Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Race Report: Dublin Marathon 2012

So the first marathon is in the bag - 26.2 miles in 3:53:31. A great experience, and one of  the hardest things I've ever done. Overall I'm very happy with my time. Although my 'A' target time was 3:50 I'm not going to lose any sleep over a few minutes considering it was my first marathon attempt, and i did hit my 'B target of 3:55. Thankfully all the hard work over the last 3 months paid off on the day - it was worth all the hours pounding the roads, the hard lunchtime tempo runs, and the early starts on weekend mornings to get the long runs in.

... and we're off

A 9:00 start meant up at 6:30 to take the Luas into the city centre. No breakfast -  running on 'empty(ish)' these days - just a quick espresso and a big hug from my little girl and out the door. Merrion Square was buzzing by 8:00 when I arrived and dropped of my bag and headed for the start area. I had a quick banana and a few swigs of sports drink 20 mins before the start as I waited with 14,000 others for the gun to go. Got a few funny looks as I checked my blood sugar - which was 7.6 - perfect, just where I wanted it. Based on my long runs in training I had figured out how many gels I needed to take on and when. I was using Honeystingers as they are about the most natural gels I've found currently and don't have too much added crap in them. I also know they have a predictable affect my blood sugars (yes yes I know that a certain Lance Armstrong owns the company and I hate to thing he's making money from me - but I'd been using them in training and wasn't about to switch to something new at this stage). The plan was to take 1 gel at kilometers 7,16,24 and 34. Although I was carrying my meter, I wasn't planning on checking my blood sugars until the 2nd half of the race - if at all. I was confident that I could 'feel' where my sugars were at.

The race seemed to go by in 3 distinct parts. The first 6 miles were through the city center and out through the Phoenix Park. This part was fantastic, the buzz from the thousands of still fresh runners and the huge crowds was great, and I was motoring along nicely. Halfway through the park at around mile 5 I checked my watch and realized I was running about 10 seconds/km ahead of target pace. For a minute I thought 'I feel great - maybe I can hold this pace the whole way round'. But then I stopped being stupid and decided that I better slow the hell down or I would blow up later. So I eased back a but and let others pass me down the hill out of the park. One of the real highlights of the day was seeing the herd of deer through the mist under the papal cross - not many city marathons where you get scenery like that!

The next 10 miles or so were fairly uneventful as we passed through Inchicore and Crumlin towards halfway. I was trying to keep a steady pace and enjoying the banter from the HUGE crowds all along the route. Great to see so many out to support the runners. Gaby, one of my regular Tuesday night running partners from Wicklow Tri caught me around mile 12 or so and we ran together for a bit before she pressed on, telling me I'd catch her again later - I wasn't so sure! I took my gels at the planned times and felt generally fine. I distracted myself by taking my gloves off and putting them on again every mile or so, the weather was perfect for running but 8 degrees with a cold wind meant it was definitely a good call to bring gloves. At one stage I thought my Garmin was acting up, my average pace hadn't moved from 5:25/Km for over and hour which meant either I was running very consistent kilometer splits, or the watch was broken. I suspected the later, so I wasn't fully confident if I was on target pace or not. As it turned out from checking the data afterwards the splits were actually very consistent!

At mile 18 my some of my supporters were there to give me a big wave - always great to see a few friendly faces! My little girl just about managed to catch a glimpse and give me a wave before I ran out of sight!
From here onwards things got HARD. There was a drag up Roebuck Rd. ending in 'Heartbreak Hill' so I decided I better do a quick blood sugar check. After a bit of fiddling with the meter I managed to get a reading - 7.2 - again perfect,  just what I wanted it to be. The gel strategy was working as planned. Of course I managed to drop my meter trying to put it back in the armband, luckily no one stood on it and I picked it up and continued. Some of the WTC crew were marshaling on Roebuck hill and was great to get some shouts of support on a tough section. Over the top of the hill and onto Fosters Avenue, the N11 and Nutley - what was supposed to be a nice downhill section, but the legs didn't like going downhill so much and started to cramp a bit. I decided the best strategy was to try run through it and not stop. This seemed to work as the cramps eased after a bit. The last 3 miles from Ballsbridge in were a bit of a blur - people were struggling badly at this point , many walking or stopped altogether. My pace slowed a little bit as I was struggling with pain in my lower back, but I knew the end was in sight and the huge crowds were urging everyone on. I was happy to hear people shouting that we were well under 4 hour pace, so I knew that if I could just keep it going I'd finish close to my target time.

Coming around college green I spotted the Air Corp guys (30 of them) all running in formation up ahead and made it my target to overtake them. By the time I got round them we were on Nassau street and the final 500m. I kept looking for my support crew who I knew were around there somewhere but I couldn't see them with the crowds, so I put the head down and focused on the finish line up ahead. As I crossed I could see 3:53 on the clock - happy days! 

50 meters from the finish line. I wasn't smiling quite so much at mile 23.

It took me 20 minutes to hobble around Merrion square to the meeting zone. The legs had totally cramped up once I stopped. Emma, Kate and my parents were coming down the road to meet meet me and I got a bit emotional at this stage, I was so happy to see them all. I think this is when it hit me how far I'd come in the last couple of years since being diagnosed Type1. That 18 months ago I couldn't have walked around a supermarket without having a hypo and needing to rush for a bottle of Lucozade, and now I'd finished 26.2 miles without any issues. Kate got my finishers medal - a thank you for all the mornings she waved me off from the door shouting 'Ready, Steady, Go!' as I headed out for a training run, and for doing 'stretches' with me in the kitchen when I got home (stretches are hard for a 2 year old!). Who knows maybe one day she'll run a marathon of her own. Once I recomposed myself I realized I'd totally forgotten to check my blood sugar after finishing, I guess it just shows the confidence I have these days in controlling my diabetes that it just wasn't much of a factor. A quick check showed 10.9 - a little high but nothing to worry about and kind of expected from the adrenaline rush of the finish anyway. Then into recovery mode - protein bar, banana, water ... and a nice hot coffee to warm up!

Amazingly the next day was pretty much pain free. I'd heard from a few people to expect to be walking down the stairs backwards, but although there was some stiffness it wasn't bad - I even managed to do some furniture moving the next morning! I'm sure the changes to my nutrition have helped enormously with this.

So now that the first marathon is done I need to set some new goals. I'll definitely do another one next year - and I think I have 3:30 in me with the right training. But for now, its time to take it easy for a few weeks, get back on the bike, and maybe do a bit of swimming, and have a few lazy weekend mornings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Towards 26.2

It's just over 2 weeks to go to the Dublin City Marathon on October 29th which will be my first marathon. For the last 2 months I've followed my training plan (mostly), and built up the distance ending up with a few 20 milers and a 22 mile last weekend, completed at sub-4 hr marathon pace. So far its gone well, most weeks I've done between 35 - 40 miles consisting of mostly shorter runs during the week with some faster tempo runs thrown in, and then long runs at the weekends. During the training I've found out a few important things ...

Firstly, I discovered I prefer longer more endurance type running to the shorter more high intensity anerobic stuff - the thoughts of going out for interval or fast tempo sessions just doesn't appeal to me as much as a long steady run. In fact the last 3 long runs of 3hrs+ have been really enjoyable - its been really nice being up and out and about early on a bright chilly autumn morning.  Also, I think I'm much more suited to endurance type events. I seem to be able to keep going fairly well for long periods once I settle into a nice steady pace. With this in mind I'm going to try and target some longer distance events in 2013, probably a few half marathons & marathons, some longer trail races, and who knows maybe even an ultra of some sort !

Secondly I've realized how vitally important nutrition is to not just training, but general health and well-being. I've done a lot of reading, questioned a lot of what conventional sports nutrition tells us, and made some fundamental changes to my diet to move towards a paleo based approach. The results have been interesting to say the least. By dramatically changing the amount and type of carbs in my diet, I've been able improve my fat adaptation and train my body to better utilize fat as a fuel source. This has allowed me to train regularly without feeling tired, maintain decent energy levels, and go for longer without having to worry too much about low blood sugars. Avoiding the carb/insulin blood sugar rollercoaster is especially important for us Type1 diabetics. Despite having constantly circulating background insulin when I run, I can now run for 3+ hours and require only around 80g of carbs (3 gels) to maintain blood sugars whereas a year ago I couldn't have walked to the shops without experiencing a low. Recovery from hard sessions has been really quick - the day after my last 22 miler I was amazed to have had hardly any soreness in the legs. I fully attribute this to my diet providing me with the right mix of fuels for training, recovery and general well-being (more on this is an upcoming post).

So its true that while the race itself is the goal, the journey in getting there can be enjoyable, interesting and rewarding. Now its time to taper back and get rested for 2 weeks time. The hard work is done and hopefully it will all pay off on the day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Race Report: Roundwood Reservoir 10K Run

Last Saturday was the Roundwood Reservoir 10K Trail Run, a charity race in aid of Bray Lakers. I had decided to enter this as part of my Dublin Marathon training, and was going to use it instead of my weekend long run. The race basically was a lap of Vartry Reservoir, and although its up in the Wicklow Mountains, the course itself was advertised as almost dead flat. I had planned on doing a practice run of the trail, but with the wet weather over the last few weeks I hadn't been able to. This, combined with the fact that this would be my first proper trail race meant that I wasn't entirely sure what my expectations should be regarding times.

Training has been going well lately so on a decent course I thought I could maybe manage to beat my best 10k time, so should I go all out, or just use the run as a 10k tempo run and not worry so much about time? I decided I'd play it by ear and see how things panned out once I got going.

Mistake 1: Never 'play it by ear' - always have a proper race strategy, otherwise you'll likely end up either not fully committed and disappointed with your result.

The organizers had said that either trail runners or road runners would be fine - so I went with my Brooks road runners, since my only trail runners were ones that I hadn't worn in ages and I didn't know how well I could run in them. As it turned out, road runners were totally unsuitable for the course, they just don't have any grip on muddy sections and I definitely lost some time not being able to plant my feet properly at times.

Mistake 2:  Wear appropriate gear. Road runners are for the road. Trail runners are for off road.

Registration was busy, there were around 200 runners - a large turnout and some great money raised for a good cause.  I checked my blood glucose 30 mins before the start and was 5.8, which was perfect, so I ate a banana and sipped some Lucozade Sport on the way down to the start area (abut 30g carbs total). I checked again just before starting and was 5.3 - but was fine with that as I knew the carbs would be starting to kick in soon. The large number of entrants meant there was likely going to be a real mix of abilities so I decided to position myself between the front and middle of the group at the start in the hope of being able to follow a decent pace and not have to overtake to many on narrow trails. The first 3k was on nice open and flat gravel and grass trail, perfect to run on so I started at a good pace and managed to overtake a few. The next 2k was on tarmac road, and a slight gradual uphill, but I was able to keep the pace steady and by the half way point I had run an average 4:47/Km pace - bang on target for my 10k PB if I could keep the pace for the 2nd half. I took a gel around the 4K mark (about 25g carbs) as I knew I'd need something to keep my blood glucose up at this pace. I wasn't entirely sure how hard I was pushing as my HR monitor was on the blink, but I felt reasonably good.

I soon discovered that a PB definitely wasn't going to happen. Just after the 5k mark the course turned back into the woods and the trail became narrow, muddy, and full of roots. I was finding it hard to keep my footing in places due to the bad choice of footwear, and had to jump over puddles, and pick my way around holes and roots. Everyone was slowing and bunching up a bit. After about 2k of this it opened up and there was some fantastic scenery as we ran along the top of the dam, but by then all hope of a decent time was gone. The last 2k was back through the woods again, this section even more wet and muddy, and full of overhead branches. At one point I had my sunglasses knocked off by a stray branch and had to stop and get them (see Mistake 2 above regarding inappropriate gear!). The pace had slowed right down by now anyway so I decided there was no point in hammering it and risking a fall so I backed and just ran steady to the finish. I ended up finishing in 50:24 in 63rd place overall which was a bit disappointing.

Mistake 3: Don't expect to set PBs on trail runs - conditions are usually not suited to fast times - especially in Ireland where our weather dictates that it will likely be wet and/or muddy.

Blood Glucose was 9.4 finishing, a little high, but nothing to worry about, I probably don't need a full gel mid-race so will reduce this next time. When I got home I realized I had to get my runners cleaned up and dried out so I could pack them for my flight to Seattle next morning (!). Hopefully I'll get to use them for a few runs during the week between work commitments.

Overall, while I was a little disappointed with my time, I'll take a positive from it in the fact that I was able to run comfortably at 10k race pace for most of the race - in the sections where it was feasible to do so. I've a bit to learn about trail running too, some practice and a few more of these races will help with that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Running Kit

One of the important considerations that us pancreatically challenged folk have is how to carry all the neccesary paraphenalia that we need to keep us safe while excercising. If your going to be active you need to make sure you have everything you need to stay safe as we all know the potential for hypos that excercise brings. For some sports its easier as you can leave everything in one place (field sports, pool swimming, gym etc.) but for others such as running, you need some way to carry it around with you. I've heard this called various names including a 'What if bag', 'Hypo bag', 'Sugar kit'.

Here's what I carry for normal runs of up to 1 hour.

1. Running Belt - This one I picked up around 6 months ago and it has a decent size pocket without being too bulky. Some belts are designed for simply carrying keys, money and maybe 1 gel and are a real squeeze to get much else into. Also, it has a wide adjustable strap so it doesnt pinch.

2. Glucose Meter - My day to day meter is a Accu-Chek Aviva Expert which is great but quite big and heavy. So I've a separate Optimum Exceed meter that I keep in my gearbag just for running and cycling. The Exceed is fairly basic and its small and light and fits easily in the running belt.

3. Lancet - the Accu-Check Muticlix is great as you can load 6 needles in it so you can get a few days without changing it.

4. Test Strips - I normally keep about 5-10 test strips in the running belt. The Optimum test strips are foil packed and flat so they take up no space at all. 

5. Sports Gel - for runs up to 10k I'll take 1 sachet of High5 isogel with me, as this will get me through 10k fine. These are great since they are pre-diluted and you can take them without water. Each gel is 23g carbs, and they taste ok too. The downside is that they are bigger sachets than the non-dilyed gels (powergels etc.) so they take up more room.

6. Hypofit Gel - otherwise known as Hypo-Stop, Glucostop etc. it is a very fast acting almost pure glucose gel. This is my emergency backup in case things go real low.

7. Money - because you never know when you need to run into a shop for a Lucozade. Or a coffee and cake. Or ice-cream ...

8. Wrist ID-Braclet - this one from Vital ID is waterproof so can be used swimming or no problem if you forget to take it off in the shower. Name, Medical Info (Type1 Insulin Dependant), Blood Group, Emergency Contact No.

9. I'll always run with my iPhone on my arm as well - mainly for the music but also good practice to have a phone from a safety perspective particularily if your going somewhere off the beaten track.

For longer runs I'll either use a bigger belt (to fit more gels) with a water bottle holder, or maybe even a small Camelbak with hydration bladder and a couple of pockets.

So what does everyone else use? Anyone got any good bits and pieces that they can recommend?