Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Looking back at the Geneva Marathon 2018

I'm glad I waited a bit to write a short account - or rather a "lessons learned" - of the Geneva marathon this year, because at the time and for a while after it felt like a catastrophe, a complete meltdown. Now, I am putting it somewhat in perspective (though that might be because I want to psyche myself up for 100k Bienne race this weekend).

So why a catastrophe? I was aiming for 3h25, but finished in 4h05, pretty much giving up in the process to try for a decent time. I just wasn't in it.

The first reason was physical. I'm not sure how realistic my time was with regard to my capabilities, but it felt achievable - at least back in January! But considering the difficulties I was having with the target pace (not to mention I never got rid of the intended 6-8kg), I think that it would have been better to give up on the arbitrary Boston qualifier time, and even on the psychological 3h30, and gone for 3h35, which definitely should have been feasible. Thing is, I forgot my ultimate goal, which was "increase speed". That meant pushing myself all the way through a marathon distance - whether that involves finishing in 3h20 or more (but less than 3h45, my PB). So, I should have determined a more realistic time that would involve a good pacing effort and aimed for that, rather than something arbitrary which, after 10k, just made me throw in the towel. I did lower my expectations early, notably because of the heat, but that's just it: I lowered my expectations rather than set a goal i could be proud of, and so after about 20k when I couldn't be bothered anymore, it was easy just to give up trying for any time.

And of course, I went out too fast, considering that my time was unrealistic and because of the heat. But the second reason was mental. I had aimed to train quite specifically to try seriously for a "best time" in a marathon - but I didn't really do it properly, fitting too-short marathon pace sessions mid-week, and not bothering fitting more in during the long runs on the weekend, which I did at 100k pace. But still, I'd logged some respectable miles, with tempo runs, mile reps and intervals - so I psyched myself up for it. And when I realized that it probably wasn't go to happen, disappointment took over and I just gave up, rather than try for a "best effort". This was compounded by the fact that I was at the wedding of a colleague of my wife the night before, and though I ultimately got home at 1am and the Geneva marathon mercifully starts at 9.45am, which means I got enough sleep (and hadn't been drinking), I'd started to feel that it was "ruining" all those weeks of specific training.

The good stuff

But looking on the bright side, I took the time to chat with (or rather, whine to) a few friends and acquaintances a long the way. I settled into a 100k pace towards 30k and used it as a training run. The heat, once my pace lowered, didn't bother me in the least. I recovered really well. And I had the very novel experience of filling for 10-15mn to pull the chariot of  handicapped patient at Clair-Bois, an organization that was raising money for its cause. So on top of it, if I count all those stops and slow downs, I was actually close to a sub-4h, which in past years would have made me very happy.

Looking forward to Bienne

I don't want to make the same mistake for Bienne. When I originally signed up last August, I thought I could give a 10h time a good go - at least train specifically at that pace. But while I might still harbor dreams (the way my son thinks that he may one day get the 500-dollar Millenium Falcon Lego set), I know that it isn't feasible, particularly with the stress fracture that delayed getting into any consistent training for 2-3 months. But I still feel that maybe, just maybe, a sub-10h30, the old Spartathlon qualifying time, might be possible - and that's the time I have to give up on. I feel comfortable at the pace that would allow me to finish in that time, and have maintained it even on 3h long runs at the end of a heavy mileage week, but it would mean maintaining that pretty much for the whole time with no slow-down, and ignores pretty much any down time at food stations.

So, again, back to the basics. I want to be able to maintain a steady pace for as long as possible - the goal is "being faster and more consistent", i.e. do a 100km with almost no walking and not too much slow-down. I aim to start out feeling comfortable at around 9.7 km/h, so I think a sub-11h would be at good target. My previous best time was 13h38 in Millau, which is known for its hills, so I would even be (or should be) happy with a sub-12h, but anything over that I would consider that my aim to work hard at the race would not have been accomplished.

Shall see on Friday!

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