I’d followed up my week of no training with two good weeks of training, so naturally had to cock up my preparation a bit on Saturday. Rather than going to bed early and reading excerpts from Running With the Buffaloes or The Chimp Paradox, or even staying up and watching montages from various Rocky films, both methods which have worked well for me in the past, I stayed up until well after midnight drinking wine and watching highlights of Liverpool against Southampton. For the third time. Personally I blame Brendan Rodgers for constructing such a damn sexy team.
Because of that I woke up a little bleary eyed and a little disorganised on Sunday morning, and made a last minute decision to go short sleeved top rather than long sleeved base layer. After all, the forecast did say dry and cold with even a bit of sunshine.
Ah well, it was just a bit of rain and I had predicated my decision to go short sleeved on the fact that I’d also be wearing gloves.
Which obviously I’d forgotten.
One of those “stop being a little bitch and just HTFU” type scenarios then.
As always, it wasn’t even that bad once you got going. For me at least. The 10k runners, which included my good wife, got absolutely saturated in a massive downpour. By the time the half marathon runners were ready to go it was just cold, windy and very, very damp.
My plan for this race had been up and down with my confidence for the last two weeks. The week before last, first week back after sickness I was wondering how I was ever going to get round a half marathon at anything approaching target marathon pace (4:58/km). Every run was slow and laborious. Last week then was much better, Tuesday night’s run especially felt good, but that was still only 13k @ 5:13/km so I still had my doubts about doing 21.1k @ 5:00/km. My plan then was to do 2k @ 5:30, 2k @ 5:20, 1k @ 5:10 and then run as much of the remainder as I could at 5:00 or as close to it as possible which, if I managed it, would bring me in at about 1:46 or so, which was still almost five minutes quicker than my previous half marathon PB of 1:50:24
Just after setting off I was very conscious of pacing and determined not to go off to quick, but looking at my (lovely new) Garmin I was running at 5:00 mins/km, which didn’t seem right as it felt like I was barely moving, and my heart rate was only in the low 140′s, which would normally have my pace even less than 6:00 mins/km. I wasn’t really worried about my pace being a bit quick though when my HR was so low, so I just kept trotting along, keeping an eye on both. After three or four kilometres of actively trying to slow myself down I just thought “feck it” and decided to run on feel for a while. Everything felt good, my legs felt really fresh, my breathing was easy and steady and I couldn’t even feel the couple of niggles I’d had with my feet in the run up to the race. Whenever I stole a glance at my Garmin the pace was reading in around 4:40 and my HR was reading mid-150′s.
Somewhere between ten and twelve kilometres another runner and I passed each other back and forth a couple of times before settling in to a rhythm running alongside each other, where we stayed up until the ten mile marker when I stopped at the water station to get a drink and have a gel. Normally I wouldn’t stop at a water station unless I was really hurting, but reading an article from Pete Pfitzinger (renowned marathon coach and author) he reckoned that unless you’re an elite runner, and I’m pretty certain I’m not, you should walk through water stations, get your water and any fuel into you properly, and then start running again. The rationale being that the ten to twenty seconds you lose is more than made up for by actually getting your gel/water into you, rather than all over your face or down your front, plus it makes it a little easier on your stomach and GI tract. I know my sample size isn’t exactly huge, ie one race, but it seemed to work for me.
It took me a couple of minutes to catch back up with Michael, the guy I’d been running with, and I definitely felt the increase in pace. My legs were starting to tighten up a little bit, but I still felt far, far better than during any half marathon in the past. With about 2k to go I started to feel guilty about feeling quite so fresh, so decided to up the pace a bit. I’m never quite sure what the etiquette is in that situation. Do you say to the person you’re running with that you’re going to up the pace? What do you do if you can’t hold on to it then? At that point it’s getting a bit hard to talk so I just decided to go for it.
With a kilometre to go I was on my own now but put a target on a guy fifty or sixty metres in front of me. I’d seen him dropping a gel wrapper on the road (one of those huge Hi-5 ones) but in standard Irish fashion didn’t say anything at the time, preferring to grumble and bitch about it later. Anyway, I’d decided I had to beat this gentleman so pushed harder to catch him, which caused him to respond, I pushed again, and he responded again. However I had an inkling that with still a few hundred metres to go if I pushed again he wouldn’t be able to respond, so I did, and he didn’t. Rounding the corner onto the finishing straight I finally caught sight of the timer and realised with a sprint I could make it under 1:42, so turned on the *ahem* afterburners and managed to make it across the line in 1:41:41
To say I was delighted with the result would be an understatement akin to saying the field the cars were parked in was a bit muddy. I was absolutely elated. This was probably the best race result I’ve ever had, one of the few times where I’ve put in a decent block of training and really reaped the rewards. Who knew that regular, consistent, progressive training would lead to such fantastic results?
Something that really shouldn’t pass without mention is the hospitality and organisation of Bohermeen A.C. After the race the sports hall was absolutely hopping with people, but there was enough tea, coffee, soup, sandwiches, buns and cakes to feed an army. Exactly what was needed for hordes of tired, wet, hungry runners. It was much the same as the spread put on by Donadea A.C. but for a much bigger number. It seems to be the case, in my experience anyway, that the smaller, club run races, in the country, really are the ones to do. The atmosphere is great, everyone’s friendly and supportive and the money that’s made goes back to a local club, rather than some company that’s just in it for the profit. With the plethora of races available to do every weekend, I think I can see myself sticking to this type of race for the forseeable future, and not the €50+ half marathons with the ‘technical’ t-shirt and the single bottle of water at the finish. I’ll definitely be back to Bohermeen next year anyway.