Just 11 weeks until Ironman Zurich. It seems as if time is moving incredibly quickly, when there’s still so much work to be done. I thought before writing about this weekend’s Hackney half marathon, I’d include a quick update on how things were going.
Swimming – Anyone that knows me well, will know that I’m not made for the water. I never swam as a kid, and in the past I’ve done it because I had to, getting in the pool with no structure and just swimming length after length, expecting to magically improve. This time I was determined it was going to be different.
Straight after the Barcelona marathon I booked myself in a 1-2-1 session with a decent instructor, and she took me through some of the things (there was too many to go through all of them) that I was doing incorrectly, and put me on the path to fixing them. I also got a training programme out of this, which included loads of drills and different sets I could do in the pool to keep things more interesting.
Unfortunately, I’m still not quite Michael Phelps, but I’m definitely seeing a steady, if slow, improvement in my times and I’m feeling much smoother in the water. I’m hitting the pool either 4 or 5 mornings every week, and swimming around 3km per session – a distance I’ve never even got close to previously when swim training.
Cycling – People have been drilling it in to me that this is by far the most important part of training. There’s no point being a sub 3 hour marathon runner if you get off the bike and fall to pieces in the first 20 minutes because the 112 miles have wiped you out. I cycle to work pretty much every day, but I don’t count this as training as such, just an additional little benefit.
I’ve been building up the long rides at the weekend, which are far more pleasant now the weather has taken a turn for the better. About 3 weeks ago I got back from an early morning ride where my feet felt like blocks of ice. The plan was to finish at parkrun and run a good honest effort – for the first 10 minutes I was running with no feeling in my feet, which was a first for me. I’ll be increasing my time in the saddle over the next few weeks, building towards a 100 mile ride before the taper period kicks in.
Running – It goes without saying, this is by far my favourite discipline and the one I have at least some experience in. Since Barcelona I’ve dropped the mileage and just kept things ticking over. Apart from the ridiculous 50 miler I did last weekend, I haven’t run further than 13 miles since March, and most of my running has just been steady efforts, with a few quicker parkruns thrown in.
So, brief update over, and on to this weekend. I was worried during the week that my legs wouldn’t be in any kind of state to run a half marathon, but fortunately they started to turn a corner on Thursday, and by Friday were feeling semi-decent. I’d agreed to pace my mate Eddie at parkrun on the Saturday morning, where he’d be trying to run under 19 minutes.
Fulham Palace parkrun is always a great place to run fast over 5km, as it’s a flat with minimal turns and some long straights. Eddie put in a really solid run, just fading slightly in the second half, and we ended up coming in a few seconds over 19 minutes (19.05). The ridiculous thing is I think he’s only run about 3 times in the last 3 months, so if he put in any kind of proper training I’m sure he’ll be running a lot quicker than that.
After that it was back to the flat for a bit of brunch before the second training session of the weekend. It was a beautiful day, so I set off on my bike to the Surrey countryside in a great mood. The weather can make all the difference when it comes to cycling, and the 3 hours I spent on the bike flew by, as I clocked up 56 miles – exactly half the distance of the ironman bike leg. Admittedly, it was a route lacking of any decent hills, but I’m starting to feel much stronger and more comfortable in the saddle.
Sunday was an early alarm call (5.45am) as both Katie and I had got hold of last minute places in the Hackney Half marathon through my good mate Charlie. We made the long journey over to Stratford, hooking up with Charlie, Nick and a few others, before heading to the start/finish area located on Hackney Marshes.
The event itself seems to be growing year on year, with just under 12,000 people finishing on Sunday. Having a quick check of the forecast in the lead up, it looked like we were in for a scorcher, and that certainly turned out to be the case, with the mercury hitting 25 degrees before we’d finished – not ideal running conditions.
Luckily for me, I’d already made the decision to not run flat out, instead offering up my pacing services to a friend from work – Charlie (confusingly, a different one from the one mentioned above). I was really looking forward to being able to run at a steadier pace and maybe actually enjoy a race for once!
One slight negative point on the day was the start situation – people hadn’t been allocated pens, and were directed towards zones with wide-ranging time estimates, which led to a lot of over optimistic self-seeding and therefore a lot of slower people to weave around in the opening mile or so.
Charlie and I had placed ourselves fairly near the front (in our correct time pen), and after a mile or so of passing people things started to settle down. Charlie was actually great company to run with; he was shooting for a time of around 1.35, so a decent enough pace to get a good workout. For the first half or so, he kept telling me he felt great and everything was good. I made sure to let him know that there was still a long way to go, and we held a steady pace, hitting half way right on schedule.
One of the positives about the race was the amount of the support on the course; it seemed as if the whole of East London had turned out to watch. This was probably helped by the beautiful weather, which was great for the spectators, but less than ideal for the runners. I took on the role of drinks mule, collecting Charlie and I a couple of bottles of water from each drinks station, with most of that poured straight over our heads in an attempt to stay cool.
By the time we reached mile 10, people had really started to suffer in the heat, and unfortunately our pace slowed slightly and the 1.35 started to slip away. Full marks to Charlie for hanging tough though, I witnessed first-hand him slogging through the last few miles, on what was a really difficult day for running.
Worryingly, there were quite a few people collapsing out on the course because of the heat, and I just hope everyone who got into a spot of bother is now ok, or if not, at least on the mend. In the last mile or so I was in the unfamiliar situation of actually having a great time, and I continued to high five the crowd and get involved in a bit of banter.
We came into the final 400m and I let Charlie know we should put a bit of a kick in to get under 1.40, he promptly obliged, and we finished in an hour and 39 minutes. To say he was knackered at the end is probably an understatement; he certainly gave his all on the day, and that’s all you can really do – just unfortunate that Sunday happened to be the hottest day of the year so far.
Strava activity for the race is here
There was a good offering of free stuff at the end, and I picked up a medal, t-shirt (technical, thankfully), popcorn, some cereal bars, a couple of bottles of water and a Lucozade. Not too bad a haul. I waited for the others to filter back to the finish, everyone looking pretty tired and extremely sunburnt. Due to lack of alcohol being served afterwards in the race village, we headed back to the Olympic park for a BBQ and some well-earned beers.
Training never stops, and after eating all the food on Sunday I was back in the pool at 6.30 on Monday morning before work. 11 weeks to go…