Monday, 4 March 2013

bath half 2013

i ran my local bath half marathon for the second successive year yesterday.  i rarely take part in running races because of all the specific higher intensity training that is involved in getting my body into some sort of reasonable race condition. i would much rather jog along at a sedate pace listening to whatever podcast takes my fancy, not really pushing my heart at much more than 135bpm.

it is not just the race either that provides the difficult challenge, it is the build up to it.  those hard interval and sub-race pace sessions are not something to particularly look forward to but i did them all the same.  truth be told i went into this years bath half feeling rather jaded with the whole running thing.  i have been suffering with a niggling left hamstring injury for the past couple of months which is probably part of the reason for my relative running apathy.

negativity aside the race itself went very well.  it was a grey chilly morning with temperatures reaching no higher than 3 or 4 celsius so i opted for wearing longs and double layer up top with arm warmers, i cannot understand people running in just shorts and t-shirt in those temperatures.  i am all about keeping my muscles as warm as possible.  i did an easy jog to the runners village, no more than 4km which was enough of a warm up to be able to go all guns blazing right from the get go.

i probably should have arrived at the start line a little earlier than i did ending up towards the back of my banding.  nevertheless i was psyched especially since i had opted to listen to music as i raced, something i have ever done before and i am not sure is allowed although i saw hundreds doing it.  the race started at 11am, but it took me a good 2 or 3 minutes of shuffling along until i reached the start line.  i paid for my late arrival and poor starting position by having to zig zag my way around other runners as i over took them.  i would estimate the first quarter of the race was spent doing this which meant continually having to accelerate and slowing down, not an ideal way to get into a rhythm.

having music playing cocooned me from the outside world relaxing me and gave me the sense my heart rate was normal for the effort.  once i moved through the slower runners i managed to find a rhythm amongst runners of a similar speed.  i must have held onto what could be described as a comfortable zone from around kilometres 4 or 5 all the way 15 or 16.  i say comfortable in a loose sense, in fact i was running flat out and even though i was plugged into music the adrenaline buzz of being surrounded by fellow runners and being cheered along by thousands at the road side went along way to masking what would feel much harder on a training day.  i also identified a suitable pace maker during this main portion of the race and unbeknown to him followed his every step, i could see he was looking for close to 1:30:00.  thank you to the man in the beanie hat from the garden city runners.

i knew that sooner or later i would start to feel a change and sure enough as i entered the last quarter of the race i felt the first signs of what i would describe as pre-cramp symptoms in my calf muscles.  it felt like air bubbles moving up and down through the muscle, not particularly painful at first but a hint enough to watch ones self.  foot off the accelerator i now had to try to maintain my tempo.  although in hindsight i can say my splits were pretty consistent across the race i did not have that final kick that some others around me had.  with a couple of kilometres to go the garden city runner gradually distanced himself from me slipping into the distance.

the cramping became more regular, if my calves had not started to do this i definitely had more to give in the engine.  this proved to be right when i read my average heart rate was 9 beats below maximum.  the cramping had limited my performance, something that has dogged me for many years.  whether this is due to conditioning, dietary or other reasons i have not yet been able to pin down.  what it meant was that as i entered the home straight whilst most sprinted for the line and i conversely slowed down the closer i got.  i did however manage to run my fastest ever half marathon with an official time of 1:31:46.  i knocked 5 seconds off my previous best time set last year at the same event.  i put this in no small part to consistency and plenty of hill work.

all photos courtesy of betty bhandari

even though i am now 42 years old i am sure i can squeeze a faster time out but that will have to wait until next year.  from now until at least christmas i shall dedicate more time to riding my bike as well as strength training in the gym.  i will continue running but will cut it by at least half, maybe more. it feels like it will be quite a change to my previously run dominated training programme but one that is needed not only to help me shake the hamstring niggle but also to freshen things up, more specifically prepare for some forthcoming bicycle challenges and to arrive into autumn with decent form for the cyclo-cross season. 


Richard said...

Bravo Jason!

Jason said...

Thanks Richard. And now time for me to concentrate on cycling.

James Anderson said...

You should have made it CX specific and ran the race with your bike on your shoulder ;)

Well done!