Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The 30 day challenge - Day 2 Bristol Half Marathon

For the second year in a row, I ran the Bristol Half Marathon this weekend. I'd entered the previous year on the advice of Phoebe Thomas, my coach at the time from Running with Us. I worked with her and Nick Anderson last year, improving both my running and attitude to training in the process. Having moved back to Manchester from London, I've been training with a different runners at Sport City and Ellesmere Port, taking the lessons learnt from last summer to push on from this year's Marathon in Barcelona.

I've been fine tuning my speed work and shaved a good couple of minutes off my PB for 10K and upped the intensity of my training. It's been a good summer and I can see and feel the progress in my running. It's given my confidence (or self-efficacy as its termed in Sport Psychology) a boost. Having goals based on time and economy to work towards, has had a beneficial effect overall.

Last year I came to Bristol, running the half marathon for the first time and set a PB of 1:39:21, which I was really pleased with. This year I was aiming to get somewhere between 1:30 and 1:35 based on training and races. Having already hit 1:37 during marathon training I knew this was realistic.

On the day I got to the race on time, felt good as I dropped off my luggage and took up position in the first wave of runners. The race was well organised and I felt good and thought the conditions were good. Not too warm, but not too breezy. As the course hits an out and back along the River Avon, headwinds are a concern to runners. It's no fun trying to run into that at pace.

Some complained that on the return leg the wind was up, but to be honest I didn't notice. Nick warned the runners at the start to avoid the schoolboy error of going out too quickly, and I was determined not to overcook it too soon. As the gun went off I hit the first couple of miles at 6:30/6:45 pace, which earlier in the summer I'd comfortably managed in 10k races. Over the past month I've been hitting ever faster times in my interval work, so felt ok at this pace and avoided keeping up with faster runners that passed me. I wasn't dropping back, but felt pretty comfortable. As we got past the out and back heading  towards town for the final half of the race, I began to feel a rubbing on the inner part of my right shoe. My lace had snagged, something I'd noticed as a design fault. I thought I'd got round it in the way I'd laced the shoe and chip, but for the first time wearing them during the month, it began to blister my foot and ended up bruising my ankle too.

My stride got put out and I was finding it harder to maintain the same pace as the first half. I thought I may be able to maintain going as fast as I had in previous races. I saw my splits were beginning to slow, but not to a point I was overly concerned about. I just wanted to maintain the pace I had slowed to (around 7 minute mileing) and see what I had left with 3 miles to go with a view to going quicker.

But to get through those miles, I was really struggling mentally. I kept telling myself, "just get through the next mile and make it the best mile you run." As a trick it worked, but my mind was wandering more than I'd have liked and bringing it back to the present was proving hard as the right foot rubbed ever more painfully. By the final mile I could sense the impending relief of the finish. In my head I heard my girlfriends advice 'Think of Mo Farah working hard in the Olympics,' but I knew I hadn't hit the 1:30 dream time I was after. I knew I'd be near to where I wanted to be for my original goal, given what I was seeing as I glanced at the watch. As was, I crossed the line in a very respectable 1:33:43, saw Nick as soon as I crossed the line, and felt pride in taking off a lot of time.

On the day I was cursing the schoolboy error of not ensuring my trainers weren't set up 100%. Next time I will go easier on myself mentally. I know I can go quick enough and only have to lose 15 seconds per mile. With a full season behind me, this is eminently possible. Speaking to Simon Freeman afterwards, I am confident about the kind of training I need to do on the track to make going at 6:45 pace more comfortable. Whether Bristol is the right race to go for another PB I'm not sure. There's a bugger of a hill to negotiate a few miles from home that I don't like. I'm keen to try something abroad or a different course for that, but I will be back to run this race.

Overall as a course I like it and its a lot of fun testing yourself in familiar surroundings.  And I'll go a bit easier on myself mentally next time too. Just because I help others with their game, doesn't mean that I don't go through the same challenges in competition myself!

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