Target time: 1:45:00
Actual time: 1:46:18
Course PB: 1:46:18
Learnt from the mistake of Wokingham half, and took care of the pre-race basics – hydrated well, ate well, and slept… ok not that one.
The race starts in Woking, the next town from us, 8 mins on train. So, getting there wasn’t a problem. The race start, like in Wokingham, was a 10 min walk from the station, so a nice little warm-up for the legs – just as I like it.
The problems were the queues. I’d read about them in other people’s race posts from previous years, and hoped they’d have sorted them out. Sadly, it wasn’t the case. The bag drop is inside the Woking leisure centre. Entry to the centre was single-file from the front gate, followed by a continuing single-file queue through a couple of doors, down some steps, and another couple of doors. It was a fast-moving queue, but a really long one[^solution] – 100+ people long at any time.
Then there was the information desk queue. This was to collect race numbers, for people like me who’d signed up within the last month. This queue was shorter, but quite slow-moving. Worse, at some point the tails of two queues merged, making them both longer, and slower moving[^solutionPickup].
I was glad that I got to the start with more than 40 mins to spare. By the time I’d collected the race number, deposited my bag, and been to the loo, it was 5 mins to race start. I couldn’t get to my favoured starting group, and so lost out to running with the pacers. Still, the compact layout meant I didn’t have to race to the start. It was an easy walk, while trying to make my way as far forward as possible.
Ran in Brooks PureFlow again. Like in Wokingham, it was more out of necessity than choice. My Ghosts are nearing 1100 Km, against a recommended max mileage of 800 Km. Their age is showing – outsoles are balding, and midsole cushioning starts disappearing on longer runs. I did go out and buy a new pair of shoes – Altra Torin – during the week, but will need to break them in on a shorter run, not a half marathon distance race.
Rest of the gear was the usual – Injinji medium weight toe socks, Brooks sherpa 2-in-1 shorts, my favourite running cap, and a
(forgot the brand) Ronhill full sleeve tee, thin running gloves, and the free buff provided at race number pickup.
I did end up over-dressing again, though. I’d originally planned to wear a half-sleeve tee, but changed to a full-sleeve one considering the forecast – temperatures in mid-single digits, and potential rain.
The rain held off, and the sun made an appearance. So, the buff and gloves came off within first 3 Kms. I even considered taking the tee off, and wrapping it around my waist. Sanity prevailed, and spared the onlookers the sight of my bouncing paunch and moobs.
Started off well enough. Most of the early Kms were well within my target pace – ran the 1st 10K in 49:06, not far off my 10K PB :)
The route has an out & back section on the A321 between 6.5 Km and 12.5Km marks. One of my pre-race targets was to be able to see the pros on this section as they ran back. Happy to report that this was comfortably achieved :)
Also, saw a couple of folks from my two clubs – Phoenix and Fitstuff – running on the other (faster) side. And a man dressed in princess costume running inside the top 100 :D
This out & back section was flanked by two small hills on either side. The hills didn’t bother on the way out, but I suffered on them on the way back. The heat may have also been partly responsible (sun was out during this section). I recorded my slowest split of the race in this section – the 12th Km.
The second half of the race was also generally more undulating than the first – crossing railway lines, and streams, and rolling countryside.
Heat was my main issue though. At ~10 mile mark, the course turns and heads east. This meant running into the ENE wind. No one likes a headwind, specially on the tail end of a race. Yet, I was glad. It was a headwind, but it was cold, providing me some much-needed cooling.
The finish was fast, with a good crowd around almost all of the last few Kms. I couldn’t sprint, but was able to keep the tempo going – averaged about 4:45/km for the last 1.2Km.
Total time: 1:46:18. Almost midway between the target (1:45:00), and the previous race (1:47:31). So, not good, but an improvement nonetheless.
Caught my breath, grabbed the medal, picked up 2 bottles of water, an orange, and a small bottle of protein chocolate shake. Emptied one water bottle and the chocolate shake, and said hello to some of the Fitstuff runners who were near the finish.
Met Sophie[^punjabiHug], Pete and (forgot her name) from Phoenix on the way to bag pickup. Walked in with them while chatting about race times, and targets.
Picked up bag, changed into dry clothes, and signed up on the massage queue.
The massage setup here was exactly the opposite of Wokingham.
They had plenty of tables set up(6+) – plenty of supply.
They had a token donation (£5) – a small demand filter.
And they were mostly quick – ~10 mins per person.
The result was a quick-moving queue, even if at any time there were more people waiting, than the total number I saw in the queue at Wokingham.
I got an enthusiastic young man who pummelled my calves and hamstrings. I felt I was one of the rare lucky ones with almost a double duration massage. Been cursing myself since then – the heavy work on my soleuses had me cursing on every step for next 2 days.
He did good work, but I’m paying for not stretching enough/regularly.
Met Charlie (Phoenix) as I redressed after the massage. He’d suffered through the run, and had just finished. Then grabbed a sausage roll, and had a brief chat with Becky (Fitstuff, Phoenix, and organiser!). She seemed quite upbeat – the event had clearly gone well.
Dropped in at the pub, on the way back to the station, and said hello to more of Phoenix crew – Mark (1:27!!), Alex, Linda, and Sophie, Pete, and (forgot her name) again. I had the longest chat with Linda in nearly 2 years of my association with Phoenix. Must be the post-race high :)
The next race is Cranleigh 21 mile. Ideally, I should run that in ~2 hr 55 min, a pace of 5:10/km. Realistically, I don’t believe I have the stamina in my legs to run that long at that pace.
I need to run more longer runs. I wanted to get at least 3x 20+mile runs before London. Hopefully, I’ll get at least a 15 mile run this weekend. Next weekend is the Cranliegh 21-miler, and hopefully I can get in another 20+ mile run on the weekend after.
Need. More. Long. Runs. :|
[^solution]: The exit from bag drop hall was through two wide doors. It may be better to just use one of them as entry, instead of the winding route through the front doors of the leisure centre. The wider doors, and a direct entry to the hall would allow a much higher throughput than the current setup.
[^solutionPickup]: A month as cutoff for posting race numbers is way too long. Most post in the UK reaches within the week. Cutting the deadline by 2 weeks would still leave a lot of margin for delays.
Another option is to provide pick-up options. A lot of the runners are from Surrey. Providing for race number pick-up at Fitstuff, in Guildford, during the last 3 weeks would help reduce the race-day number pickup queue.
[^punjabiHug]: Sophie hugs like a pukka punjabi – full, tight, bear hugs. Must have been a Punjabi in a previous life :)