and finally....it's over.
Where to start? I suppose I'll start with the result - 3hrs 12minutes odd. Thats probably a bit faster than most thought I'd do. I secretly attempted a 2.59 on the day only to be shot down by the man with the hammer at 17 miles like so many others. I didn't blow completely, just a gradual painfull slowdown to 8min miles rather than the 6.51's until the last couple when i struggled not to walk.
My conservative estimation was 3.20 ish so overall .... I'm very very happy!
Dan also had a good one, our training definately paying off as he surprised himself too with a cool 3.18. We were together until 5 or 6 miles when he thought better of my suicidal pace and went into his own pace zone. Another two miles and he would have caught me. My last mile was a ten minuter!!
Lessons learnt - train longer! Our long runs were mostly 10-16 miles, which were great if you were running, 10 to 16 mile races i suppose!
The day started well. Well, almost. We caught the DLR to Woolwich and then the overground to Blackheath. The train was full and Dan spotted an empty seat. It soon became apparent as to why the seat was empty...it was next to the only non athlete on the train, a middle aged gent who was probably on his seventh can of Stella that morning (it was 8am after all).
The next 10 minutes was spent trying not to breathe in as he explained repeatedly that the ban on alcohol in snooker & darts was a farce as the players simply topped up whilst the cameras weren't pointed their way.
I nodded and smiled and Dan smirked probably due to the fact that he had the window seat. Thanks for that one Dan ;-)
The park in Greenwich was buzzing, and it was fairly cool with a slight morning haze - perfect conditions! We made our first beginners error by placing our finish bags in the lorry straight away whilst everyone else held onto theirs so that they could sit on the plastic so as to avoid a wet bum. Doh!
Time then stood still as it seemed like hours to wait until the start. Toilet visit after toilet visit and the nerves piled up. We entered the start zones, Dan in zone 3 and me in zone 2 due to the different estimations that we applied with. Not to worry, I headed to the back of zone 2 and Dan to the head of zone 3. The zones merged in any case as we walked towards the actual start area and we were united once again.
The race got underway and the expected slow down of pace due to the shear numbers didn't materialise too badly, probably as we started so far up the grip. The first mile was a 7.17 so not too bad at all.
The crowds continued to build, something I'll never forget. It seemed like a crowd from the mountains of the Tour de France, but it continued for 26.2 miles! In some places it even got emotional! The heat did unfortunately build aswell, culminating in a rather hot day and so it was a bottle of water every two miles without fail from 4 miles onwards!
The first 17 miles were perfect. No pain, feeling better than any run, ever. All the niggles gone, hydration - perfect, energy - perfect, pace - not a problem, breathing - fine. Every mile ticked off in precision at 6.40 - 7 min miling.
Only when I got back to Westferry did I start to realise the hamstrings were tightening. Not only them, but the thighs also. I ignored it at first but it became increasingly harder to maintain pace and so by 18 miles i was falling behind. I even saw Carwyn from Sarn Helen walking! Even the realisation that this may be my only ever chance to beat the mighty Sarn Helen runner could not prevent my slowdown!
This was not a pain I am used to. The only other time its happened has been Rhayader 20, so I suppose its an endurance muscular thing. In any case, 7 miles to run with this was impossible at the pace i needed. Maybe 2 or three would have been possible, but not 7 and so I surrendered and went into damage limitation mode. This worked a treat as I was still able to knock out some 8 (ish) min miles and although a horrendous last 10k where i didn't enjoy the crowds or the Mall one bit, i was still able to come home with a satisfactory time. A last minute look to check i was in a Burgess free zone set off a panic attack as the lad outsprinting me bore a resemblence to Dan, even down to the blue vest!
Like I said, his tactics almost paid off as he would have past me had there been another couple of km's in it.
The last few months have been fun. I can't confirm nor deny that Dan has burnt his trainers, but hopefully we'll see sense in a few days and plan to use this for more running adventures later in the year :-)