Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ohtawara 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.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a gutsy run. Wind is the worst, isn't it? I would rather have rain or even snow than wind.

Tesso said...

Fantastic race report Steve! I can just imagine the panic you were feeling heading towards the line, the mind plays funny tricks and you always think it will take a lot longer than it does ... or I do.

Enjoy your recovery. Hope you allow yourself the odd beer or two or three or ...

Ewen said...

Thanks for the detailed report Steve. But for the wind, what might have been? There's a video of Ryan Hall on a training run which dramatically shows the effect of a headwind - showing him slowing from sub-5 miles to 5:33 into the wind.

The good thing about this marathon, is you seem to have the right preparation sussed out.

Recover well. Enjoy an extra beer for me!

mika t. said...

Otsukaresama and congratulations on you third sub-three marathon! Definitely your fight against the wind was rewarded.

Clairie said...

The preparation was there...and so was the cheer squad. Can't ask for more than that.

The weather is not something we can control and it is interesting to see how it really affects so many of us differently, be it hot, cold, windy, rainy or just perfect.

A great report Steve and I am sure those beers will be in your belly by now.

I will be interested to hear more about what you ate before and during the race to see how you got your energy and what sustained you when the going got tough.

Celebrate now though and put another notch on the belt for that sub 3 and then on the other belt for yet ANOTHER marathon completed.

You really do inspire me.

Joachim said...

it was great running with you.
Unfortunately, all our A-plans were "blowing in the wind". But the B-plans came out all right and that's a great success. I think our pace was just about right and we managed to run reasonably fast in the first half. Tonight I will celebrate (again ;-) ) and I am already looking forward to Tokyo.

Pete said...

Thanks for the report, Steve, and congratulations on a great race. The combination of mental and physical resources you mustered to bring home the sub-3 is particularly impressive given the hallicinoginic effect of marathoning at the 35K mark and beyond. Well done, mate.


Christian said...

great report, steve! thanks for mentioning my name again, i feel flattered! my result would not have been possible without your advice and without checking out your training log! i hope we can keep motivating each other in the future. looking forward to running with you again.

Scott said...

Sorry to have not commented before this but I have not been at home, away for business, and couldn't make a comment. As the old lap top's key board doesn't work much.

But I was able to see that you went sub 3hrs on Saturday night and when getting that news and the news of our new prime minister at the same time I didn't know which made me happier ;)

Really stoked that you went sub 3. It would have been terrible to come away with less after all the effort you have put in.

Anyway I wasn't too far from you on Friday and I understand, It was friggen freezing!!!

let us know how you pull up from this race.

plu said...

"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"

I got a bit nervous reading this - cannot imagine how you feel that close to the mark even for a B.

Well done you look great in the photo.


oldsprinter said...

Hey, a hat trick of sub-3s aint bad. Well done.

Robert Song said...

We try to get everything right in the preparation and then along comes the wind or heat or whatever.

It is cruel but what can you do? Still a great effort considering. And all that excellent training is still in the bank and I'm sure a big pay day is awaiting in the future.

Thanks for the all the posts leading up to the race. It has been a fascinating and enjoyable journey and one I hope continues.

Phil said...

Thanks for great report and well done. I certainly was glad that I was only running a half marathon that day, with that wind! I don't know how you did it in just a singlet. It was frigid out there!

ps - do you have an RSS feed for this blog so we can know when you make a new post?

Ewen said...

Where are your arm warmers? All the pros are wearing them now.

Looking at your HR data from the log, your average was 150, so about 81%? This is below the 87% level in the Hadd test that he reckons a marathon can be run at 'if fully trained'.

Perhaps you need more upper aerobic runs in training (for example, 16k at HM race pace), to get the legs trained so they match your good cardio system? I know 16k strong runs are a staple of Trevor Jacobs who still runs 2:47 at 55.

David Motozo Rubenstein said...

Steve, great race in tough tough weather..i was freezing just standing there in 4 layers.. motozo

Eric said...

Nice race, Stephen! Great effort to stick it out and get the sub-3. Cheers!

Luckylegs said...

You achieved your goal, Steve....who can ask for anything more!