Where was I ....
The Race Report
So the start as you'd expect was kinda busy. There was a 2hr pacer about 400m in front of me at the start (Akshaye this is the only pacer I saw, may have been one at 1:3ohr and 2:30hr too), so my aim was to keep the guy (well his ballons actually) somewhere visible in the distance to ensure I didn't go off to hard (I was assuming the pacer would pace well!).... I've never run in such a crowd for so long before. In fact now I think of it I've not run in such a crowd for so far - it felt like I was running in the same sea of people the whole time - didn't thin out at all - but then with 17,000 taking part I guess I shouldn't have been surprised!
Anyway, off we started constant beeps of people going over the start mat! Hit the first roundabout where the Reading Royals team mascot (some kind of large lion outfit) was - as I was so close I just had to hit a high five (hand to paw)! I knew we then start winding out way out from the stadium area up through a housing estate (mile 1 was somewhere in there), a gradual incline until we got to a short sharp hill... which was in fact a little bit nasty but not too evil in the scheme of evil hills in half marathons. Got to the top and found a friend in the shape of little Westie (yes I know this is also a breed of dog but also the name of one the girls from hockey!),, where I got a nice big shout.. HURRAH for that.. and HURRAH for the hill being out of the way!
I decided somewhere around this point to have my Garmin set to actual time and distance - that's it. I figured I didn't want to see my HR (as it may scare me if I thought it got too high), and I didn't want to see my average pace as I knew to go sub 2 I needed 10.5 on that - as I wasn't aiming for sub 2 (due to Feb) I didn't want to continually feel negative if I saw the pace outside.
Next milestone was the water station through the university. Funny for that there were people by the side of the road with "warning - hump" signs... to mark where the speed humps in the road were - but this did amuse me quite a bit. Also fab to be running through the university where, some 25 years ago, my Dad finished one of the first Reading half's (it used to start and finish in the University). So that was kind of inspiring for me.
Next stop Dad who was waiting on a street in about another mile or so...... before I got to him I saw a couple more people in the crowd of onlookers who I vaguely knew and/ or recognised so I gave them big grins and a wave. When I got to the down hill section where my Dad was I kept my eyes peeled - finally say him and took off my hat given it a mad wave so he could see me - and just to make sure I stopped and gave him a great big hug!!! That was great! :o)
We then continued down hill towards the town center. I have two big memories here - first off there was a drum band playing under the flyover which we ran past - the noise of the beat of the drums was outstanding! I for one, along with quite a few other runners gave the a clap of gratitude as we ran by. We twisted and turned our way through town to waterstop 2 - which was supposed to also be a lucozade stop - luckily for me I got one of the last bottles - how can they run out it beyond me - bad planning/ assessment I guess? Hit a bit of a dodgey patch around mile 7, not sure why. I was fueling with a gel about every 30mins - so shouldn't have been a fuel problem. Still I got through it ok and onto the next and only other significant hill. The funny thing here was the pub open half way where I saw at least one person stop and half a puff on a ciggy and half a pint! Luckily I was running up the other side of the road ;o)
Next point to aim for was where my friend Pikey was waiting - lucky for me (unlucky for her) she gets locked into her road whilst the half marathon takes place as it kinda loops around the road she lives off of - blocking both ends. Lucky for me as I saw here there and again about a mile or so later (for me - several 100m for her).... where she kindly ran with me for a couple 100 and told me I was "catching up with the camel!" ... and the time I didn't really know what to make of this comment. Next person stop was about 9.5 where another friend was with her charity team - like all other occasions in the race I saw her first too - so got a belated "Run Doris Run!!" shout. It was approaching the jelly-baby pitstop did I realise what the camel comment was when I saw running ahead of me a side on camel... two people running front sharing a camel costume which went to the side - a very bizarre and surreal sight at this stage... but not as surreal as the jelly-baby cemetry which I than ran through... yes or rather no - there were no jelly babies left in the buckets but hundreds upon hundreds lieing on the road!! This inevitably led to jelly-baby massacre as us poor runners wanting one hunted out a bucket (which was empty) only to be treading and squashing the poor souls as we went.
A nice down hill spurred me on towards the end .. Just as I approached the roundabout on to the long drag home I saw another vocal Reading Hockey supporter cheering everyone on - this spurred me on - last 3 miles - last 5k - Go Karen! Go! By now the end was kinda in sight (it's a long straight road towards the "wind turbine" which sits just behind the Madejski stadium.). I passed 11miles completely in the zone. Hit 11.5 and saw my last supporter - with a big smile I conveyed the message... "I'm toast".. and ran on my way heading towards the stadium. Just when you think you are there comes the dawning realisation that there's still a way to go - so within touching distance of the finish you loop back up the start straight, passing the start line, passing where I started from in the group before finally turning again and heading for home. Getting to the stadium again felt good - running around it to get to the entry point felt bad - let's just say it felt a bit cheeky! Still entering the stadium to the high pitched cheer of thousands (I think!) of people was electric - I even managed a final burst for home!
Crossing the line I involuntarily burst in to tears - but had to stop as I couldn't actually breath!! LOL! So it was a highly emotional, highly satisfying and jolly good fun race!
Official time: 2:11:46
Gun position: 7113/11181
Chip time: 2:01:53
Chip position: 6808/11181
Don't have enough detail of category position yet as only the provisional results are showing.
The DOMS have now settled down. Couldn't really walk well on Monday - just by quads in tatters really. But this has now settled.
The funny thing is, when I spoke to another Tri-clubmate on Tuesday evening they said how hilly and windy they found the race. I didn't think either of these were particularly bad or challenging (although I was 15mins slower then her!)... so I can only assume I'm more used to the hills as they were all similar to what I train on at home in the countryside and as for the wind - well maybe my competitors sheltered me. When I finished it was still gusting pretty strongly but I hadn't noticed it much when running - maybe the town sheltered us a bit too... So - given perfect conditions and a flatter course do you think I could go sub-2... you bet yeah I think I can if I train well... after all I've already saved 6% from last October. With continued run focus and improved technique I think I can do it. Next thing I need to figure is some 5 and 10k run goals for the season!
OK here's a recap of a couple other things;
The Race "strategy"
So given my lack of running due to back probs and hols in Feb my tactics were as follows;
1. Not to go off too fast - witnessed a very speedy start at my first half in October and didn't want to get too carried away, particularly given my Feb training
2. Break down the race into bite size chunks, predominately using both water stops and expected supporter spots to do this (there were 3 or 4 waters and pre-race I knew I had 5 people somewhere out on the course). So rather then thinking OMG 13miles to go, it was more like oh only a mile/ two until...
3. Stay relaxed and easy for first 6-7 miles! With the exception of the hill(s) the measure of this was nice relaxed steady deep breathing - I even managed to "nose" breath a bit!!
4. From mile 8 I knew it'd begin to hurt so the stage to mile 10 was just to keep going before I could "let rip" (yeah right) on the last 3miles - after all it's only a 5k run at that stage ;o)
The Race "stats"
Here's my half mile splits etc;
So my heart rate through the race gradually went up (note the "sprint" finish), with an average of 169 (note I do hardly any training with my HR this high let alone having it as an average!). My average pace was 9.20minute miles (5.48mins/km), my slowest pace (over the half mile) was 9:54 - this was up a hill near mile 2, my quickest (excluding the last 0.1mile "sprint") was 8:50mins/mile (which was down a hill somewhere near 10.5miles into the race)!