Friday, April 15, 2016

Canberra Half Marathon, April 2016

Ah, our marvellous national capital. The scene of many a wind-swept Mother's Day Classic and my rain-soakedsecond marathon (2011), I have never been keen to go back there in autumn yet somehow this year managed to sign myself up for the half marathon.

"A half marathon, just a week before Boston? Do you really think that's a good idea?" I hear you ask. "Well yes! I'm just going to jog it! Although somehow I seem to have asked for a seeded bib...."

Anyone who has ever met me will be able to discern immediately that the concepts of "fun run" and "seeded bib" do not mix particularly well. And especially not in the mind of an ultra-competitive, highly-strung, type A personality such as yours truly. Nonetheless I persisted in my insistence that I wasn't going to try to run particularly fast, right up until ooh, 10km into the race? But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, the lead-up.

The Training

12 weeks preceding: 86 miles on average
Speedwork: um, yes
Long runs: not enough, but one full marathon in 2:56:02
Taper: no, not really

Race Weekend

It's a family affair once again - after the success of our Wind Farm 5K efforts, I've signed everyone up for the 5K (and Joel for the 10K/5K double) -  and thus we head off for the drive over to Canberra on Friday afternoon with much enthusiasm.  Apart from Amelia, who declares as we leave that she is planning to have a stomach ache tomorrow and it will keep her from running. However, anyone who has grown up with a parent who is a doctor knows that unless you're actually bleeding or unconscious,  complaints of being sick will get you very little attention indeed. My own efforts at getting my parents to take my illnesses seriously always met with a calm "Let's see how you are in the morning" and I have every intention of visiting the same fate upon my own children.  

Joel jogs off for the 10K start at 7am; Amelia's stomach ache has disappeared at the sight of her flashy new running shoes and so the kids and I follow (in the car) an hour later. Everyone is pumped up and ready for the 5K well before it’s time to line up. The gun goes and Jack takes off like a maniac – I’m staying with Amelia so Joel takes off in hot pursuit – and pretty soon they are both out of sight.

Go boys!

Amelia, meanwhile, is not happy after all. She berates me the entire first mile with multitudinous complaints including that her legs hurt, her throat is dry (I offer her water, which she refuses) and that she hates running and I never should have signed her up for this. I scroll unsuccessfully through a range of appropriate and slightly less appropriate maternal responses (see below) and finally give up.

1.   Encouragement: “Come on darling, you can do this, you’re a great runner!”
2.   Calm resilience: “You’re fine, Amelia, just keep going”
3.   Placid indifference: “…….” (but ignoring her just makes things worse)
4.   Bribery: “Just run to the next flag, sweetheart, then you can walk for a bit”
5.   Threats: “If you don’t stop whinging I am going to speed up and leave you behind!”

Less whining, more running

Finally she declares “I’m never doing another 5K ever again!!” to which I respond calmly “Oh, that’s fine, darling. Jack and Joel and I will just run together and you can watch.” The sudden silence is deafening, and with the exception of a few short walk breaks, she completes the distance without another single complaint.

Finish times:      Jack 30:33
                           Amelia 33:35

They back up with some sprints in the Festival zone (whereby we establish that I am truly horrible at sprinting) and eventually we head back to the hotel to make the most of the rest of the day in Canberra.

They can both out-sprint me, which is pretty much ridiculous

The kids have slept over with friends and Joel is off to the airport, Boston-bound (via Detroit) so I’m flying solo for this one, which may or not be a good thing in terms of how I end up pacing myself. It’s just over a mile of easy jogging to the start precinct and I’m not really supposed to be doing more than 15 miles today, so I forgo my usual warm-up and instead meander over to the Elite tent to drop my stuff and get ready. 

I still haven’t really decided on a race strategy but when I finally make it to the starting line there are a LOT of fast-looking chicks there including Fleur, whom I have never yet beaten in any of the 7 or 8 races we’ve raced together. So a podium finish is pretty much out of the question, then – I should just jog it, right? But as I mentioned before, my name is emblazoned across my bib and I’m right up the front – jogging is just not really an option. So what now?

Miles 1-4: 6:18, 6:10, 6:12, 6:18 (pace in min/mile; 6:26 = 4:00min/km)

The gun goes off and wow: Fleur and at least 10 other women sprint off like it’s the 100m dash. I decide to put in a decent effort at least for the first few miles, if for no other reason than to warm up my legs properly. Blokes are sprinting past me left and right and my response is characteristic – I speed up until it’s pretty much how I knew this would go down – I’m going way, way too fast. Oh well. At least I’m predictable.

Before the end of the first mile we hit the notorious uphill stretch that leads to Parliament House, and here I have the small satisfaction of passing at least one chick on the way up. There’s another in my sights as I zip around the perimeter of the building and head down again. The 1:20 pacers are still nearby and at least I'm not crazy enough to think I can (or should) stick with them - they pull gradually away in front during mile 2 as we all head back down the hill. 

There are two guys in red shirts very close behind me now and we swap positions a few times. One of them has a stripy top that reminds me of Where’s Waldo – in fact I’m still sort of laughing about this when we round a corner towards the 5K mark and I hear a spectator counting: “9th woman, 10th woman..”

Ooh, which one was me? It doesn’t matter, though, because I’ve just passed one female and there is another firmly in my sights already. It never ceases to amaze me how so many people seem to think that running the first 5K of a 21km race at their usual 5K race pace is an excellent idea. So what are you expecting to happen over the 15km that you still have to run? Hmm?

5km split: 19:30

I spend mile 4 catching at least one more of the sprinters, and the little posse around me seems to be getting tighter-knit. None of them are girls, which is entirely normal at this point.

Miles 5-8: 6:25, 6:12, 6:17, 6:19

I’m still toying with the idea of slowing down to marathon pace or thereabouts, but the group around me is doing a number on my head. I want to keep up, basically, and I feel really good now that I’ve warmed up properly and hit my stride, shuffly though it may be.

The guy in red pulls ahead but the one in the Waldo outfit stays close over my shoulder and I remark to him more than once “I really need to slow down soon”. He pulls out alongside me and we start chatting despite the fact that we’re now on a long uphill stretch heading towards the War Memorial – it turns out he’s in training for the Christchurch 100km in 3 weeks, which he hopes to use as a qualifier for the Australian 100km team – and this is just a tempo run for him. Wow, impressive. I tell him I’m running Boston marathon next weekend and repeat my intention to slow down VERY soon, but things are about to change dramatically.

10km split: 39:30

As we come up to the crest of the hill and coincidentally pass the 10K mark, I have suddenly spotted 2 female runners up ahead. I’m utterly shocked to realize that one of them is none other than Fleur, who I imagined would be miles ahead at this point. Waldo (whose name will turn out to be Kay) hears me gasp in amazement and I explain what’s going on; he responds by saying calmly “Oh, we can definitely catch her.” And he’s happy to support me in this endeavour as long as he can keep in the HR zone his coach has set for this workout. Right, then, the chase is officially ON!

I have absolutely no idea what I am so worried about here
There’s an out-and-back in mile 8 that lets everybody see who’s around – we catch the first chick ahead of us and Fleur gets a preview of just how close behind her I am – and then we’re heading west on Parkes Drive for what seems like an eternity.

Miles 9-12: 6:24, 6:18, 6:18, 6:21

More than once we discuss just hanging back and cruising, but it’s not to be: before I realize what’s happening, we’re already pulling right up behind Fleur. We also happen to be chatting animatedly – he’s just told me that he is originally from Germany and I’m trying out my rusty German on him – which in retrospect is probably the worst thing we could do to her psychologically. It’s bad enough being passed by someone whom you usually beat, but to have them pass by looking comfortable and relaxed? Infinitely worse.

There's a first (and last) time for everything!

Sure enough, over the mile or two until the next turn we put a full minute between ourselves and her. We also take the opportunity to talk a bit more, and we could also slow down now but somehow we just don't. Four women pass by on the other side of the road - so I'm in 5th place, which is pretty decent really, considering that this is supposed to be a training run! I'm running comfortably hard, not red-lining it by any means, but a week out from Boston this is still a potentially dangerous thing to be doing.

Mile 13 and finish: 6:11, 5:44 to finish

Contrary to all expectation, the final mile is one of my fastest, probably because Kay and I have now mostly shut up and are just running. As we make our way around the park towards the eventual finish line, I can hear 2nd place being announced over the loudspeakers. Wow, we really aren't too far behind! Finally we're there, crossing the line in a dead heat time that will turn out to be my fastest HM since May 2014. Whoops.

Charging for the line

Finish time: 1:23:10 (6:16 min/mile, 3:56 min/km)

Placement: 5th female, 1st in AG (F 40-49)

That was a lot of fun! Kay has hit his HR target perfectly and I've done something that may turn out to be very silly, but hopefully I will be able to recover quickly and still put in a good performance in Boston. The next 7 days will be uncharacteristically low-mileage for me, that's for sure! If nothing else, today was a huge confidence booster that shows I do still have the same endurance and (limited) top-end speed I ever did. Bring on Boston #5!

1 comment:

  1. You're in good nick. All the best for Monday. I reckon Benita should use bribery on you - "If you run a marathon PB I'll get you an elite start and expenses paid for New York."