Anyhow - the race report (slightly abridged as memory has faded!)
Due to the post strike in the weeks before the race we all got emailed to come early to the venue to re-register and pick up numbers etc. I found out the week before that a friend was also running so we arranged to save on car parking spaces and travel down together, with the wonderful Kirsty-Dawn being the chauffeur for the day (lucky as driving back would have been interesting for me and my poor legs). So I left my house for the short car journey to Kirsty's at about 730am - the race wasn't starting till 10 but we knew carparking was limited and suspected it to be a bit manic with the whole registration thing. We got to Henley at about 8, a lovely day, blue skies, little wind and very fresh (read quite cold), pretty much perfect conditions! Got a parking space ok, and had little queues for registration. All that was left to do after that was to visit the porta-loo's several time for nervous bladder syndrome (NBS)! Once registration was done we headed over to the start/ finish area where we met up with another friend, Sarah, who was manning a charity tent. This is where we dumped bags, stuck on numbers and thought about warming up.This is the Thames Hospice "team" running either the half marathon of the 10k "fun run". Hadn't planned to be running for the Hospice and certainly didn't have any sponsorship but as they had a spare vest I put it on, better to have some advertising then none. Sarah - if you're reading this I've not washed the vest so you can have it back and also I'd like to give you some "sponsorship" money.... this is me pre-race... the nervous slouch in full view... do you think my thighs look big in those trackie bottoms?!?
Before we knew it (after the usual extremes of phaffing around), the race announcer was calling us to the start line, about 2000 competitors - exciting! Karen (my other friend who was running) and I had a little chat about not getting carried away and starting off to fast, but to take things nice and steady, she was hoping to go sub-2, I was hoping to survive and thought 2:15 was doable.... iPod on, Garmin on, and away we went!
Race Report:So I started off around the field, grinning like a lunatic at the thought that the next time I do this distance it's likely to be after a 1.9k swim and 90k bike... I must be mad!!
Mile1: The first mile saw us run back through Henley town centre which was really nice, first time I've seen a crowd like that on a race really. Really exciting, although everyone else did seem to be running past me! The cars in the town centre were stopped, so that was quite fun running past and around them. Over the Thames we went and turned left along a fairly narrow country lane. Now I had my Garmin on a run 10mins , walk 1 interval setting and honestly paid no attention to HR or speed... so it came as a bit of a surprise when I got to the first mile in sub 9mins!! Should have been at about the 10min marker! Thought "OOPS" so much for starting slow and not getting carried away! So I carried on until I got my count-down bleeps on the trusty Garmin when I stopped and stretched out hammies, quads and calf.... then walked a bit until the beeps again!
Miles 2-6: This really was beautiful. We continued up the lane, which was slightly undulating and at times quite crowded, before at about mile 3 we dropped back on to the Thames tow-path and headed back towards Henley. It was great, running past some guys in canoes on the river by the weir, other people rowing down and up the river. Really really lovely. We couldn't have had clearer skies, no wind, just perfect. I carried on my run 10, rest 1... the format of the rest period was always a stop and stretch followed by short walk and start again, sometimes starting up before the rest was over. I found this really helped break up the run nicely. I hit the 10k marker in under an hour I think (haven't yet downloaded my garmin to know for sure), which I was pretty pleased with. This first 6miles felt good, fairly easy and very enjoyable! Once we got back down to Henley it was back over the bridge, around the one way system back towards the start. More crowds in Henley, including Kirsty who was the official photographer for us too!Here's the picture of me coming back through Henley... Kirsty obviously thought I was running faster then I was and snapped the man infront of me as I hadn't quite got to her yet! Hopefully you can see through that I was still enjoying myself!! :o).... Now do you think my thighs look big in this picture?
Miles 7-9.5: Oh the pain! After the relative flatness of the course for the first 7 to 7.5miles we were unprepared for the "hill".... OMG! Now I knew it was coming, and I knew it would probably be horrid... but it was completely NASTY! It'll be interesting to see exactly how slow I ran up the darn thing! It went up, gradually at first then progressively steeper for a-g-e-s. Alas my Garmin inspired rest interval did not coincide with the worst parts! At one point I did thing "sod it I'm going to have to walk", was just about to stop "running" and start to walk when this guy said it was only 100m more till the turn in the road - so I couldn't stop then could I... so I carried on running to find the bend wasn't quite the end, but at least I could see it when I hit the bend! Finally made it up to the sound of cow-bells... don't they usually have those in the tour-de-france?! Anyhow, it was a great gesture by the family who were ringing them as did make everyone know we were at the summit about to head down hill. I think one of the things which inspired me to get up the hill was the knowledge that at some point between miles 8 and 11 I'd see my Mum and Brother ... kept seeing people in the distance thinking it was them, getting there and realising it wasn't got me to carry on to the next set of people who were scattered on the course cheering.
Miles 9.5-11: So I thought the uphill was steep.... but nothing compared to the gradient of the down hill section! The choice here was to run against gravity (ie break on the hill), or lean forward and run with it. Most people were breaking, which I did try to begin with but figured this would jar my aching thighs too much and besides when gravity's on your side why not use it.... so off I went, like a child running down a hill for the first time my legs were in danger of not keeping up with the rate of descent - talk about almost out of control!!! But it was really really quite amusing and I did overtake a hell of a lot of people! So what that my toe nails were in tatters after! Lucky there was only one sharp bend to deal with, I just avoided running headlong into a hedge!
This is me approaching the water station at about 10.5 miles, I didn't realise but this is still slightly down hill. I saw Mum and Bro at the side of the road so came out of the crowd of runners to give them the opporunity for a photo and also the biggest sweatiest hug! It was fantastic to see them there! I had to run off quickly post-hug as I did come over all quite emotional!
Miles 11-13: This is where things become a little hazy and also where my right hammy was trying to cramp. I think I was now in the "let's just finish this" zone. We came out of the countryside onto a path which went down a dual carriageway back towards Henley and the finish. This bit of village/ road being called "The Fairmile", a very old road.... Well I have to say there was nothing "fair" about it, and as for a mile - huh! It was long, straight and went on for an eternity! Luckily one of the gym instructors and warned me about it, telling me you've just got to keep your head down and get it done. It was like something from a horror movie or nightmare - everytime I looked up I had got no closer to the town! Agghhhhhh! It was around mile 12 that Garmin told me to stop and stretch - which hammy certainly needed but in so doing I was risking a cramp starting up running again.... well a girl whom I had spent the whole of that hill leap-frogging (I was using a slow steady tortoise strategy, she was using a hare-stop-hare-stop strategy), anyhow as she passed me she yelled "this is no time to stop and stretch now!".. and I thought you know - she's right. So I lumbered on (which is what it felt like my now), with her about 15m ahead of me.... and it was then that my competitive spirit kicked in - I didn't want her to beat me!! So, inspired as I was, I managed to not get dropped off too badly... we finally (finally finally), reached the end of the not-so-fairmile and turned left heading back out of Henley towards the start/finish!
Mile 13 to 13.1: As we turned back towards the field and the finish tunnel I dug in deep and found a spurt, which turned into a sprint (well as fast as I could muster, and believe me I'm not fast even when I'm fresh)! Alas the girl also sprinted to the line and guess what - we crossed it at the exact same time.... I did look a bit of a mess:
I'm not sure I can thank Kirsty-Dawn enough for taking that one ;o) ... and quite frankly I'm not sure why I'm posting it. The girl that legged it in with me is off to the right and I'm sure looks worse then I do (yeah right!)... Still we're all friends here aren't we.... now be honest - my legs do look big in those tights don't they ;o)
So I gave it my all a the end and finished in 2:10:21... FLIPPIN BRILL! I was well stoked up with the time and didn't really expect that! And guess what - I beat that girl by 45secs per the chip time - turned out she was ahead of me when the race started! Not that I'm competitive - in fact thinking about it I needn't have sprinted at the end - damn!
I think that's Sarah's hand given me a pat on the back at the end! Boy was I knackered!
Well Karen finished in 1:57 something, which she was really pleased with - so we celebrated with a pot of jelly which they were handing out at the finish! Big thanks to Sarah who held my towel in the field as I got changed afterwards! Now that's a true sign of a caring friend if you're prepared to do that for someone!.... Although to be fair I'm not sure she'd do it again having discovered how sweaty and stinky someone gets after such an event! LOL! Big thanks to Kirsty "David Bailey" Dawn for the photos and transportation! Huge thanks for Mum and Bro for making it out to be on the course. My toes have recovered (in terms of pain), but am fully expecting to loose 4 nails in the coming months - I'll remember to blog that event when it happens ;o) This was a great and memorable event - I'm already hoping I'll be fit, willing and able to do it again next year. No longer a half-Mary virgin!