Monday, 8 October 2012

Luberon Marathon 2012

42.195 km in 3:04:15

Or at least that's what I hope happened! But more about that in a minute...

So on the morning of the race I woke up a lot earlier than my alarm, I think I was too pre-occupied with what was to come, and yet, paradoxically, the worry that my body had no idea and wasn't ready for what was about to come.

The planning had been fairly extensive (and some previous posts to this blog will attest to this!), but as ever, not quite perfect, but then I suppose they never will be. Things that got forgotten this time were:
- remembering that pinning my race number to my teeshirt the night before is of little help when you are going to be wearing a running pack over the top of it!
- an hour early before a race is a minimum when you are going with other people.
- checking the condition of my socks, and having a back-up solution here, see below.

Loads of stuff went great:
   - again the rice (and rice-pudding at lunch time) did me just fine for avoiding ginger bread man isssues and being a good energy source.
   - Energy gels - much to my surprise, I got through four of these, and could probably have done with a fifth. There impact on my general feeling of getting tired and just beginning to slow down was undeniable. I took them according to need, which is possibly not the way to go, and given that I still haven't managed the negative split (I do not think that on this course that this would be achieved in any successful way by anybody) is something I am more than willing to reconsider. Incidentally I dropped one and almost stopped to pick it up, and then remembered a good environment pact idea based on the Zacheus ratio. So I will pick up at least 4 times what I littered from somewhere that is of no advantage for me to be clean!
   - hydration: while it is good to be challenged by people such as Noakes on overhydrating, and I am looking forward to reading his latest book called "Waterlogged", it is also true that a de-hydrated runner will start to just slow down, and I think that some of my flagging in the latter stages (particularly the section immediately after Ansouis, goodness that section is hideous!) could be associated with this. BUT the conditions were at least five degrees cooler than last year and I had been taking on more liquid from the feed-stations than last year too, so I think the carrying some liquids and strongly reinforcing that was actually a good combination.

   - stopping to pray with close ones for the tough challenge ahead was a tremendous sourc of strength to me.
   - chatting a little with some runners on the course reminds me that although competitors, we are primarily pitched in together against the formidable course set before us. I like that word, "us", "us runners".
   - family and friend support. Good not to rely too heavily though if not trained together for that purpose. Really liked getting the sweatband off them in the first quarter. The elastic tube I had planned to wear for the duration was just much too warm.
   - being willing to let people go. One of the questions I ask myself is: did I stick to the plan? There were times when I was almost saying out loud to myself - let those people go, they are going faster than my race plan, and I allowed my pace to drop. In the end I achieved my 3:05 goal very precisely. The unresolvable question is, if I had gone slower in the first 3/5 of the race would i have gone any quicker in the last 2/5? And if I had would that have meant for an overall faster time? It's unanswerable, especially as with my query about race distance, my future with this race is a bit uncertain right now.
   - running pack. I think I would consider running with just a belt now, but the pack didn't really slow me down. It may be a slight false-economy to only half fill the water pouch though, as I found I had to suck hard toward the end, which is really not what you want to be doing in the latter stages of an endurance event. There are some lines of clothing that have external pockets...
   - socks, was really surprised and a little dissappointed to see that my little-used injinji toe socks had already generated a sizable hole the morning of the race! Normal coton ones got me through with a fairly big blister to the left foot. I won't be doing that injinji brand again any time soon.
   - shoes, my Adidas road shoes just about hacked it, partly thanks to a slightly-improved route, but my trail shoes would have been just as suitable really. But then I just love my trail shoes!
   - sweatband, as mentioned above, switching to a regular tennis-player sweatband was a saviour after just a few kilometres yesteday, keeping me cooler and absorbing lots of sweat, not even requiring me to reposition it as I'm sure it had done on other prior long training runs.
   - Garmin, I put a lot of effort into getting this set up as I wanted it, and it was of huge help to me in the race, for all three pages, along with all the other settings. For example, having the Distance Alert option up-and-running for every 10.55 km was a big boost at the 3/4 distance point because although I was slowing and feeling quite miserable at points, it showed me that actually I was bang-on target, 2:18, for a 3:04 marathon, which I went ahead and did. And that leads me to a completely separate point about race distance.
  - Shirt, still happy with a techncal tee or vest, although today's race was the first time my nipples felt tender after the race. I had always assumed that my hairy chest was a good protection against chaffing, but I need to have a second think about this before my next marathon, and also check that particular vest for wear (cheap Decathlon model).

Question: How are marathons measured? I have tried to google this with quite little success. All I have managed to fathom is that for bends, the course measurer will go for the shortest route around a bend while allowing 1 metre from the curb. But that's not what I want to know. What I want to know is what discrepancy can we expect from a race course measurement relative to a GPS reading when there is significant elevation gain and loss? My GPS measured 41.2 km yesterday, a whole kilometre under the publicised difference, that the race organisers were keen to stress was precisely 42.195.

At the end of the race I was initially quite chatty and just glad to have got there and in the time that I achieved, without even focussing on the distance issue. I then made the mistake of lying down. Don't do this! I actually started to pass out, and got moved to the first-aid tent, where I simply repeated the process, and of course when they finally decided I was probably ready to head off in my rather sexy golden reflective heat reflective sheet, I had intolerable cramps from having just lain there for ages! The saline solution worked pretty well there though.

After cold showers (brrr!) was brilliant to then hang out with family and extended family and await what I discovered was to be a podium appearance, and take up my son onto the stage! It did make me think though that we in the senior class really do need to get our act together. I think the first 3 or maybe even 4 were all from Veteran 1 category, the top guy in 2:44.

A very very good day. Blessed :)

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