It has been a while since I last posted here. honestly I just didn’t feel like and I didn’t want to ruin my feeling of non (or little) structure off-season by sticking to a rigid reporting scheme. And frankly not too much has happened since my last post when it came to triathlon. Instead of grinding on my trainer or getting soaked in the pool I just ran a little and did the Frankfurt Marathon with my mates.
Frankfurt is a nice race and among the biggest in Germany. It has a very fast course, excellent organization and at the end of October it is perfectly suited as a seasons grande finale. Also, for one of my friends it was his major event this year to chase his sub-3 marathon.
This was only my second ever full marathon and preparation was in some respect much better than last time and in others much worse. On the upside I´ve been running more regularly than ever before for the last 18 months, giving me a very solid base. My specific marathon prep however was not ideal. I averaged about 20 kpw over the year and maybe 40 over the final 6 weeks. I couldn’t ramp up my mileage too much or else I get injured, so I basically stuck to my old „one log, one hard, one easy“-approach. I did 3 30k runs in week -2, -5 and -6 and PR´ed my half marathon in week -4. That race put me in a deeper hole than I anticipated and lead to two weeks of recovery instead of one. Race plan for Frankfurt was to take it relatively easy, but still dish out a respectable time. On my last and first ever full in 2015 I finished a 4:02 as a result of timid pacing. The goals for Frankfurt were
- Enjoy the race as much as I could and appreciate the time hanging out with my mates
- Get more experience in running marathons
- Try out nutrition stragies
- Aim at a PR around 3:30
I wouldn’t say I undertrained on purpose, but I wanted to see what would happen beyond 30k with that little mileage in my feet and also see how my stomach deals with constant feeding.
We arrived in Frankfurt by train on Saturday afternoon and had a friend pick us up at the train station. After dropping our bags at his place we headed to the marathon office to collect our bibs and check out the expo. It was absolutely massive, with about 15,000 starters the entire Frankfurt Messe hall was filled to the brim with athletes, family, curious locals and volunteers. Even though it was all on a massive scale check in was smooth and we quickly got out again to grab dinner at some Italian restaurant. Once we filled up on pasta we went to our friends place, sorted out who would sleep on the couch, the bed and the air bed and fell into a light pre-race coma. Next morning we got up early to have breakfast and it was so funny to see how each of had his own race-morning ceremony. White toast with Nutella for me. Buns with marmalade for the next. Toast with Avocado for number 3. All three were equally nervous to get done what you want to get done before and not during the race which I did not manage, and then we were off to the start line. A short walk later we find ourselves in the middle of thousands of nervous athletes and witness our share of very desperate bio-breaks. We drop our street clothes bags and somehow lose each other in the chaos, from here it is each man for his own.
I make it to the start line in time and sort myself near the front of the 3:29-block. The start is uneventful, we don´t hear the gun go off but just start trotting towards the start line before we eventually begin to run. The first 8k are a maze of Frankfurt city streets, my GPS goes wild between the office buildings, but my time at each k-marker is spot on at 4:59. The first 10 or 12 k are very easy, except for a brief stop to pee at the first opportunity. With the race moving on the crowd just behind the 3:29-balloon gets exceedingly bigger and more packed until I can bear it no more. I understand that when you´re fighting very hard for your PR you wouldn’t want to risk anything and just stubbornly stick to the balloon and that is fine. But why does everyone feel the need to stick to the poor guys heels? It gets so annoying that I lift my pace for a while and break out of the crowd and put maybe 200 meter between me and the balloon. My life is much much easier now and I can enjoy the race much better now. I high five the kids along the streets and cheer on the great crowds as much as I can. There is a great vibe, occasionally some live music and overall you feel like the residents make it an occasion and enjoy hanging out by the side of the road and cheer on the athletes. I am feeling great, my feet are fine, my stomach is fine, my mood is great. Occasionally I try a new mantra: „Make it looks easy. What looks easy, is easy!“. It works and my form is good.
I take a cup of water at each aid station (5, 10, 15, 20, 22.5, 25, …) and work my way through a whole pack of cliff shot books over the first half marathon. At 25 I start nibbling on a cliff shot gel, stretching it across almost 2k. At 30 I begin to feel the fatigue slowly creeping up on me, but I am confident I got this under control. Constantly feeding a tiny bit instead of gulping down a gel once you get hungry makes everything much more gradual. You get tired very slowly, instead of hitting the wall. On the other hand you don´t get the boost from the sudden arrival of fresh sugar in your bloodstream, but that is probably a good thing. The frequency of my new mantra increases and makes life easy and my race still enjoyable, but I feel that my stomach and GI tract is beginning to act up. On my long runs in training I wouldn’t finish a single 2hr+ run without hiding in the bushes at some point and this race is no exception. I find a free and surprisingly civilized port loo at 33k and do what I have to do, lose 2.5 minutes and am back on the streets. I consider making up the time but decide to let it go and stick with my 4:59 pace. I was pretty concerned about how I could avoid this porte-potty scenario, but today it seems to almost be unavoidable. Don´t sweat it and be prepared will likely be my strategy in future races.
More and more of the race is now happening in my head but I still try to cheer back to the crowds and thank the volunteers wherever possible. At 39k things suddenly start going south when my quads begin seizing up. My good form is gone and I am in pain, I am now concerned with maintaining a sub-6 pace and getting to the finish line without walking. These final 3k last approximately as long as the 39 before. It is quite frustrating that my fatigue level at this point is a 7/10, my mood is good and I am having no serious issues like blisters. Its just my quads and there is nothing I can do, except pushing through. It all ends well, even though I cannot respond when three girls decide to sprint to the finish line and leave me in their wake. I cross the finish line at 3:32:44 which is a new PR by 30 minutes.
After picking up and changing into warm clothes we meet up and head towards home base, take a shower and go out for a well deserved beer and some excellent Ethiopian food. It was a fine race, I didn’t kill myself and now have some peace of mind to begin my next big challenge (about which I´ll write a bit more next time).