The day was finally upon me. 1 week after a great 10km race at the YRPR, I was going to test my ability at more than twice that distance. The AHM in 2009 was my first timed run on my Garmin 305 – and I fared miserably under the circumstances back then, fading to a 2:51 finish caused by several reasons, not all of which were related to running! So I was quite eager to set the record straight this time around. Once again, for the impatient, I timed 2:06:16 per my Garmin 305 which is a PB improvement of about 6.5 minutes. For those with time to kill, thanks for stopping by and do read on.
Buoyed by a 49min 10km race at YRPR, and the encouragement of several of my good running buddies, I set a target for 2hrs for myself for the 21.1km. As usual, I could barely sleep the night before and managed I think, just about 3-4 hours of sleep before waking up at 3.15am to get ready and drive over to the venue by around 4am as any later would mean that I would get no parking space whatsoever close to the venue. I downed a banana at home, and then a PowerGel at the carpark at the venue as pre-race nutrition. The pasta I had the day before for some reason was not agreeing with me much and I was hoping that it wouldn’t cause any serious problems during the race.
After wishing Sumedha a good run on her part, at around 5.08am or so I started making my way towards the start line when much to my consternation, the race was counted down and flagged off, well before the scheduled 5.15am start. I knew that if I didn’t take the first couple of kms down quickly, I would be sandwiched amongst runners who would be ambling and thus eat seriously into my time. So the first few kms was spent rapidly weaving in and out trying to find the fastest route out (not necessarily the shortest), and in retrospect, might have cost me in the later stages of the race. My race plan was to hit 10km at 55min, 15km at around 1:22-1:24 and then take it from thereon. For some reason, I just couldn’t shake off the feeling of lethargy I felt in the early kms. It wasn’t encouraging at all running with heavy legs and having to make extra effort in getting a move on. Imagine my plight when at around 4kms, I see a horde of runners casually running in the opposite direction, and I was thinking “I must be really slow, for these guys have already U-turned and going back”!! Then I realized that, actually this (i.e. the opposite side) was the start line and these guys were 15-20 minutes behind me and just started the race! To make a point here, I did my first km in 6:24 which was ok, but the next km in 4:50 which was quite stupid.
The first 10kms also had 2 long slopes at the MBS Bridge as well as the Sheares bridge, and I used both as a phase to gain some time on the slower runners on the upslopes and make up for the time I lost due to the early dodging. Until then I had not stopped at any aid station as I was running with my 4 bottle fuel belt and I hadn’t drunk any of my own supplies too, so I think the combination of lethargy, tiredness and lack of hydration brought me to a standstill just before the 10km mark at ECP. That was a big blow to my confidence that I would finish sub-2 hrs, even though I did manage to cross 10km in 56 minutes. I walked a bit, stopped to stretch myself and mentally kept a dialogue going on how I would do the remaining distance and still come in under 2 hours. Wisely, I re-hydrated on the walk and began running again, only to come to a stop a km later. I just couldn’t figure out why this was happening and while I debated about it, I chose to not have an energy gel until much later. I would go on to not have any gel at all during the entire race, and that sure is an area of improvement. I started feeling a little bit feverish at this point but just blocked the negative thought out of mind, and sure enough it did go away and I caught my second wind, going through 15kms in 1:27. And sure enough, just when I thought I could hold on a push for my target, I bonked again. And again. And again. All through this, why I didn’t have my energy gels (I was carrying two of them) completely escapes me. My 20th km took me more than 7 minutes to finish!! By the 18th km, I had given up hope of beating 2 hrs and just wanted to make the overrun as low as possible. I can’t believe now that I even walked in the last km of the race, which can only mean I didn’t pace myself properly. In the end, while it was a minor consolation that I have a new PB, it’s a disappointment because 2hrs was eminently possible. I can only make amends by running my next half marathon 1:54 or below (to go below 2hrs by as much as I went over it this time).
Areas of improvement:-
1. Get to the start line earlier (aim for start delay of less than 20 seconds)
2. Hydrate earlier in the race
3. Use the energy gel when I have to
4. Lose the belt, carrying an extra 1kg for the first 10kms isn’t off much help at all
5. Maintain a steadier pace in the 2nd half of the race.
6. Go hell for leather in the last 3kms (this one is easier said than done!).
Have to now shut this out of mind and look towards the 100km duo at the North Face challenge in 4 weeks time.