So as I mentioned before the last few days before the marathon were not ideal. Our flight was cancelled and we spent Sunday morning trying to get through to the airline. Thank god for the youngest and her twitter account as we wouldn't have gotten to talk to anyone until the lines opened at 1pm if it wasn't for her! Anyway our rebooked flight wasn't going to leave London until 6 so I tried to rest up, hydrate and basically make up for spending the whole of Saturday on my feet.
The flight itself went fine and we were in the car within about 15 minutes of landing. From there I drove straight into the city to pick up my race number from my friend and then back on the M7 to be home for about 9pm. Not great but could have been a lot worse. Ominously it was still quite warm and very breezy at this stage but I tried to forget about this and concentrated on getting my race number pinned on and laid out the rest of my gear for the morning. I was so wrecked at this stage that I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
I woke at about 5am and knew there was no point trying to get back to sleep at that stage. It was marathon day finally! Despite a total lack of interest in food I managed to force down two cinnimon raisin bagels with butter and honey along with a couple of pints of water and a strong black coffee. I felt ok. Not buzzing but fine. At this point I was still mad early so decided to throw on some BB cream, some blusher and a bit of mascara which is more than I usually manage on a work morning but what can I say......I was bored! Anyway it was worthwhile as my "glamorous" look was commented on by some club members who were out supporting. This possibly has more to do with the state they usually see me in than anything else!
Leaving the house was a bit of a drama as my parents had stayed the previous night to be close to the airport as they were heading off to the USA for 5 weeks. I did have to pretend I wasn't totally focussed on hustling out the door asap. I'm not positive I fooled anyone! As soon as I started my car I noticed the temperature gauge was reading 15 degrees and the sun wasn't even up yet. It was also quite blustery. Oh no!! The two things I had specifically said I would hate!
The trip up to Stillorgan Park-and-Ride was uneventful, as was the Luas journey in. Although I did feel for the poor souls who normally have the tram to themselves in the morning and were now cheek to jowl with a load of runners. At least we were clean and fresh smelling at that stage!
As soon as I arrived at the bag drop I knew that a final loo stop wasn't going to happen at the portaloos. The lines in the baggage area were huge and I remembered from last year that the lines in the wave holding areas were even worse so I hadn't a chance of getting there on time. Luckily I have a friend G who lives on Upper Mount Street which meant I was able to pop into her place for a proper loo. Heaven! I chilled out there until about 15 minutes before the start time and then made my way to the start area. A bit of bobbing and weaving later and I was up near the 3:50 pacers and just as I got there the gun went for the start of the first wave so I knew we only had ten minutes to go. I had my first gel and tried to relax.
The early miles - Start to the PP
The advantage of being in the first pace group at the start of a wave is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of congestion in the first few miles. I'm not the best at running in groups but I never felt boxed in at the start. I did feel that the pace was a bit fast right from the off and I was conscious that this should feel really easy at this stage and it never did.
In fact I was quite relieved anytime there was a bit of congestion and I got to back off the pace a bit. I didn't have the urge to chat to anyone around me either and usually I'd be quite talkative in the first few miles. It does usually take me a while to settle into a run and start to feel comfortable though so I decided to be conservative and see if my legs felt a bit springier later.
Most of this section was around the city on the way to the park gates so there was plenty to look at to keep the mind occupied and I tried to do this and let myself relax a bit. I was keeping the same distance from the pacers at this stage but was being passed constantly.
The PP to Chapelizod
Between the wind and the long incline I had decided before the race to take the park very easy. I tried to not expend any extra energy going up the hills and allowed my pace to slow fractionally here. I did try to find a group to block the wind for me a bit but as I mentioned earlier it wasn't that congested. Maybe if I had been right up beside the pacers I could have done that but I certainly wasn't wasting energy trying to catch them. At this point I was getting a bit concerned that the pace still felt quite challenging. During training runs I had had to hold myself back or my pace would drift towards 8 minute miles. I don't think I could have run an 8 minute mile yesterday at any time! I took my first gel on schedule at 5 miles. At this stage I had been through two water stations and was already starting to douse myself with water to cool down. This would continue all the way to the end!
Halfway through the park I was spotted by a group of supporters from the AC included the two girls I did my long runs with until they got injured. It was great to see them and they made me feel like a total rockstar shouting my name and generally making a spectacle of themselves. It was great!
The section where we exited the park briefly was downhill and I let myself speed up on these sections. I wasn't particularly worried about frying my quads on the downhills as I train on hills so I should be used to them by now. The crowds around the hills at Chapelizod really took the sting out of them although again I was being passed like mad on the uphills. Every time I felt like pushing on a hill I kept repeating to myself "Think of mile 22!"
The long stretch of death (Crumlin Road)
I hated the next section of the race last year when it came earlier in the race so I didn't have any illusions about the area from the park out the Crumlin road and up to Fortfield. I knew it was going to hurt so I just tried to do damage limitation. The wind was straight into our faces for most of this stage. The pacers were still in sight but I hadn't seen any signs from my legs so far that there was going to be any picking up of the tempo so I just concentrated on not messing up. The marathon tide was starting to come back the other way here so even though I wasn't speeding up I was passing people constantly which was encouraging for me but probably a sign that it was a hard day out there! I was delighted to see a club member with her 3 month old at mile 17. It gave me a real boost and at least made me try to look up instead of at my feet!
Regroup at Bushy Park
The section from Bushy Park to Milltown is a lovely part of the course. If only I hadn't been running a marathon I could have really enjoyed it! This bit was all about making sure I had enough energy for the hills. The legs were really starting to ache now but a respectable finish was starting to feel doable despite my lack of energy. I had let go of the pacers and was concentrating on running my own race with the legs I had on the day.
Milltown and UCD
I think I spent so long dreading the hills and the flyover that when they did arrive it was a bit of an anticlimax. What did I think was going to happen? Big boulders being rolled down the hill to crush me?
I used the same strategy of slowing down to conserve energy but it felt like I was flat out sprinting on both of these due to the amount of people walking. I honestly think it was about 4:1 ratio of walkers to runners. Walking was not the problem..........walking in a long line of five abreast is a problem if nobody can get past you! Got a great cheer from club members again here and T jumped in and ran with me for a bit although I don't think I was very good company. I apologised later!
I was so relieved to get past UCD I thought I was going to cry!
The last bit
The last part of the course is lovely and would be a delight if your body wasn't screaming at you to stop and walk. This was where the real countdown started and I had to use every trick in the book to convince my body to keep going. Again I can see by my splits that I slowed a bit here but runners were few and far between at this stage. I've never seen anything like it......but then again I was practically an extra on The Walking Dead last year so I can't remember much! When I got to 25 I was surprised by our AC coach out on the road shouting for me so that was a nice boost, although I was incapable of giddying up even for him. I must say I love the new finish. I loved being able to see it from quite a way out. The roar of the crowd really lifted me up in that last mile and I managed to get my head up and pick up my stride a bit. And after the longest 400m of my life I was finally on the finishing stretch, capable of soaking it all in and look around and together enough to put my arms up in victory crossing the finish line. A year later I finally got the marathon finish line I wanted!
Chip time 3:54:19
A 15 minute PB and quite honestly all that was in my legs yesterday. There is nowhere when I look back through my splits where I feel I could have gone any faster so this is absolutely the best I could do. It's not what I aimed for but there will be other days and I'm happier with this time than I thought possible. For now!