Great Bristol Half 2016

Race weekend

Through running a few half-marathons in the past I’ve learnt that sadly I’m not the type of annoying person who can turn up to a race with very little prep and zero training and smash out an unbelievable time. In some ways this gives me greater satisfaction (I like to think so anyway) when all the training and prep comes together and I get the time I’m working towards.

From research and previous experimentation in training and races I know I need to start my race day prep the weekend before the race itself. I taper of any of my training ideally leaving my last big run 10 days before the race itself and just doing an easy 10k and 5 or 3k with a couple intervals in the week leading up. The day before the race I like to start fueling with an easily digestible (think white rice, white flour etc) food, pancakes are perfect as they not only are energy rich but are super tasty and you can add all sorts of toppings.


Lunch and dinner follow a similar pattern, a fantastic Paella with chicken and prawns for protein round off a great days eating!

One of my motivators for exercising is that I get to eat way more food than I would be able to otherwise, I love to eat!

For this half I wanted to track some body stats in case I wanted to find an ideal race weight in the future. Weight 78.3kg, body fat %14.6 and muscle mass % 43.1, seemed reasonable measures to take and my scales provided them easily.

Early night finished the day nicely.

Race fueling

img_20160914_103836I’m  a strong believer in the adage “don’t do anything new on race day” so I tested out my fueling strategy on a couple of my longer training runs. During this testing I tried out different times to take on gels and liquid based energy with a plethora of different brands chucked in to the mix. After completing a few different events this year and buying a number different products I have built up quite an arsenal.

I plumped for Hammer Nutrition’s Tropical Hammer Gel, I tested this out when I did a 20k training run in Sicily  recently. Found the taste and consistency appealing and the added kick of the caffeine worked well for me. Also Hammer sent me a handy 5 shot “flask” with my order so I don’t have to carry multiple gel packs around.

Race Day

6:10am alarm goes off to continue the fueling process porridge, banana, scrambled eggs, glass of water and a strong coffee. I find getting a decent breakfast in really helps me during the later stages of a longer run and it prevents any digestion issues when topping up with gels during the race its. However it’s important to give you self enough time between eating and starting the run 2 – 3 hours should suffice.

I’m a bit of nerd when it comes to data and working by numbers, I diligently track my runs using the Strava app on my phone, have my heart rate monitor (HRM) hooked up and my Android Wear watch linked too. I find this gives me the data I need to control, log and monitor training runs as well as pace myself during races.

Go! We are off to the cheers and the obligatory slow some what anti climatic penguin walk up to the start line proper. Whilst this is going on I’m struggling with the aforementioned tech setup. As has happened in the past the Bluetooth connection between my HRM and phone has died throwing my carefully crafted HR zone pacing plan out the window, luckily I also know my minutes/km pace numbers so will just have to make do with that.

Once away from the crowds at the start I get into my stride, I’m feeling good and know I’m in for a decent time by my standards. I have to keep telling myself stay relaxed, keep it easy and don’t over do it early on as i did during the Great Newham London Run 10k back in July. Under the landmark Clifton suspension bridge, 5k down still feeling fresh bobbing along at around 4:55 per km. Time for my first hit of tropical energy gel which is aptly timed as the heavens open and drop ice cold rain on me this time its relatively nice and refreshing compared to similar experience pre-race whilst queuing for the loo!

10k down and i start to gingerly up the pace cutting down to 4:40 – 4:45 per km. Still a little wary that the wheels might come of having not run at that pace during any of my 18k to 20k training runs. Feeling good I take another planned shot of energy gel. I pick a runner out of the crowd a chap with a tough mudder t-shirt on  and a white arm band. I do this to keep me occupied and if I’m struggling in the latter stages of the race I play a game where by I can’t let that person beat me no matter what. A race within a race that he has no idea he’s taking part in. More tech issues headphones have now decided to disconnect…

By km 15 i have started to take sips of energy gel every km or so to give me a constant little pick me up. Feeling good my confidence is rising, I let my pace rise with it now going at between 4:30 and 4:40 per km. Starting to pass more and more runners I feel happy that my pacing strategy seems to be working. I even have time to squirt water at some of the army cadets manning a water station.

Km 18 comes and goes and I can see my man with the tough mudder t-shirt just in front of me. It’s time to push on and win this mini battle! I accelerate just a little and he’s dust, he can’t respond, cooked. Maybe he over did it early on in our duel or maybe he didn’t put in enough training. The reality? He had no idea he was taking part in my fictional mind duel and was simply running at a steady pace. What ever the reason I’m off to take the glory.

Final KM, I give pretty much everything I have left. By design I’m out of energy gel, I plan to run out by about km 19 as it takes a little while to digest and take effect. I know I will be putting in a big effort in the last couple of km’s so wont want to be dealing with consuming anything else anyway. pace down to 4:10 per km feels good passing lots of other runners. 400m sign all out sprint, 200m keeping it going and done. Pick up my finishing pack and enjoy the now glorious weather.

Training pays off img-20160925-wa0002

New half marathon PB!  The Bristol Half Marathon course is ideal to set a fast time due to the near pan flat route and being sheltered from the elements (freezing rain aside). Add to that the personal advantage of having only a 20 minute easy walk to the start the recipe is there for a strong run. My official time of 01:42:01 and placing 1216th is by far my fastest/best half marathon.

It’s no great surprise as this is the first time I have really focused on training for a half marathon and pretty much stuck to my home brew training plan. However a massive part was down to the support and energy offered by the amazing Rachael Power, who kept me on track with her enthusiasm for all thing fitness and running!

I also have to throw credit at the tech issues I had at the start line as I’m not convinced I would have run at the pace I did if I had been following my HR plan. Will need to review my HR training and race zones to see if they need updating.

Post race recovery

After finishing I jog back round to the finish line and wait for Rachael to cross. With a stunning time of her own, given the training she could get done and some knee pain during the race I’m waiting no time at all. Selfies, hugs protein, stretching and Rainbow drops all done and consumed its time for the walk home in the sunshine, followed by a rather fantastic Sunday roast at The Landsdown pub.


Next up

Thoughts now turn to a well earned rest and holiday before a couple of weeks training ahead of the “challenging” Eden Project Half-Marathon on the 16th October!

3 thoughts on “Great Bristol Half 2016

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