Monday, September 10, 2012

Army Half Marathon 2012: Race Review

I ran the AHM in 1:57:12. Its definitely not the time i was shooting for (which was 1:50-1:52) and i am actually ruing the lost opportunity because the weather was really outstanding. Yet, i dont feel too bad about the outcome for a few reasons and am motivated to improve upon this significantly in the days to come.

After 3 months of aboslute slacking, August was a good month in overall mileage terms as i hit 230+kms. It was a sudden pick up in running volume (as shown in the graph below, courtesy of where i log my runs) but i managed to navigate this without any injury and hoping that my body would remember how it used to run back when i was training for the Tokyo Marathon.

I was quite eager to actually "race" this and managed to even keep my running ongoing while i was traveling on work. Piled on a whole lot of random carbs on Saturday and then it was race day before i knew it. I woke up at 3.30am, finished with the morning ablutions, made myself a small cup of coffee and got donned in my pre-race wear. I am obsessive enough to lay out everything i need for a race the previous night and this time was no different either. Got out of the house at 4am and parked at Raffles city by 4:20am and then made my way to the baggage area and did my pretense of a warm-up. 25mins before the race was to start, i downed a gel and that was to be my only pre-race nutrition, not counting a small handful of nuts i had gobbled before i left my house in the morning.

The race got underway and i was quite keen on clearing the initial few kms quickly to beat the crowd and in trying to do this, i had to weave in and out a fair bit leading to a more than desirable variation in pace. For instance, the 1st km was covered in 5:11 but the next took 5:41 .. this dance on the road continued for the first 5 kms after which the need to brake decreased rapidly. It was still quite dark and there were parts of the route where people fell down, sprained their ankles and what not but i successfully managed to navigate those parts unscathed. I kept focusing on the distance ahead and as has become my habit now, didnt look at the watch at all but ran by feel. Managed to grab a few sips of water at each water point and kept going without stopping at any of them. At around 12kms, a moderate stitch came on which caused me to slow down; by cutting my pace, i managed to chase it away. In the 13th km, as per my plan i took my gel and continued to keep going eager to finish the reminder of the race on target. I cleared the 15th km in 1:20 which put me exactly on pace for a 1:52 finish. At around 15.6km into the race, there was a small incline which had people breaking into a walk and i charged on, buoyed by my now-unfounded ability to run slopes so i picked up the pace going uphill and overtaking quite a few people. A few seconds later, i paid heavily for my folly when i was hit by the mother of all stitches that had taken lodging beneath my right ribs and had a relentless vice like grip on my breathing and overall muscle movement. I tried slowing down my pace and prayed for it to go away like it had in the 12th km but this time i was dealing with a well-matched foe. Not wanting to risk a total system shutdown, i just swallowed my pride or whatever little there was left of it and started to walk. I nervously kept checking my watch to see how badly this was going to hit me and wondered what i should now be aiming at, given that 1:52 had flown out of the window. I walked for a couple of minutes and then tried to gently jog to see if the stitch would go away - it seemed to just lurk in the background waiting to greet me once more should i speed up. (It was much like the inverse relationship between Dennis Quaid and Sandra Bullock in the movie Speed, except that here it was that i shouldnt exceed a specific target). I tried my luck and felt ok for a few hundred metres before getting a really big urge to just stop. It took a lot of effort to banish that thought from my mind and i slowly kept the feet moving, trying to look every which way and find sources of inspiration to help continue the race. At no point in time was i ever in doubt about finishing the race, it was just a question of what time i would do it in. With 1km to go, i decided to step up the pace and risk the stitch coming on and while it looked like it just might, i ran out of real estate and across the finishing line. Collected my medal, had a 100+, caught up with some of my friends, had a nice decent breakfast and headed home.

The one thing that i didnt want to write at the very beginning is about my travel prior to the race. I was in Vienna and Zurich on work, in the week prior to the race and as per my original travel plan was supposed to come back on Sunday morning. However, i had to run this race and i scheduled my flights so that i reached home on Saturday evening at 5pm. Went to sleep at 11pm and got up at 3.30am and was out of the house by 4am. So within 12 hours of landing in Singapore, i had lined up for an half marathon. I cant say i felt any Jet lag, the flight to Singapore (via Frankfurt) while long at 12 hours, was still comfortable and even the less than 5 hours of sleep the night before didnt have me drowsy in the morning after waking up. Therefore i believe the race performance was a very direct indicator of current state of fitness than of mitigating factors such as the long distance travel so close to the race.

Next up is the Changi Prison Run 10km race next Sunday. Last year was a disaster where i blew up after running sub-5 pace for the first 6kms and ended up finishing in 1:04. This year i will try to be a little wiser ......

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