The Leeds Half Marathon - Where I was marshaling at the finish and was interested to note that the fastest runners often seemed close to collapse or throwing up at the end, making me realise that its not just ability and training but that the faster runners simply seem able to push themselves harder.
The Kirkstall 7.25m trail race - Where I ran without my Garmin (as it froze a little while before) so had no idea of pace, but actually ran what was my best performance (relative to the others) of the year.
The Great Yorkshire Run 10k - Where I'd targeted 45:59 but finished in 46:03, still a PB by 30 seconds but where I was really irked at not having a time beginning '45'.
So, what happened today then?
As per Das Kleine Plan I was to work to a target of 46:46 and had variable kilometre pace targets for each split (from 5:20 for the steepest uphill kilometre to 4:15 for the final one). I also knew that 46 minutes (new PB) would equate to an average of 4:36.
Unfortunately though, after a warm up jog and some stretches my Garmin bleeped to give a 'low battery' warning. Odd, as it had been on charge since Thursday, but I knew from previous experience that it tended to last a good hour after the first warning. It didn't bleep again but as I stood a few metres behind the start line I looked down and saw a blank screen! No Garmin for this race meaning all my careful planning disappeared up the Swanny - I'd have to run by feel and hope for the best.
We set off and I kept to what felt a reasonable pace through the opening 3km. The race has a notoriously difficult start with these opening kilometres a long, occasionally steep, uphill drag, barring a short downhill midway. It was certainly hard work - hard enough for a little voice to implore me to stop but easy enough that I didn't have to listen to it.
On reaching the end of the uphill at the A65 I needed a good 30m of flat to recover and regain my rhythm but I was able to pass a couple of runners as well as repeatedly fend off 'attacks' from a Kirkstall runner. It still felt tough so that even the fairly long downhill to the river didn't seem to offer any respite or recovery and it was here as I gradually started to suffer with stitch that the Kirkstall chap finally got ahead.
After crossing an ancient packhorse bridge across the River Aire I headed up a short uphill to the canal towpath but here I stopped for 10s to get rid of the stitch. I'm not sure if I genuinely needed to or if it was the bad voice briefly getting the better of me when I could have run it off just as easily. I don't know, but about half a dozen runners did pass me here.
What followed was 3.5km along the flat canal towpath. It felt a long section and whilst I seemed to be holding to my rhythm OK (with effort) some of the runners who had been just ahead at the start of the canal had gradually pulled further ahead by the time we left it. Then again, I can only recall three passing me (and staying past) and I managed to haul in an equal number myself. The 'slow down/stop' voice that had accompanied me all the way seemed to be getting louder and I had to make a conscious effort to ignore it.
At the end of the canal was a painful flight of steep steps up to the road and just before I reached them a girl who had passed me (and been passed back) passed me once more and I could hear a guy right behind me too but I managed to reach the steps just before him.
At the top there was a brief downhill and I took advantage of that to hold off the guy and pass the girl again and we stayed in that order along the road before entering a fairly narrow 100m or so of enclosed path just before the finishing straight.
I still had no idea of pace or time at this point but was heartened that Victoria, another Abbey Runner, hadn't yet passed me. This time last year we were running neck and neck in races and she seemed to have stepped up a gear since - knocking 3 minutes off last year's time in the Kirkstall 7.25 last week. So, the later it was that she passed me the more likely it was that I'd get a good time.
Anyway, as I came out of the path there was about 150m to go and I got first sight of the clock. I was shocked to see it saying 44:30/44:35 or similar and tried to speed up as best I could in order to get in under 45 minutes. I was just too worn out to go for an all out sprint, possibly not helped by the lack of anyone just in front to aim for, and the seconds seemed to pass very quickly. With 50m to go I was finally able to go all out but as I passed the clock I'm sure it was registering 45:03.
That's a full minute off the PB on a far from easy course, Victoria never did pass me, and I'm clearly in better shape than I realized but as I stumbled, retching, through the chutes my immediate emotions were disappointment and annoyance at missing 'forty four something'.
Now, had I had the Garmin on I'm sure it would have recorded a time a second or two under 45 minutes as it'll have taken a few seconds to pass the start after the gun. Equally, had I had the Garmin on I doubt I'd have allowed/pushed myself to run close to 45 minutes in the first place.
Overall I'm delighted!