After the Berlin marathon in September 2014, I have been in Europe for the most part. This meant that I left the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere just about when winter was about to start. In Wellington (NZ) winters are not that bad compared to some other places but still the effect of darkness, rain and cold inevitably has an effect. Add another winter in the northern hemisphere to that and it becomes pretty demoralising overall. The time spent in Galicia from September to January 2015 was broken up by a few short visits to Portugal where it was comparatively sunny and warm. Then I was in NZ to get a little taste of summer for about 16 days in January before heading back to Europe to base myself in Amsterdam from February.
In my life I am lucky to be among some great people, runners and non-runners who have helped to get me through some tough times. We all have ways in which we cope, for me the constant has been running. Some might say that it’s not good to rely on this, but it works for me and therefore I am most comfortable with that as my outlet when things got really tough.
During the winter months in the northern hemisphere I have come to appreciate the simple notion of running, no set mileage targets or any special workouts that I had so religiously followed in the past. Partly this has been due to me getting used to being in a different place, learning different ways and also sometimes my own doubts and fears. Often enough I get caught in the trap of seeing someone else’s Strava run and thinking – “oh I used to run more than that person”. This negative thinking is then attributed to the rain, cold or whatever excuse that I can find. But the truth is I am my own blocker and enabler. I choose to run because I want to and not to compare my efforts or my mileage to anyone else’s. So I just ran, in the cold, in the wet when I could and often with mixed emotions of not having the comfort factor of the lush green trails that I am so used to from Wellington. Nevertheless I kept going, sometimes I’d think about all the times I used to run through the trails I am so familiar with against the dark grey drab of an urban sprawl of the city. I knew that I had signed up for the Vienna City Marathon, so the motivation of visiting a new place in spring and a marathon kept it all in balance.
Less was more but not quite enough
In terms of training – or more appropriately my preparation I had a goal of 70km a week of running. This was a drop of about 20% of my usual average mileage, however just enough to have a bit of substance. The theory behind this number was that it would be a good base number with some 80+Km weeks added when I could afford to or could be bothered. This being my 4th Marathon, I had an arbitrary goal of finishing in 3hrs 15min in mind. I figured a -3min improvement from the previous effort of 3:18 in May 2014 (Rotorua) would be attainable if I put in a longer training timeline but with reduced mileage per week. It almost worked!
The preparation consisted of a pretty loosely coupled 25 weeks. Yes that’s a long stretch, but in my circumstances all I was interested was getting out and running as time allowed. This stretch was also broken down by a few half marathon events with the goal being to run under 90mins or better on each. The first was in Galicia in the 9th week of the Vienna build up. The half marathon event was a ‘free’ event put up by a local council and attracted a decent amount of runners. Media Maratón Volta a Ria de Ferrol was completed in 1:28 on December 14, 2014. This was a good indication that my overall base fitness was being maintained.
In between the preparation time the longest runs topped off at 30kms. Roughly these 30km runs were in 2:30-45 and the occasional slow 3hrs. Compared to my previous marathon preparation which included many 35km runs and one 46km run before Rotorua in 2014 this was relatively less. During the build up there was another half marathon in (Coruña21 – Half Marathon on 22nd February 2105) and a few other trail running events in between. The last longish run before the Vienna marathon was Costa Trail de Oleiros on the 22nd of March (read about it on whatrunnersdo.com).
Vienna could have been. But was not
Heading to Vienna I was not feeling all that confident, typically I go to events with an open mind but this time it was different for whatever reason and I couldn’t put a reason to it. In the outset I felt good but inside I was doubting myself a lot.
Since I was travelling from Amsterdam getting to Vienna was relatively easy and we left on Friday morning and arrived there in the afternoon. As the first thing that was required was to get the race numbers so we headed to the Marathon expo at the “Messe Wien”.
There was as usual a lot of exhibitors promoting sports related merchandise. We picked up our numbers and did a round of the expo and headed back to our apartment we were staying at. We stayed at an apartment close to the finish line which we found via AirBnB. This was a much better option than staying at a hotel in my opinion as you get to make your own food and you almost feel at home.
We did some sightseeing on Saturday after doing an easy jog to check out the finish area of the Marathon. The weather was so nice and warm, this was the warmest I had felt well in over 6 months being outside in the sun. After that we went to the official ‘Pasta Party’ and mingled with thousands of other runners who were there for the occasion.
Marathon day in the morning we caught the metro to the start which was across the Donau river. It was slightly chilly but wasn’t cold. It took us about 40mins to get to the start area, and we arrived quite early at the start. We handed in our drop bags and sat around the start area with thousands of other runners listening to various conversations in different languages. We were in the wave 1 start area given our goal was to run 3:15 or thereabouts. Whilst waiting for the start, I got ‘interviewed’ by a local TV station but I doubt that if I made the cut to make it to the national news. I kept saying exactly the opposite of what the lady wanted me to say, which was “tell me where you are from and that you are running the Vienna marathon” after 3 attempts I think she must have thought I was an idiot.
We got into a pretty comfortable easy start and cruised through the first 10-12kms in about 4min 30sec or so pace. It was getting warmer as we went by around the 16km marker and I had the feeling that this was going to be tougher towards the end if it got warmer. I started taking lot of fluid and also emptied water over my head at each water stop to keep things relatively cool.
We were hitting our goal pace quite easily and cruised through the half marathon mark around 1hr 35mins. Pretty much on target for what we wanted to run with some margin that we may get slower towards the end. By the time we hit 30kms I was feeling my left leg spasm quite a bit. I slowed and this became more frequent eventually making me stop at around 31kms at a water station. This was my complete undoing as I took some water and electrolyte and tried to get back into a rhythm my legs just refused to play along. I somehow managed to run another 2kms in equal splits of 4:40 or so and then the cramps started really badly in my calves. It was not pleasant at all and eventually I had to stop and walk. My left leg was in immense pain, and essentially I had to stop multiple times, so I walked/hobbled for another 2-3kms. Looking at my splits you can see the difference it makes as you slow towards the end and the net effect it has on your overall average pace. I hobbled to the finish in 3hrs 27mins pretty much the same time I ran my first marathon in 2013 in Wellington. Overall I had run a pretty even splits up until cramps hit around 31kms. Quite a few lessons learnt on this marathon outing for sure.
For now I am not planning any races apart from keeping some base fitness level. Possibly look at doing a faster half marathon but that can wait. You can also go checkout more from the Vienna marathon at whatrunnersdo.com.