Brother in Law
“Free pint? Free pasty?”
This is pretty much how the conversation went when my Brother-in-law Sam suggested that the Eden Project half marathon was a good idea. What he failed to mention was the 300 metres of elevation and mud! Having grown up in Cornwall though, I couldn’t turn down the possibility of a free pasty and Rachael was also keen to get running too despite her rather sore knee.
All of a sudden, my race number arrives, prompting me into action. I now know thanks to an update from Sam that the route is going to be a hilly one so it’s essential to understand just how hilly, where the hills are and what types they are.
I plan the route on Strava so I can see the elevation profile, and yeah, I was right, it’s pretty hilly! Will be a great challenge and a very different experience to the Great Bristol Half Marathon I did a couple of weeks ago.
Ashton Court provides a great environment to run in, with varying terrain and gradients. Ideally located a short walk across the Clifton suspension bridge, I have started to use the area more and more for longer runs. I’ve read about and believe that it makes sense to try and mimic the race conditions as much as possible so with this in mind I create a nice hilly 19k training run around the aforementioned Ashton Court.
Whilst looking to expand my non running/swimming/cycling training I have added a couple of gym sessions a week. This week though, I’ve also decided to up my flexibility game a little and added in a little yoga too, although flexibility has never been my strong point!
Although there are mixed reports on the importance of flexibility for endurance sports, I find when I am more flexible my recovery is quicker. I then find I’m able to go harder in my next training session. So with this in mind off Rachael and I went to a 90 minute session at YogaKutir on Sunday evening.
In the past I have dabbled a little in Yoga, following the odd free video from YouTube and even a few classes about 15 years ago. The session was great and although I was a little sore from the run earlier in the day, the teacher gave options on some of the more difficult poses so I never felt out of my depth.
Tired by the end, I’m sure my body appreciated the additional stretching offered by the class.
After completing the final training run and excellent Yoga session, it was time to taper down for the race. I followed the same pattern as I had for my previous races as it seems to be working for me!
- Monday, rest
- Tuesday, light bike session on the turbo trainer and 1k swim
- Wednesday, 5km flat easy run with 2km at just over half-marathon race pace
- Thursday, rest as I had a work commitment
- Friday, 3km easy run with 1km at just over half-marathon race pace – missed due to travel
- Saturday, rest
Getting a little nervous about the course profile and how to pace the race, I go back to the Strava route I’ve mapped out.
Down hill for the first 2.2km its then a bumpy, lumpy drag up with varying gradients until 12.5km where the course flattens out. Finally, there is a ramp up between 18.5km and 19.5km before a fairly steep drop to the finish line.
I figured I can go out fast and then ease back on the pace until around 12km, then go hard for the last 9km. At this stage I hope that the hill session, Ashton Court run and studying the course will settle my nerves and give me a good chance of a strong time.
During the week I’ve been busy with work commitments and not felt 100%, feeling tired and slightly under the weather.
Having a minor obsession with checking the weather before holidays and any outside events I’m going too I keep a constant check on the weather for Sunday. The BBC Weather site is my online forecast of choice.
Good news is that the conditions have continually improved over the week and the predicted thunderstorms are no more.
I took Rachael down to meet my family and daughter who mostly live in and around west Cornwall. It was also one of my nephews 2nd birthday parties (happy birthday Jude!)
We had a great day on Saturday at the cinema with my daughter Autumn and then heading over to my sisters for the party. The weekend proved slightly disruptive to the final race preparations but I did a pretty good job of keeping the disruption to a minimum and sticking to the general food intake and sleep pattern.
Sunday morning is a relatively (for a Sunday anyway) early start as its a 45 minute drive to the Eden project from my mum’s house.
Sam arrives at 8am and we head off, totally without any navigational errors on my part we arrive in good time at the car park and get directed to a space by the friendly marshals.
There is a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to drop the bags in the right place and then get the bus back up to the race start. Loo visits completed, we head for the start line!
I seem to have gotten over what ever slight illness I had earlier in the week and feel well rested at the start line.
I feel confident that I have achieved a good level of consistent race specific training and researched the race well.
Bang and the race starts, we decided to start nearer the back of the pack to get the mental comfort of passing lots of people early on.
This does backfire to some degree on this run as I was hoping to get a fast start in for the first 2km as its a steep down hill. Instead the road is fairly narrow and I get caught behind a number of runners leading me to dodge through the crowd. The course flattens out and heads on to a single track public footpath, I try to continue the weaving but almost end up falling off the path down an 8ft wall and into the river so I decide to hold on for a wider stretch.
By now Sam has headed off up the road and I have left Rachael to battle the crowds and her knee on her own. I keep a steady pace checking my heart rate every now and then, I have gotten pretty good at judging effort now so I do this more as a confirmation of how im feeling.
There is plenty of mud and some real off road running on this course which I wasn’t entirely expecting. This does mean there are some fantastic views and the variation in landscape keeps the mind occupied.
Hills, hills and hills
As expected there are plenty of hills in the first 14km of the run, every type of hill has been included. Long gradual climbs, short sharp steep elevations and then even long steep hills that look and feel more like vertical cliffs.
I enjoy the hills and the challenge they present though, mini races within the race always aiming to get past a couple other runners before the top. I also like to make sure I stick to my race plan and heart rate zones within reason. I picked up a useful tip for runs with lots of hills, perceived effort should stay roughly the same but speed is variable.
I find this very useful and prevents me from cooking it on the hills. It also fits with HR zones and power on the bike.
With all the amazing scenery and hills My mental battle is mainly with myself during this race but also have Sam as my target man. I know he’s out there somewhere ahead of me just around the corner, close.
Is this the right way?
Somewhere around km 16 I’m smiling and giving the odd spectator a high-5. Just as I look up from my last spectacular high-5 to a kid whose hand is probably still hurting, I notice a sign which looked important.
Wait what did that say, which way is the half marathon? Is this the marathon route? Oh no! I continue running for another 50 meters so I can quickly catch up with another runner. I hastily blurt out “Is this the half-marathon route?”, to which I get a comforting smile back from my new best friend and a conformational “Yes”. I thank him and run on.
Finish in sight
Great support from other runners during the final 3 -4km as everytime I pass someone they wish me luck and tell me to keep it going, i responded back with the same. This took me by surprise as it’s the first time I had experienced this from other runners during a race.
I’m left wondering if it’s just that the Cornish are super friendly or that everyone is exhausted, slightly delirious because of the hills and also euphoric as we have crested the last of them.
After being treated to a fantastic view out across the Eden Project and to the coast with shafts of sunlight illuminating patches of the sea the last 1.5km is fast down hill all the way to the line.
I’m essentially trying not to fall flat on my face as it’s so step in places. I manage to pick off a couple more runners but no sign of Sam, my pace is roughly at 4:00. A few more twists and turns, around the final bend and under the banner, finished, i think! I’m not actually 100% sure where the finish line is as it’s so close to the final bend and im trying to avoid tripping still! Ah yes that was the finish, the banner with giant letters saying finish line should have given me a clue…
7oth and official time of 01:42:07! Only 12 seconds off my PB which is a fantastic result taking the hills into account.
Great event & Lessons
It was a fantastic event down in Cornwall and a great weekend, busy but fantastic. I got to introduce Rachael to some of my family including my daughter which was really nice.
Out of each event I wanted to try to learn and take something from it to improve my experience and hopefully time for the next race I enter. Here are a few things I picked up from the Eden Project Half Marathon.
Mile markers vs km markers, now this sounds like a very simple thing. After all 1 mile is pretty much 1.6km’s which isn’t too difficult to convert 2 mile marker ~3km, 5 miles is ~8km etc.
Simple right and important as I use the markers as signals to take on more energy gel.Until now all the races I have taken part in have been in km which is what I train with also. Eden was different as they used miles not km. Those simple conversion be far more difficult when you are pushing pretty hard up the steeper hills and trying to control your heart rate. The lesson here is to at least find out prior to the race whether the markers are in miles or km and run through which miles or km I will take on gel.
Travel, this lesson maybe the hardest to implement as it’s not always in your control. The Eden Project half marathon was down in Cornwall which from Bristol is roughly a 3 hour drive. Travel to the race wasn’t a problem as Rachael and I traveled down on the Friday evening and staying at my parents meaning come Sunday morning it was only a 45 minute drive to The Eden Project. However the journey home was a completely different story. We both needed to get back to Bristol for work on Monday so had no choice but to drive back on Sunday afternoon, my legs and body did not appreciate the 3 hour drive home!
Minimize travel when ever possible or share the driving. Pick races that are local, easier to get to or where you can stay with friends or family. If none of that is possible plan to stay at a hotel or B&B it will make the whole experience more enjoyable. I would recommend getting to the area of the event at least the day before (depending on how far it is) and stay locally the night after. This is more applicable to longer races as anything like a 10k race you will be able to get away with more travel.
Mr forgetful, ok so this one is really obvious and super important and something as a Project Manager I do at work all day. This may go some way to explaining why I have a real dislike of doing it when I’m at home but… I forgot my Android Wear smart watch charger. Yes, I had checked I had my charger cable and the watch but the actual wireless charger itself was safely tucked into my work bag that I diligently took out of my car and left at home. I use my watch to show my heart rate and other stats from Strava as I run, its much easier than holding my phone to check. In future I plan to create a list of all the items I need to take, its even more important for races that I have traveled to as it’s not possible to just nip back home and pick up the offending item up.
After a hard hilly but rewarding race, a great pasty and having speed & hills to work on, I move on to a solid training block for 4 weeks and then the Cancer Research Tough 10 at Box Hill Surrey.
In addition to the Cancer Research Tough 10 race i have signed up to Evans Cycles Wiltshire Road Sportive on Sunday 23rd October. I will be completing this ride with a friend from work Chris. I’m looking forward to this one as it will be a bit of a social ride before I leave my current with Vodafone the following Wednesday.