The Edinburgh Marathon Festival Half Marathon 2014

OK, here it is, my appraisal of what went well and what didn’t from this last weekend.

To start off with I did everything right. I ran a good solid race, listened to my body (however achy it was!) and ran a sensible race. I finished and did so strongly, even if some parts of my race were quite tough going.

So, what was my experience of the EMF Half?

It started very early on Sunday morning with a 4am start. Far too early a start in my opinion. I didn’t feel as if I’d had enough sleep; it had rained heavily all night and the noise wasn’t as relaxing as the pitter patter of gentle drops on the canvas – it sounded more like a drum being played all night!

After a breakfast of toast and jam and a cup of tea, we set off at 5am for the Park and Ride. When we arrived (a good 30 minutes early) it was lightly raining. The bus was meant to arrive at 5:45am and leave at 6, but didn’t arrive until after 6. We asked the driver about the tickets and if my husband would stay on this bus or have to get another to get him to the finish. “No idea!” said the driver, who looked completely hassled. He said he hadn’t even got an idea where he was going and was going to have to follow the bus in front. Great. You can imagine how relaxed I was starting to feel.

Our information pack had stated that our bus would go on a circular route, collecting runners from three Park and Ride destinations, starting with ours at Craigmillhall at 6, around to Sheriffhall at 6:15 and then to  Straiton at 6:30, arriving in the city centre at 7am. Instead our bus and the one in front went from Craigmillhall directly to the city centre.

When we arrived, after a very strange roundabout route, at Market Street we were told to disembark and make our way to the start. It was 6:30, we had an hour and a half to wait in the rain with no shelter and nowhere to go but the start. Luckily the start was clearly signposted; things were looking up. However, once at Market Street there were no other buses, no information and no one around to ask about the shuttle service to the finish. My poor husband was looking very concerned; maybe we could ask at the start?

The walk to the start took about 20 minutes. We wondered if we’d have been better leaving our car in Leith and catching an ordinary bus to the top of Leith Walk. It would have saved us a fortune (we pre-paid £16 for our two tickets) and we would have known exactly where we were going and at what time we needed to leave. We could have maybe enjoyed one extra hour in bed! Of course, at 6:50 the start was fairly empty – all the sensible people were still having breakfast! I did manage to make use of the portaloos whilst there wasn’t a queue, although as they’d been open all night it seems that the party crowd had taken advantage and the loo I chose stank of sick. Fab. My day was getting better and better.

We were told by Race Crew that my husband could catch a service bus to Musselburgh at the bottom of the hill, so after checking out the bus stops we felt a little better. He later told me that the bus stops had all been closed and the only way he managed to get a bus was because a little old lady who was also waiting for it stepped out in front of one and made the driver stop! He promises me that he didn’t push or even gently coerce her.

The rain started to get heavier and by the time we were asked to get into our pens it was really chucking it down. And so then they decided to delay the start for 15 minutes! Excellent. You have 10,000 wet and cold runners waiting open to the elements and you delay the start! When we eventually got away the rain had lightened a bit, but it was still quite windy. I had recollections of the last time I ran in Edinburgh at a half marathon – the infamous Rock’n’Roll 2013 disaster when the wind and rain was that bad it blew portaloos over and wrecked a concert stage. Surely I couldn’t be twice jinxed?

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I had my Jeff Galloway Half Marathon app set for 3 minutes running and 1 minute walking and had decided that if I felt good after a few miles I could increase the running or decrease it if things started to go bad. I was determined to finish. Mile 1 was a healthy 10:21 and I felt that I was running well, although the route seemed to be really crowded at times. My third mile arrived after 32:31 minutes and I was comfortable with that, so I tried to adjust my app. I was easily coping with 3:1, 4:1 would be good. However, with all the rain, my armband face was misted up and I couldn’t properly see the phone screen. I clicked what I thought was 4:1 and carried on. I realised that I something was wrong when at mile 4 I tried to have half my gel and couldn’t manage just half of it on my walk break. I stopped and checked; I clicked past 4:1 and chosen 4.30:30 – no wonder my walk breaks seemed short!

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By mile 4 we were heading along the promenade and into the wind. I don’t mind the rain really, but the wind just zaps the strength out of your legs. We had 7 miles of the wind blowing on our faces, slowing us down. My Garmin splits tell the full story; I just got slower and slower. My 10k split was 69:05. My slow times weren’t helped by the fact that in a couple of places we had to slow down to a walk in order to cross roads through very narrow gaps whilst the traffic was being held up. It was really frustrating!

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Once we’d reached Musselburgh at mile 8 I wondered where we were going to be heading – the finish was just a mile from where we were. The route took us tantalisingly close to the finish and lead us away for two long miles before turning us round for the last two miles. What we had was two lanes of traffic, us heading away from the finish watching those who had rounded the turn and were ahead of us running on the home straight. It was demoralising; I had no idea how far I needed to go before I had to turn – the road seemed to stretch on forever.

Eventually, half broken, I made the turn. It was better being on the final stretch, far better looking at the anxious faces of the people on the other side than be one of those anxious faces. It was even exhilarating when, at mile 12, the elite marathoners passed us on their way out. I am so very pleased that I had made the turn before the elite men passed by! They didn’t get a chance to overtake me – I was able to clap them on and get a slight lift from their wonderfulness.

With half a mile to go I was struggling. I think I’d hit the wall and I was half running, half walking – knowing that I only had a few hundred metres to go. All of a sudden I made a left turn and there, like an oasis, was the finish! Amazingly I found my legs and sprinted down the bouncy castle like matting to cross the line in 2:34:17. I had come 8773 of 9652 runners. There were a thousand people slower than me. Awesome!

Once I’d crossed the line I went to get my medal and goodie bag. Despite the fact that the organisers had asked for T-shirt size, there were no medium T-shirts left, only XS, L and XL. I hunted about for a bit and then decided that a large T-shirt would do. I got my photo taken with my medal and wandered out to find my husband.

We’d decided to meet at the family reunion section, but neither of us could find it. Instead I headed for the beer tent, knowing that he wouldn’t be too far away from a free beer sign! I wanted to find the Diabetes UK tent and say hello. There were five main charities and many more smaller ones, Diabetes UK being one of the smaller ones. I didn’t get a post-race massage, but I did get thanks, an additional medal and a goodie bag. They’d even laid on sandwiches, fruit and water. It was getting on for 11am and we headed away to get the shuttle bus as the last one left at 12.

It was a tough walk, mostly uphill, to get to the park and ride car park. At one point I had to stop; my poor muscles were weeping! Once we reached the car park we joined a massive queue, not knowing where the queue was heading or what we were queuing for! There were a few buses parked up, but no one was there directing the queue. It turned out that the two buses we were queuing past were our buses, but no one knew until we overheard the driver saying where he was heading next. All of a sudden his bus filled up!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and eating and I’m happy to report that I suffered no real ill-effects of my run. I went for a walk along the prom this morning, met a marathoner still proudly wearing his medal 24 hours later, and I’m feeling fine. You’d never really know that I’d run a half marathon the day before. I wondered if I’d really pushed myself hard enough, thinking that maybe if I’d pushed harder I’d be hurting more today, but I think I just prepared myself well and did all the right things afterwards. I stretched immediately, had a post run soya milk shake (for muscle repair), ate an apple (anti-inflammatory properties) and continued to stretch out gently throughout the afternoon. I know that at miles 12 and 13 I could give no more, so to think I’d not tried hard enough is just silly. I think I was a victim of the weather again, sadly. One day I get another ideal race, like the Great North Run was, and get close to beating that PB.

One day!

Blingtastic!
Blingtastic!
A nice wee collection!
A nice wee collection!
The Diabetes UK goodie bag (less the apple and sultanas, which I ate on route!)
The Diabetes UK goodie bag (less the apple and sultanas, which I ate on route!)
The back of my technical tee.
The back of my technical tee.

Will I do this race again? The answer is simple. No. For so many reasons I didn’t enjoy this experience. It was far too busy a race, the route was far too narrow in places and in some sections we were actually stationary. The getting to and from the start and finish was a total nightmare. It took far too long and was far too disorganised. The race itself was great – the weather couldn’t be helped. I’m destined for smaller races, even if I’m last I think!

Resting with-in-tent

We’re safely installed in our wee trailer tent in the outskirts of Leith, just up the road from tomorrow’s race route. Today we did a dummy run to the nearest Park and Ride, which is 30 minutes away. It’s as well we did the dummy run because the satnav took us through a housing estate and a retail park, adding another 30 minutes to the journey! At least we know where we’re going!

I’ve prepared pretty much everything, I think. I’ve got my Camelbak full of 0.75 litres of water and a tablet and a half of  High 5 Zero hydration. My 33Shake chia gels are hydrating and I’m currently charging my Garmin. All that’s left is for me to charge my phone. Oh and sleep.

The bus is collecting us from the Park and Ride at 6am, taking us via all the other park and rides to the start at Holyrood Park for about 7am. The race starts at 8am, so I’ll have a bit of waiting around, although they want us in our corales by 7:45am. Working backwards we need to leave the campsite at 5am; we shouldn’t have any delays, but I’d rather being sitting in the car waiting than rushing about trying to get there! I reckon we need to get up at 4am to have breakfast and get ready, so I need to go to bed in about 25 minutes if I’m to get 8 hours sleep! Next time I’ll look for a later starting race!

It’s just started raining. It’s only light rain and it’s supposedly meant to stay that way until tomorrow afternoon, at which time we might be enjoying a thunderstorm. I don’t mind running in light rain. I just hope that the wind stays fairly calm. The last time I ran a half marathon in Edinburgh it was so windy the portaloos were being blown over and the after race concert had to be cancelled because the stage had been ravaged by gusts! Light rain would actually be a blessing!

I’ve had a homemade spaghetti bolognaise, high in carbs and protein, low in fat and salt, and I’m drinking a lovely apple, mango and passion fruit sparkling juice from M&S. I’m being as sensible as I can be; I’m taking as few chances as I can! I need to feel relaxed and prepared.

So next time I write I’ll have run another 13.1 miles, collected another medal and be wearing the technical tee-shirt. I’m looking forward to running this race. I’ll give it my best.

The Final Countdown

Here I am, three days from the first half marathon of 2014. I’m feeling pretty good, if truth be known. With 14 miles under my belt from last Monday and a further 5 from yesterday I’m on target for a good finish. I’m not planning on breaking any records, but I am planning on crossing the finish line before the sweeper bus catches me.

Who am I kidding? I’m on target for a 2:20 half which, if I can get close to, I’ll be happy. I’m presently running 3:1 run:walk intervals and doing my trail runs at a faster 1:1 ratio in order to work up some speed. The trail running is definitely making me stronger and more confident.

So far as my kit bag is concerned I’ve got my running number which is a rather scary 39890! Over 40,000 runners? I’m hoping that at least 20,000 are full marathon runners who won’t be starting until I cross the line! Dodging runners was one of the reasons I started entering small races, so we’ll see how this goes.

With my racing number came a sample of High 5 Zero, which I’ve written about before. I was pretty impressed with it, so I’ve bought a tube of tablets. I can just add a tablet to my water, rather than have to cart a juice bottle around. I contacted the 33Shake guys about how to use the chia seed gels and their advice was a bit of a revelation. They said use one per hour of running. So I’m looking at using one and a half. If I break the mileage down I could either do half a gel at 4, 8 and 12 and have half left over or do 3, 6, 9 and 12 and use the lot. I think I’ll call that on the day. At least I now know that I don’t have to try and eat an entire gel at a time, so I’m pretty glad I asked! I’ve also bought some beetroot juice to try. This is meant to be a good boost, but I think I’ll try it tomorrow first – just to be sure!

My running kit is sorted. I tested my Diabetes UK vest yesterday and it’s fine. No chaffing or riding up; I shall be burn and embarrassment free. I will probably wear ¾ leggings, ones which I know are comfortable. I could do with some sunglasses. My trusty Fosters IronGirl shades have departed to sunglass heaven, thanks to one arm falling off. Whether I get some replacements in time, well, we’ll see. Lastly my shoes could do with a clean after my 14 mile dirt run the other week. Leaving them to dry so that the dirt would dust off hasn’t really worked.

I’ve checked the weather forecast and it’s saying humid (93% humidity) and cloudy, turning to light drizzle  about 10 am. It’s still a few days away, so that could change. I’m happy with that though, except for maybe the humidity. I need to remember to take my inhaler!

So that’s it then. I’ve spent the last hour locating my paperwork, gazing quizzically at the EMF website and checking the camping arrangements. I’ve discovered that we need to get to the Park and Ride for 6 am (yes, that’s 6 in the morning!) and that I’ll get dropped off at the start whilst hubby and hound get taken straight to the finish. Undeterred by those arrangements, my husband is seemingly quite happy to wander the streets of Musselburgh for three hours or so. There must be a car sales pitch there, or a boat yard or something of that nature. Jeesh!

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Lastly, my fundraising is going well. I’m up to £150 at the moment. That’s £50 over my race target, so I’m happy. If, however, you want to add to that, here are the details again!

http://www.justgiving.com/Julie-Hollis3

 

Running Long and Tapering Down

Today saw my last long run of this training programme. After today I’m on the taper.  And, to my relief, I’m feeling…

G-R-R-R-E-A-T!

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The weather forecast for today was dismal, so imagine my surprise to see sunshine and blue skies this morning. The weather gods were obviously smiling, so, after a breakfast of porridge, bananas and honey and having done my email duties for the morning, I set off. I had decided to run a tougher route than just along the fairly flat shore road. It’s my 4 mile loop which, if run again, becomes a 5 mile loop. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but if you take into consideration that if I’m doing a 4 mile run I walk to warm up and cool down adding the extra distance. If I run right round it’s 5 miles. Honest it is.

The run starts with a first mile which is mainly uphill. I always find that tough when I start off; my legs aren’t properly warmed up and my calf muscles are still too tight. However, I soldier on. After that the route undulates with some good hills to climb and descend. It’s a good route and I prefer to run a loop than go there and back. The only issue with this route though is that it tends to flood and yesterday we had some pretty nasty rain. I was expecting the worse.

The worst bit wasn’t as bad as I had expected, although as this road is being used as a diversion route for a farm which is cut off at present thanks to roadworks, it has suffered a bit. The road was pretty broken up in parts, with massive holes on either side; I feel sorry for the folk who live round there. The holes, predictably, had filled up with mud and rainwater and with the increased farm traffic the sloppy mud was being distributed all over the road. It was unavoidable and my lovely Brooks trainers are no longer quite as lovely; they are drying as I type, in the hope that the dirt might brush off. We’ll see.

I had taken with me my 33 Shake chia seed gels and my Camelbak with ¾ of a litre of water with a High 5 Zero tablet in it. I had been just using water, but I felt that I needed an extra boost. The High 5 Zero tablets had been sent out by the Edinburgh Marathon Festival organizers with my number, so I felt duty bound to try them out and I liked them; not too juicy tasting, salty if anything, and gentle on my stomach. I was a bit concerned when I got home though to discover that I had almost all of my ¾ litre left – I’m not drinking enough. I need to watch this, especially if I’m racing in warmer weather.

I planned to take my gels at miles 4, 8 and 12 but after mile 8 I forgot and ended up taking it at mile 9 instead. In the end I just didn’t bother taking the third one – I was managing fine with what I’d taken. Maybe the drink was helping there. I like the chia seed gels, but they are a bugger to swallow in a hurry when you’re a bit out of breath. I always take them on my walk breaks, but I inevitably run out of time. If I’m honest this is putting me off them and I’m wondering if I can do anything about it. I might contact the makers and see what they suggest.

By mile 8 the forecast weather had arrived and it was throwing it down. I stopped to call my son at home as I’d left two machine loads of washing on the line and knew that it would be soaked again by the time I’d run the last of that loop home. I decided at that point to head home and complete the run on the treadmill. The wind had picked up and the rain was extremely heavy – it wasn’t worth slogging out another loop. I may be mad, but I’m not crazy!

Having set up Star Trek on the DVD player I set off to boldly go (again) and boldly went with the Voyager crew. I felt surprisingly good and even ended up increasing the pace in the last couple of kilometres.

With my 14 miles complete in about 2:39 I had a rushed lunch of scrambled eggs, toast and humous and a strawberry soya milkshake and a quicker shower before heading into town to do the weekly shop! As a result, I haven’t sat down much, which might explain why I’m feeling so good! I honestly don’t feel pained enough to have run 14 miles – maybe that will come tomorrow!

But I hope not!

So now the taper begins. I’m pleased to have run my last long run before the race – I’m looking forward to saving my legs a bit. I’ve got two 30 minute runs to do this week, then a 5 mile run next Monday and two final 30 minute runs and then it’s race day!

After last week’s podiatrist downer I have some good news. I went to see my chiropractor (he of the Vulcan death grip) and told him what the podiatrist had said. When I got to the part when I relayed that I’d been told basically to give up running he stopped me. “Don’t give up running,” he said “Running has given you so much. Strength, confidence, achievement – don’t give up!” It was what I needed to hear. All athletes get injured. I don’t have the financial backing that elites have, but I do have a very good chiropractor who listens to how I’m feeling and helps me. Sometimes I need to work through injuries and having his support, as well as Jeff Galloway’s running plans, help me do that.

After all, if a 14 mile run leaves me feeling like Tony the Tiger, I’d be daft to let that go!