Race Report – Three Forts Half Marathon

The Three Forts Half Marathon

Pre-race

I arrived at Hill Barn Playing fields after my normal Sunday morning 0-5k group run. This served as a nice warm-up without taxing the legs too much, although I probably wouldn’t do it if was a serious target race.
The sun was shining and it was warm enough to strip down to race kit nice and early. I went through my normal warm-up routine and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere around the start-line.
An old family friend of mine, Andy (Wiggy) had come down from the Midlands to run the full, his first marathon and I found him looking nervous amongst the 700 or so people milling around. I reminded him of a 3k fun-run we’d done together, we must have only been about 6 years old. Our Dad’s then went on to do the 5 or 10k race afterwards but we weren’t allowed to do that one. Wiggy didn’t remember any of this and I don’t think it helped settle his nerves!

team tuff
Me, Sim and Dom

At 10am the full marathoners were off and the number of people in the field was reduced by half. I had a pre-race chat with Simone and Dom from my Tri Club (Tuff Fitty) and Simon, my wingman from ShoreFit run club. We were all in high spirits and really looking forward to having a nice run on the South Downs.
As we posed for a Tuff Fitty team photo, we suddenly heard the Town Crier ringing his bell and shouting GO! – for a moment we thought we’d missed the start of our race but he was only setting off the Cani-X runners! Phew!

With a few minutes to go, I made my way to the front row of the start line and got ready to go.

Mile 1-2
Another ring of the Town Criers bell and we were off, I found myself part of a group of 4 runners as we made the first climb up Cissbury Ring. 500ft of ascent later and we’d already put quite a gap on the next group.
We rounded the top and went full throttle into the chalky descent around the back. I’d opted for my retired Adidas Adios 2’s for this race as they’ve got nothing left in them for the roads but I thought they’d be OK on dry trails. Some of the chalk paths were baked as hard as concrete and I was kind of wishing I’d gone for something with a bit more cushioning left in them.
I grabbed a cup of water at the first aid station and failed miserably at getting any more than 2 drops into my mouth.

Mile 3
This section is normally pretty quick, I should be going at sub-7min pace along here quite comfortably……only I’m not. The guys in front of me are moving away and I’ve got a crippling pain trying to fold me in half.
I thought it was a stitch at the time, and I blamed/cursed those water drops a few moments earlier. With hindsight, I recognise that the effort I’d put in going up and down the first hill had given me abdominal cramps, it was nothing to do with the water and it wasn’t a stitch. I slowed my pace and as I tried to get control of my body again I was caught by the next group of runners.

Mile 4-7
Uphill…..Uphill…..then a bit more Uphill. Another 500ft upwards. Resulting in fine views from Chanctonbury Ring of both the North and South Downs. Managed to negotiate a couple of cattle grids at the top by running straight over them rather than waste time with the National Trust gates. One of the few benefits of size 12 running shoes.

Mile 8-10
Downhill, in varying degrees. Culminating in a quad-smashing 12% descent. All this sounds wonderful, and it was a great opportunity to get my breath back a bit, but it destroyed my legs just before I hit one of the hardest climbs of the race.

Miles 11-13.1
I was passed here by numerous runners, I muttered a “well-done” and felt like an extra weight had been added to my legs with each one that went by. The last climb up Cissbury ring reduced me to walking, although it was probably more efficient than my running at that point.

The bit that I had been dreading the most was the final downhill section. Its a single track chalk trail that I always avoid in training. Its rutted with a deep uneven groove where the rain drains away and you have to zigzag down it, leaping over the chasm, praying that you don’t turn an ankle. A chap in a yellow vest flew past me with the ease of a mountain goat, I honestly don’t know how he could be so sure-footed here, fair play.

I finally emerged onto the playing field where it all began, ankles intact, and mustered up the strongest finish I could manage. I heard my name being called by the commentator. I could see literally 10’s of people clapping and cheering. I crossed the line in 1:42:24. Not bad. (The winners time was 1:27:xx for an indication of how tough the course is – his marathon PB is 2:46)

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Post Race

The mayor put a medal around my neck and I promptly fell over. The medal wasn’t heavy, it wasn’t like an anvil, I just couldn’t stand up anymore.
I looked over at the massage tent and decided to crawl over and get a post-event rub down whilst there was no queue.
My wife and son came and found me on the table, and then we all went and cheered on some of the finishers until the boy got restless.

Reflections

I wanted to see what my limitations were with this race and to try and get in amongst the leaders. I very quickly found out that I need to do more hill-work, and perhaps some more core-work if I want to put myself near the front here.
I’ll definitely be back to race this one next year and aiming to better my 18th position.
Out of my pre-race goals (see here) I missed both A (Top 3) and B (Top 10), but pleased to not come away injured which was my C goal, should probably make this a general life goal.
I had slight tingling in my feet at the end which I’m attributing to my shoe choice, simply not enough cushioning for hard packed descents. Grip wasn’t an issue though and it was nice to give them a farewell race.

Final word

A great race over a beautiful challenging course, with cheerful marshals, well stocked aid stations and excellent post-race facilities. With under 1000 runners across the 2 events, the organisers still lay on free (charitable donation) massage and all the cakes/pastries you can eat as well as a finishers medal. We were blessed with fine weather this year which made it all the more enjoyable.

Highly Recommended!

medal

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#Swimrun Training – Week 4

Total Miles: 18 Miles 
Average Pace:
 7:54min/mile (approx best guess)
Longest Run: 13.2 miles – 3 Forts Half Marathon – 73% of total
Speedwork: 0

Sometimes life just gets in the way of all the miles you’d like to put in.

LIFE

My wife has been running a wellbeing retreat this week, its the first full one she’s set up and hosted and I’m massively proud of what she’s achieved. She’s done everything from finding the venue, setting up the website and making all the bookings,  to delivering Pilates and Health Coaching sessions. Not to mention all the cooking that went with it. She landed features in some great magazines along the way and importantly learnt some valuable lessons to take forwards into the next one. (which is running from 11/7/16 to 15/7/16 if you’re interested!)

Whilst she was out doing this, I had my ITEC Sports Massage Level 4 exam to work towards (And also a folder full of case studies and assignments to submit). So every evening after the boy was in bed, I had time to apply myself fully to this task. The first half of the week went by in a bit of a desperate blur, I think there was a 3am, a 2am and a 1am finish on consecutive nights whilst I put the finishing touches to my folder.

Saturday morning arrived and I was a bag of nerves as I made my way over to Brighton for my practical exam. I was comfortable with the client assessment and the treatment but I was really stressed out about the questions that the examiner was going to ask me whilst I was working.
My client helpfully through a few curveballs at me before the exam started by telling me that almost every part of her legs had some sort of niggle. This gave me something else to think about rather than the stress.
An hour later, and I was told I’d passed – I am now a Level 4 Sports Massage Therapist.

I went home and ran the final 2 miles I needed to get me up to my target for April. Boom! Thats 2 goals in one day!

My week finished with the 3 Forts Half Marathon on Sunday – which you can read about in my race report. Unfortunately, my watch won’t upload the data so I guess that means I’m just going to have to go out and run it again, I’m glad its on my doorstep.

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3 Forts Half 2016 – Pre-Race Goals

I normally keep my race goals to myself, that way I don’t suffer embarrassment if I don’t meet my ambitions.

But…..in my March roundup I set myself and published some race goals for the 5k I did last week. I set A,B and C goals, all of which were better than any time I’d ever run before – and proceeded to surpass all of them.

So I thought I’d do the same for the Three Forts Half Marathon I’m running on Sunday. Why not eh?

I’ve never raced a Half Marathon before, so I’ve got no official race time to beat. In training, Strava tells me that my best HM time is 1:28:31 so maybe I should aim to go quicker than that? It was last Feb after all.

The problem here, is that the 3 Forts route is very hilly, and that time was set on a very flat run. So I look back at my training and find….. this. I’ve run the race route before in training, and very nice it was too. My time back then, Boxing Day of 2013, was 1:48:17. Why the hell was I out running in the afternoon of Boxing Day 2013?

Whilst I’m confident I can beat that, I’m not so sure about going under 1:28.

I know, I’ll feed my recent 5k time into the Jack Daniels pace calculator. That will give me a pace to aim for on the flat sections…

pace

Ha! You’ve got to be kidding me – not sure I’m in that sort of shape Jack!

So I’m just going to go out and RACE

And I mean Properly race, not looking at my watch, not worrying about going too fast in the middle section and not fearing blowing up at mile 11. I don’t care if the wheels come off as it will show me where my limits are. Maybe watching my pace is holding me back and I should run to feel a bit more. Or maybe I’ll report back here next week describing how I went though all sorts of delusional pain just to maintain a walk of shame.

So, following on from a 4th place finish in my last race, I figure that my A goal should be to improve on that.

Goal A
Top 3 (even I’m not stupid enough to aim for the win)

Goal B
Top 10 (I think even this will mean a tough run)

Goal C
Survive the race without twisting an ankle!

Lofty goals there, but as you can see from the last one, I’m really just planning on enjoying the race. I really enjoyed being at the pointy end of the action in my last outing and I want to recapture that feeling in this one.

I want to be surging up hills, making breakaways, and collecting prizes. I realize that I’m probably not quite there yet but hey, I can see how long I can hang on in there for!