Friday, 6 July 2012

No. 23 - The Viking Marathon

The inaugural Viking Marathon in Waterford on Saturday was my 23rd Marathon (including 5 ultras) and my 7th as a pacer. With 5 marathons under my belt this year alone and the possibility of 3 more pacing gigs, I appear to be slipping into the abyss that is occupied by those who think nothing of running two marathons in one day (and no I'm not referring to a 52 mile ultra) and have to organise their own marathons to feed their addiction. Sure enough the usual suspects were on the start line at the Mall on Saturday morning, with some sharing the early miles with me, slagging each other off and having a bit of craic before falling off the pace as the memory of their most recent ultra or marathon hits their legs - all well capable of running sub 3:30, if only they allowed themselves to recover, their legs in a perpetual state of stress/recovery.

Pat Purcell of Kilkenny City Harriers was my pacing buddy for the day and for his first pacing gig he took to it like a duck to water and appeared to thoroughly enjoy the experience.
Hi-Ho Hi-Ho It's off to work we go

We got singlets with the word "Pacer" emblazoned across the front and back, which certainly helped us to stick out from the crowd. The day threatened rain and sunshine in equal measure, typically Irish weather, the light rain before the start washing off the sun screen that some of the the runners had applied liberally in the warm sunshine less that an hour before.

Enjoying the First Mile

The course was a mixture of urban and rural roads around the south side of the City before heading out the Cork Road at Mile 9 and south to Tramore at mile 10.5. Unusually for a marathon the mile markers were "miles remaining" as opposed to "miles completed" so anyone with a standard pace band was fucked left slightly confused as "16 miles remaining" meant you were 10.22 miles into the race for which you had no split time on your pace band. Pacing 3:30 at 8 minute miles wasn't too bad as 16 miles reamining meant 2:08 time remaining, indicating that I should have 1:22  or slightly less on my Garmin . 

There were a few drags, particularly the mile or 2 before halfway, where we got a good cheer from the half marathon runners lining up to start just over 15 minutes after we passed through. We slowed the pace going up the drags to even out the effort a little and picked it up slightly on the downhills.

Miles 16 to 19 consisted of a loop around Tramore where the support again was  very good. Through the last relay changeover point at the end of the Promenade and heading for home. A few runners began to drop off the pace here but we still had a good core group of about 10 to 15. Miles 19 to 23 were back in towards the City along the main road and it was a question of keeping the head down and not letting the fatigue take over. The course took an out and back diversion along the ring road at mile 23 - just to mess with your head a little. I could see Chris O'Connell about 50 yards ahead - the last time I saw Chris was just after he crossed the finish line in Limerick last year in 3:30:05 and this was his first marathon since. I shouted out "Don't let me catch you Chris" and he gave a wave of acknowledgement. The out and back section finished just after Mile 24 - two straight miles to the finish - time to keep the head down and ignore the pain - well that's what Pat was telling anyone who would listen. Chris was still ahead and if anything had increased the gap between us. With a mile to go we had about 50 seconds of a cushion and so we eased up slightly to encouage a few stragglers, with the core group of about 8 going ahead to finish comfortably under 3:30. We managed to get 1 or 2 more over the line with a few seconds to spare, with 1 guy cramping badly about 400m from the finish and hobbling over the line just in front of us (he was actually behind us in the shot below) - Clock 23:29:57 (3:29:45 Chip). Chris came in comortably in 3:28:something - Well done on your first sub-3:30 Chris.

What time is it? I can't wait around much longer.

I did my usual post marathon/ultra recovery routine of lying down for 10 minutes and keeping my legs elevated when this guy passing said "There's a man who knows what he's doing" and I look up to be greeted by none other than John Tracy, the silver medalist in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Marathon (behind Carlos Lopez). If only he could say that about my training ;-)

While my legs recovered pretty well after the marathon an easy run in the vibrams on Monday revealed a tight right calf, which got progressively more tender as the run went on. A similar easy run on Wednesday morning (this time in more conventional running shoes) was no better and while the first mile felt good an ache developed in the calf, which got progressively worse as the run went on, forcing me to slow down - the last mile was over 9 minute pace!!!

I think I have a mild strain/tear so it's no running for a week or two. I had been thinking of running a long ultra in August but couldn't make up my mind - at least now it 's made up for me as i'd have had to ramp up my mileage over the next 3 weeks to get some ultra specific training in my legs. So i've switched to the bike, which is less stressful on the legs and will keep me somewhat motivated, particularly as I have agreed to cycle the Ring Of Kerry with a neighbour over the summer (not the organised one this weekend with 6,000 or 7,000 expected to take part).

Finally all the best to Thomas who is heading into unknown territory when he completes competes in the oddessey that is known as the Belfast Bangor 24-hour track race. An exciting time for him. I wish I was there. If you wish to offer support please text words of encouragement via. his support crew @ 00353 (0)86 3840587. All the best Thonms!!!