No significant change really in the couple of weeks since the last update. A drop of a few hundred places which is in keeping with some of my top-5 runs just getting older.
On 20 May I set a new personal best handicap number of 14.1 and that number was still hanging on at the end of that week when the last ladder was put together. For some reason it’s taken three weeks to publish.
A good improvement in my ranking up about 10,000 places. Not my best ever ranking though which was set in March last year.
So as we discovered in my last post, I might have just done something which for me was a little bit special during my last run.
This left something of a dilemma though. More about that later.
Firstly, let’s cover the last day of our trip. As would now appear to be traditional / compulsory for a trip we have in Liverpool we had one day of rain, but I suppose I can’t really complain that it was the Monday after our runs.
After a rather excellent breakfast – can’t really go wrong with a Premier Inn all you can eat breakfast – we wandered into the city center and before long we found ourselves in the Cavern Club. I’ve got to say I was surprised it was as quiet as it was but that was to our benefit – nicely priced booze, no queues and great live music on a bank holiday in a great venue. Could have stayed all day really but sadly we had to catch our bus up to the airport.
Now my next race is in just 20 days time on Father’s Day in Guernsey for the Dairy Milk Run Half Marathon and having achieved something I’d been hoping to do for a while (let me know if I haven’t mentioned what that is), I’m left to consider what the next target is. Do I keep chipping away at a PB? Do I look at longer distances (clue: no, they hurt and have boring training)?
I’ll also be going from a mass event with 8,000 runners down to one in Guernsey with a couple of hundred. Possibly. But I guess my 2:06 training run a few weeks back tells me that I don’t need the crowds to run fairly well. Then after that it’s the Great Newham London Run in July then onto the Jersey Marathon.
I’m writing this at about 9.35pm on Sunday night, the evening of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Half Marathon. My legs still hurt a little, I’m a bit tired but I can look back at today with a tremendous sense of complete satisfaction. We’ve still got bank holiday Monday here in Liverpool but whatever we get up to tomorrow will surely pale in comparison to the past couple of days events.
Let’s start with Friday. The weekend started fairly inauspiciously with huge queues greeting us at Jersey airport, however we were extremely surprised when we still found ourselves through to the departure lounge in maybe 15 minutes. That being said we still only barely had time for a drink before our flight. We arrived in Liverpool in good time and ready for the bus that I was hoping to catch. And then Friday went downhill as the 82A bus failed to show despite another driver swearing blind it had – it hadn’t. By the time we had a bite to eat and reached our hotel it was well past 9pm and a bit late given the runs to come.
The weather throughout the build up to the weekend first said it was going to be hot then it was going to be very wet. The Saturday weather was hot in the end so not ideal but better than the practical issues we’d have had if it had have rained instead. This was all not before I popped outside before the race to check on the weather – it was barely raining but in the end that was about the only rain we’ve seen so far this weekend.
The first race of the weekend then was the 5k run. Over 3,000 runners lined up for the start next to the BT Convention Centre by the Mersey. We all lined up in our pens and waited. A hush began to work back down the runners as everyone eventually realised there was a moment’s silence in remembrance of the Manchester attack – a silence that was impeccably observed and was quite eerie in itself.
As the waves of runners started we actually got to the start line before we expected to but our rhythm wasn’t particularly affected by it. What we didn’t know was that up ahead of us there was a huge problem as the first three waves of runners (or possibly two or four waves depending who you ask) followed a lead bike which had turned right in front of the Echo Arena rather than around the back of it meaning they cut about half a kilometre off the route. I don’t really know how, or if, it got resolved.
As expected there were a couple of bands on the course adding to the atmosphere
but it was over much too soon really in 32:47. The finish in the Echo Arena itself was a bit of a novelty but because it was really dark it was also really hard to see anything – that was a pain really. That evening we observed what is now our normal pre-race steak dinner – Miller and Carter really does come very highly recommended.
Today’s pre-race build up went well. The weather was about as good as possible with the exception of a pretty blustery wind coming in off the riverside. There was a delay to the start apparently caused by huge queues at the baggage drop area but we got going before long.
Sort of. The opening mile or so was very crowded so I started losing time on my two-hour target right away. The first 3k had me about half a minute down on schedule still with the hills to come. But I improved quickly and even on the hills themselves I kept up a good pace. About this time I saw a guy in a monkey suit and we seemed to trade places with each other for most of the first half of the run before he pulled clear with his running club group.
The second half of the race was just hard work. From about the 7k mark I saw I was on track for a time in the region of 1:57 but knowing I had time in hand didn’t seem to be a positive. My heart rate was under control but still higher than I’d have liked it to be. Heading for the halfway point I saw the two-hour pacer heading in the opposite direction. I knew from the course route there was a turnaround point but I had no idea exactly where so I initially had no idea how far I was behind the pacer. I think it must have been 7-10 minutes which, considering my finishing time, is a pretty poor effort I think. I’m glad I couldn’t find the pacer at the start else my race might have been very different.
The final stretch running north alongside the Mersey was long and a little dull, although the dodgy pavements certainly kept everyone alert and interested! I saw one guy nearly fall over with just a mile to go but luckily he didn’t. As is now normal for me, my final km was my fastest at only a touch over five minutes and it brought me a finishing time of 1:56:35 – taking something like over six minutes off my personal best and of course running under two hours for the half marathon for the first time.
I’m really hugely proud of that time which will put me in the top half of all half marathon runners this year. I paid for it though. As I said I’m really tired and a little sore but ultimately I think it was worth it! What a brilliant event though. Certainly hope to return sometime.
Sunday’s race was one I think I’ll always look back fondly on. It was hot, tiring and very very hilly and of course I absolutely loved it. Eventually.
The build up to the race really couldn’t have gone better as I’ve said previously. Injury free and probably in the form of my running life to date – Jean had been running brilliantly too so we’d really both been looking forward to what was actually Jean’s first race of the year.
The race morning build up went to plan. I had my strategy in mind of keeping my pace under control so as to aim not to blow up like last year. There was clearly a big field, as was shown by the eventual results showing 502 finishers, but it didn’t seem particularly crowded at all. I’d seen a couple of familiar faces before the start and then got chatting to someone who was visiting from California having just come for the race. The race began a little late but we got going and I found it to be slightly heavy going. I’m not sure it was crowded or whether there were just a lot of people who had lined up too far forward for their likely pace. There was certainly someone in the first kilometre or so getting in everyone’s way by walking and causing chaos, but otherwise getting to the foot of Vallee de Vaux was uneventful.
This graph was quite revealing when I’d seen it after the race. I felt like the first long climb of Vallee de Vaux was steady and fairly unremarkable. My heart rate was under control and my pace was fine. The pink trace in the graph is my time before or ahead of last year’s run, which is the black trace. That told me I’d lost a little over 30 secs in the opening of the race but had managed my energy loads better.
About halfway up Vallee de Vaux I’d caught the group around Henry Cavill. Last year he beat me by a couple of minutes but in 2017 I overtook him quite early. To be fair I think he was having fun with his family rather than actually racing. Fair enough really.
My strength this time was primarily on the big hills. There were 4 steeper hills and I probably gained most of my time on these – they are the sharp upticks on the graph where I walked last year.
But the hills wasn’t the whole story. I ran the final 5k in 27 minutes which was four minutes faster than the 2016 running. I’d kept plenty of energy back – my 13th kilometre was run in under 5 minutes which I’d find fairly quick for Parkrun, let alone the 13th kilometre of a hilly race.
In the end I finished in 1:13:17 – about five and a half minutes up on last year. Either the second or third most improved on last year’s times out of all those who’ve done both runs. A brilliant effort really and I loved it.
There was a really good atmosphere up at the Zoo at the finish and I enjoyed chatting with a few people I knew who were running or were waiting for someone else. I was tired and had worked hard but was very happy. I really hope they keep running this in 2018.
The next challenge now is Liverpool in a little under a couple of weeks and once again I can’t wait!