So that’s it. Twelve weeks of dedicated training have led to this weekend, and Sunday’s race. Twelve weeks of training for one, 13.1 mile run.
Everything considered, Training has gone well, even with two disrupted weeks due to the three peaks. At the start of the schedule, my goal was to complete the half in less than 1:40, which equates to a pace of 7:37/mile (4:44/km). Taking into account potential GPS inaccuracies (I’ve been stung on a number of occasions with this), I have been taking 7:30/mile (4:40/km) as my target race pace.
Leading up to previous half marathons, all of my long runs have been at an easy pace, starting at 6 miles, building up to around 12 and then dropping back to 6 for the taper. However, something that really helped me leading up to this years two spring half’s, was running at target pace for sections of my long runs. Whether it conditioned my body for running at that speed or whether it simply gave me the confidence that I could maintain the pace; maintain it I did, all the way to a ten minute PB.
Therefore, leading up to Northampton, I wanted to do the same. This started with a 2 mile stint, followed by 3 x 2 miles and finally 2 x 4 miles. I found the pace fairly comfortable on the flat, and easy enough on the descents, but going up hills I found it a struggle. I suppose this is to be expected really. I still think sub-1:40 is possible, but given how I was feeling at the top of some of the local hills, I am being a bit more realistic about my chances on Sunday.
A couple of positives though, the final big run that I completed was 12.1 miles in just under 1:40, with a slightly higher elevation gain than that predicted for the race. So, in race conditions I just need to find an extra mile from somewhere, on a slightly less hilly course. Bearing in mind that the miles completed outside of target HMP were ran at an easy recovery pace (9:09, 9:33, 9:40 and 9:21). There’s some confidence to be gained there.
One thing that I have been pleased with in recent months, is a lack of injuries. Little niggles are to be expected when running 20+ miles per week, but somehow I have managed to keep this to just the ongoing shin problem. Aside from this, I’ve been running pain free for quite some time. Lucky, although I do hope the shins don’t play up too much during the race. I went out for a short run this afternoon and they were sore for the first half mile, and could still be felt at the end. Fingers crossed all will be well.
Looking at the course profile below (click on the image for a bigger, clearer view), it appears there’s a long hill starting at the 5 mile mark, lasting for almost 2 miles. It looks gradual to begin with, and hopefully almost unnoticeable, although it looks tough from mile 6-7. If I can ride this, and the second major hill half a mile later, then it appears to be largely downhill from there. For me, the key to pacing a half marathon is to maintain effort rather than pace. This will mean that you slow down on the hills but speed up when descending. The idea is to not ruin your race by attacking the hills, whilst getting the time back when travelling downhill, when less effort is required to go faster. As ever, this will be my tact for this weekend.
So training has gone well, all that’s left now is for the final preparations in the next day or so. Eating the right food, laying off the alcohol and getting enough sleep. All leading up to a tried and tested peanut butter on toast for breakfast on Sunday, before setting off armed with a single High5 energy gel. Sub-1:40 was the early goal, and it would be amazing if I could manage it. However, I think 1:42 would be more realistic. 1:44:41 is my current PB. At the risk of sounding over-confident, I would be disappointed if I don’t improve on that.