Weekly Wrap. Week 37
Into the marathon and out of the marathon. This would sum up what happened during the last weekend and into this week. As mentioned previously, I was planning to run the Vilnius Marathon. Nevermind the illness, which tended to linger together with me – I felt as I overcame it and was ready to run my best marathon yet. My plan was to run with pacers and aim to finish in 3:15:00, which meant running 4:30 min/km pace. A difficult speed, but something I felt that I could maintain with moderate effort involved. And on Sunday, September 10th I was there, at the start line of my favorite running event, ready to spend the whole morning running, admiring the pastel shades of upcoming autumn. Feeling determined, ready to full extent, firing up my iPod and hearing some upbeat tunes, I was excited and eager to finish off my season with a new personal best time for the marathon.
Unfortunately, this was not my day. I have improved my personal best time, but for half-marathon only. Marathon reminded me what kind of a beast it is and ensured me that I have to pay respect to it before I run it. At kilometer 14, I started feeling some pain in my right inner-hip area. Afterwards, I tried to relax my muscles, swallowed an aspirin, however the pain did not go away. After the first half, which I clocked at 1:35:04, the pain started to become more of a nuisance and slowly, it became more and more difficult to keep up with the pacers. Right into the slow downhill and area surrounding park Vingis, I decided to drop pacers and continue with on my own. All hopes were put into this solitude now, unfortunately I started walking more and more, my left calf was cramping (only later I found out that it might have been due to the aspirin) and I finished my marathon at 33rd kilometer with a long “shortcut” to the finish line. However that shortcut was not acknowledged by the organizers and I headed home with my first DNF – did not finish – in my life. Hopefully the last!
This season seems to be providing more challenges to me than I had anticipated. But realistically, I think that diminishing return is more and more obvious, when you get to higher results in such sport. Increasing paces by just 5 seconds per kilometer might seem like just a tiny bit, but carry those 5 seconds throughout the whole distance of 42+ kilometers and you get a totally different experience to all your cardiovascular system. Luckily, I was surrounded by great results of my wife and friends around me. Dovile has improved her personal best of half-marathon and battled through some tough pains during the run – blisters, hurting nail and hot weather. Extremely proud of her. In addition to that, I helped one of my friends, Michail, to get ready for a marathon within 7 weeks. When I tracked it back – I was surprised at how short of a time it was. But he finished the marathon and was very alive and happy the day after. So was I. It is a good feeling, when I can help somebody out with their running and goals.
Let us go back, for the last time to Copenhagen now. We will continue where we left off – with me coming out of the underground parking lot and getting ready for the run.
And here are the direct links to previous entries, if you want to refresh yourself:
A New Hope
I notice Dovile, standing out there, waving at me. I wave her back. I still feel the bitterness of that double-espresso with tidbits of Coca-Cola energy gel. It tastes a little bit burnt, a little bit like you would imagine a piece of coal should taste like. I know that neither me, nor you have ever tried it out, but I have an intuitive feeling, we imagine it taste the same way.
Once I am out of the tunnel, I immediately focus. I have gone through all the pain and discomfort in the swim and on the bike, for one and only purpose – to run a 3 hour marathon. A feat which I was dreaming of for a long time, which seems doable, especially when I reflect back on my training sessions, where I easily maintained an even faster pace.
Focused and determined to adhere to my plan and goal, I start running. With all the people cheering and excitement overflowing the run course of Ironman Copenhagen – my run leans towards two things. I run to achieve my goal and I run to get away from this chaos. Do not get me wrong, it is amazing, how citizens of Copenhagen just put their support out there onto you, but after a while all that noise gets too close to the limit of what you can take comfortably. First kilometer into the course, I am flying, I feel extremely comfortable, I run better than I expected and it does not punish me. 5 kilometers into and the pace is astonishing – 4:05min/km! I tell myself that this is it. This is what I was training for, I am ready to do my best in this last bit of this tough race.
I run next to the reflecting windows of different shops, I tend to check my running technique and form during the runs – and my reflection looks like of a professional athlete. It seems surreal. I can not believe that I am pushing this pace, nor that the reflection in the window is really me.
Run to the Hills
I now have run 14 kilometers within an hour. Easy mathematics, 2 more hours to go, 1/3 of the distance is done. Running through these loops, the weather keeps changing. From the sunshine you can see in the picture above, we get an immensely heavy rain. For a very short-period of time. It does not bother me, I am focused. I turn a corner, I can hear some band playing “Killing in the Name Of”, by “Rage Against the Machine”. I punch the air in excitement. After the first hour, my pace and what I am presented on my Suunto watch is all over the place. Most likely due to those bits, where I run into a tunnel and out of it – the GPS loses its track and picks it back again. This starts to annoy me more than it should.
My plan was to run strictly by the pace. After such a long day working out, heart rate is no longer a valid option. It gives a lot of false-positives and you can not base your run on it. You can on the actual pace and GPS though. So I was hoping for that and it started to have “ironman problems” of its own. This ended up in a lot of different numbers popping up on the screen of the watch, which I simply could not rely on. It started to annoy me even more.
I walk every second aid station, get some cola, red bull, a cracker and an energy chewie. It is such a delight to chew something. So every aid station, I look forward mostly to chewing something, secondly – to walk and rest a bit.
At this point and time, something snaps within me. I do not realize what yet, but I know that I can not keep up with this. I feel exhausted. I run next to Dovile, I wave to her and tell her that I will be right there, I want to talk.
One hill up, I get my lap band, the second one. I can see a person, with 4 lap bands sitting under the tree. He has just to run to the finish. However he’s beat. I feel for him. And for myself as well, because my gut knows – the same is happening to me right now. Short uphill, an aid station – I am shedding my parts with every step. I see another runner, seems to be very content and in the zone. I think – that is great, I wish I could keep this composure up and be like him. Then I get an idea, he is running roughly at around my pace. Why not to run together, cover each other from the wind and make it easier for each other? I quickly catch him, turn around and try to explain my plan to him. His face could as well be marble – no expression, no thoughts, no understanding. I just wasted my energy on useless talk. This body can not hear me, while his mind is elsewhere. Nevertheless, I run up in front, give him some cover, hoping that actions will give him better idea than my monologue. And for a short period of time it does. He goes up in front after a while. We run like this for 2-3 kilometers. But suddenly I remember my sleuth, that I will talk to Dovile. And my previous self – doubting, tired, exhausted and beat – comes up to the playground.
My new acquaintance is running behind me, does not talk, does not gesture anything, just breathes heavily in my back. And I thought we were on to something, I had hoped that we will become best friends for the marathon, who never speak. After a long pros and cons review of whether I should keep going with marble-face friend, I decide to drop him. And then I stop, I walk up to my wife and pour my soul out. Finally, after such a long time on the bike I can tell her how tired I am and how beat I am. She understands, she knows, she is all those things as well – she has been up on her feet together with me. Dovile tells me that if I pick myself up and reduce the pace a bit even, I can still do a sub-10. However I need to collect myself here and now.
The thought that I was tearing my soul up during the run and I am barely in the sub-10 area, completely breaks my mind. I lose the passion, I lose the intention and worst of all, I lose my focus.
From here on now, I walk every station, I can not pace myself properly, my teeth are grinning from the harsh-cold wind and I lose the grip on the part I was looking forward the most. I start the marathon of walks. I manage to get up to running, then I start walking again. And even now, I do not understand what was it with me. I simply was empty, but not in terms of energy, in terms of strength, I was empty of the passion. Passion to be the best I can at that very moment. Instead I was trying to be the best in my projected reality. And within that reality, I lost myself. I understood that I built something unrealistic and then tried to participate in that. That alternative reality, which made me drift away from here and now – it broke me down and I just could not get up from it.
Last lap band on my hand, I give a big hug to the volunteer who gave it to me, I tell her that I am very thankful. I stop at the last aid station, I do not want food anymore, just water. I tell each one of them that they are amazing, they are a part of my story, part of my achievement. They deserve a medal. They have been yelling at me “WATER”, “ISO”, “REDBULL”,”BAR” every time I passed their station. What a dedication. Pity I lost mine for the run.
Last turn, just 3 kilometers to go. I try to imagine what are those 3 kilometers – it is just a small lap, I run around my home area, which me and Dovile call “The Lap of the Dog”, because there is this lovely Bernese mountain dog by one of the houses we pass. However even this distance takes the best out of me, I start walking. Some people yell at me “Looking good, Edgar!”, I know I do not, but I am forever thankful for that in my heart.
One last kilometer to go, I try to get everything within me and run, finish better, to show gratitude for all this cheering. I find something, I start running. One volunteer sees my 4 lap bands – she smiles and she knows. I know now as well. It is coming to the end. I run into the finish line and try to leave that beat-down me behind, I think I managed. I clocked 10:22:54.
I want to finish this post with some key learnings, I took away from this Ironman and share those with you:
- There is a reason, why it is recommended to run a negative split in a marathon (meaning first part slower than the second).
- I have to plan my tapering much more clever. That reckon of the bike course cost too much.
- Having different plans for your race might be a good option – positive and realistic plans should do.
- My psychology is weaker than my body. I have to work on it.
- I should always test drive my bike for a longer period after assembly.
- I need to swim more, bare minimum is not enough in an Ironman.
- Racing for myself should be the key. I have to distance myself from “what others will think about me”, especially going into such difficult race as an Ironman.
I will finish with a huge appreciation for all the feedback I have received on previous posts. For staying with me throughout this journey. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it and you found something for yourself.
Song of the week: The Roop – Dream On