The whole race weekend was quite an experience, as we drove from the UK to friends in Brussels for Thursday night, where my wife, Milly and son, Cameron stayed for the weekend and I drove on down to Frankfurt with an old uni house-mate (road trip!). The autobahn proved to be quite an entertaining experience. Although it was busy and lots of roadworks/variable speed limits limited the amount of car top speed testing that could be done (record was 206kph and still accelerating, not bad for a Honda!). The friends we were staying with in Darmstadt near Frankfurt where expecting a baby fairly imminently, low and behold we got a text message on Thursday to say labour had started and the baby ended up arriving later that day! This changed the plans slightly and we ended up getting a hotel room for Saturday, but we got the added bonus of meeting the new-born and helping out with running errands/do shopping etc...
We stopped off at the race expo in the Frankfurt Messe exhibition centre on Friday afternoon to get number/chip business done and dusted. Friday night involved wetting the baby’s head with (for me) a very modest amount of local 'Landenbier' and some top quality German grub. Saturday was combination of wandering around Darmstadt and an afternoon trip to the 'Jungenstillbad', which are the town's public baths. This had a great range of saunas/steam rooms and thermal pools, a great way to relax before a race, although there was a strict no trunks policy in the saunas ... We had an early dinner at our friends flat and then got back to the hotel to sort out race kit and get an early night.
|Market Day in Darmstadt|
Race day dawned with clear skies but fairly windy. The temperature was mild and forecast to rise up to 18/19C, but this didn’t turn out to be a problem as it clouded over (and rained) just after the start. Getting to the start from Darmstadt turned out to be a painless 20min drive to the main parking for the Messe exhibition centre and then a 5min shuttle bus ride to the start itself.
I had plenty of time to sort my gear out go for a jog/dynamic stretch in the small park adjacent to the start line and managed to meet a fellow runner that I've been swapping training notes with. We had a good chat before the start while waiting in the pen ready to go..
|The final section of the course into the Festehalle (left of shot)|
0-5km – (17:38)
I got a reasonable position in the pen about 4-5 rows back from the front, but it didn’t really matter as there was a sizable gap to the elites in front and we weren’t brought forward before the gun, so I crossed the line around 20secs after the start. My plan was to aim for 18 mins per 5k which would put me on for a 2:32. The first 1km was a bit hectic as I had to navigate a fair number of slower runners. The combination of that and the tall buildings playing havoc with the Garmin meant judging the pace was difficult. I was keeping an eye on my average heart rate (HR) which was coming out a bit high (168 vs marathon HR of 165bpm), but it does have a tendency to spike at the start of a run. Probably a bit of a fast start, but I don’t think it limited me later on in the race too much.
5-10km – (18:30)
As things started to settle down I had a choice between two groups to go with, both with female elite runners and pacers. As my HR was still a bit high (av 166) I opted for the second group, which turned out to be the Brit ladies Emily Wicks and Hayley Haining, as I figured the group in front was on more like 2:30 pace (leading German ladies). As I tried to rein in my HR (and keeping in a group) the pace dropped, but I wasn’t worried as I wanted to keep things under control given the fast first 5k and the prospect of a strongish headwind for 13 or so km from 14k onwards.
10-15km – (18:24) & 15-20km – (18:30)
By 15k my average HR for the last 5k was down to 165 and I was ticking along nicely in the middle of my target pace band of 5:45-5:55/M. At this point I wasn’t pressurizing myself to push the pace down, I always felt that 2:31 would be a big ask and the conditions were far from ideal for an optimal run. So I kept in the group and kept tabs on my HR. At 20k my average HR had dropped to 164. We got pretty wet along this stretch and the wind was strong enough to take a bit off the pace.
20-25km – (18:05)
With hindsight my conservative approach in the first half started to pay off from halfway onwards. The average HR for 20-25km was still 164, but now I was back to sub 5:50 pace. At some point in this section me and a couple of other guys drifted off the front of the group we were in as the pace increased. I went through halfway in 77:02. Around 22k a familiar yellow and blue strip vest of Bournemouth AC pulled up alongside, worn by Ian Habgood. I was a little surprised as Ian has a sub 2:30 PB, but he’d arrived late at the start and had had to work through a lot of course traffic to get up into clear space. I let him carry on as I didn’t fancy my chances of being able to maintain his sort of pace. Unfortunately he took the two guys running with me with him! So I was left to run solo, although I managed to keep them in sight…
25-30km – (18:06)
Things continued to pick up as we finally made the turn at the far end of the course and started to head back towards the city centre. I was maintaining the pace but my HR was now down to around 163bpm. Realizing I was probably running a bit under MP effort now, I started to push on.
30-35km – (17:35)
This was definitely the best section of the race; with 20M bagged I was really motoring and passed a lot of people. Looking back I probably went too fast (averaging sub HM PB pace!) a bit too soon. My lap HR average spiked up to 167bpm, so I think it would have been better to put in progressively faster 5k’s between 30-35 and 35-40. Also the wind was now working to our advantage with the whole 5k, straight, flat and dead downwind!
35-40km – (18:03)
As we returned to the city centre with swirling winds and lots of corners my pace dropped back down to the original target level. It was starting to get tough by this point and my HR was still up at 167 despite the drop in pace. I was into head down and get on with it mode! Caught up with Ian from BAC and we swapped positions a couple of times in the final few km. unlike all my previous marathons, I hadn’t got any pain in my legs this time (at VLM this year it was my quads that nearly ceased up), but my general fatigue levels were very high by now. Physiologically it was very hard work too, being unfamiliar with the course, the multiple twists/turns and the blustery winds which made some sections easier and others much harder! We hung on, along with another Brit in a light blue Bideford AC vest.
40-42.2km – (8:06)
The last 2.2k was not pleasant. Ian pulled in front and helped drag me along, but the look on my face from the photos at that point says it all! We ran into the wind for the final km along a street which acted like a wind tunnel. Then as we made the final turn by the Messeturm tower to the Festehalle finish, we got hit smack in the face by gusts of wind which felt like it almost stopped you dead! I was very relieved to get inside into the finish straight and down the red carpet to the line for 2:32:57 and a 3 minute PB!
|Finish Straight gurning!|
|Post Race Refeeshment|