The ABC Half Marathon has been going on now for nearly 8 years in Alice Springs, Australia. It’s a four loop course with a small incline that becomes a hill by the 4th climb. It’s a whopping $5 entry fee with same day race registration. I was looking forward to this race since the last time I ran it in 2012 I had gone 1:32. I skipped 2013 since my plantar fasciitis was in full rage and in 2014 I was on my honeymoon in Europe. This time, we were in the end of rest and test week coming off a 3 week Base 1 Build in our preparations for Ironman Australia. Days before, I was planning to race it. But, the day before when doing a 30minute warm up for a 30minute all-out-effort test (to determine Heart Rate Zones), I slightly sprained my ankle on the curb. It was quite acute, and I had to run/walk home. As a result of being unable to run, I headed to the pool and went 4x1K going 3.8K in 1:05:22 with rests, went to a baby shower for a friend, and then went to the gym for a 90min recovery ride while reading Omnivores Dilemma and watching “Ice Cold Gold” at Anytime Fitness – Alice Springs. We went to a friends place for dinner, a vegetarian bean stew, bread, desert, and a glass of Cabernet.
We woke at 5:50AM the next day. I put on the shoes and went for an 800 meter run, just to see if I could even run. Turns out I was able to but the quads felt awful. We had just come off of 8 straight weeks of solid training. Prep averaging 18.5 hours per week, and Base 1 which increased from 20.5, 25, and then 28 hours of training. The “rest” week went down to 14.5 and included lifetime personal bests in the 1K swim of 15:37 and a 30min Functional Threshold Power test of 325 watts, the highest reading I’ve ever had. So, yea. I headed back inside and told Fiona, “I can run, but i’m not racing it.”
I ate a coles bakery muffin, regular red bull, and right before the run a 200calorie Clif Shot Bloks. We registered, toed the line, and took off wearing sunnies, anytime fitness singlet, and shorts. The 36 halfers and additional 5kers and teams all headed out. Fiona quickly jumped in front of me and we ran down the street. We had agreed that we would run it together even at the start. I eased into it and was running around some competitive athletes and felt Fiona was going a bit harder than just “taking it easy”. We turned, ran up the hill, and I was still with the pack but now starting to move on Fiona. I wasn’t really checking HR or Pace, just going with the group. At the turn and down the hill, the pack remained. I felt strong and didn’t feel anaerobic. I quickly became competitive and started to make a few moves to get some reactions. At 2.5K in, I decided to make a move and never looked back. Why? Well, the foot felt fine and I don’t know how to just train through a race. For me, I don’t know what the point would be. A race is an event, something you purposely go to, register, and toe a line to. I had never just trotted through a race, and quickly determined I wasn’t going to do it today. During the race, I thought of my wife and was hoping that she was using me as a target. I knew she could have a great race even with her doing the 30minute test the day before, on top of all the training.
So, I pushed into the wind and slight incline of Ross River Highway, pushed it down the backside of the road the start/finish line was on, maintained strength on the hill and had one of the most consistent races I’ve ever had. No nutrition since I hadn’t planned on racing it, but water at each aid station which should definitely have been filled up more!
Below are pace and heart rate graphs, you can see how consistent the effort was.
I was maintaining 6:42 or 6:43 per mile or on average the whole time and looked at the clock on each quarter. 22:06, 44:08, 66:27, 88:29. So the 3rd quarter was the toughest and the 4th quarter looks to be a tie as the fastest. I ran down Jamie Lines on the 3rd lap after picking up 50 meters on him over the prior 5K and was able to build a bit of mental strength. I think he faded while I was able to maintain. Vaughan absolutely flew past me on lap 4. No idea what he was doing since I had maintained but I think the man should have gone out harder! I came in 6th out of 36 but was well off 4minutes from the lead pack which went 1:19-1:24.
Now for some tips and analysis. OK, so this was the 2nd fastest half marathon I’ve ever done. The first was the Harwhich Cranberry Half in 2010 where my 1:27:03 was good enough for 20th out of 847 and 5th of 77 in my age group. The top 2 in my a/g that day came 1/2 going 1:11 and 1:13. Wow. I went 1:34:32 6 weeks earlier as well. So what did I do to improve so much?
Strength Training 3x per week, Hills on Thursdays (4-6 up&overs ANZAC) , Long Runs on Saturdays (2hours), 56K on average per week. That is it. I didn’t do any speedwork but was CONSISTENT. And THAT is the KEY. Because of the PURPOSE in all of these workouts, my body was able to MAINTAIN the EFFORT for the entire half marathon. Additionally, I was able to maintain a higher rate 145 vs 142 which roughly translates to faster speeds. The last thing would be weight. I have lost about 2KG or 4-5 pounds in the last 6 weeks. Primarily due to the vegetarian mostly vegan diet. Having been vegetarian for nearly 7 months now, both Fiona and I have found this to be extremely beneficial to our nutrition and training. Doubt me? Do it yourself. By the way, there is more iron, calcium, and protein, in spinach on a weight comparison than there is in Beef. Look it up.
It took me 9 months training for Geelong 70.3 and Ironman Australia in 2015 to perform to the level I did. And now in a new season, I’m stronger, faster, and lighter than I have ever been after 8 weeks. I want to thank the ABC for putting on a quality race, the volunteers for their support, the top runners on the day to keep me honest, and my wife for inspiring me with a 10minute improvement in 6 weeks and a personal best with her 2nd place finish. I hope some of these insights can benefit you and hope you realize that with a little bit of consistency and effort, improvement is achievable.
Next Race: 3 weeks, Alice Springs Running Festival Marathon.
Final Tip: I ran 13.2 miles, not 13.1. Had I ran 13.1 miles my time would have been 1:27:48. http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/4/4_1/96.shtml is my tool for pacing. Now this equates to a 3:04:36 marathon http://www.runbayou.com/jackd.htm. So what will I do? I went 3:18 in the 2011 Alice Springs Marathon (non-quality training), 3:28 in the 2014 Alice Springs Marathon (2wks training after honeymoon), and 3:19 in the Coober Pedy Marathon (2wks after Ironman Australia with 3:36). My PB of 3:06:15 is from November 2010. But, the next weeks of training will be 22, 26.6, 29.5 hrs…. So, I am going to predict a time of 3:09 but your guess is as good as mine. Stay tuned to find out!