So last Friday I found myself driving down to the IOW through evening rush-hour traffic (don’t ask why) for what turned out to be a bit of a mammoth journey (I think I got to South Devon faster).
Situated in a nice house in West Cowes, it was only a 25-minute drive to the race start the following morning. My approach in hindsight was more than a little blasé.
The weather was bright, clear and fresh – perfect conditions. I hadn’t run more than 10 yards over the past two weeks, and was hoping that my groin would hold up. There was a small (in comparison to other CTS events) marathon field, but considering what was essentially a trail running boot camp in the form of Transalpine under my belt, I was confident of a top 10 and with any luck top 5 finish.
I set off at what I thought to be a reasonable pace down the first hill – all that practice running downhill made this feel very easy, and I was surprisingly straight into the lead (bar the 3 early starters). At no point did I feel I was running at a pace faster than I would normally go in a marathon but after about half a mile, my HR was unusually high. High 180s which is WAY above my anaerobic threshold of 168.
I ignored it temporarily and tried to relax, and was happy to let a group of 3 come past me and disappear into the distance. As I made my way along the coastline, it was pretty flat. FLAT?!!? I wanted hills to show of my new legs of steel.
My HR remained unusually high, and so I then resorted to walking up the steeper portions (although all completely runnable) in a bid to get it under control. Nothing.
I approached the first checkpoint and then took my time to eat a little thinking that if my HR is going to stay this high I’m probably going to need more food than normal. I scoffed a cliff bar and some cola bottles (only 4.8 miles in at this point) and leisurely made my way to the top of the first climb. I knew I’d have enough endurance to stay strong to the end, and so wasn’t worried about the few that overtook on this section. At that moment my priority was trying to relax. Even so, I probably should have just followed the signs instead of the people ahead and went about 2 minutes across and down a field the wrong way.
Oli who had started late, had caught up by this point and seen the correct sign, and shouted ‘Andy!!!! What are you doing?!?!’
Having realised the mistake, I and the other runners who had ventured off course turned around to see a steady stream of runners overtake as we made our way back across the field, up the hill, into the wind. (great!)
After a small flat section there was a downhill stretch, shallow enough to be easy to negotiate and steep enough to really fly down. Perfect, a chance to really test out my new descending ability. I bombed it and flew past everyone who had just overtaken, it was a great feeling. I then had Oli fifty or so yards up the road in my targets, he was casually running with another Tri-Londoner (sorry Dan).
Anyway, just as I spotted them we reached another slight incline. The descent had distracted me from my HR and it was speeding up to well over threshold again, time to reign it back in.
By this point, (about an hour in) I was beginning to get frustrated – it should have settled down by now – this definitely wasn’t normal. I slowed again allowing some to re-overtake, but then got stuck behind them on a single path descent.
Having completed the first, smaller loop of the marathon course, we then began to make our way along the coastline out towards the needles. The sun glinted off the calm channel – it really was perfect weather for running a coastal marathon.
It was truly a shame that by then, at only the second checkpoint I had more or less decided to call it a day. I had started to jog slowly, then walk, but nothing was bringing my hr below 165, which is more or less my threshold. Something really wasn’t right and I was worried of making myself unwell in the days to come by carrying on.
I stopped at the checkpoint and sat down for a while, and when it took more than 10 minutes to get my HR below 120 (resting HR usually 42) I knew it was time to call it a day.
With Jay unwell also, it was a bad start to the day for the Team Arktix boys, but thankfully, as predicted, Oli flew the flag and came home second by a couple of minutes or so – if only he’d turned up on time.
Hopefully this weekend, and our first Polar Challenge training event as a team, we can put on a better show than I mustered last Saturday!
Thanks to Christophe DeMoulin (winner of the half) for the pics!
Bring on Dorset!