The Scribbler

11 June 2011

Blaydon Race – getting things straight

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 14:13
Tags: ,
A gathering of Fetch runners at the start of Blaydon Race

A gathering of Fetch runners at the start of the Blaydon Race

I’ve loved this race. Last year it showed me my potential. It was that rare magic run where it all felt easy, even in the cold and the rain, I laughed and flew and totally surprised myself.

A few days ago, I announced in my cocky, confident way that I was ‘going for it’ in this one. Death or glory. 8 minute miles or bust. I didn’t do it. Not quite. But I was close. And I was disappointed. But I shouldn’t be.

A busy day in the office, but I’m all prepared with my bags packed full of racing gear. Only I decided to wear a different pair of work shoes that morning. And as I arrive in the office, I realise that means my orthotics are sitting at home. I hatch a plan to dash back at lunchtime or after work to collect them, but Gary comes to the rescue and drops them off for me, saving me a whole load of stress and hassle.

I’m shaking as I get changed at the end of the working day, fingers too fumbly to pin on my race number. Excited and nervous. Nervous because I’m looking forward to it and have set myself a goal. I leave my number until I arrive in the Bigg Market.

Fetch runners

The Fetch girls ready for a night out starting at the Bigg Market

Lots of friends to meet and greet. Bag to drop off on the bus. A couple of pictures and a quick warm up to calm my brain as much as anything. Then standing with Penny as close to the start line as I’ve ever been, just wanting to be off and away. Fighting the urge to dispense some of my nervous energy, looking forward to a good race.

Eventually we’re off and I start picking my way through the crowds, starting my watch when I see the Lord Mayor. I don’t remember it being this crowded as I dodge and weave between the pavements and round the corners, clipping heels and dodging elbows.

For a time I run with Scottish Fetchie IanS, who I’ve just met,  trying to talk to temper my pace. But it’s impossible to stay with anyone in this melee. I reassure him it gets easier once we’re on Scotswood Road. And that’s where I pick up my feet and find my stride. First mile in 08:10 – that’s okay – it’s busy. I spot and say hello to Davina and Lindsey. It’s great to be racing with so many friends.

Away along the Scotswood Road. More freedom, more space, only there’s something tickling at my foot. I think it’s the end of my lace trapped between my shoe and my ankle and try to kick it away. But it gets worse. Suffer it or sort it. I halt by the side of the road for a second to reach down, not even looking and retrieve my emergency money that I’ve forgotten I tucked into my shoe beneath the insole last time I was out on a long run.

Right – back on with the run. I feel good. Running free, finding space, breathing not exactly easy, but where it feels right. It’s warm, but there’s a cool breeze. The sun in my eyes makes me squint and frown, so I keep my head down and plough on.

Me and a crowd of runners on the Scotswood Road

Gannin' along the Scotswood Road (Picture courtesy of runnerwanderings on flickr)

Up and over the Scotswood bridge. In my mind a steeper incline than reality. I maintain my focus and overtake a couple of runners as I try to keep a look out for Jeff. I think of shouting ‘Fetchie’, but decide to save my breath. I miss him, but I know he’s there. The bottle neck down off the bridge slows me for a second, but I’m soon away and overtaking again.

Out along the river. Too focused on what’s coming up to watch the runners going the other way, I skip between the cones and try to find a way through. At the long awaited turn, someone pushes into my back. I cannot tell whether they’re saving themselves from falling or urging me onwards, but it unsettles me for a moment.

I’m trying to chase down runners, pick them off one by one. But the aggression isn’t quite there this time, and I sense I’m drifting off my target pace. I make a deal with myself to push on through the industrial estate and use a tall runner in white to pull me through, breathing heavily as my calves begin to protest.

I’m barely aware of where I am and what’s going on around me. I know this course, but still can’t get a feel for how far is left to go. Don’t leave it all to the last minute I tell myself. But I’m holding back knowing there’s a flyover ahead.

I shorten my stride as I head up and see a familiar form in a Wallsend Harriers shirt. ‘Dig in, Kathryn’ I shout as I spot one of my most supportive running buddies. Today she’s struggling with niggles and a chest infection. Normally, she’d outstrip me easily. I pass her with a smile and she shares a shout of encouragement back.

I’m round into Blaydon before I know it and still can’t seem to push on. Even when I check the Garmin and know there’s less than a mile to go. Even approaching the crowds with less than half that. I’m still holding back. Eventually my brain kicks in and I start to power through the twists and turns to the finish. But I don’t even have enough time to get up to full speed before I spy the clock and it says 50.

50 isn’t what I want to see. It was 49 something as I approached last year. And in that moment, before I stumble over the finish I know it’s gone. I stop my watch at 49:37 and try to catch my breath as I shuffle forward. And there’s nothing. No elation. No adrenaline high. I’m just flat.

And then a bit wibbly. In the finish funnel, I put a hand on the railing to steady myself. And once they’ve taken my number and I’m through, I find a space and crouch down on the ground. Is it mental or physical? I don’t know. But I need a few moments to get steady. Someone comes over and puts a hand on my shoulder to check I’m okay. Offers me first aid, somewhere to sit. But I’m okay, I say, just need a moment. I’m sorry I don’t even look up to see who you are. But thank you.

I go to collect my goodie bag and T-shirt still in a bit of a daze. It’s only 30 seconds or so slower than last year I tell myself, don’t be daft. I gee myself up a little when I see a gaggle of Fetchies beyond the finish line, but some of the pent up disappointment comes out. And I have another wibble and have to sit on the ground again.

I’m kind of embarrassed now. I just want to see my buddies and get out of here. But I don’t really trust my legs or my emotions just yet. My trusty Fetchies stand guard. Sorry, this sounds way more dramatic and downbeat than I mean it to be. But it’s kind of fuzzy and random in my head. And while I want to be true to what happened, I want to put things straight too.

Because I was annoyed with myself. Annoyed at missing an arbitrary time target by 30 seconds. And I knew that was totally ridiculous as I was feeling it. But I was also annoyed because that time target meant I didn’t take in much of the race. I wasn’t overly stressing or clock watching. I was just running but not getting everything out of this wonderful, characterful race.

And that really is daft. And I really do know that. But for a wee while I was down. And then some friends helped me pick myself back up and see sense. With a hug, with a text message, with some good old common sense. You know who you are – thank you again.

My fabulous Fetchie friends had some brilliant racing last night. And I don’t want anything I’ve said to detract from that. It was and always will be great to run with my buddies. I hope I celebrated your successes with you. If I didn’t, then I will next time I see you.

I just honestly can’t remember it all very clearly once I crossed the line. I think I got a bit swamped by everything swimming round in my head. This will, no doubt be familiar to those of you who downed your bottle of ale at the finish. But it’s a bit of a new one for this lightweight.

I’d started to think that I hadn’t run this as well as my last road 10k. That because it wasn’t hurting as much, I hadn’t tried hard enough. But looking at it rationally that’s nonsense. An average pace of 8:08 min/miles is fast for me. Faster than last road 10k. And tantalisingly close to my target pace.

My friend Kathryn summed it up when she said I’m running consistently. And yes – over these 5 and 10k distances I am more often running at that kind of pace. And no, it doesn’t hurt as much as it once did. So there is improvement there. I do just need to stop looking at the micro performance and look at the bigger picture.

So I’m fine. Although a bit perturbed that I’ve written a rather odd and down sounding blog. Obviously still trying to puzzle it out and for once my words aren’t quite reflecting my feelings. I hope to see some of you at parkrun in the morning and prove that. The rest of you will just have to take my word for it.

Stats and stuff
5.98 mile 49:37
1) – 1m – 8:09(8:09/m) – 109cal
2) – 1m – 7:44(7:44/m) – 106cal
3) – 1m – 7:55(7:55/m) – 106cal
4) – 1m – 8:26(8:26/m) – 105cal
5) – 1m – 8:22(8:22/m) – 104cal
6) – 0.98m – 8:01(8:12/m) – 101cal

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