Sunday, 29 August 2010

Birthday(ish) marathon at Santa Rosa

After four weeks off and the small matter of a wedding and honeymoon, I decided it was time for a fast marathon. August has always been a month for marathon PBs for me (always at the Reykjavik marathon) so I wanted to keep that going and the only possible option was the Santa Rosa marathon in wine country, north of San Francisco. It's very flat and fast even with about 10 miles of gravelled paths to make the going a little tougher.

The last few weeks have been perfect but involved a lot of wedding cake, alcohol and lazing around by pools. A fun lifestyle and a great bit of relaxation, but not ideal marathon preparation.

I really wanted to get another PB and break 2:30, but it was never really on the cards. During the week I could barely run at marathon pace for a mile, never mind 26.2. So I thought I'd just go out fairly hard, see how close I could get to 1:15 at halfway of the two lap course, then try to hold on. Nice plan, but I had hoped to have some help on the first lap at least with some kind of pack. It didn't work out like that - the simultaneous half marathon had one guy shoot off but nobody else in either race went off below six minute miling so I was immediately on my own.

I've never run an entire marathon completely on my own and it was an interesting challenge. At least the conditions were perfect with no wind and cool temperatures. So I managed to hit 10k just over my 10k PB, break my 10 mile (57:40 now) and half (1:15:40 now) PBs then cling on to scrape in just under 2:36 for a season's best. The last eight miles were slower and I felt tired, partly due to overtraining, partly to lack of fitness from the last few weeks and partly to going out a little too fast for my fitness on the day.

I enjoyed most of it until I started struggling on the second lap. Going faster is fun and just one of the types of run that make up the whole package of the sport and make it so rewarding. I also had the bonus of winning by over nine minutes and getting prizes including a year's supply of bread (a bakery sponsors the race). Definitely a good day's work and a fun training run, even if not quite what I'd planned months ago when I optimistically thought I'd get more morning runs in during my honeymoon.

The run was a decent race, generally well organised and very flat and pretty fast. I got misdirected at the half way point and ended up running in the half marathon finish then asking the crowd/officials where the hell I should go (they didn't know) so I worked my way back to the race start and ended up adding about 0.2 miles on. Then I was almost tripped up as an official tried to move some cones on the course as I went past (when back on the proper route) and he swung one under my feet, hitting me. But small races get minor issues like these and it didn't affect my position or a PB so I can't really complain.

It was a shame to miss two of the biggest events this weekend - the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 103 miler in the French/Swiss/Italian Alps (all three countries in one race) and the World 50k Road Championships in Gibraltar. But UTMB ended up being cancelled due to weather with a 60 mile version taking it's place for a chunk of the field the day after and Gibraltar's course was supposedly slow and awkward. There's always a trade off with races and I wish I could be in three places at once (ideally for free), but the local race was worth it. And on the day before my 30th birthday I got in a good session.

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