Sunday, 20 September 2015

The road to Berlin: Warm up races

In just under a week I'll be running in the Berlin marathon. I haven't run a marathon in close to two years and I'm gunning to improve my time after struggling in the last six miles at Abingdon.

It has been a strange build up. Previously I've taken a break before going into a block of marathon training. While the wedding disrupted things a bit, I had a reasonably good base before starting serious training in June. I've completed more 'quality' sessions and run higher mileage weeks than ever before. However, I've also had weeks of complete exhaustion where I've barely run at all. In the last three weeks before the taper my training has been pretty disrupted which has left me a bit nervous. In my attempts to train hard could I have peaked a bit too early?

Three races in a week have given me hope that things aren't as bad as I feared! Although as I write I'm feeling pretty tired again.

Assembly League: Beckenham
The Assembly League is a summer series with a race on the first Thursday of each month between April and September. I don't usually target a serious time in the Assembly League, just turn up and see what happens on the night. No pressure.

I was a bit concerned going into the race at Beckenham as it was close to the end of my 'dodgy fortnight' of feeling tired and not getting in as many training sessions as I'd hoped. I was a bit unsure of how to approach the race but decided that I'd attack it and see what happened. I was really pleased with how I ran, equalling the time I ran in April, coming 26th overall and finishing in a points scoring position for the team. I also managed to out sprint a few people on the final hill up to the finish line.

It was the confidence booster that I needed and my first medal in the Assembly League

Wissey Haf Marathon
On the Sunday after the Assembly League we had a club outing to the Wissey Half Marathon up in Norfolk.

The aim is always to run a PB prior to the marathon as a nice confidence booster to take into the big day. Given the rough two weeks I'd had, I almost whimped out of running Wissey, or only using it as a training run.  A talking to from Rich and Pete at the club, as well as supportive words from Becks made me decide I would try and run the event as hard as I could.

The Wissey half was set in quite a rural area of Norfolk on quiet country roads. As we lined up to start a tractor with hay bales on the back came trundling through the field. Once we'd given the tractor time to clear, and waited for the wheelchair start, we were off.

I decided that I'd try and run the race much more evenly than I had at Wokingham and went out at even 6min miles. (I usually think in kms but didn't this time.) Everything was feeling very comfortable for the first three miles as we rolled along country lanes and I was beginning to feel confident that a good time was on.

I had to work a little harder between miles three and six, but I was still hitting the split time that I wanted to. It started to get harder from there as we hit the long uphill drag on the course. Mile seven was a gently uphill and my pace slowed slightly as I had to work harder and then I hit mile eight which was a long straight road that stretched upwards in front of me. There was around forty meters of elevation gain during the course of the mile. It was enough to drop me down to marathon pace and finish of my legs!

Even though the last two / three miles were pretty flat I struggled to get the legs going again and I struggled home not much quicker than marathon pace in the final few miles.

I finished in 1:20:36, over two minutes slower than my time at Wokingham, but it was a lot better than I'd thought it could have been just a few days earlier. Speaking to other Kent runners on the way home we'd all slowed down to marathon pace on the long hill (although they'd picked up the pace afterwards). I was initially fearful of putting my race time into one of the marathon predictors, but I did it when everyone else did and it suggests that I can still run my target time in Berlin.

The data from my watch is here.

The official results are here. The official results show my gun time of 1:20:38. I finished in 22nd position out of 258 runners to complete the course.

Kent AC 5000 Championship
Just four days after the half I ran in my first 5,000m club champs. My legs had felt pretty battered in the easy running I'd been doing since the half marathon so I really wasn't sure how I'd go.

John from the club had volunteered to run as a pace maker in the C and B races before he ran in the A race (which he went on to win - amazing!). I had a chat with him as we were warming up and he said that he would be running 81 second laps and taking the field to 3,000m. I said I thought the best I could do was 82/3 second laps and John said he drop the pace to help me out if I was in the lead.

I sprang off the line (above) and slotted into third behind John. I was managed to stick with the pace, and it actually felt quite comfortable, up to the 1,600 / 1,800m mark when I began to slip back from James and John in front of me. I didn't fall off a cliff, I just couldn't stick with 81 second laps any more and dropped back to around the 82/83sec laps that I thought I was capable of.

I didn't look at my watch, but kept pushing round as fast as my little legs would take me. It was fantastic to hear my name called out as I went round the bottom bend each lap and definitely helped to keep me on it.

With around 600m I started to think about lifting the pace for the finish, although I didn't think I had enough me to go that early. It was great to hear the bell as I started the final lap and I began to wind up what I had. As I passed 200m to go I heard Pete call out 16:37 which was the first time I'd really hear a split time. I knew sub-17min was gone at that stage, but I gave it everything I had in a 'sprint' finish over the last 200m.

I ran the final 200m in 37seconds and finished in 17:04. There was momentary panic as I approached the line and the bell was rung for a second time. Did I need to do another lap? I glanced at my watch and was pretty sure I had run far enough so gave up even if it meant I was short!

It was a new PB and I was really happy with the time considering the previous ten days.

The data from my watch is here.

Thanks to Ted for the photo.

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