Thursday, August 8, 2013

Aiming for Athens - week 13

My summer holiday is over and being back to work makes finding the time for running more challenging but with a bit of planning I'm sure I'll manage. This week I only ran twice but since one of my runs was a race I think I did well anyway. In addition to my running I did daily stretching routines which turned out to be helpful for overcoming an ITB issue.

Wednesday: Because of the knee pain I experienced during my last longrun I decided to go slow and easy to see what would happen with the knee and set out to explore a few roads that have made me curious lately. Running went rather well and the new scenery was exciting but for the last bit I did feel a beginning pain on the outside of the left knee. I didn't worry too much since I occasionally experience this but have learned that with sensible running and stretching it usually disappears after some time. I was a little worried though, about doing a race on Friday and wondered if I should call it off but finally decided to give it a try. Probably a stupid decision but it all turned out well.

Friday:  Race report - Läckövarvet half marathon

Since a while back I had planned to take part in a half marathon race called Läckövarvet, which is held on the island Kållandsö in Vänern. Kållandsö is a beautiful part of the country and it is not more than an hour’s drive away. So in the afternoon my daughter Ellen and I headed towards the race area. We were going to combine the half marathon event with visiting my sister and her family on their sailing boat which is harbored on the island. We passed the race place just after 4 o’clock and I registered, then we visited with my sister’s family on the boat. We ate a snack and had some coffee and had a good time talking. After a while Ellen and her cousins went to play miniature golf and I changed into my running gear and headed for the start. My sister said they were coming to see me somewhere along the track and I told them that because of my knee issues last Sunday I would take it very easy and they could estimate around 7 to 7½ minutes per km to figure out when I would reach the point where they planned to show up.

The start was at 7 o’clock in the evening and at that time it was still 27C/80F and rather hot for running so I figured my plan of 7 min/km or slower would be a good approach. 

There was also a 8.4km race that started with the same gun shot and all of us ran together for a few kms then the 8.4 runners turned right and we, the half marathon runners, continued on the road. Up until that point the group of runners had stretched out a bit and, as it usually is in the beginning of a race, it was a little chaotic until we all had settled in for our preferred pace.  I had passed a couple of runners and some had also passed me. I had started at the back of the field to avoid irritation from others when I took my walk breaks. I started out with a 3/1 run/walk ratio to see how things went but as it turned out I was ok with that ratio for the whole distance. I even shortened the walk breaks to 30sec for the last couple of kms.

After we left the 8.4 runners to do their thing the chaos faded and tranquility emerged. At that point I knew I was second last but I didn’t mind, I was going to do the race my own way without worrying about other runners. There were just over 100 runners in the half marathon and apparently most of them were focused on racing and only a few of us seemed to be running without competing.  So I was second last and pleased with that, I could hear the woman behind me get closer as I was walking and also sense that the distance between us increased as I ran. I had a guy in a yellow shirt quite far ahead of me and the distance between us also changed as I did my interval thing.

We were running a paved road in the sunshine and heat and there was no wind and I wondered how I would manage. I was also concerned that my ITB related knee pain would flare up. I remember thinking “if it only holds up for 18 or 19 kms I will be able to finish. If the pain starts earlier than that I will quit, call my sister and they’ll have to come and pick me up”. I had prepared with diligent stretching over the week and now there wasn’t anything more I could do other than hope and send up some prayers. 

We soon turned into another road and even if the sun and the temperature was the same we now faced a gentle breeze, that wasn’t really cooling but nevertheless felt good. I realized I was gaining on the yellow shirt guy and left the woman further behind. My knee felt good and I was enjoying the evening. The scenery was beautiful with forests and fields around, lots of crickets and birds and I started to feel better and better. 

At 5km I realized I was running much faster than I had told my sister and wanted to prepare them for the possibility that they might miss me so I sent a text message during one of the walk breaks “5km in 30:25 I’m doing fine”. Soon after that I passed the yellow shirt and he looked tired. 

At 10 km I sent my sister another text message ”10km in 1hour and 1minute”

At half way the sun was beneath the treetops and the temperature seemed to drop - but I didn’t, I seemed to gain energy and kept going. Now I could see two runners in blue shirts far away in the distance, then we entered an area with more trees and the roads were twisting so I lost sight of them. For a while I was completely alone, I couldn’t see anyone behind me or in front of me and I was worried that I was running the wrong way. The track was well marked where the road split or the track turned but I had enjoyed the scenery for a while and I could have missed a sign but I soon found a km marker and knew I was on the right way. 

I met my sister, her family and Ellen just after 15km and it was so great to see them waving and I gained more energy from that. Then I passed one of the blue shirts and felt even stronger. 

On the island there is an old castle - Läckö slott - and the trail passed close to it, seeing that lit by the setting sun was a beautiful view that made me feel like I was running without touching the ground. Here is a photo of the castle
Even if I felt a bit like flying at this point I did see the castle from a slightly different angle.

I felt strong, my knee was doing fine, I passed a couple of runners and my supporters met up again. I felt great. I was even able to shorten the walk breaks and pick up the pace a little for the last bit towards the finish. 

When I entered the finish line my supporters were there to see me finish strong and as I ate a banana and drank some water they told me that I had looked stronger and had run lighter than many of the other runners. My shirt was soaking wet, not only from me sweating but also from the water I had pored over myself at the many waterstops. My strategy from start was to drink half a cup and the rest over my head but for the later part I had only sipped some water and pored most of it over me to keep cool. There were plenty of waterstops, in fact I think they had increased the number because of the heat. The race was well organized, the track was well marked, the surface was paved roads and gravel roads. There weren’t any hills to speak of even if it was a little undulating but most of all, the surroundings were absolutely beautiful. I’m so glad I did this race because it was fantastic fun all the way. I performed much better than I had dared to hope for, I think I finished as number 5 counting from the back, too late to attend the prize ceremony but the dressing room and the showers were less crowded. In fact, I think everyone else was heading towards their home when I took a shower. I was pleased that there was still hot water left for me.

On my Garmin I have one of the fields showing average time /km from the start and for a couple of kms between 10 and 15 km it showed around 6:15 or close to 6:20 /km but I managed to pick it up and reached a total average of less than 6 minutes /km, I’m very pleased with my performance and I had so much fun running the race. I finished in 2:05:45 which is 5 minutes or so slower than my PR but when analyzing afterwards I cannot see that I could have done it differently, especially in the heat. But I wasn’t aiming for a PR this time, my purpose was to enjoy running and that I did indeed.

A great running week with a fun race that also boosted my self confidence. It is looking good for future training. Total distance for the week 29.1km/18 miles.

No comments: