Apologies but this is woefully long.
I’ve waited a while to write this as the GSR was a strange experience for me, not at all what I was expecting. It was always going to be a day of ‘firsts’ (being both my first ever public run on that scale and my first ever race over that distance).
I knew no-one who was running and no-one who was supporting and traveled to Portsmouth the day before. I stayed in an Airbnb room in someone’s house for the first time - adequate but stressful for various reasons (lodger effing and binding and passionately relating a story about how she got effing angry with someone, room not overly clean, no lock on bedroom door, macerating toilet that liked to start up all by itself every now and again regardless of day or night …).
I laid all my kit out the night before, ate my salmon, pasta and salad from the Tupperware container I took with me (I was so prepared). Didn’t sleep particularly well as lots of people on the street below came home late and loud. Woke before the alarm, dressed, made and ate porridge and struggled to pin on my bib with shaky fingers.
Bags stored in car, I set off to walk the 30 minutes to the seafront nice and early. Met up with a lovely couple and chatted to them en-route. I’d left early to make sure I missed any queues at the bag drop - at 8.30 ish when I got there I would say there were about 4 or 5 staff per runner! It was empty and quiet, way earlier than necessary.
I had 2 and a half hours to kill! The queues for the loos were simply not long enough to fill that time. I struck up a conversation with a lovely lady who’d done the run 2 or 3 times before. I enjoyed the company. I made one last loo trip – determined to stand in at least one queue that day – and made my way to the front-ish of the green pen(good move I think as there were no congestion issues). For at least an hour I’d been shaking like a leaf. My nose was burning in the sun but I was still huddled inside a thick fleece feeling the cold! In the pen I had a good chat with another lovely lady.
The warm up started and felt so good; great to be doing something, great that it wasn’t a cold standing start. Then we were off. At this point I must remind myself that I was happy, excited and enjoyed the first 5k. I knew I was going too fast, yet somehow couldn’t slow it down. I had my first jelly baby at 5K as planned, then a drink from my flipbelt at 7.5k as planned (managed to choke on that as I didn’t stop to drink and felt quite sick).
Being honest, I didn’t really enjoy it from there on in. Gremlins won the day, and I was sure I couldn’t do it. My legs felt heavy and tired. I tried running with bottle in hand but didn’t like that. I took a walking break around 11k (plan had been to wait til 12.5k then walk and drink so that added to the gremlins’ arsenal). Kept going, but don’t remember seeing much, or feeling very inspired by the crowds or the entertainment. Threw in another quick walk around 14k and – worst of all – another during mile 9 (at which point I had stomach pains, probably from choking on my drink earlier – think colicky baby!). I was feeling overwhelmingly disappointed with myself. I did push on for the last mile, loving the 800m, 400m, 200m markers, knowing my time was still good. In fact, I beat my target by a full three minutes – a target set based on timings before being sick for three weeks! I crossed the finish line, neither gasping for breath nor feeling faint. Feet were a bit sore, but legs felt OK. But where was the buzz? Or the euphoria that I was there for? Nowhere to be found. Just flat disappointment. Why? 1h 47m and still standing. A PB for 10k, a PB for 15k and longest ever distance. What on earth was wrong with me? Why didn’t I feel amazing?
The stretch routine was great. The free massage I booked in advance was great. No problem picking up my bag, walking back to the car, leaving Portsmouth. Reasonable drive home. But just flat, emotional, disappointed, sad and exhausted.
Two big blisters are my only problem today, apart from this same flat feeling.
This afternoon I’ve registered for the London Landmarks Half in March (I’d already paid for it, so when the request to register with the race organiser came through today it seemed like the right thing to do, and a symbolic one too).
So why did that happen? Why did I give in to gremlins so easily? I‘d like to understand so I know what to fix. There seem to be many possible reasons. Being ill beforehand maybe left me tired, it certainly interrupted my training plan and the confidence that completing it would have given me. It was warmer than I have been used to. I didn’t have my usual music playing because I wanted to listen to the support. My expectations of the entertainment and crowd were maybe too high. Although I’d introduced the idea of walking and drinking when training, it seems to be the walking thing that has disappointed me the most. I think I also missed having a running buddy or supporter to share my achievement with.
I need to work on my expectations, I need to have music ready, I need to understand my Garmin better (so I not only see an average run pace, but can see current pace too so I feel more in control), I need to make decisions about walking and then stick to my rules, I need a run buddy or supporter in tow. Hopefully I will feel more prepared for LLHM, which of course will have the advantage of not being my first large public race!
But first, I need some short easy runs which I enjoy. And time to reflect on (and big up in my mind) the good parts of the GSR as there were lots – if I can find just one photo of myself smiling or looking relaxed, that will go a long way I think.
I don’t want to put anyone off the GSR – just read everyone else’s posts of this weekend’s race, in so many ways I agree it was great. I think I will probably start to ‘feel the love’ as Sandraj39 put it, as time goes by.
But, if anyone has any similar experiences (and got this far) I would love to hear them.