Friday, April 25, 2008

Ironman Attempt

I met a swim coach early on Wednesday morning so that he could assess how my swimming is. Last January I secretly (!) entered for an ironman but always knew my swimming would be completely starting from scratch. Before the marathon I kept up basic swim lessons just to learn to swim the strokes properly. I always knew it would be after the marathon that I would decide fully if I was gonna go ahead with the training. So I met the coach and after a few minutes he said he was 70 per cent sure I could attempt the ironman in 4 months. They sounded like good odds to me. After the hour he reckoned if I could swim 400 metres in 4 weeks I would be capable of continuing with the ironman training. That sounds like a plan to me. So I will give that a shot. My technique aopparently isn't too bad but my biggest problem is the breathing. I can't get it right. I swallow tonnes of water. I panic and keep my head up or if anything upsets me in the water I stop. I can just about make a 25 meter length without stopping. But one length is it...... It doesn't sound good does it? But I'll give the 4 weeks a shot. I'll try and swim almost every single day and see if I can do it. Hopefully I can keep up a little cycling and running too. ;-)
If it doesn't work out I will go for it again next year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rotterdam Marathon

The Rotterdam marathon is over and all the training is long since forgotten. I'm on my post-marathon meltdown now which means I'm tired, grumpy and permamently hungry. But I'm jumping too far ahead now. I did a race report over at Team Geared Up which you can read over there or else here it is:

Marathons are scary events. Only a couple of people in the race are out to win and the thousands of others just want to do their best, whether that means just finishing or getting a Personal Best. Failure is so scary.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement but I’ve been worse, standing on marathon start lines. I got a Race number that allowed me almost right up at the start banner, so I waited till less than ten minutes before start time to get into my place. Looking around me was scary.

Once we were off I felt like I was moving quite fast. I hadn’t a clue how fast though because my heart rate went through the roof and I missed the first few kilometre markers so I just hoped it wasn’t slow!! I tried to relax and get my heart rate to settle but it wouldn’t so I chose to ignore the readings of between 185 and 190. When my foot hit the mat at 10k in 40 minutes I realised I was well inside the 3 hour mark (shock!) and decided at that exact moment that I wasn’t gonna let that go without a huge fight. I was thinking I was moving at too fast a pass to sustain for too long, but what the hell, let’s just go for it and hang on and I thought if I let it slip a little later on I could still break 3. And so I continued, despite hitting low points at 16k (feeling sick for a minute) I just pushed and pushed. It was killing me to be moving that fast while thinking I still had a long way to go. So I took a gel and as JackieO said to me “put your head down and dig in”.

I hit the half way mark at 1:27:42 so was still moving quickly enough. Finding things to focus my brain on was difficult. At 27k we came right back into the city but by 30k we were back out into a really quiet park which felt like a real lull after the buzz of the city. It was hard to push on at this stage. But I actually caught a glimpse of the leaders on the opposite side of the road who were at the 40k mark and thought, what a lift, to see them racing this close!

At 35k I was over a minute inside the 3 hour pace but the pain in my calves was increasing. I had worn super flat racing shoes and I suppose this was the price I paid for wearing light trainers. So from this point on it was head down, push hard through the ever increasing pain. But I knew the pain of being just outside 3 hours would be a pain I might have forever if I didn’t go for it! I can’t even describe what happened in the finishing straight. I couldn’t see the clock properly, but I could see metre markers counting down the last couple of hundred metres. I could hear the crowd do the countdown till the clock hit 3 and just as my foot landed on the mat the clock hit 3 hours exactly (and my heart rate hit 199). I couldn’t believe it. It took a couple of hours to get my chip time of 2:59:58, giving me a placing of 28th woman and 341 overall. Running buddy Bronagh had a PB of 3:20 and new friend Anthony ran his first marathon in 4:25.

During my marathon preparation Nige had said I could go sub 3. I didn’t believe it really, I imagined even as I stood on the line I would finish at about 3:03. I wrote before about how Nige was helping me but I didn’t imagine the help would ever get me this far. Training under pressure (with the heart monitor) made racing under pressure much easier, he said I would suffer so suffering during the race became normal, not something I should be scared of. (Normally you slow down when you’re suffering). His two words Push Hard became a mantra during the whole race and I couldn’t let it go. To run well I believe you also need a good club and a good coach. You need people to push you, to believe in you and they act like a support group. I sound like I’m doing an Oscars speech but I really have to thank my coach and brother Eugene for support and encouragement and his wife Gina who looked after my legs!

End of TGU post.

I really didn't think I would do it. A sub 3 hour marathon is one of those elusive things I thought I might spend the next few years chasing and never achieve. My previous best was 3:13 in Chicago. If it hadn't been for TGU and the help of Nige I think it would be an entirely different marathon story I'd be telling right now and it wouldn't have a "2" in it.