When it comes to early retirement, there's no doubt that understanding what you'll spend is an important topic. Knowing what you'll do, yep, that's an important subject too. But finding out how you did in your marathon, well, that's just next level...or is this just me?
But first the costs and the what I do, which for this post translates to how I'm progressing against my targets for this year.
Early retirement costs
Hey, some good news, our grocery costs in October weren't ridiculously high, the first time I've been able to say that this year. We did what we planned to be our big shop in Lidl for the first time, which must have saved some money, but it's not the whole answer as we still had 70% of our monthly spend at our normal supermarkets which are much closer to us. Maybe we just bought less, using what we already had in the store cupboard and freezer. Whatever the reasons, it feels good to not have such a high grocery bill - hopefully it can continue.
The big spend for the month was car (or in our case, campervan) costs. Almost half was spent on winter tyres and snow chains, the latter is like insurance, something you buy and desperately hope you never have to use - they're hard enough to put on in a warm and dry garage, let alone on the edge of the road during a snow storm! Another 10% of the car costs was on tolls, they quickly add up during long journeys in France and Italy. We took a weeklong campervan trip to Italy which made the toll and fuel costs higher than normal.
I haven't shown any costs against our "second home" in the UK as we are now letting this on Airbnb, and just blocking the dates for when we want to use it (at the moment, we expect that to be around two months a year). It's working well so far. We started in the last few days of August, and for the period from then to the end of December:
it's been booked for 77 days (that's an occupancy of 83% of the days that it's available)
we're using it for 31 days
it will be unoccupied for 16 days
That level of occupancy is far above my expectations, fingers crossed it continues.
Even though there are still two months of the year to go, I feel like I've almost exhausted the targets that I set. I'm sure I'll continue to do those that are green, and the ones that are red or orange are unlikely to change in the next two months. Perhaps it's time to start thinking about what things I might want to accomplish next year.
Still, October did deliver two good bits of progress. Our campervan holiday to Italy let us tick off a new place, so that makes three done out of my visit 4 new places target. My favourite place was our visit to Monterosso and Vernazza, two of the Cinque Terre villages. They're very charming and picturesque. The other target that saw good progress was running, with the marathon that I mentioned earlier, and I'll talk about more in a moment.
With two months of the year still to go, I know that I'll keep running, and I know that I'll keep posting on my blog. I'm glad that I'm making more of an effort with my French by having lessons, and I'll keep going with that too - maybe it will eventually make a difference. I need one more place to achieve the visit four new places target, so I'm going to make sure to do that. I still want to give some thought to what new adventure I could target - I like to have something to look forward to, and perhaps to plan for, but at the moment I don't have any good ideas, or at least no ideas that Sally would think are good ideas!
Now that the costs and targets stuff is out of the way, I can talk about the marathon. It was in Lucerne, Switzerland, on 31 October. A week before that, I wrote a post about my thoughts and plans for it. In summary, that post:
reminded me that my training had gone well
reflected that the mental side of the marathon is something I find difficult, and tried to develop some ideas to overcome that
tried to come up with a target. Actually, it said that 3:15 seemed sensible while still being challenging, but that there was an alternative of setting off faster and trying to hang on to a faster time.
So, what happened?
Starting with the weather, it was sunny, cool, with very little wind, so that wasn't giving me any excuses. The course was a little damp underfoot at times, it would have been better if it had been bone dry, but if a slight greasiness made a difference, it was tiny. However, worth remembering that a completely dry route could help me shave a few seconds off my next one.
The course was a half marathon loop that we did twice - the half marathoners of course did it just once. The Covid era changed the start routine, so instead of a mass start, we lined up in four rows and runners started individually at five second intervals. Ahead of time, I had doubts about the looped course, I'd heard the second loop could be quiet and lonely, and I figured the staggered start would only add to that. I was wrong on both counts. Both the staggered start and the looped course meant that there were always plenty of runners around, whether marathoners or half marathoners, and I thought it worked really well.
As to my plan, even as I was writing about my 3:15 target, I knew in my heart that I was going to try to go faster and see if I could hold on. In favour was my training, against was that I hadn't done a marathon, or any similar competitive event, since early 2018. I genuinely would be happy with 3:15 if I felt I'd run well and tried hard. But I also knew that I have this dream to be able to say I've run a sub 3 hour marathon. It's a dream I've dreamt and tried before, and got close to achieving, but that was when I was 48, and I didn't make it. Now aged 52, even if a young 52😉, achieving the dream would surely be a bigger task.
I set off at 9am. The first starters had begun at 8:30am and the staggered start continued for hours after - people were still starting after I'd finished! I assume many of these were half marathoners, but they all ran the same loop which kept the course busy with runners, without being overcrowded. I checked my watch, and sure enough, I was rolling along at 3 hour pace, if not a little faster. I decided to roll the dice, and kept going. It's not a very hilly course, but not completely flat either, some sizeable and sustained bumps increased the heartrate and reduced the pace. I passed the half marathon point in 1:27:15, wow, I didn't expect that. It was either good news, I had a buffer, or bad news, I'd gone out way too fast and a crash was coming. I'd only find out later which it would be.
I received a boost at 23km when I saw my daughter cheering me on. It's amazing how much of a lift one gets from the supporters. Obviously, seeing my daughter was extra special, but also the people who saw my name on my race number and shouted the Swiss encouragement of "hopp hopp David" always gave me a boost too.
Unfortunately, soon after seeing my daughter, the legs started to feel heavier, and my kilometer times started to drop off. Six seconds here, ten seconds there, sometimes a bit more. Then at kilometre 29, I was going up a hill when I felt a twinge in my calf muscle. A few minutes later, cramp! What a disaster, I felt instantly deflated. I decided I had to stop to stretch it, to see if that would help. I grabbed hold of a street sign post, dropped my heel off the kerb and stretched for 20 or 30 seconds before setting off again. A miracle, it worked, the cramp was gone.
Back in the race, I had some faster kilometres and some slower ones. I tried to calculate what pace would still get me under 3 hours, to figure out what pace I couldn't dip below. I walked through a few water stations, just five or ten seconds to allow me to get a proper drink before continuing my run. Instinctively, I don't like that I did this, but I have a supicion that getting the fluid in and dropping the heart rate a touch actually helped me run better overall. If not, I doubt it added more that 30 seconds to my time.
The first loop seemed to have flown past. The second loop, although it was harder work, also went quickly. I passed 30km, feeling relatively OK, 32km, 34km, 35km and 36km, and mentally I now know I'm going to finish, it's just a question of the time. I'm still trying to do the math, but it's not easy when your muscles and brain are arguing about who gets the oxygen.
Kilometre 40 was tough, why would they make us run on cobblestones at that point? But then we came out onto the main road that I knew lead to the finish. There's not much point looking at my watch now, I just have to run to the end as quickly as I can, but that doesn't stop the frequent glances to my wrist as the seconds tick by. I'm looking for the kilometre 41 sign, the one that tells me there's only 1,200 metres to the finish. It seems to be a long time coming. I then see a sign a few hundred metres ahead, I look at my watch, estimate how long it will take me to get to the sign, plus how long the final 1,200 metres will take, and realise I won't get to the finish in less than 3 hours. It won't be much over, but it will be over. But on my measure of have I given it my best shot, I have, it will still be a good performance that I should be happy with.
I arrive at that final marker, but it's not the 41km sign. Instead, it says 1km to go. That means 200 metres less, which may not sound like much, but it's actually huge. I check my watch, and I know I can do it. I kick on, my daughter has moved to the finishing straight and I see her cheering as I head towards the finish line. 2 hours 59 minutes 9 seconds. I couldn't be happier. I know I put the effort in during my training, but it's still something of a shock. Did I think it was possible, yes (or at least not impossible), did I think it was likely, most certainly not. And having my daughter there to share it with was the icing on the cake.
Once finished, my thoughts turned to what's next? The immediate answer, a big burger (you really can get delicious vegan burgers!) and fries. And beyond that...I wonder if perhaps I could go a little faster next time?
Finishing time: 2:59:09 new PR and first time under 3 hours...woohoo!
First half: 1:27:15 hmm, maybe I overcooked that a bit
Second half: 1:31:55 perhaps some room for improvement, or a consequence of going too fast for the first half
Age group position: 6 out of 127
Overall position: 73 out of 908
What was on my arm and what did it mean?
FORM - a reminder to stand tall, swing my arms, suck my stomach in etc. Post race note: I can still do better with this.
TRNG - my training went well, so remember it and take confidence from it.
SARAH++ Sarah is my sister, who's undergoing chemo treatment now. However uncomfortable I may feel during the marathon, it's nothing compared to what she's going through, so I should suck it up and deal with it! ++ is the people I've told that I'm running, including you guys, and that I'd better not let myself down in front of them.
PUSH THRU 4,3,2,1 - again, suck it up, push through the discomfort. If I have 10km to go, foucs on the next 4, then the next 3...to keep things manageable and in bite size chunks.
WGT/SHOE - a reminder that I'm lighter than my last marathon, that should make it easier (less difficult) plus I bought some magic shoes😉
Last word. I just stopped typing, and even though it's five days since my marathon, I'm sitting here with my arms raised in the air, "yes, I did it!!!". Haha, I might look a fool doing that, but I'm a happy fool...in fact, I'm going to do it again
YES, I DID IT!!!