Friday, October 30, 2009

Post-Marathon Ache

I thought I better give a quick update since the marathon. Basically I spent a week of walking with a painful left hip and a sore right knee before they finally eased. A couple of days ago I went for my first easy run and felt pretty good, my feet are fine although I did start to tighten up in my hip.

All in all my body isn't too broken which is great, so I'll give it another ten days or so of doing nothing/very easy running before getting back into training. I fly back to Vancouver on Sunday and then find myself heading off to Mexico on Thursday night to cover the final triathlon of the year... when is the year of jet setting going to end? Hopefully I can find a bit of winter sun to keep my pasty body a little less white for a bit longer!

Once I get back into the swing of things I'm looking forward to reconnecting with Jay, Kevin, Phil, Simon, Paul, Ynuk and co. at VFAC and bashing out some mileage. Winter miles = summer smiles.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Smashed... Me, Not the Marathon

Sorry for the delay in getting a report online after Echternach but I've been busy recovering.
Here's how the race panned out:

I started well enough alongside Georges Krier and there was a nice pack developing through the first few kilometres, although on a few twisty narrow sections we did get a bit tangled up and some of the lankier runners weren't particularly considerate.

Through 10km we hit mid-36mins, pretty quick, although much of the opening part was downhill. By this point I was running with a nice pack of four others although the pacing was sporadic. Guys would surge then relax, it was pretty stupid. I kept an even pace and just let them tire themselves out. They would break ahead for a kilometre and then I would naturally work my way back up by keeping a steady pace.

Coming up to nine miles I took to the front as we entered a narrow section back into Echternach and slowed the pace back down to something more sensible - 6 minute miling. At ten miles I passed Stéph who passed me some much needed sports drink with a smile, although I think she was a little concerned at how fast we were going. I offered the other guys some rehydration but they all refused, which I was fine with.

Heading down to the halfway point three of the guys surged again leaving me to run with Jose, the top Luxembourg marathoner, despite being Portuguese. We must have looked like quite the pair: him short and stocky and me tall and thin. Anyway, sure enough we went through the halfway mark in a little over 1:17, about a minute under schedule. I was moving well but knew it would be very tough in the second half of the race.

Jose and I made contact with the other three guys again as we crossed the bridge at the far end of the course and entered Germany. Turning back down the valley we hit a head wind and the road started to get a bit hillier. On the first of the small hills leading out of the town I went to the front and opened up my legs, keen to take some control over the pace. I held the lead for a few kilometres until Jose surged past, taking Georges with him. I didn't see them again as they pulled away into the distance.

At 26km I started to get a stitch and soon found myself bent over in half trying to hold 6:45 miling whilst I dropped to the back of the group. At every aid station I took on as much carbohydrate as possible and then saw Stéph again at 30km for a much needed pick up. I grabbed my own drink soon after but knew the wheels were coming off.

I went through 32km (20 miles) in exactly two hours, as planned, however things were getting tough. Although the stitch had subsided to a gentle ache my legs were getting sore and especially my left hamstring and right adductor. By 35km I was in real trouble and crossing back into Luxembourg was a real effort. I had slowed right down, and despite running with my sports drink in hand I was slowly seizing up.

At 37km I was reduced to walking breaks, thinking agonizingly of the finish line - it seemed so far away and the kilometre markers couldn't pass fast enough. Sure enough at 39km the flying Belgian Frankie Leus came past and I gave him a 'well done', a man who shows real determination and unbelievable ability to punish his body week in, week out.

The aid station at 41km was manned by Stéph's parents who offered some support as I slowed down to walk and drink the last of the carbohydrate on offer. I was well on target to break three hours despite my troubles although by this point I was so stiff and sore I was either hobbling or walking. Climbing up the final rise into Echternach I kept a nice rhythm ticking over as I made to the line and into the arms of an expectant Stéph who had been wondering what happened to me.

Hot tea, reassurance and a nice shiny medal made me feel better but both physically and emotionally I was drained and hurting. At the end of the London Marathon in 2006 I cried tears of pain and anguish at what might have been. At the end of Echernach I almost felt like crying again in thanks that the ordeal was finally over, haha!!

I had no expectations other than knowing that I could get to 20 miles in two hours, which I did, but it's much easier to talk about hitting the wall than when you actually run into it! In training you cannot fathom how painful it will be, or how slow you will be moving, but when you're desperate to see the finish line five kilometres seems like a long way!

So my final finishing time for sixteenth place (first in my age group) was 2:54:06. A new personal best, although London's 3:07:16 wasn't going to be hard to beat, but I'm pleased to have survived and dipped under the three hour barrier for the first time. There is still much more to come, so maybe in a year's time I will return to the roads of Echternach with better preparation and strategy to break 2:40.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hurting to Heal

So having endured two weeks of pain with my foot I decided I had to put it through one more run before boarding the plane tomorrow. Just four miles of out and back effort along the sea wall, the same surface the foot will have to endure on Sunday.

The first kilometre was a little touchy, painful and all together unpleasant. I ran around corners as if treading on broken glass and thought too much about where the pain was coming from; but I stuck at it, hoping the foot would warm up and relax... and it did.

After the first mile I drew up alongside a large passenger cruise boat and sure enough was heckled by some intoxicated party goers. "Nice shorts!", "Run Forrest run!", and "Race you!" were shouted from the top deck, how original. Altogether quite funny as at 6:30 miling I still overtook them and offered a smile and a thumbs up to keep them entertained.

Note to self: men wearing lycra must be beaten! ;-)

Once running along the beach front the foot felt pretty good, and despite trying to ease into marathon pace my body really wanted to stretch out as if it was saying "come one, one last blast before the race". I wasn't going to argue so let my legs run away with me for a mile at 5:30 pace, no harm done and it felt good to be moving so well.

I put in a few drills at the large inukshuk statue at English Bay before trotting home, altogether satisfied that my foot was feeling better for the stretch out and would probably survive 26.2 miles on Sunday if I'm nice to it. Back on with the traumeel and compression socks this evening with my feet up in front of the TV.

Tomorrow it's an early start with work, but then I'll leave the office at 1pm, get to the airport at 3:45pm, take-off for Amsterdam at 6:45pm and arrive in 'Little Lux' on Saturday at 3:40pm...

... the marathon starts at 10am Sunday morning which gives me 18 hours from landing to the gun going off. But right now I don't care, just get me on that plane!

NB. A late entry from last year's top ten is Alain Inglebert from Luxembourg who ran 2:43:57. That makes it five from last year's top ten on the start line. Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Ryan Hall

Today is Ryan Hall's birthday so I thought I'd put up a quick video.

What an inspiration to Christian athletes everywhere; a man I really respect for everything he does and strives to achieve through sport. I wouldn't mind being able to run as fast as him as well!

Happy birthday Ryan, and good luck for the New York Marathon!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marathon Checklist

As I look forward to the weekend I realise that as with all major undertakings you have to prepare the best you possibly can, and sure enough my training has been ill-prepared and my pre-race preparations are pretty much the same... seriously, who arrives in a country 18 hours before a marathon? Haha.

Anyway, what I can control is my diet and equipment, although jet lag will surely rob me of sleep. But as my friend Alan, a sleep psychologist PhD student and fellow athlete, tells me: it doesn't matter how much sleep you get the night before competition, just make sure you are rested. I haven't told him that the race start is effectively 1am Vancouver time... and no, I haven't been training in the early hours to prepare for this either.

So here's my check list for the big day and a couple of meal suggestions for the night before. As I land in Luxembourg at 4pm in the afternoon it's a bit late to go shopping, but luckily I happen to have the most amazing support crew one could ask for.

Marathon check list:

Timing chip and race number (to collect before 9am)
Racing flats (Nike Luna Racer)
Racing socks (Hilly or More Mile)
Vaseline (for those chafing areas)
Racing shorts (Asics)
Cheltenham vest (really comfortable and light)
Garmin watch (GPS and speed reading)
2 x powerade (liquid diet)
Cap (if raining)
Gloves (if cold)

With Eugène or Stéph (my awesome support crew):
1 x powerade (nutrition)
Vaseline (in case of reapplication)
Spare trainers (in case I blister)
Spare shorts (in case I chafe)
Spare vest (in case I chafe)

Post race:
Compression socks (recovery)
Tracksuit bottoms (warmth)
T-shirt (warmth)
Climacool shirt (if I feel like a cool down)
Hoodie (warmth)
Trainers (comfort)
Ibuprofen (pain relief if needed)
Traumeel (pain relief if needed)
1 x powerade (energy)
1 x chocolate milkshake (recovery)
1 x water (rehydration)

Pasta with tomato sauce (no cheese or oil)
Rice with vegetables (no gluten)

White toast with honey (abundent energy)
Coffee (caffeine fix)

So there you have it, my marathon plans in a few short lists. I'll be packing my essentials, so racing shoes and kit, with me in my hand luggage as I can't risk them not arriving in Luxembourg. On the plane I'll wear my compression socks and comfortable clothing, try and sleep as early as possible after take off, and try my best to avoid ill people and stay healthy.

Before the race I'm not expecting to sleep much - jet lag means that midnight in Luxembourg is 3pm in Vancouver, so I'll try and rest up and then go for an early morning jog at 5am (8pm) before having breakfast and getting ready for the drive across to Echternach for the race start at 10am (1am).

Roll on the weekend!

What a Nutter

Ok, I'm definitely shaking Frankie Leus hand on the start line in Echternach, and probably at the finish as well. The mad Belgian who I wrote about in my last blog only went and ran another bloody marathon last weekend in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Not only did he run it, he went and did a 2:45:29!
Check out hi
s last seven weekends:
29 Aug - 1:17:39 Half Marathon
06 Sep - 2:54:06 Marathon
13 Sep - 2:46:44 Marathon
20 Sep - 2:50:42 Marathon
26 Sep - 1:05:1
7 17.5km race
04 Oct - 2:50:14 Marathon
11 Oct - 2:45:29 Marathon
... and now Echternach this weekend.

I would say I'd expect him to be completely smashed but it looks like no matter what punishment this 47 year old veteran takes he can suck it up and unleash another killer performance week after week. I am genuinely concerned that this guy is going to destroy me. I mean, he's like the terminator. He doesn't die, he doesn't blow up, he doesn't get tired... you can't kill him, he's a relentless runner. The kind of runner you hate to race, the kind of runner who doesn't know when to give up, the kind of runner who will keep coming back at you time and time again.

Hats off to you Frankie, I just hope I don't see you coming after me in the second half of the race!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Eyeing Up The Competition

As I'm far too competitive I've been thinking about where I can place next weekend, so I took the liberty of going through the startlist and comparing the names to last year's top ten. Remarkably, at present, only four of the top ten from 2008 will be toeing the line.

2008 Top 10
1. Rojewski, Przemyslaw. Poland. 2:22:12 RUNNING
2. Gnila, Rafal. Poland. 2:32:52
3. Krombach, Chris. Luxembourg. 2:33:08
4. Krier, Georges. Luxembourg. 2:37:35 RUNNING
5. Rodriguez, Luis. Spain. 2:43:19
6. Inglebert, Alain. Luxembourg. 2:43:57
7. Gilbert, Michel. Belgium. 2:44:22
8. Leus, Frankie. Belgium. 2:47:22 RUNNING
9. Muller, Frank. Luxembourg. 2:52:17
10. Serafini, Jean-Pierre. Luxembourg. 2:52:41 RUNNING

What does this tell me? Well it's useful in assuring me that winning the Echternach Marathon is off the cards, unless the Polish guy is in seriously bad shape. 2:22 is well out of reach so it looks like he'll be disappearing up the road from the first mile. Good to know as now I won't go off with the leader thinking I can hang on!

With any luck I'll be running alongside a local man, Georges Krier (pictured), for the most part. 2:37 pace is what I want to be running at the 20 mile mark (2 hours), so if I can hang in with him it will be a good indicator. Doing a bit of research I found out he ran 1:14:36 a couple of weeks ago in the 'Route du Vin Half Marathon', so he's in decent shape again.

Looking through the photos from last year's race I noticed that Jean-Pierre Serafini went off pretty hard as he was shot alongside both Krier and Krombach, who took third. I'm sure he'll probably have a similar mindset and will be in the mix early on so he's one to watch.

One man I'm looking forward to seeing is Frankie Leus from Belgium. A quick google search brought up his rather remarkable blog... the guy's already run eight marathons in 2009, including three in September and one last weekend. What an animal! I can only presume he fuels himself on a diet of Stella Artois and chocolate sprinkles. Even more impressive are the times he runs. Every marathon in 2009 has been run between 2:42 and 2:54. Eight minutes either way, probably depending on the course elevation. If I do start to slip back I'll be sure to see this Belgian engine chugging past me! He obviously likes Echternach as well, he set his personal best there in 2005 with 2:37:02, great going.

Anyway, enough about the competition, at the moment I'm still rather worried about my right foot. I ran on it for 40 minutes yesterday and although I felt ok, it still twinged and complained. I was able to get through the run fine, but asking it to keep going for a further two hours right now would be putting it into the unknown. I'm applying traumeel three times a day and taking 800mg of ibuprofen with breakfast, lunch and dinner. I've iced it a couple of times as well - the benefit of having an ice cube maker installed with the freezer. I'm confident it will show signs of improvement in the next few days, but it means that I'll be staying on the cross trainer and in the pool and not risking it on the roads. Hardly ideal preparation, but this whole marathon hasn't been very well prepared, so in the grand scheme of things what does it matter?

Come next Sunday when I line up alongside everyone else in Echternach I know I'm at a disadvantage. I haven't trained properly, I have had a sore foot, I will have been travelling the whole previous day and I won't have slept much because of jet lag. But I'm going out there to have fun, run fast and see what I can do. I have no expectations, so I have nothing to lose...

... but a good result would be nice, of course.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pouring It Out

Over the past year I have been dealt some amazing cards in the game of life. I prayed for opportunities and they arose, I prayed for love and it came, I prayed for others and things happened which helped them. But I've asked a lot of Him, maybe too much, maybe every night when I have my nightly conversation with Him I've leant too much on his shoulders, maybe I've been too demanding, too selfish. I feel it's time to give something back.

When Jesus put himself on the cross to releave us of our sins he did so knowing that he would endure such pain and suffering that he would die an agonising death. In a very small way the marathon is a microcosm of that process, but hopefully without the fatal outcome... we can't all come back from the dead! Running is my gift, it's the one thing I know how to do, how to praise Him through my feet. Others have amazing gifts of music, language or ministry, I have running.

Last October I finished the Stroud Half Marathon and gave thanks. Now it's time to do it again!

So when I hit the roads next weekend I'm going to be running with Him in my thoughts. He poured himself out for me. He suffered for my salvation. He endured intense pain so that I may live. The least I can do is run with Him in my heart and my body.
It's very Ryan Hall-esque, but it's a brilliant thing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Smashing the Marathon

So this is a little bit stupid and very naive, but with just twelve days to go until the marathon I’ve drawn up a proposed race plan based on my 18 mile tempo from a couple of weeks ago.

On the basis that I can run 1:48 for 18 miles I’m confident on a relatively flat tarmac course with some company and rehydration I can get to 20 miles in two hours. So with that in mind I’m going to go off at six minute miling and see how I feel. If I’m struggling after an hour then I’m going to have to revise my plan and ease off, but if I can go through the twenty mile mark in two hours then it gives me exactly one hour to run the final 10km.

You see I have no real expectations as I have not adequately trained for the race, so I’m going in with blind faith and hope that my winter base training has carried forward seven months and that my body is so rested from a summer of relaxed training that it feels fresh. Of course the chances of this happening are pretty slim and as the old saying goes ’20 miles is only the halfway point in a marathon’. I’m not prepared, that’s for sure, but it’s too late to do anything about it, so it’s time to suck it up.

I'm expecting to look like this in the final 10km

The likelihood is that I hit a massive wall, limp home in an absolute state and wonder about what could have been. But will I have had fun, put myself towards the front end of the race and made things interesting? Yes. Unfortunately for my body I don't know how not to race. The gun will go and I'll look at the guys around me and think about winning the damn thing. 26.2 miles after 800m will seem like a breeze but 26.2 miles after 23 miles will feel like death.

How can I prepare to overcome the wall? Well the event website says there are carbohydrate drinks every 5km, so I'll be sure to drink a lot to keep my glycogen levels up, and hopefully if my girlfriend's dad is officiating then he can carry a reserve supply of powerade on his bike for useful top ups. Otherwise it's going to be a case of burning my limited fat stores, which are depleted before I even toe the start line.

Here goes nothing… do or die... it’s me or the marathon, but one of us is going to be smashed through a wall (I have a feeling it’s going to be me)!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Back on Track

It’s been a rough week with injury worries coming at me, but finally it looks like nothing will stand in the way between me and the marathon start line.

As predicted my niggles became a little bit worse and on Thursday I ran for 10 miles but noticed that I was subconsciously trying to protect myself, skipping here and there, occasionally not wanting to put weight onto my right foot. I slowed right down and jogged home not wanting to risk anything – obviously my body was trying to tell me something. Once home I realised just how tight my right ITB was and that my right foot was aching a little bit as well. I immediately got the t-roller out and got to work, took a hot shower and self-massaged the ITB muscle, bringing myself to the point of tears.

On Friday I intended to put in an easy 45 minutes to see how it was, but less than five minutes from the front door I decided to turn around as my foot wasn’t coping well and I could feel it stressing. If there’s one thing you don’t need its putting weight on a damaged foot for 26.2 miles! I got in and changed into my swimming kit and for the first time used the apartment pool. I put in two sets of 10 minutes with a stop to use the t-roller and do some self-massage whilst standing in the warm water of the hot tub. Afterwards I just sat and relaxed in the whirlpool, turned on the jets and let my muscles relax, it was pretty heavenly.

Apartment pool and whirlpool/hot tub

Continuing the theme of cross training I used the apartment gym on Saturday evening to do some elliptical cross-training (ski machine) and the treadmill. I warmed up with 30 mins on the elliptical before switching to 15 mins running, which felt ok but not great, before going back to the elliptical for a final 15 minutes. I jumped in the hot tub afterwards for some more massage to ease everything off. So heading out on today’s proposed 1hr40min run with Jay I was a little bit apprehensive as to how my legs and foot would cope. At first the foot didn’t take to the impact so well, but with a little perseverance it eased off and for the most part the run was pain free. The ITB felt much better and didn’t give any trouble and a slight niggle in the left quad didn’t get any worse. Result.

It was great to get out and run with Jay, a guy I really respect for his dedication to the cause as he looks to continue his improvements and make provincial and national teams. We ticked over nicely at 6:30 pace on the way out to UBC and brought it back a little quicker. Despite the fact I’ve been running at a faster pace at around the ten mile mark the effort gradually started to catch up with me and I had to ease off, which subsequently gave me a stitch. Typical! I guess the previous night’s hour of aerobic work was still prevalent and the hard tempo running had taken its toll as well.

I’ve made the decision to start my taper from here on in. My body felt pretty bad today and if I get to halfway in the marathon feeling as tired as I did earlier I’m going to find myself in trouble. I’m going to need to be completely fresh for the race so it’s time to consolidate the limited training, just keep ticking over, get in the carbohydrate and stay relaxed. I’m intending to go into the race looking to run fast... just how fast? You’re going to have to find out in a future blog.