Marathon06 - Sub 3 at last

This was going to be the big one, the race I'd been preparing for for months. I was gutted when, two days before the race, I got ill. On the Saturday I was feverish and felt very weak - there was no way I could race like this. But after months of preparing I decided to set the alarm for the early start anyway - maybe I would feel better on the day.

I woke early Sunday morning and soon realised I was still not well with a fever. But I had a plan... There is a train station on the course at the 10km mark. I decided to make the start and pull out at 10km. If by some miriacle I felt OK at 10km and was on for sub 3 hours I'd keep going. If I was off the 3 hour schedule I'd pull out. I drove to Cannes where I parked the car and then took a train to Nice. A 10 minute walk down from the station and I was at the start area - and I was one of the first there. No queues for the toilets but I did have to wait for it to get light enough to use them.

After waiting around for far too long the start was approaching. I still felt feverish and even with 10 minutes to go I was wondering if I was doing the right thing starting. I had a "preferential number" which got me right up at the front for the start. The combination of illness and nerves made me feel truly awful.

There was some confusion at the start. There was no gun that I heard. The left hand carriageway of the road just suddenly started and then the other side reacted and went too. I think the gun failed and the timing started, and then the race was started a few seconds later causing a slight discrepancy between official times and chip times. A few seconds is not a big deal in a marathon - or so I thought...

Anyway, we got going and my heart rate went straight up to 165 (my average HR for a half marathon would normally be 155). I decided the high heart rate was due to the illness and pushed on. I felt hot and dizzy for the first few miles and sweated much more than usual, but as the miles passed I felt better and better.

I went through 10km in 39:58 - quicker than planned by just a few seconds but feeling better than expected. I took one look at the train station and kept running. I followed a plan of half a power bar gel every 2.5km (one every 20 minutes). I kept pushing to half way which I passed at 1:25:30 well ahead of 3 hour pace. I soon arrived at the point where last year the stomach cramps started and I'd had to walk. This year there were a few twinges but nothing to stop me. However the legs were getting tired and I started to slow a bit.

At 30km I was still on schedule with 2:04:01 but really starting to suffer and slow down. I was having more and more doubts about getting the 3 hours. At 40km I knew I was going to be really tight to make it on time. Just after 40km the 3 hour pacer ran past me with his red flag. This is the worst thing that could have happened. I knew once he had passed me I wouldn't be able to keep up with him and saw my 3 hour target dissapearing. I gave up and started to walk.

As I walked I looked at my watch and started to do some calculations. I soon realised the pacer must be ahead of schedule and there was still a chance I could do it. I started running again and pushed hard. As I got closer and closer to the finishI realised more and more how close it would be and I pushed harder and harder. I rounded the final bend and saw the finish line about 50 meters ahead - the clock said 2:59:49. I sprinted faster and faster and as I crossed the line I saw the clock read 2:59:59. That was the last thing I remember.

I came around sometime later to find myself laying on the floor with paramedics standing over me. I soon convinced them I was OK and headed off to collect my bag and head home. Looking at my watch data after the race I found my heart rate in that last 50 meters reached 189 bpm - 100% of my theoretical maximum.

I left the race with a strange feeling. Not the elation I expected from breaking 3 hours after years of trying, neither the dissapointment of failing again. I was uncertain - had I done it or not? I had to wait until the next day for the results.

I finished 323 out of 7842 (171 out of 2206 senior males). My chip time was 02:59:55. I took me 4 or 5 seconds to cross the start line which should have given me a "gun time" of 2:59:59 but the official gun time was 3:00:03. I guess the discrepancy was due to the confusion at the start.

As far as I'm concerned I've done it - a sub 3 hour marathon at last. Next time it would be nice to do it with a slightly bigger margin to remove any doubts.

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RT @UKuncut: Cameron in Pakistan: "rich people there arn't paying much tax, that's not fair" #ukuncut
05/04/2011 12:44:10
#ff here's one for all the #triathlon fans out there. #thriathlete @todd_leckie who we hope will be competing at London 2012 #olympics
25/03/2011 09:45:29
Can't wait for my new specialized stumpjumper HT mountain bike to arrive next week.
20/10/2010 16:06:48
A new Challenge race in the UK mid September next year! Would it be too much to do this and IMUK next year?
21/09/2010 19:18:53
Thinking about main race targets for next year. How does this sound?... London marathon, Ironman UK and South Downs Way 100 mile (run).
16/08/2010 19:33:36

Hey, check out Mat's
personal best times...

5 km 00:17:49
5 miles 00:28:54
10 km 00:36:58
10 miles 01:03:28
half marathon 01:20:37
30 km 02:04:01
marathon 02:59:55
54 miles 08:50:55 (L2B)
100 km 11:35:53
100 miles 20:42:36
145 miles 42:06:00 (GUCR)
24 hours 181.1 km (track)

Olympic Tri 02:18:34
Half Ironman 05:04:21
Ironman Tri 10:49:39