Leicester Marathon 2012

Sunday 14th October.
After what seemed like a long build up, race day was here.  A PB in the Ipswich Half had put me in optimistic mood and I'd more or less stuck to the plan; even going for a run on the Newquay weekend!  Since then things had gone a bit off track with the old manflu, but I'd spent the last week drinking beetroot juice so that's got to compensate surely. 
Nothing for it now but to give it a go. Prep over, talk over, sponsors anticipating, relatives out on the course ... so why am I still in the queue for the loo with 5 mins to go? A quick dash to the start, no warm up, no stretch (hmm), squeezing through a gap in the barriers, and we're off. A pelaton of 3000 flow down into the city and then head north en masse over the Belgrave Road flyover. As always, it feels good to take control of the roads.
As a rookie I wasn't sure what pace to adopt and had decided on an 8 min / mile pace; based on Ipswich, (misplaced) optimism and it being easier to do the maths.
After 6 miles 80% of the field turned off to do the Half and we headed out into the Leicestershire countryside, lovely route, cool, sunny and a light breeze. Slightly ahead of the 8 min pace and a bit of chat, feeling good.
At halfway, still on pace but the chat has stopped. At ~18 miles still feel OK but a level crossing's lights go on to a general groan from the small group of runners and we have to stop. The marshall notes our numbers, but we're soon off again. I don't know if that was significant but the legs are feeling heavy now. At mile 19/20 we rejoin the half marathon route and head into Watermead country park alongside the village where I grew up.
But then I got hit with a series of sharp cramps in my calves having to stop briefly each time to stretch out before setting off again; at what felt like a snail's pace!
A short sharp climb into Birstall to where my Dad is waiting.  I'm desperate to look OK, and nearly get away with it, only to cramp up again just before disappearing from view. Then at mile 23 I pull up sharply with a full on hamstring cramp. The expletives which follow are not fully appreciated by the pushchair supporters nearby ... and I'm starting to think I'm not going to make it.
Lots of encouragement from a nearby marshall and a suggestion to wriggle my toes gets me moving and I commit to not stopping again, and grind out the last 3 miles snaking through the city centre and then up the long drag last mile towards the finish. Strangely the slope seems to help stretch out the muscles and I pick up the pace a bit. The last 200 is on the flat and with the sound of someone behind me I find a 'sprint' finish from somewhere, crossing the line with 3:40 on the watch.
It was a huge relief to get to the finish in the end and I felt quite emotional. It wasn't the race I had had in mind but at least feel that I've had the full (rookie) marathon experience, and overall pleased with the time. Would I do it again? Yesterday, it was a definate no. Today, it's a probable no.
Thanks for all the support (sorry the report's such a marathon)

Dusk til Dawn 2012

Dusk til Dawn 8pm Saturday 6th - 8am Sunday 7th October

Weather forecast was for a dry night.  Fantastic.  The past two years were shockingly wet.  I had previously ridden as part of a team of three, then a team of two, but this year I entered as a solo rider.

At 8pm the race started.  I resisted the temptation to go out too fast and was soon in the trees and in mud.  Add a few tree roots and this made the conditions very tricky.  Two fast guys past me and both hit the floor soon after.

The conditions changed as the lap progressed and I was now enjoying the course.  One section with an impressive run of whoops through the trees.  Just one bomb hole, at the 6 mile marker, which was pretty straightforward.  Two great roller coaster sections close to The Beast.  But from the 8 mile marker we were back in mud.  One section was like riding through a marsh.  Classical music piped into the forest at 10 miles - bizarre - then back to the start/finish at 10.5 miles.

I rode two laps then stopped for food, then headed straight out again for lap three.  The temperature had dropped considerably and I finished the lap with cold hands.  I headed to my car and the warmth of my sleeping bag.  I slept for around three hours, then more food and off again for lap four.  Fog had rolled in and there was a sharp frost on the ground for the open heathland sections of the course.  Lap five was uneventful and I stopped again for more food and to wait for the sun to rise for my final lap.  I set of just after 7am and had a great last lap.  The tricky sections were simple in the daylight and I rolled over the finish line at 08:11 hrs.

So, six laps and 63 miles in twelve hours.  I was 79th of the 122 solo riders.  The solo winner completed 14 laps.  The winners of the male team of 4 completed 18 laps, lapping at 40-45 minutes.  Superhuman effort.

Next year?  Absolutely. If the conditions are good, then seven or perhaps eights laps the target.  Come and join me.