|Place (2551)||Category||Chip Time|
|Place (2551)||Category||Chip Time|
After weeks of training through a pretty unimpressive summer, at least weather wise, it was finally time for another ERN trip to Inverness, this time for the Loch Ness Marathon and 10K. An ever popular event, this is one of the most scenic races on the calendar and well worth the trip north. A tough, undulating, but rewarding route and a well organised event with even the weather cooperating. Sounds like a perfect autumn break!
David said : Here’s my (monster) report on the Loch Ness marathon:
After a lot of deliberation and having completed all of the long Sunday training runs I finally entered the Loch Ness marathon the day before last entries were accepted which was about 3 weeks before the event. This worked out quite well as it meant I only had a short time to worry about my first marathon attempt!
The adventure began on Saturday morning at Waverley train station where I met up with some of the other ERN Nessie Hunters – Michael, Maureen, Andrew, Elaine (Andrew’s pregnant partner who wasn’t actually running!), Trudi, Anne and Robert (Anne’s friend). The train was really busy, we were all sitting in different places and I ended up at a table of four with my legs crushed in the same position for 4 hours. By the time I got off the train in Inverness my legs were numb. We all met up again and then headed off in different directions to find our accommodation. I had a 10-15 minute walk to get to my B&B only to find that there was nobody in when I arrived! Luckily I only had to wait 5-10 minutes before the owners did turn up.
After dumping my bags I made the 20 minute walk along to Bught Park for the pre-race registration. I met up with everyone again and we all collected our packs with race numbers and timing chips before having our photo taken in front of the inflatable Nessie beside the finish line. After a little wander round a marathon sale in a local hotel we all headed off to get ready for our pasta loading dinner at Little Italy which Andrew had kindly organised. We were also joined by Suzanne who was doing her first 10k the next day. It was a small, cosy restaurant and the food was very nice indeed. Once the meal was over we all headed off to our B&Bs for an early night. I think I was in bed by about 9.30pm!
I was awake nice and early on race day morning. My B&B laid on an early breakfast for marathon runners so I ate as much as I could but it maybe wasn’t enough. I was just too excited/nervous to eat! Anyway, I made the 20 minute walk back to Bught Park again to catch the bus that would take us to the start. I arrived with plenty of time to spare but a lot of the buses were already full up. I did find a quieter one and helped myself to one of the disabled seats so I could stretch out my legs. This was a good decision because the bus took about an hour and a half to reach the start. Added to the wait before the buses headed off it meant I had been on the bus almost 2 hours.
Once I got off the bus there was a mad dash to use the portaloos, get changed and put my things on the baggage drop lorry before walking down towards the start area. It was pretty crowded and I found Anne and Maureen so I just decided to hang about with them rather than try to push further forward. It was then only a 5 minute wait and then we were off. I started to run a bit before the start line (does that qualify as an ultra?) and then I set off at a nice comfortable pace enjoying the sunshine and surrounding scenery.
It started out mainly downhill along General Wade’s Military Road but there was a tough little hill just before 5 miles and another little uphill section at 6 miles when we reached the village of Foyers. It was about this point that I got my first glimpse of Loch Ness. We continued downhill to about 10 miles and followed the shore of the Loch although there were a lot of trees which tended to block out the view. I had planned to reach the half way point somewhere between 1.50 and 2 hours so I was pleased to look at my watch and find the time at 1.55. I was running comfortably and feeling good but wary of getting too carried away because there was a long way to go. Sure enough trouble wasn’t far away.
From 10 miles to about 16 miles the route was pretty humply with lots of small climbs and descents. Between 14 and 15 miles I went to take my 3rd gel of the race but I managed one mouthful before spitting it back out as I was almost sick. Hmmmm? That’s not so good. I had gone from feeling great to feeling nauseous in just a few strides. I was a bit shaken with how I was feeling so I slowed right down to try and compose myself again but I then finished off the last of the electrolyte drink that I was carrying. I reached the village of Dores about 16 miles where there was a water station. I dumped my empty bottle of juice and took a bottle of water and decided to walk a little bit as the bottle didn’t have a cap and the water was bouncing out of the bottle and soaking me. Even with the water my energy levels had plummeted and my pace fell away dramatically. I still had gels to take but I had decided not to risk taking any more of them. In hindsight I should maybe have tried again later on but I really didn’t want to be sick. To add to my problems I had been feeling some pain in my knee and hip. I had packed a couple of ibuprofen capsules in my waist belt just in case, so I thought now might be a good time to take them. You can imagine my disappointment when I found that they had both burst open inside and were useless!
From about 17.5 to 20 miles it was a long slow climb which I really couldn’t face. Most people were walking and I didn’t have any energy to run so I just trudged along wondering if I would make it to the finish my night fall. From 20 miles there was about 1.5 miles of downhill but I couldn’t even muster much of a run. I wasn’t concerned about time anymore since I had dropped to 13-14 minute/miles and I just wanted to make it to the finish. There was another half mile climb to 22 miles and Michael stopped to ask how I was doing as he passed me. Luckily just after he passed me we reached another water station and this time it was an electrolyte drink. Wow I don’t think anything has ever tasted so good! Almost immediately I felt a lot better and set off running again keeping Michael in sight up ahead of me. At about 23 miles I caught up with him and ran beside him for a while until we entered Inverness when I pulled a little bit ahead of him. Although I was running really slowly I was feeling pretty elated that I was running again after the way I had felt earlier on.
Unfortunately, the boost the electrolyte drink had given me began to wear off about 25 miles. Even though I could see and hear the finish line over the other side of the river my energy level was dropping again and I was starting to feel twinges of cramp in my calf and thigh. I slowed to walking pace again as I crossed the bridge in the centre of Inverness as I tried to pull myself together for the final push of less than half a mile. I had been expecting Michael to catch up with me again but instead it was Anne who passed me and encouraged me on. I managed to get going again, catch up with her and as we passed the 26 mile sign my calf and thigh really started to cramp up. No, please not now I thought! I hopped and hobbled with the finish line in sight and Anne told me to keep going so I gritted my teeth and finally made it across the line beside her. Phew!
I got my medal, t-shirt, goody bag, water and a banana and then staggered off to get my bag and get changed into some fresh clothes. I then met up with the other happy ERN runners in the Baxters food tent where we all enjoyed our free soup and curry before hobbling off back to our B&Bs to get showered and changed. I actually lay down in bed for a quick 30 minute nap but found I was far too hyped up to consider sleeping!
We met up again a little later on in the pub to toast our successes before Andrew and Elaine had to go catch a train. The rest of us then went to a very enjoyable Indian restaurant for a curry where we could dissect our fun filled day. Although one person in the group (I wont actually name her) had talked about maybe going out afterwards (I think dancing on tables was mentioned too) we were all far too full up and exhausted to consider anything but going back to our beds for a good sleep.
Overall I had a really great weekend. The race was well organised, the route was very scenic and the weather was just about perfect for running (sunny with a cool tailwind). Although the course is overall downhill it’s far from easy as the legs really take a pounding going downhill and the uphills were pretty tough going too. Being mostly in the countryside there weren’t huge numbers of people out to support but where there were people they did offer lots of much needed encouragement.
My time wasn’t quite as fast as I would have liked but I really didn’t care in the slightest. I had finished a marathon and I couldn’t have been more happy with myself. Considering I went from about 9 miles to the end with no gels, only a small cup of electrolyte drink and some water I think I did reasonably well. Back in the middle of June when I did the Seven Hills race the 14.5 miles I did that day was the furthest I had ever ran and now only 3 ½ months later I’ve completed my first (but certainly not last) marathon. I learned a lot so hopefully I can put that to good use next time.
Many thanks to everyone at ERN who encouraged me, inspired me and ran with me over the last 6 months since I joined the club. I don’t think I could have done it without all your help and I’m very grateful. Finally, I also want to say well done to my fellow ERN Nessie Hunter’s and thank you for making the whole weekend extra special! I can’t wait to do it all again, whether it’s Loch Ness or somewhere equally exotic.