Anglesey Half Marathon 2016

A view across the Meani Straights towards the Suspension Bridge and Snowdonia beyond

Anglesey Half Marathon – some background

Anglesey Half Marathon has been in my diary long before I think I knew I was ill. During last year’s race I ran out of steam towards the end but still improved on my 2013 time and the lure of a discounted 2016 entry was too much to ignore!

Ever since my debut there in 2013 it has been my favourite half-marathon. It’s an undulating course which is interesting yet fast, set in some of the best scenery available. I don’t ask for much, but when you get that with excellent organisation and fantastic local support, you can see why the race gets a bigger field each year.

I actually reviewed my heart-rate data for the 2015 race the other day, and it isn’t pretty reading. Indeed I wonder how I didn’t end up in hospital with it.

2015 Heart Rate Data

2015 Heart Rate Data

Clearly, after I discovered the illness (when it took me out completely) I started to repair and whilst the mental aspect remains work in progress, the body righted itself within a couple of months and as my physical fitness improved, so did the endurance, which resulted in a fantastic result for me at Chester Marathon where I managed a big Personal Best  (PB) and getting below 3h30m. Taking part in trail running especially around my local Lyme Park National Trust parklands has made a good contribution to the back-end of my 2015 season again allowing me to hammer home some good race results (Langley 7 and Stockport 10).

Personal Best

It has however been a long-standing thorn in the side of my data that my half-marathon PB was set in 2012 at Tatton Park (1:32:43), and that I hadn’t really troubled that result since. In fact the only time I was close was being 30 seconds slower at Rhyl in 2014 which has a profile slightly flatter than a pancake.

Having set a PB at 5k distance at Bramhall Park Run last weekend, things took a surreal turn. I’d not run half-marathon distance in a few weeks and decided that ahead of Anglesey Half, I ought to go out and at least do 8 miles. What happened was unexpected firstly that I actually ran 13.2 miles in total. Secondly when I stopped my watch, I was gobsmacked as it read 1:31:18. I’d run longer than a half-marathon but at a quicker time than Tatton.

So one weekend, two PBs. Poking through the data in Strava and Smashrun suggested a HM time of about 1:30:30. My longstanding PB had gone and now the 90 minute half-marathon looked ** possible ** whereas before it seemed that much beyond reach given getting belong 93 minutes seemed to be out of my grasp.

The downside of that weekend was that everything hurt. Walking hurt. My back hurt. I couldn’t turn my head to the right! All of which resulted in a trip to my friendly (but oddly masochistic) sports physio who did lots of massage which hurt and continued to hurt for days afterwards, although I could move within 48 hours.

In 2015 it was a very windy race day in Anglesey, which compounded the health issues I already had. The 2016 forecast however was perfect for running. Overcast but dry, cold but not freezing, still and only a little breeze.

Return to Ynys Mon

Getting back to Anglesey was a joy, and I took a nice photo over the Menai Straights towards Snowdonia which was partly hidden under snow and cloud.

A view across the Meani Straights towards the Suspension Bridge and Snowdonia beyond

A view across the Meani Straights towards the Suspension Bridge and Snowdonia beyond

The first job was to complete registration at the Sports centre. Anglesey HM is slightly unusual in that you get to pick up your T-Shirt at registration when you collect your number. You also get a cowbell:

T-shirt, number and cowbell!

T-shirt, number and cowbell!

I then headed to the neighbouring village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgorgeryllllwyndrobrychllantisiliogogogoch following a tip-off from friends about a rather splendid cream tea:

2016-03-05 15.23.01

There’s a lot written about what one should and should not eat ahead of races. I’ve found that I just need to eat. Lots. I tend to operate probably on a minor calorie deficit most of the time, which has resulted in my somewhat slight build. Clearly races need lots of energy and so I do all I can to provide that. So on top of the indulgence above,  I had a two course evening meal (the choc cake was very good indeed) and both cereal and a cooked breakfast this morning.

That’s possibly why I felt nauseas when I was waiting near the start line prior to the race.

Race time

There was an airborne drone at the start line. We all waved at it because the announcer suggested it.

YouTube player

Then we were off. I decided to begin next to the 1h30m flag with my training run at the back of my mind. As usual, there were plenty of people stood way too near the front who needed passing. These events are chip-timed so there’s no advantage in starting too far forward and just the risk you’ll get in the way of others and that you’ll set off too quick and suffer later.

Normally my first running mile is slower than the rest, due to starting from a standstill. So when my first mile clocked up below 7 minutes for that mile, I was surprised to say the least. After the first couple of miles the next 4 are undulating with a  downhill tendency and each mile was chalking off rather more quickly than I expected. The route heads off from the Suspension Bridge through the village of ‘Menai Bridge’ and along the coast to Beaumaris and out the other side for a quick loop before returning along the same route back to the end in thecentre of ‘Menai Bridge’. So whilst there was a hilly but generally downhill bit going out, the final 3 miles are mostly uphill!

But I felt good. Really strong.

As usual, Beaumaris turned out in good numbers to cheer on the runners. I’m always conscious that these events do rather take over a place so it’s great when it all comes together and everybody gets into the spirit of the day.

I expected mile 7 to be slow as it has the first significant hill during it, yet the mile mark on my watch chimed another sub-7 minute mile. I didn’t dare to think about result times, but I did consider my Tatton Race time to be under threat.

There’s a general thing that a PB only counts if it’s in a race. This is less important to the amateur runner these days with GPS technology allowing all routes to be ‘mapped’ (although not officially measured). However, the idea of that 2012 race record being toppled was a nice one.

Miles 8 & 9 took me back through Beaumaris and the pace was similar. I anticipated a slow-down from mile 10 as that’s when the final uphill section starts. So when I completed the 10th mile in 6:34 min/mile I was shocked. At this point it dawned that the 90 minute half-marathon was very much on, as long as I could keep going like this.

In fact the last 3 miles were faster still. Coming down the final downhill bit on the main road, the crowds were lining the street and making a lot of noise. That’s always something to give you that little bit at the end, even if there was nothing in the tank. Around the corner, and into the finishing area, full of spectators giving their support.

Fabulous! It’s something you’ve really got to experience first hand to know what it’s like. But I like it 🙂

I didn’t see the gantry with the time on and it was only as I pressed the buttons on my watch after crossing the line that I realised I’d smashed my PB from Tatton. And the in-training PB from last weekend. And the 90 minute HM. The time 1:26:03.

Anglesey Half Marathon 2016 route & splits

Anglesey Half Marathon 2016 route & splits

As a comparison to 2015, this is the 2016 heart rate data. There’s little to compare really! Thankfully in a good way.

2016 Heart Rate data

2016 Heart Rate data

At the end of the race, you get your finishers medal, a bag of crisps and access to lots of fruit!

The medal!

The medal!

Turns out I came 42nd out of 1070 finishers. A great morning all in all!!! Just waiting for the race photographs to be published 🙂

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