Paul and I were handicapped one and two, suddenly, we are the fast guys!
Note that Paul's last Hare and Hounds race was actually his first one. The handicap algo is average of (the average of all runs and your best run), but if it is your first race you predict your own time and on your second race you use your first race's actual time as your predicted time. Confused? Paul was.
Now, I have years of race history so my average moves slowly, down 2.5 seconds as I bust my target by 21 seconds last time. But as Paul's target was his time from his last race (which was also his first race) this meant that although I beat him by 11 secs last time this time I was starting 8 seconds before him.
He was complaining about this like a banker being taxed on his bonus.
Still, I was pretty upbeat about this being my last ever Hare and Hounds race and keen to see how the new route panned out.
The guy off 4 seconds ahead of me was called Alex and he had a bright yellow shirt on. Geoff was about 45 ahead of Alex, so I decided to make Geoff my target number one.
At the off I felt heavy and that I was not running lightly, Alex vanished quickly into the distance he was going too strongly for me to compete with him. Geoff was going well and I thought I was closing on him, but I was also aware of a lack of Paul. At the start of the 3 bridges route (on the far side of Westminster) a guy in white top and red sleeves appeared and cut in front of me. He was travelling just faster than I was and so I tucked in and drafted this section, closing on Geoff all the time. I could tell as the number of fish lampposts were dropping all the time 4, then 3 then 2 and then my red sleeved buddy stops in his tracks and shrugs at me as he's done for the day and I am not even half way! I keep plugging away and catch and go past Geoff at the place where the Duck goes in and out of the Thames. Get up the stairs onto the bridge and glance down to see Paul just getting to the steps.
Coming over the bridge I notice what looks like a bell sticking out over the side of the bridge. Some kind of safety warning thing? But to ring it you would fall in trying. Weird. Make it over the bridge and take the correct route around the ramp, not down the steps, and now Paul has caught me. He tucks in. I decide to hold him at least until we are on the next bridge. He comes level and I kick just enough. I was thinking he would not go for it on the up section onto Lambeth bridge so I was just concentrating on holding on until the ramp. As soon as we hit the ramp he tucks behind again. Over we go, 270 round and under the bridge. He drifts wide and level and I know he's got me. Under the bridge and up the stairs at Westminster. I'm huffing and puffing and finally he breaks away and shouts "Saving your self for the last mile mate?" Aye right.
With Paul finally past me all motivation to keep pushing hard goes and I slow to recovery pace. Half a mile on and I'm feeling miles better. Back to race pace. One mile out and I'm flying now. 6 to catch before Paul. He's 45 ahead and there is just a hint that I am closing the gap. But not fast enough. 3/4 of a mile out I catch two of them and cruise past already focused on the 3rd. Drive through the ramp and enjoy kicking up the ramp and get by the 3rd. At the apex of the hump on the bridge I catch and pass Andrew who grins an annoyed grin at me - his comment to me on the way down to the start was "I'm going to beat you this time!" He kicks, but I'm at close to sprint finish pace and as we turn the corner I accelerate up to 200m pace and drop him as Paul crosses the line. That felt really good!
Collapse in a heap at the end, and shake Paul's hand. What a brilliantly executed race he did, I'm well impressed. In the end he was faster, smarter (negative splits), steadier, more even miles, and tactically superior.
Now, I think Ken may have given me that cold he has.....
Plus jetting around Europe looking for accommodation in Switzerland and staying up late every night for two weeks is beginning to take it's toll.
Paul 33:12.82, 2nd fastest, crossed line 4th started 12th (predicted fastest Hound)
Niall 33:48.29, 3rd fastest, crossed line 6th started 11th
Our new handicaps are:
Au Revoir Hounds and Hare, it's been great taking part and I will think of you ever third Friday of the month.