All was going well until I hit 10 miles, when I felt my right calf muscles begin to steadily tighten, and so to try and preserve them I slowed right down to a slow jog, but man were they tight, even after a good stretch. So it was time to get some RICE, (rest, ice, compress, elevate), done once home.
It wasn't looking good for the following Sunday's Port Talbot half marathon, unless I could get that calf running again PDQ. So I sent a text message to Daniela, top lady runner from Griffithstown Harriers who is also a sports therapist, and a damned good one at that. Fortunately for me she had an opening in her busy schedule for a mid week, after work massage. In the meantime, I continued to take ibuprofen for any inflammation, ice packs, stretches and foam rollering, then I rested until Sunday and kept my fingers crossed.
I met Paul, Charlotte, Antony and Mike at our usual car share pick up point in Caerleon and I drove us to the venue which was nowhere close to Port Talbot really, but in the very picturesque Afan Valley where, we would be running along 3 metre wide tarmac and dirt track paths, following the course of the river south before heading back north along the opposite side of the river.
The 500 runners were divided into waves for the start, with a one minute gap between each wave, which was really good as if we had all gone at the same time, the congestion in the first 50 metres would have been considerable.
After about a mile I checked my pace and I had set up the Estimated Finishing Time function on my Polar M430 GPS watch, which was telling me that I was on a 1 hour 49 minute finish time and my pace was just way to fast. I needed to slow down before I burned out. Of course, a sub 2 hour finish time would be great and a new PB but that time was just way to quick. So I did slow down, just a little, and I found myself at a very comfortable pace which was still showing a sub 2 hour finish time and an average of about 08:30 min/ml.
The course was nowhere near as hilly as I was expecting it to be. In fact, the ascents and descents were long but very slight, so much so that at times I couldn't tell whether I was running on the flat or a slight incline. There is a slightly steeper incline in the last half mile though.
With the 6 mile water/gel station in sight I suddenly felt my right calf begin to tighten very quickly and I had to slow down to a walking pace and decide what to do. With this run taking place on such narrow tracks, getting a lift back to the finish in a car was going to be out of the question, so I was going to have to make my own way back, whether that be walking or running. So I began to walk, then accelerated into a slow jog and finding that a 10:30 min/ml pace was comfortable.
Those 7 miles seemed to go by extraordinarily quickly. Maybe because I had to concentrate on not making my injury any worse, I don't know but, I do know that I was actually still overtaking other runners and I wasn't feeling tired.
I could see that I wasn't very far from the finish as I approached the brow of a slightly steeper incline, and then as I headed down the hill, a marshal informed me that I had to run a lap of the pond before heading uphill to the finish line.
I had finished in 2 hours and 8 minutes, which is still a respectable time, but way slower than I had hoped for, and especially knowing that had my calf not acted up, I was definitely on for a sub 2 hour PB. Gutted is the word that comes to mind. However, I was the 5th fastest finisher in the VM55 category, so that did put a little smile on my face.