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Postby LesDisher » Thu May 29, 2014 8:27 am

Abbotsford was my sixth marathon.
From the first, my goal has always been to break three hours. Came close the first time in Victoria at 3:01:01, but suffered brutally beyond 36 K, and as a result suffered the consequences in terms of post-race muscle discomfort for a week or more thereafter.
Subsequent race results seemed to get progressively slower. Mind you there were extenuating circumstances in some, that could serve as legitimate excuses to miss the goal: things like excessive heat, or gales and torrential downpours. Excuses or not, there is nothing satisfying or particularly comforting in taking solace in excuses. But after five attempts and the preoccupation of advancing years I was starting to think that age might prevent me from ever being able to do a sub-three.

In the running of it, the experience this time was pretty much like any other marathon. There was of course the work: the labour of it takes one into that threshold where one searches for and probes their tolerable limits and backs away from that place where fatigue/exhaustion takes over. Brad's words echoed in my head: Control, Confidence, Compete. Keep it under control for the first third, hold steady and stay focused for the second, and let's see what you got and go for it in the third. There was the constant checking of pace, form and posture, breathing, remembering to hydrate, and the like. There were weather concerns, concerns near the two-thirds point about that a new and unexpected tweak or niggle in some new and unexpected part of the anatomy, and whether the part would hold up for the duration. There was that one critical point about 16 K where I did seriously question why I was there, and thought about how much I wanted to just pack it in and just walk away, but reluctantly accepting that that was simply not an option at this juncture. You know....the stuff we go through every time we do this. But there was something new and unique to this small venue: I ran from Km 12 to Km 36 totally alone. Just me, the open road and the empty fields, and the kilometer markers ticking by. The grey sky threatening rain and a cool breath of wind tilting the long grass. Not a soul anywhere, and nothing to tell me I was in a race except for the bib on my chest and the occasional oasis of an aid station with the two or three lonely attendants, their arms outstretched offering fluid, with an expression as though begging that I take their cup so they might in this vast emptiness feel as though they have served some useful purpose.
It took time to reconcile a big and continual discrepancy between what my Garmin was telling me, and what the kilometer markers were telling me. According to the Garmin I would be running at something like a 4:18 pace, and my split at the kilometer marker would read something like 4:09. If the markers were positioned right my pace was too fast, and I risked exceeding my known and tested limits, and possibly bonking later on. If the watch was right I risked reaching the latter stage of the race with no hope of breaking three. I decided to go with the markers, as everything else about the organization of the race suggested attention to detail. By the time I got to 36K I had a bit more than 90 seconds in the bank, and I was pretty sure the remaining 6.2 Km couldn't be too far off true.

But for the running, this time the race was different. I had made different preparations than before.
Preparing for and racing all eight races of the Island Series had a big impact. It is a great series of races with top-notch competition. In my case the competition throughout the series I had with Larry Ness was tough beyond words, and it took me to a new level beyond anything I had previously known. What ultimately resulted was that I went into this marathon much fitter from all the race experience, and much better prepared mentally.
All the while I was watching a newly revitalized Roz making her comeback in a new age category, and smashing records in every race she ran. Absolutely blowing them away! I had been introduced by Diane to a book written by Frank Horwill, a British coach back in the seventies, who among other things laid out as a guide the ideal weights, based on height, for athletes competing in different running disciplines. Turns out that Roz, for her height, exactly meets his criteria as an ideal marathoner. When I crunched the numbers for me I was clearly overweight for anything over 10K, and especially for half-marathons and marathons. So I resolved to shed what excess baggage I reasonably could. I did so, while still maintaining a healthy diet and meeting training demands. I ran Abbotsford about ten percent lighter in weight than any marathon done previously. I could feel the difference throughout the race, and as hard as any marathon is to run, I found it exhilarating. That one change alone I think made a huge difference.
After Boundary Bay last October I asked for some advice of the winner, Chris Callendar, who impressed me not only with his stunning race performance, but also with the apparent absence of any muscle discomfort at any time post-race. To my surprise he did no runs longer than 28 Km, and did a larger component of speed work (high-speed intervals) than I was accustomed to. This agreed with Horwill, who had laid out a training plan for marathoners (based on Zatopek) that I modified to suit my level. The result was most certainly a significant decrease in the amount of muscle discomfort post-race,and the perception of better form and running economy during the race than anything experienced before.
A preoccupation in running any marathon, especially with a time goal in mind, is how to fuel during the race to mitigate the effects of ultimately hitting 'the wall'. In every marathon to date I did hit the wall. Sometimes it happened sooner, sometimes later, but I always hit it. The effects on my race pace and stress level were devastating.
In the past I had researched everything I could on fuelling, devised recipes and systems, followed the advice of authors and scientists, tried everything I could find that looked as though it had prospects for dealing with the energy demands of a go-for-broke marathon.
Then one day Wayne talked about a product he had run across called SuperStarch. He described its purpose, development history, and applications to our sport, but I was sceptical. Besides, it tasted horrible. make a long story short, evidence was produced that compelled me to give it a try, and I used it conscientiously in all my training runs and races for about four months leading up to the marathon. Bottom line: I did not hit the wall. I expected to. I waited for it to happen. It didn't. At this point it is not certain just what part the fuelling played. But VO2max testing in the near future should give an indication. My sense is that it did. I do know that during the entire race I took in only 360 calories of carbohydrate that included only 765 mg of sodium. These are only a small fraction of what I was taking in previous races. Logically this should not have been enough to could carry me the distance. But it did, and I did not hit the wall, despite setting a lifetime PR for the distance.
Go figure.
The final preparation has been a specific set of breathing exercises designed to strengthen the diaphragm and intercostal muscles to increase the volume of air supplied to the circulatory system. Although these exercises have only been put to use for a month or so, I could tell that my breathing has improved. I expect this will only get better.

I think the sum of these training adjustments is what has made the difference, and enabled me to finally crack three hours. The neat thing about breaking through a psychological barrier is that with new knowledge and renewed zeal there is no telling how far beyond the barrier you can go.

As it turned out, the temperature stayed steady and perfect, the winds remained light, and the rains held off until the last ten minutes, and even then they were more of a mist, at least until I crossed the line.
And I did it. I finally did it.

Thanks CVRR, for all your help and inspiration.
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Re: Abbotsford

Postby WayneC » Fri May 30, 2014 2:42 pm

Well done Les!! There is a saying that "it takes a whole community to build a runner". You have definitely used what the running community has offered you and have subsequently met this tremendous goal. We are all very proud of you.
doc :D
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Re: Abbotsford

Postby Kiwi Keith » Fri May 30, 2014 6:35 pm

Great article Les.
Sometimes when we have been working toward a goal for so long and we finally achieve it, there is a let down.
Bask in the accolades of achieving your goal, then set another one and start working toward it.
Congrats again.
"Aint nothin gonna breaka my stride, I'm running and I won't touch ground, oh no I've got to keep on movin."
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Re: Abbotsford

Postby BC » Fri May 30, 2014 9:56 pm

Congrats, Les! Great report too!
I've got nothing to do today but smile :) - Simon and Garfunkel

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