Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just follow the blue lines...

... for 26 miles, 38 yards. What could be simpler?

My third LM and the first flying club class, courtesy of the TV Times/Leukaemia Research team. Didn't make the running any easier, of course, but at least I'll be able to tell the grandchildren I once shared a tent with Sir Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell - and Joe Pasquale.

Kinda cool, too, meeting at Marathon Central, the Tower hotel, and sharing a lobby with the elites, who are quite magnificent running specimens close up. Like us, they carry bottles of magical elixirs at all times; unlike us, they appear to float above rather than merely walk on the ground..

(Tower Bridge - southbound 7.20am)

Coach ride to Blackheath, with much banter between thesps, winding each other up and fretting about pace, gels, safety pins. Disembarkation outside the Clarendon hotel, but not before passing the red start and seeing the great gathering of the clans. Felt thoroughly spoiled.

Forty five minutes more faffing, lubricating and faffing, then a team photo.

Yes, that is Tony Audenshaw, Bob Hope from Emmerdale (if you want to tell your nan) dressed as a fairy down at the front. But, before you scoff, you might like to note he did 3:18 in that wig; and he eats up ultras, fell runs and all kinds of grown up stuff. Just thought I'd mention it.

Across the heath to the Sleb tent - which was a tent with some nice loos out the back. Super model Agnyss Deyn looked very young, Sir Matthew looked very chunky and Cracknell looked like a god. Joe Pasquale, in a loose grey track suit, looked like he was on an ASBO. Paps papped, slebs stretched and harried BBC producers squinted at me occasionally before concluding that I was nobody special. See if I care, I muttered to myself: I'm starting the London marathon at the start. I crossed the line at 9:45:05.

I was aiming for 3:45, which meant a steady 8:30 min/mile pace. What did I do? The first 5k sub 8. Doh. And I really tried to hold myself back. Felt so good to be running after the taper, and trotted past GB Olympic 400m runner, Iwan Thomas, who'd spoken at the expo about setting off too quick. He was really plodding this time, but I wasn't that much quicker.

Hit the 10k around 50 mins (8:10 pace) and felt cheerful about reaching Greenwich and my first supporters. A bit less cheerful when I missed them (they saw me, apparently) but I was again grateful not to have been caught in the Deptford bottleneck. My pacing was all over the place, I as tried to find a rhythm swinging between 8 and 9 min miles over the first half.

Around 8 miles I heard a familiar sound: the "chuff-chuff" of the Steve the Steam Engine. Of all the places in all the races .... Yup, it was him, looking unstoppable. We attempted a handshake (more complicated than docking a space station, it turned out ) and he was off. I put him down for 3:30, no probs.

I kept my modest gains in the bank, and crossed the half way point at 1:49, which had me three mins up on my target.

A highlight was seeing the other side of Commercial Road empty, then spotting the outriders, pace truck and finally Mutai, striding past at 13 mph. Like a kid spotting his footballing hero, I felt real goosebumps and called out loud "Awesome!" The guys around agreed. Just phenomenal to see them move up close.

My next treat to look forward to was the Clapham Runners posse, who whooped up a storm and lifted me higher. I was pleased with myself that I'd arrived on schedule (thought I'd get a tick from Frank for that) and headed into the Isle of Dogs, or the Death Star.

Which turned out to be more cheerful this time. There's one obvious difference about running at 8:30 min/miles rather than 11 min/miles, my first year pace: it's over sooner. And I seemed to be passing the 15,16,17 mile markers at a decent click. A mate whooped me up at St Katherine's dock, another at South Quay and I was at Canary Wharf in one piece. Clinging onto sub 9 miles, but in one piece.

T-h-e-n - i-t - a-l-l - s-l-o-w-e-d - d-o-w-n.

Somewhere around 19-20, just like they say in all the books. It didn't feel quite like The Wall, but maybe it was, despite a litre of fluid and gels every thirty minutes. I just couldn't get my legs to go any faster. I was determined to put on a brace face for the CR congregants at 21 and remember trying to wipe the sweat off my face, but Martin's photo tells the real story - those puffed out cheeks belonged to a puffed out Ant. Wished I'd been wearing a CR shirt, though.

Tony the ultra-running fairy had given us all a tip on the coach: the last bit is just about battering the legs. They want to stop, you don't, so give them what for. Push on. Swing your arms, get your heart rate up. If everything else is OK, just batter your legs.

So I tried. I focussed on a green traffic light way down the road and ran to it, ignoring the requests, then the demands of my quads to stop this nonsense. I found myself using quite strong language towards them, which drew the occasional glance from my fellows, although I was just saying out loud what they must have been thinking. Then the blister joined in. I looked forward to junking these 9 1/2 shoes and moving permanently into 10s.

21 s-l-o-w-l-y became 22 became 23. Hitting Tower Bridge was a kind of relief, but I knew my pace was slipping and now I just wanted to cling onto the 3:40s. Coming up from the Blackfriars underpass around 3:35, I knew I had to dig in, so the polite conversation between my legs, toes and I continued up to Big Ben, where I saw my son brandishing a sign I couldn't read.

Another oddity: for the first half, I tried to stick to the elite course blue lines, which sometimes required some robust footwork (I wasn't the only guy with that idea). By the end, I couldn't find them, for the life of me. The brain goes to funny places under stress, I guess.

Birdcage Walk, fuzzy internal calculations and I'm just on for 3:48 -

I turn the corner, there's the clock and it's a dash to the finish. Thank you Jon Munroe for all those sprints, because I got there, with 11 seconds to spare. I come to a dead stop off the mat. Not another step will we run, the quad/blister committee insist.

(So what was all that about? he seems to be saying.)

Beat Iwan Thomas. Beat Jamie Baulch. Beat Michel Roux Jr (with shin splints and sciatica but, I'm taking it). But, most of all, beat bitching quads.

Although running is a solitary experience, there really is such a thing as team spirit, and I was genuinely invested in Steve's, Lizzie's and Sinead's success. Piqued, obviously, to be pipped by Lizzie, but humbled to hear she'd run most of the race with a sprain.

I'd never have taken an hour of my LM time in two years without you, Clapham Runners, so I thank you, one and all.

And, remember: they also serve who only stand and wait.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ariiiiiiiiiiibbbaaaa!! Maraton de Madrid!

Check out my time & I've barely raised a sweat!

First off, huge big congrats to all the VLM runners - fantastic stuff!! I was thinking of you all starting as I was into the first hour of my run!

Madrid started off with a dubious ''dunk-a-weetbix'' in a glass of milk breakfast at our hostel. There was no common room, so we sat on a bench in the passage in our running gear at 7am, much to the bewilderment of our fellow roommates - why are they getting up so early?

Just before the start gun went off, we looked up to see parachutes flying in to send us off. This race was unique as they had a 10km fun run start alongside first I was thinking...pffft, 10K - what's that? this is a marathon...but when they turned off after the first 5k's and gave us a huge round of applause as the two races parted, well, the 10kers were a lovely bunch of people to have around!

The first half I was on fire, running just ahead of the 3:45 pace maker and bopping along to my special marathon soundtrack of ''eye of the tiger'', a crazy spanish man made ''slow down'' gestures at me and indicated that a hill was coming up - pffft, what did he know? Turns out, he knew a lot more than I thought I did! I took the first few hills in my stride, but around the 30k mark and two packets of jelly beans later, it was getting tough! The heat of the day was setting in (25 deg) and I was beginning to appreciate my beginners spanish lessons! Venga! Venga! Chica! (Go go girl!) and Muy bien (very good) were very welcome cheers....some were telling me to ''vamoos!'' - which I hope they meant in a nice way! I felt myself dropping back but kept the arms pumping and the legs trying to follow suit! Paramedics on rollerblades skated through the runners, giving us much needed ice sprays & dollops of vaseline - brilliant idea!

At around 5k's to go, I watched the balloon of the 4 hour pace-makers drift past and couldn't understand why they were running so fast!! My legs were shot! I finished in 4:08, so not too far behind! Those 8 minutes are for the birds! I was so relieved to finish I burst into tears - what a drizzbag photo that'll be!

Aftwerwards, we found ice creams and lay in the sun in the park for what felt like hours as movement was just not an option any time soon!Ah, another marathon under the belt & I just keep wanting to do more! Which one to do next??

Jelly Tots...not Jelly Legs....

Sunday 18th April 6.32am, 4 Weetabix's down and my stomach couldn't take much more...the nerves were bad as the prospect of having a similar experience to 2010's run was unfortunately at the forefront of my mind....

As I approached the park at Blackheath and saw my best buddy with her house 'For Sale' sign redesigned with 'GO CANNY GO!', the nerves disappeared and I just had a good feeling that today was going to be just fine.

As I crossed the start line I eased into gentle going miles reassuring myself that it would be ok.
I took in every mile, every spectator, every good luck sign, every good wish...I really couldn't get over the crowds that were out...I felt like I was competing in the Olympics for my country and everyone was cheering me on.

I got over Tower Bridge and knew Clapham Runner's support wasn't far away. I was so excited passing the CR brigade and felt proud of being part of such an amazing bunch of people who were shouting so loudly! I took it all in as ahead of me was the tough 15 miler where last year I stopped to walk...what was going to happen this time?

I passed 15, 16 and 17 feeling great, although I was beginning to feel tension in my ribs and stomach even though the legs were as strong as ever. I decided a nice shot of sugar was needed and downed half a bag of Jelly Tots, washed down by a bottle of Lucozade Sport and within 5 minutes I was a new woman.

Mile 18 saw me exposing my backside in the middle of Canary Wharf for a much needed spray of Deep Heat on a problem area that troubled me last year. My husband said I ran up to him, pulled up my shorts and shouted, 'spray my a88, quick!'. The crowd were very
amused as I raced off in search of a PB.

I passed mile 20 thinking, 'cool, only 6 miles to go and I am feeling good' so I passed the CR brigade again on mile 21, and they were certainly right to think I was looking pleased with myself as I was!

I loved the last 5 miles and would love to know what time I ran it in. I couldn't understand where the massive surge energy came from but I didn't care.
I flew past my husband at mile 26, throwing my Camel Bag to him (I was thinking of looking good for the finish line photo!) and taking out half the supporters around him. He apparently apologised explaining that the mad woman who had flown by sprinting, was his wife.

When I saw the 'Only 400 metres to go' sign, I thought, 'ah feck, that's a complete lap of Battersea running track...can I really sprint to the line????'
And I did...all the way down the mall (that I walked along last year), around the corner past Lizzie's House and like a mad loonatic on speed, all the way up to the finish line.

I crossed over the line laughing and said to the Marshall, 'that's it, never again', to which he replied 'that's what they all say!'.

But I kinda do feel it was my last London Marathon, not because I don't have another one in me, but because I don't think I will ever top the feeling I experienced last Sunday, nor do I want to try to. I had the best day's running EVER and will never forget it for as long as I live.
It was certainly one of the best days of my life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

VLM 2011 - A race of two halves!

A brief reflection on my VLM 2011 experience. Under cloudy skies it started broadly to plan and I was going pretty well, taking in the atmosphere from the phenomenal crowds and encouraged by frequent chants of StevOOOO!! At c.8.5 miles Anthony did very well to recognise my apparently familiar “chuff-chuff” before he saw me alongside! – a fumbled handshake and on we separately went …

I was still feeling good going thru the ½ way mark, although a tad too fast (c.1:45) in hindsight given the rising heat! At 14 miles the roars of support from the CR team and my "crew" provided a fantastic boost – it was great to spot and salute them!.....

However, after c.18 miles the heat and my early pace really started taking their toll and I had to dig deep to keep up some sort of form - urging myself on by constantly repeating the strange mantra “Relax, Fuel, Go”. I got into a zone oblivious to almost everything around me…. unfortunately that included missing the CR supporters screaming their hearts out at me again at 21.5 miles!!...

In the last few miles it seemed like an out of body experience at times - I was questioning my sanity and telling myself never again!... Shortly after collecting my medal, I was v. fortunate to spot Lizzy and it was great to compare PB notes amidst the exhilaration, relief and raw emotions of the moment. Great time for Lizzy, particular as she injured her ankle and hence took some discretely stored substance en route! Anthony must have crossed the line around the same time, impressively catching me back up to record a similar PB – they both gave me a lesson in sensible pacing!

Phew! – what a day.

Steve 19/4/11

Monday, April 18, 2011

VLM 17/4/11

Hi all, thanks so much for all the support and messages re yesterday's VLM. Just got access to the blog and thought I'd quickly post a shot of a couple of knackered, relieved but v. pleased finishers!

Fantastic effort by all the club's runners, particularly given that heat.... Well done in particular to Lizzy who I'm sure would have comfortably come in below my time had her ankle not had an early disagreement with a discarded water bottle!

Steve 18/4/11

Sunday, April 17, 2011

London Marathon 2011

It's London Marathon Day, so the cheering squad were out in force to encourage our valiant competitors :-) (Plus Janie, Celia and Mrs Steve!)

We had a prime spot being able to see runners twice once at 14 miles and again at 21. We managed to see everyone we were looking for.

Steve (he was completely in the zone!);

Anthony (looking a bit like Dean Macey with those cheeks);

Sinead (far happier at 21m than last year!);

And Lizzy (she wasn't running backwards - just dubious paparazzi skills!). We missed her at 21 miles, as she sped up and was faster than expected!

There was a bit of competitive spirit between Steve, Anthony and Lizzy - who was going to get the fastest time?

And the winner is.......Steve with a wonderful 3:46

Lizzy ~ 3:48

Anthony ~ 3:48

Sinead ~ 4:19
Well done everyone, very impressive times, especially considering the heat. I believe that is 4 pb's. After over 5 hours shouting, screaming and clapping the cheering squad were also exhausted (as were our supplies of jelly babies)!
Same again next year?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Good luck for tomorrow

Good luck to everyone running tomorrow. Look out for the banner below (based on the design for last year), which we will be waving at miles 14 and 21.

I hope we spot you all.
K & M