“To begin….. at the beginning” - Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood ( A famous Welshman!!)
Why do we train? We all have our reasons, but this race gave me a view of a reason I had heard but never so clearly felt before. As we train our bodies re-form themselves into faster, more resilient tools for us to use. We set targets to help us strive towards an ever receding ideal we have for ourselves. There is never a time when we truly imagine that THIS will be my final swim/bike/run. This is the right way to be. We are already in the flow of the stream of life we can either bob along like detritus or learn to steer and propel ourselves forwards. Many talk about training to race or racing to train. Yesterday I understood that for most people races ARE training with a cherry on the top!
Readers of my previous reports will be aware that the weather can play a major role in local races. The weather yesterday was pretty calm, just a 10-15mph westerly, and the temps were cool for this time of year, at 12-15C. Cloud cover meant that overheating, a perennial problem I have, was not a major risk.
As the time approached 10am the cool air and wind meant that the biggest risk was pulling a muscle! I had decided not to do a warm-up as my race strategy was to run a nice controlled race with steady 8 min miles for the first half then see what I had left from mile 7 onwards.
After re-reading my last year’s report, something I tend not to do, I decided not to take any caffeine during the race. My run training had been almost nil in the previous 5 weeks so I’d have to be listening extra hard for signs of weakness. I did take my sports legs tablets as I find they work when I’m looking to put in a hard effort.
The race route had been changed from last year which probably helped with the speed. Instead of running round loads of corners the route was now completely on the flat and a 2 loop ring up and down the prom, on the North shore, and over to the West shore and back.
Congestion was not as bad as last year as the race had only attracted 600 this year, half that of 2011.
10.07 We were OFF!
I got into a nice easy 8 min pace with loads of space and just me and my watch. The wind was behind us for the first 800m so that helped even more. As we turned I spotted a group of 4 “lads” of the “largous” variety so I shielded myself behind them for the return section. Mile 1 completed in 7.58 AvHR 140 AvCAD 86
The route turned directly into the westerly wind. My shielding had already run out of steam, you just can’t get the quality anymore, so I was going to have to push on regardless. Suddenly the wind dropped and it was pace to easy pace easy heart rate. Mile 2 complete in 7.55 AvHR 143 AvCAD 86
Running around the West shore was a tactical section, looking for open spaces when the tail wind was there and looking for “giants” when a head wind was in evidence. Everything felt pretty smooth and I kept myself targeted on maintaining the 8 min pace. Mile 3 completed in 7.57 AvHR 144 AvCAD 85
During mile 4, with the wind behind me, I had noticed a small runner just out of the corner of my eye, nothing specifically distinguishing, just a constant presence. I assumed they were running a similar strategy. It was at this time that I spotted, about 400m ahead, my one-time nemesis!! On my first half marathon I’d had been running up the final mile of the race, up a hill which had been very tough, but only made worse by spotting a runner in the most horrendous luminous pink/yellow/orange tutu!! That day had not been mine but today would be different!! Mile 4 was completed in 7.55 AvHR 149 AvCAD 85
This mile was still with the wind behind me and it appeared that I’d been correct about the runner. I decided that if they were still there when I broke mile 7 I’d tell them what my plan was. This mile was all on the prom and I was very happy to see I crossed the line in 40.08. Everything was going perfectly to plan and I was feeling nicely strong. Still looking out for some protection on the return journey, I spotted a small group of runners so I slotted in just behind them J Not nice drafting but I had been pulling a few runner around for the last few miles. Mile 5 completed in 8.15 AvHR 149 AvCAD 84
Turning with the wind behind me I noticed the small runner was still there. As someone who enjoys talking to fellow runners, and also someone who likes to thank all the volunteers who support the race, I mentioned to her that I’d be pushing from mile 7 onward but that if she wanted to crack 80mins she should keep it up! General progress was pretty good with lots of runners starting to suffer. I had a few near misses as I pushed round tiring runners but I was keeping my HR under control so mile 6 was completed in 7.59 AvHR 150 AvCAD 84
This was when my progress started in earnest. I informed my fellow runner that I was going to push a bit harder but she was very welcome to stick with me if she wanted. The twiddly bits of the course meant dodging people was the order of the day. There were lots of sharp turns and restricted pathways but this mile was a complete success as I finished in 7.53 AvHR 152 AvCAD 84
Glancing to my right I noticed I was not alone! The young lady who was running with me was more than keeping up with me and she looked like she was happy to push even harder. My heart rate was nicely under control and I was still feeling very strong. Not wanting to go too fast too early, I kept to my HR limit of sub 160. At this point all my concentration was on not pushing too hard. Mile 8 was completed in 7.43 AvHR 155 AvCAD 85
This mile was all about leaving something in the tank. I have run some races where the “hanging-on” period of the race was far too long and my result suffered because of it. I was still looking at my watch to make sure my HR was not staying too much above 160. The route was nice and simple with the wind behind us so the temptation to push harder was definitely there. Mile 9 completed in 7.35 AvHR 160 AvCAD 86
This was time to make sure I gave EVERTHING I had. The route followed a short flat section with 200 m rise, a turn, followed by the run down to the finish line. Signage was there from 400m out. I held it back a bit on the short rise to make sure I didn’t run out of gas before the line. At this point I was overtaken by the young lady who had run so strongly over the previous miles. Only after the race did I find out that she was delighted that she had run a 6 min PB for the distance. I said I’d be delighted if she wanted to push on but at this point the strain appeared to be telling. As the route turned down towards the prom I consciously pulled myself together for the final 800m. This section of the race is one I have run hundreds of times. It is in fact the section of tarmac I use to do my mile repeats. The biggest problem was the number of runners who were struggling to keep going. Always one to encourage, I used a few happy phrases to signal to other runners that I was hoping to passJ As the 400m sign appeared I noticed my erstwhile running “buddy” had re-appeared. A final statement along the lines of “this is what you can’t do when your training!” saw her moving just in front of me. As we passed the 200m mark we were head to head. It’s times like this you like to think if I die at least …. I’ve not seen 170+ on my HR for a while J It was time for some PROPER running! In the last 100m I like to run sub 6 min pace. I over took 4 other runners but as the line approached I noticed she had fallen behind by just a meter or 2. I slowed JUST before the line and she crossed at the same time – it seemed like the right thing to do. As I did my end of race stagger, my good friend Richard approached to congratulate me and tell me how he’d done. Richard is a proper runner. Even so his 67.30 is an AMAZING run! Next, I spotted Dave Gardener, the over 70s regional champ who I’ve run with before. An ex-international duathlete, he can’t ride a bike anymore because of hamstring problems but this doesn’t stop him running like someone 40 years his junior. He had completed the race in 74.50!!
Reflections on the race are that, for people like me, I’ll never be winning any proper races, I train to race AND race to train!
Happy Racing AND Training to You ALL!