This seems to be more on our minds of late with Alice and her T1 diagnosis. The constant 24/7 management of the condition, and the fact that it is results orientated, means that there is an unbelievable pressure. Alice bears the brunt of this because the consequences of not managing the condition mean that she could have significant short and long term health issues. The late night meltdown, her blotchy cheeks awash with hot tears shed in frustration and anger, brought on by an unsatisfactory glucose test result, normally result in her saying that she can't go on and is going on "greve" - strike. Devastating for a parent, but all part of the 24/7 management of childhood T1.
As a result, I was able to relax and enjoy the pre amble to the race - a late Friday night flight and a meal in Barcelona with Mrs R and the kids, and then a tour of the City on foot the following day to take into account registration. A 3km walk via La Boqueria - the produce market - and we managed to negotiate the marathon registration with very little fuss despite the massive amount of participants - 15000 or so. I also managed to find some of the Finnish ICE - post marathon deep heat type of stuff, but menthol and therefore deep freeze if you like. I used it post the Helsinki marathon and it was brilliant for recovery - like having ANOTHER cold bath after the run, but enabling me to sit in the bar at the same time!
After a quick bite, I virtually frogmarched the moaning hoards in the dusty heat back to the centre of town in order to see the Gaudi house. Mrs R and the kids had not heard of Gaudi, nor his famous architecture, but I was determined to introduce them as it is truly breathtaking. Their protestations fell on deaf ears, and they were pleased. More than pleased in fact - thrilled.
We walked back up to the Gaudi house at night to have another look - even more impressive, and again could not get in, but had a nice pasta dinner nearby. We got to bed around 11.15ish after glucose testing etc - not too bad.
I slept very well having walked miles on saturday, and woke with my alarm at 6.30am. I had bought some muesli and had it in the bathroom, with a cup of tea and coffee. Then I vassed everything and then strapped on my camelback with an extra few 100 grams. I also strapped my knee. I eschewed the metro and jog/walked to the marathon start - dropped my drop bag off (although why I needed extra jumpers and so on, I don't know - it was roasting hot on the day). The start was at 8.30am and it was already hot in the sun, but the atmosphere was amazing - bands playing and everyone loving it. I was in wave 2, after the elites and wheelchair runners, about 5 mins after the gun went. There was a load of tissue paper in the air - like big pieces of confetti, and funnily enough I needed a wee the minute I crossed the start line!
I was amazed at the speed with which everyone shot off - my pacing strategy has become second nature, and with a pack it was even more important to pace because the pack would take its toll particularly on road. But within a few minutes I was being passed by wave 3 runners, and then wave 4! People were sprinting! I knew I would be seeing a lot of them in the latter stages of the race, particularly when it really heated up!
I really enjoyed the first 10km - just enjoying the amazing sights of Barcelona. We passed the Gaudi house quite early on, and then the Sagredi Church which was also cool. I managed to have a pee in a hedge near Barcelona FC football stadium - taking photos all the time. The aid stations were a joy because I did not need anything, and I avoided the scrum. I started to overtake people without really trying at 10km or so.
At 16km my left hip was starting to hurt. I have no idea why - it is not something I have ever come across before - maybe reflected from the knee which was giving me a tiny bit of gyp in the run up to the race? Who knows. I thought also it may be because I was on the right hand side of the road so there was a slight uphill camber - the left leg slightly higher? Anyway, I took a nurofen and tried to run down the middle of the road where I could. After 18km we were running "out" and others were running "in" alongside us having covered 21-22km or so. Was very good for my morale to see how in pain they all looked. Way worse shape than me, as I actually felt quite fresh despite the heat and hip / left thigh pain.
When I was on the "in" stretch, the morale was boosted further particularly when I was overtaken by Captain Caveman. There wasn't too much dressing up, but it was a great atmosphere. The crowds were amazing - lining most of the route, sometimes pushing runners down to almost single file because there were so many watching. Halfway came up in 1hr 58 and small change. I tried to speed up a little.
The route was billed as fast and flat - it was definitely not flat! There were long slopes - and the occasional steep ramp - also very hot with little shade. As 25km came up and we were threading through the old town, past the cathedral, down to the coast, and people started walking in earnest. It was going to be a long slow slog for those guys to get to the finish. We got to the coast, and another "out" and "back" section to bring up 30km. The ambulance crews were starting to earn their money - the heat and sun taking its toll. Some were stretched out on drips by the side of the road. I tried to nibble away at people in front of me, and latched on to several groups - one group of 3 with matching club tops. I gradually reeled them in, and over took. Then the Judo club tops - took me a couple of kms to nibble but gradually got to them. The aid stations helped as people would walk through those. I needed something other than my sports drink in my pack so I occasionally grabbed some water - no Coke unfortunately. The ground was slippery with bananas, every 2.5km!
36km came up and I was feeling it myself - my feet hurt a little, and my left leg was painful but I cracked on. It helped me to think about #2 and the fact that in a short period of time I would be finished...unlike #2 and her condition. Plenty of people stopped and I tried to chivvy along a french chap who was rippling with muscle but had broken. I told him it was not far in french - at least that is what I think I said, it may have been that it was still a long way to go! My French was not great after 36km in the sunshine! The curbs were littered with people stretching, cramping, on drips, sitting head in hands....was quite the sight. I carried on nibbling but we had a long 3 or 4km gradual climb to the finish. Whoever said it was a flat course was in a car! 200m from the finish and the crowds were 10 deep and cheering wildly. I managed to overtake a few people, no doubt surprised to see me coming past with a pack, and dodged the chap being attended to by paramedics on the corner. His legs were twisted unnaturally with cramp!!
I ran over the line in exactly 3hr 57, almost exactly the same time to do the 2nd half as the first half. I was smiling, and happy with my achievement. A pb for me - best marathon time with a pack!!!
Unfortunately, the post marathon organisation was a little wanting. It was terrific pre and during - with people giving out vaseline, and plenty of aid stations and so on. Afterwards however there was a tiny amount of food and hardly any fluids on offer in the recovery area - I picked up my medal, then had to walk against the crowds to the drop bag place; I queued for my bag, was told I was in the wrong queue and had to queue again, then was disgorged back into the masses and again I had to force my way through 200m of seething crowds. I took the Metro a couple of stops closer to the hotel, and got back for a quick shower and to meet Mrs R and the kids (who had spent the morning inside the Gaudi house - jealous!). I put on the ICE stuff - a little too high up the leg which was painful!!! and then we walked to the port for a beautiful fresh fish lunch and a shandy. That was the just what the Dr ordered. The kids made me wear my medal for the rest of the day!
I have done a few marathons now, and the last 10km is never easy, but it really helps to dig in and think about something that motivates you to keep going. That particular run was not really a pressure race for me, and it could have been so easy to just give up and start walking with the others. However, I dug deep - as Alice has to do on occasion, and realise that to suck up the pain is worth so much more than the alternative. A long slog back and a feeling of disappointment. The pain starts to go the minute I cross the finish line. For Alice there is - at the moment - no finish line.