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.

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