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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Marathon girl - Week #14

Day #7 - Race day

Finish time

Distance: 26.2 miles
Finish time: 04:10:27
Average time (per mile): 09:33 minutes
Split Times:
5K 00:29:07
10K 00:55:04
15K 01:21:21
20K 01:48:16
HALF 01:54:15
25K 02:19:09
30K 02:49:24
35K 03:22:38
40K 03:56:34

place (total) 13539
place (gender) 2649
place (cat) 1593
finish time 04:10:27

I knew in advance that trying to write a blog post about my marathon weekend would be a bit of a mammoth task so I tried to keep a race diary along the way. Obviously my notes tailed off a bit once I actually started the race!


Saturday 24th April

09:00 - On bus into town with calming knitting. Had a nice exchange with the friendly chap at the end of our road who asked if I would be running tomorrow. Very nice to be able to say "yes, I will be". Sadly had to reply in the negative to his question about whether to look out for me among the elite runners. Nearly missed bus whilst looking in the bookshop window. It's surprisingly stealthy for such a large vehicle.

11:00 - On the tube to the London Marathon Expo. The underground map takes on a new significance. Every time I look at a station I try to work out how many miles along the course it is.

12:00 - Just finished registering at Excel. Was amazingly quick and easy, the London Marathon really is fabulously organized - there was no line at all for my number range. Didn't feel like shopping for kit so just picked up some gels and my goody bag. I was very happy to see that you still get a can of London Pride in your goody bag, especially as the last time I ran the race back in 2007 I wasn't that keen on beer and let the boyfriend drink mine. Also happy about the bottle of yazoo chocolate milk which I had for the first time after the Silverstone half marathon - it's yummy stuff.

13:45 - Arrive at Blackheath station and meet up with Lara. After dropping my things off at her and Jon's flat we head off to the pub for lunch (Lara) and a (non-alcoholic) drink (me) before having a wander round Blackheath to check out the start area (which you could actually see from Lara's front door), buy some handwipes (fairly essential race-day kit), and have a browse around a lovely shop I had spotted earlier across the road from the station. As I hadn't bought any London marathon kit
at the Expo I bought a gorgeous bracelet as a souvenir of the race weekend. Back at the flat we had more tea and two types of lemon cake and waited for Kirsty and Felix to arrive at around 5:30 bearing yet more cake. We had such a lovely evening, drinking tea, eating dinner, blowing bubbles, and all trying on Felix's amazing new cardigan. It was the perfect relaxing preparation for race day.

Sunday 25th April

08:00 - Wake up and have shower at lovely Hotel Lara. I always like to have a shower before a race, you might as well start off feeling fresh and clean. Gulp down porridge with some difficulty due to nerves and fresh wave of emotion brought on by lovely good luck card from Lara. Text from Kate (from my running club) to say she's at the start area already.

08:55 - Was difficult to tell what the conditions outside were like from inside the flat. Am very excited (literally punching the air) to discover that it's actually raining. Am very relieved after spending all week thinking that Sunday is going to be scorching. Walk over to the blue start entrance, very impressed by the amazing hot air balloons that are tethered next to the start, especially the Churchill dog and a giant motorcycle.

09:05 - Meet up with Kate at the baggage lorries just as it starts chucking it down. Very pleased that I have my foil blanket from the Manchester 10k last year to wrap round me. It's surprisingly cosy and very effective. Try to find a relatively sheltered spot to wait in until it's time to join the start. It could not be more different than three years ago when everyone was sprawled out on the grass, slapping on sunscreen and getting as much water as they could down them.

09:30 - In start zone 6 stood next to a guy dressed as Hamlet (the skull was the clue). Watching the clock on the giant screen count down to the start time.

09:45 - Big cheer as the elite men and the runners in zone 1 stream away on the big screen. Start moving forward very slowly - hope we'll have started jogging by the time we reach the line. Cross over the timing mats at the start and press the start button on my stopwatch. Look everywhere for Jon and Lara in the first 500 yards or so but don't spot them. There's loads of other support though, the main sound, other than the tread of thousands of feet, is the constant pattern of applause.

Miles 1-3 were very crowded, the pace felt quite slow and I had to constantly look for little gaps in the runners to move forwards. After the 3 mile marker the crowd started to thin out a bit and I could start making up time. I really enjoyed this part of the race, I was running well, the support was fabulous and there was lots to see and enjoy along the way. There were lots of live acts outside the pubs and stereos playing out of people's front doors. Lots of people with pints and glasses of wine or Pimms in their hands at 10:30am. Loads of kids holding out their hands to be slapped by the runners on their way past. I was really excited by the way I was making up time on my target and (I think due to the fact that I didn't really know what time I was doing for individual miles, just what my totals were) got a bit carried away. I should have taken things much more steadily and the result was that I was feeling really tired as I crossed Tower Bridge around mile 13 and had more or less burned out by mile 17. I spent a lot of time between miles 17 and 20 staring at the tarmac and watching the road markings go by, just keeping my head down and plugging away. I picked up a bit around mile 20 at Canary Wharf where I hoped I might see the boyfriend and at mile 22 where Tineke would be supporting but it was a really long hard slog to the end and I walked a couple of times. The Embankment has never seemed quite so long but I could just about enjoy the experience of running along there, especially the sections where the crowd is above road level coming out of the underpasses and it's like running through a tunnel of sound. At last I saw Big Ben and the houses of Parliament and then the signs counting down 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m and then the finish.

14:10 - The finish. I just about had the energy to stagger to a volunteer to have my time chip clipped off and to take my medal from another volunteer** before going off in search of my kit bag and goody bag. I briefly saw Kate (who had finished a few minutes ahead of me) before going to sit down on the steps to Carlton Terrace. Once I'd sat down for a few minutes, pulled on my finisher's t shirt and eaten a bit of an apple I felt much better and could head off to Trafalgar Square to meet up with the boyfriend and Lara.

14:30 - Fourth plinth Trafalgar Square. Meet up with Lara and the boyfriend and clean up a bit with wet wipes before getting some finisher's photos near one of the fountains. Say goodbye to Lara (who very kindly brought the rest of my luggage all the way from Blackheath) and head off for traditional post-marathon meal of pizza with the boyfriend.

London t shirt and medal

Really love my LonDONE t shirt - much cooler than either the one for London 2007 or Dublin.

* although if I ever manage to drag my actual splits out of my stopwatch I suspect I was veering wildly between 8 and 12 minute miles over the course of the race!

** I was really worried that I might throw up over the girl who gave me my medal but just managed to hold on until I got over to the side of the roadway. It was only lucozade luckily.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Marathon girl - Week #14

Day #5 - final training run

Distance: 6 miles
Time: 48:28.45 minutes
Average time (per mile): 08:04 minutes

There's just 1 day, 11 hours, and 23 minutes to go (according to the scary countdown clock on the London Marathon website). My kit is washed (and drying), my registration certificate and photo id are in my bag, my 4 safety pins are pinned to the inside of my rucksack, and my stomach is full of butterflies. There was a lot to think about on my run today. What I needed to pack, where I'd be going, what my plans were for after the race, and of course the race itself. I really hope it's not too warm on the day. I've trained so hard that I'd really like to be able to put in a good time and not have to back off due to the heat. But the main thing, the priority, is finishing. I want that medal.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. I'll be going to the London Marathon expo at the Excel centre to register (hurrah free goodies) and maybe check out some new kit (hurrah paid-for goodies) then I'm heading over to Blackheath to stay with the lovely Lara. I'll hopefully update you all on how the weekend went on Monday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moving swiftly on

It became clear sometime around 9pm last night that Plan B wasn't really going to play out. Even after sacrificing the sleeves no way was there going to be enough yarn left to finish the raglan decreases and shape the shoulders. Sooo, I dealt with it the way I do with a lot of my projects that aren't quite working out, that is I stuffed it in a bag, pretended it hadn't happened, and pulled out a different project: a pair of long, long-neglected socks.

I've now worked 5 out of the 7 pattern repeats for the leg of the second sock. 2 more repeats to go before I need to start working out exactly what it was I did for the heel of the first sock back in January. I just know that I didn't divide the stitches evenly between heel and instep (due to the calf decreases and the position of the pattern) - other than that it's a complete mystery.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Picnicking in the Park

In an effort to take a trip out to somewhere that wasn't Burford the boyfriend and I visited Rousham Park yesterday. I'd read about this place some time ago on Jane Brocket's blog and realised (when she talked about getting a cuppa in Woodstock) that it must be quite near here.

The house and gardens are surrounded by some lovely parkland grazed by these very lovely cows.

Rousham Park

The calves' attitude was one of curiousity/terror - skittering away when I approached the fence with my camera and then stopping a few yards later for a good stare.

Rousham Park

This older girl was far too busy having a good scratch to be at all worried about the weird human with the camera.

Rousham Park

I loved the primroses which were scattered everywhere in yellow profusion.

Rousham Park

The landscaped gardens were very lovely, if a little bit unkempt but my favourite area was the walled garden which boasted a beautiful display of espaliered apples trees.

Rousham Park

I love the acid yellow lichen on this tree.

Rousham Park

The most impressive of the apple trees was on the side of the 17th century pigeon house. How neat is that?

Rousham Park

Inside it looked rather as I imagine the owlery at Hogwarts, except with pigeons rather than owls.

Rousham Park

The floor was about 6" deep in pigeon droppings so we looked in very cautiously to see the birds and the rotating ladder.

Rousham Park

The only thing that Rousham is lacking is somewhere to get a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Luckily Blenheim is well supplied with tea rooms so we made up for it when we got home again.

Plan B

So I was knitting merrily away on the sleeves for my next short-sleeved lace top, just about to finish the second one, when I looked at my remaining yarn. Suddenly the ball from which I was knitting started to look very small, there wasn't nearly enough yarn remaining to knit the yoke and saddle shoulder, let alone the picot bind-off.

Hence, Plan B. My short-sleeved lace top is now going to be a sleeveless (or at leat cap-sleeved) lace top, instead of joining the sleeves together with the body to create the yoke I've crocheted a provisional cast on in place of each sleeve and knit across that. Once the yoke and shoulders are finished (assuming I don't run out of yarn) I'll undo the provisional cast on and knit the picot hem down from that point.

Wensleydale lace top

That's the plan at any rate.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Marathon girl - Week #13

Day #7 - rehearsal run

Distance: 9.52 miles*
Time: 01:19:42 hours
Average speed (per mile): 08:22 minutes

It still doesn't seem quite real that this time next week I'll be pounding the streets of London (probably somewhere around Docklands) with 20,000 other runners and a horde of spectators. It'll be very different from today's run where the main noise (aside from the cars on the A44) was that of the madly twittering skylarks over the fields.

The rehearsal didn't quite go to plan in that I forgot (until it was too late) that I was meant to be having pasta for dinner(!) and I really fancied cornflakes instead of porridge this morning (it's fine though - they're pretty much tried and and tested pre-race fare by now). And I don't think my race day preparation will consist of dozing on the sofa whilst watching the Chinese Grand Prix (go Jensen!).

The main thing is that my calf muscle which was feeling very sore on Wednesday and Thursday held up really well. I'm not sure how much of this is due to the severe workout which Chris at back2best sports massage gave it on Friday evening but it can't have hurt. Hang on, let me rephrase that. It can't have done any harm. It actually hurt quite a lot. Chris warned me at the beginning of the session that he'd be going beyond my tolerances and I'm very proud that I only told him to back off twice. Partly because I take this sort of thing as a sort of personal challenge (I'm a bit bloody minded if truth be told) and partly because there's no point in paying for a deep tissue sports massage if you're going to keep telling the guy to stop because it hurts a bit ;-)

I feel a lot happier about my calf now than I did last week. Now there's just a bit more light training, total abstinence from alcohol (can someone please remind me about this at the pub on Wednesday!), and my kit to get ready for next Sunday.

* it was meant to be 10 miles but keeps changing its mind about how far away the canal is. I swear it was 5 miles away the last time I measured it but today it's just 4.76.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Spring lace

Lace is a spring thing. Everywhere you look outside there are little bits of lace. Lacy films of fresh green leaves, little lace puffs of blossom, a delicate fretwork of twigs against the sky, and conversely a tracery of shadows cast by the sun on the grass.

Lace tee

And there's lace in my knitting.

Who says you have to stop wearing pure wool when the weather starts getting warmer? You just wear the thin stuff and you wear it with short sleeves.

Lace tee

Lace tee

Pattern: Seamless hybrid by Elizabeth Zimmermann from Knitting without Tears
Needles: 4mm and 3.5mm circs
Yarn: Manx Loghtan laceweight from Garthenor Organic Pure Wool
Ravelled: here

I'm really pleased with this. It fits beautifully and looks great over a vest. In fact I'm so pleased I've just started on a second one.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Marathon girl - Week #11

Day #5 - (very) long run

Distance: 22 miles (give or take)
Time: 03:26:41 hours
Average time (per mile): 09:23 minutes

If you've trained for a marathon you'll know that banking your long run is pretty damn important. Your long run is your body's guarantee to yourself that, come race day, you can do the distance, that you won't crumple up in a sad heap around 16 miles. Because you've been there and done it already. I didn't have the best preparation for this run. My left calf has been feeling tight since I did the Silverstone half marathon a couple of weeks ago and I've missed some training because of that* and this is reflected in my pace on this run which is a bit outside my sub-4 hour target (I'll need to be running an average of 9:09 minutes per mile to make that). Still (and assuming that the calf which feels OK as of this moment doesn't stiffen up dramatically overnight) I think that's something I can work on in the final three weeks of training. The run was extremely tough. There was a nasty headwind for the first 5 or 6 miles (although this did mean a tailwind on the final 5 or 6 miles) and for the final 3 miles I was really running on empty. Still it's all good experience for race day and I know that I'll get huge additional boosts from adrenalin, the presence of the other runners, and the support along the way that you just don't get when it's just you on a rainy morning in Oxford.

ETA: I just re-measured the course and came up with 22.39 mi which would give me an average time per mile of 09:14 minutes - which is a bit better at any rate :-)

* staying up until 12:50am last night knitting and watching Amadeus on DVD may not have been the smartest move either.