Posts Tagged ‘The wall’

Carbo Gels vs Jelly Beans:

My weekend of fun...To fight my way through the post-marathon depression in 2009 I’d booked myself into the BUPA London 10,000 to keep busy. The race was a month after the end of the marathon so I’d managed to retain a bit of the fitness I’d had. Wanting to get a good time, 5 minutes before the start I opened up a carbo gel and started the horrible process of forcing the goopy syrup down my lughole.

The wave of nausea that hit me was quite unexpected. It immediately brought back the latter stages of the marathon and it took me 4 gulps get the stuff down.

I’ve never enjoyed taking carbo gels. Firstly, the taste and sensation takes some getting used to. I’ve tried out quite a few different types of gel while training for the marathon, each with varying levels of viscosity. I simply can’t get used to the process of squeezing a sachet of runny, bitter-sweet goop down my throat without feeling the urge to regurgitate.

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Flora London Marathon 2009: Race Day – part 2

I knew the next section of the course very well, having run it many times before during my training runs. This, however, was not an advantage at all. The Highway, Westferry Road and Eastferry Road are long stretches of tarmac that just seem to keep going and have no poignant landmarks (aside from Canary Wharf in the distance). Although the crowds were brilliant, the numbers had started to drop off and it was down Westferry Road (the Isle of Dogs section) that I started to feel nauseous. At mile 16 the heat became too much for me.

MS Society cheering point: Canary WharfAs I turned the corner to travel back up towards Canary Wharf I began to feel faint and my vision started to blackout. It came over me very quickly and I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I didn’t want to start walking as I knew how hard it would be to start a jog back up again but something needed to change. For the next two minutes I ploughed my way along at barely a jog until I was seriously concerned that I was going to pass out.

I’m still really not sure what the problem was. There was a possibility that I was having a hypoglycemic attack. The symptoms were similar (I’d recognise them easily as I have type-1 diabetes) but the shakes weren’t as prominent as when hypoglycemia sets in. Still feeling very unsettled and sick, I began to walk. I became very upset and disappointed in myself. The hardest part to handle was that I knew exactly how far I had left to go and could visualise the route clearly in front of me. I had 10 miles left to cover and just couldn’t picture myself finishing. I began to think about the speech that Monty Halls had given in the Justgiving meet-up and how, later that day, I would have all the time in the world to look back and reflect on my performance. I knew I’d be disappointed but said to myself, “You’ll also remember how shit you’re feeling right now!”

Right at that moment, another MS Society runner ran up from behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and said,

“Come on Sir Jog A Lot, you can do better than that! The best of luck to you.”

… and the second he went past I started to run again. I’d only walked for around 30 seconds but it had felt like a lifetime. I approached the next drink station, grabbed a cool bottle of water, took one gulp and poured the rest over my head. This was the first ever time I’d done that and the feeling was invigorating. I immediately felt much better and picked up the pace again. I wasn’t quite at 10-minute miles but I was running and that’s all that mattered. From then on it was the support from the crowd that kept me running right until the finish. It sounds cliched but I don’t think I’d have achieved anywhere near 26 miles if it weren’t for the support from the crowd, my friends and my family along the route. If you ever do the marathon then my one piece of advice is have someone there with you. When you hit that wall, which I well and truly had done, you’ll need their support more than ever.

Over the next 2 miles I was cheered on by an old school friend who I haven’t seen for yonks, my friends and family at the next MS Society cheering point and a fellow blogger who recognised the ‘Sir Jog A Lot’ on the back of my vest and wished me luck. She had an eventful race. This picture was taken at Canary Wharf.

Canary WharfYou can see the relief in my eyes at seeing some familiar faces. This picture also gives an idea of the casualties there were that day. I’m too delirious to notice the poor bugger to the left of me who was being so violently sick and was in so much pain that the paramedics could hardly touch him. According to the BBC, 6,038 runners needed medical attention that day. It was no 2007 heatwave but it was pretty toasty.

By now I’d started to feel a little cramp set in at my groin and I had the beginnings of sunburn (which would later turn in to full-blown strap marks across my shoulders) but I was really enjoying the experience. London sometimes has a reputation of being a grumpy and impersonal city. Not today. There was not one ounce of discontent or negativity and the whole of London had come together to cheer on a group of runners, who most had never met before or have any affiliation, with as much passion and vigour as a father watching his son score his first goal for his school football team. It was awe inspiring.

At mile 23 the noise was deafening. The walls of the city buildings echoed the screams and cheers from the spectators and it was one of the best moments of my life. I was told later on that one of my friends spotted me at this point and they were screaming my name but I couldn’t hear.

At mile 25 I was plum-tuckered. The last 1.2 miles went incredibly slowly. I must have run a 13 or 14-minute-mile and every inch of me wanted to walk. The MS Society post-race reception was along Birdcage Walk, two turns from the finish line, and I saw my supporters one final time (they did incredibly well to spot me three times during the race). I didn’t quite have enough for a sprint finish but I made it over the line to join an elite group of people who can say…

“I’ve run the London Marathon.”

Time: 4:45:51

MS Society post-race reception

Not the best time and certainly a very long way from my initial target of sub-4 hours (yeah right) but I was over the moon to have finished. The goodie bag was stacked full of post-race treats and it wasn’t exactly light (sports drink, milkshake, apple, Jelly Babies, creams, t-shirt, foil blanket and much more), which made the trip back round to the MS Society post-race reception all the more fun!

I was provided with a sports massage from two burly blokes, the only two men in a room full of female masseurs (I think Lady Jog A Lot had been in and had a word before I got there). They also interviewed me for a video that’ll be used to entice others to run the marathon for the MS Society (link to be posted as soon as it becomes available).

Would I do it again?

You bet your ass I would!

Very proud...

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Marathon Pace:

I got up this morning and ran 19 miles. It kicked off immediately with a celebrity spot as Richard Bacon jogged past me! I wonder if he has any old Blue Peter badges knocking around? He deserved one with the pace he was running at. He’s probably Ebayed the lot of them though.

This was my biggest run so far in training (and ever) and the first 2 hours went really well. I thought I’d try out chomping on some jelly beans as I ran today to give me a bit of a boost in the latter stages. At each hour mark I had about three. I’ve never eaten them before while training and really had no idea of the amount you’re supposed to eat but I didn’t really get much from them. Maybe three isn’t enough but I have to be careful with my sugar intake, being diabetic.

I ran from Blackheath to the O2 dome and then back through Greenwich to Canary Wharf. From there I ventured into Central London and ran over Tower Bridge. After I hit Waterloo Bridge (after running along the embankment) I was making fairly decent time. I didn’t set out to break the land speed record but I thought I’d give it a good go. However, after 2 and a half hours of running, I hit a spell of extreme tiredness.

Jelly bean fun...

The previous Saturday I ran for 2 and a half hours and couldn’t go on any more. I blamed this on not preparing well enough. For breakfast I’d had a boiled egg, no water and didn’t go for a pee. So by the time I got back I was dying of thirst, bursting for the loo and my blood sugar was so low that I was almost experiencing those hallucinations I mentioned in ‘The wall‘ post. But this week I’d had a hearty breakfast, hydrated well and had my magic beans so I should have been fine.

I know this is my first marathon event but I really want to do it well. Apart from a 6-year spell when I smoked, did no exercise and ate what I want (ah University – leaving home never felt so good), I’ve always considered myself to have a pretty good base-level of fitness. I’m not sure why I so desperately want to complete the FLM in under 4 hours but now I’m not so sure I’ll be able to complete it in under 5!

Today, after 2 and a half hours, the same thing happened. My legs tensed up, my pace slowed and at any slope I ground to a halt (and by any slope I really do mean any slope – stepping up on to the pavement was agony!). With a bit of will power I stopped myself from walking and continued to jog, but my 19-miler took me 3 hours and 20 minutes! Miles off the pace.

My worry is that I’m not training enough. Here is the guide I used before I picked my training plan:

Intermediate:
“Who is this plan for? You are already a runner, you have been running for a minimum of several months, you have probably completed a 10k or half marathon event, you are currently comfortable with training for approximately 4-5 hours per week, you may have already completed a marathon and are looking to improve your time.”

That suits me perfectly but I’ve noticed something. My training plan sets your daily targets in minutes run, not miles.

Essentially, I could have been following this plan to the exact detail and have never really exerted myself! That’s a harsh reality to face, given that there’s only 5 weeks of training left so today has been a tough day (and not just because I can hardly move).

Runners World Pace Guide

There are two points that I can console myself with and relieve a bit of pressure.

  1. Running through central London is the worst. Constantly stopping and starting to make room for traffic, STUPID bloody tourists and ignorant men with a dog on a leash is a pain. Getting back up to speed after you’ve been running for three hours and had to stop is unbelievably hard.
  2. It was bloody hot today.

It might be time to start finding out my split times. I have one more long run to do before tapering down in preparation for the main event. Lets see if I can break 9-minute miles and still have enough at the end. Visit Runner’s World for a great pace band that you can print off, cut out and wear on race day. Mine’s on the right.

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London Marathon Training: Week 6

The wall.

Last Saturday was my longest run so far; about 12 miles. Not even a half marathon and I was knackered, although I was pushing quite hard. The snow made it interesting and I came close to breaking my ankles about three times. At about mile 10 my body started to feel quite heavy and I could only really manage a slow jog, just above walking pace (about 8 kmph for those who use a treadmill often). Annoyingly, at mile 9 I was feeling fantastic and was bounding along like Neil Armstrong so why the sudden lull? 

The Berlin Wall - or what's left of it...

Stupidly, I was so keen to get the long run out of the way on Saturday morning that I didn’t eat or drink enough. I had 2 slices of toast, a glass of water and a dash of insulin. In retrospect this was hardly enough to last the best part of 2 hours but I guess there’s no substitute for experience so next time I’ll kick-off a little better prepared. But it did get me thinking about the body’s energy supply and the dreaded ‘wall’ I keep hearing about.

For those that are not aware, the wall is best described as a virtual barrier the body struggles to get through once it has depleted its energy supplies. During a marathon race, usually at around the 20-mile mark, the liver and muscles run out of the much-needed glycogen supplies that provide energy to the legs and arms. Once this happens the body will switch to another energy source, fat. Unfortunately, burning fat for energy is far less efficient and the body grinds to a halt. Symptoms? Exhaustion, weakness, dizziness and even hallucinations. Check out this poor bloke who hits the wall in the final 200m of the London Marathon. I don’t like the look of that at all; the body not even having enough energy to walk like a normal person. 

Annoyingly, most marathon training plans won’t actually set you off on a full 26-mile practice run before the big day. In fact, almost all of them cap off the maximum distance at around 20 miles before tapering off a couple of weeks before race day. So we’ll never actually experience the wall until we’re being watched by half-a-million people, at which point you’ll probably just want to curl up into a ball and die!

So how do you prepare for the wall? Think P.C.D. (no, not the Pussycat Dolls. But hey, whatever works for you).

  • Pace
    Keeping to a steady pace during a run can be very difficult. The top athletes have pacers who tag-team around the marathon course keeping the athletes bunched together so they don’t travel too fast and burn out at the end. There may even be pacers within the masses that you can run with (Runner’s World offer free pace groups). Alternatively, wear a bench-mark bracelet that you can pick up on the day that will give you your correct split-times that you’ll need to stick to.
     
  • Carbs
    Many marathoners (marathoni?) will over-load on carbs during the two days up until the race and decrease their training regime to allow the body to store the glycogen levels for the big day. Also, consuming carbohydrates during the race is a must. Most sports drinks will suffice but some also like to experiment with sports gels at around the 15-mile mark and pre-empt hitting the wall.
     
  • Determination 
    If you do ‘bonk’ (another cracking term for wall hitting) then you’re not going to get through it without a little will power. Having your friends and family there at mile 20, cheering you on will give you a huge boost so make sure you round up your friends and get them to shout inspiring abuse at you at strategic points around the course.

Two pints of Golden Syrup and a pack of sugar please.

Apparently, experiencing the wall is similar to the effects of hypoglycemia due to the low blood-sugar levels. I’m diabetic and have had my fair share of hypos. They’re not pretty and I’m understandably nervous but I’m sure with some experimentation I’ll be OK. If any of you have any suggestions, tips or previous experience then I’d love to hear from you. Although I have had a lot of practice at hitting real walls (I live with my girlfriend), I’m in new territory here.

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