I made it! A half marathon in 1:29:23, achieving my goal of running the 21.1K challenge under 90 minutes. February 7th, in Granollers.
Ready to run
In the second out of three consecutive races, I knew it was possible: In the previous weekend I broke my record again, with 1:30:43 in Seville, shaving 10 seconds off the previous record set in Sitges. And, I felt not-too-exhausted.
In addition, the Granollers race, which has the lucrative domain name lamitja.cat, aka, The Half, is a fast race. The profile is not that easy, but straightforward: 11K uphill and 10 downhill. It isn’t a full triangle, but the two halves are quite clear.
The key is finding the sweet spot between running uphill fast enough, almost as if it were a 10K race in terms of effort, but not fully burning out. Climbing nicely then allows the runner to fly downhill.
After consulting this excellent and very detailed blog (pre-race and also post-race, great comments as well) about tactics, I decided to take the advice and run at around 10 seconds slower than race pace going up and then compensate for this on the way down.
Smooth uphill and slippery downhill
It all went according to plan going up, and even marginally better than expected in terms of pace, but without feeling tired. I did notice it the clouds becoming somewhat darker. It was a cloudy day but the very latest forecasts had excluded a chance of rain. Oh well. So, I left my cap in the storage room.
In the village of La Garriga, in the middle of the race and at the highest point, I felt the first drops. At the 12th kilometer, I already removed my glasses. During a few fast but long minutes downhill, the wind sent the rain into my eyes and it was quite challenging to continue running at full speed and also wiping the water out of my eyes.
Towards the end, the descent becomes more pronounced. Luckily, the wind changed direction and I could keep my eyes open. However, now the challenge was maintaining the even higher pace amid a slippery slope.
I was amazed by the amount of people standing with their umbrellas in the rain, cheering non-stop. This had been one of my best experiences of the race in 2015 and I was worried the rain would scare them off. But they braved the rain.
I was brave enough to run through the downpour, but not enough brave to cheer back. In fact, given these conditions, my eyes were on the next steps, afraid of falling and still trying to keep up with the rapid descent, concentrated on every step.
At the 19K mark, I saw 1:20:30 and understood that I have it: I would seriously need to mess it up in order to top 1:30. I began getting excited and I think this triggered some kind of side stitch. Nevertheless, I continued at a good pace and crossed the line, smashing my record by 1:20 and the target by 37 seconds.
Here are the details:
The side stitch disappeared instantly and I began clapping my hands to myself, while seeking the entrance to the pavilion and shelter from the rain. The dry cap came in handy as a makeshift towel. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring spare shoes. Well, only the girl in the group was wise enough to do it…
Apparently, 5 out of 8 of us made their personal bests in the race. We chatted for some time before heading home, with frozen legs but with lots of satisfaction.
Did the rain underpin or undermine the race? It didn’t feel as fun: not cheering back to the audience and hardly noticing the views is not the experience I had in sight. However, being concentrated on every step, or giving my best at money time, probably contributed to the achievement.
It was certainly hard: the absence of those 80 seconds left me much more exhausted in the following days. But maybe the fatigue has accumulated. Who knows…
I have the last race this Sunday: the Barcelona Half Marathon. The conditions should be better: it starts early, 10 minutes walk from the house and the course is flatter. However, the aforementioned fatigue and a chance of wind could certainly result in a significantly slower run.
But hey, I earned my beer!
Now it’s time to think about the next challenge, evading Runners’ Blues.
But I guess it’s better having ’em blues than suffering an injury. These are just too common. The latest victim in my circle is my partner for running the 2015 marathon. He trained sensibly, aiming for a marathon under 3 hours, but bad luck struck him. He was ordered to rest and this dream will have to wait. It certainly made me sad and reminded me I’m quite lucky.