An early start having racked the day before, at
Fordingbridge, and overnighted at a friend's house. Alarm at
4.15am for breakfast and then a drive to the fabulously named
"Sandy Balls Holiday Camp" to park up and take a bus transfer to T1
and the lake.
Standing by the lake at 6.30am, I was
questioning my sanity but at 7.10 we (old farts) followed Wave
1 (Quick Men & Ladies) into the water which was surprisingly
warm (unlike Hever last year which was surprisingly freezing!) and
at 7.22am we were off for a 1.9k swim. It all went well and I
enjoyed myself. I estimate that I was about 35/36 mins for the swim
but T1 was a bit of a mare as I got caught up trying to put dry kit
on a wet body but my splits show 42 mins for Swim + T1. There was a
bit of a run out to the road which was partly on mats but then on
mud/sand which was okay except my Shimano cycle cleats clogged up
and wouldn't clip to my pedals. Off the bike, clean the cleats,
back on the bike and not happy.
The bike was more hilly than I expected
and why is it all the flat stretches appear to be into a head wind?
Perhaps I was travelling very fast (!) (wise up Andy, the time says
otherwise). Great scenery with plenty of wildlife - horses, ponies,
donkeys, cattle - and a lovely moment when a bull wandered out in
front of me causing a slalom avoidance manoeuvre that had fellow
cyclists applauding my cycling agility - but that was about all
there was to applaud.
On reflection I found the bike tough (very
undulating with little remission from climbing) and despite
covering more than this distance regularly in training with Jeff
& Peter - at about mile 45 the quad cramps started and it
was almost the Sussex Sportive all over again! So I pulled
back on the speed and nursed my legs to the finish and after 56
miles it was a relief to get off the bike and dump it in
Into the tent, off with the cycle kit and
deep joy to pull on the trainers for the run. My split shows 3.32
for Bike + T2.
And off I plodded. No whippet out of the
blocks as per usual but more a cart horse with one goal - to finish
what I'd started.
A cross country half marathon is very
different to my usual road races and I found it tough, especially
with my thighs in shreds. Fortunately, I teamed up - at about mile
7 - with 2 other runners having similar fun, to see each other to
the end. The final hill nearly killed me and my quads were spasming
(quite odd to watch) but after 2.40 (an hour longer than my average
half marathon time) I crossed the line and never has a chair been
6.55.39. Was hoping for somewhere around 6
hrs but I have re-aligned my expectations, since!!
What have I learned? Not to over estimate
my own abilities and not to under estimate the course.
But more importantly I found out that even
during the most negative parts of the bike course - when I was
unsure how much further there was to cycle, when my legs were
killing me, when I started to think there was no way of running 13
miles and when I just wanted to give up - that there is a part of
me that refuses to give in. I was not going to let all that
training go to waste, I was not going to tell everyone I'd achieved
a DNF and, more importantly, I was not going to let myself
I don't care about the time. I'm proud to
have finished such a huge race. To expect your body to deliver for
7 hours is a massive ask. Ironmen? Hats off guys - I'm in
Ps Perhaps now, I can be upgraded on The
Forum from "Sprint Distance" athlete, to "Middle Distance". I feel
I have earned it!
pps My mum made me smile. "I'm so proud of
you, Andrew. You have to remember though, you're 53 and not getting
any younger". Ouch!!
Author: Andy Miles