Well ladies and gents I now officially have a DNF on my racing record, not quite the objective for Equaliser triathlon but if I’m honest not altogether surprising. The 3 weeks before the race featured major toothache and then pain due to the removal of said tooth, it didn’t feature much in the way of training. Coupled with very little sleep the night before due to very noisy campsite neighbours and my expectations weren’t high.
So it was that after one lap of the bike course I decided to call it quits, my legs had been cramping from the moment I got out of the swim and I had nothing in my legs on a very hilly course (650m of elevation gain per lap). The build up didn’t help, nor did riding my bike less than 10 times before the race, turns out you can bluff you way around a hilly half ironman. But hey, I got to stand in the sun and watch my friends suffer in the increasing heat rather than drag myself around the run course.
The premise the Equaliser triathlon was men vs. women with the women setting of 32 minutes before the men which apparently is the average time difference between the sexes in a half ironman. There was a decent cash prize for whoever finished first, male or female, and there were some fast people there as a result. This race certainly had a very different feel to it than the Cotswold Classic, a very small field of 90 competitors vs. 500 odd and I’ll be honest I’m not sure I liked it. With the money on offer and the small field it all felt a little serious and there was very little chat with the other competitors.
I seem to have become somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde runner, a split personality with 2 conflicting sides trying to dominate the choice of training and racing. 2 different approaches to running that have little in common with each other beyond putting one foot in front of the other.
The Hyde runner
This is my natural side; the trail runner, happiest when out on the trails breathing in the fresh air and basking in the glory of the British countryside. A place where pacing, PB’s and 400m reps are irrelevant, where the wildlife you see is as important as the kilometres you cover. It feels like home as you watch the seasons pass over a runners year. The smell of rapeseed in bright yellow fields during the first hot days of the year, the crunch of your feet on grass frozen solid on early January mornings, spotting deer in the dawn light as they munch on the first spring shoots.
I like the escapism of trail running, of getting away from the busyness of modern life and finding some peace. It becomes a form of meditation, albeit one where you puff and pant your way up a hill. I don’t run anywhere particularly tough or high very often but it’s enough of an adventure to make me feel alive.
I ran over 500km in the first 2 months of this year as I trained for the quadzilla, then after a short break picked it up again training for the Milton Keynes marathon. Significantly higher than last year and an awful lot of running to fit in around work and family. Plus marathon training can all get a little bit intense can’t it? You focus on every run and how it contributes towards achieving that big time goal, so right now I’m trying to have a little fun.
I’m triathlon training, something which I think I’m going to try and do every year at some point having enjoyed it so much last year. I’m doing another half ironman which I know is a little crazy seeing as my objective is to have some fun but I genuinely enjoy the longer races. I like the challenge of endurance and actually the longer you race the more relaxed the event gets in my experience.
Have you done a race recently? Have you seen the litter fairy that follows behind the runners picking up the litter and making the course look like no runner has been there? A fabulous person, making the difference, ensuring the good name of our sport continues. Except kids I’ve got some bad news, and you might want to sit down for this, the litter fairy does not exist.
Yet just like Christmas where we all keep up the charade that Father Christmas is real, at races we seem to all carry on not noticing that someone has just thrown a gel wrapper on the ground or has decided to wait until a mile past the water station to throw away their bottle. We carry on in the belief that the litter fairy will pick it up and so our conscience can rest easy. Besides even if the litter fairy doesn’t exist I’m sure these big road races can use some of the massive fee they charge us to pay a team of litter pickers right? Don’t think so.
At the Milton Keynes marathon I saw a guy about 50m in front of me very gently bend over a lay a bottle and gel wrapper on some grass, right in the middle of a beautiful park on the edges of a lake, nowhere near a marshal or an aid station. At that moment I decided the next person I saw dropping litter who was within shouting range was going to get called out on it. So it was that I found myself shouting at a woman at around mile 15 who’d decided that it was ok to dispose of the bottle she no longer wanted by throwing it on some grass which was actually someone’s front garden (incidentally if you ever need to pick yourself up mid race I thoroughly recommend a bit of a rant). Her excuse was that she thought it was near enough a marshal that they’d collect it and besides ‘she’d seen people doing it at other road races so must be fine, but maybe those were main roads and that was the difference’.
Milton Keynes marathon was my big goal race of the year, a PB attempt and an attempt to crack 3.20 for the first time. The theory being that training for the Quadzilla gave me a great base to work from in the 10 weeks leading up to the race. All was going well until 5 weeks before the race when we went on holiday to Cornwall, a great week with the kids and some nice running on the coastal path but I lost my focus and momentum and quite honestly never got it back. The final few weeks of training were ok but I missed a few sessions for various reasons and then a week before the race got ill. Somehow the stresses of life and work often seem to peak close to a race, Murphy’s law I guess, but it quickly derails your running.
Ultimately this meant a change in goal for the race from a PB attempt to just being happy to be well enough to be on the start line. And what a start line it is, lining up outside the beautiful Stadium MK (which I know sounds a bit odd but it really is a great stadium inside and out) and to top it all the clouds cleared and the sun put his hat on. While it may have been a nice start line it was most definitely not an organised one, in fact I’d go as far as to say it was chaos. The kids superhero run lining up at the front didn’t help things but there was also close to zero control of people entering the pens and the signage was crap.
There also appeared to be a confusion amongst the pacers who seemed to be standing in quite random spots, not helped by having both marathon and half marathon starters and pacers in the pens. I’d love to know whose bright idea it was to stick balloons to the pacers backs with their time goal written in felt tip on them also. Maybe the budget wouldn’t stretch to the normal flags that pacers wear? The strings were getting tangled up and then when actually running the balloons kept hitting people in the face.