Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Detailed Breakdown

I’m back home in Caragh Lake, very tired after a night basically without sleep (a few minutes on the plane and the bus was all I managed). Tomorrow I have to be back at work (oh joy!) and life returns back to normal. Well, at least to what goes under normal in our manic six-people household.

It’s almost exactly 48 hours since I finished the race, and I’ve had plenty of time to think about it. Thanks for all those comments, I loved reading every single one of them. They gave me some additional pointers to chew.

Basically, I’m at peace with my performance. Now that I know the course and the fact that my quads were not ready to withstand the downhills I realise that sub-3 simply was not possible. I think I pretty much had the best race I was able to produce. Pulling the emergency breaks before the 15 mile mark (I thought it was a mile earlier, but I’m going by the Garmin’s chart now) was the right thing to do. As quite a few have pointed out, a 10 minute positive split was by no means a bad performance on Monday. I felt bad during the second half, in a lot of pain, and to run a 1:40 half marathon over the Newton hills on destroyed legs isn’t bad. Very few runners managed to run even splits; I can only congratulate them on a very good race, and they are very much the exception. The only one amongst runners I've met who DID have a good race was Mark - and he has permanent access to the course itself. Coincidence? I don't think so.

I forgot to mention the headwind in my report, mainly because it wasn’t responsible for my troubles. But there is no doubt that it was a factor. I hardly felt it during the first 10k but it became a lot worse afterwards. Apparently we had to deal with a constant breeze of 20 mph, not that I can verify that number. I also felt distinctly cold at times, and that takes a lot of cooling. There was no place to hide from it, all we could do was to suck it up and go on. It’s difficult to say how much time it cost me, but certainly not the 5 minutes I was off my PR.

My 5k splits during the first half were excellent, even if I say so myself. The figures are 21:15, 21:18, 21:23, 21:10, 21:54, 23:45, 25:19 (ouch) and 24:43. I had run well within myself during the first half, which is why I managed to keep the first 4 figures so close to each other. The slowest part of the course were the Newton Hills, of course. The listed 5k figures don’t include the last 2+k to the finish where I had managed to speed up again to 22:44 5k pace, not great, but a lot faster than the previous part. I take solace from these figures. They are not a disaster, and the way I was feeling at mile 16 I would have taken that gladly. I managed to salvage a half-decent performance from what could have been a complete wreck.

The post-marathon amnesia must have set in already. When Niamh said that next time she will come with me I didn’t even bat an eyelid. I don’t think it will be 2010, but I have that nagging feeling that Boston and me are not done with each other just yet.

So, what’s next? Well, for a start I won’t be running for a few days. We’ll be in Trabolgan next weekend which will more or less coincide with the twins’ eight birthday, and I won’t be bringing my running gear. After that I’ll see when I want to start running again, and that’s when I pick it up again.

Originally I thought I’d run Longford as my next marathon if I don’t break 3 hours in Boston. As far as I know it’s the only flat marathon in Ireland, and possibly my only hope of achieving that target. However, I’m presently leaning towards running Dingle early September, and I’m having dangerous thoughts of running Dublin as well, just 6 weeks and 2 days later. Hmm. As I’ve said, post-marathon amnesia must have set in already.

In conclusion I have to say that I had a fantastic weekend in Boston, and no regrets about anything. The hospitality that my hosts showed towards me was incredible; those people were great ambassadors for Americans, or at least Bostonians. Thank you so much. It was great to meet Mike, Michael, Hicham (very briefly), Mark and Jeanne. Thanks for everything. As that fellow countryman of mine used to say, I’ll be back.


  1. I think you did great.

    This was the first time at Boston I have not been about 10 minutes slower on the back half, mostly because I set a realistic goal this time around.

    Despite that I do not feel that it was a day for anyone to run to their potential, and it hardly ever is in Boston.

    The wind was a bit of a factor, but more of it is that the whole weekend is energy draining and the 10 am start is rough, oh and the course is a bit of a problem to master :) Given all of that to come within 5 minutes of your PR at Boston any year is an achievement. You'll be running sub 3 very soon!

  2. It was a great report and a great analysis. Your race was most impressive and I enjoyed the journey of training all the way up to the end. Enjoy the rest. You earned it!

  3. Super effort Thomas. I was tracking you guys all morning. I thought your 2nd half was fantastic under the deteriorating conditions.

    As I mentioned before, the thing that I most admire about your running is your toughness and mental strength, both in your training and especially in your racing. The tenacity that you bring to the table at these big races, to me, truly encapsules what it means to be a distance runner. Sub 3-hours is coming, no doubt about that.

    Rest up, enjoy some time w/ the family and relax for a while.

  4. but what is your actual maximum HR rate ? (I remembered your wore a HR monitor in some 5k race...).

  5. My max HR is about 190. The average HR in Boston was 167, that's about 88%.

  6. Thomas,
    First of all congratulations!
    As others has have pointed out 3:10is a fine time for Boston - the course is at least 5 minutes slower than Dublin taking into account the hillier profile and high winds on the day so you appear to have improved further since your last race.

    Would you continue Berlin in the Autumn? A very flat , fast course, that a lot of Irish are going over, for including probably myself.

    Any idea why you had a sick stomach again in Boston (following on for Dublin)?
    I don't remember this happening in earlier Marathons. In theory, if you follow the same regime in your LSRs as on race day this won't happen.

  7. interesting note on your faster last 5K split, very promising for breaking 3-hours!

    glad to hear you made it home safely and all is well, rest up as there is no need to rush back to running

  8. Regardless of the "root cause", we may see that, until the slowdown your HR was around 170-172 (89%). So it was far too high to be sustainable for a marathon. As far as I read from different sources, the average effort should be around 85%, starting easier at around 81-82 and the HR will drift slowly to the target..
    I say this especially because for Boston is even more important to save energies in the first half, since the second half is so demanding

  9. Thanks for your input guys, but I disagree slightly.

    By7, when I ran the Loch Ness marathon 18 months ago I averaged an HR of 170, so I don't think you can say it should have been no higher than 85% (about 161) for Monday's race.

    And the average HR for the first half was NOT 170-172. I checked the AVERAGE HR 2 or 3 times, and it was 165 when I first looked and 167 on every other occasion. I did reach 171 (momentary HR, not average) or so during a few of the early uphills and always slowed down immediately when I realised it.

    Mithril, my stomach had felt a bit funny for a few days before the race, it was totally different to Dublin. And I don't think it had any effect on the race itself. As for Berlin, I think I want to do Dingle this year. It would be my "local" marathon.

  10. Dingle is no course for a PB! But as a training run for Dublin it just might work. Pity it wasn't 8 weeks+ before Dublin (6 is a bit tight)

  11. Wow I didn't realize how hilly Boston was!
    I think to feel bad at half way something must have gone seriously wrong,Ewen told me that starting your long runs with a long downhill section might be the answer, also some downhill intervals might help!
    Anyway well done on fighting on to the finish and it can only help in your quest for sub 3.

  12. Do Longford. DO LONGFORD! For no other reason than I want the satisfaction of seeing you smash 3 hours ;)

  13. Thomas I agree with you on the HR issue. My max is somewhere in the mid-180's and I have sustained a 166 average in a marathon(89%). When it was up at 170/1 (92%) in Amsterdam before the halfway point I knew I was in trouble. Rest well.

  14. Michael O'KeeffeFri Apr 24, 01:28:00 am

    Thomas, congratulations with your run. I have been silently following you for a couple of years from Australia and now Tokyo and your tenacity is inspiring. I ran Tokyo marathon a few weeks ago and with a strong headwind in the second half just missed by 3 hour goal with a 3:02! It is heartbreaking but I’m sure we will both get there at some stage. Life is an incredible journey and the marathon exemplifies this.

  15. Good to hear you'll be back next year to "get it right". Just don't keep coming back year after year like Mike and "get it wrong" every time ;)

    I agree that 90% of MHR is doable for a marathon, but not easy. It would be good to be super-fit like the elites who run at much lower percentages - for them it's not the HR that's the limiting factor.

  16. Congratulations Thomas. What a great run. I saw you pictures over on Jeanne's site. You may claim you were hurting, but your face didn't show it.

    Excellent performance.

  17. You sucked it up under bad conditions on a tough course in a race 4000 miles from home and finished in 3:10! That's a great performance and one to be proud of.

    Thanks for the pointer to the Dingle marathon - my wife and I are planning a vacation to Ireland that same time and I think I'll sign up. I won't finish in 3:10 but it would be great to run a marathon on my second continent!