Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The first half

Sitting on a flight to london and finally have time to update on the weekends race.
Last week I had taken it relatively easy. I ran 10 miles monday night, to make up for missing my long run on sunday. Then on tuesday night I did 10k in about 52 minutes... Which is only about 2.5 minutes off my best time.

Wednesday I took a day off, then thursday I ran 3 miles fast. Did the three miles in just 24 minutes... The fastest run I've done. When I analysed my garmin data later I discovered that my heart rate was in zone 5 (above 90% max) for 85% of the run. This gave me a real confidence boost and had me psyched for the run on saturday.

My sleep on friday night was a little unsettled as I was genuinely excited about the race. Saturday morning I woke at 6 and spent a few hours ganging out with my son and eating sensible foods like bread and bananas.

At 8.30 I headed to my friends house and we set out together for omagh.

Once we got there and picked up our numbers, we had plenty of time to hang around, warmup and stretch. The buzz around the registration area was pretty cool. As we lined up at the start line, I was impressed by the variety of participants. There was a 4 mile fun run occurring at the same time so we were lined up between young kids, older folks and very obvious athletes with their club kit, wraparound oakleys and armbands specifically designed for holding gels.

On that note I have to briefly digress and wonder... How many gels do you need for a 13 mile run? Seriously, I saw one girl that had an armband with about 6 in it. Is it really possible to use that many? Yuck! I had one bottle of double strength energy drink and that seemed fine for me.

Anyway, we got started and I set off at a decent enough pace. Bear in mind that this time last year I had never run in my life. When I decided I wanted to start running I was running 1 minute and walking one minute and it killed me. So... When I say a decent pace, I mean just under an 8 minute mile.

The course was pretty cool. Quite varied, and far from flat. I kept the pace up pretty well and by the time I hit the 10k mark I was very close to a pr for a 10k. This was when I started to think seriously about what sort of time I could manage.

I knew I could do it in under 2 hours. My personal target, and the training plan I had been following, was for sub 1 hour 50. I hadn't followed the plan that closely though and had skimped a little on the speedwork so I hadn't been that confident I would manage it. However, as I hit the 10k mark I was (for me) fast and still feeling good. So I tried to pick up the pace a little more to be consistently under 8 minutes per mile.

The toughest part was around the 11 / 12 mile mark where there was a long steady hill that looked like it was 13 miles long, and in reality was probably over half a mile. Once I got over this I really pushed and the last mile was probably my fastest of the race. When I saw the 400m to go sign I genuinely sprinted for the line.

I finished in 1 hour 45 mins and 16 seconds. This totally amazed me and I was genunely over the moon with this time. I had been playing around with a pace calculator and figured that to get this time basically requires an 8 min mile for 13.1 miles and I honestly didn't think I could do this. Somehow, I did. My friend had actually only come in about 2 minutes before me.

So, I've completed my first half marathon, set my PR and set the bar. Now all I have to do is improve it. Based on this I am going to have a target of 3 hours 45 for the dublin marathon in october. Its ambitious, but I've plenty of time to get there.

When I looked at my garmin data later I found that, like the 3 mile run a few days before, I actually ran 85% of the race in heart rate zone 5. I will also post the course map and profile later.

Finally, I had sat down the night before the race to program in a playlist for the run and the music really helped, so just for the hell of it, this is what I listened to as I ran. I had just downloaded the new NINJA (nine inch nails and janes addiction) ep and the new prodigy album and hadn't had a chance to listen to them yet, hence the high density of their tracks...

Bixby canyon bridge - death cab for cutie
Fallin - de la soul and teenage fanclub
Invaders must die - the prodigy (first song that made me speed up)
Chip away - janes addiction
That's what you get - paramore
Dawn of the dead - does it offend you, yeah?
Clap for the killers - streetsweeper
Battle royale - does it offend you, yeah?
Rocket queen - guns n roses
Non-entity - nine inch nails
The oath - streetsweeper
Complication - nine inch nails
Whores - janes addiction
Omen - the prodigy
Smack my bitch up - the prodigy
We're in this together - nine inch nails
Their law - the prodigy
Head like a hole - nine inch nails
Hearts burst into fire - bullet for my valentine (this is where I started running my ass off)
Every day is exactly the same - nine inch nails
We are rockstars - does it offend you, yeah?
Come and die - fatal and therapy?
And as I finished....
Going out of my head - fatboy slim.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Brickin it

Last night I did my first proper "brick" workout, ie going straight from bike to run.
Actually, yesterday was a serious workout day. I was at the gym at 6.30am for a 45 minute spin class, then 30 mins of weights, then work.
When I got home from work at about 6 it was still bright, zane was staying at his grandparents and steph was at college, so rather than sitting around on my ass I got on the road.
I cycled 12.2 miles (20km) and was annoyingly slow as before. I had planned on finishing the rider at my house, but the loop I cycled meant that I came back by my place about a mile short so I just kept going. I cycled into glengormely and looked out for somewhere to lock up the bike. Shortly after hitting the 20km mark, I saw a fence beside a bus stop. So I pulled over, jumped off the bike, chained it to the fence, threw my helmet in the camelback and started running.
I got a lot of strange looks from the people at the bus stop... And I think this is the moment that I learned that doing this sort of training means not giving a shit what people think of you or how weird you look.
I was prepared for jelly legs, but I was rather surprised to discover how my body dealt with this, which was to run faster than normal. Like, quite a lot faster. I started out at a 7.30 pace and kept thid going for about a mile I think.
I decided that I might as well run a sprint triathlon distance hard, then finish with two easy miles.
I was pretty happy to do the initial 3.1 miles in 24 mins. That's good going for me.
I got myself back to the bike, and gently cycled the 2 miles home.
Totally excellent workout, and to top it all off my wonderful wife picked up some KFC for us on the way home.

Monday, 9 March 2009


So, yesterday I was meant to run the "between the bridges" race in Belfast. This was a bit of a strange one. To celebrate the completion of a large new section of motorway (highway) they shut it down for a few hours and had a 10k on it.
I thought it sounded like fun. Unfortunately though, I was totally disorganised and had left registration to the last minute. I contacted the organisers last week and found that while there was no race day registration, I could go and register at a local shopping centre for the few days beforehand.
So on Friday evening, I left work a little early and drove down the road to meet my wife so we could sign up. When we got to the registration, however, it seemed we were a few hours too late. Apparently there was a totally unexpected demand for the race and the 4500 places had already been filled.
This was a pity, as with a half marathon coming up, I had decided not to aim for any particular time and was going to take it relatively easy and just run the race, for fun, with Steph.
Oh well, this meant I would have to just do my long run as scheduled.
Come Sunday morning and after a 6am wakeup call from the little guy and a few hours hanging out with him, I started getting ready to go for a nice long easy run.
I was planning a 12 miler, so sat down at the computer and tried to figure out a decent route with map my run. I was quite amazed to see quite how far 12 miles is. I kept planning out routes and then finding that they weren't long enough.
Eventually, i had a good route planned and just as i was getting my gear on, it started snowing.
I had two new things to try out on this run.. Firstly I bough a Camelback when I was in the states a few weeks ago and hadn't been out on a long run since buying it so was looking forward to trying that out. The second was a new sports drink I had picked up while we were out on Friday. The last few longer runs Ive done I've tried using Lucozade Sport and Powerade. They both helped, but I had wanted to try out something a bit more complex, i.e. with more than just sugar in it. So i picked up this "Iso Energy" stuff. Its got carbs, electrolytes, amino acids and to top it all off.. some caffeine.
So I filled up the Camelback with water, made up a litre of the iso energy drink, downed a couple of hundred mls before starting and hit the road and had an excellent run.

The first bit of the run was the toughest as, I was running the road over the top of the Cavehill here in Belfast. I actually ran to one of the highest points in the city.. Its no mountain, but its far from flat, as you can see from the GPS elevation profile.
Having this at the start of the run was great though as the subsequent prolonged downhill gradient was a breeze. The lowest point was the bottom of the Antrim road, and I took a two minute break to watch the runners who were doing the 10k. Turning around at that point and realising that the remainder of the run was a gradual uphill was a bit more of a challenge. Although I think I decided around this time that I was definitely going to push it beyond the 12 miles and go the full half marathon distance.

On the whole, the run was enjoyable and pretty easy going.. apart from the last 1.5 miles. That was when the pain kicked in both knees and my hips. But I struggled through and finished the 13.1 miles in 2 hours 3 minutes. I think the Iso Energy stuff really helped.. a few times while running I started to feel myself lagging so I took a swig at that and it really helped. Also, the Camelback is a great purchase. No carrying water bottles in my hands and its really comfortable to wear. I can highly recommend it.

When I got home I felt totally fantastic.Its a really good feeling when you do something new like a new PR time or a new longest distance. Of course, still being a running newbie, I get to do this a lot! Indeed, as with today, I usually do both at the same time, which is a lot of fun, but sets the bar for what I have to beat next time.

I learned my lesson from missing out on the between the bridges run and so have now signed up for the half marathon in omagh. Two weeks to go and as planned, I want to do the half marathon in two weeks in less than 2 hours. Having done this run in around 2 hours lets me know that I can definitely do it.

Below is the full GPS profile of the route. As usual, click for full size goodness.