Monday, 24 June 2013

Two marathons in one day!

Friday (10:00pm), 21st June, 2013 - 18.1km cycle to Lucan
Saturday (Midnight), 22nd June, 2013 - 44.3km Le Cheile Midnight Marathon (5:24/km)
Saturday (1:00pm), 22nd June, 2013 - 42.5km Le Cheile Royal Canal Marathon (6:26/km)
This was an unexpectedly very busy weekend for me. I had planned to do the Le Cheile track marathon in Leixlip and had my eye on doing the canal marathon the following day but that was very much dependant on how I felt after the first. This only paints half the picture however. For the full story, the tale begins on Friday afternoon...

I ran into car trouble after going to the shops to buy a few supplies for the marathon(s). When I returned to my car it simply wouldn't budge - not even a peep out of it. I subsequently learned that it was the electronic steering wheel lock that was jarred. I spent the next two hours trying to work out how to get it fixed and eventually when I knew what was required I was told it was too late on a Friday afternoon and that I'd have to wait til Monday to have it towed to the garage! Cost of tow = €50. Cost of repair = either €120 (80% chance) or €1,000 (20% chance). Not a good start to the weekend!

Friday night
I returned home by foot and decided I would need a few hours sleep in advance of running through the night. I ended up sleeping for about two hours and then it was time to pack my stuff and hit off on the bike to Leixlip. It was now 10pm when I left Santry and even though there was a bit of rain en route things were going well. Then I was passing Lucan when I got a puncture on my rear wheel - just great! A quick Google Maps search and I was informed it'd take over an hour to walk the remaining 6km to the Le Cheile track. As I was walking I texted Anto and Eamonn who were both doing the event also. Luckily Anto was still with his phone and offered to call out and collect me. I was so lucky because if I had to walk the rest of the way I'd have missed the start of the marathon as well as having the extra mileage in my legs when starting out. Thankfully Anto had me at the track with half an hour to spare to race start. After what was a stressful day all I had to do now was run a marathon around a 400m lap through the night...and this was supposed to be the easy bit??!

Waiting for the off...
Marathon One
With ten minutes to go before midnight the organisers made a few short announcements and then introduced all the runners to their lap counters - poor unfortunate souls who volunteered to stay up through the night just to count how many laps we were doing! Each counter had 5 runners to tally for and my assigned lap counter was David. A quick hello and then we were lined up at the start.
We should be in Coppers by now!
About 6 minutes after midnight we were set off. Not knowing how I'd be feeling in the afternoon I decided to run the first few laps with Eamonn. Using my new 310XT I set the AutoLap function to 'By Position - Start' which meant every-time I passed the start line it automatically lapped. This was my first time using this function and it proved to be very useful. There was to be 95 laps in total as we were starting in Lane 6.5! Every one of those 95 laps would entail the following conversation being repeated as I passed the start/finish line:
        Me: David?
        David: Got ya John.
And that was it! I'm pretty sure there weren't many times when our brief lines overlapped as in fairness to him he was on the ball every-time. 

The early laps saw a lot of people pass us out as the excited energy was used up. I had no target in mind apart from leaving myself in a position to be ready to go again 11 hours later. After about 10 laps (4km) I found myself pushing on a little bit. I was careful to keep the HR in a very relaxed 'recovery' zone but thankfully the pace was increasing at the same time. By now I was lapping around sub 5:20/km and this lasted for 50 more laps. I briefly flirted with the idea of aiming for a 3:45 finish time but soon dismissed this thought and refocused on the main goal of finishing strong.
That's what 95 laps of a track does to your Garmin profile!
Halfway came and went without any issues. The constant passing and being passed was helping to keep me distracted from the monotony of doing laps. Also, every so often short conversations struck up between runners but as the race wore on this too faded away. The early front running was being driven by Rory Mooney who seemed to be cruising around the place. Unfortunately for Rory though he succumbed to an injury/illness around halfway. He wasn't the only one to do so and there were some notable DNF's during the night, most of whom had raced in Portumna the previous week. The high effort & mileage combined with the grass track and doing laps meant that there was a a particularly high rate of attrition during this marathon.

Overtaking on the inside 
I was probably one of the few people who actually enjoyed the lap aspect of this run. Apart from a few times during the race when I paused for water at the aid station I kept a reasonably consistent effort going. Then with about 9 laps to go I knew I'd be grand to finish so I started doing a little arithmetic in my head and discovered that I would be close to the 4hr mark if I pushed it a little over the remainder. I upped the effort slowly over the next few kms and managed to finish pretty strongly on the last couple of laps. Unfortunately though by the time I finished my last lap the time read as 4:01:11 so just missed out. When I looked at the total distance though I found that the 95 laps actually measured 44.3km - 2.1km long! I didn't care one jot about what the actual distance was (GPS watches have a certain amount of inaccuracy in a straight line but when you introduce the curvature of each lap then the inaccuracy is going to be further increased) but I was happy to know that this was effectively a sub 4hr marathon done at an average HR of 137 bpm - Recovery zone! 

Very happy with this my only issue now was how to get home, or at least get a bit of kip somewhere. Luckily I managed to get a couple of hours on a couch and then a lift home to my place. By the time I got home it was almost 7am so after fixing the puncture on my bike I hit the hay but knowing that I'd have to be up again so soon I couldn't fall asleep. This all meant that I was up out of bed again by 10am - 6hrs after the marathon finish and with just two hours sleep on a couch - and managed to arrange a lift from a friend to Leixlip for round two at 1pm!

Marathon Two
My lift to Leixlip was running a bit late so we drove straight to the race start itself at Furey's of Moyvalley. Soon after the bus load of fellow marathoners arrived. There was 12 of us who ran through the night and three newbies. I was in good spirits as I was waiting and, apart from a little stiffness in the muscles, generally I was still quite fresh all things considered.
We ran a little to the left, turned and then a lot to the right!
We were walked a few hundred metres to the start before a brief overview of the course from Jarlath & Brendan. Essentially it was run 3.5 miles Westwards and then turn before running 22.7 miles Eastwards, all the while beside the Royal Canal! With probably the most low-key start I've ever witnessed we were set off! 

The first few kms to the turnaround point was easy enough going but the wind was primarily in our faces. The gang quickly strung out into a group of 6 of us with a few ahead and a few behind. By the turnaround point I was plodding away quite comfortably so I found myself gently drifting away from the group of six. 
Early days.
Even though I was feeling pretty good the outside of my right knee was beginning to hurt. I was wearing the new Innov8s for this run (wore Kayanos last night on the track marathon) because I was advised so much of it was to be on trail/mud/grass. However, I was finding that most of it was actually gravel so far and the grassy bits were easily firm enough for a pair of road shoes. As a result I had less cushioning for my feet than normal so I was feeling all the pressure points of pebbles and stones coming through the sole and also the sensitive blisters on my feet being impacted upon by the terrain. My knee was still the bigger issue though. I wondered if this was associated with the constant pushing off my right foot for the 4 hours of  anti-clockwise looping last night? The pain was probably only a 4/10 though so while it was annoying it wasn't enough to force me to stop.
Going solo.
I passed Furey's on the return leg where Brendan & Jarlath were waiting for us with bottles of water just as I was contemplating going to my backpack for a sip - perfect timing! Here we had to cross the old N4 road and down the far bank. The grassy section started in earnest here. This single-track also contained lots of protruding roots from the trees which were another obstacle to overcome. The going along here was quite a bit slower as a result. After 14 km I slowed to a walk for this first time so as to take on board some food from my backpack and some more water. It was here that the gang of 5 passed me. All still in good spirits they were sticking to a good consistent pace. Once I got back running I had them in view for another few kms but my next stop was before theirs so they then went out of sight.

I passed through Enfield after 17km where Brendan was present again with bottled water. Then halfway came at Cloncurry Bridge where I met Jarlath with water, jellies and bananas. Really great organisation from the lads! We changed onto the right bank at this crossing and 200m in the distance I saw the G5 who had slowed to a march as they were taking on food. I thought I might be able to catch them up but by the time I was 100m from them they picked it up to a jog and soon the gap started widening again. The second half of my run then became a trade-off between little walking breaks and running. I was now consciously using this as practice for Belfast. It really hit me for the first time around here that even though I was physically in a good state (The knee was still a 4/10 and hadn't gotten any worse) all desire to stop and walk was purely mental. I was allowing myself a walk of 500m or so every 3km. I felt that was a decent trade-off between remaining in good shape and getting to the finish line.

Not long after this I found myself on probably the toughest section of tow path - the grass hadn't been cut low in this location so more care had to be taken in case you stepped on anything in the undergrowth that might twist your ankle. Around here was when the rain first arrived. Torrential downpours which lasted about 15 minutes, there wasn't even a decent tree to take shelter under! By the time it passed my shirt was saturated so I changed it for my jacket as I was also beginning to get cold now. This exchange worked a treat and before long I was snug again.

Finishing times for Marathon #2.
As I passed through Kilcock there was some kind of festival going on with lots of people milling around and several kids playing canoe polo on the canal. No time to stop and soak up the festival I just ploughed on through. I was surprised how far Enfield was from Kilcock but knew Maynooth was now halfway to the finish so I just focused on hitting the Harbour there and then all that was left was the run-in to the finish. I hadn't long passed the entrance to Carton House when I started to wonder if the course would end up measuring long. How far away was the finish line really? I was still in mid-thought when I looked up and noticed a towering modern bridge over the canal. My next reaction was to seek out Intel's building and lo and behold there it was. I knew I was very close to the finish now. I upped the pace for the last 800m but when I rounded the bend I couldn't see any finish line up ahead. Then I thought I'd have to go all the way to Louisa Bridge and then double-back around for the Le Cheile clubhouse, leaving me over a mile left. Briefly my heart sank before I got close enough to see that one of the fishermen was in fact Brendan sitting on the bank of the canal and a small 'Finish' sign in the bushes beside him. This was it! All over at last - in excess of 85km ran inside 18 hours, or 8hrs 42mins running time.

I had a brief chat with Brendan before stumbling the 200m to the clubhouse for a much cherished hot dog and refreshments and a chat with the G5 who had finished about 15 mins earlier. Happy with a good days running under my belt, I got a lift home and all set for an evening of lazing on the couch. Before all that though reality reared it's ugly head again when I discovered that my incapacitated car was now clamped to add to my misery! All that could wait 'til the morning however as this evening was to be a stress-free zone!

Sunday, 23rd June, 2013 - 8.9km Recovery run (5:36/km)
Thought I'd sleep like a log and I suppose I did for a while but by 7am I was awake and couldn't get back to sleep. Again I was feeling remarkably ok and managed to do a few chores around the apartment in the morning, before trying to get the clamping situation sorted out. I won't go into the detail here but if anybody would like to hear me rant about NCPS for a couple of hours giz a call!

I went out for a run in the evening though and the sore knee from yesterday was still prominent for this run. I thought my pace was a little quick but the garmin disagreed and suggested I was actually going around 5:30/km pace. It felt much quicker but I guess my mind was comparing it to the trail run rather than normal speed ranges. From halfway around my 8.9km loop the knee started to get worse and for the final two km it developed into a pronounced limp (6/10) so I was happy to eventually get home. I'll give it a short run-out today but if it is still as sore then a bit of run-free recovery may be required.

For now though, it's back to the real world and dealing with bloody car troubles!

Note: All photos by kind permission of Rory & Peter Mooney.

Week 25 Summary:
RTW: 5 from 7 days
DTW: 112.7km
DTY: 2003.7km


  1. Not a bad effort - makes up for your DNF in Portumna, that's for sure.

  2. Not sure if it makes up for Portumna to be honest Thomas but taking it as a standalone exercise I was happy with the effort.