It’s Bath Time

I don’t know why, but undertaking a long road trip to a race makes it feel more special.  Maybe subconsciously we run a bit harder so as not to waste all the miles travelled.

I’ve just enjoyed a great weekend away in Bath, primarily to race the half marathon, but I also had a great laugh with two lovely Valley Strider pals – Lou and Liz.  For once, I didn’t mind being the ugliest Valley Strider in the group:

Bath Road Trip.jpg

I shouldn’t say this, but I won’t be inviting Lou to help me choose a new coffee table any time soon…

We amused ourselves on the long car journey down from Leeds by sharing our desert island discs playlists and we must have drawn a few incredulous looks from fellow motorists as we belted out “Sweet Child o’ Mine” in true Wayne’s World fashion on the M5.  It passed the miles.

The Bath half is a big race – 15,000 entrants and nearly 13,000 of them toed the start line (causing a few problems…). I was somewhat perturbed to note I was designated Start pen D when I got my race pack. Fortunately, the first three pens were small and I wheedled my way near to the front of my pen. I was across the start mat in a handful of seconds.

My target for the race was very clear – to run a PB and to go quicker than 80 minutes. My PB was 1 hour 20 minutes and 27 seconds, set at the Brass Monkey a few years ago. To achieve that I needed to average 6 minutes 4 seconds per mile or better.

The course was a two lapper with a mile or so of a start/finish shoot. It was generally flat, with a few undulations, but all in all it was a fast course. The support was fantastic, with supporters standing roadside for most of the route.

I felt good at the start and tried to get myself into a groove of 6 minute miling for the first lap. It felt ‘comfortably hard’, which is ideal for half marathon pacing in my book and I went through 10K bang on target in 37:48.

The start of the second lap was back into the breeze and included a couple of short rises. For the first time I was struggling a bit, my pace dropped and I lost a few places. Mile 8 was covered in 6:15 – not a disaster but I knew I had to pick it up.

I recomposed on a long gradual downslope and had a serious word with myself. I had driven a long way for this race and had recently lost my Uncle, a great man and huge lover of sport. As soon as I muttered to myself “This one’s for you Norman”, I felt my cadence and pace rise and I started passing other runners.

It felt good, so I kept surging like this, trying to dig deeper whenever the pain rose in me. We crossed the Avon at the far end of the loop. The 10-mile point was reached in 60:30 – my second best 10-mile time ever.

I tried to kick it up another gear for the final ‘parkrun’ to the finish.  I knew that if I could cover the final three miles in 18 minutes, with a bit for the 0.1 at the end then I would easily smash 80 minutes. I felt a little euphoric. I passed more runners – Mile 11 was run in 5:56 and mile 12 even quicker in 5:54. I felt certain I was going to do it.

With 1 mile to go, we left the circuit and ran back onto the start/finish shoot. I started paying for my exuberance. My legs felt heavy and suddenly it was a massive effort to keep the speed up.

My watch ticked over to 13 miles in 1 hour 18:35 – I had 85 seconds to run 0.1 of a mile. In my head, I thought ‘I’ll p**s this’…

However, I looked up expecting to see the finish banners. To my dismay, they were nowhere in sight – just a long straight road ahead and a distant left turn…what the hell?

By the time I made the turn and saw the finish line I had about 20 seconds left to beat my target. It still looked a long way. I sprinted as hard as I could for the line – Strava recorded my best pace at 4:03 mins per mile just before the line…

I stopped my watch and then looked down in horror at my Garmin:

Bath time

 

80:00!…I hoped that my official time might be rounded down by a second, alas it wasn’t.

Having checked a lot of other runners Strava records, most had the course length between 13.25 and 13.3 miles. I know Garmins aren’t deadly accurate but I feel that the course was a bit long, which undoubtedly cost me a sub 80 time.

Lou had a great run finishing in 1:38.34 and Liz wasn’t far behind her.

Apparently, the race even made the BBC news as the high number of finishers caught out the organisers who hadn’t ordered enough medals or T-Shirts leaving a few hundred of the later finishers extremely disappointed.

My 80 minute flat time was good enough for only 9th place in my age category – the fastest 50-year old ran an amazing 1:14.17!

On reflection I was pleased with my effort, I gave it everything and it augurs well for London, now just over 5 weeks away.

 

LM -6 weeks

43.1 miles, longest run 13.27 miles

Weight 11 St 3.2 lbs

Aerobic-efficiency on Sunday run 924 beats per mile

 

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Deja Vu all over again

Back in January 2014, shortly after I began writing this blog, I ran at the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York.  It started in steady rain, which abated mid-race producing near perfect conditions for a fast half marathon. I smashed my PB by 7 minutes with a 1:20:27. I haven’t run quicker since.

The human memory is fallible, but I think we had virtually identical conditions today.

I travelled over to York with teammate Tim.  We engaged in standard runner pre-race chat during a soggy warm up lap of the Knavesmire – i.e. what injuries/illnesses we have/had and what time we were targeting.

I hadn’t raced on the road for ages – well over three months and had been ill over Christmas, so I put myself down for a 1:23 as a genuine non sand-bagging estimate of my ambitions for the day.

Tim, a fellow MV50 runner, has been running strongly recently.  Although I edged him at the Vale of York Half back in September, I thought he might have the upper hand today.

After the off, I tried to find that comfortable half-marathon pacing sweet-spot. For me, this is when breathing is still comfortable, one can still talk in snatches if required, but the legs are turning over quick enough to know that this is a hard race effort. It’s a fine balance.

I don’t know why, but I felt great during the first few miles, pinging along at around 6:05 minutes per mile, steadily passing people. Tim dropped behind me after a couple of miles.

I thought this sub-PB pace may be a little extravagant, but I decided to stick with it and see what happened. I hadn’t targeted this as a PB attempt, so I thought I may as well go with the flow.

Groups formed and I was in a pack of about 6 along with the third and fourth ladies. Unfortunately for me, my group was moving just a tad slowly, so I went to the front, hoping to drag a few with me. Instead, I dropped them and found myself running entirely alone in no man’s land from miles 5 – 10.

My mid race splits were 5K in 18:57, 10K in 38:04, halfway in 40:11 and 10 miles in 61:17. At 10 miles I still just about had a hope of a PB if I could speed up.  However, although the breathing was still comfortable and the heart rate manageable, my legs were really feeling it and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to maintain the same pace to the end.

A Richmond and Zetland runner passed me going very strongly at about 10.5 miles, sportingly he invited me to tuck in as he passed. I hung on to him for about 5 minutes, but he was running 6 minute mile flat pace which was too quick for me, so I let him go (he finished in sub 1:20).

I was firmly in the hurt locker, playing games in my head to try to keep it going and attempting mental arithmetic to predict my time. I knew the PB had gone.

After two small bridge climbs, with less than a mile to go, Tim swooped past me. Just as I would in his position, he surged past strongly. I tried to lift my cadence to latch on, hoping that I might mug him in the final sprint, but alas I didn’t have it. Tim beat me by 5 seconds in a PB time of 1:20:55 (with a 5:56 final mile to boot) to my 1:21 flat.

I was delighted with my run, it felt great to be back running somewhere close to my best and for almost 10 miles I was bang on my PB pace, I leaked away 30 seconds over the final three miles.

As a wee bonus, Tim and I both bagged age group prizes and a few English pounds in prize money – Tim was 2nd MV50 and I was 3rd:

It was clearly a good day for fast times, several other Striders ran PBs and/or great times. Liz Reddington was perhaps the most surprised fellow age group prizewinner as 2nd FV55 :

brass-monkey-17-2

With this solid run under my belt, I can target the Bath half in 8 weeks’ time for a proper beat myself up PB attempt…could I sneak under 80 minutes? Hmmm…

Next week will be light on mileage, but heavy on fun in the snow, beer and crap food. I’m heading off to St Anton in Austria for four days skiing with a gang of mates. I was a bit perturbed to see that the temperature is expected to be -17°C, -24°C with wind chill. That is F. cold!

LM -14 weeks

58 miles, longest run 13.1 miles

Weight 11st 3.4lbs

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