I’m in pretty good shape these days but there has to be a lot more to come. The good Winter training I did finished in January, and that was all endurance rather than speed work. February was blank. March included a good run in Ballycotton and weekly mileages creeping back towards twenty. By the end of April I’m now hitting forty miles per week again, but without any real focus on speed/hills etc.
I’m definitely getting fitter though, even if I’m not exactly sure why. The injuries are starting to clear up too. I was expecting to run well this weekend, maybe even PB on the relatively hilly (and windy!) Glengarriff to Bantry route. That’s compared to the Longford pancake where I ran my previous half-marathon best (85:50 almost two years ago). I think I’d have been happy with 86:xx this weekend.
I started right on the start line. None of the Ballycotton style turn-up-late, take-a-minute-to-cross-the-start-line bullshit of two months ago. I need to start realising that, particularly in a “muckers” race (that’s a James Lundon term by the way) like Bantry, I’m faster than 99% of the field. I settled into a good rhythm straight away and found myself 6th after half a mile.
The first three lads were ploughing ahead at a great pace. Alan O’Shea, winner of the first of the modern Cork marathons in 2007, took the win here in 72:x. This was nearly a minute faster per mile than my own pace. When someone is running a minute per mile faster than you, you lose sight of them pretty quickly. :-) Same went for the #2 runner here who took down a 76:x, and the last I saw of #3 (who was just over 3 minutes faster than me) was a particularly long, straight stretch somewhere in mile 4.
However, the 4th and 5th runners stayed well within my sights. We were averaging about 6:10′s and these guys clearly weren’t really at the races. I took care of 5th shortly after the 2nd mile marker. 4th looked like he knew what he was doing until we hit the hill after the 3rd mile marker. This hill is 1.5 miles long and pretty severe in parts. The poor lad fell off a cliff after a quarter-mile up the slope. It was almost like he’d turned around and started running back towards me. I’m pretty poor on hills myself, but this lad just collapsed. I passed him at the first water station, taking nothing myself and making a gesture to him to “come on”, hoping we could pace each other. No such luck.
By the time I reached the top of the hill, mid-way through the 5th mile, I was all on my own. There’s a timing mat a little before halfway on the course that emits a loud beep as we run over it. I never heard the beep of 3rd place in front of me, and barely caught the sound of 5th and 6th behind me (maybe 40-50 seconds back).
Miles 6, 7 and 8 are a great reward after the hill. After that it gets a bit undulating, and there are a few nasty surprises to come including an incline up to Ballylickey (9 miles) and also a steady climb as you approach the 10 mile marker. But again there is a reward – the last mile is all downhill into Bantry village and the finish line. Somewhere in mile 10 a race official shouted to me that I was “fourth and well clear”. This was encouraging as I was starting to feel a bit tired, as my splits for miles 9/10/11 show. But it also put the pressure on – now anything worse than 4th would be a disaster!
When I took my next split at 11 miles, and saw 6:31, I thought: Yikes! – clearly slowing down. But the little clumps of spectators along the roadside were a good guide to whether anyone was catching me. They clapped as I went by, and I never heard any of them clapping anyone behind me. My breathing was so quick at this point that I was nearly hyperventilating. But I gritted my teeth, zipped up my man-suit and toughed it out. Mile 12 was an enormous relief. The split was good, still nobody within earshot behind me, and the last mile is all downhill. The tiredness in my legs had subsided a bit, and even though I was still at absolute max aerobic effort, I nailed the closing section.
- 6:13 – Solid opening loop around Glengarriff.
- 6:42 – Decent enough start on the hill…
- 7:02 – … But then it just keeps going and going…
- 6:18 – Good recovery, back to smooth running, although it was very windy in places up on the heights.
- 6:01 – Nice downhill section back to sea level. Totally killed this mile, even with an occasionally strong headwind.
- 6:31 – Nasty few miles – found it tough as the length of the half-marathon distance threatened to pick holes in my fitness.
- 6:11 – Delighted with this recovery after the last few splits.
- 6:08 – Home straight, steady finish never in doubt.
If you say that the hill added a minute to the time, then on a flat course like Longford I could maybe have sneaked a 1:21:xx. There’s definitely more in the tank. I just need to put some more focus and direction into my training.
Cork marathon is next – and this weekend suggests that 3 hours is certainly on the cards. Injury containment and a few long runs are high priorities over the next few weeks.
- I like the Bay Run. It’s had some controversy with AAI permits etc. but there’s a good feel to the race. At €40 for the early entry it’s about the limit of what I’d like to pay, but you get a damn nice t-shirt out of it! (This year, supplied by Under Armour, with the same attractive design as last year.)
- Beautiful course and the weather just about held.
- Ably-staffed massage area, and hot-tubs/ice-tubs at the finish line, all well-appreciated extras.
- 1:23:00 in a half-marathon is a qualifying time for the New York marathon, which I missed by 2 seconds! But the applications are closed for 2011 now anyway, so plenty of time to guarantee the 2012 entry. :-)