Crikey – this is it… the last BIG ONE! On Sunday we have our epic 20 miler (we have decided to do 21 to be on the safe side!), and then our 3 week tapering begins until the big day itself….. what a ride it has been!
Not such a great week so far as I foolishly got sunstroke on Sunday afternoon when I was chilling out after the lovely 14 miler. I felt rotten and had the mother of all headaches on Monday, so went to bed the moment we got home from work. On Tuesday it was very hot, and a busy day at work left me dehydrated and still a bit fragile, so I only managed 2 miles with the beginners in my Tuesday group. On Wednesday Simon was poorly and I managed the shop alone for most of the day, grabbing a quick bite late afternoon, so by the time we got home I was too tired to do the 5 miler I had anticipated. Instead we had a good early meal and a decent night’s sleep for a change!
I awoke on Thursday feeling like a new woman. Let’s be having you, running! The IOW Road Runners had a 7 miler on the cards, but as I am so slow this means that I wouldn’t be finishing until after 8.30pm – which is far too late for me – so a group of us opted to do a shorter 4-5 mile route. After a shaky start when I suddenly felt I had “nothing in the tank”, an incident with another runner dropping out lead to be doing a brief stint of 8:30 minute/mile pace to catch up with the others, and this really fired me up! The remaining 2 miles slowed back to my usual 10:40-11:00 min/mile pace, but it was still 4 miles and I felt better for it!
When I started training I thought I was going to need so much in the way of nutrition. I know people can do marathon distances without any fuel at all, and I know you can and train your body to burn fat rather than look for the quick and easy fix of a gel, but I always thought I wouldn’t be one of them. I fainted at Mile 22 of Walk-the-Wight in 2008 due to lack of food for goodness sake! However, I have found it hard to eat anything on my long runs. Powders mixed with water give me stitch, electrolyte tablets tend to do the same, and gels are just so sticky! The thicker gels upset my tummy, and because of my asthma I can’t breathe easily enough to manage any proper food (even an energy bar or a Shot Blok!) whilst on a run, and I just don’t like the idea of dextrose tablets. The only thing I have successfully managed are small pieces of “Bocadillo” (guava paste dried in pastels a bit like fudge) – but then only in VERY small amounts. This week I will be setting off with LOTS of water, an electrolyte drink for near the end (I’ll be going so slowly by then a stitch won’t matter so much!) and my trusty Bocadillos too, but nothing more than that. I managed to eat a piece of chocolate on the 18 miler, but it left me feeling sticky, so I have decided it is not such a wise thing to carry!
Deb has found an energy drink she gets on very well with, and she also likes the SIS range and Shot Blok sweets. She tends to take a variety of things on a long run and this is working for her very well. We are all different, and it is important for you to try things and see what works for YOU. Don’t try more than one new product on the same run though, as if you do get a stitch or upset stomach you won’t know which one caused it!
Friday’s run was just short of 4 miles, but will the “biggie” due on Sunday I was just happy to keep things turning over.
Sunday. I felt nervous, anxious and yes, a little scared, today, but there was no part of me that thought that I couldn’t do the 21 miles we were setting out to do… as I knew I could walk some of it if I needed to. I’m glad to say that my marathon pals were of the same attitude. It has been a very positive experience running with Deb, Tracy and Sarah, and even when we have problems we still take all the positive things we can from the experience, and learn from it rather than be put off by it, and I wholeheartedly recommend running with others. Today Sarah was anxious after a 2 week break to recover her knee, but still determined to have a go, and Deb has been struggling with those tight leg muscles on and off for the last month. My own worries were my ankles as usual. To look at us though I don’t think we looked as if we had a care in the world as we giggled and cantered our way out of Newtown on this most epic of runs!
We had a surprisingly large group of runners with us this time; Debbie R. started with us and was hoping to do around 8 miles. She turned around at Wellow and ended up doing a perky 9; her longest run ever! Hannah B. also joined us and aimed for 10 miles, and stayed with us right round to Totland – her longest run yet! Ian made a surprise appearance and kept us company for 5 miles, and has confirmed that he will do his 26th IOW marathon with us now J Simon D. is training for the Great South Run but ended up doing around 12 miles! Claire S. joined us for the first time, and tackled the whole distance. Well, actually she managed 22 miles thanks to the back and forthing she did, and I think we have successfully convinced her to sign up for the marathon now! The surprise runner of the day though was our friend Debs L. (yes –t here were 3 Debs this week, so it lead to much confusion!). Debs has previously done a few 10 milers and one half-marathon, and had intended to try for 15 with us today. We got to this landmark and she decided she might as well keep running… and running… and running! We were all walking on and off in the last 5 miles but Debs – without any previous training – stayed with us to the very end and was AWESOME! From 13 miles to 21 miles in one run!
So how did it go and how did I feel? The first 6 miles were brilliant; very comfortable and steady, and there was a lot of happy nattering with each other. I then realised that we had been going significantly quicker than usual at around 10:50-11:00 minutes per mile pace though (instead of our usual 11:30 long-run pace) and I started to worry that we would burn out if we kept going like this, so we slowed up a little. I had a similar problem in a half marathon once, and the last 6 miles were so hard as a result!
The route was pretty from Yarmouth round to Freshwater (the old Needles Half Marathon route) and kept us distracted, but at 12 miles the wheels suddenly and disconcertingly came off for me. My right ankle (the one I would call my “good” foot!) had been playing up from the start, and a dull pain had spread up to the right hip and thigh, but my left ankle – not wanting to be ignored – had also given me some nasty twinges. To cap it all I think the lactic acid build up in my leg muscles had reached saturation point due to the faster start! Suddenly every hill was like a mountain and it seemed like a VERY long way still to go. At this point I simply must thank Sarah for her quiet words of encouragement. They meant all the more as I knew she was suffering too, but her occasional “go on Jo-Jo – keep going” was like a shock of adrenalin in my tired legs.
Keep going we did. We had an occasional regroup when we would stop, take on more fluids and maybe a piece of Deb J’s delectable sweet potato and walnut brownies, but otherwise it was forever onwards as we counted down the miles. Wilmingham Road was once again my nemesis, and I think that on marathon day this will be the bit I fear the most as it goes on and on, and up and up. Mind you, we will then have the pleasure of turning into the road to Wellow and starting the return run, so psychologically that might be a very good moment! The road through Wellow and Thorley was interminable and we all started to suffer here. Simon left us after his epic 12 miles, and then I have to say that us girlies had to start adding walking spells into our running (except Claire – who was brilliant!). Even the alpacas couldn’t distract from the general discomfort we were all feeling as we kept plodding onwards. I’m very pleased to say that Deb J. was having a much better one this week, and her tenacity and enthusiasm in those final miles encouraged me to run even though my legs just wanted to walk – even on the final climb into Newtown! She was simply brilliant.
Food wise all I took on were 2 tiny brownies and half a Bocadillo, plus a litre of water and 500ml of electrolyte drink, and I really didn’t want anything more. I had foolishly left one of my water bottles at home, so I’m sure I’d have sipped away at that additional 500ml of water if I’d brought it, but no harm done. Thankfully it was warm but nowhere near as hot as in previous weeks. Due to other commitments in the afternoon I had to keep myself going when all I wanted to do was veg out, and also didn’t have time to eat anything until about 6pm. I figured this was good training for the remaining 4.6 miles I will have to do on race day!
No blisters, no chafing (except a little on my back from my rucksack – which thankfully I didn’t feel at the time), no fainting, no sickness, no “runners tummy” and smiles pretty much all the way round…. That’s what a call a good run!