01 March 2008

Even serpents shine

Yesterday was the last Friday of the month, so ...

First, I made it to the start with time to spare. Tom was insistent that we should leave nice and early. Robbie drageed himself away. Ian joined us for the first time, meaning I was relegated to third place in the BDB team even before we'd laced up our running shoes - but still the senior member by some way.

Second, I went fully equipped. The green shoes, the red shorts, and just to be sure that I had done everything possible to guarantee a personal best (and perhaps salvage second place in the team rankings!) shades. Unfortunately this meant that I could see very little, as not only did I lost the corrective effect of my spectacles, but I also cut out what little daylight there was.

Thursday had been a perfect Hyde Park running day, and Huw, Andrew and I had made the most of it with a run over the Serpentine Bridge: rather further than was really clever the day before a race (and three days before another race!) but we didn't feel that it was too fast until we saw the time on my watch at the end, and it was pretty quick (though I forget now what it was). Friday was about as far removed as you could get. Cool, overcast, with a headwind on the first half of about Force 5 - I think I observed crested wavelets on an inland body of water.

I reached the first K with a little under 4 minutes on my watch, and it felt as if I might be able to sustain it. But from the 1K mark there's a long albeit slight ascent to the police station, and on the way up there I had to slow. I moved over to allow others to pass on the fastest line, and ended up doing little more than a jog round the sharp turn at the top and down to the side of the lake - where probably the last man in the A race came past.

I kept him in sight along the edge of the Serpentine, past 2K (about 4:40, so a dramatic slowing), under the bridge, round the end of the Long Water, past the obligatory van - one is always parked on the route at that point for some reason or another - then back under the bridge, down to the Lido, up the hill behind it (where I took several yards out of the lead he had pulled out) and finally down the long straight where the Force 5 was now at our backs - oddly, it had not changed direction as winds so often do, so as to remain in our faces.

A few B race participants came past, one going at a fantastic pace: after the left turn at the Dell another came past, and though I tried to attack the hill there wasn't enough in my legs to stay with him. But heading down to the finish I mustered a messy and noisy (lots of puffing and panting) sprint, and with fifty or so yards to go he was close enough to be a target so I really pushed myself and probably just pipped him, with my watch registering something and 58 seconds (I remembered later that I had failed to start it immediately at the off, so a couple of seconds had been stolen as far as my watch time was concerned). But was I on 22 or 23 minutes? Surely the latter, given my time at 2K. I'd looked at my watch at another intermediate point, but could not remember what it had said.

In fact, it was the former, so while it felt like my worst race for a long time it wasn't at all. I failed to reach the magic 70 per cent age-graded, but did manage 67.6, which has been my level several times over the time I have been running this race: and on that measure, I tied with Tom and beat the other two. (Or, put another way, for I think the first time Tom managed to match my percentage!)

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