Magic stuff Lev! I find it bizarre that the for all our contrasting training experiences leading up to the race, our experiences during the race were almost equally mixed up, and yet we came within a whisker of crossing the line together. More than anything though, you also make me think that we're still both quite "new" at this marathon lark and can still learn a thing or two, even if it is via torturous experience. Onwards and upwards to that sub-2:30!
Toro - Nice one fella. Clear signs of a Champs qualifying time for you next time round. And well done to your mum!
I must admit the alcohol-free Erdinger did go down very well, considering the sun was beaming down at the end of the race, and I did have a bit of a thirst on. I had a very brief conversation with the guy handing them out:
ThR - That gel was the only thing I had during the race other than frequent glugs/chokes of water from cups. (The only gripe I have with Berlin, but a minor one cos I reckon I got enough down me.) I've never had any energy issues either and was hoping to get round on just water. Now I still don't know what's best to do!
**edit** Tell a lie, I had a couple of swigs of sugary liquid late on as well. At least I now know I get on with PowerBar products...
Thanks for all the comments everyone. I'm glad I managed to convey some of the mental anguish underlying the splits. It's definitely the longest I've spent during a race teetering on the edge, staring into the abyss, and other such scary analogies.
bainspj - Berlin is a cracking race. So difficult to compare objectively with London, since London is such a huge thread / club / running mates' big day of the year, but as an overall package I don't think it can be beat. Definitely a fast course (how many consecutive world records now? Six?) and mentally (despite my mildly traumatic experiences!) easier to tick away the kilometres along looong straight, wide roads. And such a nice setting for the start/finish area, right in front of the Reichstag and coming through the Brandenburg Gate at the end. And a great city, which I'd never been to before.
Re: Autumn vs Spring marathons. This is something I've been thinking about a lot in relation to my thoughts about whether to race London next year. Being so involved in club racing meant that a lot of my Summer fitness was brought on by frequent races over shorter distances, plus the associated interval based training, with a few nods to marathon training bolted on. In hindsight, this appears to have done the job, but it didn't help with all the doubts going through my mind, and wondering whether I'd done enough long tempo runs on a Thursday evening!
I'm still in two minds; maybe it's a different way of arriving at the same point, or maybe I've got more room for improvement by combining my new higher mileage training with a more traditional marathon training approach for Spring, built around XC, higher volume rep sessions, and long tempo runs?
I've got till January to decide whether I want to race or pace London. (Champs entry deadline coincides with RW sorting out their pacers.) I'm not entirely sure what performance indicators I want to see before then or whether I just go with my instinct/mojo/whatever, but at the moment I'm thinking I only want to race it if I've got a very strong stab at sub-2:30.
...I think shortly after half way I saw my club mate John Gilbert (2:16 at London) who had come out to Berlin after pulling out of the race with an injury. He says I was looking strong and comfortable; I just remember trying to hang on to one of the guys I'd been with since very early on, and putting one foot in front of the other. I also remember thinking 'What would John Gilbert do?" as the negative thoughts persisted. He is a double-hard northerner! I cast my mind back to Paris (2008) where 21k - 32k was the most comfortable section of the race, to see if I could summon the same feeling on the similar wide, flat streets of Berlin, but I was kidding myself, even though I was keeping under target (17:59 split to 25k). I reached a low point at 27k. Not sure if the Garmin was playing up or whether I'd genuinely started slowing down but I saw my first "lap pace" figure in the 3:40s rather than 3:30s, and at the same time started feeling light-headed. I decided to do something a little rash and committed the classic schoolboy error of trying something new on race day: I grabbed a PowerBar gel, even though I'd never used one before. Initial thought was "uh-oh", as the effort of opening it and sucking it down completely mucked up my already laboured breathing, and I was convinced this would be the start of a miserable slow-down. However, once I got the breathing back under control I suddenly felt significantly invigorated, and picked it up for the second quickest 5k split of the race, 17:46. Weird!
It must've been about 30k that I spotted Lev ahead of us. I assumed he must've been flagging, but I knew I was running in a good group, so I was hoping he might be able to settle in with us, and he did. Again I thought back to Paris, about how I enjoyed counting down each km from the 10k to go mark... then thought back to my London course comparison (Poplar... actually I probably felt worse than this at Poplar and I'd already started slowing down. I'm not slowing down yet. KEEP GOING!) Another good 5k split to 35k (17:52) and me and Lev are running side by side (except for the bit where I decided to swap sides and clipped his heel. Sorry fella!) 7k to go, 6k to go... things were getting progressively more uncomfortable, but the doubts were fading in proportion as I felt like we were on the home straight.
The final 2/3k were a proper ordeal though. My rhythm was deserting me completely, and yet the splits were still on pace. The final straight before turning to go under the Brandenburg Gate seemed to go on for an age, but then I could sense the finish. Had a final desperate spurt to try and catch Lev for some Chariots of Fire action but he was just too strong for me. Finally had a huge feeling of relief and elation as I realised I was going to come in under 2:32, and attempted a victory wave before collapsing against the railings about ten yards over the line, then using Lev as a prop, under the guise of a man-hug!
My time of 2:31:41 (a three second negative split!!) put me 12th V40, 7th Brit (apparently) and 78th overall in the race, with a V40 UK ranking of 9th. My club mate who ran 2:32 at Berlin last year finished 78th in the race and finished with a V40 UK ranking of 9th for the year. Spooky!
Looks like I'm getting in before Lev. But I guess I can implicate him where necessary since we've had most of the spoilers. Having got all psyched up with Ravel's Bolero just before the off, I skipped into the sub-2:40 pen (marvellous!); Lev did his best to hide from me by not wearing either his club vest or glasses (!) but we did indeed set off together and settled in to something close to my target pace of 3.36/k / 18:00 5k splits for a 2:32:00. First 5k came up at 17:42, at which point I may have subconsciously eased off slightly, but I'm also pretty sure Lev got a shift on and started drifting ahead slowly. I assumed he was feeling a lot more comfortable than me and let him go.
Over the next 5k (18:05) I was already beginning to wonder whether things were feeling as comfortable as they should, but had settled in to running with another couple of guys and stuck with it. More questions going through my head over the next 5k and my slowest split (18:14; 10k 35:47) of the whole race, especially as I was constantly making metric/imperial calculations in my head and trying to work out where I'd be at particular points in London. ("Creek Road... felt more comfortable than this", etc...) Lev had pretty much disappeared into the distance by now, and what with missing some of my support crew who were supposedly watching at 12k, I was feeling a little lonely and collywobbly! What's more, I'm pretty sure that well within the first half of the race my breathing was becoming somewhat laboured, and that's really not something that's happened before.
Despite the doubts I somehow managed to pull out a quicker 5k split (17:53) which helped me stay just inside target at halfway in what looks on paper like a textbook spit of 1:15:52. I couldn't help wondering whether anyone would be following the tracker at this point and assume I had everything under control. I was panicking my arse off!