From Dermot Slyne
July 6th 2022 I’m on a bike heading up the Col du Galibier in the French alps, the same type of bike I’ve been on for the previous 12 months because of a stress fracture in my arse caused by over use and glutes not pulling their weight I’m told ……anyway its day 5 of this trip and the terrain is hard, and getting harder, its incessantly hot , I try not to look up ahead as its not great looking up at this point ! I feel like I’m on the edge of not being able to pedal anymore and close to full on bonk and then I start thinking about the London Marathon in 2018 , yes that was harder than this wasn’t it and we still kept going …..after about 10 minutes thinking about something similar but worse I managed to regain some energy and actually “enjoyed” the final 10km of a brutal but iconic climb. Irrespective of such hardship I really enjoy the mountains and the bike but like the lad who’s been off the smokes for years and has a sneaky one after a few pints the brain don’t forget ………..and so it was the following day, I’m on the plane home and I’m thinking about the Galibier and how hard I found parts of it and I remember my remembering the bloody London Marathon ………..
I had an entry for Berlin 2021, in my head it was probably going to be my last serious effort at a PB in the marathon but two months out I got that stress fracture. In October 21 I got an email saying if I wanted to re-enter 2022 ………I paid the discounted entry fee , looked at flights in January 2022 but with still a pain in my ass I said I’d wasted enough money and let it go …………let it go that was until we’re on that plane home from France and my brain had the taste of “ marotine “ remembering why I was remembering London Marathon cycling up a mountain ……….the entry to Berlin comes across my mind like the smell of a John Player blue outside mass on a sunny Sunday morning after that inadvertent drag the night before , the smell , fresh and distinctive triggers the brain like a burger to a Labrador , your left with little choice other than to cave in and take one when offered by a fellow soldier …………
When I got home I take two or three days to see if the feeling will pass but by Sunday morning its still there so instead of going for the bike I decide to do a 10 mile trail run in Kilmurray woods, its hard, my ass hurts but now thankfully not from the stress fracture but the remnant of too much time on the saddle. So I make a deal with my legs that if we can reach 20 miles by sometime in August we’ll book them flights and do Berlin 2022………..the legs and arse want no stress , so no Tuesday track , no tempo runs , no marathon pace and no cycling so to keep my side of the deal I decided to keep a tab on the effort by keeping all runs under 140 bpm ……….bit of an arbitrary figure but it’s around where I feel my breathing change from little effort to some effort …….. The contract didn’t mention no hills so that’s what we were left to work with. Must say the first couple of long runs over the 10 miles were hard going and took quite a few weeks of daily running to get the road resilience back into the legs. However, once that happened things stated to improve and get a little easier so I could again enjoy running
Nearing end of August I was up to 18 miles after few runs around Bandon with Darren Casey and 1 around the city with Dowling and Leahy. Leahy after 5 miles into that 18 miler just looked at me and said u could run 3;30 and look around u or 3:15 and feel a bit of pain which is what you should be feeling running a marathon! I was now under a bit of pressure so kept my mouth shut about my “3:45 will do” LIV marathon training plan which I had been thoroughly enjoying until now! Anyway, I was now also heading to Croatia for two weeks holidays and 3:45 was back on the agenda as I had made my mind up that no marathon was coming between me PIVO and Dalmatian cuisine ………. decided no long runs on hols but I would get up early every morning knock 1000 calories off the daily 3000 calorie tucker intake, limit my PIVO to 2/3 per evening, fill the void with red wine and eat like I was going to be running two ultras. Reading Jan Ullrich book during the day seemed very appropriate, on one hand I was eating and drinking like Noah’s Ark was leaving while in the morning the search continued for Bombenform ! Amazingly when I got home, I was only up 3kg, approx. half the damage I expected ………..I think the heat helps dissipate the alcohol but that’s only based on reading about Tony Adams, Paul McGrath and Bryan Robson who were players I admired for their ability to operate in a zone only occupied by those on the extreme end of a special bell curve! …………. still on my first and only 20 miler two days after coming home and two weeks out I noticed those 3KG up Rafeen hill as Dowling disappeared into the torrential rain! I was bate after it and HR had gone way up for last 6 miles trying to keep up with him , Dowling was toying with me and enjoying it but I got dragged thru the 20 when I might have gone for the car earlier ! ………..anyway we had a deal with legs. 20 miles by end of august and we were going to Berlin ………two weeks behind schedule, hadn’t told legs but flights had been booked after the 18 miler before holidays anyway.
23rd Sep 2022
Flight from Dublin airport, meet Conor friend of V O’Sullivan Beara on steps of plane, arrange to meet after, he’s trying sub-3, I’m on the spot now …. I’ll be round 3:20 says I (WTF per mile is that I think?)
On plane we meet Siobhan Holland down the back with all the messers, Siobhan is running marathons like they are going out of fashion, and you know she’s ready as she looks relaxed, carefree and reading a book.! I’m frantically dividing 200 minutes by 26.2 to see if I’ll be able to meet Conor for pints! Anyway, off plane and with typical German efficiency we are at the Hauptbahnhof central station within an hour and all for 3:80 euro! Hotel is next door so very handy for getting round.
Out to an old airport on Saturday morning for the expo………….bit of a queue fest compared to other big marathons, as usual got a couple of Adidas tops and we were back at checkpoint Charlie for 2pm , coffee, museum tour and walk around , then dinner near hotel in a nice Italian ………usual pasta bread and double expresso . Didn’t sleep very well and rarely do the night before but I’ve banked a lot of sleep over my lifetime so one night never matters!
25th Sep 2022
7:00 am up and at it. Quick bread roll with ham and cheese, new battery in my 1-day battery HR monitor and away we go at 7:30am. Nice fresh cool morning, no wind and perfect conditions. Enjoyed the build-up and the organisation in the TierGarten was excellent, spent a bit of time at the start watching German TV presenter get her make up done, I need some of that stuff that made her hair stand up like she was in a wind tunnel! Wasn’t long till 9:15 and main lads were off. Was in pen two but had dropped back so 9:23 crossed start line …………. having not ran a race in nearly 3 years I had been thinking my best bet to enjoy and finish this in one piece was to go off below same HR I had used to train with. I was also aware this was Berlin and my admiration for the Germans is well known, they are direct , don’t talk shite , have a ruthless streak but at the same time they are straight up and look and sound efficient even if they aren’t…………..in other words I wanted to run this like a German not an American ! ………..I did a test run the previous Tuesday, like a ramp test they call it where I ran six miles increasing effort and HR over the 6 miles, was surprised how well I felt ………..so my plan was something similar …………5 blocks (4 x 5 miles and 6.2 miles) where I would increase HR by effort (irrespective of pace) every 5 miles until 20 miles and then let it rip like the Swedish covid professor ! So, after two miles my HR was showing 165 but I kind of knew it was wrong as my breathing was fine. I had stupidly bought my phone and put it in my gel belt but it was adding too much weight and was making the belt fall down…………..had to keep holding it till mile 4 when I knew Jacqueline would be near our hotel, pulled over stopped watch and gave Jacq the phone and a thumbs up, she was kind of wondering why I took so long to get this far, a real confidence booster! When I restarted watch it reconnected to hr Strap and the HR was back to 140 …….threw in a few efforts to verify and it would rise and lower so I now knew it was right and had it on dual screen mile LAP pace/distance and LAP HR. HR to me is running off feel but it just puts a number on the feel and sometimes feel isn’t really feel as you can talk yourself into feeling great when you’re not or vice versa ! ……….the HR don’t lie if accurately measured and understood. AT mile 5 first gel down the hatch, took me ages to open it but felt the caffeine hit immediately, feel my brain can compute like a computer at this stage! HR was still around 145 so I increased effort a little up to but still below 150 till mile 10. Was starting to pass good few runners already so kept an eye on HR and just as long as it stayed below 150 on each mile I just ran away. At mile 10 gel number 2, still felt good so decided to leave HR drift as far as 155 with a bit more effort ………. through halfway in 1:38 this was my first view of any overall time or overall pace ………. Had asked Mark Murphy on last long run what Boston Q was for an auld lad, and he said 3:15 ………Leahy had more or less given me a look of disdain at the same time that morning, his eyes saying I shouldn’t be bothered running it unless I went under 3:15! So, I knew a 1:36 second half would put me around there …………mile 14 and 15 for some reason weren’t the best, I had a few negative thoughts (26 minus 14 being the worst one ) but used previous experience of way worse situations in marathons and this wasn’t long making me forget! Vapor fly’s so much more comfortable than blisters @mile 11 in a pair of concrete hugging Asics DS trainers! ………Mile 15 , gel no.3 and HR range was now going to go from 155 to <=160 ………….took a bit more noticeable effort here to up HR but was now starting to pass more runners, at mile 16 and with 10 to go I notice mile lap pace was now coming close to 7min pace ………….had a thought that maybe I could manage a sub 70 10 mile but then remembered my strategy was 5 mile blocks so under 160 HR till mile 20 and then the final 6.2 miles ………had to be patient here as I was now starting to feel good but having no real hard running done in over 12 months I wasn’t sure I’d be able to increase pace for final block …………gel no 4 at 18 miles and I felt this one in my veins , maybe it’s the caffeine but I hadn’t taken a gel since mile 21 of DCM in 2019 and really get a benefit of them in marathons ………..maybe its in my head but that’s the most important place for marathons for me anyway ………….so nearly at mile 20 I’m happy to see HR is still holding around 158/9 and I know I can at least hold 165 on the bike for ~ 40 mins as recently as June …………..so when mile 20 beeps I visualise myself leaving Coachford and taking a right for Bealnamorrive on my way to Johns well and the climb to the top of Mushera ! Passing more and more runners now the HR drifts above 160 almost immediately but I keep it steady for a mile or two dropping last gel at mile 21 until I see mile 22 beep at 6:53 pace ………its time to let the HR rip now and my legs feel a bit more freedom from the increased pace and the bounce from the vapor fly runners now becomes more obvious ……….HR is now at 166 with 3 miles left so I know I can easily hold this if my legs keep turning ………mile 25 and traveling steady , I’m in that part of the marathon now that makes you want it to both finish asap and go on for longer……..this is the part for me anyway that makes you eventually want to do another one …….its the feeling , the way the miles just pass faster like kilometres and the freedom to just throw caution to the wind as you cant blow up now and make the thing a real pain fest ! At mile 25 I throw away my Gatorade 500ml bottle that had water and a salt tab, almost empty 500ml was more than enough (carried it from start and avoided all chaos at water tables with cups along with the 90 degree elbow angle at shoulder height technique through all water stops, the amount of people who go right and then make a sudden turn left for water was unreal, only one lad caught the elbow but he’d have taken me clean out otherwise! ………. nearing the top of Mushera HR was now up to 168 /169, not having to hang on to ROC or Mike Forde this isn’t too bad, I think! we are running on big wide streets, under the Brandenburg Gate and 200 metres more on near perfect tarmac this is a great finish, still passing runners here like they are standing, I’m thinking I need to go back to the track and do a few 800’s as this is fun! …………under the banner with a wave to the camera man, stopped and took in the finish line atmosphere for a minute or two, have realised more lately you never know when your last one is ………. stopped watch at 3:12:30 felt very happy with that given where I had been or hadn’t been with running over the previous 14 months ………..really thought I was done and probably would have been only for a deferred entry to a brilliant marathon on what is defiantly the fastest course I’ve ever ran …….pan flat few pulls here and there but compensated for by slight declines as well. Great city, great route and support while not like London or NY is still superb and the feeling of big city marathon with Kipchoge an hour up the same road makes this a super event for sure.
Went for an immediate analgesic after meeting Jacqueline in the meeting area who was impressed that I had come out of my first 5-mile slumber and actually had done a bit of running ……….no medals handed out here, a tougher agent you’d be hard pressed to find! Jacqueline had Siobhan on the tracker as well, I’m wondering looking at my Pils is she’s behind me or in front of me! A super run of 3:19 for Siobhan and first Cork woman home I find out since! Stretched on a beach chair on the banks of the Spree I could have stayed all day, but Jacqueline eventually moved me, and we went back to hotel, quick shower, change and off to the Hackescher market area, a nice area of courtyards with shops, pubs and outdoor cafes. Met Conor whose first marathon didn’t go to plan but with the help of copious analgesic inducing Pils and discussing the modern LIV marathon training methods for washed GAA players we had Conor down to 2:49 by 8pm and improving rapidly thereafter! Deutschland Uber Alles.