RAK 2017 in the bag

Another RAK half marathon is done and dusted… but this time I was not able to get a PB on the run. I’m a little upset at myself for not getting it, but I know that I have not put in the proper training and amount of mileage needed in order to get that PB, so considering that I at least managed to finish faster than my half in November, I’m satisfied with the outcome.

As always, I spent Thursday night in RAK (this time with Nat) and got a good night’s sleep in a comfy hotel bed before the big day!

We were up bright and early, eating our oats for breakfast and then met up with friends who were running in their first half marathon! Exciting!!!

Our hotel was only 1.1 km’s from the start / finish line so we walked across, and headed straight for our start chute, and waited for the gun to go off and set us all on our way.

My plan was to aim for 5:30 – 5:40 km pace, for as much as possible, knowing that at that pace I was certain to get a sub-2 hour finish time. And my first 10 km’s were bang on!

But once I was just past 10 km’s I felt uneasy in my breathing and had to take a short walk break. I picked it up again after only a few meters, but by the time I got to 12 km’s, based on how I’d slowed down in that time, I knew I was not likely to get under 2 hours…. but if I could just stick to under 6 minutes per km, I was sure that I would still be in line for a PB.

I kept at it, but once again somewhere after 13 km’s I had to stop and walk again. I grew frustrated at myself here but knew that I had a very long way to go, and I was not going to let this race get the better of me. All I had to do was make sure I slowed down and kept to a steady pace… slow and steady.

With the new layout of the course, the 15 km mark is on the opposite side of the road to the start / finish line, so as I was coming up to that mark there were tons of spectators around, giving off such a fantastic vibe (even though it was mostly for the runners on the other side of the road who were crossing the finish line), but I then heard my name and turned to see a friend standing there, cheering for me 🙂 What a way to give a girl her second wind! I immediately felt strength surge through my legs and lungs and off I went.

I got to about 17 km’s and felt the wheels loosen a bit again… another small walk break was needed. And then I was off again, turning the corner, only 3 km’s to go. You’ve got this!

Er, no you don’t. Only a few hundred meters along and yet another walk break was needed 😦

This was just before 19 km’s and I then told myself that it’s just 2 km’s to go – you can run the rest of the way! Go girl!

But once again a tiny walk break was needed while I still could not see the finish line, but then, not far ahead of me I could see the 20 km mark – I was not going to be walking when I reached that, and there was no way that I would walk within this last km!

I shoved out all bad thoughts and put one foot in front of the other, gave the 20 km mark a high five as I ran past – once again hearing my friend cheer me on from the side line 🙂 – and pushed my way over that finish line, managing a strong (almost) sprint for the last hundred meters or so, and finished in a time of 2:05:15 🙂

About to cross the finish line

About to cross the finish line

Done and dusted!

Done and dusted!

RAK Half Marathon 2016 – 10 year anniversary

The RAK Half Marathon turned 10 this year and they threw out all the stops for it! It was really fantastic to be part of the run this year, especially after missing last year due to being ill 😦

The same as the other years I’ve run this race, I took a friend along with me (Al), we headed up to RAK on Thursday evening and spent the night there so that I could load up on a decent meal, get a good night’s rest and wake up at a fairly reasonable hour the morning of the race.

I mentioned a few weeks back that this year’s training was very different to years in the past – I did not start with any proper half marathon training in December like I often do because I was on holiday back home, so instead I just hit it hard when I got back to Dubai mid-January. The week before the week of the race saw me do an incredible 47 km’s during the week including the Wadi Bih run that I took part in – probably not the wisest idea ever, but it wasn’t planned out like that and I actually felt absolutely amazing.

The week of the race I went for a sports massage and my therapist told me that I really need to take it easy this week, even though I was very tempted to do just a 5 km run or so. He suggested that I rather do some light cycling (which I did at the gym) and foam rolling, and RELAXING. I listened to him, even though I really wanted to still be doing my regular gym sessions.

Anyway, the morning of the race rolls around, I had a good night’s sleep the night before and am feeling ready for this… although just a touch nervous.

I didn’t put any major expectations on myself for the day – I was just aiming for a time better than my last half of 2:17 (my personal best being 2:14).

The gun goes off and we head out over the start line and next thing I know the 1 km mark is upon us, I blink and all of a sudden I’m at the 2 km mark already! The km’s just kept flying up to me, even though I was trying to drop my pace to closer to 6 minutes per km… currently they were around 5:40. Eventually when I got to 10 km’s – 56:33 – I decided then to just go for it. I wasn’t going to try slow down or even speed up. I was comfortable at this pace and I was feeling fantastic, so I would just keep going and see what happens.

One foot in front of the other, sip of water, munch on a gu chew, more water, one foot in front of the other… the km’s kept rolling on by, and next thing I knew I was looking at the 19 km banner – only 2 to go! I had a tiny struggle between 19 and 20 km’s – my second slowest km dropping down to 5:54 – but then it was just around the corner and the home straight was in front of me! I gunned it, getting that last bit of adrenaline pumping through me, hearing the crowds, seeing the banners that they had up for the last 200 m, 100 m, and BOOM!

I crossed the finish line in a (gun) time of 2:03:45, and my nett time was an astonishing 2:02:05!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another personal best, and knocking an amazing 12 minutes off my previous personal best!

And the best thing about it was that I did not feel completely drained afterwards – I bumped into my massage therapist and he laughed at how much energy I still had… but that was the excitement of smashing my time 🙂 🙂

We then hung around for the Big 10 draw (10 random bib numbers each won a prize worth AED10,000 – most of them cash!), then headed back to the hotel room for a very well-deserved shower, and smashing some food into my face.

Thanks to RAK Half Marathon for, once again, an amazing race – excellently organised, well supported by volunteers at the water stations, race village and just all over the place, and a great new route!

And just to make the post a little more exciting… here are a few photos of the day:

Just before the race

Just before the race

SMASHING IT!

SMASHING IT!

Week 6 – Wadi Bih

I have been wanting to run the Wadi Bih relay challenge for years now but never had a chance to – either cannot get a team together, or too afraid of doing damage the week before the RAK half marathon (it always falls the week before the half marathon).

But this year a friend messaged me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to join her team – hell yes I did! I then asked one other friend as we were still one person short, and BOOM! A team of 5 – 3 girls, 2 guys.

We headed up to Dibba on Friday afternoon in 2 cars – the girls car and the boys car. Both cars were stocked with our gear, food, waters etc., all split between the cars so we didn’t necessarily have our own stuff in the car we were travelling in.

It’s approximately a 2 hour or so drive, and then you have to possibly add in long queues at the border check point, so you’re maybe looking at around a 2.5 / 3 hour journey, so we headed off at 2:30pm so that we’d get there when it was still reasonably light so that putting up tents etc. wouldn’t be in the dark.

The ride was uneventful, but always very pretty driving through the mountain ranges of the UAE. Just before the check point we stopped for a pit stop and to grab some pre-dinner dinner (carbo loading 😉 ). The girls hit the check point first and went through all hunky dory. We drove down the road a bit to find a place that was safe to stop and waited for the boys. And waited. And waited. And WAITED. Eventually we started getting worried so we messaged them and got a reply: Big problems.

Meh.

We turned around and T walked up to the check point to find out what was going on. N & I stayed in the car, dreaming of seeing the car come over the bridge with all 3 people in… a missing person (or 2) would mean either no race, or a very difficult race for the rest of us 😦 Eventually T walks back to the car and tells us the plans – coincidentally a car behind the boys had the same issue as our guys… one of the travellers had had their UAE residence visa cancelled the week prior to the race and so they were not allowed to cross the border 😡 They had to drive to Ras Al Khaimah and exit through there as they have immigration and can deal with the paperwork and stamping of passports correctly. Only another 3 or so hours added to the trip for those involved 😦

So we headed off to the camp site (all my warm clothes in the other car 😦 ) and waited while our 5th person enjoyed another 3 hours of road tripping around the UAE, and finally made it to us around 10pm.

Campsite

Campsite

Dinner option at the hotel, if you wish

Dinner option at the hotel, if you wish

The next morning was thankfully much less eventful – we were up at about 5:30am in the freezing cold and dark, putting on lots of layers of clothes and packing the support vehicle for the 72 km’s ahead of us. We then headed off to the start line and we were off! Just 72 km’s of trail / gravel and off-road running to get through, with just one hill to climb of only 700m rise in elevation over 3.5 km’s… easy peasy 😉

Or not.

The race is broken up into 12 stages out, and then you turn around and run those 12 stages back. 5 runners on a team, each person runs approximately 5 or 6 times, each doing a total of anywhere between 10km’s and 18 km’s, depending on which legs of the course you run. Now, that doesn’t sound so tough, but once you consider the fact that you’re running on gravel, probably putting in a bit more effort than you would on a run of that distance because it’s broken up, and then you’re stopping, sitting in a car, getting cold, running, getting hot, sitting, standing, eating, hydrating, running again. It’s tough on the body and the mind.

My favourite leg of my runs was the longest one that I did – 4.2 km’s. I got the baton and I darted off, and my legs just did not stop. I was the only runner on that section of the road at the time I was running and I was flying through it. I wasn’t sure how fast I was running because I didn’t have any earphones or anything in, but it felt fast. And then I heard someone behind me which made me run even faster! Eventually he overtook me and that was when I decided that I’d better slow down a touch, but next thing I knew I saw the cars ahead and so I picked up the pace again until I handed the baton over.

I checked my run stats once I was in the car and I really had done well – 4.2 km’s in 19:43. An average of 4:42 per km!

Unfortunately though my next run, 3.5 km’s, was not as good, finishing that leg in 19:21. But we were almost at the finish line so we continued to push ourselves, and finally saw the finish line ahead… just to get through the sand and cross the finish line, and get that medal!

We enjoyed a nice warm meal, some nice cold waters / drinks, and then headed back to our camp site to pack up and head home.

Wadi bih – I’ll definitely be back!

You can click on any of the photos in the gallery below to open up a bigger view of them.