The Road is Always Long

My journey through the world of ultra marathons.

Monthly Archives: May 2015

Virgin London Marathon – 26/04/2015

I felt fully rested before this race, my legs were starting to feel really, really good and I was starting to really look forward to running hard around the capital city.  Three weeks had passed since the Glasgow to Edinburgh ultra and while my hip felt ok, it started to play up on my very easy jog the day before the marathon.  As it was I can’t really use the hip as an excuse.  I could feel it niggling during the race, but it didn’t get any worse during the race and probably didn’t really affect my performance.  My foot however, is a different story!!!

It has taken me a few days to get my head sorted and into a mood where I felt I could do the weekend justice.  There is always a time span after a race weekend when your mood dips, at least for me that is the case, and I had to let that pass before I felt I could be bothered to type about it.  It is a strange feeling, one I’ve had in the past after a really good weekend, or holiday.  It doesn’t matter that I didn’t get out of VLM what I wanted and that the finishing time and issues I faced were disappointing, I think I would feel the same had I ran a personal best time.  Anyway, enough wallowing in self-pity and on with the race report.

As this wasn’t to be a main target race for the year, I decided to travel to London on my own, leaving the girls and Mrs T to watch the event on the TV in the hope they get a glimpse of me.  I did actually appear on the box while Paula Radcliffe was being interviewed, a blur of white and pale blue.  The blur was in no way reflective of my speed up The Mall, it was more that the focus was on the world record holder and not the stragglers, and I was a straggler!!  The VLM website has some quirky little applications in the results section.  One of those is that you can see how you did over the last 7.2km in comparison to your peers.  My own makes for some very sorry reading.  According to the report, 109 people passed me in this last section, and I only passed 2!!!  As it was I was being passed by people from about mile 17, so that number would look far worse had the application recorded this from further back.

I travelled to the Big Smoke on Saturday morning, getting a flight from Edinburgh to London City.

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It is great flying into City as onward travel is so much easier and cheaper!!  The flights can be more expensive, but I booked it months ago and paid less than a hundred pounds for the return.  I’m also familiar with the airport and travel connections, having used it many times for work.  It also made sense as the Excel arena is literally a stones throw from the airport and that is where the Expo was being staged.  I had no idea how big the Excel was.  There would be tens of thousands of runners heading there that day, and yet there were gaming conferences and Sherlock Holmes conferences, or was it Doctor Who.  Anyway, it is enormous.  But it was so busy, too busy for me and I picked up my numbers, had a quick walk around and left to head to my hotel.

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I’d booked the Apex in the City as, again, it was familiar and the area around Tower Bridge I know really well.  It’s a nice hotel and I’d recommend it.  After checking in and getting settled into my room (which was upgraded to an exec room) I headed out for some lunch.  Pizza Express now do some very tasty ‘superfood’ salads, full of all the good fats, avocado, olive oil, cheese, y-u-m!!!  That was devoured in 5 minutes as I watched the 23 mile sign being erected outside.

I felt quite excited that less than 24 hours I would be running past this point.

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I actually can’t remember running past 23 miles during the race itself, I think my mind was occupied with pain much of the time after 16 miles. After lunch I headed to a nearby urban supermarket to pick up some supplies and returned to my hotel to relax and chill out before dinner. Got my kit ready

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and sat down to watch a little bit of Saturday afternoon sport. The snooker world championships was on so I clicked on that, grabbed some water and olives, relaxed on the sofa and within 10 minutes I was asleep. I awoke with a startle about 10 minutes later when the snooker finished on BBC1 and moved to BBC two. Exciting Stuff.

I’d arranged to meet some of the Falkirk Vics lads, Barry, Stuart and Brian, along with Stuart’s better half Louise and her family. We went to Zizzis and very nice it was too. I opted for the baked sea bass on a bed of veg with side salad and some potatoes. I washed this down with a large Merlot and water, again Y-U-M!! It was good craic and a welcome relaxing evening before the big day. I had thought that the glass of wine was my first schoolboy error of the weekend, but on hindsight and glass of wine, with it’s lovely taste and slight sedating properties was just the tonic needed. What was even better was that Louise was using her Tesco Clubcard vouchers to part pay for the meal, so I think it cost 15 quid in total. Not bad for a meal out in London!!! After the meal, we all headed back to out respective lodgings. I got all my kit sorted for the next day and packed as much as I could. My flight was after the race, so I would be checking out of the hotel in the morning and taking everything with me. If I do that again, I will be travelling much lighter, maybe even go the full weekend in running gear, it is so much more light that a pair of denims, shirts and boots!!

Breakfast in the hotel was being served from 5:30 and since I had been up most of the night, I decided to head down about 6 for food. This would give enough time for it to be digested. I was up most of the night due to my first schoolboy error: Taking a morning multi-vitamin before I went to sleep. I use the Thorne Research EXOS multi-vitamin. They are not cheap but provide the right amount of vits and minerals at the right times, well they would if I took them at the right time. Of course I can’t be sure this kept me awake most of the night, but as they should be taken in the morning, I assume they can affect the daytime hormones, where the evening once affect the evening hormones, the ones that help you sleep, like serotonin!! The black Americano after dinner might also have played a part in that (potential second schoolboy error). I work ok on little sleep for one or two days, so I don’t really think this affected my race. Back to breakfast: I had breakfast included in my hotel room price but it was the continental breakfast only, so I upgraded for a fiver and ordered, hard-boiled eggs, grilled bacon and spinach.

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Add to this the cold meats and cheeses, I had a proper little feast!! It was very delicious and I would normally over indulge in hotel breakfasts, eating enough to last me to dinner, but I had to restrain myself and headed back to my room to get sorted.

I’d decided to sip a sachet of UCAN on the hour travel to the start. UCAN is a slow release carbohydrate supplement, I’ve blogged about it in the past as I used it for the Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra. I thought if I could get it into my system pre race, it would be ready and available to use as energy for the first hour to ninety minutes. After that I would take the two Honey Stinger [LINK] gels at specific intervals or when I felt I needed them.

I checked out and headed for the tube. I got on at Towel Hill and headed to Embankment. The tube was empty and I wondered if I was going in the right direction.

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After the 3 cups of weak coffee at breakfast, the double espresso on the way to Charing Cross train station was most welcome. Clearly everyone had made the journey on the tube before me as they were all at Charing Cross train station!!! Mobbed is not the word, we had to queue to board the train, in fact I cued to get into the station!! Almost the first person I saw as I got on the train was Bob aka RunningBob and we had a wee chit-chat before I was moved down the carriage as we took on more runners!!!

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The train journey took about 20 minutes and the walk to Blackheath park another 20 minutes, all the way Bob filling me in on his youngsters running exploits and what to expect from the Championship Start area.

The weather was wet, cold and windy, not the best weather for running a marathon, and especially not the best weather for hanging around pre start. However, the benefits of the Championship start are

1. Your own, fenced off, area in the park.
2. A marquee for changing and hiding from the elements.
3. Your own toilets where you generally don’t have to cue up.
4. A warm up area that included some of the elite runners.

The Edinburgh AC lads were all there by the time I got there

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and we sat and blethered for a bit before all heading off for last minute preparation and warm up. Barry appeared in the tent and we headed off to warm up together bumping into Ben on route. We jogged a mile or so with Louise joining us for a bit before we decided to head to the start location as it was beginning to fill up. Nerves were beginning to kick in now. It had all seemed so clinical up to this point. The journey, the preparation, the travel in the morning, the food. I think I had been concentrating on the other items up to now, I had not really given any thought to the race itself. I had a rough plan, 6 minute miles for the first couple of miles, then see what happens after that. How was I going to handle a bad patch, we all get them, what would I do to get myself out of it. I suddenly felt very nervous. Paula Radcliffe must have been getting introduced as I was navel grazing and all of a sudden the whole Champ start started chanting her name. The woman really is a legend.

Not long after that the hooter is sounded and we are off, there are elbows and feet flying everywhere, the champ start is so tightly packed it’s like the start of a cross country race. I move to the outside of the runners to get some space, but I am running on the road camber at the edge and on double painted lines, it makes my running uneven and I spot Baz, so move along side him. The runners start to spread out within a few hundred metres and we find some space, some runners are still tearing past up, so asking us to move apart so that they can get through and others slowing. We go through the first mile in 5:59 and the second comes up at 6:04, however the next 10 are under 60 minutes and we are flying. At around 8 miles I start to feel a hot spot on my right foot, then the left, but the right is beginning to bother me about 12 miles.

We go through half way in about 77:30 and I feel very good. The tiredness of the G2E ultra doesn’t seem to be making any impact on me so far, but the hot spot is now very sore. I can feel it on each step and turning corners is very painful. Just after 14 miles I turn to Baz and say that I have just felt something pop in my shoes and suddenly my right foot feels wet. A blister has just popped and the amount of pain it is causing me intensifies. As we approach the Isle of Dogs there are a few corners to go around and I start to lose ground on the pack Baz and I were running in, I simply can turn corners with the usual twist in the foot. I have to take them easier and gaps open up. My head starts to go a little here, and I contemplate pulling out, unable to bear the pain for the next 12 miles. The thought of another DNF is enough to make that not an option for me. I have never had a DNF in a race up to this year, I am not going to have 2 out of 2. I will finish the race and what’s more I will run this one as hard as I can. I pick up the pace again, going through 15, 16 miles in a shade under 6’s. At 17 miles the foot is excruciating, every step feels like running on nails, the sharp pain of each impact reverberates throughout my body and I start to run with a slight limp to save the foot hitting the ground at speed. My pace slows again and as it does so my running form changes to a more mid/heel strike to save me landing on the ball, where the pain is coming from. I am now running at 6:40 pace and I am dropping places and hemorrhaging time. My race is finished. I contemplate a DNF again and could easily pull out here. I can get the tube to the end to collect my stuff and be done with it. That would have been the easy option and again my will to complete the race overrides my desire to pull out. I ease back the pace and decide to enjoy the remainder of the race. Barry appears in my view about a mile later, having his own troubles and I contemplate running in with him, but he waves me on.

I am now in the last 8 miles and start to appreciate the crowd, there are thousands out supporting, I see Laura from our club and Paul an old work colleague, it is fantastic to hear your name being shouted, I only wish I had heard it running fast at those points. The extra rush of adrenaline would have been good.

I hadn’t really taken notice of the crowds or the scenery up to this point, too self absorbed to take anything in. The miles had passed quickly before, now they were taking longer and longer to come and I had time to think about each mile. People are passing me all the way to the end, I don’t mind, I have resigned myself to jogging it in. My foot is throbbing and I worry about infection and how long it is going to take to heal post race, but the worry is pointless, there is nothing I can do until I finish. So I start to interact with the crowd, clapping and waving. Many of the crowd would shout ‘well done Edinburgh’ or ‘go on Edinburgh’. My running club vest has Edinburgh AC written across the front. It gave a great boost and I wave back only to get an even bigger cheer. It is such a great atmosphere, party like atmosphere, and I am enjoying the party!!

We enter the final couple of miles and people are streaming past me. These are the guys and girls who are leaving it all out there, pushing their limits to get the quickest time they can. They have timed and ran their race well, as they now up their tempo for the last few thousand metres, they are going for it. It still looks like I will run under 2:45 and this is a big target for a lot of people. Running under 2:45 will guarantee a Championship place for London Marathon for the next two years and also provides guaranteed entry into numerous marathons around the world. It is a big target and these people are really pushing themselves for it. I am quite envious that they are running hard, as I jog along the embankment, I really wanted to be doing that. I had a vision of Barry and myself pushing each other as we raced along there, past the houses of parliament, Buckingham palace and into The Mall. I really was jealous of these runners, but delighted for them at the same time. I stick to the outside of the road, I don’t want to get in anyone’s way as we approach The Mall. People start racing each other and I enjoy watching them. I am directed to the middle clock/finishing line and I cross it in 2:44:29. I make it under the championship qualification time, so I can go back in the next 2 years and try again. But, this time, I have crossed the line disappointed and a little down. I see Callum and Neil ahead they both had passed me about 3-4 miles out from the finish. They ran really well and both run PB’s. I collect my medal and then start to devour the contents of the finishers bag. From what I remember the food contents were,

1. A packer of starburst
2. A large chocolate cookie
3. Cadbury chocolate (pack of 3)
4. Beef Jerky
5. An Apple

I finish the lot before Barry and I reach the changing tent where I get the first chance to see the blister.

(look away now if squeamish!!!!)

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It is huge and very inflamed. My legs feel stiff and sore as well, which is probably expected a bit but I am a little disheartened by this considering the pace of the last 10 miles. Was this the after effects of a 38 mile run 3 weeks before and a hard marathon? Most likely.

After the marathon we head to Chandos for beer and food and I leave early to go meet the Edinburgh AC lads who are next door in The Harp, but by the time I get there, nobody is around and so I head for the airport and head home.

It has now been 6 days since the race and I’ve had time to reflect on the main error I made: I ran in a pair of Adidas Tempo Boost, they were new, I had worn them only a few times but hadn’t run over 5 or 6 miles in them. Some of those runs were at speed, some more sedate, but I thought they felt fine. They were comfortable, but what I hadn’t done was test these shoes with the socks I decided to wear. I bizarrely chose a pair of old (and I mean very old) Hilly Twin Skins. I had run in them lots, but not with these shoes. I can only assume that the combination was not right, maybe there was too much movement in the front of the shoes and each impact caused the friction that generated the Vesuvius sized blister. As an experienced runner this is more disappointing than the race results. There is a golden rule that we are all reminded off: Never try out anything new on race day. It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to understand this, it is basic common sense.

I could go down the route of “what could I have run”, but there is not point, I ran 2:44 and it can’t be changed. There were issues in this race that need to be addressed beyond the shoe/sock choice, and I will pick up with the coach about that for the next campaign.

As for London marathon, it was superb, I will be back.