My initial race plans for 2017 had centred around the Grand Tour of Skiddaw race at the start of September. A big chest infection in the winter followed by ongoing problems with asthma meant that I barely run until May, and work commitments made it pretty difficult to get into any sort of rhythm until a change of job at the start of July. By which point I’d long discarded any hope of running at the Skiddaw race and had instead picked the Dublin Marathon as my A Race, and my only race, for the year.
Fortunately work eased off through July and August, and I managed to get a good couple of months training together before work ramped up again with a vengeance in September knocking the rhythm that I had been building up midweek, but not stopping me getting out for the long runs at the weekend.
Dublin Marathon weekend arrived pretty quickly. I hadn’t got up to the distance that I had wanted in training, and I probably wasn’t carrying the speed that I wanted to either – but I was pretty sure that I could still come in below the time I had achieved in London (4h26) and in Barcelona (3h55). My race strategy was based on a 14:1 run:walk interval similar to which I had employed in Barcelona, and using the 15th minute to fuel and drink.
The strategy seemed to be working pretty well early in the race. Heading through Phoenix Park I was maintaining an overall average under 5:40/km and I only needed to maintain a run average of 5:35-5:40km, so I was definitely banking a little time. So far so good. It did get pretty hot in the sun in the park, which wasn’t really forecast, but I was taking in fluid so I wasn’t especially concerned.
The wheels started to come off approaching halfway, and I was struggling a little more to easily maintain the pace that I had started with – which of itself isn’t especially fast. I saw Vickie at half way and she gave me some flat coke. Straight out of the ultra-marathon playbook. I knew I was in for a long afternoon at this point and said as much.
I had been battling something in the left groin to lift that leg for a couple of km, and around a couple of km after half way my right hamstrings cramped up and I was stationary on the floor for a couple of minutes, and then walked for a couple of minutes, before managing to run on for perhaps the next 20 – 30 min. Eventually though I came to a point where I couldn’t really run anymore. I decided to walk it out until I met Vickie and could get my coat, but she never appeared!
After getting pretty cold and miserable, and not to forget almost being demolished a couple of times by the waves of people clung to pacers for grim death as they came past, I picked up my pace and got up to around 8:30/km which is pretty nifty as walking goes.
I could see that it was touch and go that I could still come in under 5h, and I was pretty determined that I was going to do so. In addition to which all of the uphill had now disappeared, and I should have mentioned that this is a pretty hilly course for a road marathon – at least compared to London and Barcelona, so I was able to make use of the downhill to trot to gain a few minutes.
I didn’t really want to run over the line, it felt a bit fraudulent having walked about a third of the route, but someone gave me a kick up the erse on the finish line so I opened my stride out and gave it some lalldy over the finish line – but paid for that the following day. I came in at around 4:56 in the end. A second personal worst in as many days, but I was a little less proud of this one!
With retrospect post race my right ITB especially was pretty grim and there was some knotting up on the peroneal tendon on the left, as well as the cramp damage on the left hammies. The volume of work wasn’t there, and the ramp probably came too late and coincided with a time where I wasn’t getting in my midweek runs to stretch everything out between big runs. So while I was disappointed with the outcome, your body doesn’t lie in a Marathon. I pretty much got what I deserved – but thats not to take anything away from the level of improvement since April when I could not even run a 1km interval. So the key lesson that I need to take from this is to stay on top of my asthma through the winter so that I do not find myself in that position again next year, and to already have the distance and speed in my legs and to have lost more weight in the interim. There are some positives to take too. I’m perhaps a little faster than I thought I was going into the race, and for large parts of it I ran a very controlled race exactly to plan.
Here’s to 2018. Slainté