Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Job Done!!!

The marathon has been completed and after a couple of days now is the time to sit back and think about what went right and what went wrong. There are a couple of factors that no matter how hard you train you don’t have any control over. The first one being the weather, the day before the race it was -5’C with the wind-chill and it was snowing. On race day it was only about 2 or 3’C maybe even closer to Zero, since the race started at ungodly hour of 7:00am. It was a little blustery towards the end, but thankfully the rain/sleet held off. I guess the only consolation for this is the weather effects everyone sometimes bad weather can help. I ran all through the Alberta winter and it does make you mentally tough. The second thing you can’t control is the fitness of your competition, the only person that you can influence is you, so if faster guys show up then all you can do is stick to your race plan. My race plan is to try and run even splits. The third thing you can’t control is how good or bad you’ll feel on race day, this is something that only your body can control. No matter how fit you get, peaking for one day on a particular day is not very easy. Sometimes you just have to roll with it and say that today is not your day, sometimes it takes most of the race to get going. I didn’t feel like I was running to my ability for about 20K in the middle section of the race, the first and last 10K I felt went pretty good.

The race itself was on the coldest day that I’ve ever run on in shorts and a singlet. (note: for next time long shorts and maybe compression socks, they look silly but they’d keep your calves warm) My upper body wasn’t too bad but my legs at one point were red from the cold. We started with the half marathon runners so I had a couple of people to run with until their turn around and then it was just me and one other guy. The first 10K spilt was right about the time I was looking for at 37 minutes. But in the second 10K segment we slowed down a little and I think that it was mainly due to the hills, Shaganappi trail is steep and it comes around the 14K point just after you’ve gotten into a good rhythm. The roads up around the University are rolling with the down hills not really all that fast so you never really gained any time. We went through 20K about 30 seconds off the time I was looking for, so still not that bad. But somewhere between 20K and 21.1K we lost a little bit more time as we went through the half way point in 1:19:45.

The guy I was running with was looking to get around 2:40 which may explain why when he set the pace we slowed down just a little. At the same time though when I set the pace I wasn’t opening it up all that much either and I think this was due to the cold and how tough that made an already hard course, maybe it was just me but it felt colder around the University than it did down by the river. At times you could see snow on the ground on the hills that surround that part of Calgary. When we go to the 30K point I noticed that we were almost 3 minutes off the time I was hoping to get to that point. So I was starting to think that it would be impossible to run the last 12K at a pace that would get me under 2:40. At 32K which was the bottom of Shaganappi trail I was starting to feel that the time was getting away from us. But I knew that the last 10K was almost entirely flat, it was just after we came off the trail I started to pick it up and dropped by partner. This meant that I was running on my own which is fine as most of my runs are by myself, but I also had people in front of me that I looked to pass, even though they were in the half marathon and most of them were walking it gave me something to concentrate on. If my calculations were correct (as I didn’t take any splits) I ran the last 10K in approx 37 minutes, which meant that I finished as strongly as I started. There was one hill that almost did me in and that was just before the finish, it was pretty steep (as most rises are at that stage of the race) and the effort was beginning to tell on me there, also I was surrounded by half marathoners so I had to try and find a line through them as I was moving a lot faster than some of those guys. As I turned into the finishing chute that was when I realized I could go under 2:40, I saw the clock ticking closer to 2:40 so I picked it up as much as you can in the finish and managed to come home in 2:39:43/45 (depending on if you go by gun time or official clock time). It was only after I finished did I find out that I came 3rd.

Am I happy with the race? Yes and no. Yes due to the fact I broke a time that set out to beat. No in the fact that I didn’t feel like I was running all that well for about 50% of the race. Happy that I ran a very evenly split race, happy that the last 10K of the race was one of my best, in Dublin back in October I started to struggle somewhere around 34K. Happy with the nutrition strategy I used. I consumed a Gel about 45 minutes before the start and then took another on at the 17K point, it took me 3-4K to finish it and then I took a third gel around the 27K point. Only problem was that the second gel wasn’t all that good, is was thicker than the first it was more like a paste than a gel, so it had to be taken in even slower than the first so I was still using it when I finished. Next time I won’t be taking GU gel with me.  I was thinking that the GU would help me and maybe it did, but never again. The other thing I did was I didn’t take on any energy drinks, this was deliberate as the gels (so I thought) would be enough. I missed a couple of water cups due to some stations only telling us that they had GU drinks, the volunteers could have been spread out a little more so that if you missed a cup at the start you could get one before you exited the aid station. The other thing was a couple of people held the cups so high (fear of being splashed, I guess) that I couldn’t reach them. But those two things are things that you as a runner can’t control, you can suggest to the race organizers to correct them for the next year.

I have to give the volunteers, race organizers who didn't hold it against me for being from Edmonton, the spectators along the way a big thank you for all of their work to make the day such a good one, not only for me but for the other runners as well. I should also thank the Calgary Transit driver left enough space for us to run through before unloading his passengers, I tried to give him a wave bu am not sure it was seen. It couldn't have been that easy to stand around in the cold on a Sunday morning when most people would use it as an excuse to stay in bed.

Thanks for reading

1 comment:

  1. Well done, Niall. Very impressive for a tough course on a tough day.