Am I getting better at relaxing over this racing lark or do some races mean more than others? I was really ambivalent about this one this morning. Not feeling like I didn’t want to do it, but not really revved up for it either.
I was still a bit stiff and achey after a week of training and some changes to my plans. I ran intervals on Tuesday morning and then a 3 miler on Wednesday – neither of which quite hit the pace I was looking for, but still counted as decent training.
My usual Thursday morning PT session got shifted to Friday afternoon as I’d booked a half day off work. I ended up rushing to get there, struggling to get away from work, but I made it. This is always my toughest and most testing session and Ian really put me through a tough whole body workout. By the time he said ‘Right, that’s your warm up’, I was already fighting for breath. But I made it through, with a couple of new exercises thrown in for good measure.
Then off home for a shower and a bit of a relax before a night out at the Stadium of Light for Pet Shop Boys and Take That. It was a fantastic show, but I’m not sure bouncing up and down like a loon for the best part of two hours, followed by standing in a queue for another two before standing on a Metro to get home is the best way to recover from a tough session. My hips were not happy.
Hence, no Saturday parkrun. I had thought of getting up and volunteering, but opted for a restful morning, knowing that I had to give myself a chance to recover before my race today.
I ran this last year. It’s all off road, trail and tarmac, looping round the lake at a country park and out under tree lined paths alongside a beautiful stretch of beach. Not a PB course, but after feeling like I took it relatively easy at the Pier to Pier last weekend, I’d said I wanted to give this one a good blast. When I woke up this morning, still feeling the aches, I wasn’t sure what would be on the cards.
Last year it was damp, grey, windy and dreary, but I loved the race which offered something a little different, but wasn’t too testing underfoot for a road runner like me. Getting a fly past from a Sea-King helicopter was an unexpected bonus too.
I was a little sad to miss the Nissan Run for Japan 10k and wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew, so it was great to bump into Tove and Jules from parkrun before the start. And as I lined up and did some stretches, a runner smiled and said hello and then “You must be a proper Fetchie with the shirt and the bandanna.” (I’d wrapped my buff round my wrist). And so it was I met Mick. Nice to meet you!
After some announcements we couldn’t hear due to the wind, and with a quick exchange of good lucks, we were off. I wanted to at least give it a fair shot, so dived off ahead finding my way through the field which thinned out nicely very quickly. Out along the tarmac paths through the park, a bit twisty turny through the trees, but a decent first kilometre to find my rhythm and check the pace at 5:05. Good I haven’t gone haring off too much, but I’m running okay.
As we turned towards the lake and a little more uphill, I could feel the effort pulling on my abs. Each footstep was like a mini crunch on muscles that reminded me of Friday’s hanging knee lifts and weren’t amused. I had my usual silly ‘This is too hard, why don’t you slow it down, walk and settle’ conversation somewhere between 1 and 2k. It is totally daft, it doesn’t last long and thank goodness I’ve learned to ignore it.
Just after the lake, Glenn, a guy who used to work with my husband, came past me and I said hello. We chatted for a few strides before he overtook me and he told me this year the route was different and we wouldn’t be running along the beach. I was a bit disappointed as that was one of the highlights last year (and I’d taped up my toe hole in preparation to avoid picking up too much sand). But it spurred me on, knowing that I wouldn’t have that slog up from the beach to sap my legs.
I don’t know if it’s just something I’ve got in my head, but I seem to end up running a lot of races on my own. Never part of a pack or a group, not sticking with any runner for long. Those in front a little too far to catch in a matter of minutes and those behind not breathing down my neck. It was the same on this run. And I tried to get myself in the same mental mindset as I had at the Clive Cookson 10k, just running my own race, pushing on over the gravelly trails.
At around 5k I think Mick came past me with a friendly greeting and I tried to keep with him for a while, but my pace had dropped a little. Up ahead I could see the bobbing white cap and blonde pony tail of Tove from parkrun, tantalisingly catchable if I just kept pushing.
I remembered the second part of this route as tough, with a couple of inclines, and so it proved. The first one I tried to power up into the wind. I overtook a guy in a green top as I put in a spurt of effort, but I couldn’t sustain it all the way, and he overtook me again, asking “How you doing?” as he passed and I was barely able to gasp out “OK”.
I don’t run a lot of hilly routes. I’m not afraid of them and in races I can often power up and pass people. But these slow, gentle inclines sapped my legs and I eased back. By 6k I was feeling better, smoother, stretching out the legs, even knowing there was a bit more up to come. The paths here were more tarmac than trail and I tried to use my road legs to push on, telling myself not to leave it all to the last kilometre.
Between 7 and 8k, we’d just come up another incline and I saw a young lad walking with his head down. I didn’t have the breath to offer him a word of encouragement. But a guy behind me did. With just a few gentle words like “Keep it going…take it easy…breathe out…short breaths in, long breaths out,”
I could sense them forming a small pack behind me. And I listened to the guy coaching the young lad and started doing what he said, breathing easy, taking small steps up the last incline. All stuff I know and coach myself to do in my head, but it really helped me and I tackled the last up a lot more consistently than the first one.
As the pack went past, I told the guy I appreciated the coaching and he replied “Just trying to keep myself going,”. I’d resolved to try and hold onto them to pull me round a bit faster for the last mile or so. But they pulled ahead and the lad fell back. He was running step in step with me, so I took over and tried to keep him going. Saying nothing very different to what the other guy had done, just listening to his breathing and encouraging him to take it in when I could hear that tension and tightness. Then telling him to stretch his legs out at we came to the flatter bits.
At moments I out of the corner of my eye I saw him reach for his side, probably feeling a stitch and I encouraged him to breath. I felt like I was breathing easy myself, keeping enough to be able to offer a word or two here or there. And I didn’t want to leave him.
The wind picked up into our face and he dropped behind a bit, but there was a smattering of supporters who shouted “Go on lad! Go on young ‘un!”. And bless him, he fought back and caught me up.
At the 9k point I said “Just five more minutes,” and pushed on a little harder. And he stuck with me, through the trees, over the trails, round the last corner. As the orange netting marking the finishing line approached, I shouted “Sprint!” and put the hammer down. And he went with me. And kept going. And beat me fair and square.
My time as I crossed the line was 52:44. I had to check later, but it’s a course PB and I was mightily pleased with that. Tove remained ahead in those last few kilometres, but running with the young lad had taken my mind off catching anyone else. I felt like I maybe could have pushed a little harder towards the end, but today I took pride in wearing my Fetch top and being a Fetchie, encouraging someone on to run a cracking time. And you could argue that actually, I was more relaxed and ran faster anyway. The finish certainly didn’t hurt as much as my last 10k finish.
It was a lovely race. I enjoyed it, and ran well despite my aches and pains. I still get those negative moments, but they don’t last and afterwards I barely remember them. And I always get through them. And I never stop.
So, onwards and upwards. A tough week, with plenty of running lined up. And then a race I love and seem to run well in the week after. Am I ready for Blaydon? You know what? I think I will be…
Stats and stuff:
1) 5:06 (8:12/m) – 62cal
2) 5:13 (8:23/m) – 65cal
3) 5:09 (8:17/m) – 66cal
4) 5:24 (8:41/m) – 64cal
5) 5:26 (8:44/m) – 65cal
6) 5:42 (9:10/m) – 65cal
7) 5:31 (8:53/m) – 64cal
8 ) 5:17 (8:30/m) – 65cal
9) 5:22 (8:38/m) – 65cal
10) 4:36 (8:28/m) – 55cal
After a race like that, what could be better than brunch at my favourite coffee shop in Longframlington? Beth (@OrganicBeth) made perfect scrambled eggs on toast and I tucked in at the same time as enjoying lots of foodie conversations with a couple of new friends I’ve made on Twitter – Maunika (@cookinacurry) and Sarah (@tentspitch). Despite being stuffed with great breakfasts, we still found room to salivate talking of Indian spices, parathas, dhosas and doughnuts.