Friday, 14 August 2009

Good times, bad times

Last Sunday saw me on the start line for the Helensburgh Half Marathon, trying to better my time of 20 years previously. The weather was unusually warm and with not a breath of wind, it was going to prove to be a harder run than planned.
I didn't realise how much harder until, the race began to unfold.
I had decided to set off at 7:00min mile pace, thinking that if I could hold that as long as possible and maybe push on the last two or three miles, I may just sneak in a 1hr 30mins. My first mile was 6:45min, a bit fast but ok. The second one was 6:59mins, bang on schedule. Mile 3 was 7:15mins but that was ok as there was a bit of a hill here. That was when it all started to go wrong!
By the time I'd got to mile 4 my legs felt completely done and I was struggling to keep going. I couldn't figure out what was wrong as I was only 4 miles in, the pace was high but not excessive but there was just nothing there. My mind started to get in on the act too by saying that this could be my first DNF, I may as well just stop there and then coz it was only going to get worse! I had given up looking at my splits by now and just decided to keep my head down, plod on and hopefully things would pick up.
Miles 5 to 9 were a battle between body and mind but my body was just managing to keep on top and the miles crawled by. By mile 9, I knew I was at least going to finish (phew!) and so resolved to try and make a reasonable attempt at chasing my 1989 time. I was enouraged on route by Ellen McVey and Aileen Scott who were marshalling and supporting respectively and their presence kept me going so thanks ladies!
I tried on a number of occassions over the last two miles to pick up the pace but each time I tried, nothing happened. The final mile is along the main street which is flat all the way and I was determined to salvage some dignity and managed to hang on to the heels of a couple of guys who passed me to cross the line in 1:38 and 130th place out of about 350.
So, what was my 1989 time.................1:44. Despite my physical stress, I had manged to run 6 minutes quicker than I did 20 years ago. I don't recall anything about how that race felt all those years ago but I'll bet it didn't feel as hard as today's. I also have the certificate for the following years race but if I want to beat that time I'm going to have to have a hell of a lot better a day than this year!
Looking back, I don't know why I struggled so much on Sunday. It was pretty warm which didn't help but not roasting. I had had a hard 10 miler on Thursday night but I felt that was out of my legs so I've just put it down to "one of those days".
I've been hobbling around this week a bit as the PF in my right foot is playing up and there seems to be some nerve damage in my left ankle which has never really recovered from the WHW Race. I've booked in to see my Physio next week to try see if she can keep me going as September is looming with a couple more races followed by Longmynd at the beginning of October.
I also have some big plans for next year, but more of that in a future post.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Holding back the years

I was having a bit of a tidy up at home the other day and came across a couple of finisher certificates for the Helensburgh Half Marathon for 1989 and 1990. At the time, I was a young, fit 23/24 year old exploring my running limits and training for my first Marathon.
Co-incidentally, I have entered this Sunday's Helensburgh Half Marathon (which I don't think I've run since the aforementioned dates) and so I find myself, 20 years older, wondering whether I can still run the times I did as a younger man.
I'm not giving too much away at the moment but suffice to say that, on a good day, I think I may be able to pull one out of the bag. I'll divulge both past and current times in my next post.
Helensburgh was also the venue for my 10k pb of 35mins 12secs back in 1990 something which I can confidently say I will never come close to again. Last year I ran my first marathon since 2001 and came very close to a pb but due to an over enthusiastic couple of sub 7 min miles early on, I died horrible in the last three miles coming in at 3:29.
In recent years, I have joined the ultra running community having now notched up 8 ultras over the last 2 1/2 years and, with the exception of this years Highland Fling, I have gone faster in each race.
As I get older, I therefore seem more suited to the longer events. This is no doubt in part due to the combined effect of years of training and running resulting in a deep reserve of fitness but it must also be down to the mental approach of running longer. The requirement for patience and to "think" your way round a course that perhaps isn't there in the youthful enthusiasm we exhibit in shorter events. One look at the age profile of a typical ultra is clear evidence of this with many competitors well into their forties, fifties and beyond.
One other trait which seems to benefit me in these longer races is my sheer bloody mindedness not to give in. I have never yet experienced a DNF and whilst I'm sure it will no doubt come, it will not be for lack of trying. In my first year running the Longmynd Hike (50 miles) I was in a pathetic state after 20 miles and was considering throwing in the towel when I grouped up with a couple of other guys who knew the route and so I tagged along behind eventually finishing in 12hours 15mins, totally spent. During those 30 miles running with the two guys we had chatted away and it was clear to them that I was only just hanging on in there. We sat down after the finish to enjoy the hospitality at Church Stretton School and one of the two turned to me and said "you are one stubborn bastard!" Now there's a compliment!
So, what happens on Sunday will be as a result of being a fit, middle aged, stubborn bastard - that's got to look good on my CV!