Sunday, 27 April 2014

The first step is always the hardest.......

...and not always referring to running of course. Yes very guilty of misplacing my bloggers mojo but this is the first step getting it back.

So a bit of catch up with the latest first...

`Alexander The Great` Marathon.....or Thessaloniki Marathon

I first saw this event when I ran Athens Marathon back in 2010 - see blog - and thought why not! The only trouble was that it always seemed to clash with London - running or marshalling

By the way the only connection I could find with Thessaloniki & Alexander the Great was that the City itself was named after his half-Sister but that wouldn`t really have the same effect would it now ??

Anyway seeing how as this year it was being held a week before and I wasn`t running London I entered almost straight away and in the process hopefully ticking another event off my bucket list. With flights & hotel booked way in advance I kind of forgot that I running this one. Luckily Wendy (a fellow `Willy Wonka` - Thunder Run 24 team mate & GNR) was doing this for the 2nd consecutive year and kept reminding me.

One thing I had forgotten was how early I had booked flight out - 05:50am on Friday morning...meaning a very early start (02:30am) - I pleased to report that I kept my current streak of falling asleep before take-off going. I guess one advantage of these early flights !

I landed at Thessaloniki just before the Manchester flight and waited for Wendy & Martin (plus respective partners) - it did give me a chance to grab a couple of coffees by the bus stop. The buses are great way to travel from the airport - 0.80€. We were staying at the Zaliki Hotel which wasn`t far from the numerous bus stop but also from the finish of the Marathon. Friday was spent checking in, going to the Marathon Expo & exploring the local cafes (there is an excellent one around the corner from the hotel).

I have to say I was really impressed with the `Goodie Bag` - Two T-Shirts (one technical), a wind-proof jacket, cap, draw string bag - I wondered what the medal look like !! 

Saturday was really spent doing as less as possible but did include going up the White Tower and checking out the many, many shops and topping up the energy levels with a very nice lunch..well I had to make up for missing out on the parkrun brunch.

Seeing as we had to get the bus out to the start early the next day we all had an early night. I arranged I`ll meet Wendy at 05:15am in the hotel lobby & walk down together and hopefully catch one of the last buses. Have to say the town was really busy at that time in the morning but no sign of drunken behaviour which was really refreshing. Once on the bus and regardless of where ever you race there is always a smell of deep heat :-) As we headed out to the start we travelled along the route back so could get an idea of the route. Even though it was still dark it got darker - the rain clouds had come in !! Then flashes of lightning !!! Good grief not really what I expected from a Greek race. Upon arrival in the start village we all dived under cover till I guess 5 minutes of the start.

The rain stopped within 2 minutes of the start - Greeks are not generally known for their impeccable timing but hats off for that one - impressive.

My race plan; was Plan A - to be as near 4:00 hrs as possible. Plan B - around 4:15. and Plan C - no more than 4:30hrs. It was a shame I couldn`t really race this one but bearing in mind my training (I hadn`t run for two weeks) & recent niggles I thought those good goals.

One thing I have noticed when running with niggles is that you start with more control & more relaxed but it did seem that I was overtaken by the whole field in the first 10 minutes or so.    

The route itself wasn't complicated - we headed out of Pella and unto the `Thessaloniki Edessas` - or the main dual-carriageway to Thessaloniki. It was nice to switch off and run, occasionally we went through a village where the support was very welcoming. The early morning sun was really trying to break through the clouds.

Through 10km in around 00:57:xx

At this stage, like in many races you pass and get passed by many of the same runners which is kind of cool - many seemed to walk through the many, many water stations, which I always think is kind of odd.

Halfway in 02:03:xx  (10M in 01:32:xx)

While I wasn`t `garmin watching` I felt like I did really struggle through miles 12 & 13 but knew I was on the way home now.

The course wasnt really advertised as hilly but just before 17 miles the road seemed to go up and up and with a turn you couldn`t quite see the top - I did manage to run this section but did walk through the water station at the top.

I did mange till 18 miles till I took my first major walk - about 0.5M. During this walk break a lady introduced herself as Niandi Carmont (Ian Corless - from TalkUltra - other half) who was out her writing an article about the event and decided to run it to get first hand experience - not bad job! We chatted about various podcasts out there.

Through 20M in 03:18:xx

At around 21M there was a overpass which I glady walked up as I overtook many a runner on the way down that went past me. I was struggling by this stage - the hamstring was making itself known but worrying the Achilles Tendon was getting worse - I could feel the `grating` but knowing I was in the last stages of the race was good.

In these last few miles as we got into the City`s outskirts the course got interesting as in twists and turns. At about 24M you felt like you were heading to towards the Sea front. Just shy of a mile or so you can just make out the `White Tower` and the finish - just don`t be fooled by the gantry that I guess is about 800 metres short !!

I did get a `wiggle` on as I did want a sub 4:30 time and just about made it - a finishing time of 04:28:37.

Looking back and putting a positive swing on it I did hit my Plan A time as it was the closest I could get to a 4 hrs time - I guess it`s how you look at things at the end of the day! 

Afterwards I stopped in this great dinner and demolish a couple of Mythos and walked back to the hotel for a bit of a snooze before meeting up with the others for an evening meal and catching up with their race days reports. It was a great evening.

Next day we got the bus back to the airport and made our way home.

All in all a great weekend in a wonderful City doing a fabulous race with great company. The Greeks do know how to put on a great event - mind you they have had a few years experience !!

The thing about not doing really, really well at an event on a bucket list is that it leaves the door open to go and do it again.........

Next up - maybe event writing the race reports for the Pilgrims Challenge (Feb) & New Forest 50Km Ultra (March).

Seriously my plans for this year have changed - I`ve pulled out of the next month`s Pony Express Ultra weekend (30M x 2 days), and my `A race` - the North Down`s Way 100 in August (and my version of the 14 in 14) but it`s not all dome and gloom as I`m ending the year in Wales doing the Brecon Ultra (40M around Brecon Beacon National Park) and just entered a 12 hrs race in August (target there is 52 miles or more)....and started to think and plan about next year.

Happy running folks - have fun.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

What`s that condition called again....??

Well hello :-)

Oh yes, I seem to have that dreaded condition..`Bloggers Block`....

Back soon - I promise...