There we go!

There we go!
Pushing the Nitro Button

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Shell Chester Half Marathon 2011

Training had gone well before this race. My taper was not quite so successful! My sleeping had been not so great – maybe in part due to caffeine withdrawal. During my taper, which had taken 2 weeks, I had dropped my mileage from around 50 miles per week to 25 miles in the first week and then 8 in the final week. During this time I had put 3lb of weight on and, with the higher intensity of the runs, I had soreness in my legs that had concerned me as potential injuries.
The weather on Sunday 15th was nice and cool. The only concern I had was the wind. As I’m quite tall and broad I find it quite hard to run into the wind. I had cut caffeine for the final week of the taper, which had led to some withdrawal symptoms! So as I approached Chester I took my sports legs (4) and 6 caffeine tablets 1 hour before the race. I had consulted a few friends on Buckeyeoutdoors concerning my heart rate monitor/strap.  The consensus was that I should try to run without referring to it, so I decided to run without it. My plan was to try to run a 1.42-3 finish time. My training, and other races suggested that this was possible. My fall back goal was to PB and my ideal goal was to go below 1.40!
I decided to do a short warmup as I had hoped to get into my 7.30-40 pace pretty quickly. As the race started, and I crossed the timing mat, the congestion was always going to cause me to drop some time.
Mile 1 went OK but the 7.57 pace was not what I wanted. Miles 2, 3 and 4 went perfectly with an average pace of 7.40. Cadence was fine at 85/6 including a 30 sec walk break in mile 3. Mile 5 was OK at 7.50 with a 40 sec walk break but my cadence had dropped to 83 average. At this time I decided to use my MP3 player to help keep my cadence up. The next mile, mile 6, was a bit slow coming in at 8.06 but this was partly due to me pulling my mp3 player out and setting it up. The effect of this was immediate. Miles 7 and 8 saw cadence back up to 85 average and pace was back at 7.40 average. Mile 9 saw the course turn back towards Chester and straight into the wind.  Pace dropped to 8 min with a 50 sec walk break. Miles 10,11,12 and 13 all included walk breaks and were in the 8.25pace area. As the finish line approached I put in a final effort which saw me cross the line at 7.30pace! I was completely out of it at the line. I felt as near as I ever have that I would blackout! After standing bent over for what seemed like a minute I went to have my chip removed and off to wait for my 2011 teeshirt!
My finish time on the watch was 1.45.59, and the distance showed 13.26, there was a lot of moving around the road to avoid congestion, though my official chip time was 1.46.02.
The race had been harder than I had hoped. My previous training had clearly helped but I am still waiting for the break through into the sub 1.40 area. My age graded performance was 58.72 which put me in 714 place in the race and 132nd in my age group. This was an improvement on last year as I had placed 750th with an age grading of 57.62 and 128th in my age group .
In conclusion, I am happy with my performance, I think I could have done better on a better day but I gave it everything I had on the day and I’m happy with that!
Over the last three years I’m happy that I’m getting better.
In 2009 I came 1341 in the age graded finish times.
In 2010 I came 901st and in this years race I came 832nd. Nice to see some room for improvement J
Next race is the Llandudno 10 on 22nd May – nice and flat – but again the chances of strong wind are high!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Chester Half Marathon 2010

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  (George Santayana)

The weather forecast for Sunday May 16th was for temps around 13C and cloud cover, with the likelihood of rain showers. It was for this reason that I felt confident heat/wind would not be an issue.
On the other hand my sleep had not been great in the days leading up to this race and I had decided to enjoy my favorite meal of vegetable tikka masala on the evening before. In addition I had not fasted from caffeine as I had done last year. Looking back now this tells me something about how I was thinking. The FIRST training plan I have been following had a 13 mile run at marathon pace, 8.23 for me, in the plan. So it was a happy coincidence that this race fit in perfectly.
I had prepared my drinks before I left the house with 6 scoops of powder across the 4 8oz bottles. 2 of the bottles had 4 caffiene tablets in them. I took 4 Sportslegs 1 hour before the start, as I have done before all of my races, be they bike or running. I was wearing my original Asics Cumulus 6 shoes, my knee length compression socks, my Skins shorts and a racing singlet.
We started at 9.30 exactly. I had decided not to wear my mp3 player, a decision which I regretted later. I had also decided not to wear my white cap, which, in the end, was another error.
The first time I had run this race I had chatted to 2 people on the road which both served to keep my HR down and ease the pain. This time I was doing a 9.30-30 run walk. The race was a much more solitary experience because of it. I believe that I can run faster with the run walk but I’m not sure it was worth it.
My plan for the race was to try to keep to a 8 min pace for as long as possible. My hope was that I could bring it home in 1 hr 45mins. This would mean 8 min pace from start to finish.
As the race started everything was going to plan.
 1st mile in 7.50 AHR was a bit high at 153 but I had my walk break to come.
2nd mile in 7.51 AHR was also high at 158 but my concentration was on the pace and not my HR. Another mistake – I will not do this for the marathon!
Miles 3 through 10 were perfectly on pace. The first 10 miles were completed in exactly 80 mins, a new record for me for this distance!  My HR had breached the 160 level after just 5 miles though. Looking back now to last year’s race, I had completed the same 10 miles in a time of 1 hr 29 mins and 54 sec, so a PB for the race was definitely on the cards.
After having a problem, at the start of mile 11, with my watch I combined the resetting of it with a walk break. This one lasted just under a minute, longer than required but needed as I was feeling pretty tired. Mile 11 was completed in 9.12 including the walk-break. Mile 12 was completed in 8.45 including a 40 sec walk break. As I approached the hill during mile 13, I was finding it pretty hard to keep everything together. I started my favorite phase of the race – the rabbit chase! Looking up I saw the least fit / most tired looking runner in front of me and tried to push to catch them. Normally I feel like I am pressing the “NITRO” button which helps me find the last dregs of energy in my legs. This time there was nothing there. I tried again still nothing there. Now I was running down the other side of the hill. Still there was nothing, I was hanging on for dear life! As I cruised to the line I was passed by a runner who had been behind me for 5 miles. I had failed. That’s how it felt and that’s how it still feels.
Not a very positive run for me, lots of lessons to learn. Everything from needing to reduce the risk of suffering with the heat to considering some entertainment on the route.
On reflection I ran a PB for the distance of 1 hr 47 min and 48 sec. I broke my PB for the race by 8 mins and 30 sec. I easily ran the 8 min 23 sec pace that my marathon training plan asked for but I set a target and I failed to achieve it. Next time will be different………………………… be continued ;)
The Chester Marathon takes place on Monday 31st May 2010 in Chester, UK. Please pray for me on that day if you can as I will be running it for my Mum who died of Brest Cancer 8 years ago. 

Chester Half Marathon 2009

I've now had a few minutes to get my head round the fantastic experience which was the Chester Half Marathon.

My training had gone pretty well with a weeks break 4 weeks out from the race due to a fall while running.
My wife is a nurse and she did an amazing job fixing me up - I was back running pain free after 7 days.

My final week taper saw me reduce my mileage to around 10 miles before the big day.

The weather forecast had been suggesting light rain and winds during the week but the weather looked fine as I approached the Chester racecourse at 8.30am.
As soon as I got there I parked up and took my Sportlegs, a natural product, which I have found helps reduce leg pain on longer events.
My nutrition plan was to fill both my 250ml Fuelbelt bottles with the High 5 Energy Source 4:1 with 3 caffeine tablets (a total of 150mg) in each. I also took a caffeine gel with me just in case. For recovery I always use Torq Recovery.

With the weather looking windy but clear, temperature around 10C, I decided to wear just my running bib and shorts with my compression socks. I'm not sure they make any real difference but I think they might Description: Smile emoticon, so they must at least as a placebo! 

Having completely failed to notice the massive Male Changing Tent sign, I managed to change in one of the toilets which was pretty warm, if a little cramped. 

As the race time approached I downed 2 gulps of Energy Source I'd made in addition to my bottles, locked my car, took the key off - as I was going to have to carry it around with me, and walked the half mile across the race track to the starting area. I had brought an extra t-shirt with me just to keep the wind off so as 9.25am came round I took it off and tied it to a fence, for later retrieval. As I approached the start line, with the other 2100 people stupid enough to turn up, I noticed the timing sections laid out behind the line. I had been advised, my a friend to get as near to the front as possible but the idea of standing with the 1-1.15 hrs group seemed a little ambitious.
I decided the 1.45-2 hr group looked most inviting so off I went trying to get into that section.

The most striking thing about my fellow runners in the this section was the large number who were running with I pods and MP3 players.
I had already decided in the car to leave mine off both for safety reasons and so as to really experience the race. As things transpired I was very happy I had.


Feeling very nervous

9.29:30 am

Feeling very nervous and chilly

9.29:45 am

Feeling very excited

9.30 am THEY'RE OFF! - Yes those people up ahead are definitely OFF! I on the other hand am not.......

I still haven't moved yet

9.30:30 am

Nope, still not moving yet

9.31:00 am  

I can feel that I might start moving soon - but not yet Description: Smile emoticon

9.32:00 am

I'm just starting to run now as I cross the starting mat and click my watch on.

The first few hundred meters of the course was heavily lined with friends and family, my family was almost certainly still tucked up nicely in bed, my wife is definitely not a morning person and had been suffering with the same head cold that I had for the last few days.

As the I started to see clear tarmac ahead of me I tried a best I could to keep my heart rate down. Trying to stay below 150bpm was my target for the initial few miles. This stratagy would leave me with some speed left to finish strong. Also following some other advice from a friend I targeted 8.50-9 min mile pace. As I came to the first mile post I was running at 9.04 pace. I was happy with that, as I had avoided any problems with the crowds and kept my HR down to 154 with a cadence of 81. This first mile had included the steepest hill in the course so that was out of the way!

As I made it to the 2nd mile post my pace was stuck at 9.04 and my HR was down to 151. I was reasonably happy but I knew I'd have to be a bit more active with my pace in order to do my best on the day. I started to look at my watch on a regular basis and upped my pace to 8.50. Took my 1st drink which went down well.

During the third mile I struck up a conversation with a guy who was looking to break 2 hrs for the first time. He seemed like a very similar kind of person to me. He'd always been active, which I have not, but he'd been bitten by the running bug in the last year. We ran together for a couple of miles at which point my pace required me to push on - so I wished him the very best and moved on. I would have been very happy if that had been the only person I had met on the day but that was not to be.

Mile 3 came at 26min 49 sec, a little beyond my hoped for 26.00 time but I was still feeling fine, not sore and I could push harder, so I did!. I upped my pace to 8.45.

Around half way through mile 4 I came across Paul, a guy from Wigan who I ran with for the next 7 miles. He was a strong runner but was clearly designed for strength rather than speed. We had a great chat as we ran covering both of our life histories. It is one of the enduring memories of this race and I feel very privileged to have met him. 

The only downside about chatting while you run is that you pace tends to drift, and it did. Mile 4 was at 8.53 pace, mile 5 was at 9.02 pace and mile 6 was at 9.06 pace.
I hadn't worried to much about going out slowly as we were running into a 30 mph wind on the way out.

At the turn around my time was 58.50 with an average HR of 154 and cadence of 81. It had to be easier running back, no?

At mile 8 the time was 1.12:42 I was going to have to push on to get as far below 2 hrs as I hoped. I was feeling fine but I could tell I couldn't push too much more or I'd start to suffer. I'd been warned that mile 10 was a killer as the hill that we had run down during the second mile would feel twice as steep on the return. Just as mile 9 finished the rain started. Mile 9 at 1.21:54.

The rain was still only light and the wind from behind was really helping, I had been taking my drink regularly and I was feeling fine with no soreness.

Mile 10 at 1.29.54 the hill had raised my HR from 154 avg to 163 avg and my cadence dropped to 80.

Just after this Paul had to take a toilet stop and told me to go on, he'd see me at the finish.

Mile 11 at 1.37:50 I had a bit left in the tank so I decided to push on imagining I was doing a 5k. My HR was steady above 160 which meant I was going to be running out of energy soon - but how long could I hold on?

Just as the mile 12 sign came into view the hale started to fall. The hale stones felt like pins being shot into the back of my legs and neck.
Mile 12 in 1.46.50. Slower but I hadn't noticed.

The hale and rain now meant that I had to watch my footing on corners but I gave it everything I had as I ran toward the line.

Finish time 1.56.18.

I had done it.

I was completely wasted. I could still walk and as I walked back to my car to get my recovery drink my left leg started to cramp. Running as best I could I made it back to the car only to have to ask a passing person to open my car as my I couldn't grip with my hands to put the key in. The following moments were concerned with trying to get warm and stretch as much as I could in order to avoid cramps. I'm sorry to say, it was only later that I remembered Paul and tried to make my way back to the finish line. I never did meet up with him again but I think it's likely we may meet next year as he mentioned this race is one he does every year.

In conclusion, the Chester Half Marathon a good race? Would I do it again? You bet! It was a really fun introduction to racing at this distance and I met some really nice people. I made it a point to thank all the support staff on the road as I am very impressed with the work they do completely free of charge.

On reflection I have to do it next year so I can get a new PB Description: Smile emoticon