All week I’d been monitoring the pressure systems approaching the UK and following the Met Offices’ predictions. As each day passed 1mph went on the wind speed and the wind direction changed from a Southerly (S) to a South South Easterly (SSE) to a South Easterly (SE). Not ideal for a race that finishes with an exposed uphill bias and in a SE direction!
You might have gathered that Wokingham was an A race for me. It was the first proper outing since late November and a yardstick, nay, a performance barometer of whether all this streaking and big mileage was going to prove to be a big waste of life. That’s why I was so concerned about the wind. I wasn’t bothered about finishing in the top 10, top 20 or any of that nonsense. It was a straight out race against self and clock.
Wokingham was a race I’d first done in 2001 as pretty much a newbie runner who’d done about 6 weeks of running from being a fairly regular guy just starting work in London and fitting in a bit of gym. I’ve noted I would have been top 10 in 2001 such is the increased standard and participation numbers over the last 10 years. See –
Note I’m not suggesting this is unprecedented as the 80s was THE Golden era of running in the UK. Wokingham 2001 saw me hit 1.23.32 on the way to an April marathon debut of 2.57. I think I’ve done Wokingham 4 times now (2001 for 1.23.32, 2006 for 1.17.15, 2008 for 1.16.40) and with the numbers heading in the right direction was really hoping for a PB. In fact way back in November I’d entered with a 1.15 time on the entry form.
Paul Griffiths asked about the existence of a taper. There was a taper Paul. I trained normally up to last Sunday 3rd with a 20 miler then simply did 4 easy miles per day last week for the smallest mileage week for months and months. Why? Because I wanted to get a time that would indicate exactly how well i was going with no ifs and buts. I wanted to be able to make some accurate predictions about what pace is going to be realistic at London. I wanted to know what “race pace” at London is going to be so I can implement in my training.
So I’d established that a 15mph SE wind was going to be slightly annoying given man against clock task ahead but wasn’t overly worried. In fact I’d read up on the effects of drafting and head a nice race strategy planned out where I’d find a group and work it. Up and at it Sunday morning and wasn’t surprised to see it was tipping it down with rain. Picked up a couple of fellow runners and drove on over to Wokingham with the rain continuing to pour. Good news was the wind wasn’t looking too bad at all. In fact it was barely noticeable.
And they’re off. Had analyzed my 1.16.40 previous outing and had worked out the effects of the 10-11th mile. I reckoned it was around 20s so i was keen to make sure I put some time in the bank. See actual splits – http://connect.garmin.com/splits/272184332 and you’ll see the grumbly mile on the way back (5,52) but pretty even otherwise.
So I settled into a group and we started to work it. Well actually THEY started to work it because I was playing 100% safe and conserving energy despite the fact I suspected the wind was on our backs anyway. I was hitting 5.40s and feeling fluid, strong, comfortable and excited. I knew I was on a good run.
Mile after mile ticked by and up to around 6 I was tucked in nicely in a good group. I hadn’t done any work. Then I sensed it was my turn so I hit out and dragged them from miles 6-9. Then I gapped the group to catch a straggler and encourage him to work with me to the next group. That little surge didn’t dent my strength and I was really starting to get excited as I realised I was over a minute up on 1.15.30 pace ( I’d memorise the ideal mile 8 split). I’d written these splits up my arm the night before but with the rain it was a waste of time anyway. So we continue on to mile 10 and I chuckle at seeing 56 something on the watch. A new 10 mile PB. We continue on and into the part of the course I was slightly dreading. The uphill, into the wind, exposed section. Me and some other skinny little bloke (must have been early 40s) were working together nicely and I could see a small group 50m up ahead which contained the lead woman. We edged our way up to them, sat in for a min or two then continued onwards. In fact it was me who kicked off forwards out of that little group but I dragged them all along. It was uphill but I was still in the low 5.50s per mile which was really surprising given the headwind. I was feeling strong. I thought of the 2nd session on christmas day at this point and gained more strength. Dailey T was right. I almost asked the bloke behind what he did after his christmas dinner but held back. I led the whole group of about 8 through to about mile 12 taking the wind as I was keen to push the pace and nobody else wanted too. Then 3 of them (including the woman) eased past for the last mile but I wasn’t able to stay with them and was now blowing a bit and starting to suffer for the first time. The RIGHT time. Dug in till mile 13 passed by and hit the finishing straight and got a surprise yell from Mum and Dad who’d made the trip out and were standing along with a few hundred other spectators. Crossed the line in 1.14.30 on the nail and was elated. Then I realised I was cold and had a bit of a dry wretch for some reason. Was smoked.
Disappointed to not make page 1 of the results are a Lifetime PB by over 1m30s. – http://www.sportsystems.co.uk/ss/results/Wokingham%20Half%20Marathon/1109
Happy to get my first ever 80% age grading (get in Gaz!!!).
On cloud 9 now and I’d say it’s my best ever run performance. Sub 2.40 at London is now actually a realistic goal. Forget sub 2.45. I’ll be in the pub by then.