Saturday, 15 June 2013

Marathon Training Week 10 of 10 (Time to Shit or get off the Pot)

My final training week for Portumna ended with a long run of 26.2 miles, where the programme called for 26.2 miles at target race pace, with recovery deferred to the end - a real ball breaker for sure!

With the 100k starting at 8, the 50k at 10, the Marathon at 12 and the half at 2 I was a little concerned that the 5k looped course through Portumna Forrest Park would get a bit congested, particularly over the closing stages of my marathon, when my ability to say "excuse me please" or "coming through on the left/right" would be severely tested and the temptation to abbreviate the request to something less polite would be overpowering, particularly over common sections of the course, with people running in both directions on a path 6 to 8 feet wide, some of whom wore earphones, oblivious to their surroundings.

I drove up with Clubmates Ann and John, with Denis, Neil and Charlie in the 50k advance party and Killian overnighting for the 100k.

We arrived in plenty of time to pick up our numbers and cheer on our clubmates who were already out on the course. The marathon started close to the village, 2.195km from the start of the 5k loop - so the plan was simple - a 2.195km run to the Forrest Park and 8 x 5 k loops of the park. Somehow counting 8 loops seemed far more palatable to the brain than breaking it down to miles or, god forbid, kms.

After donning our gear we managed to hitch a ride to the start line with race director Seb Locteau (real nice guy ;-). I still went for a short 4 minute warmup (7:09 pace @ 130 HR). The weather was very changeable with sunny spells and light rain - although the heavens opened up just 4 minute before the start as we all huddled under trees at the side of the road to keep dry for as long as possible. As the race had to start with exactly 4:00 on the clock (start of 100k) we lined up as the rain pelted down, although about 10 seconds into the race it stopped as suddenly as it had started and the sun came out. 

Peter Mooney, the only fast guy I knew on the start line (3rd in Cork in 2:35), strode into the lead, followed by a guy in red, with myself and another guy taking joint third spot - although we were soon relegated to joint 4th, as a guy in black passed us out and soon after moved into second position as we entered the Forrest Park. My opening pace is fairly relaxed, although in the high 6:40s is still sub-3 hour pace.

I got chatting to the guy beside me, Andrew, who said he was only running to half way as he had picked up the number from a mate who was unable to take part. That took the pressure off a bit as my competitive side was beginning to surface, despite the fact that I was running for a time and not a position - how was I to know the ability of those around me.

The garmin display was showing total time (to check against my pace band), lap pace (set to mile laps) and total average pace - which was moving down towards 6:40 during Lap 1 of 8. Before the lap was over we had passed the guy in red and were now in joint 3rd. I suggested that Andrew might be tempted to run the full given that a podium finish might be in the offing, but was silently releived when he said "not a chance" as his longest run in the last year was 10 miles - third place was uncontested for the moment - early days though.

Halfway through Lap 2, the 2nd placed guy in black pulls off the course in front of us, or at least I assumed he did as one minute I could see him and the next minute he was gone. Andrew and I continue on, with the lap and overall average pace coming down into the 6:30s. Early in Lap 3 we hear someone approaching fast from behind and settling in behind us instead of passing us out. Doubting that it is any of the 100k/50k front runners I look around and see the guy in black, who says he is quite content to run along with us, saying that he had to stop to take a stone out of his shoe. He introduces himself as Brian and asks are we going for sub-3 as we are currently on 2:53/54 pace. He reveals that his PB is 2:58 and that he more than likely will blow up during the second half - sweet music to my ears - although I am far from complacent as I could well blow up myself. I confirm that my PB is 2:56, but don't tell him that it is only 12 days old - can't show any sign of weakness ;-) We all run on together, with no obvious threat from behind as far as I can make out from the out and back section. Peter Mooney is comfortably well out in front.

Before Lap 3 is over Andrew begins to fall behind and Brian and I run on. We pass 16Kms (10 miles) just after 1:06 (post race splits suggest 1:05:58). During Lap 5 Brian begins to pull ahead. Looking at a "6:29" lap pace on the Garmin I am not concerned and continue on at my own pace. At the turnaround he is about 30 or 40 yards ahead and remains there until he gradually comes back to me as we cross the timing mat together with 5 Laps done - 3 to go.  He is a little surprised to see me, complimenting me, saying he thought I had fallen off the pace as he had kept the same pace/Hr. While he certainly had dropped me, my garmin suggested that it was more than likely due to a surge from him rather than any fade from me. Maybe he was trying to mess with my head - either way I was content to follow my own pace for as long as it would last. We ran on together, both of us content to have company to help pace each other. Approaching the Lap 6 turnaround (12.5km to go) Brian begins to fall behind. I continue on, still relatively comfortable in churing out a pace in the 6:30s/6:40s. I never know how far behind he is, but I am still running my own race.

The stress begins to come on as I cross the timing mat at the end of Lap 6 - 10k to go with about 2:12:36 on the clock (20 miles), which matched my pacing band exactly - although my pacing band had been arbitrarily based on a 2 mile cut-in from 7:00 pace to 6:35, with a very ambitious 6:35 pace all the way to a 2:53:30 finish. All I thought of now was that I needed a 42 minute 10k to get under 2:55. Could I run 2 x 21 minute closing 5k loops, which I equated to 6:52 (3 hr Marathon) pace.

The early pace of Lap 7 remains in the 6:30s but gradually fades. After the turnaround (7.5km to go) I keep an eye out for Brian, who is not too far behind - perhaps a minute or two - certainly not far enough to give me any level of comfort. I push the pace as comfortably hard as I can, taking the last swig from my gel (diluted honey, molasses and salt) before crossing the timing mat for the penultimate time, handing my gel belt (with car key) and bottle to Thomas, who was standing on the sideline having completed his "training 50k run".

5k to go with the clock showing 2:33:09 (I think) - just under 22 minutes to get under 2:55. I figure I need 7 minute miles to get there. The early lap pace shows 6:55 on the garmin. I try to push the pace to bring it down as much as possible but don't make much of a dent in it - the closing stage fade is well and truly upon me - this is where valuable time can be rapidly lost without realising it - putting a new meaning to the throwaway comment "how time flies". I'm counting down the closing kms. The drag up to the turnaround is tough - the usual greetings to fellow runners out on the course have faded to a weak thumbs-up. Coming off the turnaround there is no sign of Brian, so while I am "comfortably" in second place my focus is entirely on getting under 2:55 and now is not the time to relax.

Approaching the 1 km to go sign and I'm hoping for a 2:50:00 on the Garmin to give me a comfortable 5 minutes (8 minute pace) to achieve my target. However the Garmin gives me something like 2:50:20 and a 4:40 closing km requirement. In my energy depleted state I cannot convert this to my normal mile pace and assume that I need 7 minute mile pace and with the lap pace displaying "6:59" on the Garmin I am far from relaxed. I am on the last long stretch before the final turn to the finish with the time showing 2:52 - 3 minutes remaining - counting down each minute in 90 strides -

"reach the tall trees at the end of the path in the first 90 strides" - 2:53:08

"reach the end of the trees and the final left turn in the second 90 strides" - 2:54:00

"I'm surely going to make it now just 100 yards or so"

- punching the air as I cross the finish line with 2:54:35 on the clock, exhausted by the effort of the last 3 -10 - 20 minutes, even if they are the slowest miles of the day.

I might have relaxed a bit more over the closing km had my brain been able to correctly convert a 4:40 km to 7:31 mile pace.

Who was there to greet me as I crossed the line but Kate Harrison, the Girl whom John and I had paced to a 4th place 2:28 (correction 3:28) PB finish in Limerick at the start of May - a fitting end to a marathon PB day. Kate had volunteered for race support for the day.

2 Marathons PBs in 12 days is certainly contrary to conventional wisdom. However I am confident that it is a once off and never to be repeated.


  1. Fantastic race Grellan. That's significantly under 2:55. Nice sounding time too - much better than 2:56:01 ;-) Really pleased you didn't switch to one of the support events like the 50k ;-)

    BTW, I think Kate's was a 3:28... and don't forget to update your marathon history over there --->>>>>

    1. I spotted a few typing errors alright Ewen, despite proof reading it numerous times. Still, better to have a sub 2:55 marathon than an A+ in my English essay ;-)

  2. Brilliant. Well done Grellan, 2 sub 3's in less than a fortnight is unbelievable stuff (and crediting me with one too!!!!)

    Thanks for the big sweaty hug too .... although you did deserve it in fairness ;)

  3. Fantastic time and effort, I still can't quite comprehend how you managed to pull that off 12 days after Cork. Second place - sweet! You're in brilliant shape. Any plans to use that to lower your PB on some of the shorter distances?

    I had been wondering what was in that bottle of yours.

  4. Great result Grellan - didn't realise you had a podium place when I was talking to you. Super stuff.

  5. Great result Grellan well done lad your going great.. a good post to really enjoyed it..

  6. Delighted for you Grellan. Great post. One sub 3 marathon is a great milestone but reaching 2 and 3 in a fortnight is something else. Nothing left to prove (but that shouldn't stop you)

  7. Hi Grellan.unbelievable stuff..really
    impressive speed and guts.
    You have raced with gusto.
    I think the days may be gone
    when I could give you a race over shorter
    distances..I will still try though !

    1. Don't throw in the towel yet Diarmaid ;-)

  8. Just fantastic. Many congratulations Grellan.