The marathon distance must be respected. This I know. And do. One trains. One rests. One fuels. One starts out slowly. One is conservative. Only when things are going amazingly does one push things to the limit, usually in the last 10k of the distance. And yet, and yet, STUFF happens. Welcome to Milton Keynes, GB.
"MK" is a planned city. So unlike anywhere else in the UK it has a grid system of streets. (This becomes relevant later, dear runners). It also has a marathon a week after The London, which is quite popular with the overflow of capital city marathon draw rejects: 5000 or so of us.
So there I am, yes 9 short weeks after the Malta marathon (negative split!) and amid lots of heavy rowing ...
|Oxford City Bumps: BOOM Four|
... but lined up on the Start feeling quietly confident of a sub 3.45. I'd been training at the required pace, and faster during track outings. Especially yummy Yasso 800s.
|Levitating at the Oxford Iffley Track|
I had a conservative first ten miles planned of lurking just behind the 3.45 pace group. Then my second ten would shave off 5 seconds per mile and I would catch and pass them. Then my last 6.2 would see me really put the hammer down and fly off to a 3.43 or so. Still slower than my PBs but a necessary step towards faster times next year. Or so went the plan.
And so went the plan, for the first ten miles. But it was a clammy muggy warm day, and we were all feeling it. I was hydrating and taking on Powerbar and gel goodness, but it was HOT (for the UK). And it was also a winding and much more hilly course than I expected. Not so much big hills, but unrelenting small ones, it seemed there were no straightaways or flats where you could get a rhythm, we were forever charging up and down hills, berms, underpasses, roundabouts and severe 180 degree turns. Check this out
... especially please note the first half of the race (to the left, mainly in purple). It was back and forth and back and forth and up and down and around and around - all with little hills and my legs really felt it, I just didn't know it yet.
So at 10 and again at 12 I dialled it up and tried to reel in the 3.45 pace group and...and...nothing happened! I tried again, and again, and saw I was SLOWING. This was ridiculous. I felt strong, I felt light. Yes yes I felt hot, but goooooooooooooood. To no avail.
Consternation set in. The next few miles were worrying, I was slowing down, not by much, but it was getting harder and harder to keep my spirits up. The pace group vanished from sight. It wasn't The Wall, it wasn't a swamp, but it was unpleasant and painful. Every few hundred yards was another berm and another turn and another windy path or turn and all in scarcely any wind, and quite a bit of humidity.
So 20 miles came and I thought I would just bank those middle ten miles and now turn on the jets...hunkering down, I reached for that special pedal, and ... the tailfin fell off and I actually started weaving! Oh my oh my. I was still hydrating, I was still taking in nutrients and yet now I was walking shady underpasses and water stations and all the positive thinking in the world wasn't helping much! Walking, weaving, grinding down into a very nasty positive split.
and so, what lessons? Could I have trained more if I just wanted to lop 30 secs per mile off? Should I have trained less given the rowing? Was it just environmental: heat and wee hills? Perhaps not that wee at that, since my gadgets say I climbed a lot more than I did during Malta, on a suburban course in the UK! I think it is all of that, but mainly, that the marathon always deserves respect, and no matter how trained and confident you are, STUFF happens. The plan now is to take the finishing stadium smile below (never so happy to see a Finish line) and apply it to a summer of training, and try again in the autumn, as determined as ever and as happy to be running as ever. But first...some rest and genuine relaxation. (oh, and rowing)