I've been a bit uninspired to write recently but that doesn't mean I haven't been running. Nothing fast since the Parkrun as I was cutting back on the intensity in the lead up to my first real goal race of this year, yesterdays Great Limerick Run Half Marathon. It was my eldest's birthday over the weekend so both kiddos got dragged along to Limerick with me for the weekend so I wouldn't feel too guilty for being away from them. Mother of the year award right here!!
We arrived at the race expo at the University of Limerick with the minimum of hassle just after noon on Saturday. No queue to pick up the race number which is great but to be honest I've never really had hassle with that so I don't know why I worry about it. There was a bit of a queue for the goody bags but that mostly seemed to be due to a gaggle of not particularly organised/bothered girls who were looking after that part of things. They didn't seem to have any sort of system organised and they created a bit of a bottleneck with a lot of volunteers standing around with nothing to do just down the table from them. Anyway I got out of there eventually and had a quick look around the expo. I wouldn't have minding having a better look around or a cup of coffee there but as I knew I was heading into an expensive weekend I thought it was a better option to get out with my wallet untouched!
The traffic getting out of the expo was predictably awful and not helped by the first of the rain but we got to the hotel in the end and checked in. It was fine....nothing fancy but comfy beds and not too noisy so that was what mattered. Also about three minutes walk from the start line as it happens which was just lovely. The joy of not having to use any of the portable toilets provided is difficult to measure in euros....probably well worth the price of the room alone.
I had a light dinner the night before the race and a fairly substantial breakfast (kaiser roll with 1 sausage and 1 egg) as I figured that with an 11:45 race start I would be starving if I had something too light but didn't want to go mad altogether and have a full Irish or something and feel like a nap at 10:30!
The nerves had set in by about 10:00 and I was raring to go but I managed to hold off on heading down to the start until about 11: 30....mostly cos I told a friend also doing the half not to let me go down too early!
I lined up about 10 rows back from the 1:50 pacers thinking that was plenty close. This was a mistake and next time I'm going to superglue myself to them on the start line! Not much fanfare for the start...a bit of a countdown and we were off!
The problem with the start area was that it was about 4 times as wide as the arch we had to go through for the start so by the time we got through that bottleneck I couldn't see the pacers at all. Minor panic! I caught sight of them a few minutes later but they were at least 40 seconds ahead at this stage. Needless to say I decided not to do any sprinting this early in the game and set my mind to catching them by 5 miles. This worked out ok and I did catch them on schedule but it did make my pace feel a bit harder than it needed to for the first few miles which was mentally a bit tough. I found myself feeling a bit negative at how hard I was finding the pace and had to give myself a good talking to. I concentrated on smiling even though I didn't feel like it (and it might have looked like a grimace to onlookers) and this helped my mental state quite a bit. By mile 6 I settled in right behind the pacers and gave myself a bit of a breather.
From here until 10 I let myself relax and be dragged along by the group. The pacers were great and didn't go too mad banking time but gave us enough leeway to not have to kill ourselves totally on the hills. To be honest the hardest part of this section was keeping an eye out for kerbs, speedbumps and the infuriating traffic cones, the latter of which seemed to have been placed mostly at random!
By mile 10 I had gotten my breathing back under control and I knew I had to push on now if I was going to. I moved in front of the pacers on a downhill and used that momentum to give myself a nice little gap without blowing too much energy. With 3 miles to go at this stage I knew I could afford to push myself further out of my comfort zone so I tried to keep the pace just under 8 minute miles. I can't say it was easy but the sound of the pace group behind me was enough to gee me up...how embarrassing would it be to be passed by them after going off on a solo run? The last mile was tough as I was getting to the end of my rope and there were a lot of corners, curbs, a false alarm finish-line arch and a spectator who walked straight out in front of me when I was full on sprint/hobbling for the line. But I got there in the end for a new PB of over three minutes of 1:48:18. Yay!!
In general it was a well run race with some good and bad points. The course itself was enjoyable. Not as flat as I had thought but I don't necessarily love a dead flat course and the bits in the city centre were well supported with good music and crowds. They could do with being a bit more organised at the start line so there isn't so much of a bottleneck and have the mileage marked better....I didn't see a single sign for miles or kilometers except sprayed on the road. Fine if you have a GPS but not everyone does. Water stations were good and not a war zone as I've seen at some races. The finish went fairly smoothly and I got my medal, banana and water in short order. There wan't any other food at the finish that I saw but I was rescued by the kiddos quite quickly and got my warm clothes and money so pizza slice and can of fanta it was!
I didn't use any fuel except for two fizzy worms that my son gave me and a few mouthfuls of water. No stomach issues and I didn't feel like I ran out of steam, but then it's only 13 miles and I'm not sure I would have been alright for a longer distance. All in all a successful day with lots of lessons learned!