Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Sleaford Half Marathon

The day of the 1/2 Marathon dawn pretty dull and drizzly but thankfully nothing like the torrential rain we had been anticipating. It was weird to arrive back at Cranwell after the time away and noticing the start of the race was part of the old 'Mile and a Half' max run test we used to have to do brought back shivers of fear!

As the boys didn't want to set off too early I arrived a lot later than normal and felt I didn't have my noral pre-race rituals. This set me off on a bit of a weird journey I think and I think it was a bit of a lesson to try and keep your normal routine for things. Due to them also not wanting to do a bag drop so they could get away quickly (?!) we had to keep returning to the car to shed layers which meant my warm-up and loo stops were also disturbed. All in all I felt a bit rattled hitting the start line with only 30secs to go after a fruitless last attempt to visit the portaloos! Also, my foot pod appeared to have run out of battery so I wouldn't be able to record my speed during the race. These things all served to throw me and I started off not in a good place. My legs also felt extremely tired and running into into 40mph headwinds didn't help! Within the first mile was the infamous 'Devil's Dip' which we used to do hill training on and I resigned myself to having a bad day. At 2miles we were guided onto an off-road rutted muddy track which saw me slipping and sliding about for the next two miles, trying to keep balance and find a space not filled with runners also trying to do the same thing. I got fuming angry at this point which probably helped because in the first two miles I had just felt a bit tired and pathetic and not wanting to go on; getting cross fuelled the fire a bit. I was relieved to hit the end of the mud at 4miles, though the course seemed to only go up and never down (how is this possible) and jogged along to 6miles cross that my pace average was no scuppered and I had no chance of meeting my 1hr 50 target. Instead of reassuring myself that the conditions were just really poor, I started to get really worried that maybe I don't have it in me to do a sub-4hr marathon after all (sub-1hr 50 is the time cited for a 1/2marathon to put you on the road for a sub-4hr marathon).

I had a gel around 7miles and started to feel a lot better and stronger. I think this is probably because the endurance side of training was now beginning to kick in and I felt good. I felt strong to 10miles and then decided to try and push the pace a bit. The last three miles were good and slowly my pace picked up a little which I was pleased with. The last mile and a half saw the return of 'Devil's Dip' and back onto the mile and a half course (grass) for the run into the finish. I knew sub 1hr50 wasn't possible but I was surpised to turn into the finishing straight with 1hr 53 on the clock. I knew with just a final push I could at least get a PB and salvage something from a pretty disappointing race. I pushed on and managed to dip under 1hr 54 (approx 1hr 53.54 - results aren't out yet) for a PB of 20secs or so!

Things to take away:

1. I was so cross initially that I couldn't get my average speed up enough to get the 1hr 50 and started to beat myself up about it and question my ability for a sub-4hr marathon (my first season target at Paris in 6 weeks). However, I must remember, I have trained straight through this week (including a 19miler on Monday), the conditions were poor (cold, wet and windy), it was a challenging course with at least 2 miles in mud and another mile on grass. Paris will be none of these things and I will have tapered properly.

2. I got a PB! Disappointed though I was not to go sub-1hr 50, I cannot complain that I did this tough course and still managed to PB. My previous PM was set at the Brass Monkey - a notoriously PB friendly course so this has got to be a sign I am improving.

3. I didn't give up. I was really tired and fed up in the first few miles but I willed myself to keep working and encouraged myself just to push on for the next few miles and at least treat it as a training run and get the miles under my belt. That has helped me mentally to know, I can push on when things aren't exactly going my way. And, let's face it, there will be plenty of those moments over the next 18months!

All in all, a funny race which I have mixed feelings about - still not every race or every training session can be perfect and I think I have taken away some good lessons - not least check your batteries! So long as you keep learning and keep improving it can only get better and if you train hard you fight easy as they say!

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