Sunday, February 26, 2006

What a kick!

So, today was the big day, and a fantastic one it was too!

One thing I haven't really mentioned was a goal time for the race (maybe so I couldn't be held accountable if I failed to make it?). In this post I talked about aiming for 2:10, although I was starting to notice that I was getting faster than I needed to be for that time. The two hour mark looked like a big one to aim for, and on almost all my faster runs I feed them through a race time prediction calculator on the internet to see whether it was remotely possible. The closest I got was about 2:01 based on my treadmill 10k "race" from a couple of weeks back, so I worried that I might fall agonisingly short and therefore didn't mention it as a goal.

Today went like clockwork. I woke up nice and early, and had my porridge for breakfast. I got my stuff ready earlier than I was planning, and decided to leave anyway on the basis that at least I wouldn't be late. I got to Blackpool about 2 hours before the start (way too early), but I wasn't complaining as I bagged possibly the best parking spot in the town! It was between the 13 mile mark and the finish, just on the other side of the road, and even better it was free on a Sunday (the next street up was pay parking every day). So I sat in the car and kept warm while listening to the radio and reading the paper. I wasn't particularly nervous, I just wanted to get it over with.

I ventured out for a wander round and to go to the loo once I got there, then only re-emerged from the car about half an hour before the start. I went to the loo again, then back to the car to dump my hat and gloves having decided that not having them for 15 minutes or so before the start would be less of an inconvenience than carrying them round 13.1 miles, it was just on the borderline where it was a bit cold to wait without them, but a bit warm to run with them. At some point I managed to lose the energy sweets from the pocket of my jacket, but I had my lucozade and (having only noticed this about 2 minutes before the start) decided I could make do with just that.

I actually found myself doing runner-ish warm up things. Things that you don't get taught or read in the books, but that just felt right. A bit of jogging round the start area, leg shaking. I actually looked like I knew what I was doing! I found myself a bit further back in the pack than I'd have liked, but the field wasn't too big that it took ages to get over the start (and it gave me an excuse to overtake!).

The course was a two lap course, all on the prom so no traffic (although there were occasionally bemused people with prams and buckets and spades). All along the sea front (if you know Blackpool, from the North Pier along the lower level to Bispham, back on the top level back again and round again).

Almost the first thing we saw as we set off north was the 7 mile marker. There was a lot of joking at that point that the run was going to be easier than we thought! The first 3 miles the wind was blowing in my face. Being among other runners seemed to cut down the effect for a while, but you could tell that on the second northbound leg it would be a lot worse, with 6 miles down and more space for the wind to hit you. Still, despite the early jostling which inevitably slows you down and the wind, I got to the 3 mile mark in 27:21 which was a 9:07 pace, and pretty much on target for what I'd hoped.

There was then a bit of an uphill turn as we doubled back, and the second 3 miles was far easier. The running surface seemed more forgiving, and the wind was behind us. Plus there was more space to move around in. The sun almost seemed to be coming out, so I took my jacket off and tied it round my waist. I was trying to notice all the landmarks so that I'd know how far I had to go on the second time round, and I'd know whether there were any slopes to watch out for. The course was pretty flat, but it did occasionally go up and down. Not any more than a few metres, but enough to require a bit of a push.

I got to 6 miles in 51:36 which blew me away. The second three miles with the wind behind me had taken 24:15, which is a 8:05 pace. That's faster than I've ever run before, and I started to feel like I actually had a chance of making that 2 hour goal. It also meant I was fast enough to finish the first lap before the fastest runners came back for the finish! But I knew that the next three miles would be the hardest. I would be going back north with my legs starting to tire, facing the headwind, and without the incentive to push on that would be given by the imminent finish on the way back. I told myself that I needed to take the next three slow and steady, that I had time to play with, and that if I could just make it back to the turn at Bispham the run back would be easy.

And that's pretty much what I did. At about 7 miles I started running at roughly the same pace as a woman wearing a running club vest. We talked a bit, encouraging each other to make it to the turn. She'd done about 10 half marathons before and was aiming for 2:04, and was pretty damn impressed at how I was going in my first. I never caught her name, but when she started to move away a bit I kept with her, and it took my mind off the wind a little.

There wasn't a marker at 9 miles, so I took my time at 10 instead to give a straight 5k to the finish. My overall time was 1:29:12, meaning that those 4 miles took 37:36, still not bad at all based on my previous runs, but down to a 9:24 pace. I'm sure I'd have gone slower without someone to keep me going though, and we were overtaking other people who were feeling it worse than we were.

Then the turn, and we were facing the finish. After a while the tower came into view, and the North Pier. It was such a relief to know that when we got there we could stop. We were pointing out landmarks as a real visual indication of how far we had to go.

Then something strange happened. Somewhere between 11 and 12 miles we lost each other. Not, as I'd been fearing only minutes earlier, because I ran out of steam, but because I powered ahead. On Friday night at the rugby a former runner was joking with me to save speed for the last three miles, and I joked, "what speed?". But from somewhere I found something to pull away and to overtake a few more people on the way to the line.

I passed the 12 and 13 mile markers with a smile on my face. I wouldn't say that it was easy, but I was comfortable, and I knew that stopping to walk at this stage would serve no purpose. I'd still have to get myself to the finish, and running it wasn't much more effort than walking it. I wasn't running for charity today, I was running for me, and I realised that all the training I'd done would be wasted if I just gave up and walked without having a valid reason. So I kept on running, and I kept on looking at my watch. I knew I was on for 2 hours at this stage, and I dragged myself towards the line with that thought.

I ran the last 3.1 miles in 26:28, which was back down to a 8:33 pace. I ran the second half of the race slower than the first half, but that last leg was faster than either of the northbound legs, maybe a testament to the strength of the wind, or maybe just due to my will to get it over with.

Which makes my overall time for the race....


I thought that breaking 2 hours would be pushing it, so I certainly never dreamed I'd get so close to going under 1:55! I was a very happy girl at this stage!

The encouraging thing for Berlin is that, while I wouldn't have fancied another two laps, I was far less tired at the end than I was at the end of the Abbey Dash 10k in November. That day I could feel myself slowing almost to a walk by the end, whereas today I kept on going strong and had enough energy in my legs to really kick on to the end. It may not have looked like I had much energy as I tried to write my name on an envelope to get a copy of the results, but believe me, I felt far less like I'd reached the limits of my endurance than I did that day. A marathon's only twice as far again...


Blogger Jude said...

I expect you to WIN the Berlin one now. ;p

6:38 PM  
Blogger seemzy said...

Congrats YP! You are amazing :)

7:26 PM  
Blogger Shauna said...

:) well freaking bloody brilliantly done! congratulations...

11:17 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Congrats! That's an amazing accomplishment! Keep up the great work!

3:37 AM  
Blogger K said...


That's absolutely astounding - well done you! (I'm exhausted just reading about it, but then it is Monday morning...)

By the time September rolls around there'll be no stopping you. Possibly literally.

10:22 AM  
Blogger VTH said...

Whoo hoo! Congratulations!

5:53 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

congrats on a very well ran race. You can totally kick ass in berlin

10:31 PM  
Blogger Jaykay said...

Sound like you had a fantastic race. Congratulations on a great result.

4:42 AM  

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