I had a check up on Wednesday before the marathon, the consultant is pleased with my progress although I'm impatient that my mouth is still sensitive to a lot of foods, I was told that it is still early days and I was reminded that I have had major surgery followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy and the fatigue from that can take up to a year to go away. Which funnily enough made me feel a bit better, lately I've felt guilty "wasting" the mornings, since I'm now getting up around eight thirty, an hour later than my old normal and by the time I've had my breakfast and footered aboot a bit it's nearly lunchtime! Hopefully I'll get myself a bit more productive soon.
Back in 2011 there were ten of us who had done all ten Loch Ness Marathons and I'm not sure how many of us are still managing to keep the streak going but this is my favourite marathon and I'll continue to enjoy do it as long as I can put one foot in front of the other no matter how long it takes me.
Pauline and I arrived at our B&B early Saturday afternoon, we stay with Amy and Ewan at Craigside Lodge every year, and they had a wee present for me.
The B&B is perfectly sited just down from the Castle and less then a fifteen minute walk over the bouncy foot bridge to the race village, and after being in the car for a few hours it was good to stretch our legs on our walk down to Bught Park to pick up our numbers. We then strolled along and had a browse in the shops, stood and listened to the live music in the Square, a fund raising event for the STV Appeal until it was time for our meal, I booked our table for 5.30pm to give me plenty time to eat, I had checked the menu online to see if there was something I would manage, there was, pasta in a blue cheese sauce, and I managed it all except for a couple of forkfuls Pauline had, just to taste how delicious it was, and a pint of Guinness to round it off before heading back for an early night.
Breakfast for the runners was at 6.00am and there was six of us up for it, I had a huge bowl of porridge with banana and honey followed by a couple of poached eggs. (Amy was running the 10km, I'm sure she had plenty time to clear up before heading off for her race.) This was the first time Pauline and I were staying on Sunday night so it was nice just to walk down to the busses rather than have to take the car and join the queue to park the car. Pauline and I didn't get to sit together on the bus but I had a lovely wee blether with Ross, Pauline was dozing until I prodded her to look out the window, the bus was going round by Fort Augustus, the mist was lifting and the view down the loch was stunning. Not sure she appreciated it though.
After getting off the bus we used the forest facilities or what was left of the trees, kinda handy wearing a wee kilt. Then we managed to say hi to quite a few friends before putting our belongings on the baggage lorry then headed down to the start, we stood in the middle trying to do the penguin huddle thing, the sun was out but the wind was cold, I was frozen, it made my back ache and I felt brittle. I was wearing long tights, my kilt, short-sleeved top, vest and arm warmers, I wished I'd brought a Buff, I was chittering and was dying to get going and hopefully warm up.
Eventually we were off, I ran with Pauline for the first mile or so before letting her go on, even though she wasn't going to run hard, her training has been minimal this year with family stuff taking priority and she still felt the British Ultra Fest in her legs. The first few miles were fairly fast but I didn't worry, it was just gravity doing it's job since it's all down hill for around five-ish miles. Then on the first short sharp up hill I had to tell myself to stop being a daft bugger and walk, stupid pride/tradition getting in the way, I don't walk in marathons, it's speed work! A standing joke amongst ultra runners. But this year hasn't been my traditional preparation so if I wanted to survive I had to change my tactics, and once I broke the tradition and did that first wee walk I would let the gradient dictate my mode of movement, I did have a wee problem when I walked, down my right hamstring and behind my knee was tight and sore and it was hard to stride out when I walked, I wondered if it was because I'd been so cold and tight at the start . This wasn't going to be easy and I didn't expect it to be, running a marathon never is but I have had practice at running this race tired. For the previous five years of running Loch Ness I've done a 24 hour race about a fortnight beforehand and my energy levels have been low but this year my energy was nonexistent. I've lurched from the British Ultra Fest to my emotional fun run at Glenmore24 and now to a marathon in the space of just over six weeks, and I'm not quite four months post treatment! In between these events I'd rested rather than trained, thinking gathering my strength more important than tiring myself trying to train. The muscles in my legs are empty, my quads have softened and atrophied but no matter how tired I felt it was far better than being in hospital!
I have honed my energy management skills to perfection, no pushing, just moving forward as fast as I can with the minimum effort required, following the racing line, walking the inclines, running the flats and down hills. At thirteen miles I was going to pick up a gel at the feed station but there was none left, not to worry, I'd had a good breakfast and I had drank an Ensure milkshake on the bus so I was well fuelled for my sedate pace, I'll just get one later.
The crowds at Dores were as loud as ever, I was wearing my vest with my name printed on the front and what a boost having people shout my name with their encouragement. I high-fived the kids, as knackered as I was it was still fun, I walked most of the hill looking over my left shoulder at the stunning view down the loch.
Eventually I got a gel at around 20 miles but I knew it wasn't going to work any miracles and I now had to put in wee walks on the flat, but I was strict with myself and only took short walks picking the distance between the bollards marking the course, I didn't want to prolong it any more than I had to. Pauline was standing at the bouncy foot bridge, she'd finished ages ago and was pleased to see me within my predicted finishing time of between five and six hours. My final wee walk was in the last mile on the hump of the bridge although earlier I had told myself to run all of the last two miles, my legs weren't playing so after giving them a last wee breather I used every ounce of determination and ran all the way in. I could see the finish and focused on it, to my right I could hear and see Sandra above everyone else cheering, she was standing on the barrier waving like mad, seeing her made me emotional I wanted to stop and hug her but if I did I wouldn't get going again, a wee wave was all I managed, then I was over the finish line in 5 hours 6 minutes. I managed to keep control of my emotions, there were children watching, I wanted to hug the wee girl that gave me my medal but that would've invaded her space and scared her so I just thanked her and moved on to collect my t-shirt and goody bag. I was met by Pauline, John and Isobel and stood a bit dazed, John let me finish his can of Sprite before I managed collect my bag and we headed for the post race meal, although I wasn't sure if I would managed what was offered I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't eat it, the veg in my soup was raw and stovies were just inedible, not to worry, we headed back to the B&B.
It was lovely not having to drive home, after a wee rest we met John and hit the town looking for somewhere to eat, but everywhere we fancied was busy so we ended up buying some ready meals and a few bottles of beer at Tesco and we spent the evening in the conservatory at the B&B and the brilliant thing about that was when we were tired and ready for bed, there was no weary walk home from the pub, just a plod up the stairs.
After our large breakfast on Monday morning our parting words with Amy and Ewan were "See you next year." We had a wee detour before heading home, stopping at Dores, which brought back childhood memories, we 'd spent many hours skimming stones, Pauline hasn't lost the knack.
Then an ooyah ooyah walk down the hundreds of steps to the waterfall at Foyers, our quads weren't liking it much but I'm sure it would help. We were still in tourist mode going down the A9, I don't know how many times I've looked over to Ruthven Barracks and said we'll need to stop there one day, so we did.
I didn't run again for a week and I'm now on a "sensible" mission, rebuilding my puny quads. I don't think I'll do any long runs for a while, but work on short sharp efforts and hills. I've been back to the club this week and did the speed work, with the word speed being used loosely, but my bahooky muscles know they've been doing something. I'll leave doing hills for another week, and the hill I've chosen is the one that goes up passed Culross Abbey, if you don't know it, it's a cracker but I'll start gently with just two reps. Pauline did suggest I start with something smaller but I'm not that sensible! I have a lot of work to do!
I have a date with my tenth crystal Goblet in June!