Funny old race for me this one. I’d entered it to give myself a decent run at a 10k before tri season and because I didn’t think I’d be ready for a decent run last weekend. As it was, I raced my wee legs off last Sunday, so where did that leave me?
I woke up with a nice little flutter of adrenaline. I like a little race day nerves, I think they show it means something. Made myself my usual race breakfast of porridge and banana nice and early, even though I didn’t much feel like eating it, chilled out, and took a very relaxed approach to getting ready.
It was great weather for racing, a little sunshine, not too much of a breeze. As I made my way to the start I almost went right past my speedy pal Adam from Elvet Striders and his dad Dave. Luckily they spotted me and waved me out of my nervous distraction, so we had a nice chat which calmed me down a bit before I went for a quick warm up.
At the start line, it was all club vests. Very few without and those that weren’t were wearing race vests or just looked like club runners. I felt a bit intimidated. Which is plain daft I know as I’ve probably run a few races more than many club runners, but I was.
Anyway, a whistle blow and we’re off. Not too congested at the start although there’s a bunch up along road and pavement and I watch my footing so I’m not pushed into the kerb. I don’t really have a plan for this one, just run hard and don’t look at the watch.
Within minutes I feel hot, my cheeks are burning. Focus on the form, land light, keep the cadence up. I push on. I haven’t run this course before, but I know the ground from longer summer training runs and cycle rides. The first section is on the quayside, then skirt around a park, past some industrial buildings
A line of metal railings strobe in sunlight and shadow in my peripheral vision, but I know just up ahead, we’ll be running on a boardwalk beside the sea, so I keep my mind focused on that.
But I’m feeling really hot and sweaty now and I haven’t really been running that long. My stomach feels strange, sort of sloshing and churning around, then giving me little stabs every now and then. My brain gives me the line ‘and my stomach is sick’ from the Killers, Mr Brightside, so I use it, singing it in my head to keep my rhythm and distract my focus.
It works for a while, but my mind is racing, jumping from one thing to another, trying to find ways to distract me from the fact that I’m not feeling my best.
Onto the seafront and sand dunes. This really is a lovely spot, but today I barely notice it, battling with my hot head and churning stomach.
Still I try to race, picking off people ahead of me, putting in a little extra effort on the wee bumps over the sand dunes and cruising down the other side. This is not a hilly course, but I try to make the most of every little advantage I have.
Even the sea air has not cooled my face. My legs are still going strong, and I’ve gone back to my old shoes today in the hope of avoiding pins and needles. I can feel that I do hit the ground more heavily with my right foot.
I’m not clock watching, but I know it’s basically an out and back course and just before half way I start feeling like I’m going backwards. The runners I’ve worked hard to pass are now coming back at me and getting away ahead.
I fight it for a while, but in truth, not hard enough. My stomach is still uncomfortable. I feel hot and sick, like a summer Sunday stuck in a car on a long journey unable to open the windows.
I let it go in my head. I know I’m not quite feeling right. I’m not really ill or sick, just uncomfortable and hot and a bit queasy and mentally I give up.
At the turn, just after half way, there’s water. I grab a bottle even though I don’t need it. Anything to signal a change, break the mindset. I wet my lips and throw it away after a couple of sips. A long straight road now along beside the dunes, and there’s air on my face. I breath in great lungfuls and finally my stomach settles.
There’s patches of support from club members along the road here, and I take every shout for every club member as my own. I spot Eric from parkrun on his bike and Jooles who gives me a wave and I begin to pick up.
My hips loosen up and I feel the run stride come easier, more bounding, more open as the breeze cools my forehead. I’ve just had a mid race dip, I tell myself. I can bring it back and I do a little, focusing on my form, starting to pass runners once again. I kick up my heels, keep the turnover fast and lean forward.
There are Tyne Bridge Harriers out in their hundreds. I hear one being supported close behind me. It’s a guy and he draws level with me as I’m about to make a move on another girl. He’s been breathing pretty heavily on my left shoulder for a while and I know he’s worked hard to close the distance.
‘Okay,’ I think, ‘you can pass me if you want, you’ve worked for it, but you’ve got to want it too.’ I swear I don’t pick up or make it difficult, but I don’t make it easy either. He doesn’t go past.
We’re into, I estimate, the last mile and a bit and my brain’s finally set in race mode, but I sense I’ve let my pace drop to settle there. I push on and take at least one of the people who passed me when I was struggling.
At the end of the dunes now, and just the dock industrial area and a quick blast along the quayside to go. A blast of diesel fumes as we run past a lorry, sends my stomach flip flopping again.
A Tyne Bridge Harriers girl draws level just as my watch beeps. “What’s that?” she asks, “is that 5 miles or 6?” I honestly don’t know. It’s the first time I’ve registered a beep from the start. I say “I don’t know, but I think it’s kilometres.” She drops back. I’m still conscious that Tyne Bridge man may be close by and I push on.
As we turn past the park, with the quayside approaching, she draws level again, and I apologise, saying, “I don’t mean to be rude, I’m just not looking at my watch today.” I rarely have this much conversation with anyone when I’m racing, so I know I’m going easy.
She says it’s okay and then gets a shout and a cheer from some supporters on the grass and leaps ahead. But there’s still someone coming up close behind me and I get in my head that it’s Tyne Bridge man. There’s the 6 mile sign. I know I can finish this strong now, but I’m not going to really go until I know I can sustain it. I pick up my knees and push on the pedal another quarter.
He’s coming with me. I can hear him. Good man. He obviously doesn’t know about the Scribbler sprint finish. I wind it up another quarter. And still I can hear him. I do like a challenge. I rarely get one down a finishing straight.
As we walk through the finish funnel, I turn to shake his hand and we compare race notes. 54:01 for me off my watch time (official will be a little more as I was well back from the start). Both just a bit slower than we wanted. But hey, still an okay run.
Like the race itself, I’m a bit of a mix at the finish. Annoyed to be slower than last week, but then what do I expect when I know I did not run as hard? I have a good chat with Adam and Dave which settles my self critical mood a little. And I evangelise the joys of tri to a couple standing near a table with information about the Druridge Bay 10k. It’s a lovely race, but it’s too close to another event I want to do this year.
So, although I was hoping for better, it’s not a bad run and I have more experience to take into my next race. For now though, I’ll just be happy to get a few good weeks of training under my belt and look for the weather to warm up before I take part in my first triathlon of the year.
Stats and stuff:
Blyth Valley 10K 54:01
1) – 0.62m – 5:10(8:19/m) – 60cal
2) – 0.62m – 5:18(8:32/m) – 61cal
3) – 0.62m – 5:16(8:29/m) – 67cal
4) – 0.62m – 5:09(8:18/m) – 68cal
5) – 0.62m – 5:38(9:03/m) – 66cal
6) – 0.62m – 5:32(8:55/m) – 68cal
7) – 0.62m – 5:33(8:56/m) – 68cal
8) – 0.62m – 5:27(8:46/m) – 66cal
9) – 0.62m – 5:29(8:49/m) – 67cal
10) – 0.62m – 5:15(8:26/m) – 64cal
11) – 0.04m – 14(6:06/m) – 4cal