Will I ever learn?

Road racing is a sport – a sport which I’m not very good at!

To mark the anniversary of my first half marathon I tackled Granada Half Marathon. There’s been some 25 or so halves in-between this and my first but I still don’t seemed to have mastered the basics.

This year, Granada coincided with the Muslim festival of Eid al Adha which is a three-day public holiday in Qatar and the ideal time to get away and get some running in. So what had I learned over the years? Not a lot!

At Granada I made a plethora of school boy errors. To be fair the race was never going to be fast, coming off the back of a long desert summer when speed is the least of a runner’s worries.

We made it...we finished but only just.

We made it…we finished but only just.

That aside – here’s where it all went wrong:
1) New shoes first time out
Yup, I did it! I’d stashed myself a brand new pair of my favourite Brooks Ghost 6 away in Spain. The night before the race I cracked open the box, threaded the laces into the shoes, trimmed down the in-soles and slotted in my orthotics. While modern shoes don’t need ‘breaking-in’, and I was wearing a new pair of my old faithfuls, it was stupid not to have worn them before. I’d done a rubbish job trimming down the in-soles and ended up running on the outside edges of my feet. (I’m lucky not to have injured myself on that one!) I’d also threaded the laces too tightly across the toe box. While this certainly led to a higher cadence, it was because it was too uncomfortable to keep my toes in contact with the road for too long.

2) Letting the race and other runners get into my head
Running is a male-dominated sport in Spain. There weren’t many other girls on the start line and I got pushed and shoved around waiting for the off. This got me pretty wound up – heart rate 130 while standing still. I should have taken myself off to the back of the pack and been happy to bide my time.

3) Pushing on too fast
The start gun went and I surged with the rest of the runners. We were tight on space and I had no choice but to kick on, despite being a naturally slow starter. By the time I hit 2km my heart rate was 170-ish and would stay here or above for the rest of the course which is far too high for me running a half.

4) Trying to hang onto the 1:30 or under pace bus
Even though I was no where near 1:30 fit, I thought I could tag along for the ride as the train passed by. We were heading downhill, which I dislike but I continued to pound my legs for another km trying to keep up.

5) Not attacking the hills
In the grand scheme of things, Granada isn’t a hilly course – but coming from dead-pan flat Qatar it’s mountainous. Instead of pushing up the hills and flowing down the descents, I pushed the downhills and backed off the ups. Again, not a natural way of doing things for me.

6) Ignoring the pain in my right shin
About 5km in, I became aware of a nagging feeling in my right shin just below my knee. My calf guards are long and so when I’d dressed I’d folded them over; which is really dumb thing to do. The compression at the top of my calves was double that below, hence the dull pain. If I’d stopped and unfolded the calf guards I wouldn’t have been sporting a bruise and sore shin for a week. Another lucky-to-escape-injury moment.

I’ll no doubt make the same mistakes again, but that’s one the challenges of racing – there are so many variables in the lead up to a race that it’s easy to make a mistake.

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