Monday, November 18, 2019

Two PBs, a renewed sense of enthusiasm and a team of one (part two)

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And so skip forward a week and I find myself on the start line for the Bath Half Marathon. I was freezing and hadn’t had any kind of warm up. My own stupid fault. I hadn’t anticipated just how busy it would be at the start of the race and that there would be no space to warm up!

 

 

So jogging on the spot was about the best I could manage, plus a few stretches. I’d left my bag with my partner and turned up at the start line 20 minutes early (it was already rammed!) in nothing but what I intended to run in. Again, my own stupidity and lack of preparedness sometimes astounds even me. Why on earth I didn’t think to bring an old t-shirt or even a bin bag to keep me warm, I’ll never know. So I was both freezing and not remotely ‘loosened up’. Perfect!

Maybe next time…

It was a relief to see the friendly smile of Claire Shea-Simonds in the same pen as me. We said hello and exchanged a little small talk to while away the last few minutes before the start. I knew Claire was aiming for sub-1:25, so I thought I’d stick near her at the start, partly to avoid my usual mistake of going off too hard (as a seasoned Kona-qualifier, I figured Claire would be a good judge of pace!). The start arrived and we inched towards the start line before finally crossing it about 15 or so seconds later.

As we broke into a trot I kept Claire just in my peripheral vision. I was aware she was running her own race, so while I was ‘using’ her for pacing I didn’t want to put her off her own plan. I’d set my Garmin for 4:02/km pace, figuring it would stop me going off to hard (as I did at Bourton) and that as long as I built up a steady lead over the stated pace, I’d be on for a PB, even if just a small one.

The start was really busy and so I wasn’t overly surprised as I found myself slightly down on pace at the first kilometer. No problem, we were on a slight downhill, so I could just let my legs run a little. I looked round for Claire, but couldn’t see her. Fair enough, maybe she was planning a slower first few miles then picking it up. Time to get on with my own race.

For the next couple of miles I built up a steady lead over my target pace. All was going well. I’d had a pre-race dilemma over shoes. My last half marathon PB had been set wearing the Skechers GORun Speed racing flats (sometimes known as GOMebs). But my calves had been sore afterwards (more an indication of my lack of experience running in flats than a reflection on the shoes), so this time I finally settled on my tried and tested GORuns. And despite the ribbing I get from some of my running friends, I chose to wear my 110% PlayHarder compression socks.

At seven miles in, and with legs still feeling okay, I was pleased with the kit choices. Time for a gel, which had been stuffed in my glove. I always stick to SiS gels when running as they are about the only ones I can stomach.

The weather was getting worse – or I was just getting more and more wet – or maybe both. The wind was really in our faces on the long straight run back into Bath and felt stronger on lap two (or again, I was just more tired..!).

By mile nine I was getting tired, but was mentally counting down to mile 12 when the plan was to leave nothing in the tank for the finish. It was a good theory and I was close to 40 seconds up on my target pace. But as I hit mile 11 I could feel the fatigue setting in. My breathing was getting more rapid and the legs were feeling heavy. Come on, just two and a bit miles to go! Mile 12 came and there really wasn’t much left in the tank, but I tried to dig in.

Then I saw it; the long slow climb up to the turn into the finishing straight. Somehow I’d forgotten all about it, and a gentle slope was looking (and feeling) more like a sheer cliff. I felt like I was running through treacle up the hill. I was reigning-in other runners but also rapidly losing the will to live. Finally the slope levelled out and I could see the turn ahead, I knew this was it.

Into the finishing chute and my Garmin buzzed on my wrist for 21km. It didn’t really register that the finish line looked a hell of lot more than 100 meters away but I dug in and did my best impression of a sprint for the line. I could see the time on the gantry above the finish line was getting close to 1:25. I guessed I’d taken at least 10-12 seconds to cross the line at the start, so as long as I crossed the finish under an indicated 1:25:00 I’d be okay.

I stopped the Garmin just after the line and staggered to a stop. I managed to find my way over to the side of the road before promptly bringing back up what was left of the gel I had taken earlier. I looked down at the Garmin; 1:24:39. Really? That’s disappointing, I was 40-odd seconds ahead of target, so my calculation was that I should have crossed the line in 1:24:25 or thereabouts. Then I looked at the distance – 21.23km.

Okay, fair enough, most ‘official’ courses are slightly over-distance to be safe.

Anyway, it was a PB. A very, very small PB, but a PB.

What did I learn from the race? Well…

1. Do a proper warm up before the race! Find space to do some strides if nothing else

2. Stay warm until the last possible moment. Take some rags or something you can afford to discard on the start line if you don’t have a mate you can throw it to

3. Maybe running to a pace isn’t right for me. I need to just try running to feel and see how that works.

4. I still need to quieten the dark thoughts in my head. I keep having negative thoughts mid-race and I know that’s not helpful.

If that all sounds a little negative, it’s not mean to be. I’m actually okay with the race result, given everything that’s been going lately. I have a new early-season PB (in fact, I have two!) to move forwards from.

So now it’s time to start focusing on Mallorca 70.3. I have a few training races between now and then, but nothing I plan to take too seriously. I need to accept that Mallorca is the goal and so if I do a training race but get told to run 5km at 70.3 pace or swim 750m at IM pace, I need to accept the logic behind it and just get on with my preparation.  And as for racing for 'Team Matt', I can't wait! I have a renewed sense of enthusiasm for training and am having a great time 'shopping' for new team kit! My swim training with Greenlight PT is coming on great (I think!) and I can't wait to start pumping up the power on the bike.  And the run? Well, the run will keep improving. I'll make sure of that.

Finally, a quick word of thanks to all the helpers and spectators at Bath. Really appreciated the support and encouragement.

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Matt Fisher runs TriathletesDiary.com - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs

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