Yesterday I took part in my first half marathon. I chose an easy course, four laps around the pancake flat Dorney Lakes courtesy of the Humanrace event ‘Race your pace’.
I had a gum infection in the week but on the day I felt good. Had some carbs (Porridge, banana and energy bar) pre the run and although a little windy, the weather was good.
The race was delayed 15 mins due to issues with people parking as the grass was too wet to park on, but I was glad it was delayed as I for one wasn’t ready at 10!
The race plan was two fold; get experience in doing a run of that distance (my longest race was 10K) and my longest training run is 15K, so this was a new experience for me. I say two fold as always I had a time I wanted to achieve being sub 2 hours. My fastest 10K time is 52.30. A few weeks ago I ran the Kenley 10K in 53.40. I found a website http://www.mcmillanrunning.com/ which has a time calculator. Putting in a time of 53.40 for a 10K says I can complete a half marathon in 1hr 59 mins. So sub 2 hours wasn’t a time I just plucked out of the air.
So 10.15 off went the klaxon. I had my Garmin with me so I hit the timer as I crossed the line. First lap was not as I intended. My plan was a slow start 30 – 32 mins per lap for the first 2 laps of 5K each then a 28 – 30 min for lap 3 and lap 4 just go as hard as I can.
But as I started I felt heavy legged. Not comfortable and couldn’t get a rhythm. I started near the back and people were still flying past me. I just focused on getting the first lap under my belt, hoping it would get easier. I was looking for the timing mat at the end of lap one and after passing the bridge which I went over after the start I realised the matt was not there. It as just there for the start and at the finish, it wasn’t there for all laps. I hit the lap timer and I had run 5.46K in 29.22 (a pace of 11.2kmph). Far too fast.
But I was feeling OK. I tried to keep the pace for the next lap. Still lots of runners passing me but the Garmin was saying I was running at around 10.5 – 11 kmph. Lap 2, a distance of 5.13 was 30.19, so the first half of the race I did in 59.49. I was on target!
But I was feeling awful. Legs were heavy, pace was hard to keep, everyone going past me, and now the winners were lapping me. I took a cliff shot block which dried out my mouth and at the next water station I took a bottle of Lucozade (the sponsors of the event). I took sips and felt better. I have been taking on drink in training for the past few weeks to practise having fluids sloshing around while running so that was good.
Coming to the end of lap three my buddy Andy (25 years old I think) went past me. He was going for a 1hr 40 time, so he was nearly finished. I did lap 3 (another 5.13K) in 32.53. I had slowed a lot and I was feeling bad. The first part of the lap was into the wind and it was hard, real hard. The last part of the lap was easier, with the wind behind you, but that wind behind you was another 3.5 K away.
I am ashamed to say I thought long and hard about stopping at the end of lap 3 and calling it a day and seeing Darren Webb DNF. My first ever DNF. I wasn’t going to get my time of sub 2 hours so why bother carrying on?
It was upon me, either straight on for lap 4 or left to the finish, or in my case the DNF road. I manned up and carried on.
I don’t do DNF’s.
It was hell. I had nothing. Another shot block, another two bottles of Lucozade and I ploughed on. I did stop to a walk a few times on the last lap and I see that as failure, but I walked a few paces and then run again. I tried to only do this in the windy section but even as I finished the windy section and hit the long, long straight with the wind behind me I said “right no more stopping” but I walked on another two occassions on that long, long straight.
The end of lap four was 34.10 for another 5.14K. Just over the bridge to do and the left to the finish. There was the crowd and the cheers and Andy cheering me on so somehow I managed a sprint to the finish (funny how you can run faster when there is a crowd Darren!). I did the last 400metres in 2.05 so a total time of 2 hours 8 mins.
Massively off my time of sub 2 hours but I had finished it (so no DNF) and I had learnt alot.
The main learning was I am not ready for running this distance yet and I need to look at my training for the half iron man in 15 weeks time!
I got my finishers medal and another bottle of Lucozade and went to find Andy.
Second half of the race I did in 1hr and 8 mins so it was a race of two halves. What was lap 3 and 4 about? Lack of fitness, not enough carbs pre-race, not enough gels/shots and drink in the race?
A few hours later I think I got the answer. I had a gum infection in the week but on the day I felt OK, but late afternoon my face had swollen up and was sore to touch. I could barely open my mouth to chew my dinner. So there is a chance I was not at 100% anyway when I started the race.
But no excuses. The race was poor, but I learnt from it. And that is what us triathletes do. We can stick at sprint distance events but we move on to Olympic distance tris. Someone does a half ironman and we think ‘I can do that’ so we enter one. We review all our training, review our food, our endurance etc. We push and push and train and train and we have to learn and learn.
If I had DNF’d I’d have failed and wasted 2 hours plus travel time. What I did was learnt more in that run then I would have done from any training session no matter how hard I had gone.
I spent the rest of the day looking at my training program for the next 8 – 10 weeks. I was more motivated than ever to make sure I was prepared for the half iron man event on 24th June.
Thanks for reading.