Monday, 7 October 2013

Race report: Basingstoke Half Marathon

So one or two of you (that's not an exaggeration, literally one or two of you) have been asking me what has happened to the blog. To be honest it comes down to the fact that I've been lazy and was worried that I was getting rather repetitive - it was mainly becoming a blog about a man who has a weak immune system and gets ill all the time rather than a man that does some triathlon training.

Anyway, seeing as I completed the Basingstoke half marathon yesterday, now seemed as good a time as any to update you on my misadventures. So how did I find myself running a half marathon on a course that the organisers describe as "challenging" (their words not mine) when I have such a distaste for the third discipline of triathlon?

Not the first time I've found myself disorientated in a field in strange clothing
Mainly it's due to that most fragile of things, the male ego. Since I last spoke to you Mrs Trihard has stepped up to the plate and started running herself. She began using the NHS Couch to 5k podcast and is now a whisker away from running 10k.

To motivate herself she has entered us into the Great South Run 5k, which takes place on 26 October. While she is now at a level where this probably won't be much of a challenge for her I am extremely proud that she'd reached this level in such a short space of time. However it suddenly occurred to me that when we'll be running this 5k it will be two years to the date since I ran (well, staggered round and just about completed) the Amsterdam Marathon.

So suddenly the male ego kicked in; while Mrs Trihard has gone from no running to entering a race, I have gone backwards to the extreme that I thought I'd struggle to run a 10k. Obviously being a loving, supportive partner I thought there was no way Mrs Trihard was going to be dining out on her running achievements while I wallowed in self pity.

So about eight weeks ago I entered the Basingstoke Half Marathon, mainly because someone at my gym had mentioned it, it's not too far from where the in-laws live and I wanted to find one I could do by the end of the year.

I found a six week training programme, which was abandoned after the first week due to illness and injury, and started pounding the local fields and pathways. About 10 days ago I discovered that "challenging" was the adjective being most associated with the event, with talk of "the legendary hills" being thrown in for good measure.

Obviously I seriously considered doing the honourable thing and abandoning the whole foolish idea but by then I was up to 10 miles in training. Round my way it's essentially all hills and cross country so I surmised that I probably could get round the course so I should just man up and do it.

With another 12 mile training run under my belt I was beginning to feel pretty confident. This was slightly undermined by some of the comments made my Toddler Trihard on the way to the event.

In recent months I have done a couple of Park Runs with Smug Running Guy (more about him later). On one of these he gamely ran with me (so for one day I allowed him to become Supportive Running Guy) helping me to what I believe is a personal best (26 mins 30 sec 5k). He was cheerily chatting throughout while I was having to repeatedly punch myself in the chest to avoid cardiac arrest but it got the job done.

On the second Park Run SRG decided to go for his own personal best so was obviously leading the charge while I sauntered around at the back. While he didn't quite achieve the PB he was after he led the pack for a few laps and finished on fifth.

Obviously with this in mind, during the journey to Basingstoke Toddler Trihard said: "Your going to win aren't you Daddy? You're going to be leading."

"Well perhaps not, but I'll be trying very hard," I responded.

"But Charlie (aka SRG) was leading when we saw him run the other day."

Anyway, despite the crushing disappointment that I was about to deliver to my daughter I tried to get my game face on which was further disturbed when entering a portaloo at the event. I accidentally stumbled into a Kenyan looking fellow who was wearing a sheepish grin and clutching a roll of toilet paper.

Turns out this chap's running prowess is better than his ability to lock a portaloo as it transpired that this was elite runner Nicholas Kirui who not only won the race in 1hr 5 mins 33 sec (eight minutes quicker than the second finisher) but who had also won the Bucharest International Half Marathon earlier in the year. Things were going well.

Soon after this we assembled at the start of the race and off we went (obviously by "we" I mean the 1300 runners, not just me and Nicholas Kirui).

Still smiling after 20 metres
I have learnt from bitter experience not to set off too quickly at the start of a run, to go at your own pace and not to get too caught up in the excitement. On top of this I'd decided to run with a bottle belt which kept slipping down (I had done my 10 and 12 mile training runs and hadn't had any problems) but for some reason the straps kept loosening. After a mile I finally managed to sort out the problem and began to relax. Obviously a few runners hadn't had my discipline and were already walking at that point. "In your faces" I supportively thought to myself.

Besides not starting off too quickly (even though I was overtaken by someone not only wearing an Elvis suit but running with a stereo pumping out The King's hits strapped to his back) my tactics for the day were to not drink from my magic potion (high carbs and caffeine drink) until at least 45 minutes in, ration my intake to every 25-30 minutes after that and to pace myself so I could get round the course without stopping to walk, even on the steepest hills.

The Basingstoke course is mainly country roads so is incredibly scenic but despite being out in the sticks has massive support from residents who cheer you on. While it was perhaps a little too hot it was a beautiful day. After a couple of miles we hit the first of many hills. Despite some runners stopping to walk I didn't find it too bad and after a couple of ascents was actually starting to enjoy myself.

But nearing the hour mark my bladder started to complain. I really didn't want to stop and tried to ignore it thinking I could make it round without answering natures call (for the fifth time that morning.)

In the end I could stand it any longer and nipped behind a bush. It was a revelation. After freeing myself from the constraints of my bladder I stepped it up a gear and increased my pace. I started going past quite a few runners who were increasingly struggling with the hills.

After making it to the around the eight mile mark (and conquering the worst hill known as the Big Dipper) I knew it was all down hill so picked up the pace even more, and guess what? I finally went past Elvis.

Top of the Big Dipper (don't get confused, race photos aren't yet available and this is all I could find.)

Unfortunately as I reached the 11 mile mark I started to fatigue. It became a real battle and I was in a lot of pain. I chided myself for overdoing it over the previous few miles. And then I heard a dreadful sound, it was the sound of Elvis catching me up. Now I was really annoyed with myself.

I didn't stop to walk but I slowed right down and as we entered an underpass taking us into the park where the race finished all I could hear was the sound of Elvis booming all around me. As we entered the park he went past.

By that point I thought I was going to throw up. A sign on a tree stated there was 650m to go, I really didn't think I could carry on let alone catch Elvis who was a good 50m or more ahead of me. But then the last of my magic potion seemed to kick in and I upped the pace again. To his downfall The King was busy playing to the crowds. Perhaps I could catch him. Suddenly I heard Toddler Trihard shout "Come on Daddy" and I really kicked into gear, sprinting past Elvis for the finish.


Yes that's me on Elvis' shoulder, about to deliver the killer blow
I made it to the finishing line on 2hrs 19mins 30 secs. That's 14 seconds quicker than The King, ah thank you very much.

But I wasn't the only person running this weekend - Smug Running Guy finished the London Royal Parks Half Marathon in 1hr 49 mins 19 sec. Pretty shabby for him when his personal best is something like 1 hr 28 mins. But hold on a second, it turns out that his star is rising and qualified to be a pacer for this year's event helping those aiming for a time of 1 hr 50 mins.

But the biggest shout out goes to SRG's elderly brother Scott who finished the Chester Marathon in a solid 4 hours 40 minutes. Well done sir.