Mark and Mike take a trip to the seaside
I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to keep me occupied on the weekend of 18th/19th January so had decided some while ago to enter back to back marathons ie one on Saturday and the same again on Sunday. Mark had done the same and thus with two others in the car we set off for the Viking Coastal Marathon (Day One) at Minnis Bay.
These races are very low key and organised by a multiple marathoner called Traviss. Both Mark & I have done his races before which are along coastal paths, pancake flat, several out and back loops and less than 50 people racing. This allows you to park right by the start / finish, turn up 10 minutes before to register and not feel like it has taken up the whole day.
Saturday’s conditions were ideal, a small puff of wind, dry and slightly overcast. We lined up and were given a course briefing which was “run for about 3.3 miles until you get to a gate. Touch the gate and turn round. Then repeat three more times.” And on the stroke of 9.00am we were off.
My aim was to run very conservatively for the first day - probably around 5 hours. My lap splits for day one were 1.10 / 1.12 / 1.25 / 1.23 for a total time of 5.10.47 in 47th place (out of 55 finshers). Other than refuelling and a couple of ‘necessary stops’ I ran the whole way which was pleasing. My feet hurt because of an ongoing issue but legs and muscles felt fine. We celebrated in seaside style with a cup of tea and bowl of chips before returning home. Mark had left me for dust finishing in 3.39.26 in 9th place.
I have been warned that the recovery after day one was vital. Plenty of calories, plenty of protein, plenty of rest and to wear different shoes for day two. I had also been told that day two was mostly a mental game and that putting yourself on the start line was the biggest battle. I was in bed by 8pm and asleep very quickly.
The Sunday transport plans were looking a bit shaky at home so sent Mark a message to see if he could help out. Mark’s recovery plan had included going to a party until 1am and drinking beer. At 6.15am I saw a message from Mark saying that he couldn’t help on the transport front and a quick bleary eyed discussion with Janine resolved the situation. Mark offered to ditch day two and go back to sleep but my ability to collect and drive him meant he got up and an hour later we were on the road. He admitted to me that he would gladly have crashed out again but as it happened the day was breaking to reveal a beautiful blue sky.
My feet issues meant that my last minute trip to the start line was a hobble and for the first time in my life I was late to the start of a race - by just under two minutes. At the time it didn’t matter - but as you will see later it did matter (a little). Mark very kindly ran with me for the first outward leg of the first lap. Over the course of that time, my hobbling went to a slow trot and then to something resembling a vague sort of run. He then bounced off like Tigger on sugar to record another fast time.
My aim was to try to keep each lap to about 1.20/1.25 for a total time of 5.20/5.40 but as each lap progressed this target ebbed away like the proverbial tide. The first lap started painfully but eased, the second wasn’t too bad but the third one involved going to ‘a dark place’. Inwardly I was whining and complaining about how I felt, how tired I was and just how tough life was. I had been running with my ipod but switched off the music and listened to Desert Island Discs (I know, just how cool am I!) from 2006 about Kelly Holmes. It’s a great programme and you hear all about how much she struggled with injury in her career. Not surprisingly this snapped me out of my self-indulgent tantrum and after I had given myself a good talking to, I perked up.
By the time I was completing my third lap, Mark had already finished in 4.18.41 in 17th place out of 50. I was feeling much brighter and although no faster my mood picked up. As I made the final turn for home, I realised I would be near to 6 hours and thus tried to push on but the legs and energy levels had other plans. My run / walk / run strategy was fast becoming a walk / shuffle / walk plan and despite trying to squeeze every last bit of running out in the last mile I crossed the line in 6.01.39 in last place. Those two minutes weren’t helpful. The slowest of my (now) 40 marathons (with the exception of one of the Ironmans) was done. My lap times were 1.22 / 1.27 / 1.36 / 1.36 which showed the time had really slowed on Day Two.
This may sound like I was disappointed but I wanted to try back to back marathons to test my resolve for future ultra-marathon plans. Most people who had heard about my weekend activities thought it was a little silly - which is always pleasing. I was astounded by Mark’s total time for both days being under 8 hours and especially bearing in mind his Saturday night activities.
Things I learnt from the weekend:
- Back to back marathons are hard, but not as hard as I thought they would be
- Run conservatively on day one
- Have mental resolve for the harder parts
- Think and plan the recovery between races
- They are possible for most people. The race was not made up of super human looking athletes
- Day two was all about the mental strength
- It was funny to think that a lot of people wouldn’t have driven that far that weekend
- As the advert says – Impossible is nothing
I would encourage anyone to give it a try sometime – just because.
Pictures were requested from Mike but none were available except for this one of the great medal - go figure!