The day started the night before. "Use boiled water to warm the flask" the other half recommended as I planned to take porridge on the 5.30am drive to Cardiff for the Cardiff Half Marathon.
An offer to stay over for the night had fallen through and so the long commute it was to be on a day when Aber AC were stretched to the limit with members racing in the Twin Peaks local race, the Chester Marathon and at Cardiff.
An alleged 100 townsfolk had headed to the capital with at least four of those from the club to make up the 19,000 total who were taking to the line.
My prep had been pretty good. Weeks of pretty poor Snowdon Marathon training had inadvertently left me in good shape for a half, or so I thought. Plenty of 6-8 mile tempos and lots of long track intervals would surely give a PB?
Back to the flask, and the porridge was gloopily added and bags were packed, out the door and on the road by 5.40 for a 9am start time. Timing meant a roadside stop was needed to have breakfast and upon pouring it into the bowl, a jet of watery porridge spewed out, all over everything and instantly deeming the car in need of a valet. I'd forgotten to poor the water out first and ended up having a very small portion, hastily topped up with a banana and energy drink...
Second faux pas of the day was the lack of Vaseline in my race bag. I rarely use it any longer as the body seems to have hardened to general running without the need, but longer runs still require a quick dose on the nipples and groin ;-) I didn't like the thought of running without and so asked the nearest other guy (why did I ask a bloke?!) in the 'car park' and was instantly told 'i ain't got none', in a slightly to nervous voice. The same thing happened twice and in the end i was resigned to running 'dry'.
Enough of layby's and car parks, the race was much bigger than I had presumed with 19,000 starters, the second biggest half in the UK. I was under the impression it would be a slightly bigger version of Tregaron Half!
The route to the start was a bit clumsy and bottle-necked via the castle grounds, but the rest was spot on with plenty of feed zones, good crowds and atmosphere. It just seemed so weird to have such a big race so close to home, I don't think I fully took in this atmosphere as the area was already so well known to me.
My aim was to run sensibly, and try for 6.20 minute mileing pace as an average. This would be around 20 seconds slower per mile than my Cardiff 5 mile pace and 15 seconds slower than my 10k PB but a big 29 seconds faster than marathon pace. It would be a challenge and that's what it turned out to be.
My track work meant the first few miles were comfortable at the race pace, even a tad faster but the lack of longer training miles meant miles 5-9 were 'a bit harder'. Nevertheless the pace was still good and it was at around 9.5 that the feeling worsened. Even then, I managed a 6.30 and so was still fully on target. Then came the drag up to the top end of Roath lake. This took its toll and what was left in the legs was left on the road. At the turn for home at around 11.5, I had to shorten the strides and fall back 30 odd seconds per mile, so it wouldn't be a total breakdown.
The guy who physically spread his arms out to stop his colleagues going to fast at the start flew past me at 12.5 miles, he was not a day younger than 60 and he had a female veteran in tow - there's always someone more clever....
The finish came eventually, a great long and wide road with big crowds and an orderly finish protocol - finish, water, medal, t-shirt, recovery drink, goodie bag, expo, exit.
My time was just over one minute slower than my 'best case scenario' (1.24.13) and so I'm pretty satisfied as it was a PB by over two minutes, without the aid of enough porridge or any Vaseline whatsoever!