The Scribbler

22 May 2011

Pier to Pier 2011

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 17:47
Tags: , , , ,
Jeff, Lesley and Stephen at the finish of the Pier to Pier

Jeff, Lesley and Stephen at the end of the Pier to Pier - always a fun filled day when Fetchies are involved

It’s a funny old race this one. A point to point along some beautiful coastline, taking in beautiful bays and a water station at a lighthouse. A challenging mix of sand, grass, stony paths and pavement, some steps and a couple of gates. And amazingly this will be the third time I’ve run it. I’ve been a runner for more than 3 years – wow!

My training’s been a bit more laid back this week (apart from my brain working overtime on the whatifs and whys). And to be honest, I sort of felt I might be ready for a bit of a break. So I had no plan how I was going to run this.

Pitching up at Roker, driving more from memory than directions and peering through the rain filled windscreen, I did question my decision to go for shorts over capris. But I had a bag full of stuff to warm up in for afterwards. As I queued for the bus to the start, I spotted Mark and Davina. As the mini buses came at irregular intervals and we were all shivering, I suggested a bit of a car pool operation to get us to the start.

A quick catch up with Jeff, Lesley Anne and Stephen and lots of parkrunner spotting in the car park before Peter came bouncing up looking far fresher than his training suggests he should be and threatening to ‘take it easy’ today.

A quick jog along the front to warm my legs up, then down onto the beach to line up on the sand. Sunshine and showers was the forecast. An icy little blast just before the start made us huddle up, eager for the off.

I spotted my good buddy Steve just in front and went to say hello. ‘Just jogged down from Roker’, he told me, ‘Just 5 mile. Easy 8s pace for me today.’ Steve, you’re way too modest mate – that’s a canny run. Easy 8s is me flat out over this kind of distance on a flat road.

It’s a tough start on the sand and there’s a good bit of uphill before this run and this runner find her feet. I’ve decided just to run this today. I can’t pick my 5k pace and try to hold on like I did in my last 10k. Besides it’s windy and tough terrain for a tarmac kid. I’ve talked myself out of racing it before I start.

But that’s no bad thing as I watch the runners take their favourite lines across the trails, spreading out in a glorious technicolour ribbon past people walking their dogs or taking kids out on their scooters.

I cannot settle into a running rhythm over the first mile on the sand. I struggle with the camber putting more pressure on my left leg and run up the beach a little in search of a flatter surface. But the sand is softer here and sucks at my feet wasting precious energy. I’ve made this mistake here before I think as I head back towards the damp but firmer patches.

The terrain forces me to watch my feet, picking my way over warn down patches and grassy trails. At times it makes us fall into line, one runner after another, falling into a gentle plod, plod, plod. The danger here is getting fixated on the group in front.

But although I am not racing, I want to be moving and stretch out into road runner strides where I can. Now we’ve battled our way up the two tough climbs I feel like I can get back on my own turf.

In places I put a spurt on, making a move to pass a group of runners and keep moving forwards. I sense I’ve picked up the pace a little, but I’m by no means pushing myself as hard as I can. This thought makes me fretful, berate myself for taking it easy, making excuses. The terrain is unfamiliar. Not especially rough or uneven, but it reminds me I haven’t done a lot off-road this year.

A glimpse of the blue green sea transports me out of my own head and reminds me to look up and around. To see the gulls soaring over the rocks. To see the sun glinting on the waves. Just to run and enjoy it. And that’s when I start to pass people too.

I run and enjoy the memories and legends of this landscape. Past the beaches, thinking of Lewis Carroll and his nonsense rhymes inspired by the coastline. Past the firing range at Whitburn remembering one lady’s wartime story of seeing a German bomber shot down in the water. Memories so vivid she could direct a dive team to find it many years later.

In patches I run well and easy, in others not so much. The wind buffets and drags making it hard going at times. It always seems to hit me when I’m feeling good and want to push on, but resisting and fighting it is just a waste of effort.

As usual I pick up a friendly nemesis. A girl in a red Blaydon T-shirt with her hair piled on top of her head in a loose high pony tail. We’ve passed and repassed each other a couple of times on the narrow trails. I take her on across a grassy field. ‘Come on,’ I say gently, ‘Keep it going’. And although I may move ahead for a pace or two, she comes back at me, or we run side by side until the path narrows again and she nips ahead.

I catch her again later in the race, running over leg-sapping grass into the wind. I don’t have the energy or heart to make a definitive move and we push each other on a little further. I know if she wants to, she will go ahead and I’ll be happy to see her go. But this time I think I make it stick.

After a particularly gusty and exposed gap, where my eyes stream with the wind, I hear the Garmin bleep and look to see 5 miles on the clock. How long is this race again? I know it’s advertised as 7, but it’s not as far as that. I start to think about getting a wriggle on and how much further in terms of time I have to run. I reckon on about 15 minutes and hold back a little.

As our feet hit pavement and tarmac a runner behind me says “Thank goodness for concrete” – echoing my feelings. I try to take advantage of more familiar turf and stretch out my legs. As we head out onto the promenade another runner says “You’ve still got plenty left for the last bit haven’t you?”
And I reply, ” I have on this stuff.”

But my memory plays tricks on me and I think there’s a long stretch to go where the finish line is hidden from view by the curve of the coast and I hold back just a little. So the final descent to the beach takes me by surprise. We’re nearer the finish than I thought and now I’ve left it too late to put a move on.

There are a couple of Elvet Strider girls ahead. They have been just ahead of me for a good portion of the second half of this race and I’d tried to catch them before. So, onto the beach and punching into a sprint, reckless over the rocks and pebbles, now I’m racing.

But it’s too much too soon. I cannot sprint the 600m or so of beach and I stutter back to a run, trying to catch my breath. But the Elvets catch me and for a second my head goes down. But no, not this near the finish, not when I have legs and determination. I actually shout out ‘No! as I bully my legs into another spurt and resolve to keep going until the bitter end.

Where is the bloody finish? I can see the flags, but nothing else really registers as I pound my arms and put all that I have into the last few metres, stumbling into the finish funnel to the consternation of the marshalls. They’re not used to seeing idiots finish a 6.7 mile race like it’s the 100m. But I’m fine, I’m fine. Just a wee bit daft.

I recover and stretch, then walk back to the finish to meet up Jeff and Mark to cheer the other runners in. But I’m getting cold really quickly and when a dash of rain threatens I dash to the car, hoping to be back in time to see Lesley Anne and Davina finish. As I wrestle with my key in the lock, an explosion of hail makes me glad I’m not still running and feel sorry for those that are.

I’m sorry I missed them coming over the line, but it was great to see Lesley Anne beaming after a cracking run. Dear me, you took everything this one threw at you and still came out smiling! And I’m really loving going to races and feeling one of the crowd, one of the club. I always have a fab time with Fetchies around.

A bit of chat, a class goody bag and a Mars bar then back home for the toughest part of the day. Waiting to hear how my buddies got on in their marathons, half marathons and triathlons. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s announcements just yet but it looks like a great day all round. One text message from a fabulous friend absolutely makes my day!

My own verdict on my own race? Well I was about 30 seconds slower than last year. But I’d chosen not to race it and given how windy it was, I’m really pleased with that. Could I have found 30 seconds or more? I’m pretty sure I could have with my race head on. I could probably even have found it in the last 0.7 mile on the promenade if my head hadn’t made it out to be further than it felt. But that was my decision.Just to go out and enjoy a long run.

I ran harder than I would have done in training and had a lot more fun. I’m a little nervous of pure running distance at the moment as I haven’t done a lot of it this year. Most of my 10ks have been races, rather than training distance. And it’s all there to come on my plan.

But that run fills me with confidence. Makes me realise that I should take all the endurance fitness from my triathlon training and use it to power me round those longer runs as I start the build up to Blaydon and the Great North Run. It also means I’m pretty determined to race the next one next weekend. It’s a 10k but not a PB course – too much trail and undulation for that. But I’m going to give it a real blast.

Stats and stuff:
6.89 miles 1:04:25
1) – 1m – 10:10(10:10/m) – 101cal
2) – 1m – 9:17(9:17/m) – 103cal
3) – 1m – 9:16(9:16/m) – 104cal
4) – 1m – 8:49(8:49/m) – 104cal
5) – 1m – 9:37(9:37/m) – 105cal
6) – 1m – 9:45(9:45/m) – 104cal
7) – 0.89m – 7:30(8:24/m) – 92cal

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