Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Back to Black

I'm  definitely a trail runner now. Not a mountain goat or rock rabbit, but happiest when in the forest, with birdsong, away from the traffic, people dodging and flat miles. So this weekend was my first tar marathon since a 28 lap Sacramento mind game in December. My mileage has been great, but at a slower speed than previously. 10k and 21k PB/R's  showed that maybe it didn't really matter what pace you trained at. BUT a marathon you can't bullshit, or just hang on if you go off too fast.

So Sunday was the Vancouver marathon. That's Vancouver, USA, not Canada, which is in Washington State, which isn't Washington DC. Easy for Americans, confusing for me! It's the 'hidden jewel of the Northwest' alongside the mighty Columbia river. But I also work in marketing and suspected it was maybe a bit of the 'world's most beautiful marathon' syndrome. It turned out to be a bit of marketing speel and a bit of the truth mixed together. 

The marathon had 630 runners, and there was reasonable quality for a small city race (although "Vancouver is the largest city on the Columbia" the mayor proudly told us) with a 2.45 pace bus! More like a unicyle by the end. What I hadn't worked out til halfway, was that the pacers only ran half the race then handed over to another runner, which I can't work out if it's a great help or a bit of a con!

Spot the 'restroom' stop!
The route was flat for the first half and then some gentle climbs, the weather overcast, cool. A perfect combination for a good time. After the gun the 2.45 pace bus disappeared into the distance along with the leading woman and I settled into the sub 3 bus. Our pace hovered around the 4,10 a km mark, which for 42km, seemed very fast! Now, I've been running a LOT, but mostly on trails at between 5-5,30 a km bar the odd 21km and 10km race, so to keep this up for 3 hours seemed unfeasible. But muscle memory seems infinite, and after about 12 miles I drifted into this odd space, where it felt like I was 'jogging'. I can't really explain the sensation. I'd caught the 2nd woman after a loo stop and decided that her sub 3 hour pace was perfect for me. So we lobed along for 10 miles, slowly catching the lead woman, but Jen was taking some strain running at PR pace in only her second marathon, so I got to back off and occasionally feel like I wasn't at 100% marathon pace effort. Maybe it's something to do with someone working harder than you, that helps to make your effort feel easier? I'm pretty sure if I'd pushed on I would have go burnt and ended up with a slower time. So I waited, and waited and waited. Sort of like a leashed dog, knowing that there was still gas in the tank.

1st vet, sort of, 45-49, so really 3rd vet
The marathon is the hardest standard distance because the temptation is to run harder, earlier, than is  wise. I kept my patience until 23 miles, then it got too much and I pushed, going from 4.15 kms to 4,08, 4,06, 4,04 and 3,47. Why? I would have run sub 3 (Jen finished in 2,58 and change) if I kept the pace, but the thought of gaining a few seconds was enough of a carrot to push harder.

2.57.37 was the time on the clock. A first sub 3 marathon since January 2012 was a nice surprise after miles and miles of slow trail running, lots of climbing, but no long quicker pace runs.

It was good to run a quick marathon and when I hit that sweet spot of cruising, was a lot of fun, but it doesn't compare to running a trail 50k where every kilometre is a surprise, the terrain testing, the scenery always stunning. Most trail runs can claim to be 'The most beautiful marathon in the world'. That's the diference.


  1. There are lots of things that make marathons hard, and knowing when to kick for home is one a lot of peple get wrong... It's nice to know your body and it's nicer for your body to be working the way it should.

    There is no reason why you shouldn't have run a good time, you have lots of miles under the belt and with most of them on the trails it's been soft on your body and kept your legs fresher than endless miles of tar (a little tar is good to harden up!). Then as you said the climbing is also a bonus, nothing like a hill or 2 to make you strong.

    Speed, always a good question: well look at it like this, speed work does 2 things, makes you strong (so you can run fast, more on that later for you) and it helps you know (your legs can) run that fast, and faster... So how does one run faster? Well very little has to do with leg speed, I can run 6min/km and 3min/km with a leg turn over of 90 (180 if you coute both legs). So it's the leg stride that really changes the pace. Hills are what helps here...
    So keep climbing and who know? Boston and a sub 2h50???

    1. Thanks coach. Yes i think sub 2,50 would be possible with a bit more quality. I could definitely have kicked earlier and although i was stuffed in the last mile, it had my quickest km by far, a 3,47, so i could probably have gone a bit earlier and been nearer 2,55.