Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Rotorua Marathon: The Buildup

As I've posted here previously, I didn't have the perfect buildup to this, my first marathon. As I entered the last week I found myself under considerable pressure and unsure as to how to prepare. I was having real difficulties with my sacroilleac so, after Monday's 15km, ended up not doing any of my other scheduled runs. However my hip seemed to get worse as the week went on and my legs stubbornly refused to feel fresh.

To add to the stress of trying to decide whether to run or not, I seemed to have scheduled a week of errands that saw me dashing all over town like a mad thing. On Monday I felt like I was coming down with a UTI, so booked a doctor's appointment for 5.00 on Wednesday. On Tuesday morning I dashed to Penny's to drop Cleo off so that they could upgrade her derrallieur and swap the SPDs for a new pair of Look Keos. Unfortunately I'd forgotten I'd booked a 5.00 hair appointment, so at 4.00 I found myself dashing back to Penny's to pick her up again and check out my bike fit. I'd also forgotten a bike lock, so had to buy another before dashing across the road to secure her in the gym carpark, which is next to the hairdresser. I made it to my appointment with minutes to spare. Out of the hairdresser and a quick call to Hamish, who happened to be leaving work at that instant, secured our ride home in the Honda.

I had to leave work again early the next day to catch a bus back to Brooklyn to see the doctor, then ended up walking the 20 minutes from Brooklyn to home in my high heeled boots. Not so good for my hip!

I was aiming to leave work early again on Thursday, but a last minute conversation with my manager saw me carting home a heap of documents to read through that night. With little time to spare I dashed across town to Rebel Sports. I think I've already mentioned that my lucky running bandana disappeared a few weeks back, and that I think my cat stole it. Well, in a last minute fit of race-buildup paranoia I'd decided I needed another. Rebel didn't have anything, but I bought an ordinary bandana from a nearby store as a back up, then headed across to the gym. Unfortunately the Les Mills store no longer sells their branded bandanas. Another quick dash saw me in Shoe Clinic, where I finally found something I thought might work. It was getting late and cold by this point and it took forever for a bus to arrive, so by the time I made it home I was exhausted.

I spent the rest of the night reading through a heap of documents and providing feedback via email. I allowed myself to sleep in a bit the next morning and then ran around the house packing. I packed EVERYTHING!

We had a few errands to run before we left town. First we stopped off at the local Mac store to order my a new laptop, and we picked up a new iPod at the same time. After that I ran halfway across town to pick up the prescription I'd forgotten to collect the day before. I also ducked into the local health store. I have a tendency to suffer from insomnia the night before a big event and I'd decided I wanted to buy some herbal sleeping pills. The saleswoman talked me into buying some anti-insomnia/anxiety drops, and then I was off running through town again to meet Hamish back at the car.

Halfway there I found Hamish with his nose pressed up against the wall of a local art gallery. When we were in Queenstown we'd fallen in love with the Lonely Dog paintings by Ivan Clarke. It turned out that a local Wellington gallery was in the final days of a Lonely Dog exhibition. Faced with a large print of our favourite work, Marmelade Mountain, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

So it was an expensive and tiring morning before we even left Wellington, and then it was a long drive to Rotorua, with a stop in Te Horo for lunch. It was already late in the afternoon before we arrived at the hotel. When we checked in we were advised that we'd been upgraded to a premium room. Excellent! The room was on the ground floor and we were able to park right outside, with ranch slider access. We still had to walk through the main entrance to get inside the hotel itself, but if I needed to at a later point, H could let me out the french doors (or back in again), minimising the distance I would need to walk. As it turned out I never needed to ask him to go to the trouble, but it was nice to know I had that option!

Race packet pickup went smoothly and while in the exhibition hall I took the opportunity to trial a roller stick thing and ball on my calves, glutes and IT band. I think even the small time I had available really did help and I repeated the exercise with my own roller and tennis ball when I got back to the room. I still wasn't pain free, but I was walking much more normally.

Dinner ended up being bread, dips and chicken pasta with a side salad at a very good and surprisingly cheap Italian restaurant. We got in early but the restaurant quickly filled up with fit looking runner types. I stuck to lemonade while enviously watching H sip on his beer. I was sooo going to enjoy my celebratory cider the next day!

Back to the hotel room via a supermarket for breakfast supplies and I decided it was time to get organised. Running tights, sports bra, technical T and a polyprop top in one corner of the room. Running shoes tucked under a table with my Drymax socks stuffed inside. All my medication was laid out on the table next to the television. Next to the medication I placed the bowl, spoon and can opener I'd brought from home, with the cereal and tin of fruit salad next to that. In the bathroom I set out my contact lens case and fluids and my hairbrush.

On another table I put everything else I would need for the run. I assembled a small pile of gels and another little plastic bag with extra medication. I put my Garmin next to the gels. I placed the transponder in one of my running shoes and attached my race number to my shirt. That was all the obvious and pedantic stuff out of the way.

In another little pile I also gathered my fuel belt, a merino beanie and the new head band. I wasn't sure about using the fuel belt as I hadn't had a chance to test it on a long run and I was worried about chafing or that it might annoy me. I didn't in any case want to fill up all the bottles, but thought that one or two might be useful, and that the zip pocket would be useful for carrying the extra gels. I also wasn't sure whether I felt comfortable with the new headband, so was going to make a decision in the morning whether to risk it or to go with the beanie, which I had used before but which I was worried might get too hot. You see how much I was dithering that night?

In accordance with the instructions on the bottle I downed fiften drops of the anti-insomnia remedy and hit the shower, then jumped into bed to read for a while. When I was ready to turn the light out I took another fifteen drops and then ....

I'd like to say I drifted off to sleep, but it didn't happen. The medication didn't help me sleep - it just made me a calm insomniac. I wasn't dreaming - I just wasn't tossing and turning and getting frustrated like I usually do. I was however comforted by the sound of the guest in the next room regularly getting up to use the bathroom, figuring I wasn't alone in my night watch.

Some time around 4am I started to dispair ever so slightly, and it was around that point that I finally dropped off. I was awake again at 6 however, and lay there trying not to think too hard for another hour. I felt more awake than I would have expected. I have heard that insomniacs often only think they've spent the night awake, when actually they've been sleeping, so perhaps that was the case with me. However I saw the clock by the bed often enough during the night to know that I was awake for an unfortunate part of it!

Sleep or no sleep I was up and into my regular routine. Quickly dressed I downed triple my normal 5mg dose of Hydrocortisone and the rest of my other usual meds. I grabbed the newspaper from outside the door and tried to eat a bowl of Special K with the tinned fruit. I managed to get it all down, but I'd bought the wrong (overly sugary) brand of Special K, so it wasn't overly enjoyable. Breakfast would come back to haunt me.

Outside it was cold and overcast. I tried out the headband, then decided it wasn't going to work for me so swapped it for the beanie. I looked at the fuel belt dubiously and in the end decided to try stuffing four gels and meds into the little pocket in my running tights. To my surprise everything fitted. Right then - no fuel belt. I tossed my polyprop on over the top of my t shirt then put my merino jacket on over the top of that. The Garmin went round my wrist, the transponder was threated through my running shoes, and I was as ready as I was going to be.

Hamish dropped me off near the start line at around 8.15, taking a photo of me at the entrance to the park, looking nervous but excited. I left the merino in the car for him to bring to the finishline later. I forgot to ask him to do so, but hoped he would work it out for himself!

I found the bathrooms and wandered around inside the expo centre to stay warm. Too late I realised I'd forgotten to bring a banana for last-minute fuel. I couldn't find anyone I knew, so just found a quiet corner and collected my thoughts. I was feeling remarkably calm and focussed. All the years of running events had prepared me more than I'd realised. Even if I hadn't run a marathon before, I knew what I was there for and what I was supposed to do. I felt just a little lonely, but otherwise I was ok.

Before too long we were being told to gather at the startline. I placed myself halfway between the four and a half and five hour flags. Just in front of me were the two four and a half hour pacers with their pink balloons. To one side of me was a bunch of guys in their late twenties or early thirties who looked more like rugby players than runners and who were also doing their first marathon. On the other side of me were some experienced women who looked to be in their fifties and were making jokes about drinking beer. So far so good.

The start was totally without drama. I could hear but not see the haka at the start. I got a little teary. The starting gun fired loudly enough that I thought it might have deafened the guys at the front. It took two minutes to cross the startline. We walked and then a few metres before the start line we started to shuffle into a jog. I ran over the startline to the chorus of dozens of transponders engaging.

I was off. I was running the Rotorua marathon.


Kate said...

That sounds like my second marathon buildup (the first was much smoother).

I can pinpoint exactly where you went wrong- you should have had the beer (or a red wine) ;)

I've had wine before both marathons and the Half IM. A wee bit won't dehydrate you much at all, and it really takes the edge off. Having said that, I haven't slept before any of those events either!

SUB6 said...

Great post. Love the detail. LOL @ 'calm insomniac'.