap to go. Unfortunately Paul didn't move over to the righthand side to the finish funnel, and didn't hear me shouting at him, so he then had to leap over a barrier in order to cross the finish line. As I started my last lap, I gave him a cheer and a wave, saying that I'd "see him in 5K"!
I didn't think that I would be able to catch Emily so I tried to run as comfortably as possible on the final lap, though I was worried that Catrin might have something in reserve and shoot past. It was rather reassuring to get to the 3k marker on that lap and see her at the 2k marker, as I knew then that my position was pretty safe.......though I guess a race is never over until it's over (as several people did drop out quite late on in the race).
Surprisingly, Carolyn and Ron were still out on the course - I had thought that they might have moved to the finish. It turned out that after I'd told them I was going for my last lap, they'd gone to the finish, but been told that I still had 2 to go, and so they thought I must've meant that it was my "last lap before the last lap"......again, due to that chip mis registering earlier!
The organisers saw me running fast down the finishing straight and realised what had happened, so checked and confirmed that I had run the full distance.....and so I finished in 2nd place, less than a minute behind Emily (who finished looking fabulous, and had obviously paced herself well). After that it got a bit surreal....starting with being given a goodie bag containing a finisher's medal, tshirt, some boiled sweets and a plum of all things!
|The "flower ceremony"|
The top 3 ladies were presented with flowers and a miniature statue of the Torch hotel on a podium....and then I was given some lovely refreshing frozen yoghurt and fruit. Then off to drug testing......and when this had been done successfully, they gave us a "Qatar drug testing" tshirt and thermos flask to say thankyou! One of the other competitors became unwell after finishing, vomiting and dropping her blood pressure, so I switched into "race medic" mode, while still finding time to eat a pizza and ride a camel!
On returning to the hotel at about midnight, there was still more food laid out for us, before we all finally headed back to our rooms to collapse, though as it turned out, nobody could actually sleep due to the adrenaline high!
The result didn't really sink in for me......I'd come into the race with no expectations, ranked well down in the field, and just wanted to have a good long run and see how the conditions affected me. I guess I did all that I'd set out to do, but also finished with a silver medal, a confidence boost, and some great new friends.......and I'll take that anyday!