Lausanne Marathon 2018: Part 2
Updated: Oct 31 2018
The goal was set, I knew what I had to do. I knew what I had to eat. I knew what I had to do to recover. I knew what I had to wear. What I didn’t know was how was I going to be able to pay for that. I was still unemployed at that point, though I had a really positive lead on a potential job. And just having a job wouldn’t translate into a salary, a lot has to align in a foreign country including a job permit. I still continued to train, committing myself to the 18 week plan. I had racked up a lot of miles at a rather slow pace, so handling volume was not a problem for me. I just want to make this abundantly clear, right at the start, that I am someone who has a genetic predisposition to respond better to high volume. I DO NOT RECOMMEND YOU TO START RUNNING 100 MILE WEEKS, RIGHT OFF THE BAT. The pace I was training at had to change, obviously. Running slow is important but until your body is not used to running at high paces for longer distances, it won’t happen magically on race day. That’s common sense. Watching people boast about their LSDs (Long Slow Distance runs) makes me laugh because they don’t realize how some “coach” is gouging money from them, giving them absolutely scientifically wrong advice. Even in terms of time, your long runs need to be on and around goal race. You can trot around for 2.5 hours, thinking that’s what Kipchoge does. One of Kipchoge’s tempo long run, was for 2:14:00, but he covered 40k in the process. That is at a pace of 3:20/km, which as a percentage of his target pace (2:53/km for 2:01:39) comes out to be only 14% slower than his race pace. At this point I want to point out that my entire training log, is available for sale. It has every single (running) workout that I did over a period of 18 weeks. I have to add, that I did around an average of 1 hour of Cross-training and 20–30 minutes of stretching along with that. It is available for download for just 1 CHF a pop. If you want me to design a plan for your next marathon, that is up for negotiation too.
Back to the blog. Roughly, I made some clear distinctions on types and paces of the training runs: 1. Recovery runs (not more than 30% of goal marathon pace)
2. General aerobic runs (not more than 20% of goal marathon pace) 3. Medium-long runs (explained later) 4. Lactate Threshold runs (15k-21.1k race pace) 5. Long Runs (explained later) 6. Long Runs with goal marathon pace (-do-)
As for the medium-long and long runs, I chose differential pacing. Starting off with a 20% slower effort than marathon pace and building up to 10% of marathon pace, or in case on fast-finish runs, finishing them at marathon pace. Obviously, as my fitness levels went up my goal pace became faster but it was simple mathematics. July started with good news. I got offered a job and was supposed to start at the end of the month. My role was quite crucial to the organisation and it would mean a lot of work, but after being unemployed for 6+ months, I could afford to be overloaded. I was still going to have to rely on my parents for money, though. Atleast, for that month. And atleast till my permit got approved by the Canton. The immaturity in my behavior, the impulsiveness which had cost me dearly in my past, the nice guy who could be manipulated with a few kind words, that all had evaporated. I had learnt the true meaning of patience, the value of being discreet in the last few months. I could have cried a lot more on social media and made the world aware of my problems, but in the end, until I changed, nothing would. 25th June marked the start of the 18 week buildup. At the end of the 2nd week, I did a 17 mile long run, finishing the last 8 miles at the goal marathon pace (which at that time was 3:55 min/km). I won’t lie, it was hard. I went to the track because I wasn’t confident if I would sustain an effort like that on undulations. And by the time I was finished, I was pretty much drenched in sweat, feeling happy about the effort I had put in. The legs weren’t as tired and the lungs were beginning to adapt. One important thing to note is, I began to practise race-day nutrition even when I was this far-out from the goal race. In 2017, I had taken 5 gels to the race and come back home with 2, just because my body was unable to absorb any. And that had cost me during the race, I had bonked and I couldn’t swallow the gels to save my life. This time though, I wanted my body to be able to adapt to consuming gels when I wanted it to. The week after that, the long run was much faster and I felt fine enough to sneak in 2.1 miles in the afternoon, to complete my 1st 100 mile week of the training block (3rd of the year, 5th of my life). The week after that was another 100 mile week. And the week after that, I ran my 1st ever 30k (32k total) at Sub 4 min/km, that too on the roads. I didn’t have to go on the track, and when I reached 30k in around 1 hour 58 minutes, I had to shut my mind up because I just couldn’t believe it. Even in 2014–2015, I wasn’t this strong. And even at the end of the run (20 miles in 2:05:19), I was fairly comfortable to do another 10k in 38 odd minutes, having run the last 10 miles in around 61 minutes. Oh, and did I mention that this was the 3rd consecutive 100 mile week that I had run? (and cumulatively, the fastest of the 3?). I wanted to stand at the start line of the Lausanne Marathon in October, knowing that I had done everything in my power to have a good race. I didn’t want to finish the race and make up some excuse for not having performed to my potential because I could have done X number of things differently. If the weather was going to suck (which it did!), then so be it. I was done following the same pattern I had since 2015, making excuses for poor results and wanted to train myself to deal with any and all possible scenarios. My job had started, and the work was in full swing. Plus I had to cook. And clean. And do my cross training. Just to give you a brief cross section of my birthday week (6th to 12th August): I was supposed to travel on 11th to meet someone. Because I didn’t want to spend the weekend enforcing my long run on them, I decided to do the long run on a Saturday, and keep a shorter (10 mile) run on Sunday. And because I had to travel on Sunday morning, at 8, I had to finish my long run by 7. Now, like I said before, I eat 2 hours before my long run. Meaning, as I had to start at 5, I had to eat at 3. Which means, waking up at 2:30 to cook (or you can do it overnight, which is what I did). And we all are well aware of our stomach schedules and how you can’t force yourself to poop on 1 day. Your body has to adapt to a certain time-schedule. And as I didn’t want to stop and poop on my long run, I had to adjust my body clock’s pooping time to around 4 AM, which meant waking up for atleast 3 days consecutively at around 3:30 AM. When you have a job, and a pretty strict training schedule and you value your sleep things become a *little* tricky. The problem was that, there were some twice a day runs included that week, which I couldn’t afford to do because of the aforementioned variables. So I had to do them in 1 chunk. Sunday 5th of August was my last day of Recovery week 1, where I ended up running 4k more than I had to. (Total 30k, 1:58:56). On Wednesday, I had a double run day (24k @ medium-long run pace in the AM, and 8k @ Recovery in the PM). But if I spent that much time in the morning AND the evening, who would cook? and who would stretch? and what about core? So, just because of the circumstances, I ended up running the 20 miles in 1 go on Wednesday. (2:08:45) I came back home, went to work. Came home at lunch and cooked dinner. And then finished everything by 7 pm that day and went to bed by 8. And slowly, I moved up the sleeping time to 7:30 pm, by fitting in the workouts (and the runs) before work started at 9 AM. Saturday, 11th August, I turned 28. And I woke up at 3:00, headed out at 5:00, ran 20 miles in 2:12:30 (I was pretty tired by then, having racked up 110 miles including 3 long runs in the last 7 days). I came back home, showered and took the train to Zurich. I walked around the whole day in Zurich, got my core workout in the hotel and stretched before bed-time. Next day, I got up and on my 10.5 mile run along Lake Zurich, I surveyed the damage caused by drunk EDM festival fans. 102 miles for that week.
Hiked up after the 20 miler for this awesome view
The week after that, enroute another 100 mile week, I ran my (then) lifetime 10k best during a Lactate Threshold workout. Having run 4k for warmup, I ran 10k in 34:44 and then, let out a huge roar which scared the people training on the track. I ran 18k that day in 1:07:58, and if I had just jogged 3k more, I would have beaten my (then) 21.1k PB of 1:20:16. A thought crossed my mind “Do it, when will you be this close to your goal again?”, to which I respond “many other times”. The problem here, was that I was broke. I wasn’t officially going to be paid till the end of next week. I had borrowed some money from my flatmate (who helped me out rather generously, and I love him for that), but I had finished the money in Zurich itself (because it is so bloody expensive). I had a gift card for a local supermarket store (which I blogged about a long time back) and I sold my spare wheels, to have just enough money to feed myself what I actually wanted to eat. My office had some dark chocolate, which I would take home for dessert. No shame, it was just 1 small piece. 2–3 times. The end of week came, but because of certain technical issues, I wasn’t going to be paid till Monday. I had enough money to buy myself 1 tomato and 1 garlic. And I had run 22k that morning, was exhausted due to the training fatigue and the work, and I had to run 10 more kilometers in the evening. I called up my mother and started crying. I knew there was a light at the end of this tunnel, but I just couldn’t see it. I was breaking down, I was crumbling and I had no one other than my parents and my running. Luckily, they were enough. I wrote this note to myself:
You know how the last few miles of the race are the toughest ones? You are tired, your body is screaming you to stop, your mind has gone numb. You know the finish line is right there, but you are so consumed with pain that you are unable to see it? And then when you do, you suddenly are uplifted and you fly to the finish. My life at that moment, that phone call, was akin that. I was tired, but my life was going to come a full circle. That Sunday, almost poetically, 60% of my 20 miles were in 15 kmph winds with 30 kmph gusts.
And despite the winds on the way back, I negative-splitted the run, running the last 21k in 1:19:47. Next day, I was rich, monetarily. I got my salary and finally, the weight of expectations from my shoulder was lifted. I could start paying back my education loan. I could finally afford to control my budget. I didn’t have to be scared while swiping my card at the supermarket and seeing the words : “Funds too low”. The 1st week of September marked the biggest training week for me (110.5 miles). It was also the 1st of the 5 consecutive 100 mile weeks I ran. On 7th September, despite a lot of mileage fatigue in my legs, I lowered my 10k PB to 33:45. And on that Sunday, I ran my longest run of my training block, 39k in 2:30:45. At this point, if I was still sticking with 2:45 marathon goal, I deserved to be called an idiot. And to be honest, while I was acting as if I was just hoping to run 2:45, my heart was set on breaking Gwen Jorgensen’s debut marathon time of 2:41. The long run had made me fairly confident that I could do it, because it had come on the back of a huge training week and fairly hard runs, and because I still had 6 more weeks of training before race week. On 15th September, the day before Eliud Kipchoge broke the marathon world record, I ran a half marathon PB at his “jogging pace”. My legs were pretty tired, but I managed to scrape together a 1:13:52 Half marathon, which I was pretty pleased with. The Friday after that, I ran 7 miles @ 3:30/km, and in doing so, understood the importance of smiling from a bunch of kids who tried to run with me. On 29th September, on an extremely cold and windy Saturday morning, I ran a 15k Time Trial in 51:47 (21.1k total, 1:16:20), where I ran 1k with a guy who ended up running 2:46 at this year’s Lausanne Marathon. I followed it up with 18 miles on Sunday in 1:53:58. The week before my mom came to visit, the 5th consecutive 100 mile week (and 11th of the training block), I did perhaps the hardest workout of my life. After a 2 mile warmup, I ran 6 repeats of 1200 meters @ 3:12–3:15/km with 90% time of set as recovery. By the 6th repeat, my heart was beating in my mouth and I collapsed after the set on the side of track, grinning and puking. That Friday, I received these in the mail. I spent (a lot) of my own money to buy them.
And on Saturday, I realised what the fuss was all about, when I ended up accelerating a lot on a planned “easy” run. My mother landed on Monday, the starting week of my 3-week taper. And on Tuesday, I shocked her by telling that the speed of my last 800 meter interval was a little slower than the pace at which Kipchoge runs the whole marathon. That Saturday, I was supposed to do a 10k Time Trial but I started off extremely fast, running my 1st Sub 5 minute mile in the process and running the 1st 5k in 15:58 (as per my watch). I stopped the watch only to find that the 5k time was 16:02. Even though it was 39 second PB, I felt disappointed for not having done 10k and so I jogged 10k as a cooldown in 38 minutes. By this time, I was pretty much in shape to hold a Sub 2:40 marathon pace. All I had to do was stay healthy, eat healthy and taper well. The week prior to my race week, I had my 1st and only mile repeats of the training block. I ran the 3*1 miles in 4:56, 4:57 and 4:55. And then on that Sunday, despite having planned to run a 1:20 Half marathon, I ended up running 1:15:26 for the distance, just because the conditions were too windy and cold and I wanted to stamp the fear of winds out of my mind. In the last 5 weeks, leading up to the race, I eliminated dessert from my diet. I didn’t take added sugars as they messed with recovery and I tried not to hug people or shake hands with them, in the fear of catching a cold. I consumed a copious amount of hand sanitizer (both a work and home). I was race ready.
There is a very funny quote by Alex Hutchinson about the voices in your head before the race. It goes “If your head is telling you at the start line that you could have done more long runs, probably it is right”. For me, atleast there was no such voice. I was extremely confident about my preparation and despite the overnight rain, 20–30 kmph prevailing winds and 4 degree C temperatures, I felt confident that I would finish in the Top 10 of the race. In terms of the time goal, if I did end up running 2:45, it would be because I lost my shoe while running. It was windy and cold, but I had prepared for both. It was going to be hilly and I was prepared for that too. I wanted to run at 6 min/mile pace which would put me at 2:37 (3 minutes faster than a 15 y/o schoolgirl who ran a 2:40:02 recently). And deep down, I would be pretty pleased if I ran faster than 2:36 and beat Gwen Jorgensen’s Chicago marathon time. I reached the start line on time, joked to my mother about people running for kilometers as a warmup: “As if 42.2 kilometers are not enough, they are putting more miles into their legs before they start”. I had done my warmup at home, a simple routine sans the running and had walked 1k to the start line. I managed to sneak to the front, right next to the 60 y/o guy who had overtaken me at 14k last year and run a Sub 3 in the process. An Ethiopian guy, reached the start line 5 minutes before the gun went off, didn’t even have his bib on. Found someone who gave him his bib, the 60 y/o gave him extra pins and he handed his bag to my mom (who he didn’t even know or even had seen until that very moment). If I was looking too calm, you should have seen the face of this guy. I smiled. And we started the countdown in French: Dix
*Bang* (onomatopoetic sounds sound the same, in French or English. PS: Yes, I have a big vocabulary and I threw this word just to annoy you and force you to look at the dictionary. HAHA.)
Kilometer 1 — Kilometer 10:
The gun went off and my irrational fear of my 167 cm frame being trampled underfoot, led me to pick up the face and blast off. I looked at my watch 300 meters in and it showed my pace as 2:50/km, 3 seconds/km faster than Kipchoge’s World Record pace. Michael Scott’s quote flashed across my mind as I slowed down, just a bit. By the time my watch beeped at the end of 1st kilometer, only 3:14 had elapsed and I was leading the race. The Race Marshalls on motorbikes, the volunteers on bicycles, the TV camera car and the crowd were all looking pretty confused seeing a bearded Indian fellow leading a bunch of Pro-runners by around 300 meters. I was enjoying it. Genuinely. My heart rate was under control and the second kilometer came in 3:10 and I was still in the lead going down hill on a wet slope. I had the TV camera on me, with the bike volunteer yelling something in French at me which I couldn’t hear. Richard McDowell had done a “McDowell” (really unintuitive) at Bournemouth marathon a few weeks back, when he had run a Sub 16 min 5k for the 1st 5k of his 2:26:49 marathon. The dude “blew up” (his words) at the end and yet won the race. The point was that I didn’t want to blow up or do a “McDowell” even though my race strategy was the following:
I came to my senses and ran the next kilometer in a conservative 3:39 (only 5 secs/km faster than my goal 3:44/km pace). I was running with the lead pack, and the elites being elites, made me go to the front and face the wind. I thought “Fuck you, I anyways can’t sustain this pace, why should I work for you?” and dropped back. From the 3rd kilometer to finish line, I ran solo except when I was overtaken by eventual 4th place finisher, member of the French National Running Team. (Sub 30 10k, Sub 15 5k, 2:20 marathon PB. Just saying, I wasn’t ashamed). 5k came in 17:34, 30 seconds faster than last week’s 1:15 half marathon and 60 seconds faster than goal pace. I didn’t panic, because I was feeling pretty comfortable. (and bored apparently from the picture below!)
Even the guy isn’t impressed
One major advantage of being near the leaders was that I could see the line they were taking, so that they don’t end up covering more distance than 42.2k. As I went uphill to complete 10k, the watch showed 35:xx, and a part of me went “Oh shit”. The other part went “Why? You are still comfortable”. And then I pulled out my gel from my waist pocket, gulped it down and dove into a wall of wind.
Kilometer 11 to Halfway
With the taste of Vanilla in my mouth, I carried on click off the miles, all alone barring aid stations where I would give a thumbs up to the cheering crowd and volunteers. While trying to down a cup of water at kilometer 12, some went on my beard and froze (clumped) there. I carried on, constantly being hit by gusts of wind, thinking to myself that it would be better on the way back. Hilariously enough, I was mindful of not littering while running and so I was running with a eaten gel packet in my pocket.
I’ll be honest, I did not have a single thought in my head all the way through the windy, open section below the vineyards. As it turns out, I was sleeping! 10 miles came in 58 minutes, 2 minutes faster than goal pace but my heart, mind and body all were feeling pretty comfortable. The only part which hurt a little was my right hamstring, but it had been happening on all my long runs and this is one thing I would work over the winter (more Yoga FTW). The roads were pretty slick, there was water on the roads and the cold was complicating things, but as I climbed and descended into Vevey (19k), I reminded myself that only 3–4 tricky downhills were left. At 21k, I saw the lead pack running back, there were not particularly strung out and I was told by the Race Marshall that they were 4 minutes ahead of me. (As if that would do me any good. HAHA.) I consumed my 2nd Gel and kept the empty wrapper in my pocket. Halfway in 1:16:13.
Kilometer 22 to Kilometer 36:
No matter how hard you train, how well you are prepared: If the water is getting frozen on your beard and you are being pounded by gusts of wind which could knock down the markers on the course, it does get a little amusing. As I turned around, I saw the people behind me, around 2 minutes back. I recognized one of them as a guy, who was snickering at my shoes at the start line (who’s snickering now, huh?). I had read Desiree Linden’s tips for marathon race strategy and so I wasn’t counting down the kilometers, but I could still do the math and estimate my finishing time. At that point, I was feeling strong, and I was under the assumption that the winds would now be on my back (the assumption which was broken a solid 30 kmph + wall of wind at 23k).
I analysed the situation and thought that even if I held a 4 min/km pace (which I wouldn’t because the people behind me would engulf me), I would finish in Sub 2:40. And as soon as I climbed out of Vevey, for 30 seconds, I thought that I would be lucky to hold 4 min/km. It was an uphill section with a freakishly high wind speed. However, the uphill kilometer came at near goal race pace 3:42/km and then next one, while still heading up and into the wind, at 3:45/km. So there was no much to worry about other than, keeping the glycogen stores up. The real struggle began at 30k. Not physically, but wind-wise. Somehow, the winds got even stronger. And colder! 1:48:56 into the race (30k), I reached my hand in my back-pocket and took out my 3rd gel. Eating it was a real struggle as my fingers were numb and I just tore the head off the gel packet with my teeth. Some of the gel splilled on my vest, the rest, luckily, in my mouth. *that’s what she said”. By 33k though, the wind had decided to bully us. It was blowing so hard that I almost felt that I was going to fly away. It showed as I ran the 2nd slowest kilometer of the race (3:50/km), but I got through it just laughing at how horrid the conditions were becoming. I took courage from a Man dressed as hotdog and a woman dressed ketchup. I played my own *ketchup* (sorry) as I tried to claw back the 6 secs I had lost in the previous kilometer. That by the way, is totally idiotic. I was much faster than my goal pace of 3:44/km, however I was still sticking to, just because I had no other frame of reference. Plus I thought of the people behind me and was trying to pace myself to stay ahead of them. And, I was starting to feel the onset of cramps in my calves and I had to be careful to not trigger them into becoming full-blown problems (I knew how to do it, because of calf cramps during my core workouts. I figured out a certain angle in the knees which offsets the cramp though I am not sure it would work for everyone.) A runner on the opposite side signaled “7” to me, indicating my position, which made me feel good. 35k came in 2:07:49 and I was on track to do a Sub 2:30 40k (which I had planned). And then I reached for my last gel at 36k, in my back-pocket. My arm cramped, my shoulder cramped and that cold wind blew into my face. I had 6k to go and as I gulped down and kept the 4th gel packet in my pocket (human trashcan runner), I realized that I wouldn’t do the mistake of sitting down once I stopped. And then my headphones blared *Battery 20%*. I had to finish fast.
Kilometer 37 to Finish line
When you are cramping and are forced to run downhill, this is the face you make. My 37th kilometer came in 3:52, which was the slowest of the race, but it was for a good reason: Downhills. The next one was even more downhill and I felt a jolt running through my legs, but I stabilized myself and got through it. I knew this course like the back of my hand: every single uphill, downhill, flat, windy section and what not. By the time I reached the 40th Kilometer in 2:26:59, the only worry I had was that I would cramp on the last downhill before the last 400 meters. I decided to take a rather conservative approach and not accelerate, for the last 2k. And then I saw Shumbii Qasim. The same Ethiopian guy who was asking for pins 5 minutes before the race. Hilariously enough, the 1st thought that came to my mind was “Well, now my mom can return his bag to him”. I could see him in the distance and all conservative thoughts went out of the window. I accelerated and tried to chase him down as I approached 42k and tried to speed up for the last few hundred meters. Mr. Qasim saw me, saw how far back I was, knew that his PB was 2:20 and that I was that idiot who was leading the race in the 1st mile, and didn’t even bother to accelerate. He crossed the line 6 seconds ahead of me. Meanwhile, I had this expression on my face:
This was one race I had worked really fucking hard for. In June I didn’t think I could run Sub 75 minutes for the half marathon. And in October, I had done that and then run 76 minutes for 1 half of a marathon. My 2nd half came in 1:19:15 as I crossed the line in 2:35:28. I walked for a bit, after congratulating Qasim, who was holding on to his shoulder due to some pain. I don’t know if he ran on his shoulder, but he turned out to be a rather nice gentleman. He gave me some tips later on in the medical tent and thought I was a teenager. For all his calmness at the start line, it was fun to see him freak out when my mom told him that I am 28. I met Paula at the finish line and then I saw my mother and I started crying. And well, that’s that. I finished 2nd in my age category, and nobody really gave a fuck about me but Cedric Pache, the swiss, who finished behind me, got plenty of attention by the media. I am not a petty person, plus I got my TV time in the 1st few miles, so I am happy.
I was kinda chuffed to see that the people who beat me were either former or current Pro runners. Plus, I beat all the Swiss in the race, so that was quite amusing to me. Alright then. Thank you for reading this rather long blog. I hope this helped you. As a final word, I just want to say: There will be a lot of problems in your life. We all have problems and without the problems, life is a boring and it lacks growth. While, it is okay to talk about your problems and get frustrated because of them being bottomless, it is not okay to quit. Also, “I don’t have time” is not a good excuse. We all have time for things we want to do and if you want to do something, if you want to achieve success, you will find time for that thing. Enjoy your lives and stay strong. I want to close off with this amazing quote:
“I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet, at the 101st blow, it will split in two and I know it was not the blow that did it but all that had gone before.”