Country to Capital; first race of 2016 and my longest run in 2 years!
I went in with big expectations and a big set of targets:-
- Complete the race
- Get to the canal feeling good
- Don't walk in the canal section
- Beat my 2014 time
- Go under 08:15
- Have a finish time that starts with a 7.
TLDR; I hit the top 4 goals.
The longer version...
I decided to stay overnight in Wendover the night before. I like sleep and given the race start of 08:45, with a request to have folks not on the train up from London that morning to be registered by 08:15 I thought it'd just be nicer that way. This meant I had to take everything I needed to work and wear my kit all day on Friday due to needing to save space in the 1 reasonably-sized drop bag allowed for the race. Good thing I have no shame really, as it meant looking like a PE teacher all day.
The morning of the race, I had breakfast prepared with me - an avocado, two hard-boiled eggs and some cream cheese that I mashed together and ate after registering at The Shoulder of Mutton race HQ. I met with @UltraBoyRuns, his partner and baby and @ChiltonDiva who was running her first ultra. We got ready & chatted in the pub as it filled up and tried to work out exactly how muddy it was going to be on the way to the canal.
My amazing coach @jameselsons was running and gave me a quick hug & a cheery "enjoy it!" just before the start and not long after that, with drop bags safely stowed in the van to Paddington, the race was started.
|@jameselsons at the finish (having just won), looking remarkably mud free in his quilted jacket!
The fear about slippery mud for a large proportion of the first 21 miles to the canal quickly evaporated. The mud was pretty much frozen solid and there were only small patches of pretty thick ice to contend with as well as queueing for some stiles and kissing gates in the first couple of miles.
It was basically a lot easier going than in 2014 with the lack of slippery mud and the only real hindrance I had in the first half was not trusting the breadcrumb trail I had loaded onto my Garmin a couple of times and following the herd only to add 0.6 miles to the route. Hey ho.
So I got to the canal with no real idea of how I was going in terms of time as I'd been deliberately not looking at the mile splits on my watch as they came up, but I felt pretty good. As I turned onto the canal, the thought was; "Right! Time to crank up the diesel engine and just steady pace to the end from here." And I set off at what felt like a reasonably steady pace.
The first mile split ticked by and I took a look. 10:32 for that first mile made me quite happy as it felt slower. The next mile split... 10:32 and I felt pretty good about that. Then the next mile felt the same, but when I looked at the time... 11:32. Hm. OK, it could be a GPS error or something. The next mile felt exactly the same again, but... 12:21. My heart sank. My inner monologue was threatening that if the next mile wasn't good, well, I don't know what but it wasn't happy.
And it wasn't great but not quite as bad. 11:17 for that mile, but already my brain was sunk. An 11 minute mile after that would have made me feel OK, but I fiddled with my watch for some reason and stumbled across a screen that told me that my estimated total time for a finish was now 8 hours and 40 minutes.
So, lo and behold, I had a tantrum. I texted Mr TOTKat in a funk. He had a go at making me feel better but there wasn't a lot to be done at this point and my brain was going to go to the bottom before it could turn around again. So having got the texting tantrum out of the way, I burst into tears and heaving sobs with a good old wheeze like a dying donkey. And I walked through the tantrum until I talked myself into getting running again; partly to just get to the finish in less than another 5 hours, and partly because despite 8 hours 40 really not being what I'd wanted out of the day, it was still going to be a PB. Of course with the walking tantrum, I lost another few minutes so 08:40 became 08:55 estimated finish (as Garmin works on moving average pace or similar).
I had a further melt down which was actually worse than the first, and I walked through it, but I sort of realised that it was related to the Gingerbread Man wanting to pay a visit. Which eventually became non-negotiable and I had to make use of my shit kit in some pretty scrappy bushes. I was also stiffening up from the cold combined with not moving as quickly as I was in the first section - I ended up having to vigorously rub my hips & quads to get some warmth into them a good few times.
Checkpoint 4 came and went just after 15:10 and I was glad not to be paired with another runner as is laid out in the checkpoint information (runners must be paired if leaving the checkpoint after 3pm). Checkpoint 5 hit just as the sun was going down and I was well after the pairing up threshold of course, but... no pairing up! Pretty relieved about that as I was worried I'd be paired up with someone who had left all their beans out in the first half and would want to walk a lot. To be fair, the chap who left CP5 shortly before me then run/walked at exactly the same pace I was running at until the final couple of miles when he finally overtook me (to beat me by about a minute in the end), so I could have paired with him just fine. We had a good old laugh about that for a few miles.
I cracked open a glow-stick to put in my rear mesh pocket so that cyclists coming up behind me could see me in the dark, and had my fabulous head torch (upside down which keeps the glare out of my eyes) on for seeing the towpath after sunset as there's no lighting.
The final few miles, I jogged pretty slowly but determinedly to the end; feeling a lot less mushed in the brain, but disappointed that I'd not gone as quickly as I'd've liked.
Finishing in 08:48:45 I beat my 2014 time by 10 minutes and 15 seconds. Yeah, the going was easier in the first section, but there are a few things that I need to keep in perspective:-
- This time last year it was a two weeks before I began to re-learn how to walk
- This is the furthest I've run in one day in 2 years
- I was a couple of kg lighter last time I ran this race and still running off the back of Ironman training fitness
So. All in all, a good start to the year. And a great long-sleeved t-shirt to remember it by! I have no idea what the checkpoint food was like apart from CP3 where the savoury snacks were and I had a micro pork pie that took me a mile to eat while I jogged on. The checkpoint volunteers were great though and helped brilliantly with filling bottles etc. while standing around on a really cold day.