21.1km: Sabadell Half Marathon 2019
Updated: Oct 13, 2019
Leaving Barcelona at 7.20am, watching the sun begin to rise as I drove by the paseo 🌅, I felt relaxed & prepared: about to run my 7th half marathon and my 10th major race of 2019.
I was thinking how lucky I am to see the sun rise over the mediterranean so often with my hobby of running. I had watched that same sun rise so many mornings as I had trained all summer. 4 times a week since mid-May. During family vacation when the last thing I wanted to do was get up when everyone else was in bed. On Sunday nights, when everyone was settling on the sofa, running long runs, as my training plan was Monday-Sunday, and with life, I didn´t get my last run done yet. I was committed, I didn´t miss a session. My last personal best for half marathon distance was 2 hours 2 mins. This was my day to make a sub 2 hour. But little did I know what was ahead.
My greatest preoccupations pre-race are always 1) getting to the destination & where to park and 2) finding the toilets.
Point 1 is easier to master - get to the destination 1 hour before kickoff. If you are a distance runner, you can probably relate to point 2. A friend recommended eating my dinner the night before races by 7pm, and since I started to practise that - and my body has also got used to all the running this year - I have the approach pretty much fine tuned. But as half marathons generally have no services en route, its always worth the female toilet queues just to be sure before hitting the start line!
The race pack was really smart. No race t-shirt - instead they gifted a towel with the race details printed on it, and a bluetooth radio. This is the first race I have entered without a shirt; and hey, having circa 20 shirts from different races now, I think it was cool not to receive one. But maybe if it was your first mitja, you would like one (knowing the majority of our local half marathons in Catalunya do not have medals). You could collect your race pack on the morning, which I hadn´t known, but I was happy to have done my quick "discovery trip" the day before to collect it.
The start was a gun start. This I didn´t know. Not a big deal because of what was to happen next, but targeting my sub 2 hr (which would only be possible by seconds, a minute or two on a good day), I would´ve started closer to the front.
I had done a 1km warmup, the first warmup pre a half-marathon for me, but it got me loose and ready to go. And off we went. There were 3 races in parallel. A 7km, 14km, 21km. So it was very busy at first, with people running on the paths to make progress. However, as it was 3 loops of 7km, the course started to thin out on the 2nd loop (where we had lost the 7km racers), and was very quiet on the 3rd loop (now only the half marathoners). While it was loops, it wasn´t a course where you felt you were being lapped by fellow mitja runners. There were no parts where you were facing runners going in the opposite direction, and only the leading men (circa 10) passed me during the 2nd loop as they were on their final loop home. This was a part of the race I really appreciated!
Back to the course itself: The start was uphill, then followed by some downhills and uphills. But then a slow steady climb from 2km-4.5km came into view. This wasn´t significant elevation, but it was unexpected. Was that runners I could see far ahead on top of the hill? Where were they turning? Were they turning?🤞 How long could this uphill be? 🤦♀️
I checked my stats. My heart rate was running too high! I was supposed to be in Zone 2 for the first 14km of the race, and I was clearly hitting Z3 immediately from the uphills. I made good time in the first 7km, but it was 3 loops - so we had those hills 3 times. No two races are the same, and personal bests are usually made on straightforward courses. So I settled in and just decided to enjoy the race, trying to make up time lost on the uphill on the downhill.
The Bomberos (firemen) were out with their water cannons and playing the Cranberries (a favorite band of mine since I was a teenager) as I ran by at 12km. There were many locals out supporting on the route, and as always as a female runner, many cheers from ladies as I ran - even in the final loop, they were still there supporting.
Unfortunately, on the downhill around 13km, I got a very hard cramp/stitch. Maybe I was running too fast to make up time lost on the uphill. Maybe I had too much water. Or maybe it was just not my day. I tried to run through it but knew I had to stop. It was very painful, to the point I thought I may have to stop completely at the end of loop 2. So, I stopped, walked, took some deep, slow breaths, and after a minute, I was back running, feeling good again to continue.
Now knowing the course, I planned that when I hit the 3rd loop, I will decide if I am pushing for a personal best or not. Considering I just spent 60 seconds or so walking, I didn´t think I was still in the range. However, as I started the 3rd loop, I checked my avg pace for the first time. 5m 42s / km. Just on the borderline for a sub 2 hour. I could actually do this I realised...it would be tight, but it was possible.
The first uphill came again, it was slow, but I made up for it on the downhill. The unmerciful uphill came, definitely slower by loop 3, but I was doing ok. I took water from the stewards again at a different location, 17/18km. And then it happened again. On the downhill. Bad stitches. Worse this time. I walked, but it didn´t go as easily. It was tough. The pedestrian streets were slowly reopening, I was in the final 50 or so of the race, and I was walking. After a summer of training, the disappointment I felt was enormous. I got running again, but I was still in pain and was definitely not running in my best physical form. During the final 2km, I was lifting my feet in a way that wouldn´t give a hard impact on the pain. It was so bad, I had to walk for a few steps around 300 metres from the finish line, when normally the finish line gives that final boost. But I was getting there - I was crossing that finish line for my 6th half marathon race in 2019.
And so it was. I trained all summer and I crossed the finish line (21.48km on my fenix5) in 2hrs 5mins, 3 mins slower than my PB. At first I was extremely disappointed. But then I looked at my Strava results, and saw I did pretty well and the benefits from the summer training were there. If I hadn´t got the stitch, it would have been an interesting race to see a finish time considering the profile.
With retrospect, it was a valuable lesson for me. I learnt that no matter the preparation, the day may not go as planned. Sure, I had a bad experience on my first marathon last March in Barcelona - walking the final 20km. But I had been injured, then sick, missed loads of training and was on an inhaler a matter of days beforehand. This was different. I was healthy all summer, trained hard but my body didn´t cooperate on the day. So it has helped me a lot to realise: keep training, give it your all, but accept the conditions on the day. Whether it is a race profile you were not expecting, illness or cramps, take the race as it goes and enjoy it!
And so, off I went, planning my next race: the Penedes 360 Trail Half Marathon end of September 2019......blog post to come!
Refuel Stops: there were 3 refreshment stations with water and energy drinks, in bottles and plastic cups on each loop. So 9 refreshment stations in total.
Inclines: My surprise race profile. Steady climb on the start of each 7km loop, rewarded by a strong downhill.
Course Design: 3 loops of 7km, with 2 other races running in parallel: a 7km and 14km.
Race Entertainment: At the start/finish of each loop with drummers, plus the bomberos out with their water cannons and music
Facilities: there were public toilets available on the start/finish line.