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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

London Marathon (Week 12 of 12) - Race Week

London Marathon Race Week

The final week of the 2015 London Marathon build up started with us still 15,000km away in Perth enjoying 30c temperatures. Since most London Marathons are a bit of a struggle due to a sudden unexpected heatwave on marathon weekend then we might just be at an advantage this time around, already being acclimatised to such conditions. Or then again .......

Week 12

Mon 20/4: 3.1 miles @ 8:50/mile Joondalup parkrun
Mon 20/4: 3.1 miles @ 8:51/mile Carine Glades parkrun
Tues 21/4: Rest Day - Flight from Oz
Weds 22/4: 6.6 miles @ 8:59/mile Bingley
Thurs 23/4: 3.1 miles @ 9:07/mile Bngley
Fri 24/4: 6.21 miles @ 9:06/mile Leeds Liverpool Canal
Sat 25/4: 4.0 miles incl. Market Harborough parkrun 20:42 (3.1 miles @ 6:41/mile)
Sun 26/4: 26.21 miles London Marathon 2:50:55 (26.21 miles @ 6:32/mile)

Total Mileage - 52.3 miles

Mon 20th April - Joondalup parkrun, Neil Hawkins Park

As the flights home were on Monday evening there was still time for another couple of new parkrun courses (making a total of 24 Australian parkrun courses visited over the 5 weeks).

About 12 miles north of Perth, Joondalup was first up. By this stage of the holiday it had become almost an expectation that the next venue would be set in breathtaking scenery, and sure enough Joondalup also delivered the goods:

After a second Freedom parkrun at Carine Glades it was time to set off for home.

Following a stop over in Doha, the final leg took a surprising route up the Arabian Gulf and into Iraq, flying over Baghdad and Mosul. Apparently Virgin, Air France and Emirates, amongst others, view flying over Iraq as too dangerous.

Apparently this is due a belief that ISIS militants in Iraq have possession of Syrian supplied weapons capable of reaching planes at 30,000ft+, so it was an interesting choice of route to say the least!

Saturday 25th April - Market Harborough inaugural parkrun (20:42)

The choice of pre-marathon parkrun venue wasn't made until we were nearly there but it turned out to be a very good choice. Wellands Park is quite small but works really well as a parkrun venue.

Unfortunately events were overshadowed by a medical emergency shortly into the run but the response of the new team at Market Harborough, the parkrun ambassadors Julie and Mark Thompson and the emergency services was exemplary. 

Saturday 25th April  - Carb Time

For the pre-race meal we met up with the remarkably calm Kerri French about to tackle her first marathon, Dean Allaway and  Stu Wallace fresh from his 3:05:04 PB at Manchester last week. 

Just to put that in context, since 2010 Stu's marathon times have progressed as follows : 

6:01:30, 5:05:48, 3:57:39, 3:17:02, 3:10:25 and now 3:05:04.

VMLM 2015 - The Race

As can be seen from below, our preparations for warm weather conditions were not fully utilised:

VMLM 2015 - The Race

The first priority as the race got under way was to get warmed up. It wasn't clear whether it was just down to being a shock to the system after the last 5 weeks or simply that it was actually bloody freezing but in the minutes before the start uncontrolled teeth clattering set in!

0-10k (39:59) (Hannah 40:48)

Anyway, after getting some initial warmth going it was a case of just relaxing into the early stages and ignoring the ridiculous frantic barging and jostling at unsustainable speeds that goes on at VMLM. 

The roll out down to Cutty Sark at 10K is an easy start to a marathon and is a chance to get everything warmed up without straining anything.

By now the 'tick over' speed had been established and gave an indication of how well recovered the legs were from Canberra 14 days ago.

Anything around 4:00/km was fine as that is 2:48:xx pace and would provide a solid base for launching a PB attempt later in proceedings. 39:59 couldn't be much closer to 4:00/km.

10k-20k (39:58) (Hannah 40:08)

20k is in the middle of Tower Bridge. Constant effort through this section will generally lead to going backwards a good few places as the Tower Bridge Surge takes effect.

This is where the overwhelming wall of noise and encouragement on the bridge can easily lead runners, especially first timers, into subconsciously lifting the tempo and getting carried away with the atmosphere.

It is still relatively early days so keeping it all nice and calm was the aim. Again, 4:00/km seemed to be bang on the default pace.

20k-30k (39:49) (Hannah 39:53)

The next 10k section loops around Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs.

It was feeling a good bit more relaxed than previous years through this section with emptier roads. It made sense once that I had realised that, although the pace was in line with the last few marathons, it was actually a good bit quicker than any of the previous runs around London.

Being about 10 mins ahead of previous London efforts makes a very big difference to the density of runners and so I was really enjoying being able to flow through this section relatively unobstructed compared to previous years.

30k-40k (41:19) (Hannah 40:20)

30k is usually the point where an initial sense of some kind of finishing time is established. 

Based on the very stable 2:48:xx pace up to this point there seemed like a good chance of pushing that into 2:47 or possibly 2:46 territory. Obviously, things can still change dramatically but those were the general thoughts going into the last 12k.

Through the next 5k, ie 18.6-21.7 miles, it was good to feel how strong the legs were feeling as this was likely to be where any lingering effects from Canberra were going to show up.

All was well until between 23-24 miles a general feeling of queasiness started to appear. It wasn't that bad and felt like something which would just pass but it needed a bit of easing back to help it sort itself out.

By 25 miles it hadn't got any worse but nor had it sorted itself out. This meant that even if it did now clear up, the chances of pushing on to a time in PB territory had now gone. Nonetheless, a controlled run down Birdcage Walk and into the Mall was still going to give a pretty decent time for the 3rd marathon in 7 weeks.

The picture below is at about 25 miles (in black to the right of the pic) and shows a face concentrating on trying to stop things getting messy :p

Over to the left of the picture in the red, white and blue Hannah is just about to come up alongside. A quick calculation suggested that even though I had slowed a bit over the last couple of miles, it was only by a minute or so and as such Hannah was probably going well into PB territory, 2:52:10 being the target.

40k-42.2k (9:50) (Hannah 8:58)

Hannah was able to push on well over the final 2.2k to land a 2:50:07 PB and 26th place. Not bad at all :)

Meanwhile, 2:50:55 for myself represented a triumph over the queasiness. However, when a finish line marshall immediately came over and squeezed around my stomach he got quite a frosty reception. Luckily Hannah was on hand to apologise on my behalf as I skulked off to recover in a corner.

Finish (2:50:55) (Hannah 2:50:07)

The Splits:

Other selected performances:

Julia Belyavin had a superb run to crack 2:50 for the first time with 2:49:39. After spending what seemed like an eternity doing battle with, before finally conquering, the 3 hour barrier she has now leapt forward a further 10 minutes with confidence:

This was Julia and Hannah in the same picture at about 25 miles:

Possibly the performance of the day goes to Lee Smith. After being hit by a car midweek he must have been doubtful even to make the start line.

However, after being rebuilt in true Steve Austen style he went on to smash his PB from Abingdon last year by 4 minutes with 2:43:39.

Here he is in the orange of Barnsley Harriers almost looking like an athlete ;)

And how did Kerri French get on with her first attempt at conquering the marathon? I'll let her tell you herself:

Recent Marathon Record

2009 April - Blackpool Marathon 3:24:17 (Age 42)
2009 September - Fleetwood Marathon DNF (Age 43)
2010 October - Amsterdam Marathon 3:04:27 (Age 44)
2010 November - Milton Keynes Track Marathon DNF (Age 44)
2011 April - London Marathon 3:18:30 (Age 44)
2012 April - London Marathon 2:57:04 (Age 45)
2012 October - Chester 2:55:36 (Age 46)
2013 April - London Marathon 3:11:29 (Age 46)
2013 June - Cork Marathon 3:06:19 (Age 47)
2013 October - Budapest Marathon 2:58:53 (Age 47)
2013 December - Lancaster Marathon 2:54:17 (Age 47) (1st)
2013 December - Pisa Marathon 2:54:09 (Age 47)
2014 April - Manchester Marathon 2:51:52 (Age 47)
2014 April - London Marathon 2:57:52 (Age 47)
2014 June - Rhyl Marathon 2:58:24 (Age 48)
2014 October - Yorkshire Marathon 2:47:34 (Age 48)
2014 October - Dublin Marathon 2:58:53 (Age 48)
2014 November - Town Moor Marathon 2:54:56 (Age 48) (1st)
2015 March - Wrexham Marathon 2:48:12 (Age 48) (5th)
2015 April - Canberra ACT Marathon 2:52:10 (Age 48) (15th)
2015 April - London Marathon 2:50:55 (Age 48)

Marathon Building Blocks:

15th Feb: 18.6 miles @ 6:16/mile
22nd Feb: 10.0 miles @ 6:04/mile
28th Feb: 3.1 miles @ 5:48/mile
28th Feb: 3.1 miles @ 5:50/mile
1st March: 13.1 miles @ 6:24/mile
8th March: 26.21 miles @ 6:23/mile
14th March: 3.1 miles @ 5:46/mile
14th March: 3.1 miles @ 5:36/mile
15th March: 20.0 miles @ 6:25/mile
21st March: 3.1 miles @ 5:45/mile
22nd March: 9.65 miles @ 6:18/mile
28th March: 3.1 miles @ 5:45/mile
29th March:  11.2 miles @ 6:08/mile)
4th April: 3.1 miles @ 6:00/mile
12th April: 26.21 miles @ 6:35/mile
18th April: 3.1 miles @ 5:40/mile
19th April: 5.8 miles @ 6:04/mile

Discussion Points:

Jumping back to the start of the 12 week blog, this was 'The Plan':

The Plan

As with previous build ups the plan is to keep things simple and relaxed. This means a good volume of slow mileage with no particular interest in what the actual pace is, just that it is relaxed. In practice this usually means that the bulk of mileage will be somewhere in the range 8:00-9:00/mile.

The other main ingredient is to race regularly with the emphasis on varying the distances from 5k - Marathon. So, even though this is a 12 week build up to London there will be another marathon, and possibly two, in the meantime along with races at 20 miles, 30k, 2 x HMs, 2 x 10 miles and plenty shorter races/parkruns.

The basic principle of 'run plenty miles and run a few of them a bit quicker' is complicated enough for me and has provided some brilliantly enjoyable experiences over the last couple of years.

Some people may think that this is very unscientific and probably sub optimal. They may well be correct but it really doesn't matter, what does matter is that it is a thoroughly enjoyable way to get a lot of varied and memorable experiences from this running lark :)

The Results:

'We are all an experiment of one' is an oft quoted, and very true, maxim.

However, as Hannah and myself are usually pretty closely matched and have the same training inputs that old maxim can justifiably be changed to 'an experiment of two'.

So, the last 12 weeks have produced the following marathons:

Hannah- 2:52:40 (1st), 2:54:26 (2nd), 2:50:07

Me- 2:48:10 (5th), 2:52:10 (15th), 2:50:55

The fascinating thing is that I couldn't have dreamt of running three marathons at those sort of times within a 7 week period training as per conventional training plans.

The Training

To summarise the last 12 weeks:

1. LSRs - 0
2. Interval Sessions - 0
3. Midweek runs faster than 8:00/mile - 0

The simple approach of slow, shortish runs midweek coupled with lots of racing at all distances has produced much more controlled marathon performances. 

Also, racing marathons more regularly has been a revelation in terms of how the body recovers. Twelve successive sub 3s in the last 18 months is way beyond what I thought was possible in such a short period. Going into a marathon now two weeks after the previous one feels more comfortable than previously when it may have been 6 months since the last one.

50 or so marathons gone and still lots to learn :)


The next marathon lined up is in 5 weeks time, The Kent Roadrunner Marathon ........ that is unless something else comes up in the meantime!

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