Minggu, 22 Januari 2012

It is all in your mind - Media Maratón de Getafe race report

My pulse rate cheat sheet
I wasn't too confident that I would be able to make Jonathan's prediction that I should run a 1:20 Half Marathon come true because I had been having mild stomach cramps all weekend. Could be nerves but I doubt it because this race is not one of the "big ones" this year. But Getafe Half Marathon is extremely popular because it is the fastest course in town and it offers good money to the overall winners. 4,000 people (and their cars) descended on the otherwise sleepy Madrid suburb making it quite difficult to find a parking spot. For an otherwise superbly organized event, it is a shame that there is no special parking laid on. I don't remember the event being so hectic last year but I arrived a little on the late side to get my chip and race number, visit the bog for the 4th time (this year I remembered to bring my own toilet paper), leave my stuff in the cloakroom and do a quick warm-up.

I have this very silly theory for why I seem to do better in local races that I drive to than in big races that I have to travel to by train or plane. And it's not the obvious explanation that it might be because I am more nervous about the big races or due to tiredness from traveling. No, it's because I sing in the car on the way to a race. You know, loud embarrassing singing that would definitely not be happening if there were anyone else within earshot of me. I reckon that this warms my lungs up and gets me psyched up for the race ahead.

I lined up more or less where I thought I would place, as usual, miscalculating for the fact that so many people bunch up at the last minute. The gun went off and the first kilometer or so was a mad scramble to run at a decent rhythm with so many people around who had clearly overestimated their abilities. In fact I spent pretty much the entire race overtaking people, I think I was only overtaken by one person the whole time.

This was the first time I ever ran in the same race as Jonathan so I was determined to do him proud. I set my watch up so I could see my pulse rate and the time I had been running but I specifically did not want to know the GPS measured distance; instead I went by the markers by the side of the road. It required relatively simple maths skills to run at 3:50 per kilometer - I just had to keep track of how much under the minute I was at each milestone (kilometerstone) and try to be 10 seconds below that at the next one. I found it pretty easy to keep rhythm and I just kept an eye on my pulse rate to make sure it didn't go too far above the guide written on the back of my hand.

I passed the 10k mark in a net time of 37:36 which is a personal best time for me for a 10k race! I was already about half a minute ahead of pace and I was feeling good. I was so "in the zone" that I didn't notice my family shouting for me the first two times I passed them.

When I got to the 15 kilometer mark I started to breathe a little harder and, by the 16 kilometer mark, I was now breathing my trademark "locomotive" style. A couple of friends running on the other side of the road called out my name, presumably because they recognized my distinctive breathing. Now I was very confident I would break the 1:21 mark, leaving the challenge of breaking 1:20 for another day. I'm not sure whether I was running faster or other people were fading, but I was certainly having to make a big effort. I overtook one guy who slapped me gamely on the back and said "Go machine!". Once I got to the final 96m straight, I could see from the clock that I was in with a good chance to break 1:20! I summoned up energy for a final spurt by shouting and swearing at the pain and discomfort and ran through the arches with a time of 1:19:45 (net 1:19:37)!! Unbelievable. According to the splits on my Garmin, I ran the second quarter Marathon just a couple of seconds faster than the first quarter.

It just goes to show that, sometimes, it is a question of believing you can do it (consciously and subconsciously). I think that the speed work I have been doing lately in the way of series has shown the "central governor" part of my brain that I can sustain a pace of very nearly 16 kph for 21 and a bit kilometers. Very happy with that performance.

Now I just have to translate it into an equivalent Marathon time...

Youness - with whom we went to Morocco - came in fifth overall with a group of international standard runners. Jonathan missed breaking 1:13 by four seconds. Everyone else I talked to seemed to be pretty happy with their performance. I got a feeling, that 2012 is gonna be a good year...

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