Silverstone Half-Marathon 2014 – the race !

You should all know by now that I was running the Silverstone Half-Marathon again to raise money for the Helen & Douglas House hospice care charity.  Now that I have completed my side of the deal you can still make a donation to this very worthwhile cause through my Just Giving page.

After a day spent relaxing in front of A Bridge Too Far and getting to bed before midnight for a change, I woke up at 7 o’clock and got myself ready.  I made sure that my bag was packed with some warm clothing for after the race, food for before and after, my camera and my timing chip.  I had already attached my racing number to my Helen & Douglas House running vest.  I took my supplements with some water containing High5 zero citrus tablets, left the house just before half past 8 and drove up to Silverstone, eating an apple on the way, drinking some more of the Zero High5 water, getting there at half past 9 and joining the queue of cars to get in.  The queue moved quickly and I was soon parked up in one of the lower car parks.

That's what we're all here for...

That’s what we’re all here for…

I knew from last time that the problem with arriving early is the race does not start until 12 midday and it was very cold out, so this time I stayed in my car, ate a bowl of The Ultimate meusli from Rude Health -which is the one which includes oats, rye flakes, raisins, sultanas, barley flakes, apricots, almonds, brazil nuts, dates, golden linseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cranberries, quinoa flakes, apple, buckwheat flakes, goji berries, hazlenuts, puffed rice, blueberries, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and cinnamon.  It is beyond yummy !  I added some hemp, flaxseed, chia and spirulina, used a mixture of yerba mate and green tea as the liquid for it, and listened to the Von Hertzen Brothers.  And before you ask, no, they were not in the back of the car giving me race tactical strategy advice, it was one of their cds.  I put the timing chip on my Merrell TrailGloves and headed off towards the circuit, over one bridge to cross Farm Straight and another to cross Wellington Straight, then followed the signs which brought me to The Paddock – it was not the shortest walk ever and was more than long enough to give an idea of how cold the day was going to be.  So long as it did not start raining…

I had a look around The Paddock before spotting Charlie, one of the Community & Events Fundraisers from Helen & Douglas House, and I went over to chat with him and a few of the other people running for the charity.

Charlie from Helen & Douglas House and some of us runners

Charlie from Helen & Douglas House and some of us runners

The cold weather meant that as last year I had decided to run in my long-sleeved Berghaus base layer with the half-zip front.  I was carrying a proto pure orange flavour energy gel and a High5 energy gel in the back pocket of my Ron Hill running shorts, and was also carrying some dates in my hands.  I was also wearing my 2XU compression tights, and my Merrell Trail Gloves, so it was all very familiar kit which I had been training in.  It had been washed over the 13-week training programme, before you ask.  I finished my yerba mate/green tea water, took my bag to the storage area and ate a banana about 30 minutes before the start time, and then headed off to the start line.

Let's get this show on the road !

Let’s get this show on the road !

The race itself is run on and around the Silverstone F1 track.  We start at Copse, run down through Maggotts, Becketts, Chapel and Hangar Straight to get to 1 mile, then round Stowe and through Vale, Club, International Pits Straight and Abbey to get to 2 miles, then through Farm, Village, The Loop, Aintree, Wellington Straight, Priory and Brooklands to get to 3 miles, which is right on Luffield, then once we are through Woodcote and National Pits Straight we come off the track and begin what they call the second lap, going inside the F1 track to begin with and coming to 4 miles near Becketts and Chapel, following Hangar Straight before coming back on ourselves, passing through 5 miles and going around Stowe Circuit, then around the Silverstone Wing and New Pits to get to 6 miles, down by Farm, Village, The Loop and Aintree before crossing Wellington Straight about half way up to get to 7 miles, then over Farm Straight to follow a route outside of the F1 track, going around the outside of International Pits Straight to get to 8 miles at Club, then passing the outside of Club, Vale, Stowe and Hangar Straight to get to 9 miles across from Chapel, getting to 10 miles at National Pits Straight before cutting back in at Luffield, joining the F1 track around Brooklands before veering off at Priory, heading off to Bridge and hitting 11 miles at the Farm Straight, going past Abbey and along International Pits Straight, round Club, through Vale, around Stowe to get to 12 miles, down Hangar Straight, through Chapel, Becketts and Maggotts to pass 13 miles, and finally making the 13.1 miles mark at Copse.

I lined up on the F1 starting grid at a sign for runners expecting to finish between 2 hours and 15 minutes and 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Given how I had been doing in training, I thought that was about right, and was certainly expecting to beat 2 hours and 30 minutes.  I found the Runner’s World pacemaker for 2 hours and 14 minutes and decided to go with him and see how it went.  It was still very cold as I stood there stretching my legs, but the rain was just about holding off.  And then we were off, to the sound of The Chain by Fleetwood Mac !  I actually passed through the start about 4 minutes after the first runner, and I stuck with the Runner’s World pacemaker for the first 4.5 miles, running at a 10 minute and 13 seconds pace.

This is going fine, no problems at all...

This is going fine, no problems at all…

It felt pretty comfortable for the first 3 miles but then I noticed a stich/cramp/pain at the bottom of my left abs.  I tried to shift it by breathing through it (which usually works for me) but it was not going away.  This was so annoying because I had not encountered anything like this in training, and had regularly gone out at lunchtime while at work and just run 5 miles.  But here I was now, struggling after 3.  Then at around 4.5 miles I was suddenly dizzy, which usually means my low blood pressure is kicking in.  I ate some of the dates I had brought with me but I also took the precaution of really slowing down.  The last thing I wanted to do was faint whilst running along.  Of course, this all meant that the pacemaker was soon out of sight so I continued on at my own pace.  My legs were feeling fine but the pain from my abs was not letting me run even just slowly for the whole time, and my movement very quickly became a mixture of running until I had to walk and then trying to run again.  I was coming up to 6 miles when we began to hear the running commentary of Chris Thompson winning the race in a course record of 65 minutes and 08 seconds.  We all cheered him in as we carried on with our own race.

Making hard work of it

Making hard work of it

I ate my proto plus orange flavour energy gel at 6 miles,or I would have done if I could have ripped it open, but my fingers were frozen.  So it took me until some way after the 6 mile mark to get it open using my teeth.  My friend, Jim Macleerie, came alongside at around the 6 and a half mile mark, and though I tried to run with him for a while, the pain would just not let me tag along and the movement of running made it worse.   Jim finished in 2 hours 25 minutes and 48 seconds, which is excellent because it beats his time from last year.

I took a bottle of Buxton water at 7.5 miles and kept pushing on.  I reached 8 miles after being out on the course for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  I still had in my mind that if I could keep going then I could beat 2 hours and 30 minutes, and I knew that to do that I would need to reach 10 miles before 2 hours had passed.  That gave me some time to cover the next two miles and hopefully be fit enough to run the final three miles.  I was certainly not discouraged from that idea when the pacemaker for 2 hours and 29 minutes went past me.  I knew that he had started not very far behind me so if I tagged along I could make it.  I did tag along but unfortunately not for very long.  I made it to 10 miles a few minutes before 2 hours and tried running again, but it did not last for very long.  Anyway, things could not get any worse than this.  Or could they ?  It had been windy all along the route but running up the hill from the 11 mile mark was like running into a wind tunnel, and not with the wind at my back.  Worse than that, the rain had decided now was a great time for it to really start falling, and the temperature had dropped.

Things got pretty low out there...

Things got pretty low out there…

It did not make for an enjoyable final two miles and so I tried to run as much of it as I could, and when I finally reached the 13 mile marker I gave it a final push to bring this to an end

One last push !

One last push !

and crossed the finish line of the full 13.1 miles in 2 hours 39 minutes on the dot.  Slower than last year by almost 2 minutes.

That put me in 6107th place (5571st last year), the 4020th male (3847th last year) and 361st in the 45-49 age category (I have moved up an age category).  It was a terrible result which did not reflect the progress I have made in both my fitness and my running training so I will be back again next year to do things properly and beat it.

I carried on walking, going over the raised area where the timers were taken off our running shoes (and the official time matched up with that on my watch), got a little emotional as I picked up my goody bag (which contained a tshirt with a tyre logo on the front, an excellent medal which was also in the shape of a tyre, a bottle of Lucozade Sport, a Lucozade Sport yoghurt flavoured cereal bar, a bottle of Buxton water, two Teapigs teabags, a packet of Walkers crispy coated peanuts, a sachet of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, a packet of Crosta & Mollica biscuits, and a sachet of Arnicare arnica cooling gel) and headed on to have my final photograph taken, wearing my medal.

I walked into The Paddock to get my bag, put on some warm clothing, and eat some cachew nuts, but it all took much longer than planned because I was so cold and my fingers were not really working.  I walked back to my car through the rain, following the route I had taken to get in which seemed to be longer going back and was certainly a lot longer than I wanted it to be, and I sat in the car for a while as I tried to get some real feeling back into my fingers.  I could not go yet anyway because I physically could not turn the key in the ignition.  A lot of the traffic had gone by the time I was in a position to move, so it did not take me too long to get out of the car park and from there to the M1 to head north to Derby to collect Debbie.

Positives – I finished it.  The biggest positive of the day has to be the support given to me by others after the event to help me get over my disappointment with the result.  To be honest, and to be fair with myself, it says a lot about where I have come over the last year that I am so gutted with the outcome.

Finished...and will be back in 2015

Finished…and will be back in 2015

Lessons learnt for next time – do not get a stitch/cramp/pain.  With the exception of a couple of longer runs I believe my training and preparation were spot on, and as I will be continuing with it I very much expect to be coming back next year in an even better position to beat my previous times.

I should thank Helen & Douglas House for accepting me on to their team of runners and for being so helpful and organised, and to Debbie and all those on Facebook and at work who encouraged me through this.  I could not have done it without you all.  And a big thank you to everyone who sponsored me, it is very much appreciated.

You can see more photographs from day here.

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