Wednesday, 8 October 2014

(Note quite) Great Scottish Run 2014 : Race Report

Pre-race Journey

My last week of preparation for doing the Great Scottish Run half marathon was a bit of train wreck - picking up four separate injuries, all relatively minor, but enough to stop me running through the week to give them time to heal.  I wrote up this sorry week first my in Triple Taper Trouble post, and then the evening before the race in my Should I stay or should go? post.

The last roll of the dice to fix things was getting a good nights sleep on the Saturday night before the race.  Despite being really tired and ready for sleep at 10pm I just couldn't get to sleep once I went to bed.  Hour after hour of tossing and turning, occasionally getting up to break the cycle, my body just wasn't wanting to switch off.  It's not unusual for me to struggle to sleep before a race, and it usually doesn't affect my performance too much, but on this occasion I needed the sleep to help patch up my calf injury.  Finally at must have been around 5:30am I actually got some sleep.

I woke at 6:40am before the alarms went off, I still felt tired but knew that the day had now begun and I needed to make a decision about whether to race and if possible before the alarm went off waking my wife Julia and the kids so they could have a lie in rather getting woken for no reason.  On getting up I was amazed to find my right calf feeling comfortable so I quickly got dressed it my race kit and headed out the door for a half mile test run to see if I I was good to go.

The wee run went went, I was able to cruise along comfortably at sub 7 min/mile pace.  Chuffed and relieved I got home and began the process of getting Osfield clan up, fed and out the door.  We headed off to Glasgow at 9:00am, arriving just before 10am.  We got parked and even had some time for some pre race shopping, heading into Forever 21 - we have three girls under 15 so sometimes one just has to go clothes shopping!!

My friend, Neil, based in Glasgow was also doing the half marathon so we met up and eventually coaxed the girls out of shopping mode and joined the masses all heading to Gorge Square.  When we arrived the White Wave runners were already well into assembling so I didn't have long to soak up the atmosphere together.

Julia and I, just after arriving at George Square
I stripped down into my race kit and then searched for a way into the White Wave section.  The barrier separating the square from the runners was unbroken all the way to far end of the Square where I got into throng.

Rather taken aback my just how many runners were lined up ahead I guess that surely thousands wouldn't be ahead of me at the finish so the nearer to the start I could get the less over taking I'd need to do. I weaved in and out until the "Warm Up" session began.

I'm really not the one of pre race aerobics, I'll go for a jog, do a couple of strides, perhaps some gentle dynamic stretches.  The whole crowd around me was getting well into, arms waving, trotting on the spot.  I played along doing a subset that I felt would warm me up, but stopped playing once the "Motivational Aerobics Guide" started directing everyone to do static stretches, telling us it's the most important part of warm up and required to prevent injuries.  I couldn't believe that someone so clueless sports science was being paid to guide tens of thousands on runners.  Pretty well everyone around me joined in with the static stretches.  Jikes, does no-one take any interest in studies into sports science?

My girls who were stationed just next to the start  amused themselves that I'd be shaking my head at the insanity of doing static stretches before a race as they know me too well.  They also noted the fact that the elites were not following the warm routine, or doing static stretches, they were jogging and doing strides for warm up...

Ready to race

Thankfully the "Warm Up" finished and left us a few minutes with the announcements of the who was attending in the elite field. Haile Gebrselassie was last to be announced and got a great roar of support from the field.

Race plan:

11 days before the race I had a great 8.3 mile tempo run, where I gradually increased pace from a 6:44 pace down to 5:50 paced last mile, my average pace for the route was 6:32.  My average HR was 171, pretty high for a tempo run but then it was the fastest tempo run I had ever run, the last mile my HR was reached 180 but even with this high heart rate my breathing was under control and my legs felt strong and responsive. The speed came easy.

This tempo run really set expectation high, if I could run that well again on race day a big PB would be mine for sure, perhaps even 1:26 or below.  My Trossachs 10k just after my temp run I nailed as well.  6:22 pace at an average HR of 174.

Then things fell apart in the last week with injuries and enforced rest.  My resting HR had also gone from 44 mid-week to 50 by the end of the week.  Even with my right calf and feet healing up through the week I was still aware that my calves were twitchy at night  Then straining my calf turning over in my bed two days before the race was just crazy.  I had gone from a finely tuned athlete to a twitching, creaky tinder box.

So race plan of a big PB at run well below 6:40 pace turned into a plan to try and bag a PB, this meant a sub 1:28:58 time, or 6:47 pace.  With all the strides I've made in fitness this year I still felt that this should be doable.  For simplicity I set myself a loose guideline 6:40 pace as this is exactly 9 mile in a hour, so hitting 3, 6 and 9 miles at 20, 40 and 60 minutes respectively.  If I could manage this then I'd be on for a 1min 30 sec PB.

The half marathon race I ran back in 2010 when I set my PB my average HR was 169, but that day there was a frost, so expected on normal running day to see a high average HR.  My analysis of HR vs time during races suggested an average HR of 170 to 171 was likely range I might be able to achieve, so planned to race at around this HR for the majority of the race race, and let my HR go higher during the last two miles racing to the finish.

Race start: 

The starters gun went off, the crowd roared by nothing happened for all those around me.  After a few seconds we all begun a shuffle forwards then a walk, then as we progressed to the start line proper we finally got into a jog.  I haven't been in really big race since like this since the Edinburgh Marathon back in 2010 so it was a bit of shock.

Once across the line we were into an easy paced run, no-one around me seemed to be racing, it seemed more sedate that many ultras I've done.  I looked in and was dumb struck by the sight of the sea of runners ascending the hill up St. Vincent's street.  The road was completely packed with runners both across and up the road.  I really have no clue how many were ahead, but it seemed like thousands.

The shear number of runners ahead and the easy pace that all were moving at was not at conducive to me doing a PB, 8 min/mile pace wouldn't do so I picked up the pace and begun weaving between runners, squeezing along the curb between the runners and crowds.

By the top of the hill there was a little more space, and to cheer us along a large Choir was singing with great spirit which was fun to witness.  Down the other side of the hill the field stretched out as far I could see and I did my best to relax and let gravity pick up the pace for me.  My pace dropped to sub 6 min/mile pace quite easily but suddenly my closing speed to other runners became a nightmare so quick footwork and dodging barriers and curbs was required.

I charged to the bottom having picked up dozens of places by my HR had suddenly shot over 170, so I took note to ease off a little.  It still felt I had lots quite a bit of time with the slow start so was expecting to behind my 6:40 target.

The 1st mile marker appeared shortly after we crossed the M8, with only 6:32 on my watch.  I was rather perplexed at this, but also encouraged - if I had done the first hilly mile with all the congestion so fast then perhaps I might be on for a decent PB after all.  After the week I had I knew not to get carried away, and with my HR creeping above 170 I deliberately eased off a little, and concentrated on running smoothly.  Well as smoothly as one can when constantly trying to squeeze between slower runners.

Motorway Racing!

The second mile took us up the slip road off the M8 and onto the Kingston Bridge. It's a bridge I've driven over my times so it was quite bizarre to crossing it on foot.  The views were about as good as they get in Glasgow so I took it all in briefly between the weaving.

Mile two came and I had lots a little time with the climb over the bridge, then on the other side and on our tour of the South side of Glasgow.  Mile three came in 19:47, comfortably under my target of 20:00, so I was still going well and the pace felt comfortably hard, but at this stage seemed like it would be manageable for the rest of the race.

My heart rate however was saying other things, it was now well heading up to the mid 170's, a heart rate that I'd see in 10k race, not with 10 miles to go in a half marathon.  The day was only going to get warmer, my body wasn't going to magically find the pace easier, so either I'd need to get used to the super high heart rate and risk crashing and burning, or back off and accept that my PB was out of reach.

Mile 3 to half way

The second half of the 4th mile the route ascends up St. Andrews Drive, I continued to steadily pass other runners, weaving my way through or going round the outside.   The hill came at a cost hough, my heart rate headed up over 175 for the first time, and I also had dropped behind my target of averaging 6:40 miles.

At the end of St. Andrews Drive the route turns left along Higgs Road, and as I approached this junction I say the lead 5 runners passed on the opposite side of road having just finished their loop through Pollock Park.  It was great to spot them, but I didn't spot Haile Gebrselassie amongst them and so suspected that something must have been amiss for him.  After the race I was saddened to see that he pulled out of the race.

Soon after the route headed into Pollok Park, and when going past Burrell Collection I picked up a bottle of lucozade from the aid station.  I figured taking up some fluid and sugar might be a good thing, but boy it's taste boggin.  I was tempted to discard the bottle soon after picking it up, but for my race thought it better to at least get a couple hundred ml down.  Yuck... the things you do when chasing a PB!

Shortly after passing the Burrell you head up hill into woodland.  The grip on my Nike Widlhorse was pretty crap on the greasy road, it's really a trail shoe, but still was annoying to waste a little energy on every stride.  The hill takes you to the highest point on the route, but surrounded by trees there no vista, but it sure was nice to no be running through city streets for a few minutes.

At the 6 mile maker my time was 40:19, so I'd slipped off my 6:40 average pace target, but with expected the downhills to come I'd be able to claw back some of this time.  After the 6 mile marker there was the 10k timing mat, and I then expected a marker for the half way point, but none came.  Instead we popped out of Pollok Park and back on Higgs Road, heading north.

Half way to mile 9

The rate that I was passing runners was now beginning slow, partly due to the field spreading out a little at last, but also the differential speed was getting less. Was I slowing?  Or was it simply that I had caught the faster runners?

I passed through the 7 mile marker, with the aid of little downhill and pushing hard I had completed the last mile in 6:39.  Achieving this had come at cost - my heart rate was now hitting 178.  Also over the last couple of miles the first signs of muscle fatigued had started to make an appearance - both calves were feeling over used and had a little discomfort in my right knee.

I passed through the 8 mile mark just before entering Bellahouston Park, with a flat mile just covered in 6:49, but with no let up in my own effort level, it was now increasingly clear that maintaining 6:40 pace wasn't going to be possible.  My job now was to hang on for the best I could.

For the first half of the race I had found the effort level "comfortably hard" but now it had just become "hard".  For a little light relief at the 8.5 mile mark there was a commentator giving runners high fives and general proclaiming how great we looked and not long to go... It was a fun distraction to get into the spirit and given him and the others in the small crowd a high five too. 

Mile 9 came with a 6:51 mile, shortly after we headed out from Bellahouston Park.  Just before leaving I got a view of my the House of the Art of Lover, back in 2000 I worked there for a year as a Virtual Reality Researcher so it was nice to see bit of personal history.

Mile 10 to the finish

After exiting Bellahouston Park the route headed to Ibrox.  The route was flat but I still felt it a struggle.  While I was still catching groups of runners ahead, there was no often gaps in between so bridge the gap would take a while of running on my own.  Another 6:50 mile passed, so I had started too loose the buffer I had built up ahead of my 1:28:58 PB.  Any mile slower than 6:47 and I loosing ground.

I just hung on for the best I could, and turn my thoughts to the last mile and half along the Clyde - I was determined to run this strong and put everything I had left out on the course.  Just before mile 11 I runner behind me had start talking *really* loudly, I just wanted to concentrate on my winning own battle - not deal with bolshy runners that felt the need to comment on anything and everything.

Eventually the runner passed with a gaggle of other runners wearing the same vest, then it dawned on - he was pacing a set of club runners and coaxing them all to PB's.  This burst the bubble of annoyance that had built up.  However, to just annoy me back they all cruised passed and despite my best attempts to stay with them they moved away.  Running past the BBC centre we reached the mile 11 marker and I had slowed more, 6:54 now.

Shortly after we went of the squinty bridge and then headed east along the north shore of the Clyde, 1.6 miles of flat tarmac to cover.  The 12 mile mark seemed to take an eternity to reach.  It was the home straight so I was steadily upping the effort level to try finish strong, my heart rate headed over 180.  My calves and now my quads too were fried, every step was an effort and filled with pain. Despite the intense effort my pace was slowing, I passed the the 12 miler marker with my pace having slip to over 7min/mile pace for the first time.

I tried my best to work out how much time I had left to do the last 1.11 miles to secure a PB, I had around 7:40 which meant that I'd had get back down to below 7 min/mile pace.  For all my effort I just couldn't pick up the pace, my HR was heading over 180, I was in more pain than in another race I'd done this year, putting in more effort by the speed was just bleeding away.

I set myself targets of runners to catch ahead but for the most part they just stayed the same distance ahead, but stronger runners passed us.  I normally the one finishing strong in races, here I was with my body failing and no amount of will power could drive my legs faster.

The painful drag along the Clyde eventually finished and after a quick left right we headed into Glasgow Green with the finisher line ahead.  As the I looked down at my watch, I had a minute seconds left to get my PB, it looked possible but it was so hard to know just how far it was to the finish.  The crowds were great and as I approached the finish it looked like I was going to so close.  I gave it everything I had in the 100m sprint to try and secure a PB.

I crossed the line and stopped my watch and walked forwards to clear the finish in a world of pain.  Breathless, exhausted, my legs shattered.  I looked down at my watch 1:29:02.

4 seconds slower than my PB.  All that effort, everything that I had to give, and I was 4 seconds too slow.  My year long PB streak was over.


Stats: Average HR 175, Max HR 185 (during "sprint" finish)
          355th overall, 32nd in 45-50 age category, 1:29:02

Post Race:

I collected my medal and goody bag and then headed out onto the Green to meet Julia and the kids.  They had watched me finish from the Grandstand.  We waited for Neil to finish, which he did in 1:48, rather outside where he'd like to have been, but work and life had got in the way of consistent training so it's a time he expected.  Together we walked the mile back to the car and then had very enjoyable lunch at Neil's house on the Southside - thanks Neil :-)

All afternoon I hobbled round in pain.  My body had taken a bigger hammering than when I've done full marathons, really not far off where I was after running the 95 miles of West Highland Way back in June.  I'll leave trying to work why I struggled so much to a follow "Lessons Learn Post".

On the drive home, Julia thankfully drove as I was in no real shape to, but why I was shattered I didn't get to sleep. My daughters did though, payback is taking a photo and posting a photo of them, aren't they adorable ;-)

Drive home, three tired girls... who won't forgive me for this photo!

1 comment:

  1. A great description and indeed a great race, despite the disappointment of missing a PB by 4 seconds.