Hey Everybody, Lauran here to announce that Mike has successfully completed the 12th race of the LauranDoes179 Challenge – the Loch Ness Marathon which took place on Sunday the 27th of September! Well done, Mike! He ran this challenge race as I am recuperating from an injury and did a stonking great job representing TeamDrea and helping to raise money for the Blazeman Foundation for ALS research. What follows is his race report. Now over to Mikey….
Following all the madness and mayhem of the Marathon du Medoc, I was increasingly concerned that Lauran was pushing this challenge too far. Whilst we got round in one piece, the completion of this challenge, and to an extent what everything is building up to was the Snowdonia Marathon – the last race of the LauranDoes179 Challenge – at the end of October. Loch Ness, like Medoc before it, was equally a training run, to get the miles under the belt with the outside possibility of setting a PB in the mix. Snowdonia is hard. It is often described as the most scenic and hardest in the UK! The course profile is below, the total ascent is about 765 meters (1823 ft), and it definitely not one for PB’s!
We were both really excited about it, when entering it at half past midnight on the 1st January, but the fear that grips you as you look at that course profile (yes a hill from mile 21 to 23? To 1200 ft? When my legs are completely exhausted already? ) has stuck in the mind for months. With this in mind, I became insistent that I run Loch Ness. I finally managed to get Lauran to relent and allow her body some time to repair itself for the awesomeness of this Welsh Challenge.
My original plan for this weekend, whilst supporting and assisting Lauran, was that the Saturday night coincided with the England–Wales game in the Rugby World Cup. Perfect I thought. We can have a relaxing trip up to Inverness on the Saturday, an early dinner, and bed for Lauran and I can have a beer or two in the hotel watching the game (Those who know me will attest to my preoccupation with 1) Rugby, 2) Wales Rugby 3) England-Wales games – Ohio State/Michigan has nothing on this!). With me now running the marathon, obviously the beer had to go and prerace planning was a little bit more complicated – my mind was less preoccupied with race nerves (I had a couple every now and again) but more concerned with whether Wales would win. Two of my best friends live in Hong Kong and Sydney (also England fans) and the jibes were constant and often relentless. It was perhaps an unhelpful distraction, and pacing around a hotel room drinking only coffee was not the best use of my legs the night before a big race.
Race day came about very quickly – a very early start to get the bus to literally the middle of nowhere and the start line. (Google Maps https://goo.gl/maps/8Gw71kHDa952 – check out pegman!) You basically take the ‘General Wade Military Road B862’ (those who are interested in the Jacobite clearances will note the reference) from the start point at the Suidhe Viewpoint and head all the way back into Inverness. It was an absolutely beautiful day – showing off the Highlands in their finest. This far north has a habit of raining permanently, but if you catch the weather it is really something else – perfect sunshine and mid 50’s temperatures. Once the bus reaches the start area you have a bit of time to kill before the gun, but a cup of coffee and the last minute stretches help clear the mind. I was aiming to pace at 8.00 minute miles for a finish time of around 3.30. I thought initially that would be too optimistic, as I had not done the race preparation for anything more. You have to watch your pace in the first 10 miles as there is a far bit of descent as you wind along by the side of Loch Ness. I was sitting comfortably around 7.45 minutes per mile, and was feeling very fresh. The quietness and the beauty of being outdoors in the countryside were intoxicating, and as I hit the half way mark, around 1.41, I was feeling confident of my target. Maintaining my pace comfortably, I thought I would stretch to 20 miles and see where I could go from there.
The long hill through miles 18 and 19 would determine how I would finish. You start to hit the outlying towns and villages around Inverness at this point, so the support goes from being one man and his dog to bigger crowds, which really gives you a good lift. Lauran and I discussed in the build-up that you run a marathon as 4 x 10k’s and you keep your best for the last 6 miles. Thankfully for me that was exacting what happened. Two things crossed my mind as we started on the road into Inverness at the 20 mile mark, the incredible Andrea’s excitement about her forthcoming triathlon and an umpteenth review of Wales’ spectacular win over England the night before. Both of which made me think – ‘Right Lad, let’s see what you have got’. I was running comfortably and was starting to pick the pace up, so I said let’s see how long my legs can go for. I always count the miles, as it both a spur and a reward; at 24 it was simply a case of just eating all the jelly babies I could lay my hands on and pushing it through.
You run an up and back along the river Ness in the last mile which can be tough, but the crowds were plentiful and motivating. I had for the last 10 miles been passing everyone and that was spurring me on. I knew I was on for a good time, just where!! I think I became slightly delusional in the last .2 miles as I wanted it to just be over, my legs were ok, but my head was shot. Apparently Lauran was shouting at me, but I had no idea! [EDITOR’S NOTE: I was, in fact, screaming my fool head off as he went by…I was so excited for him!] I was looking around as best I could, but completely oblivious to anything. In the end I crossed the line with a PB of 3.17.10 and placed 143rd! I also ran the second half in 1.36, and had a great negative split, which I was equally delighted with. I didn’t expect to run like that, and was thoroughly satisfied. Hopefully it made up for Lauran not running, and having the opportunity to run was a delight. It was an utterly fantastic race, some stunning natural beauty, well organised and fabulous support. The locals in this part of the world were so welcoming and caring, that you wondered whether snooty old Edinburgh was in an entirely different country!
Finally, I was able to find the beer tent to a toast to a stunning Wales win, an exhilarating race, and the completion of another LauranDoes179 Challenge.
Now just three weeks to Snowdonia, bring it on. Donations to the LauranDoes179 Challenge gratefully received via the ‘donate’ button or by following the link below:
The LauranDoes179 Challenge is now 141.51 miles in with just 37.49 miles left to go! The next race, run once again by Lauran, will be the Great Scottish Run Half Marathon in Glasgow on the 4th of October. And a big shout out to Andrea and all the TeamDrea members who are competing with her and cheering her along the course at the Ramblin’ Rose Triathlon this weekend in Chapel Hill, NC! Best of luck, guys!