Friday, 10 April 2009

Paris post mortem

Ok - it has been a few days, and I’ve had my chance to go over it. As you'll have seen from the twitter feed - I didn't have the best of times on Sunday, finishing a tad over my target time of 4 hours, in 4.46...

The wife kicked butt of course - smashing her pb, and her target time of 3.45 by a good 2 minutes.

So where did it all go wrong? I talked it up pretty well I thought, but I didn't have it in me on the day. Here’s the blow by blow account - set your excuseometer to full.

Preparation - not too bad, but as previously discussed - it is a fine line between training fully, and getting ill with me, and I chose the healthy option - if I felt my health dwindling I cut back the training. Other runners get injured - I seem to get ill.

Night before - not a bad night’s sleep, there were some noisy shaggers in the room next door, but my ear plugs soon sorted them out (you'd be amazed how much it spoils the mood having ear plugs flung at you via a balcony and an open window).

Morning of the race - my normal upset stomach didn't materialise until it was too late to do anything about it - I was in the queue trying to get into the 4 hour pen when it kicked in an I felt quite uncomfortable. mind over matter, and it seemed to go away

The start - while I was still elbowing my way into the pen, and well before the actual start, the organisers decided to open the front of all the other pens, allowing all the 4 and a half hour runners to surge forward, before all the 4 hour runners were in there. By the time I got in, there were a good 5000 "slower" runners in front of me all shuffling forwards. I could see the people with the green flags, showing they were the 4 hour pacemakers about 200 yards in front, so I aimed to keep them in view.

The first 5k - just trying to get any sort of flow on in my running was impossible, as I was struggling to avoid slower people in front of me, and faster people behind me did their very best to elbow me out of the way. the usual people running as groups didn't help, and my only choice (if I wanted any hope of hitting my target time) was to keep running at my 9 minute mile pace, and if that meant going sideways, then so be it. I know this is a bad idea, but I knew it would be cutting it fine to get me on pace, and losing even a few minutes early on would have left me needing to run ludicrously quickly (for me) for another 23 miles, which wasn't going to happen.

First water station - absolute hell. For reasons best known to themselves - the organisers put this at a narrow corner, and the entire race stops to grab a bottle of water, and half a banana. (This in turn means the cobbled street is covered by wet banana skins - which isn't such a problem, as running at this point was not an option.) another 2 and a half minutes wasted. I had a gel and tried to make the most of the rest, which I didn't need

10k - well behind schedule (about 5 minutes) I attempted to up the pace a little, but not too much - as in London last year I’d caught up 3 minutes by the half way point, and it wore me out just to put on that much of a burst of "speed".

13 miles - shocking. feeling tired, no energy left and not really worrying, but a tiny bit worrying pains across my ribs (I won't call them chest pains, as I never thought my life was in danger) I was 10 minutes behind schedule. realising I was exhausted, and to get a sub 4 marathon would have meant smashing my half marathon PB (and then some) and to get a marathon PB I would have to pretty much get a half marathon PB (my half marathon PB isn't that great) and feeling the way I did at that point it was NOT going to happen.

14 miles – still going, and seeing what happened. I was running – or doing what I call running. Most others would still call it jogging.

16 miles – barely moving. I saw the 26 km marker twice, and started wondering if I was hallucinating (I decided I just saw 25 and mistook it for 26 later) this was the point at which we went through underpasses, tunnels, and last of all the scene of the crash that killed the Queen of Hearts (TM). Walking through the airless tunnels, with the occasional word of encouragement from my French counterparts, I could hardly face another step.

17 miles – walking, and not on the official course, I had a nice stroll along the banks of the Seine, admiring the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and the Statue of Liberty on the river (not hallucinating – look it up), I scanned for a metro station. If I’d seen one, the emergency 5 Euros would have been utilised to get me back to the Arc de Triumph. Fortunately I didn’t find one. With 9 miles to go, I wondered about walking directly to the arc, but my sense of direction, in addition to my sense of shame (one of the advantages of getting sponsored, and of going on about it so often to the world and his wife about my fifth marathon, and telling the parents how they could track my progress online, and imagining them watching my chip be scanned through every 5km point (actually they were shopping, but I didn’t know that) so I told myself the following.

9 miles isn’t that far. That’s a jog home from work.
I would only get lost trying to walk back
I would look like a right old quitter, trudging the streets of Paris in my vest and number.
Even if I walked the 9 miles – I’d get there eventually, I’d get a medal, and I’d finish the marathon.
Finishing 5 marathons is still pretty cool, even if one of them (ok – 3 of them, almost 4 of them) was pretty rubbish by my standards

Onwards. Back on the course

20 miles – walking and running, I kept on going. 10k – is 10k, and I can do that standing on my head.

22 miles – bumped into a fellow club member – it was nice to see her, and we chatted for a while, I made sure that she wouldn’t slow down for me, and I did my best to keep up with her.

23 miles – The Marathon De Beaujolais Neuvoux were advertising their race, by giving away wine. Nice, warm red wine, in little glasses. Two years ago, I was tempted, but I was taking it seriously that time. With nothing to lose, other than my lack of a headache, I accepted the offer of a cheeky beverage from a beautiful girl dressed as a nun, then went to catch up my team mate.

24 miles – the stand for the Marathon De Medoc (another heavily wine based marathon – 26 miles, 26 vineyards) provided more red and another one offering cold white wine (my favourite wine of all) and I was much happier. With 2 miles to go, I kept on jogging along. I passed a pair of camels at one point. The wife has no recollection of them – I may have been elsewhere at the time, head wise.

26 miles – no chance of a sprint finish, I posed for the photographers (they missed me completely), crossed the line, accepted my medal, and had a look around for the wife. No sign of her, and it was beyond the 1 hour cut off period we’d set for giving up meeting at the finish, and heading for the hotel, so I headed for the hotel.

I’d just showered by the time she got back – she must have been on the train behind me. We exchanged stories, and that was that.

I’m giving myself 18 months without running another marathon. Another small marathon will probably happen at some point. Maybe Leicester again (although hilly, I can train up for that) maybe Abingdon (a good one for a PB) or maybe somewhere else. I’ll keep on supporting the wife, but my body needs a break. It needs adrenaline, and the speedier events such as the triathlon and 5-10k races will be much better for me.

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