Sunday, 3 November 2013

Stevenage half marathon: race day

I've spent 2013 being a bit disappointed in myself. I trained really hard in the Spring and was on for a PB at Baldock Beast half marathon but my hip suddenly was too painful at mile 10 and I had to walk... I had a chest infection so couldn't train fully for Greenway Challenge half. I had a shin injury so spent the summer on my bike and in the pool, which affected my training for Standalone 10K. I had to enter Duck N Dash in the end, to fulfil my need for a PB a year ("6K run" being a new distance for me!).

So my training for Stevenage Half Marathon was quite important to me. I was careful to ensure my long runs were slow enough to develop muscle, I made sure I included one quality tempo run a week, of at least 5 miles, and I kept up my Pilates and other strength work, to maintain leg and core strength. 

Race day: I was dropped off at Ridlins track in Stevenage at 9:20am, so had an hour to get myself ready for the race. The sun was out, and I sat on the stands and caught the sun for half an hour. My friends arrived (Greg, Chris, Jess, Ann, and Matt) and we all had a relax and chat about various things (I looked at Greg's photos of his baby girl, very very tiny and very cute and no I don't want any more babies).

After undressing in front of everyone, I handed in my bag, went to the loo for the last time, had my first gel (15 minutes before the start), and found Lewis from club (randomly, I really wasn't stalking him). We warmed up together and I quizzed him about being from Manchester (because he is) and I think perhaps I scared him a bit... (sorry.)

We lined up, and I said to random strangers how much I hate the wait at the start, because my Garmin always goes off at the wrong moment (I was frantically trying to find satellites with a minute to go). And then we were off, and Lewis dashed off and I let him go. I had pace notes on my hand for a PB (8, 16, 24, 32, 40, 48, 56, etc) so I was following the plan and no one was going to stop me. Two laps of a 6 point something course. Let's GO!

I felt really good for the first 6 miles, I even managed some sub 8 min miles. Uphills are hard, but they're never too long on this course, and they must go down at some point. Running downhill, I relaxed into them and let my legs flow. In fact, I ran the first 10K in 48:56, which is faster than I ran Standalone 10K in this year, and only half a minute off my PB!

Took my next gel at mile 4, just after I'd dropped it (and had to run back for it, swearing loudly and apologising). At mile 6 I saw my physio Kieran, and he shouted at me for running too slowly, haha, he's good for encouragement.

As I passed the start point for the second loop my legs started to feel tired. The next miles (7 to 9) were mainly uphill and very hard. I was feeling a bit low because I wasn't hitting the 8 min miles I needed, plus I was feeling a bit dizzy; I could quite easily have sunk into the grass and had a sleep. But I didn't give up because I remembered back to Standalone when I did give up and then regretted it. I had a few fellow runners to race against, a guy called Arnie from Hitchin Running Club helped me on miles 7 and 8, and a lady in a blue top with 2 SIS gels in her bum kept me going for miles 8 and 9. I then remembered I'd run a few miles under 8 minutes so knew I had a few seconds in the bag. I checked my hand notes and I was still hitting my target every mile, so started to feel confident again.

Took my last gel at mile 8. Miles 9 to 12 were good, mainly downhill (although into a headwind), and at this point I spotted Lewis ahead of me. I was catching him, but didn't push hard to catch him. I passed him at mile 12, and gave him some encouraging words. He said he kept me in sight after that, so I hopefully kept him going. He certainly helped me stay in touch with my pace.

Just about mile 12 I felt my toe, which had been burning for miles, suddenly get hot and very painful. I assumed a blister had split, so curled my foot into a ball and limped for a bit. It got easier to deal with, and I managed a sub 8 minute mile for mile 13. The final stretch was uphill, how horrible is that?! But I knew I would PB so I was happy and relaxed at this point.

As I entered the stadium my name was called out, and I heard someone shout at me (Kieran I assume; I waved). I saw Chris (he finished in 1:38) and he said my sprint finish was a bit rubbish, so I made a bit more effort to cross the line. In 1:45:25, over a minute PB.

Happy PB Face

At the end I met Kieran, who took my photo and high-fived me, and we had a quick chat about my possibly busted toe, and his great supporting (LOL), then I went to get my bag and medal. Met Lewis crossing the line just behind me in 1:45:55. Got a bit lost trying to get out of the middle of the track, which earned me a spot prize of a bag, always useful.

It turns out my toe isn't busted, I just have a new blister. And I met my twitter friend Simon, and I quizzed him how he'd got on. "Yeah, wasn't really trying cos I've got St Neot's Half in 2 weeks". He came 5th, not trying my arse.

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