After the bad experience of the last Sevilla Marathon at the beginning of the year (see post here) I had made the resolution not to play again with the distance, and to be properly prepared for the fall race. But the odds were against it as I had not trained enough during the holiday´s break, as I explained in a dedicated post (here).
With the date of the Maratona de Lisboa looming closer after the summer pause two factors contributed to a wonderful experience: a recovery training plan and peer motivation.
In this post I share how these factors helped and some highlights about the race in the beautiful portuguese capital.
After the trip in July to the US and Mexico, August was not a productive month for training, in part due to the (typical) excessive summer heat in Seville and to a mix of work un-balance and social activities. So September came and a decission was to be made.
7 weeks to go and two ideas in mind. First, to run as much as possible regardless of the heat, and thus eventually sacrificing performance targets. Second,to use any mental reinforcement available to stick to the plan.
The frecuency of training was increased up to 4 to 5 days a week, with a peak of 6 days in the second week of September. This would lead to mileages in the range of 50km per week.
In order to stick to the plan (easier said, or writen, than done, as plans normally are…) I went back to an old visual cue that I had abandoned in the last races: a simple blank paper sheet with the calendar and plan located at my apartment´s entrance. I would see it every day and would serve as constant reminder.
With some hesitation during the first two weeks, clocking mere 15km each, I managed to average around 60km in each of the next three weeks. I combined from 2 medium runs (12km) in weekdays to 3 or 4 standard runs (7,7km or 8km for series training), and longer runs in the weekends, with the usual progressive increase-decrease in mileage: 21km, 21km, 30km, 28km, 21km, and 12km.
The second main contributor to the success was, again, a normal practice from other times that was strictly respected. With my brother Javier, and friends Juan and José (the usual suspects or four J´s of many races as narrated in this blog) we set up a whatsapp group. Nothing new, but instead of non-sense chatting, or rather in spite of it, especially Javier and I shared our daily progress with the trainings… reinforcing one each other. The way we helped to deal with missed training sessions, due to holidays, trips or other reasons, alleviated the frustration and helped to resume the training.
The final result was a total of around 280km in the 6 weeks ahead of the final one. Combining speed series training, with the long weekend runs.
With such confidence, off I went to Lisbon to test the goodness of this effort. My objectives for the race were however rather modest: to finish and, if possible, to be around four hours.
After the customary picture at the Marathon Expo on Saturday, once we got the bibs, the three of us took the train in the morning of Sunday to Cascais, where the start was located.
From Cascais, the first 14km were a circuit heading first towards west along the coast line until km6, and then back to the village to continue also through coastal roads to Estoril, Oeiras and to the capital Lisboa. A very beautiful ride across those exclusives enclaves of Portugal.
My pace for the first half tried to be conservative, around 5’30″/km . I maintained them except for some hilly passages near Estoril.
Even if somehow I had in mind that with such conservative pace I could sustain it beyond the half marathon, after that milestone the pace suffered and went to the 6’/km. I had some fear that the reinforced training plan would not work and the sensations from Seville would come back. In any case, the pace for the first half had been better this time.
But fortunately, past Oeiras, at around km25, the course turned flatter and it was easier to keep a good pace. I felt strong mentally, helped by the excellent supply of water (not so by the voluntaries, clearly not very experienced). As in Athens Marathon, the temperature was high, and in each water station I took one bottle to drink and another to “shower” myself with it.
With this routine the next 5km went through, and I prepared to slow down a bit somewhere after km30, as I had done in Seville in 2015 so successfully. It worked again.
For good 5 to 6 km I let me go well beyond 6’/km to then try to go back to faster paces. With 35km on the legs, would this be possible? Would I be able to accelerate? This was the ultimate test for the speed and long series training.
I was positively surprised that the legs responded well. And I started a slow but steady ramp up of the pace. In fact, as the graph below indicates that the final 4km were run even faster that the beginning, something that I had almost never done.
In the last kilometer I really enjoyed the feeling strong, and as Javier recognized me before the final turns at Plaça do Comercio, I was exultant, running even below 5’/km. Happy to see him, I replied to his cheers saying “I´m looking good!” thereby also mocking a bit the supportive words of the crowds in the american marathons we both had run. I finally clocked 4h 13′ 29′ . It was better than Sevilla, and a hint for that was that with the half marathon at 2h 8′, in fact I had achieved a negative split!
Under the hot sun of the clear portuguese sky, we waited for Juan to finish and took some pictures of the feat.
Even more than the time, I was very happy to have turned around the experience in Seville at the beginning of the year, not having taken seriously the distance of a marathon race. This, by the way, was the 12th I have finished. Now, with the regained respect, it´s time to plan the next.
For all of the above, Lisboa: obrigado!