Oakley 20 : "A little less conversation, a little more action"

Firstly I promise to go through everyone’s results tomorrow, after my sports massage. So don’t worry, the reports and results will  get done.
Secondly – okay, fair dos, I was doing this one “as a training run”. Famous last words…ahem. I had taken on board the advice of “Auntie” Liz Yelling, who said (on the RW sub 3:15 luco thread) that she “dislikes 20 mile races, as you can leave your marathon race in them”. My marathon PB is quite “soft” and I have high hopes for Hamburg, while I was guaranteed an official PB for this, as it was my first 20 mile race. So I started off at a very gentle pace (not counting the scuttle from the toilets – what a queue! – to back of the start pack just before the off – so although I didn’t see Colin B, he probably saw me, as I had to go past everyone!). Nigh on 11 min miles at first.

Spotted Jamil from the Oakley 20 thread on the RW forums and said “Hi!”. In hindsight perhaps I shouldn’t have done this as he was weeing behind a hedge at the time – I said about the loo queues! – but he forgave me and we chatted for a few miles while wombling along. As is the case with many runners he looked much younger than he actually is – looks 20-something, was in fact early 30s with 2 kids! Like many runners at Oakley he was doing it as a warm-up for London, where he’s raising money for a hospital scanner. It was very touching to see so many charity vests – I particularly remember a few Anthony Nolan (bone marrow registry) and some raising money for neonatal care.

As the miles sped past I started to wake up a bit (having the gels every 3 miles helped a lot too, as a bowl of no-name coco pops doesn’t fuel you much, though at least it doesn’t bring on the trots thank goodness). Blue sky, green fields, daffodils, blossom in the hedgerows, pretty villages, extensive views over the countryside, very pleasant indeed! Glad I wasn’t marshalling though, as there was a particularly exciting one-lane bridge with a 3-way junction at one end which only the very brave would want to tackle in a yellow bin-bag – yikes!

At around mile 8 (?) I saw a characteristic effortless glide up ahead. Blimey, I thought, is Frances doing it? Can’t be her, surely, I’m catching her up! I drew alongside and peered (not v. confident yet at identifying people from their gait!) and she hailed me cheerily and said that she was only looping round the 12 miles, keeping a friend company. This explains of course why I was able to catch her at all! I left her mate in her safe & capable hands and forged on, feeling increasingly peppy (unlike bloody Reading – damn that clock change! Damn that bicycle’s loose connection! Did I say it’s working again now? Sigh…).

Sadly poor Mick’n’Phil were not doing so well – normally they’re faster than me, but I saw them stopped just short of a crest of one of the undulations. Phil’s a big lad now and it was a hot day… But I’ve just heard they finished safely (if a bit hot!).

At mile 10 the watch said 1:44 and change. But by then I was doing about 9:35 pace, so the chance of an overall sub-10-min pace was still there. Was still running at “as you feel” pace at mile 14 when I spotted a man with 2 greyhounds and stopped for a hug with my Mum, her Young Man and my Young Man (the dogs were quite exhausted already from all the excitement!).
Having done a number of mid-week 10milers with HM-pace miles thrown in, I was fairly confident that if I felt good now (with 6 miles to go) it was safe to just let the legs go and do their thang. The training runs round Boars Hill had done their work, and while I’m still not fast up hills, they hold no terrors for me. Compared to that, Oakley really is just “undulating”, trust me 🙂

The brilliant thing about starting gently is you can then spend the last 3/4 of the race overtaking everyone (about 5 people overtook me, but that was the leaders lapping me…! ). Apologies to all those people who may have found the mad woman charging past playing Elvis on her tiny ipod speakers very annoying. (Race rules were no earphones, so….).

When the weather is bad, the last mile or so (past the school, round a housing estate, through a back alleyway and then 2/3 of the way round the playing field) is not a much-loved thing. But in today’s sunny weather, all the supporters were out, and the estate was filled with kids singing inventive (but polite!) encouragement as I overtook a petite lady with a camelback.
I was still feeling good, so by now (to drag out all the cliches) I was throwing the kitchen sink at it, and if I had had nads then they definitely would have been out as I barrelled past the Dunstable runner on the playing field. Two of her clubmates were swinging on the fence by the finish straight, yelling encouragement – “Go on! You can take her!”

“Hah!” I thought, “no, she bloody well can’t!” and sprinted decisively to the line. (Last .18 of a mile – 7:50 pace. Heh.). Of course they didn’t know that I’d spent the first half of the race at a gentle trundle and so had plenty left in the tank!

Once across the line, ohhh how my calves hurt. Though frankly, having twoinked a calf mid-week and spent Saturday morning icing the bugger and Saturday afternoon in the sauna stretching it out, I was bloody grateful to have made the start line today, and slightly stiff calves seemed a small price to pay for such a rewarding run. Staggered over to a couple of Snorbans runners to enquire about Colin B, but it appeared that (for the trifling reason that he’d finished, oh,  an hour ago or something :D) he had staggered off for a rest. Never mind, next time eh Colin? (Actually I did keep a look out for him – honest – when the leaders started lapping me, but I don’t think he was quite one of them…).

First half – 1:44 & change – final Garmin time 3:16:41 – i.e. 2nd half nearly 13 minutes faster than first. Boo-yah! Of course, I have clearly “left my marathon race” at Oakley now and will be rubbish at Hamburg, but still – very happy with that, wouldn’t have it otherwise!