It’s been about a week since the Edinburgh Marathon Festival Half. Stress time is now over: training is finished, our school inspection has taken place (we did very well!), and our schedule of jam-packed weekend after jam-packed weekend is finished. June will be a quiet month, on purpose. I now have more time to write, and first on the agenda: this half recap!
The EMF half started at 8 am Sunday, which gave us a very good reason to book a room in a (posh) B & B in Edinburgh’s New Town, take our time driving down, and dine at our favourite Chinese food restaurant, Chop Chop in Haymarket, the night before the race. And this is exactly what we did.
Pat and I walked the 15 minutes-ish from our New Town accommodation to Haymarket, stopping for an alcoholic beverage on the way.
Once we got to Chop Chop, we enjoyed Garlic Aubergine (eggplant), chili beans and rice (for carbs).
Had some delicious chicken wings.
And devoured our most favourite item on the menu: their dumplings. Mine were beef and chili.
And yes, it was a cheat night.
Once dinner was finished, we headed to an Italian restaurant to meet up with friends from our running group, then walked back to the B&B to get things ready for tomorrow. I took a page from Alison‘s books and attached my bib onto my shirt the night before.
Then, at 10pm on a Saturday night, it was lights out. Sunday’s alarm was set to go off at 5:50 am.
That morning went surprisingly quick. I made my breakfast of jumbo porridge oats, peanut butter, banana and coconut oil, and a bulletproof (instant) espresso in our room, and managed to get it all down. We walked to the start pens at Regent Rd and dropped bags off in anticipation of getting the show on the road.
I waited for the race to start, but not in my pen: in the queue for the toilets! Next to my pen were some port-a-loos (or potties), and I was determined to use them before the race because I didn’t want to leave the course to go for a pee later on. At this point, it had also started to rain. I was wearing crop tights, an orange t-shirt (I changed), yellow arm warmers and my blue hat. It was a bit cold, I’m not going to lie. Despite the rush for people to get in their assigned pens, the line for the toilets moved incredibly slow; so slow, in fact, I saw my pen start and walk on ahead of me while I was still waiting. I didn’t panic though, because I knew my race would start when I crossed the start line and activated my timing chip. I also knew that there were 8000 other runners and I wouldn’t be dead last just because I waited to go to the toilet. It was finally my turn, I was in and out, and ran to join whatever coloured pen was now in front of us. I managed to find a shivering Joanne from my running group, who was running her first half marathon. She was going to use me as a pacemaker to start, as she felt she’d been running her long runs too quickly and wanted to change things for the race.
My race plan was to go out easy for the first 8 miles, then steady for miles 8-12, then threshold for the last mile, just like Aviemore. We inched forward, listening to some pump-up music with a radio DJ shouting words of encouragement. I’m not used to running large races like this, and quite enjoyed the atmosphere of it and the energy at the start. Joanne and I crossed the start line, activated our Garmins and were on our way!
The first 4-5 miles of the race took us through Edinburgh itself: Holyrood Park down to Leith, through the streets. I really liked this part of the race for the scenery, the buzz from the crowd and the fact that I felt great. I had done some carb-loading in the days leading up to the race, had a good carby breakfast, and had also eaten some Jellybabies while waiting for the toilet. I broke my no sugar streak, but that’s okay. The first four miles of the race were all the same: 9:56/mile. I liked that. The rain had also stopped.
Joanne had to veer off course at mile 5 to use the toilet, and I kept running. We left Edinburgh and made our way to the beach and Portobello. It was nice to get away from the city noises and run along the beach promenade, with only (luckily) a light breeze off the water. Not being familiar with Portobello, nor Musselburgh where the finish was, I wasn’t sure what to expect route-wise. Little did I know I was in for something akin to last year’s much-hated Running Shop Beach 10km.
I took more Jellybabies at mile 5 and actually found it really hard to continue to eat them: they made me feel tired and slow, and I didn’t end up finishing that pack of 10. I continued to run along the beach front, appreciating the fact there was no rain and no headwind. The course went along either a beach promenade or what seemed like the main road in front of houses with residents cheering, playing music, wielding signs and handing out water. I enjoyed this aspect of Portobello.
We continued along the same straight stretch for quite some time…….. And now you can see why I didn’t like this point of the race. Far ahead, I saw what looked like a powerstation on the shore; I thought to myself ‘I hope I don’t have to run that far.’ Turns out, I did. And it’s for this reason I hated this race.
Still along this same, long stretch, we left Portobello and arrived into Musselburgh just before mile 9, where the finish would be. At this point, the route kinked a bit only to rejoin the same monotonous, straight route we’d been following since mile 5. Yes, 4 miles of straight route, and then there was a change of scenery. We could see runners on the other side of the road! From shortly after 9 miles, the course changed to an out-and-back route: the slower runners coming from Portobello ran in the opposite direction of the faster runners who had turned around and were making their way to the finish. This section was just plainly unfair, as we just continued to run further and further away from the finish. We ran through a roundabout instead of turning around in it, and each bend promised a turn to the finish only to yield a continuous path away from the finish. All the while, with faster runners on my right, heading to the finish in the opposite direction. The only high point was spotting Pat running towards me, and we high-fived each other as he ran toward to finish.
At this point, I took some more Jellybabies to again feel slow and difficult to consume; I ended up not finishing them again, and just threw them to the side of the road. I had been running at roughly the same pace the entire race (9:50-10:00 miles), and wanted to increase my pace. I had also, despite the course being flat, been dealing with stiff, sore knees since about mile 8, something I dealt with during the Aviemore Half as well. Although my mind said ‘Fast!’ my knees, and the constant throng of 8000 or so runners all around me, said no. I really should’ve invested in a loom with the rate of weaving I was doing throughout the race! No matter what gains I made on crowds to try and get some breathing space, I could never get a clear line and was constantly running around people, dodging in and out.
I decided, based on passing the 11 mile mark and with 1:51:xx on my watch, that I would try my best to pick up the pace despite the conditions. The effort was inconsistent as I ran the 2 miles on the desirable side of the out-and-back, and finally entered the finisher’s chute. Surely I could speed it up now, right? Not for long! Not when you reach a bottleneck of five people across in a small, gated chute. I had to stop the momentum, dodge for the thousandth time in the race, then again speed up again with the finish line in sight. I just wanted to finish this god damned race.
Which I did, and it was such a relief. I was told that Aviemore would be a half marathon personal best because it’s downhill, and after finishing this EMF half in 2:10:57 (Garmin) or 2:11:01 (official time), I can now understand this statement. What I can’t understand is why my Garmin read 13.25 miles rather than 13.1. Did all the weaving add that much on?
My average pace for the race was 9:53/mile, a second slower than Aviemore. I didn’t stick to my intended race plan, but rather ran steady the entire race, with miles ranging from 9:40 to 10:07. My knees hurt at the end of the race, and I had some very tender points on both my feet. I was glad the race was over. Twelve weeks of training, which were at times didn’t feel like training due to sickness, heavy legs and school stuff, were culminated with 13.1 miles of anticlimactic and incredibly packed running.
Pat waited for me at the finish, and we miraculously found our running group friends, who had all had outstanding results.
Pat and I quickly, and miraculously, retrieved our bags, then made the loooooooooong walk to the buses that would take us back into Edinburgh city centre. Although the half marathon was finished, there was still many miles to go before a shower and the promised late brunch from our B & B hosts. I made sure to take plenty of water to rehydrate post-race as I knew this would determine how tired I would feel for the rest of the day. In a way, I was grateful for the walking because it kept me moving, which was exactly what I needed to continue to feel loose.
After what felt like hours, we reached the city centre and walked back to our accommodation. I started to notice that I had a very tender right outside foot, which was painful with each step.
We arrived back, took a lovely shower and had brunch in the very formal dining room at our B & B.
We chatted with our eccentrically posh hosts while watching a monsoon outside (poor marathoners who had started behind us), then packed up our things and headed up the road home. Again, I made sure to continue to refuel all the way home, and I got a nap between Dundee and our house, which helped considerably.
The day finished with some meal prep for the week, including Nom Nom Paleo Big-O Beef Burgers (with bacon inside!), and an early bed.
It’s been a week since the race and I’ve had much time to reflect, and this is how the race, and post-race, seems to have unfolded for me:
The Good: Recovery. By making sure I drank tons of water after the race, I was left feeling energised and able to carry on with my usual Sunday routine of making dinner and doing our weekly meal prep. Standing up was better than lying down, and cooking kept me moving. Monday, I was a bit tired in the head first thing in the morning, but I made sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and felt totally normal, aside from stiff legs. The day after Aviemore, I was sore everywhere, including my neck and jaw from clenching it for 8 knee-agonizing miles.
Tuesday night’s run, the first after the race, was almost 4 miles with a pretty good easy pace. After Aviemore, we only managed 20 minutes. While I didn’t run as fast as I had wanted during the race, I’m clearly in much better shape than I was after Aviemore considering how well recovery has gone. By Wednesday, I was feeling normal again. Post-Aviemore, it took all week to feel normal again.
The Bad: My right foot. It was REALLY painful and pretty swollen! It was so bad I was limping, and it hurt with every step. I’ve iced it and elevated it from Tuesday to Friday last week, which totally helped. I had a physio appointment (the first in a year!) and he found some issues with my Tibialis Posterior tendon,which seems to have flared up during the race, causing me the issues. I’ve been given exercises to do and haven’t run since Tuesday to rest my foot.
The Ugly: One hell of a disgusting blood blister on the side of my left big toe, of which I will save you the photographic evidence, (I’m pretty sure you’d throw up in your mouth if you saw it). I got this after this year’s Smokies 10 as well. It seems this latest pair of running shoes are great for my toe nails during long runs in training, but don’t fare so well for the rest of my feet. I’m due for another gait assessment so will get that done when it’s time for a new pair of shoes.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about the EMF half: it’s safe to say I didn’t like the Portobello-Musselburgh part of the course, and need to find a better, less sugary solution to mid-race nutrition that won’t leave me feeling off. I’ve found two possibilities and will experiment with them in the next while. I wanted a personal best and thought that was possible, but in retrospect, with the sheer mass of people, found this difficult to do. It really makes rural running and smaller races so much more appealing. I’m also wondering if not eating all my mid-race fuel, or it being sugar after not eating sugar for a while, hindered my efforts.
So what now? I want to run some new races this year. I’ve already signed up for the Ballater 10 (mile) at the end of July, which will take place in the same region as the Balmoral 10km. Pat is very keen to do a marathon and has his sights set on the Loch Ness Marathon at the end of September. I will join him in Inverness, and do the 10km race. I’m going to sign up for the Aviemore Half again this year as my Mom will be visiting at that time and she can see another part of Scotland at the same time. And I’ll most likely run the Dundee Templeton 10 again.
I’m also going to make some changes to my current regime: I’ll continue with three days a week running and supplement with some body-weight exercises to see where that takes me. Pat started doing this in the last month and it, along with our new way of eating (him not so strict with carbs), and more running and cycling, lead to him crushing his half marathon time by 13 minutes! I wouldn’t mind a 30 second PB, let alone that!
Have you made changes to your training recently?
What body weight training do you do?
What races have you got coming up?