I wrote this the week before the Ultra, but forgot to post. Thought I’d share it while I write up my ultra.
So it’s nearly here. The race that was months away, plenty of time to train. Easy to get myself ready. Just a bit of fun. It’s now this week and my next race. Nerves have started already. First unsettled sleep last night thinking over kit and route for the day. I’m as prepared physically as I can be, or maybe as I will be. The long week seemed to have been a rewarding stretch and will be a feature of training before the next ultra. Well that’s providing this Saturday doesn’t finish me off.
My last bits of training have gone well. San Dom 20 Miler, 2 weekends back was my first real test as to how training as gone. Having never ran that far in a single non stop run or having raced that far, I set a plan of running 7:30 mile pace unti the wheels fell off. 4 pieces of peanut butter on toast for brekkie and a nice easy drive to Merthyr for the start. My mate Dan had kindly offered to pace me the distance. The weather was dry and cool. After 2 little laps of the start area we were sent off down the trail to get the miles. I felt comfortable and at times made a conscious effort to hold back. The first real test came about 8 miles in. A long hill, what to do? I kept effort the same and pushed up. Lots were walking already and I passed 7/8 people on the way up. On reaching the top I glanced around. Dan was gone. As I decended I decided he was probably being more sensible and would reel me in soon. As each mile passed I felt OK. The gels were timed great at 1 hour and 1:45. Perfect to match my aim of 2:30. Always good to have a goal and a target. Goal was sub 2:40 but 2:30 was target. At mile 14 the steps of death. These same ones blew my legs in the Merthyr Half the year before. I made it up in one peice but legs were shot. Was mentally great timing, I was on new ground. Felt tired but ok. Each water station came I slowed and took a good gulp of water but kindly refused gels and stick with my own brand and strategy. As I neared into mile 17 I was tiring, a glanced at the watch and was hitting 7:20’s. Amazed I carried on with same effort. I’ve started to be better at not using the watch all the time and running more by feel, I leave it did paying current HR. We were all strung out quite a bit at this point of the race and I was checking over my shoulder to see how my fatigue was fairing. As I approached the last 600m there was one final little incline, made worse by the 19 miles prior. A passed another and could see the end. The finish 200 was downhill and helped me to put in a sprint. I could see 2:29 on the clock, amazed and slightly over whelmed I crossed the line. Having composed my excitement I went back to find Dan. He’d pushed his body to its limit, sometimes an admirable ability. I ran the last K with him and gave him my spare gel to help ease his fatigue. How he crossed the line I’ll never know, but if was a top effort.
After San Dom my confidence was high but I’d never set a target for Cardiff Half. Being the worlds I wanted to run it. Being able to take part in such a prestigious event was an opportunity not to be missed. I thought of maybe just doing ultra pace or maybe trying something different and running with a pacer for as long as possible. I had no expectations so any outcome other than injury would be fine. In the early part of the week I had pain in my knee cap. Some quick chat with the fixer gates and I was pointed to foam roll the ITB band. As the week progressed I rolled twice a day and a Thursday test wasn’t bad at all. My last roll was Friday night and by this time I’d not had any pain for a whole day.
On the day the weather was forecast to be quite wet and windy. I prefer this to the heat, I always find that I overheat and struggle in the warm. As it was an afternoon race, I had breakfast twice. I’m used to running off my standard peanut butter on toast but not much else. I use a quantity based in race distance. Two for a 5K, three for 10k – 10M & four for everything else. Concerned that the usual car park woul be more busy due to time day and time if race I left early. In fact it was quieter than I’d ever seen. Having watched the elite female rave go past I warmed up and did my final loo stop. In my pen nice and early after a dash through the crowds I still wasn’t sure of the plan. I was tempted to see if I could manage my failed time of last year. I had nothing to lose and I’d only missed it by 21 seconds. As the race started I just tried to run close to 4:20 a k. 4:21 is 7 minute miles. Although it was quite crowded early on I could see a few from club near by and also the 1:30 pacer. At the 2 mile mark I’d caught up with the pacer and felt OK. With last week still fresh in my kinda thought it would be worth trying to stick with the pacer. I’d been running ok in training and was sure I was stronger than the last Cardiff half. Having never run this fast for as long before I didn’t want to push too hard too early. So choose to stay next to the pacer and not look at the watch. Often when I see the faster splits showing I start to believe it’s too fast. Sometimes just seeing people who are normally further ahead close by can trigger the panic of going faster than you should. Often these worries are unfounded and you just need to realise consitent training brings progress and your not always doing it wrong and maybe just doing it more right than usual. As I was consciously making an effort not to run in front of the pacer it felt like I was running within myself. As the miles ticked over our group was reducing but I still felt I was strong enough to stay. I made sure I hit my gel at 45 mins and was pleased to get a good soaking from the rain as we crossed about mile 8. Every now and then I seemed to push on front, but quickly slowed to level with the group. At mile 10 we hit rate park, my legs were feeling tired but nothing like usual attempts at this distance. I took my other gel and started to think about how great it would be to run a PB or get close to sub 90. It was only 5k surely I can hold this now. The hard work is done. Approaching mile 11 I saw another from club, normally he was long gone. I gave a few words of encouragement and hoped he would use me as a trigger to push on. It was starting to feel real. I felt excited and had to compose myself, I knew that I needed to just hold pace and stay strong. After another shout out from a mate watching at 11.5 I decided I couldn’t risk running 1:30:01 and had to see how well I felt. Immediately I spotted a man in Lycra with a buzz light year pack on. That had to be my target next. I passed him easily and continued to hold pace even up fairoak road. Lots were slowing around me but I seemed to feel stronger as I headed down cathays terrace I felt better than ever friendly shout outs certainly helped me and gave me another boost. A little incline over the bridge and the final turn was in site. I was geared to sprint, I turned the corner and could see 1:29 something. I sprinted, no way was I missing the sub 1:30. I crossed the line delighted. A bit emotional and amazed. I’d lie if I didn’t say I’d wondered after last week if it was possible. But I didn’t think it would be and certainly not as comfortable as that felt. Your always uncomfortable but it’s relative. I didn’t feel at my limit until the final sprint. My watch said 1:29:09, if I’d known I was that close to 1:29 I’d have pushed harder earlier.