After many years of trying to get on a team for the Cross Island Relay I finally gave up and just put my own team together for this years race. Teams of six run 4M legs along the length of the island, and is one of the high-spots of the running year.
There was a lot of chopping and changing of team members and who was running which leg, even with only a couple of days to go we were swapping people around! The team consisted of me and 5 good friends; Simon, Colin, Brad, Pam and Rob. Simon and Brad had run the Miami Marathon the previous weekend and were just planning on using this as a slow jog to get back into the swing of things. Pam was running for another team as well, so she already had 4M in her legs when she picked up the baton again for us. Taking all this into consideration the fact we finished 11th out of 74 is a great achievement. We even made it as high as 9th at one point, but couldn’t quite hold on.
As with last weeks half-marathon, this race also feels a bit strange. As I was running the 5th leg I was only just getting out of bed while Simon had already finished his leg and Colin was well on his way for the 2nd one. I got down to the start just as the rain came on, which certainly was not in the plan!
Luckily the rain eased up and I got out of the car for a warm up. It was just as I came back down a side street from running some strides that I saw Pam powering up the road, about 10 minutes before I was expecting to see her! I had to make a mad sprint to the line to make sure I was ready and then I took the baton and I was off!
As I started there was a team about 20 metres in front of me, and then the next one was 300-400M ahead of them. I thought it would be good to have some people to chase down and might help with my time. The problem was after a couple of minutes I looked at my watch and trying to keep up with the person in front of me meant I was doing 6min/miles! I wasn’t going to be able to keep that up for too long so I just let them go. I assumed they were one of the faster people on island, so there was no point killing myself to keep up.
The leg I was running was certainly not the prettiest or for that matter the safest as it is down the side of a dual carriageway, and you are running with the traffic instead of against it, cars come flying past you doing 50mph+ with very little warning. Add in the fact that after the torrential downpour there were some big puddles to avoid, and it turned into a big game of chicken with the cars and trucks!
I settled into my running and knocked out a 6:37 for the first mile, and I could see the two teams in front of me had caught and passed another team. I caught and passed this team about the end of mile 2 which I clocked in 6:39. This also meant that I had the chance to beat my 5K PB, as I knew my average pace was close to 10 seconds a mile up on my previous best.
Part way through the 3rd mile I noticed I was catching the two teams who had left me for dead off the start. It turned out they weren’t the fast people I thought they were and had just gone out too fast and were paying for it. I took one as I went through mile 3 in 6:46, and then checked the watch at 5K to see I had managed 20:49, 28 seconds quicker than my best!
I was starting to tire and could feel the lactic acid building in my legs, so I dug deep as I knew I had less than a mile to go. I passed the team I had been chasing since the start, and he put up a bit of a fight, but then broke quite badly and I took about 300M out of him in the last half mile. My heart rate touched 180 as I crossed the line with a 6:49 final mile and an overall time of 27:46 for 4.15M.
I couldn’t talk for a while and needed a sit down to recover, in a word I was bolloxed! I didn’t know at the time, but the 3 teams I had overtaken had put us upto 9th. Unfortunately 2 of them overtook our final runner to leave us 11th. The team had done fantastically well. Simon had got us into 25th in the first leg and we steadily moved up the field right the way to the end.
I had the 5th fastest time for the leg that I ran, and 29th fastest overall (based on pace per mile) out of the 444 people who took part. Needless to say I am very happy to have done so well. Add in the sub 21min 5K and it was the best way to round off my racing season that I could have hoped for.
So now it is time to relax for a couple of weeks, and think about the challenges I want to take on next.