Friday, May 20, 2011

Pre Edinburgh marathon 2011 - Journey and Excuses.

It's been a long time since I've posted on this blog, early February to be exact.

There have been many reasons for this but mostly it's because, like Austin Powers, I lost my mojo. Unlike Austin Powers mine wasn't stolen by a time travelling super villain but rather it slid unceremoniously into a puddle on a cold winters night, while the wind howled and my head torch lit the falling rain. I don't remember exactly when this occurred, all I know is that it did happen and for weeks and months after, although I didn't realise it at the time, I was looking for my elusive mojo.

I've done no cycling events this year and only 3 road races, they were:
Dungarvan 10 mile
Dungarvan 10k
Craughwell 10 mile

I had done a ridiculously small amount of training and struggled around these at a slow and painful rate, in fact all 3 races were run at a slower pace per mile than my Dublin marathon time of a few months previously. I've noted these races as some of the best organised and value for money races that I've taken part in and I hope to come back next year and do them justice.

After these I plodded on for another few weeks getting some slow miles in, huffing and puffing, especially on any kind of hill, until I realised that if I wanted to have a chance of finishing the Edinburgh marathon I would have to make some drastic changes.

There were 8 weeks to go to Edinburgh, the last 3 would normally be taper, so in real terms I only had 5 full training weeks left. As I write this I don't have access to my diary but if memory serves I had only run about 150 mile to this point.

Marathon training usually consists of various types of training, speed work, threshold sessions, long runs.

After working out my options I decided that time on my feet would be of most value to me, miles and miles it would be.

Decision made, time to start on a very high risk strategy.

The problem with increasing mileage suddenly is the very real risk of injury. The body needs time to adjust, without this time things can go "ping" and "snap" at any stage. I hoped that with careful management I'd be OK.

First week was 50+ miles, not high mileage by marathon training standards but a big jump for me. The next 4 weeks were to be make or break for Edinburgh. I was about to attempt to run more miles in consecutive weeks that I had ever run before.

The strategy I would employ was from the ultra runners, these athletes do back to back long slow runs to increase their ability to run extra long distances and minimise chances for injury.

I would do 15-20 miles on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with a 20 miler on Saturdays, Sunday would be a rest day.

70 miles done in the next week, all slow but no major dramas, a few slight niggles that sports massages mostly sorted.

From then it seemed that on every run strange things would happen to my poor abused legs. The ITB is a bit tight, the knee is tender, the Achilles is pulling etc, etc, nothing would last long or cause me serious discomfort but I would file them to be mentioned at the next massage.

Another 70+ miles added, no major dramas.

Some days I would run both mornings and evenings, my morning times were always slower. On one run I felt a soreness in my lower leg that by the end of my run had me hobbling. Maybe it's nothing, I'm sure it'll be gone by morning. It was painful enough to wake me through the night. The next run had me cut a planned 1o miler to 5 miles but I only managed 3 and that was nearly hopping the last half mile. Shit, that's it Chris, you gave it a good go but you can't expect your body to put up with that sort of abuse.

A visit to the masseur sorted me out again, I had what's known as dancers tendinitis or as my friend Kev refers to it mincers tendinitis.

80+ miles done, some dramas.

I haven't my diary for reference but some time in the previous 2 weeks I also hurt my back lifting my ride on mower to fix a belt. A typical lift and twist injury that cost me a day and another massage session.

Last week before taper, it dawned on me that most of my runs now, although not much faster, seemed much easier than a few weeks previously. A good sign for me was that I was enjoying more time thinking about various things while running and not constantly checking my garmin for the distance to the finish.

Another 80+ miles done, dramas? no. falling apart? yes.
Over 300 miles in 4 weeks. A new record for me.

5 weeks previously I would have settled for finishing the marathon, ideally in under 4 hours.
2-3 weeks ago I was starting to think that sub 3.30 might be on the cards.
A 3.30 marathon requires 8 minute miles so when I set on on my last long slow 20 mile run I was planning on running 8.30-8.40 minute miles. The first mile was uphill, I hit around 8.30, the second mile around 8.15. Miles 3, 4 and 5 favour downhill and were all sub 8.00. I decided to keep up the higher pace to include some PMP miles (8 min m) All the miles after were +-5/10 seconds of PMP. I finished the run feeling reasonably fresh, which was a major surprise to me.
The problem I now had was that if I could run 20 miles on my own, over undulating roads, at predicted marathon pace (PMP) how much faster could I go under race conditions.
I formulated a loose plan for the marathon that, all going well during the 3 weeks taper, I would set my Garmin for sub 3.20 and see how I felt during the first few miles, it I could hold the 7.30 pace without too much stress I would attempt the sub 3.20 otherwise I would adjust to either sub 2.25 or sub 3.30. Yeah, that plan looked good to me, no pressure, best case would be a decent second fastest marathon, worst case would still be Boston qualifying time and still my second fastest marathon, result !

As I write this post it's less than 24 hours to the start of the race. I'm reflecting back on the events of the past 3 weeks, especially the previous 7 days.
Taper started fine, 50 miles in week one, done in 3 consecutive days, not ideal but OK.
Week 2 was 29-30 miles again a short week but no problems.
From last weekend on is where the fun starts. A wedding in Poland had me flying out very early on Friday morning, I returned on Monday evening after 3 days of vodka, beer and food, not ideal preparation for a marathon but I'd known about this for months so I was expecting a small setback. I was quite please with myself that I managed to get in a 10 mile run in the beautiful Polish mountains, I think the benefits were somewhat negated by having beer for breakfast the next morning (thanks Allen)
Feeling fine, 6 days to recover, no problem, all should be in working order for the race. What happened on Tuesday was unexpected and unpleasant. I got some kind of stomach bug/food poisoning that saw me dropping at least 5 pounds in 2 days, I lost more on the 3rd day but I'd no access to a scales to check. On Friday (yesterday) I was feeling much better and managed to get plenty of food a liquids into me and my first run since last Saturday, a slow 5 miles, the only problem was that my heart rate monitor kept slipping down. Today is more of the same, food,water and rest.
The result of this recent bout is that all targets for tomorrow have gone out the window.
I can only see how I feel at the start and hope that I can maintain a decent pace for the 26.2 miles.

I'll let you know tomorrow..................

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