Sunday, 5 October 2014

Jersey Marathon and a beetroot-fuelled PB!

I never set out to run a PB today.  After a week-long holiday of eating far too much pizza, a few glasses of wine, and plenty of walking while carrying the 10 kilos that is A, I had another sub-4 run in mind, but nothing more.

Jersey marathon has rugged coastal scenery, beautiful inland valleys and amazing support from the islanders.  I set offjust under 5 minutes per kilometre and just kept that pace going, slowing somewhat for the climb out of St Helier to the north of the island, through the cool and tranquil Waterworks Valley.  After that, the run took in St Mary and St Ouen, with a lot of roadside support.  Unlike most marathons, the cheering kept on throughout the course, with many residents supporting from their garden.

Through St Peter and finally off tarmac onto a softer surface around the airport perimeter at around the 14 mile mark.  I felt brave enough to text Claire that I was on for 3:45 so she would know when to meet me at the finish.  I had settled into a group of five here and we kept each other going for the next few miles.  Alongside my usual Gu electrolyte which worked perfectly, I had four gels and as I could just feel the need for sugar coming on, I took one at 18 miles, at the Corbiere Lighthouse turnaround.  That left three for 20, 22 and 24 miles.  I felt good here and didn't even realise I had completed the last uphill section back onto the railway path!  The miles dropped away and as I descended into St Aubin I realised there was no more uphill and it was three miles flat to the finish.

I was now hugely enjoying the experience, knowing the PB was on, as long as I didn't cramp up.  The group had disintegrated, I think two ahead and two behind.  I'd have loved to have a runner or two at this point to help drag me along.  This was the least enjoyable section of a very pleasant marathon - straight along the sea wall with Elizabeth Castle slowly growing in size.

Cramp was starting in my calves as I saw the one mile to go sign and I had to stop for a couple of stretches but I just kept going, knowing the PB was safe now.  I just about ran down the finishing straight, with a vocal crowd cheering me on as my legs buckled, but they kept me upright until I toppled over the line in 3:32:59, almost three minutes faster than I have run a marathon before.

I am sure the beetroot juice that I have been experimenting with made a difference.  While the conditions were great - a cool start, a little mild later and almost no wind, it wasn't a flat course so I was both surprised and pleased with my time.  And that was my second sub-4 on consecutive weekends.  Still the elusive 3:30 target remains!

I don't run races for the goodie bags, but this one was full of useful stuff!

Jersey marathon goodies

Here is the route on Strava for my 68th marathon.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Bath Two Tunnels Ultra

The inaugural Bath Two Tunnels is aptly named.  Within the first mile you enter the 408 metre long Devonshire Tunnel, all of it uphill.  Emerging from the dark and cool air back into the sunlit, woody path, we were almost immediately back underground, with the longer Combe Down tunnel.  Definitely an unusual start to a marathon, and with the 10km race leaders already heading back the other way through the tunnel.  After that, the route takes in a short road section with a couple of sneaky short hills before dropping onto the Kennet and Avon canal for a long, gradual loop back into Bath.

At first feeling quite remote, but steadily more people were enjoying the sunshine on the towpath as we headed closer to the city centre.  I was enjoying the run, going a bit faster than I thought was wise, but running with one or two others and wanting to push myself to keep with their pace.

The city centre went past in a bit of a blur - a few steps, a couple of zebra crossings with marshals stepping out to stop the traffic, then an out and back section to the weir, before dropping back onto the riverside path out of the city centre.

From here, we rejoined the old railway path for the best part of two miles uphill to the finish.  The first half dozen half-marathoners had passed, and I was surprised not to have seen more of them, having started only 15 minutes after me.  For me it was time to do it all again.  I ran all of lap two alongside a guy I had been running with for a few miles already.  We had a bit of a chat but were both working quite hard to maintain the pace and I was sure I would fade.  Perhaps it was the beetroot juice that I'd drunk for the previous day and a half, but I felt strong, fading just a little in the increasing heat.  As the remaining miles dropped away, I became increasingly confident of finishing sub-4, and witha strong uphill finish, ended on 3:50:25 for my 67th marathon.

An excellent event, lots of very supportive and friendly marshals.  The only grumble was the overly complicated start, which included everyone queuing to get through two narrow gates after a mile walk to the start line.  None of that seemed necessary for a race billed as 27.4 miles.  I'd have just had the start at the same location as the finish.  I'd definitely recommend this and other Relish Running events.

Bath Two Tunnels Marathon goodies
Socks and medal were waiting at the end of the uphill finish.