Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Marathon #5 - Brighton Marathon 2015 Race Report

'Time is a healer' is a common phrase which I've heard over the years.

Its a good job I didn't come on here on Sunday evening otherwise I think I would have poured my heart out to anyone that would listen.  I've given it just about 3 days now but I'm still smarting.  No, smarting isn't the right word.  Hurting would be more appropriate.  I hurt like I never knew I could.

Quite simply, Sunday did not go to plan.  So much for thinking I was capable of around  a 4:03-4:08 finish time.

The first half did go to plan, within reason...

First 13.1 mile splits from Strava via Garmin Connect

...through halfway in 2:03:41.  Not bad.  A tiny little bit slower than I'd planned but near enough perfect for the planned negative split.  Then it all went wrong.  Very wrong.

Let me take a step back here.  Saturday was straightforward.  Fellow Plum Lee Edwards drove over to us and Alison gave us a lift to Petts Wood station.  Train to Brighton was a reasonable £22 for 2 singles with the Gold Card discount applied.  Straight to the expo to pick our numbers up, bumping into another Plum, Lynne with her partner on the walk from the station.  Collected our numbers, had a quick walk about the expo and saw European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey being interviewed and then we walked down to our 'Guest House' via the Wetherspoons to catch the end of the Grand National, the first disappointment of the weekend.

Checked in.  Now this Guest House was basic.  It certainly wasn't a hotel.  A small room each with a tiny shower and shared toilet facilities.  Good job it wasn't any more than the basic £45 per night, which for the record did include a full English Breakfast which we didnt eat because that would have been suicidal before a marathon.

A quick bite to eat in Harry Ramsden's (hmm, maybe Fish & Chips wasn't the best preparation carb-wise in retrospect?), a very slowly drank pint in one of the local pubs, where we saw Colin Calderwood, ex-Spurs Centre Back, now Assistant Manager at Brighton & Hove Albion FC and then it was back to our rooms for an early night. 

I'd eaten well on Saturday.  Porridge for breakfast, pasta for lunch, grazing on a tub of flapjack mini bites, Fish & Chips for dinner, a sandwich about 10pm.  I really can't say I didn't carb-load because I did.  Had I drank enough though?  Thinking back, possibly not!

As Saturday went on, I appeared to be carrying a niggle in my calf.  I'm not sure what it was but it wasn't there first thing on Sunday morning.

Now customary pre-race Plums vest and bib number shot...

I felt good Sunday morning.  Really good.  The legs felt good, I felt good in myself.  I'd had my porridge and was good to go.  I met Lee in reception and we started the slow walk down to the start.  Along the way, I realised I hadn't had anything to drink that morning and I grabbed a bottle of water from one of the water stations.  I was absolutely gasping.  My stomach felt a little tense so I slowly sipped from the bottle but I could have downed the lot.  Thinking back now, I felt very dry.

We bumped into more Plums on the way down to the start, as Dawn and Colin caught up with us.  Just as we met them, Lynne had just shot past in the 10k pack.

Dumped the bags in the left luggage trucks, we said our farewells, wished each other good luck and headed for the start pens.  15 minutes or so later, we were off.  Lee and Colin were in the first red wave, I was in the second blue wave.

Colin, Lee and Me just before the start...

The first mile was hectic to say the least.  Very crowded and on the residential roads outside Preston Park.  It thinned out after that.  I felt my calf in the first mile or so but it settled down after that and it went to the back of my mind.  Somewhere just after 5k, I heard "Daddddddddddddddddy".  Quickly looking left, I saw Izzy jumping up and down with Alison and my brother Steve.  I quickly changed direction, planted a kiss on Izzy's lips, quickly remembered to kiss Alison too then I was off again.  The first 10k went by in a flash.  58:10.  9:23 min/mile pace.  Spot on.  Miles 7-13 went reasonably well too.  At halfway, 02:03:41 was at 9:26 min/mile pace.  Bang on the pace window I needed and felt reasonably good.  The left hamstring was feeling a little tight but nothing that couldn't be managed.  I'd spotted Izzy, Alison and Steve at halfway just as the winner was coming back into the finishing straight and Alison said to me afterwards that she'd checked my time, said I was on target pace and I was looking reasonably comfortable.

To describe the second half, I can use one word.  Hell.  I have never felt anything quite like it before.  Just after halfway, the pain kicked in.  My legs felt heavy, I felt drained.  Just after 14 miles, the course turns into this little out and back detour, with a 1.5 mile upward drag.  Its not really a hill as such, its just a long drawn out drag with becomes taxing.  On 99/100 runs, it really wouldn't have bothered me but this was my nemesis.

Just as I turned in, I looked up and into the distance.  I could see it was going upwards, I could see thousands in front of me, I could feel the pain and I could feel the heat all around me.  That was the mental wobble.  I knew it.  I had to keep going, I fault against it for the best part of half a mile but I was done for.  Then the cramp set in.  Left hamstring first, right soon after in the space of 100 yards.  That was it.  I was walking.


I did not train for 3-4 months to be walking.  What would the Plums ever thing of me?  I could imagine Robin screaming at me "Come on JohnBoy, we're a running club, not a bloody walking club!"

I tried to run again.  The pain was horrific.  I could feel a blister forming on my right foot.  I could feel my left calf niggle again then the cramp kicked in properly.  I think I'd managed about 300 yards before having to walk again.  There was no coming back from that.  No matter how much liquid I took in from that point onwards, the cramp had done me.

A mile or so later, still climbing that drag, my stomach went into "OMG, I'm going to be unloading in the next 30 seconds so you need to stop....and stop NOW!" mode.  By pure coincidence, thankfully, there was a church to my right with a sign saying the toilets were open to runner.

In I went.  Get that vision from Dumb & Dumber back in your heads.  Thats exactly what it was like.  Bloody hell, this was horrific.  Now, imagine trying to haul yourself off that porcelain throne after running the best part of 16-17 miles by that point with cramp in both quads, cramp in the groin, I even had cramp in my arms.  I was done for.

As I told Alison and Izzy afterwards, if they hadnt been there watching, I would have pulled out at that point as I was in pieces.  The next 9 miles or so was quite possible the most uncomfortable 9 miles I have ever run.  I dont think I ran a complete mile without stopping for the rest of the marathon.

Second 13.1 mile splits from Strava via Garmin Connect
The splits from the second half of the marathon tell a story.  I completed the second half in 2:39:48 for a finish of 4:43:29.

I crossed the line a broken and very dejected man.  No matter how much you plan, there's always a possibility something can go wrong for whatever reason.

So what did go wrong?

To be honest, I really don't know for sure.  I can only pin point one thing and that was the cramp.  Cramp can only be down to dehydration mostly.  In future, I need to ensure I drink more, both before and during the marathon.  Thinking back, I needed a wee for the first part of the race.  Pretty much from the start line to mile 12ish when I could no longer hold it anymore.  Had I not needed a wee, I probably would have drank a lot more.

I'd definitely eaten the right things beforehand.  I'd taken my gels religiously every 4 miles as per what I'd been training with but that wasn't even enough on this occasion.

I just have to put it down as one of those days unfortunately.

Two special mentions.  One, for Melanie Roberts, who gave me the biggest hug at around 22-23 miles as I passed her and she made me feel like a superhero for about 30 seconds, and second, the lady Sittingbourne Strider who's banter distracted me from the pain in the last couple of miles.

A huge thank you to Alison who has put up with me being 'MMP' (Mr Moany Pants) in the last couple of days since the Marathon.  I've had a bad case of DOMS (for the record, I still ache all over now almost 72 hours later) and I've been like a bear with a sore head about the time I clocked.  It was brilliant to have Izzy down in Brighton watching me.  If it wasn't for them two being there I probably wouldn't have finished.

I'm definitely not posting my race photos up this time around. I don't look pretty and the pain is clear for all to see and I dont want to be reminded by what I went through in this run but I can share with you a nice photo of me and Izzy when I got home after a much needed long hot soak in the bath...

Hopefully, I can recover in time to get some miles behind me before I attempt to crack my PB again at the Kent Road Runner marathon on Saturday 30th May.  

For the record, the other Plums finished in:

Richard Vero 3:32:21 (Mr Chairman is just a machine!)
Colin Hyde 3:34:51
Lee Edwards 4:05:09 (despite a stop at an Ambulance suffering from pins & needles!)
Andy Vero 4:16:41 (a massive 15 mins PB from 2014 so well done that man!)

[Edit:  A special mention for Lee Edwards too, or should be wall you Lee Edmunds from now on?  A top bloke and bloody good company throughout the weekend. Apologies if I was a bit of a grumpy sod on the way home!]

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