Leaving Ed helped me to focus. This was MY race, and if tiredness was the problem, I wans't going to let my job, my job I love, get in the way of the race I love. I opted for the magic music box to pull me through again, which was the best thing for me. I've really liked starting with company, then using music when it comes time for me to stop chattering. I'm not great at running in silence- like the sound of my own voice too darn much, and can never resist the chance to point out silly t-shirts (my fave: "42,195 metres to the next real drink station"; J's face: "you're the run that I want")
The first song on today was Sweet Caroline. Cheese is what works best for me. It makes me happy, swells my heart and that's what I need more than any beat, any tempo. Neil never fails. How can you not feel happy when the strings swell, the beat crescendos and "Reaching out, touching me, touching you" builds to "boom, boom, boom SWEEEEET Caroline"?? LOL. I can't believe I'm sharing my appalling taste with the internet at large. Please don't stop liking me!!! I really am very nice! I kept on at my slowish pace, pottering along slowly, but surely. Ed was a yellow blob in the distance, moving further and further away, but I was keeping up with my own new group. The problem with huge starts is you can never be quite sure whether people "should" be passing or not. I hurt quite a lot already, but I was smiling again.
The support was great along this part- you run around the bays to St Heliers, and by this time it was getting towards 9. People are up, having breakfast, enjoying coffees. [Actually, Auckland did well with crowd support this year- from the blearly eyed dressing-gowners on the Shore, to the capris and lattes crowd of Mission Bay, and then the exhausted but elated finishers and supporters who cheer us in as we complete the last 1-2ks.] hey're non-discrimination cheerers, everyone gets a clap, everyone gets a smile. My mind was fixed now. I felt like me again, even if a slow, sore, somewhat shuffly version of me.
Watching the male leaders coming to the end of their race when I wasn't even at 25k was awesome (in the literal sense ("awe inspiring"), and the more modern sense ("cool") too). Then seeing the female winner, who did not look like a marathoner, beaming behind her motorbike escort. It was disheartening to see the people in front of me without seeing the people behind me. I felt close to last, even though logically I knew I wasn't (even on gun time, I placed 48/118 in my grade, 108/? female, and 554/1000ish? overall- only preliminary results are up at the moment, so I can only see me, not the whole field). Fortunately, although I'd come off pace, I knew I was still running along nicely and was keeping under 6:00/k, which was the only maths I could handle at that point. Saw A when I was at 2:40, I guess 2.5kish from the turn around, so at 29-30k for me and 34-35k for her, and knew she was kicking butt. By my calculations she had an hour to do 7-8k and come in in a BQ time!* She looked happy and relieved to see me- I can't have been that far behind Ed, but she definitely expected me to have pulled ahead, not vice versa (Ed had a couple of bad-luck marathon attempts before today, and although he's a 21-22 5ker, his marathon pb was 4:23 or so, on the Auckland course). I also saw a colleague and waved at him excitedly (he was before A, actually, and did around 3:30).
Saw Ed on his way back and gave a big wave. He looked focussed. Or grumpy. I couldn't tell which at the time, and hoped he was not struggling. I know now it was focus, as if anything, he picked up pace on the way back. He couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes ahead of me at halfway, and he finished 5 minutes ahead. I am SOOOO pleased for him- he earned it! I got smily and tearyish as I crossed the turnaround. On the way home. I think Auckland is VERY well designed in this regard. The best way to conquer the 20-mile blues has got to be to put a turn around there. It turns it from the scary site of the ever-feared wall to the marker of the home stretch. Only 10k to go (it was actually a bit before 20- I hit it in 2:55, hit 32k in 2:58- fastest ever, just barely).
The last 10k is best described as "k-counting pain and trying not to pee my pants, deciding whether to take a pit stop, and considering peeing my pants.. would the tri shammy be like a nappy?". Oh, and hunger. I plodded along, trying to make sure I could go sub-4 even with 6 minute ks. At most markers I had 1-2 minutes fat, and I wanted to keep it that way. The soreness had long since moved from my calves and shins to my quads, glutes and hips. I was really "pleased" about this, as calf pain says "scary scary danger injury territory" to me, while quads say "running". J and I had Womens Refuge labels (like race numbers, but numberless- what would you use to describe these??) on our backs, and only one person commented in the whole race. It was an old dude, 60s-70s, wearing marathoner-speedos, with a matching singlet top, frizzy haired and toothless, but obviously pretty durn good. I passed him on the way back, and he said "hurh hurh, women's refuge- does that mean you're a refugee". I wasn't particularly impressed by this, but couldn't tell if it was a dumb joke, or a sexist anti-refuge comment, so I just said "just a fundraiser" and tuned back in. I ate some clif bar (OMG, I love clif bars), some jelly beans, and took in some powerade. I was hungry at halfway, which suggests I should have worked harder on eating the second bagel half. Or had lunch on Sat, or something.
I also passed my old friend Mr 4:15, walking on the way back. Would you believe he had no-one with him? Who'd a thought? (hmm.. is my sarcasm glaringly obvious enough to span the seven seas of the internet?). OOOH that man made me MAD.
Eventually, I plodded back into town, for the last 2ks. I knew I had it kinda in the bag, but that I couldn't relax. So I plodded on. There was no 42k marker, which is fine, but I was kinda expecting one, and it's nice to know when there really is 200m to go. As I mentioned, the support was great, so part way through Air Supply's "Every woman in the world" (both that song and Neil come from my days in department store retail... We weren't big on top 40...), I took my earplugs out and tried to get them into my pocket as I finally approached the finish! I saw my sister screaming for me and waved and smiled. Then a few paces along Ed called out. I was SO happy. I gave him a massive wave, then realised it was time to smile for the camera, and crossed the line. I stopped my watch (hopefully after the photographers had got me) and was relieved to be sub 3:59. That's a truly sub-4 time!
I walked over to the ambulance area, the only place I could see to sit and I sat.
**the oddest thing, she didn't- she came it at around 3:42, but said she'd had the best last 10k ever. I do not get it- I specifically remember it being 2:40, and even if I'm about where it was, which is not super likely, she MUST have been past 32k, so she can't have had more than 10k to go. That would make her final 10k slower than mine. SO weird....)