Friday, April 19, 2013

Slow Mag Half Marathon: A score for low mileage?

Kind of.

Sort of.

But not really.

The result was on paper an excellent one, as all PBs should be celebrated. The process however was anything but smooth.

In reality, Slow Mag on 14th April should not have been part of my racing plans. Or I should have found someone to run with and let them dictate the pace. My brother was due to run his first half marathon there but unfortunately got injured. It might have been a good time to see if I could pace him to his target sub 1:40. Instead I lined up on my own, and when at the start of a race, my inner competitor always emerges!

You see I was rather under cooked. My speed is great, the 10km times tell their own story, pretty much where the coach wanted me at this point in the year heading into winter. Such has been the focus on speed though, that while I have been doing a Sunday long run, in general, time on feet has been minimal. I'm typically running less than 3 hours a week on 5 sessions and year to date had averaged 38km per week. My peak week of 52km was an accident, with an unscheduled 15km midweek run inflating that number. And also looking at 10km programs circulating the web and in magazine, my weekly mileage is below what is typically recommended for the times I'm trying to run. I have to run this mileage by design. In  running terms my legs are young and upwards of 50km week in week out will leave me tired and injury prone. My goal is to do, as Tim Noakes is credited with saying, I must find the quote, as much as I can and only expose myself to higher mileage when I stop improving.

So with that in mind, I was conflicted as to how to approach the race. Looking at my 10km times, somewhere in the region of 1:20-1:21:30 was predicted, and a conservative estimated would push that upper boundary to 1:22:00. The plan was to go out at around 3:50 pace and just see what happens. With the second a bit hillier, I would expect to hit 10km in 38ish, drop a gear and do the next 10km in 39ish and then see what happens. What I actually expected to happen was a bigger fall in pace from about 15km and then hanging on for dear life for the last kilometer or song.

The first 10km was remarkably uneventful. I ran at a surprisingly consistent pace, no surges or drops, and went through 5km in 19:05 and then through 10km in 38:05. I had my usual rhythm and compared to usually trying hit 3:36/km in a 10km this was comfortable.

So far so good.

Unfortunately at 10km we are well into Ebotse and hit the golf cart trail and I think I took more out of myself here than I would have wanted. I did Slow Mag last year, but was further back in the pack. I had traffic to deal with and I think I saved a bit of energy since it's difficult to overtake anyone here. This year being further up in the field I was able to stride out properly, and the combination of the turns and the hard concrete really took it's toll. When we emerged onto the road I was feeling okay but no longer comfortably maintaining pace. My pace was now onto about 4min/km and at 13km my right calf tightened and I had to stop to stretch it out.

I know the area well and I knew that from 15km the course is gentler to the finish so I eased off the pedal a bit hoping to put in a late burst. I got tot the 15km mark in 58:50, a 15km PB I must add, so about 4:09/km for the 10-15km stretch.

I was in a bit of a crowd at this stage and was using the runners to pace myself. At 17km the calf tightened again and more stretching ensued. I progressed regularly trouble free from that point, just concentrating on hitting the 4min/km mark. It was hard work but I just concentrated on knocking off each kilometre until I got onto the grass at Benoni Northerns. There would no kick, and I coasted in and stopped the clock at 1:22:46, a solid PB of almost 3 minutes. This was good enough for 25th place on the day. Last year I finished in 124th place and in 1:38:42, so a good 15:56 quicker. Progress, lots of it!

This wasn't my strongest race of the year. And I think it took a bit the more out of me than I had hoped. On Wednesday we had a time trial challenge hosted by us Kudus against Old Eds, Pirates and a few other clubs. It was only 5km but at about 3km my legs were jelly and I laboured to an 18:47 run, which I reckon would be my slowest 5km of the year (the 4th km split was in 4:27!). I've recorded faster 5km splits in pretty much all my 10km races except the 2nd half of McCarthy (hilly) and Kosmos 3-in-1 (hot). And in training I've been able to hit out controlled 18:45 5km paced runs.

The flipside of course is that on proper training for the distance I would expect to do significantly better and that's what I hope to see when I do a trained for half marathon in November.

For now I'll be nursing myself back into shape for my May races, Colgate 15km and Jakaranda Centre Race of Hope 10km on the 5th and 11th respectively. The aim there is too bring my 15km time in line with my other PBs and to have one last go at a 35 minute clocking for the 10km before easing off into winter base training.

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