Southampton Half Marathon

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Yesterday was the Southampton half marathon. 13 miles of undulations across the most porty City in south England. Apart from Portsmouth. That’s more Porty. Some 7,000 runners came down to run in both simultaneously running races (10 and 21km) and in sum it was largely a triumph.

Let me make this clear, I am not Southampton’s biggest fan. When they draw the plans up to tear the city apart and build one big ode to a toilet, I will be the first to sign my name to support. It’s not that I don’t like the city, quite the opposite. Like an advancing mould, it has crept it’s sullen way across my skin and these days I spend long hours basking in its musk. Rather, it is content to whither iteratively in its historical misery, an industrial hole of despair. In a country that seems to be picking itself up off its knees, Southampton is content to continue shitting on itself.

I digress. The route was challenging and scenic in equal measure. Encompassing the most beautiful parts of the city, it really made for a great landscape for this rejuvenated event. I almost felt proud at times. Dragging the course through the Saints’ stadium was another act of genius and if I could have, I would have rolled myself over and over in that beautiful turf like the dog I am. I didn’t though and perhaps this is something I can factor in in the future.

I had been aiming to better a time of 1:38, set at Brighton but this did not happen. Largely this is my fault and I will learn from this but this next section is a long spindly finger point at the 1:40 pacers.

Once again I should state my position, in that they both seemed like lovely people. Encouraging, instructional, giving details on water points etc, they fulfilled the stimulatory aspect of their jobs with finesse. Sadly, what they didn’t do was the other part. i.e pace. If I could take any of the points above and stress them as imperative in the job of a pacer, I would say pacing would be a decisive and clear winner.

I will stress this in the simplest way possible. Here is the first half of my splits with 1:40 chaps.

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The plan had been to sit with the 1:40 group for the first half of the race, which was largely flat and then jump off to attack the hills a bit in the second half with a bit left to sprint finish. A 1:40 finish would necessitate running 4:45min/km splits more or less pretty consistently. As evidenced above, there was one single example of this at the 4th split and this was in relation to the traversing of the concrete middle finger to Southampton water, also known as the Itchen Bridge. Where were the other 4:45 splits? WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE OTHER 45s? 31 is not 45. 30 is not 45. 34 is not 45. NONE OF THESE NUMBERS ARE 45.

Have a look at the elevation profile above. By the time I reached the foot of the hills I was more or less spent and barely had any energy to climb let alone hold a good pace. I soon dropped off the 1:40 pace group and decided to go it alone. Towards the end as we entered the common, I caught up with them once again (having been maintaining a pretty solid speed myself) suggesting that they had dropped their pace considerably.

What does this tell you about the 1:40 pacers? To me it suggests they were running the race strategically so to bank time for the hills were they could coast and bring it in for 1:40 on the clock. That is not the job of the pacer though. The pace is supposed to be metronomic and cyclical, a beacon for continuity throughout the race. This unfortunately, they were not. This might seem a little particular but for me, it ruined my race and it is worth saying. I don’t hold them responsible for that at all,  it should have been my responsibility to drop off and run my own race but it was an annoyance all the same.

All in all, I’m pleased with my result in what was a difficult course for me. I learned a lot once again as I always do in these circumstances and hopefully I’ll be able to put this into practice. I’m looking forward to a week of eating crap and easy running. Day 2 post race is coming up and for me, this translates into DOMS town. Laters.

 

 

The Long Run: Kew(l) Loops

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The real problem and only one if we’re being particular, with the Garmin 610 running watch is the ANT + connection. Fundamentally, it is to great detriment of the good folk at Garmin and a colossal oversight that they did not think to include a hardware connection between the watch and it’s receiving computer. ANT + is a fine gadget when it works, but this is choice and seemingly more temperamental than a girl with her arms crossed on date night who is very definitely “fine”. I cannot tell you how many countless occasions I have sat by my watch coaxing it into cahoots with my macbook, only to languish after the most recent episode of pavement pounding I have undertaken. Today the problem was defined by its absence – i.e. not ANT + stick altogether which meant no workout to upload and hence share with you. It is beguiling that there is no other means to access that workout but that’s the way the world works. There are greater injustices in the world but right now I can’t think of them.FullSizeRender-2

The following chart is taken from walkjogrun, a fine application that is well worth looking into for route planning. My older brother and I rose with the dark dawn skies for our long run.The plan was to cover a looping 19km from Ealing, through Brentford (where these industrial monochromes are taken) via Kew back to Ealing. I strapped my GoPro head mount on using a time lapse which didn’t bear much fruit but I’ll have to look into that to see if there was anything worth salvaging. Halfway through it turned itself off and I reverted to film which itself turned out to be a staccato and irritating affair.

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The final route didn’t quite resemble this but it did serve a fantastically sad meander through industrial London as it previously stood. I will touch on this again in the future but we shared some interesting conversations as we coursed quietly through this decaying Kingdom. A total of 15km were realised together and I completed the final 4km on my own. At points he wanted to walk and I would be lying if I said that my legs didn’t feel thankful for the respite. This only really occurred at the 10-11th split. The pace was very gentle and overall settled at 6:05min/km, incorporating the shameful walking. A total running time of 1hr 56min was observed.

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I returned home weary and fatigued. The run had been enjoyable but was the signature on a seemingly heavy week on the legs, a total of 77.6km banked in earnest. In conversation the other day I mentioned that I felt exhausted and I was met with the appropriate reminder that exhaustion is not tantamount to improvement and indeed does not corroborate a healthy running lifestyle. I thought about this and realised that I both understood this completely and not at all. While I assured myself that exhaustion would be in keeping with near collapse – I was by no means close to this point, but that said, I had no idea how I should feel if I were.

In the same manner in which someone might point at a sky and comment on how blue it is, I often wonder if our blues are of the same spectrum. When I say I am tired, I don’t really know if I’m as tired as I should be, or even as tired as you. I don’t know if I’m tired enough. These circular arguments often repeat within me and are as confusing to me as they are comforting. When the lights go out and I let myself slumber I wonder, does anyone feel as tired as me and realise that there are people who don’t and somewhere in this peculiar world of ours, some of those will be running.

Last post before my 2nd Half Marathon (Ealing Half Marathon)

I’ve got to say I’m a disappointed at myself. This was the year I was supposed to return stronger to the half marathon and crack my goal of 1″40. Unfortunately this has been far from the case in no small part, the result of a heavily encumbered right Ilio tibial band sustained on a long run in Birmingham. In fact this has been a problem ever since March of this year, leading me to pull out of the Colchester Half Marathon. Entry was deferred to the following year but the damage was done. I didn’t run for the best part of 3 months after that. Thanks for nothing Birmingham. (FFS)

Nevertheless, I cycled from John O Groats to Land’s End. I ran across Egypt, South America and all over the UK and it has served to do little else apart from maintain a reasonable level of fitness. The cycling particularly surprised me as I had been expecting a degree of transference of fitness but this was in fact far from the case. It transpires that running fitness does little to contribute to cycling and vice versa. When I first ran after the tour I could barely complete 5km. It was hardly the best preparation for a half marathon!

All the same, I have decided to use this as a spring board for future achievements. In honesty, though I run regularly, I do not adhere to any strict training program. I don’t particularly take nutrition seriously and I do not adequately push myself to my capabilities. This will all change from now – I promise!

The immediate goal for this Sunday is to run 1″45. I don’t think this should be too onerous a task and in honesty would probably be easily possible if the course was a little less undulating and contoured but the miserly organisers have only gone and put Greenford Avenue in twice. I mean twice! Come on! (I love you all for it really, fantastic course!)

So for those of you who will be running, good luck – I hope you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. To the organisers, thank for for what will undoubtedly be a superb second year. The first was truly exceptional and enjoyable from start to finish. And to the slumbered residents of Ealing; Come out and cheer on your community!