well, it's time to post something about one of the most amazing days of my running time :-) not only because I did a massive pb but also because the friend I went to connemara with actually WON THE MARATHON! it was just an amazing experience to be part of something like that!!
I did only the half marathon and if you don't know what connemara is I can tell you: it's bloody hard! last year I did it in 2:17 and at one point I was thinking of pulling out. It's full of hills and the last one goes on for ever: from mile 9 to mile 10.5! this year my training went much much better and I could feel it on my legs all the way through the race.
the day before
my friend and I arrived at galway after a very quite train journey from dublin. once we got there we went to our hotels and made an appointment at the place where we could collect our numbers. I was shocked to see that my hotel was sooo far away from town! I had to walk for 45 minutes before I got there. I left my luggage and walked for another 30 minutes to collect my number. we had lunch and then a lovely and huge ice cream. we discussed the race, my pace, what to wear and what to expect. he wanted to better his time of 2:50 that he did last year when he ended up 4th. I wanted to get as closer to 2h as possible. we split up for dinner. he was meeting his friends while I was going to dinner at my hotel with my two favorite ladies: hippo and shades from RW and fetch. two true inspirations for anyone who loves running! we had a lovely dinner (even though I wasn't hungry) and then we went back to our rooms for an early night. I was feeling quite positive, 'cause the niggle that I had been feeling in the last week on my feet wasn't there anymore, even with all that walking. what worried me was the weather forecast: rain, sleet, hail, wind and ...yes, sunshine!
the morning and the journey to Leenaun
I woke up early, had breakfast in my room, got dressed, packed up and left for the cathedral where I could catch my bus to the start line. actually the first stop is the HQ of the race in a place with a name impossible to pronounce. my friend left earlier than me 'cause the marathon started 1 and a half hour before the half, but when I got to the HQ he was still there, stretching like only CHAMPIONS do!! once he left I was on my own. I was supposed to be there with other 3 friends, but they all had to pull out. I listened to my music and when they called us I got on the bus. the bus basically does the same route of the HM only in the opposite direction and it seems never ending!! the sunshine was out but there were horrible dark and heavy clouds looming behind the hills. I was worried about that, but I enjoyed the sunshine and took lots of pics.
at leenaum, the start line, we all got off the bus and manically run to join the long queue to the loos. It was quite an eventful wait as at one point we heard people cheering and clapping and whistling: THE WALKERS were starting their adventures on the hills of connemara. after 5 minutes the hail started to come down with no pity for us. fortunately, it didn't last too long and it was too big to actually wet us. so everything was good and the sunshine was back on. after the loo, I took off all my layers so that I could give the bag to the people who were waiting for it. but it was bloody cold. I decided not to take my rain jacket and I am glad to say with hindsight that I did the right thing. but at that point I was kind of freezing. a girl next to me must have had pity of me and kindly offered me a bin bag. last queue to the loo and off to the start line. it's midday and i know that my friend would have passed the HM start line by now and it's good to know that as from now on all the marathoners will be slowed down considerably by us!
off we go. it is too packed to actually run and after 200m we found the bottle neck that we were expecting. there is a bridge right at the start but it collapsed during this year. we were left with half of it where you can barely fit 5 people in a row. there were more than 2,000 so you can imagine what happened when we had to cross it. we were walking very slowly and the time for my first mile was 12:01. finally the bridge was over but we were at the beginning of the first hill (elevation +164 ft). after the hill I managed to get in a nice pace. my friend and I agreed that I should keep it around 9:06 but I was doing less than 8:50. I kept telling myself that I was going too fast but at the same time I was feeling great and I was overtaking a lot of people who were already tired or walking. I told myself to slow down and I did...but only a little.
the hills were there and I decided to follow my friends' advice: don't look up, look down at the feet of the person ahead of you. so I did, and it worked!! the pace was ok even on the hills. my only worry was that I would collapse on the famous HELL OF THE WEST, a long (almost 2miles) and horrible hill. when I got there I kept looking down. I slowed down considerably (9:40, 9:31) but I NEVER STOPPED and once the hill was over my legs felt still good, my breathing was fine and I pushed! "only" 2.5 miles to go now and according to my garmin I was on my way to do a sub-2h! so I kept pushing and it was kind of easy down hill: 7:56, 8:04, 8:09 my last 3 miles!!! I couldn't believe that I was feeling so ok....I could have carried on! I crossed the finish line and the big clock said 2h but my garmin said 1:58:30!! while I was crossing the finish line I heard shades calling my name and I saw her standing there with a big smile. I also heard my friend's voice but I could not see him! Once I grabbed my medal, t-shirt and a mars bar I went outside to meet him! I had a big smile on my face but when he told me his time (2:48) and that he had actually WON the marathon I started to jump up and down for the joy! I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!!!!! amazing!
well...my official time is 2h and 6 seconds :-( it would have been great to have an official sub-2. but what the hell....I have improved so much!!!
2007 garmin 2h17' official time 2h21'
2008 garmin 1h58' official time 2h
now I cannot wait for the padova marathon and hopefully I can get as close to 4h as possible!!!!