Friday, 2 November 2012

Amsterdam Marathon: Reflections

What a grimace!

Having just run my fourth marathon I wouldn't class myself as an expert, but I felt very different before, during and after the Amsterdam marathon than I have done during my previous three races. This post might be a little self indulgent, for which I apologies in advance, but I wanted to get some of my thoughts down.

Aid Stations
Firstly, and hopefully not at all self indulgent, I thought the aid stations during the race were excellent. The drinks were served in paper cups, which might sound innocuous but if you've ever tried to drink and run at the same time you'll know that paper cups are a lot easier to drink from than plastic ones. (You can put a fold in the rim of the cup and create a spout type arrangement.)

All of the cups were served three quarters full. A cup full to the brim sloshes everywhere and it is sole destroying to grab an empty cup. Three quarters full is perfect. The volunteers put the cups directly into your hand too.

Finally, the aid stations also had two new features that I haven't experienced before. Sponges! Great for cooling your head and wiping your face. Awesome. Secondly natures energy bar, the banana, peeled and ready to go, were being given out too.

The Result
Despite setting an new personal best by a storming eighteen minutes I've felt a little disappointed in my time of 3hr 11mins.

I don't like talking about my time goals before the race, but like everyone, of course I have them. When I started my training I decided to work towards 3hr 15mins. As my training was going well I set myself the stretch target of 3hr 10mins, the qualifying time for the Boston and a 'good for age' place for the London marathon.

Not reaching my stretch goal is a large part of my disappointment. However, it is a bit more complex too. In my first three races I've felt like I've given my maximum on the day and couldn't have gone any faster. It felt good to be finishing strong and knowing you'd done your best.

I didn't have the same feeling this time around.

So what didn't quite go to plan? I'm not really sure why.

In the week before the race I wouldn't have said I felt ill, but I wasn't 100%. Two nights of rough sleep before the race didn't help either. I've never gone into a race not feeling 100% fit before and I don't know what sort of effect it has. Surely this happens to better athletes than me quite regularly, how do they deal with it?

The bottle necks at the start of the race as we exited the stadium brought us all to a walk. Looking at my split times my first 5km was over a minute slower than any other, and that is almost certainly due to the bottle necks. Was that the crucial minute between 'success' and 'failure'?If it is as simple as that I can blame the race organisers and move on (even though it wouldn't get me to Boston!).

In my previous races I've had a deliberate strategy of gong out slow and building my pace. I deliberately went out a bit harder, but not excessively so, this time around. I was hoping that I might be able to pick up my pace still at some point, but at no time did I feel able to do that. Did I get my race strategy all wrong?

Did I train hard enough? Did I do enough strength work and drills?

I don't want to dwell, but it's useful to analyse your run to a certain extent so that you can do better next time.

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