Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Chester Marathon

Well the dust has settled on another marathon journey.  I finished the Chester Marathon in 13th place in a new personal best of 2 hours 37 minutes and 38 seconds.    The build up to Chester was a planned 18 week build up starting on the 2nd June and finishing with a two week taper leading up to race day on Sunday.   Briefly my training has involved 14 "long runs" mostly over 20 miles each focusing on a decent pace but not flat out.  One or two of those long runs finished at marathon pace.  A fair few runs at a marathon pace (mainly between 9 and 12 miles at marathon pace - around 6 minute miling) and these I felt were the most beneficial to me.  I set out at the start of the 18 weeks with a clear goal.  A 26.2 mile race at 6 minute miling ending with a 2.37 marathon.   At no point did I deviate from this or think I cant do it or maybe I could go faster.  This meant a clarity over all my training as I set that goal early and stuck to it.  There were times when i set off on a 10 - 12 mile marathon pace effort and felt that 6 minute miling was just slightly out of reach but I was confident that come race day it would click!

I've never been a high mileage runner and usually 50 to 60 miles has been my average weekly mileage.  In this build up over the 16 training weeks excluding the taper I've averaged about 70 miles per week peaking at 90 miles with four weeks to go until race day.    I've maintained a weekly speed session mainly focusing on 10km speed intervals with the odd 5km based session thrown in. 

For the taper I reduced from the 90 mile week down to 60 miles then 50 miles.  For my last week I kept things similar to my last two marathon's and this involved:

Saturday - 13 mile steady run averaging 6.08 miles per minute
Sunday - Race Director duties most of day for Redcar Half then an easy 4 mile recovery run.
Monday - Steady 4 miles averaging 6.28 per mile followed by a massage.
Tuesday - a 4.5 mile steady run in 6.18 minutes per mile followed later in the day with a one mile easy jog then 4 x 400m efforts @ 5km pace.
Wednesday - 5 x 800m efforts at a nice and relaxed pace (close to half marathon pace).
Thursday - A three mile marathon pace effort on the track where I averaged 5.58 minutes per mile.
Friday - No Running
Saturday - a two mile easy jog to loosen up the legs after travelling.

This was the easiest taper I've done and unlike other marathons I have done I wasn't climbing the walls with the reduced mileage.  There were plenty of taper niggles but In was confident that they were just the body getting ready for the main event!

So race day arrived and after a gentle warm up and hanging around time in the elite tent at Chester it was time for the start.  I felt confident but knew the first few miles were important to find my feet, get my head straight and establish a steady rhythm for the race. 

The first 10km was completed in 37.10 almost bang on target despite the few climbs and descents around the town centre so it was a case of putting in the miles now until the real test starts post 20 miles.   I was fortunate to get into a great group of three runners.  Nick Sparkes of Sheffield Tri Club and a runner from Exeter Simon Longthorpe who both went onto finish in the Top 10 and under 2.36.  Between us we pushed on until almost the 30km point before I was dropped from the group but not before we had picked off a fair few runners on our way who were suffering from a faster early pace.   The group effort was relaxing.  There was very little communication between us but total concentration and effort and a sense that we were working off each other rather than competing against each other.   Frustratingly being dropped from that group was not because of the effort needed to maintain that pace but the onset of some tightness in the hamstrings which continued to the finish.  It also co-incided with a slight hill and a drinks station whcih broke up our steady rhythm.

I passed 20km in 1.14.13 (37.03 10km) and 30km in 1.15.13 (37.00 10km) so far so good.  between 30km and 40km I struggled slightly with the hamstrings but still managed to maintain a decent pace (37.51 10km pace) going through 20 miles in 1.59.12 which would be a 20 mile pb.    Inevitably the last two km was a struggle especially after the Sandy Lane hill (Chester's equivalent of the Heartbreak hill!) and the final two miles were covered in 6.18 and 6.23 respectively.  

 Descending out of the City!

Overall I'm pleased with the run but know where the improvements can be made.  I know I can cope with a higher mileage overall and what works for me.    I felt relatively fresh at the finish so know that in terms of nutrition, pacing and judgement I got things right.   The weakness in my armour is once again the hamstrings and although it wasn't a show stopper it was certainly the things that was holding me back and i was definitely conscious of this in the last mile which involves a rather nasty descent onto the river side.

Chester Marathon is up there in my all time favourite races.  It's a fantastically organised event that really looks after you in terms of the course.  They have the drinks stations spot on in terms of nutrition options (gels, isotonic and water at plenty of opportunities around the course) and the pre and post race organisation was impeccable.    Also the elite set up with the pre and post race refreshments was a great help to make the day go smoothly.  You can't beat a decent cuppa and a few cakes after a 26.2 mile effort!

So its all about recovery now.  I've no real desire to run today and will wait until the body feels ready to go.  It might be tomorrow or Thursday or even the weekend.   After my previous few marathons I've been dying to get out and put a few miles in post marathon.  This time the feeling is different like my body is telling me to recover. 

What next?  

Marathon wise I've entered Manchester Marathon again in April.  My long term plan was to do marathons in a two year cycle to learn from the experience in Year one and then feel the benefit in Year two.  This has worked for me at Chester with a a 6 minute improvement from the 2013 race.  That would mean missing Chester in 2015 and opting for a new marathon but I was so impressed with Chester and the way it looks after you that I may be tempted to go back in 2015 and see if I can knock another chunk off that pb!   The target for 2015 will be a 2.35 marathon edging ever closer to my former mentor and club stalwart Harry Gamble-Thompson's club record for the Vet 40 (and Vet 50!) 2.34.00  set at Selby in 1986 as a 50 year old. 

For the statto's here's a link to my Strava run.  

Chester Marathon Andy Pearson

It's an interesting journey this marathon training!