After last weekends cycling extravaganza (it was a lot for me!) I drifted into my normal lazy ass zone by doing nothing at all on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This was partly due to me being wrecked after the weekend, partly due to a big schedule at work and mostly down to the fact that I'd got Wolverhampton Marathon coming up and when I argued for and against it was a good excuse to be lazy. Luckily I finished work early (for me) on Friday and straight from work I jumped on my bike and started pedalling. I'd get an hour in before Shelly finished work then when she finished she'd got to go home, load the car up, gather the pup and head out on the 3hr drive up to Wolverhampton, picking me up wherever she caught me. We were of course taking differing routes, mine was more direct but Shelly's was faster by car and after a phone call just before she joined the motorway it was decided that we'd meet at Bridgewater Services which meant that I got a solid 60miles in before loading myself and my bike into the car and joining her for the rest of the journey.
Saturday was relatively chilled, but I went out for a wee 5mile run with Rosie pup just to give her some exercise which ruled out running the Marathon in my Saucony Grid 12's because they bust up my little pinkie toes, I popped up to the race HQ at West Park to enter (yep, I really did enter the day before) and then spent the evening out with an old school pal Pete where I filled my face at Mad O'Rourkes Pie Facory and drinking at The Crooked House. Not an ideal prep I'm sure, but it's all part of the fun of training :-)
So, onto Sunday and the day of the race. The decision had been mad to race in my Brooks T6 racers but Shelly would have my Nike Marathoners with her as a possible swop when I finished the first lap if there were any problems
I woke up and eventually crawled out of bed about 2hrs before the race start after being nagged by Shelly and my mother to find that my Garmin had totally discharged overnight rather than charging. A light panic ensued but it was soon hooked up to the laptop and a beady eye was being kept on it to make sure it behaved. After a cuppa, some breakfast and more toilet breaks than I care to mention (that'll be the Mad O'Rourkes) we headed out to West Park en masse. I had the full support crew of Shelly, Rosie pup, Mom, Dad and Sister Shell along with her kids David, Charlie & George who were all doing the Fun Run event. After another quick toilet stop I made my way to the start line on the perimeter road and settled in 5-6 rows from the front. The course had changed from last year and the first of these changes was the start. The 2008 start had you running through the park along the paths/service roads, I'm sure it was a good idea at the time but it was so congested it took ages to get anywhere, this year they scrapped that and just used the main road around the outside of the park, much better.
I'd decided on a race plan based on Heart Rate after last years successfully paced effort of 130bpm to start and climbing 10 beats every 6 miles. This year I'd push it a tiny bit more and run 140bpm for the first of two laps and 150bpm for the second. A quick Garmin check showed it now had enough life in it and after a slight delay because some idiot in a car was forcing his way through the crowd of runners we were off. The start went well and I was cruising along amongst a rapidly thinning bunch of runners when I glanced down at my Garmin and disaster, no Heart Rate showing. I touched my chest in panic and realised that I'd left my chest strap in my change bag. Balls! That's stuffed that plan then, time for plan B ............. Just run it!
I took 4 SIS gels around the course with me and the plan was to run at a solid but comfortable pace, then stop and walk for a minute every 5 miles and take in a gel during the walk section. Luckily the drinks stations were approx every 2.5 miles so I just walked through every 2nd one taking a gel and drinking water. For the 1st lap I bounced myself back and forth from a group of half marathoners aiming to run sub 1:30. I'd catch them, have a chat and then ease away from them, when I stopped for a walk break they'd pass me and I'd ease my way back to them once I was running again. It was all far too comfortable and my average speed over 9mph I started wondering if I was going to suffer later on. I finished the first lap 'high 5ing' my nephews David, Charlie & George and then set about lap 2. Suddenly I was alone as everybody else seemed to turn off to the finish. 13.1miles came up in 1h27m and still running well I soon spotted a group of lads ahead. I kept my pace steady and slowly but surely they started to come back to me, it was very tempting to run through the 15mile drink station to save losing ground but I stuck to the plan and after a minutes walk break it was amazing how little the group had taken out of me and I was soon on their shoulders and running past them.
At 18miles it started to hurt but my pace was still good so I pushed on towards 20 miles and decided I'd only walk 30secs, but then walk for another 30s at the last feed station between 22-23 miles. An extra section added to the 2nd lap meant that the 20mile feed station was late and by the time I got to it I was hanging, I stopped and took my much needed walk/gel/drink break before heading out again. I was suffering now and before the end of the mile I felt the need to take the rest of my minute walk. This was my lowest point and my slowest mile at 7:37, it was uphill though. I started running again and although I was struggling I took encouragement from the fact that the Garmin kept on telling me that I was running sub 7's and the two lads I could see ahead were actually getting closer so I kept pushing on. With a couple of miles to go I knew that a sub 3hr time was in the bag so I could start to enjoy it a bit more, as I ran back towards West Park I caught and passed the runner ahead of me, High 5'd my nephews again and put the hammer down to the finishing line in a bid to catch the one runner I could still see, I got no nearer though as he was running just as hard. I crossed the line in 2:56:35 which turns out to be a new pb and although I haven't got a 'real' pb because I've never trained specifically for a Marathon it's still promising to see that I can hold on, expecially with 4hrs of training in my legs from the previous 2 days. Just after I'd finished I met up with an old work pal of mine whose wife had been running the Half Marathon. She'd been aiming for between 2:30 & 2:40 and I'd told her to run scared because I was going to be chasing her down (only kidding). She'd had an amazing run finishing in 2:25 and so we were all happy :-D.
So, race complete, job done, solid training session in the bag. The gel plan seemed to work ok (no stomach issues), the pacing plan seemed to work fine and the shoes???? Well they would have been a total revelation if they were just half a size bigger. I've now got a lovely busted up toenail to show for the race, but it's the only downside. No rubbing, no blisters, no racing flat injuries. Please Brooks, make the T6 in a UK 12.5 for me.
That'll do for now, it's Thursday and I started writing this on Monday...... Oh dear! I really must start making them shorter.
Until next time. Run Strong :-D
PS - Now can somebody tell me how to do that after a 112mile bike ride please. I'm not a greedy man, I'll happily add a minute a mile to my pace, just no more 4:30-5:00 times pleeeeease.