Well that’s another half marathon done bringing my total so far to six. When I started running back in April 2013 I did so under sufferance with a view to surviving at 10km run for charity and fully expected to quit once that was out of the way. Â Somewhere between starting out on Couch to 5km and finishing that 10 km race I became hooked. Fast forward 18 months and I have also done 37 parkruns in 11 locations, a marathon and a bunch of other races too. Running really has become part of my life, I miss it when I can’t run, it helps me de-stress after work and travelling to races means I get to visit places I have never been and enjoy being outdoors.
Sunday’s half marathon put on by Hoohaah at Wimpole Estate, the National Trust property where my home parkrun is based, didn’t quite go to plan unfortunately. I’ve spent the last few months working with TrainAsOne as one of their beta testers and have been doing a range of training sessions under their guidance. Everything has been going well and the plan was to aim for a pace of 6:38/km, easing off on the hills as needed but getting back to race pace as soon as I could. This should bring me in for a PB and certainly felt doable based on the training that I had been doing, and how I ran at the Severn Bridge Half. Everything felt good on the morning of the race, it was quite cool (we needed de-icer to clear the car windscreen) and I had Push gels and water/Nuun with me so that I could minimise water stops. We set off at 10am and I deliberately kept myself calm and kept an eye on my pace as I do have a tendency to set off a bit too speedily and regret it later on.
Everything was great, I was breathing well, my legs felt good and I managed the first hill without issue, pushing onwards, staying strong and avoiding walking. Unfortunately my downfall soon started as the sun came out and the temperature started to rise. I do tend to struggle with the heat and when we were running out in the open I started to feel myself overheating, out came my emergency Buff to get soaked in water and onto my head it went, onwards I pushed, keeping my pace strong and steady but soon the heat was becoming too much and I had to slow, then I had to remove my t-shirt so I was just running in my Skins compression top and eventually there was no hope of running up the next hill I had to walk.
It was a really disappointing decline as my legs felt strong and I didn’t really feel tired. What did worry me though was that my heart rate was around 192bpm, which is high even for me. When my heart rate gets that high I know I need to slow down, no matter how much I want to push onwards.
I kept moving forwards, running when I could and walking as necessary to try and get my temperature and heart rate to reduce. We eventually hit the 9 mile marker which signified the split for the 10 milers and the 13 milers and for a moment I dithered, I could just split left instead of right now, head home, it really wouldn’t matter, the Boyf wouldn’t care, why put myself through more stress? I couldn’t do it though, I knew that if I quit at that point it would be a massive mental block for me to overcome in future so I decided to keep going, even if I had to walk the rest of the way I was determined to finish the half. Run-walking I kept pushing forwards, texting The Boyf at 10 miles to warn him I wasn’t going to hit my target time but not to worry I would there eventually. Another hill, more walking and finally we were into the woods and in the shade. I could still only manage run-walk at this point as it was taking me too long to cool down but when I reached the final water station I knew I didn’t have far to go, just under 2km, less than half a parkrun run in reverse meaning I’d be heading down the Hill of Doom, not up it, for a change! Final determination kicked in and I was off, I wanted the race to be over and I wanted it done properly. I picked up the pace and headed for the cow field, no time for photos today, out the way cows, hot & bothered runner coming through! A nearly sprint finish and I was done, cheered over the line by The Boyf and some of the parkrun regulars. Official time 2:34:36, 15 minutes slower than I had wanted but it was a strong finish, so not all bad.
So what did I learn? Even in October I need to wear less clothing, I get hot when I run and I need to make sure that if the weather gets warmer that I am in minimal clothing to avoid that compounding the issue. I learned that I can overcome mental demons to keep pushing to the finish. I was not even close to the melt-down state that occurred at Staveley in May, so I am obviously getting better at managing that side of things. In fact as I was writing this post I realised that I actually finished this half marathon 90 seconds faster than I did that 17km race (OK so that had 600m+ of elevation climb vs 200m, but still from a mental placebo perspective I think thatâ€™s pretty cool).
Could I have kept my pace up and stuck to the plan to get a PB? Perhaps, but whilst I am happy to run at a high heart rate, 190+bpm for extended periods seems just too crazy and I don’t really want to test quite how far I can push that extreme of my body. Generally speaking there aren’t that many runners around me due to my slowness and so I wouldn’t want to push to collapse and have no one around to pick me up in an emergency.
I’m doing the CTS Endurance Life Suffolk Half Marathon on 25th October, it’s apparently pretty flat, so it should prove to be an interesting test of my ability to maintain constant pace over minimal gradient. Hopefully I can manage my temperature in relation to the environment a bit better and perform to my ability over the full distance rather than down-grading from “PB wannabe” to “will be happy to finish” at the 10km point. If not there’ll be more stuff learned and more tweaks to make for future races because I have no intention of giving up!