Como Landing Run... Leaps And Bounds
I left a little later than I wanted for this morning's half marathon. It was -3 degrees celsius here and I had a bit of ice to get off the car, so instead of arriving ridiculously early like usual, I arrived at just about the right time. By the time I started my warm-up the temperature had just sneaked up into the positive numbers. Gloved and rugged up I was feeling nice and toasty with the sun welcoming a bright and crisp morning. Looks like good race conditions.
Because of the less than ideal week of training and given that my legs were feeling heavy for some reason I decided to ignore heart rate and splits during the race and just go on feel. The event was another Sri Chinmoy race, so as usual it was well organised and friendly. There was the traditional moment of silence to reflect on the journey ahead just before we were given our starting orders.
The course was 3 laps of 7km around the paths along the Yarra River. Undulating, great scenery and busy. Nothing like running along the main river of my city to inspire a good day. The organisers decided to get the the 100m of the 21.1km out of the way at the start by running a dogleg from the start line. My first thought was that was just stupid, expecting to see everyone run into each other at the 50m turnaround. I was wrong, despite my own thoughts, it worked well.
From what I could tell the field split into three main groups at the start. The top three men looking like they were on their way for sub-80min. I settled in with the next group and I think the rest of the field gradually spread out behind us. Over the first few kilometres I was feeling smooth and comfortable, the pace felt right, but I was sticking to not looking at the numbers so I wasn't sure how fast or slow I was really going. I took a moment to take in the others around me. There were about 10 of us within 50m and it was clear we were going to lose half well before the first lap was down. It never ceases to amaze me how many people go out so much harder at the start than they are capable of running. I don't mean just a small misjudgement of pace, but a good 2 minutes per kilometre than they are able to sustain. If someone is gasping for air, struggling to maintain any semblance of form because their legs are burning with lactic acid before the first three kilometres are covered, chances are they are going to drop off the pace pretty soon.
As predicted our group soon became smaller. Most had dropped off the pace, one had sped up showing us a clean pair of heels by time we had crossed the river and were making our way along the concrete pontoons. This is normally a lovely section along the Yarra river. A nice view across the water, with the rowers out training, a view across to the old apartment buildings and sometimes towards the city centre itself. Unfortunately none of us were able to take in the view. It wasn't because we were running so blindingly fast that the scenery was a blur, it was more to do that we were trying to stay on our feet. The pontoons were covered with ice, and very slippery ice at that. No one to my knowledge came to grief, but it did slow everyone down on each lap. I stuck to the left hand side up against the railing as this seemed to provide the less slippery footing.
Past the pontoons we headed up over a bridge back onto our original side of the river. While crossing this bridge I looked up stream and immediately the Paul Kelly song Leaps and Bounds became lodged into my brain, and repeated over and over throughout the rest of the race. The reason was, as I looked up river I saw the silos with the clock from the song:
I'm high on the hill
Looking over the bridge
To the M.C.G.
And way up on high
The clock on the silo
Says eleven degrees
Today the clock didn't say eleven degrees, it said six, both on the first and second laps, increasing to a sweltering seven by the final lap. I think summer is long way off.
It was around this point on the first lap, that our group completely split, two moved ahead of me, and the last dropped behind dramatically. I was still feeling good, so I kept up the same pace and decided to see what unfolds. Completing the first lap I soon noticed I was gaining on the two in front of me. I caught both of them on the ice again, where I just played it safe. Over the bridge again and that's where I pulled away, finding myself alone. The leaders were no where in sight and I decided no one was going to catch me. After all I was still feeling good.
Onto lap three and I had opened up the gap behind me slightly, but I better make sure of this, so I increased my effort over the last seven kilometres. The key difference was that I was going to push harder on the uphills. I had been holding back and making most of my gains on the descents. I didn't go stupid, but I was finally now beginning to hurt. After a few undulations my legs were now burning and I knew I was close to my limit.
I hit the pontoons at a good pace and found most of the ice had melted and I didn't have to concentrate on staying upright. Well, except for one small section that caught me by surprise. My foot slid out in front of me, and I'm not sure how I didn't land on my backside, but I kept the right bits on the ground. Up over the bridge and on a short uphill my legs decided to suddenly protest. They had been happy earlier, but now they decided enough was enough. I argued with them that it was now only about three and half kilometres left, they thought it was too far and shouted back at me even more. Not much for me to do now except ignore them and go back to Leaps and Bounds.
I checked behind a few times, and soon realised there was no one to catch me. It was almost a relaxing finish, no sprint, or big effort required to break a time or maintain my position. My legs said thank you and my stomach demanded pancakes. Arguably the best part of the Sri Chinmoy races are the pancakes they provide. I finished in 1:28:40 which was about 1 minute faster than my last half, and this one on possibly a slower course. A good way to end what started out as a poor week of training.
Next Sunday I'll be heading down to Philip Island for the first duathlon of the season. I haven't done any racing that involves the bike since the Ironman, April 06. I'm looking forward to the unique pain of run/bike/run.
"Exercise ferments the humors, casts them into their proper channels, throws off redundancies, and helps nature in those secret distributions, without which the body cannot subsist in its vigor, nor the soul act with cheerfulness." - Joseph Addison