My Marathon story for 2015 – Daniel Gould

My Marathon story for 2015.

Marathon PB – 4:14:43 Edinburgh 2013

Firstly a massive thank you to FRR for giving me the opportunity to have another bash at London. Last year was a bad day at the office for me, so to get the chance to bury that ghost and more importantly represent our great club in the big one was a dream come true.

My story really begins last October when having been rejected from the ballot I opted to enter Brighton with Daniel Shanks. Before we knew it we had a group of FRR’s on board (Steven King, Lucy Sheehan and my long term crazy event partner Darren Cook) and this was to be my target race for 2015. I decided to change my training quite radically from last year, upping the mileage and tweeking my diet to teach myself to burn fats instead of glycogen, reducing my need for gels and hopefully avoiding the “wall”. I purchased “Advanced Marathoning written by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas as I’d heard it discussed on marathon talk (a weekly podcast that if you don’t subscribe to, you really should). Once the book arrived, I couldn’t put it down, it seemed to be describing all the things that I felt were going wrong for me over the longer distances. The only problem I could see was the shortest weekly mileage programme would see me peak at 55 miles in a week. At the time this was about 30 more than I had previously done, but maybe the extra miles were what I needed to teach my body to deal with the challenge of going sub 4?

I spent a weekend keying in the runs to my diary so I didn’t need to think about what I was doing, my phone would let me know each day what I was up to. This really worked for me, as I then put all the other events in my life around the running. I decided that I trained better as a triathlete than a pure runner and opted to throw in two swims a week on recovery days to keep me reasonably supple, this combined with 3 sessions of core and 2 strength workouts I hoped would be enough to stave off injury. I also embarked on some regular flexibility exercises after any run over 10k. The benefits were immediate. I found I could go for a double figure run, stretch properly (I’m talking 24 minutes here) then get out of bed the next day, feeling reasonably ok to go again. I also made the decision to cut down on the grog (not stop completely), as all the research I had done into nutrition and diet was indicating that with the training load I would be taking on, I simply needed to give my body the best chance of coping with it and repairing itself. Finally as a safety net, I trained to go 3:45, rather than 4 hours as my experience had told me that over such a distance things inevitably go wrong, if I had some spare time, even on a less than perfect day I could still go under 4 hours.

On November 25th I had my name pulled from the hat by Richard Farnworth. That threw a spanner in the works, do I ditch Brighton and just focus on London? Or could I train hard enough to cope with two marathons in 2 weeks? I’d watched in awe as Darren done it in 2014, smashing his PB at Brighton and going 9 minutes slower at London the following week. Why couldn’t I do that? He’s not superhuman, just has a massive desire to never quit. I knew I had that at Thunder Run last July. On one of the six 10K laps, I realised that what I lacked in pace I made up for in commitment and mental strength. The double was on!

So December 8th was day 1, I clocked 116.5 miles from then until the end of the year, my Monday morning swim, seemed to aid recovery from the long run of the day before and all was well, January came and I managed 200.3 miles in a month, numbers I had only dreamed of in the past. No niggles, each run I done was tough and testing, but this is what I wanted. I had to skip a couple of Tuesday night FRR sessions as I simply couldn’t make the sessions fit in with the programme. But to be honest of an 18 week programme, there were only three that I had to miss.

In early February I secured a place for the Great Bentley half by the back door, but this would be the first test. At the time my PB was 1:49:15. I felt that I needed to get somewhere near 1:45 to keep my sub 4 dream alive. I got a 1:45:29 with a massive sprint finish against Lee Crisp at the finish line. Just the boost I needed to prove the effort going in was paying results. 2 weeks later I was on the start line at Tarpley for the first of three 20 milers that I had entered. The plan was to run with Rachel Crisp, a nice slow 10 minute mile run which I extended by a mile warmup to psychologically go further than 20. Rachel didn’t run that day, but I didn’t find out until minutes before the off. What to do? The power of the club again. Paul Schwer and AJ were planning to go around in sub 3. My PB for 20 at the time was 3:10:29. I wasn’t sure if this was a too much of a step up. I would add that this week was the highest mileage of the campaign and at the end of this race I would have run 65 miles. Still you don’t know if you don’t try, so I agreed to have a go at holding on to them at 9 minute pace for as long as possible. I was feeling surprisingly comfortable up to mile 10 when AJ darted off for a wee stop. Paul and I carried on, picking up a couple of ladies who quite fancied being on our 3 hour bus. By mile 16 I wasn’t feeling tired at all, in fact I was getting stronger. Paul happily let me take up the pacing role and we pushed on. By mile 18 we were within touching distance and I could hear Dave Solomon in my head, reminding me that I’d worked too hard to this point to miss it by seconds at the end. As we climbed a hill I didn’t let up pace and when I looked back for Paul and Fiona (one of the ladies) I was alone. Unplanned as it was, I started to empty the tank. My final mile was 7:46 and I felt awesome. I finished in 2:56:59 (remember that 56:59 bit, it comes up later). This was the turning point for me. To get to 20 and still feel this good meant that what I had been doing was working. To add to this 5 days later I was tasked with a flat out 10k in a training run. I PB’d by 37 seconds, running solo around Ipswich dodging pedestrians and traffic. All this was adding up to a real belief that I could go sub 4.

I managed 206.4 miles in February, a new high and my high mileage had started to attract attention from Robin Harper which added some additional spice into the training (all in good fun).

March signalled an increase in the speed work, but still keeping up with the long runs.

I started off well when I smashed my 5K PB at parkrun, which had stood since August 2013. I got it down to 21:36 from 22:04 (the 22:04 was assisted by Dave Solomon and cost me an appendix, but that’s another story). Another sign that I was coming into form.

The following day was the Essex 20, this one I needed to hold back on. Lesley Cooper had mentioned that she had her own demon to slay from Langham the year before and I offered to help her pace round. I thought this would also hold me back from hurting myself too much. How wrong I was, Lesley was an animal uphill, to the point that I had to let her go and rely on my downhill pace to catch up the lady I was supposed to be pacing! It was a good race for both of us, she didn’t really need me at all, until the last stages of lap 3, where once more I was pleased to be feeling strong coming up to 20 miles. Lesley PB’d by some 22 minutes I think, and to thank me, she purchased a new running vest for me to wear at Brighton and London. I on the other hand had another 21 miles in the bag and was still feeling able to go on.

The next week was the Wymondham 20 and I had this in mind for a good go at a PB. I planned to run it at marathon goal pace (8:30 a mile) this would have worked had I not got ill that week. At the club night on the Tuesday I was spent. I skipped Wednesday, Friday and Saturday runs (21 miles in total), hoping I’d be fixed by Sunday.

Wymondham started well, I was holding pace, if not bang on 8:30’s then only just behind. I watched Shanksy disappear and was overtaken by Magic in full sprint explaining that he was only going for the one lap. Then Paul Schwer turned up again, this was Tarpley 2. Only this time I noticed that my heart rate was higher than normal to hold the same pace, by mile 11 I told Paul to push on without me, and I’d try and fix myself and see him in the later stages. At mile 14 I had a serious chat with a marshal about pulling out, my energy levels were depleted and things weren’t right. She convinced me it was only 10k to go, so I pressed on. Big mistake! Miles 18, 19 and 20 descended gradually into a lot more walking than running. I recorded 11:32, 12:02 and 13:05, my legs had nothing left, the mind was willing, but the body couldn’t deliver. The only positive I got from this was that mentally I had dealt with it. It must have been the virus still in me, I knew I wasn’t right, but I refused to DNF. All good mental training was what I told myself. Dust yourself down Shabbs, on to the next one. Only the next race was the Brighton Marathon.

March totalled out at 178.7, still high considering I missed 21 through illness, but by now Taper had begun and Brighton was on the horizon.

Brighton Marathon

As much as I enjoy the training, I also love the taper, I’ve learnt from the past that I simply cannot stop, I feel fat and unfit very quickly. So I prefer to continue to do as I have for the last few months except at a lot lower level. The runs are shorter, the weights and swim distance reduced. I do, however continue with the core work and flexibility. It keeps me strong in the later stages and stops me from feeling like I’m not working hard enough.

We travelled down as a group to Brighton, Lucy had found an apartment for the six of us to share (Michelle Gordon was down for carer duties) before Rachel and Ali had confirmed they too would be racing.  Magic also came down to support and entered the 10k with Michelle while they were there.

Sharing the apartment for me, was just brilliant. Too many times I’ve raced away from home and had to compromise on evening meals, or breakfast that I wouldn’t have chosen had I been at home. But because we were all down there to race, we all had the same motive and goal. Yes, we went to the pub beforehand, some of us even had a drink, but we then retired to the apartment on the Saturday night. I cooked a pasta meal and we all watched Ninja Warrior and gogglebox on tv before retiring to bed as and when we wanted to. The following morning, we were all able to follow our different pre race routines, again without compromise. This I’m sure helped me in my quest. I’m not one to suffer from maranoia, in fact I don’t really do worry, stress or concern. I just rock up, believe that I’ve done enough and get on with it. I must say it was an eye opener watching my club mates go through it. I won’t name names, they know who they are, but I hope that in some way the group vibe helped to calm those pre race nerves.

The race itself went to plan to a point. I wanted to head out at 9 min miles for the first 10, then up it to 8:45’s to 20 miles and try for 8;30’s in the last 10k. This would see me comfortably under 4 hours and even if I had to stop to answer natures call or something else, I would have built enough time in to still achieve the main aim.

By mile 10 I was ahead of desired pace, I had gone quicker on the downhill parts out of the town and had been holding a slightly higher average, I upped the pace as planned, but wasn’t quite as comfortable (but you’re not supposed to be are you). At mile 16 I was fighting hard to hold onto the 9’s. The temperature had been rising gradually during the race and I know that this affects me a lot. At 21 miles I made the decision to walk through the water stations and ensure I got enough fluids in. The drinks were in cups and I had spent most of the day tipping more over me than consuming. I also looked at the watch and worked out that 9 mins a mile would give me 4 minutes under the magic 4 hours.

As ever the final push home was tough, Magic and Michelle were waiting at mile 24, at which point I knew in my head it was on. I high fived them both and continued towards the pier as quick as I could go without blowing up.

With a mile to go, we left the prom and rejoined the main road, as I climbed the smallest incline I suddenly felt faint. I had been running quicker than needed, encouraged by the massive crowd lining the way. Again I checked the watch and made the immediate call to slow up, better to finish than get taken off the course by a marshal.

As I neared the line the clock was already showing 4:01, my heart sank for a moment then I remembered the chip. I swore at the clock and told it, I was under, head down and empty the tank to the line. I was very pleasantly surprised to see Lucy, Dan and Steven waiting for me. Lucy let out a cheer that I’d done it and ran to give me a hug, the next thing I heard was someone saying “Is he alright”, followed by “I haven’t got him, I haven’t got him” then an arm from each of the lads ensured I didn’t hit the floor.

3:56:25 Job done.

Next stop London.

The first of the two weeks inbetween the two races, was spent totally focused on recovery. I hardly ran, but swam a lot, extending it to 3 times a week and doing a long swim, instead of a medium run. My theory was I’d pump the bad stuff out of the body without putting any weight on my tired limbs and joints. I spoke to coach Goodwin, who informed me that I might be better to hit the parkrun at a good pace rather than a slow recovery as I had planned. I took his advice and hit it hard with Steven King (23:21). Once again I was feeling strong, but 5k is a lot different to 26.2.

Week 2, I followed the exact same plan as I had before Brighton, it had worked there so why not do the same? I ran 10 miles the Sunday before, swam on the Monday, took it easy at club on the Tuesday and gave myself a chance to get as well recovered as I could in the time available.

At club that week, I found myself jogging round with Dave Solomon who was recovering from his own marathon at Bungay a couple of days before (otherwise he’d be nowhere near me). I’ve known Dave for a good 20 years as we used to race together in the cycle speedway days. To say he’s always been competitive and focused on his training is an understatement. We were discussing my plans for London. Before Brighton, my plan was to run at London, but not for time, just to enjoy the experience, a lot more than I had the year before. However, I said I thought I ought to have a go at going faster. Dave pointed out that the start of the course at London is downhill and that I should capitalise on my strength here then hang on to it and see what happens.

I had several goals in mind.

  • Plan A    3:46 (just ahead of Daniel Shanks Brighton time)
  • Plan B    3:53 (just ahead of AJ’s Bungay time)
  • Plan C    3:56:24 (PB)
  • Plan D   Sub 4
  • Plan E    Beat the Rhino

The weather forecast showed strongly in my favour, if I was going to go quicker, this would be a great opportunity. The only question was how much had Brighton taken out of me?

London Marathon

The day finally arrived, we boarded the coach at Copdock and made our way down to London. For some reason I’d been feeling more nervous about this one that Brighton.  I’d even experienced Maranoia for the first time. Following my conversation with Dave on the Tuesday I tried in vain to locate the profile of the course, just to enable me to get a plan together in my head. Then it occurred to me that I ran it last year, the profile would be on Garmin Connect. I found it and that was when the panic set in. You see in my head the whole race was a disaster, I was in trouble from 10k and struggled to get round. The reality as I looked at the pacing chart and elevation was a very different story. I had actually set off on pace for four hours, it didn’t really go wrong until my first portaloo visit at around mile 10 (we later found out that Shanksy had overtaken me here). The agony continued, cumulating in another much longer visit to a second loo in the underpass at Mile 15. The rest was just a battle to finish. Not much fun, but I got a medal.

This filled me with fear, particularly as I planned on going quicker. For those of you who have not experienced this, all rational thinking goes out the window. It didn’t matter that I had run several races, practiced my nutrition and sorted my previous gut issues out. What if the gingerbread caught me again and messed with the plans? Was I being stupid trying to push harder on legs that already had a marathon in them? So many questions, only one way to answer them. Have a go and see what happens.

By the time Sunday came round, I had my head together and had a plan in place. I set off as planned 8:45’s then sped up on the downhill sections as Dave had suggested this bought me another minute and better than that I was feeling comfortable. The cool temperature was working in my favour. I somehow spotted Luke, Michelle and Lee in the crowd around mile 7, with the high five exchange complete I settled into a good rhythm, really running with the gradient rather than my watch. At each mile marker I checked the pacing band I was wearing. I’d gone for 3:50, in the hope that I might just sneak under it, and each time I was ahead. By the time I crossed Tower Bridge and seen Terri (my wife) and my little boy Fraser along with some noisy folk from FRR, I was 6 minutes ahead of my PB and still feeling ok. This despite a very rapid stop for a wee around mile 9. I was still doing ok to around mile 14, then the course turns off into Limehouse, the road narrows, there are speed bumps everywhere and to be honest, too many runners in the way! I ended up running at other peoples pace with limited chances to get past. As you know, I’m not the skinniest bloke around, so the gaps need to be fairly large to avoid me taking people out of the race. Mentally my head started to drop, I could see I wasn’t holding on to the 3:50, but I was still on for a PB. I’d take that. As I went through the underpass at mile 15, I stuck two fingers up at the portoloo I’d been in the year before. This put a smile on my face and renewed my energy for a short while. In fact from that moment on, whenever it got particularly tough I told myself how much better it felt than it did at this point last year.

At mile 21 I was starting to struggle. Even the sight of Luke and Lee swinging from a lamppost had only cheered me up for a few hundred metres. I wiped my hand over my face and realised it was covered in salt. Again from experience, I now always carry a sachet of dioralyte in my back pocket. I decided that I was flagging due to a loss of salts. I opted to slow right down and walk the next water station. I grabbed a bottle, added the powder, gave it a shake and downed the lot. The effect was pretty instant. Mile 20 was 9:03, 21, 9:15 and 22, 9:41 (I had walked to get the fluid in during this one) but 23 and 24 were both 8:59’s. The next thing was to see the family again. I knew I’d been struggling and I really didn’t want them to see me in bits desperately hanging on, so I took advantage of that long tunnel where the Lucozade stuff goes on, to have a serious chat with myself about what I was trying to achieve. A few more footsteps, bit of a stretch and I checked the watch again. Despite what had felt like a horrid time, I was still in touching distance of the PB. At this point I remembered Paul Schwer’s advice about running for time in a marathon. Plan to run 27 miles, big city events are always long because of the amount of people dodging required. This was going to be close. I set off with renewed energy, spotting the family and FRR crew on the Embankment, but I didn’t have the time to stop. I was trying to raise my pace to make up for the earlier lack of it. I told myself that when I got to Big Ben, I’d start to empty the tank. The Garmin tells me I recorded an 8.11 for the final run in.

In the end it wasn’t quite enough. I crossed the line in 3:56:59. Only 34 seconds slower than Brighton a fortnight ago. What a feeling!! The time didn’t matter, I’d actually come a very long way from the previous year and not only that but I’d proved that it wasn’t a fluke. I’d managed sub 4 twice!!

Job Done.

For the stat geeks amongst you….

My weight at the start was 15 stone 12 lbs, the day after London I was down to 14 stone 11lb. I also dropped my body fat percentage from 24% to 20%.

In terms of the number of runs I completed, check out the table below.

Distance Number ran during programme
3 2
4 8
5 11
6 13
7 7
8 8
9 5
10 6
11 2
12 9
13 1
14 4
15 2
17 2
19 2
20 1
21 3
26.2 2

In total I ran 833.8 miles from day 1 of the programme until I crossed the line at London.

Whilst you definitely don’t need this sort of a plan to get through a marathon it worked for me, hence why I’m sharing it. I’m certainly no expert in any of this stuff at all. The coaches at the club are the ones to ask. But if anyone gains something from my experience then that’s great. Sport has taught me a great many things over the years, it’s boosted my confidence, released my stress and kept me reasonably healthy. I’ve also gained lifelong friends. When I joined FRR it was with the sole aim of improving my running. It’s worked. But I have also met some great people, a number of whom may not even realise it, but have helped achieve what I wanted for this year. Thank you.

Would I do it again?

Hell yes!! But maybe a little bit quicker. See you on the start line next year somewhere…..

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