I’ve fully recovered from my marathon exertion now which means I can now write this blog with a slightly rose-tinted pair of glasses, as opposed to supping from my half empty glass! Needless to say it was up there with one of the hardest challenges I’ve done, if not the hardest. It wasn’t just the distance that I found hard, for me it was the time – there is so much time to over think, or psych yourself out. This is fine when things are going well, but when they start slipping it can be difficult to keep that positive attitude for the time remaining.
I was pretty nervous leading up to the marathon, I really wanted to give myself the best possible chance of success and after the issues I’d had on my long training run I knew that I needed to prepare properly. We rented an apartment in Edinburgh for a few days which was great as we could cook our own meals and have our own space. I’d been keeping an eye on the weather forecast and Scotland didn’t disappoint – the evening before we got an email from the organisers titled ‘weather warning’! Basically it was going to be wet, cold, and very very windy, and this was the very end of May! The forecast had warned of winds up to 40mph, which on the coast we weren’t going to get much shelter from. Fortunately this didn’t quite materialize and we stayed dry, relatively warm and only had to deal with 18mph winds!
So after a couple of days of carbo loading (definitely one of the best things about these endurance events!) I found myself saying bye to Cat and heading off to my start pen. The start area was full of nervous excitement which was mostly manifested by lots of weeing! The organisers clearly expected this as there was plenty of facilities available, including some very well thought out ones after a mile which I took full advantage of!
There’s not a lot to say about the race, I ran pretty well up until about 20 miles when I started struggling. I ran a pretty even pace for the first 13miles, clocking 10km splits of 55mins and 62mins, unbelievably I managed a 51 minute third 10km which is only 5.5minutes off my personal best! I think this section was slightly downhill with a nice tailwind as I found out at about 18miles when we turned back to head for the finish and suddenly found a big headwind coupled with a long slow uphill slope which really hurt me. I hit the wall around mile 22 and was forced to start walking and it was here that I hit a big downward spiral mentally. I couldn’t manage to run for very long and found myself walking more and more, all I could do was try and calculate how much longer I had left – this didn’t help when I was working it out to be another 45mins of pain. I was cramping in my calves and quads. Eventually I saw someone that had been running near me for the first few miles and forced myself to try and keep up with them and follow them to the finish. Fortunately we got chatting which took both of our minds off the pain we were in – I think some of the conversation got a bit inane towards the end as we forced each other to keep conversation going to keep the mind off how much it hurt. You can see us crossing the line together, I have to say a big thank you to ‘Katie’ as without her I wouldn’t have been able to ‘jog’ (it was basically a shuffle!) the last 3 miles or so. Completing the marathon was one of my biggest challenges and I am immensely proud of myself for doing it, I’d always promised myself I’ll do one – and now I have.
After the marathon I was in bits, fortunately we only had a 30 minute walk to our shuttle bus back to the city – and obviously the only seats available were upstairs, climbing them was as close as I have ever come to torture, this was surmounted by trying to go down the stairs 45 minutes later when getting off! We had a couple more days in the Edinburgh which involved visiting the Castle (more steps) and working on our 100 beer challenge! I was pretty sore for a few days, particularly anything that involved a downhill as my quads just couldn’t function!
I had a couple of weeks off after the marathon (excluding the recce of Ben Nevis for our 3 Peaks Challenge in August) before I took on my final running challenge – the Passing Clouds Fell Run. This is a 15km run which involves going over three large hills, the final one is over 500m high. I did almost no training in this time so I had no idea how my legs would be, and when I turned up (having bought my compass and whistle as required) I realised there weren’t many novices taking part. I didn’t really know what to expect but was hoping that I didn’t finish last, and that I didn’t fall down the hill and injure myself. I avoided both of these things and finished the race in 1:43. It was a very pretty run when I had time to look up and appreciate it…which occured about twice. You have to concentrate so hard running on the trails as they are really rocky; one mistake means a wrecked ankle or knee (or probably both knowing me). It was very different to road running, for one thing without distance markers I pushed for the finish about a mile early which left me in a heap at the finish (I’d been trying not to get beaten by the overweight 50-something behind me!).
I’m now focusing all of my training on getting ready for the Marlow Half Ironman race on 19th July. I’ve set up an alternative way to get involved in the half ironman, I’m running a charity sweepstake on Guess to Give, the closest guess to my finishing time gets some cash (www.guess2give.com/sweepstake/view/nicks-half-iron-man). All you need to do is guess how long it will take me to finish the three legs – a 2000m open water swim, 82km bike, and then a 13.1mile run. Each guess only costs £5, and £1 of that goes in the prize fund.
When I picked the races I selected a couple of events to get me prepared – a triathlon and aquathlon both organised by Bridge Triathlon who gave me free places. I didn’t have long to get fit for the Triathlon so had mainly been concentrating on my swimming and cycling.
The triathlon took place last Sunday (21st June), the start time was pretty early and required a 4:20am alarm on a Sunday morning, that was challenging enough! We arrived on time but things started going wrong from there, firstly we couldn’t find the car park, then there was a long queue for the toilets, I eventually got myself registered and racked my bike but by then I only had about 5 minutes until my start time. I quickly pulled on my wetsuit and ran down to the start. I slipped into the water, pulled my goggles on an heard the starter announce 30 seconds to go! I didn’t have time to get used to the water temperature or properly sort my goggles out. We started the race and I still couldn’t get my head under water without the coldness taking my breath away, on top of this I was breathing heavily from the rushed start and then my goggles fogged up! At this point I realised things were unraveling a bit and tried to pull myself together, I gave myself a stern talking to and focused on getting some good strokes done and trying to find a rhythm. However, I just couldn’t get going – my legs couldn’t kick properly, I was still very short of breath, my wetsuit was choking me, and then my arms started giving up (I’d only been in the water about 10 minutes and had swam about 100 metres!). It was then I started to think that carrying on was going to put myself in danger, and that I couldn’t see myself finishing 1500m. I decided to quit, and got towed out of the water by a kayak. I was furious with myself for giving up but I couldn’t see another option. I packed my stuff up and me and Cat (who had got up at 4:20am to watch me climb out of lake) were back home by 8am.
I learnt a lot of lessons from this, and with hindsight and a good glug from my half full glass it was good that it happened now and not at the half ironman. I’ve been fortunate so far to get through everything without a hiccup so it had to happen at some point. Tonight I put my demons to bed with a great open water swim at the local reservoir in my new larger wetsuit (the old one was too small, hence the choking and tired arms), with my fog proof goggles (baby shampoo is the answer!). I took my time getting ready and acclimatized to the water temperature before starting. Happy times! I’m now looking forward to the aquathlon this weekend!
Finally, I want to highlight a future event that I want everyone to get involved with if they can. I’m organising a Team 30/30 Park Run day for Saturday 3rd October. Park Run is a national programme of free 5km events (run, jog, walk it really doesn’t matter) in local parks, they have hundreds of locations nationwide so there is usually one nearby you. They all take place on Saturday’s at 9am. Find yours at www.parkrun.org.uk. You will need to register beforehand and print your race barcode.
The idea is that we raise lots of awareness of Pancreatic Cancer UK so I would like everyone to run in something purple and then tweet and Facebook your photo’s to me and the world! It would be excellent if by doing this we can also raise some funds for the 30/30 Challenge too, so don’t forget to tell people what you’re doing and why. The link for donations is www.justgiving.com/nicks3030challenge.
If you can’t run, jog, or walk 5km then please think about supporting us by volunteering at your local Park Run – this is what my Mum would have done! Full details are on the website.
In the next blog I’ll let you know the details of my 30th Challenge…!