Training for this, my second marathon, had gone pretty well. I’d put all the long runs in and managed to keep in nice low HR zones at a good pace. So I was hoping to crack the 4hr barrier for the first time in a raced marathon. I had run this marathon last year, which was my first marathon, and managed to do a 4hrs 14min time on what was a hot and dead still day. That course had not had any significant hills, really none at all, and since the course had been changed there were a several small, 20-30m, climbs thrown in for fun J
What can you control when you run a race? You can train appropriately. You can plan for reasonable eventualities. You can prepare mentally. What you can’t do is prepare for the crazy moments or control the weather conditions. The good thing about the crazy things is that they’re rare! The good thing about the weather conditions is that everyone else has to put up with them. I had trained as well as I could. I had planned a pacing strategy based on my training and racing and I was ready for most weather conditions. The
crazy stuff, well who knew!
The weather forecast for the race had been consistent over the previous few days. Rain, heavy rain and strong (20mph) winds. As I left the house it looked likely that the rain might start at any time, Chester is 40mins away from my home. In the end there was NO rain at any point of the race. The wind was definitely there but it was constant and not gusting, when I tend to find saps my energy much more. As I got to the race and put my bag in I loaded up my drinks bottles, 6 x 8oz 4/1 carb protein sports drink, and made my way to the start. I had come to the race with 2 friends one of which was much faster than me, the other quite a bit slower. As we approached the start we separated into our timed zones and awaited the bell.
At 9.05, after a short delay the race started.
The first mile saw us run around the race course and up a small hill into the town of Chester.
Due to the numbers of participants this mile was a bit slower than ideal but 8.31 it was well within target. My simple plan was to pass 7 mile marker at 1hr, the 14 at 2hr, the 21 at 3hrs then see what I had left. My HR was nice and easy at 121 and cadence 83, a bit slow but the hill and congestion meant I was spot on.
Mile 2 completed in 8.17, just to pull the time back from the first mile, looking to average 8.23 for the race. HR was fine at 140, nicely aerobic and cadence was still 83, and the crowds of runners were starting to thin.
Mile 3 everything going very nicely with 8.21 at a 141 heart rate and cadence steady. Took my first drink and felt really strong.
Miles 4 through 13 were run directly into the 20mph wind which saw my HR rise slowly up to just around 150. Cadence for these miles was a solid 83 and everything felt OK. My plan was to take 5 caf tabs at this point and my 2nd dose of Sportlegs. Having taken these, and with the added benefit of the 20mph wind behind me, everything was looking and feeling fine.
Miles 14-16 saw my HR rise to average over 150 for the first time, coming in at 154. Cadence was still fine at 83. It was near the end of mile 16 that the unexpected happened. For some reason there were several cyclists on the road and many of them were coming towards us. Starting to feel a bit tired I had my head down on one occasion and was very narrowly missed by a girl on a bike. As I re-started after having to stop to avoid her, my legs felt, for the first time ever, like they were working on remote control J It was at this point that I ran through a turn! Head down I continued to run for another few mins before looking up and noticing that there was nobody there! I then turned and made my way back to the course, noticing that the race marshal was chatting to a young girl rather than marshaling! Back on the course I tried to push on but I found my HR would run up to 160 in very short time. As I started putting walk breaks in I noticed that my HR was very slow to drop. I took the opportunity to drink as much as felt comfortable and got back going.
Miles 17-20 average out at 9.20 pace. HR was solidly around the 155 area and I started using most of the water at the stops as a way of cooling myself down. I had hoped the rain would come to do this for me but in its absence I decide there was nothing else to do than to take my top off! This had the desired effect of reducing my HR but did require me to stop for 90 sec while I did it. This meant that mile 21 was 11.05 but with a much more acceptable 147 HR.
Mile 22 was much improved at 9.23 but did see my HR get back to 151 average.
Miles 23 – 27! All averaged 10.05 as I tried to keep my HR sub 150. The encouragement of the crowds and helpers was especially great at this time and I started playing the “F%$k your legs” segment I had pulled out of the Marathon Talk podcast in order to keep it all in perspective!
As I crossed the line my HR peaked back at 160 and I completed the course in an official chip time of 4.03.16.
Well, well. The result was not what I had hoped for. The weather conditions had been an issue BUT I had done more than ever before to reduce these to manageable levels. In fact if it had rained I have no doubt I would have finished faster. The big thing I did not plan for was stupidity. No one elses – mine! My friend recorded a total race distance of 26.3 miles for the run. I had run an extra .79 miles due to….. to….. me. Ah, well. There are some things you CAN control in a race then again…….. J
PS I’d like to give a massive thanks to all the DM gals and guys who have encouraged me over the months. They were all in the back of my mind as I was running. I’m sorry I didn’t do what I’d hoped but unfortunately there are limits to what you can plan for. I'd also like to thank Coach Geoff, from PRS Fit who provided my training plan. Ta Geoff!