race day: Waterford AC half-marathon
At this event last year, I equalled my lifetime PB for the half-marathon distance. I ran a 1:36:17 off the back of Dublin Marathon training and not a huge amount else. That was the turning point in my attitude change; the beginning of my year of experiments. The rest; what followed; you may have read in this blog.
Having arrived in Clonmel back in August after my brief stay in hospital, I was in no shape to take on 90 mins. I did however, smash my half-marathon PB that day. A total of 3mins 33 seconds fell that day. Toeing the line in Waterford, I felt stronger, more prepared, and more confident than I ever have starting a half-marathon race before. It was time – this was a genuine opportunity.
The Waterford AC half-marathon course is not an easy route. However, it is a thinking runner’s route and if you race smart, times are there to be taken. I did my homework: hill trials and almost a full run of the route in advance over the two weeks before the race. Sticking to the game plan would either make or break me. My race number was a prophetic 130 – us runners tend to read into things. So much so that somebody asked me at the start line if I was a 1:30 pacer!
Settling into the race from the gun, the pace was fast. The first drag starts at 1.6 miles and continues to the first serious climb at 2.5 miles. Another drag at 4.3 miles with a short hill at the end of it means that time must be banked before the first 5 miles of the race are over. Luckily the pacers were of the same mindset and despite running with them, I was running my own race. It just happened to be the same one they had planned.
My splits were good. I banked time for the two big climbs later in the race before reaching mile 8. Then mile 9 hit. A climb I know so well and generally don’t suffer on, took its toll. I don’t know why. Perhaps loss of rhythm, perhaps a little tiredness, I don’t know but I dropped 22 seconds on that split that was not planned. That 22 seconds stayed with me, all the way to the end. Official time recorded as 1:30:22 – a huge new PB – I gave it everything. My 6:35 last mile was necessary to eclipse the time lost on the last big hill of the day between 12 and 12.5 miles. It just wasn’t enough to repair the damage of mile 9. Honestly, I left it all out there.
Stephen Scullion (Irish marathoner and current National Marathon title holder) recently put out a mantra in respect of race attitude. He said, “take souls”. What a thought! It’s brilliant. Over the last climb in this race, I took souls. I took about 6 on the way up the hill and another 4 or 5 on the race to the finish line. No mercy because having mercy on them was having mercy on myself and that doesn’t make your best performance happen.
Looking at the charts for the race, even in the position of knowing that I didn’t get the sub-90, still fills me with satisfaction. The pace chart shows little deviation except for the notch at mile 9 and again between 12 and 12.5 miles.
Performance Condition scores as expected. This was no stroll on the beach – suffering was the order of the day. The heart rate was a little jittery from the wrist sensor but to be fair, I think it was a reasonable reflection. I wasn’t holding back at any stage by my own will, only the incline dictated how fast I moved. Looking at the time in zones below… yeah, I raced it, no questions there!
My goal half-marathon of sub-90 will have to wait for another day. I’m not one bit demoralised about the outcome of this race. This race has given me a fantastic new PB but it has also answered the question of “do I have sub-90 in me?” The answer is most definitely yes! If I can run within 22 seconds of 90 minutes on a hilly course like this, I know that I can run sub-90 on a flatter route. Now, I just have to go find that route!
I wouldn’t change one thing about my preparation for this race. Of course, the majority of the year was experimentation with a primary goal of smashing my marathon PB in Dublin (I did, even though I didn’t get the target time) but the two successive half-marathon PBs have been the icing on the cake. After Dublin, I changed my training routine. Mileage dropped (but not by much) and sharpening work in the form of hills and intervals became familiar inclusions in my midweek runs. The stepping stone 10-mile race for Beat the Train was all part of it. I’ll sum up the year in another post soon but I need to gather my thoughts on it all first. There is a lot to make sense of. There are things I’m sure I haven’t even recognised yet!
A nice surprise following the race was getting to meet Mick Clohisey (Irish Olympian marathon runner). Mick raced the event also, coming home in 2nd place with a very impressive 65-minute run. I can’t even begin to imagine that kind of pace. An absolute gent of a guy, he took a moment to exchange a few thoughts on the day and give myself and James a photo op – a memory to hold onto. A personal curiosity for me is that Mick’s coach is Dick Hooper, the same guy who inspired me as a kid to want to run distance. This might be the next closest thing I’ll get to meeting him some day. What would I even say? “Dick, you made me want to run a lot… and far.” Cue awkward silence. 🙈I’ll take this for now.