Sunday, 23 November 2014

Another Race, Another PB at the Grunty Fen Half Marathon

So, two main things to report this time (and I know it’s a long time since the last one)
  • My Mid-September half-marathon, with another PB and a lot of pain
  • My change to an insulin pump in mid October and the quite profound change on some training habits that it’s helped with.  This is going to wait for another time as I think it’s going to be  a bit longer than I thought.
Starting with the HM, it’s quite dim in my mind now, possibly in an attempt to blot out the pain ahead of the next race, and partly just due to time and business.   The race in question is the Grunty Fen Half Marathon ( nice and local to me, just 5 miles to the start. This one had long been on my list of target races and this seemed like a good enough excuse.

Thinking about the build up to it, if it had not been one on my list of 5 PB attempts for the year, trying to raise money for JDRF and Highfields Friends and Parents Association ( then perhaps I would have DNS’d for the first time ever in a race.  Six weeks earlier I’d run a 40-miler with a dodgy achilles tendon (coming in 13th) and had almost two weeks of no running afterwards, slthough my pace when I did start again was pretty good.  Luckily I was doing a job in Hull the week before – not lucky to be in Hull, but luckily my route to get there went straight past a very good sports injury specialist I know, who gave me a very good treatment and I went off again much happier.  A few short runs in the week leading up to it and I was OK to get to the start line, even if unprepared in terms of any speed training.
Now cast your mind back to September 2014, one of the hottest on record, and it didn’t let up for the day of the race and there was also a pretty stiff breeze from the west which would affect the course for about 4-5km in the second half of the race.  Maybe not ideal conditions for attempting my 1:39 race plan with a 1:43 PB, albeit one set on a mixed road/trail course without the need to test for BG every now and then.  

So, the day came anyway, I was entered, I might as well go for it and see what happens.  If I went down trying that’s no shame and a bad day at a race is better than a good day in the office anytime.  Normal race day preparations; cut basal dose right back to 0.5 units, no bolus for breakfast and rely on a few gels to keep it in the right place.  I’d planned the BG testing as well, and had trialled different distances for testing, coming down to 7km being OK without being too risky, so that would mean two tests during the race at a cost of probably 1-2mins at race pace.
BG before the start was obviously adrenaline affected as it had not come down at all post breakfast and was sat at 10.5. Anticipating a drop in the race, I took a gel which out it up to 12.2 immediately pre race. Nervously I got to the start in time to clap out the three wheelchair racers and lined up alongside my target start time. All too soon we were off.  A very quick run out and down the hill (15m high) to the bottom of the village and out onto the fen and the exposed flatlands of Cambridgeshire.  Talking advantage of the water stations I grabbed an early sponge and was rewarded with a cooling drench of water down my back.  About 2 or 3 miles in, the wheelchair racers came haring past at a rate of knots having already completed their first shorter lap of about 8km or so and out onto the longer second lap.

Number 193, "flying" off the start, elbows out in the bunch.  The guy to my left in the blue took off and I then passed hom later, blowing at the side of the road.

The first lap was relatively straightforward with not much in terms of into the wind stuff and I was pretty much on plan for pace, finding a few people to run along with for a while here and there, taking advantage of the water and sponges as I went.  First BG stop was OK, slightly higher than planned, but expecting a drop again, I took another gel.  This was also about the point at which I hit the hill (all 20m or so of it) to head back into the top end of the village again. Second time around it was going to be tough in that heat.
Second, longer lap, almost took advantage of the drinking and running club’s beer stand but though the better of it. Again, as with the first lap, the early part of this second lap was no real issue apart from the heat, with a few sections into the wind making the negative split pace plan start to look challenging. 

Another random photo JDRF vest on full display

It wasn’t until after the second BG test (again sitting around 9 or so, another gel taken) that we turned into the wind for a long stretch.  This is where it got really tough, and where I started to see the early rabbits limping along by the side of the road.  This was also where the early gains I’d made vs current PB started to get wiped out and saw me end that long into wind stretch just about on PB pace, but nowhere ahead of it.
The hill made it’s second appearance about 3km from the end and luckily this time I had a decent pacemaker to follow up it, a bloke I’d been trailing by a few metres for most of the second lap.  Now I normally have a good finish, being prepared to suffer to take a few extra seconds off my time.  This was no exception, I must have passed at least 20 people in that last few km, including the guy I’d trailled up most fo the hill.  I put in a quick spurt about ¾ of the way up, just to se if I could break his morale.  I heard him jump on the back of my heels, so put in another spurt, and another until a backwards glance showed him at least 30 yards back.  Coming into the final km I started trading places with a much younger, and evidently very fit female runner, alternately passing and then being repassed by each other until she finally made a break I couldn’t answer, but at least it spurred me on. 

Final time 1:42:58, overall position 160th of 529, so top 30% overall and 32nd of 63 in my age group.  But most important of all – a PB.  Time without BG testing, would have been nearer the 1:40 mark.

Pace profile below shows just how much that 4km into the wind took it out of me. I'd split this into sections with target paces for each.  You can see by the HR that I'm not taking it easy, average HR of 165 for over 90 mins is about as much as I can manage.

Avg Pace
Avg HR
Max HR

Photo of “team Highfield” a bunch of other folks also running for the school

BG at the end was up to 10.8 with the adrenaline, and spiked up to 13.8 half an hour later and then 15.5 at +60 minutes.  I resisted the urge to compensate, waiting for the inevitable fall.  Post race lunch had 15g carbs, and as I was still high at 9.0 I gave a correction there and almost overdid it, coming down to 4.3 2 hours after lunch, which really goes to show the delayed hypo potential is pretty real.

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