Back in mid-August, I started preparing for my last goal of 2017 and a distance which I had been dreaming to complete for a while now, the Marathon. As detailed five weeks ago, the preparation had been going well and I was very happy with it as it continued up to the Marathon de Lausanne which I tackled yesterday. Unfortunately, it did not end the way I wanted as I took the decision to retire. And here is all about the last 5 weeks of preparation as well as my race report even if not complete with an added note on the DNF at the end.
Basically and since my last article – which you can find here – I had been building strength in terms of running technique, working on pace, cadence, posture and core so I could deliver on the distance. 5th week had been my first long run and all was feeling good. So here below is what happened from then on.
Week 6 – 18-24/Sept – Still on the go and straight following on Week 5 and the 35k long run I did on Saturday the 16th of September, I arrived in Paris on the following Monday due to work commitments. Recovery over the Sunday had been good, I was actually quite surprised at how I felt on that Monday morning, the day went well and I started again from scratch. Training side, the week would be build of three 10k run, first at MP (4:11/k), second E* (4:30/k) and third at MP (4:11/k) again with an added ride of about 50k mid-week to turn the legs and another long run of about 28-30k on the Sunday at an E* pace.
Altogether, it wouldn’t be an easy week to manage, Paris, Geneva and Mallorca over the week, work commitments and a stag so altogether, important to keep it together and not crash completely with the end of week added fun and drinks. Managed it all up to Mallorca, still had that third run right after a good night of fun and alcohol, probably benefitting from the high glycemic index but a later hangover was hard to manage. As I figured out, it takes a lot of training to race and it’s the same for partying but still, back in Geneva on Sunday I managed my long run and pace so all together happy. This last run actually being the start to the following week training scheme.
Week 7 – 25-1/Oct – Continuing into my training plan, back in Geneva for a few days before another weekend away for work, I started something I wanted to fit in the plan but which I hadn’t succeeded to do, overload. Basically I ran 28k at an easy pace (4:22/k) on the prior Sunday and on the Monday, got asked if I would do a 20k on that night at the same pace and to which I gave the green light. This would basically means I would overload or in normal words, train under fatigue. As the prior week had been hard because of the stag, I had reached a great level of fatigue and I thought that as for my prior goal of the Ironman70.3, I would try to endure a bit through overloading. This in order to build mental strength.
From Monday, the re-adjusted plan was therefore a 20k at an easy pace (4:30/k), followed by a time trial Tuesday ride of 40k trying to average 38km/h and a last 10k hilly run at MP (4:11/k). If considering the prior Sunday, that meant 58k of running and 40k cycling with a total time of 4h50 of training at quite an intense pace and yes, I did it all. Considering fatigue, up to Tuesday and completing the ride it felt fine but the Wednesday run at MP felt bloody hard, legs were heavy and mind tired, which is exactly what I aimed for, trying to maintain a pace while mentally tired but I made it which then felt very good and that’s what it is all about.
Still, that particular week wasn’t yet finished. I then had three days of rest while also flying out to Budapest, Hungary, for work. Great place which I recommend everybody to visit, food is great and the city is beautiful as I figured out on my run. But anyway, work commitments ending on the Saturday night and having a late afternoon flight back on the Sunday, it was a perfect day for my next long run to complete, the 5/4/3/2/1 session.
Oh god that felt hard… To make a summary of it, it was about 32k with the following intervals. As said, it felt hard, very hard as the session proves hard on both the body but mental as well. Told to achieve it by a friend, it’s a must for anybody preparing a Marathon I believe as it requires you to be able to pace yourself properly but also to push the body and mind when reaching proper fatigue. Something like trying to get over the wall effect I believe
3k/E – 8k/MP – 2k/E – 5k/MP – 2k/E
4k/MP – 2k/E – 3k/HM – 1k/E – 2k/10K
E/4:30 – MP/4:11 – HM/3:55 –10K/3:45
Week 8 – 2-8/Oct – Back from Hungary and a little bit tired after the prior week, I had a rest day on the Monday with complete fun, having a sauna and swim with added joy of some proper food in order to recover fully. At that point, feeling was that I was tired but it was my peak week in terms of training. The plan was a Tuesday start with the by now usual time trial ride of 40k-38km/h avg., then I would get a negative split 8k run on the following morning and get to the track on Thursday for even more speed. There would be a last long run of 32k at MP over the Saturday and a Sunday recovery ride.
Altogether, it was all about keeping it together, my last week of endurance and distance while peaking in terms of fatigue before starting to rest and tapper. As I would be two weeks away from the goal at the end of that week, being able to push over the first ride, keep the speed up with the two short runs and then being able to get the pace right over the distance again was all I needed to feel confident at that point and I achieved it. The Sunday ride would just be about turning the legs with the usual crew and by then, mental was there and I could see myself getting into the Marathon with some confidence.
Week 9 – 9-15/Oct – Having reached my peak, I felt even more tired getting into week 9 but it was time to start and ease the training in order to get it right for raceday more or less. As I was to be away from Geneva, over England and Italy, the week was all about short but intense runs with an added mild one on the Sunday. This meaning I would start the week with a 8k/HM pace hilly run, then get to the track on Thursday for some speed and intervals, add a 10k/HM pace over Lago di Como in Italy and finally get my 15k/Negative split runs on the Sunday done.
Feeling by the end of the week was excellent, visiting friends in the UK while seeing beautiful cars on track as well as getting to Italy for one of my best friends wedding proved great, food was excellent and bed time was proper. I had got my training together and a week away from the goal, I was happy to start tappering properly.
Week 10 – 16-22/Oct – And here we are, race week which on one hand is all about tappering and getting it right for the following Sunday. I got there happy and confident but still, I wasn’t a 100% fine mentally. Although training had felt great and I knew I was strong getting into the race week, the Marathon is quite a symbol and to me, the greatest of all but still one that I saw as a wall as with any new distance you are to tackle. I have to say I have run long distance in the past but racing is different, no stopping or fault is permitted and all elements or part of the package to deliver have to be correct to make it happen that particular day. On the other hand, friends had been great, had some good times over the week, coffee, pizza and great food while loading with carbs and keeping it quality in terms of bed time.
Anyway and getting there, as I was tappering, I had an easy run on the Monday with 6k, then a Velodrome spin on the Wednesday, pushing it a little to raise the heartrate and keep the pump alive as I say, then Thursday was about a few 400m intervals (5) and Saturday about 100m intervals again (6). Altogether, 15k of very easy or very intense runs to keep the body and mind fresh.
And finally, race day happened on Sunday 22nd of October. Got up fine and happy at 6:00, got breakfast sorted by 7:00 and was all ready to tackle the Marathon de Lausanne by 8:00. In the train and on my way there, I was in my little bubble as usual, listening to some music, a few runners were around and looking at their face, which I also had, we were all stressed and that is how you realise it’s #RaceDaySunday By the time I got to the start, it felt better and waiting for the race to start, having my last pit stop, the weather looked perfect, cool with a little wind and chance of a few drops which is essentially the perfect weather to run a long distance so it felt good, confidence was happening.
As start was at 10:10, I made my way there at 10:00 got greeted by a friend there and off I was. As it started, the stress vanished and I went on to pursue my quest for the Marathon distance. Pace was to be the key and so I was on it with an average of 4:08-4:11k in order to pursue my goal and up to k9 it felt great but temperatures being very cool, when rain and wind hit big time fora very short shower, it freezed my stomach and I had to make a stop at k11 in a hotel which happened to be on the road, my “Paula” moment.
I lost 2:00min more or less but was back at it as fast as I could, I was ahead of my time before stopping so not worried. Then, I continued and all was feeling good as I was reaching the half-marathon point. Turned around and on my way back, pace was perfect, mental as well but yeah, something had happened.
At k21, when reaching the halfway point and turning back to head to Lausanne while in Vevey, I felt like a needle in my knee (medial collateral ligament), nothing to worry about as little pains are part of running but it didn’t go away and I felt weaker as I was getting into km22 and so on. At k24, I took my halfway gel as planned and I also decided to stop, it wasn’t the pain but as between k23 and k24 I sort of tried to adjust my posture in order for the pain to maybe go away, nothing changed and so I took the decision to retire. I couldn’t do it Lionel Sanders style like in Kona a week ago. Probably the difference between a pro and myself but I thought, there’s more to come, keep it safe.
And yeah, that is it, first ever DNF but I had to take it. Essentially, in the past I would have continued but having achieved all I wanted this year and planning for 2018 already, I thought it would be sad to maybe go a little further and end in tears with added pain of having to get myself sorted or for the pain to just vanish, who knows, but I thought the safe option was the best.
What really made me sad at that point was that I was flying, average pace was of 4:08/k and I felt good, in my zone and mentally better than ever. My half-marathon time was 10-sec off the goal I had set so that made it a hard decision. Still, I guess I will be back soon, will take time to rest and sort that knee trouble properly, my season is done so I can get time to sort it all and next will be 2018.
Shit happens and that said, as I can still walk properly, let’s think ahead, I’ll be back.