to say that things have changed this year would be a bit of an understatement; obvious evidence of this can be seen in the way i prepared for this race, and how nervous i was!
it seemed like a lifetime ago that i ran my first “half”, and while it was only 5 months ago, an awful lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.
that’s why i was so nervous. not through worrying about issues like “will i finish this?”, but rather due to the fact i’d set specific goals, told the world about them, and even had a “private” goal that pushed things a little bit more.
yes, me, setting goals
it’s a thing i’m getting into more and more lately, goals, and there’s something magical about them. once you set yourself a goal, you find that your actions tend to fall into line with that goal, naturally.
plus. when you achieve a goal… the feeling is immense!
with my previous half marathon time being 2 hours 47 minutes, i had decided to aim for 2 hours 30 minutes for this event. but as training progressed, my running was improving beyond recognition, and 2 hours 30 started to look too “easy”.
when i completed a 10k fun in an hour, the mcmillan race time calculator predicted just under 2 hours 15 for a half, and just under 4 hours 45 for a full marathon!
i started to think 2 hours 15 was doable. it seemed a big step, a large chunk of time to shave off, and eventually i settled on a public goal of 2 hours 20 minutes – however 2:15 remained my private goal.
it’s all in the preparation
that’s been the only “secret” to the way my running has improved. consistent, persistent training and becoming more aware of how to prepare and recover properly.
being willing to head outdoors even when it’s been wet, wild and windy. sticking to the schedule, and practising things like race day routines and fueling strategies.
in that first half, i’d never even heard of energy gels, and my first experience of them was during the marathon. this time around i’ve been using them regularly, and reaping the benefits of faster times, less fatigue and improved recovery.
i’ve also started consuming protein after a long run too – either a choc bar or protein shake. other changes/enhancements to my “toolkit” include using the foam roller, doing some very basic (and clumsy) yoga moves on a saturday, following a training program that includes speed/threshold work, and overall becoming more knowledgeable as a runner, (and applying that knowledge).
and that’s why i was so bloody nervous
i’ve spoken about all this at length on the blog, on the facebook page. i’d been telling everyone how well the training was going, how confident i was going into the event.
it was pressure of my own making, good pressure. nothing excessive. just enough to make me sweat a little under the collar, focus on putting in my best performance on the day, and trusting in the training.
it wasn’t too bad on saturday (the day before the race), i managed to remain calm, rested, ate heaps of pasta and even managed to do a little running-related shopping (gels, a new shirt, copy of runners world magazine and some socks).
when sunday morning arrived however, it came with a slightly different feeling to previous events. the excitement was there, the familiar race day buzz was there in all its splendour; so was that pressure to perform-rather-than-just-finish…
race day routine kicks in
i’d got everything organised the night before, posted the now-obligatory-race-day-outfit-pic on facebook, spent saturday pretty much as planned and got an early night in.
i woke around 3:30am, 4 hours and 10 minutes before the half marathon start time. perfect.
i ate brekkie – muesli, 2 slices of toast and jam, orange juice and a black coffee.
showered, shaved, made sure i stayed hydrated.
sat down for a while, listening to music, chilling out, getting nervous about the goal time.
finally i put the running gear on, made sure a photo was taken.
we headed off to fremantle. there was an hour to go before start time, so this is the point where i stopped drinking water.
meeting the rogues and some pre-race banter
this is another aspect of my running that has changed significantly. i now KNOW other runners. look out for them at events. have people come up to me and say “hello”, “good luck” etc. it really adds to the whole experience, and makes you feel part of a fantastic community.
this pre-race was a little bit special as there was a “rogue wave” – several members of the Rogue Runners Club Australia were taking part, plus a few other people from facebook-land would be there.
all that helped keep the nerves at bay to be honest. a bit of a meet and greet, a final visit to the portaloo, and before long we were shuffling towards the start area.
unlike my usual approach though, i found myself in the middle of a large crowd. this was going to be interesting…
a puff of gun smoke. party time!
as the fast runners set off, the crowd inched its way to the starting line, wave upon wave of runners adopting a similar stance as they prepared to start their garmins at the moment they crossed the line. me included.
we were off. there was no point checking pace, the crowd soon funneled onto a narrow path. whatever pace the crowd was doing, that’s what i was doing.
the pace, as it turned out, was much faster than i intended. my target pace was 6:38 per km. we were doing about 6:00 per km, sometimes less. this was my 10km pace. oddly though, it didn’t feel that fast!
when the crowd thinned out a little i made a conscious effort to ease back. no matter how this felt, no matter how much i tried to convince myself that the taper period had given me incredible speed and strength, i knew i wasn’t going to be able to sustain 6:00 for the entire 21.1km, and trying to do so would probably result in a very painful final 5 to 10 km.
but the pace wouldn’t drop to 6:38, every time i checked the watch it would show 6:15, 6:20 or something similar.
and that’s when my brain went into overdrive. i convinced myself that a pace between 6:15 and 6:25 was feasible.
that not only was i going to smash the 2:20, i would smash the 2:15 as well.
after all, this training cycle has thrown up so many remarkable achievements that another one wouldn’t be out of place!
round and round and round we go
the 21.1km course involved 4 laps of a course. with lap 2 extending back to the start/finish line and lap 4 ending at that point (obviously).
laps 1 and 3 were shorter loops around the same route – long stretches of tarmac with a long slow climb in places, and a welcome glimpse of the ocean (and sea breezes on your face) every now and then.
overall i didn’t enjoy doing the same route over and over and over again, however it did mean that there were no hidden surprises – once the first lap was done, you knew what was left to do.
the one really good thing about the setup though was seeing the fast runners a few times over the course of the race. they were amazing to watch.
at the halfway point i was feeling strong, confident. at first i thought the clock showed one hour, then i realised it was showing 1:08. i was ahead of schedule for 2:20, and a negative split would deliver the 2:15 for sure…
all good things must come to an end
at 14km or so i started to lose momentum. started to feel the heat building. started to feel my legs hurt.
up until that point i’d held a pace under the target of 6:38, i’d felt strong. things started to wobble a little.
it wasn’t helped by the fact that the water station had run out of water when we were on lap 3! fortunately i was carrying my own water, though this was now fairly warm.
the repetitive nature of the course started to get to me a little as well – so all in all there were a few mental games going on between 14km and 16km.
16km was an important milestone
the original plan was to run a 2:20 pace, then push on a little for the final 5km.
to assist with this i had my phone with me, and was ready to plug the music in to help me dig deep for that final push.
i’d obviously run faster than intended, but with the wheels wobbling at 14km, i decided to stick to the original plan, and try and get some drive back.
at 16km i ate my final gel, put the earphones on and started to dig.
it worked. the 17th km split was around 6:30, the times were coming down again.
then it happened… i got a bad stitch. first proper stitch in a race. ever.
there was nothing to do except breath deeply, push on, run it out.
kilometres 18 and 19 suffered time-wise, but they were critical to the overall race. they were “character building kilometres”.
i pushed through. got to the end of that particular tunnel. the stitch gave up and shuffled off into a corner to sulk. defeated.
a wonderful final 2.1km
the side stitch gone. the final gel now fully kicking in. the music blasting me forwards.
the final couple of kms felt good. strength returned to my running. confidence returned to my mind.
cold water had been consumed from a replenished water station on lap 4.
and now it was time to do battle, a close battle to squeeze in under 2:20
with every stride i could sense the finishing line approaching.
we got to the end of the short loop circuit for the final time. diverted towards the narrow path.
a funny thing happened next…
all the words of support and encouragement, all the advice, all the good wishes. all the positive emotions that i’ve received through the facebook page for weeks and months.
they all came to life at that moment. with absolute clarity, i had a vision of the NMMFG “minions” waiting for me at the finish line. shouting my name, urging me on, willing me to get across that line in under 2:20.
i picked up pace. running confidently up the narrow path.
turning the final corner. seeing the finishing lane opening up before me.
i started striding out, each pace more powerful than the one before. thundering through the channel, removing people’s limbs when high-fiving them.
on fire. full of determination. the clock was showing 2 hours 19 minutes and some seconds.
i charged down the last few metres, all of the facebook fans jumping up and down as i headed to the line.
all ready to leap up and celebrate as i crossed the line.
one last glance up as i headed under the gantry – 2 hours 19 minutes, 44 seconds.
i punched the air with delight. nailed it.
NOTE: the official net time was 2 hours 18 minutes 31 seconds.