Race date: 20.8.2011
Official Finishing Time: 3:14:45 chip time, 3:15:22 gun time (PB)
Official Position: 141/4344 (finishers), which puts me in the fastest 3.25% (68/1562 in the men’s open group)
Race number: 2283
My second marathon, and the second time at HCM as well. A year ago I struggled through this marathon in 3:40:08 in very hot&humid conditions, 20min slower than my target. So this time I had a score to settle. However, since I’m also running the much faster Amsterdam Marathon in October, the main purpose of this race for me was to get an idea about my marathon fitness, and more specifically whether I’ll have a chance to sneak under 3h in Amsterdam.
Conditions were better than last year but not ideal by any means: sunny, about 21 degrees Celcius, with some rather strong headwinds.
HCM 2011: Around the 11k mark (Photo courtesy of Johannes Hidén)
The course was slightly different from what it was a year ago, the main difference being a finish at the Olympic Stadium. All the steep hills on the route and about 2km of cobble stones were still there though — I’d rather have gotten rid of those. Still, the stadium finish was kind of nice, even if there were hardly any spectators there (plenty along the route though). In general, the organization of the race was ok, and I was especially pleased to take advantage of the possibility to have my own drinks delivered to some of the aid stations (four .5 litre bottles), as I find it difficult to get enough liquid in with the paper cups that are on offer otherwise. Another positive note is the free post-race recovery massage by Wieruhierojat, which was also available last year. It’s just a quick 5min rub, but it works wonders on cramping legs! The medal is also quite nice, as it was last year. One last thing worth mentioning is that nowhere else except here in Helsinki could I expect to get such great support from my friends along the route; it helps immensely just to see familiar faces, not to mention actually getting cheered on, thanks for showing up! It’s also nice to have a few photos from the race without having to pay the ridiculous prices for the official ones.
On the negative side, the starting pens, or should I say pen, since everyone starts from the same area, still don’t work: I was just behind the 3:00h marker, yet I was surrounded by elderly ladies who would probably finish closer to 5 hours. It’s rather irritating, but fortunately HCM is such a small marathon that this only causes problems on the first few kilometres. In fact I managed to get within my target pace already on the second one. Other negative points are the lack of proper gear storage, and the silliness of the arrangements when you finish, as first you get the medal, then a banana, then some crisps, then some yogurt drink… I don’t understand why they don’t give you one plastic bag with everything. Oh well, these are quite small things, but it is an expensive race (I think I paid 75 euros) and this was already the 31st event, so you’d expect everything to go smoothly.
I set my target time for HCM as 3:10h and the target pace was 4:30min/km, or just below that. In the end I was 5min short, but I did beat last year’s time by over 25min. I wasn’t entirely confident about my ability to manage the target time given the fact that my training for the last two months has been sporadic at best, mostly due to travelling. Still, I knew that I should be able to get very close at least. Well, it’s a tough course. I started strong and did quite well until about 30km, but after that I slowed down inevitably. I did keep running all the way though, and even my slowest lap was just above 5min at 5:06. My splits (from Garmin; some inaccuracy due to the lack of fractions) were as follows:
10k 21:58 (10k in 43:58)
20k 22:10 (20k in 1:28:49)
30k 22:38 (30k in 2:13:39)
40k 25:02 (40k in 3:02:26)
Total: 42.66k in 3:14:54
HCM 2011: I noticed the photographer at this point! Photo courtesy of Johannes Hidén.
As you can see, at 30k I was still within target pace and I had been going at a very steady pace, running the first half in about 1:34h, even though there were a few laps that were perhaps a bit fast (my fastest being 4:10min/km). I felt very good until 15k or so, even though the first windy bit was just before that and I wasted a lot of energy to keep up my target pace there. Around the 16k mark I had the first sign of trouble in the form of a stitch, and I got another one later around the 25k mark. I ran through both of them though and fortunately they settled. More worrying were the cramps that I started having after 30k: both of my calves indicated that they were not happy at all about this sort of silly activity. I was afraid that they’d lock up completely at some point, but I kept running… I’m wondering whether my choice of footwear is to blame, at least partly, as I made the risky decision to race in my old pair of Adidas Adizero Tempo racing shoes. I love the shoes, but I’ve never worn them for anything longer than a half marathon, so I wasn’t sure whether the lack of cushioning would be a problem. Otherwise they felt pretty good and I really had to keep myself from running faster on the first half.
My stomach held up well during the race and it seems that I managed to get just about enough liquids in (helped by my own bottles), but I was only able to eat four of my twelve Clif Shot Bloks, I really didn’t fancy them on the second half of the race even though I could’ve surely used the energy and the salt. It’s also possible that the stitches and/or the leg cramps were caused by a lack of salt/nutrition, but I wouldn’t say that I had any major problems since I was able to keep running all the way.
All in all I can’t be too unhappy with my performance. I think that the hills and other rough bits on this course combined with the wind cost me much more than the 5min which would’ve gotten me within my target time. I wasn’t the only one to suffer from the wind; even though there was a joint effort to share the workload in the windy bits by covering behind each other and changing the leader every now and then, it was very difficult to avoid wasting energy. Several times I found myself about 20-30m behind the next runner or group of runners after overtaking someone, so I had to dig deep and push a little bit extra to reach them just in order to get at least a tiny bit of cover from the wind. I think that this made a huge difference in the end, and I can only hope that Amsterdam will be less windy!
My average heart rate was 168bpm, which is quite high but within acceptable limits (and lower than last year). Average pace was 4:34min/km in the end, so at least 4sec/km slower than target pace.
The men’s race was dominated by three Kenyan runners, the winner was Pius Ondoro with a time of 2:23:24. That’s not a very fast time: it is telling that the same guy ran 2:14:23 in Stockholm earlier this year, and that was only enough for the second place. So if the HCM course and conditions cost about 9min for the elite runners, it should be reasonable to expect that I could manage to run even 10min faster in ideal conditions. That still leaves me well short of sub 3h of course, but it would be enough to qualify for the 2013 Boston marathon (sub 3:05), which would be more than enough for me. Having said that, Leena Puotiniemi, who won the women’s race at HCM with an excellent time of 2:38:05, was actually over 3min slower in Stockholm! In any case, my target for the marathon this year is sub 3:10h, and I’m very confident that I can manage that in Amsterdam — sub 3h can wait until next year.
Official results here.
Garmin data here.