Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports
I have a love-hate relationship with the Berlin Inline Marathon – as exhilarating as it is to participate in the largest and most impressive inline marathon in the world, I don’t think I’ve ever really done myself justice in the race. While many people seem to pull out their best race of the season at Berlin, I have always found it a difficult race to really do my best at. Logically, everything is in place for you to do well – a huge field should ensure plenty of pacelines to latch onto, plus the course is fast, and as flat and wide as you could reasonably hope for, but for whatever reasons I have never done that well here.
This year I managed to wrangle my way into C block, where the majority of the skaters finish between 1:20-1:30. This felt about “right” to me. Race day conditions were generally good: bright skies with a mild air temperature of 17 degrees, but a pretty stiff 15km/hr WNW breeze would make itself felt at various points around the circuit. At least the goddamned rain stayed away. There were 4 team-mates also starting from block C, which gave us an opportunity to form a good paceline in LSST Blue.
Another difficult thing about Berlin is that simply due to the logistics of the race, the time between warming up and working your way past the scrum of other skaters to take up your place at the start.. and then your race actually getting under way is usually at least half an hour and normally more – most people find their normal warmup routine goes out the window, and it’s something that I have always struggled with.
So a few minutes after 3:30pm our block was released and off we went; a lovely line of 5 LSST skinsuits nose to tail, effortlessly (well, not quite) skipping between bigger pacelines like a heat-seeking caterpillar. Unfortunately that was about as good as it got for the block C Dream Team.. We drifted apart after just the first few km, and I found myself struggling to hang onto the line after 6 or 7km, and made the decision not to chase it. I know my body well enough now to recognise that my legs were rejecting the idea of a flat out AT effort, and if I fought it too hard I could blow up altogether as I have done on occasion. So for the 2nd quarter of the race I was gingerly treading a fine line between skating easily enough to bring my legs back from the brink and trying to stay with the other skaters around me and not drop too much time.. I know enough now not to panic, and knew that if I just keep going then my body would eventually adjust and my skating would come back, and sure enough this is what happened. My legs were slowly coming back between kms 15-20, and I managed to get myself in the middle of a decent paceline. From half-way I was finally beginning to find my skating legs, and as a few slightly faster skaters came past I hopped onto their line, which I even found myself towing around at one point – not too happy about that! The rest of the race was spend just hopping between various pacelines trying to find the fastest one, but this was proving to be a self-defeating exercise because as soon as a faster line went past everyone else seemed to have the same idea.. the result was that the fast line no-longer stayed the fast line, and quite often the line that I left would be drawing level and even inching back ahead of the line that I had just joined – very frustrating!! Nonetheless, the traditional last 1/3rd of the race features some wickedly fast sections, and the GPS says that we managed to hit 39km/hr at one point – quite pleased with that!
I seem to say this every year I go, but it has to be said that Berlin seems to bring out the worst crashes, and this year was no exception. Having managed to avoid two early stacks, I clipped skates quite badly on a couple of occasions and still managed to stay upright. I also had the skater immediately in front of me completely wipeout over a manhole cover in an almost cartoon-like fashion, the skater behind me also went down, and the girl in front of my clipped skates with someone and sent them flying.. all in all, 4 or 5 extremely close calls. Once again, I consider it more by luck than judgement to have made it around without faceplanting like a tenpin on Berlin’s lovely smooth tarmac.
As we worked out way to the end, I could feel the energy of the paceline was beginning sag, but frustratingly there was simply nothing faster around to work with, and so I just stuck it out to the end. I crossed the line in a net time of 1hr:28:06. Initial reaction was slight disappointment that I didn’t manage to go faster than in Copenhagen 3 weeks earlier in what should be a faster race, although I did go over 7 minutes faster than my 2012 race time (during which I had a lot of problems). While not a disastrous performance by any means, I wouldn’t say that I did particularly well, and I know that I should be posting faster times if only I can pull it all together. However in hindsight I think that I did at least manage to (just about) stay ahead of any London skater a rec skate, so at least I don’t have that shame to deal with! And the reality is that you can’t PR in every race, even if it is supposed to be faster on paper. So for another year then, “crushing it” at Berlin remains illusive.
I have to give a big shout out to our “Block A” skaters – Marcus, Gibran, Richard & Ed, who left the relative “comfort” of Block B this year to really test themselves and mix it up with the elite pack – huge achievement! Trying to improve to get closer to the level of these guys is a huge motivation for why I skate!
For dinner we took the easy option and went to the fine Italian restaurant next door to the flat we were staying at. I went for a fine Cordon Bleu, and wasn’t afraid to eat all the potatoes served with it. As I had previously written, I want to experiment with a slightly higher carb intake in the 48hrs before a long race as per the OFM protocol.
I was keen to at least stick my head into the traditional skater party, but that idea was firmly quashed after a couple of spoonfuls of tirimasu, and we wisely opted for an early night, ready for Round 2. I was glad to have got through the day having not taken too much out of myself and still in good shape as I nodded off.
I woke up au naturale as I usually do just before 7am, having arranged to meet Theresa – my good friend, fellow “dopplestarter” and arch nemesis all rolled into one – at the start for around 8:15am. I definitely felt fresh from a great night’s sleep. Breakfast consisted of: eggs, bacon, nutbread with butter & honey, and a cappuccino with a teaspoon of chia seeds. The nutbread was wonderful – it’s about 35% carb and I’m guessing much slower release than an ordinary loaf – I’ll have to see if I can get something similar from the supermarkets back home.
I planned to walk/slowjog to the start line, and got there just before 8:30am. Theresa had already gone ahead as I was running a little late, but I wasn’t in a rush as there was still ample time before the race start. Final check as I approached the starting area: phone, headphones, utility belt, water bottle, race number, chip.. chip.. CHIP CHHIIPPP!?! FUUCCCKKKK!!!! I had totally forgotten about the race chip and left it in my skate that was still at the flat.. What followed in the next 25 minutes was a “brisk” run back to the flat to frantically grab the chip (Nati mercifully met met at the top of the street to save me a few precious minutes) before turning back around around and doing it all over again.. just to get to the start. By the time I finally reached the starting point, the more advanced waves had already set off.. and I was hot and flustered.. and plenty warmed up enough. However, I wasn’t too worried about missing the official start as I knew that it would take some time for all the runners to get going, but still I could have done without adding an unplanned 5km tempo before the race had even started. Chip firmly in hand (actually in trainer), I took some time to soak up the atmosphere while we waited in the starting block and did the customary shuffle forward towards the start line. It really is a wonderful feeling, totally different and – dare I say – more relaxed than the pre-race atmosphere for the skate race. I guess a part of this was that I had no real expectations going into run my first marathon and my main aim was just to enjoy it, and perhaps another reason is that running is largely a solitary affair for most, and although the physical effort is much greater, you are less in danger of a big crash (unless we are talking glycogen depletion) or accident.
And so running my first ever Marathon was an experience that I will never forget. You run the full gamut of emotions through the course of the race. I doubt that there’s a single marathoner who doesn’t remember their first marathon. The descriptions that you read about are pretty accurate, I would say. Mine went something like this:
1-5km: I wish all these people would get out of my way, I’m trying to run here!
6-10km: Just getting warmed up now.. this is a piece of cake..
11-15km: Look at me, I’m flying! I’m putting in near-10km pace and it feels eaasyy!
16-20km: I’m UNSTOPPPABBLEE!!!
20-25km: There’s Nati, waving to me at half distance! Past half way, and I’m still going strong!
26-30km: ok, this is getting harder…
31-35km: This is hurting now. I’m in trouble, but nearly there, just gotta hold on a bit longer…
36-40km: The PAAAINN! The PAAIN!! Why didn’t I run SLOWER earlier? I’m counting down every single KM marker now! Why wasn’t I doing that for the first 20km!? I want my mummy!!
41km: Arggghh! Can’t think. Just keep pushing, just keep pushing, nearly there. Get to the next corner. The pain isn’t real – it’s just your Central Governor. Ignore all these people who are walking.. no point walking… walking hurts just as much as running..
Finish line: I did it! I fricking did it!! MY LEGS!!! OH MY LEGGIES!! I MAY NEVER WALK AGAIN, NEVER MIND RUN!!!
And that was pretty much how it unfolded. I had a LOT of fun and enjoyed every single second of it, even through the fatigue and pain. I fueled on nothing during the race but a water bottle filled with 1 scoop of UCAN.. that’s about 25cal/hr. Yeah, almost forgot to mention that. I hope I don’t sound arrogant when I say that I had 100% confidence that I would be able to do this, as my body has become so efficient at fueling from fat.
And seriously.. HOW on earth do people WALK straight after running a marathon?? My legs just can’t do that. Are these people just not trying as hard as me?! After the race we waddled the 3km or so back to the flat, and I think it took us almost as long to cover that distance as it took to run the race. All in all I think I covered an unofficial ultramarathon distance. And I remembered to return the chip.
All in all, a very successful day.
Oh yeah, I finished the marathon in 3hr:59:10, so just managed to dip under the 4hr mark. Pretty pleased with that effort, although I intend for it to be a benchmark time for future years rather than just an ending one for this year. Had you told me a year ago that I would be finishing the Berlin Marathon in sub-4hrs a day after skating it in 1:28 I would have slapped you with a sock and laughed, and yet stranger things have happened.
A satisfactory skate and a very enjoyable run made it a great weekend in all, and a fantastic way to close out the 2014 race season. Berlin is guaranteed for at least another year, and I’ll be back for sure for at least the skate, and perhaps the run also. There’s lots of takeaways from this weekend, and I have many thoughts on tweaks I could and should have made to do better next time. I might even have cracked this inline marathon malarkey by then – but don’t count on it… give me ultra any day. 🙂
Overall: 27th out of 87 male double-starters