Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports
I notched up my 3rd marathon within 12 months on Sunday – the Farnham Pilgrim Marathon. It was a great day out…
…and it KICKED MY ASS!
Aside from being run over 26.2 miles, this race had almost nothing in common with your garden variety road marathon, as I was about to find out. As a namby pamby cityboi whose running quite often consists of repeated laps around the block, this event pushed me way out of my comfort zone. It was a hard, hilly, and very humbling experience.
The race starts deceptively easily – a few easy kms on nice slight downhill allows you to settle into what you think will be consistent marathon pace. Don’t get too comfortable, however, because things get soon get bumpy as the course winds it way onto the trails of the local farmlands and North Downs Way – many of them being narrow single-track sections, with nettles & I suspect poison ivy on the sides.
The full marathon course covers about 2000ft of vertical. Not exactly Western States, but hardly a stroll in the park either.
After about 15km I could feel I was struggling quite a bit more than I usual do on a vanilla marathon. No doubt a bit more terrain specificity during my training would have helped, as would some attempt at a taper, even though it was not a “goal” race.
Having studied the course profile beforehand, I knew that things were about to get a lot harder, and that I was going to be in for a long day.
Just before the halfway point is the biggest climb of the race – about 300ft over 1 mile, which has just about everyone reduced to walking/hiking. If that didn’t make it hard enough, the gravel turned to sand in some places, which really took the biscuit.
Nonetheless, I was making respectable progress, and reached the halfway point in around 1:53min. A few seconds were sacrificed here and there to take some photos for posterity, given the elevation that had just been conquered, and I also found myself stopping to empty the stones and twigs from my shoes on several occasions. Although I was not in great shape at that point, I still felt a sub-4hr race finish was very achievable.
Unfortunately as I moved into the 2nd half of the marathon, the downhills were taking quite a physical toll on my body – in particular my left big toe was becoming bruised and began to hurt quite badly. This happens because running downhills pushes your foot forward inside the shoe and your toe is repeatedly rammed against the front of the shoe. Ouch! It shows that I am not the best technical runner, and also favour my left-leg to do most of my foot placement work.
My pace started to fall off dramatically in the last 3rd of the race. I had gone out too hard, and was now paying the price. We all know that this happens, but until it happens to you then you don’t quite grasp the value of your own advice until it’s too late. Bummer.
Normally I pride myself that I am better than most at correctly pacing my races and tend to pass lots of people in the 2nd half – very few people manage to come past me unless they are negative splitting. However today the boot was very firmly on the other foot.. I had very little left in my legs in the back half and was passed by 20-25 runners in the last 3rd of the race.
In the last 10km I gave up on my A-goal of a sub 4-hrs finish, and reverted to death-marching up the hills, gingerly trotting the flats, and just trying to survive the descents while protecting my throbbing toe. My race had pretty much fallen apart and my body was aching all over. The course has chewed me up and spat me out – my goal now was just to finish without doing too much further damage to myself.
The final ascent to the finish was in reality a very shallow climb, but to me at that point it felt like a mountain – I was greeted with cheers from our group who had assembled to see my finish: Kai, Selena & Sarah had all rather sensibly opted to do the Half Marathon and had already finished, while Mike, Lucinda, Dave, Lou & Nats were all there cheering my round the final corner. I had not seen most of them up until this point in the day because of the staggered start times for the full- and half-marathon races.
A final trudge over the finish line and a time of 4:10 meant that I had taken 2:17 for the 2nd half… a horrific +10% positive split. Ouch. A painful lesson learnt!
You know you’ve overestimated your own ability when a “build-up race” ends up being the toughest race that you’ve ever run, and now I’m absolutely terrified of this upcoming 50 miler next month – much of it on on the same parts of the North Downs that this race took place on.
The race highlighted my inexperience with trails and a lot of other weaknesses, so I’m happy to take the lessons, incorporate them into my training, and move forward.
The grizzly details:
Finish time: 4:10:40
First half: ~1:53m
2nd half: ~2:17m
71st out of 325
Coconut water (250ml)
Beet It Shots (x2)
Water & Banana from aid stations