Monday, 5 May 2008

Better But Blunter

Todays Half marathon in Bantry, on the whole, was a very good run for me in that the expected ITBS pain did not materialise at all and despite some minor stiffness hours after the race I had more aches and pains in my claves than anywhere else. Therefore it would appear that I should be able to ramp up my training for Cork (and more importantly sign up for it) - only 2 weeks to taper. Given my apprehension about injury in todays race my plan was somewhat different than usual:-
  • Short warmup to save wear and tear on the IT band.
  • Start out conservatively.
  • Wear running tights and carry drink in my hand.

I met Thomas at the start line and wished him luck as I wouldn't be going out at target race pace. I met up with Pat, my next door neighbour who was targeting a 01:35 time (07:15 pace) and said I would pace off him at the start and see how my knee held up.

The gun went off and the speedesters tore off down the road at a rate of knots. Thomas must have been among them as I never saw him, and he's not the type of guy to take up the rear. I headed out with Pat at just over 7 minute pace and felt very relaxed, taking it relatively easy.

Mile 1 passed in 06:56 (a bit faster than target but no problem)

Mile 2 and 3 were similar in 07:05 & 06:55 respectively. Then the big hill outside Glengarrif hit during mile 4 and the pace slowed somewhat - although this is whre I left Pat. The Garmin was set to average overall pace, current pace and distance - overall was showing about 07:11 halfway up the hill. Initially I misunderstood this to mean current mile pace and though I was cruising up the hill, especially as I was passing others - that was until the 4 mile autolap beeped at 07:46 (holy shit - I did this in 07:42 last year).

This guy passed me at the 3.5 mile mark and I tailed him up the hill and was more or less on his shoudler by the time we got to the top, close to mile 5. I was feeling quite good at this stage (no sign of knee pain) and though I was well behind the 06:52 average pace required for a 1:30 time I began hatching a plan to get back on pace. I offered the guy I had been shadowing a drink and we got talking. This was his first run in the 4 weeks since he completed the Paris Marathon in 03:20. He said that he was aiming for "about the hour and a half". When I said that my target was the same he said "Stick with me so and we'll get there together".

Mie 5 in 06:56. We knew we would have to speed up to get on pace for 1:30. The next 3 downhill miles helped us in this regard and we moved along at a good pace which, although maneagable, felt a bit faster than I would have run had I been on my own. We picked off quite a few runners along this section. I always had it in the back of my mind when passing guys at a pace that I think is a bit fast that i'll get picked off by them half a mile down the road when I am forced to cut back, but we maintained pace and didn't get overtaken.

Miles 6, 7 & 8 in 06:42, 06:23 & 06:19. (average pace was now down to 06:53 - on target more or less). One thing that told me this guy was made of stronger stuff was when he pulled out a bannana at around 6.5 miles, peeled it and offered some to me and then turned around and offered it to a guy we had just passed - anyone who can do that at 06:30 pace has my complete admiration.

The next few miles were undulating and while my knee was not bothering me the effort and feeling of fatigue in my legs was beginning to take its toll. Still miles 9 & 10 churned out in 06:39 & 06:45.

And then the punishing series of never ending hills to the finish line commenced (I don't remember the down bits as much as the muscle aching long uphill drags). I still managed to keep up with my guy as we managed to pass others who had slowed down and any attempts at telling him to go on ahead were met with "come on you can do it". One guy did pass us along this section (the first guy, and only as it turned out, since about mile 2 or 3)

Mile 11 in 07:01. 2.1 miles to go. Hanging in there felt very tough. I had an overwhelming urge to stop and walk "just fo a few seconds" - I knew that if I did that would be the end of my race. Every 10 seconds my thought changed from "I'm never going to make 1:30" to "I can do this" .

Mile 12 in 06:50 - nearly there ...... but hey wait a minute Garmin read 12.08 miles as I passed the actual 12 mile marker "shit this throws my times and paces off - my Garmin recorded 06:52 average pace to-date is not the real deal at all.

With the last hill gone at mile 12.4 it was downhill and then level all the way to the finish. It felt like an age, still about 5 meters behind my pacer - running through the narrow streets with warning tape tied between cones - waiting, hoping to see the 13 mile mark around the next corner, my guy in front was now shouting back to me "come on get a move on" my legs were like jelly and my heart pounding - at last the 13 mile mark. my pacer was pulling away in one last efffort......... around the last corner............"is that a 28 or 29 I see - shit 01:29:50"- I shift my legs into another gear nearly tripping myself up -running on fumes, tank empty. My pacer got through with 2 or 3 seconds to spare with me about 2 seconds on the wrong side - utterly exhausted. I certainly would have finished slower if it hadn't been for this guy (Sean from Milstreet - he was using this race to test his form and decide whether he should sign up for the Cork marathon next month).

While I had not prepared for racing (no racing shoes, warm running tights, no real warmup), the course was hilly and the day warm - a 01:25 to 01:27 half marathon was never on the cards today and while I half joked in my last post about cruising along at 01:30 pace - achieving that pace was the best that I could do and took alot of effort (My HR averaged 184 during the last mile - dangerosly high). My hat goes off to Thomas for getting under 01:28 and although he was dissappointed at getting so close to his PB and not beating it his time, given the terrain and conditions, was very impressive. Well done.


  1. Great work on the half! This kind of day throws all the theory about perfect preparation right out the window! I am glad that ITB is feeling a little better - keep taking care of it!


  2. Hey, you cost me a six-pack of Boags! ;)

    Glad the ITB held up. Now all you have to do is double the distance and keep the same pace in Cork :)

  3. Thanks for the roses, and especially for the lift back to Glengarriff afterwards. I really hope you will be fit and ready for Cork.

    Btw., the uphill race you mentioned in the car is the Jungfrau marathon in Switzerland. It looks stunning on the web site, although I'm not convinced the runners will have the energy to appreciate the scenery during the race.

  4. Excellent race.
    Glad to hear your knee didn't cause you any grief. It was a good test for Cork.

  5. I'm so glad to hear that the IT band behaved itself. Congratulations on a solid effort, and under normal conditions I'm sure you would've had your PB.

    Try and get a couple of massages this week and you'll be good to go. Rest up, you deserve it!