Sunday, April 02, 2006

Freiburg Marathon Finished!!!!!

Temp: 15c
Conditions: Cloud, gusty, some rain, some sun
Location: Freiburg Marathon!
Time: 11.05am onwards
Planned Run: Have fun!
Actual Run: 3h 57m 58s (Kelsi), 4h 17m 12s (James)

Well, we did it! Our first marathon! It was tough, there was pain, but a great experience and I'm so glad I finished!

The weather turned out pretty good with sunny spells and the occasional light shower. Not too hot though. We set off at a fairly good pace but I got a bit caught up in the fervor of the race I think. At one point Kelsi reminded me that we shouldn't run too fast as we'll lose out later one. This was true but many people seemed to be passing and it was difficult not to want to keep up with them

The crowds were pretty good. There were some patches with no people supporting at all but nothing too long. When we entered the city centre this changed and there were many people out clapping and cheering which was quite something. I thoroughly enjoyed this atmosphere and found if I thanked those clapping and cheering it would make them clap and cheer even more. And most of the children wanted to give 'fives' and slap your hand which was great.

At one point we came across a chap speaking English to a friend in the crowd and Kelsi asked him where he was from. Turned out he was from Milwaukie on a business trip and thought he'd do the marathon whilst here. He was a marathon veteran and gave us some good tips about not running too fast when the adrenalin flows with the cheering crowds. This was something I noticed with all of us. When something happened with the crowd you'd suddenly realise you'd speeded up considerably. At one point someone cheered on a runner behind me and he ran into the back of me because of the rush he got. Quite interesting.

The water points were pretty good although a bit too far apart at some points. Water, Isostar, sometimes black tea and Red Bull, bananas and some really nice yoghurt power bars were given out which I found very enjoyable. It was at one of these water points that both Kelsi and I had our first power gel intake (this was the first time I'd used one! Ooops!) and it went down well with some water. This was about 17km's (11 miles) into the run.

I was still feeling good at this point and felt quite strong. Kelsi also seemed to be running well and our pace showed this. However, in the back of my head I wondered what it would be like the second time around. I was feeling great and very comfortable and soaking up the whole atmosphere with the bands playing and the Freiburg folks cheering.

We arrived back at the start area which is the half marathon mark (two half-marathon loops) and crossed the line in just under two hours (1h 59m 49s) which was great. We were on target to get around in 4 hours but the tough bit was about to come. I still felt good although my legs were starting to tire and I could feel my 'runner's toe' starting to hurt a bit.

So, the second half arrived and we decided that we could start looking as though we're in pain! The stretches without supporters were quite difficult (apart from one incident where a chap caught short of a toilet giving a select few a bowel symphony from the hedge to remember!) but a friend told me last week that he found the more interaction he did with the crowd the better it was for him. I found this very true. Acknowledging their support and smiling really got them beaming back. Both Kelsi and I had our names printed on the front of our shirts and this was also useful. Suddenly you'd hear your name shouted out and that was a boost.

Boosts were needed at this point. Around 30kms I was starting to suffer. I told Kelsi beforehand that it would be great to finish together but if she feels she's got the legs then she must go for it. I started losing my pace and told her to carry on. My energy levels, my legs and more than anything a nasty pain in my chest made me want to slow down. It was time to 'tough it out' big time. I started stopping and it seemed to relieve the pains in my chest which was a bit worrying. I then got into 'plod mode' and hoped this would carry me through but it seemed like I was now running backwards.

The last 10kms were very difficult. At one point I really felt I wasn't going to finish and just wanted to have a hot bath! I sent a text message to my friend saying my legs were seizing up and she replied astonished I had the energy to send text messages! Well, I needed to do something to take my mind off the pain and this seemed to work. I actually got into an 'auto pilot' mode here and before long I was quite pleased I'd plodded without stopping for a few kilometers. Again the crowds helped and to hear "Go James Go!!" was such a boost

Slowly but surely I got closer and closer to the end and I tried to remember that this was a marathon so I SHOULD be feeling this pain! Again stopping to drink water and to ease the pain before trudging my legs for another few kilometers.

I reached the long road to the finish point and this was a nice feeling. Just one long road to go with a water stop halfway along and the end within reach. Many people seemed to have passed me and looking at my watch I realised that I was probably going to finish before 4 hours 30 minutes. This was ok. To think where I was 6 months ago I would have never believed I could finish a marathon in this time.

The last corner turned and then downhill into the throngs for the finish line. My legs were shattered and my chest hurting but I managed to find a sprint finish from somewhere. Even keeping up with a finishing half marathoner!

Pow, I'd finished!!

I crossed the line and again heard my name shouted out. My friend Terrence shouted "James, you've done it" Wow, I had! Had I? Me finished a marathon??!! Crazy!

I met up with Kelsi and asked her what time she achieved and was so pleased she'd beaten the 4 hour mark. It said 3h 59m 38s on her watch but we later found the correct time was 3h 57m!! That is incredible! It suddenly dawned on me that she'd run the second half of the marathon faster than the first half!! What a time!! Something to treasure.

So that was it. Collecting our thoughts, memories, belongings whilst we limped around the Start/Finish area.

I'm going to add more pics when they arrive but here are a couple Terrence took which are great.

Now it's time to sleep!!

Marathon Day AM, Before the Run!

Well, this is it! The Big Day has arrived!! I'm not feeling too bad at the moment and had a fairly good sleep last night. Kelsi and her friend Anne came over and we had a huge carbo loading pasta session yesterday evening which was nice (see attached pics). We think everything is in order and we discussed last minute details etc.

So, I'm still curious what today will be like. I feel quite calm about the whole thing which I guess is good. Maybe it's because of the training, I have a good idea of what's coming and I know I should be ok. In two hours time when I'm standing at the start it might be different! In some ways I'm amazed that I'm here, me, James Walker, about to run a marathon! Doesn't seem that long ago that I was out running around my house in Cambridge trying to catch my breath after 10 minutes running!

Ok, I need to tape up, drink up, and get the show on the road!

Catch you later.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Day Forty One, Marathon Prep One.

Temp: 20c
Conditions: Cloud, warm, gusty
Location: Along the Dreisam
Time: 3pm onwards
Planned Run: 30 minutes jog with 5 x 60s intervals
Actual Run: 40 minutes jog with 5 x 60s intervals

Yep, just an easy jog today with some interval runs along the way. Feeling quite laid back about the marathon today but I guess the nerves will start towards the end of the week. I'm just very curious to see how I feel on the day. It feels strange to be tapering off with the training now and in some ways I feel I shouldn't be doing this. But, in theory, my body and legs are as ready as they can be so I should be patient.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Day Forty, 17k Last Big(ish) Run!!

Temp: 15c
Conditions: Cloud, warm, gusty
Location: Along the Dreisam
Time: 11am onwards
Planned Run: 17km in 1h 45m
Actual Run: 17km in 1h 38m

Freiburg was battered by a big storm last night and I wasn't too hopeful we'd be able to run in dry weather today. However, come 11am it was quite dry and I think the sun nearly came out at one point. It was very warm though and the Dreisam was quite full again from melted snow water.

Well, today was really the last longish run we do before the marathon itself next week. A 17km run which doesn't seem too much to us now. However, 17km is still 17km and our goal was to run it within 1h 45m's.

We set off from the Ganter bridge and we were just able to use the pathway alongside the river as at some points the river was at the same level with the path. We chatted about the big day next week and how we've worked out what clothes to wear and what food to eat beforehand etc. It's the little things which become quite important when you're running for 4 hours so it's good to have an idea about these now. We also talked about how the first 20 minutes of running are usually quite difficult to get into but after this time you have a better idea of how good you feel. I've noticed this especially when running on my own that I'll feel quite unfit but then it slowly gets better. I guess it's your body just getting into the rhythm.

Our pace today was pretty good and I felt quite confident that we were running within the target time. I had an idea in my head that our turn around point (8.5km) should be around 50 minutes and it was nice to see we reached this point in 49 minutes. It seemed quite strange to be returning back upstream after only 49 minutes!!

Well, the return upstream didn't seem to be that difficult so we managed to keep up our downstream pace I think. However, I wasn't feeling that great today, not sure why but I didn't feel I had the boundless energy I had the previous week. We kept up the pace though and it wasn't long before we were back into the city and approaching the Ganter brewery. We finished in 1 hour and 38 minutes which was pretty good. This time meant that we ran back upstream in the same time as our downstream run which is good.

I just checked this time on the RW race predictor calculator and it reckons we'll finish the marathon in 4 hours 16 minutes. Well, I'm quite curious what our finish time will be. I personally feel that I won't be able to run faster than this but there is this race 'magic' that people talk about which seems to find you an extra 15 minutes? I'm not sure, when I started off this training, finishing within 6 hours would have been great. Somewhere this 4 hour goal appeared and I'm curious to see what happens.
Well, not long to wait now.....

Attached a picture of some 'Scotch eggs' I made the other day. It's something I miss from England and decided to make a few myself and they turned out pretty good. Not sure if they're ideal pre-marathon food but they are tasty!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Day Thirty Nine, 13km Tempo

Temp: 5c
Conditions: Cloudy, misty, cold wind.
Location: Along the Dreisam
Time: 3pm onwards
Planned Run: 13km in 1h 11m 30s
Actual Run: 13km in 1h 10m 33s

Bit colder today (Wednesday) with Freiburg shrouded in a 'Dickensian-like' fog. Wasn't too bad for running though and as today's tempo run is quite long. For me, the colder the better.

So it was 13km which seems quite a long one for a tempo run. In a way I guess the plan is to get our bodies used to running longer and faster now just before the marathon. Well, so far the plan seems to be working so hopefully this will add to it.

We did a good 20 minute warm-up run and then set off running 7km's downstream and then 6km's upstream. We settled into our pace pretty well and I felt confident that this would give us a fairly good time. Running downstream felt good and it was quite easy to chat whilst running. At some point I developed a little pain in my hip but it wasn't too bad. Just the usual ache which comes and goes now and again. Kelsi had a pain in her knee at some point.

We reached our turn-around marker stone and then headed back upstream. I pretty much immediately felt the difference today of running uphill although only slightly. It seemed to be harder work to keep the pace going but I certainly felt quite strong and able. However, about 1 km from finishing I did feel as though my energy levels depleted somewhat and it was a bit of a struggle to push to the end.

Our finishing time was about 1 minute below the target so this was good to see. The pace was good and consistent I think. The downer is that to complete the marathon within 4 hours we need to keep this kind of pace up all the way through. Hmmm! I just checked on the RW Race Predictor and with our time today it predicts we'll finish in 4 hours, 5 minutes and 46 seconds! So we do in fact need to run a bit faster!!

Ok, well we'll see how much adrenaline is flowing on the day and maybe a really good wind behind us might just do the trick!

Attached a diagram of the actual marathon course. The full marathon will be two laps.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Day Thirty Eight, Penultimate Intervals!!

Temp: 12c
Conditions: Springtime!
Location: Along the Dreisam
Time: 3pm onwards
Planned Runs: 3 x 1600 in 8m 10s
Actual Runs: 3 x 1600 in 7.17, 7.19, 7.05 (Kelsi 6.59)

Well, today it was our penultimate interval training session. Amazing to think it wasn't too long ago we were running around the sports track for the first time feeling quite exhausted!

Today it was only 3 x 1600m runs which seems quite an easy thing to do now. Upstream 800 and back downstream again along the usual route next to the river. It was a really warm day though compared to what we've had recently. I'm a bit worried that it might be too warm on the marathon day itself but fingers crossed it will stay fairy cool.

We did our warm-up run and then headed off on our first run. I thought we were taking it pretty easy with the pace and didn't bother checking with my watch at the halfway point. Running downstream was easy and I felt well within my limits but was quite pleased to see our finishing time well below the target time.

The next run was pretty much the same and again I felt I was running on autopilot and not pushing too much. Once again the time was pretty good.

Then the final run felt ok as well. Kelsi pushed off in front with about 600m's to go but I didn't fancy keeping up with her and pushing too hard. I felt my pace was fast enough and quite surprised to see I was over 10 seconds faster! I think I have a rough idea about my pace but I still surprise myself quite a bit.

So, in two weeks time it will all be over! I wonder how I'll be feeling on the Monday after? At this point I am really looking forward to the race. I was thinking today that I am probably at my most fittest I have ever been in my life which is a nice thought. I am a little anxious about what happens after the marathon and concerned that I don't let all this hard work and effort go to waste. Hopefully with my first marathon under my belt I be hungry for another. We'll see.

Attached some pics of the river today. It was a glorious spring day with many people out running, walking, reading, and some making use of the trees! ;-)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Day Thirty Seven, 25k on Course

Temp: 5c
Conditions: Sun, clear skies, coldish, slight wind.
Location: Along the Dreisam
Time: 12pm onwards
Planned Run: 25km in 2h 34m
Actual Run: 25km in 2h 33m

Glorious day today! The sun was out, the birds singing and still a nice chill in the air for a long (ish) run. We're tapering down now for the big day so it was only a 25km and then next week just 17km.

We met up at the Ganter bridge at midday both of us feeling pretty good. I had some pains in my hip yesterday but I think it was neither muscle or bone but something like a slightly trapped nerve? I haven't got a clue really but this is what my internal medical team were telling my brain ;-) So they gave me the all clear to run today but to take it easy if it started to flare up.

We set off and started at quite a good pace. I pretty much have an idea about the pace I need to run the marathon now and I am quite keen to do as much of this before the big day itself. They always say that you inevitable run a bit faster on the day due to the screaming crowds and the atmosphere so to have a good idea beforehand what your pace should be might be quite useful.

Well, it was a lovely day. Although sunny it wasn't too warm and there were plenty of other runners out there. Kelsi thought it would be good to run on some proper tarmac for a change to get us used to that which was a good idea. We tried to follow along the tarmaced roads as much as possible which ran parallel to the river. Then when these ran out it was along the grassy paths again.

Before long we reached our halfway marker stone (9km stone but 12.5km half way distance) and we did this in 1 hour 15 minutes which was pretty good. We had a drink from our water bottles and then off back upstream. At this point my legs still felt ok and I felt I could keep up the pace ok. However, I knew from previous experience that the way back is usually harder, a lot harder!

However, I was pleasantly surprised that this didn't really happen today. It must be the training coming together but I actually felt I was running properly all the way back and not falling into the 'plodding' mode. I think Kelsi wasn't feeling as good as me but she kept up with the pace and we finished 1 minute within our target time. 2 hours 33minutes which was pretty good going.

It's just a case of keeping injury free now and hoping the training has worked.

Today I had some 4 hour 'summit fever' thoughts which keep frequenting my head. The thought of crossing the finish line with the time above my head reading below 4 hours was quite appealing! It seems a long way off and a lot of pain but if I'm feeling good on the day then I think I'm gonna try and go for it. We'll see.

Attached a picture of two ladies crossing the Dreisam on their horses when we reached the halfway point today.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Day Thirty Six, 7k Push

Temp: 3.3c
Conditions: Cloudy, not much wind
Location: Along the Dreisam
Time: 9am onwards
Planned Run: 7km in 38m
Actual Run: 7km in 36m 11s

Well, firstly, after the long arduous run on Sunday, we planned to do some interval running on Tuesday morning but both of us were suffering leg-wise so we decided to call that one off. My hip was quite sore so I hoped the extra day off would be beneficial.

We met up this morning (Thursday) to do an relatively easy 7km run within 38 minutes. I say 'relatively' as Kelsi was recovering from a stomach bug and I wasn't feeling that great for running either. But, the Ganter bridge we met, and after a warm-up run we headed out from 23km marker stone, up to the 26km stone, and then back down to the 22km stone. Hopefully if our maths is correct then that should add up to 7km.

The run went pretty well considering. We seemed to get into a regular pace and although I felt a few twinges in my hip there wasn't anything too worrying. I think Kelsi was struggling a bit with her bug and it was harder for her. The turning point arrived and it was nice to be running downstream. That part of the Dreisam is so familiar with us now that we almost know every bump and puddle along the way. Thankfully the marathon runs along the Dreisam at some point so hopefully we'll feel at home there.

We reached the end in 36 minutes and 11 seconds which was pretty good. I had a feeling we were well within out target time so 2 minutes within was great. I think on another day we could have run faster but the marathon day itself is starting to get heavy on our minds and these runs leading up to it are more like 'coasting' runs now. Staying injury free and not pushing too hard.

Attached a picture taken last summer of one of the many picturesque streets in Freiburg.