A race report from Sunday:
I knew I was in good shape. I'd had an eight week block of running over 80 miles per week, and the taper had gone exactly as planned. I'd tried something slightly different and not dropped the mileage or number of runs dramatically as my body hasn't reacted well in the past to a severe taper. I'd also lost quite a bit of weight, probably around a stone. There was a bit to lose anyway from too much beer over the summer, but I got myself lighter and leaner than I can ever remember. This was through cutting out alcohol and a more healthy diet.
The forecast for race day had been getter better as the week went on, with the wind strength dropping. On the day itself the conditions were great. Dry, cool and with virtually no wind at all. Dave's new housemate, who looks after the elite entries, had very kindly got us a VIP pass which meant we could park near the start and avoid an extra journey on bus from the park and ride.
My target time was 2.39.59, hopefully going through the first half in 1.19 to give a little bit of headroom for the second half. There were going to be timing mats at 10k, 20k, 30k and 40k so my times through those needed to be 38, 1.16, 1.52 and 2.32.
Slightly downhill start, held myself back and the first mile was so easy at target pace of 6.05. There were still quite a few runners around but they started to thin out as I moved through the first miles. I'd settled into a great rhythm, running on my own, not worrying about anyone else, HR in the right zone, pace increasing to 6.04. It felt so comfortable, the miles were ticking by very quickly.
As it was foggy, runners would keep appearing out of the mist ahead of me and then I'd catch them, pass them, and they'd disappear back into the mist behind me. At this stage, I was more than happy running on my own. I was ahead of the time targets at 10k and 20k but then the clock at half way said I had been out over 80 minutes. I knew this couldn't be right as I'd been ahead at 20k. I didn't worry about it. I was right not to as the official splits have my first half time as 79.51.
The section from mile 13 to mile 20 was where the route was more challenging. 1 mile gently down to a turnaround point, 2 miles gently up, 2 miles gently down to another turnaround point, 2 miles gently up. By the end of this section I was having to work harder to stay on pace, and mile 20 was my slowest of the entire race.
Still ahead of target time at 30k, and this is probably the point of the race where it would have been good to have had other runners to work with. It always gets tough after 20 miles, but I was ready for it. In my head I'd decided to forget about the first 20 miles and treat it as a 10k race. So off I went. But it was suddenly feeling much harder. My average pace had dropped from 6.04 to 6.05. A runner blew ahead of me and I sped past him. Someone told me I was tenth!
I was still running strongly. One of my focus words was 'posture' and I kept using that to relax me. The miles moved by. 21, 22, 23, 24. Straight through another runner and into 9th place. Now back in York. Not far to go. Through 40k in 2.31 something. I had over 8 minutes to run 2k. I knew I'd broken 2.40. Question now was by how much.
Nearly there. I'd been warned about the horrible hill from 25.8 miles to 26.0 miles, but I'd also been told that once over the top it was downhill to the finish. Killed myself on the up, the clock at 26 miles showed just under 2.38. I knew Craney had run 2.39.31 and I was going to be very close to that. Put on my best attempt at a sprint finish (and managed sub 5 minute mile pace for that last 0.2 miles!), crossing the line in 2.39.22.
I'd done it. A little celebration as I crossed the line before I did a Baker and threw up. Absolutely delighted to have finally broken 2.40. It's taken a while, and I think there was a bit of a psychological barrier I had to break as well, but it all came together on race day, probably for the first time. I got the fuelling and pacing spot on, with very little drop off in the last 6 miles.
The official splits indicate I also got a negative split (79.51 and 79.31). I'm not sure they are correct as my GPS suggests I was slightly slower in the second half, but I'll take what's now been published!
I kind of said I'd stop once I got under 2.40, but I wouldn't be a runner if I wasn't slightly intrigued by seeing if I can go any quicker...