If Carlsberg did weekends…

Well, fantastic Friday, lead to super Saturday and smashing Sunday. The sun decided to stick around and, after hearing there were due to be pacers at Saturday’s parkrun, I asked for special dispensation from Ian to go and run. The focus this weekend was on a tri-length brick session, and I wanted to be sure that my desire for a speedy run wasn’t going to tip the balance into doing too much.

A great morning on the town moor, still a little breezy, but the sunshine brought out a bright bevy of Fetchies. I saw and chatted to Jeff, Flip, Penny, Lesley Anne, Clare, and Martyn and Little C. I also bumped into Ewan from work, out for his first taste of parkrun.

At the start I looked for the 25 minute pacer – a guy in a green and white striped vest. The plan was to stick as close to him as possible. Off the start line and into the melee, I put on a spurt over the grass to catch up with him. Through the first kilometre we ran shoulder to shoulder. It felt fast, but I held on, feeling like I was being pulled along the rise.

As we approached the gate, I was aware of a lady runner beside me, pushing on and she nipped ahead of me. But as we turned along Grandstand Road I gained my place back. And she kept coming, and I kept pushing.

Through the second gate and back onto the moor, the heat hit me and the dust was being kicked up over the rough ground. I ran alongside close to the grass and the pacer ran along the opposite side. Somewhere around the straight beside the road I started to drift backwards. The pacer and my little lady racer overtook me and went ahead.

Suddendly it felt like everyone was going past me. A stream of runners, looking good, breathing easy, whereas I was starting to struggle. Ewan, came galloping past with a lovely long lolloping stride.

Stick with the plan, I told myself, don’t think, just run. Relax, breathe and kick in. The pacing group were a few hundred metres ahead, but I resolved to try not to let the gap get any wider. Time and again I had a mini race, overtaking someone only to have them come back at me and pretty soon I was targeting the next runner and the next.

When it felt rough, I told myself to dig harder. And for once the breeze at the 4k gate was a welcome relief. I put on a good turn of pace for pestomum, even though I was feeling far from strong and told myself I had less than 5 minutes to run, so I’d better make the most of it.

I’d lost the pacer by now. I was just into the last kilometre and trying to find another gear. Stretching to make every inch of each stride count, calculating when to push it up a notch. At the turn into the final straight there was a man and a girl running their own battle. They were close enough to catch, so I kicked in and ran right through the middle of them. It was a long way from my usual sprint, but I managed to hold it and keep going, spotting the pacer just ahead.

I thought I’d blown myself out, metres from the line and had to pull back a little, but then grimaced and bullied myself on through to the finish. Stopped the watch and saw those magic numbers 24.53. You beauty!

I’ve run sub 25 on this course once before, but only just, so I was pretty sure it was a new PB, which it is. In fact I’ve only beaten it once before in Edinburgh with Scottynbn pushing me all the way to the line. So to do it again pleased me no end, as it shows I’m running consistently and there’s definitely some improvement in my speed.

Here’s the official blurb:

“Congratulations on completing your 16th parkrun and your 15th at Newcastle today. You finished in 113th place and were the 18th lady out of a field of 190 parkrunners and you came 2nd in your age category VW35-39.
Congratulations on setting a new Personal Best by 00:05 seconds at Newcastle parkrun!”

So how does one celebrate that? By meeting Katherine, a friend I used to work with, up for the weekend from London, and introducing her to the delights of the village chocolate shop.

Smashing Sunday

I woke early again this morning. Gary was off starring in his own version of Lambing Live and helping out on our friends’ farm, so he was up with the lark. After a couple of chapters of my book, I drifted back to sleep again and decided just to wake when I felt like it.

A few weeks ago, my Fetch bike guru, Alastair had recommended I invest in some new tyres to help me go faster. So last weekend I exchanged the nobbly mountain bike tyres for something a bit skinnier and slicker. Today was to be their first outing.

Warm enough for my tri kit with a T-shirt over the top, I was soon setting out on a familiar coastal routes, shades on and the breeze in my face. I hadn’t gone far when I noticed a bit of a problem. My chain guard was loose and wibbling around. I stopped, hopped off and took a look.

Now I am the least mechanically able person I know. In trying to fix things, I inevitably end up making them worse. So at first I thought I’d divert to the bike shop, but then I remembered it was Sunday and they’re closed. Nothing seemed to be broken, it just looked like it needed to be clipped back into place. So I gave it a try. And thankfully, after a couple of goes, I managed to fix it.

So back on the bike and starting the watch again, I set out to conquer 20k in the North East sunshine. A loop of North Shields took me down to the Fish Quay and along and up the tiered banks that runners will be tackling on the North Tyneside 10k.

And I was flying! Out along the straights on the big ring, overtaking mountain bikers down by the quay. Even the big hill was so much easier. Drop a gear or two and keep on peddling. I didn’t have to stand until right by the top. True, I was out of breath with the effort, but it was a huge difference.

Absolutely buzzing, I flew out along the coast towards the lighthouse and carried on up the roads towards Seaton Sluice. Just before the roundabout, a stream of road bikes came whizzing on past, all skinny tyres and lycra. A girl in green bringing up the rear encouraged me to keep pedalling as she passed.

Just after the roundabout I turned back, and had to start pushing a little harder into the wind and slightly uphill. That’s when I reminded myself I still had a run to tackle at the end of this. But I kept the legs turning over, and although I may have dropped down a ring a little more often, I still felt like I was flying.

Despite the odd moment of slowing down for pedestrians on the pathways, I knew I was covering the ground so much faster. I’d barely looked at my watch, but gave it a glance and saw there was just 5k to go. I imagined I was Lesley, racing today on her super-slick bike, and gave it some welly.

20k took me just short of home, and as the clock ticked over I glimpsed a 56:something. It’s always taken me well over an hour to ride that distance until now. Just over another kilometre to get back to transition and I didn’t let myself off. Another uphill and then trying some transition tips, knotching down the gears, spinning the legs, ready to run.

Off the bike on my street and walk it to the door. Racked in the hallway, gloves off, helmet off and a quick swig of water as I reset my Garmin for the run. Then out the door back into the sunshine and off down the street.

Too fast at first and fighting for my breath, so I gave myself a minute or two to settle as I headed out along the front. Again I felt slow and leaden legged. But this is just training, I reminded myself, just do the distance and don’t worry about the time.

I opted to run 3km out then turn back, which meant another uphill, into the wind return leg. But as the milestones clicked by, I found my rhythm and was able to push through my feet and wind up the pace a little.

The beep for the last kilometre and I imagined myself back at the 4k gate for parkrun, eking whatever else I could get out of my legs. I was hot, sweaty, and achy, but I knew in another 5 minutes or so, it would all be over. I can’t say I gave it anything like a sprint finish, but my arbitrary finish marker of the bus stop was just about spot on. I stopped the watch at 26:25.

Oh boy! Two thirds of my first triathlon distance done, back to back. And if I manage anything like those times at Ashington, I’ll be over the moon. Of course, my aim is just to finish it, and I do still have a swim to contend with. But after last week’s doubts and tribulations, that’s a session that’s filled me with confidence. Please can we book today’s weather again ?

Home for a welcome shower and gradually catching up with news from other friends running and tri-ing today. It all sounds good. In fact some of it positively makes me beam with joy. Looks like it’s been a pretty good one all round. Cheers!


Author: The Scribbler

I'm a writer, based in the North East of England. In my working life I give a human voice to business communications. As well as writing, reading and language, I enjoy running and triathlons and I often write about races and events in the North East

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