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.

 

 

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Richmond Nice Work 10km

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Sunday was a gorgeous day. On the back end of Saturday’s meteorological erraticisms and angry skies, the sun rose and beamed on South West London. We made the pleasant and uneventful commute from Southampton fairly early to arrive in time for the gun at 10am. On arrival, Sheen gate (in the North East corner) was positively bustling and seemingly, as far as the eye, a human engine coughed and chortled into action. Two men with designer coffees and presumably occupied prams wandered carelessly through the Tamsin Trail. The queue for the toilets grew ever longer. Underneath the sprawling canopy of trees the beginning and end of the Richmond Nice Work 10km was found.

On arrival, having not been entirely familiar with the route I decided to canter along it, 1 km in each direction. It seemed reasonable enough. I would openly refer to the course as an enjoyable run. With a good mixture of terrains and gradients, it makes for a particularly interesting but not easily accomplishing course. I wouldn’t personally seek it out for a PB. The opening 3km take the form of an insidious climb, confusing the eyes but not the legs as the course brings you along the Tamsin trail to the Western most aspect and the peak of Richmond Hill. From there and acute turn almost back onto oneself is made onto a paved road, tumbling down Sawyer’s Hill lasting some 2km. From there a further kilometre began a grass lined ascent to the start.

Safe to say, I found the course difficult. Undulating, muddy swamps reflecting the preceding month’s weather, uneven grass patches – it did not make for straightforward racing. This said, I was still fortunate enough to register a chip time PB of 45:36. Although not a “Garmin PB” – I suspect it’s calibration may need some attention, I am holding this official time as my PB. The following is the race and the splits. Screenshot 2016-01-11 15.57.53.png

As can be seen, the second lap was a real pain. I overtook an older chap in a white cap as we passed 6km but was rapidly overtaken in the onslaught of an oncoming hill. As he crept away from me I decided to hold on to his pace for as long as possible with the intention of jumping an attack on the hill and getting away from him. As it happened, he sped up more than I could counter and I watched him peel away from me slowly but ever so deliberately. He must have maintained a minute’s gap at least as we passed the finish line. After the race we had a chat and I lamented with him on his fitness. He told me of his upcoming London Marathon  qualification via good for age. Disgusted, I shook his hand as he left.

All in all, another PB on the back of a non taper week and difficult (for me) course. I cannot help but think that perhaps what is required is a flat fast course for the required <45. Perhaps after Spring’s two half marathons a 10km is back in the picture. We’ll see.

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5km Parkrun: Festive PB

Merry christmas folks. I was working last night and so the evening didn’t seem particularly festive. I spent a good part of the evening trying to stop a bleeding nose from bleeding, which is often both a lot more annoying and difficult than you might think. The nose is a beautifully designed organ, fantastic for its purpose, but not conducive to an examination under a headlight at 8pm on Christmas Eve. Serious design flaw.

The rest of the evening was spent thinking about running today’s 5km Parkrun which I had intentionally marked as PB potential. I wanted 21 minutes ideally, a swooping 40 seconds faster than my current PB – which sounds easy to do (40 seconds is nothing right?), but in the last kilometre of the race when all you want to do is stop and take a big big BIG fucking breath, it really isn’t that straightforward. Not that that’s lost on supporters in races who remind you to keep going. Don’t get me wrong, I love the support and its always fantastic to have a good crowd and their bleary eyed mildly condescending support, but if you’re the kind of person that shouts keep going, you are a terrible person and there is a special place in hell for you. It is right up there with dog walkers that can’t control their dogs. OF COURSE I’M GOING TO KEEP GOING DID YOU THINK THAT I WAS IN IMMINENT DANGER OF STOPPING THATS THE POINT DONT YOU GET IT I HAVE TO FINISH THIS FUCKING RACE OTHERWISE THERES NO POINT IN STARTING AND SO BY DEFINITION I WILL KEEP GOING GOD.

Ahem.

The pace I needed was 4:12min/km which would have brought me tidily in at 21 minutes. I knew that this was a tall order and so I decided that anything shy of the 21″40 PB would be acceptable.

I met up with two of my strava buddies to begin the festive race with. Ironically there were less Santas today then on the Parkrun last week. Suppose all the work’s done by now I guess? The venue for today’s run was Southampton, which generally supplies a good event. I was told once that it was in fact the third largest Parkrun in the UK but I don’t have any evidence or numbers for that statement. It probably comes from the same people who tell you that you’ll catch a cold if you go out after a shower.

Southampton is a nice place to Parkrun. There are 4 main courses which are largely similar and are based around a proud and defining hill at the north end of the park. The route is paved throughout and only at the very end do you cut onto grass for the finish funnel. Volunteer support is aways seemingly plentiful and people look like they enjoy their lives, which judging by yesterdays queues in Tesco, not many people do. In today’s course (C) this was to include 2 laps of the aforementioned hill. Now this hill is not particularly steep and I believe overall its gradient comes to 3% or so, so nothing that makes you whimper in terror. That said, it does go on. The climb each time is a kilometre and builds from the point just after the so called Flats. It continues to the very top of Coronation Way and true to the gradient, is mostly gentle in incline. The first 300m or so are subject to an insidious change of gradient, which to the eye, almost seems flat and as you begin to catch your breath it really begins to frustrate you. You know there’s a proper hill coming but you’re tired already. The “actual” hill then kicks in 2 places towards the end, I slightly longer steep part, succeeded almost immediately by a shorter one. Both kicks are interspersed by a short flat segment which I have described as flat but is still in incline. In short, this hill is a bastard and you do it twice.

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Here is the workout and I have enclosed the pace chart from Garmin below. A few points – the green line is the elevation which seems perfectly benign but the graph is lying to you. Clearly that pace chart has never run up that hill before. Also my Garmin was playing up today quite considerably and chose to screw up my times which has upset me no end. Strava now thinks I didn’t PB and so as far as I’m concerned, it can go and fuck itself.

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Here are the splits.

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I’m not going to comment on these particularly – the 4th split represented the bulk of the 2nd loop of the hill and quite evidently it hit me hard there. Looking at pace trends, this is similar to other times I have run Southampton. Aaron my friend who was running with me gave me great advice to drop pace but maintain a similar effort going up the hill and so part of this was intentional. What this meant was that as I turned the northerly most corner down towards the final kilometre I felt I had something (not very much) but something left to churn for the sprint home.

In sum, I am happy. My official final time was 21:28, watch time 21:25 so I’ll go with Parkrun. I ranked 50th overall of 351 runners which was pleasing. There’s something genuinely and morbidly satisfying about passing people in a race. It’s a right bastard when they overtake you again though. That said, the run was as good as I could have achieved in the circumstances. It was on the back of a full week running and some tiring preceding sessions and no taper. On a flatter course, with a bit of a wind down on the weekly miles I am sure that 21 minutes is there for me. I’m only 28 seconds away and hey, that’s easy.