Monday, January 1, 2018

Race Review: Goodnight Taipei Half Marathon

The good:
  1. Afternoon gun start. Relieves the pressure of having to wake up early.
  2. Cold December weather at about 19C as this was in Taiwan.
  3. Water station (with water, bananas and energy drink) every 3km
  4. Finisher face towel upon crossing the line (along with the good looking medal).
  5. Great giveaways like the night light, and 2 big siopaos upon finishing.

For improvement:
  1. Online registration in English would be nice (had to use the Chrome translate feature so I was a bit worried on how/where to get my racekit. Good thing the organizer was very helpful when we chatted over FB messenger)

My race:

I was under trained (long run wise) and gained about 2-3lbs coming into this race. The only thing going for me here is that the race was (almost) entirely flat as it was held in a big recreational park in Taipei. The Dajia Recreational Park is a great venue for runners, bikers, and any other past time that you would like to do. It's about 2-3 (or maybe even 4?) times longer than our Rizal Park as we were able to run 21k in one loop.

Onto the race, it was great to know that Dennis (owner of Running Fatboy blog) was able to race alongside me as well. Per, his wife, was also there for support. 

I was planning to improve on my last 21k (2:27:15 at Nutrilife last Oct15) but it was going to be difficult due to the lack of conditioning as mentioned above.

But the mind is a very (very!) powerful thing.

As the gun went off for the 21k runners to start, I eased right into target pace in the first 3kms (about 6:50-ish per km). The plan would be to mimic my Oct 21k strategy by pacing myself in the first 16k then going for it on the last 5.

But my eagerness had other plans, especially after I took my first gel as early as km3 (first aid station). Other gels were taken at the km9 and km16 aid stations.

I improved pace, playing between 6:45-6:50 which was a far cry from my 7:00-ish pace last Oct for the first half of the race. By km13, I saw Dennis whiz pass by me (as expected based on the race times he posted from his HM races). It was good that I didn't give chase and opted to keep myself at bay with the pace range that I was at for fear of bonking in the latter kms.

Heart rate was amazingly low (at 135-145) from km1-15 as the cold weather and flat course helped me relax.

By km16 my heart rate eventually crept up in the 150s but I was still doing good pace wise. I knew I didn't have the long run preparation but I also knew that I had done 21k races many many times (although way wayyy in the past). My last 21k last Oct showed that I can still finish sub-2:30 if I willed it. 

This was the driving force that I kept telling myself (along with the hope that I can catch Dennis, but, for naught) as I drove home in the last 6kms of the race. The legs started to show a little bit of weakness but I was still able to keep pace, overtaking struggling 21k runners as I closed out the remaining kms. 

"This is your last race for the year," I said to myself, "Make it count! Come on!"

It was a battle to keep pace, although never in my mind did I think of stopping or walking. I was just hoping for a glimpse of the finish arc to keep my moral up but to no avail. Nevertheless, I kept my pace.

My Garmin beeped as I reached the 21st km. Still no sight of the finish arc.

21.3km. Still no sign. 

The race was supposedly for 21.3km so the thought that this may exceed further than that (22? 23 kms?) worried me. Still, I pushed on as I hoped that the organizers missed it only by a bit.

Alas, after 200 meters or so, I finally saw the arc. I made a sprint for it, overtaking another runner for good measure, with my Garmin stopped at 21.6kms upon crossing the line ---my longest run for the year (and possibly for the last 2 or 3 years!).

Garmin time clocked at 2:27:22 for the whole 21.6km distance although my TrainingPeaks app said I scored a PR for a half-marathon since my first use of it (2014) with a time of 2:24:04 (yey!). This was a big improvement (exactly 3 minutes and 13 seconds) from my Oct 21k race (yey again!).

This could've been a bigger improvement had I followed the long run training sked religiously and, more importantly, had I controlled myself from a lot of eating since October. Yup, lesson learned, but I will cherish this victory for now as a great year ender. :)