Monday, January 28, 2013

Media Maratón de Getafe 2013 / Getafe Half Marathon 2013

Even though I would say that the Half Marathon is probably my favourite distance, I get more and more nervous before a race as time goes on. This is partly because I have beaten my best time in every Half Marathon I have run (apart from ones run at Marathon pace) - at some point there has to be a disappointment in store - but also because the suffering is becoming more and more like that of a 10K race.

Paco kindly offered to pick me up on the way from his house down to Getafe - that, and the civilised 10:30 am start, meant that I could have a nice quiet breakfast at home while I waited for him to arrive. I had my usual toast and olive oil with a sprinkle of salt but I also scoffed down a slightly less healthy Mars Bar and grabbed a Red Bull for later. This year we were able to find a very good parking place quite near the start and we had plenty of time to go through the usual routine of getting the race number, pinning it on, leaving stuff at the cloakroom and finally, warming up. In spite of being a cold (8 degrees Centigrade) and grey day, I opted for sunglasses to give my eyes a rest from the glare and I wore one of those Buff things to avoid getting a headache from the chill (I took it off about 5 kilometres into the race). I also decided to run with a Fuel Belt and one little bottle full of High5 Isogels, just as I did last year. It's probably overkill but even if it helps psychologically it's probably worth more than its weight in speed. Lastly, I ran in my Vibram Seeyas which I am currently convinced are my best shoes, at least for running sub 4:00 per kilometre pace on tarmac.

That's me in the middle with an orange vest and sunglasses
Thanks to Josue Bretones Miguelez for these
After having started too far back last year, I was a bit more bullish and I stood around the 3:30 pace mark, even though I knew I would be running at more like 3:45 per kilometre. It turned out that I should probably have stood much further forward because the start was really fraught. Looking at the results from after the race, I can see that there were plenty of people who subsequently ran 1:30, 1:45, etc., who stood right at the very front (and who were not in an advanced age group for which those times would have been competitive). I have to say I find it very annoying that people do this. It doesn't do anyone any favours, even those who try to take advantage of it: two people tripped and fell in the middle of the melée and could have been quite seriously hurt (luckily they seemed to be OK). Having said this, I now find myself falling in the trap of doing the same thing (although I think that the organiser's overestimated the number of people who were going to be running a sub 3:30 pace and left far too big a corral for them).

Anyway, with my usual rant over, back to the race itself. A friend asked me what my goal in the race was and I realised that I hadn't really thought too hard about it. I said that I'd like to break 1 hour 20 as I did last year and ideally be able to improve my time, even if only by a few seconds. On the other hand, after the aerobic test I did a few weeks ago, I knew that I would set off at a pace of 3:45 per kilometre (16 kph) and see where my heart rate ended up. I decided to ignore my GPS and just make sure that the number of seconds on the clock were at least 15 less at each kilometre marker. Even so, it was impossible to ignore the symphony of beeping Garmin watches and, for once, they were not too far off the mark (the final distance according to my watch was 21.18, only 80 metres more, easily accounted for by not taking the optimal line).

After only a few kilometres I saw someone wearing the "All in your mind" t-shirt from my old club (and what I wore myself last year). It turned out to be Alejandro Gómez who I last saw (the back of) in the San Silvestre International race on New Year's Eve. This time I edged past him after a brief chat and wondered whether he'd catch me up again. The course is pretty flat and consists of two loops run mostly on roads, although there is a section that passes through the old village centre in which you have to run on cobble stones which are only slightly irritating in minimalist shoes. I remember one stretch which was slightly slippery, as if we were running on a film of ice (which wouldn't have been impossible) but I think was actually a fine layer of gravel. I could hear other runner's shoes scraping and slipping and I tried consciously not to waste energy by pushing off too hard. It was, however, quite a windy day and even with 3,600 other runners there were still times when I was completely unprotected from the onslaught.

I felt completely in control during the whole race but I did think of stopping several times. I suppose these thoughts come to you either when you are suffering too much (which wasn't the case) or when you lose concentration. I clearly remember thinking how nice it would be to stop and catch my breath after only 5 kilometres and then I realized what a stupid idea that was and that I couldn't afford to think of the relief of stopping so soon into the race. The desire to stop was stronger, of course, in the final quarter but it was also easier to convince myself to keep going. What I find striking now is that I don't remember feeling either sure that I would beat my best time or particularly excited about doing so; I just wanted the time to go by.

Thanks to Los atrapasueños for this one
I thought about my "limiters" - whether it was my lungs or my legs that were holding me back and, to be honest, I didn't feel that either of them were. Every so often I thought my legs were getting tired and so I sipped some of my gels. I made sure that I had finished the bottle by the time I passed the 15 kilometre mark as little good would they do me after this point. I think it must have been largely due to the cold weather that my heart rate didn't not climb towards the end - you can see from the graph below the difference between this year and last. On the other hand, according to eltiempo, the temperature last year was about the same, the main difference being that you could actually see the sun. My breathing did become more laboured so I was definitely running much closer to my limits than the heart rate graph would have you believe - I felt myself starting to wheeze and have to suck in my breath in the last couple of kilometres - but I do think that I left some gas in the tank.

Getafe 2013 vs Getafe 2012
As I came into the final straight, I saw that I was definitely going to beat my best time of 1:19:37 but it didn't look as though it would be possible to break 1 hour and 19 minutes so I ran hard but not like a kamikaze and someone even overtook me in the last 100m. Had I known that my net time (taking into account the time it took me to cross the start line once the gun had gone off) would be 1 hour 19 minutes and 3 seconds(!) I would probably have pulled out all the stops. There is something to be said for not trying to beat your personal best by all that you can in one go. I see it a bit like the way that Usain Bolt is financially incentivised to save a little something for his next record breaking attempt. Now I have a nice goal for next year: break 1 hour 19 in the Half Marathon. If last year I ran the second half 17 seconds slower than the first half, this year the split was 48 seconds. Message to future self: if I am in the same shape next year as I am in now, then I should aim to knock 30 seconds off my time.

I am very pleased with my time because, if last year felt like a fluke, this result confirms that I am that fast, if not faster. I am especially pleased because I have been training on my own without a coach for about 9 months now and I am still able to get good results. I think I can be quietly confident about Seville. I just hope that the qualifying time for New York this year (if this race does indeed fall in the window of dates for qualification) is not sub 1:19 for the 40+ age group - that will be quite frustrating to say the least. (By the way, the aerobic test I did the other day predicted a time of 1:19:07 - only 4 seconds off my actual time!! Must be a coincidence.)

I got my second best 10K time of 37:05 on route, only 20 seconds off my PB
As I left the finish line area I picked up my runner's goody bag without realizing that this year the t-shirts were not all one size. I ended up with a small size which I decided to give to my wife. I've got more than enough red t-shirts as it is.

By chance, the guy with his arms in the air is trained by Jonathan

No comments:

Post a Comment