Follow the links to Parts I, II and III
When I saw my low HR on the second half of the bike, I thought to myself "at least I'll be able to smash the run." I spent a stupidly long time in T2- it didn't feel that way,and T2 does include a reasonable run, but 2:20 is STILL TOO LONG, and made it onto the course JUST as Graham O'Grady finished- goal 1 checked off! It was quite neat heading out as the leaders finished- seeing them make their way down the chute, and watching the other pros on the finishing straight was inspiring.
After a few hundred metres, I looked at my watch. Oops! I was running 12.3 kph, and my average pace was 11.9. I felt like I had started conservatively, but obviously the excitement had got to me. My HR was 168, which was exactly where I wanted it, but I dialled back a teeny tiny bit, since I knew I had two horrible hot loops of the Mount ahead of me.
I was passing people, though maybe not as many as usual. Even though I was disappointed with my rubbish bike, I was around fitter looking people than I sometimes was in Rotorua, and it was harder than usual to make my passes, possibly because it was flat.
I saw my official supporters twice on the first lap, and they shot me with the water shooters they'd brought with them (... best idea ever, beeteedub). It was absolutely baking hot, and I was living for the aid stations and the hoses there. I decided to stick to water for the first lap, and add some coke if I needed it on the second. I was carrying some Clif Shotblocks, so I had calories, and coke is either the best thing ever, or the worst idea imaginable, so I didn't want to take it too early. I was taking in as much water as I could, and only throwing it over my head if I had enough- luckily there were plenty of hoses (etc) out, and just before the base track there was a spray tent. Awesome.
I also saw Kathy with her friends, and as I climbed the hill up to the base track, I saw Mike for the first time. I'd been given permission to walk the hills, but having Mike+camera ahead of me pushed me to run, which was lucky, as the official race photog was hiding up there too- a seriously EVIL place!
They both got me looking pretty happy, but I was definitely hurting. I'd reset the lap on my garmin so that I wouldn't be too disheartened watching my average pace go down and down on the Mount. My average pace for the first lap was 5:24/km, at an AHR of 169, which I was pleased with. I really think I could have held that pace- or a little slower- for most of the run if not for the two loops of the Mount to go solidly sub-2, but I guess we'll see in New Plymouth! I walked one of the hills on the track, as Coach Paul had told us to keep it easy, but found starting running again so unbearable it was better to just shuffle up, especially since the walking had little effect on my HR and RPE. I tried to push the downhills a little, and was often running my normal road paces on the flat and downhill bits, which was good. My overall pace for the base track (plus a little more- I think I pressed lap after the drink station) was 6:23, at an AHR of 170. Not as bad as it could have been, that's for sure!
I'd seen Phil heading out on his second lap as I approached the Mount for the first time, and kept setting myself little *beating* Phil goals. First I aimed to get onto the Mount track before him. Once I was on the track, I wondered if I could get off before he caught me, even though that seemed unlikely. When I was just about done, Phil's coach passed me and told me Phil was catching him, so I picked up my pace just a little bit, and was feeling OK when I saw Mike again at the other side of the Mount. Mostly, I was looking forward to getting some speed again!
The distance from the edge of the Mount to the finish/turnaround is always longer than it looks. Luckily, the course support was amazing, and the atmosphere was great. I got a squirt from J and D, and hi-5s from a whole row of kids. I asked J and D if I could beat Phil back, and they looked pretty doubtful, so I gave it a little push to the turnaround. As I completed my turnaround, focused Phil was about to kick to the finish- unfortunately, he was too focused to hear my cheers. Also unfortunately, I was too focussed on him to pay attention to the race clock, and had no idea how I was doing- the one thing my Garmin didn't display was total time!
Here I am saying to Mike "I beat Phil!" (I'm sure he eventually figured out what I meant....)
My legs were pretty shattered from the Mount, and my feet were a bit sore. My main feeling was elation that I hadn't been lapped by Phil, but excitement at the number of aid stations coming up was a close second :) I started catching and passing some of the ladies who had passed me in the second lap of the bike, although it wasn't as easy as it sometimes is! My pace was lurking in the mid-10s (kph), which was OK, but I'd have liked to be closer to the 11s, as I was in the first lap. One lady, in particular, was impossible to shake, which was OK with me, as she provided valuable motivation. I knew pretty early on that her plan was to tuck in behind me and then drop me at the end (she did), and to be honest, I wasn't bothered. She wasn't in my AG, and I had no real desire to beat her- the motivation of having someone right on my tail was good enough! We managed to pass a whole heap of people together!
Here we are running up the first hill the second time:
She was walking more hills and drink stations than me, but then catching me up. I was finding it fairly easy to drink, so ran (shuffled) the drink stations. My goal was not to walk on the second loop of the Mount, but I succumbed and walked on short, steep incline. Maybe I could have taken her if I'd followed the same strategy, but it was enough of a death march by this time that I don't think I could have! Our average pace for the second loop was 6:24/km, which I'm jolly pleased with. My AHR had climbed to 173 by this point.
Finally, we made it off the track, and it was time for the final sprint home (it's about 700m). Though by this time, "sprint" meant "shuffling at 5:36/km" (AHR 176). I had no idea what my time was, but I knew I'd come fairly close to a 2 hour half marathon, and that I was well sub 6 overall. My friend passed me, and I couldn't quite stick with her (she crossed 6 seconds ahead of me).
The race clock said 2:52:xx when I finished, and I crossed my fingers and hoped like heck that was "pro-time", not "man-time" (and certainly not "lady-time") as that would mean a sub 5:50 finish. It was- and my official time was 5:48:48. My official run time was just over 2:03, which is a bit disappointing, but oh well- at the end of the day, it's the combination that counts, and a 2:03 half, including 6ks of offroad in stinking midday heat is nothing to be sneezed at!
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! Last installment- aftermath and race "review"- to follow ...