Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dope test called for after Lesley gets another first

Sunday 25th November saw the Westgates having fun at the Brent Knoll race. This was the final race in this years Somerset Series, where your best eight from sixteen count towards a prize table. I say having fun because her good results during the year meant Lesley was guaranteed a place in the ladies table and there was no pressure on me because my poor results meant I was outside the men’s prizes. Yet again the weather was perfect, and I’ve never seen the conditions so good at Brent Knoll. Honestly there was no mud to speak of on the hill, certainly nothing to slide on. I set off with the intention of staying with Paul Chadwick, a fairly close rival from other Somerset Series races. This was in vain and he easily stayed ahead finishing 51 seconds in front. My time was my second best for Brent Knoll but then the conditions were good. As usual the leading men came charging down the hill having completed their circuit of the top while the rest of us struggled upward. I had a few great moments on the steep downhills; I just knew I wouldn’t fall over, didn’t really care if I did, and then flew down as fast as I could.

Back in the clubhouse bar the Somerset Series ladies prizes were awarded first. Lesley picked up 1st LV45 in preference to 4th in the series. Yours truly had a pleasant surprise as I picked up 2nd MV50 but would love to have been good enough for a table position. Once again Lesley did me on the ‘better result’ although we both got good chunky engraved glasses and a bottle of 18% Kingston Black apple aperitif. Plus everyone who did eight races received running bear socks!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Venice Marathon

The decision to do Venice as our Autumn marathon was taken way before my various injury problems caused a total lack of training or proper preparation, but the entries had gone in, the flights were booked and the hotel paid for. What could we do? We had to give it a go.

We didn’t even get out of Bristol Airport before we bumped into 40 Teignbridge Trotters on their way to sample an Italian marathon and shortly after them we came across Heather Hawker from Honiton RC, who was going just for the weekend since an ankle injury was preventing her from running.

Despite firm intentions not to spend too much time on our feet the day before the race, we found ourselves spending a lot of time on our feet – firstly at the Expo where we picked up some pretty impressive goody bags and freebies, then in the quest for public transport and then wandering around Venice for the rest of the day.
It was a beautiful sunny day and Venice was everything we had expected it to be. The only sensible thing we did was to imbibe huge quantities of carbohydrates – just as well we did that during the day because we managed to pick the only bad restaurant in the whole of Italy for our evening meal.

The defective preparations continued – a largely sleepless night due to the Italian couple in the room next to ours who conversed at the tops of their very considerable voices way into the early hours, no proper breakfast as we had to leave at 7.10am for the bus and breakfast didn’t start until 7.30am (I still can’t believe that I ran 26 miles without any caffeine given that most days I can’t get out the front door and into the car without a gallon or so in my system) and then a lot of time spent on our feet in the longest, slowest queue for the loo which I have ever been in (and I’ve been in a few in my time!) for the most disgusting, revolting, stomach turning porta loos in the history of the world. It was not an auspicious start!

The marathon started at Stra, a small town just east of Padova and followed the river Brenta back towards the coast. The river was quite pretty in parts and the trees, but basically it was a long, straight road which went on for what seemed like ever, punctuated by passing through a few small villages en route for the coast. We ran through the Marghara industrial area (which was as scenic as it sounds) and Mestre, which involved boring streets and a weird plunge into a tunnel which took us to the other side of the railway. Eventually we reached Park San Guiliano – where the Expo was based – which was more pleasant and the loud speaker and bands gave us a boost.

The race was strangely quiet – there were spectators, but for a nation which is normally so noisy, they just stood watching the runners passing by. No cheering or clapping. Put an Italian in a bar or restaurant (or in the room next to yours when you’re trying to get some sleep) and they’ll make an incredible amount of noise. Stand them on a marathon route and they have nothing to say for themselves. The runners didn’t talk either. In England you’d be able to eavesdrop on (or join in) a dozen conversations going on around you. Maybe Italians take their running a bit more seriously. Mind you Martin and I didn’t exactly engage in any earnest conversation or sparkling repartee. Typical conversation was “I can’t go on” (me) “Stop whining” (Martin).

After leaving Park San Guiliano we finally reached the Ponte della Liberta – the 4km bridge leading onto Venice. At least it says it’s 4km – longest 4km I’ve ever run, it just went on for ever. At this point we had a bit of a surge, thinking we may just dip under 3.30. However, sadly, it didn’t last for long and we soon slowed down again.

At last we reached Venice and the home stretch – the pretty bit which we had been looking forward to. First we had to run through an industrial area, where I managed to fall over a road stud, landing right on my left hip and breaking my GPS. It was one of those surreal moments – I saw the road stud coming, I knew I was going to fall over it, but I was so tired I just couldn’t do anything about it. Fortunately we were running so slowly it didn’t hurt much!

We reached the Guidecca Canal and began crossing the 14 bridges that now stood between us and the finish – including a 170 foot pontoon bridge across the Grand Canal built especially for the marathon. This was the part of the course we had really been looking forward to – absolutely stunning and even some shouts of encouragement from spectators here – but we were way too tired to enjoy it now.

Eventually we crossed the last bridge and a final push to the finish at the centre of the Riva dei Sette Martiri, crossing the line in 3 hours 35 minutes and 25 seconds, a huge personal worst for both of us on a road marathon, especially one which is essentially a flat, fast course. If we had done our London 2007 times I would have been easily 1st in my age category, but the lack of training really showed and we both struggled for most of the route. However after the disappointment of my recent French DNF it was a relief to reach the finish line at all, and fortunately my Achilles held out despite protesting the whole way.

No more races now (no honestly) – cross training is our fate. But we’ll be back!