For some reason I had it in my head that the race started at 9 am, so I got up my usual two hours before. It was probably just as well because, with the car in the menders, I had to make my way down to the start in the Retiro park on the moped. Thanks to all the cycling and running I have been doing over the last years, I know many routes but few of them are apt for a 50 cc moped. The sorts of roads I might be happy to ride a road bike - those with a decent hard shoulder - are not necessarily the sort of roads I want to be stopped on by the police, while pootling along at a maximum speed of 70 kph. And, of course, going off road is not an option either.
The start was organized by corrals according to your race number which, in turn, was assigned based on your projected finishing time. I was chuffed and amused to see that my race number corresponded to the "elite" box but this feeling was short lived. Looks can be deceiving but, in general, elite runners look like elite runners. I saw one guy in particular who really didn't look the part (he did a time of 52 minutes - yes, I am anal like that, I actually bothered to look up his time afterwards). I positioned myself in the second row and did a bit of on-the-spot bouncing and heavy breathing as a last minute warm up.
When the gun went off it actually caught us by surprise: there was no 10 second count down or anything like that. I remember a slight feeling of panic - not so much to do with the impending suffering - but the idea of being stampeded by the 8,000 runners behind me. Perhaps some of the others felt that too because we set off "follados" as they say in Spanish - I covered my first kilometer in 3:18 (over 18 kph). Some of the guys in the front would be able to sustain that and more but not everyone.
I had decided I would try to break 36 minutes - my best time is 36:35 - so it was an ambitious but not outrageous goal. I passed the 5 kilometer mark on schedule in a time of 17:53, which I realized was actually a Personal Best over that distance. It was a shame that I hadn't bothered to check the profile of the course, or indeed the splits from last year, because the halfway point was lower than the start and therefore the finish. Not that I should (or could) have run the first half any faster; only that it would have prepared me psychologically for what was to come.
At the water station, I grabbed a bottle and poured half of its contents over my head and took a sip of water to lubricate my throat which instead nearly made me choke. I lost ten meters on the group I was running with and the negative thoughts started invading my brain. Just then I heard someone who sounded like they were having an even worse time of it, huffing and puffing as if we were in the final straight. As he overtook me, I realized it was David Martínez - Chema Martínez's younger brother - who beat me both in the Santander 5K and the Liberty 10K just before the summer. (By the way, Chema is also running New York City Marathon this year, as one of the star international competitors). I overtook David back thinking that I would at least try to beat him even if it was now looking unlikely that I would break the 36 minute barrier.
|Not sure who looks worse here: me or David Martínez (in yellow)|
Not my best ever time: 37:17 but I was cheered up when I saw the final results. Almost everybody had a significant split difference between the first half and the second half and, while my fade was not the least amongst those who were running at my level, it was pretty much par for the course. I was very pleased to see that I was 38 out of 8,166 (first page of 195 pages of results!) and 7th in my category. Perhaps it would have been worth sacrificing myself a bit more, after all. I've learnt the lesson to look at the profile and the resutls from the previous year, even if it is a "B" race that I don't care too much about. One interesting little detail (at least to me) - my heart rate never went over 172 bpm! Considering that this is the "magic number" that I have been using for my aerobic tests and is supposed to correspond to Half Marathon intensity, it's pretty surprising. Hopefully this is a good sign for how well my 10K speed will translate into Marathon speed...