Doing stupid things seems to be one of my more frequent habits. I’ve already written about how I ran the Connemara 100 with totally inadequate preparation. Everything’s relative of course but even while running with the good people of the 100 Club, who run almost weekly marathons, I can somehow find a way to take things over the top.
To give some background, Pat O’Keefe (who I think has run 82 marathons) told me that when he did the Connemara 100-miler a few years, he waited six weeks until his next marathon and he still didn’t think his body felt right. In the four weeks since I finished it, I squeezed in two other sub 4.30 marathons in Longford and Dingle. Alright, so they were both slower than I’d like but 4:22 and 4:29 aren’t exactly the worst times in the world either. Then last week, the walls finally came tumbling down.
It all started so well. My mate Frank McDermott was pacing 4.30 at the inaugural Sligo marathon and had gotten me a free entry. Sure, it was a long drive and an early-morning start but if you’ve been a regular reader, you’ll know that’s nothing unusual! We’d left at a nice handy pace (about 10.15 minutes a mile) and it looked like I was in for a relative doddle of a race. With Frank practically acting as my personal pacer, 4.30 hours would be a lot easier than it had been in Dingle, or so I hoped.
The previous week, I’d had a long and interesting conversation with Shane James Whitty about how my marathon times had recently been collapsing somewhat. He suggested focusing on my heart-rate (which I never normally do), training at 125bpm for recovery runs and doing 3-mile tempo runs at 145/150/155 bpm. For the events, he had suggested sticking to 8.30 minutes a mile for the first 15/16 miles. Above all else he had said not to let my heart-rate slip above 150bpm for the first 18 miles. This would leave something in the tank for the last 8.2 miles. The trick was to keep at a pace where you could keep running; whatever time would be lost from the beginning would be regained by avoiding a collapse in the latter stages. I wouldn’t be running at 8.30 minutes a mile, but my plan was to take the rest of this strategy for a test-run in Sligo.
The plan was going swimmingly until I had to pull a Paul Radcliffe (runner’s slang for a bathroom break) and Frank went on ahead. Continuing on, I picked up the pace, figuring I could catch Frank after maybe five miles. But despite busting myself trying to catch up with him, tearing down hills and going sub 10-minutes/mile on the level, he was nowhere to be seen. Then I fell.
I was tearing down a hill about 16 miles in, and slipped on a loose stone on the road, coming down hard on my knees and elbows. I was up again almost straightaway but after a few steps it was pretty clear that I couldn’t continue to run. Pat O’Keefe caught up with me after a while and walked the rest of the way with me; he’d hurt his ankle further back. Then after two miles of this, Frank caught up with us! Turns out that he’d taken a wrong turn back at a village crossroads further back and wandered five miles off the course! So the whole race to catch up had been a fool’s errand from the beginning. But by that stage, the damage was done. I never saw my official time but I have it at 5:53:23
No lasting damage was done to my knees but both hamstrings were pulled and my body wasn’t recovering like it normally does; for a few days afterwards, I was having difficulty just shuffling across the street. So it was with a heavy heart that I decided not to run in the Mooathon or the October ‘West of Ireland’ series run, both of which I was really looking forward to.
I can find other marathons to make up the promise of 20 in 2012 but nevertheless, I’ve had to re-evaluate my plans coming up to the Dublin marathon. The first part of the new plan is to go back to yoga tomorrow. Secondly, I’ll be slotting in with the marathon training group at my home club in Louth and train for a ‘personal best’ in Dublin (October 29th). For me, that would mean beating the 3:56:58 I ran in Kildare last May. It’s a big ask, but I’m hoping that with the right combination of nutrition, proper training and a six-week break from eventing, I might even hit 3:45 or 3:50. It’s been such a long, tough year and it would be really sweet to pull that off in the city that has become my second home over the last few years. That’s the dream anyway.