Monday, 2 March 2009

PB at Barcelona Marathon

I’d talked up the fact I was trying to go under 2:50, but I really wanted to go for 2:45, so there was no hiding from the job at hand when I toed the line for Barcelona Marathon yesterday morning.

The plan was simple, run a 1:22:00 first half and then keep going and do another the same. In the end it worked pretty much perfectly to plan.

Up early on Saturday I landed at Barcelona airport late morning, took the train into the city and wandered up to the Expo to pick up my number and get some excellent free pasta. Thankfully my hotel was within a 5minute walk of the start line, so 30minutes wandering around with a map and I was there! A few hours nap, a very short run with some pick ups, some dinner and I was ready for an early night. My first ever night in Barcelona and I was in bed by 9:30pm...

Having a hotel so close to the start took away all the stress of dropping a bag and finding toilets; I went for a warm up run, nipped back to the hotel, stripped to my vest and jogged up to the start line for 8:15. Five minutes later I’d necked a gel and was 12 rows back from the start counting down the last 10 minutes with some very excitable Spanish hype. I was surprised at just how frantic the first couple of miles were, I thought I was far enough forward to avoid the jostle but everyone seemed to go off at 5k pace. Remembering the last time I ran a standalone marathon (3:36 in 2003) I avoided the temptation to do any weaving and stuck to the pace of the pack. My plan was to run under 6:15/Mile pace, the first two miles passed in the high 6:20’s but the legs felt incredible and I kept reminding myself I have over 2.5 hrs to get back a few lost seconds. Concentrating on ‘Loose is Fast’ (mantra of the day – thanks Ed) I started to ease up the pace, mile 3 was a bit quicker and I went through 5k in just over 20mins. By now the crowds of runners had cleared and I was cruising through some heavy breathers - what were they going to be like in 3hrs if they were that knackered at 5k?

I found the course fantastic, a proper city marathon route, big roads, no acute changes of direction and very little in the way of inclines and the views were spectacular. It actually felt like there was more downhill than up. 30k passed without incident, I ran my own race the whole way. I joined a of groups, and a few guys tagged onto me at times, but each time I ended up moving through them. There was one local guy I ended running with for the majority of the last 20miles and a guy from Ely who was also trying to go under 2:45 but we lost him at about 15miles. I was wearing the Garmin but soon found that it didn’t correlate very well with the official k markers, I ended up having to run 6:06/Mile average on the Garmin to stay on target for 2:45 pace. I think my official ½ marathon time was 1:22 and 20 odd seconds, the Garmin had it at under 1:20.

I promised myself a gel at 55mins and 1:50 and I was ready for it at 29k, the caffeine in the SMART gel did the trick and I pushed on from the little group I was running with, again the only guy that came with me was the local chap. We caught a couple more and another group formed as we dropped to the coast and ran into a headwind towards the old town, me leading on caffeine power! About 36k the caffeine started to disappear and I had my only low point, it lasted about a k and my local friend got 15/20metres on me. I went back to the mantra ‘loose is fast’ reminded myself I only had 5k left and that was less than 20mins, you can do anything for 20mins – yea? By 37/38k we were into the heart of the old town, the roads narrowed and the crowds grew, I concentrated on keeping the pace even, not getting excited by the crowds and on slowly reining in Mr Barcelona. The hilly finish I'd been warned about didn’t appear, there was a bit of a drag at 40k, but by then I was home and dry, I pulled back another 4 or 5 in the last k and finish directly behind Mr Barcelona.

All in all a very satisfying day. I felt I was running within myself the whole way, I stuck to within a few beats of my target HR and pace and it paid off. According to the Garmin, I ran 1:20:19 for the first 21k and 1:20:22 for the second, pretty even splits for a marathon. I don’t think I could have done much more without risking an almighty blow out, but there is certainly more to come if I can do a 2:44 off the back of 5 weeks running and 5 weeks eating and holidaying. I guess there is still some good base left from Ironman Arizona.

So now I have a decent standalone marathon in my back pocket when I get off the bike in (Ironman) Switzerland in July. I’ll be trying to ingrain an easier pace so I can come off the bike and get straight into the grove. If I could run 3:10 off the bike in Switzerland going sub 9:15, and that Kona slot, start to look more plausible.