I decided to enter Truro half marathon with a few weeks to spare. My last half marathon was a mental challenge so I dragged my feet a bit but finally got off the fence, deciding I would give the “hard and hilly” race a bash. I didn’t have much training to do as such, just sustain the distance, and maybe focus on some threshold/interval runs.
In comparison to the last half I did, I was pretty laid back about this one and I think it helped enormously. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a finishing time in mind but I was more curious about what time I would achieve rather than feeling like I had to meet a certain target. My main aim was to run well and most importantly, enjoy it. I learnt a great deal from the Indian Queens half marathon, particularly an awareness of what doesn’t work for me. So apart from being quite chilled on the day, here are the other helpful strategies I pulled out of the bag:
The Right Brekkie
Since becoming a Paleo convert, I have struggled knowing which breakfast is best before a long run especially those with an early start; it’s been a bit hit and miss to be honest. The Indian Queens half taught me that pancakes aren’t a good idea so I opted for a coconut milk smoothie instead. It’s one of my favourites, and as the ingredients are blended, I guess it’s easier to digest. High in fat and protein, it proved to be a good way to start race day and I wasn’t ravenous once I’d finished.
I got my new Asics GT1000s about 9 months ago and they’ve always given me pins and needles; I think the toe box is smaller compared to the v3s. I’ve been meaning to re-lace them for about 4 months and a chat with a fellow runner reminded me as much. Why didn’t I re-lace them before? Laziness if I’m honest. It became one of those “I’ll do it later” things logged in my head. I now wish I’d done it sooner. It made for a more comfortable run, prevented me from “finding” something wrong, and gave me one less thing to grumble about. For different ways to lace your trainers click here.
I haven’t used the virtual pacer on my Garmin that much, although that’s rapidly changing. Even though I was very open minded about how the race would go, I set my Garmin to a 9 min mile pace. I knew I was capable and I thought it would keep me focused. Sometimes I find it hard to judge how I am running. I guess we all have times when how we feel and how we’re running seem incongruent. Using a pacer reframes this for me, and helps me slot the two together, as well as letting me know if I am maintaining the pace. I find this useful and motivating, especially when runs are going well. During the Truro Half, even the incessant bleeping when I was behind, ahead or on pace didn’t annoy me. Actually, I hardly noticed it. Hoorah!
Obviously I wasn’t threshold running on the day, but I have started to incorporate these into my weekly runs. By the time I got to start line, I had only done 2 or 3, but I really think they helped. They gave me the confidence to push myself that bit harder without worrying about having nothing left in the tank near the end. If you would like to start threshold runs, or other types of speed or endurance training, I would recommend the Guardian Guide to Running Podcast. I find these give me focus and shape my training, saving me from clocking up grey miles. The podcast covers different abilities and offers a variety of training sessions. The music is right up my street too. I like it so much I sometimes pop it on while I work.
During my training runs and some races, when I am not thinking about my posture, niggles, time, etc., my mind drifts in all directions. Usually this is along the lines of “what shall I eat when I finish?” (this is definitely the main one and my personal favourite) “what are we doing tonight?” and so on. I have tried to initiate actual distraction techniques without much success. I’ve found concentrating doesn’t come easy or maybe I’m not using them when I need them most. For the latter miles of this half marathon, when I made a concerted effort to push myself harder, I started counting and it really worked. I think it provided me with some monotonous regulation, with every other foot on the ground becoming a number. This was a welcome distraction from my tired, burning muscles. Counting backwards was a bit more challenging though, I lost count more than once, which is a tad embarrassing (seriously, how hard is it?).
I’m a bit embarrassed about this one because of the content of my visualisations. I think visualisation, as a coping technique, is brilliant. I have relied on it loads clinically over the years. Running wise it was formally introduced to me years ago when I trained for London by Jim from Cheltenham Harriers. He would visually take me through Birdcage Walk and up The Mall, it was good preparation. Now my visualisations tend to be more self absorbed with a hint of ego massaging going on. I don’t want to think about what that says about me, but for the few seconds where I believe I’ve actually won the race (complete with crop top and running knickers!), it feels amazing and works a treat.
Swiftly moving on…
My Other Half
It’s not unusual for family and significant others to come and support but I certainly don’t expect people to come to every race. This one was a bit different as my partner was doing the PA. He told me he wouldn’t say anything about my contribution to the sports bra industry as I crossed the line. In fact, he claimed he would go easy on me (hmmm, I wasn’t convinced). I don’t know if it was having someone important at the finish line, or if it was because he had a microphone in his hand, but it spurned me on. I was excited about him being there, offering words of encouragement. As I came around the corner, running towards the finish on Lemon Quay, I could hear him but couldn’t see him. He was talking about something running related, don’t ask me what, and I was spotted just before I went over the line (and no, sports bras weren’t mentioned).
What helped the most?
This I can’t answer. I didn’t plan all of the above, I just tapped into what I needed as I when I felt I had to. Mental prep is a major part of any race but with this one, I was excited and was very much attuned to how I felt as I went along. Luckily I felt good and the miles ticked by quite quickly. Things just slotted into place for me on the day, and that’s a good feeling.