With 2 training camps scheduled into the first quarter of 2014, I realised that my plans to race Ironman in South Africa on 6th April were probably unrealistic. I really wanted to return and do justice to that race - and with a new course on the race's 10th anniversary I'd have loved to have been there this weekend. However, the demands of working these camps would be such that I'd be unable put in the preparation required for a successful race. I'd suffered enough there last year, and wasn't going to go back for more of the same!!
So…plan B. I decided that I'd like to have a crack at a marathon PB, and as it happens my local marathon and half marathon races - a very well organised event, where I achieved my existing PB of 2:57+ - falls on the same date as IM SA this year.
I've raced a few "straight" marathons i.e one which is not preceded by a swim and bike ride, and some of them I have trained specifically for and others I've done of the back of general Ironman training. Most people who know me, and the amount of general training and run training that I do, assume that I could pretty much show up and run a marathon. I could - however, racing a marathon ,or achieving a challenging target, DOES require very specific training. The difference in the times that I have run with or without that specific training plan reflect this.
2014 started off very well for me in that regard, following a 12 week schedule based on Hal Higdon's "Advanced" plan. I was quite enjoying the focus, and being based in the UK through the winter, running is the best way to invest those limited training hours. I became closer to my local running club, Running Forever, revived their Monday evening track sessions by making a commitment to turn up weekly to lead a session, and switched my usual Saturday Morning club ride for the local ParkRun. The first 7 weeks of the plan were going great…consistent weekly routine and steadily building mileage.
I knew things would get mroe difficult to manage once I relocate to Lanzarote for 4 weeks in Feburary and March to run two back-to back high volume training camps; Epic Woman and our own EverydayTraining Ironman camp. Not only would I have limited time to do my own training within the camp's heavily bike focused schedules and additional organisational work each morning and evening, but I'd be coming out of each camp very fatigued. On top of that, I got sick - and suffered a flu and persistent chesty infection pretty much through that whole period. So, although each camp did have a run requirement, and offered some opportunities to put in some intensity ..you can see form my training log that I was barely maintaining the run fitness that I have achieved up to mid February.
Well - that's the excuses laid down!! What I must take responsibility for is not properly adjusting my targets or adapting my race strategy. Whilst a PB might have been off the cards, a successful run and the perhaps the win were still possibilities....had I been a bit smarter in race day.
I took a gamble, though, and set out at my original target PB pace - and really enjoyed the first lap, running around with the half marathoners, many of whom are club-mates, others that I train with or see at local events. I was leading the marathon and there weren't even any other female marathon runners in sight when I went through halfway in about 1:28, still on pace and still feeling decent.
I had suffered a little from the lack of porta-loos along the course - not sure why I was having tummy issues, but possible that it was due to running at this higher than "steady" intensity for longer than I was trained for. But, apart from the short detours that this required, I didn't really consider it took ugh of a problem until maybe the third or fourth occasion which roughly coincided with a sudden loss of pace and an obsession with trying to replace fluids and take on some energy. I was passed by an extremely energetic woman, who I attempted to keep up with for a short period, to find that I couldn't raise my pace over 4:50/km….my legs and feet were hurting and I was feeling utterly rotten. The second lap of the taunton marathon is pretty tough -the majority of those participating in the event run the half -marathon and the field and support is very much reduced, and dispersed, after they all finish.
During yet another detour into the fields I was passed for a second time…slipping into third place, and barely caring. I'd lost all hope of a good time, let alone that PB…and have another painful 7 miles to go. I planned to withdraw at the upcoming village where I knew my mother would be supporting, with the car.
My former coach , Scott Molina once told me that he never took his wife or family to support at races. the reason was that, when you are feeling like utter crap, and you see them …you just want to stop for some of that love and sympathy. And they will generally let you. Lucky for me (although I did n't think so at the time) there were club mates of mine at that point too. Between them they persuaded, or rather- shamed, me into finishing. During that brief stop I'd had some water and a gel and did actually feel better for the break. I was still in 3rd place and a male club mate passed us. I can't let him beat me…i said, as iran off again, with much better pace than before.
A short wile up the road, another woman reached my shoulder. Oh crap - I'm not going to get passed again in the last 3 miles! I had a look at her and she seemed to be in as bad a state as I was…so I gave a small surge (very small -think slow motion!) which was enough. The "hilly" part of the course was ahead of us, and I was glad that despite my sever loss of pace all my endurance and cycling mean that I generally have strength to run the hills steadily. I passed several runners and put a safe amount of road between myself and 4th woman. The final couple of miles were really painful - but that's always going to be the case even when well trained! I managed to catch and pass the club mate that I'd been chasing, and finally finished in about 3:20…with a hugely positive split!! I'm not sure that I have ever run a worse marathon time outside of Ironman…other than the one which went up the Jungfrau. It was a very disappointing day but I can't blame my legs - they did what they could with the training they were given. Full responsibility goes to my brain! The women's race was won in 3:10. A decent time, but certainly with smarter pacing I should have run at least as fast as that in my current state of fitness.
However, I have to remind myself that I entered this race with one goal - a PB -and despite all those reasons to excuse failure that happened between setting the goal and doing the race, the fact remains that if u don't commit to the pace on the day, there was no chance of achieving it.
Unfortunately, the price for the gamble not paying off was painful, humiliating and disappointing. But despite my incredibly sore legs and body…I really want to have another go at it!!!