Sunday – Marathon Day
It always feels very oddly natural getting up so early for breakfast and a long run…we had a 4.45am alarm and thanks to lots of organisation the night before, we had everything stood ready. Given the forecast I’d pondered a hot shower before leaving so that I may have felt warmer, at this point I’ll state now I never shower pre-long run, purely because I see literally no point! The universe stepped in…it’s ‘nothing new on race day’ mantra came in the form of Toby The Tarantula, who had taken up residence in the bath. Refreshed and dressed I had my usual over 10mile breakfast…banana, porridge and homemade jam, but took another banana with me. It was 5.15am and race start wasn’t until 10am so I knew an extra boost of fuel would be needed.
We arrived in Inverness in good time and I ended up on the third bus. Nervous and excited, but also tired, I managed to nap a little as the convoy took us all to the start. The views along the way were breathtaking, the start line is reached from a long slow climb out of Fort Augustus to what is literally the middle of nowhere…we had trees but not many.
The wind howled and the rain felt like ice! The buses park up with those that leave first near the start line…so I had a bit of a walk back along the convoy to the baggage drop before joining the toilet queue…where I enjoyed the views during the wait and had my banana. I bypassed the free tea and coffee, determined not to take on too much liquid and need another call of nature. I’d arrived at around 8.30am…which seemed a long time to the starting gun. However by the time I’d done what I needed and walked towards the start it was 9.40! I did light stretches and then got brave…leggings off, bin bag off, windproof off.
I felt cold but only externally and it wasn’t long before the start was announced. From the gun going off and the bagpipes starting to play it took 6minutes to move forward and get to the start line. Having set my tech off at the starting gun, I knew I needed to keep my distance covered a kilometre behind all the way when taking my gels – one an hour each hour.
It was amazing to be off, taking in the views. I kept my pace low and steady to ensure I found my rhythm for breathing. The course guide says downhill with slight undulation…it wasn’t slight and my split times by 2K in were already around the 6.40per km mark…I was too fast, but unaware…infact in my split times over the first 20K I stuck to around the same speed even though we had some good ascents and sharp descents – that hill in mile 7…ouch! My quads had started to tighten and by the half marathon mark they ached. The ground levels out a little between miles 10 and 17 and so there was a little respite. By mile 17 however my head started to try to rule my body…a mental wall as the pain in my quads set in badly, I walked a little then told myself I had to get going again – that it wouldn’t hurt any worse than what it hurt at that point. It worked and upping my cadence, but keeping to a steady rhythm helped. Mile 19…that hill…it felt unfair but at the same time great, I made it half way up, glutes engaged and powering me upwards but I then had to lean forward and power hike. Coming down my quads tightened their grip again making me feel sick.
At mile 20 I knew I only had a 10K to go so decided on a countdown, for each kilometre I imagined running with a different one of my running club in order to help keep me going…10-9 Rose Fazakarley, 9-8 Mark Pope, 8-7 Allan England, 7-6 Steve Collins, 6-5 Jen Anderson…thank you all, you helped me dig deep and stopped me from walking.
At 5K my Dad took over and a solid ‘you can because you can do anything you set your mind to’ mantra. I had my final gel early to boost me up for the finish and keep me focused as I crossed the line. On the south bank of the river at one point the pain in my quads again took over, I stopped and walked…then told myself I hadn’t come that far to walk to the end of a marathon. Getting going again hurt but I was soon over the bridge, I upped my pace and all the pain went! With just under 2K to go I made the crazy decision that if it didn’t hurt now going faster would feel even better…so I did all I could to sprint finish – it wasn’t pretty but it happened and as I crossed the line my text came through from race hq…5hrs 6minutes 29seconds! I would have loved a sub 5hr finish but given everything, just taking 2hrs off my Ultra time was enough. I cried as they hung my medal around my neck, then called my folks and cried some more.
I seized up a little and the pain in my legs was awful, stretching in a muddy field was hard. I found my other half, had my Rego shake and headed for the food tent. Thankfully I was guided the wrong way and had started to head out thinking pasta was a lost cause (I didn’t feel hungry anyway) when I found Jen Anderson…it was such an honour to meet her and her hubby, her breast cancer journey has meant her running has become as important to her as mine, led us to say yes to such amazing experiences and she’s propped me up no end as the months have gone by!
She highly recommended rejoining the food queue and I was pleased I listened…I inhaled both plate of veggie pasta and cup of soup – it was nearly 4pm and I’d had no solid food since that banana at 9.
Walking back to the car was hilarious, I waddled on aching thighs. The one good thing was how well my mental focus was…I’d expected brain fog brought on by the fatigue and dehydration. I wasn’t completely with it but I was better than I’d expected to be.
Once back and a roast chicken dinner on I had a cold bath, then massaged my quads under the hot shower. I have spiky massage balls and so used those afterwards too as stretching hurt. It was around 8.30pm when we gave up and went to bed…medal still around my neck.
Monday – 10hrs sleep…I got up feeling sore in my upper legs but otherwise really good and very mental aware. I was however very pleased that the cottage was both on one level and that the toilet was quite high!
I had another icy cold bath, and massaged my legs under the hot shower again…both really helped. I stretched out as much as I was able but still wasn’t capable of a lot of yoga moves.
One big concern was the fact I was able to drink so much but never felt the need to nip to the loo until hours later, a worrying sign dehydration. I felt hungry though…a big difference to Sunday afternoon post run…Monday I just couldn’t calm my appetite and so I made sure to eat well – but nutritiously.
We had a gentle potter around lovely Beauly…
the shops and priory then escaped the rain for Italian coffee at Cafe Biagiotti…
before heading on to Channory Point to watch dolphins. I admit I stayed in the car…tired and a little sore, I never spotted any dolphins but saw a seal before the sun set and my fiance returned.
Tuesday – I slept badly but thankfully still managed just over six hours. After a leisurely start I got onto the elusive wifi long enough to do a guided yoga session which helped my quads no end. Only fellow runners will understand the joy of being able to go to the loo without having to lower yourself using your hands…something I proudly managed at least five times during Tuesday!
We set off for Inverness clad in waterproofs ready for a stroll to Craig Phadrig hill fort.
It was probably first built in the Iron Age around 300 BC and then, for some reason lost in history, abandoned and burned. Later it was re-occupied as the headquarters of a powerful Pictish king!
After lunch in the car we found parking near Ness Islands and had a lovely stroll through to the City Centre.
Bught Park looked so odd…just a muddy field where only days before a running festival started and my marathon had finished!
We visited Aberfeldy House, the oldest secular building in Inverness.
Only one room is open but the house is such a little treasure. As too, only a few properties away, is a gorgeous Book Shop – a readers paradise.
Crammed with books, that smell of an old library in the air, a giant burner in the middle of the room that must feel amazing on a cold day – it was like a slice of heaven.
I got to eat a little bit of heaven as, thanks to the need for a hot drink, I indulged in carrot cake and an Earl Grey at Cafe Artysans…
before heading back to the car via the local churches.
Getting back to the cottage earlier meant I could put my feet up and rest a little more. Walking had been hard work now and then with my tight quads, but it had definitely helped ease that tightness in my muscles too. I tried to ensure our supper had a good carb to protein ratio, it’s important to ensure you’re eating and hydrating enough in order to aide recovery as much as possible post marathon. The next thing on my list…a good nights sleep!
Wednesday – I managed a sound 8hrs sleep and woke feeling really upbeat again. Sneaking into the living room I did half an hours yoga session without disturbing my fiancé.
My legs felt a lot better, while getting ready I even nearly ran across the room to put a few things in my bag…not quickly but more than walking speed!
The forecast was against us but there’s nothing wrong with bad weather if you’re wearing the right clothes. We donned waterproofs, extra warm layers and set off.
First on our stop was Rogie Falls to see the salmon leap. The quantity of rain recently made the falls even more impressive and the water thundered down…no salmon but in fairness I wouldn’t blame them for wanting to leap on a calmer day.
We’d seen the sign for Corrieshalloch Gorge but hadn’t realised exactly how impressive it would be…or how scary the suspension bridge over it would feel.
Breathtaking wasn’t the word, again the power of the water falling off the sides into the gorge heightened the experience.
We got back to the car like drowned rats, with shaky legs still going ‘oh my gosh that was INSANE’.
The weather meant a trip to Ullapool seemed the best next step, we found a free car park and an outdoor shop with a wonderful cafe that overlooked the harbour to the mountains.
The drive back to the cottage was windy, but the views around each turn…just awe inspiring.
Thursday – World mental health day and I woke feeling very fragile and anxious. I have many friends, and family, who suffer with mental health issues. For me some days are better than others, I’m better than I used to be in many ways (thank you both cancer and menopause!) but I can also be worse than I was before (again thank you cancer and menopause!) I’d had a good nights rest but woke just before 7am with my brain in overdrive. Here’s an insight into my head:
Oh jeeze it’s the last day of our holiday…where did the week go…why can’t I remember all my marathon…wow it feels like longer than five days ago…that time was awful – I have to plan in more quad work…how do I do that…I’ll have to google that when I can get online…what if I forget…I must write it down when I get up…gosh I better get up soon I want to do some yoga…oh no what if I can’t get online again I’ll have to do a self guided session…I am useless at self guided – I need Adrienne…is it really proper yoga otherwise…I wonder what time it is…is it raining…it feels cold so hopefully the sun’s shining…oh I hope today goes well and we had a good time…I must look at what we’d planned to do so I can check we’re spending quality time together doing things we both enjoy…I have to do some of my blog…did I do any yesterday…I must pack lunch so we don’t spend anything unnecessarily…it definitely looks light through the curtains…I’ll get up and then I can definitely do some yoga…I’ll make us both a cuppa first.
And on…and on…and on!
I do that on nearly a daily basis, sometimes when I run I go through to do lists in my head. I’m worse on days when I don’t run…my cross training days I’m an anxious, nervous wreck and the slightest thing can have me suddenly hyperventilating for no solid good reason. But, as I mentioned before…I’m better than I was and I generally, and genuinely, feel calmer than the person I was before treatment started at this time last year.
Running helps my mental health hugely…but my body suffers a little. I got up with my legs feeling a little stiffened up, my yoga session was a huge help though…a great way to start the day for body and mind. Especially with a long car journey ahead.
We set off and headed for Torridon, the furthest north west I’d ever been. Torridon is beautiful and has one of the friendliest general store/cafes going…plus the views over the bay from their window is breathtaking.
Warmed with coffee we took the coastal path, found the ruins of an open aired church…
and stopped amongst the rocks to try and spot otters – as elusive as Nessie!
Heading back to Kinlochewe we then made our way up the side of Loch Maree…
stopping to stretch our legs a little as we went and being lucky enough to see a juvenile sea eagle. We got back in the car around 4pm with two choices…straight back to the cottage around an hour away, or follow the road further west to take in more glorious views.
We went with the ‘you only live once’ attitude and headed west…soon both very pleased that we had. The harbour at Gairloch was stunning but better was still to come as we wound round the coastal road and came to Gruinard Bay and the beach.
We pulled in and walked on the sand, took in the views to the Islands and breathed deeply of the highlands air. As we got into the car the weather started to change, coming back towards Dundonnell with rain streaming down I spotted a stag bellowing…the perfect end to our last day.
Friday – I got up to sunshine, the best weather start all week and such a pleasure to do a yoga session with the sun streaming in on me, warming me up.
We had a relaxed start, packed and then set off on the journey home. The weather didn’t hold all day, we had really heavy showers at times, but we got home safely just before 7pm. Once again the journey had tightened my hamstrings and walking felt stiff. The knowledge of an early morning run meant I took care to do all my stretches and foam roll…but not too excessively.
Saturday – After a ropey nights sleep it felt good to be up and out in the fresh air. I honestly forgot that my run needed to be treated as a recovery run, setting off too quickly my body soon let me know. I had tightness in my quads, left abductor and then right knee. It slowed my pace and made me mindful of what I both should and should not be doing. In the end I walked a little now and then, especially when I had the odd moment that discomfort turned to pain, or things felt odd…just after 5K my right quad spasmed…uncomfortable and scary I literally stopped dead. A minute or two walking and it relaxed so I set off again and by the time I’d done my hours run I’d covered just over 6K.
My head kept going back to my recovery post Ultra…the fact I’d managed just over 8K that first run after it! I was quick to remind myself that the Marathon had been a different beast, quicker, more taxing and certainly caused more pain. Slow and steady is always better for recovery…it was time to listen to what my body needed.
Home again I did yoga for post-run and then half an hours upper body strength training. It felt nice to be back in training head mode. I pottered in the garden and tidied up a lot of soggy wet leaves, but tiredness set in and lunch was a good excuse to stop and rest.
Sunday – We’ve gotten up to a rainy day…a good excuse for a self care day, a bit of TLC and cups of tea.