Police Games: Half Marathon
Being Ballarat, it was a typical cold start to the day, but once the sun finally took hold, things heated up throughout the race. My legs felt a bit heavy, but wrapped in some thermals I went through a very gradual warm up until eventually I was feeling race ready. Yes, my legs were feeling good. The weather was good. A great course and a decent turn out all meant things were shaping up for a good race.
No miscounted laps, and the 24m, short of 6km per lap was accounted for in the initial out-and-back segment at the start before we finished with three laps. An accurate course. We were given our starting orders and the field was off. A face I didn't recognise sped out in front. I hoped he was being very stupid with his pace judgment, but as the race progressed it was clear he was simply just that fit. The rest of us were never going to get anything higher than second place.
The first few kilometres sorted the field groupings out pretty quickly. Myself and two others (which included the winner from the last two years) made up the so-called chase group with the rest stretching out behind us. My legs were feeling really light and quick, even though we were travelling a lot faster than what I had predicted I was capable of pre-race. Decision time:
- Drop back to my estimated proper pace and let these two run off ahead, then hope they slow and I can speed up at the end
- Stick with them, let them do the pace-making and dig really deep in the end
I chose option 2.
I figured option 1 would almost guarantee I finished in 4th with a respectable time, but option 2 gave me shot at really beating these two in the placings (giving 2nd overall), but at the risk of seriously blowing up and getting 4th anyway. Fifth place was already a long way back.
Soon enough I was in the perfect running zone. Always about a step-and-half behind whichever of the other two was taking the lead. My mind switched to the narrow tunnel of race focus. A continual checklist of good posture, relaxation, smooth leg turnover and proper positioning. All I had to do was sit and wait until things changed. For the first 14km we were running at sub 4:00/km, usually at 3:55/km (pre-race I thought I would be in 4:05-4:10 shape).
For the most part I was feeling really good. Naturally running was getting harder, but good for 14km into a half marathon. There was one key problem. My bowels had decided to seriously misbehave and I had spent the last 6km trying not to poo myself. It became clear I was going to lose the battle very soon and was forced to make a pit stop. The decision held me up for just under one minute. Unfortunately that is a very long time when you have been racing a bit above yourself with two guys who are at that level.
Straight back into it. No choice but to try to catch them. I put down between 3:55 and 3:51 for the next 3km. Up ahead the two I had in my sights separated. I wasn't really closing any ground on second place, but 3rd place might be doable...
...and with that I promptly blew up. The overwhelming flood of hydrogen ions burning through my muscles, blood, the pronounced headache and above all, the sudden loss of both strength and coordination in the legs. No longer, muscle, tendons, ligaments and bone, I was now running on bits of wobbly rubber. I no longer checked my watch, but going over the splits later I slowed considerably. 4:20s, 4:45s and even a 5:10 in those last few kilometres. I even had to look over shoulder to make sure I wasn't going to caught from behind.
I crossed the line in 4th place overall, with a time of 1:29:00. The winner had run under 83 minutes. I did manage to bag silver for my age group. My whole body is still feeling the effects the following day. Nothing like going out hard and blowing up to hammer the body.
The Victorian Police and Emergency Services Games are now completed for me. I am stoked with how my running has come along over the last few months. Of course I still have a way to go, but always will. The half marathon was definitely my favourite race of the Games. There is more to racing than winning to me, it is the trying to win that was more important. Also helps when Steve Moneghetti turns up for the awards ceremony too.
I'm now giving myself some time off from any formal training, even though I'll run the Run For The Kids next Sunday. Soon enough it will be time to start working on my next goal.