Sunday, 26 April 2015

London Marathon - Never have I ever felt so shattered after a race

2012 was the last time I trained for and lined up for the London Marathon, and I knew the amount of effort required over a sustained period to achieve my result that year. I'd say that it takes a dedicated build up of at least 4 months to really do the marathon justice and so all those 35,000 odd runners lining up on Blackheath today have all approached that challenge in their own way. As I mentioned in my previous blog, that 4 month build up is what I've been working towards since January.

Given my recent form, I would expect a 2:21 time to be on the cards. However why aim for 2:21, when its so agonisingly close to that 2:19:59? With this approach, my race plan was to go through halfway in 70 minutes and hope that I would feel good enough to negative split to a sub-2:20. On the start line, I was concerned about potentially blistering in my shoes, the impact of having bashed my quad on the banister in the morning, and recalling just how painful those last 5-6 miles can be; all little things that you blow out of all proportion. However, one thing was for sure, I would run my own race, try not get carried away early on and aim to keep a metronomic 5:20 per mile. As expected, the start was fast, I went out steady and soon found myself weaving in and out of the field to find some clear road. I settled in a group with Alex Milne (going to halfway) and Stuart Spencer of Notts AC, however the third mile of 4:58 made me put the brakes on and I was happy for them to continue ahead off the road. At 5 miles, Dean Lacy came alongside and I continued to run with him for the forthcoming 10 miles, trying my hardest to keep to that 5:20 target. Mile 9, at the renamed 'Buxton Water', was for me the high point of the race, with unbelievable crowd support, including my family, friends and club-mates helping to contribute to an incredible wall of noise. With the crowd support, knocking off a 5:20 mile seemed relatively easy, and was far contrasting from those quieter parts of the course around the Isle of Dogs. At this point, I felt sufficiently fresh to high-5 my sister and to really appreciate the spectacle that is the London Marathon.

We continued along Jamaica Road, over Tower Bridge and on to half way. Whilst still ticking along at a fair pace, this was by no means comfortable and I began to question for how long I'd be able to hold it together. Despite going through 13.1 miles at 69:42, I knew then that a sub-2:20 was out of the question, as there was no way that I'd knock out another sub-70 given how I was feeling. I began to become a little concerned about how hydrated I was and so made a conscious effort to take a few sips of water at each one of the coming water stations. Whilst on the subject of nutrition, I took no gels throughout the race and I think I had sip of Lucozade early on, otherwise it's water all the way.

As we went through the nightclub-esq underpass at Westferry Circus at 15 miles, Dean began to drop off the pace and it was then me and the watch to try to keep on track. I was beginning to feel the impact of the quick pace we'd run early on and, by the time I'd reached Canary Wharf at 19 miles, I was beginning to tire and was starting to have little appreciation of what was going on around me. However I did know that I was still on track for a pb, had broken the back of the race, had other runners ahead of me to reel in and was now heading straight for The Mall, so I may as well get my head down and finish this!

Along The Highway, I over took a couple of runners and was content in knocking out a consistent 5:30 miling. Once I was on the Embankment, it was familiar territory and synonymous with the run home from work and was counting down the time to the end; 10 mins, 9 mins, 8 mins....etc.. I had Big Ben to aim for and, despite being 50m behind Stuart Spencer, he was helping keep my pace going. As we turned in to Birdcage Walk, I had no appreciation of the time, I just wanted to get this race done. Finally, The Mall came into sight, along with the finish line. I made an attempt at throwing my arms in the air, but my body was in pieces, my legs were screaming and I have NEVER before felt so fatigued at the end of a race. It was over, I'd broken my pb with 2:21:46 by well over 2 minutes and finished 28th overall. Job done!

Serpentine Running club packed well with Dave Morgan, Jonathan Poole, Rich Phillips, John Franklin all finishing within 2:27, and other notable performances from the Battersea Thursday sessions including John Gilbert in 2:18 and Andy Lawrence 2:29.

I now need a rest, my legs hurt, I'm tired and now will focus on my next challenge of the year: Ironman 70.3.

I have to thank all my friends and family who came out to watch and support today, and help contribute to make the London Marathon such a great event. At the moment I am a little apprehensive to 2016, but it'll hardly be surprising if I change my mind....

MileTimeCumulative time

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Taper time!

It's arrived, taper time. Ok, so it's not quite a case yet of putting my feet up entirely, but relative to the past 12 weeks, it's going to feel like it. I last did a marathon 3 years ago, and it had been off the back of 6 months of injury free training and at the end of what had been a purple patch of running. The build up for this year's London Marathon hasn't been too dissimilar in terms of continuity. Aside from a 10 day break from running over New Year due to a calf issue, I've pretty much been able to run when I've liked and what I've liked. So what have been the ups, downs, things I've learned new, things I've always done and things that haven't worked?

I have found that completing at least 2 out of the 3 main sessions in a week has been crucial. The 3 sessions have been: shorter speed work (Tuesday), longer threshold (Thursday), long run (Sunday). It's been great having a group at each whether it's Phil O'dell's Battersea group doing the shorter stuff, or the 'Thursday night Battersea threshold' group on on Thursdays, there have been people to push me all along. Probably the one session that sticks out was a rather too pacey 1k 95%MP, 1.8k MP where a few of us knocked out a 69:30 half marathon on the way and it was good to see John Gilbert, Andy Maud, Jonathan Poole, Rich Phillips along with the rest of the group all training so well for a common goal.

I've raced a lot, possibly too much, but I've enjoyed most of them, targeting some whilst training through others. I felt that the main XC races (Southerns, National, Intercounties) all helped strength endurance and gave the opportunity to race against some of the best in the country, whilst Reading Half gave the chance to indicate what sort of pace I could run the marathon. For any of these big races, I would do a controlled 6*1 mile on the Tuesday/Wednesday before, and then the race would effectively replace either the Thursday threshold session or the long run.

I hit a top distance of 23 miles for my long run at the beginning of March, and largely kept them to about 20 miles. 2 of these 20 mile runs I did at 1:55 and 1:57 pace respectively, and this gave the confidence that my pace could be maintained for the full 2 hours. I didn't feel it necessary to go to the full marathon distance in training, and some may say that I should have done more longer runs (since the beginning of March I have only done the 23 miler and a 17 miler), but this has been for logistical reasons more than anything and I've raced several 10+ mile races during tat period, all with a reasonable cool down/recovery run.

My weekly mileage averaging at about 65 miles could be considered low compared to your typical runner aiming for the sort of time that I am. However, I have found in the past that repeatedly knocking out 80+ miles in a week has landed me injured. So I've included a fair amount of cross training to complement the running which has generally been one of: a 50 minute effort on the rowing machine, 50 minute swim or 2*20 minute watt bike session.

The 2 areas where I could probably have concentrated a little harder are on stretching and nutrition. I will admit that I've probably stretched a total of 10 minutes since the beginning of the year and as a result my muscles are incredibly tight and I think this is causing a bit on pain in my left knee. Over the next 2 weeks I shall concentrate on stretching and rolling now that the time spent running will be reduced. My nutrition certainly isn't textbook either. I'm a cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, meet and 3 veg for dinner type of person, and don't take any supplements or vitamins whatsoever which sounds fine, however I also find myself eating quite a lot of chocolate, crisps and cereal, and partial to have a few beers a couple of times a week. But I'd rather be relaxed when it comes to feeding myself and as long as I've got plenty of energy to train, then that's good enough for me.

So in the next 2 weeks, I'll run a bit, do a couple of light sessions, try to stretch a lot, sleep a lot and eat healthy and hopefully, come 26th April, I'll be set to have a crack at a pb.