Sri Chinmoy Williamstown Running Festival 2011

The half marathon at the Sri Chinmoy Williamstown Fitness and Running Festival has featured a lot in all my years of running. Yet again, I entered. In line with my recent thoughts, it would be an ideal launch to going back to a running focus. It is a race and course I know very well, and with plenty of results to compare to, it should give me an accurate guide to where I am at.

No heart rate monitor (sent off for a battery replacement). That set the tone for a bit of old school racing. Keeping with that theme I wore the old Jones Cycles Tri Club jacket just to get in the mood. It was something I needed, since when my alarm went off I first thought I was at work and had to respond to a call. Not exactly the most pleasant way to wake up.

Conditions were perfect. No wind, cloud cover and a temperature range of 9-12 degrees Celsius. I felt okay from my warm up, but not particularly quick. Over the two weeks since the VRR half marathon, I hadn't performed any significant training that I felt should add to my fitness. Any gains in fitness were likely to be what I had absorbed from that race or simply a result of a little of consistency over the last few months. I wasn't expecting big things. However, my race plan did have a bit of hope in it. I wanted to run faster than the 1:23:05 back in Emergency Services Games. So the plan was:
  • Go out harder than I think I can hold, maybe 3:55/km or a bit quicker.
  • If I think I am about to blow up, then ease back a bit and see what I can hold.
  • The idea is no massive slow down like two weeks ago.
"What time are you aiming for?" I was asked by Danger at the start line. I replied with 1:22 without having thought too hard about it earlier. He was aiming for 1:12. Definitely not the person to follow to help with my pace, even though that would fit in with the go out harder than I think I can hold category.

The start was nice and clean. I made a point of keeping the pace up over the first 200m to keep ahead of the slower runners that sprint at the start. The other benefit is it put me in a position to check out where I should slot in. By the 2km mark I was in small group. We numbered 5-7 for the majority of the race. The race was pretty straight forward. My group was on the pace that suited me. So I tucked in, kept an bit of an eye on the watch and did my best to relax. Most of us worked well together for the at least the first 10km. However, I made a point of keeping away from the guy in green shorts. No matter who he was next to, he had the habit of leaning in and pressing his shoulder across yours. There wasn't any point fighting for position in the early stages, so I stepped back from him and relaxed.

The kilometers ticked over quite quickly, at an average of about 3:50/km. I think we had gone a bit quicker over the first few kilometers. My form was on. It didn't feel easy, but it felt right. One thing did stand out for me work on for the future: drink stations. I lost a few meters at each drink, and had to play a little catch up. Having prided myself on having good skills in this area in the past, it came as a surprise. The good news is it looks like an easy fix.

Between the 12-15km the group split. A couple of guys strung out in front. At this stage I was feeling like I was a fair bit above my abilities so I stuck with the remains of the group. But soon enough, they slowed. Forced into the decision of sticking with the slowing pace or being stuck by myself I decided neither was a good fit. The result was I dug a bit deeper and pulled back up to the two that had gone out ahead. I was on their heels by 15km, but that's when my legs were flooded with those pesky hydrogen ions.

It was time to put the second point of my pre race plan into action: If I think I am about to blow up, then ease back a bit and see what I can hold. Dropping down a gear gave a bit of recovery for my legs. Enough to reduce the burn to something that might be sustainable. The cost was a 4:10 kilometer. All the way to the finish I ran strong. The speed had been sucked from my legs, but I was able to force something reasonable out of them. Even with that 4:10 km, I managed to average 4:00/km over the final 6.1km. I got passed by a couple of people, but I also passed a couple of others.

The end result was I crossed the line in 1:22:46 -ish (3:55/km pace). At this stage the time is unofficial, and I'm not sure where I placed. It a result I am very happy with. Faster than the Emergency Services Games, and significantly faster than the 1:25:18 I hit here in 2009 on my way to the PR at the Melbourne Marathon. With a few surges throughout the race, which were mainly due to the drinks stations, but also in response to the group dynamics, I was surprised at how well I maintained things. Since my training hasn't been high kilometers, or especially run focused, it appears that I should be on track to something very decent this year.

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