Sunday, May 14, 2017

The One Legged Marathon

When I initially earmarked the Lakes of Killarney marathon in my race calendar I obviously assumed it would be my most local race of the year. As things turned out I had to drive across the country instead, though since I wanted to see my family I didn't make that journey purely for the sake of the marathon.

Training had been going very well until about 2 weeks ago when my right leg started to act up, with an issue in the knee which then moved down into the Achilles. However, it never particularly hurt and on the morning of the marathon it felt better than any previous day, virtually unnoticeable, so I was confident I would get through the day in one piece. The planned pace was reasonable at 7:40 (roughly a 3:22 marathon) but I was always going to adapt depending how I felt.

I started out with Chris and Fozzy who were manning the 3:30 pace group and stuck with them for a mile. On the first downhill I started drifting ahead naturally and before I even knew it I was already well ahead of the pace group, so I just kept going.

The course consisted of 3 laps through the Demesne of Killarney National Park, a stunningly beautiful setting. In previous years we had always been blessed with beautiful sunshine but today was rainy and windy, though in the woods the wind didn't bother us and even the rain felt less noticeable in those surroundings. On the other hand it's a rather hilly course with a rather big climb at the start of each loop and a very rolling section for about 2 miles behind Ross Castle.

The first loop passed by rather quickly. My leg felt fine even though the right calf was rather stiff, which did affect my stride a bit. Once I started the second loop, however, trouble started immediately at the big climb. My calf just would not cooperate, I could not put my toes down and ended up hobbling up the hill in a very awkward way, very slowly but also very exhausting. I lost 2 places and had to watch them pull away as if I was standing still (what wasn't all that far away from the truth). I knew I was in trouble, with 2 roller sections and one more big hill climb yet to come.

Running on the flat was still fine, though. I was alse to keep going at 7:40 pace, or at least close, without too much bother but my right leg just wasn't right. It felt like I could not produce any power, it was just standing there, moving further purely by momentum and it was the left leg that kept propelling me forward on its own. The roller section was as tough as expected, with me getting slower with each and every hill and exhaustion starting to become a real factor.

Once I had left that section behind I was still moving somewhat ok, though when Dolores Duffy caught up she stormed past like a rocket, once more making me feel like standing still.

I knew the last loop would be tough. I struggled badly up the hill, slowing down to 10-minute pace yet requiring an effort that felt like sprinting. The subsequent downhill was purely for recovery and the road to Ross castle seemed to have drawn out considerably since the last time. Mind, I wasn't looking forward to reaching the end of that section because the rollers would be really tough. So it proved. After one climb I actually turned round, relieved to see that there had been nobody behind me to witness the pathetic shuffle I had just produced.

Again, the section seemed to have gotten longer than last time. However, when I emerged I spotted a white top ahead of me, and from the way he was moving he clearly was another marathon runner on the last lap, not one of the many lapped runners. I actually must have gotten closer to him over the last few miles, despite my own troubles (I was surprised that nobody had passed me since Dolores on mile 16). Seeing him was good news, it gave me a target to chase for the last 3 miles instead of feeling sorry for myself on my shuffle back home. On the flats I was still able to keep going under 8-minute pace, though every time we got to even the tiniest of hills I slowed down dramatically, so I never got any closer to my target. Nevertheless, he pulled me towards the finish line which I reached in 3:26:01.

I could claim I had just jogged around at an easy effort, which would be perfectly believable, but unfortunately that's not how it happened. I felt exhausted at the end and totally depleted. I commandeered a coke bottle and emptied it and must have eaten half my body weight in sandwiches and bananas. I didn't hang around, though, because I quickly started getting cold in the rain, so I headed back towards the car. My right leg was rather sore, even when walking, which wasn't good, though a few hours later it was much better again,

I went out for a very short and easy run on Sunday morning. By that point I could walk around just fine, but Niamh noticed that I was limping a bit (I had not noticed). Running felt odd, with a very tight calf muscle that put me off my stride. There is actually no muscle soreness from the marathon as such, just that injured calf. We've chucked out the training schedule. I'm having a very easy week.

11 May
am: 5.5 miles, 43:02, 7:49 pace, HR 146
pm: 5.5 miles, 43:54, 7:58 pace, HR 146
12 May
4 miles, 32:52, 8:13 pace, HR 145
13 May
Lakes of Killarney marathon, 3:26:01, 12th place
14 May
3 miles, 26:49, 8:56 pace, HR 135

1 comment:

  1. 3:26 is a respectable time, more so on one leg! Hope the niggle comes good with the easy week.