Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Auckland Half Marathon - A Belated Race Report

You know you're not particularly proud of your achievement when it takes you a full week to dash to your computer and write up a race report!  And when you do, lots of other internetty things present themselves to you that better suit your desire for procrastination - and very soon one week rapidly turns into three.

And then you finally start writing, but because you didn't actually achieve your goal, everything you write starts to sound like an excuse.  Or maybe the excuses are really lessons to be learned.  The most important lesson being:  "You can take in all the advice, but on the day you may whimsically decide that none of this actually applies to you."

I slept poorly, tossing and turning all night, continually looking at the clock, and when it finally read 3:28am I hopped into the shower.  I had slept well the night before though, which may or may not have had anything to do with the consumption of 4 glasses of wine... mmm, perhaps that's lesson #1?

Pre-race, everything went according to plan.  We managed to park close to the finish for a quick getaway, and walked the 10 minutes to the ferry terminal.  This was a semi-surreal experience in itself - with many fellow yellow gear-baggers intrepidly walking the 5am streets, converging upon the ferry terminal with their cushioned footsteps and hushed conversations of nervous excitement.

Nervous excitement being evident in the camera shake on my arrival at Devonport
Auckland CBD in the distance
The 15 minute ferry ride felt like only 5 minutes in the dark, and before we knew it we were in Devonport and heading straight for a toilet queue.  This early some of the queues were only 5 persons deep, so within a few minutes we were at the marathon start and hanging with the elites!  (PS, although they had their own allocated toilets, they still had to queue too!)

Steven contemplating what he has got himself into.
(He ran a 1:41 - his first half!)
The 3:15 pacer - maybe next year?!
We watched the elites warming up, admiring their slight physiques and bouncy strides, and generally wishing we had a few of those genes right at this moment.

Marathon start
To be honest I felt the complete opposite - heavy and sluggish. I hadn't run for two weeks, my body felt stiff and joints rusty.  A week ago I almost certainly wasn't running this race.  But my foot improved rapidly during that time, and two days prior I decided to run.  My podiatrist was happy with my progress and decision to run, and strapped my foot to help stabilise it.  I had no idea how my foot would handle running again and had visions of having to withdraw and arrive at the finish by ambulance.  Looking back, I realise that I hadn't mentally prepared for this race like I had last year, and I think I definitely benefit from visualising and having a plan.

I did a few stretches to try and limber up, before handing in our gear, and lining up with 20 mins to go.  Steven disappeared somewhere up with the rat pack, and I found a space which happened to be near the 2:00 pacer, with the vague notion of keeping them in sight.

I had done a quick 'back of an envelope' pace plan at lunchtime on Friday.  My average pace last year was 6:10, so I planned to start out at that pace to the motorway (9km), pick it up to 5:50 to the bridge (14km), then 5:30 after the bridge, (6:30 was allowed on bridge and hills) and give it whatever I had in the final 1-2km - maybe 5:20? Maybe even 4:something?



Well the plan worked, but in reverse.  My first kilometre was 5:20.  I knew I should slow down, but I felt great, my foot had loosened up and was fine.  The lady next to me was puffing and I was breathing easy.  Maybe I could run sub-2 after all, even though none of my training indicated so.  Maybe I was different, a super-talented runner who defied all previous statistics and could pull magic out of thin air.  My head tried to slow down but my legs wanted to keep pace with the runners around me.  This is the stuff you read about all the time in magazines like Runner's World - what not to do.  But I did it.

Why, I do not know.  Maybe my legs loved running again after a 2 week break, maybe I thought I may as well give this sub-2 goal a shot, maybe I had brain fade.  Yes, that is probably it.

I started to falter around the 8km mark, which was no surprise as I had been running at 5km pace. The sun had come out and I took a moment at the drink station to down some fluids.  The 2 hour pace group passed me here.  I carried on to the busway but by Akoranga station (11km) I took the first of several walk breaks.  This is where I started getting passed by multitudes of other runners, and the demoralisation of failure set in.  It was a calm sunny 20 degree morning and slightly humid, but I felt like it was 32 degrees.  Despite being outside by the harbour, there was no fresh air.  My heart rate seemed to elevate at the slightest exertion, and at one stage I felt a bit dizzy and squeamish.  I said goodbye to my goal, and settled for the best I could do on the day.

I stopped my run walk to take photo on the bridge - always a good excuse...!
I walked up the bridge even though I ran up it last year.  Coming off the bridge I saw the first of about 5 runners on the sidelines being attended to by medics, I guess they were suffering in the heat, and I was glad I had made the decision to take things a bit easier.  For the last 4km I adopted a run/walk strategy, trying to run a bit faster during run times to make up for the walk breaks.  Overtaking, then being overtaken.  Yo-yo runner. Leap-frogger. That was me.

One thing I did notice is that there seemed to be more supporters this year cheering from the sidelines.  Starting through the streets of Devonport, at the Takapuna on-ramp, Akoranga overbridge, and especially Curran Street onwards they were out in force.  They gave me a lot of encouragement, although I probably didn't look as if they did.

Still, I managed to have a fast finish (where does that final energy always come from?) and overtook some runners in the finishing lane.  I finished in 2:14:41 - only 4 mins slower than last year, but it sure felt a lot harder than that.
To compare, last year my net time was:
48.43% total finishers
63.66% female finishers
72.36% F4549 finishers
I'm not that unhappy with my time, I'm not even that unhappy with my performance considering the warm conditions.  I suppose I've just had a lot to process after this one, what went wrong and why, what I could have done better, and how to improve from here.

Not every race can be a personal best - or where is the personal challenge? The best thing is to learn from your experiences, and I think I've learnt a lot from this one.

Or maybe it was from Runner's World in the first place...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tomorrow I will run

This training cycle has been a real mixed bag, where I've experienced both the highs and lows of running in a zig-zag fashion.  There has been a lot of inconsistency and missed runs due to injury, Arthur's Half recovery, even travel to a funeral, but also some nice long runs and a couple of confidence boosting tempos - which is what I'm going to have to focus on tomorrow to keep all my negative thoughts at bay.

One morning down south we managed to fit in a nice 10km rural loop - lots of newborn lambs :) 
 My niggling foot that I never told you about flared up big time on my 18km run 2 weeks ago and I haven't run since.  Let's call it a forced taper.  I visited a podiatrist (prerequisite - had to be a runner!) and he doesn't think it is bony which is reassuring, but I have some foot biomechanical issues he'd like to sort out after this half marathon.

If you had've asked me a week ago I would have said it was 90% likely that I wasn't running tomorrow, but magically over the last few days my limp has disappeared and the pain has gone, and my foot suddenly feels the best it has in 6 weeks.  Podiatrist guy is happy for me to run, and so the decision is made - tomorrow I will run!

But my confidence is flat.  My legs feel like their arterioles have degenerated. I've spent the last 2 weeks moping around the house, and u-turning into a positive race mode is not happening quickly.  I need to think happy thoughts, go pick up my race number, soak up some pre-race atmosphere, get my gear ready, and make a race plan!

*****

So I did:

It was a sea of yellow bags outside the Viaduct Events Centre,
although this snap doesn't really do it justice!

The obligatory shot of my name on the race car...

The souvenir T-shirt is nice this year - it fits!
I don't think I'll be running a sub-2.  I'll be taking it easy to begin with to see how my foot handles running again, and ramp it up a notch if I start feeling confident.  My guesstimate time is 2:06:15 - well that's what I put on the Tauranga Half competition, if I get that I win an entry!

Let's leave with some positive thoughts:

  • I'm looking forward to the ferry trip over to Devonport in the early morning - it's kind of surreal!
  • I'm excited about Steven running his first half marathon!
  • Go Michelle - I hope you get your sub-2!
  • Looking forward to seeing Jody volunteering at the finish, yes I might need you to remove my timing chip for me!
  • Luke will be waiting for us at the finish - if he get's up in time!
  • I'm happy that I can run at all - really :)
  • The support from YOU!  Little things like "run strong" from supergeneric girl and "good lucks" from across the Tasman really help when you're feeling a bit down!
  • Anna Frost left this quote on her facebook this week - "Think easy, light, smooth and fast" - that's tomorrow's mantra :)




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