Gross alert: Nasty close-up of my foot at the bottom of the page!
After my not-so-good 10k race back in July, I had been training hard and recovering well in the build up to this race. I started the year doing one or two runs a week in the VFFs and the rest in normal runners. I've now switched to doing nearly all my weekly runs in VFFs and only doing one or two in runners. It's made a big difference to my running form and fluidity, or so it feels to me anyway!
Before the race I'd build up to running 15-16k in the VFFs and not having any ill effects, so I was confident that my legs would be fine. On race morning I had my usual brekkie and kept myself hydrated. I had all my running kit ready the night before, so I didn't have to go looking for anything. In training I'd been running 15-16k without water, so on the day I didn't even think about bringing any. There were two water stations on the course anyway. The only things I brought on the race (apart from clothes) were my garmin, my RoadID and the car keys.
I left the house at 9:15, a bit later than I wanted, but time enough to get there. After parking outside the park I jogged to the start line. I checked my garmin to see what pace I was running at and was surprised to see it read 8:30-ish. Then I remembered that Garmin Support had asked me to do a hard reset on it the day before, so it had returned to all it's defaults, including miles, not metric! I quickly changed it and kept going.
At this stage I really needed to find a toilet and got in the portaloo queue. There were 12-14 people in front of me when a man called out over a megaphone that there was 5 mins to the start! I ran over to a tree about 100m away and did what had to be done. The only issue was that the long grass I ran over was very wet and muddy, which would be a big deal later on.
Anyway, I made my way into wave 1 (sub 80mins) and met up with 4 runners from the club and got chatting. I was hoping to beat last year's time of 1:21:23 and get under 1:20 if all went to plan. Pretty soon the air horn sounded the start and 6,000 of us took to the roads and paths of the largest fenced park in Europe. I kept myself held back for the first 2k or so until I found a happy pace, one that I could keep for the distance. I knew the hills came at around 10k, so I wanted to keep something in the tank until then.
About 3k into the race, a runner pulled up alongside and started chatting about my VFFs. I told him about my experiences and shortly after he moved away, hoping to get under 73mins. The first water station was at about 4k in, but only on one side of the road. I grabbed a cup and a runner in front of me stopped in her path to get a cup, meaning I had to jump out of the way. I didn't slow my pace much and only took a couple of small sips of water.
From 6.5 to 9.5k we were running along the main road through the park, Chesterfield Avenue, which is reasonably flat. Then we turned right and went downhill followed by the first real hill at 10.5k. I dropped my pace a bit, but kept the cadence up and pumped the arms to keep me moving, which definitely helped.
At around 11.5k we had the second (and last) water station, just before more hills. I decided to take a cup and walk to get as much in as I could and started back attacking the hills again. Just past the 14k mark I knew we were past all the hills and didn't have much left in the race. Two of the toes on my right foot were rubbing badly, I knew I had blistered and every step was sore. I decided that I'd be finished quicker if I ran faster, so I did. I knew there were just two right hand corners left (memorizing the course route beforehand is a big help!), and I knew the distance left (thanks to my garmin), so I treated it as a progression run. I didn't want to get over the line and be full of energy, I wanted to put in as much of myself as I could.
I kept bringing up the pace, 4:15, then 4:05, then around the last corner it was under 4min pace. That's when I saw a clubmate with his camera and shouted to him...
I got some water and a couple of bananas and my goodie bag and walked back to Neal (the cameraman) and we waited for the rest of the clubmates. After they had all come in and we had chatted I jogged slowly back to my car. My right foot was in a lot of pain now, but I didn't want to take the VFFs off until I could do something about it and I reckoned they would keep a lot of crap out of the blisters too. I took this pic with my phone when I got back to the car. You can see the blood stain on my right foot by the toes.
I jogged back and cheered on the runners as they were finishing (Hi Suzie!). At the car I had more bananas and my recovery drink and water before going home and taking care of my toes.
Three of my toes had blistered and two of them had burst. I had to cut the excess skin with a scissors, wash the toes and spray a disinfectant (which has a bit of a kick!) on them before covering them up.