Well, yet again there were a few lessons learned for me, and here they are so that you may learn from my mistakes ...
Please, please, pleased read the race instructions before you leave the house for the race. I have a tendency to rely on Biscuit Boy to sort out everything I need for my races, like nutrition and journey route etc; although I do actually sort out my own race kit. I had assumed (wrongly) that there would be no showering facillities... We had just reached the (congested) motorway when I started reading the race instructions and saw that there were showering facilities and, of course, I had no towel or shower gel, or anything... Enough said.
When we arrived at the destination we joined the queue of cars heading past the school to the car park at the bottom of the road (I assume...) However, before we could reach the car park, the nice marshall told us that the car park was full and they were no longer letting cars into the car park from that entrance as they were about to close the road for the race and we had to turn back and go left at a roundabout, and then straight on, and then left again..(or something like that ...) Instead, luckily we were able to shoe-horn ourselves into a space outside someone's home... as for the rest of the cars snaking down the street waiting in line patiently to be told exactly the same thing... well I'm not sure what happened to them... Moral ? Get there in plenty of time to park...
I say luckily because by this point I was absolutely bursting for the loo. I had faithfully drunk my lucozade sports energy drink on the way down and now my bladder was aching... Into the school we went, to locate the ladies.. I located the facilities and then started following the queue, with nearly 2000 competitors (I don't know how many of those were women though), you can imagine what the queue was like.. long. I went back outside to Biscuit Boy and told him we needed to find somewhere else to powder our noses ... Of course, I had passed a petrol station just before we turned into the side road, that was, of course, empty. I remember I noticed that someone very much looking like a runner was exiting the petrol station at the time and I was thinking 'He probably had the sense to make a pee stop before reaching the race'. Moral ? The facilities at any race are often busy before the race starts. Everyone (me included) either seems to develop pre-race nerves that makes you want to pee literally every 5 minutes before the race, or (as all runners will know) you want to try and empty your bowel, because if you don't do it now, by mile 8 or 9 or even 10 with all that jiggy-jogging up and down you are going to find yourself in trouble and with a very uncomfortable ending to your race, which quite frankly can ruin the whole race.. Moral ? Don't wait until you reach the race destination to make your first toilet stop. If there are services or a petrol station near to the race venue, go there on the way. :o)
Back to Gosport half marathon itself. They had wonderful things on offer like pre and post-race massage - for free ! (I think you could make a charity donation as a contribution.) They also had a refreshments tent and a running stall selling items, you could also get your medal engraved. Unfortunately, by the I had returned to the toilet queue through the throngs of competitors, collected my chip and attached it to my stupid laces it was 9.50 and I had 10 minutes before the race started... and I wasn't even at the start line...
Biscuit Boy tells me that he did see a cafe on the beach front that looked good, but he didn't want to waste time queueing - we're both SO impatient ! He didn't check out the facilities at the school either..
So, I joined the competitors on the start line. I noticed that you could stand according to the time that you thought you were going to do. I saw there was a 2 hours+ line and I thought I want to be in front of that this time, so I went in front. Not all races start on time and with the parking problems and the toilet congestion I had thought that we might be delayed.. and we were but only by about 3 minutes, which is not at all bad.
Now for the course, I had studied the course map in detail, this is because although I got third prize at the Tough Tracks race none of the marshalls that I asked knew how much of the race was left, which made me run slower because I wasn't sure how much energy I needed to conserve. Not good.
I needn't have worried about this today. First of all the course is most wonderfully signposted, has mile markers and plenty of marshalls. Excellent. Also, if you look at the course map you will see that it is basically 3 miles to the airfield, 2 miles in the airfield, 3 miles out of the airfield, 2 miles back in the airfield, 3 miles to the finish. Easy. So, you can roughly pace yourself based on that.
The course is flat, flat, flat. For someone that is used to cross country and off-road running, or if road-running then at least a couple of undulations along the way, this was a taste of something new. Hastings half marathon was a road marathon, but there were quite a few uphill and downhills. On this out of 13 miles you have about 25 metres of downhill as as you enter the promenade and perhaps one or two places where there are a couple of very slight declines, same for inclines, maybe one or two very slight, otherwise it's flat, flat, flat.
What do flat courses make ? Fast times. Well that's what they say anyway... I did cross the line in 1:55:05 and I had wanted to make less than 2 hours, so obviously I was pleased but I cannot say it was an 'easy' run. As far as I'm concerned, fast runs make for fast times, and I felt like I was running fast for the whole of this half marathon. On an undulating course you can almost take a breather on a fast downhill and also on an uphill (kind of), on this flat course there is no let-up and everyone is running fast. That's how it felt to me, no let up at all. A solid 1:55 of running quite literally as fast as I could.
There were plenty of water stops, 2 in the airfield and as you go through it twice that makes it 4 and also one at the 11 mile mark which I didn't use. At the first three I glugged water and had an energy gel. I wore my compression calf supports, so my calves did feel nice and supported.
Not surprisingly after this race my thighs are aching so no running for me tomorrow.
Who would I recommend this race to ? Basically, people who are not accustomed to undulating courses or are maybe used to running on a treadmill rather than outside. As I mentioned I think getting a fast time is a little bit of a fallacy. If you want a fast time you have to run fast and you can at least do that on this course. The course was well organised, the organisers had actually thought about what to put in the goodie bag with a banana, fruit cake, salt and vinegar crisps the absolutely practically perfect combination to replace lost carbs and salts in a tasty way.
All in all thank you for a lovely race and of course a half marathon PB.