I think it’s fair to say the blog’s been neglected a far bit – the second part of June 16 update didn’t happen. I know I need to pay it more attention, buy it flowers, tell it that it looks nice.
I find myself with a week off work and resting up after Stirling marathon so actually have plenty of time to sit down (I’ll be sitting a lot this week) and put down my thoughts whilst they’re still fairly fresh.
My training had gone well. I pinched a training plan from a fellow Bella Roadrunner and adapted it slightly to cover 18 weeks rather than 16 as I knew there’d be some weeks I’d struggle to fit in a long run. I winged my training last year for Manchester so I wanted with more structure. For the most part I followed it closely and was happy with my form. I’d accounted for a couple of races during the training plan, the Doon by the River 10k saw a new PB of 44:04 achieved and I’d ran well at the Tom Scott 10 mile race (sub 75 mins) and the Great Edinburgh 10 mile (sub 76 on a hilly route)
I had enjoyed taper and was seeing the benefits of reduced mileage as my legs felt fresh and I went into Sunday morning with no concerns that the aches and strains that had been kicking in during the last few weeks prior to tapering were still an issue.
It was to be an early start to the day as Team Baldy hero Dave arrived in the southside at 6.30am to take us through to Stirling. As it was the inaugural Stirling marathon, there was some apprehension about the logistics of bussing all of the runners in from various pick up points to the start at Blair Drummond Safari Park. No problems from our perspective as we parked up at the Pru early, were put on a bus and sent on our way within 15 minutes. Smoother than a fresh Brazilian.I don’t think there’s any other walk of life where it’s acceptable to discuss what your toilet plans are but for runners, it seems to be the done thing. I was keen to get to the toilet queue, do my business then re-join the back of the queue to have another. However, the people to piddlepots ratio weren’t in my favour. I had to go for the ‘Carol Vorderman’ plan of consolidating my smaller pishes into one larger pish amount. Not ideal but there was no other option. Although in hindsight, I could’ve just went in the park’s greenery. What, so a giraffe pees there and that’s fine but if I do it I’m a clatty b*stard?
Due to lavvy-gate, I didn’t get a chance to seek out pals to wish them well pre-race. Although I managed a few hellos to fellow Bellas and the all important third Team Baldy member Mark had been in touch to wish us well.I was intrigued to see how the race would start from inside the safari park, whether they’d just open the lion enclosure and make it survival of the fittest. If it was then the poor sod in the rhino outfit was odds on to be the first one to go. Thankfully, there was no novelty start and shortly after 9am we were off.
My ‘plan’ (used loosely) was to target 8:20 a mile for as long as possible and hope that the slump – I accepted that there would be one – wouldn’t be too severe. Based on my training, I wanted a finish of 3:45 for the marathon so my target aim would let me build up enough time to cash in when the slump arrived.
I’m not going to do a mile by mile run down because that would be very boring so I’ll only touch on the points of significance during my race. I settled into a pace that felt comfortable fairly early on and was hitting under my 8:20 target. It felt comfortable and at that stage it seemed like it would be harder work to have slowed down. At roughly three miles in we hit the village of Doune but despite the name the hills went up instead of doon. Thankfully nothing too taxing so I took care of the inclines hassle-free. I felt good and had clocked a sub 51 minute 10k on my Garmin so a decent wee bit of time banked for later.
And I’d soon need it to use it. I had ignored the first two portaloos on course convincing myself that the one consolidated pish taken at Blair Drummond was sufficient. At the 8 mile mark, I couldn’t ignore it and needed to take a pit-stop (I said pit-stop!) at the portaloo there. It had to be fast, I begged it to flow out of me. Now guys, I’m going to be honest here but I can’t be 100% sure that I hadn’t stopped peeing when I tucked myself in and bolted out of the portaloo door. I was going to stink anyway and told myself that urine was a great remedy for aching thighs. Disaster number 1.
Thankfully, I managed to get back on pace again and pulled up alongside a former school pal Simon. After a brief greeting, I pulled away from him and continued at a comfortable pace – plus I didn’t want him to realise that any hint of a Lilian Gish stench could be attributed to me.
Aside from the fantastic crowds – and the Bellas on bikes – who had come out to support, the early parts of the race were fairly uneventful (good!) as the miles were taking care of themselves and I’d managed to get back in to the same pace I was hitting pre-loo stop.
The first real test was the lap of the University grounds, with one tricky climb along with the sight of faster runners making their way down and out of the grounds and back onto the main road route. It was whilst in the grounds that the course reached the half way point. I’d managed half-way at 1:48 so with quick calculations, I had just shy of two hours to do the second half and get the sub 3:45 I was looking for.
It wasn’t long until disaster 2 had struck. I’d been wearing tape over my nipples as after last year’s wardrobe malfunction in Manchester I wanted to give them some protection. However, the rain arrived and was heavier than forecast. It had loosened the adhesive tape so I had no option but to get rid of them and hope it wouldn’t be too bad. It would be ok, wouldn’t it – I mean, I had them on for over half the race, so it should be fine.Wrong. It wasn’t long before my left breasticle started leaking blood and my vest became saturated. The post-marathon shower made for a scary prospect but I’d worry about that later.
The miles were ticking down nicely and we came to the section of the race that had been much discussed online. Miles 17-26 were to take in three laps of a three mile loop. I made my way uphill to start the first loop just managing to see my other half and her brother Paul. It was at this point I realised how much blood was on my vest when I saw Paul mouth the words “Holy f*ck, check his tits!” This was going to make the last nine miles fun. So onto lap one, no sooner had I past my two superfans I passed the first set of the Bella Roadrunners that had taken up a spot on the loop. It was a great boost and I felt my pace quicken again slightly. More shouts of support from Bellas further down the loop and more fistpumps – it was fantastic and an even bigger boost to know that there was Bella support for the remaining two laps.
Another section discussed at length online was the underpass. The loop had three underpasses to negotiate which, in the latter part of the race, was really tricky and required some graft. Lap one nearly complete and the first heartsinking moment. The lapping arch – the most sadistic, cruel, heartless thing I’ve ever seen at a race (and I’ve done races where all they give you is a f*cking banana when you finish – no chocolate!)
I was fortunate that as I finished my first lap, the left-hand side funnel was clear so there was no-one to envy for finishing whilst I still had two more laps to do. At the start of lap two, an angel in the form of Andrea appeared – she was holding a massive tub of sweeties. The clammy mitt went in and I managed to grab a jelly baby. Best jelly baby ever. I could feel the slump and was fighting not to let the pace drop much further. I came back round to see my fan club again at the 21 mile mark. My thighs were burning (it might’ve just been the pee) and I had to stop and stretch. I’ve never stopped during a race before so to do it twice was a bit of a worry. I took a minute, reassured them I was fine and set off again, the pace was gone but I just needed to hang on for 5 more miles.
Congestion on the route became more of an issue as we now had runners doing their respective first, second and third laps. My pace was dropping and I was into 9 minute miles – I wasn’t panicking yet but I just hoped that I wasn’t going to burn out completely. Another shout of support from the Bella crew, I had just about enough energy to salute them by way of thanks.
Underpasses tackled as best I could with another shout from the biking Bellas and back towards the castle to finish lap two. Heartsinking moment number 2 – the number of finishers heading into the left-hand funnel was starting to increase and I could hear that Zola Budd had just crossed the finish line in 3:12 as I began the last lap. Quick maths – I had about half an hour to get my 3:45 marathon time. Still possible, just keep going and try not to let the pace drop too much. I was around 9:10 a mile at this point so still on course.
My fan club had left the 21 mile point as agreed to head for the finish so I attempted to tackle the uphill as best I could. My best wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t do it. And for the third time, I had to stop. Another stretch along with some harsh words with myself and I set off again for the last mile and a half. I plodded along mile 25, my pace dipped again, 9:45 and panic stations set in as I saw the Duracell bunny-earred 3:45 pacer overtake me. I pleaded with my legs to please just go, keep up with the pacer – back through the most congested section of the whole race, weaving in and out whilst trying not to let the pacer get too far ahead of me. It wasn’t too long before I could hear the hive of activity of the finishing line. I could feel the pace picking up as I passed the 800m to go flag, I was playing Countdown in my head, trying to calculate how many seconds I needed to get sub 3:45. I couldn’t work it out, my brain just telling me to go. Mile 26 – back to sub 9 minute miles. Progress. Come on! 400m to go. Check the watch. 3:43:45. FUCK! I knew my fastest 400m on track was roughly 85 seconds. There was no chance of getting my target now. For a second I felt sorry for myself but I might as well blast whatever I had left in the tank to try and get the best time I could. My watch ticked onto the 3:45 target as I made my way into the finishers funnel. As I turned left, I allowed myself a smile – OK I wasn’t going to get my target but I was still taking around 13 minutes off of my Manchester time.Last quarter mile done at sub 8 minute mile pace, it was a decent finish. Line crossed in an official time of 3:45:26. Was I really going to boot my arse for the sake of 27 seconds? The runner’s mentality took hold and I did – I shouldn’t have stopped to pee, I shouldn’t have stopped twice to stretch. Immediately after you think about what you could’ve done differently. But everyone knows that shoulda, woulda, coulda are the last words of a fool. I needed that pee and those stretches – anything else would’ve made the slump worse.
I could see the fan club had made it to the finish (that’s the real reason I went so slow for the last four miles, to give them plenty of time to get there. Aye right.) I gave them a wave as I went to collect my goodie bag (and all important medal)As I made my way through the finishing point, the first person I see is a shivering (not sure if it was through coldness or emotion) Jude who ran a stonking PB of 3:36. At last, she’d managed a race that she’s happy with. We had a congratulatory hug, I covered her foil blanket in nipple blood and she repaid the favour by not mentioning the reek of pish.
I managed to meet up with some of the twitter running crew, Jenna, Iain and I went back to pinch another sweet from Andrea on my way to retrieve my bag. The less said about the entrance/exit to get to the baggage buses, the better – it was a bit of a farce. I made a new pal too. Running royalty Liz McColgan had been taking part, fellow Bella Kevin and I managed to get a wee photo with her (once I’d changed top, obviously)I managed to catch up briefly with Dave, who can now proudly call himself a marathon runner.
On the way home, I uploaded my run to Strava via bluetooth to check the vital statistics. One big stat stood out. Although the marathon distance is technically 26.2 miles, it’s rare that you’d actually run exactly by the time you’ve bobbed and weaved through busier sections. I had ran 26.4 miles in 3:45:26. So, in that case, that must mean the time I ran the actual marathon distance would’ve been a little bit less, surely….
I’ve often heard that “If it’s not on Strava then it didn’t happen.” Well, this IS on Strava – so guess what? SUB 3:45 DID HAPPEN! YOU SEXY LITTLE BITCH!
I can’t not mention the girl who, whilst I was beginning my final lap, needed to answer a call of nature. She went into a section of bushes which she must’ve thought was far enough from sight from anyone to see. I’m sorry to say that you misjudged it a bit and I saw your bare arse. But on the plus side, I bet you didn’t get pee on your thigh. And fair play for having the ability to crouch at that stage.
The final word is dedicated to my lovely Bella vest. It had taken some absolute punishment over the course of the day and is potentially ruined after some nipple butchery. Look at the state of this.I know I’ve totally neglected this blog and I’m not going to make an empty declaration that I’ll be back doing this every week/fortnight/month. I just felt that my experience of the Stirling marathon deserved a write-up.
A real tale of blood, sweat & tears. And pish.