Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Pacing the Twilight Bay half marathon

My last post on my DNF at Bukit Merah triathlon has been rather depressing. Incidentally, I haven't had much luck with my long rides since with several punctures, so I thought I better post something happy quick in hope of changing my fortunes a bit.

One of my Reddog tri club members, Ian approached me a month ago about pacing the half marathon distance at the Brisbane marathon. I was a bit too late to accept and my spot got taken. But I was roped in for the next event, which is the Twilight Bay Run, which would take place along the Wynnum foreshore, about 20kms east of Brisbane. I thought why not? It would be a good training day, I'll get a free entry into the race and be given a couple of singlets as well.

So the day came. It was to be an evening run starting at 5pm. Not only have I not been a pacer before, but this would also be my first time running at night! The sun sets at about 5.45pm, so pretty much at least the second half of the run would be in the dark.

Some heavy showers came upon us at about 3pm but luckily it cleared after. I arrived at the venue about 1.5 hours before to get some extra mileage in, ran 6kms in just under 30 minutes. Swapped my shoes from the Guide to the Fastwitch and made my way to the expo tents. InTraining Running Centre were the ones organizing the pacers. Collected my race kit and just enough time for another toilet visit. Luckily the queue wasn't that long. A quick group photo with our pacer balloons and we're ready to go!

Photo credit: Katherine Stark
As I was walking towards to the start line, I noticed a few curious stares and a couple of people actually tailgating me to the start line, I'm not used to all this attention! The winds were picking up and as I'm shorter than the average crowd, the poor guy standing next to me was getting hit from my balloon being blown around.

Being the 1:35 pacer for the half marathon, I stood in the second wave. Off went the gun and I started my watch straightaway instead of waiting unless I cross the start line. The aim was to get a gun time, rather than a nett time of 1:35. I ran for what felt like a 4:30 per km pace and true enough, when my Garmin picked up the 1st km signal, it was 4:30. However, it took me another 15 seconds before I reached the 1st km marker. So I knew I had to go a bit faster.

Picture from Supersport Images
I ran the next few kms in about 4:25 pace. I had a small group of 5 or so people around me, and that helped keep things in control. There were a few short climbs on the course. I wanted to increase the effort so as to maintain the pace, but had to be sure that I don't drop the group behind. After the turnaround we came smack into the headwinds and again had to dig deeper to maintain the pace. We crossed the starting arch at 10km and we were about 15 seconds inside target.

A few started to drop off the group. I felt a bit sorry but had to keep pushing to ensure we meet the target. It was at about the 15km mark where we were about 30 seconds inside the target and that's when I started taking my foot off the gas a bit. Towards the final 2kms, we started catching up with the two lead females. We ran together for a bit and then for the final km, the guys in the group started to make a surge for it. One of them thanked me for pacing, which was nice of him.

Doing the slow mo walk towards the finish line
Nearing the finisher chute, there weren't any others around me. I may have gone a tad bit too quick but not by much. I strolled the last 100m or so and crossed the line with a gun time of 1:34:48 and net time only 13 seconds quicker.

Pretty consistent if I say so myself :)
I truly enjoyed my first experience as a pacer and look forward to doing it again. The balloons did get in the way in some sections depending on the direction of the wind, but just required to be pushed away every now and then. And be mindful to ensure that they don't hit someone! Thanks InTraining for this opportunity!

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