Having ran 6:13 per mile just two weeks ago, alone in training on a hillier course than this flat race, I fully expected to beat 6:10 pace despite the extra 4 miles. The result is approx 6:16 per mile, which would give me a sub 2:45 marathon, but I was so totally knackered after this race theres no way I could've ran 6 miles further.
The race went something like this;
Mile one - 6:07. A fella was chatting to me about previously having run this race - he'd done 2:09 at his best so when I advised him I was looking for 5 mins quicker than that, and when he saw the 6:07 mile split he said cheerio and dropped back to a more suitable pace.
What looked like 15-20 lads already had a considerable lead - I figured that was about right as I'd looked at last years result and reckoned top 20 was a realistic target. I settled into a group of 5 and ticked off the next 2 miles inside 6:15 pace.
At 3 miles I decided I didnt want have the pace dictated to me so went to the front of my group for what turned out to be a 10 mile spell (followed by another 7 mile spell once there was no group left to lead)
The next 8 miles seemed to be going well - recording a few seconds either side of 6:10 pace for most splits.
At the 10 mile marker my time was 1:01:55 (6:12 pace). At this stage I was feeling good and was looking forward to ramping up what had to now felt like a very steady effort.
The 11 mile marker was obvioulsy in the wrong place, because it had me on a 6:28. My head went a bit there - I still felt good and couldnt see or feel any reason to have slowed down. Luckily the 12 mile marker was correctly placed and revealed I was still on about 6:15 pace after all.
Around this time the only fella from my group to have stayed with me was chatting intermittently. Mainly he was saying how tough he was finding it.
At 14 miles is the furthest point of the course where we U-turned to run directly back to the finish. I was alone now and starting to feel pretty knackered. On the one hand I wanted to run as hard as I could to salvage a decent time, but on the other hand I kept thinking of what Plucky had said about running this race just for marathon training and being fresh enough to carry on after the finish. A couple of miles further and I no longer had a choice of how hard or easy to run - it was just a case of getting to the finish without falling apart and being caught by my erstwhile companions. Actually, one lad did pass me at about 15 miles - he never got out of sight but he certainly ran a better race than I did - probably managed a negative split.
The last few miles were ticked off at an ever slower pace - 6:20, 6:25, 6:30. Even the final mile I couldnt raise my game and recorded a 6:32.
Such a disapointment to run so badly in the second half. Particularly when I consider how well I ran the latter stages of the Buttermere race and how I'd managed a negative split in my 16 mile marathon pace training run. Clearly I cannot have lost fitness, so what went wrong?
- Did I start too fast? - I dont think so - 6:12 for 10 miles was spot on for my pre-race plan and felt no more than a steady effort, at least until halfway.
- Did I err in front running when I could have sat in the group? Possibly, but it wasn't windy. I beat all but one of those lads so letting them dictate the pace would have been marginally slower, and, if I'd still ended up struggling then my time would have been slower overall.
- Did I train too hard in the week prior to racing? I certainly trained hard all week, but I was finished training by Thursday night and did nothing on Friday and 7 miles easy jogging on Saturday - besides, this was always a training race so to ease down for it would be to waste the previous week. I don't think I did anything different training-wise compared to say, the Buttermere race.
- Did I fail to prepare in some other way that affected my performance? Ah well now perhaps there is something to be investigated here....
....Historically I was never very good at long endurance stuff. A bike race of 50-60 miles was perfect for me but 75 miles and longer would be a problem, I just wouldnt have the energy to keep working hard for long enough. Same on the long winter rides - even with a cafe stop I would be serioulsy blowing up by the time I got home. Now with a long run being say 2 hours and a long race being inside 3, this isn't such a big issue in running compared to cycling. But to ensure I am fully fuelled up prior to running a long way I like to have plenty of rice and pasta the night before. Every London marathon I have done since 2006 has seen me eat in the same restaurant the night before, where I know the curry will a) not give me any tummy trouble, and b) be a massive portion.
When I have any distance to train above, say 15 miles, I will ensure I eat similarly the night before. I have often found that I have enjoyed a good training run after such a meal, and conversely I have often had a bad day if I've had something like a roast dinner or buffet. Unfortunately last Saturdays tea was roast pork and roast potatoes. I didnt want to appear ungrateful by suggesting I wanted something different so I just hoped for the best.
Thinking about things now I suppose that with me also abstaining from junk food for the three days before the race, my liver and muscle glycogen levels were probably below their usual, and the optimal level. For breakfast I had my usaul banana on toast but I couldnt be bothered to have cereal too - I was worried the extra fluid level with the milk might give me a stitch in the race.
My in-race-eating-plan for the marathon is to have a gel after 11 miles (about 70 mins) then another at 19 miles, with one extra in reserve. At Trimpell I had one at 10 miles and would have had another at about 16. I didnt boher with the second one though as by then I was getting a mild stitch anyway and didnt feel like eating would help me.
So - not conclusive, but I think I can blame poor advance fuelling in part for not having the race I wanted.
Maybe I did start too fast - perhaps, instead of 6:10 I should be aiming for 6:16 pace for the marathon - it would give me a sub 2:45 and therefore a championship entry option for the following 2 years.
A good test will be next Saturdays run. I'm putting myself down for 24 miles at my slowest pace (7min miles). However, because Im joining my young pal Wes Weston on his 16 miles at 6:45 pace, I will either run 8 miles beforehand, or 4 miles before and after. If I can increase the pace as required then I will again feel a little more confident for London.
Handily, theres a month or more and still a lot of training to be done before the big day - I dont think getting fitter is the biggest hurdle - refining my pre-race and in-race plan will be key
(Photo by Charlie Satterly - many thanks)