I was tempted to title this as “dummm dubby dum dubby-dubby dum dummm” but feared that only about 2 people might get the reference. That is (obviously) the start of the BBC’s F1 theme tune, taken from Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. A match made in mixing heaven, and a short burst of notes that I have known for as long as I can remember. I’m from a family of F1 fans, and so today’s half marathon at Silverstone (the home of Formula 1) was a joy to run – both as a run and as a motor racing nut’s chance to take to the track.
The traffic into (and out of – more of which later) is always a bit iffy, sometimes you’re in with no issue, at others you can queue for hours on the A43. Todays wasn’t too bad, a bit congested, but not really awful. Not me driving, a car full of us from the club had met up and merged into one vehicle. So we arrived in good time and now had about an hour to kill before the race start. That meant the usual preparation took place at a leisurely pace. Loo stop, banana, fire up the Garmin, get all the kit on, stash the bag, team photo (I wouldn’t mind skipping this bit!) and a final, just-in-case loo stop were achieved in good time.
I also met up with another running friend, Tref. He’s running 12 different events in 12 months for two charities that work with Autism, and you can read more about his mad quest here. I’ll be seeing him again at Brighton. We hung about on the start line, wondering at the sanity of the man carrying a pylon and the two stilt walkers who were lined up near us. As the start approached, I said bye to Tref & headed forward to the 2:30 finish bracket. I was aiming at faster than this, but I find it easier to keep the initial pace under control if I start a little bit back.
And we’re off. Shuffled forward until the crowd in front launched into a run, for once actually before the start line. Set the Garmin to go and set off. Tried to focus and not get carried away, and didn’t do too bad a job. There’s something very inspiring about seeing a great mass of humanity heading along in a ribbon; as I entered Stowe, I could see them disappearing behind the new Wing and there were a fair few people out today. I could see the 11 min/mile pacer ahead of me, and caught them as we went through the Vale for the first time. That seemed reasonable, I’d started behind them and was heading along within the target pace fairly easily. Ran up the new start/finish straight, alongside the Wing and round onto the new extension loop. Interesting little loop, with some elevation change as you head into one of the corners. Then it was back onto the old track, in the Complex, where I finally passed Andy (having been shadowing him for a while) and a water stop. I drank some, but a considerable portion of the bottle ended up being poured on my face, neck and back.
Then round the pits and onto the infield. The addition of the new extension loop has meant that there were fewer up-and-back section in the infield, which made for a better race, 180 degree bends are tricky and energy sapping. The most exciting bit was we ran up the new pit lane. The F1 geek in me was thrilled! Somewhere here the winner finished. I think I’d just cleared half way, but it was tight! But, it is worth noting I arrived at 6 miles in 1:02, faster than my (out of date) 10k PB. Once Brighton’s done, I will be having a serious crack at the shorted distances…
After this, we headed up to the two bridges over the track. It was noticeable how many people were spectating, and the support was quite considerable in easily accessible places. These two track crossing bridges are the steepest hills on the course and I managed to steam up the pair – I like the challenge, up on the toes and get them over and done with! And so out onto the perimeter road. The second water station was not far down here and I again drank some and wore the rest. Even took my cap half off and poured some on my head – golly, that felt good!
This is a long way round, but there was a fair amount of support, especially as we headed back up towards the outside of Copse. It’s at this stage that you can see the track and the runners finishing – and I’ve still got 3+ miles to go. Slightly concerning, there were several people obviously struggling and an ambulance heading back towards the medical centre. I can understand how it could all get a bit much – it was rather hot. But I didn’t resort to pouring Lucozade on my head – unlike one particularly sticky chap not far in front of me. I can’t imagine that felt terrible pleasant once it evaporated!
Back onto the track and past the last water station. About here I passed Mary, who was beginning to struggle in the heat. We had a shorter run back, not having to go round the new loop, instead it was along under the bridge at Bridge and back to Abbey. Down past the Wing again, and the tune from which I’ve taken today’s title came on. This has a habit of getting under my skin, because it isn’t often in life we can point to something that makes us glow with pride, but today was going to be one of those days.
After my concerns earlier in the week about the weather, it had been clear and no more than breezy all day. So it’s ironic that the only time I really noticed a breeze was when it was a head wind as we returned up Hangar Straight (neither straight nor anything like as flat as it appears on the TV). I was trying to pick up the pace, and still hadn’t quite given up on a 2:15 time, but it had been tight at 10 miles, which came up at 103 minutes. That left 32 minutes for 3.1 miles, which is quite quick, especially after 10 miles. I knew I’d need a sub 10 minute final mile and it just wasn’t happening.
Facts & Figures:
Distance – 13.1 miles (Garmin 13.27 miles)
Time – 2:16:44 (official time 2:16:41 – even better!)
Average Pace – 10:18 min/miles
Pleased to report that the splits look pretty even. Aim was to set out at between 10:20 and 10:30 per mile and try to speed up after 10, aiming for an optomistic 2:15 finish. The pace is pretty much there, with no more than 17 seconds between fastest & slowest mile up to 10 miles. But there was not quite enough left to up the pace towards the last few miles. I did try, but it wasn’t quite enough. Still, that’s a 3 minute PB and I managed to knock 20 minutes off the time I posted here last year in my first half marathon. That’s not to be sniffed at in 12 months.
Crossed the line, after having mustered the requisite sprint(ish) finish and stopped the watch. had my chip cut off and collected the goody bag – with the bottle of water which lasted about 30 seconds! And my race medal – I do like a good medal. Found the rest of the club and was most pleased to make acquaintance with my milkshake (still quite cool) and banana. Having flopped on to the floor, I did have to get on all fours before I could stand up again, but a bit of a stretch made everything feel a bit better. Swapped my sweaty top for the finisher’s T-shirt, because I knew that I’d soon cool down being that wet. Actually I was quite pleased that I managed to walk to the car without too much trouble (although I did step carefully on and off each kerb). Tim negotiated getting us out of the car park and then it was back to the meeting point to collect the car. It was very nice to not have to drive straight away, instead I sat in the car and shuffled about a bit, able to move the legs freely in the spacious back seats.
Several learning points to take on board for the next warm race. I need to either get over my hangup about wearing a vest – or get some sleeves added to it. Wearing 2 layers on a hot day is asking for trouble. Also, pouring water over your front doesn’t cool you down too much, due to the multi-layered iron-constructed undergarment that holds everything in place. It also has a tendency to make the tissues stuffed into said garment rather damp and ineffective as nose wipes.
So mission accomplished: one shiny PB achieved, in a good, confidence boosting style. I’m sure 2:15 is achievable, but maybe on a less hot day. Plugging that into the training paces calculator shows that MP should now be about 11 min/miles, which is where MP training runs have ended up – maybe the body did know what it was doing, all along!