A weekend in Cambridgeshire

Mark Fairbrother
Wednesday, 13 March , 2013
What a beautiful City, steep in history, culture, academic excellence and now home to the increasingly popular Saucony Half Marathon. Did you know that you are only allowed a clock on your boathouse in Cambridge if you’ve won 10 ‘head of the river races’ in 10 consecutive years, or that you are not allowed to play tennis on the streets of Cambridge?. Having decided to leave my tennis racket at home I loaded up the boot with the racing kit instead, and set off for what became a very special weekend for team Project 26.2. For those of you that follow my journey via twitter, you may have seen a few references to the weather forecast for the weekend. Given the erratic behaviour of the British weather I would have been deluded to have expected a lovely bright, mild spring morning come race day, however I wasn’t expecting the cruel weather we woke up to. Having checked into a Travel lodge on the outskirts of the city centre, it was straight over to the Premier Inn where coaches Nick and Phoebe along with Team Saucony had de-camped. I, along with Aaron, Ryan, Steve, Simon and the Ladies all gathered for a ‘pre-race briefing’ where Nick discussed pace strategy and gave us general encouragement and confidence by highlighting the clear progress we have each made at this point in time. Jonny and Ken from Saucony gave us a briefing on Kit, and the importance of making sure we delayer at the right time so as not to burn off any unnecessary carbs through being cold standing around waiting for the gun. Raph from High 5 rounded up the briefing by imparting his excellent knowledge of race fuelling, the strategy was to take 1-2 Isogels approx 15 mins before the race, then a further gel every 20 mins until we cross the finish line. Taking fluids on board is equally important at half marathon distance, but no need to get obsessed, quick glug to thirst is sufficient. So with the talking done, the training to date moving in the right direction it was now all down to me..... After a very pleasant Saturday evening of carb loading with the guys, coaches, partners I headed off to bed, my thoughts focussed firmly on the race, so with a cheeky glance out of the hotel curtains (the night seemed calm, freezing cold but no snow) I fell asleep....No I didn’t, a group of guys staying at the hotel who kept barging in and out of their adjacent rooms, tanked up, on what I assume was not isotonic nor electrolyte heavy put paid to that! Fast forward to 6am, and the view outside my window is very picturesque, all white. I debate whether to stick with wearing running shorts, but the trip to the car park to collect my trainers confirmed it would be tights. I’m sure my hand stuck to the door handle momentarily. Ok, the conditions were harsh, bloody harsh to be honest but the race was still on and I needed fuelling – so off to the restaurant I headed for a bowl of cereal, followed by toast all washed down with a strong coffee and 750ml of High 5 4:1Carb Protein. I met up with Ryan and Aaron and their extremely supportive partners as we headed off for the park and ride to race HQ. The banter on the bus quickly subsided as we arrived at our stop, throngs of participants and their families all heading off the start zones, each frantically blowing warm breath into cupped hands, at this point I’d lost all sensation in both my feet and hands but carried on smiling regardless. We spotted the ‘Saucony-Project 26.2’ tent and headed for the warmth. Imagine my horror to find the tent was as cold inside as it was out.......It was at this precise moment Aaron decided to ditch the tights for shorts. Now this man is very fast but I did find my face recoiling as I saw his transition from cold man in tights to, well, an athlete in shorts (and he didn’t stick around long on the course either) So off to the start line we went. My race plan was to PB, the strategy was to stay even pace, controlled discomfort. With Nick Anderson’s “ease into the first 3k” freshly ringing in my ears I launched off at the sound of the claxon, a solid 25 seconds/mile quicker than plan. I should have known better, much better in fact (I have raced enough events to know how my performance evolves over the distance) and to be honest annoyed at myself that I find pacing in race situations a challenge. I’ve got 5 weeks to beat this nonsense out of my system. I end up spending the first 4-5 miles side by side with Ryan which was a magical moment, shoulder to shoulder with a top guy, shortly after he went on his way to rip up a sub 1:30. The route was fantastic, I’m not usually a fan of looped courses, but this one combined parks, bridges, outer roads and the beautiful city centre, so what’s not to enjoy. Despite starting off too keen and actually recording a 10k PB in the process (by over a minute!), I did slow down in the last 2 miles as I raced to the finish. An official time of 1:33:44 and a New PB! I was greeted at the finish by the 3 happy guys – Steve, Aaron and Ryan – each with their own PB’s. We declared the weekend a complete success as we parted company for what now remains only a matter of weeks before we tackle the big one! Have a great week, keep fit and healthy and if you are racing soon.....pace right. Cheers Mark
Follow on twitter @mpfaccountancy.


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