2016 Lake Macquarie Half Marathon Race Report – Matt Hutton
Race Date: August 26th Results: 2016
The Lake Mac running festival is an event which has been on my calendar since I first started running in 2009. As I've lived by the lake since I arrived in Australia, it is essentially my hometown race and a good one at that so it's something I've always wanted to do well at.
Until recently 2016 had not been kind to my running. A nasty case of achilles overuse on both sides had me pretty much out of action for four months and I've spent the time since rebuilding my fitness from what felt like scratch. I've tried to take a very measured approach to the training, build gradually with only 1-3km added to the mileage each week and with recovery and general aerobic running done a little bit easier than I had been in the second half of last year. Having said that, I've been going hard in my sessions and when I needed to; my heart rate has been above 200 a few times since I resumed training. I returned to racing at City2Surf, chasing Mick Loehr all the way (only to be left in his dust when he turned it up down the hill into Bondi) and was pretty happy with my result but immediately looked forward to the lake event where I am a bit better over the longer distance.
I have a pretty well set pre-race routine - up early, drink some Ensure Plus for breakfast (that one is courtesy of RP), a bottle of sports drink and usually a black coffee, though I didn't manage that this time. After some hellos down at the foreshore I got in a 4km warm up, a few strides and into the line with all the other guys and gals. It seemed like there was no one particular in the line up from out of town and with Vlad and Guy in the 10.5k race, the half was wide open. John and I knew that there had been a bit of talk about us racing, which is fun and since John has been creeping up on my half times I knew I'd need a good run to keep my scalp. However, we were more keen to both have solid runs and hopefully get the Flyers onto the podium.
The running of the race was fairly straight forward. Once we got underway a pack formed very quickly with myself, John, Luke from the Runlab squad, local guy John Cottrel who only popped up on my radar recently and, in a really good turn of events (was great to have the Flyers well represented at the front), Jerry. We ran 16 or 17km together as a pretty tight pack, pretty much all taking turns at the front. There was a surge here and there but it was always responded to with everyone jumping back on the pace. Fun racing.
In terms of race plan and pacing, my plan was to try and hold as close to possible to the average pace I did at City2Surf, which depending on the actual distance of that event was 3:34-3:35/km. City2Surf is obviously shorter but has a lot more elevation and isn't easy to find that cruisey rhythm that you can do in a good half marathon and I thought it was realistic to run around the same pace over the longer distance event. We managed to be running around that really consistently without too much variation. The only downer on the course, and one that messes with the rhythm, is the grass and wood chip section through the park. It didn't hamper me too much but it is unsettling. I wish they'd find a way to keep it all on the road, or at least the concrete footpath which is sitting there unused.
After the half way point the pace slowed a little bit for the second lap, I made an effort mentally to work the rise from Warners Bay to Speers Point and then try to hold what I could, push where possible; my average pace was slower for the second lap but not too much at all really. There was a conscious effort to push harder after the final turnaround in Boolaroo and at that point everyone managed to go. Jerry was running really strong and by then I was very impressed as it seemed a lot faster than I was aware of him racing a half before and yet at 15km he was powering along. Another push with around 3km to go and the group seemed to splinter with just myself and Luke from Runlab managing to pull away from the group. He seemed strong but at this point I was still doing well too and a quick look at my watch confirmed we were actually not going that fast. Closer to 3:40 than 3:30/km and so with 2km I made an effort to kick down to under 3:30/km. That was enough to pull away. I continued that hard push right into Warners Bay where lots of cheering and encouragement from Flyers, family, other groups and everyone else buoyed me into the finish. I had been aware that I was pretty much on track for most of the race but to cross the line, see the time (1:15:40, a 20+ second PB) and know that I had won, was pretty cool. It doesn't get much better. I stayed to see most of the other Flyers over the line and was pleased to hear that there were a LOT of PBs.
In the last year or so the group has picked up new members and expanded a bit and one thing I can say to anyone new to the Flyers is that running with the group can and will take you to places you never thought you'd go. Sure, that might be getting lost in the bush behind Dudley with Dave Mantle (thanks Dave) and it might be discovering new parts of Newcastle on a weekly basis in the long run but in a more existential way, being a part of and running with a group like the Flyers can and will improve your running. In 2011 when I ran this half for the first time I ran 1:34 and being a member of the Flyers, working with and within the group, has played no small part in my improvement. Anybody that comes into the Flyers can be sure that running with the group will only make you a better runner. And it will be a damn good time while you do it.