Friday, 19 April 2013

I love Paris in the the Spring!

The title of this post is not a typo. When I was in primary school aged about 8yrs my teacher wrote that statement on the blackboard (if you don't know what a black board is then you are too young to run marathons, so stop reading), she had split the statement so it looked like this

I love Paris in the
the spring!

Myself and all my classmates, twenty seven boys aged 8yrs were asked to point out the mistake. Half the class saw the error and the other half swore blind that nothing was a miss. I'm not sure which side I was on and it's not particularly relevant. What is relevant is that I remembered this exercise and I've often thought about being in Paris during the spring so when the opportunity arose to see Paris in the spring of 2013 I accepted. On reflection this statement rang through, i did love Paris in the spring, albeit while running a marathon.

The journey began at my best friends wedding September 2012. It had been 4yrs since I last ran a marathon and 3yrs since I had last raced in Ironman 70.3UK. A this wedding myself and a few friends were discussing fitness, running and triathlon when somebody (not me) proposed running Paris!
During my time off myself and my wife had two children (both boys) and with their arrival and us living in a city without any family support it was difficult to plan a 6 month training program for a race. Plus I was content spending the weekends with wife and kids, while training and racing was not compelling. I was cycling every day (commuting) and running 2-3 per week during this period but racing was far at the back of my mind.

The wedding was in Ireland and myself and my wife flew home. We had left our boys in London and flew my parents over to babysit. This was our first sense of freedom for 3yrs and something must have stirred the sleeping beast because when the Paris marathon was mentioned I was totally compelled to do it.

After a super weekend we made our way (reluctantly) back to London and I took a few weeks to ponder my decision to race with my friends. It didn't take long to slip back into "family guy" mode and within days I was questioning my ability to chase down my 3hr14min personal best. The weeks slipped past as they do and it late November I signed up to Paris. I was nervous and excited and I was unsure how training would go. I knew my self obsession with times and stats and my keenness to run late morning or evening wouldn't work too well with family life.

From the beginning my wife (who runs too) and my eldest son (3.5yrs) were very supportive. We agreed that my wife would run early Sunday mornings and that I could do my long run as soon as she finished. My weekday runs were all very early morning or late evening after the boys went to bed. From the beginning I knew I wasn't going to run a personal best so I took the opportunity to try some new ideas I had and to love racing again. I did a 3 week base training not using my Garmin. After the 3 weeks I did a lactate threshold test, using this data I calculated my lactate threshold and did most of my training just below this measurement. It was now mid January and I knew time was tight. Ideally I would retest my lactate threshold every 4-6 weeks but my training schedule was a little bumpy and I missed a couple of long runs due to minor incidents at home and easy excuses not to run with dismal weather.

For the most part training went well, I only managed one 32km long run and three 25km runs all just below lactate threshold. I knew I hadn't covered enough long distance runs but I was confident that my training method was correct. My time trials improved week on week. Most Monday evenings I ran a 5km, 10km or 15km TT, these times kept getting better and better due to the long runs below threshold.
My pace in early Jan was 5min10/km on my long runs, as my lactate threshold increased due to mitochondrial density and vascularity in muscles this pace increased to 4min30/km by March. I missed or changed most of my interval runs during training so I knew a PB was impossible. I was hoping to hold a 4min.44/km for the whole marathon but I knew the long runs I missed were very important. At 4.44/km I would finish in 3hrs20.

The two weeks pre race taper I had planned didn't happen. My wife was very sick so I was on duty most of the time with our kids. The only running I did on the lead up to Paris was a few very short runs with (personal training) clients. Although I knew this wasn't adequate, I did my best and tried to enjoy the challenge of marathon running as a father.

Race day was perfect, blue skies, no wind, not too cold and a super flat course. I chose to wear my innov-8 barefoot shoes, I had worn these on my TT sessions and on 2 long runs. After both the long runs in innov-8's my calf muscles were quite sore but knowing I wasn't going to PB I chose them over my Asics (super reliable) DS Racer,,,, bad idea. I was slightly intrigued about the whole barefoot movement and I think I get it now! I held pace at 4min42/km until 37km at which point my calf muscles were screaming. Walk, run, walk, run, walk, run and 5km later I crossed the line in 3hrs24 an average pace of 4min50/km. Those long runs I missed proved to be vitally important!!!

I finished 4mins slower than I had hoped and I don't blame this solely on my footwear choice, my below par training regime had a big part to play too. The night before the race I told my friends wife I thought I run in 3hrs22 so I'll claim the footwear slowed me by 2mins.
On a more positive note I had finished in a fairly respectable time. I had rekindled my joy for racing and training and stats and fitness gadgets. During this process I discovered some very motivational people and a whole new world of nutrition. I'm in the process of becoming a plant based eater and the results so far have been remarkable. I have my sights set on a few more races this year and hopefully training as a father will get easier.

I am fully recovered from the Paris marathon hangover and I start training for a 2hr59:59 marathon tomorrow. The race is Dublin on the last weekend of October 2013.