Archive | October, 2014

Ich Bin Ein Frankfurter

27 Oct

So, back to Frankfurt, 1 year on from finally breaking the 3 hour barrier.  It was going to be emotional…

The initial aftermath of Frankfurt 2013 was great.  I had one fun month of reduced running and racing to recover and then things went pretty pear-shaped (running-wise) in December, with another low-grade calf tear followed by a chest infection.  Just at the point when I should have been rebuilding my fitness, I was unable to run.  By early January I was back running, although pretty slowly, and it’s fair to say that my half marathon results in March at Bath (1.26) and Larne (1.25) weren’t what I would have hoped for following spring 2013’s sub 1.24 spectacular.  May was a bit of a low point, as I only just dipped under 40 minutes for 10k – half marathon pb pace had become current 10k pace.  Ooops.

With a bit more mileage under my belt and a bit of speedwork, things began to improve in June and over the summer I had some decent track and 10k results, which reassured me I was heading in the right direction for an autumn marathon.

It was another 18 weeks in the company of Pfitzinger & Douglas, and as always their training schedule really seems to suit me.  I knew from a 10k pb (38.24) that I was in good shape prior to the Bristol Half marathon, and hoped to get close to my pb or even dip under it so that I could aim for something around 2.55 at Frankfurt.  The race was one of those lovely days when everything clicked and I went from feeling really tired and sluggish the day before to fantastic during the race.  I broke 1.22 for the first time (1.21.57) and suddenly, only 5 weeks before the marathon, I had to begin to ask myself if 2.55 was really a stretch target.  Race calculators were suggesting anything from 2.51-2.55.

September and October were pretty busy work-wise, and that probably affected my training paces.  Those sort of marathon paces (6.35m/m – 6.40m/m) certainly seemed a long way away as I trudged around long runs, knackered, well over 8 minutes per mile.

In the last few weeks the taper began to kick in, which is to say that I suddenly had too much energy, couldn’t sleep and was generally pretty crotchety to be around (more than usual, that is!).  My times began to improve, although there was still the odd lethargic day which I told myself to ignore.

Another Bristol & West clubmate (Jenny) was racing Frankfurt as well so we flew out together on the Friday.  By that stage my public target was 2.54.30, or 4.08/km.  I slept really badly on the Friday night but reminded myself that had happened last year and I shouldn’t panic.  I re-read Charlie Spedding’s “From Last to First” on the flight over and on the Saturday.  He talks about sports psychology in the book, and how you have to focus on positives, and ‘think caterpillar’, i.e. focus on what you will ultimately achieve (becoming a butterfly, if you’re a caterpillar) rather than any negatives along the way.

Jenny and I walked down to the start from our hotel and got into the start pen early (probably not long after 9am when the race started at 10am).  At about 9.40 I moved back a bit because I was aiming for a slower time and spent a bit of time thinking caterpillar (and moving a little more towards the centre of the pen, as the edge of the pen had become an unofficial pissoir).

10am, and off we went.  The first km flew by in almost exactly 4.08.  Bingo.  And then it was one of those days when things just really clicked.  Hopefully I’ve not overdrawn on my quota, because I’d love to have some more next year!  Most of my kilometres were around 4.05/4.06, with a few slightly faster/slower outliers, but I always assume they are probably slightly misplaced km markers, me being a bit ham-fisted with the stopwatch or course gradients/twists & turns.  Certainly my official 5km splits from the chip timing mats are pretty equal: 20.31, 20.40, 20.21, 20.26, 20.28, 20.20, 20.18, 20.38 and then 8.59 for the final 2.2km, to bring me home in 2.52.41.  Most of the time when I was running it felt effortless.  I remember having a slight panic/chat to myself at about 20km because I was heading for something about 2 minutes faster than I’d planned and I was trying to ascertain if this really felt like marathon pace, or was a crash and burn on the cards.  I reassured myself it did really feel like marathon pace and pressed on.  At 29km I went past Nick and Tom who were looking after those of us who had travelled out with 2:09 events.  They shouted that I was looking strong and my inner caterpillar believed them.  From 30km I just started to have some fun.  Most people slow in the second half of a marathon, even more so in the final third, so I told myself I wasn’t going to maintain my pace unless I overtook loads of people.  One by one, I began to pick runners off.  Crowds respond well to people who are running smoothly and smiling, so I was getting loads of cheers from the public – and one water marshall very sweetly tried to persuade me I should go back and have his cup of water (well, I think that’s what he said – my German isn’t great!).  I was clearly feeling much stronger and therefore aware of my surroundings than last year, because the final 4km didn’t feel that familiar!  At 42km I turned to go into the Festhalle.  As I entered, I could see that I was almost certainly going to dip under 2.53 on gun time as well as chip time, and so I mustered the closest thing I had to a sprint finish.  I looked down at my watch and saw 2.52.42.  Official results say 2.52.41.

It’s hard to describe the rush of emotion which follows finishing a marathon which has gone to plan.  It’s a mix of elation and relief which almost overwhelms you, and this year was no exception.