Sunday, 28 September 2008

4th place in the Geneva Marathon

A frustrating morning for me in the Geneva Marathon as I came home an isolated 4th place in 2:20.54, not what I had anticpiated.

A leading group of 4 took off after a kilometre and even on a good day I wouldn't have gone with them. So I was left with a couple of other guys for company who weren't able to contribute to the pace so I ended doing most of the next 41km on the front of my group until they had all dropped off by 23k and then it was solo to the finish.

The real frustration was that there was just no speed in my legs. As soon as I tried running faster than 3.20/km I was struggling to get my legs moving, but 3:20 was comfortable. I've got a hunch as to what I got wrong in my preparation but will leave that for the debrief in a couple of weeks time. At least I was strong at the end with fuel in the tank (6.54 from 40k to the finish).

Sitting in my hotel writi
ng this I feel so much less knackered than after my previous marathons which I suppose is something to take heart from - I can walk normally for a start ! There were a number of other pluses which will come out in the wash but my Saucony Fastwitch 3 racing shoes performed really well and my feet are in the best shape ever after a marathon.

Up at the front Ethiopia's Tesfaye Eticha broke the course record to take his fourth win a row with last year's runner up Philipp Muia of Kenya having to settle for second place again.

Time for a good rest now before digging out the spikes for some cross country.


This morning I'm reminding myself why I chose Geneva rather than Berlin or Chicago for my autumn marathon. I really wanted to be in a race situation: near the front, hopefully having to use tactics, fast finish etc rather than just sitting in a group on another drag strip and trying to squeeze out a top 20 finish. What yesterday taught me was that a marathon 'race' is a completely different game from the big city races that I have done before (Amsterdam, London, Toronto) and certainly comparing my performance yesterday with my previous runs in those events based on the finish time is nigh on impossible. Looking at it from the perspective of position, which is why I was here, I finished 4th in a race in which I had the 5th best PB. I would have needed a big improvement to get 3rd (though I felt that 2.17 was on the cards). And on current fitness 1st and 2nd places were beyond my capability.

So actually 4th place was decent result which I should be satisfied with and the experience of the preparation and race situation will be beneficial in future.

1. Tesfaye Eticha Eth 2:14.23,1
2. Philipp Muia Ken 2:15.36,8
3. Zeremariam Berhe Eri 2:17.33,8
4. Adrian Marriott GB 2:20.49,5

Full Results

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Marathon Training w/e 21st Sept - the taper

Two weeks to go before the race is always the worst period for me. The hard training is done and as I start to back off I invariably feel rubbish with heavy, unco-ordinated legs. This time was not much different apart from the blessing in disguise that was last saturday's sore adductor. That forced me to take it very easy for a few days and shifted my focus away from how my legs were feeling to making sure I was pain free.

The last real workout before the marathon was done on thursday, 11 days out. After a good warm up a mix of MP and some faster running with a total volume of about 25km was designed to remind the body what a hard (but not exhausting) effort is like and give a good amount of time for supercompensation before the race. Sunday was 5x2km run at marathon pace to keep familiar with the race rythmn.

Mon 35 mins easy
Tue 45 mins moderate and finishing at a steady pace
Wed 50 mins including 7x200m fast
Thr 92 mins including about 8km of MP followed 5km of 10k pace efforts
Fri Rest
Sat 50 mins incl. 6x200m fast
Sun 15min w/u, 5x2km MP, 15min w/d

So just one week to go now. This is familiar territory. Just easy running with a few fast strides to keep the CNS awake and a few kilos at race pace on wednesday. Making sure I'm fully hydrated and fueled up goes without saying and I will be spending some time rehearsing the different race scenarios in my mind so that as the race unfolds next sunday I will have been there before and can react automatically.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Marathon Training w/e 14th sept - the last long run

This week was the 6th of my 8 scheduled marathon build up weeks and definitely fell into the two steps forwards one step back category.

A couple of easy days got last sundays 3x7km out of my system and then on wednesday I nailed my last long run. I mentioned at the start of this series of posts that I was going to be making my long runs more challenging this time round as just doing 30-40km at a moderate to steady pace wasn't giving me big benefits any more. I suppose this shouldn't be a surprise really. After repeating any training stimulus several times the body adapts and it ceases to be a stimulus ! This weeks long run had quite a bit of faster running in it and I'm looking forward to seeing how this translates into my ability to race the last 10k in Geneva.

The plan was to end the week with a less than flat out effort round the Bristol Half Marathon. Unfortunately doing drills on saturday I managed to tweak an adductor so spent a worried 48 hours clutching the ice pack. Its a classic compensation problem as result of piling on the training when the hip wasn't working properly. Fortunately the adductor is only a strain and i'm back running and a few easy days have also allowed the hip to clear up so all in all not a bad outcome ! On top of that my Saucony team mates Tom Payn and Ben Moreau finished 1st and 3rd and Bristol, just a shame I wasn't able to be up there with them.

Anyway last weeks training (at 6000ft altitude so paces about 5-7 sec/km slower than the same effort at sea level):

Mon 60 mins very easy + 40 mins easy
Tue 45 mins easy + 40 mins easy
Wed 2hr 17 (approx 38km) split 40 mins easy, uphill: 10 x 60sec fast / 90sec easy to burn off some fuel, 25 mins moderate, 25 mins MP into a strong headwind along the lake (bit of psychology for Geneva), 5 mins easy, 20 mins progressive with last 3km: 3:17, 3:14, 3:10 Solid effort and drinking water only - save the Vitargo rocket fuel for race day :-)
Thr 60 mins very easy
Fri rest and travel home
Sat 30mins, drills and aarrgghhhh ....
Sun off and ice

2 weeks to go and its a question of letting the body heal up now while keeping in touch with race pace so that the CNS doesn't forget what it needs to do come race day.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Marathon Training w/e 7th September

With 4 weeks to go until Geneva I'm now at the business end of my build up. Very marathon specific training sessions to get me used to running race pace efficiently and hopefully having a change of gear for when the race really starts sometime after the 30km point.

For this build up I had planned to do a couple of the 'special block' sessions where you do the same hard training in the morning and afternoon but the hip issues in august put paid to that. So instead I'm experimenting with a 10 day altitude 'top up'. Its a technique that Marius Bakken reported getting good results with so worth a test. In the past I've raced really well after about 10 days back at sea level and get better for another week or so but i've never raced a marathon less than 4 weeks after coming down. So on monday evening I travelled back up to St Moritz and will come down 17 days before Geneva, hopefully feeling turbocharged.

So the first few days this week were about recovering from last sunday's long hard effort and re-adjusting to 6000ft altitude before hitting a couple of big efforts later in the week. I must be jinxed because August in St Moritiz was apparently glorious and the rain followed me from home all the way up to the Engadin where its still miserable as hell.

Monday off and travel

Tue 70 mins with last 20 steady then strides + 40 min very easy

Wed 68 mins incl 8x12sec hill sprints + 38 mins easy

Thr 40 mins easy + 50 mins easy incl 7x200m fast stride (had planned a hard workout but hardly slept so pushed it back a day)

Fri 90min including 60min fartlek alternating approx 1km HM/10k pace with 1km steady (average pace for the hour was MP). The emphasis of this workout is to control the pace of the 'recoveries' so that they are a bit slower than MP and this gives the body time to remove the lactate created by the faster segments while still keeping the overall speed up.

Sat 60 mins moderate + 42 mins easy

Sun approx 30km with 3x7km at MP in freezing, pouring rain. About as much fun as 'delhi belly'. At least on days like these you know that some of your opponents are sitting in front of the TV waiting for the rain to stop and when it doesn't then they havent put in training.

So another solid week and just a couple more big efforts to go before backing off and resting up for the big day. The Letsrun Fall Marathon Thread is here

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Shoe Review: Saucony Fastwitch 3

I've been breaking in a new pair of Saucony Fastwitch 3 racing shoes for my upcoming marathon in Geneva so here are a few observations after a few runs.

First thing is the sizing. I usually go down half a size in racing shoes to allow for the fact that i'm only wearing thin racing socks compared to thicker socks and orthotics in my trainers. But with the Fastwitch 3 I'm wearing a size UK 8.5, the same as my ProGrid Triumph 5 trainers. The Saucony racers do fit a bit closer than the trainers (same applies for the A2) so this is something to keep in mind. My local Saucony stockist Tri UK holds a pretty comprehensive range of sizes which made life a bit easier.

The fit is what attracted me to this shoe. I have a narrow heel and broad forefoot so can have a problem with my heels slipping around and the consequent blisters. These fit like a dream, nice grip on the heel and plenty of room in the toe box. First time out they were fine, no problems with blisters or bruising.

The ride is somewhere between soft and hard ! The shoe has a decent amount of cushioning and some medial support so should be fine for longer races up to the marathon. For a real low profile shoe for 5-10k I would probably go for the super skinny Saucony A2.

Because this shoe has a blown rubber outsole there is some wear on it already but as I normally destroy the midsole of my racers before the outsole i'm not overly worried about this. Will report back when they have done a couple of hundred miles though. One point to note is that like many racers these days there are holes in the midsole to save weight. On a wet road this is OK but when I ran through standing water I got wet socks. So hopefully no big puddles in Geneva !!


Here is a picture of the sole of my Fastwitch 3 racers after 150km of running. There is some wear at the back of the forefoot and also where I push off on my toes. Otherwise they seem to be holding up well.

How did you find the Fastwitch 3 racers ? Post a comment ...

Monday, 1 September 2008

Marathon Training w/e 31st August, back in the saddle

Oh the rollercoaster that is marathon training. From despair to optimism, renewed doubt and finally supreme confidence in a few short days. Money can't buy highs and lows like this ! The week started with painful easy running and a sense of 'will this hip ever heal up in time for my marathon at the end of September' and ended with a flying couple of miles at the end of a solid 2hr 15 min effort and moments of glory once again entering my dreams.

The key has been patience. Religiously doing my exercises to loosen the muscles around hip and get the glutes activating properly again. Its time consuming and tedious but essential. And then the patience to every day just stretch the training a little bit without going over the top. The temptation is to hammer the body back into shape with a few hard sessions. Instead I've concentrated on starting easy and building each day a few more minute of good aerobic running down to marathon pace and then threshold top remind the body how to work. Next week is the time for a really hard effort.

Monday Easy 37 mins and easy 30 mins. Hurting and wondering whether there is any hope
Tuesday 50 minutes with some uncomfortable strides and 30 minutes suddenly feeling much looser
Wednesday 45 mins starting easy but with last 15 mins steady. Still feeling the hip but at last no pain, cautious optimism. Physio and the good news is that everything is still where it should and just need some time for muscles to relax. More optimism !
Thursday 62 mins moderate with the hip feeling OK at last. Evening easy running and 6 hill sprints. Actually able to feel the glutes working on the right side, my arse must have been getting really flabby :-(
Friday 25 mins easy then 40 mins progressive to threshold pace. So hard, blowing out of every orrifice and wondering where on earth all that fitness has gone. Self doubt in spades.
Saturday 50 mins moderate and 30 mins easy. A bit sore from yesterday which is not a good sign after a progression run.
Sunday 2hrs 15 starting easy then at a moderate pace with the last 30mins building to marathon pace. Really helped to have John McFarlane for company on this run especially as I felt pretty rough after about 90minutes before really picking up in the last half hour. Able to change gears in the last couple of miles and felt great. Finished feeling full of belief again.

Not sure I can stand the emotional turmoil of many more weeks like this one so now hoping for a normal couple of weeks then taper down to the race on 28th Sept.

Last night I went to Wembley to support a few of my colleagues at Connectwell as they took part in the Nike Human Race representing London against the rest of the world. You have to admire the marketing genius of the folks from Oregon. Hundreds of thousands of runners all round the world (well at least in their target markets) all wearing Nike T-shirts and just doing it.

It was a c
ool wet night in London and being on the other side of the fence holding kit and dishing out water bottles gave me a different perspective on our sport. Isabel, Kim and Steve (left with supporters) were all so pleased to complete the 10k in 67 minutes, a big achievement for them as non-runners.

Their excitement was palpable as talk turned to 'next time' and beating the hour m
ark. Looks like we have three more potential addicts !

It was great to see so many people participating and actually running at a solid pace and enjoying the experience even although it was a miserable evening for running in and even more miserable for the few hardy souls who left the dry confines of the stadium to get out on the course and spectate. Although one young lady running in wave 4 (bottom left) seemed to be taking things far too seriously as she weaved in and out of the other runners with the Wembley arch lit up in the background.