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Monday 18 February 2013

Week 9, Day 6: Dorney Lakes, a Sprint Finish & Squirty Gels

Week 9, Day 6

Goal: Dorney Lakes Half Marathon
First 3 miles at 7:55, 7:45, 7:40 then final 10 at 7:20 – 7:25 min/mile

Dorney Lakes was about 85 miles from me so I’d decided to book into a hotel to save having to drive an hour and a half on the morning of the race. The race didn’t start until 10am so a lie in and a leisurely breakfast sounded amazing. I have terrible pre-race nerves so having one less thing to worry about would be good.

Mel liked the idea too and we booked into a Travelodge just down the road from the race venue and we travelled down separately. We arranged to meet up for dinner at 7pm for a catch up and chatter. Texted Mel and we both decided to meet in the hotel lobby. 15 minutes later and I’m still standing there … where is she? I get a text from Mel. We’re both waiting in the lobby in the hotel. But the hotels are 20 miles apart. She’s in Slough Traveleodge, I’m in Maidenhead Travelodge. Thank God Asics are arranging Paris travel and accommodation for us. We’d never get there.

I couldn’t work out the kit I wanted to take and what to leave. So I compromised and took everything. I ended up taking a rucksack, a running belt, a handbag plus a large suitcase on wheels. Well … at least if a piece of running kit broke, I‘d have (about 3) spares …

I slept really well and had an entire double bed on my own to stretch out in. Bliss. A leisurely shower and porridge - pre-measured by me the day before and put into a plastic bag with sugar. Can’t say I’m not taking this pre-race prep seriously! Dried hair and got an electric shock from the hairdryer! So long as the jolt of electricity gives me a boost for the race …

I got all organised and packed up. Rucksuck on the bag, handbag slung around my shoulders, running belt around my middle and suitcase dragging on behind. Got out of the door – which slammed behind me – and my tummy gave an ominous rumble. Dashed back into room and running belt off, handbag unslung, rucksack off and suitcase abandoned in the middle of the room. A hotel room loo MUCH preferable to a portaloo at the race venue … and I did not want to have to pack loo roll for THIS long run.

The drive to the start ...
The satnav directed me perfectly to Dorney Lakes, but far from the perfectly organised parking at most venues we were directed to park along the sides of the road. Apparently the car parks were mainly underwater. Oh well. Better to park along the side of the road than to come back after the race and find the car floating peacefully down the river …

Texted Mel, Shady Ady and Bacon Steve who were all also running this one. It was great to catch up … even if we did all look like a matching set with our pink and blue T-shirts. At least we’d be able to spot each other easily in a crowd. Or a race. Mel, Ady and Steve were all going for PBs and had a specific time they wanted to beat.

Me, Mel, Ady & Steve just before the start!

Steve Marathon Coach knew full well that I have a bad habit of going off far too fast and then paying for it and this race was to be an exercise in pacing. He’d asked me to start off the first 3 miles slowly and build the pace. He had suggested 7:55 min/mile, 7:50, 7:45 and then sit in the goal range of 7:20 – 7:25 min/mile.

I started off with Ady as we thought we’d probably be aiming for a similar end pace of 7:20 ish. It was so difficult to keep my pace slow as he and everyone else streamed past me in the first starting-gun rush. I felt as though I was moving backwards, but when I checked my Garmin I was already doing a 7 min/mile which was well outside the pace I wanted. It just highlighted to me how easy it is to get swept up in the first rush and get carried away. It had felt as though I was barely moving but I was almost a minute a mile quicker than I’d wanted to be. Eek! Brakes on!

The view across the lake. The race was 4 times around this.

It was a pancake flat course around a rectangular lake and each lap was about 5k long so it was a great course to pace yourself and you knew exactly where you were at all times as you could easily see the other sides of the lake and work out how many laps and miles you had left. I kept the first 3 miles very steady at 7:45, 7:40 and then 7:35 just increasing the speed by a steady 5 seconds each mile. 

Me ... looking as though I'm walking! I'm not - promise!
It was a relief to be able to increase the speed to 7:20 min/mile and because the route was so flat and predictable it was an easy pace to maintain. I ran with a chap for about a mile at about mile 8 and he paced me quite well – just over the pace I was aiming for - was why the pace increased a little bit, but he disappeared just as we came up to the main building again. I did briefly consider waiting … but it wasn’t quite in the spirit of a race so I carried on. I DID feel a bit mean though. 

I was taking a gel every 3 miles as recommended by Ruth so I did this as I passed the main building as it was a big landmark and I didn’t have to think about the mile markers. Gels were available on the course but they weren’t the brand I’d trained with so I’d carried the ones I wanted.

This all went perfectly to plan until the final gel which I squeezed a little too hard and it ended up in my left eye, hair and all over my face. There wasn’t a lot I could do about it although an older chap spectating though it was highly amusing. I was just relieved it wasn’t mid-summer as I’d have been followed by a cloud of flies and wasps around the remainder of the course. Might have been good for a PB though. Nothing like being chased by an angry swarm of wasps to add a bit of an incentive to your speed. Maybe a tactic to consider if I start slower down at Paris …

I decided that as I’d been so good so far, I’d speed up the last 3 miles just a little bit … again by just 5 seconds a mile. I was having so much fun, I decided that the last mile should be a good one and ran it at just under a 7 min/mile. I could see the red bridge in the distance and I knew that the finish was just over that.

I was overtaken by a young chap in a grey top just as I cam e over the bridge. He’d been hovering at my shoulder ready to overtake me and he pulled away slightly towards the finish. What happened to ‘ladies first’? Stride lengthened, arms came up, and the sprint for the finish started. Over the line in 1:35:42. And I beat the bloke in grey. Well and truly chicked. 

Sprint for the line ... what happened to 'Ladies First'?

P.s. Check out the speed of the final 0.1 ...


Time: 1:35:42.0           
Distance: 13.10           
Average Pace: 7:19

Mile Splits
1. 7:43 min/mile
2. 7:40 min/mile
3. 7:36 min/mile
4. 7:19 min/mile
5. 7:20 min/mile
6. 7:20 min/mile
7. 7:20 min/mile
8. 7:17 min/mile
9. 7:19 min/mile
10. 7:17 min/mile
11. 7:11 min/mile
12. 7:11 min/mile
13. 6:55 min/mile
0.1 4:57 min/mile


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you!! :) I have to admit I didn't realise I would be comfortable at that pace ... it was a nice surprise! And a sprint for the line has to be done - I'm still grinning about it now! :)

  2. Hey speedy pants nice running :)

    1. Thanks Paul! :) I'm blaming it on the electric shock at the start of the day!! Gave me an additional burst of speed!! :)