West Coast National Park - Saturday 17 March 2012
Half Marathon along part of the lagoon
(Pic shows last kilometre of the race - shattered!)
We travelled across to the West Coast National Park on Friday so that we could register for the race that evening . It had been rather an overcast and rainy trip, but not cold. We checked into our chalet on the national park, then drove to Langebaan to pick up some food and register for the race.
Registering was very quick and easy, and I came away with my race number and a goodie bag (full of drinks and food!) within a few minutes. Back to the chalet for pasta and an early night – I had to be up at 5 o’clock the next morning.
Next morning duly came and I made a breakfast of lemon tea, porridge and hot cross bun! It was still dark when we left the chalet and drove through the national park to the race start at Langebaan. We saw the helpers putting up stalls and setting out drinks every few kilometres along the way. We got to Langebaan and parked very easily, then I went across and queued for the toilets! Better after that! The race was starting at 7am so not long to wait. It was quite chilly now and the sun was only just starting to think about popping its head above the mountains.
We were off on time and we ran back up the main road to the gravel path that runs alongside the lagoon. Very rocky, stony, pot-holey and sandy. Also not at all level. But beautiful! About a kilometre on, we ran through some small gates and the path continued for a bit further. At last we ran through the main gates on to the Park. We were on tarmac by now, which was a lot easier to run on. No good speeding up too much yet, though, as we had only run about 3 or 4 kms so far. Then, we turned right on to a cycle track, also very rocky, stony, pot-holey and sandy, but this one also had a lot of ups and downs too! More like trail running!
At about 10kms, we came out on to the ‘proper’ road again and turned right , slightly uphill, and ran to the turnaround point about 500 metres up the road. We saw all the runners running back on the other side of the road along this bit. Good when you can see all the runners behind you, but not good when you see all those in front!
Anyway, now that I had reached the turn-around point, there was some downhill running to be done, which felt really good as a change. I made the most of this and tried to gain some time here as my garmin showed me I was 3 minutes slower than I wanted to be. Of course, after a few minutes of this more enjoyable running, there was a hill – probably half a km or so long. Not too bad though – felt rather like running up a bit of Carruthers Hill near Pearly Beach, and I managed to run up it without struggling. Of course, the next ‘hill’ was a bit steeper, which involved running and walking alternately, but I was still gaining pace, and was only 2 minutes slower. This carried on until I got to about 17kms, when I finally managed to gain all my ‘time’ back, plus a few seconds more. If I could carry on like this, I knew I would get in well under 2:30hrs. The first marathon runners passed us now at about their 32km point. They flew past. I can’t run that speed at any time and they had already run 32kms! Well done them!
However, I knew that the worst hill was still to come! Very soon! Once out of the park gates, there it is – in all its glory. The Black Mamba! It slithers on upwards for what seems likes an eternity, and this is what prevents most from getting a good time! We ALL struggled up it – slowly, some walking slower than others, and we heard the music playing at the top: ‘keep on going, don’t fall to your knees...’ very apt!
Then, suddenly, we were round a bend and it was all DOWNHLL. Yay! Only a few more kilometres. BUT, I knew I had lost all that time I had gained over the last 6 or 7 kms so felt a bit disillusioned. Picked up speed for those last few kms but once the garmin turned over to 2:29 I knew I couldn't get in under 2:30 and my legs just decided it wasn’t worth trying any more and I stopped running for a bit, exhausted. I had noticed Steve in the distance (it was good to see him there) and he ran a hundred metres alongside me, shouting all sorts of nice encouraging things, then I turned and ran the next little bit, and over the finishing line, where there were all sorts of people recording times, handing out medals and drinks, and making various encouraging 'well done' noises.
The clock showed 2:31 something, but I didn’t notice the seconds. My eyes just kept seeing the ‘31’. A bit disappointed really, although I know I shouldn’t be. My time was much better than last year’s, at least 8 or 9 minutes quicker, so a PB for that course, but it wasn’t as hot as last year’s run either. Still got warm and in the 20's but bearable.
I still struggle to get my pacing right but think I went at about the right speed to start with. It is never going to be a course for anyone for a really good PB – too much trail type running over the first half and very hilly the second half. It’s very hard running entirely on your own too, especially over the harder bits. I was quite envious of some of the runners who were able to run with others, and didn’t focus on the ‘pain’ of it.
My garmin told me my time was 2:31:05. And I got my medal! That's the main thing.
I worked hard, and it was enjoyable. Beautiful scenery and lovely setting. The marshalls were all very good and the water and coke tables well organised, at least from my point of view and what I saw of them. I think it all worked much better than last year’s race (when temperatures soared and the marathon runners didn’t get taken to their start on time).
I even managed to stay in one piece, which is even more important. I need to remember that I was running it as a training run, NOT an end in itself, and that the London Marathon is the main race.
Mind you, I will just HAVE to run Cape Point again and beat my time there of 2:29!!!
Position in my age category: (women over 50) - 30/56
Position overall: (everybody) - 586/839