Frankfurt Marathon 2014
Preamble: Sitting here some days after the marathon and I don't really know what I want to write. A race report is for me to sum up the training, the lead in, the conditions, the mindset and, of course, the event itself. Something to refer back to when I want to reminisce or wallow or whatever. But strangely, the emotion was more subdued this time around. Given that it's my fifth (Wha? When did that happen?!) and the first time I didn't get a PB, I guess that's not all that surprising?
I had some problems with my sinus from shortly after last year's marathon, which meant I was out of action for a bit. It resulted in an op eventually, so more time out. The mileage in the first half of the year was pretty abysmal but once I was back in action I ramped it up again so I was ready to start the marathon training come mid June. I had definitely lost some pace though.
The training went really well, and other than a flutter with an iffey knee (caused by tight IT band and tight calfs) there weren't any issues or problems. I did my 4 previous marathons off a modified Hal Higdon plan and this time I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. On sterling advice (thanks to KC) I started on the P&D 55mi 18 week plan. It was a very different focus to the Higdon ones - more pace miles, more 'quality' sessions, etc. I did struggle a bit with the middle section where the miles ramped up and the pace runs got more frequent, especially given my poor pace to start with, but it generally went according to plan.
I didn't set myself any goal time for this one. I had finally cracked the sub 4 last year which kinda took the pressure off. But the training was all done on the basis of 8:50-ish marathon pace (a bit soft maybe?) so that was the plan for marathon day.
Lead Up: After some fretting about Luftansa striking pilots on Monday and Tuesday, the flight was delayed when we got to the airport. More fretting (though mostly of the Krusty variety). While we waited at the gate a very boisterous stag party crew serenaded us from the bar nearby - lovely! Next thing I got an elbow in the ribs and "I think that's Snoop Dog". Tall, skinny dude with hoodie up, baseball cap and shades on, pulling a Louis Vuitton case, walked through the gate and down the stairs (no waiting) with entourage in tow. One of the stag party had also spotted him and went running after him but was blanked and went back to his mates shouting "Feic lads, never meet your heros!"
Finally we boarded and there he was, huddled in the window seat of row 2 with his bouncer squished into the aisle seat. Poor guy bearly fit in the seat and it couldn't have been a comfortable couple of hours for him - quite the rock star life, eh?
Turns out we were sitting beside another boardsie on the flight too, but only discovered it when we were landing!
Landed, checked in, and off to the expo to get the numbers all sorted before we headed back to the hotel for a nice relaxing evening.
Did the 5k pretzle run on Saturday morning with some of the boardsie crew. It was quite amusing watching the 6 and
7 minute milers trotting along at 10+minutes per miles. Good fun and a nice bit of banter though.
Race Day: The morning of the marathon arrived and the conditions were just about perfect - 12c, overcast and little or no wind. After the usual pre race brecky of porridge, coffee and toast we headed to the start. Bag drop was completed with usual German efficiency, and I left KC with a good luck kiss and headed down the back to the 2nd wave corrals. Met Hibernian Runner and we chatted as we waited for the proceedings to kick off. Before long the 1st wave was gone and we were walked up to the line. We wished each other well and then Bang! we were off.
1-10km (I'll do this in km's for a change)
The first 9k of the route is in around the centre of the city and the course turns back on itself a few times. As a consequence, there are a few tightish turns and lots of crowds and we got to see the leaders a few times as they steamed ahead.
I really enjoyed the city centre start of the route, even though it was a bit of a slow start. Before we'd even started we saw the leaders pass back on the other side of the road and as we ran towards the first corner I spotted Krusty, looking comfortable and focussed. The sun had come out for a bit and it was definitely getting a bit sweaty, but thankfully the cloud reappeared before long.
Aid stations were every 5k but with cups of water/ sports drink/tea(!) I really struggle with cups so decided to hold onto my 250ml water bottle (that I was sipping at the start) and refill it as needed. Even though it sounds like a batty plan it actually worked out really well. I opened the lid as I got near the station, grabbed a cup and emptied it into the bottle. Yea, about half it went everywhere but the bottle, but it still meant I was getting more than if I'd tried to drink directly from the cup!
Took my first gel at mile 5.
Splits: 5 km 28:06 (05:38/km); 10 km 27:57 (05:36/km)
Was feeling good and the pace was nice and steady. As I got to about the 9 miles/ 15km point I felt the need for a pit stop. I rationalised that it would be better to stop now and get it over with, rather than try to wait it out and possibly make things worse, so just after the next aid station I veered off course to the dreaded port-a-loo. Pleasantly surprised - there was even loo roll!
Job done and I resumed the race pace but I'd been overtaken by the 4 hour pace group. I thought about just sticking with them for a bit, but running in such a congested group at a slower pace than I was going, was just too frustrating. I slowly eased my was through the masses and after a bit I was out in space again and my pace was back on track. Second gel taken after about 10 miles - the plan was to take them every 5 or so miles.
Splits: 15 km 29:37 (05:56/km); 20 km 27:57(05:36/km)
We had left the city and headed out along the river. Passing the half way point I was still feeling good and was surprised when I went through in under the 2 hours. The loo break hadn't scuppered me too badly so.
Half way split in 01:59:41 (05:33/km)
The route ran out to a suburb of the city and from about mi 15 we were back in crowds with cheering and cow bells. Took my third gel at about mile 16 or so and was enjoying the crowds and the atmosphere. There was a part here where we ran alongside a switchback. I was astounded to see one runner pull up to the middle of the road and looked as though they were going to just cross over and cut out about a mile or so from their race. Why would you do that? It's not like he was going to win or anything?! And right in front of the other runners and the spectators too?
And then my troubles started...
My pace was good, my legs felt fine but my gut started complaining. Won't really go into to much detail, but the chant in my head went "find the loo, find the loo, find the loo" and even thought I knew there would be one at the 30km aid station, I was going to have a Paula Radcliff moment if that didn't come soon! Oooh! Dived for the port-a-loo in SUCH relief when I saw it! This loo was not quite as fresh as the first one, and I was glad I had my own supply of paper too!
Splits: 25 km 21:42 (05:34/km); 30 km 28:23 (05:41/km)
When I emerged from my shame, I reckoned the sub 4 was probably gone, but the head being what it is at that point in a marathon, I wasn't quite sure and spent the next 12km convincing myself that it was/ it wasn't/ it was...
Legs felt good, head was okay and gut seemed to be behaving again. I still had another gel in the back pocket but was loath to take it. I had taken them in races before and in training with no ill effects, but didn't want to chance another one - just in case.
So I just kept going. Lots of people were obviously in a bad place at this point and I was passing loads that had slowed to a walk. From the 36km we were back in the city area and the crowds were thick and loud (though nothing like Dublin, obviously). I noticed a landmark that we had passed by on Saturday which was really close to the finish area, so that was a bit of a head wrecker with another 6km to go!
And still I kept plugging. Getting tired now, but not giving up just yet.
Splits: 35 km 31:23 (06:17/km); 40 km 28:28 (05:42/km)
With just over 2k to go I still didn't know if I was doing sub 4 or not. I reckoned it was gone but couldn't be certain and knew I just had to give whatever was left. So I did. My 26th mile was my second fastest of the day at 8:35 and the last 0.48mi I did in 03:49, which is sub 8min/mi pace. I came over the line in 4:01:26 and almost threw up on the lovely red carpet!
Splits: Last 2.195 km (official) 11:49 (05:23/km)
This marathon finishes indoors with music and lights and cheerleaders and yes, a red carpet. After my near miss at the finish I was given a baggie and a sit down and when I gathered myself sufficiently, I joined the masses trudging through the finish area to get some water, food and the all important medal. The hot sweet black lemon tea was very welcome, but I couldn't stomach the soup. I did enjoy the banana, fruit bread, sports drink and non-al beer though.
Reunited with my gear bag, I got my recovery drink into me, found the showers and got changed before rejoining the well finished boardsies for a drink and a chat. Most of them had a very successful day and everyone was in good spirits.
I would certainly recommend Frankfurt for any marathon travelers. It's flat and fast, well organised, easy to get to, and there a good buzz. The city isn't exactly a holiday destination but it's grand for the few days.
I'm actually happy with my run too. Need to try to figure out what happened and make sure I don't have a repeat, but other than that I ran well and recovered amazingly well!
What's next? Hmmm... I'll have to go have a long think about that one.
Garmin stats: 26.48 miles in 04:01:29 (9:07min/mi)
Half 1 01:59:41
Half 2 02:01:45
Chip time 04:01:26