Sunday, 2 September 2012

Harvest Half Marathon preview

This will be my 4th Harvest Half Marathon in a row, a streak I'd like to keep going for decades if I can. I've run part of the course every sunday since before my first Harvest Half in 2009, and before even my first race that year. This will be my 8th half overall, and is my favourite race by far. Here's a preview of what to expect for this race.
By the numbers, there are 8 bridges, 3 underpasses, 2 hills of note, and 4 other short but noticeable upward inclines (a few downward ones too). The course runs west to east through Fish Creek Park, book-ended by road sections of 5.5 and 3.5km. If there is any wind at all, it should be in the runners' favour in the park section.
It starts just after sunrise, and I've noticed over the years a tendancy for many runners to overdress. Check the hourly forecast the day before to see how much it will warm up. It makes sense to "dress cold", you should be warm enough later on. I say this as someone who tends to warm up quickly and sweat a lot, but I've still noticed quite a few jackets tied around the waist over the years, so it's one for each individual to ponder.
This guide is generally written for those, like myself, with a time goal in mind.

The first k can change due to construction in the area, but I'll assume it's like last year. It's at about the 1km sign, on a straight stone road after a couple of 90 degree corners and a slight pinchpoint between 2 boulders, that is ideal to settle into race pace and take stock after the manic-ness of the start.
Just after km2, the course passes under MacLeod Trail and the first hill. It doesn't seem that long, though after the right turn it keeps going for a couple of hundred metres. Between that and the entrance to Fish Creek Park at about 5 1/2k, it's either flat or a little uphill. The 3 km prior to the park entrance is about not letting your pace drop too much, with the exception of the initial uphill.
Just after the park entrance, it's a charge downhill before joining the paved pathways. If by km6 you're at your time goal or close to it, it's most likely going to be a good day. The downhill plunges are places to lift the heels up a little more and gain some speed and time. Some of the inclines mentioned above are long enough to require a slight drop in pace, but can be mitigated a little by speeding up a touch just before and carrying some momentum into the slope.
Between park entrance and Sikome Hill at km17, in addition to handling the undulations as mentioned above, it's worth noting that the "flat" parts are actually mildly downhill. In terms of goal race time, you should and also can run quicker than the average pace required over the entire course.
Sikome Hill should be done at the same effort as the rest of the course. 40-60 seconds will be given up here, so you need to be ahead of schedule before you get to it. Start accelerating just as you get to the top, and before the right turn onto the main road (Sun Valley Blvd). It's easy to settle for a slower pace at the top and only gradually pick up speed. There's 3.5km left at this point, so it's time to push with whatever you have left, safe in the knowledge that the "pacing yourself" part of the race is behind you.

Back to me (!). My times for the Harvest Half are:
2009 - 1.38:07
2010 - 1.33:36
2011 - 1.28:01
Last year's time is also my overall half marathon PB, so this year's goal is to better that, whatever the time ends up at. I could push it a little harder in the middle section of the course compared to last year perhaps.

All in all, my advice for any readers is to savour the occasion, put on your best show and enjoy the endorphins of race day and the rush of the finish line :)

1 comment:

  1. All the best for this! I hope you get that PB. Have fun!