Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dublin City Marathon, Oct 25th 2010

The big day finally arrived! This was my first Marathon in seven years, second in twelve years and my 20th overall. It had been so long since my previous Marathon that I really considered my self a novice again - and was, rightly, concerned about overconfidence. In spite of everything, I had set myself a personal goal of sub 3:10 - a rule of thumb is double your Half-Marathon time, plus 10 min. I'd done 1:33:15 for the Half-mar mark in Cork to Cobh, earlier in October, so that equated to 3:16:30. Six minutes doesn't sound much on paper, but it's nearly a mile on the road. Hindsight has shown that the target was too ambitious.

Conditions on the day were pretty good; a bit on the cold side, but little or no wind and no rain. I had toyed with putting a "Cancer survivor" strip on my singlet and, after discussing it with the Irish Cancer Society and friends, I decided to go with this, on both my front and back.

My daughter & I headed for the start area early enough, jogging the 2 miles or so from her place. After a bit of 'arsing around', looking for friends and acquaintances, we separated - she was going in the 3:30+ start corral, while I was in the sub 3:30 area. I met up with a few clubmates while we waited for the start, but I was always going to run on my own - I find it easier to 'get in the groove' running on my own. Before the off, I was well wrapped up in a load of throwaway gear - raggy t-shirt, gloves, cap and one of those white process/pharmaceutical operator type boiler suits.

Eventually the gun went and we were off. I maintain that the first mile, in particular, should be no faster than your average intended target pace, but I felt that I was working a bit too hard early on and eased back a little. Loads of people were passing me - more than I'd expected - but then numbers were twice those of my last previous marathon (Dublin 2003, 3:13:29).

I passed the first mile in 7:25 or so. This was a bit of a disappointment as I was hoping to get it pretty close to target pace of 7:10, particularly as the first mile had an overall drop. Nevertheless, I wasn't too bothered, but the next 4 miles were largely climbing slightly. I ran away steadily for the next few miles, but they were all around the 7:20 mark. The throwaway t-shirt came off at 4 miles, but got tucked into my waistband (just in case I'd made a mistake and needed it again) and my name and 'Cancer Survivor' strips were revealed. From then on all the way round it was mayhem - I got *absolutely HUGE support*, with people cheering and calling my name. It was brilliant! One drawback though, was that it probably got my adrenaline going too much in the early stages.

Running through Phoenix Park, at about 4 miles, I got the fright of my life when the 3:15 pacing group came through - I was approx. 1.25 mins down on target pace, so it was up my game. I quickly got into a better pace and started working a bit harder,knocking in consistent miles in the 6:52 to 7:05 range. Except for the 7th mile, which had a fairly severe uphill section, I managed to run the section between 4M and 19M, in 1:46:32, just 30 secs slower than I'd run the Cork to Cobh 15M race earlier in the month.

I went through 19M in 2:18:55 and felt good. We had a tough little hill coming up and I held back a little. Because of this, I lost a little bit of ground on those around me. After the hill, I went to work back the lost ground and very soon disaster struck! I got a bulging muscle hamstring cramp in my right leg. This brought me to a pretty quick stop. I managed to massage the cramp and get back on pace pretty quickly, however I had to stop twice more in the next mile or so. I still managed to go through 20 in 2:26:16, giving 7:21 for that last mile, in spite of the stops.

Unfortunately the 'head went' and I figured that I should have gone through 20M in around 2:08:00, and that I was about 18 min behind schedule. This, combined with the cramping led me to jogging and walking the rest of the way. I missed the 21M mark and went through 22M in 2:43:16 (My best for the full distance is 2:46:03, set in Dublin in 1988), so my pace had slowed to 8:17/mile. I missed all of the splits from there to the finish - I suppose my mind wasn't 100% on my surroundings after that.

Coming through the last mile, along the north side of Trinity College, I got a huge cheer from a small group including my wife Deirdre, who'd managed to gather a group of cheering strangers. I did a quick turnaround, coming back about 10metres to give her a hug and a kiss - she deserved it, after all the support she's given me over the past three or four years, in particular. I also did it to show her that I was OK.

There was only about a half a mile left after that and I finished in 3:21:52 - my second slowest ever, but *definitely* the most satisfying! After crossing the finish line I was interviewed by the press, being quoted in one of the national papers the following day and my photo appearing in several others.

This was very important to me. I wanted to make a loud statement that Cancer does not have to be the end of 'normal' life. I strongly advise any Cancer survivor to make a similar statement. Your speed/pace doesn't matter a F(iddlers)! YOU are sending a *very* strong message to everyone dealing with Cancer in their everyday lives and that message gives them an enormous lift. They may not know you, but, by God, does it give them heart.

Before running the Marathon, with the 'Cancer Survivor' strip, I was apprehensive about appearing foolish with it. I need not have worried. the feedback I got afterwards was absolutely tremendous and positive. Since then I've run a Half-Marathon wearing the 'Cancer Survivor' strip. It's not something I intend doing all the time - only in high profile events AND where I think wearing it will make a difference.

Apart from the usual blisters, pretty uncomfortable aches and pains and general muscle soreness, for several days, I had little after-effects. On the leakage side, I had very slight leakage on the day. Probably about a tablespoonful in all. Not bad considering that I'd been out from 7:30am until approx. 3pm. I'll live with that anyday!

Since October 25th, I've run many races, from 1M to Half-Marathons, on the road, track and some harrowing cross-country races. I might get round to writing about some of these.....On the other hand, it's taken me nearly 5 months to finish this particular entry! I'll do something....just don't hold your breath!

PS: My daughter finished just 3 minutes after me, knocking a massive 26 minutes off her best time!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lead up to Dublin City Marathon's almost Christmas...nearly two months after the must be time for me to write a race report [rolls eyes]

My preparation for this Marathon was meticulous. I'd been planning and organising my training strategy for this for well over a year.....Then, in the last two weeks, I threw the rule book out and probably blew my chances of achieving my aim of a) a National Championship medal in the M55 category and b) a sub 3:10 time. The first of these was definitely achievable, while the second was VERY ambitious.

Anyway....the things that nearly blew my chances:
The first was running not one, but two cross-country races, in the last fortnight. I was spouting the 'tried and tested' running philosophy of not going hard in the last fortnight, as it can do harm..."you can't do to little, but you CAN do too much"

On Sunday 10th October, I ran in the Cork AAI County Masters XC Chps and, while having a good run, I finished fourth scorer on Eagle's M50 team. I was a bit disappointed but hadn't tapered properly, so wasn't overly concerned. I don't think that did much, if any, harm.

The next thing did, however I had little control over the incident. I was in Dublin for two days of training in the Irish Cancer Society's Peer to Peer mentoring scheme and stayed in a hotel close to some of the Marathon route. On my first day there I went for a 7 mile run, including part of the Marathon course. I was flying and thought that the last 6 miles of the Marathon course was 'a doddle'.

Afterwards I had a shower and then the trouble started......when I was finishing I inadvertently turned one of the dual controls the wrong way. Instead of turning off the water, as I thought, I turned the hot control to full blast!! Normally hot is around 55-60C. This was at least 80C!!! I reeled and staggered with shock, falling in the process (The shower was in a bath, rather than a walk in unit). I was screaming in pain, all the time trying to get out of the bath. I fell back four times in all. After the last time I thought to myself "If you don't get out now, you're going to die here!" It took some effort, but I got out. Two months later and I still find it inexplicable. The mind boggles at the thought of someone having a fatal accident in a hotel shower.....almost incredible as it sounds. Immediately afterwards, I stepped back into the shower, under the cold water, and stayed there for about a half hour - that probably prevented deep burns, though I was pretty sore in the areas that the shower had hit. I was also sore, due to the fall itself, all along my left hand side, including neck, shoulder, hip and thigh. I honestly thought my Marathon had run its course.

I went for a run the following morning and felt all the sore spots. I was absolutely gutted.....and my self-confidence was in trouble too! I continued to train over the next few days, but the 'bounce' was gone. Nevertheless the following Sunday, I ran in the AAI Munster Novice XC in Macroom. This was only 8 days before the Marathon and was probably the main thing that went against me in preparation. It was silly to run in this race, but I felt that, as Club Chairman, I ought to run. I didn't push it, nevertheless, coming just eight days before the Marathon, I probably would have been better off going for a training run in the morning and taking photos at the Championship race. In spite of the fall, I was probably still overconfident.

I promise to post my Marathon report over the next few days!! ......really!!