“I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.” – Mike Fanelli
Well this is the anniversary of my first ever half marathon when I ran this race last year. Was pretty happy with my time of about 1:47, at the time I thought anything under 2 hours would be a good time. But now having a bit more experience, I was hoping to get a half marathon PB. Saying that I’ve only done two half marathons, but the other one I did last year, Run Melbourne, I managed to knock off in 1:41 in July. Which I thought at the time was pretty fast.
I expected to beat this time although one thing has to be said about the Geelong course and that is, its so much more hilly than Run Melbourne. The course follows the river banks of the Barwon and includes all it undulations. My confidence in thinking i’d beat last year’s time was twofold. Firstly I’ve done a lot of running in between, in fact a marathon in there, so generally my endurance and overall speed should have improved. Secondly even if I didn’t race with any more effort than last time, I much more race smarter now and this experience of race runnings and tactics surely must be worth one or two minutes along the way. Already I’d raced 6 races this year and the Run for Kids run at 15km was a good build up to a Half Marathon.
On the negative side though, my Run for the Kids time wasn’t a good time for me and I’d need to go faster per km over 21.1km than I had over that 15km course to break the 1 hour 40 minutes boundary which was my overall target. Also so many runs this year and one for the last three weeks has been leaving me feeling a little tired and I wasn’t sure what effect this would have on my running today.
Hence when I went into this race, all these thoughts were rushing around my head. On top of those thoughts I’d also tried a couple of new things i’d never done before. Firstly, I didn’t train midweek so went into the race completed fresh. Secondly, I bought myself a Garmin Forerunner watch to enable me to track my pace over the course. Its got a nifty little function where you tell it what pace you’d like to run and it lets you know whether you are under, over or on pace. It also beeps at you ever km to let you know the time you did your last km in. Initially I wasn’t sure whether this would be more of a hindrance than a help, but I think overall it was a help.
Pre-race I had an almost perfect lead it from a diet point of view. I can be very bad at controlling alcohol and food intake going into races but this time I resisted temptation knowing this was my biggest race of the year to date. I ate only small meals for two days before with just one big meal the night before the race (burger and chips) and I abstained from alcohol from Thursday night. I sometimes wonder if I really didn’t drink much and ate an all round healthy diet, how much better my running could be.
One very different strategy to this race was to start at the front of the field. This strategy though was almost forced on me, the timings today had no timing mat on the start line so all times were taken from the time the siren went off, hence anytime I took getting from behind the line to the line would be included in the race time.
My early pace was good, in fact extraordinary for me. My first three or four kms were done in 4.21 to 4.26 pace. Initially I was fast because I wanted to get ahead of the 1 hour 45 minute pace setters because once I knew I was past them, I was in the time zone I wanted to me. However once I’d past them I kept going. I was a little worried I’d run out of gas, but I thought to myself, just see what happens, worse comes to worse, I’ll slow down to 5 minute kms and pick it back up after a couple of resting kilometres. Funny thing was in the first 14kms I only dropped below 4.30 pace for 1km, and I think this was due to a water station. At a point I then started doing the maths in my head, I was calculating what I could afford to run the rest of the race at and still beat 1 hour 40 minutes. However I tried to shift them thoughts from my mind and just use them if I got into a situation where I’d completely overrun and was struggling to carry on.
In fact quite contrary to all my thoughts between 14km and the finish I only ran one kilometre over 4.36 pace and that was a rather slow 4.44 kilometre at the 19km point. Looking at the data afterwards it seems that I was on a long downhill, and I’m guessing i’d struggled up the hill before and was just resting on the way down. Its funny but in the last kilometre (from 20km to 21km) I felt like I was running through mud but in fact i’d put in a rather fast 4.31 which was my second fastest km from 14km to the finish.
Running isn’t all about figures and stats though, other things drive you on and keep you going. For me there were a couple of people running similar speeds to be. A girl, who ran similar pace with me for about 15km and we kept just overtaking each other over and over again (i’d catch her on a hill and she’d overtake me on the descent). I have to say I’m not really one to chase people in races because that only leads to you going outside your normal pace in my experience and running a slower race overall, however I got the impression that this girl was definitely chasing me down every time I overtook her. I knew I’d got her when I could hear her breathing deepen though and these painful/tiring noises she was beginning to make, I kicked away from her about 3km from the the end.
It’s a really dangerous game chasing people down because it impossible to judge how good a runner is regardless of age/sex/what they are wearing. I was running with a 60 year old for the last 5km of the race and I would happily have let him beat me to the line if I didn’t think I could match his pace (luckily for me he faded in the last km). Still for me the best visual sign of people’s pace in the later stages is body size. When you begin to tire, you want to be carrying as little weight as possible I reckon.
It was very nice to have a supporter on the course as well. Alex a mate I used to work with and a keen lover of photography was on hand at the 16km mark to get the shot on the top of this blog.
I’ve also learnt a sprint into the line brings you lots of extra supporters and really gets the crowd behind you. I have to admit today, I could only manage a 100m sprint. It was definitely the most effort i’d put into a race since the marathon and if you were one of the people standing behind the line you would have been able to tell today. I dry-retched for a couple of minutes after crossing (very much like in the marathon) and had to find the nearest seat to sit down on instead of walking through the finishing line food/water station. A lady was nice enough to run over with a bottle of water to revive me.
All in all, a great time. Broke my PB by six minutes, final time was 1:34:32. Much much better than I was expecting.