Yesterday saw in the first really awesome thing in my awesome 2012.
I had been training for weeks and weeks for the York Brass Monkey - a notoriously fast and flat half marathon which for many people is the first big running event of the year. I did it last year and hated it (I hadn't trained much, at all), but then got to know the route rather intimately during our twice-a-week cycling speed sessions, when we would pedal as fast as we could around this course.
So, the training. I really wanted to beat 2 hours in this run; out of all the races I've done, this course is the best bet at a good time, and running it in January means that the temperature will be on your side! I've put in weeks of long distances, between 12 and 16 miles every Saturday morning bar one since November, and have covered over 20 miles a week in total ever since.
But I lagged a lot on the speed training. I hate recovery runs (short sprints with jogging in between), and in all honesty, I only started adding this to my training..umm...5 days before the race...!
So, with that in mind and the fact that I'd have to increase my speed quite substantially, I wasn't wholly convinced that this would happen. Adding to that, the morning of the race came and the winds were disasterously heavy; as about 3 miles of the race crosses a disused airfield, it is always slightly windy on the route. This was going to be tough!
We got out of the car at York, and even walking to the loos was a battle in the bluster. I was pretty sure I didn't want to do it, and was feeling really quite down in the dumps about it all. It was going to be a hellish more-than-two-hours, I knew that much!
The race started right on time - I had to hand my Soreen over to Daniel to finish as I was a bit tardy in my preperations! And we were off! Usually I take it steady for the first couple of miles, but in this case I knew I could push it - I ran 16 miles comfortably 3 weeks ago for goodness sake - and so I did. A couple of miles in and I was way ahead of my ususal pace, and feeling really good. My nerves had disappeared, I felt strong and my energy levels were sky-high. The wind was rallying around us in all directions, so apart from the howling in my ears, even that wasn't such an issue. The sky was blue, I was doing what I love in a city that I love, and I was overtaking other runners by the second.
And then we hit the airfield. Every time I ran forwards I was pushed by the gale into the side of the road. I was running in zig-zag, battling painfully to move both forwards and sidewards at the same time. Energy expenditure doubled, and I pushed and pushed, very slowly, for a good couple of miles. I knew a corner was coming up, and once we got around there the winds died down. But I was tired and disheartened, and there was still 8 miles to go.
To cut a not-so-long story short, the wind blustered around every now and then for the rest of the race. There were moments when my legs were blown from under me as I ran, and points where the gaps between hedges made for sharp bursts of angry wind. But it was ok, I was ok, and despite my fear that the energy had been blown out of me not even halfway through, I found myself flying along, confident in my strengh and ability, for the first time ever.
9 miles, 10 miles, 11 miles the signs all read. 12 miles and I let out a rather aggressive "come on!!" - the home stretch, the glory mile, as I always call it. No matter what, I had to give 100%, and I did. I overtook more runners, trying to focus on getting ahead as oppose to getting quicker. The roadside crowds grew thicker and louder, "you look too fresh, you must be doing a different race!" one steward shouted at me, and I felt that amazing buzz that I have now enjoyed 11 times, but that never gets any less awesome or any less terrifying (I was very nearly sick in the last few metres of my last half marathon..!). I turned the corner towards the finish and looked out for my Dad and Daniel, concentrating on seeing them rather than the blurry finish line.
I saw Daniel click the camera, and I was accross, done! I didn't even care so much about the time - I knew it wasn't under 2 hours, but I was still proud of my efforts, and really pleased to have enjoyed the race as much as I did.
2 hours 5 minutes. A new personal best, and with the wind handicap I can see, for the first time, the possible reality of the under-2-hour mark. I'm getting better, and as I get better, I fall even more madly in love with racing and with running. There's going to be more of this in 2012, but this was a really really awesome start to the running calendar!