The week leading up to the race had been a shocker, even by my normal bad standards. Training had been real slack, I hadn't planned a taper but as it turned out I may as well have because of how little I'd done. This of course was mostly down to my stupid work hours which meant that although I hadn't trained I was still a wreck. Friday (race eve) I was up at 1am for work and when I finally left work at 4pm I still had the 3h30m drive up to my parents house in Wolverhampton. Thankfully, although I had to stop a couple of times through sheer tiredness I managed to skirt my way around all the rush hour congestion points making for a relatively easy journey.
A little snack, a bit of socialising and it was soon time to hit the sack ready for my 6am alarm call (that turned into 6:30am). The drive up to Cromford near Matlock was nice, easy and a lot quicker than I expected so I was there almost spot on 8am in time for registration to open. Then it was just a case of milling around, deciding what I was going to wear/drink/eat etc and meeting up with the podcast/twitter rabble before heading out to catch the bus to the start.We were at Thorpe in plenty of time, there were plenty of portaloos and a van to take all out baggage back to Cromford after the start. It was when I was rummaging through my bag that I discovered my ipod and remembered that I was supposed to be taking video (ooops).
I'd decided to wear a long sleeved white UV resistant top for the race, this drew a few glances as the temperatures soared but having seen many people wearing them at hot Ironman races it was worth a try, this was an experimental race after all. The other experimental plan was the run/walk strategy shown on my video.
So the race starts and as always someone goes shooting off at the front for 400m or so, things soon settle down though and after a mile I'm heading the field. I'm not worried about this as I know I'll get passed again once I stop for a walk break. On my first walk break I lose a couple of places, but when I catch and pass the new leaders at 3 miles they opt to run with me rather than just let me go. It seems a strange move considering the conditions, I'd expect everybody to just do their own thing, but I've no worries I'm not expecting to win or even finish in the top group, my only target is a 3:00-3:30 finish.
I carry on my plan up to 10miles, there is a clear leader who has broken away while I'm sat bouncing between 2nd & 4th depending on my run/walk position. We're (supposedly) almost at the end of the 11miles of climbing, apparently from here it's flat for 11miles (yeah right). I had a new issue though, I was busting for the loo and it wasn't a simple stand up jobbie. Just before the turnaround a heavenly vision appeared, sure the water station was welcome but there was also a toilet block there. I made my excuses to the crowds and made a beeline for them (don't you just hate it when you only fart!!!). When I reappeared a couple of minutes later the feed station crew shouted to me that I'd gone from 2nd to 10th, I could live with that.
And so the race went on, I worked my way through the field until I was back solidly in 4th place with nobody passing me on my walk breaks. I could see the leaders on the long straights but I wasn't gaining on them at all............. then 18miles appeared.
At 18miles I was 4th and the 3rd place runner was a minute ahead, the leader was around a minute ahead of him. It had been like this for quite a while. Then suddenly I noticed that the leader had dropped to 2nd and then dropped to 3rd. Almost as soon as this happened the new leader dropped to 2nd and the lad who had been 3rd was now leading, but still only a minute ahead. Then suddenly everything changed as within a mile it seemed that all of the top 3 blew apart and by 19miles I found myself leading the race again, this wasn't in the plan.I was feeling shot to bits but then I had been all race, my heartrate had constantly been around 20bpm higher than I would expect for the pace that I was running. However I was obviously in better shape than the folks around me and as I hit the 20mile point a couple of them seemed to be holding on so I decided to put an extra mile in before my walk break. Now I was in the lead and in a clear lead, it seemed crazy to imagine because I knew 3:10 was going to be a struggle but I was in with a real shout of actually winning this thing.
At 22miles a series of sharp descents started which lead you down towards the finish. On each descent I felt great, but on the flat section that followed each one my legs felt more and more tired, I was clear and out of the sight of all my competitors though it was just a case of keeping my legs turning over and the win was mine.. That was until 25miles when I looked over my shoulder and saw a runner in the distance, surely he was too far away to make a difference with little over a mile remaining. I flew down the final descent and then there was less than amile to be run along a canal before we got to the finish line. My legs could no longer cope with the flat surfaces though and my quads were verging on cramp. I tried to alter my stride and fight off the effects of cramp as taking a walk break now would surely give me chaser an incentive, it didn't walk though and suddenly they just locked up. I was forced to stop, not just walk and as I got myself moving again I was overtaken and relegated to second.
The good thing about not having any hopes or expectations from the race was that I really didn't mind being passed, it had happened, so what, the lad had obviously paced his race to perfection and he deserved it fully. I was also happy because 3rd place was nowhere in sight so I didn't have to push on and risk wrecking my legs any more to defend my position.
So that's it really. I pretty much limped over the Finish Line in 2nd place with a time of 3:11:59, my Garmin of course tells me that had I not wasted a trip to the loos at 11miles then I'd have won, but that's all hindsight. I'm happy with 2nd, it's more than I could have expected from the race so how can I possibly moan about it.
My run/walk strategy (almost) worked to perfection especially considering I was really in no shape to run a marathon. My long sleeved top worked a treat too. So onwards and upwards. The next event will be a total change, Burnham on Sea Sprint Triathlon. Wonder what joys will happen there?