The first thing I noticed after we had arrived at the hotel on Friday and went for a jog along the course route was the heat and the wind.
It was about midday so the exact time things were going to be getting tough on race day (race start at 10am!) and it seemed a bit of a daunting prospect. I wasn’t that disappointed though as this event was always going to be more about racing than a personal time trial and if I had to forget about the time goals then so be it. Everyone was going to have to deal with the conditions and to be honest if it turned into a endurance battle then it may improve my chances of positioning well considering a number of the guys on paper had better raw speed than me.
Looking at the entry list before hand the competitors who on paper had the raw speed advantage over me were Collen Makaza (ZIM) who was the 2010 50K World Trophy in 2:48 (2:15 marathon PB/63 Half) , my good friend Paul (2:16 Full / 65 Half) and the USA 50k Champ Joe Gray (63 Half). The defending champion from Kenya had not made the start line as he had visa issues apparently.
Anyway, better get on with the race report! Paul and I went for our usual 12min jog 4 hrs before the race and then we all made our way down to the course start at around 9am. The course was a simple out and back route along the prom with the total distance for each “loop” being 6.25km, no opportunity for Paul to get lost on this one 😉
The start and finish line was around 3-400m up from the westerly turn-around point and here we all were ready to go!
The race kicked off and things very quickly fell into place as expected with Paul, Collen, Joe and myself forming an early lead group at the front. The conditions at this stage were actually probably as good as we could have hoped for as the temperature wasn’t too bad at around 21-22 degrees and the wind was actually a crosswind coming from inland which meant it wasn’t having that much impact on the pace. I was therefore pleased to see than even though Collen had already drifted off the front of the group, the other 3 of us had settled into a pace which was bang on my top end target pace of 5:25m/m.
The first 2 laps went quite painlessly in 21:05 and 21:02 which works out at 5:25-5:26m/m pace and my heart rate was under the early threshold I had set myself of 160bpm (Marathon HR – 166bpm). The plan was always to throw my heart rate monitor off after a couple of laps once I was happy I wasn’t pushing too hard too early and so I got rid of it at the end of lap 2.
At this stage Paul, Joe and I were still running together and looking pretty comfortable but Collen had already pulled out around a minute lead on us.
Not sure if it was Paul or myself pushing the pace but we then sped up a little bit with lap 3 coming in at 20:56 (5:23m/m pace) and it was at this point that Joe started to drop off the back a little. Lap 4 settled back to our original pace coming in at 21:03 (bang on in between our first and 2nd lap times) and we went through half way in 1:24:07. This was bang on around my top end target pace which was pleasing although Collen had again pulled out a bit more of a lead extending it to around 1 min 30s
As the race had been progressing, so had the conditions and it was at this stage that I really started to notice both the temperature increase (worked up to around 26 degrees), the lack of cloud cover and the fact that the cross wind had now turned into a very distinct headwind/tailwind scenario which was gaining strength all the time.
As we head out to the eastern turnaround point on lap 5 the wind really started to take its toll on our pace and my mile splits showed this with mile 17 coming in at 5:31, the first real dip in pace.
Mile 18 would have been right back on pace with a low 5:20 apart from the fact I had to stop to tie my left shoelace up…….. we will skip over this very quickly as it would be impossible to believe that in the World 50K Trophy final I would once again forget to do my laces up properly before the start of the race 😉
I did however manage to combine my shoe lace pit stop with a quick shower by tactically stopping at the water cup station to tie it up and then chucked a whole hand full of cups over my head before getting back on it. I was quite pleased that I managed to catch Paul back up and pulled the mile split back to a respectable 5:28.
Lap 6 was when the race started to change shape. The headwind as we went out was now getting really strong and my legs were not coping that well with it. It was also at this point that Paul had noticed that Collen had started to come back to us and spurred on by this he seemed to be coping with the headwind slightly better than myself and started to pull out a gap on me. Now running on my own into the headwind my mile splits took a real turn for the worse with a couple of 5:40 ish miles and then we turned around for the tailwind the pace was not picking back up that much because as soon as we had the wind on our backs the heat was just immense. Over these last few laps I was getting into a habit of pouring half my water bottle over my head at the easterly turnaround point in preparation for the wave of heat, it did actually work quite well.
Even though my pace had slowed and the conditions were getting hard at this point I was still in a good frame of mind as I could see I was still pulling away from Joe in 4th place and I felt in control still so a bronze was looking like a certainty. I also remember getting a shout out from Adrian Marriott at this point who unfortunately had had to pull out due to injury which was something along the lines of “They’re looking done…… you can still win this!”. My honest thoughts running through my head in response to this was actually “BOLLOX CAN I” but in hindsight it appears Mr Marriott was a better judge of the race than I!
At the start of lap 7 Paul was around 20-30s ahead of me and I was just focusing on trying to not let the gap extend too much. The headwind miles were now getting proper HARD with with mile 25 crossing the 6min barrier with a 6:01.The marathon split went through in around 2:24:xx which considering the conditions I was actually quite pleased with.
The legs were now screaming but I noticed that Paul was actually no longer pulling away from me and actually seemed to start coming back. In fact by the end of lap 7 even though I ran my slowest lap of the race with a 23:05 (5:56m/m) I had actually pulled back alongside Paul.
It was now time to start digging deep, Collen was around 45s up ahead and I didn’t really think I was going to catch him but I was going to give it a bloody good go. Those hard days out on the windy Bournemouth prom all year must have done the job though as by the time we hit the turnaround point I had closed the gap right down.
We hit the heat, I chucked a bottle of water over my head , put my head down and zipped the man suit up. The next 3k were a bit of a blur. I was certain the Collen was sat there on my tail but didn’t want to look around so just gave everything I had. I only managed a 5:38 mile but looking back it was my fastest of the previous 8 miles.
As we hit the final turnaround point with just 400m to go I was waiting in anticipation to see how big the gap was………
HE WASN’T THERE
In fact he was around 4 min behind me at this point and the race was already in the bag! I’d won and I could actually enjoy the last 400m crossing the line in a bit of a state of shock.
After 3 hrs of trying to drink water, feeling rather ill and performing some projectile “water” vomiting I finally managed to have the toilet break that the anti-doping agency so desperately wanted so I could the get on with the important job of having my first post race Peroni with Paul
I must say thanks to the England Athletics crew of Andy and Walter who put on a great trip and also looked after me perfectly on the drinks station. All of the England team had a great time and the ladies managed one better with a 1st and a 2nd for Helen and Emma which was awsome!
I also had some local support form club mate Roy and his wife Elaine who were over in Italy on holiday who also managed to send back some live twitter updates to Mrs Way which was much appreciated so thanks for that guys
Probably my proudest achievement so far in running I think, digging in during the tough conditions and coming out with the win. Was also nice to know that I had some close family back home going through a bit of a tough time at the moment and this hopefully put a smile on their faces and took their mind off things for a bit.
Below is all the glorious stats and results for those that are interested!
Full Results Here
Lap splits Below
IAU Report Here
Full Garmin Stats Below