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Triathlon Training & Races - Matt's Blog
Sharing my experiences in training, racing and learning the 'science' of progressing in Triathlon - from total novice to top-ten finisher (and hopefully beyond!). Stop by to listen to what I have to say, but don't forget, the whole point of web 2.0 is interaction, so don't be afraid or too shy to leave your own thoughts!

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Swindon Half Marathon - Race Report

prhimby prhimOct 11th 2010
OK, so it wasn't a triathlon but having competed in this race in 2008 (when I first embarked on my "it's time to lose a lot of weight and get fitter" campaign) I wanted to give it another try to see whether the training over the last two years (and more specifically the last year, since taking up Triathlon) had made any differnce.

My time in 2008 was 1:58:24 - which I was reasonably happy with back then. I was pleased at least not to have had to walk any sections of the course and come in under the two hours mark.

However, this year was different. Although I've rambled on many-a-time in my blog about how I'm a crap runner, I was still hoping to see significant improvements so I set myself a suitably challenging target time of 1:40:00 to complete the 13.1 miles (for those of you that don't know it, the Swindon course is pretty hilly). That would mean an average of 7:39 per mile, which isn't far off my 10km pace.

So despite the weather forecasters telling us we were in for a great weekend, Sunday dawned cold and grey - not far off 'ideal' running conditions, but a little bit windy and nippy for my liking. I shivered for the short walk from my house to the start line and then after countless loo visits (always the same... wonder if I will ever not get nervous before a race?!) it was time to line up for the start.

Helpfully, the race organisers had laid on pace-setters and I duly positioned myself a few metres back from the 1:40 runners. The start at Swindon comprises a sharp uphill for the first 600 metres or so, always good to get the blood pumping! My heart rate shot up pretty quickly, but I seemed to be ok maintaining pace with the blue "1:40" flag ahead of me.

After maintaining station behind the 1:40 pace-setters for about 3.5 miles, I was feeling pretty comfortable and happy that I could push on a little without killing myself, so made a dart around the and then settled into a slightly faster pace (splits reveal circa 6:45 at his point), feeling strong.

The rest of the race went well, I got a niggle in my left hamstring on one of the sharp descents but other than that it felt good until around mile 11 where it started to hurt. I think perhaps I got lazy in my running gait and wasn't landing on my mid-foot, but I could feel my legs getting a little battered and fatigued. Despite this, overall energy levels were OK.

I could see a mate (Jason from The Big Adventure Store) in the distance but each time I tried to increase pace to catch him he seemed to match my new pace (git!). Eventually I caught him on the long slow slog up the hill that makes up the last 1 - 1.5 miles of the run (nice planning guys!) but by then I was pretty much spent, so although I did my best to cruise past nonchalantly, in fact I was hurting a lot.

The final 800m of the race is down the same incline that we started from, and with dead legs it didn't feel much faster than the start either! It's a weird feeling to be running downhill, knowing that you have gravity on your side, but you simply can't get your legs to turn over fast enough.

As the finish line came in sight, I had to do a slight double-take on the timer. Although I'd been watching my mile splits and heart rate through the race, I hadn't taken much notice of the overall time. So to see the clock reading 1:33 was a very pleasant surpise.

Eventually I crossed the line with a chip time of 1:33:56. Very, very pleased with that! I'd beaten my target time by over six minutes and taken nearly 25 minutes off my 2008 time. Result! :-) Overall, I placed 105th out of 1,514 finishers.

A day later and I am sore; very sore! DOMS has definitely kicked in and I think my poor form in the latter miles has led to a minor knee strain on the left, but nothing serious.

With a solid winter training schedule behind me, hopefully next year will see some much stronger running performances - and then I'll have to revert to complaining about my swimming, or biking... But for now I can definitely say that while I may not yet be a 'strong' runner, I am definitely improving. And that's a good start.
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