No excuses, the day didn’t go to plan.

But that’s what happens to plans. They don’t always go. Its your reaction to the situation that decides the outcome.

Sunday didn’t go to plan.

There are some simple reasons why. There will be a fair bit of soul searching going on, a reasonable, healthy bit of self doubt, but that’s to be expected. I think.

There will be a race report, when I’m not thinking about ‘what if?’

For now:

  • I responded brilliantly to the training plan.
  • I finished.
  • I PB’d against my last completed marathon by 29mins.
  • I’m not injured (tired & run down – yes, injured – no)
  • This is only my second marathon.

Yep they’re all positives. What about the negatives? I’ll save them for the race report but at the end of the day a negative doesn’t exist when you consider the positives 🙂

Dam Buster Part 1

I find the longer you leave off doing these #racereports the less likely they are to write themselves.

Heading for #AmsterdamMarathon last Friday I had a very positive feeling about how I was running, how training had gone, how prepared I was. As they say, the work is done, no need to cram now, jut get out there and do it.

I had a mental image of being just like the Lancaster bomber of the movie and becoming a Dambuster. Looking back now with a clear mind I can see the positives far outweigh the negatives I was feeling at the start of the week.

An early flight from Dublin to Amsterdam had us on the train and into Centraal Station before breakfast time on Saturday. Bar the events surrounding the ignoramus in the row in front of us insisting on flinging his seat back on Conor’s knees (despite realising he was sitting there) which lead to a very bumpy flight for one set of passengers and a very grumpy 6’4″ ex rower and powerhouse, it was a pleasant flight and arrival.

Finding the hotel was easy enough, 15 mins walk from the station had us admitted through a door and facing-

Gonna be fun on Monday!!
Dropping the bags at reception we had a cup of coffee and some breakfast before heading out to catch a tram down to the Olympic Stadium
and on to the Sporthallen Zuid where we were greeted by big queues and a MONSTROUS pair of +Mizuno Running Rider 17 which are having their European launch in Amsterdam.

Into the hall, round to the right and through to efficient queues to collect your race number, pins and voucher for your T-shirt. Exiting the hall you can check your chip (in the number) making sure it is you and that it is working (very important if you are chasing a PB, the times have to be spot on!).

Up the ramp and into the main hall which was wedged!! We worked our way through and while I drooled and dribbled over all the running gear (most of which I can get at home!) Conor aimed for the T’shirt line. I was looking out for pacing bands and a pacer stand (as per #DublinMarathon) but there was none to be found – I didn’t realise it but this should have been an indication of things to come.

After wandering around the hall for a short while we bought up Mizuno Clogs. Special version of the Dutch clog (klompen) which would be given to the kids as slippers. A sure, a pair had to be got for ourselves and the wives too while we were at it 🙂

Bearing bags of klompen and flyers on races all over Europe (we figured out a marathon each month in 2014) we headed back to the hotel on the tram. Leaving in the ‘shopping’ we went back out to stroll around the area, picked up some water, egg cookies, stroopwafelen (above) and a few other bits and pieces suitable for snacking on this evening and to start us up in the morning.

Dinner was a couple of large properly baked pizza, cola and water and then it was time to head back, feet up and relax in front of the telly for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Flustering around a tight hotel room I laid out all my gear in readiness for the morning.

Packing a bag with recovery leggings and dry tops for afterwards; ensuring my nutrition was organised and laid into the pouch, pin the number on the vest, arm warmers, hat etc. I made sure my +Polar GPS pod was charged up and ready, glasses, buff, socks, shoes, laces (make sure not broken or frayed) HR strap, skin balm, Elivar Sport Recover sachets (for afterwards), Endure for during (all about #StaytheDistance), shorts, undershorts all ready and sorted.

Everything was there, ready for all systems go in the morning.

Now just to get a decent night’s sleep.

(to be continued)

Dam Buster Part 2

Last week the first part of my #AmsterdamMarathon report was put out Dam Buster (Part 1) and I left you all hanging around in a hotel room. Sorry about that!

There was a reason for that. This part of the event did not go to plan and with +Dublin Marathon on last Monday I didn’t want to be putting out negative vibes for anyone who was following the Marathon Program on the +Amphibian King West Facebook page or any readers tackling their first marathon.

Sunday morning we were away bright and early. Truth be told I don’t sleep well the night before big events, and this is a big event for me. I’m going out having trained hard and trained well for my goal time of a sub 3:15 marathon.

Lets throw perspective on this. My first marathon was 2011 (also with +Conor), I didn’t train properly for that. I felt I’d a decent season of triathlon (70.3 distance) training under my belt and doing a few long runs through September was going to get me through. 4:00 was the goal then, I finished in 4:07.

2012 saw me a little more focused and awar of what I was doing. A pal gifted me a decent training plan and 3:30 was the trainging goal. Everything was going swimmingly until a MTB incident 2 weeks prior took me out of the game entirely. DNF. Lesson learned 🙁

So 3:15 is an ambitious goal, almost an hour off my marathon best, but I’m confident in my training.

Downstairs we went for some breakfast. Couple of eggs, croissants and coffee for me with a yoghurt for good measure. Drinking my #ElivarSport Endure  during the time up to the start would mean energy stores would be topped up.

Aim was to get a taxi down to the Olympic Stadium. A correct assumption that trams would be jammed and ‘standing room only’ meant we arrived in comfort with only a short stroll to the bag drop. Restless energy had me on my feet as we had plenty of time to spare, thankfully it also meant I was in good form for the toilet and off I went before the Queues became massive.

With 30mins to go before the start it was time to drop the bags. I was wearing a beanie and armwarmers, almost a tradition with me at this point in races. I tend to stick the beanie in my waist band and roll the arm warmers down as sweatbands once I’ve warmed up.

We rocked into the stadium where everyone filtered into the centre of the field before dispersing into holding pens for each time slot. We were in the 3:00-3:30 pen with pacers breaking the group into three goal times.

Our pen is to the left.

The atmosphere was electric in the stadium. Music pumping out, everyone nervously nodding and smiling at each other. As the countdown announced 4 mins to start, people shuffled forwards into position behind their pacers.

(It was at this point I realised the benefit of wearing black bin bags, there was a sprinkling of ‘water’ on the track beside me)

The air filled with tops, bags, bottles all being pitched to the side into the centre arena. Watching the big screen we could see the official starter and BANG!! off they went at the start.

Watching the thing on the screen you are removed from the moment until suddenly people start shifting and you realise “Oh! Thats us!!” as people drift forward, shuffle, walk and break into a trot. I could see the pacer balloons hitting the first bend ahead of us and wondered why there was no response from the people in front. It was only after a gap appeared that I realised we were being funnelled through a gap in the pen barriers. People were sprinting off from the pen, chasing the pacers.

It was only a minute or so by the time I crossed the start line, but felt like an age! Pushing start on my +Polar it was time to get it on!!

Round the bend and out through the stadium entrance, lots and lots of people jostling around for space ever though I didn’t think it was too congested.

There were quite a few pushing their way up the inside against the barriers. I can’t see the sense of that. Clip a kerb and you’re out before you’ve even done a mile or clip someone’s heels and they’re out.

The course features a section of loop around the city through the Vondelpark back around towards the Oltmpic statium before doing a loop back on itself going down Stationsweg at which stage a roar from Conor across the barriers let me know he was chasing.

The first 5k felt fast. I was putting it down to the route being pancake flat and all of my training being on lumpy West of Ireland roads. It wasn’t that it felt easy, just fast. Going through the 10k mark and checking my times, my watch was +100m but it was accurate enough for me to realise that it was too quick.

TCS Amsterdam Marathon Sean Conroy netto 10KM 45:08. Calculated finish 3:10:36.
— Amphibian King West (@amphkingwest) October 20, 2013

I was off the back of the pacers by 10-15m. I’d closed the gap back up to them over the first 5k, I wasn’t planning on blowing myself up by chasing them hard, I took it steady. But the Twitter feed told the story – through the first 10k at 3:10 pace – wasn’t going to be sustainable.

Experience would have told me to back off, go with how I was feeling. I didn’t spend weeks grooving my legs to a 4:35/km pace for nothing, they were telling me how to run this race and right now they were telling me it’s too fast!!!

Did I listen?

Hell no. I trusted the pacers, they knew something I didn’t, keep them in sight.

Leaving the city we ran out along the Amstel river. This was gorgeous. I’ve seen other reports that criticise this section of the course, but I liked it. Where I was there was space, we were no longer tripping over each other, no more jostling or pushing.

Running along the river bank, it was windy, but scenic in a Dutch kind of way. Some fantastic houses out here and crews out rowing on the river, looking at us bunch of eejits. We were also treated to the biggest +Mizuno Running Rider 17 being carried on a floating Disco!!

Post by Mizuno Running.Hitting the village of Ouderkerk a/d Amstel (Old Church on the Amstel) we were getting close to half way.

Again the Twitter amchine was spitting out predictions (I was bllissfully unaware of these) once we hit the mid point:

TCS Amsterdam Marathon Sean Conroy netto Half Marathon 1:36:25. Double this to a finish of 3:12:50.
— Amphibian King West (@amphkingwest) October 20, 2013

Still well ahead of trained finish.

This won’t last.

And it didn’t.

As you can see from the image below (blue line indicates Race Pace), literally when I went through 2:00hrs the wheels came off.

I was sticking to my nutrition plan,  +Agave #9 gels steadily at 0, 10, 15, 20, 25, 35 with some #2nd Surge in reserve for 30 & 40km but there was nothing going to pull me back from the brink once I’d burnt those matches.

At 28k my HR dived off a cliff, the power and speed went from the legs.

Game over.

Time to get the hell out of Dodge and home.

I’ve vague recollections of meandering my way though a business area, trying to pick it up only to fall back again.

I needed to puke.

I couldn’t

Walk, run, walk, wobble, walk, wog. The km’s felt like miles. Coming back into the city the crowds started to build again, I got some energy from this, I jogged, a little, walked more.

I drank that AA rubbish at the water stations, sorry water stop. Get going again.

Somewhere around 34/35k the trooper came by me. ‘Go with him!!’, my head screamed, my legs said ‘F#@k Off!!’


Stay ahead of the 3:30 group.

3:30 came and went.

Back in to the Vondelpark. Lots of people shouting and cheering. Damn these bibs with names on them there’s no hiding. “Come on Sean!!”, “You can do it Sean!!”, “Almost there Sean!!”

Damn you all to hell, you made me run again!!

The last km’s were torture.

Come on Sean, there’s the Stadium, make the most of it, don’t quit now. Get there!

Left, right, left, right

I got there. I didn’t ‘SMASH IT!!’. I didn’t break 3:15.

I did finish. I broke 3:40.

27 mins off my previous marathon best time.

The breakdown after the breakdown.
TCS Amsterdam – Summary


Dam Buster Part 3

I didn’t plan on a long drawn out #racereport, it’s just happened that way.

Post #AmsterdamMarathon I was bitterly disappointed with the mess that I made of the race. I was blaming pacers, my coach was blaming pacers, and while they are to blame for going off far too hard, I am the person who should take the blame for not trusting myself.

Lessons were learned and some valuable notes made for the next one. And, yes, definitely there will be a next one!

(At time of writing I had feelers out for Dublin Marathon and while I was offered numbers, nothing came of it on the day, coach was eager to have me run 3:20 with him as pacer.)

A week on now since I’ve been home and I’ve thought about it a bit. I don’t dwell too much on negatives in any event and (almost) always look for a positive outcome from everything.

Nothing in the build up will be changed. My race day evolved as a response to my training which went 100% as planned. Yes, I skipped a couple of sessions, went too hard on others, and should really have stuck to the full taper plan but this had no bearing on my race.

Unless you are running +Dublin Marathon do not rely on the pacers*. Trust yourself, use the pacers as a guide to how you are going but do not depend on them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of them. I should have asked why are we running so fast early on. Pacers are human and make mistakes too.

I will definitely consider a waterbottle or small backpack in my next marathon. I trained pretty dry and empty for a lot of the recovery runs in training and only on the long runs would I set out a bottle of water and carry gels. Rehearse your race day preparations in your long runs. Congested water stations with flimsy cups don’t work when you are on a goal. I’m not a pusher and shover so I’m better to be self sufficient entirely and run on the other side of the road, avoiding the scrum.

With no bearing on race day performance do not underestimate the usefulness of black bags. One over the shoulders will keep you surprisingly warm on the start line and one over your hips like a skirt makes for a useful personal urinal in a pinch (just don’t do it on the track!)

Coach summed it up perfectly and put any doubts to rest in an email he sent me:

The plain and simple fact is the pacers screwed up your race.

I was watching the splits and knew straight away that up to 20k you were on 3:10-12 pace. Really poor by the pacers. Those few minutes may not seem like much but enough to be burning matches and leaving you with the difficult last 12k you suffered through.

3 positives to take are:

1)still a massive pb and something to build off next year

2)you suffered on when many others would have given up and

3) solid build and fitness established for XC and shorter races over Winter 🙂

He’s right. A PB is a PB regardless of everything else and to grab a PB of 28 minutes is a great indicator of how I responded to the training. Maybe I have learned to suffer a bit, but there was no way I was stepping off for a DNF, no way!

The final few points are:
Dutch stairs are not too bad the day after a marathon, once you take them backwards.
Trappist beers are a little strong to be drinking as a ‘recovery’ drink.

The morning after, I think.

Bring your own phone charger as others just don’t work with Blackberry (alternatively change your phone to something other than Blackberry)

That’s it, that’s a wrap!

See you next time, it’s my time to start running again.

*Dublin pacers are awesome.