Sunday, May 23, 2010

Edinburgh Marathon

The weather in Edinburgh the day before the marathon was hellishly hot, not for sunbathing or sitting in a chair reading a book but for distance running.

I was delighted on race day to open the curtains to a dull and overcast day, there was even a shower of rain as I had breakfast.

Everything about the morning was relaxed, both myself and Sean had our gear sorted the previous night, our pre-booked taxi arrived on time and the starting area well organised.

I had pretty much given up on any decent time for Edinburgh, my training has been, what's the technical term, ah yes, shite. I had decided weeks previously that I would just run as steadily as possible and hope the the total collapse wouldn't be too early in the race - one of my last 20 mile LSR's saw my legs stop working at 10 miles and the shortest route home took another, very ungraceful, 4 miles - in my defence I had done plenty of cycling and some kayaking that week but the feeling of an early, as the kids might say, epic fail was still very much in my head.

The start didn't seem to be as packed as the Dublin marathon so I happily trotted along at a comfortable pace. I was surprised to note that the first mile was nearly 1 minute faster than I had expected, this can happen at the start with all the excitement runners can set off too fast.
Ok, so I've been here before, I have a some experience, I know enough to expect the first mile to be fast but I needed to get into my own pace soon.

The second mile was fast again, I'll settle down soon..
The third mile still faster than target... slow down..
Over the next number of miles my mental conversation went something like this.

"Slow down Chris, you're going too fast"

"Yeah, but you feel good"

"You're going too fast, you'll collapse soon"

"Keep going at this pace for another few miles, it feels ok"

"You haven't done the training"

"Ahh shut up, you're doing grand"

"For fuck sake you know the wheels will fall off sooner if you keep this up"

"Put a few minutes in the bank for when the wheels fall off"

"Slow down, SLOW DOWN"

This went on for some miles, all the while I was running at a pace that would give me a personal best time, the funny thing was that it was not as fast as I had run Dublin but I hit the wall at 20 miles in Dublin and knew that it was very likely to happen even sooner today.

I have some markers that are important for me during a marathon - 5, 10, 13, 16, 20 miles. I'm not sure why but I think that they are mental milestones in my training.

5 miles is the exact distance around the block from my house - my default training route.
At 5 miles I was way too fast for my predicted pace but I was planning to slow down.

10 miles another standard training distance.
I was going better than expected. I started doing the maths for possible finishing times, I did know that it was a moot exercise but it kept my mind busy for a few minutes.
For the first 10 miles there seemed to be a constant stream of people passing me, on more than one occasion I questioned whether I was just too slow, if I didn't have the garmin I think that I would have been inclined to try pick up the pace.
I set 13 as my next target, just 3 miles 'till then and I would be on the homeward stretch, this was better than the other little voice in my head telling me there was still over 16 miles to go.
I think that is was around the 10 mile mark that I started to notice the heat, the sun was now at full belt and the was nowhere to hide from it.
From this point on at the water stations I grabbed a bottle of water and a sports drink if they were available, I drank the sports drink and poured the water over my head.
I felt guilty afterwards when I heard that they ran out of water for the later runners.

13, well 13 is just about half way, it's all homeward bound after that, I was still faster than my predicted time at the 13 mile mark.( I checked since and found that my time here was almost identical to Dublin 09 - that was a surprise, I thought I was going much slower today)
I was expecting something of a major collapse soon.
The course from Musselburgh Race Course (about mile 9) is out and back along the coast road.
Somewhere between miles 13-15 we met the lead runners heading for home on the opposite side of the road. Fair play to the runners who clapped and cheered the leaders as they passed.
I had been running close to the shelter of the hedgerow on the right side of the road but when I saw the lead runners I moved to the centre line in the hope of seeing Sean. As I moved out I was telling myself that I wouldn't see him for ages, I tried to work out a time that he might pass but I quickly gave up - too many variables. Much to my surprise, just a few minutes later I saw a runner that looked like Sean, nah, that couldn't be him, way too soon. Wow, that's him alright, looking relaxed and running smoothly.
I took a half step across the white line and waved, he didn't see me. I knew he was running a sub 3 time so I debated whether to call out or not, I was worried that if he was "in the zone" I may upset his rhythm. What the hell, everyone gets a kick from having their name called out, don't they? "Go on Sean M__" roared across the road was greeted with a wave and a "Christy"
One of the most enjoyable moments of this marathon was to see Sean at this point running so well.
Since the half way point at 13.1 miles I had been losing 10 or 12 seconds per mile, this didn't bother me as I was still faster that I had planned/expected and I actually felt ok.

16 leaves 10 miles to go (10.2 to be exact), 10 mile runs are easy (that's what I was telling myself). The race turned sharp right up a side road, another out and back section.
My legs felt tired along the outward route, I felt like I was substantially slowing up. Here we go, the legs fall apart at 16 miles, I was hoping for a couple of miles more before the wall but, hey, what can you expect with such poor quality training. Up the road I reached the turning point and set off along the opposite side of the road. It took me a minute or two to realise that I was running downhill, woohoo, the tiredness on the other side of the road was because I was running uphill, how the hell did I not notice a hill ?
I turned into Gosford House (country estate) at mile 17. It was from here on that I noticed the ever increasing number of people walking. I was only being passed by the occasional runner but passing plenty. This continued all the way to the finish. I wondered how many of these had flown past me in the first 10 miles.
I continued to drop 10 - 20 seconds per mile but I still felt fine.

20 is where it can all fall apart - it certainly did in the Dublin Marathon 09 - It leaves 10k - 6.2miles, the hardest miles of the entire marathon.
I had in my mind that if I was still running at 20 miles I would try to increase the pace as best I could for the last 6.2 miles. It dawned on me that 6 miles sounds like a short distance in the context of a 26 mile race but in reality it's still a long distance to run. I was due a gel at 22miles so I revised my target to this. Just as well, by the time I hit 22 the tank was empty, I was getting slower and slower. I have now added another mental marker - 23 miles

Miles 23 to the finish were the longest miles I have ever run. The crowds were fantastic, cheering, handing out sweets & orange segments, using hoses and water guns to cool down the runners but for me this was all in some other world. I could only think about how far was the finish. 2.9 miles, 2.8 miles, 2.7 miles, ah no, the garmin is usually slightly long for the marathon courses, how much longer. .1, .2 of a mile, more? I couldn't remember how much longer, all I knew was that every .1 of a mile extra was going to hurt. I was getting some tightness in both upper legs near the groin and the odd dart in my left glut. (arse cheek) Don't cramp now, please, please don't cramp now, not so close to the finish.
The route was alongside Musselburgh race course, in the distance I could see the buildings that were by the main entrance to the course - we had passed this on the way out - Ahh no, it couldn't be all that distance to the finish, I really thought we were well into the last mile. Suddenly, on a lamppost appeared the most beautiful sign I had ever seen, the 26 mile marker. Only .2 of a mile to go, I'm going to make it. The organisers had one cruel surprise for the runners. The last 150-200 metres (may not have been that distance but it felt like it) to the finish line was on rubber mats, running on this felt like running on a trampoline, sods!
Along the finishing straight was lined with photographers. When I see a camera I try to make a bit of an effort to smile or at least look like I'm not suffering - vanity is a terrible thing - not this time, I couldn't muster the energy to take the grimace off my face as all the photos I saw later prove.

I crossed the line in a better time than I had expected and with the extreme heat and an out and back course it was certainly a great learning experience.
Could I have run faster?
Absolutely not on the day, I was totally spent at the finish but it was a kick in the arse for me to sort out the quality of my training. If I can be less than 3 minutes outside my PB in such hot conditions without proper training and carrying at least 5kgs extra, what could I do if I prepared properly.

I was woddling to the exit sending some "I made it" texts when my phone rang, it was Sean, he was still on site near the baggage collection so I staggered off in that direction. I found him sitting in the shade of a truck, listening to a live band, drinking a beer, freshly showered and changed, all in all looking very calm and relaxed.
Not bad for a guy who had just run a 2.54 marathon and finished 45th overall, not bad at all !!!

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, by far the best UK city that I've seen.
The marathon was well organised, there were plenty of well spaced water stops, the weather was out of the organisers hands.
The route was enjoyable, the out and back on the same road has it's pros and cons but I was ok with it. The only worry I would have about the course is that it would be very exposed on a windy day.

I think I will be back to Edinburgh.......

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Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Great report.

Thanks for the kind words - a lot of that post-race calm look was down to the relaxing company during the final couple of days. It was great to see you out on the road too.


John G said...

I love reading this blog, part of me says wow i really admire Chris, he is so dedicated and so hardcore about this fitness stuff. another part of me says your an idiot to put yourself through that pain. Well done mate!! :)