It is often said in jest that triathletes are a “different breed”. Come rain or shine, or in the case of the recent born2tri duathlon race training session: Snow, the individual is willing to put in the hard graft and show the mental fortitude to battle the elements whilst pushing their bodies in the aim to strive to become faster, stronger and inherently even further ahead of me. The other reason to train is to practice how to race, how to prepare and how to recover. I am yet to understand any of this, but I am learning……slowly
At the tail end of last year and having completed my first ever event, Martlesham Heath 10K and getting under my hour mark target (57.38), I set to look for my next challenge. I sights swiftly locked onto, what I considered the holy grail of the non-runner*, the sub 2 hour half marathon. Silverstone Half Marathon here I come.
In my best John McEnroe impression: “You cannot be serious” – I had blow out my left knee. All be careful planning and adhering to a training plan (running about haphazardly then pouring over the heart rate data from my watch and then paying no attention to it) had gone up in smoke. After rehabbing and dealing with the cliche of always being injured, I decided that I needed two bites at the cherry to achieve my goal so entered Colchester Half Marathon for two weeks later and the tale of two half marathons begins.
Silverstone Half Marathon
One week ahead of the big day I decided to test if all of the rehabbing and training had paid off and run 8 miles at race pace. It was a glorious success – 8 miles at 8.40 minute mile and I had some still left in the tank. I was on top of the world, I did get a deserved humbling the next day though at the Born2Tri training session at the Redbridge Cycling Centre – I got lapped on a 10km Time Trail. Straight from the video “sh!t triathletes say” – I had a major session yesterday and I am tapering for a event and my coach told me not be mess with my heart rate zone……..
At the race, warming up and John McEnroe turns up again: I roll my ankle on a giant chicken – You Cannot Be Serious”. After calming down a little and making sure I was ok with adrenaline coursing through my veins the gun sounded and off went myself and 6000 others.
Buzz went my watch at the 1 mile marker. The reassuring buzz that tells me that I am making progress turned to shock to see that I had headed off, acted the fool, and run a 7.07 mile. I was feeling strong and comfortable and pressed on regardless. Slowly though, I was noticing people passing me. 1 by 1 then 2 by 2 and then whole groups. Everything that I had practiced, rehearsed and planned was falling apart and I was only 4 miles in.
Stopping is always a option but it was a option I did not want to exercise. My heart was pounding like a jack hammer; everything was a blur, the oasis of the end seemed a thought too far. I stuck to the edge of the track and thought purely about how it would feel to succeed, not fail. Mile by mile passed, the small advantage I had built, to achieve my 2 hour goal, by going too fast at the starts was dwindling away.
My jaw drooped open looking like a fish to let the oxygen in and with my hands tingling, I see the 12 mile marker and the time reading 01:51:10. I had come too far, worked way too hard to get there, I was not going to let this opportunity slip from my grasp.
Foot after foot smashed down, not in anger but in will to succeed, to propelled me to the line. Crossing under the finishing arch, I let off a scream louder than a million Justin Beiber fans. I then scurried off away to collect my medal and goody bag to avoid the socially odd situation I had just created due to screeching at the top of my voice. Official Time: 1:58:46 and boy did it hurt to get there.
In all the pandemonium I forgot to warm down and as a result missed Monday night swim training and had to walk around for the next week like a thing that does not walk around very well.
Colchester Half Marathon
Fancy smart people in white lab coats will tell you that to preform at your best you must have your glycogen levels fully restored. In simple terms, do NOT go on the 43 mile club ride in gale force winds and rain the day before the event.
Whilst on the club ride I was having a conversation saying that I did not really mind what time I ran, I was just going to enjoy it. They said they could never just turn up and not want to race as hard as possible – mind you, they can run a 33 min 10k. It takes me longer to get out of bed in the morning.
As soon as I found a nice spot to wait at the start line my mind went to why I was there? why do I do this? Why did I cycle the day before? Because I love it – Sound of the crowd, the adulation of finishing, the concept of sharing a combined goal with many people. Damn the airy fairy just enjoy it 60s vibe, this is a race! And I am going sub 2 hours again.
The Colchester course unlike Silverstone, which is pancake flat, is like a roller-coaster – up and down and up and down again. Unlike Silverstone where I set off like a gazelle and ended like a wounded wildebeest, pacing would be the name of the game. After mile three I was positioned next to a lovely couple. We started chatting away but working hard running 9.00 to 9.10 minute miles. Mile 10 was a really steep dig and we helped motivate each other to get beyond it.
And here I was again at mile 12 and only a few minutes to get home, this time with power in the legs and two new friends by my side. As a trio we looked at each other and put in that last big effort. We cruised to the finishing straight and gave a little sprint at the end and we were home in 1.59.42.
The Truth of the Matter
I got it pretty wrong both time for different reasons but managed both times to reach a genuinely hard personal goal. This makes me very happy but at the same time sad. I reached a goal that I thought I would truly struggle to reach but I know I can go harder and faster. I guess it is not time to retire the running shoes and go back to McDonald’s – 1.50.00 I have my eyes on you!
* True holy grail of running for no runners is sub 4 hour marathon – maybe next year(ish)
Massive thank you to Chris and Anna for the support at Mile 11 – was a huge boost
Silverstone & Colchetser – heart rate considerably lower at Colchester
Title is from Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities. readers have been saved from me describing Silvertone and Colchester as Charles Darney and Sydney Carton respectively from the book.