Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Race report - Cardiff Half-marathon

Well we did it, I got round despite a cold all week prior (and a stomach bug brewing) and my wife completed her first ever half. The day couldn't have been better weather wise, clear, bright, not overly warm, light cool breezes here and there. Our preparation on the morning went very well. We got the kids organised, got out of the house only a few minutes late, headed into the city centre dropped off our stuff and then walked down to the start in Cardiff Bay.

We arrived in the start area 'just in time', I made a rushed decision about which pace area to wait in and ended up in the wrong one (the band ahead of my planned pace!). I had no time to work out if the new start area truly worked, but my impression was it was a little claustrophobic. Certainly the athlete's village looked the part as we rushed through looking for the start areas.

After the start I went out to fast (I know, I know, school-boy error!) and so rewrote my race plan in the first mile and a half. I opted to hold the pace and then try to manage the degradation in pace using my GPS watch as a gauge. I did just fine at maintaining the initial over the top momentum through the first 45mins up to my planned isogel and drink zone (the second drink station on the course - the drink stations were excellent all around the course). It was not until past a quick 10km (45secs outside my 10k PB) that I began to have to graft hard. Working to maintain pace and over the next 4 miles manage the beginnings of the pace fade. I went from 8min 45sec/mile over the first 6 miles out to 8min 52sec/mile by the 10th mile.

At that point I was still confident I could maintain and keep the average pace for the whole race to a value that would bring me in well inside 2hrs. However I made a major miscalculation... yes, my watch measures my running, but over a set course with wide roads and bends it is possible to run more than the set (measured) race distance / race line. So while my pace was looking good I hadn't noted that my watch was increasingly disagreeing with the mile markers. Somehow I ignored them and believe I would complete in under 2hrs regardless.

I got to mile 11 in 1hr 40min flat, leaving me 20mins to complete.... but my knee began to ache and my befuddlement with the watch pace continued. Then around 12miles the race pace guy for sub-2hr went by me, I hadn't seen him the entire race so was fearful. Only for another half mile later another sub-2hr pace group to come by. I was physically and mentally GONE, there was little left and fight as I might I couldn't pull a sub-ten minute mile out of myself. I tried to sprint at the line but my legs were spent and at this point my stomach was in painful spasm (the stomach bug had made itself known). I crossed the line angry and infuriated with myself. Sure I ran 13.1 miles in under 2hrs (GPS to be believed), but I began to realise that my staying out of the way of faster runners because of my poor start slot judgement I ran the long way around so many bends (including one very long 1.5 mile section). I learned any number of lessons the hard way, even though I had read about them all and probably even advised other to beware.

The race was great, the day was great, and in the fullness of hindsight I was unlucky with illness. The race organisation is improving, it after all only it's second year as a 'large' 15,000 competitor city half. There was little wrong that another year or two of running the event from the same base won't fix. Let's just conclude from the fact that I just finished registering for next year that I'm hooked on the race :-)

PS. no pictures of our own sorry. We were busy and the family were looking after the kids back at home. I'll paste a link to the official pics at some point soon.

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