The Scribbler

13 November 2011

Giving it some beans

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 20:14
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The Heaton Harriers Town Moor  Memorial 10k  has been one of those ‘will I/won’t I?’ races. Two years ago I got an astonishing PB on this course that convinced me that a sub 50 10k would be possible. But then the next year I had a head failure and a real mixed bag of a race.

A few weeks ago, still riding on a high from my success at the Great North Run, it was definitely on. Fast, flat and over familiar ground with plenty of good club runners to chase. I mixed up my training, had some fun, tried some new things, including running with a club and then took a week off to recover from the dog bite and give myself a training break.

So targets altered to be realistic and take the pressure off. I wanted to give this a good run, to see where I was, having not raced 10k competitively since May. And the plan was to hit a good 5k and hold on as long as possible.

So another chance to see my running buddies and gather more birthday wishes and just be glad to be out and active. I grew a little nervous with all the hubbub in the cafe before the start and ventured out to find some air and space. I saw Ian, my PT and another one of his clients and enjoyed a bit of confidence boosting chat. A little jog, some warm up drills and a bit of head space and I was set.

I also had a nice chat with an Irish guy who was regretting a big night out and told him all about parkrun. So hoping the luck of the Irish would stay with me, I lined up at the start, with friends around me. Jeff , Ian and Les up front, Penny beside me and Peter being cheeky in the mix.

A few moments silence to remember the fallen. Then a starting pistol and we were off. The field is quite congested at the beginning and I picked up a spurt to get through and past runners and find my own space as quickly as possible. I joked to Peter about taking a swim as we rounded the pond. It would have helped us get through the field quickly. But he was soon off and away, and I didn’t catch sight of him again until the end.

So the first km is always a bit unsettled, a bit slow, then a bit fast, a bit dodging and weaving. As we went through the first marker my Garmin said 04:59 – perfect pacing. Could I hold on?

Off onto the long straight path away over the moor and I start to settle. The pace feels fast, but not stupid. I’m comfortable, at ease with my running. I tell myself to hold it, keep it in check, make sure I have something still to give. There is still a way to go.

Runners I recognise from parkrun and other races go by me, including Jules who I think is a similar pace to me, maybe a bit better. I resolve to keep her red and white vest in my sights. As we approach the gate out towards Grandstand Road, a friendly Elvet Strider who I met at the Hellhole 10k says ‘Hello again’ and ‘I’ll run with you, I like your pace.’ I must make an effort and ask her name next time I see her. Elvet Striders do seem to be a friendly club.

We stick together for a little while, but the wind whips her casual chat away from my ears and I’m too focused on the narrow path and the group ahead to make much of a response. I spot a way through a small group of runners and push on. It’s the last time, I’ll have anything like a group to cling on to for the rest of the race.

Through the gate and onto the gravelly ground on the moor again. But I know this path well from parkrun and it no longer holds any fears for me. I pick a path to the smoother edge and power on, my sights now set on a girl wearing a T-shirt with a Halloween pumpkin on the back. She is a good distance ahead, but I resolve to try and wheel her in. It takes me almost another two kilometres but I get close enough to see it’s a Wokingham Half T-shirt as I go past.

We seem to come quickly back round towards the lake and the start again, almost half distance and I know from checking my Garmin on the kilometre beep that I’ve dropped just below that 5 min target. But I’m close, still close. I take a bite of mango to keep me going and as I pass through the 5k marker the marshall calls out a time of 26 something.

This rattles me a little as 26 is a good minute more than what I would call a good parkrun time for me. But I remind myself that this is just a benchmark run. I can’t always keep a perfect pace and if I dig in and keep going, I can still make something of this.

Because I do still want this. I want to run well and fast. But I’m not stressing about it. Just focusing on keeping the legs turning over, the breathing smooth and powering on.

All the way round I am reminded of the great support and friendships I have made through running. There’s Ken from work whose daughter is a superstar runner. There’s pocket rocket Stacey on the home straight cheering me on. And another shout whose voice is familiar, but I cannot place as my mind is focused on the run. Then round by the back of the museum a dark haired guy calls out my name on each lap, and I still can’t place him. But thank you – whoever you are!

I start to pick out runners ahead to reel in again. But my first target slows to a walk and that’s too easy. Then I spot a familiar figure in an Elvet Strider’s vest. It’s Claire who I know is a lot faster than me and I’m gaining on her. I check she’s okay as I pass and shout out my target pace in case she’s just had a blip and wants to go again. This gives the game away to a runner in a dark blue vest who runs on the opposite side of the path to me then pushes on ahead.

I know I’ve slowed again as I spot a 5:2x on the Garmin, which is also now telling me that I’m low on lap memory. I hope it will last, but I condition myself to running the rest of this race on feel. As it bleeps for 7k, a blind runner and his guide go past and he asks me ‘what’s that?’ so I tell him the distance as they move on ahead.

Just 15 more minutes focus I say to myself and remind myself not to leave it all to the last k. I start to stretch out a little more, eking another inch out of my legs, maybe slowing the cadence a little, but still keeping the pace. I run through my mental checks and it’s all good.

I’d really like to be racing, but I’m running on my own. Jeff had offered me some advice about taking advantage of a group to keep the pace up, but it’s advice I can’t take today. Instead I focus on the positive and give myself a mental well done that I’ve managed to keep my focus and drive on my own. Still I target the next group which contains the runner in blue and a girl in a black top and see if I can grind down the gap over the last section. At 8k I snatch another bite of mango.

This is tough now and my mind cannot help doing the mental maths. How close am I to what I want? Course PB is 52:15, 10k PB is 51:40. I know I’ve dropped seconds continuously off that 5 min target pace, but how close am I? I pass through 8k and sneak a look to see 41.xx

Come on. I still want this. If I can race the last 2k, maybe it’s possible. I push on, but at the same time keep Scotty’s mantra in my mind – ‘relax and enjoy’. If I tense up now, it will not do me any good. I am running well. Smooth and fast and powering on through. I tell myself to get to 9k and then give it hell.

And I’m really motoring, pushing on and it hurts quite a lot now. But there are barely 5 minutes to go and I can live with the breathing going ragged for 5 minutes. I’m gaining, gaining on that group that’s remained elusive ahead. Don’t leave it all to a sprint finish I tell myself and try to wind it up a little.

Round the last muddy, leafy path and up the small rise towards the finish. That’s not a hill I say to myself as I shorten my stride and pick my feet up. Spotting Peter who has tracked back to cheer us on.

If it wasn’t for the turn, I’d be sprinting by now. And when I hit the straight that’s exactly what I do. Full power straight on and go for it. The runner in blue is toast before she realises it and I’m inches away from the girl in black I’ve been chasing from around 7k. I think I pip her to the line. But one of my best finishes ever takes it out of me and I cross the finish in a bit of a head swim.

Ian spots me coming through as I try to keep moving, wanting nothing more than to bend over and catch my breath. I can’t take in what he says, but I hear the note of concern in his voice. I’m okay. I know I am, but I guess I look a bit drained. I wander to the side and get myself together. It’s only then that I look at my watch.

And it’s close, but not enough. 52:22 by my watch and likely the results may be a second or two more. So no course PB which was the minimum I’d hoped for today. I allow myself a moment of disappointment which Ian hears, but it doesn’t take me long to remind myself that that’s just racing. And it’s far, far from a shabby result. In fact, it’s one I can be proud of. And a big birthday hug from Peter sets me right back on track.

I watch some of the others come over the line, including Penny and my unnamed Elvet friend, still smiling. And have a nice chat with Nadhim who has had a cracking race today.

As I go to collect my hoodie and warm clothes I start to feel a bit swimmy again and regret the rookie mistake of failing to bring anything to eat for after the race. Goodness knows I have enough cake in the house, but I’m forced to buy a cereal bar and I hang around for the presentations as much to give myself the chance to recover as anything else.

That shows I really gave that race all that I had today. I felt strong, kept my focus and kept my head. And it’s been a great weekend. Two races, plenty of cake and lots of chances to catch up with Fetchies and other running friends in real life and through our interconnected world. Practically perfect.

Thanks to Heaton Harriers who put on a great race, Ian for continuing to support all my training with great plans and workouts, Wallsend Harriers for the great running sessions and everyone who supports and encourages me in all my running goals.

Stats and stuff:
10k 52:22
1) – 0.62m – 4:59(8:02/m) – 63cal
2) – 0.62m – 5:10(8:19/m) – 66cal
3) – 0.62m – 5:04(8:09/m) – 65cal
4) – 0.62m – 5:06(8:13/m) – 65cal
5) – 0.62m – 5:08(8:16/m) – 65cal
6) – 0.62m – 5:25(8:43/m) – 65cal
7) – 0.62m – 5:16(8:29/m) – 64cal
8) – 0.62m – 5:14(8:26/m) – 65cal
9) – 0.62m – 5:22(8:38/m) – 65cal
10) – 0.62m – 5:15(8:27/m) – 64cal
11) – 0.06m – 22(5:45/m) – 6cal

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