The event had been organised by my running mate Ian Evans, his first stab at race organising and despite being nervous beforehand, he put on a great show, one of the best Twin Peaks yet, ably assisted by freak mid-summer like conditions in early October. The local surge in people taking up running also showed, with lots of new faces meaning a record entry for the race and in addition, all the family and friends that come with them, to create a great atmosphere on the promenade.
It was also my first year since 2010 without a Spring marathon. Whether this was a good thing or not remained to be seen.
A reccy was carried out the previous week with first timer, nephew Llyr. I'd worked out some mile splits which always sets my mind at rest (to know the course like the back of my hand). One less thing to worry about on the day.
Looking back through some previous Twin Peaks races via my Garmin data (I love this kind of retrospective analysis), I realised that my hill work had been ok in the past but my downhill and maybe even the pace on the flats needed some work.
This meant the plan was to start at full gas for once, minus maybe a couple of percent, and slacken off on 'Dogshit alley' in readiness for the first slog of the day, Pendinas Hill.
My plan kind of worked. I wanted a fast first mile but it seemed that the quality field all had fresh legs on the day and we set off at a seemingly brisk but sensible pace, only for the mile one split to read 5.39, way faster than even my 5km pace. This felt very comfortable at the time and so I decide to go for it and try & stay at the back of the lead group.
Mile 2, which ended just at the foot of Pendinas was another cracker at 6 minutes, and I'd even lost a couple of places which didn't alarm me too much. I was almost one minute up on my schedule after two miles, something had to give.....
Pendinas starts steep, levels out and then kicks again towards the summit. The first kick saw me hold back and run with my group, which by this point had thinned out, with the leaders making their way ahead of us. I began to overtake runners on the less steep middle section and was running 9th as we headed for the top.
The last kick was a brute and the guy in front started to walk. Psychologically, this wasn't good for me. I was in pain and saw this as a great chance to copy him, and to try and stop the burn. I did, and never really recovered.
I'd gone over the red line, and plummeting down the descent, I was out of control, lucky not to turn an ankle or slip on my back as I just didn't have the core strength to keep myself stable. Not to worry, I just thought of how fast Richard Anthony would be snowballing down behind me, and managed to keep a good pace going through the off-camber footpath whilst being chased by a couple of runners I'd past on the ascent.
Back onto the road for mile four and the legs had gone into lactic shock and I felt like I was operating at 50% power, probably due to the fast start! We've all been there and it's a test of will to convince your body to snap out of it and get going again. I thought of the old 3 min max. sprint tests on the bike that the University lab carried out a few years back. This showed that even after a maximal sprint effort where you die by minute two, you actually start producing more power again in minute three, despite the sensation of doom that you're going at snails pace...
I looked up and saw that the guys in front were in the same boat, we were all running in slow motion compared to the outward prom leg, it was just a case of hanging on. The 3 min theory did work in my opinion, and I felt a bit stronger as we headed to climb two. My Garmin had lost GPS at mile three frustratingly and so I can't analyse the negative split in great detail much to my annoyance.
'Consti' is another tough climb, albeit shorter than Pendinas, and years of efforts up there taught me in my hour of need, not to look up, focus on the three twisty corners at the bottom before crossing the two bridges and then the final slog through the rocky section to the summit. It was 'orrible. I walked, I looked up to see others walking, I looked down to see that I had ample gap to the guys & girls behind me but I still wanted to keel over. I asked a marshal where the collapse mattress was.. If you're cooked, no hill training in the world can help you speed up. I trotted and eventually forced myself to run again, cheered on by the crowd at the top, and plodded up to the access road at the very top and managed to catch up with one other runner to start the descent.
My timer was still working and so I knew how long we had to descend back to the prom in order to try and dip below the magical 50 minute mark for a PB and it was going to be close, probably too close. I bombed down, again in a Richard Anthony esque' style, almost falling into the sea at the bottom of the ramp, with my knees and shins still reminding me of this almost a week and a half later. I didn't hit the prom with enough time to spare to run to the finish in the time required,and was duly re-caught by my companion in the yellow shirt that I'd left on the descent.