Race Review – Thames Valley Spring Half Marathon

My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don’t Love Jesus

I have run Eton Dorney before back in 2015 and it fast (get it?) became my 10K and half marathon PB course. Why? It is just so damned flat. Sure, there is a bridge, maybe two, to cross, but it is mostly the track around the Olympic rowing lake and so 1. It has a good surface and 2. It’s flat as the proverbial pancake. Sure it is laps, sure you are very exposed to the wind whipping across the water as well as the sun, but if a flump like me years ago could get a PB then surely I should give it a go now that I know what I am doing (kinda, sorta, not really).

After last week’s disappointing plod around a school playing field I needed a shot in the arm before Vienna and so combining my new favourite TV show (seen when in hotels before races) Bondi Rescue, the fact I haven’t run a race in costume for a while, and this venue, I hatched a plan.

Number 1: Ensure that I am free that weekend! I am?

Number 2: Sign up for the race. Do you have to pay via Active? No!

Number 3: Find and then order the Bondi Rescue blue lifeguard outfit, NOT the standard Baywatch red that most people wear.

And Number 4: Over the Shia.

The Route

This is where it stops being fun. It is flat sure, but you are going around and around. 4 laps around the lake after a short half lap up the northern shore and back again. There would be two water stops, at the turns, and those will JUST have water, although one had a handful of energy gels later on in the day, when the 5K and fun run had finished.

We would be timed with the old school timing chips you strap to your ankle that look like you are on day release from prison. A lady in the start pen asked if she had hers on right as she had never used one before. I told her the last race where I used such a contraption (Amersham Ultra) we were told to put it around your wrist. Today? It was around our ankles. As we waited for the three wheelchair racers to get into position a guy in the start pen to my left was talking to those around him. He said it was the first time any of them had run this far. He said that when you go over the mat it records your splits. His voice lacked confidence, but they were attentive as this was their first big race (There were about 500 people, going around a lake four times, for a half). It was very endearing.

No hotel this time, no Rocky Horror castle and plush surroundings for me. The race was scheduled to start at 12:30, so it would be a simple train from Waterloo, and a £20 cab ride to the lake, race, then cab home. I told the cab driver to be there at 3 o’clock, that would give me half an hour after the race, that should be enough time right?

How I did?

I have been fighting off a chest cold since last week’s 6 hour lap race in Berkhamsted. Not that I am making excuses. I will leave that for other people to do. I make no such claims about my poor performances. I have been eating like I am going to the chair all year. I feel heavy and out of shape. I have not been training as much as normal. I am overweight, under trained, and bungling my way through my 6th year of running with the kind of abandon you see from people with a death wish. That, or the kind of people who will come up with excuses to hide their own indiscipline, lack of training, poor eating etc.

And so, this fat lifeguard found it tough. The race, as I said, started at 12:30. It was one of the hottest days of the year and let me tell you two things about an internet bought lifeguard costume:

  • The tee is made of thick cotton, and it very unforgiving. I was sweating like…

and

  • The shorts were actual swim shorts, and so had the onion bag. So despite a Castro District sized portion of Vaseline and Runderwear underneath them, I did get a bit of a chafe.
Deploy the Bepanthen

I have Vienna on Sunday, and so thought to myself that I would amble around using a strict run walk the whole way, especially given the heat, time of day, the lack of fuel in my system, the overheating costume, and the water tables and this worked pretty well. I am sure I bugged the shit out of people as I slowed to a march, let them run by, did my 30 count, and then ran the next KM by them. And I apologise for that. I find it annoying too.  But it wasn’t a forever annoyance, as after 2 hours I was done and dusted, grabbed my bag, more water and went and found my cab. The time? Exactly 3 o’clock (as the race start had been delayed by 15 mins).

The Bling

Generic, does not mention the year. But whatever, it gets thrown on the pile now that I have rehung my medals, to move the marathons onto the biggest rack with the aim of filling it with the 100 Marathon Club medals.

The Aftermath

I spent 2 hours sweating like a monkey on what felt like the hottest day of the year, and a 12:45 start on an exposed course with no tree cover did not lend itself well to the situation. I was a sweaty monkey from start to finish. If there are any race photos, and I really hope there is at least one, I am sure it looks like this.

Cotton tee is not conducive with running in the heat

The cab dropped me at Windsor and Eton Riverside station and I felt dog rough. Nauseous, tired. I had barely eaten before but this felt like something else. I had the bottle of  water, a Hot chocolate, a coke, crisps but I thought I was going to vom the whole train ride back to civilisation. It was a lesson in eating well before, and having what you need after as I sat on the train, trying to get comfy.

I knew I should have used more vaseline on the nethers

StuWeb

This was another race that used this company for timing and photos. I cannot remember the other one but I seem to remember the photos were poor or non-existent last time around. They had one guy on the course focusing on the fast runners so much that we were running past him and he was ignoring us even when we slowed down and waved, and even ran into his field of vision. He was there at the start getting the crowd photos. There was a photographer at the end. Was it the same guy? As it stands the photos are up, but not in their entirety. We shall see what tomorrow brings.

Summary

This was not the dichotomy between a fast, pre marathon warmup and fancy dress bimble that I expected. It was too hot, the costume was too painful, or unforgiving, and my interest in it was not there. I did need a decent enough time and 2 hours using a run/walk was fine prep. I did feel rough, but that was my fault for not working out how to best fuel for the lunchtime kickoff. Roll on Sunday.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE THAMES VALLEY SPRING HALF? No.

WOULD I RUN THE THAMES SPRING VALLEY HALF AGAIN? No

NEXT UP: VIENNA MARATHON

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