The day after Edinburgh

Well, this is what happened at Edinburgh and what I wrote to my weight loss forum

So, unless I capitalise the middle B of Edinburgh, it’s tough to include this in my three marathons beginning with B challenge. On the other hand, it was the fourth marathon in seven weeks. Edinburgh is a regular on my running calendar, it was where I ran my first marathon (and set a time I have never beaten) and my wife has relatives in the area, so it’s a good excuse to go and visit.

The weather forecast was dire – high winds and rain and when we lined up at the start, it was grey and gusty. It had rained hard during the night, but seemed to have dried a little. Chatted with fellow runners a while including someone from Woking the next town to me who had also run Boston (small world). Then, we were off.

Edinburgh is a hard marathon to pace. Although it’s overall downhill, most of the descent is in the first 4-5 miles on the way down to the sea. After that it’s undulating. So, instead of sticking to a target pace, it’s a case of taking advantage of the downhills and banking some time for later. Having said that, I haven’t checked my lap times yet, but I think the first 10k were slower than the previous marathons. Certainly, I was starting to feel all those preceding miles. No rain yet, but the wind was coming off the sea and I had to take my hat off or have it blown away.

I slotted into my target pace and tried to get into the zone. I heard my Garmin beep at about halfway, but didn’t check as I thought I would be able to see the official clock. Bizarrely, no halfway marker or timing mat. The next thing I knew it was 14 miles. Cue instant calculations and I reckoned on current pace that I would come in just under 3:20. Realistically that wasn’t going to happen, the worst was yet to come.

Gosford House is the turnaround point, a section of rough paved paths around the stately home and chicken farm and at around 30k, the worst part of any race for me. A guy who looked as if he was in trouble asked me if I had a spare gel. I didn’t, but his needs were definitely greater than mine, so I passed him one. 12km to go and the countdown began. Tired, I tried to switch off from the world and just concentrate on getting one foot in front of the other. The wind by now was against us and was either strong or bl00dy strong, at times I thought it blow me to a standstill. I saw my prospects of 3:20 slip away and I didn’t have the strength to care.

Final metres. I was overtaken by someone about my age. With one eye on my age place I got in front, then he went past me again. One push, one last push and I managed to leave him behind to cross the line in 3:24.

I promised my body we’d have a bit of a rest now. So, off on holiday on Thursday for some gentle beach jogging,.

I think on reflection that the three weeks between the marathons was the biggest issue.  As I’ve said before, it’s an awkward kind of interval.  I think I was guilty of spending too much time recovering and over-indulging myself.  Perhaps, what I should have done is more work on speed and not gone back to base training as I did.  Two weeks of transition followed by a week’s taper, maybe.  On the other hand, 4 marathons in 7 weeks is going to be tough whatever strategy I choose.

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Edinburgh – 5

Some enforced tapering this weekend, despite the bank holiday as I was playing at a beer festival and then entertaining friends on Saturday followed by a hospital visit on Sunday.  Still, managed to get out in the sunshine and get 17k of mostly trail done on the Monday.  Personal training session tomorrow – so  a bit of a rest again today as I’m not going to the gym and running again today would be a bit too much.

The nerves are kicking in again, despite all the distractions.  The usual dread of what is to come around the next corner.

Still, depending on the flight time and traffic behaving itself, it looks like ukejam could be a possibility for the post run celebration.  I’m going to keep a ukulele in Sarah’s car, so she can drop me straight off at the pub with the minimum of time wasting.

Then, it will be challenge complete and time to celebrate by going off to St. Lucia, reconnect with some scuba, some swimming and some gentle trots up and down the beach.

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Edinburgh – 13

I had been hoping that my shoes would last the four marathons.  But, it was not to be.  I’d noticed a small hole in the mesh on the top the other day, but it was nothing to worry about really, although because the whole of the upper is mesh it’s possible that it could turn out like a ladder in a pair of tights.  Anyway, I put them on for a run today and discovered that the upper had parted with the sole for a good part of the shoe’s length.  Must have been the sprint finish I tried the other day.  They had lasted 683 km, which is in line with the wear I’ve managed from the others.

That puts me down to two boxed pairs of Wave Levitas left.  After that, I’m going to have to  find a new brand because these are no longer made and Mizuno don’t really have an alternative minimal shoe.  I had a quick look when I got back from my run and it doesn’t look like any stores have any left either.  Well, I was expecting that, I pretty much bought any I could find online when I found out they were finished.  For me, they were a good, wide fit and although minimal, there was just enough cushioning that you couldn’t feel rough patches of road (unlike my vivo) but not really thick (like the Nike Free).  And, it looks like the fashion for minimalist shoes is passing (or has already passed), which is a shame because I’ve been more comfortable in these than I have for a long time.

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Edinburgh – 18

Good PT session yesterday.  I’m back to base for a couple of weeks and then a very quick transition and taper.  I suspect Tangier Road is going to see some action.  Fun, getting back into the weight thing, but surprising at how much I’ve lost in terms of how much I can lift.  Still, won’t take long to get back, I suspect.  At least I’m not aching today.

Busy today and scheduling training is going to be a challenge.  Rain has started and is scheduled to pour all day (and night).  More importantly, the band has a gig supporting 2014’s folk singer of the year.  For a folkie like me, that’s a massive deal and I am very nervous.  The rest of the band don’t see it in the same way, which I think is probably a good thing.  But, it means I’ve got to get kit together and leave early for soundcheck and then kick around for a couple of hours.  Suspect, I will be having a drink or two this evening.  I had the job of putting the setlist together for this one and it’s really a choice of standard country style numbers that we do in our sleep or the other more challenging stuff which is more original.  I tried to get an even mix, but it’s going to be a tough one, I think.  Still, haven’t seen much advertising, suspect we will be outnumbering the audience.

Also discovered a problem with next year’s plans.  Brighton is the day before Boston.  So, there’s no way that I can run both, logistics just won’t get me there unless I get a private jet (and even then).  I’ve paid for Brighton, but could let it go to give me Boston, London, Belfast.  Or I could give Boston a miss, which would also be a shame.  Still, can’t think about Boston until September, so plenty of time for strategising.

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Wednesday After Belfast Again

Out last night, drinking beer and playing ukulele.   And today, a pt session.  Jane and I kind of agreed that we didn’t have time for recovery.  What I really need is some way of raising my lactate threshold to try and avoid the fade at 30k (or even earlier as was the case with the Belfast hills).  She said that was not going to be pleasant and proceeded to put me through my paces today.  So, the next three weeks are going to be quite intense.  Suspect it’s also time to revisit the hill training – maybe see if I can break the minute for the upper section of Tangier road.

I’ve also decided to ditch the beet-it shots.  I tried one the night before this time and while my stomach didn’t cramp up, there were certainly times when I felt that throwing up was a possibility.  Will have to see if any of my local FB friends are interested, but they are just out of best before date and some people might be sensitive to that.

And it’s three weeks and two days until Edinburgh.  I’ve booked my bus ticket, but will have to remember to put some coins in my bag just in case the bus at the bottom of the hill turns up.  Little bit nervous about Edinburgh to be honest (now there’s a surprise).  In theory, I should be able to knock 6 minutes off Brighton’s time if I follow last year’s pattern.  That means a 3:19 finish, which I know is possible because I did it in Boston.  If I can come in under 3:20 that does give me another reason for getting GFA for London next year.  So, I’m going to have to start thinking about tactics for that now.

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Wednesday After Belfast

What I told my buddies on the weight loss forum…

So, third marathon in four weeks. And this was promising to be the hardest. My friend Kate (late of this parish) has run it more than once and described the first half as basically being all uphill. So, I was in several minds about tactics as I chatted with other experienced runners at the start line. I thought Belfast was going to be small, but the organisers said 3,000+ marathon runners and 14,000 relay runners. But the start area at City Hall didn’t seem crowded. The organisers warnings about using the loo before you got to the start was good advice as I didn’t see any. And the bag drop was a smallish lorry rather than the fleet of trucks that I’m used to at things like Edinburgh or Brighton.

We were off. I decided on a no guts no glory approach, found the 3:15 pacers and stuck with them. They were obviously banking some time, because we were well in advance of that pace for the first few miles. The first section takes you out along the motorway to the airport. Not very pretty and since it was only partially closed, noisy and smelly as well.

It had been up and down as predicted. But the real hill started at about 7 miles in. A long drag up the Falls Road, past places and murals familiar from years of news reports, across the peace line and then up some more. I remembered seeing mountains from the hotel room, now I realised that we were going up one of them. Ok, perhaps an exaggeration, but we climbed and climbed. Somewhere along the way, I realised that the pacers weren’t going to slow, so I let them go. Mile 14 turned a corner and started heading back, losing all the height we had gained as we descended a long switch back. And then we were on the coast along a cycle path back into town. It may have been on the level, but oh the wind, always in your face, cooling but hard work. A cut through town, where I was able to wave at my wife – “running well,” she lied. And then along the river. At this point, I could hear the crowds at the finish on the other bank. I managed to convince myself that we would just go along the flat, cross a small bridge and then flat home. Yeah, right. We left the river and straight onto another hill. Seriously, who plots a marathon course with an uphill that lasts all of mile 24!

On the last stretch, chatted encouragingly to a runner who was not doing well and kept with him. I had no idea about times at that stage. I knew the 3:30 pacer had gone past me some time back, but the Garmin said I wouldn’t be far off that. The last corner, a 200 metre straight lined on both sides with spectators. “Come on,” I said to the other runner, “let’s give them a show.” I HAMMERED down that last bit, a roar from the crowd carrying me along. I glanced up at the big clock. One last effort and I could…

Cross the line at 3:30:59

Toughest of the three by a long chalk, both the course and the conditions. The winner came in at 2:20 ish, 10 mins outside his pb, that might give some idea of how things were. My time placed me at 268th overall and if my counting is correct, about 4th in my class.

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Tuesday After Belfast

Well, it was done yesterday and I was nowhere near a computer to write it up.  It was tough.  To give you an idea, the leader finished in a time that was 10 minutes over his pb.  It seemed if we weren’t running up a hill, we were running into the wind.

There was one glorious moment with a downhill that seemed to take only 3 miles to lose all the height we’d gained in the previous 7.  But, there was a lot of it that was just slog.  The course itself is not pretty, one section is on one side of a motorway.  There’s another piece through an industrial estate.   And it’s hilly.  Falls road is one long up and just as I started to think that we were going to be level until the finish we had another hill that lasted for all of mile 24.  I mean, come on, who puts a hill at that point in a marathon.

Moira was there to cheer me on at mile 20 and said I looked tired.  Too right, I was tired.

Anyway, God knows how, I managed to summon up an insane sprint finish (hope the pictures are good) and came in at a gun time of 3:30:59 and chip time about 10 seconds faster.  As far as I can make out,  I came 268th overall (3,000ish runners) and 4th in class.

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