What, me? In there? Are you sure??? I just saw Paula Radcliffe go in there, She'll just yell for security if she sees me...
Well, what an amazing day.
I travelled down on the train with my coach, Russ, who was one of the official eight judges, and some other Yorkshire race walk officials, not knowing what to expect, but finding myself more nervous than I've ever been for a race. It didn't help when Russ got out the starting line-up to show that athletes from all over the world had come to have a practise on the official 20k Olympic race course. Still, with a 2 hour qualifying time for the race there were half a dozen who were 1h 58 and slower so a good chance not to come last or make a fool of myself, which was my main aim.
With My coach at Trafalgar Square.
The olympic countdown clock, just checking how long I had if I managed to get lucky in the race, haha!
We arrived before lunch and walked the 3 miles from Kings Cross to the Mall for a gentle warm up. After a brief photo op at trafalgar square by the time we got to the Mall the 10,000 metres run was close to finishing, so using our passes we got in to the athletes area to watch Paula Radcliffe come in third. The atmosphere was indescribable, an estimated 15,000 people lined the course and the starting line up for the 20k walk seemed to keep them there. The Chinese had sent their full team over, world record holders, gold medallists, all around 1h 20 to 1h 30 times. There were record holders from USA, Portugal, Honduras, France, Ireland amongst others and the Ladies were similarly represented with, amongst others, the Commonwealth Gold medallist Joanna Jackson, a 1h 30 walker.
The Chinese arrive for a stroll of the course.
As readers of my blog know, I have trouble at the start of these short races warming up properly, so getting changed with the chinese, I strolled out with them and mirrored their warm up, after all, who better to warm up with than the world record holder! I gave my camera to a friend who stood in the crowd to get me walking with Buck House in the background, so didn't get a chance for a photo with Paula Radcliffe who seemed pretty despondant with her race. A video camera would have been good, seeing my name up on the big scoreboard, the introduction to the crowd (Gold medallist, world champion, Commonwealth gold, Olympic champion, not helping the nerves...) Still, to be announced as a National 10 mile gold medallist with Yorkshire and a long distance expert new to shorter distances was nice. Standing chatting to John Constandinou, editor of Race walking record magazine, we glanced up to see our names on the huge scoreboard with GBR, along with the other world athletes and even he agreed it just seemed unreal.
Still inexperienced, I usually get caught up with the occasion in any race and try and keep up with the leaders, but as I looked the bunch stood in front of me I knew that would be futile. I decided to walk an 11 minute mile for the first lap (2k, 10 laps) and see how it goes, walk my own race.
We were off, and the heat and sunshine of mid afternoon had gone and it was now overcast.
They're off. I'm in the middle of the second bunch.
The warm up seemed to work. I didn't look at my garmin and kept to a comfortable pace, the warm up seemed to work fine, and when the first mile beeped, I glanced down and saw with surprise it was 9 minutes. I kept that pace up for the next four miles, others were moving on ahead, but I stuck to my guns and kept the pace.
Me, and the Queens Gaff.
Half an hour in, it started to rain. Unfortunately for me I had worn my race shoes which are fine in the dry but tend to slip in the wet. I started to lose purchase on the wet surface and dropped 15 to 30 seconds a mile, but kept the same pace. 5 miles in, I started picking off the walkers who had gone off early. My coach knew what was going on, saw that I had slowed a little. He said I did a sub 55 for the 10k, I forgot to look up at the clock over the start finish line, missed so much really as there was so much to take in. Still, a sprint down the final 400 metres which was coned off for effect, and with a cheer of the crowds which was indescribable, crossed over in just over 1h 54, nearly 4 minutes off my PB, which came up on the big screen :-
"NUMBER 7 DIANE BRADLEY - 1h 54 - PB"
Thanks! Hey Mister Marshall! Do I look like a Diane?????
My coach said that up to halfway he had me for a sub 1h 52 until it started raining, so more reason to be pleased. I still had something left in the tank as well, inexperience again, I didn't want to burn out and lose places at the end. About half a dozen walkers who had finished in front of me at the national 20k a few weeks ago were now coming in behind me, so up a few places in the rankings. I originally thought this would be a distraction from Parish training with only a few weeks to go, but for the experience gained, it was invaluable. Also a day to remember for the rest of my life.
It was exactly a year and a day since I rolled up in Bradford to take part in my first serious race, no club and no decent racing record, only allowed to take part because I had travelled there in hope. On that day I had a record of three Parishes, with a best of 15th and a time of just under 18 hours, something I hoped I would better in time and the Bradford 35k was just a warm up for the next Parish. If you had told me I would be on the same bill as the numerous world class athletes in an Olympic qualifying race within a year I would have laughed at you. I have shelves full of trophies and medals now, the National gold for the 10 mile probably my proudest, and memories to last a lifetime. It just goes to show what a little determination can do. I was going to say self belief, but that's still something I'm still desperately short of.
I just say to everyone out there that whatever you do on the race day, there is always scope for improvement. If a 44 year old, 17 stone couch potato with blood pressure, back trouble and high cholesterol can turn into an "elite athlete" (snigger) sharing facilities with Olympic and World Record holders and gold medallists, and be taken seriously, there is hope for all of you.
Apart from that I didn't do much over the weekend.
A good cardio workout if nothing else...
Just the one Manx athlete, Lauren Whelan in the junior ladies 10k, I spoke to her before the race but she seemed distracted, probably the occasion, probably the strange man chatting to her, and I don't know where she came. I still don't know where I came in the British 20k mens which was one of the races which was being contested.
Tired but pleased with the day, the train journey home seemed an anti climax, and out for a quick 5 mile walk this morning seemed a bit of a let down, but it's back to Parish training in the morning, and new hope for a sub 5 hour time in the 50k Nationals in October. Then I can retire. Or maybe not. This last year has been amazing, new friends, new experiences, and that niggly back problem I had for years seems to have gone now.
Got to lose more weight though for next year, I thought I was light enough, but my coach mentioned the front runners, especially the 1h 20 minute guys, that he could see daylight between their feet and the ground with a few DQ's, I just said I could see daylight between the world record holders ribs, he carried so little weight!
A long day.