Thankfully my brother had suggested taking a bin bag to wear and then discard at the start ... what a great suggestion! It kept us wonderfully warm and dry until the rain miraculously stopped two minutes before the race kicked off.
My friend headed off towards the front, while I hung out at the back - she had serious medal potential, while I was just looking to finish without hurting myself!
Even though I was at the back, I still ended up going off a bit faster than I've been running in training. The urge to keep up is quite over-whelming and the safety vehicle bringing up the rear is a bit unnerving. Thankfully there were a couple of lads carrying 50lb packs who were run walking at a slightly slower pace even than me, so it wasn't long before I settled into my 3 minute run 1 minute walk rhythm.
The course was described as "undulating" ... actually, it was what I would call hilly! Despite that I managed to run up them all bar two of the steepest. The scenery was stunning and although the roads weren't closed, there was very little traffic to disturb us.
My pace was reasonably steady at about 7.5 minutes per km and managed to overtake 3 people in the first half of the race .... I kept hoping I might be able to knock off a couple more like the hare and the tortoise story, but no chance ... the rest of the field was way ahead.
I carried my water bottle with a nuun lemon and lime electrolyte tab dissolved in it. The wonderful helpers at the 3, 6, 9 mile water stations topped it up for me each time I passed by. I think I will stick with the nuun - it's got a refreshing taste and isn't sweet. It kind of reminds me of a citrus alka seltzer, which I've always been quite partial to the morning after the night before. Funnily enough, I got the same feeling of elation running that I used to get from dancing all night.
The slight discomfort that I'd felt in my knee the day before didn't amount to anything on the day which was a relief. But, the top of my right thigh was giving me some jip almost from the start. I really need to get that sorted out if possible. It's not bad enough to be a real problem, but it did interfere a bit with my enjoyment on the day. It would be a pain to run the whole of the marathon with it. I think I'm lacing my trainers a bit too tight too because my toes were a bit numb to start with. I picked up a couple of little blisters, but nothing major. This was despite twin skin socks and using the Compeed stick. I think I might have to try some other combinations.
It was the first time I'd used any gels on long runs. I wanted to try a couple of things out, so I picked up some of the Chia Energy gels from Huma and a caffeine boost one from SIS. Chia is a bit weird until you get used to it, but I've been trying it out on a daily basis and I've got used to the slimy texture. I'd had a bagel with almond butter at 6.30am with a cup of coffee and then 500ml of water, honey, lime juice and chia in the car on the way there. Just before we headed off to the start line, I had half a little bottle of Multi-Power caffeine boost energy drink to give me a little zing at the start ... I think it did the trick. I had my first Huma gel after 1 hr and the second at 1 hr 40 mins. Half an hour later and with 5km to go I had the SIS caffeine gel. I can honestly say that I have no idea whether any of them had any effect on me whatsoever!! The good news is that none of them had any impact on my stomach, which was a relief. PowerBar gels are available at the water stations for the Berlin Marathon, so I'm going to get some of those to try on my long runs. If they don't cause me any problems, I think I'll just use those ones as I'll be able to get them on the course if I need to.
There weren't any portaloos on the route, so I did have a sneaky pee behind a bush. I probably could have finished without going, but I wouldn't have enjoyed the last few kms. In fact, I got so emotionally choked over the last km, I might have found it impossible to concentrate on not wetting myself.
The last 500m was really hard work ... all ever so slightly uphill - how cruel is that?!?! Crossing the finishing line was just amazing. I am soooo excited about doing it in Berlin.
In the meantime, what went well?
1) Have an early breakfast of bagel, almond butter and coffee
2) Follow with water and chia seed, lime and honey
3) A bit of multi-power caffeine energy drink just before the start
4) No adverse reactions to the gels I tried and they went down fine with some water
5) Recovered well from brief emotional chokes
6) Smiled A LOT
7) Kept drinking and felt hydrated - I think I started hydrated and then drank to thirst with a bit extra after the gels
What do I need to look into?
1) Sock choice and general anti-blister measures
2) Lace my trainers so that my toes don't go numb!
3) Remember to press start on my Garmin Forerunner 10 as I cross the start line!! (which reminds me ... I must look into battery life as I think it only lasts 5 hours in training mode ... oops)
4) Make sure supporters remember what colors I'm running in so they don't miss me on the course
5) Get physio to sort out right upper thigh, hip flexors etc
6) Not sure I kept a good enough check on how much I was drinking or not drinking
7) What was the headache from?
8) About 200m of feeling like I was wading through treacle, but it passed quite quickly - was it a gel that fixed it? who knows!
Big thank you to mum and sister and kids for being there to welcome me over the finishing line; and amazing performance by medal winning friend.
This was a great first race and I'll be back to do it again next year, and aiming for a new PB!