Training has been going well in the last month, I’m pleased with my progress, I’m slow but I’m progressing in terms of my running and my turbo training. I guess the key to this is the fact at the grand old age of almost 42 I’m listening to my coach and doing exactly what I’m told. So much so that when I told Emma that I’d entered the Basingstoke Half Marathon, the first words out of her mouth were “Are you allowed?”.
My coach also happened to be running, so he gave me the all clear to enter. Basingstoke is a long way from home and the race wasn’t the purpose of my visit South of the Border ( Thelwall viaduct is the border to the North of England ). I had been invited to talk about my triathlon/ironman adventures down in Portsmouth to a local club. The talk went really well, we had a good laugh over curry afterwards as well as I learnt all about the Royal Navy and their liberal use of ladies underwear on nights out.
On Saturday morning I decided to have a plod round Newbury Park run just to stretch the legs ahead of the half the next day. Running well within myself I crossed the finish line in 28 minutes. This was rewarded with banter with my mate Andy and my coach in the local café, we’d not seen each other for a couple of years so it was good to catch up. The post plod beans on toast were splendid. I felt as fresh as a daisy after that mornings run and the drive down to Portsmouth was a breeze.
Sunday came around ( as it does ) and I drove an hour north to Basingstoke. I’d registered the day before so I knew where I was going. I arrived 2.5 hours before the race and was only the fourth car in the massive field that would hold the cars of the 1900 runners. Another thing which I’ve never experienced before at a race, I was there that early that the toilet roll in the blue tardis was brand new. That amused me.
Soon enough it was time to get going, my coach and I wished each other luck, he’d told me how to run, I would stick to the plan as best I could. Working up the hills but not blowing up and relaxing down keeping within certain heart rate zones. He would go on to finish in the top ten, you won’t be surprised to hear that I didn’t.
It was a cracking race, a great atmosphere with amazing support out in the villages where children had huge salad bowls full of Jelly babies. Not just in one village but all of them that we’d pass through. It was also the toughest half marathon that I’ve ever done because of the hills. Going up them wasn’t too bad, it was the coming downhill that fatigued my legs. I decided in the last few miles to just relax and enjoy it, low fiving all the kids, thanking the marshals and just generally plodding along taking in the atmosphere. If you’ve not done this race before you are missing out. Details of the 2015 race can be found here.
I could have put my foot down to crack 2hrs, and in the past I would have done but these days I’m working to different rules mentally. What would it actually achieve? My half pb is 1.39, I was no where near that. It would have made me ache more for the 200+ mile drive home, it would have taken me longer to recover ( no aches post race for the first time ever ) and it would have probably hurt. Nothing beneficial at a race in October that I entered on a whim could be gained from running faster. I was thinking long term, so I just plodded home in 2.03 which I was chuffed with. I’d worked hard but not too hard. I think I can take that, work over the winter and get into 1.45 form on a flat course in mid March, and hopefully get close to those numbers at the end of May at my A race, the Outlaw Half Ironman. We’ll see.
I was rewarded with a medal and a very nice day-glo orange tech shirt for training in on the cold dark nights ahead. I was also rewarded with a handshake from my coach and the words “Your time on that course at this stage of things is very encouraging. Nice one Holgs.” Now that really did make me smile. It felt good to be back ‘racing’, I can’t wait to do it again.
You never know I might actually be a bit quicker next time.