The Scribbler

18 December 2010

Saltwell 10k

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 21:44
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Run number, minature whisky and glass tumbler

Saltwell 10k mementoes

I felt I owed this race after it became the first one I didn’t start last year. I’d slid the length of my back yard on the ice, and although I didn’t hurt myself, I figured if it was like that at the coast, the race would be called off. I later learned the park paths had been cleared and gritted and the race was definitely on.

I enjoy its sense of history as one of the UK’s oldest road races. After all if you have a wonderful and quirky park in your town, what better to do than to arrange a run around it.

I said I had no expectations going into this race. And I meant it. I haven’t been training for 10ks and the last one I raced in November was a bit of a disappointment. Besides, I had been warned time and again this was a hilly one, and to take it steady. A couple of messages of encouragement from Steve and Kathryn set me off with a smile. And today’s race was just a good excuse for a long run in a new location.

After all my time in the North East, I’ve actually never been to Saltwell Park before, so consequently didn’t really pick the closest parking spot. I meandered into the park looking for runners and soon saw a Durham Harrier also looking a bit lost. Directed towards the registration hut by a marshall, I was keen to get my bearings but distracted by the sculptures and the frozen over rose garden. I shall have to come back here and explore.

I bumped into Susie from Fetch and dumped my bag of warm layers for after the race at registration. Picked up my number 4 (blimey I was keen to enter this one!) and said hello to Ian and Kelda who arrived just as I was deciding how many layers to shed. I turned my Fetch buff into a beanie and kept my gloves on, opting for a base layer and a long sleeve T.

With tales of snow and travel chaos further south and some dramatic temperature drops here in the last couple of days, I’d say we got off quite lightly. Blue skies and a keen, but not too biting nip, in the air and I lined up for the start next to Flip (another Fetch buddy).

It was just great to be running, with no sense of what lay ahead, what twists or turns the course would take, just running, free and easy, warming through my legs.

I reminded myself to take it easy, but it felt good to stretch out my legs and run the first section, enjoying a downhill dash, but thinking what goes down must come back up. Twisting and turning on pathways through the park, I resolved to keep it steady to get a feel for the course on the first lap.

The Garmin’s first mile beep showed 8.30 something and I told myself I could afford to slow it down a bit if I needed to. But today was about running by feel. Fast when I wanted to, slow when it got tough.
As we turned up the twisty path through the trees, I was glad I’d given myself the okay to just run and enjoy this one. The incline just kept on coming. I gasped a huge breath of relief as it levelled out and thought, ‘well that wasn’t too bad’. But there was more to come.

Out alongside the road beside the park and another uphill incline. Less steep but more treacherous on weary legs. Little steps and pick your feet up. Adam’s advice on hill running from my first off-road run still sticks on my mind. On the first lap I just resolved to keep running, no matter how much I slowed down. My triumph would be just to keep going.

Back round to the start and I can honestly say I’m still no wiser about the course, just running and following the runners in front. A smallish, well spaced out field meant I ran most of this one on my own. Sometimes I had someone in front I could target for a pass and sometimes I felt someone gathering pace behind. But mostly it was just me, running in the sunshine, mind as clear and fresh as the winter landscape.

On the second lap, I heard a marshall shout, ‘The leader’s coming through’ and I kept off the racing line as a speedy young whippet whizzed past, knees high, powering through his stride.

I felt my shoe slipping a bit as I relaxed down a hill and looked down to see my lace coming loose. I pushed on a bit further, but could feel my foot starting to rock. So I stopped for the first time ever in a race to tie my shoelace. I think I lost around three places as I stepped to one side, but I know I made at least a couple of them up again later, and it stopped me becoming fixated on my feet.

The second time the uphill sections were more challenging. It was just a case of dig in and get through, then enjoy the relief of bounding downhill with the exhilaration of a seven year old flying with their coat out behind them like a cape. Superhero boost!

Round for the last time and I managed a couple of thank yous to the marshalls who had played such a great part encouraging us on lap after lap, including Mark (another Fetchie and parkrun regular) just before a nice bit of downhill; a very smiley lady by the icy lake and the guy who had his radio out on the road. I’m afraid the chap at the top of the last hill just got a grimace as by now I was teetering up the inclines on sheer bloody mindedness.

Back round to the start for the last time and I had no idea how far I had to go once back in the park. I knew the hills were over, but they’d taken it out of my legs and I couldn’t wind up the speed on the flat. There was a small group of ladies ahead of me and I fought to grind down the distance with a view to a sprint finish, but they stayed strong and tantalisingly just too far ahead.

A turn towards the finish and a marshal shouted, ‘Only 100m to go’. I wish I’d have believed him as I tried to put the power down a bit more. Another corner and there were the finish flags. I charged through my sprint finish, but although I could not catch the group ahead, i will have shaved a few seconds off.

Over the line, stop the watch and hear my number called out. Look to see 55.15 on my Garmin and cannot believe it. I had no expectations for this race, no goals, no targets, but quite frankly I was expecting to be closer to an hour, so anything less than that was going to put a big smile on my face. A faster time than my last flat 10k was totally unexpected.

Through the finish to collect my goody bag and catch up with Flip. I seem to recover quickly from this one and we walk back down to the last corner to see Susie come in smiling after a great run.

I’ve been thinking of this race as my last one of the year, and yet I still have one more left to go on Boxing Day. But a race I thoroughly enjoyed, relaxed in and didn’t work myself up over is one to be remembered.

I know I run better when I relax and take the pressure off myself, but it’s not always easy to do in a race. I still don’t quite believe that I’ll be faster on race day than I have been in training. This one just proved to me that the potential is still there. That my speed hasn’t entirely left me. And that 2011 will be a good year for new challenges and enjoying even more runs and races with good friends.

Stats and stuff:
10k in 55:15
mile splits:
1. 08.24
2. 09.32
3. 08.46
4. 09.23
5. 08.52
6. 09.23
7. 01.28 (0.2 miles)

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Pudding Run was cancelled earlier this week. So that means that my last race of the year was the Saltwell 10k (unless I make it to Sunderland for parkrun on New Year’s Eve), but Saltwell was a great way to […]

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    Pingback by 2010 my running year « The Scribbler — 27 December 2010 @ 19:50 | Reply


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