10 March 2022

Racing again!

 I had got the racing spirit again! I hadn't raced in four years. I suppose I felt always too busy since my last race in 2018, until the pandemic hit and races stopped altogether. And then when they restarted again I still felt too busy. I had looked at some races in the less busy season but their timing had been unfortunate; one of them I remember being at the time of my hike with Kate. But now I was keen to restart. And my first race in a long time would be the Anglesey half marathon. This was, as it so happens, the half marathon where I had run my personal best. That had happened in 2015; it had not been on purpose. I had actually intended to pace myself, but I had accidentally started too far to the front, and had been influenced by the faster runners around me. When I realised this I decided to roll with it, but I was pretty knackered at the end. Two years later I had run it again; then the weather was awful, and I had spent some of the time running along socially with a colleague. Then I had been seven minutes slower.

This time I didn't quite know what to expect; on the one hand, I had been running a lot more in the past few years than I have ever done before. And the best running training is, of course, running. But on the other hand I had run myself a bit into the ground in 2015. I had been more tired then than I had been after running a full marathon! And I am a bit of a comfort runner. I'm not likely to run myself into the ground on purpose! So would I really run myself this empty again? Surely that would be what is needed to improve my personal best. And in addition, I was a mere youngster in 2015. I hadn't even reached 40 by then! So how would this pan out?

I decided to drive in, park the car somewhere, use my office as a changing room, go to the start from there, and then afterwards return to the office and have a shower in the office building. It sounded like a good idea! And most of it worked; I found a spot for my car (my local knowledge helped), got changed, had a last cup of coffee with cake, and then went to the start. I got there with about 30 seconds to spare! Normally I don't cut things this sharp, but I wasn't worried; you can just start a bit later and then catch up. One wears a chip for a reason, after all.

Just before the race

Then the gun went off, and so did we. My first race in ages! I was excited. We had great weather for it. It was a sunny day. It was also a bit cold; I had decided to start running in a jumper. I could just take the jumper off if things got a bit too hot. That would mean my racing number would be on the back, but that is acceptable. I suppose the only disadvantage for that is that it is harder to find your racing pictures. But I should be able to find them by hand. And I had my sunglasses with me. They did come in handy several times!

I decided I had probably started a little bit too far towards the back; I was overtaking lots of people, and sometimes that is difficult if the field is still rather concentrated. I need to find the Goldilocks point! But it was okay. I quite happily ran out of Menai Bridge, and towards Beaumaris. And I was still quite happily running when I reached the village. Just outside the village I saw the first handful of runners already coming the other way. They were fast! But soon the route went elsewhere. I knew this was the loop that had the most verticality. And it also contained the furthest point. So when I reached that I know I now only had to run back to Menai Bridge. Time to push it a little bit harder, and see how many people I could still overtake! And the answer was: quite a few. And I soon saw the 7 mile sign. And then the 8 mile sign. And 9. And I started to think I may be able to improve on my personal best. When I reached the marina just outside Beaumaris and I had only run for about an hour and ten minutes, and I figured I should be able to get back to Menai Bridge in less than 35 minutes. And when I got to the 10 mile sign I still thought that this was possible. And it stayed possible. I tried to accelerate, even though my legs were starting to feel a bit heavy by then. And my breathing got laboured. But that's okay! You are allowed to pant during a race.

Cheerfully on my way to Beaumaris

View on Beaumaris

Along the Beaumaris waterfront on the way back

When I came around the corner I saw the timer at the finish hadn't even reached 1:43. Great! That meant I had indeed broken my personal record. I would find out later by how much. The timer, after all, only gave the gun time, and it's the chip time that counts.

After finishing I was quite tired and I was happy to drink a bit of energy drink, and score an energy bar. Then I tried to make my way out. I got a bit confused with all the fencing, but in my confusion I did bump into a colleague. That was nice! And it turned out he was also registered on my next race in Harlech. I will see him again!

After the finish

I then made my way back to the office. While walking down I got my chip time: 1:42:20. Good stuff! I'm happy with that. And a lot faster than my previous PB of 1:45:46. I later found out I had managed to just remain within the fastest 7% of women, and fasted 10% of women in my age category! Not bad at all. It also means that my age category runs faster than the average woman; I think that's not a bad show. There were no women older than 65 running, and lots of them (112 out of 273) under 40. Oldies rule! There were 12 men over 65 running, by the way; not sure why men seem to keep it going for longer.

When I got to the office building I found out that unfortunately, the shower didn't work. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to know that. I also knew there was another shower on campus, but I had to put my clothes on in order to leave the shower anyway, and I couldn't be bothered to go look for it. I could just pop to the shop with all my sweat. I was sure more runners would do that! And they did. And when I got home I enjoyed a well-deserved lunch in the garden. I was feeling it a bit in my legs, but that was to be expected! And I had a purple toe. All part of the game. 

I also found out Jaco and Marjan had been at the finish to cheer me on, but they had not seen me. And I hadn't seen them. That was such a pity! In 11 years of racing, it had only happened once anybody had come to cheer me on, and that then been Marjan again. I could have tripled that number if only we would have seen each other! It was very kind of them to show up.

Altogether, in spite of missing my supporters, I was chuffed with how my reintroduction in the racing circuit had gone! Stay tuned for more!

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