Marathon (Take 3)

I have now ran three marathons. The second until last week was the best. Running within the shadow of Snowdon through the heartland of the National Park, I was just out to complete the course and with it managed to get a new PB.

But lets face it. That was not hard. Any of my mates with a little training could have beaten my time from my first Marathon. Lets set the scene.

I had worked and trained hard to compete in the Manchester Marathon and as most first timers I wanted to get that all magical four hours. Lets face it, runners and numbers are worse than mathematicians, whats the point of doing a 10K if its not below an hour, a half if it’s more than 1:50 and a marathon if its four hours plus. As we all know from this time last year the Manchester Marathon went horribly wrong for me. Coming in at 4:20 something, (that bad I can’t even remember, and I normally know my PB’s and times to the second)

The Biblical conditions we had on that day were not good for a run, the course and the organisation was not fantastic. The crowd support was the only element that kept you strong as you battled your demons to make it across the line.

Roll on a year, with two marathons, several more 10Ks and halfs under my belt and a lot more experience on how to take on this beast that sits so high on every runners tick sheet. To be honest I thought it was going to be  rubbish. My whole no booze and sensible eating had gone out of the window mid February and I had lost the fun of running and really couldn’t be bothered to run more than 40 minutes at a time. I did however manage to squeeze three long runs in and like Snowdon I kept telling myself ‘You have a marathon in the legs you know how to do this”

With this I had three times in my head. I had read some where that it is always good to have three times, as you  will always have something to cling to or chase if the first one slips away. The times were a rather ambitious 3:30, 3:45 and off course the time I have been running after ever since I laced up my running shoes when I first embarked on the 26 miles 385 yard jaunt. The golden four hours.

The week leading up to race day had been good, I was carb loading and stuffing my face with seeds and nuts, drinking plenty of water. I had a sport massage, did a gentle 3K and some walking, but the rest of the week I was seen to be sleeping and sitting on my arse. Race day itself arrived and as I rose to find the conditions perfect for marathon running the odd black cloud did send a shiver down the spine, but apart from a few spots of rain just before the starters gun, this was going to be a dry race.

I arrived at the athlete village and even after attending several of these races I still find it comical watching people prepare. Some do running laps, others stretch, some just listen to music. I too had my own routine which I set about to while waiting for the latest possible time to remove my hoody and deposit my bag.

Before I knew it, I was on my way to the start line which was a short walk from the race village and as I followed the crowd I began to hunt for my race pen. As we were all gathering the chatting started with your nearest competitor. Subjects ranging from where they had come from, to how many marathons they had in the legs and then as if by magic the nervous banter faded to complete silence. 26 seconds of complete silence followed by an outburst of clapping in respect of the Boston Marathon.

Shortly after we were away and once again the river of colour on the Manchester streets filled my heart with joy. I was doing this, I was taking part in a special run. I always love seeing the stream of people and here at the start and later on, you often doubled back on the course so you could see those ahead or behind you.

The race itself was being ran fast. Not too fast that I felt it was uncontrollable. I kept going from 8.15 to 8.30 pace. Think I was averaging around 8.20 a mile and soon I would be hitting the 10K mark in 52 minutes. Well inside what I needed and also on course for the 3:45. I had the pace maker in my sights at all time, and was slowly gaining ground on him, and then at around mile 7 he dashed off into the tree’s. I now had to use my watch and pay special attention to the pace.

Before I knew it I was in Sale, then Brooklands, and on our way to Altrincham where I would see my Ma and Pa. this was also half way and I was still feeling strong. I went though at 1:51:22, still on target. Everything had gone right so far. My gel popping was working, my fluid in take was good. The crowds were just adding to the buzz and enjoyment. But then it was about to go wrong. Mile 18 through to 22/23 was coming up and once again this was to take us from the urban sprawl to the outskirts of the open countryside where support was none and many a runner will be running full throttle into the wall.

I knew what the wall was, I had felt it several times before and I could feel it now. I began to map out the course, working out how long it was till I got back into civilisation and as I counted to 100 over and over, my pace went as low as 10:00 a mile, I fought to keep it at 9, or 9:30 knowing that I had banked some extra time earlier on in the race and before I knew it I could hear the crowds. The shouts of not long…. less than 5k to go. I watched checked and saw I was back on 8:15 miles, and remembered back to the 20 mile mark that saw me go through in 2:51. Some quick maths about my 10K time and I knew I was on course for a sub 3:45. I was going to break the golden 4 hours, I was going after my second time. I speeded up, the wall had now been climbed, the warm up was over now it was time to race.

I took on water at every aid station, I popped my last gel, I took jelly babies, I laughed with the crowd, they shouted and cheered and I was running I was in my element. The night before I had tweeted that I was not confident in Marathons, it was my least favourite distance, but now I was loving it.

But then something hit the back of my leg. I looked to see that it was a water bottle and that the guy behind me at mile 24 screamed ‘Cramp. Fucking bloody cramp’ I thought, should I help…. Others would… But wait, I’m on to a new PB, if I stop I might not get going… this is why we have marshals, the crowd could help him…. I chose to go on when an other runner ran alongside and said ‘You okay’ “No I have bloody cramp, bloody shitty fucking cramp” I left him to moan about it. I felt his pain, as with two miles to go to get cramp is a disaster, but he never stopped to stretch.

I turned into Chester Road, and it was home time, the crowds were getting bigger. Then suddenly the 3:45 pacer over took me. What? No! I was going to lose the sub 3:45 in the last mile. I sped up, and clung to him. Thinking I was always 100 meters behind him at the start, so I just need to keep that distance and I’ll be fine.

I saw Tesco’s, I saw Old Trafford, I saw the finishing Tunnel and I ran, I ran like Mo on the home straight of the 10,000. passing the pacer ‘Excuse me… Coming through…. Excuse me…. On your Left….’ I ran like I was late for work, fixing on the clock. 3:43:22. It was going to be a sub 3:45. I crossed the line, I stopped my watch, I looked at electronic numbers beaming back at me, I stumbled and turned to look at the clock… I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I had done it. I had got my Sub 4, I had got my sub 3:45.

A year on from my first marathon which couldn’t have been more of a disaster, to now… I walked to the medal station, thinking if I hadn’t slowed I could have got a 3:40, If I had picked the pace up I could have got a 3:30.

But hey, that’s why there are other marathon.

 

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The Physio and I

Its coming up to a year when I entered a hall filled with tables and stands from various companies who gave away free samples of their drinks, gels, socks all in the vain hope you would buy in to their brand loyalty. I quickly skipped past these tables to fail leaving the building with the knowledge that I had not signed up to any year-long deals or emptied my wallet of cash in order to buy the latest in cooling fabric technology or lycra curing tights to ease any muscle aches and pains. No what had happened is my eye caught that of a woman behind a table for a physio practice.

I had for many months been trying to find somewhere that did sport massage as all the forums and mags were shouting from the roof tops how good a deep tissue massage was and it should be part of your training sitting along side your hill, speed, tempo and long runs. I began to talk to said woman about it being my first marathon and how training had gone only to be signed up to a 50% off session. Well I thought, I could always not attend, but then again I would properly need a good rub down afterwards and even then it’s one session.

As we all know I was in pain for the next week. DOMS had struck with vengeance, except it was not so much delayed as ‘You’ve finished? Right lads let make him suffer. Legs, refuse to move and if you do make sure he knows about it’ It was with this that I had managed to climb out of bed and get to my physios table. When he had finished he asked me about mobility and said he could get me to touch my toes, and that a good runner as good mobility and he could help me with this. 

Before I knew it I was attending every month. Now while I get on with my physio, and would say we are friends. I ask him about his house his bought and we chat about running, latest food, exercise studies I feel I am trapped. I don’t feel like I can end the relationship. A little like when people see a councilor or a shrink… Its only those with the power and not the client who know when it is time to finish. After all why would they inform you that you no longer need to attend, that’s basically them giving up work and if they can see you are getting better they have the power to slow down the treatment and drag it out for as long as they like. 

The trouble is, I enjoy it and feel it has helped. As well as being a physio he has also helped me to move better, giving me advice and work outs to strengthen parts of my body that I have neglected, but the biggest part is that he has nipped issue in the butt before they began. Several times I would complain of niggles and within minutes he would be on the scene and instructing me to do exercise X and sure enough within days the niggle was gone. 

I have also seen a vast improvement in my times. When I started seeing him, my PB for 10K was 55, and for the half it was 1:49. They now sit at 40 minutes and 1:35. I find that for my marathon this Sunday, the one where it all began I will be smashing a large chunk of time off.

So while I will be sad to let him go, and have often felt trapped in his clutches, almost like a smoker is addicted to the evil temptress of nicotine, without him I feel my running this year would have ben a very different story. 

To echo the forums and mags, having a physio really is as important to your training as all the other elements. 

Change of Plan

It’s always good to have a plan B. Lets face it what kind of General would you be if you didn’t have a ‘Plan B’ even shouting the orders to ‘retreat’ is a kind of Plan B.

I once read a book. I have since read several others, but none of the others offer the information to explain the subject of this blog. Sure I could try to use the plot of Jurassic Park except they were not clever enough to have a Plan B as they thought everything would be okay and that was like me on my first Marathon. Hang on, wait a minute… I have just referenced another book to explain my point.

The point is, that in the book I was reading all about Marathons the runner talked about some advice he got from a coach. That tiny bit of advice as seen the way I train and think about races completely change. Within the advice the coach offered, she said always have three times in your head.

Simple really. It explains where I have gone wrong. My first Marathon was like many other people’s. I dreamed of getting around the course within the golden four hours. I didn’t even think about any other times and so when my Garmin read 3:30 at 18 miles I knew I had blown it and with it my sense of caring. I was now just going to finish. At the Manchester 10K when I wanted to break my PB, and saw with a Kilometre to go that this was not going to happen I just slowed down to my Sunday run pace. Time only mattered if it was better than the last.

However when I ran my latest half. I had three times. Sub 1:30, Sub 1:35 and 1:40. The latter I knew I could achieve. When I saw I was not going to do a Sub 1:30 my determination and energy went in to obtaining the 1:35, which as we know paid off. Without these three times in my head I think I may have just slowed and crossed in rather disappointing but still respectful 1:45.

So what has this got to do with my ‘Plan B’ well my marathon , which I have coming up has three times. To break the four-hour time, followed by 3:45 or really trying my luck 3:30. However my training has been a little lax, and my long runs have only been lengthy in terms of the time between me getting my trainers on and running. Not to beat my self up, I would like to say I have done two long runs of 20 miles, and one of 16. But that is not enough and with todays run of a little sneaky speedy 10K and speed session I decided that I should concentrate my efforts on chasing a new 10K PB of sub 40 or a sub 35 and just be happy to complete the marathon course. As long as I come in within 4:15 it will be a new PB and I should be happy with that.

I said to my friend after Snowdon that I would never doing the distance again, but with me going to New Zealand and Manchester being my first, I just had to race it again and while I enjoying running long, I must admit that I think my distance wis the half. I enjoy the way it is long but also fast. 26.2 miles just seems nothing more that a long time on your feet which you have to pace correctly.

So with only five weeks to go, I think I will start on my 10K training and sneak in some long runs just so I can complete the last Marathon I will possibly run in the UK.

The Island Race Review

‘ogee ogee ogee’ The race announcer shouted down the mic. The day had already turned out to be positive as I stood limbering up basking in the spring sun. The day was turning out to be nice. The right temperature and just the right amount of breeze. I knew this race was going to be good as I was in Wales standing on the other side of the Menai Bridge which I would soon be running over and shortly after will be taking in the views of the Victorian pier of Bangor, the impressive Norman Castle built by Edward and the stunning mountains of Snowdonia. Every run in Wales is always good. Some thing to tell the grandkids about. The weather also does not disappoint.

“Ogee Ogee Ogee” the announcer repeated after the crowd of 800 chanted back “Oi, Oi, Oi” and soon the countdown began. ‘Fifty seconds, forty Nine, forty eight’ As he counted he interspersed with messages of good luck, and look out for one another. I knew from that moment that this will be a good race and then the gun went and we all clapped before realising that this was a race and we darted across to cross the line.

The race had begun. Forget Marathon pace I was on one and as I looked down to see me moving a slow pace as the bottle neck plodded over the iconic road bridge I un-clipped my headphones and politely asked the more pedestrian runners to ‘Move’. Now I should have taken this as a sign. Last year on my Half marathon before the full 26.2 mile event I made the same mistake and shot out from the start line like a bullet and this year I promised myself i would do marathon pace, test when I needed to pop a gel and all that stuff the mags tell you but then the little devil woke and whispered ‘You could do this in a sub 1:35’ That was all it took.

The minute I had left the bridge I was running like never before. The tunes pumping which I was glad off as crowd support was thin on the ground. But who needed the people cheering you on when you had views of Bangor across the water, a 800 year old castle, a course which was car free and while not flat was not excessively hilly for Wales but still gave your lungs and heart a good work out on the uphill sections without really loosing that much pace.

The course was an out and back with the added bonus that while you ran away from the mountains of Snowdonia, the return trip would have them in full panoramic Technicolor laid in front of you. This was a race for seasonal runners as the amount of people I passed on the return loop still plodding to the half way point were few and far the majority crossed the line before the 2 hour mark. Off course not that it is not a beginner friendly course. The start and the end had a very warm ‘were doing this together’ mentally.

I loved this race. At the end there was your slate engraved medal, cups of water, fruit, chocolate, biscuits and then outside the finishers enclosure an array of burger fans and ice cream sellers along with activities for the family and friends who cam to support. The Marshals were friendly and efficient, the course information and pre race details spot on. A map of the area for those who were not familiar with Anglesey would have been a bonus. Car parking was free and there was plenty off it if you got there in time. The only down side was the goody bag that contained a poncho and leaflets from the Welsh Tourist board and some energy/protein powder thing.

All in all, this was a good race. It’s in its second year and I can see it growing bigger and while the course could handle it, the start line may have to be moved away from the iconic bridge but it has plenty more gems to make up for that loss. the other flaw is like all races on this scale is you can’t control who goes to the front and those who have a slow pace or can’t keep the fast pace up seem to be at the start causing a lot of pushing and shoving from the faster more competitive runners behind them. The course for the first mile is also on narrow streets which also adds to this very small issue that did not spoil the event.

Oh and I got my new PB. A sub 1:35 by 8 seconds.

My Dad Often Asks…

When I do return to the nest which hand on heart is not as many times as I could but since I got my car is more than the Christmas visit that I use to grace my parents with, my father would often ask me a question. This may be the first subject on the card, or it may be slipped in at some juncture during the days events.

I have never and will never answer the question and that is because I can’t. I’ve tried to detail the answer in a blog but failed. The failure haunts me every time I go to write a new entry as it sits in the drafts section waiting to be completed and finally published.

The question is not to be compared to one of life’s mysteries or indeed a question you want to shy away from. The question is pure and simple. The question is ‘What has been your best race?’

‘Best Race’ In terms of what. Personal Best, crowd, scenery, atmosphere, achievement. I have run many a race and find it hard to answer. I trouble with answering the question of what my favourite distance is.

The only way I could answer it is if I was to break it down. After all the Manchester 10K would be number one, as it was my first race and I enjoyed the atmosphere and passion of everyone who watches and participates. Plus the added bonus is it’s in my back yard. However the Conwy Half scores highly as it always see’s me smash my PB for the distance and starts under the gaze of my favourite castle in Wales and also takes me up the Orme. (Oo-er missus). But then Snowdon Marathon would come top as the crowd support was immense and I was under the careful scrutiny of my beloved mountain range the entire time. But the Liverpool Half would have to score a mention as I don’t think there has been a course which has carried support for the entire length. Manchester Marathon as it was my first for that distance and if I was to award the number one spot to Manchester for that reason then ‘The Great North’ would have to sit alongside it as that was my first half, with the added bonus I crossed one of my top 5 bridges and saw 6 others. It’s also on every runners bucket list as a must do race which I can now tick off.

So the simple question that my dad fields me every time I return to the Scott household may seem like a harmless innocent inquiry  but the boundaries and categories on what makes a good race are so far apart.

That question is about to get harder to answer as I am about to race again in Wales, what seems like the home of PB’s but in a race which if I run well could see it be catapulted to the top spot knocking Manchester and Conwy clear out of sight. For tomorrow is ‘The Island Race’

It’s 13.1 miles my favourite distance. It is taking place in Wales which followers of the blog do not need to be told is my favourite country. It’s taking place on Anglesey which is one of my favourite Islands (and there are others) and starts by running over The Menai Bridge which you guessed it joins the Tyne Bridge in my top five. Did I also mention I run around a castle which is also found in my top five castle list and I will be able to see the mountain ranges of Snowdonia. So all I need is for it to be a good course, a good time, and wonderful weather and I think finally I may be able to answer the question ‘What has been your favourite race’ Well until I run another event that is.

But even with all those ticks might see me choose to run it again but to answer the question is not just about, course, crowd, scenery, or even performance. It’s about how you feel. Every race has seen me run and become over powered by different emotions. Manchester Marathon has me believe I was going to die, I wanted out as the pain was too bad but the thought that only 1% of the world will ever run this distance spurred me on. Bangor 10K saw me run with passion as I crossed the line in shearing heat and almost a state of exhaustion. Snowdon taught me to pace and race well to cross the line for the first time feeling I had more to give, Manchester is the simple joy of running with people in their prime and those who entered in a drunken bet. King Johns Road on the Great North was only completed when the thought of those people who sponsored me and the way their kind contributions would help the Cancer Charity Christies to carry on their work allowed me to push on through my pain to reach the euphoria that is the ‘Runner High’.

So the very notion that I could answer the question is ridiculous. Every race, even a bad one will always be the best as I will be rewarded with the best drug in the world. That feeling of knowing you have pushed your body to the extremes and have survived.

Rest

We all need it. That is why we sleep. But it can all be a bit boring.

For those who read the wonderful post yesterday from my legs then you may be able to guess what this short post is about. I need to rest before my race on Sunday. I somewhat over did the running and speed work this week after having a little unwelcome break from my running due to work commitments and the sudden lost in faith that led to me not being bothered and losing any kind of motivation to get out and run.

Like a novice I dived back in with both feet and ran up the miles. I ignored the screams and pleads from my legs to stop and carried on. While my legs do not feel heavy they have a touch of the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) So with this I said that Friday and Saturday will be rest. Plenty of carbs and protein and feet up. The truth of the matter is, I want to run.

This sitting about lark is a tad boring. I would like to go and walk or run even cycle but I fear any extra stress or pressure I put on the tired legs will result in failure on Sunday. Speaking of which I am still undecided if to run a PB or just run the course. I know deep down that my mind is attracted to a new PB as I am looking at the Pace I will need to obtain a Sub 1:35, and that is after all why I have legs up resting. If I was to just run and practice my marathon pace, taking on gels etc then I would not be to concerned with the state of my legs. If anything it would be good practice to see how I cope with tired legs. After all come Mile 20 that is how they will feel.

But resting is what I am doing. Gentle exercise on the foam rollers and the Stick to ease knots. Wearing my compression clothing to help freshen my legs. Eating the right food, and drink the right liquid all to ensure my legs are fresh and ready for Sunday.

Oh well. Off to eat some more seeds and nuts and rest up some more. I might just go for a gentle stroll round town to get the blood flowing to help the repair.

A letter

To Thomas,

I know you enjoy it and you read all the mags and articles on that world wide web thingy. I even know you have that race coming up and that you are determined to break some PB in a couple of months time. But I do beg you to listen to me.

I enjoyed the two weeks off that I had and really enjoyed taking it easy but you must remember I am not a car. I can’t be started up and driven long distances, I need to warm up and get back in the game.

After this week, and I will be the first to admit the mileage is very little and the work load has been on the small scale but I am feeling it. Feeling so much that come Sunday I may refuse to play ball at the start line and if I do play along I may throw in the towel in the last 400 meters.

So if you don’t want a DNF on you record then may I suggest you spend the next two days giving me a rest. Giving me some TLC. It’s all well and good running long and hard and doing hills and speed work but like you I need time to recover and the harder you train the longer I need.

Off course you are able to help in this matter. Some more protein, seeds, nuts, fruit. Less bad fat and chocolate. Plenty of stretching after the runs. At least half an hour. You use to be so good at your warm downs now you seem to think a poxey five minutes with the foam roller will suffice. Well have I got news for you… It won’t.

Like a car I need the correct fuel and maintenance. If you spend time looking after me I will perform and keep on performing for many years to come. I’ve shown my worth in the past… Looking how your PB’s keep being smashed. Look how far I have carried you. The speed I have travelled.

So please take note. I’m tired, and I really don’t want us to fall out over this as I know how happy you get when pounding the streets. But you won’t be happy when I can’t carry you forward and get an injury.

I hear from Left and Right Foot that you treated them to some new socks and trainers. They pass on their gratitude. Now if you can only show me the same respect and give me some rest. The miles I am use too. The new training scheme of hills and speed is something I need to get use to, and this needs time. Heart and Lung do their best, but over the years I’ve adapted to long distance and need time to adjust. And I’m not just talking about in training. Recovery is when I grow and repair myself and at the moment you are refusing to give me that time.

So I beg of you Thomas. Please surrender the trainers until Sunday and allow me and your body to recover.

Thank you for your time

Your’s

Legs.