There was a "platform malfunction", resulting in several hundred runners in various brightly coloured lycra and a cloud of Deep Heat fumes running down the steps, under the tunnel, up the steps and diving through the automatic doors on the train just as they were closing. I am considering writing a letter to the SNCF authorities to get them to reconsider their platform labelling at Cagnes Sur Mer - There are 2 platforms - 1 and A. I have no idea either. Mind you, there was noone manning the ticket office and the ticket machine was coins only - of which I had none, so I am not complaining too loudly.
I jog / walked the 1.5km from the station to the drop bag trucks, coincidentally bumping into David Gebbie and his friends Louise and Gretchen en route. I managed to dump all my gear and disappear up to David's rented accommodation to use the facilities before the start, which was a significant improvement on the portapotties at the start!
Within a few minutes the gun went off and I discarded my bin liner wind stopper to ease into the run. This was very familiar territory - my 7th Nice to Cannes marathon, and I was just hanging back looking after my breathing and heart rate as much as possible, per the usual strategy. A few spectators were cheering us on loyally as the pack thinned out, and I zoned out, only stopping to avail myself of a handy tree about 4km in to the race.
As I had run the NYC marathon less than 7 days previously, travelled back from the US, suffered jet lag and had a pretty poor NYC marathon I had no clue what my body was going to do. So I took it extra easy in the first half of the race, stopping to pick up energy drinks and the odd sip of water.
I was aware there would be a few undulations in the 2nd half of the course including Old Town Antibes, the Montee de la Garoupe, and then a railway bridge between Juan le Pin and Cannes, which leads to a series of undulations which can really take their toll. To top it off, just after half way, before we got into Antibes, the wind picked up (I could see a few kite surfers in the distance indicating the winds would be very strong) and it started to absolutely pour with rain. And hail. And then torrential rain again. Super.
But my tactics paid off - I seem to recall negative splits for the first 30km, every 5km. At half way I was caught by the 4hr bunch with pacer - but I was able to put the hammer down a bit. I started to nibble away - with excellent success, at people in front. I did not stop at aid stations but blasted through - sipping water, and taking the energy drink and nectar from heaven Coke at a couple (too rare though!). I fought the wind successfully - paced slow up the hills and quicker down, tucked in behind someone for the exposed headland with the kite surfers and hopped from person to person when they tired! At about 35km I caught up with a friend, Steve Gale, and we ran together for a bit. I encouraged him along as much as I could but when he dropped back I had to carry on with my race. More nibbling and ticking off the km's using family members as inspiration - dedicating a km to one of the girls, and gritting my teeth. I really wanted to exorcise the demons from NYC and was determined to beat 4hrs.
Finally I was in the last km, and the track narrowed with crowds both sides. The path home was too crowded to do anything other than cruise over the line rather than a last minute sprint, but I crossed in 3hr 59 mins and 17 seconds (chip time)! I was chuffed to bits!!!
I picked up my medal (you see the runner on the medal is running through a puddle? Coincidence? I think not!) and grabbed a satsuma, apple, nuts bar and Poweraid - basically everything on offer. I drank the poweraid, ate the apple, satsuma and nuts bar as quick as I could, but it was still pouring and I was freezing and shivering. As quickly as I could I hobbled to get my drop bag and put some more clothes on in a shop doorway. Then I went straight to the station but bought a can of coke and panini en route, and ate whilst I queued for my ticket and then the train. As I was climbing the stairs to the platform both calves cramped up - the first time I have had that issue - perhaps the rain...? However I was able to keep moving, awkwardly, and this loosened them up a bit. A cold bath at home helped, too.
This week has been another recovery week and has gone very well, but who knows how this week coming up will go at the No Finish Line. I have set myself a target of 340km for the week which is just over 8 marathns in 8 days. If I can do it, that will take me to 10 marathons for November, and hopefully a top 50 finish at the No Finish Line (out of more than 10000 entrants), despite having to work every day. Fingers crossed! I am hoping the team can crack the top 5 out of 250 or so teams. We have a great showing already, with some very motivated people and will be doing the 24 hours as ever on Friday 21st November. If you have yet to sign up, please go to the kiosk on track at any time from Saturday morning and sign up for Pussy Footing Around! Look forward to seeing you on the circuit!