Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A frantic month off with a little bit of racing

So I quit my job at the start of August to travel around Europe and Canada for a month with my fiancé. It had been planned for months and we had a great time seeing amazing cities like Prague, Budapest and Stockholm.

But I couldn't let a little thing like travelling round completely stop me racing. I still fitted in the Reykjavik marathon in Iceland then the Québéc marathon over in Canada the following weekend. And it all went better than I could have imagined.

Reykjavik was windy and I've run the marathon there three times before, so was ready for the coastal gales. But after staying with some of the half marathon leaders 'til 19k and using them as a shield from the elements, I found I was in 2nd and had 3rd and 4th visible 30 seconds behind me.

The 2nd half of the race is less open to the weather, except for the section from 36k to the finish, so I decided to push on and drop the others before it got too hard. The tactic worked and when I turned the corner at 36k I couldn't see anyone in the visible km or so behind me. Even better, it looked like I had a shot at a PB as long as I didn't lose too much time into the windy section.

Knowing that I was in the prize money and likely to set a new best, I pushed on to get every second and was rewarded with some decent km splits under 3m50s, slower than I'd been running but not by too much. I finished in 2h36m59s, very happy to have broken six-minute miling for the first time in a marathon and knocking off over a minute from my time in Paris in April.

After a week in Canada which included trips to Niagara Falls, Montréal and Québéc's old town, I was planning on jogging the marathon on my 29th birthday. It was the sensible thing to do - 1 week after a PB and 1 week before the extremely hardcore Transalpine stage race across the mountains of four European countries (see next blog entry).

But races don't always go to plan and sometimes that can be a positive thing, not just going worse than expected. All I knew about the race is that almost everyone does a horribly positive split due to the climb over the huge bridge at around 25k and the prevailing headwind to the finish.

Since it started with a downhill 10k I decided to run a little harder to break away from the crowds and then cruise through for a sub 3h time. After a 38m 10k I'd expended a bit more effort than planned and slowed down, but was still in 7th place. Jogging the next 14k with a local guy, I felt comfortable and had gone through halfway in 1h22m, much faster than I needed to do for sub 3h.

As we approached the hill climb I decided to put some effort in up the hill as one last bit of training for the Transalpine. But I found myself suddenly catching everyone as I accelerated uphill. With 6th and 5th just ahead (they'd not been in sight for an hour) I was with them within another km.

It would have stopped there, and I'd have happily jogged to the finish, but I saw a line of the other athletes just ahead and well within reach. So my racing instincts kicked in and I was off on the chase, starting with a 3m30s km down the other side of the bridge after taking in the stunning, if wet, view from up there.

The predicted wind wasn't too strong but it was annoying and made the going tougher. Luckily the bridge seemed to have finished most runners off and I was able to cruise into a comfortable 3rd place as the others slowed. I had no idea whether there was anyone coming up fast from behind so I pushed it to the finish. But I could really feel the previous week's efforts in my legs. Somehow I got a 3 minute lead over 4th by the finish and didn't need to have pushed so much. The time was just over 9 minutes slower than in Reykjavik but I was very satisfied with how it went, especially since I didn't start racing until the bridge.

But what effect would racing both marathons have on the Transalpine race? Well, I was sure that leg fatigue wouldn't be the best start for mountain racing...

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