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Friday, 14 March 2014

2014 - The Island Race - Hanner Marathon Ynys Mon, Gogledd Cymru

My first race of the year after a post Aber 10k period of pure gluttony, almost on a Brian Ashton / Ed Land scale (but not quite) and inability to get back into the training groove meant a belated start to the racing year.

With my lunchtime taskmaster Gancho Slavov currently out injured, there has been little in the way of his 'operation certain death' intervals so far and so I've been half heartedly attempting some of these myself, and have also been glad to be back at the Tuesday night speed sessions.

I chose this race as it's on the in-laws doorstep up on the Menai Straights and so a relaxed Saturday afternoon was spent reading the papers and putting the world to right in the father in-laws conservatory. This made a change from the usual 'Ace Ventura' style driving through Wales on the morning of the event, arriving with minutes to spare...

I picked up my number on the eve of the race, which also contained a 'do not bend' timing chip which I duly bent climbing back into the car, and a nice green & yellow T-Shirt, saving even more pillow time for the following morning.

The race started on the Menai Bridge and so I parked in the overflow car park which was Bangor City FC's new ground, turning out to be about a mile away, with not a portaloo in sight. Decision time. Get to the start early, in full warm up gear, visit loo & run back to the car, strip down and run back in race gear? This would mean 3 miles pre race! Instead, I sacrificed my trusty orange rain jacket and left the car for the day in my ready to race state with rain / warm up jacket which ended up in the back of the organisers van. I'll ask for it back one day..

Portaloos aplenty at the bridge and so we were off. The announcer went through the list of favorites, all with their own specific marathon goals, using this 'Island Race' as a preparation event. Rob Samuel, the winner of Marathon Eryri was even here.

My plan was to run at 6.20 pace or as near as I could, depending on the course, which I hadn't raced before. Mile 1 was the usual stampede as we headed into the town on the other side of the bridge, before heading north east towards Beaumaris on 'rolling roads'.

Miles 2-6 were all ok despite the hills although I was being caught by individuals and small groups and couldn’t really tag on any of them. This was the start of alarm bells and as we headed north of Beaumaris onto some twisty back roads, I began my 'second phase' of the race which involved running slower than phase one!

We turned back towards Beaumaris after what seemed like hours of wandering the countryside and hit a harsh headwind (no wonder the first 6 miles were ok!) and as we headed around the marina, I was caught by the first lady and a companion. The companion was running a very strange style, dragging his right foot. It transpired that he was in fact trying to unhitch something from the sole of his shoe and when he couldn't achieve this, he duly stopped dead, despite me being right behind him. Luckily I've watched the Matrix series of films, and instantly impersonated Keanu Reeves in dodging a bullet and somehow managed to twist myself around the human pillar in front of me, narrowly avoiding putting us both out of the race.

Miles 9-11 were even worse with headwinds and hills all conspiring against me and the rest of the field as pace went out the window and it was just time to enjoy the run. At mile 12 I glanced at the watch and still had a faint chance of a sub 1.30, needing around 8 minutes to compete the last 1.2 miles. I half heartedly trudged on, only to see a sign saying 400 metres to go..I looked down again, I had 1min 50 seconds to do 400 metres - easy!?

Thinking back to all the track sessions we'd done, I bolted off and sprinted the last '400', but alas it wasn't 400, more like 600 metres and as the finish came into view, I was in at around 1.30.16!

In summary, a well organized race, backed up by great enthusiasm from the locals with plenty of support & feeds. If you fancy a racing weekend away in North Wales, look no further.