Tag Archives: Bournemouth Marathon Festival

Race Report: Bournemouth Marathon 2016

Well, that didn’t exactly go to plan…

Saturday

Coming into the weekend of 1st and 2nd October I was in a bit of a mixed bag as to how I felt about this, my autumn target race. As I mentioned in my previous post, training had been a bit up and down, but I felt I may have just been able to squeeze out a decent performance come race day.

We headed to Bournemouth with a little optimism on Saturday morning, so we could take in Bournemouth parkun. This doubled up a bit of parkrun tourism with a recce of the Race HQ.

bournemouth-parkrun

The weather was a bit rubbish, but the rain just about held off as we completed 2 big and 1 small laps between Kings Park Athletics Stadium and AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium. The course itself is a mix of tarmac, trail path and a bit of grass. There is a room at the stadium you can change/shelter in with toilets on hand there too. Naturally with it being marathon weekend, there were plenty of tourists about and there was an excitable vibe to the event.

bournemouthmapsplits

Though we were taking it easy, it wasn’t as flat as advertised in my opinion – I wouldn’t go there on a PB hunt – but the marshals and volunteers were excellent. Thank you!

We had to hurry off to check into our AirBnB so couldn’t stick around, but there is a cafe onsite for post-parkrun cake, coffee and gossip!

After getting to our digs we headed into town to check out the finish area where most of the activity was going to be over the course of the festival. It was already bustling. I had to pick up a replacement number as mine never arrived. This was a painless process except it was a generic unbranded number which was a little disappointing, as they are souvenirs to me. never mind!

After a bit of shopping, a trip to Starbucks, some playing the amusements and even a cheeky pint, we decided to watch the races. There were a couple of kids fun runs first and then the 10k in the late afternoon. The course for these was fast and flat as it was all along the beachfront, and I was amazed at the size of the field! Saw plenty of folks I knew running and cheered everyone in both directions as good neutral supporters should!

Then we headed back to the AirBnB. In all we did 20,000 steps on Saturday which may be a little high for the day before a Marathon! But never mind eh.

Dinner was pasta from a local JustEat vendor. Good food and the same stuff I had pre-Manchester. We got a reasonably early night as Jodie was off in the Half at 8am which meant a VERY early start!

Prerace

Getting up at 6am wasn’t a great deal of fun, but as we went to sleep early it didn’t feel like too bad a hardship. I feasted on my usual 3 porridge pots and armed myself up with a couple of bananas for before the race and we took the short walk to race HQ. The weather was perfect! Clear skies and no wind at a cool temperature. You couldn’t have picked better marathon weather.

As we were pinning Jodie’s number on for the half, we noticed the foam had gone from her embedded timing chip. We checked at the helpdesk to make sure the chip was fine, but they weren’t sure – so issued her a new number. Which was the same unbranded type as me! So at least we both had crap bibs!

numbers

One thing became clear as the morning went on, and that was that the half seemed significantly better attended than the Marathon.

Jodie was a little nervous about her race at it was her first half since our daughter Ivy was born. I dropped her off in the start pen and headed a bit further on from the start and took this Facebook Live video of the start of the race. Logistics meant I couldn’t see her anywhere else on the course so all I had left to do was wait nervously for the start.

startline

I headed back to the cafe to have a cup of tea and it was a little chilly! I had checked my bag in with Jodie’s number, as she’d need it at the finish first, but was wearing a “disposable” hoody – just my race hear other than that! As the 2 hour wait went on, more and more people arrived, though it was still notably a much smaller affair than the half. I got a bit bored but before long it was time to head to the start.

I was assigned a pen right near the front due to my estimated (ha!) finish time. So I had plenty of loos to use and warmed up at the side of the course. I saw Ben of Marathon 401 fame who was starting the race on the warm up too, but didn’t introduce myself – he seemed busy. Then before long I was in the pen. It was nearly time to go!

startselfie

The Race

My race plan was to go out at 3.10 pace, so that was around 7.14 a mile. I figured if I could get to 20 miles at that pace I’d try and cling on for the rest of it.

For the first few miles I ticked along quite nicely. A little fast, but it was downhill. There was some good support along here. I felt comfortable at the pace I was running, and when it levelled off a few miles later I slowed a little naturally to bring me back into target range.

One of the challenges with this course was the number of “out and backs” you have to contend with. By mile 7 I was already on my way back of the second of these alone – the “out” here was gradually uphill, but I managed to stay on pace before we dropped back down to the seafront for a few more miles, heading towards Boscombe Pier.

Now, I like the seaside, and I like the view of the sea. But that was all there was to see. I found myself getting a little bit bored of trudging along promenade for mile after mile with nothing but beach huts and the english channel to look at.

By mile 12 there was the first of 2 not-insignificant hills. 30 metres of climbing in 400 metres which is 8% incline! And believe me, by the time I got to the top, I knew about it. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have eased off a bit here to save the legs, but my stupidity/pride meant I tried to stay at target pace – which did work…

Once we reached the top it was a mile through to the half marathon split, by which point local parkrunner Miles Caswell caught up with me. This lad is super speedy round Yeovil Montacute parkrun and he was running his first marathon with a similar goal to me. We chatted for a bit but by this point I was starting to flag.

Thankfully, this was when we dropped back down into the finish area (for the first time). The crowds were MAGNIFICENT. I, being the crowd pleasing tart that I am, was pumping my arms in the air to get them going – and it worked. Miles and I appreciated the roar of support echoing around us like a mexican wave. I bet not every runner got that!

Shortly after this I saw Jodie for the first time. She had managed to get a marshal to cheer for me too which was lovely, but then I looked ahead to Boscombe Pier, which we’d already seen once… and yet more promenade running my head started sinking.

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By the time I got to Boscombe I had eased back to my target marathon pace. Running with Miles and the support at half way meant I had increased effort and I was starting to suffer. I encouraged Miles to push on without me. Running the pier and then back toward the finish area (For the 2nd time) I saw Jodie and told her things were not good. I ran Bournemouth pier and got a high 5 from King Danny and then ran THROUGH the finish (3rd time!) before looping around onto some road then running past the finish for a 4th time.

Realisation had struck by this point that this pace was not only unsustainable, but utterly ludicrous – my legs were shot to bits. Ahead of me lay the biggest and longest hill of the course, at which point, my race plan was abandoned. I walked the hill. All of it. At the top of it was a toilet – I stopped in there too at which point I think the bluetooth/internet connection on my phone went, so the LiveTrack i had set up on my phone stopped. This meant Jodie and others thought I’d stopped, or switched it off in a huff. I didn’t! It just stopped working, promise!

bournemouthmap

The next few miles were around some park, some closed roads and were a bit lonely. It was a tough part of the course for me and it was a bit undulating too. I had decided by now that I was run walking for the rest of the race.

We eventually dropped back onto the promenade (for a change) and the last 6 miles were out and back along the beach. I was losing my sense of humour. It felt incredibly patronising for all these beach hut owners to tell me I was doing really well, even though I really wasn’t. I smiled politely and said thank you though. It wasn’t their fault I was having a bad race, and again, with hindsight I can say the support was excellent throughout.

With slightly more running than walking I eventually got back to Bournemouth Pier to see the finish line for the 5th and final time. I crossed the line, a bit emotional, and headed to the funnel to see Jodie. I had a bit of a “moment” with her and I was obviously disappointed but a 3.33 marathon is a time many would be proud of, and a marathon is a marathon.

Jodie had also had a tough day coming in a little slower than she would have liked, but still faster than her lowest target.

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It was a very well organised event, with great support. However we both really bloody hated the course. We also weren’t too impressed that everyone got the same tee shirt. All the 5k and 10k runners got the same T shirt as the half and marathon runners! Either way unfortunately we won’t be back for the half or the marathon, but I do quite fancy the 10k for a speedy time.

Analysis

In the cold light of day, and thanks to Strava, I can see where my race really went wrong.

bournemouth-analysisNot only was I too fast in terms of pace, in effort terms I was far too fast over the first half. In GAP I was running a GAP average of 7.04 a mile (3.05 pace) and if I then extend that to mile 16 it was 7.00 a mile (3.03 pace)! So its hardly any wonder I blew up.

firsthalfsplits

I barely felt like I was in 3.10 pace so to find I was actually running faster than that means that I wasn’t actually far off form wise (I don’t think) but not understanding/using my effort as a gauge is what really cost me.

My spring marathon is much flat, so with this in mind, a strong block of training having gotten through the bulk of life upheaval the last few months, I’m still encouraged that Mission GFA is on.

Strava Activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/731955875/overview

 

Bournemouth Marathon 2016: An Experiment In Heart Rate Training

Introduction

My target marathon for this autumn is Bournemouth. It’s an event that I’ve had my eye on for quite a while. It’s relatively local to me and some club mates ran some of the races last year (it is a full festival of running with 5k, 10k and a Half Marathon all over the same weekend). I’ve heard nothing but good feedback about it. This will be my fourth marathon, and the first time I’ve run one in the autumn.

As I have previously blogged about, this is my next step towards my long term goal of achieving a London “Good For Age” time. I’ve never run London before, and I’ve been rejected by the ballot 5 times already. This seems to be the only way to get a place unless I wanted to raise an inordinate amount of money!

Those familiar with my journey will know I’ve lost a significant amount of weight over the years, bringing it down from 22 stone to 14 stone and it’s only really been running which has helped keep the weight off. My marathon times have come down with it, going from 3.59 in Paris 2014, to 3.20 in Manchester 2015 (Albeit a short course!) and this spring I ran Manchester again, this time in 3.13.

My target for Bournemouth is 3.09 as a springboard to a 3.04 in April, and the intention is to run the same Pfitzinger & Douglas Advanced Marathoning 18 week, up to 55 miles schedule, which I have slightly modified, as I used in my previous 2 marathon campaigns.

But this time, with a twist.

Previously I’ve always trained to Pace Zones. I use the McMillan Calculator to work out what paces to run at and roughly translated them to the P&D prescribed training intensities based upon target marathon pace. This time I am going to use the technique they actually prescribe in the book – training to effort and heart rate.

Why train to Heart Rate?

Heart rate training is always something I’ve wanted to experiment with.

The theory behind it is simple- by running at a given heart rate over a period of time, your body should adapt to running at that level of effort for the pace you are running and therefore as time goes on you will be able to run faster whilst maintaining the same heart rate.

hrchart

Obviously, it is a bit more complex than that. Mix in to that basic principle a balanced training plan over a range of scientifically established intensities int he way that P&D have put together, and in theory I should find that as time goes on I get progressively faster for the same reward. More bang for my buck.

But why now?

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things and listening to sound advice from a wide range of sources that may explain some of my recent and previous training troubles.

One of the topics I heard on a recent Marathon Talk episode was about how when the Brownlees are training “Easy” they really do train easy. Tom recalled an anecdote from when he went out for an easy cycle with the world champion triathletes and came back feeling reasonably fresh, whereas if he went out for a cycle with a local club they’d be forever pushing the pace. I am certainly a victim of this trap. I am always trying to run faster and faster and end up feeling totally fatigued.

One of our club members, local legend Fred Fox, told me recently how he has been trying to run to heart rate for the last few months, trying to stay in the aerobic zone. He found on recent marathons that he was finding it easy to negative split, and he even ended up running too fast now as his body has increased in base fitness!

From my personal experience and reflecting on my previous training, I can see that in some sessions I just didn’t have enough juice in the tank to do them justice. Interval training is a good example. I can’t remember ever reaching anywhere near the VO2 Max that the book recommends – I was always too tired.

Last Summer I ended up injured, jaded, and chronically over-trained for trying to push the envelope too far. This year, it has taken a good 5 weeks post-Manchester to feel back to “normal” and return to a level of fitness near where I was just before the race. It’s not been quite as bad but for a while I did worry I would push myself over the line again.

All of this suggests, to me, that I’m trying too hard. By slowing down and training to effort levels more suitable to the programme as it is designed, I should be able to execute it with a better degree of focus on the quality, and reap the rewarded improvements. As I get progressively fitter, my training pace should naturally increase, rather than my old methodology of training at a stale pace until I run another race to adjust my pace zones.

Fears

This switch in training is quite a scary step for me. I’m changing my entire training paradigm for 18 weeks. That’s a long time to commit to anything, so it’s scary to think that the potential rewards are complete unknowns, if rewards at all! Especially as I am so desperate to get that GFA time. It’s really quite daunting.

What if after 18 weeks its a disaster and I end up actually running slower? That would be very tough to take, as that next step to GFA in spring will be too far away – which means it would be another year before any potential GFA time would count. It would be a total waste of 18 weeks training.

I’ve tried allaying these fears a bit by reviewing the last campaign and reviewing some key stats. For example, in Manchester 2016 I can see that my heart rate was within the zone that the book advocates as “Marathon Pace”. If anything it tells me that actually, I could have a little bit more in me. My “Marathon Pace” zone is 149-165bpm.

mphr

Yes, all my eggs are in the one basket, but if I am going to do this I am going to do it to the letter. Train easy, race hard.

Desired Outcomes

It’s all very well trying this experiment but what would constitute it being a success?

  • Completing all (or at least, more) sessions – On previous campaigns I’ve had to abort LT sessions, cut long runs short and haven’t performed well in the intervals – the 3 x 1mi session always beats me. being able to complete all sessions would be a big indicator of success as it means I will be recovering better.
  • A Marathon PB – I’m in significantly better shape as I write this today than I was the week before I started training last time around. If training this way results in a slower performance it can only be deemed a failure.
  • Faster Post-Marathon Recovery – Last time round it took a long time to recovery. I felt absolutely battered. Whilst this is much less measurable, I will know if I feel better in the weeks after the race.

It would be impossible to accurately quantify if this method would be MORE successful than training to pace zones. However, the increase  in finish time for Manchester 2015 to 2016, with an injury plagued second half of the year between races, was 10 minutes (Adjusted to compensate for the short course). So in 2016 I was 5% faster. 5% faster again would be a 3.03 marathon!

Just writing that makes me question my maths. The law of diminishing returns does dictate that it won’t be that simple, but still – you never know how the training will go. Ultimately, a 4 minute improvement (Which is what I’m actually targeting) is a mere 2% improvement in performance! I’m all for “marginal gains” but I’d like to think that if this were to be a success I could take more time out of the race than that.

Time will tell!

Training Plan

The plan itself is taken from the Advanced Marathoning book.

Its the “Up to 55 miles per week/18 week” plan, with my  own added modifications, however it is essentially the same (A couple of tune up races aside) as the one I used for Manchester 2016. This should provide a good metric of comparison and make my final result a bit more of a trustworthy and robust answer to the question “was it worth it?”.

As I tend to respond better to volume (thanks to my yo-yo dieting) I usually accelerate the ramp up in my long runs, and I like to do 6 x 20 + milers. Whilst this doesn’t fit with the book, it does fit with what I did previously, so would still make my experiments results valid.

First up, my training zones, for clarity. My Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is 38, and my Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is about 188.

MHR% (Book) My Equivilent BPM
Long/Medium-Long 74-84 139-158
Marathon Pace 79-88 149-165
General Aerobic 70-81 132-152
Recovery < 76 < 143
Lactate Threshold 82-91 154-171
VO2 Max 93-95 175-179

The book explains that less experienced marathoners should go for the lower end of the range, and elites should go for the higher end of the range. As my pace/effort control is so abysmal, I’ll just try and stay somewhere between the two!

The hardest part of training to heart rate would normally be having to keep an eye on an HR monitor whilst running, which is especially difficult when the sessions are a bit more complex. However, with most modern Garmin’s you can pre-program all workouts in a training calendar and sync it to your watch. That way, the watch will tell you when you are training too heard or too easy.

So yes, I painstakingly put all my sessions into Garmin Connect. it will be worth it in the long run!

Mesocycle 1 – Endurance

This is all about building endurance, increasing training volume and building a solid base to start from. Its during this phase that historically I have been most prone to overdoing it – which is stupid when you think about it. What happens to a building if you mess up the foundations? Hopefully training to heart rate will prevent this.

mesocycle1

There is a 5k race I may participate in here, and if I do I will adjust the training plan accordingly. In the purposes of integrity for the experiment I will likely not run this race. The same is true of the club track session that is planned. I may assist instead of participating.

Mesocycle 2

This phase focuses on “Lactate Threshold” running. This is the stage I always struggle with. Running “comfortably hard” is something I don’t enjoy too much. I’m hoping by having the previous phase a little easier, and running my LT sessions to heart rate it will make these a bit more beneficial and I won’t have the same dread going into them.

mesocycle2

Again, I will likely not participate in the track session or race but have them in my calendar so I can support the club either way!

Mesocycle 3 – Race Preparation

Usually by this point I am feeling pretty good, and actually feel that I peak at the end of this phase – about 3 weeks too early! Hopefully the new training intensities will prevent this. Also, as I previously mentioned, I always struggle to get my heart rate up in my VO2 Max sessions, so it will be interesting to see if I manage it this time round with “easier” training.

mesocycle3

This is also where the Tune Up races mess up the plans a bit. The books asks for tune up races on alternating Saturdays ranging from 8-15k. No chance of finding anything around here! I like to run a tune up Half though, so I balance this by running a hard parkrun and a hard half marathon instead. Again, this is inline with previous campaigns.

Mesocycle 4 – Taper and Race

Last time by the point I reached the taper I really was feeling pretty exhausted – as I probably should have to some degree. but I also ran my “tune up” half 3 weeks pre-marathon. That can’t have helped. I shan’t make the same mistake this year. I already mentioned that I feel like I “Peak” during phase 3 – hopefully I can time that right and hit the race well.

mesocycle4

Mesocycle 5 – Recovery

Having learned my lesson Post-Manchester, all I’m planning here is 2 complete weeks off, followed by 3 weeks of nothing more than running at a “recovery” effort.

Meanwhile I’ll either be licking my wounds from a failed experiment or anxiously planning the final phase of my “Mission: GFA”.

And as this falls in the first week of October, you never know, I might actually get in through the ballot! (Ha! Fat chance!)

Execution

With all that said, its nearly time to execute the plan. My mind is back in the game and I’m feeling pretty focussed. I’ll post my usual weekly updates and of course you can folow my progress on Strava.

Wish me luck!