Some frost, some sunshine, a couple of early starts and lots of training activity this week means I’m feeling good. Feeling good too, because I wasn’t as worn out as last week by the time Friday came around. My diet could have been better as I’ve been on a bit of a sugar rush and couldn’t be trusted around the office biscuits, but I’m not going to beat myself up over that.
Up and about getting ready for parkrun on Saturday morning, opting for warm layers and a change of clothes for later. I even had time to get my race entry in for the Northumberland Coastal run before setting off. So that’s me, running at least 13 miles, mainly off road this July. I hope it’s a lot more enjoyable than my last off-road race, but I already know there will be a fair few friends doing it too, which should make it a good day.
I met Penny as I parked up and we fell into our usual easy chat, comparing training sessions as we walked up to the park. There seemed even more runners than last week milling around and a grand turnout of Fetchies.
No plans for how to run this week, just see how I feel. But as Penny seems happy to start beside me in the middle of the pack, sticking with her for as long as I can seems to be a good goal. Not much wind this week and once we’re round the first corner the pace feels fast as we stretch out over the moor.
Penny pulls ahead just before the 1km mark and I’m happy to let her go, although I try not to let her pull away too much of a lead. Out along the back onto Grandstand Road is my favourite bit of the course and I feel like I’m running well, stretching out and rather warmer than I expected to be.
Back through the gate and onto the rougher ground and I’m still okay, but my quads are starting to feel stiff and achey. Quick mental check, breathing’s good, head’s good – yeah, push on.
Round the corner by the museum, over the stony path. This is always the tough part. Is it me or is this a slight incline. It’s usually into the wind. I hear a hard breathing runner behind me. Sorry mate, but I’m going to make you work to get past me, I can’t afford to let my head drop now.
My quads are screaming now, like they do when we turn the resistance up in spin class and the instructor yells ‘sprint’. I try to do the opposite of what I feel and get my legs turning over faster, keep pushing on. The hard breathing runner goes past and I cannot match his pace.
There’s the 4k gate and a sense of relief, just easy on the smooth path to the turn and try and pick up the pace a little. Stewart shouts out encouragement and reminds me to finish fast. Either the legs have stopped burning or I’ve turned off the bit of my brain that notices and I begin to lengthen my stride, thinking smooth, easy, relaxed. The stream of runners fluoresce yellow, pink and red against the grey path.
As the last lamppost approaches I gear it up a notch and another. There are two men ahead of me, still distant, but I’m reducing the gap. Pushing on harder, longer strides and then picking my point to start the sprint. Power down, get the arms going and turn over the legs. I cruise past the first guy and realise I have a chance at the second. Sprint right through the line. He gets away this time – but it’s closer than I thought it would be.
Ah there’s Jeff by the finish line, encouraging me to go for it in the dying seconds of the race. I pant my way back to normal breathing, which causes some consternation among my fellow runners waiting to hand over their barcodes and chips. But I’m fine.
I glance at the watch to see 25.29 and am surprised. I didn’t feel like it was a great run, and I knew I’d slowed down between 3 and 4 k. But I said at the start I wanted to get closer to 25 and that’s definitely heading in the right direction. I can’t remember my PB for this course – but I know it’s close. Checking the results later I’m just 5 seconds slower.
In the queue to return my timing chip I turn to see Lesley and Dave heading for the line and think to myself, that looks like a sub 30. Catching up with Fetchies at the finish, it’s great to hear the flurry of PBs on a great day for a run. Great too to catch up and refuel in the cafe, to talk of runs done and planned and get the full horror of the Bog of Doom from Penny.
Stats and stuff:
I enjoy a slower start to Sunday. A bit of a lie in and then catching up on chores. We’re hosting an early Burns Night for our friends from the farm who deliver our organic meat, fruit and veg each week – including this week, the haggis. So I nip to the supermarket for some extra supplies to make cranachan.
Then back home for a quick tidy up and putting washing on before I finally get chance to head out on my bike. The plan is to head out and see how far I get in an hour, to give it some welly and keep pedalling fast and to use my summer long run route to get off road.
I’m straight into the wind as soon as I head off. This is a universal law of cycling, along with the one that says your back tyre is never as pumped up as you’d like it to be. But I’m away and much more confident out along the coast road, overtaking some casual cyclists and nipping down a side street to avoid stopping at road works and traffic lights.
I’m eager to get to the Waggonways and enjoy the freedom and safety of being off road. As I enter the pathways I have a brief stop for a drink of water and to check the time. And then I’m off down the muddy pathways, revelling in the freedom and space.
Catching up with the walkers and dog walkers who all make way and smile as I go past. Slowing down for a gorgeous wee yellow lab puppy, who behaves very well on his lead for his mum. The route is mainly flat and not too slippy, though there are places where I can feel my legs working harder.
Too soon 30 minutes has gone and it’s time to turn back. I pick an arbitrary landmark and stop for another mouthful of water and dried apricot from my pocket, then head back. I’ve either found my bike legs or the wind is behind me as I fly back down the paths, adrenaline pumped with the speed of the ride.
I notch it up a ring and keep pedalling (that’s good isn’t it?). This feels like I remember bike riding, when you’re steady and in control, but flying down paths between the trees. All the way home I’m in a higher gear than on the way out. Even on the road I feel more confident and settled.
As I approach the end of my street, I’ve been out for just over an hour and my Garmin tells me I’ve covered 18.4k. I’m enjoying this so much I instantly decide to tack on a wee loop to give me a base time for 20k – the distance I’ll be riding in my triathlon.
It means tackling a steep hill, but I’m ready for it. Pedalling fast, then dropping a gear and powering to the top with a great big grin. Through the village and back home the long way. I eventually stop the watch at 1 hour 7 minutes and a smidgeon over 20k, then freewheel down my street and home.
My bike is suitably muddy, so gets a quick scrub in the back yard before I give myself the same treatment in the shower. My legs are bike wobbly as I head up the stairs and I hope a few stretches will encourage them to forgive me. But I think I may actually be enjoying this cycling lark.
Our friends arrive early bearing chocolate brownies, and our first home made organic haggis is a success. As is the cranachan, doused in the whisky that was in my prize bag from the Saltwell 10k. It’s a great, if indulgent way to round off a week’s training and look forward to more to come.