Lately ‘everything’s coming up Milhouse’ with my running. I’ve done PBs for marathons and 5k, my first ultra (with a surprise podium finish!) and generally just having the time of my life!
With no more big events on the horizon for a few more weeks, it’s time to focus on when it all goes wrong…
This year I can think of two clear examples of getting it very, very, wrong.
The first was a training run to which I may have alluded in a previous post. It was the day after Valentine’s Day, quite early in the Barossa Marathon 16 week programme. It was a hot, hot day – from memory it reached 36 degrees during the run, which was finished by 10:30am, so you can only imagine what the maximum temperature must have been.
I had been out the night before, celebrating Valentine’s Day in the only way I know how – having a few too many ciders with 2 of my favourite (non-runner) girlfriends! It wasn’t a super-late night but the thought of getting up at 5:30am the next day for a pre-run breakfast was horrifying to me, so I set my alarm for the latest possible time to allow me to get to the meeting point in time. (A later, solo run was not an option, not only due to the anticipated heat, but also because later that day I was going to the much-hyped India v Pakistan World Cup cricket match.)
I hadn’t rehydrated enough. I’d taken a bottle of water to bed but, true to form, I’d fallen asleep straight away and not drunk a drop.
I made it to the start, 1.5 litres of water in my backpack (I usually carried 1L but due to the heat I thought I needed more). If I’d eaten anything it was just a nut bar – my usual pre-run fuel during the week but grossly inadequate for a run of about 23km.
So it’s hardly surprising that I had a crap run.
I wasn’t the only one. A few of my running buddies turned back early due to the heat. Our coach Chris told us it wasn’t worth smashing ourselves so early in the programme – there were plenty of weeks to go, and one abbreviated long run wouldn’t do any harm. However, I was determined to finish.
My average pace was 7:12 per km. There was a LOT of walking.
So what went wrong? Where do I start? Too many drinks the night before with inadequate rehydration. No breakfast. Not enough sleep. Carrying extra weight in my backpack (although the extra water WAS needed so I’m not sure if I could have done anything about that). The heat (the only factor I couldn’t control!)
On the plus side, there was a sense of accomplishment from having completed the run. And I took comfort from the knowledge that I was unlikely to have a worse run than this!
The other crap run that immediately springs to mind is the 2015 Clare Half Marathon, my first half of the year.
My preparation was good. I’d driven up the day before and stayed in nearby Auburn. I’d ventured into Clare to get a pizza that night (my favoured pre-race meal) and enjoyed it back at my motel with a cider or 2. I had all my gear prepared, and was up in plenty of time to eat breakfast, pack up all my gear, check out of the motel and get to the start line in plenty of time.
It was a beautiful morning. Clare can be chilly but I decided, on the way to the start line, to leave my arm warmers in the car – it was sunny and kind of warmish! I’d had my pre-race energy drink and toilet stop. I was ready and raring to go.
So what went wrong here, you ask? Well there were two things, but the biggest factor was pacing.
In most of my previous halves I have employed a ‘negative split’ pacing strategy. This means running the first half slower than the second, conserving energy for the back half. It has always served me well.
This time, for the first time, I had made a pace band. This was a strip of paper, laminated and made into a wristband, that listed the time I needed to run each km. I had opted for the negative split again. The only problem was that I had decided to try to run a half marathon PB.
My PB had been set at last year’s Greenbelt Half. Greenbelt is considered a fast course, being a net downhill point-to-point course, with a few undulations but nothing too nasty. Clare, on the other hand, is an out-and-back course, uphill on the ‘out’ and supposedly downhill on the ‘back’. I had successfully ‘negative-split’ this event last year so thought, why not try it again?
The problem was, my first 11km needed to be run at 5:00 min/km pace. Uphill. I made it to 11km in just under 55 minutes alright, but then I was spent. Not only did I not have the energy left to up my pace, I barely had the energy left to finish the race! (I had also neglected to bring any nutrition – that was my second mistake – I won’t go into that now, I think that’s a blog post in itself!)
The last 10km was not fun. There was a LOT of walking. (Somehow, an out-and-back course that was uphill on the way out, appeared to be uphill on the way back too!)
So far, other than the 6 hour event last weekend, that is the ONLY road race in which I’ve walked at all. I did have thoughts of quitting but I thought of the medal… I wasn’t coming all this way to walk away without any bling!
I did finish, eventually. Surprisingly it wasn’t my slowest ever competitive half, but it was close. And all because I got a bit ambitious!
I went for the PB again at Greenbelt just a few weeks later. I used the same pace band. It didn’t quite come off for me that time either, but I only missed the PB by 10 seconds and overall had a fantastic run.
I WILL get that PB sooner or later, but probably not at Clare! And I WILL go back and run Clare again next year – unfinished business and all that!