race day: clonmel half marathon

food and drink reward for a PB in Clonmel

Out of bed at 0630h to do nothing but relax. A little bag-packing, breakfast preparation, and standing on the deck to breathe in the cool morning air. It was race day – race day for the highly anticipated Boston Scientific Clonmel Half Marathon.

I have perhaps mentioned this race once or twice over the year. It’s one of my favourite races on the calendar. Superbly organised, great route, and a wonderful tea/sandwich/cake selection afterwards, for guilt-free refuelling. Training went so well earlier in the year that I began to think this was a possible sub-90 opportunity. I originally marked it on my plan as break 92 mins. Sadly the sequence of misfortune struck in May and I had to reassess my position. I wasn’t in the same shape I was back in April – 93mins seemed like a good compromise.

Went to give it all and came home with nothing; job done.

breakdown

The plan was to ease into the race, using the first two miles of uphill running to steady the rhythm. After that it was just try to keep it as close as possible to a 7min/mile average for the remainder.

Jason was my willing pacer for the day, enjoying his first outing on the Clonmel route. Steady and controlled all the way, banking the seconds were we needed to. There is one big climb on the route between 10.5 and 11.5 miles. It’s not even a crazy gradient but the legs are tried at that stage and it’s a long climb. We needed time in the bank to accommodate the inevitable drop in pace over that mile.

Once the climb was completed, it was 1.5 miles of slightly downhill running to the finish. Desperately trying to wake the legs up and shake off the lactic build-up was no fun at all. “Nay is for horses” though so I did my best to get over myself and follow the encouraging abuse from Jason all the way to the line. Job done, 1:32:44 official – a 3.5-minute improvement on my PB over the distance.

the last few 100 metres, the pain, Jay looking relaxed
the last few 100 metres, the pain, Jay looking relaxed

analysis

Leaving hospital ~6 weeks ago, my mind was only focussed on my fitness. I had lost so much due to injury leading up to the Waterford Viking Marathon and the subsequent stay in hospital. I spent that first week off my feet, planning and tweaking my sessions to try and bounce back quickly, in time for this race. Everything was going reasonably well until my back injury threw a spanner in the works two weeks ago.

Never the less, race day is race day and excuses have no place there. The goal is pick a time, try to do it – the worst that can happen is that you learn you’re not ready yet.

race day splits from Clonmel providing the 'feels' with consistent pacing across all expected miles
race day splits from Clonmel providing the ‘feels’ with consistent pacing across all expected miles

The first two miles in Clonmel are uphill. The first split was a little hotter than desired (7:02); the second a little slower as a result (7:15). However, I broke even by the time the climbing was over. Pace steadied and downhill stretches provided a few banked seconds here and there. Overall I was very happy with the even pacing achieved. The only exception was the expected drop-off for the final climb at mile 10.5 but everything else was pretty tight (view Garmin data).

a relatively flat-top pace chart is a rarely seen goal in my races
a relatively flat-top pace chart is a rarely seen goal in my races

reflection

The official time of 1:32:44 is a PB for me by a large margin. My road to sub-90 continues and hopefully following the Dublin Marathon this year, with a little focussed effort, I will realise that ambition in the Waterford AC Half Marathon in December. How great it would be to make that happen on home soil.

While delighted with consistency of pacing for this race there always has to be a takeaway, a lesson learned. The focus here is heart rate. My entire race spent in Zone 4 and Zone 5 is greatly telling of the true race day effort and how much work lies ahead. While lots of Zone 4 is inevitable, I really don’t want to see 49% of a race in Zone 5.

zone 1 to zone 3: who needs those anyway? Go hard or go home! 🙈
zone 1 to zone 3: who needs those anyway? Go hard or go home! 🙈

It does show how much I was pushing. That I never shut off mentally. However, it also shows that the fitness lost at the start of this summer is still due to return before 7-min/mile efforts take less from me. The time in zone is comparable to my Waterford-Tramore race effort this year but back then I was running ~6:30 not 7-min/mile pace. Overall very happy and looking forward to addressing this weakness in my status quo. A vegetarian, non-alcoholic feast was enjoyed yesterday evening, in case anyone thinks I’ve lost the plot with the featured photo for this post! 😃

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