Sunday, April 15, 2012

When plans go awry...for the better

I was scheduled to do a 19km long run today, but since the Slow Mag Marathon was taking place in Benoni, my neck of the woods, I decided to enter. The plan was to use it as training run, and to simulate my race routine as well as to acclimatise myself to the distance. The half marathon is foreign territory for me. Every long run in excess of 10 km I've done over the past eight weeks has been a new distance record for me. I approached the session with some trepidation but also a small measure of confidence since I have been faithful to my training program.

As I was in the mindset of a training run, my usual pre race jitters were absent. I had my gear ready the night before, my gels and post run energy bar in my belt. I had my usual pre run snack of a yoghurt and made my way to the venue, which is also where we do club runs. There were familiar faces from my club, Run/Walk for Life, further easing the tension. We had a few laughs exchanged goals for the race and warmed up. With 15 minutes to go we headed out to the start.

Once the gun went, I settled into a nice easy pace. Usually at the start of a race I try mighty hard to escape the clutches of the mob but I was content to cruise. I went through the first kilometre at 5:40 with plenty of room on the route with crowd thinning. The next two kays continued in the same vein with no drama and I hit the 3km mark in 16:00.

At this stage I really felt like I was running well within myself. I don't know what it is about the race environment, if it's the comfort of a crowd but my feet were ticking along, I was eating up the miles while exerting minimal effort. Exactly how an easy run should be. My splits were telling a different story though as with every kilometre I was inching towards the 5min/km average. In fact by 10km, still coasting along, I was under it, going through in a steady 49:20.

I had planned to do a 5km race pace simulation between 10km and 15km, but I was so far ahead of my target time of 55 min at this stage that I decided to just race. The 11th kilometre took us along a narrow concrete path through the golf course on the Ebotse Golf Estate so I kept it steady before we hit the tar again.

Then the racing began. I upped the tempo and was soon in my stride. I hit 4:30/km consistently, and was through 15km in just over 1:12. I was feeling really good and at 16km I had the confidence to go up another gear and hit 4:20/km. I could sense that despite my relatively conservative first half, a sub 1:40 was on the cards if I kept up the charge. When I went under 1:27 at 18km, running through roads I often trained on, it was now a matter of how far under I would dip. I did the last 1.1km in 4 minutes and stopped my watch at the finish in 1:38:40! I expect a few more seconds to be added when the official times are released but I'm thrilled. Yes I was a bit naughty to have raced with two weeks still to go with my 10 week program, but a lot of work had gone in to training in the last wight weeks and I was ready to attack a half already.

I have achieved the goal I set for myself in February but I still have my entry for the Wally Hayward half and I will be there at the start on 1st May at 6:30. I'm not sure how to approach training so far but I think I will start tapering and just fo for another sub 1:40 on what should be a tougher course than the Slow Mag. At least I have a pacing and refuelling strategy that got me through 21.1km without feeling overly exerted.

After Wally I'm going to concentrate on cracking the 45 minute barrier for 10km. I did the last 10km today in 44:30 so it's doable. That will be two of my goals for the year ticked off leaving just the challenge of completing a full marathon.

Job well: After an unexpected 1:38:42 at the Slow Mag 21.1

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