Country to Capital take two

Country to Capital 2020

Right, back to the season opener "Country to Capital" after last years introduction to it, I thought I had it all sorted... I thought I'd done my homework this year, and there would be no surprises. I had a plan, got a room booked and geared up.

Getting to the start line

A standard saying for running motivation is often "the hardest part is getting to the start line" I feel this was taken too literally for this race. Things weren't off to a good start right from the off.

I had liked getting to this event last year, nice and simple, you could get the first City to Country express out from Marylebone in the morning, get to Wendover just before the start and run. ideal. So I'd got my room booked near the station like last year....

However, in the pre-race email it mentioned in passing that there was going to be a replacement bus service for a section, but it would arrive at 8:23 so they'd moved the start back 15 minutes. Cool, sounds like it's all under control.
best laid plans, and all that.
The night before, I swing by the train station to see what the details are... only to find that the information is simply that *there are no trains* from Marlyebone... but that there is a replacement bus service *FROM* Beaconsfield instead!!!?? Er. WHAT??? aaaand I'd need to get to Ruislip, then a connection to the bus... then in... with the earliest possible service arriving at, ah. 9:23. Brilliant. For fu*****

Onto the hotel for surprise #2 at the Travelodge... "ah you've booked a double bed, is it for just yourself sir? I'm afraid we're full up but we do have plenty of singles left."

Well you know, there is a reason I booked a double, I'd quite like to be able to sleep this evening, kind of big day tomorrow... and.. oh sod it. fine. give me the key.

"Hey we're listening! Tell us all about your stay... but DON'T REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE"

OK... Plan A in the bin, online, and what alternatives are there? and onto plan B... ok, well there's a Metropolitan line service that goes from Baker St. to Amersham, that looks do-able although it will mean an earlier start...
I moan on Twitter in the evening and someone pastes a page from the race organisers Facebook page suggesting this as an alternative route also. OK, would be nice for that to have been emailed out, oh well clearly that's the current "best option" recommended.
Time for a snooze... and a terrible restless nights sleep in a tiny 'dolls-house' bed. wide awake.. check the clock. 01:35, then 05:00.. snooze a little then get organised to head off. Google is saying 07:05 to get the tube, so I able out get breakfast and a coffee and down to the tube station.

hmmm. eerily quiet. oh.
Well that was a genius plan too. There are no Metropolitan (or Jubillee line) services from Baker St this weekend either.

Plan A Plan B  Plan C

Now what? Time for Plan C, onto the travel planner again, and it looks like I should be able to grab a train from Euston to Tring, then figure out how to get from Tring to Wendover.
I jog along the road to Euston, haven't got enough time to catch the 07:03, but there's a 07:24 that gets to Tring for 07:57, then just a matter of getting the 5ish miles to Wendover, I ring ahead for a cab.
and try to relax, it's going to be a hectic start.
No sign of taxi at Tring, but it finally rolls into the station at 8:05 and we're off.

Into the "Shoulder of Mutton" pub for registration, bag drop and so on and it's heaving as usual. Given the travel entertainment and that last year the entire train had been full of ultra runners I was half expecting an empty pub, how *did* all these people get here?

I've got a loose plan for the race, 1. don't start at the back. 2. don't burn out before the canal. 3. be able to run the canal. 4. finish. 😄

I slide up at the start and before long it's "Ready, GO" I remember and know this well, we have a little downhill sprint to the first gate pinch point thankfully I don't need to do quite the same insane sprint from last year and we filter through and onwards.
The first few miles have lots of gates and styles to get over so I want to keep a pretty high pace for a comfortable run, I don't want to be stopping time and again.
So I've decided.... about 80% effort for the first mile, drop to 60% for the next 5, way down to "comfortable easy" until the canal, then 100% effort to the finish.

Drip drip

The first checkpoint is frustrating, due to the rushed start I'd begun without water, although I was well hydrated beforehand and just expected to get a fill up and on in as little time as possible.
As I trot in a volunteer shouts what can I get you, and takes my bag telling me to get what food I want while she refills.. awesome... I fill my face and turn to go, to find that she's fighting the water bladder and says "I can't get into it". Ah. I help out and turn the tap on the water butt to fill up, drip. drip.


er. this isn't working.... don't worry it's just slow.. um this really isn't working... I stay good humoured, there's no point getting frustrated or angry, but there's nothing to do, there's no "vent" on the water butt. This is a terrible design... and I do get a little stressed and frustrated and runner after runner after runner whizzes through... and the other marshals are using bottles of water to refill everyone's containers! but again, I joke and stay calm - chill, then accept defeat and I set off with about half a cup of water in my backpack.
I'll get that sorted out at the next one.

I'm running with a gps tracker this year, and remember that I hadn't sent the link through to my Dad, doh, so I give Cara a quick call and ask her to send him the details... I think I probably *should* have posted the link to Twitter, just in the remote off-chance that anyone was interested.

Team Centurion

13 miles in, trotting up the hill near Chenies I hear a familiar voice shout "Hi", it's Drew Sheffield we walk together for a moment and chat about the thin "Centurion" contingent this year, especially compared to last years stacked field! Last year we'd had a chat when we both hit a rough patch at about the same time! I joke again that he might see me later again this year and trot on.

It's been fun being the one confidently giving directions to the other runners this year - such a contrast to last year when I was the one dithering and uncertain at every junction!

Into checkpoint 2 and I manage to get a water top-up - splash and dash and press on, over the next few miles I pass and am re-passed by the same few runners as the terrain goes up and down chatting as we go... then before long it's "The Canal" at 23 miles.


Last year this was the point I started to struggle once I hit the flat, I'm hoping that my steady pacing this year will have sorted that. Now it's time for a 100% effort, I'm slightly disappointed I simply can't physically get up to "marathon pace" but then have a serious talk to myself to not be so stupid, I've almost run a marathon distance already, I'm *obviously* not going to be able to go that fast.

Stern talk done, but I'm now really looking forward to seeing Cara at mile 26 and (hopefully) each checkpoint from there through to the finish, into 26 and I guzzle some milk and dump some of the extra kit I've been carrying (along with piles of empty wrappers and rubbish). I feel a little guilty I just don't need anything to eat (this *had* been one of my downfalls last year but I'd taken a lot of food and gels with me from the start) similarly I don't feel like changing shoes.

and onwards on the canal. have I mentioned I hate running along canal paths. or rivers... so depressing seeing so much rubbish along the side. but I keep the pace at a 100% effort, it feels hard, but manageable and good ticking off the miles. with a watch beep for each one.

Soon I'm breezing into CP4 at 33 miles, another quick stop and I mention that my legs are now hurting, a lot, and chat with Cara whether to meet at the end or the next checkpoint (we agree the next)
I *had* intended to switch into comfy road shoes at this point but I completely forget until I've run on for a few miles, oh well, it's only a short distance to the next stop.
I can feel that my pace has fallen away quite a bit, although at no point have I needed to have a walking break, but the pain in my legs is pretty bad now.


CP5 at 37 miles and Cara comments that I look like I'm lumbering, I have a drink but there's no point changing shoes now, I walk out from the stop for half a mile to let my stomach settle and then run on.

Mentally it's frustrating that at least five other runners pass me in the final stretch, but there's nothing I can do about it, and lets face it - they've run a better race than me.

One slightly surreal moment in the final few miles as I say hello to a dog, then recognise the owner as an old work colleague walking with his wife! I exchange a brief hi and apologise for not stopping.

Now though it's just listening for the beeps and counting down. Not long now. beep. beep.
I'm trying to remember what to look out for for the finish, but it's a little further than I expect and then, there it is.
I am smiling. inside.

and over. Finished in a time of  06:34. A full 36 minutes quicker than last year.

Bling bling

As usual every race is a learning experience. With hindsight I think I hit the canal just a little too hard, and lost more time than necessary in the final 5 miles.



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