Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Downton Half + 5

When I think back to the Downton Half last year, I only remember happy feelings about my first half marathon experience. However, I did reread the blog post and recalled going through a bit of emotional turmoil when hunger set in at 5 miles as I ran having forgotten to bring anything carbilicious with me. I was surprised the same didn't happen today. I hadn't really built the race up in my head at all; it was simply an easy way of getting my long run in. Sort of easy anyway, my plan was to run the half at a very leisurely pace and then try to run a faster 5 mile loop afterwards. Whilst feeling very relaxed about the whole affair is a good thing, forgetting to bring (for the second year running) any gels/bars/food of any type for an 18 mile run was definitely an error.

I had however, made a gloriously green and gloopy post-run smoothie filled with avocado, spirulina and other good stuff. My back up plan was to finish the half, peg it back to the car for a swig of smoothie and go merrily about my way. Sorted.

The countdown began, and I set off at what felt like a comfortable pace. Having promised myself not to be a slave to the garmin, I tried very hard not to even look at it for the first few miles whilst settling in to a rhythm. Every time it beeped at me to give me a kilometre split I had to consciously focus on something else to avoid a little sly glance. I managed to wait until 5k, and was very surprised to be a minute ahead on last year for what felt like considerably less effort. I wasn't running easy exactly, but I was enjoying the pace.

A little highlight came at around mile 4 as I passed a green where I spied a clearly slightly bored Tri Club buddy, Adam Herridge (who was out supporting his girlfriend), taking up close photos of a pony. I shouted something amusing and perhaps mildly abusive which opened up a dialogue of banter every time I saw him on the course.

Shortly after that, I picked up a running buddy named Poppy. We were chatting away happily about converting kilometres to miles as we passed the five mile marker. I remembered vividly how awful I felt at this point in the race last year and had a little grin to myself as I realised how brilliant I was feeling now in comparison. So good in fact, that soon after the 6 mile marker I thought it was time to pick up the pace a bit and see if this whole negative split thing could be a goer.

The miles seemed to fly by and only a flicker of hunger struck me at around 10 miles, but soon subsided and before I knew it I was on the home straight. I only stopped for long enough at the finish to get a medal, some water and a big hug off another local triathlete, Joan, who didn’t seem to care at all about how hot or sweaty I was. I took a huge swig of smoothie after a quick jog back to the car and didn’t linger too long in case my legs started to seize up or in case I started to try and convince myself that a fast-ish 13 miles is equivalent to a slow or medium 18 miles and I really should just stop and sit down.

After another three miles or so I started to hit the wall, I couldn’t put it down to lungs, heart or legs specifically, just an overall feeling of not being able to run for too much longer. I couldn’t tell if it was a general lack of food or if the spirulina was repeating on me but my belly had started to rebel. As much as I tried to fight the urge, I needed to walk. Just five minutes was enough and I managed to get back into a gentle jog with just a mile to go. It was a tough mile. Hitting the wall, of course, was entirely self-inflicted. I should have done what I originally intended to do and run the half at a far more relaxed pace, but I’ll save that for the 20 this weekend!

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