August 23, 2017
The long road to a sub-90 half marathon
Running crept into my life very slowly. Most of my life I was racing bikes in different disciplines, mostly mountainbikes, mostly downhill races. Running was meant to keep me fit during the snowy winter, when going out for a ride wasn´t an option. I joined our local running club for the occassional 10k group run and enjoyed it immensely. Wonderful people, great coach, good times. 2008 was time for my first half marathon. Most of the race I ran with a friend of mine and just as boys are supposed to we finished with the most idiotic finish line sprint, propbably to te annoyance of other runners and to the entrtainment of the spectators. Look at those morons, slacking 20k and now trying to show off. Inevitably we collapsed, happy as a monkey at 1 hr 43 min.
Shortly after the race I decided that a sub-90 half might be a nice and achievable goal to go for the following year. Boy was I wrong.
2009 I was working in the middle east for most of the summer. I rarely ran at all, at 40+ degress C you really have better things to do. Like hanging out in a shisha bar or at Arabian Fried Chicken.
When I came back in 2010 I had given up on running altogether. Now it was all about work and cycling.
Early 2011 I was among the lucky winners for a wildcard to enter the Fisherman´s Friend Strongmanrun. Thanks New Balance! I never won anything before in my life so I figured this to be a clear message from the universe: "Go run, Bro!" At that time I was spending a fair amount of time in the gym, preparing for the mountain dh season. Loads of weight lifting, stability training and leg work outs. Now I added some running to the mix, mostly on the tread mill. To avoid sudden death by boredom I wuld usually smash out tempo runs and hardcore intervals for 40 or 50 minutes and then be done with it. Contrary to my own perspective the girls around me did evidently not think "wow what a fit motherfucker, maybe I can buy him a drink!" but probably "he looks a bit like an idiot, I hope he doesn´t talk ot me!".
Good thing I met my girlfriend outside of the gym shortly after, which significantly decreased my urges to show off on the tread mill.
Anyway, the obstacle run came and went. It was good fun. And trust me, it is still the running part that difficult, for most the obstacles are a welcome brek from sprinting too fast for their lungs.
Shortly after that event I entered into the Kassel half marathon. Go get me those 90 minutes, how hard can it be? With my left arm completely covered in 1k split times I went to work.
5k - good
11k - time to spare!
13k - that hill is much steeper than expected
14k - where is the 14k marker? (Yea, it was in ye olden days where not everyone had three GPS devices)
15k - Shit is getting hard and another steep hill
16k - Missed the 16k marker again, how is my pace?!
17k - I must have lost 2 minutes in those hills, can I catch up again?
21.1k - 1 hr 31 min 58 sec - Time to drown myself.
Friend running the full that day tried to cheer me up:"With that hilly profile you can easily deduct two minutes from your time!"
It still stung. Was my prep not enough? Wrong training strategy? Have I been just to weak and weepy?
Next year one my oldest friends moves to my city. After suffering some serious illness he is sporting 100 kg being 1,70m short. We both like to party and have the occasional smoke. He asks about me running and starts himself. Very slowly and short distances, but soon he makes progress. His story is much better than anything that I could share, but in short he becomes a fully fledged runner within a year and I have the honor to run his first half with in 2012.
In 2013 I am not pacing him anymore, but we run our next half together. We talk a lot about my invisible 90-minute wall and decide to go for it in early 2014.
I search online resources for training plans for the sub 90. Naturally I pick what looks like the hardest one I can find. Not taking any chances this time! Together with two friends I commit to a three months hardcore prep. Our plan consists of 2 tempo runs, 1 interval, 1 long run, 2 easy runs and one rest day per week. Very soon we clock 70k per week and I start feeling worn out. My left foot hurts. But the grind is supposed to hurt, right? I soldier on and very soon my right hip starts to hurt. I pause for almost two weeks and just to keep at it afterwards again.
Come race day I am still struggling with my hip. But I have suffered for so long just to smash this race, surely I won´t back down. I pop pain killers before the race and off I go. It all goes well until 18k where the pain killers start to wear of. I am on pace, but my right hip feels like it´s been poked with a hot and very long nail. I stop and walk for a few minutes. I reach the finish at 1 hr 31 min 46 sec. Time to drown myself, again.
It is so bad that I can´t walk the next day. It takes three orthopedic specialists and two physiotherapists until things start getting better. I can start running again in late 2014, but don´t really enjoy it much.
For 2015 I am fed up with the sub90. I´d rather go for my first full without any pressure. Signed up for Lisbon in October my year consists of countless easy and long runs. Clocking the miles, being bored and still having problems with my left foot. I finish the Lisbon marathon in 4 hr 02 min 04 secs. It was fun, but I miss running fast.
The week after Lisbon we are signed up for our hometown half, just for fun. Just for fun ends in 1 hr 33 min 24 sec with energy to spare. I feel like I could have went for the sub90, had I only started out more confident and pushed through.
For 2016 I move towards triathlon. I am not racing mountainbikes anymore but miss cycling. Triathlon looks like a great sport, even though I can´t swim. I compete in a few short distance races and enjoy it tremendously. On the bike I can average 38 km/h which is awesome. I run much less than in years before and do mostly fast 5 - 10k and the odd 10 - 20k easy / long runs. I maintain a good training load over the season, never running too much, on average I clock 20k per week.
Come last sunday we find ourselves at the start line of our hometown´s annual half. There´s the two guys with whom I tried to get the sub90 in 2014 - both of whom got it earlier this year - an my marathon neighbour who is injured and wants to keep it easy. We all agree to make this an easy run. No pressure, no goals. "Let´s start with an easy 4:30 pace and see where things are going!"
5k - Woah, best weather ever, awesome day!
7k - One friend falls behind
10k - We´re still on pace and feeling good
12k - Injured friends let´s us go
14k - Still on pace, may I dare thinking about it?
15k - Friend #3 has to let go, I keep at it
16k - Holy shit, you can do it!
21.1k - 1 hr 28 min 29 sec - Sometimes a PB comes when you least expect it!
I am still not sure why my strava only shows 20.7k, probably because the GPS cut some corners. Either way, I am the happiest guy around.
So what is next?
August 23, 2017