Monday, 19 May 2014

Göteborgsvarvet done!!

Forget the yellow brick road...we followed
the blue line to our goal. 
Well I did it, 9 months of training, (6 months of which were a lot more serious), I completed probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and in my goal time too. It is hard to explain how it feels and what the experience was like, but please read on. This post will be more than just my thoughts on the race, I also have some advice for runners who are hoping to complete long distance races that could be life saving.

Race week
The week leading up to the race wasn't the best for preparation. I decided to do a double workout on the Sunday, to get an extra boost on a week of planned rest. I joined up with an Adidas Tribes promotional interval training event on the Sunday afternoon, followed by a big football training session in preparation for my debut for FC Fiskeback.

On the Monday I had my first game of football for my club and I played 65 minutes of it. I struggled in the game because I am not a great sprinter. The main problem tho, was that the grass was wet, and my leather boots soaked in water like sponge. The 3 hours of wet feet resulted in a head cold by Wednesday afternoon.

I spent Thursday in bed, and on the sofa, and went for a run on Friday to loosen up and calm any nerves. I had started to feel slow and tired. We went to a friends house, also running the race for the first time and enjoyed a good evening of carb loading... a vegetarian Marmite lasagne! Yes, you heard me, Marmite, and it was every bit as good as it sounds.

I went to bed that night however feeling exhausted, not the best prep week at all for the race of my life.

Me and Peter before the race. 
I woke up feeling ok, but having to clear my throat of phlegm, and topped up my inhalers which help this kind of thing. I cooked some spinach soup and had a 4 fruit smoothie with breakfast, along with prep. We got to the race site 3 hours before our start time, the first group started at 1pm, and I wanted to get the full effect of what the day was about.

The Göteborgsvarvet, (Gothenburg Half-marathon) is the biggest half marathon in the world, in terms of the amount of people. This is what i have heard from people in Sweden, if I am wrong please correct me. There were 52200 people racing, in 25 different start groups. I was in group 21, starting at 3.32 pm.

We ate, kept watered and applied sun block. I was feeling better, a little tired, but I kept topped up with Powerade, my chosen energy drink, and the excitement was filling my adrenaline stores... I was excited.

The Race
A few minutes before the race I couldn't quite believe I was running this... I had prepared, all my training, my running, my healthier eating was leading towards this day. I started with my friend who I wanted to try and stay level with but after 500 meters he gave me permission to keep going as he couldn't keep my pace, and I wanted to get a good start, and reach my 5km goal.

5KM in I had done it. I reached it within 25 minutes, it was a good start, and I was happy. However the 6th km was the first bridge, and I lost 300meters in the following 5 minutes. Bridges are hard. The first third of a bridge is a steep incline, and early on in a race it is hard to keep a good pace... I had to save my energy.

2km in... not even a drop of sweat!
The next 9KM, the Hisingen section, was flat and probably the easiest part, not that it was easy towards the end of this section. I was getting tired, and most of the route was in sunlight. I was feeling good, but with the cold (which wasn't bothering me) I wasn't going to do anything stupid. I stopped at all water stations to clear my throat and cool down.

The other good thing was that my shins hadn't hurt at all. I had been fighting off early signs of shin splints (I have had them before, and they hurt), and I normally started feeling that pressure about the 7KM mark. This time I didn't feel the pain and I was running comfortably. I had changed my running style, thanks to Bruce Van Horn's book 'You can go the distance'. It is a good book with a lot of running advice, and I changed my style to a shorter running stride and a more forward leaning body position that put more weight on the balls of my feet. This allowed me to transfer energy forward to the next step rather than the kinetic energy being wasted and swallowed into the cushioning in the heal. I will write another post about this technique, but all credit must go to Bruce van Horn, the author of the book.

I refueled at 13km, with an energy gel with caffeine in. It seemed to give me more energy and helped me through the second half of the race, but I think it may have been too much mixed with the Powerade, and with the hot sun and lack of water. I may also have taken this a little too late in the race. It worked better than the sugar only gel I used in the practice run, less lethal on the time it took the energy to get into my system, but I think I'll need to do a little bit more research into how these work best.

Again, the bridge to come back over was tough, and I was passed by a few people, I knew I was down on my pace time, but I wasn't going to be stupid. It was the hottest day of the year so far, I hadn't had the chance to run this distance in this heat. I had to be sensible.

However I had looked forward to running through the city for a year. Ever since I watched the race last year at the 16th KM mark, I was looking forward to running that part, although on Sunday it all went by so fast. I didn't get the chance to enjoy it. In reality the last 5KM was a huge blur. I was concentrating on my goal time, something I would struggle with if I didn't keep my pace up. I made sure I kept hydrated, and focussed on a comfortable running pace around the 5:25min p/KM mark. I knew I wouldn't get record time, 1hr 50mins was out of the question, but I knew I couldn't still reach my goal time of 2hrs.

When I passed 20KM at 1hr 50, I was happy, I knew I would make it but I didn't want to sprint and be stupid. The last KM took me 6:26min, I thought I was faster, but I kept it comfortable and passed the finish line at 5:29pm. I had a time of 1hr 57min 06sec. Out of 52200 people I finished in place 15727, so works out to be in the top 30% of runners on the day. I did it! Reached my goal, and felt great about it!

Post race
The last few days have been tough. When we were done we are presented with a medal, a sports drink, a banana and a chocolate bar. I demolished this fast, and was trying to slow my heart down. I couldn't do a normal warm down as the queue past the finish line was long, and I tried jogging on the spot. But most others were just walking through. I had a protein bar when we go our bags, but on the way home the sickness set in. I felt cold and faint, and after getting home, a quick shower, I got straight into bed and slept for an hour. I woke up and ate chicken and potatoes and felt better. I cannot fully explain why I felt so bad. I had refueled as planned, I hadn't over done myself after the race. My thoughts were maybe the start of heat stroke, but I had put sun block on, and didn't get any sun burn.

The mistake that many people make it go faster in the final straight, but after a long distance this can be hard and not so great for the heart. The finish line wasn't great, there was a huge amount of people finishing with me and I was forced to stop straight after I crossed the line, a huge 'no-go' with long distances. When you stop, the heart doesn't like it, not when it has been keeping you going for 2 or so hours at a higher rate. The sad thing was that on the finish line that day, 3 people's heart had stopped, 2 people survived but one could not be revived. It was reported that he had heart problems anyway, and stopping straight away at the line might have been the trigger.

This was a fear of mine on the day. After I researched for my last post and read about it happening back in march in other half marathons, I have been asking myself why this would happen. You hear of less people dying from marathons than half-marathons. So what is it about the half-marathon that causes people to over do it. Maybe the people on the fringe see the half as a doable target, and one that they feel they should be able to do. It could also be that 15km is a doable distance for most runners without the need to refuel. The body can handle 90 minutes of continuous exercise. I can run 15KM no problem, and my record time is 1hr15mins (on the race I reached 15km in 1hr20min). The last 6km you are pushing your body a little further than what it can handle on its own (in my opinion). The need for a good refueling plan is paramount to anything longer than 17KM, (IMO).

I am still looking for a good refueling plan. I don't think I know enough about my own body yet to know what things are good, and when you should take them. This is something I will be seeking help for in preparation for the Brighton Marathon next year.

My upcoming blog posts will hopefully cover refueling, heart problems, and information on the charity I am running for. Thank you for reading, and if you have anything you would like to add, or comment on please do. I will be seeking a medical at some point in prep for the marathon, and hopefully getting a good marathon plan, so I know what I can do on the day and do over do it.

As you can tell, I am serious about running, and serious about raising money for 28 Too Many. If you would like to help me raise £750 for this charity, then please donate here.