Friday, April 22, 2011

When does a Marathon start ?

The usual say is that a Marathon starts at 20 Mile mark...
...But while sitting in the waiting room of the hospital of Rybnik, I
could not avoid thinking that a marathon could begin much ahead, with
overcoming all the difficulties which can happen in the training, etc.

So I had the time to think that:
- 5 weeks before, I was in terrific shape and was easily crunching
miles and hard workouts. My dream of running a marathon in 2:35' was
getting close...
- then I woke up one day with inflammation to the sesamoidis which
afflicted me for weeks until I eventually cured it with a cortisone
- my hamstring went out of control, with the tragi-comic even of
getting cramps on a 10k race and even tripping on the finish line
because the leg could not bend anymore. Now I had done some physical
therapy session and deep tissue massage but basically I could not
perform any "faster" workout for weeks and I could not predict how it
could behave on 42km.
- my baby son got a cold and did not let us sleep in the past 4
nights, so I felt really tired

...And I was there, waiting for a doctor to perform a
Cortison+lydocain shot on my ankle which got inflamed 3 days before
(for no apparent reason)... It was a last resort measure.

So all together I thought that I already did have a long way to go
before even maybe able to take the start the day after.

Despite this, I said to myself that I would have anyway tried to run
on 2h35'-36' pace. I must give it anyway a try because of all the
effort done to be there.

So, the day after, I left the HR monitor in the closet , did the usual
pre-race preparation, enjoy the benefit of my "Elite" start bib, and
then go...

Maybe is too tedious to write all the race details (and I am also
typing from a smartphone..), so I just say that I hit half marathon in
1h18'30" and then kept 3'42"/k pace (my target) until 30k.
The ankle was like a stinging needle at every step but I could bear it.

Then..I felt tired, I felt I did not have those energy in the tank to
increase my internal effort and keep the target pace.
The ankle was by than bloody painful, with the medicine numbing effect
completely gone.
So, in short, I had to slow down.
I did not bonk, I did not hit any wall, but I was simply slowing down.
I was no more racing, but only running to the finish line
I was strangely still overtaking other runners who were bonking hard.
Eventually after 2h40'03" I reached the finish line in 23rd place, but
the finish time does not really mattered much.
I could not even walk properly anymore and I felt kind of somehow
disappointed but proud to do it anyway...a Marathon is always a

In the next days, once I have a proper PC, I elaborate more, but for
now that's all...

Friday, April 15, 2011

landed and ready for take-off

after surviving a intercontinental flight with 3 small kids, running the marathon on sunday will feel like a rest day... only 2h40' of effort "solo" (vs 20 hours of HKG-KRK with 3 kids) and there are even people handing you water every 20 minutes...
apart the jokes, we landed eventually in Poland

weather is promising, with forecast of 8 to 14C for Sunday.

I got up yesterday with pain in the left ankle, for no real reason (after a rest day !). Now I am in search of some analgesic spray or similar to numb the pain for the race.

Lastly, before leaving HK, I eventually subjected myself to the torture of deep-tissue massage to the hamstring to release the tight spots.

So, Sunday the verdict
If all these last-minute repairs work, it can be a good one... otherwise I might not even arrive to the first drink station.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Marathon Pacing Strategy

taking lead from a comment from Rick to my previous post, I would to list some personal guidelines of mine:

- after many observations, I think that negative split is possible and definitely the best strategy for a marathon in the 2h20'-3h00' hrs range (for people targeting 4hrs of so, the situation might be different because it is a much longer time on your feet so also peripheral fatigue might be of stronger influence).
If you target to reach the 25k mark with something in the tank, then it is "only" 1 hours of effort left (more or less).
All the stories about glycogen exhaustion and so on really give solid base to run a first half in more moderate effort and then give it all...

- my personal preference is to run always with HRM so that I can start the marathon with the first 5k at 80% HRmax and then gradually build up to 85% after 15k to keep until when you must forget about the HR and just push harder to keep the pace.
Usually the recommended average HR for a marathon is around 85% HRmax. But if you start straight at 85%, then it become unsustainable after 25-30k and eventually you will lose speed and also the HR will drop (for exhaustion of glycogen reserves).
If starting at a more moderate pace/effort (85%) the HR can gradually rise and keep on rising for all the race even reaching 10K effort level (90-92% of the max).

Better than whatever I could say, I found this GREAT pace calculator for the marathon

It is 99% the same principle as I would follow and gives you both the progression of pace and HR to follow... amazing online resource

- 5 ... let's hope I can last 42k...

In the past 2 weeks, I was not really "training" but more managing injuries and trying to arrive to the start line of the marathon in an acceptable condition.
I am in excellent shape and I do not think that 2 weeks of light training make a big impact at the end of a long season. I am not like those guy coming out from cold winters in north hemisphere who start a 16 weeks training from scratch... I started to train for this marathon last July so I am definitely confident I can run 42k at 3'40" pace, BUT

- foot pain: after losing too much time on this, I eventually headed to the Orthopedic and he confirmed my self-diagnosis of "inflammation to the sesamoids". He was then pretty straightforward: either I had to swallow pain-killers, put ice, etc and still have the inflammation for weeks, either we went for the "heavy weapons" and do a cortisone shot and cure it in 2 days. Decision easily taken at this stage also because I was already mentally prepared that it was the necessary cure.
A cortisone shot on the ball of the foot is terribly painful and let my foot swollen for a couple of days (when I could barely walk... forget about running). Going out from the doctor's building, I had to take a tram for 2 stops (300m) to reach the car parking because I could not even walk...
but 2 days later the pain was gone and the inflammation too... now the foot is 100% Ok

- hamstring: this is a real mess. Whenever I push the pace and if I do not pay attention to run with a light stride, the hamstring seizes...
I am doing some physio and self-massage to release the muscle and I also changed my marathon shoes into a brand new pair of Asics Tharther Blitz + new orthotics

The shoes are a model available only in Asia and they are a kind of "supportive marathon shoes", not super light, decent support and cushier feeling.

Also I got a new pair of orthotics more flexible, with a softer built and a flexible insert.

I think it can be a good move because the Mizuno+my previous orthotics made for a quite "stiff" and "responsive" stride.

So I had the feeling that the Mizuno really needed me to run with a very light stride and avoid heel striding. While this set-up feels a bit more forgiving.

All together, obviously the shoes are not a solution, but just a patch. Once the marathon is done, I will need to work on my hip/hamstring flexibility + gluteus strength during all summer.

Now, basically I have no idea if the hamstring can hold for 42k. In the last HK Marathon, I had 2-3 bouts of cramps/tightness which disappeared by altering the stride.
I will try to run light and focus in the stride, but 42k is a long way............