Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Race Notes: Maidenhead Half Marathon

As soon as I got back from my amazing holiday from Malawi and Zambia I slipped on my running shoes and have been putting in some solid mileage. I've been planning to run the Abingdon since the start of the year and I couldn't put off my training any longer.

I took the first two weeks quite easy and have since done some heavy training with eight weeks between 45 - 55 miles each. At times my body felt like it was at the limit with all the mileage. But there have also been some big endorphin highs from some great sessions on the track.

Before the start of the year I'd never done warm up races for a big event, but I found the Ashford 10k before the Reading Half Marathon a big confidence booster and decided that I wanted to run a warm up half marathon this autumn. The Maidenhead Half last weekend looked like a good event and the right number of weeks before my marathon.

The Maidenhead Half was a small but well organised event. It could have been fantastic, but unfortunately for me the day didn't work out so well.....

The weekend before the race I was hit with a stomach bug. Hitting seven days before the race I was hoping that I'd have enough time to recover. I took the week off cycling to work, ate plain food and tried to get lots of rest. I was picking up by Wednesday, but then seemed to regress a bit.

I decided to still race and to stick with my plan of going out at my average speed from Reading (3min 40sec per km). It's a pace I've run quite regularly in my 'threshold' training sessions and should have been pretty comfortable for the first half of the race at least and then I'd have to dig in to get me to the end.

I managed to hold my target pace for the first 5km. It started to go wrong at the first water stop where I clattered two water cups before I managed to grab the third cleanly. I think I might have soaked some of the volunteers. Sorry!

After the water stop my chest started to feel tight and I was struggling to hold my pace. I slowed slightly from where I wanted to be, but not dramatically. The tightness in my chest started to move downwards and became a mild pain across the top of my stomach. I was only a few seconds off target pace and decided not to push any harder in fear of making the pain worse.

Around the 10km mark, as I passed through the second water station, I decided to grab another cup. Even though I only swallowed a small amount of the water it made my stomach worse. I decided there and then not to take on board any more water or eat my energy gel during the rest of the race.

I'm usually quite good at controlling my pace at the start of a race and don't fade as many other runners seem to do. This gives me the pleasurable feeling of being able to reel people in during the race. This time it was me that was going backwards as people slipped past. I tried to follow a few people as they went, but it was in vain as I couldn't keep up. I gave up trying after a while.

Just after the 10km we passed quite close to the finish and I considered stopping, but I decided that I needed to keep going. It was crossing my mind whether I was really ill or just being mentally weak. Getting a personal best is supposed to hurt. Running faster than you've run before isn't easy.

My legs continued to slow. As I looked at my watch I realised I was doing my planned marathon pace. I told myself that this was now a training run and the least I could do was to maintain marathon pace.

I managed to stay around marathon pace for another 5km. It felt quite depressing as more people slipped past. Four kilometers from the end I faded again and was only managing a steady training pace by the time I crossed the line. It felt pathetic.


I've never been so tired after finishing as I was on Sunday, even after a marathon. There was no elation from crossing line to dull the pain like there usually is. My legs felt fine, I just felt very weak. I resolved to myself it was definitely the illness I'd had during the week rather than being mentally weak, until Becks seeded doubt in my mind later in the afternoon.

The wireless / Ant+ chip in my watch broke several months ago so it no longer picks up data from my Heart Rate Monitor. I felt my perceived effort during the race was quite high. It would have been interesting to see what my heart rate was like, it would have helped inform me what was going on.

On onwards and upwards......

The official results from the race are here. My time was 1:22:49, finishing 48th out of 1,672 runners.

The data from my watch is here.

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