The lead up to the Essex 20 wasn't perfect. I had enjoyed a lazy couple of weeks in the build up and after going 99 planned runs to 99 completed I managed to miss 4 in 3 weeks. My Saturday prior to the race wasn't textbook, lots of standing and waiting in line to see Princess Diana's dresses (not my choice!) and walking around Hyde Park, much more my scene, but still more energy expended than ideal. I rounded it off with my choice of dinner a steak and chips with a beer. I would have loved a plate of pasta but we were in a French restaurant not an Italian. Well it's a formula I might look to repeat, as my Essex 20 went well.
I decided to treat Lauren to a lie in and lazy Sunday, so got in the car and drove myself to a friend Charlotte's who was racing and she gave me and a couple of her fellow Whitham Runners a lift to the race. We arrived to some horrible weather, heavy rain and breezy. I was imaging 2.5 hours in that and it wasn't a pretty picture. Thankfully by the time we began the rain had eased slightly and the wind had dropped, the weather improved as the race went on, we really were so lucky.
I was looking to get a PB, my existing one was 2:38:51. 2:40 is 8 minute miles or 5 min km's and so I was using that as my upper split. The course is undulating and so even splitting isn't possible, the race begins with some nice flat and downhill and the priority is to hold back as much as you can. I tried my hardest to do this. I will look at this race in blocks, so here is the first lap:
1)7:33 (18seconds up on PB)
2)7:26 (27 seconds up on PB. 45 total)
3)8:07 (21 seconds up on PB. 1:06)
4)7:40 (18 seconds up on PB. 1:24)
5)7:39 (21 seconds up on PB. 1:45)
6)7:39 (12 seconds up on PB. 1:57)
7)7:31 (23 seconds up on PB. 2:20)
Mile 3 had the most significant climb in it, but the pattern throughout was of around 20 seconds a mile up on PB. I was feeling good, the rain was easing off and I was running well. I really enjoy the quiet roads, it's very similar to Great Bentley Half Marathon and suits me a lot better than a crowded city races, especially over the longer distances where I want to keep it steady.
8)7:36 (32 seconds up on PB.2:52)
9)7:37 ( 10 seconds up on PB.3:02)
10)8:09 (19 seconds up on PB.3:21)
11)7:49 ( 13 seconds up on PB.3:34)
12)7:53 ( 5 seconds down on PB.3:29)
13)7:47 ( 10 seconds up on PB.3:39)
14)7:50 ( 6 seconds down on PB.3:33)
15)7:46 ( Same as PB.3:33)
This section is lap 2 plus a decent part of the final lap. The second lap went well I was putting time in the bank and the miles or in my case Km's were ticking by. I was beginning to struggle though, particularly as the 3rd lap began. As you can see my time cushion was going up steadily all the way to mile 11. Miles 12-15 went one way and then the other but the net effect was basically nil. I was hanging on in there, and still had one more go up the big climb.
16)8:31 (29 seconds down on PB.3:04)
17)8:09 (18 seconds down on PB.2.46)
18)8:14 (12 seconds down on PB.2:34)
19)8:15 (19 seconds down on PB.2:15)
20)7:13 (11 seconds up on PB. 2:26)
The final five miles were an absolute drag, I was hanging on for dear life. My hamstrings were both really tight and restricting my running style. My form was shot and I was using my back, hamstrings any muscle group to get myself to the finish as quickly as possible. That 16 mile split includes the hill and I was moving so slowly near the top that I decided to walk for 15-20 seconds to get my breath back and to get myself mentally right for the final half hour. It was an absolute trudge, I only got taken over by a handful of runners but I was working really hard to keep the km splits to low 5 minutes. I felt I still had enough time in the bank to give myself a PB, but the thoughts of 2:35 had long gone, I knew if I kept moving the PB would be mine.
I really do enjoy this course and the lapped element. When I was slogging it out it was good to see familiar landmarks and know exactly what I still had to come. The sparse crowds of much of the course then get thicker near the start/finish area and I found my final reserves for a good last km. A guy who was struggling managed to get himself going with the finish in sight and he just pipped me on the line, I wasn't particularly racing him, I just wanted the race done and the PB secured.
I was absolutely spent over the line and found a bench to park my bum, I then got back to the finish in time to see Charlotte bringing it home and on fine form. It was her first 20 mile race and she was more than 5 minutes quicker than her target time. A good day all round, the cherry on the top was the mud that Charlotte managed to splatter up some poor runners car as we excited the field. They took it in very good fashion and even helped me with the push. This was another good race for me, I'm really pleased to continue to tidy up my PB's but my lack of long runs showed in my poor final quarter and that doesn't bode well for the Marathon. I have one more good long run planned as well as some more races before Brighton, if the PB doesn't happen at Brighton I fully expect it to go at Stratford a month later.