Canyon City marathon, LA, 12 November 2016

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After completing the NY marathon the preceding Sunday my legs felt ok but not full of energy.  The day began with a 4am bus up to the Crystal Lake camp area above 5000ft.  Don’t know if it’s lucky or unlucky like a black cat, but a raccoon crossed my path as I walked to the line of buses.  The organisers set off each bus as it was full to do the winding climb up the canyon, which took about an hour and a quarter.  My bus was almost driven off the road by a U-haul van, which turned out to be for the bag pick up.

I got a coffee and tried to keep warm.  Then as 7am approached I applied sun cream and started final prep. There seemed to be several hundred runners there for the marathon, not sure exactly how many.

Gathering for the start

The start seemed to go off with a shout rather than a gun.  Straight away it was downhill, and I noted a lot of the road had a steep camber.  This soon started to affect me with my left hip and knee niggling a bit.  I’d let the 4h pacer start way ahead of me but I seemed to quickly fly past him and his small crowd, though I was trying to be sensible.  My watch was telling me what a stupidly fast pace I was doing!  A bit further and I flew past the woman pacer with a 3h40 flag.  I was beginning to get worried….

Great scenery

By around 8 miles the downhill was seriously affecting my quads and I knew I was headed for big trouble.  The water points were every 2-3 miles and I was taking water at most of them.  I went through halfway in a PB time, 1h44, but was realistic to know I couldn’t double that to get my finish time.  By 17 miles I began a run/walk strategy. At first walking the few uphills, then just alternating walking and running downhill.  

There were zero spectators.  Just the occasional escorted convoy of vehicles using the uphill lane.  So different to New York.  But beautiful scenery and I was enjoying it.  By around 22-23 miles the sun started to break through the cloud and it really began to warm up.  Occasional scattered spectators stood outside of their houses.  By now I was walking more than running, but still hoping to do a good time.  The two pacers I mentioned had passed me by the 23 mile marker so I knew I’d be outside four hours.  

There goes the 4h pacer…

By 25 miles my mental maths wasn’t doing that great and I figured I was going to miss a PB.  Then a spectator shouted that the 26 mile marker was just round that corner, so I took heart and started jogging a bit more.  He wasn’t being entirely truthful but it did help me to get a PB!

 There was a small crowd near the finish line, and I think the announcer called out my name as I approached the line.  I was in such discomfort I can’t be sure, but I did manage to strike a pose for the cameraman.

The medal is enormous and I got water, slice of pizza and foil blanket very quickly.  The baggage pick up was so efficient it only took 10 seconds to get my bag, which was handed over with a smile.  Brilliant.

I found plenty of blisters afterwards, and struggled to walk etc for about three days.  So I have learned I need to do course specific training if I do another downhill course.  But it was very enjoyable and the organisation was superb.  Well done Revel.

Official timing:  4h 12m 2s

My stats: 

Temp started around 6C and climbed to around 25C (car dash said 29C when I got back to hotel)

Distance:  42.19km

Time:  4:12:02 (2 mins off 0ff PB)

Avg pace:  5:58 min/km

Calories:  3410


New York marathon 6 November 2016

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The day started early with a walk from the hotel to catch a bus at the main library.  We were escorted by a tour rep and it was the start of a well oiled event.

The queue for buses

The sun was coming up as the bus went past the Brooklyn Bridge.

The sun rising at Brooklyn Bridge, on bus to the start

Waited in the staging area with Jeff and tried to keep warm.  Eventually found the coffee and facilities.  I didn’t really get nervous or stressed as the time for wave 3 approached.  Perhaps I’ve done enough marathons now to know what to expect and to save energy.  Then wave 3 was called forward and we moved onto the bridge…

Wave 3 about to start

Then the big gun went off and the race began.  What I recall is a massive amount of support, big crowds round most of the route.  Lots of encouragement and noise.  Started at a comfortable pace and with the wide roads didn’t seem to have a problem moving around and finding space to run.  Took water at most of the water points, and a couple of pit stops.  I recall one runner coming across after a few miles to say he’d heard our names (“Jeff and Steve”) shouted out over a hundred times 🙂  I felt the effort approaching halfway, but we kept going.  Never any doubt we’d run to the end and finish.  I can also remember the run up 5th Avenue, the wide road, sun in the faces of the crowd, the straight road ahead climbing slightly.  There were even big crowds in Central Park and soon the finish line came in view.  

I got a bit light headed after the finish, but soon recovered and started the long walk through the park to get out.

With Jeff, showing our medals

Overall, I thought the race was the biggest and best one I’ve done so far.  It exceeded expectations and is the pinnacle for me, will be tough to beat.  Finished with very tired body but no significant injuries, which is just as well as I’d booked another marathon for the following Saturday!  

Official time:  4h 28m 11s

My stats:

Temp about 7C and sunny, rising to maybe 16/17C I think

Distance: 43.32km

Time:  4:28:18

Avg pace:  6:11 min/km

Calories:  3497

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016

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Sunday 10 April
Sunny, cold to start (4C) rising rapidly to 12C.

Breakfast at 04:10, two porridge pots and coffee.  Met up with Jeff early, 06:00, to get the car spaces we wanted.  It was below freezing so took our time preparing and got over to the race village about 08:10.

Ditched a thick top as I passed the start line and tried to keep the pace easy.  Was carried along about 5:40 min/km pace and would have ideally been more like 6:00 min/km.  Followed the 4 hour pacer from a distance , until a pit stop came along.

Jeff had a nose bleed at 1km, took a bit of tissue from a helpful runner to stem it.  Good job we wore red running vests.

The crowds and stewards were brilliant. The blue skies and pleasant temperature made it more pleasant for them and the runners. I wasn’t really counting off the miles for the first part, so Altrincham (halfway) came up a bit earlier than expected.  After this point the balls of my feet began to get a bit sore.  Just from all the pounding I think.

Had gels at 8km, 15km, 25km, 35km and somewhere around 39km. Drank water throughout picking up a fresh bottle every third water stop or thereabouts.  Started to slow drastically with 4-5 miles to go.  Head started to turn fuzzy too, so adopted a walk – run – walk pattern.  Noticed ribs ached a bit probably due to arm movements.

Ran the last km and over the finish line, with relief, happiness and a lot of emotion.  Later I found only minor blisters, no injuries or strains.  Right heel is stiffening slightly as expected.  Will take a few days off running, then start to think about the next race, which is in 30 weeks…

Distance:  26.2 miles (Garmin measured 42.66km)
Time :  4:19:03
Avg HR:  no data
Avg pace:  6:04 min/km
Calories:  3458
Brooks Ghost trainers

Rock n Roll Liverpool Marathon 14 June 2015

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Allegedly 12C, but it felt like 4C waiting on the Albert Dock in the wind. Overcast to start, breezy, but sun broke through later on.  Only got agreement from my physio to run yesterday, on condition that I pull out if Achilles flares up.

Did a faster than planned first 10k, even though it had plenty of climbs up to Everton FC. From 10k to 23k I ran and chatted with a chap from Ayr (works in Fire Brigade doing his first marathon, but didn’t get a name).  Passed 21.1k in under 2 hours (good for me) and realised I was running too fast.  Didn’t wear chest HR strap but noted my pace.

Really struggled on a climb at 24k and fell behind the chap from Ayr.  Just lacked energy, bounce. Think my conditioning suffered because I hadn’t run for a couple of weeks, and it had turned hot.  I started to run/walk and kept going.  By the last part of the race it was more walking than running. 

Think it was in Sefton Park a chap ran past then came back and asked if I was Jeff’s brother. Think his name was Mark, we ran together for a few hundred yards. (He’d been with Jeff in Poland recently on business)

No heel problems, but I did feel my core strength wasn’t great. My lower back tired but didn’t spasm. My hips tired and after finishing my right adductors told me I’d overworked them a bit.

Ran the last 400m or so and enjoyed the finish. In fact I enjoyed it all. Even when I was walking I walked purposefully, held my head high and smiled an awful lot. I’d rather do that than shuffle along with a grimace and suffer more afterwards.

Was a little disappointed I couldn’t run more of the 26.2, but I know I was so close to not running at all. Entering the arena the penny dropped that I’d done it and I had a few seconds of big emotion, the completion of many months of training. If I ever lose that feeling for the marathon it’ll be time to call it a day. 

Only noticed a blister on left foot; not bad. No doubt I’ll be a bit stiff in the morning. Overall it was a good event, well organised, more hills than I’d expected, a lot of crowd shouts for ‘go Steve’, and my spectator (wife) could have done with food on sale in the arena. A minor criticism.

Distance:  42.2km (Garmin 42.07km)

Official time:  4:52:55
Garmin time:  4:52:38 (my first button press didn’t work)

Avg HR:  no data

Avg pace:  6:57 min/km

Calories:  3288

Yorkshire Marathon 12 October 2014

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A foggy, cold start for this race. Stayed in York for the weekend, so we had a comfortable walk to the start line. Apart from feeling the usual stress and aggression from the taper I didn’t feel particularly well prepared physically. A slight Achilles niggle was bound to come on at some point, and I felt strong but not bouncing with energy.

Of course, I ran with Jeff, my twin brother. We were interviewed by a reporter at the start. Better start line music this year, not opera like 2013. Set off at a steady pace, around 5:40 min/km for the first part. A cameraman on a motorbike filmed us at 9km, and at 19km he passed us again and asked us to talk to camera for a minute. Wonder if we will survive the editor’s cut this year?

Felt reasonable at halfway, but I knew two out-and-back sections were coming up that would test mental strength. Another chap started running with us, and this distracted me and passed a good few miles. Jeff went through a quiet patch of internal focus, but said later the chat had helped him through. Leaving the out-and-back section at about 18 miles I thought I was going to finish OK as long as I could keep the rhythm I’d settled in to. Our running friend from Northallerton stopped to stretch at 22 miles, we carried on.

One part of the race I recall a bunch of runners following quite closely behind, like we were a pacing team. For fun I started chanting 1-2-3-4 marine yomping style. Afterwards someone said they had followed us for a bit and we’d helped them through a tough patch.

The last six miles were tough and a from a long way out I was wishing for the left turn up the hill to the university. The crowds and stewards throughout were great, the support really helping when it got tough. Two miles out my left foot began to feel quite sore. After miles and miles waiting for the left turn I was surprised when it was actually there, a bit nearer than I’d expected on that stretch of road. And the hill, though steep, wasn’t as bad as I remembered from last year. I didn’t have much left for the last part downhill to the finish so couldn’t sprint. Just paced it to the end, smiled for the cameras, and felt relief at getting round running it all and not destroyed.

Walking round the finishers area I started to feel stiffening around my right hip (adductors?) which made me walk oddly, dragging my right leg a bit. Otherwise just tired and hungry. Drank water at every water station, just a gulp of sports drink, and had gels at the start, 8km, 17km, 25km, and 33km. Think I managed hydration and energy levels quite well, stopping for pit stop 3 times and not suffering a big energy fade. Because of that, while I had tough spells noticing aches and pains, I avoided the severe internal focus I had for the last six miles at London. I also avoided emotional extremes like the end part of Berlin, Manchester #1 and to a lesser extent London.

So pleased we both survived and finished together. We had set out to just enjoy this race (like we always do) but it also resulted in a PB for me – 4:14:34. My best marathon previously was 4:25 and last year at Yorkshire my time was 4:40. The conditions helped – cool, no wind, bit of moisture. Actually got a bit of sunburn on shoulders, arms, back of knees and solar panel, from the last hour when the weak sun broke through. The fog also meant we could only see a limited way up the road, hiding the long stretches of road which can be demotivating. Overall, I think we paced this race well, easing off slightly where necessary. Also, we avoided weaving in and out of slower runners. Experience counts. Now I need to decide which race to do next Spring….

Official distance: 42.2km
Official time: 4:14:34
Garmin distance: 42.45km
Garmin time: 4:14:33
Avg HR: 153bpm
Avg pace: 6:00 min/km
Calories: 3183
White trainers


Virgin Money London Marathon 2014

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Sunday 13 April, 10:00

I’d been trying to get entry to this race for a few years. Now, after signing up to raise funds for charity, I’d got a place and the day finally arrived. I travelled on an early train on the Docklands Light Railway to get to Greenwich Park for about 8:00, to meet up with Jeff. He was there first and found me easily, and had an Australian chap in tow. The weather was mild and sunny, a big change from the other big city marathons which to date have been chilly>freezing. Had a free coffee and nearly got interviewed by the BBC. The build up was fairly calm; I wasn’t really nervous and tried to relax and save energy.

At 10:00 the race started but it took 15 minutes to actually pass over the start timing mats. The massive numbers made it difficult to get up to our preferred running pace, so we mostly slowed and just kept moving. No point running in and out of everyone. I soon began to feel hot and kept taking on water and the odd gulp of Lucozade. The crowds were large and there were lots of shouts for our names and ‘twins’.

I recall running around Cutty Sark at 6 miles and turning a sharp corner and seeing Tower Bridge immediately ahead at halfway. Had a good look for Jacqui near our hotel but she’d been unable to cross to get to a viewing point. By 18 miles the bounce had gone from my legs, and the soles of my feet were starting to hurt. I expected to have blistered and bloody feet by the finish. I could keep going at that pace but not accelerate to pass people or dodge obstacles. Jeff was great, picking up water while I kept moving. I didn’t want to walk, was focused on running it all. The last few miles I knew the landmarks and when I saw the sign ‘385 yards to go’ I knew we’d done it.

What an experience! Passing the finish line I stopped and had to gather myself a bit, feeling light-headed. A chap took a photo with Jeff’s phone and we made our way to the meeting point. A charity photographer took another pic and we decided to find Pat and all go off to the pub Jeff found, for food, drink and the FA Cup semi-final. Good call, even though we missed the reception at Banqueting Hall. A good football match but the Blades were defeated 5-3. It didn’t take the shine off an excellent day.

Back at the hotel I gingerly removed my trainers and found tired and sore feet, but no blood or blisters. Had just normal leg muscle weariness, and my left knee was a bit sore in one place.

I agree with Jeff that the start needed more music and less chat on the PA. Also, I think another improvement would be more stewards on the narrower sections of the course, to keep crowds back and make room for runners, especially when the big volume of 4-5 hour finishers are progressing around the course. But the organisation and logistics were otherwise first class.

Distance: 42.78km (Garmin)
Time: 4:32:19 (official and Garmin)
Avg HR: 155bpm (think it was 160+ for most of the second half)
Avg pace: 6:22 min/km (Garmin)
Calories: 3611
Temp: 9C to 16C?? Just estimating – it felt hotter!
Black trainers – probably need replacing soon


Yorkshire Marathon, 20 October 2013

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Was surprised to see Jeff in running gear ready to attempt the race today, in spite of sore ribs from a bad bike fall. But I was very grateful for the company. The start seemed to be delayed, but I’d just misread the programme as 09:00 start instead of 09:30. That gave more time for painfully loud singing from a classical singer, from her new album. I won’t be adding it to my Christmas wish list, and feared they might put a copy in the race goody bags.

We got going after a light rain shower, and the weather was mostly sunny and warm, with a strong wind on the exposed parts of the route. I wasn’t sure if Jeff would pull out early on because of rib pain, but we carefully managed the pace and kept going. I’d had a small porridge at home 5 hours before the start and planned to stick to my gels and water, to avoid stomach problems. It worked.

About halfway I felt my left hip/adductor and over the next few miles this affected my gait and my left knee and eventually my foot hurt quite a lot. Running in step with Jeff kept me going, or I’d have quit or walked at that point. My pace slowed a lot and we kept going through to mile 23. Then I had to walk, but we were probably walking just as fast as my slowest run anyway.

There were lots and lots of stewards/marshalls throughout the route, all giving loud encouragement. Many parts of the course had big crowds, also supportive, but there were some quiet parts too. Nice and frequent water stops kept us hydrated. I wonder if the clip filmed from the TV camera motorcycle will be edited into the highlights programme?

The course wasn’t flat. In fact Jacqui even overheard the elite runners complaining about the hills, especially the last mile. Perhaps my lack of energy was partly due to the hills, and partly due to the heat. I also need to get a bit leaner if/when I do another marathon. Discussed with Jeff the Fink book on marathoning for over 40s, a different training approach.

The goody bag did not include that awful CD. It did include some strawberry jam and a couple of chewy bars. And a bundle of leaflets that closely resembled junk mail.

Injuries include a blister on middle toe right foot, a bit of chafing at the top of my legs and under the HR strap elastic, and sore adductors (I think that’s what they are). Not bad, and the low energy was swiftly replaced.

A good, tough run, and I’m surprised and pleased that Jeff got all the way round with me. Our medals and finishers shirts have been well earned!

Official distance: 42.2km
Official (chip) time: 4:40:23
Garmin distance: 42.28km
Garmin time: 4:40:24
Avg HR: 147bpm
Avg pace: 6:38 min/km
Calories: 2915