I was not too worried about this one. "Three Bigs Hills" didn't really concern me after all the stupid verticals I had put myself through recently. Only one thing was on my mind, this was the last marathon I'd run before the GUCR. All the training will be done after this, nothing else left to do other than trying to organise the logistics of the run. Oh - and Leicester City could get relegated today into the 3rd tier (pepsi max challenge super league or something) for the first time in their 124 year history.
It hadn't rained for days and I stuck to my plan of wearing trail shoes. In retrospect normal road shoes would have been fine, ir better. The sun was out and it was getting quite warm. A spectacular day to see such great scenery of the south downs way.
Ian (as usual) was banging on about the possiblity of a team prize. This was to be awarded to the top 4 of the same club. I had competition to be in that 4 from Ian S, Mark, Rob and Ian P. I'd liked to have said that I didn't really care, but I did.
The first few miles were gently undulating, Ian, Mark, Dave and Rob shot off from the start. I suspected that Rob would blow up at some point and I might catch him later crawling up a hill. Ian and Nick stayed behind. I immediately regretted wearing the trail shoes as my feet were hurting from the start and there was little chance of me falling over in this race.
The first "challenge" was at the 7 mile point (which was annoyingly marked as the 6 mile point - Not carrying a garmin nowadays just makes me feel bad). A gentle but significant climb along a trail up a hill. The problem with hills like this is that there is no excuse for not running them. The hills I've done recently over Exmoor and the Three Peaks were so steep there was no alternative but to walk (sometimes crawl) up them. However there is a critical angle of a hill (30 degrees?) where you just have to run it. This was one of those, and it felt weird because I had not run up a big hill for ages.
Nick and Ian (P) had caught up with me at about 8 miles. We were at the top of Devils Dyke and the course loops back onto itself. This is the depressing bit where you get to see the runners who are miles ahead of you. The leader ran past us about 5 minutes before the next runner did. He looked so comfortable though he was so tall and thin I did worry about his chances of getting across the cattle grids.
Ian passed (in 3rd) and Mark soon after. Ian resisted having a dig at my current Serpie placing of 5th and outside the "winning team". I was still very aware of this though.
We did the turnaround and I was suprised to see so many runners behind us. I didn't think we were in the top third at that stage.
Most of this race was completely exposed, something that should have affected my choice of apparel. Suncream would have been a good start and maybe a sweatband, however I forgot both of these and was about to run into trouble.
I don't know whether I sweat more in races than others. I was wiping my face every few steps as the salt was streaming into my eyes. At this point I nearly tripped over (this was to be the first trail race I've done this year without falling over). I was so annoyed as I had nothing to wipe my face with, my shirt was strapped down by the bag. I've known people to carry J-cloths and headbands before and should have listened.
Every 5 seconds I was wiping my face. It was like someone consused my face with a bag of chips and was pouring salt and vinegar over it. At somepoint I passed a sheep and just thought about rubbing my face in its wool. I don't know whether the sheep was aware of the way I was looking at it, or whether it had seen that look before, but I promised myself never to look at a sheep in that way again.
Once again I had the pleasure of running this race as number 1. There are some advantages of being a member of the Adams familiy. I think it's the 5th race I've been number 1 and I've had a number 2 in a race before also. (both kinds). The silly coments are always welcome, some spectators feel so honoured to have actually seen the number 1 runner. It's like a spotting game they are playing. Anyway, as usual I dished out my bank of return comments while running as number 1 (and I'm sure not many other runners have these). The most memorable being "Looking good number 1" was met with "looking more like number 2".
At 17 miles I was 5th Serpie (ie outside the "winning team"). Ian Payne was in front and I was just keeping him in sight to see if I could use my endurance to my advantage. I'm not nearly as competitive as most people but I just kept thinking about the serpie results base (as I often do in races) and my name being at the bottom.
At about 18 miles there was a small incline (well about as small as primrose hill) and Ian struggled up it. Without really meaning to overtake I did and soon put quite a bit of distance between us. This is the bit of the race I like. In most races I've done recently I spend the last third constantly overtaking people. It's rare that someone passes me at this stage. Some would argue (Ian Sharman particularly) that I'm not trying hard enough at the beginning, but sometimes its because I got lost at the start.
The last 5 miles or so were in shaded footpaths along the south downs way. I was feeling quite stong at this point and was keen to keep the average pace on my garmin below 9mm. Overtook a few more and followed the marshals into the finish. This race was really well marshalled and lots of water stops which was essential in this heat - recommended.
As usual there was a group of serpies waiting for me to finish. Ian S had long finished in in 3.22, Mark in 3.26, Rob in 3.49 and I strolled in in 4.02. I had the excuse (over Mark and Rob) that I'd done nearly 2 marathons the weekend before and the excuse over Ian that I'd ran 26 miles on the wednesday too.
We won the team prize (by default I think) but the organisers weren't really sure what it was. Too hungry to wait we left and still don't know what the prize was.
That was the end of my hardest training week that involved almost 4 marathons in 9 days plus more miles in between. I felt good but also sad that I'll not be doing this again for a while. The leg training was done now for GUCR. Just a half and a 10k to go. I was most pleased that I can just tank along at a constant pace like I did today. This will be good experience for the end of may.
The meal afterwards in the carvery was only spoiled by sitting opposite a Southampton fan as his team survived and mine went down. When I was younger that kind of thing would have really upset me, but I think there is more to my life now to get too wound up by what a bunch of other men kicking a football do.
We waved Ian and Mark off as they made their way towards the train station to get to gatwick to do the Belfast marathon the next day. I didn't join them as I had school work to do. In retrospect I wish I had gone because it was such as glorious weekend that I didn't do any of my schoolwork and spend all of it in the sun grumbling that I could be running another marathon now and maybe having a chance of a good time. Instead I went for my usual 9k run around the park. I felt quite good throughout and when I finished was amazed to see that I'd done it 75s quicker than ever before. A 10k race that day would have been a pb. What about a marathon? I would have enjoyed going to the club on wednesday and seeing all the coaches frown at me again.