It all started so well. But after the wind hit me after the turn around 9 km at the North end of the promenade, everything went to hell in a handbasket. The rain was horizontal and ice cold, I was drenched and ice cold, and the wind knocked whatever energy I had completely out of me.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here. There real story starts at 7.45 when the alarm clock rang as planned. I got up as planned, went down to the Great North West Half Marathon (aka Blackpool HM) registration area at 8.30 as planned to get my timing chip and race number, and sat down and had a leisurely breakfast as planned. Went up to my room to read for a bit while waiting for it to be time to get down for the 11 o'clock start of the race. When I got down it was raining, but hey, what's a bit of rain between friends? And the timing was perfect - just enough time to walk across the road and spend 5 minutes on gentle warm-up, and then another 5 minutes (max) before the start went.
The field quickly stretched out, and I found my place in the rear quarter with people running roughly the same pace as me. I had decided to be scientific about this running stuff, so I was watching my heart rate like a hawk and sticking to the plan. Nice gentle trot down towards the Blackpool Tower.
The Blackpool North Promenade is a split level thing with one part running at street level (which goes up and down) and one level at almost sea level. Although the wind was coming from the South and we started off running southwards, it felt nice and almost easy. As I later figured out, that was due to all the runners in front catching the wind and sheltering the rest of us. After two short loops between the start and the south end of the promenade, we did the full length of the promenade. Nice and easy. Gently does it. Heart rate in check. Lots of happy runners despite the rain. By now we were all drenched, but hey, what's a bit of rain between friends?
Then I got to the turn at the north end. By now we were up at the street level, there were no crowds in front to take the worst of the wind, the rain had picked up and was mixed with sleet, the wind had picked up to around 30 mph, and suddenly a bit of rain and wind was a big thing! I soldiered on as well as I could, but despite best efforts saw my splits increase from 6-6.30 to 7-7.30. (Actually I didn't see this. My glasses were covered with rain drops on the outside and the wind made my eyes water, so it was impossible to read my Garmin. So at the time I just knew that I was slower, and it's only with the wisdom of hindsight (and Garmin) that I know how much.)
Eventually we got back to the start, and here the route then brought us back down to sea level and for another round up to the North end. With the wind at my back I got the splits back down to around 6.30. By now I knew what was waiting, but ever the optimist, I convinced myself that it wouldn't really be that bad. Things were going well, almost according to the plan, and (as I might have mentioned already), what's a bit of rain between friends?
The second stretch going South from 16.5 km to the end was pretty horrible. By now the gentle incline as the road rose and dropped felt like hills. Big hills. Hills so big I didn't know how to run up them. So there was quite a lot of walk a little, run a little, walk a little, run a little. I was cold and feeling miserable, and had completely stopped caring about timing - all I wanted was for it to be over.
I remember spectator number 7 (I counted 10 in total... it wasn't really nice weather to stand around and look at a bunch of idiots going for a run in the rain) making a big point out of cheering me up. She was standing in a bus shelter, and as I was walking up towards it, she started to clap, got eye contact, even began to jump up and down and shouted "you can do it". My heart rose, fresh energy arrived, and I proudly ran for at least 100 meters until she was behind me.
When I got to the 12 mile marker, I decided I could run the rest of the way. So I ran 200 meters and decided I could f**k all. Walked a bit. Ran a bit. It wasn't until I got to about half a mile from the finish line that I managed to settle back into a rhythm that would carry me all the way "home".
A friendly soul was handing out bananas at the finishing line. I got one, but couldn't peel it with my wet gloves on, and my brain wasn't working well enough for me to realise I could take them off. So I threw my banana away and wobbled across the road to my hotel room.
I was feeling pretty down and very worn out. I knew there would be a silver lining, but at that moment I just couldn't see it. A hot bath and a rest put a smile back on my face, but even though I knew I'd eventually be pleased and proud, all I could really think of was wanting to get warm.
Having thought about it on the way home, I know I did the best I could. I hadn't trained for running in freezing rain and with headwinds of 30 mph or more. So it tired me out very quickly, and it probably also didn't help that I must have lost a lot of energy by beeing freezing cold. Wet gloves are not very good, and the wet cotton buff around my neck can't have done much good either. Maybe I ought to invest in a rain proof beanie. Lots of maybes, but at the end of the day, I gave it everything I had (and then some), so I can only be happy about that. The stuff that was under my control went well, and the rest... well, loads of maybes and perhaps'es, but I got through it.
Today I'm pleased with it all. The bling is huge! As big as a palm. Looking great! My legs don't ache much. What's not to be happy about?! And despite the time not being close to the 2:15 I had hoped for, it was still a PB (improvement by around 2 minutes), so I am pleased and happy. And finally warm as well