Half Marathon - Emergency Services Games
Out of the four races, this is the main one I've had my eyes on. A half marathon in around the Steve Moneghetti Track, Lake Wendouree. The course dead flat, a mixture of gravel and bitumen path. Starting with a 3.1km out and back, then 3x6km laps around the lake. No where to hide on this one.
A liquid breakfast, and coffee on the way for the 1.5 hour drive. For the first time the weather was brilliant, brisk morning, little wind and great sunshine. Some rubbish talk and a relaxed warm up I was feeling pretty good. The original plan was to be in 1:22:00 shape, and of course hopefully faster. Time for execution.
Plenty of space up front from the starter's gun. I was in 3rd with the winner of last weekend's 10km cross country striding out ahead and fellow ambo, Adrian splitting the difference for 2nd. I wanted to keep the leader roughly in sight over the first few kilometres in the hope it could somehow keep me in contention. That didn't last as long as I wanted, and he added clumps of seconds to the lead every kilometre. Completing the out and back section in 10:40, I was certain that couldn't be the full 3.1km. I was moving quicker than usual for the start of a half, but it wasn't that quick.
I settled into a pace that felt a little too fast. This turned out to be 3:50-3:52/km. It was something I new I could hold for a while, exactly how far I wasn't sure. Pushing out those 1-2km intervals and paced 23km efforts hopefully had given me what I needed. Nothing much changed for that lap, other than I made ground on 2nd place and put some reasonable distance into those behind. A little into the second lap, maybe around 10km I had the number 2 position.
Past 12km and I was now feeling the pace. A slow, deep burn was seeping through and the muscles of my legs. They were trying to ease off, and I had to up the concentration a lot to hold form and pace. For each of the next couple of kilometres a second or two flipped off the pace. Somewhere past 14km, the acidosis was thick, my legs felt as though they were pushing through mud and I was sucking in air like everything depended on it. Clearly this wasn't going to last me to the finish. Making the decision which was forced upon me, I backed off as much as I dared. Hoping my body could sort out the inter and intracellular mess in my leg muscles. Maybe those 1000m/1000m sessions were going to play a role here.
Third place caught me at the start of the final lap. 6km left and my speed had falling below 4:00/km. My breathing was settling and my body seemed to be doing what I hoped, but I was worried whether I'd pick the speed up at all. I tucked in on my rival's shoulder and waited as long as I dared to get away with seeking any recovery. Knowing the those behind were gaining, I was particularly worried about Mark. He'd established a history of finishing well in half marathons, and I was sure that was his tactic this year. With a little less than 4km left it was time.
Changing gear brought my speed up from the 4:05/km we'd been running and I was managing 3:54/km. This was hard. The legs were protesting and just trying hard to shut down the effort. There were a few poor quality strides mixed in, but maybe I could hold this. There was no answer from Adrian and I was confident he wasn't coming back up on me.
2km remaining and the speed was dissipating out of me. Pushing to keep whatever I had left working was challenged as I noticed Mark had now taken spot number three and was closing in on me. A couple of checks over the shoulder and on-the-fly mathematics gave me numbers I didn't like. There was no way I was going to hold onto 2nd doing what I was doing. With about 1500m remaining I gave everything I had left. It was a sprint effort, but to be honest it didn't seem to translate into much more speed. I was relegated back to third place with about 800m left. The final result gave 3rd overall and 2nd in the 35-39M group. My time was 1:21:41, a personal best over this course by nearly 2 minutes. First place took out the event record in 1:15:xx.
Am I happy with the result?
Definitely. Taking a PB on any course is always a good thing. Getting under the 1:22 form I was aiming for shows I got a few things right with training.
Was it a perfect race?
Not at all. There were some mistakes. The early pace was too strong. With hindsight, it probably would have been better to run 5sec/km slower at about 3:55. That would have been more sustainable and may have avoided the time lost during the recuperation taken at about 14-17km. Would there have been more in my legs to hold off the final attack? I don't know. There is also the possibility that an easier start may have let others stay on my shoulder and put them in a better position. For me that's difference between racing and just running for a time. The tactics add so much more.