Typically in the week leading up to the Chester Half I felt sluggish, tired, picked up a sore throat and generally felt crap! I was trying to convince myself that this was a normal reaction to a taper and that I had enjoyed a really good build up to this race and my aim of a sub 75 was achieveable. The balancing act of a family weekend away and a big race meant Saturday was family day spent visiting a local castle, an ice cream farm and a few hours shopping in Chster followed by a Pizza! All good stuff but once we were back in the hotel it was a case of switching into race mode and out of holiday mode. I had arranged breakfast for me in the hotel room and the Moroccan waiter was keen to oblige me with stories of the great Morrocan distance runner EL GUERROUJ while I explained that I needed to miss the Full English and have something race friendly. In the end we settled on crunchy nut corn flakes and a croissant.
Sunday morning came and the weather was not good for spectating but good for runners with a light drizzle. There was a fair breeze blowing but soon I was on my way jogging through the city centre to the racecourse while the family tucked into a full english back at the hotel!. It was great to see a few of the guys who I used to train with and swop stories and banter with but before long it was race time and we were lining up along Castle Drive ready for a few words of encouragement from the Lord Mayor.
My goals for the race were:
1. Sub 75 Minutes
2. Top 10 Finish (not always a good idea to have a goal that involves finishing position)
3. To have a "decent" race - this meant not falling apart after 6 miles! (Thirsk!!!!)
I found myself holding back slightly at the start as the lead group hared off. After a 5.33 mile I was settled into a nice steady pace and running just off the back of a lead group of eight. Mile 2 and 3 (5.36 and 5.35) soon went by and I was now on my own in 9th place holding my own against what was a group of seven and a lone leader who clearly was embarking on a solo run (John Gilbert of Kent eventually won by over 5 mins in 67.28). After three miles I was joined by Peter Brook of Chester Tri Club who had stopped to tie his shoes but (typical triathlete!) struggled with the knots! Peter and I then ran the best part of 5 miles together going through 5 miles in 28.01. At 9 miles (50.32) I was thinking about the forthcoming hill when we were joined by Paul Sankey of Liverpool RC and a V40. Unfortunately the hill split us up and I struggled to keep pace with the two with me and I posted my slowest mile of the day (5-56). I knew that after the hill I needed to refocus and get back on track and make sure that Goal 1 (Sub 75) and Goal 2(Top 10) would be achieved. A 5-37 mile (Slightly downhill) meant that all I needed to do was do two sub 6 minute miles to the finish and would be under 75. 5-55 and 5-51 meant I should hit the Roodee (Racecourse) with plenty of time to spare and hit the sub 75. The last 0.1 miles seemed to go on for a long time and the clock was edging slowly towards 74.20 as it came into sight. One last effort saw me clock 74.47, 9th place overall but more importantly I felt I had run a controlled race and other than a slight slowing of the pace over the last two miles but had I achieved my third goal of a "decent race"!
To put Thirsk and Chester into perspective here are my 5 mile and 10 mile splits!
5 Miles: Chester 28-01 (Thirsk 27.45)
10 Miles: Chester 56-28 (Thirsk 57-58)
Last three miles: Chester 17-23 (Thirsk 18.39)
Think Goal 3 was achieved!
Final Position 9th Overall (6th Vet 40!!!!!) and a gun time of 74.47. An added bonus is the Qualifying time for London 2012 Championship Race is now achieved so I can readjust my 2011 goals and focus on a speedy summer of racing.....all in all a good days work and a nice prize bonus to take back home!
One to debate is that 6 out of the first 9 across the line were Veterans! Come on you youngsters where are you? So much for the competition getting easier after 40!