VRR Westerfolds Park Half Marathon

While my goal for training is to achieve a good level of consistency, this is far from what I have achieved. There has been plenty of missed sessions, reduced intensity and distances cut short. Sleep, or the lack off, is the biggest challenge for maintaining any level of consistency. There has been a few things that have taken away quality sleep. An extra night shift at work, plus incidental overtime, and some interruptions during the night prevents that deeper restoration. While I can function for short periods on reduced sleep, I definitely need 6.5-7 hours to function close to my best. I haven't been achieving this, and the without the option for a couple of genuine catch-ups, I hit a period, where the need for sleep took over, and I slept through my morning training sessions.


As a result, coming into the VRR Westerfolds Park Half Marathon, I really wondered what sort of condition I would be in. Would the reduced training result in an under par performance, or would I be taper fresh? Only one way to find out.


On Set, then Go


I lined up front and centre at the start. For some reason everyone else seemed reluctant to take a front position. Even at this point I hadn't formed much of the plan for the race. Without knowing who would be towards the sharp end of the small field, I had to wait and see how things unfolded. So that became the plan. Run relatively quickly for half at the start, and see how things unfold.


The first 100 meters had me out front by myself. I knew I wasn't really holding back, but I also wasn't going ballistic either. Just as my thoughts turned to the unique prospect for me of leading, A front group formed. Five of us covered the first, mainly downhill kilometer together. It looked like the race was unfolding into the style I enjoy.


I decided to sit in the group and keep tabs on who was vying for the podium positions. Hopefully that would include myself. The dynamics very quickly changed, as we covered a series of undulations. Some solid surges on the ascents were thrown in this early into the race. Instead of aggressively covering them, I just aimed to limit the gap on the uphill and regain my position of downhill. This would hopefully hold something in my legs for later. After all, the opening speeds were faster than I should be able to maintain. At the 4km turn, I noticed we were on about a 1:22 half marathon. Since, this should be a slow course and I hadn't run a half in that time for years, it looked like too big an ask.


Flicking the pace back ever so slightly I wanted to see if I could maintain what felt too hard for the distance. At this point the front group really split up and I found myself in second place. It looked like I now only had two guys to worry about. Off the front, that 1:22 pace was maintained, which I knew was suicide if I followed. On my shoulder was the runner who had put in those early surges. He seemed to be doing it hard now, and the gap between us was opening up just a bit a bit. Everyone else was fading into the background and there were no obvious threats to my position.


Status Quo


For the rest of the first lap, eveything remained predictable. First place, created a little more space for himself, and did the same for second place. The course was two laps, and each lap finishes with a long steep climb, broken a little in the middle, before a fast decent over the last 200m. I eased back on the climb to try and save something for later. It was becoming clearer and clearer the pace was likely beyond my fitness. I didn't take my splits, but a look at the race clock and quick calculation gave me something like a 1:23 and-a-bit if I could maintain the average.


That was becoming a big ask. The plan needed some modification for the final lap:

  • Run relatively conservatively on the flat & uphill (no spikes in effort)
  • Use the downhill to gain some ground on 1st (hopefull) and put a buffer to 3rd
  • Leading into the final climb, ease back in order to be able to hammer the last section.
  • Surge the climb (expecting an attack from behind) and use my descending skills for the finish

I put the above into action.



The Catch and Then Some


The two points seemed to go okay. However, it was clear 3rd place was working to catch me and he looked better than earlier. First place was now out of sight. My legs were burning. Burning like they were hammering a 5000m on the track. Which isn't exactly how they should feel during a half marathon. I was beyond the point of being able to find any sort of recovery while racing. Hanging on to whatever I had left was all I could do.


Somewhere around maybe 17km was the blow up. Hydrogen ions flooded the muscles and bloodstream. The pain I just suck up, but the lack of coordination in my legs was insurmountable. The acidic bath removed all ability for anything remotely near race pace. I felt old, and forced what I could out of what degenerated into some very ugly running form. I was quickly removed from 2nd place.


Onto that long climb and things got worse. Those that had posed no threat in my earlier on simply ran past as if I was walking. Over the crest and even the descent was difficult. My legs tried failing to keep me upright, my mind was still clouded in the haze of the sustained blow up and eventually I crossed the finish, in 1:28:09. Fifth place overall.



Veteran

I know I am getting older, and I was having a bit of trouble walking post race, but surely I don't qualify for the Veteran category. According to the awards ceremony I do. I was handed 2nd place for the over-40s, and despite my protest at the time that since I'm only 33 years old this just isn't right, the organises insisted I take the medal. I'm pretty sure I should have 3rd place in the open, but it doesn't really matter.

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