Half Marathon Nemesis – Nairn

On Friday we headed North via Fochabers Chip shop, [forget the deep fried mars bar handle, they have thee best chips] for a tough-of-the-track style pie supper and checked into our favourite rest place in Inverness, the Glen Druidh Hotel http://www.cozzee-nessie-bed.co.uk/ which is amok with wildlife. I had a relatively early night and slept well after quaffing litres of electrolyte drink in preparation for a scorching race-day heatwave. Indeed we woke through the night and had to open more windows. The hazey har that greeted us in the morning confirmed the weather forecast, so I ditched the red and black outfit in favour of, yep, my “usual” halgofs intense cream vest and skins/Nike baggy shorts combo, same stuff I wore at the Benbecula half marathon.

Adrenalin was making my hands a bit shaky at breakfast; it dawned on me that I would be re-running my first half marathon again. Nairn in 2010 was my first ever 13 mile run, having only completed 12 miles the previous week and it wasn’t pleasant. I nearly got overtaken by a pipeband on the final straight and the high winds and undulating course made it a really naff experience. I have of course run hillier, windier and faster half marathon times since, but Nairn represented a special demon for me and I wanted to anihilate it today.

Pre-race I kept up the fluids and soaked up the heat and atmosphere of the MacCallan sponsored Highland Games. I also bumped into Marion’s husband Iain (bib 94), a very accomplished club runner who works in the same office as I do. Here we are at the start and I’m alleviating pre-race nerves with a bit of banter. Without warning we were off!

I can never ‘just’ smile

Iain went passed me as we left the grass loop and I tried to settle into a sensible pace, carrying a full carb drink, 3 gels and a neurofen, just encase. I opted to leave the ipod behind as it was just too hot to contemplate wearing anything extra. Moving

through the first few miles I noticed David, a local Fetch Everyone forumite and we ran together whilst catching up and comparing injuries. I was a little ahead of myself at this point as we got up the hill and into the 3rd mile in 26.20. David moved off at the water station whereas I slowed, took gel and 3 cups of water. I was really sweating by this point and experiencing that lovely stinging sensation underneath my sunspecs as the sweat poured down my face. I decided I would try and keep David in my sights but my pace was feeling uncomfortable and I took the pragmatic approach to keep an even effort and conserve energy until within striking distance of water stations.

I re-caught David for a little bit and told him he was looking comfortable and he really was. Then we hit a hump-back bridge. A complete Saint had put out a walk-through makeshift hose shower and I gratefully loitered through that as the second water station allowed me another 3 cups of water. I walked through mile 6 in 52.40. Next came a cooler flattish section through the woods where we managed to pass a few folk. The run out to the turnpoint and back was blisteringly hot and I was wilting and not experiencing that homeward bound feeling that I get once I know I’ve completed more than 50% of the race. I had nearly finished my carb drink too (this usually lasts me the whole half distance).

Hats off the to the gent at the next water station who grappled around for a bottle of water for me. I probably seemed ungrateful as I mumbled about needing it to take my gel and neurofen with. SORRY! As we headed out into the wind, which didn’t cool much and just held us back, I noticed the pace really dropping off so I stopped looking at the Garmin and just got my head down. I took the meltlet as my left toes were feeling a bit bruised. But the effort was steady and gradually, eventually, runner’s started being passed by David and then about 50 yards behind, by me. There were some really scary looking weavers and as I saw the ambulance driving towards us, I knew someone somewhere was seriously struggling! I exchanged a few words with runners as I passed them; most said they were ‘done’ or ‘spent’. Even club runners were walking and we all seemed to be on the maintenance shuffle.

“In the heat, you race for place and not for time” and whoever said that (or similar) must surely have had today’s race in mind!

Luckily I had grabbed another water bottle and used someones discarded bottle to soak myself with and was honestly, as well hydrated as I could have been – over 3 Litres of water drunk and no need to use the loo. As we came into the town I met with David once again and we decided that a 10 minute mile was alright, considering 😉 We started passing a few folk and asked them to stay with us, in an end of tough race cameraderie. We were both in relatively good shape, notably because D was well under his normal RP and I had been making-like-a-camel and waterboarding for the entire race. I was certainly in much better condition than when I last ran this part of thr course!! Before long we were on the final prom home and swatting wayward kids out of the way and shouting ahead “excuse me”. Loads of well done’s from finished runners and I got a little burn on, pun intended, targetting a lady who was struggling up ahead. Sorry lady but thanks for keeping me going.

As I heaved into the playing field I was hopeful that no one would re-pass me and they didn’t. I followed the yellow line around the outside of the track, swerved the picniccers sitting inside it and was so thankful to hear my name called out of over the tannoy. I clicked the Garmin off at 2:04:53.

That time might not be much to write home about but after speaking to Maureen, one of the other veteran prize winners from the Heb 3 series, she said she was faster on those far hillier courses than she was today. Well done lady- she picked up another prize despite the weather and relative slow time. A couple of other runners said they were 8-10 minutes off recent half times, so all in all, I’m pleased with todays performance. I did manage to Hang Tough, felt OK at the end and I’m pleased I put the Nairn Demons to rest. I enjoyed catching up with Iain (1:48), David (just a few seconds behind me) and a couple of other local and Heb 3 runners after the race and drank down another Litre of fluid and scoffed crisps and mars bar. I also managed to see a few of the local attractions, like the pipe bands.

And so, I can safely say that the Nairn Half is no longer my running nemesis. I was a bit disappointed back in 2010 not to have got a medal for finishing my first half but this year, a medal and a cool orange buff courtesy of the local running club were in the goody bag. Thanks Nairn. I got a nice, albeit patchy sun-tan too 😉 Now, where can I find a flattish, drizzly half marathon??

Finally! A Nairn Half Medal and roadrunners buff

http://www.nairnroadrunners.co.uk/14401/index.html

Official result 121/184 runners, in 2 hrs 4 mins and 58 seconds

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Nairn Half Marathon – 7 days to go

Day 7

Sunday – My last training session before attempting to run the Nairn Half Marathon. Nairn has long stood as a running nemesis; my first half marathon and I finished in last place (2 hrs 42 mins) and had a thoroughly miserable time back in 2010. I had hoped to revisit it at some stage and although not ideally placed in this years calendar, I decided to “go for it” and wipe the previous experience 100% into the annals of history. So after discussing possible sites for the session with Marion, I headed out to our agreed location- the disused railway. As I embarked on the  longish tempo run with a race pace and sub race pace section, I was advised that the Dyce Half Marathon was being run and there will still runners on the line. I had totally forgotten it was on as it was held in July last year. I kinda had a crappy run at it too after a night of upset stomach and guts and then developing a lush set of blood blisters during the run (2 hrs 6 mins). So I set off for 4 miles out at ~9.30 m/m and made sure I said well done to the tail-end runners. It was truly warm in the wooded areas, with a nice refreshing breeze passed Kennedy’s yard. I got to my turn point having finished ¾ of my juice, took a gel and then set- off for my RP-5% section. Twenty minutes flew passed and I was ahead of pace and felt tired but good. I jogged for about 30 seconds and finished the rest of the Gatorade then set off for twenty minutes at RP. Of course, it felt relatively sustainable coming after the faster section and save for a fairly smelly dead bunny on the track and the humidity, I had a cracking run. A real confidence booster! I treated myself to a hot bath that night, after a super cold leg shower.

Day 6

Monday –I was originally planning to attend British Military Fitness class but had the chance to try my hand at badminton, with folk from work. I booked a court at the Woodbank facility (£4 for an hour- a bargain) but found that the work had decided to go somewhere else. Last minute, my brother stepped in and we arranged to have a knock about to work up a sweat. I dug my old warped Carlton racket out and wished I hadn’t as the handle badly needs re-strapped and the suede coloured my hand a bright blue. Also it meant I had to try and scab a lift or get public transport and I ended up ehading out to catch the No. 19. The local bus company had decided to switch around bus-stops and services, so as I waited at the designated place I saw the bus I wanted drive right passed and the driver shaking his head as I tried to flag it. To avoid lateness I started running (in my work gear, two bags and racket) and managed to overtake the bus at the traffic lights. Since none of the new stops had been marked up with the bus numbers, I was slightly confuddled about where to get on and (stupidly) decided I’d just run back up the bus lane towards the oncoming number 19! It stopped (randomly at the No 1 stop), I got on and dished a plate of sarcasm to the driver with a side order of red faced sweat. Once aboard, I did enjoy catching up with a colleague from yore, so was pretty happy again once I reached the sports centre. My badminton game was gash but I did get a good sweat on and was even getting a few well placed shuttles passed my bro, who is a bit of a competitive beast at badders and tends to slam shots to the deck every chance he gets. There weren’t many rallys! I enjoyed it though and requirement for new racket aside, I think I’ll revisit badminton again.

Injury sites: I was a bit worried about my right foot as I was slamming it down quite forcefully on the forehand and overhead shots. A quick jump on the powerplate and the vibration did highlight that left calf and right plantar were indeed “sore”. Soreness on known problems sites….that’s OK. I can deal with that.

Day 5

Tuesday – BMF on a very soggy park due to the thunder, lightening and torrential rain from the night before. I again forgot to choose my INOV-8s, which would make a lot more sense as we spend 95% of our time running on and getting down and up from muddy grass! I jogged down from work to my brothers flat and we drove to the park because he said he had the CBAs. Once there, a new instructor offered a very different workout and I struggled with quite a few elements including being the second last pairing to be sent off on a circuit therefore having to hold a full plank for what seemed like hours! My usual hold points – shocking press-ups, complete inability to support myself as the front of a wheelbarrow, inability to crouch n run up a hill in the monkey, bear or crab positions. Very frustrating as I have made no progress on these elements since I started BMF at end of May. However my wall squats and step ups were good (although I got told off for taking a walking run-up to stepping onto the concrete blocks. Oops). I’m starting to recognize a few faces now so it’s a bit more friendly. I doubt that the girl who was paired me for the hill reps will be in a hurry to pair with me again, sorry Lady, I was trying, honest!

Injury sites: Plantar was sore and my back was also very knotted, with bingo-wings (triceps) and rib area and hips sore. Presumably I did some proper muscle depletion during BMF. Hope it builds back up before Saturday.

Day 4

Wednesday – my usual long slow run in the morning was cancelled by the other party, which was a blessing really. I had a long lie til 10am! Bliss! So no 8 mile jog/walk and this is good because I find I do get sore after a slower cadence run. When I say sore, I mean just an uncomfortable bruised feeling which doesn’t last long but is there all the same. Instead I decided to do some of the lesser known fitness art-form I like to call “dancing to cheesey pop in your own living-room” as a warm-up to a pilates DVD, courtesy of Darcy Bussell. After 30 mins I changed my mind again and gave the local beauty place a call and booked a back, shoulder and neck massage. Thanks Abz-olute beauty. Whilst out, the postman with the inconsistent delivery time decided to try and deliver my Velcro Garmin Strap. How naff! Now I have to try and collect before Friday evening. The rest of the afternoon I did that undesirable but necessary exercise known as housework. I also rustled up an apple crumble and spicy tomato sauce for hubby’s dinner, as I was going out to Wagamama with a martial arts practitioner. Very nice it was too. I wore some high-heeled Fornarina boots, so as a precaution I strapped my right foot with micro porous tape around the arch and went to bed with it on. Felt fine in the morning.

Day 3

Thursday – Acupuncture day! I got an unfortunate text on Tuesday to say that Dr Shu –  the lady who has been treating me with acupuncture for my calf and Achilles strain – had broken her leg whilst running off a hill and wanted to cancel my appointment! Nooooo! I wished her well and asked her for a referral as I had the Half Marathon coming up. Thankfully, she said she would keep the appointment although it might take her longer than an hour as she’d have to take it slowly. I was SO relieved.

Not my actual foot

The acupuncture session are now forming part of my strategy for avoiding overstrain and I am relying particularly on this session to make sure that any niggles or tightness I have picked up are ironed out before trying to run. I feel good going into the session and will ask her to pin the right Achilles and plantar fascia as well as the usual glute and calf areas. Chinese medicine actually rocks and all cynicism I had about it has completely dissipated since I underwent treatment in May with immediate and effective results.

Day 2

More resting, an unfortunate dodgy stomach as well as a super-tight left calf. Acupuncture was sore around the right plantar fascia and the rigorous massage lead to what felt like a calf strain which I was assured would be better the next day, so as precaution I put the Natures Kiss cream on it and applied the compresssports calf guards! However, the next day it was right as rain. The dodgy tummy was a worry though however I applied the dairy free choc milk and kept to bland foods through the day and packed ready for the journey to Inverness. What to wear? Red/black or turquoise and white?

Race Day – well, we’ll see what eventuates. The weather forecast is now for 20% chance of rain but 21 degC!!! and windy, so not ideal on the circular route along the coast. However I am looking forward to catching up with some family and a few friends who will be running or coming along to support. Now remember, when you see my red face coming into the playing fields- shout LOUD but don’t look too closely.