Blessed again with great running conditions. Nice and cool with only a slight breeze. I arrived at the race and was impressed with the set-up. Chip timing, a hat for all competitors, all for the price of 18 Euros.
I did my 4km warm-up running the first 2km of the course then doubling back to the start. There was a hill at 1.5km that lasted for 500m, but that's about as much as I knew. I really should make an effort to look at the course maps before these races rather than running blind each time.
No obvious guns at the start so I was favourite to win. I lined up on the second row which was a schoolboy error. The gun sounded and I was boxed in so had to run the first 400m or so in about 6th or 7th spot. Then the road widened and I took an outside line to close down the leader before moving to the front. Feeling good at this stage and I managed to open up a gap as I crossed the first km in 3:03. I was warned before the race that the km markers were a bit dodgy and it certainly didn't feel like a 3:03. So I ignored it and raced on.
As mentioned, the second km had the 500m climb and I was running strongly and I was surprised to reach the top of the climb with a 3:14 km. Nice, now there was a good downhill section. Pushing on I was starting to really hit my straps. I was following the lead motorbike and although it levelled out a bit, I had knocked off the 3rd km in 3:04. So 9:21 for the first 3km - that's not a bad 3km time.
The next section was very flat with beautiful water views. The sun was out and there was a touch of spring in the air. The motorbike upfront had pulled over which confused me a little but as I ran past him he pointed up the ride. It was at this point I realised it must have been an out-and-back course. So I expected the turnaround to be at the 4km point but no - it came much sooner. After a sharp u-turn I was then running in reverse with all the chasing runners in view. I guess I was about 15 seconds in the lead by this point.
It was immediately apparent that I must have had a slight tailwind on the outward section and after the turn it suddenly felt a lot harder. I was trying to run strong but the legs weren't responding. From feeling great to ordinary in a matter of seconds. Anyway, I was still trying to work out how the course was going to make up the 8km....then the 4th km passed with a 3:26. Not good.
About one km of running against the traffic (with several people blocking the road) I was then directed down a side-road. So it was a different finishing section of sorts. The road at this point was very rough (grass/potholes) and straight away there were several hills when you least wanted them. The 5th km was a 3:19 and I was now hanging on for the finish. More hills and I went into blinker mode wishing to fast forward the next few minutes. Little recollection of the race at this point but it seemed more up than down with kms 6 and 7 passing in 3:26 and 3:21 respectively.
The last km was marked each 200m. Not sure if that was good or not. It felt like an eternity - with 400m to go I kicked and another uphill drag to the finish crossing the line in 26:03 (3:10 last km). Big crowd at the finishing chute for a change!
That's a good time on a tough course. Much more to come on fresh legs. In summary a really good first 3.5km, then I started to struggle. But you can't be too disappointed especially when you are winning races. Over 300 in the race so a decent sized field.
I finished up running the course again with a few of the other runners. I was absolutely shot after this and couldn't wait to get back to the start for some coffee and biscuits (6 chocolate digestives - standard size before you ask). I was presented with my prize envelope which contained a bag of charlie. Well a voucher for a free pair of Asics if I am to be honest.
All up 20km for the day and 94.4km for the week. My only gripe is a slightly sore left hip - I think it's finally time for a massage.