Brighton Rock(s)

So, the first A race of the year. The Brighton Marathon. As a triathlete a Marathon should not really be an A race. However, with running being my Achilles heel (pun fully intended) and having focussed on running over the Winter, I was keen to see how much my running had improved.

The issue I have is having never run a ‘fresh/stand alone’ marathon I don’t have a marker to measure any improvement.

I ran a disastrous marathon leg of Ironman Austria in 2014 and I had a bad second run at the Ball Buster in November 2014. I improved my half Ironman half marathon leg last year and I have hit a PB for half marathons this year off the back of some good winter running.

In terms of a prediction I wanted a sub 4 hours 30 minutes. The closer the day got and the more banter in the office (two work colleagues were also doing the Marathon) the higher my expectations got.

My half marathon PB is a run speed of just over 11kmph. My predicted Marathon pace is a run speed of 10 kmph, so hitting 2K’s every 12 minutes of running. This was the plan and would give me a finish time of 4 hours 12 minutes – way under a sub 4 hrs 30 mins. And maybe a bit too ambitious, so sub 4.30 but realistically between 4.20 and 4.30. 10 kmph feels comfortable but I have never run at that speed for over 4 hours.

It was all down to my pacing, my nutrition and my mental attitude on the day to push on when it got hard. To be honest my main real goal was to run it and not have to walk at any point!

The start was busier than I was used to and hence expecting. The start happened at 9.15, and at 9.30 I was still bouncing up and down in a crowd of people waiting to start.

When I did finally ‘start’ it was a run, stop, walk, run, bump type affair. It was a bit reminiscent to a mass swim start, where the fun is trying to get going and keep bumping to a minimum.

So an initial 2K split of 13.19 meant I was off the pace already through no fault of my own! But I stayed calm and banged out the following splits for the initial 30K / 18 miles:

(13.19) 11.50, 11.46, 11.58, 12.02, 12.00, 12.13, 12.14, 12.15, 11.55, 11.42, 11.59, 12.14, 12.14, 12.01,

And it was fun, it was comfortable and it was very enjoyable. I was spot on with pace, spot on with nutrition, and enjoying the entire experience.

As well as fully stocked feed stations, eager helpers dishing out water and Gatorade and brilliant sunshine, there was also excellent support from the crowds lining the course and a great deal of camaraderie among the runners. There was even St. John’s Ambulance personnel at the feed stations dishing out dollops of Vasaline for the chaffing!

I was in my element.

The next 6K (30K to 36K) it started to get tougher. I was in the realms of unknown territory. I have only run over 18 miles once being IM Austria, even the Ball Buster was a total run distance of 16 miles.

The pace lowered, but a controlled lowering of the pace. I felt like I was running the same speed and was putting in the same effort but the 2K split times dropped to:

12.37, 12.48, 13.07

I was slowing. This part of the course was running away from the finish (for the last time) to the final turn around point. I was hoping once I turned for the final time and had 6K to go, all the way to the finish, I could speed up again.

But although the crowd were phenomenal all the way back and I felt a lot cooler running along the sea front, the pace didn’t get faster, it didn’t even stay the same, I continued to slow.

And I was feeling it.

I didn’t stop and walk, but I did walk through the feed stations to make sure I got all the liquids I could, but I just walked the feed station, I didn’t stop before them or walk after them.

Big tick there.

The finish chute just never seemed to appear, the crowd were shouting ‘nearly there’ and ‘less than a mile to go’, ‘not long to go’ etc but it felt like I heard that for all the last 3 miles.

The final 6K was done as follows: 13.14, 13.47, 13.54 and the last 400 metres 4.00.

And then I crossed the line.

It was then I really realised how hard I had pushed by how bad I felt. Someone gave me my finisher’s medal, but as I bowed my head so they could put it on me, my neck spasmed and my shoulder cramped. Someone handed me a foil blanket which I put on and then it fell off. Someone handed me a banana and as I bit into it I started to gag, so I ditched that and took water, but I couldn’t stand the taste (or lack of taste of it) so I took a recovery drink, which also made me a gag.

I carried on walking collecting items being handed to me. After a few minutes I looked down and I had a carrier bag, various drinks and food items, a T-shirt, a blanket but all I wanted was to walk around in the shade, but there wasn’t any.

I sat down and tried to gather myself. I took some sips of water and some of the energy drink. I started to sort myself out, throwing everything into the carrier bag. And I started to feel more human again. I went and got my bag and went to a Port-a-loo to get changed.

The confined space and the heat in there meant the waves of nauseous came back with a vengeance. Thank God it didn’t smell in there or I would have just chundered there and then!

I got changed in a slow and lumbered fashion and went outside to the cool air again and sat on the sea front waiting for the wife.

Oh my time – the Garmin said 4 hours 25 mins. So I got the sub 4.30 and by a fair way (as in it wasn’t 4.29 or 4.28) but I know by the way I felt I had given my all and could not have done any more on the day.

I also ran the entire course, except for the feed stations towards the end where I needed a full drink of water or Gatorade and not just a mouthfall and a face wash!

Truth be told I didn’t actually feel human again until several hours later. After I met up with the wife, we trundled back to the hotel room, passed the beach village where other finishers were drinking pints and celebrating their success. I had a warm bath and sipped more water and then layed on the bed for an hour trying to recover.

It was not until half past five when I had my finisher’s beer (I finished at 1.32pm) and I didn’t even finish the pint before going to Gourmet Burger Kitchen for the celebratory meal.

It was then back to the hotel to watch Vera!

The positives

First marathon under my belt.

Sub 4.30 – achieving a realistic, but still challenging, target.

Not walking and running the whole course.

The whole experience of the crowd, the event, running with so many others etc.

Getting the pacing right.

Getting the nutrition right (almost see below).

The success of the winter running training paying off.

The mistakes/areas for improvement

I should have worn a cap. No matter how good sun screen is, over 4 hours in the sun, battling sweat – it will wash off (nice tan now the red has gone though).

Need to try cliff shots (the energy sweets) and not just rely on Gels.

Should have had a gel at the 4 hours mark – I had my last one at 3.20 and didn’t take another at 4 hours as I was almost there!

I need to see exactly where the finish is for future events – so I know and am not dependant on the enthusiastic crowd to tell me how much further to go.

In summary

I am very happy with how it went and where I am with my running versus where I was pre-Winter training. This was a key event for me this year, it shows how much my running has improved both physically and mentally. Whilst I have no marker, I know from the Ball Buster I had issues with my pacing, getting my head into the zone when the going gets tough to stick at it – I walked most of the last climb at the BB. I now believe I have a good running foundation to build on further before Ironman Vichy.

24 hours later I was down the shed on the TT bike, on the turbo spinning the legs out and am already thinking about the next event – the 150K Pearson cycle Sportive on 17th May 2015.

Thanks for reading.

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