What a day yesterday turned out to be!
It didn't start all that well - we have some very inconsiderate neighbours that tend to throw very loud parties at very inconvenient times. The picture below gives you a good idea of what my neighbours saw when they opened the door to me at 1.30am on Sunday:
Hell hath no fury like a woman about to run a half marathon!
The next morning we were so groggy and tired and I was very angry about the whole situation, but I remembered something I had read somewhere - anger is a luxury. And in this case it was a luxury I couldn't afford. So I tried to put it out of my head and forget about it. But I was so tempted to put on Nine Inch Nails at 7am and wake THEM up!
We picked up our Zipcar from up the road and had a very pleasant journey out to Silverstone - it took us about two hours. But it was FREEZING! Luckily Tom had brought an extra jumper so I wrapped up in that.
I had carb loaded the day before with some yummy things - a baked potato with baked beans and spinach for lunch, and a yummy vegetable risotto for dinner - no cheese with it though, just lots of yummy joint-friendly olive oil. I was feeling pretty good, food wise. I felt a bit ill in the morning so stuck to a small bowl of porridge, nibbled on a Lucozade bar, had a few mouthfuls of a banana, and drank Lucozade Body Fuel.
After a queue for the toilets and saying hi to the Lucozade crew, Tom headed off to the spectator stands and I walked through to the "2 hours and over" starting spot. There was a film crew hanging around and we spotted Katie Price (aka Jordan), who was running the event too!
After a delayed start, the gun went off and the sea of runners began to drift off to the course. I'm not great with crowds, so this was good practice for the big day. I started my iPod Nike+ thingy when we started running, and didn't cross the start line (where the timing chip would officially kick off) until a few minutes later, but I wasn't too fazed about that.....yet.
It was a lovely sunny day - despite the chill - and I was happy with my pace. The wording for my training that day was "5km run / 300m walk x 4" so that was what I did, as best as I could. I didn't - or couldn't - stop to walk after the first 5km because it had turned into a bit of a bottleneck, with thousands of us runners trying to squeeze into a tight corner, and there were heaps of spectators and I didn't want to get booed for walking (not that that would ever happen, but I was booing in my head!) so I just sucked it up and kept going. I walked 300m at 10km, 15km and 20km. I probably didn't need to walk at 10km either - I felt fine - but respected the plan and didn't deviate any further!
I used the walking breaks to sip water or Lucozade, which were handed out at various points in the race - I would grab a bottle and carry it until my designated break - and also to eat Lucozade's body fuel jelly beans. I would have two beans at a time, and chew them slowly or let them dissolve on their own. I also tried gel for the first time - I had one at 15km and took it in small mouthfuls, washed down with water. It tasted like honey. I only had about a third of the pack as it was starting to make me feel sick. When I started running again after the gel, I felt quite queasy. I don't know if it was too much concentrated energy too soon, or what, but my stomach felt dodgy for the next kilometre or so. I will be sticking with the beans! The beans are the way to go!
But overall I was really happy with the pace and my form, and I felt very strong. I wasn't particularly fast, but I alternated between slow and medium a few times as I have in training. There were a few hills, which were daunting, and none of them were on my walk breaks (!), but I managed! The course was fun, and there were lots of spectators cheering us on. I scanned the crowds for Tom but didn't see him :( It turned out he was waiting at the finish line....when I wasn't looking at the spectators!
The only thing that fazed me in the run was that about halfway through I realised that my iPod wasn't measuring the distance correctly. It said I had done 9 miles when I hadn't even seen the 8 mile mark yet! I wasn't sure what was going on - maybe the sensor had stopped working - but I knew stopping and fiddling with it would only make me cranky and panic, so I decided to just keep going and resign myself to having to wait for the official results. I had to switch off and just listen to the music and concentrate on what was ahead. I had secretly been hoping that I would smash my first half marathon time, but given that I'd done an 18km training run on Friday, and had had little sleep the night before thanks to my raving neighbours, I thought expecting myself to be speedy on top of all that was asking a bit much of myself, so I tried to just stay cool and concentrate on crossing the finishing line. That really was all that mattered at the end of the day.
But my form and my stamina and the feeling that I was in control was fantastic and despite everything it was a really good run. It's really not all about the numbers. A good time is a bonus, I think. It was such a marked difference from my first half marathon - I felt very prepared, very much in control, and didn't have any doubt that I could do it. I didn't feel like a lumbering, sweaty mess - I felt like I had good form, good control and knew what I was doing. That is an amazing feeling.
I was so happy when I saw the finish line on the horizon. I was starting to flag slightly! I was so happy with the improvement in my form and stamina - but I knew "the wall" was upon me! I gave the last mile everything I had.
Tom had staked himself a prime position at the finish line and had been waiting there for most of the race, so he got to see the best bits! He told me about seeing a Batman and Robin cross the line, and Sonic the Hedgehog :) When he saw me approaching, apparently he went mental calling my name, but I had left my headphones in and couldn't hear him! Meh!
But otherwise, so happy. So very, very happy. Saw 2:21 on the clock when I came in so I knew I had at least equalled my last time so decided to put times out of my head until I knew for sure and concentrate on the fact that I had had a really good run. Running has taught me so much about focusing on the positive. Getting down about things really doesn't get you anywhere, you can only learn from it so you will know for next time. The slip ups and mistakes and errors in judgement are all part of the journey as well.
I had my timing chip cut off, got a goody bag and then posed for an official picture with my medal, which turned out to be shithouse, so here is Tom's! :
Caught up with my mates at the Lucozade van, which Tom and I had agreed would be our meeting point if we got separated, and a few minutes later he came walking over, his face beaming with pride. He is so patient, coming along to every one of my races to cheer me on...it means so much.
Unfortunately here the day took a bit of a nosedive, because then it took two hours for us to get out of the Silverstone car park! Horrendous! It ended up taking us five hours in total to get home - I have never been so pleased to see our street :D We dropped off the Zipcar 20 minutes before our reservation ran out, walked home and had an amazing hot shower which got some warmth back into my bones. We then descended on our local favourite Indian place for a feast to revive us:
Heaven must be dipping garlic chilli naan into spicy tarka dhal.
We ate and drank and talked for ages, loving the delicious food and sense-numbing Cobra beer, and finally the more annoying aspects of the day lost their sting and we relaxed and felt pretty darn great!
Straight to bed when we got home from dinner - I needed every hour I could get :)
So there you go - another half marathon under the belt, and I'm happy with how it went. I would think twice about doing this particular event again, however, purely because it took almost as long to get out of the car park as I'd taken to do the race (!). It's a shame because it was a good course otherwise!
This morning I logged in to see if the results were up, and my official chip time for this half marathon was 2 hours, 18 minutes and 38 seconds. Having forced myself to forget about the time and focus on the strong and improved form I had, this was a pleasant surprise! I've beaten my last time, that was really all I wanted :D
This week holds more training, of course, a yoga retreat on Saturday, and then Run for Christchurch on Sunday (I'm marshalling!). Then the weekend after that is the Reading Half Marathon, then the16 mile Kingston Breakfast Run and then we're talking only a few weeks until the BIG DAY.
I must admit the thought crossed my mind around Mile 12 about how on earth I will cope with a full marathon, as I was starting to flag at that point, but was it a mental thing, maybe, knowing that I only had 1 more mile to go of the race? If I know I have another 14 to go, will I just be a bit tougher mentally? I'm not sure. My mental toughness strategy is one to work on for my long runs going forward, for sure.
But for now it's more early starts, more mileage, and more focus! No resting on my laurels this time!
Have a great week my friends :)