Chester Marathon was the end of season goal for 2011, so after a short break post-Alpe d’Huez I knuckled down to the run training and although I only got in 9 weeks of specific marathon work – about half what I’d want ideally – I felt like I was running pretty well as race day approached. I’d set a 10km PB (36:34) at the Shell Sutton Six race 3 weeks out and 10 days out we did a set of Yasso 800s at the track where I held 2:50s comfortably. However my suspicion was that I was maybe in great shape for a half but not enough miles in the bank for the full distance? Anyway, to maximize my chances I had a fairly aggressive taper in the final week with 4 runs totalling a mere 11 miles (OK, so maybe I was just being lazy!).
Race day alarm went at 6am and to be honest I felt pretty knackered as I’d been up till 11:30pm watching the Kona coverage (and really wished I could have stayed up all night to see it through to the conclusion with the amazing Chrissie Wellington toughing out another win). Breakfast then out the door to drive to Chester, via a pit stop at the Junction 14 services where I bumped into Brian who had had the same idea. As I got into the centre of Chester the roads got completely grid-locked with runners trying to get to the racecourse – yes, gridlock at 8am on a Sunday morning. I think Chester need to sort their traffic flow out! So abandoned the car in a multi-storey instead of the race car park, where I again bumped into Brian (we were really on the same wavelength that morning!) and Stefan and we wandered down to the race HQ which was happily only about 5 minutes away.
On entering the racecourse we noticed a chap coming out of a building with a very smug grin (on the chap, not the building) – yes, he had found the luxury queueless toilets and we didn’t need a second invitation! We wandered over to the start line and you could have been forgiven for thinking the race wasn’t for another few hours as it was incredibly calm, not the usual melee you get at big races. After 24 hours of rain the day before the forecast weather window had come to pass and it was a bright pleasant day, bit of a breeze but nothing too ridiculous. Gradually the rest of the Man Tri posse made their way over to the start, and toeing the line we had myself, Brian, Paul, John, Andy, Rich, Stefan, Konrad, Gary, Claire and Anna.
Into the start pens on the racecourse itself and after a short delay we were off. The plan was to go for somewhere between 2:50 and 2:55 running a fairly even race (unlike Blackpool two years ago where I started to fast and paid the price over the second half). Settled into a 6:3X pace and also tried to keep my heart rate steady up the short climbs that punctuated the course by backing off then catching up again on the downs. After crossing the Old Dee Bridge at mile 2 we were out onto familiar territory from the bike leg of the Chester Deva Triathlon, the climb up to Eccleston, right turn under the bridge and a fast mile of descending the other side.
At about the 7 mile mark I caught up with Paul who was trotting along nicely having a nice chat about mountaineering with a guy. We pushed along nicely until the 13th mile which was a bit sticky, a drag into the wind cauding the slowest mile so far a 6:46. We were also joined for a while by the 3rd lady. I know this because almost every spectator we passed said “3rd lady” at us. The halfway mark was reached in 1:26 and everything was going to plan.
The next couple of miles ticked along nicely until the village of Farndon whereupon crossing the bridge from Wales back into England was immediately followed by an evil steep climb. Somewhere after this following another climb I pulled away from Paul. The difficult last 6.2 miles were approaching and my legs were starting to feel it. However, I wasn’t losing too much time and although it was much harder I was still holding high 6:3X / low 6:4X pace. Mentally I just focused on reaching the next mile marker, which were moving further away from where my Garmin thought they should be every mile (I decided that I preferred Garmin miles to real life miles!).
Re-entering Chester at 23/24 miles I was starting to be troubled with cramps in my upper calves and lower hamstrings and this was not helped at all by a couple of cheeky climbs in these last miles, particularly the nasty Sandy Lane climb which I just made it up by shortening my stride to about 30cm (well that’s what it felt like anyway). At the 25 mile mark a left turn down to the Dee again and a really good crowd as we followed the river towards the race course. Got a high 5 from Brad with half a mile to go just before turning back into the racecourse for a final gallop (sorry) to the finish line for a 2:52:46. A two minute PB – happy days! And it also meant I took the Manchester Tri club champs.
Staggered around for a minute or two but after that, to be honest, I felt OK! Got the traditional post long run emergency refuelling of a can of Coke and a Snickers down me, followed by a slightly more nutritionally favourable bottle of Rego. Met up with the rest of the guys post race and we went for a lovely meal at Telford’s Warehouse (thanks to Andy for arranging that) and we all agreed that it was a great race; well organized, good course, plentiful aid stations with enthusiastic volunteers and good crowd support in the villages en route.
Thanks to Gary Wolstencroft for the photos.
Some more geeky stuff will now follow. Viv – or anyone else easily bored – you might want to stop here (if you’ve made it this far ;-)!
Pacing: my splits were 1:25:59 / 1:26:47 so not quite even but not a bad effort. My fastest mile was 6:16 (mile 2) and slowest was 6:46 (mile 13). Full details can be found on Garmin Connect.
Nutrition: I used 5 gels – 3 Torq and 2 SIS Go – at miles 5, 9, 12, 15, 18 for a total of 500 calories / 130g carbs. This was about twice as much as I took at Blackpool 2009 where I really ran out of energy towards the end. Seemed to work really well, getting a bit ahead of the curve on the nutrition meant I didn’t have to worry about it when things were getting tough after 20 miles. Took water at every aid station (every 3 miles roughly).
Taper: A 2 week taper as I only had a 9 week training block. Week before race week was largely as normal but slightly reduced volume, a “long” run of 12 miles, and still some cycling and swimming in there. On race week though I cut it right back with the philosophy of keeping (or even increasing) the frequency but reducing duration and intensity. So:
Mon = rest; Tues = 3 miles easy/steady; Wed = 3 * 1 mile M pace; Thu = rest; Fri = 2 miles easy/steady with two accelerations to M pace; Sat = as Fri; Sun = race day.