Monday, November 10, 2008

Its Official!!

Today is a notable day. Today I received confirmation of my entry into the 100k race. As mentioned before its run in conjunction with the Great Lake Rely, so I was a little amused to see that I'm noted down as being the manager of a team of one!

This week also marks the start of some serious, more specific ultramarathon training. Over the coming weeks its my intention to use this blog to record my training and my thoughts around it. I've never taken on an ultra before so a lot of my idea's a just theory to me at the moment. Using this blog will help me track how things go.

This week is a bit of a transition week while I bed down my training schedule. From next week I'll be recording my intended training schedule and the thinking behind it, and then de-brief on the outcome at the end of the week. My idea is to repeat this week on week.

That's the idea anyway!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Auckland Marathon - Race Report

Its been a few days since the marathon now and sore / stiffness wise I’m feeling just about back to normal. The plan calls for a restart to some gentle running over the next couple of days. I’m actually really looking forward to this next phase in my training as I’ll be lowering the number of intensity / speed workouts and instead focusing on running at a gentler, more stainable pace in preparation for the 100k in February.

Don’t get me wrong, there will still be an element of speed work in my training. I believe that its important to keep some intensity workouts in a training plan in order to avoid injury, as these workouts, in the right quantity and right proportion, help to strengthen your body as well as introduce a variance in the biomechanical loading of your muscles and joints. The alternative is to plod along at roughly the same pace day in and day out – thereby exposing your body to the exact same stressors everyday. This is a recipe for burnout and injury.

Anyway I digress, its time for a RACE REPORT!!

The Auckland Marathon, while not the biggest in the world, is certainly big for little old New Zealand. This year there was a record 12,000 people participating over what is actually a number of races run over the same course. The course starts in Devonport on the North Shore and is initially fairly undulating and it winds its way toward the harbour. The highlight of the course occur as you come onto the Auckland motorway and make your way up over the Auckland Harbour Bridge – this is the one time in the year that you get to run / walk over the bridge. The bridge is actually the biggest and longest hill on the course. Its just over 13k’s into the course and there’s a cut off time of 2 and a half hours to get to it. Surprisingly enough every year there are people you don’t make the cut off.

Billed as New Zealand’s premier road race you would think that the marathon would have an awful lot of people running it, but oddly enough you’d be wrong. There is a half marathon that runs at the same time as the full marathon and follows the same course over the bridge. There’s also a limit of 7,500 people allowed to cross the bridge due to safety reasons. So as I was lining up to start the marathon this year it was interesting to note that there were less than 1,500 people running the marathon, meaning that at least 6,000 people around me (plus a number of “bandits”) were doing things by half – and some of these wouldn’t make the cut off … right or wrong? I don’t know, but I know a lot of people who missed out on getting their entry in on time.

Marathon day started for me at 3:30am after getting absolutely zero sleep! The kids had a rough night, which translated into me having a rough night as well, so by the time 3:30am clicked over on the clock, I figured I might as well get things rolling and eat a proper breakfast. My pre-race breakfast usually consists of two pieces of toast with banana on them and a cup of coffee. Seeing as I was eating so early I felt confident enough to have a bit more this time round as whatever I eat would have three hours to settle before I started running.

At 4:45am I got into my car and headed off to the bus station to catch a charted bus into the start venue. I did this last year as well and its by far the best way to get to the start. There’s only one way in or out of Devonport if you’re going by road and getting stuck in a traffic jam at 5am in the morning, stressing about finding a park and getting to the start on time doesn’t appeal as a good way to start the day. Sitting I got to soak in the nervous energy and had a good chat with a couple of people who were about to run their first half marathon.

The start venue was typical. It was still dark, but not dark enough to hide the long queues to the toilets (especially the ladies loo’s – I’m so glad I’m a guy!). So one nervous pee of own and I was then free to mill around for a bit and kill some time before stripping down to my running kit for the day. It was pretty cold this morning, so I was in no rush. In fact the weather forecast had been really bad, but after checking it before leaving I was very pleased to see that things were suppose to steadily improve as the day went on – nevertheless it was cold and just a tad wet.

With 20 minutes to go I stripped down to my running gear and got some slightly disturbed looks from some obvious first timers as I reached into my bag, pulled out a handful of Vas and proceeded to stick it down my pants – I’m sure they’d understand in a couple of hours.

The race got off to a good start, and I set off at a comfortable pace. My goal was to run five minute k’s and basically see if I had enough conditioning to keep that up for the whole marathon. Not the most scientific approach, but still a pace I thought I could keep up and a pace that would see me make a significant dent in my previous best marathon time.

Unfortunately I ended up running the first 5k a little quick and averaged closer to 4:45 minutes per k. I kept on trying to slow down at each k, but didn’t have a whole lot of success. By 21k’s I had bought the pace down a little, but I suspect the damage was done.

I ended up going through the half marathon mark in 1 hour 44 minutes. And kept running a pretty good pace from there through to around 26k’s … at this point the pace started slowing.

The big question for me was always going to be whether or not I had the condition to maintain a steady pace. As mentioned in earlier posts my build up had not been as smooth as I would have liked, combined with the fact that I’d gone out a little quick I wasn’t all that surprised when I started to see the k splits slip.

At around the 28k mark I had a little hurry up as I was caught up by a chap who was trying to break a world record by skipping the marathon (the previous record was around 4 hours 30 minutes I think). Just imagine if I had to write in my blog that I got past by a guy with a skipping rope! Suffice to say I picked up the pace and put in a bit of a surge – I didn’t see him again.

There’s not much more to say really – I ran and ran, my pace slipped a little more, but by the end of the race I had done enough to smash my previous PB by 14 minutes and crossed the line in 3 hours 48 minutes and 48 seconds!

Its been a fairly successful running season for me with a new half marathon PB (1 hour 38) and a new marathon PB set this weekend.

Now all I have to do is nail this Ultramarathon thing and my season will have been perfect!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Quick Update

Its now been a couple of hours since I finished the Auckland Marathon so I thought I'd spare five minutes for a quick update.

YAHOOO New marathon PB for me!! Not quite the triumphant stroll that I had been dreaming about, but nevertheless I'm really please with my effort and damn proud of the result.

I've finally put 4 hour marathons into the history books. Today I crossed the line in 3 hours 48 minutes and 48 seconds (by my watch).

I ran quite a strong half marathon and got to the 21k mark in 1 hour 44 minutes, so a little quicker than my goal pace. However as anticipated my conditioning was quite up to scratch and I did start to crumble after 26k's with my k splits slowing down significantly, as I re-visited my unhappy place. Happily I didn't blow to pieces and managed to bring it home in a respectable time. Still room for improvement though!

I'll post a more complete race report in a couple of days when I'm feeling more up to it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pre-Race Thoughts - Auckland Marathon

Well its now one day until the Auckland Marathon, the weather looks lousily (strong North westerlies and rain easing to showers! Yippee!). So I thought it would be worthwhile, more as a record to look back on than anything else, to put down my thoughts about tomorrows little adventure.

Tomorrow will be my third marathon (forth if you count the Ironman marathon), and so far they have each been learning experiences. I haven't yet finished a marathon satisfied with my effort or the result. At last years Auckland marathon I finished in 4 hours 2 minutes, which was a little disappointing, mind you I did treat it more as a long training run than as a "A" race and trained right up into it. This year, technically, should be quicker.

I'm currently on track to run somewhere around 3 hours 30 minutes. Does that mean I'll actually go that quick? I have my doubts...

My buildup to this marathon hasn't been as smooth as I'd like. I've gotten (very) sick which whipped 2 weeks of training completely and saw me come back with a lot of my prior conditioning lost. More recently I picked up a minor injury which prevented training for a week and raised a bit of doubt in my mind. That injury seems to be now largely resolved and I've been running freely of late.

All of this has meant that while my pace is still where it needs to be, I haven't been able to really test myself of some truly good long runs, so I have a grain of doubt in the back of my mind. If I run at my goal pace will I get to the 30k mark and start to crumble? Its happened before... Or should I ease back and simply aim to better last years time by two minutes?

I've been tossing these questions up over the last week and have largely decided on which route I'll take. I figure that if I go out conservatively and finish the race feeling quite good I'll be very disappointed in myself. So instead I'm going to back myself and go out at my goal pace, and if I crumble at least I'll do it spectacularly and will have something to write about tomorrow! On the other hand if I hold it together for the whole marathon the I'm going to be giving myself the opportunity to really knock a good chunk off my PB. And I think, for someone like me, that's a risk worth taking.

Watch this space, I'll update how things went tomorrow afternoon