Rain, rain, rain.
Race day was a really wet story this year. Rain pouring down all day. We had a chilly +9 degrees celicus with rain, rain and more rain. Some two thousand runners met up to run along the coast line of Espoo. I was among them. Not very well trained. Only 30 km of running in the past two months. I was expecting something around 2:10 to 2:15. My muscles were still hurting from previous trainings run, too hard paced previous training runs. I ran an 8k training run at sub 2h pace and realized I wouldn't stand a chance at breaking the 2h threshold. So what about race strategy and pacing for this one?
Well, I felt I really had nothing to loose. My previous personal record of 2:06 seemed too tough to break on a day like this. But as I had seen the trouble to get there, despite the weather. Why not have some fun with it? I decided to do a totally stupid thing, and go for a sub 2h finish, no matter what. If I'd fail, so what. Then I'd actually learn something, instead of just jogging along with a more reasonable goal and learn nothing. So I beeped the virtual racer on my Garmin to 5:47 min/km pace and went to get my bib and goodies.
People were waiting indoors for the start. So did I. One hour of boredom, observing fellow runners. All equally stupid. Who in their right mind would go out and torture themselves on a day like this? I had some time to think about "why the hell I'm doing this" along the course.
I went out in the rain way too early as it had slipped my mind that there would be two starting groups - and that I would be in the second one, starting fifteen minutes after the first group. It was a bit confusing when they closed the starting grid just as I were to approach and run off. Instead I did gymnastics, or something remotely like it, to keep warm. It was pouring down and I was soaked well before the pistol went off for the second time.
Off we go. I tried to line up pretty much in front, with the 2h rabbit. The rabbit took a faster pace, so I let go of the 2h crowd and instead held a steady 5:47 pace. Better not be in the crowd, as it's a pain at water stations to fight for the drinks, wasting precious energy.
The run was tedious and boring. The pace was too fast for me, in my current condition. At ten kilometers the run started to become a psychological fight with myself. Legs hurting, lungs burning, heart racing. I had to convince myself over and over again, that this is reasonable, I'm totally sane, it's about challenging oneself, and stand up to the challenge, to grow and develop. At sixteen kilometer the pace was killing me. I oscillated between hope and despair. Digging deep to find more fighting spirit. I held on to the 5:47 pace for surprisingly long. Actually starting to believe I could finish sub 2h.
Then we hit some uphills at around nineteen kilometers. I was f***ed. I just couldn't press on at the same pace anymore. My steps slowed down. God, everything felt so heavy. But I dragged along with sheer willpower. I had a minute to spare, as I had actually made sure earlier to speed ahead of the virtual racer going at precisely 5:47. Would it be enough. We hit the last water station close to the Nokia headquarters. I slowed down, and downed two cups of sports drink. I sped up, or rather tried to speed up. Impossible! It just didn't work. No matter how hard I was pressing myself the virtual racer overtook me. I kept going though, hoping for a downhill or some kind of impossible surge of power. Didn't happen. Instead we hit the last uphill. I glanced at my Garmin. The virtual racer was almost a full minute ahead. So I let go. I switched to walking.
I walked up the hill, happy with myself, happy with the run. I wouldn't brake 2h today, but I'd get a new PR. So why keep pushing to the limit, when I'm doing this for health. I took the last bit easy, and finished in 2:03. Surpassing my own expectations. A new Personal Record. Job well done.
The post race coffee, tasted better than any coffee in a very long time - maybe the best coffee ever. A hot cup between cold, almost immobilized, hands - sipping that hot black gold. Loved it. I stuttered into the public shower. Ripped of my soaking wet, dripping, clothes and tugged them all into a plastic bag. The total weight of the bag was probably around 6-8 kg. Shit! Without all that extra weight I would probably have managed the last push and finish under two hours. I'll do that next time, if providence agrees.