A mixed week that began with an injury and ended with a Half Marathon personal best!
Stick with this one folks, it’s a long one.
On Saturday of Week 9 I pushed out 22 miles, my next run was on Tuesday and I broke myself.
I went out to run 6 miles at a quicker pace as a tester for the Silverstone Half Marathon. The pace I put on was fantastic by my standards. Recently I broke my own PB at parkrun and I think that has been at the back of my mind, especially as I’m running ‘slower’ than normal during this process. I still don’t think my mind has got it that I need to be sticking to the ‘slower’ pace, I like to see how fast I can run!
About 4.5 miles into the run, my right calf felt a little tight but that’s not too unusual recently, not too long after there was a sharper pain at my lower right calf, I carried on for about 30 seconds but it wasn’t going away, I felt like it was going to snap.
Just for fun these were the splits:
1 – 7:08
2 – 7:53
3 – 6:56
4 – 7:08
5 – 7:14
Had I carried on to reach 10k I would have unofficially taken nearly 2 minutes off my PB.
That’s irrelevant of course but amazing, even with a fraction of the route being downhill.
I walked the mile I had left to home, trying to get there in as quick a time as possible with minimal pain caused. I did try a little jog just before home but managed only a few steps.
Sarah was due to run on Wednesday, I did a practice run up and down our street but it was too uncomfortable for me to do more than that. I walked to town with her to meet Andrew and Ania. It was very odd watching them all run off.
I was more diligent than usual with the injury as I had the half on the weekend. I iced it in the morning and evenings, rubbed Arnica gel into the area, took Ibuprofen, increased my protein intake by way of protein shakes and most importantly, I rested.
The calf began to feel better each day and on Saturday I joined Sarah for the start of her 10k. I ran tentatively, I was still unsure how the calf would react. Sticking with Sarah has helped me lots over our shared runs, it has made me run slower, I never do actual recovery runs like proper runners, so use those runs with Sarah as my recovery.
I stayed with Sarah for around 2.3 miles and She carried on her route and I headed for home at a quicker pace to see what would happen.
The run home wasn’t quite a mile but looking on Strava my pace was around 8:30 min per mile and the calf held with only a little discomfort.
Sunday was the ADIDAS Silverstone Half Marathon!
Three laps around the track and inner roads of the historic circuit and former airfield.
I looked at this race last year and was put off by a few things; it was early in the year and I wouldn’t have prepared enough, the distance to get to the location and a review I had read that said that it was a very quiet race as there are few spectators around the course.
I personally didn’t have an issue with the spectating, I thought that there were enough people around cheering. Yes in a few spots there aren’t any spectators but you are not alone. I always had other runners around me and due to the nature of the course you can see other runners who are either ahead or behind you at nearly all times. There are also a couple of DJs blasting out music and encouragement.
Such a long day but worth it in the end. I was up by five am to have breakfast and a protein shake. By Google Maps the route we took from Brecon to Silverstone was 148 miles each way. We wouldn’t be back home until 7pm!
Andrew arrived just before half six and we were off. Sarah was spending the day with her Parents, spectating at these events isn’t always the most exciting of things to do.
We arrived just after half nine, the car park was almost empty. The organisers had asked for people to arrive before half ten, so we had arrived in good time. There is a short walk from the car park to the form up area, which gives an opportunity to take in the scope of the site, which is large!
Andrew and I discussed this briefly, it is unusual when at a race to ‘see’ where you have to run. You know you are running 5k, 10k, a half or marathon and beyond but you don’t usually get to take in the course just by looking around. We were walking through the middle of it!
In the form up area were the baggage garages, an ADIDAS shop selling the latest London Marathon branded gear, the Silverstone shop, a cafe, various food sellers and changing areas.
As it was drizzling when we arrived, we headed for the indoor bits. Thankfully I had left my wallet locked in the car so was unable to buy any of the LM merchandise, although I’m sure there will be another opportunity at Marathon Expo in April. Once we had looked around we headed for the changing area, which was in one of the pit lane garages.
We stayed in there for a while. It was dry but cold, it being an empty garage. There was a toilet which was a bonus. Once changed we headed out as the drizzle was easing. It was then that we had the runners dilemma of when do we go for the last loo stop and hand in our bag.
That decision was helped by the announcer informing the assembled runners that the gates to the start were opening at 11:15, five minutes later. We trundled off to join the short toilet queue as there were plenty about, and then handed our bags in.
The short journey to the start area was handled well and simply. If you were expecting to run over two hours you went one way, if under two hours you went the other way. Once on the track there were further markers to break down the estimated time. Andrew and I stood near the 1:55 – 2:00 hour sign. As the start time approached the mass of runners was shuffled forward to bunch up the start.
Before I was injured my plan was to go for a Personal Best, however the injury/pain I had in my calf actually had me feeling nervous on the start line. I don’t remember being nervous before, I just run and if it goes well that’s good, if it goes bad then that’s okay too, especially if in the end it’s a good outcome. Read on to understand what I mean.
A slight tangent; a bad run that was actually good happened to be the Cardiff Half Marathon last October. I had trained as well as I could and was in the best running shape I had ever been. I had my race plan sorted and I was hitting the mile markers exactly as I wanted to. It was the second time I had run the Half, the first in 2014 I finished in 02:03:06 as my hips went at around 6 miles, I was uncomfortable for the entire second half of the race. A disappointment as I had run 01:59:33 at my first ever Half Marathon at Llanelli earlier in the year. Fast forward two years and I was back. The 6 mile issue couldn’t strike again could it? You’ve guessed it dear reader! Once again the hips went at 6 miles and I was uncomfortable and struggling a bit. This has only happened at Cardiff, I’ve put it down to the camber in the road but I don’t really know. As I was a bit fitter I was able to keep the legs going albeit at a slower pace, although that hill not too far from the end nearly finished me off. I crossed the line in 01:55:51 taking 59 seconds off the PB time I had achieved at the Severn Bridge Half that August. I had crossed the line over 7 minutes quicker than the last attempt but I was in so much pain I could barely walk and I wobbled back to our meeting point so happy to have finished and forgetting it was a PB when I was asked my time. Even recently I forgot it was a PB, the memory of the pain has overridden the achievement.
Anyway back to the start. We were stood on the track for around 45 minutes in the cold and drizzle. Several prepared folks were covered with a mixture of refuse bags, ponchos and those silver foil blankets in an effort to keep warm.
Andrew and I discussed a brief plan of the race, I would stick with him for 9 miles and if my calf was okay then I would push on and see if it held.
As happens as these type of events, when the gun goes off everyone starts to run towards the start and then stops as everyone at the line slows down to do the ‘start watch and step on the timing mat’ dance. We walked to the start, letting others run on and then stop!
We got going and got into our stride trying to hit Andrews preferred pace of 9:00 min per mile, a little bit of a fudge as he runs in KMs and I’m in miles but we got it sorted.
Something that surprised me was how much water was on the track surface. It’s been a while since I watched F1 but I thought the surface would have not held as much water as we were splashing through.
It being a race track there are lots of turns to negotiate, not a huge problem normally but here they are so frequent that everybody is trying to get the ‘racing line’ all at once.
A few times over the distance I was nearly tripped up by someone trying to get as close to the corners as they could. No doubt I was doing the same. Dodging traffic cones becomes a skill the more it’s practised.
I’m certainly not the best pacer and I didn’t hit the pace target for Andrew, we were consistently a little bit too fast over each mile. Maybe not a bad thing as Andrew was going for under 2 hours.
My calf was giving me no issues whatsoever and I was feeling really good and enjoying the run and the route. It was going so well that I revised my plan and asked Andrew if he would be okay if I went on at 8 miles instead of 9. He agreed and as we hit 8 miles the Runners World 1:58 pacer appeared at his shoulder. I left him and sped off.
My first act as I started to weave through the runners in front of me was to apologise as I splashed through a puddle! I spotted a gap between two runners but as they parted the puddle was revealed leaving me nowhere to go other than through it. I tried to jump it and upon landing a bit awkwardly I realised how silly that was with a potentially dodgy calf.
I kept up a decent pace, pushing out negative splits for the 3 miles. I knew the route wasn’t flat, even though it’s a former airfield, and was pleasantly challenged by some of the inclines. The run to the finish line along Hangar Straight is up a slight and long incline. I’m grateful that I live among and run up and down hills. My splits slowed a little over the last 2 miles but I was still pushing as much as I could. I tried a sprint finish but the back of my left knee gave me a slight warning, so I sped up a little just bit more to give me a finish of 01:51:22 and a massive personal best.
I’d managed to take 4 minutes 29 seconds of my previous PB!
The process once finishing is very slick. The timing chips for this race are fixed to your shoe via two twist ties. Once through the finish, a short walk away are several ramps and volunteers armed with tools to clip through the ties and take away the chip. I was a bit tired and stopped at the first volunteer instead of continuing along the ramp. Something for me to remember for the London Marathon.
Next up was the goody bag. I trundled along to the medium section and took the bag I was offered and very nearly dropped it. It was much heavier than I’d expected. The contents included: cotton t-shirt, medal, water, lucozade, crisps, various carb snacks, sun lotion and the obligatory future race leaflets. A very good bag! I was a little disappointed at first with the t-shirt as I won’t be running in it but in hindsight do I really need another running top? No not really. It’s a lovely t-shirt that I’m looking forward to wearing,
So chip removed, goody bag received, next it was getting my bag back.
This can sometimes be an issue. Lots of “that one there” “by your foot” “no not that one, the red one” “yes, no, to your left” “THE RED ONE!”
All of that is a distant memory at Silverstone and I would expect at the London Marathon. In the race pack is a large clear plastic drawstring bag upon which each runner affixes a sticker bearing their race number. The bag is handed in to the relevant bag drop garage and when said runner appears dazed and tired back at the garage, a very observant person shouts out the number emblazoned on their front and they are directed to another person who by the time you get there has your bag ready.
I was very impressed to have my bag back in mere seconds after walking into the garage. A very efficient process.
Overall I was impressed with the organisation of the race. The emails and website were informative, as was the race pack. As we got there early the car parking was quick. Getting out was less quick though. Although that was down to several lanes of cars trying to filter through one gate and many drivers being very blinkered and not letting other cars in. We had some non-verbal communication with one driver who thought he would just push his way in even though we had been waiting patiently for nearly 10 minutes. I believe a few marshals placed within the car park to aid the filtering would have helped.
Whilst running the route I found that it was easy to get a bit disorientated. There is a fair bit of repeating bits you’ve done but usually in the reverse direction. That isn’t a complaint but I remember seeing some quicker runners towards the end of the race (11 miles maybe) on an adjacent section of track/road and wondering how and when I would get to that section.
The total distance by my Garmin watch was 13.4 miles. I’d noticed that my watch and those of other runners were beeping before each mile marker. This is likely due to the GPS accuracy of the watches and that there are lots of corners and bends. It’s hard to follow the exact racing line especially on a route like Silverstone. I’m happy that I ran a measured course of 13.1 miles that my time is for that distance.
The distance from Brecon is always a challenge for most events. The London Marathon will be a long weekend away and this event was very nearly a 13 hour day for a 2 hour run. Some other running friends would like to test themselves at Silverstone so I may be back next year, however I shall be booking a hotel for the Sunday evening and the day off work on Monday!
Next up for me are a couple of shorter runs to begin Week Eleven. I’m giving myself an extra day off running so instead of Tuesday, I’ll run on Wednesday. I may run again on Friday and then a 10+ mile run on Saturday.
Gary – 01:51:22
Andrew – 02:05:47
Pacing Andrew for eight miles we averaged 8:52 min /mile. For the final five miles (less the 0.4) I averaged 7:31 min /mile.
1 – 8:56
2 – 8:54
3 – 8:50
4 – 8:52
5 – 8:52
6 – 8:52
7 – 8:56
8 – 8:48
9 – 7:52
10 – 7:29
11 – 7:12
12 – 7:22
13 – 7:39
0.4 – 7:03