VLM2017 – Thorpe Park Half Marathon PB: 1.26.05

3 weeks since my last update and I’ve reached a peak weekly mileage of 55 miles, ran a 15 mile long run on a stag weekend in Vegas and have a shiny new PB at the Thorpe Park Half Marathon.

Let’s start with the peak weekly mileage. Despite the achievement, the 55 miles were largely uneventful. It started with a poor Lactate Threshold (LT) session (which I blamed on tired legs from the Watford Half Marathon), a couple of recovery runs and a medium long run of 12 miles. The final run on Sunday of 20 miles was also of relative importance. Ok, yes a 20 mile run is still a very long run and I hit the paces I wanted to despite the ongoing niggles in my left knee but it’s not a session that I’m likely to highlight as a key run during my post marathon analysis.

Moving on the Stag weekend in Vegas! When I initially started planning my marathon training plan I contemplated starting a week early and sacking off running altogether during this week. So far the plan has taken me to Wales, Belgium, Switzerland, France and the US – so the Vegas trip wasn’t going to be the only disruption; however it was the only trip that would involve copious amounts of drinking over a 5 day period. The week did coincide with a taper week so I manned up, kept this week in my plan and packed my running gear.

I’ve had a bit of practice running whilst hangover / still drunk from the night before. My first ever 10K took place after an 8 pint drinking session and I also ran a half marathon a couple of years back after a drinking session that had only finished about 5 hours previously. I had 3 runs planned whilst I was in Vegas, a couple of short recovery runs and a 15 mile long run. The recoveries were fine, although required significant weaving in and out of the early risers and Vegas insomniacs! I was trying to think of a polite way of describing some of the individuals that I experienced when running around Vegas early in the morning. I came up with a few other adjectives, but think I’ll stick with insomniacs for now.

The 15 mile run was a different experience altogether. I’d done some research on running in Vegas prior to going to out there and pretty much every review said that the best place to run in Vegas, was outside of Vegas. I was therefore left with the option of getting a return taxi for around $100 to an area called Red Rock Canyon or braving the monotony of the Las Vegas suburbia. Having left most of my money on the Blackjack and Crabs table the night before, I decided to go with the later. And yes, it was horrendous. It felt like I was running past the same house, same road and crossing the same traffic lights time and time again. On top of that, we were experiencing the fringes of one of the worse storms to hit the region in decades and a years’ worth of rainfall was falling in Vegas in just a few days. Wasn’t quite what I expected for a run in the desert! I actually felt quite good once the run had finished and it had the added benefit of keeping me out of the casinos, bars and diners for a few hours at least.

Finally my PB. So back from Vegas and feeling a little bit worse for wear, the focus for this week shifted purely to the Thorpe Park Half Marathon at the end of the week. I’ve always used the half marathon in my marathon training plan as a key indicator for my progress and having not race for the first 10 weeks of this plan, this was going to be a key race for me to predict and ultimately set my final goal for London. Despite Vegas I was feeling pretty confident going into the half. The start of the previous week ‘prior to travelling out the US’ I had my best LT session of the plan so far. I did 10 miles with 7 @ LT, averaging 6.29 minute miles (mm) for each of the LT miles. I took this week relatively easy, although I didn’t want to taper to much as I was concerned about losing fitness, especially as the mileage the week before was also slightly cut back. I squeezed in a Vo2max session at the track and also an 8 mile GA run with strides, either side of the usual recovery runs and still felt sufficiently fresh come the start of the race on Sunday.

Thorpe Park Half Marathon was a new race and therefore a bit of a gamble for my key warm up race for London. I picked it for a couple of reasons – mainly because it fitted in perfectly with my marathon plan, but also because it claimed to be a flat and fast course, although experience has taught me that unless a course is very hilly it will always claim to be flat and fast. I think they are justified in calling this course flat though and it definitely has PB potential – as I was fortunate to find out. A few other runners commented post-race about the hills that they failed to advertise – yes there were 3 tricky inclines to navigate but it’s almost impossible to find 13.1 miles of completely flat roads and the overall elevation was less than 200 feet, which is comparable to other ‘flat’ half marathons that I’ve done in the past. The race organisation overall was very good, they could have had a few more toilets but volunteers were plentiful, the route well thought out and there were sufficient water stops on the course. We were also rewarded with a technical t-shirt at the finish and a good selection of drinks and snacks for the post-race recovery. The only negative was the medal that had a section cut off, which it later transpired was because they had failed to secure Thorpe Park branding permission from the Merlin group. In all honesty, I hadn’t even noticed it until it had been pointed out on social media.

I’ve almost forgot to mention my time. Well, the plan was to run at 6.35mm to achieve something around 1 hour 26 minutes and 30 seconds. I had a stretch goal of sub-1.26 but didn’t want to push it too much, with the risk of blowing up later on in the race. And despite the 3 hills and occasional periods of running directly into the remains of Storm Doris, my pace stayed bang on target for the majority of the race. I think my average pace overall was either 6.36 or 6.37mm from mile 2 onwards until mile 11. With 2 miles to go in a half marathon I usually pick up the pace if my legs are feeling good and yesterday was no different. My legs didn’t feel completely fresh (I had just ran 11 miles quicker then I’d ever run before!), but I did have enough to run a 6.31mm and 6.24mm, with a strong finish bringing me in for a 1.26.05. I was ecstatic; this was easily inside my target time and very close to my stretch goal. On top of this, I came 95th out of a field of almost 4,000. The reality of running progress over the past few years hit me when around mile 10, one of the spectators shouted ‘well done front runners’.

The question now is what does this mean for my goal time? This is probably the strongest evidence yet that sub-3 hours for London could be possible and I believe that it’s doable. I still need to get through 8 weeks injury free and considering I have five, 50 + mile weeks back to back now, that it definitely not a fore gone conclusion. I then need to decide whether I’m prepared to risk not achieving a Good For Age time. Experts say that for every minute that someone runs the first half of a marathon faster than what is achievable, they lose 2 minutes in the 2nd half. The fine line between success and failure!

Either way, I’m 10 weeks in and I’m in a good place – just not taking anything for granted.

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