21.1km: Sitges Half Marathon 2019
Updated: Feb 18, 2019
With an injured foot and the typical very limited training (blame the foot this time!), the Sitges half was purposeful to answer the nagging question on my mind: do I have time & the ability to prepare for the Barcelona marathon in 8 weeks time?
There were two races running in Sitges - a quart marathon (a little over 10km) and the half marathon - with the quart starting at 9am and the half at 10am. Thinking both races would run at the same time, my original back up plan of exiting the race at the quart mark if injury took over was foiled! With a 2.5 hour limit on the race, if I was dropping out from injury, I was dropping out mid way through the race. End of story. But wanting to "draw a line in the sand" on my marathon decision, off I went.
Bib collection for the half marathon was on the promenade until 9:30am. Leaving Barcelona just after 8am, we arrived with ample time to park, collect our bibs and get kitted out back in the car park. The town provided €1 parking in all blue zones for race goers, but I have not mastered parallel parking yet! So I took the more expensive but comfortable option of parking in the underground car park on Av Sofia, a 2 minute walk from the start line. Like Castelldelfels, RENFE also sponsored free train tickets from Barcelona if you opted for the train.
Under the clear blue sky, and on the beautiful promenade at Sitges, the start line took off fast. This was quite an athletic race. There were large groups quickly formed with the pacers (4" 30' & 5" pacers). Just like the Castelldelfels half marathon, I was one of the final runners, yet I was running 6" 15' per km in the first 3km. Not a bad pace, so I could tell the race was more athletic than fun runners. However, self talk kept me moving at a steady pace, trying to ignore that there were wide gaps growing between me and others!
The foot injury started to hit early around 2km, but I focused on diverting my thoughts to the gift of being able to run on such a beautiful day, in such a beautiful place, getting into a moving rhythm.
But now: picture this. A narrow road in Sitges. With cars parked on one side (making it more narrow!) And small traffic cones dividing the road in two, enabling dual direction for the race. So those already on the inbound of loop 1 are passing, at speed, right beside you while you are still on the first outbound.
This became a little off putting for the stretches that had dual direction. Not only were the fast guys flying past on the inbound of loop 1 as I was still on the outbound, most of the course was running past too. Again, I reminded myself I was there to cross the finish line, not to compete.
There were very encouraging stewards and supporters on the route, and that gave a much needed boost when needed. The ultimate winner passed in his final few hundred metres when I was around 10km (and the winner was fast - he finished in 1 hour 8 mins - amazing to watch!) But onwards I go...one more loop to do!
From the 11km mark, I started to stop and stretch every few kms due to my injury - but for sure, the injury was not as bad as it has been in the past. So while I slowed in pace, it was as much the lack of training (albeit due to the foot injury) that slowed me down.
One of the reasons I love going to races is what I learn, and sure enough, I made a rookie mistake for Sitges by changing my fueling options. In the past, I have used the CONSUM (local supermarket) brand of gels for my long runs and they worked great. For Sitges, I opted for a caffeine free brand from Decathalon. Big mistake as I got nothing from the gels. The added sweetener had zero impact - maybe connected to the copious amounts of chocolate I had been eating for the 4 weeks prior to the race! What do they say? 'Try nothing new on race day'. Well, I learnt my lesson for the next races - I'll be stocking up on Consum gels!
Crossing the finish line was heaven sent, making an official time of 2 hours 19 mins. I was 20th from the finish, of a starting line of 1,677. But looking at the beach, the blue sky, the sun reflecting in the water, realising I had done it - foot injury or not - I felt on top of the world! Decision made: I am preparing for the Barcelona marathon: diet, training, sleep. 8 weeks to go. Wish me luck!
Refuel Stops: there were really great water facilities at 5km, 11km and 15.5km, both in cup or bottles (you choose).
Inclines: 10 inclines in total. There were two hills: neither particularly difficult, and as the course looped, it meant climbing 1 hill twice on each loop (either side). There were not so obvious inclines in 2 other locations around the 6-8km mark. So on each loop, 3 'you've got a bit of work' inclines and 2 ones that only hurt because I wasn't training.
Course Design: This was a double loop of circa 10km each, the exact same each loop except a short run to the finish line at the end.
Race Entertainment: There was no race entertainment (music, drumming, etc) on the course - it was at the start and finish line only.
Facilities: there was bag drop off in the Hotel Calipolis, toilets in the hotel (& a good location to stay warm pre-race) and circa 5 portable toilets on the promenade. While there was no toilet on the route (I am not sure how you could leave the course to get back to the portable toilets), when you hit the second loop there is a WC on the beach you could potentially access. Parking was €1 from 7am-2pm in blue zones - I think you needed to park before 10am to avail of this. As mentioned, you could also get a free train from Barcelona