Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon

Since the Burton 10k I've been on holiday to the deep south of the USA.  Any idea of doing any serious running was pretty much straight out of the window when in the heat of the day it was hitting anything up to 42c.  The heat itself was the smaller problem, what made it pretty much unbearable was the humidity - even first thing in the morning when it was c. 30c the only way to cool down post run was a cold shower.  It was also strange that often my trainers would not dry out during the heat of the day due to the humidity and quickly made them quite pongy!  The focus was therefore just to get some time on my feet and not indulge too much in the unavoidable junk food that prevails in the USA.

Four weeks today I have the Bournemouth Marathon and frankly I had no idea what kind of pace I should be looking at.  I've done virtually no long run pace/tempo work which has concerned me for a while now.  Even the races I've done in the last few months were not very informative as either there were off road sections or significant hills.  My guesstimate going into today's race was that I was looking at something in the 70.15 - 71.15 range versus my PB at the Bristol HM of 69.31 which I did in the few weeks leading up to when I won the Chester Marathon in 2017.

My plan was to try and avoid going too deep early in the race and for a change not be holding on after half way which is pretty much how it normally turns out!  I knew any chance of being near the front of this race was next to nil, partly as the winning times have always been much much faster than my PB but also as I lined up I noticed some seriously good athletes with PBs in the low 60's.  That was the whole point of this race though for me, to be in a race where I was with others that help to push me along.

At the start I ended up getting pushed back as several runners came late to the start line.  Although initially annoyed I was quite relaxed about it as it reduced the chances of me pushing too hard at the start.  The first km involved a short sharpish descent and then a gentle climb which continued up to about 1.5km.  As usual I was some way back, to the point where I wasn't really sure what position I was in but would guess around 20th, but gradually moved through the field bit by bit to about 13th or so.  At 1.5km we moved onto the dam wall to complete a circuit of the the lake and at this point I could count how many were ahead.  I was now 10th; 1st and 2nd were miles ahead, 3rd - 5th were spaced out and then there was me in a fairly sizeable group of about 7 with me in the middle.  This was really good as it meant there was a pack of us all doing a similar pace and working off each other.

 Just after the dam where a chasing pack formed with me just behind the lead of it at this stage.

Chasing down 5th just ahead.

Gives an idea of the size of the group that started to form.

As the first few km passed my splits were clearly ahead of my 3.18 PB average but none the less I felt fairly reasonable.  That said, due to the twisty nature of the course and the tree cover the splits were at best a guide so made it difficult to rely on too much (hence why even as a geeky numbers man I'm not quoting them as much as usual in this blog post).

Between 5-10k I was now comfortably uncomfortable so whilst I felt okish, at the same time I didn't know whether my pacing strategy was the right one.  At this stage I was either at the lead of our group or more often just behind the lead runner.  Due to my position it was therefore difficult to really get a feel of how many others were still in our group.  We were working really well together and our pacing was good, so much so, that we had caught and passed 5th and the gap to 4th and 3rd were now static.  As we continued towards the half way mark we were now gradually catching both runners.  I was now feeling more uncomfortable than comfortable but not so much so that I felt like I was going to blow up.

Lake Vyrnwy - Really picturesque

Our splits remained remarkably consistent, if anything had possibly got slightly faster, so much so that the group was starting to thin out.  It was also at around 12k(ish) that we had caught 4th and a further km up the road we rapidly passed a tiring 3rd.  At 14km I was now feeling very uncomfortable and it was becoming difficult to hold onto my pace.  That said, the group I was with by this point had more or less split and I was joint 3rd with another runner from my original group plus the runner who was 4th earlier on being dragged along with us.  At about 16k the third runner we were dragging along started to fade so now it was me and one other.  My pace to this point was still really good in the 3.11 to 3.19 territory and I was pretty confident that barring a total blow up I was going to PB.  Even at this stage it was still really difficult to work out a possible finish time - my Garmin was suggesting 68.55ish, but at the same time the road mileage markers suggested we were a little further up the road than the GPS thought.  All still to play for.

With 4.5km to go my head was screaming at me to just drop back as I was now clearly starting to hit the red zone.  I knew deep down that 3rd place was now really unlikely as my legs were starting to really fill with lactic and the only thing that kept me glued to the other runner I was with was the fact that if I dropped back I would probably fade rapidly.  Whilst my pace was still good my splits suggested a slide fade into the 3.15 - 3.18 range and I just couldn't hold onto him any longer.  Looking over my should I noted that the runner we had dropped a few km earlier was still on our tail and only about 30 metres back.

With 2km to go I was probably only about 10 metres back from 3rd and about 20 metres ahead of 5th.  I just tried to keep going and with a shortish ascent I was starting to lose the connection between my legs and my head!  Thankfully it was over pretty quickly and the final km was mostly downhill.  I crossed the line in 68.11 with 3rd place about 13 seconds ahead of me and 5th about 5 seconds behind.

Despite not quite having the legs to finish 3rd I'm pretty sanguine about it, the bigger thing for me was that I smashed my PB by about 1.20.  It means two things - a) that despite lack of pace work my fitness was far far better than I have given credit for and b) as my previous PB was set in the lead up to Chester Marathon it bodes well for Bournemouth in four weeks time.

About to finish.

Some interesting titbits (at least for me!) was that such was my pace today that it was only 1 second a mile slower than my current 10k PB, otherwise it was pretty much faster than any other race I've ever done even at shorter distances!  I'm under no illusion that a good chunk of this was due to having a great group early on that shared the pace; I have no doubt that was I by myself I would have otherwise gone much slower, but hey that's the whole point of racing.

Indicative 5km splits.

The splits above are nothing more than indicative and I must have gone quite a bit faster than these to make my finish time work.  Nonetheless the relative pacing does feel about right - the first 5km was comfortable and fairly consistent through to 10k.  There was then a slight injection of pace resulting in the runners ahead getting caught before it being a case of holding on a bit towards the end.  However, there was no discernible fade towards the finish which shows that overall my pace was more or less right.

To say I'm pleased is an understatement; it doesn't guarantee anything for Bournemouth in four weeks but it at least shows I'm fit and mentally it puts me in a better and more confident place.  Roll on Bournemouth (other than a cheeky 5 miler next week!).


  1. Good read that mate. Good luck at Bournemouth 👍🏻


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