Sunday, November 25, 2007
My preparations for this race were, I think, pretty difficult to fault.
I trained well, cross-trained and strengthened, managed niggles and blisters, gave up grog and cut way back on coffee and junk foods for the final month, generally ate healthily and took some vitamin supplements etc to keep colds at bay, freshened up my legs, carbo loaded well, borrowed a replacement heart rate belt, made sure my shoes and gear were good ... in short, everything I could control, I did.
The one thing I couldn't control was the weather, and while it was fine, the wind decided to blow and the temperature was probably the coolest we've had at around 6 degrees--the surrounding mountains were shrouded in snow. The race is two loops of a roughly rectangular course. We were lucky in one sense that for most of the course we were at worst just buffeted from the side and were not significantly affected. However from 15 to 21 km and 35 to 41.5 km we had to cope with the double whammy of a slight uphill combined with a strong, blustery headwind.
I'd decided that the right pace for me to go out at was about 4:05 to 4:07. If the fade was minimal and left me feeling strong near the end, it would get me very close to a PB. Right or wrong, I really did not believe a faster pace would be sustainable, so the best I was going to get would be a slight PB.
Joachim and I ran together from the start until just after the half way point, at which point he put the accelerator down. My calves were telling me that it would be suicide to try and stay with him. It is difficult to express my appreciation for his calming presence during that first half. We rolled through the first 15 km right on pace, mainly going off my heart rate and our combined pace judgment as he was having some troubles with his Garmin. An example of the kind of reassuring presence he provided was when I was having trouble with my race number. Two pins had ripped through the paper and I mentioned it to him. He said, "Ah, don't worry, it's not mission critical." Ha ha .. exactly. I really didn't worry about it after that. As we came to inclines or into the wind, it was "Don't push too hard, don't try to fight it, conserve energy." Calming, reassuring. We got through these sections on the first lap without incurring too much time or bodily damage. The second time around the fight would be a bit more serious.
We went through the half in 1:27:23, perhaps 50 seconds slow. Not too bad, but we'd lost more time on the windy, uphill section than I could really afford. And while I generally felt OK, leg fatigue was certainly starting and my calves in particular had been feeling tight since about 15k (the Tarthers were probably a bit too light). I knew at that point that the PB was going to be hard to achieve, but we were back to the non wind-penalized section of the course and I thought that a strong sub three was there for the taking. The PB was still not beyond reach, but there was zero room left for fade.
While Joachim pulled ahead I settled into fight on my own. I was happy that nothing really changed and I had decent splits to 25 and then again to 30 km. Then 30 to 35 was still respectable and I was moving well, sometimes really getting a move on with some wind assistance. But then came the 35 km mark, which signified the start of 7 km of slight continual uphill, strong headwind, and serious cold. I made sure I got my last gel into me and really knuckled down to the fight. Unfortunately it was impossible to avoid a significant slow down through this section. The wind was stronger than on the first loop and the leg fatigue, quite obviously, was much worse. Still, I did my very best and got as much pace out of my legs as I could muster and never felt like I was shot. All I wanted was a break from the wind and I thought I could have continued extracting my target pace, or perhaps better, out of my legs.
But after the struggle, by 40 km I knew the goal was simply to get under three hours. Even though I had a little bit of buffer, I knew I had to run at well under sub 5:00/km pace, so it was still no gimme.
The Namban cheer squad was spread out along the main road over the final kilometer to the stadium. They were a great boost and I felt that I was really pushing as hard as I could. "C'mon Steve! You're sub three!!" As I turned the final corner to run the last 150 to 200 m to the finish line, my watch ticked over to 2:59...bloody hell, cutting it a bit fine here, I managed to get a final spurt out of the legs and crossed, relieved, in 2:59:40. My third sub three-hour marathon in the bag! All of them on this course!
How do I feel? It's hard to say. Not rapturous, but satisfied. I had felt there was a very real chance of slipping under the PB. I did the best I could under the conditions and recorded a solid time when it would have been easy to give up and just coast in to a 3:02 or 3:03 or something. Beating three hours was always my B goal, and I achieved it, even if by a narrow margin. So yep, on balance, happy.
Enough for now. Here are the splits. I'll be putting the data onto my log tomorrow and might make a couple of follow-up posts on some other facets of interest, like my heart rate data, and maybe some piccies.
section time (pace/km)
0-5 21:05 (4:13)
5-10 20:00 (4:00)
10-15 20:34 (4:06)
15-20 21:21 (4:16)
20-25 20:27 (4:05)
25-30 20:44 (4:08)
30-35 21:47 (4:21)
35-40 23:26 (4:41)
40-42.2 10:16 (4:40)
Oh yeah, Joachim went on to run about a 1-minute negative split for a 2:53:xx!! Fantastic race for him. He'll be putting up his version of events on his blog.
And one more thing ... A huge congratulations to young Christian, the boyishly handsome young chap I met on the start line of the Shinjuku City half marathon at the start of this year. On that occasion he stuck behind me until about 14 or 15 km before fading to finish a couple of minutes behind me. He subsequently linked up with us at Namban and has trained the house down by following an on-line coaching system from Switzerland (his home country). Yesterday he ran a 2:50:xx! He could have easily gone sub 2:48:48 if it were not for the wind. Fantastic. Hard to say how much better he will get, but 2:40 and beyond is distinctly possible (not that I want to put any pressure on him :-)
Thanks one and all for the support and kind wishes. It has been hugely motivating.