And there it was, day 3. The big one. My main goal, if you will, the half marathon.
I arrived on the start line in not too bad a condition. I mean, yes, I had three of my toes taped up, and I'd given the foam roller some serious repeat work over the past two days, but all looked well. As you may have gathered, I am not a runner. This meant that for Saturday morning to dawn with a clean dry running top things were not looking good. However, I do, of course, have many cycling jerseys so a lovely delicate green Rapha jersey with a handy rear zip pocket for the van key and that was me sorted.
At the start line, we gathered once again, and hiding away at the back of the group I found myself in the company of two women who, like me, were new to this malarky. It turned out we all had the same fear - the itinerary for the event was clear, the winners were expected through early, but then to our horror, the timing of the awards ceremony was, for all three of us, earlier than we anticipated finishing. We compared notes. I got my thoughts in order, and the outcome was:
Main goal: Finish
Stretch goal: Do it without walking
Believable goal: Do it in under 3 hours
Stretch goal 2: 2 hours 30.
I really wanted to believe in 2 hours 30.
And off we toddled along the Longdendale trail from Hadfield. Unlike day 1, I was doing no overtaking. For a while, there were people around me, and at least something else to look at, admiring running shoes, checking out who had headphones, anything really to keep my brain busy. And then there were myriad flies. That kept me busy too, in the attempts not to swallow any of the annoying things. That was a failed attempt by the way. As the route was mostly a there and back, the next entertaining moment was when you see the elite guys and gals coming back on their return leg. At least I'd managed 5 miles before the first leaders passed me in the opposite direction.
Got to the half way point, not quite dead. Then there was the entertainment of counting the runners who I was now passing going the other way. I think I was slightly anxious not to be last. At about kilometre 13 I realised I was slowing up. By this time, there was very little entertainment to be had, other than glancing at the watch. Oh yes, now I've done 12km. Oh look, my running pace is averaging 6.13 minutes per kilometre. Ah yes, I've been running for 1 hour etc. etc. etc. Flat and straight is boring. But at least if you're looking at the numbers there is empirical information about you slowing up. One thing I'd done differently before this race was cram a gel in my pocket. I am suspicious of gels. I'm never entirely sure if my digestive system will cope. But the numbers tell me that post gel I got back on pace, and all was well.
Padding, padding, padding along. I've always got a song going in my head, and this time I had my own lyrics to it. The more you keep running the sooner it'll be over was my refrain. The final three km were bloody painful but I got over the finish line in a blistering 2 hours 10. Found a quiet bit of field and lay down panting for quite some time. Back in the van and the assessment of current injuries. One very bloody sock revealed a toe - neighbouring toe interface had gone horribly wrong. My left ankle was trashed, both knees were grinding, my hips were sore, and the muscles down the front of my thighs, oh my, who would have known. And my back ached, and there was chafing in places I never knew chafing could happen. That'll be a DNS for day 4 then ...