Race Report – Steinberger See Halb Marathon‏

First race of the season, first race in Germany. Steinberger See is a

lake ('See' means lake in German) 1hr from Nuernberg and this half

marathon is a out and back course on a road side path connecting

Steinberger See and Murner See which is conveniently 10.6kms apart. It's

a very local race with only ~150 runners, mostly belonging to the

running clubs around here.


My race plan exchanged by email and discussed with Steve was for this

flat half-marathon to try, if at all possible, to beat my time on last

years half marathon time in Swavesey of 1hr43m38s which had already been

a PB. I compared both as I assumed that since this was ran between two

lakes was as flat as last years race which had a total ascent of

38meters. The plan was simple: 5min/km for the first 10kms, do a check

on how I feel and push from there.


Mentally I split the half marathon into 3 parts: beginning (km 1 - 9,

5mins/km, high zone 2), middle (km 10 - 16, 4:52mins/km, zone 3), push

(km 17 - km 21, 4:40mins/km, zone 4). If I felt too fatigued or

something went wrong I would stick to my HR zones and see how far that

would get me. After all I spent half of the week in Barcelona eating too

much, going to bed too late and arrived home the day before the race

close to midnight. Eleven hours after arriving from Barcelona I would be

doing the half-marathon, so I was not too confident about how I was

going to do it.


Fortunately, German races start late. This half marathon started at

11.00 so I could sleep a bit longer and leave only at 9.30am to the race

after my usual race breakfast of coffee and ReadyBrek with soy milk,

peanut butter, maple syrup and a banana.


I arrived and felt slightly intimidated. These Germans looked serious

about a race that to me was just the first race of the season. Top-notch

gear doing all kinds of warm up exercises and looking pretty fit. Right

there and then I started to get nervous and wondering if I was ready or

if I was going to make myself look like a fool, got my race number and

went for a short warm up run of a few hundred meters. Heard the race

organizer talk a little bit, even though I didn't understand a word and

then I put my HR belt. I noted to Jenny that my HR was starting at 71bpm

and went to the race start. Unfortunately the race start was packed and

I started pretty much towards the end.


And just like that we were off. I felt quite stiff and the legs didn't

feel like they wanted to run so I started to wish I hadn't indulged so

much the past week in Barcelona. When nothing else works, blame the

tapas! It didn't take long to understand this was not going to be a

normal half marathon. First off, everyone started at a record breaking

pace. Second, my HR after 500m was reporting 163bpm which I knew was not

correct. Third, this was not flat. From the first kilometer it should be

considered at least undulating.


Undulating courses present a problem... you cannot easily guide yourself

by pace since you can be doing 4:30min/km downhill followed by

5:20min/km uphill. Trying to keep the 5min/km goal would have been

foolish. I would need to guide myself by HR if, that is, my HR was

working. However I was still getting reports of around 160bpm after the

first 3 or 4kms.


Things got worse since this undulating turned out to be pretty hilly and

windy. By kilometer 3.5 we started an ascent with parts having grade 8%.

In 1.5km we climbed 60m. By kilometer 8 we had climbed close to 100m. As

a consequence the GPS report on my distance also started to fail given

GPS altitude corrections are sketchy at best so I was at this point

300meters further ahead than what my GPS was reporting. I knew then that

not only the pace values were correct, the distance was not correct and

the HR was still hovering on 160bpm which was not correct either. I was

literally for the first time in any race with absolutely no idea how I

was doing except that I knew I was under 160bpm, most likely 154 (high

zone 3 for me), and around 300meters ahead of what my watch reported. I

could readjust this offset each time I passed a kilometer marker. So,

for example, by kilometer 8 my watch was showing 7.7kms.


I had brought 2 gels, one hydro to have without water by km 12 and

another to have with water in the aid station by km 17. I broke one of

my rules and by kilometer 9 I had the hydro which I had brought for

later in the race. However my legs were faltering and I was wondering

what to do. Either I would push and break, or push and have a good time,

or not push and have an embarrassing result. After the turnaround point

my biggest concern was how I was going to deal with the long uphill,

which on the way to Murner See had been a long downhill. My legs were

starting to numb and it started to feel hard to go into a higher gear

with them. I had been running alone until now but at the turnaround

point I noticed a group of 4 runners running at a good pace in front of

me so I latched on to them. Behind them which covered me from the wind.

They mentioned a 4:35min/km pace which I thought was way to fast for me,

however if I lost them I would fall back and then have to climb the hill

by myself and against the wind. So I focused on one thing: follow the

green shoes. One of the runners in the pack had green shoes so I forgot

about everything and simply followed the shoes. At times I really

thought I couldn't do it anymore but one sore leg in front of the other

sore leg and soon I had climbed. I knew now that albeit undulating it

was mostly downhill. By kilometer 16 I had a steep downhill and then an

undulating part to the finish line. Once in the downhill bit the group

stayed together but were going downhill slower than I thought I could so

I overtook them and blasted downhill. I just kept going but by kilometer

marker 18 the downhill had finished, I was running alone and things got

harder to the point where depending on how I put my feet on the floor I

felt a cramp surging either on my calf or quad. By without ever

settling, managing this sudden cramp was doable even while running at a

good pace. I had about 500meters on what my watch was telling me and by

now my ability for arithmetic was gone since somehow I looked at my

watch at kilometer marker 18, saw my time was around 1h28m and had a

sudden rush of joy when I realized I might do under 1h40m. For 2 long

kilometers I deluded myself even though the calculations were making

sense in my head. Only when I saw kilometer marker 20 and looked at my

watch to see I was 1h37m in, I noticed my foolishness.


I kept a consistent, careful pace in order to ensure the cramps I had

been feeling wouldn't settle and so that I could at least break my last

years PB. For the last 500 meters I had Jenny running next to me and

screaming to run faster. It felt good to have her run next to me but the

legs didn't comply with running faster. Actually I just couldn't feel

them except for the sudden cramp onset which would go as quickly as it

came. I was just flowing to the finish line which I crossed in 1h41m38s.


I did not break 1h40m but I did break my previous PB on a course which

had 213m ascent instead of 38m (as it was last year). I made two

mistakes that would be easily avoided: not washing my HR belt for a

while (it was full of salt crystals which caused the HR readings issue)

and didn't actually ask what the profile of the route was assuming it

was flat because it was near a lake.


I am however happy, even if extremely sore. Mainly because I ran my

hardest half-marathon with practically no gadget support, managed to

latch on a group which took me through a hard bit of the race and pulled

the away afterwards ending up in a good time. Had the race been flat,

who knows which time I would have done... maybe break the 1h40m. Oh

well, next time!

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