The Loch Leven Half Marathon 2014 – RACE REPORT

LOCH LEVEN HALF MARATHON 2014

Official time: 1 hour 46 minutes and 28 seconds

Overall: 213 out of 532

Category: 23rd out of 102

Medal : Yes

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The Loch Leven Half Marathon was my first proper race of the year. After bouncing back following a course of iron tablets and a few months of amazing training, I was more than ready for it. With my ‘A’ race of the year being the Strathearn marathon in June I felt this was the perfect distance to stretch the legs at a good pace and see how I was feeling after 13.1 miles of pushing myself.

Kirsty came to pick me up on the Saturday morning and along with Susan and Andy, we made our way through to Kinross for race registration. We got there with plenty of time to spare, found parking easily and met up with the rest of our club mates at the school campus. Everyone has been training extra hard over the past few months for the marathon so all of us were feeling a bit sluggish and heavy and had the same outlook of ‘go out and see how we feel along the way’. Numbers on, final kit choice changes made and countless toilet visits later, we left the school campus and made our way a mile or so along the road to the starting area. The nerves were really starting to kick in. Even though my training had been going really well up until now and I had been feeling great, I still wasn’t convinced I’d be able to perform well on the day. But as always, at this point I could do no more and there was only one thing I could try and do – go out and fake it til I make it.

We all wished each other good luck, squished in for a few “welfies” (aka – ‘wee county harrier selfies’!) and before we knew it the horn had sounded and we were off! I got a pretty good start having chosen to set off at the side of the pack and passed by a few people who were all running side by side and taking up the majority of the road, until I nearly rear ended a guy who just stopped dead in front of everyone to fix his lace. My race was nearly over before it had even started! However, once were out of the starting lane and out onto the main road the pack spread out straight away and the race had properly begun. Here goes nothing!!

What a gorgeous bunch we really are!
What a gorgeous bunch we really are!

The race route follows the main road out of Kinross for 2 miles and then turns on to a quieter road that runs along beside Loch Leven. Even though there were countless signs advising drivers to slow down and that there was a race on, impatient drivers who couldn’t slow down or wait just a few more minutes were whizzing along beside us and cutting it very fine along side some runners. At one point later in the race I actually got knocked off balance by a gust of wind from a bus cutting it tightly around me as it overtook, but I’m sure the less said about that the better!

Runners taking over the road on the way out of Kinross. As we do :)
Runners taking over the road on the way out of Kinross. As we do 🙂

The first few miles flew by. I was trying not to look at my watch and just run my race comfortably, but I couldn’t help it and every time it caught my eye I was seeing 7:xx. So that was it, I was running a good race so far so I thought I might as well see how long I could keep it up. What’s the worst that could happen? I’d get to half way and feel a bit tired and then have to pull my pace back a bit? If so, then so be it. For now, the race was on!

    First half splits – 7:52, 7:40, 7:51, 7:58, 8:03, 8:00, 8:01

I had been pre- warned that there was a pretty nasty hill at about 8 miles just as you come into Scotlandwell, so with this in mind I downed a gel at about 6.5 miles and prepared for the worst. I somehow sailed up the hill, ticking off people one by one as I went. Where was this power coming from?! I was deep in the hurt locker and it wasn’t all plain sailing, but I flew out of Scotlandwell and onto the flat again just as my watch beeped 8 miles and I noticed I’d managed to keep my pace to 8 minute miles even up the hill! Feeling awesome I pushed on, knowing I was now comfortably over half way and I just had to keep this pace up to the finish line. By now the sun had come out of hiding and it was slightly too warm. There were 4 water stations on the course but unfortunately the bottles we were given didn’t have lids or sports tops, so it was a case of take what you can when you get it and then have to ditch it soon after or you’ll just spill at all anyway! I gulped down what I could and then poured the rest over my head before launching the bottle in the bins supplied just after the water stations.

Coming out of the last village on the route, I managed to pick my pace up a bit more and still comfortably running I glanced at my watch to see that unless disaster struck, I was more or less guaranteed a pretty big PB. My brain was a bit fried by this time and I had to concentrate hard to make sure my sums were correct. That’s my excuse for my race pictures being so awful. I knew fine well the camera was there and he actually yelled “SMILE!” at me, but this was the result…

"overtake, overtake - tick, tick... 3 miles to go, stick to this pace will make a pb?? Too much to think about, better stick out my tongue..."
“overtake, overtake – tick, tick… 3 miles to go, stick to this pace will make a pb?? Too much to think about, better stick out my tongue…”

The guy in front of me in this picture was one of the people I overtook on the uphill, but he managed to get past me again on the downhill and in doing so he started talking to me and telling me what the rest of the route was like. He really spurred me on and in the final mile and a bit he kept looking over his shoulder so I made it my goal to stick with him right til the end. The last mile was lovely and flat and followed an old railway route back into Kinross before cutting through a housing estate, up a sneaky steep hill and back onto the main road before turning sharply onto the grass of the playing fields to the finish. Still feeling strong I put my head down to push as hard as I could. Yes I could catch a few more people on this last stretch – tick, tick, tick. Yes, I still had something in my legs and YES! I could manage a sprint finish across the grass with a smile on my face and my arms in the air! I glanced at the race clock as I flew through the finishing chute and grinned as I got my timing chip cut off my shoe. A ONE MINUTE 47 SECOND PB?? YES! I’ll take that!! And first lady from WCH home as well! My smile couldn’t possibly get any bigger! My legs had turned to complete mush by now and my leg was shaking like jelly as the poor man tried his best to make sure he was just cutting off my chip and not half my foot as well! I staggered round to see my team mates and collapsed on the grass with a feeling of utter glee.

    Second half splits – 8:25, 8:23, 8:11, 8:02, 8:02, 8:09, (0.1 – 1:27)

I stood and cheered in all the rest of my team mates before Kirsty and I decided to call it a day and head home before the chills set in.

The goody bag contained a lovely medal, an awesome tin water bottle and the usual banana, water, chocolate and also a voucher for a drink and something off the bbq which had been put on for the runners. Not bad for a pretty cheap entry price of £18 (I think). I really enjoyed the race, everyone was very friendly and the race was well organised and marshaled. Thanks to all the lovely marshals who cheered me on throughout the race. I’ll definitely be back next year!

Race Route Photos – Gordon Donnachie.

Marathon training – 3 weeks to go!

Training schedule with 3 weeks to go until the biggest race of my life so far –
Sunday – 14 miles of trails
Monday – 6000m rowed plus chest and back weight session (been told I have weak rhomboids – must improve this!) & core work.
Tuesday – fast paced 10k
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – 20×1 minute sprints at club training
Friday – swim
Saturday – planned 20-22 mile good paced run.

At this point in my training schedule I’m feeling both apprehensive and excited. I had a good run on Sunday right at this moment in time I still hadn’t felt 100% since I got back from my holidays. Not really a good thing seeing as my first marathon is in 3 weeks! To be honest, I’m not really sure how I’m meant to be feeling at this stage – more nervous than excited? Scared? Terrified?! I read somewhere that most runners will pick up an injury or two in the course of their training, and I know I’m clumsier than your average person, but I just seem to be beating myself self up week in, week out! I know it doesn’t help that I spend the majority of my day crouching or walking about on my knees in the baby pool at work, or if not that then lifting small children out of the pool who can’t manage it themselves, which always results in a kick in the leg/stomach/face. During my last few long runs my shoulders and upper back have been in absolute agony, so I eventually got myself booked in for a sports massage where I was poked and prodded for a good half hour where knots were squished out of me and muscles were pulled back into position. I was told at the end that due to my years of swim training and concentrating mostly on butterfly and front crawl that my pecs and lats were over developed whereas my rhomboids were under developed, which is most likely why I hunch forward when I run and what’s causing the pain. Looking back at race photos of myself I can see the further into a race I am, the more hunched I am, and several times I have crossed the line staring at my feet. This will be worked on! I started the process of rectification by rowing 6000m on my lunch break on Monday, and by home time on Monday I had lovely fluid filled blisters on my hands. Nice. I take it these things don’t come easily then!

BBC image
Eeeek, this will be me in a few weeks!! BBC image

On Tuesday morning I was a bit stiff, (good sign these muscles don’t get worked so often then!) and ready to rejoin my club mates at training that evening. But once again, getting held up speaking to parents on my way out of work meant getting home late again and missing training. So I took it upon myself to beat the sunset and try and run my 10k loop before it got dark. My legs felt a bit stiff for the first few miles, but a nice downhill section got me back on track and I felt refreshed when I got home. I’m definitely going to push for a PB in the Stirling 10k next weekend. If it doesn’t begin with 47:xx it’s not worth knowing. The Stirling 10k is an out and back route, very flat (except for a little dip in the last mile) and very fast. I didn’t feel too great running it last year and came home with a very disappointing 53:xx time, so a course PB is expected, but an overall PB would really give me the push I need just now.

Wednesday saw a much appreciated rest day. I watched rubbish tv and caught up with my blog reading.

On Thursday I finally made my return to club training after weeks of missing it due to work. And I was met with a wonderful set of 20x 1 minute sprints with 1 minute recovery in between each. And it was awesome. I felt strong and pushed with everything I had for the first 30-40 seconds of each minute and then pulled back slightly so as not to burn out. Every time the whistle blew for the next sprint I had power in my legs to push me off quickly and I was out in front for the majority of the session. This gave me exactly the boost I needed to know I still had it. It has been missed and I was getting fed up of feeling awful pre, during and post run, which is exactly how I had felt about most of my running since I got back from holiday. Before we went away my coach said it was probably exactly what I needed – I feel completely the opposite. I think it sucked all my training out of me and all my accumulated miles had been for nothing. However I feel back on track now. Just in time.

Friday – I had a quick swim after work as I was in teaching pre schools up until I finished anyway so added in a few lengths to stretch out.

Saturday – tomorrow will be my last big run before Loch Ness. I had scheduled in one more for next weekend, but it clashes with the Stirling 10k, so it will need to be a 3 week taper instead of 2. Oh well….

I think I’ll need to do quite a bit of psyching myself up before the marathon. I know I am capable of it. I know my fitness and strength are the best they have been in a long time but I still don’t feel like a runner. I know that a silly thing to say when I spend a huge chunk of my life running (or moving faster than a walk anyway!) but when I compare myself to others, I feel like I have a lot more to do before I can call myself that. I guess that may change after I push myself to my limit for 26.2 miles….

Oh yeah, and I treated myself to these. Just cause….

These will hopefully help me fly to the finish line!
These will hopefully help me fly to the finish line!

er.. and these too…

You know.. just in case...
You know.. just in case…