Wednesday, 8 November 2017

November 5th 2017 New York Marathon

42km (I ran 44km) 3:12:47  111th of 3730 50 - 54 Age Group  2111th of 50647 Overall 

My end of season lap of honour was around the five boroughs of New York. It started on Staten Island, over the bridge, the length of Brooklyn and into Queens, another bridge onto 1st Street and right up to the Bronx then back down into Harlem and finishing up in Central Park. One of the most iconic routes in the world I reckon and I had three friends out here joining me for the city tour and general R&R.
Of course I was woefully under prepared for a serious crack at a marathon. I had crammed for Kona then pretty much had my feet up trying to shed the fatigue ahead of the Big Apple city tour. Seven days before the race I attempted a 20k run to test my legs and ended up walking; not particularly promising.
Still, I was excited to be on the start line perhaps not as respectful of the distance as I ought to have been. The logistics of getting 50,000 runners onto Staten Island are colossal but it was like a well-oiled machine with no fuss albeit there was 3 hours of hanging about as they closed the bridge to traffic in preparation for the start.
I was in wave one and corral one as I had entered with a decent ‘good for age’ time from London last year but due to being too relaxed I was drinking coffee and eating a bagel when they closed the corral for the wave. The consequence was that I would run in wave two with a slower group of runners.
The upside of my school boy error was that I set off and for the first five miles I was in the front running pack as we hunted down the tail of the previous wave (the downside being I had to run an extra 2k to get around everyone)!
That was great fun until we did hit the wave one walkers and then I spent the next 10 miles frustratingly weaving through the field. I suppose it did distract me in a good and a bad way. I wasn’t paying particular attention to my heart rate, just running on feel and dodging the wall of walkers. The table of my race splits tells the story.

I knew I hadn’t done the work to run well so it was just a question of how far I would get before I imploded. You can see that it was a little after half way that the wheels started to fall off and then as my legs progressively turned to concrete I got slower and slower and slower! The last five miles were probably more painful than the last five miles of the marathon I had done in Kona three weeks earlier.
It would have been very easy to just spiral into a walk, that chimp was being very noisy. I had set my goal on getting a ‘good for age’ time so I would have the option to enter the big city marathons without having to go through the ballot system. Boston was under 3:15 and London 3:15 -> I figured under 3:15 would get the job done.
I went through half way in 1:30 so had plenty of ‘spare minutes’ to play with but as my running unravelled it was starting to look close. Coming into the last 5 miles I had to lock the brain down, give myself a good talking to and go into Ironman mode, a trance like state of pain denial or disassociation as its referred to in the text books.
I knew I had really battered my legs but with no more racing this year I was ok with that. Walking like a robot for the next seven days was kinda funny, at least to those that saw me wincing as I navigated up or down kerbs; stairs were a whole other level of pain!
It was a fantastic way to end what had been a challenging season, a long weekend hanging out Mary and good friends eating too much, drinking too much and running too much.
A couple of weeks of chilling out then the serious business of getting into winning shape for RAAM starts!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

2017 End of Term Report -> Reasons not Results

To have a great year racing you need a solid block of consistent training all year long. The above chart tells the story of my efforts to be consistent and roughly speaking, the blue line represents my fitness ebbing and flowing in response to the purple training load. Finally, the yellow line is an expression of fatigue, the more it moves down into negative territory the more fatigued I am getting. So, you can see from the chart that I ticked off the first target, solid fitness ahead of the early February training camp where I started my bike focus. I did the Folksworth 15 miler and got a fast second place and then did the Milton Keynes half marathon and went one better by nailing the win.

My plan was to enter the year with some solid run fitness, maintain that fitness with a slightly lower emphasis on run training and direct my training effort to move the needle on my outright bike power and fitness. My running has always been very competitive but my biking has been short of what is required to be considered a real weapon in the race.
Post training camp I kept my fitness building but by March I was wrestling with Achilles tendinopathy and you can start to see my blue line (fitness) starting to plateau and then move down. At the end of March my running was almost zero but I stuck to my bike plan and completed the Tour of Flanders 250km Spring Classic. A great road trip with good friends creating some lasting memories both navigating the cobbles and the apr├Ęs velo.
One bike ride doesn’t make a summer and you can see my fitness tumble as the tendinopathy just became too painful. My training came to a grinding halt, dropping 20% in April before I got the upper hand and started to string some training together again. You can see it took me until the middle of May to regain the fitness I had built by the end of March; one step forwards and two back. 
Still holding onto the notion of focussing on the bike I did the Fred Whitton Challenge in the middle of May. 100 miles in the Lake District with over 3500m of elevation, great fun and a proper tough ride and for the first time, I completed all the 20%+ climbs.

I was still struggling to achieve any real run consistently so I reluctantly pulled out of the Mallorca 70.3 and the Outlaw Half. I had Ironman Frankfurt coming up in July and I desperately needed to string some consistency together if I wanted to be competitive in the IM European Champs. As part of the build I did a UCI qualifying bike race in early June and it all started to come together as I bagged a spot at the world champs in Albi. You can see the steady rise of the blue fitness line through May and June and then, boom, it falls off a cliff as I fall off my bike. In a low key race I had a bike crash, hitting the tarmac at speed and snapping my collar bone in three. I will spare you the details but essentially I was off games from the middle of June until the middle of August. My fitness plummeted. I couldn’t swim, bike or run as the decision had been made not to pin it but allow it to fuse back naturally as it’s a much better long term fix but short term much more debilitating.
You can see from the graph, the first day back was August 14th and 11 weeks later I was expecting to be racing the best of the best in Hawaii.! My ‘fitness score’ had dropped from 175 to 65 (63%) and Hawaii required a score close to 200

My first hurdle was the UCI cycling World Champs on the 26th August in Albi, France. It was a great week of hard bike training culminating in a really fun race with good mates. With two weeks training under my belt it was all about survival… I survived and wasn’t dead last but a mile off being competitive. The challenge was to see how much fitness I could rebuild in the weeks leading up to Kona. Things to note are the consistent training expressed by the almost uninterrupted rise of the blue fitness line. That’s all great but I was ramping up training very hard and the very steep gradient of the line is a function of this. I had no choice but to risk building fitness aggressively as it was the only way I stood a chance of having sufficient fitness to start the race in Hawaii. Under normal circumstances it would take 6 months to take fitness from 65 to 200 in a way that doesn’t risk overuse injuries. I was training by the seat of my spandex and the yellow fatigue line remained in very worry some negative territory week after week.

I was then faced with the spectre that my first triathlon of the year would be the World Champs, so with 6 weeks training under my belt I entered the British Champs at the local Vitruvian. Whilst not performing at my usual level I did come 10th in a deep field and importantly gave my confidence a boost. I dared to think that I might just be able to hold my body and mind together and make the start line in Kona.

You can read the race report on how that turned out but from the graph you can see I managed to get my fitness score up to 135, woefully short of what is required, but just good enough to finish with a smile.

Next up is cramming for the New York Marathon, a lap of honour around Manhattan.