I asked a few friends about 'get marathon fit quick' plans and explained my current philosophy of daily hour long runs at sub-marathon pace (6:00-6:30 miling). Oli Mott is always a great guy to ask; a doctor by education and an international duathlete by trade, his mind can calculate lactic thresholds, VO2 max scores and predicted pacing in an instant.
"I think you're doing the right thing," he commented. Phew!
"Keep the 6-6.30 mins/mile running going for the next two weeks then ease off. Get a couple of 1.45 hour runs in. No point in doing any sessions, as you're not going to be racing faster than your training pace (and it'll feel easier in flats on flat roads in the race). The main idea for this aerobic training is get your body to burn a higher percentage of fat at race pace so you don't go pop. Maybe the odd glycogen-depleted run... I reckon you'll be around 2.50 (6.29 pace)."
Well I took his word for it and set about a 1hr 45min run this evening, leaving Yaletown across Burrard Bridge, through the streets of Kitsilano out to UBC before running a short loop and home along Jericho Beach. Conditions were perfect having been warm all day, so race vest, race shorts, racing shoes and sunglasses were applied for a complete race simulation, and off I went.
The first couple of miles up and over Burrard Bridge were relatively steady, nothing too frenetic, but once I opened up through Kitsilano I knew I was on to something good. Maybe it was because I was in my racing shoes which are really light and bouncy that my legs responded so well. Maybe it was because I was running on a firm surface which didn't sap energy out of my legs. Whatever it was, it was working.
I headed down to the beach and kept ticking over nicely, glancing down at my Garmin to see 5:50 miling... something had to be wrong, maybe the satellite was re-adjusting. I kept the same rhythm, finding my legs and arms working in perfect synchronisation, my breathing became automatic and suddenly I realised I was in cruise control. I glanced down at the watch... 5:49 miling... 'gees, I must be locked in to this pace,' I thought.
At the end of Jericho Beach at the 7.5 mile point the road bent upwards to the University of British Columbia. I went onto my toes and kept my head up, trying to remain springy with the notorious words of George Gandy in my ears: "Let the hill do the work to you, don't fight it." At halfway I was finding it pretty hard, this hill was longer than I thought, but I took encouragement as I started to catch a couple of kitted up cyclists ahead. Up and over the top and I tried to open my legs up again to find the rhythm, and sure enough they came back to me. I passed the Museum of Anthropology in 51 minutes.
Crossing my way through UBC I tried to find a water fountain, conscious that I hadn't sipped anything since home, but my efforts came to nothing. Luckily having successfully navigated my way up the hill I had the pleasure of running back down. Long downhills can really mess me up, give me a stitch and ruin my quadriceps, so I shortened my stride, kept my torso leaning forwards and ran it as I would if it was the marathon: no risks. I came off the bottom feeling good and found a water fountain for a quick stop.
The next barrier was the half marathon and I sailed through back at 5:50 miling on the flat in 1:18:21. Smash! 'I can't keep this up,' I thought. 'I just can't, this is suicide.' But the longer I ran the more I realised that actually, I was finding this alright; this wasn't actually hurting too much. Mile 14 and 15 were ticked off with just a couple of small hills to overcome, and I stopped at 16.5 miles for another sip of water before tackling Burrard Bridge again.
'Stay springy, stay springy,' I thought to myself as I eased my way up the long drag, and sure enough my body listened to my mind and soon I had reached the top and could enjoy the descent. Heading down Pacific I glanced down at my watch. 5:50 miling again... 'how can this be?' I stopped the clock as I hit 18 miles, 1:47:58, exactly 6:00mins per mile average. BOOM!!
That's over two thirds of a marathon in 1hr48... which means that if I kept the same pace up for another eight miles, I would finish with a time of 2:37:30 ... now there's a scary thought. In reality I think I could have kept going at that pace for another few miles, maybe until 20 or 21... and then it would have been very tough. However there are a number of positives as well. I didn't take on any carbohydrate during the run, I only took on water, and my first hydration was at 12 miles. The route had a decent sized hill in it which really takes energy out of the legs; although maybe Echternach will be the same? A lot of the flat running was on fine gravel, not tarmac, which makes you lose energy into the ground as the foot slips a little bit with every stride.
... and then I also remembered... I cycled to and from work today, that's an hour of aerobic exercise. Sure, I didn't pedal hard, but it wasn't slow either. So I ran my eighteen miles having already done an hour of aerobic work. Bonus!
However, the best thing this run has given me is the confidence. I thought I was pretty unfit and going to really struggle, but now the marathon looks like it's going to be a really great challenge and a top ten finish is certainly on the cards. Watch out Echternach, I'm coming for you!!
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