Saturday was to be my final long run before I take part in the Phoenix Riverside Marathon on the 22nd. I decided to do it properly to get the most out of it (and avoid any unnecessary suffering). I was up about an hour before I left, diligently drinking some hydration fluid and getting stuff ready for a light breakfast before sneaking in an extra 45 minutes of slumber. Then giving myself a little while to digest my granola and the last of the hydration fluid, I loaded up my running pack with more hydration fluid (about 800ml) and three High5 energy gels (one with caffeine) and applied a liberal layer of BodyGlide (even in the scary, hard to reach places).
I decided to wear just the one layer as, although there was predications of fog and a chill in the air, I sweat a lot and my pack makes me perspire even more so (aren’t I lovely!?) and I didn’t want to overheat or dehydrate as I’ve done before on long runs. I did go with a buff though to keep my neck warm (as I fear colds and am a wimp) and it can be stashed in my pack or wrapped round my wrist to soak up sweat if it gets hot. So anyway after these important nutritional and sartorial preparations and decisions I was off and running.
I choose my traditional long run route around St Mary’s Island, up through Chatham to the back of Rochester, then off to the nature reserve at Borstal and then come all the way back again the same way. (Last week I ran along the Saxon Shore way to Otterham Quay and then back and up to St Mary’s and on to Rochester before heading home, which was fine. The off road section at the beginning was a bit tiring though and didn’t really fit the dead flat and concrete route I will be taking for the Phoenix, so decided against it for my last long run and fine tuning for the race.)
The sun was out for the first hour or so and I was happy ticking over at my MAF pace and listening to some Black Keys. Their were a few people about as it was a Saturday, rather than Sunday when I normally do my long run, so got to say hello to some runners and walkers and see some dogs, which always brightens my day. By the time I got to Rochester I was feeling nice and relaxed and was keeping up a pretty good pace. Around then the sun disappeared but that was fine; it just seemed to get the fog out and make the views across the Medway even more moodier, particularly around Borstal.
On the way back into Rochester I made my habitual pit stop in the coach park there. I peed, had some water, blew my nose and wiped the worst of the sweat away in (without upsetting any unsuspecting tourists and causing an international incident). Refreshed, I carried on into Riverside and by this point was ignoring my heart rate monitor. It kept randomly spiking beyond my 153 bpm target and hanging there, even when I was slowing whilst going down hills etc. I think I need to clean it better post race to stop sweat affecting the sensor, or get a replacement seal to protect the light reading. Either way it was giving me the hump and I decided to ignore it and pace by feel and my breathing rate.
As I was coming back round St Mary’s Island for the second time (about 15 miles in) I felt pretty good, the sun was out again, and I was thinking where I should set my target for the run. I wanted to do at least 20 miles, but was thinking now of taking advantage and covering 21 or 22. But then an idea began to form. Maybe I should make the most of my legs feeling strong and go for it; do a full marathon now and get under the four hours into the bargain. I tested myself with a few quicker miles just over 8 minute mile pace and was pleased with how (relatively) comfortable it felt.
Going past home I had to make a decision, as I was nearly out of fluid, had used all my gels and I could feel myself fading a little. I ran down to the Strand and the beginning of the Saxon Shore Way and then had to head back to avoid the undulating trails. It was stop now or go for it. 20 odd miles, at a good pace, would have been good training, and doing too much might cause some damage or tire me out for the race… But then Royal Blood came on; and suddenly I was up for it. I saw a shot at glory. I was all in.
I circled up to our road and burst through the door, shouting at poor Claire (who was standing in the kitchen minding her own business) ‘Change of plan, I’m going for the full marathon!’. I threw my sweaty pack to the floor and grabbed another energy gel while Claire filled a small bottle for me. With a quick ‘Bye!’ to Claire I was back out the door in about a minute and trying to find some more music to get me going while pouring energy gel into myself, and onto the road, my clothes and possibly some people I ran past.
I headed to St Mary’s again, as that is a 5 mile loop I know and doesn’t involve too much traffic (I thought). Well there is one choke point – the far bridge was up to let some boats through! Luckily I was half prepared for that so double backed on myself and went along the main road onto the island, all the while trying to keep my pace up but not go too hard and ruin my legs/cramp up etc. I was lucky, I kept feeling strong (if a bit sore) and had got the nutrition and hydration just right. As I come off the island and headed onto Pier Road to take me home I knew I was going to do it and actually enjoyed the last mile or so. It was still painful, and I was holding on for dear life by the end but I felt some much stronger than when I ran the Battle of Britain race and blew up in the last few miles.
I stopped my Garmin at 26.3 miles (Strava always seems to steal 0.1 miles for some reason – I wasn’t having that, no on this one!) and my watch read 3:39:45. PB achieved and 4 hours broken! It was a fantastic feeling to have beaten that 4 hour mark after getting so close and missing last time. I did a little ‘hands in the air, waving round like you just don’t care’ dance and confused a lot of motorists. I could have moonwalked and high fived a unicorn I was so pleased, but a) I can’t moonwalk, b) all the unicorns round here have gone to the Isle of Wight for the Winter. I settled for beaming like a lunatic, boasting on Strava and sitting round that afternoon in my pants, eating lots.
The 3:39:46 was my moving time so factoring in the stops I made at home and Rochester, but also the additional 0.1 mile I ran at the end, means the elapsed time was probably closer to 3 hours 41 minutes but I’m not too bothered. The moving time was a cracking 8:21 a mile. All in all a great run and real confidence booster – and I have a nice target for my Riverside Race now; beat my shiny new PB!
I’m off to have a lie down, and rest up for the actual race! Cheers for reading 🙂
PS. Some of you may remember our friend Django; we got to see him again at the weekend and my how he has grown up! I think it was about 3 months ago when we first meet him, and he has filled out quite a bit and his coat has gone all shiny and lovely. Ok he did dribble in my ear, cover my t-shirt in paw prints and stamp on my crotch – but he’s still my favourite.