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The kitchen sink

Telford 10k race report

 

The die was cast a month ago when I committed to one more 10k for the year. I’ve tackled it a fair bit in 2014. Five times including Telford. One of those was a steady effort but the other four were all going full guns to break 33 minutes.

 

Last year in November I ran a break through PB of 33:06 at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k. It was over 90 seconds quicker than I’d gone before. I was over the moon. But the feeling soon settled into a “if I can knock such a big chunk off my time surely I can find 7 seconds more?” mood.

 

Thus 2014 became, as far as the 10k is concerned, the year to break 33 minutes.

 

It started in May with an attempt on the track at the Highgate 10,000. Unbelievably windy conditions (blowing tents and things over around the track) meant that attempt was put paid to before it even got started. I got around in 33:41 and couldn’t have found 1 second more.

 

The next attempt was sometime later. Also on the track, at the Trafford 10,000, in September. This race was inconsiderate enough to place itself the first weekend after our family summer break to Lanzarote. Needless to say my shape wasn’t razor sharp. I had kept the fitness up but didn’t have the edge required to turn 33:20 into 32:55 form. I laboured around for a very evenly paced 33:18.

 

Then came the first road attempt of the year, the Leeds Abbey Dash. The same race I had had the big breakthrough the previous year. I lined up with Dan, personal pacemaker (a seasoned veteran having bested the pesky barrier at the aforementioned Trafford race with a gutsy 32:50). Sadly the challenge never got off the ground, due to starting too far back, a schoolboy error, and being caught in a very congested field moving just a touch too slow. The quality is very high at the Leeds race and the road was wall-to-wall with guys running 3:25 kays when we wanted 3:18s. The cumulative difference took its toll and by halfway in 17:04 there was no chance of breaking 33. I pinned my ears back and buried myself coming home for a second half of 16:11. Partly frustration and partly just wanting to not give up on the goal. The resulting 33:15 was not what I wanted but the 16:11 told me I still had a shot if I paced it better. Commit more you fool.

 

Onto the 4th and final attempt, another road race, this time the Telford 10k in December. It has a mineshaft first km and gentle ups and downs after that. I was determined to get out fast enough to be in the game. I was sick of 3:25 openers and trying to claw back deficits. But I was equally cautious of selling my goat before 3k and ending with the opposite of Leeds, a fast start and a slow finish. That was not on the Christmas list.

 

With that bubbling away in my mind, the gun went and we were off. Thankfully temperatures the night before hadn’t gone below zero so the paths were ice free, a deal breaker if they weren’t and a common danger in December.

 

A reminder: I needed 3:18 per km to run 33:00.

 

Anything under was good, anything over meant I’d need to drag it back somewhere.

 

First kay 3:13. Factoring in the downhill start this was not fast, but was fast enough to get me in the game. Just what I wanted. I settled in. Passed a few groups trying to find a gang moving at a pace I felt was right. Second km in 3:17, still good. Third in 3:13, more of the same. I was starting to feel it now and decided to sit with a trio I had caught. 4th km in 3:22. Panic. Is this the start of a blow? I needed a good halfway split to motivate myself for the pain coming on the second lap of the two lap course.

Telford 10k 2014

I pushed on past them and found another trio but I had worked hard to get to them, 5th km in 3:12 and halfway in 16:17.

 

Excellent this was where I wanted it to be. But I was hurting now and needed to consolidate for the next few kays. I stuck with the group for a 3:23 and 3:18 6th and 7th km. They were slowing I could feel it. I’m not giving up on this now. I went wide and went past them. Keep the tap fully open Ince, keep the pace going.

 

It was hurting too much now. It had been hurting too much for too long and the fight was ebbing out of me. I want to stop fighting, I want to back off and let the pain subside. Come on. Keep going. No I need this to ease.

 

The 8th kay was a 3:27 as a result of this internal argument. That fired me up. What the fuck are you doing?! I’m not binning this after all the work I’ve done. Come on man. Two more kays to go.

 

We turned at the traffic cone somewhere around this point and I noticed Ed was much closer to me than he should be. Is he ok? Shortly afterwards I passed him walking. Clearly not. A viral infection had not cleared his system in time and sadly his race ended there.

 

Right, refocus you big girl. Two more km’s. Empty the tank. Give it everything. Do not let this slip through your fingers. 9th in 3:16. A good split. Was it enough? Had I lost too much with the 3:27?? I couldn’t work it out anymore. Just throw the works at it. No matter what. Even if you don’t break it, give it horns. Maybe a PB is on the cards if not a sub33. Thoughts just churning around in my foggy head.

 

I hammered the final km. I was hurting so much but I was thinking in minutes not distance. Suffer for 2 more minutes, it can’t be more than 600m now, suffer for 1 more minute. Come on. Dig in. Push harder. Someone was passing me. Go with him. Let him drag you until you can’t go anymore. I rounded the bend, less than 100m to go. The finish clock was on low 32’s. I could do this. I was going to do this. I sprinted with every fibre shouting its displeasure at me. Get over that line! I did it. Crossed the  line with the clock still on 32 something. I don’t even know what.

 

32:44.

 

Yes. Yes. Yes.

 

1 00:03:13
2 00:03:17
3 00:03:13
4 00:03:22
5 00:03:12 00:16:17 1st 5k
6 00:03:23
7 00:03:18
8 00:03:27
9 00:03:16
10 00:03:03 00:16:27 2nd 5k
0:32:44
Ave 0:03:16 per km
78.4 s per lap

 

That right there was the 33-minute dragon slain.

Full results here

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The day dawned dry but windy. Temperatures were mid-teens, perfect for racing (in my opinion). The wind would be a problem, but nothing to do about that but get out there and get going.

 

Jamie and I met up en route to the race and made our way to the baggage area where we hooked up with fellow some BRATs. Dan, my personal pacemaker for the morning, Chris Ashford, Martin Matthews, Ed Barlow and Kevin McMillan. Chris committed to joining Dan and I in the 5:35 bus, targeting in his own words “anything under 74”. Martin was less specific but looked like he meant business. Ed was after “81 or 82” given he wasn’t 100% on his game since the arrival of a small bundle of joy a few months back. Kevin was also vaguely after something around 80 and Jamie was looking for sub90 still on his way back to regular running again.

 

We lined up in our separate pen directly behind the elites and waited for the gun. For this race report to make sense it is probably worth looking at the course profile below. As alluded to many times in the TV commentary this is a tough course with a few nasty inclines and then a killer climb of at least a mile between 17km and 19km. These climbs and the gradual uphill from 5-10 and gentle down from 10-15 define the race. “Unusually tough for an international event looking to attract the fastest runners in the world”.

 

The gun went and the stampede ensued. The first km is a mineshaft drop that you can really do without. I was determined not to overcook this downhill start and held back as much as possible. A group headed by Dan and Chris was at least 50m ahead of me when I went through the first km in 3:31. I knew I needed to latch on, and once the dangerous down was out the way I consciously stepped on the gas to catch up to the back of the group. It was about a dozen strong, including three of the elite women, Irvette Van Zyl from SA, Ana Dulce Felix from Portugal and another who I didn’t know. My second km was 3:13. I was surprised at the pace but wasn’t too worried as I was now in the bus and felt like I hadn’t cooked the goose. I settled in at the back while Dan and Ana drove on at the front. The next 3 km’s were 3:18, 3:26 and 3:31, taking me to the 5k mark in 16:59. I was working pretty hard to stay with the group but had faith in Dan’s pace making. I figured if I could stick with him for long enough it would start to feel right because I knew it was a pace I was should be able to live with.

 

At around 6k we turned right up the first notable pull of the day. The group immediately stretched. A few fell off. Irvette and I slid off the back slightly and ran side by side for a while behind them. I wanted to say something to her, preferably in Afrikaans thinking she would be boosted by knowledge that she had a countryman of sorts helping her. I couldn’t think of anything to say so didn’t say anything, thanks brain. As we hit the top of the climb and turned left back towards Pershore Road I sped up and closed back onto the bus, which had now been whittled to about 8 survivors. Irvette came with me and we resumed our position at the back of the pack, getting towed along.

 

At this point Felix decided she had more legs and as soon as we got back onto Pershore Road she pushed ahead with one of the uni youngsters who had been in our group. The pair disappeared off and we didn’t see them again. The climb to the 10k mark was wearing people down and a few more detached as we turned the corner and hit Bournville. The sharp incline saw off Irvette and I didn’t see her again for the rest of the race.

 

We passed the 10k mark in 34:37, our group had now become an exclusive BRAT-only three-way. And everyone loves a BRAT three-way. Dan and Chris with me tucked in behind forming a tight triangle. I felt great at this point and on a high, commended Dan on his sterling work so far.

 

Orlando Corea formerly of Bournville but now of Birchfield fame, had been quietly biding his time in the group in the early stages but had disappeared when it got whittled down. But he is a classy runner with a 71min half to his name from a few years ago and now he reappeared and our became 4. Luckily the Birchfield vest is also black so we still looked good heading back down the other side of Pershore Road. The gentle incline going the other direction was now a gentle descent and the pace edged up slightly as Dan looked to put some time in the bank. Successive km’s of 3:25, 3:23, 3:24 were rattled off as we marched on. Orlando decided he’d had enough of this pedestrian pace and broke clear to a point about 30m ahead of us.

 

The increasing pace on the descent, combined with the fatigue starting to accumulate as we hit the 13-14km zone, caused me to start faltering. I was struggling with the pace and probably subconsciously thinking of the final 5k of the race. See the profile to remind you how ugly the final 5k is. I slipped a few metres off the pace as Dan and Chris closed the gap back towards Orlando. At this point I was hurting and I was also fairly happy with how the race had gone. I was reaching that point where you think, you know what, I’ve banked a great first 14km here, I can settle in, not hurt so much and still run a solid sub75. It’s the usual negotiations your body enters into with your mind as the hurt starts increasing exponentially. “Why not stop this nonsense?” it says. “You’ve done well buddy, you deserve a bit of foot off the gas time”. As they edged 5, 10, 15 metres ahead of me I was saying in my head “Don’t look back Dan, just keep going and stay with those 2, let me suffer quietly on my own.” Obviously at exactly that point Dan, the star that he is, looked back and saw I was off the back. He immediately ran wide and slowed so I caught up to him. “Come on mate” he said “Work back to the group. Let’s get back to them”. I put my head down and put the opt-out plan out of my head, and tucked in behind him as he took me back to the group. The 4 of us were now reunited heading into Cannon Hill Park.

 

I must have run literally hundreds of miles in Cannon Hill Park. It is a great place to train, not to mention home of the cannon hill parkrun, which I’ve run 60+ times. We climbed a short hill in the park and set off towards one of the gates at the top. Chris was opening an energy gel he had been carrying and moved across the road to get some water from a station as we passed. There was contact between him and Orlando and he went down. Hard. Really hit the tarmac. None of this semi-slam stuff, this was the real deal. I was off to his right and had just missed getting caught in the fall, Dan was slightly ahead so was also unscathed, but Orlando had stumbled over Chris being right behind him and I think slowed to assess the damage. Suddenly it was just me and Dan. We went through the 15km in 51:55. Maybe it was the adrenalin from being right next to the fall but I suddenly felt full of running. I pulled up alongside Dan as we exited the park and began the journey towards The Hill. “Relax” Dan said “don’t push yet mate, just keep doing what you’re doing.” The advice was timeous and gratefully received. I felt good but was unsure how to proceed and I figured, well this guy has been spot on with his pacing so far, why second guess anything now?

 

We headed through Highgate and towards the main road that would pull us painfully back up the hill towards the city centre. The two kay splits from cannon hill to the start of the hill were 3:27 and 3:28. I felt good, I felt confident. Bring this hill on. Then something amazing happened. First we heard footsteps and before we knew it, Chris was back in the group! Bleeding a lot from his right knee and even more from his right elbow and arm, he had somehow made up the ground and latched back on. “Chris you legend” I said to him. And so the 3 of us hit the foot of the climb.

 

I tucked in behind the two of them as we began to climb. About a quarter of the way up Chris got perhaps half a yard on us and Dan looked at me and said “go with him mate”. It was all I needed to hear. More impeccable advice. I sped up to Chris, leaving Dan, pacemaker extraordinaire, behind. He had worked so hard as wind breaker, pace-judger and advice-giver to this point. I felt bad as I pulled away, but I remembered what he had said pre-race “mate I will give everything to deliver you to the bottom of the climb. Then you can (Chris) Froome it from there”. So I stretched away and tucked in behind Chris. Almost immediately I pulled back out of his slipstream and went past. I suddenly knew it was time to empty the contents of whatever was still rattling around in the locker. I raced up the hill hurting but feeling great. Strange. I knew I was going to run a good time. I was sure I was close to my PB. I must be. I picked out Martin up ahead who was having a very decent run. I caught and passed him and set my target on two of the elite starters who were in range. From the top of the hill it must be about 2k to the finish. I was working really hard now and picking up the pace a lot.

 

My splits up the hill had been 3:53 and 3:46. Those kays had added 23 and 16 seconds respectively onto my 3:30 target average. I could only hope I had built up enough reserve to offset them. I couldn’t do the maths now. I turned right onto Hagley Road and could taste the finish. The 20k marker was coming up on my left, I had walked past it earlier that morning to get to the start. I flew past the mark in 70:02. I could get under 74. The hill hadn’t killed off the PB chance. I caught up with a Highgate harrier elite and tried to work with him. He wasn’t too interested in helping with the pace but also was clearly in no mood to let me get away. We sprinted down Broad Street towards the finish line. I love this bit of the race. One of the best finishes of any race. Crowds lining either side of the dual carriageway. You feel like a superstar. The gentle downhill. The proximity to the finish. It all adds up to an awesome kick for home. The Highgate runner outkicked me with ease but I didn’t care. I felt like I was flying. The final km split of 3:05 confirms, that for me, I was. I stopped the clock on 1:13:29. A 20 second PB. I was exhausted and ecstatic.

 

I finished 23rd or 24th (tbc) overall.

 

I walked through the finish area and waited for the guys to come in behind me. A clutch of BRATS, Martin, Chris and Dan all finished around 74 minutes. We must have sewn up the club competition (also tbc). I gave Dan a huge thank you, geeky runner’s style high five. Mate you were rock solid in today’s race. Without your work there was no PB for me. Simple as that.

 

Chris, what a hero, finishing in 73:56 and rushing straight off to hospital to get stitched up. Martin a solid solid race. If you’d run with us in the beginning instead of doing all that work on your own, you’d no doubt have been quicker. Dan, enough said.

 

Jamie had a less memorable run, having to stop numerous times for a stomach problem, Ed Barlow was pleased with his 81 and Kevin seemed satisfied with his 81.

 

What an awesome race. Birmingham’s own little version of VLM day. Not that little actually with over 20,000 runners.

 

See you in 2015.

 

BHM2014 course profile

 

 

 

BHM14 splits

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Saturday 17 May was the 2014 British Masters (BMAF) Road Relay Champs in Sutton Park, Birmingham.

 

I was running leg 1 in the M35 race (age 35-44). M35 race 6 legs, M45 race 4 legs and M55 3 legs.

 

Each leg is run on the same 3 mile loop.

 

I set off steadily and successfully managed to avoid being trampled in the mad stampede from the gun. Us old timers take this seriously. And start fast! (just in case we don’t finish fast at least we’ve done something quickly). I must have been well outside the top 20 going up the hill about 400 yards into the race. I eased into my running over the next minute or two and started catching and passing people as they tackled the climb. Based on the people coming back to me even at this stage, it seems time and experience doth not necessarily a savvy racer make.

 

We hit the top of the climb, a nasty half mile or so of ascent and the toughest part of the route. I felt ok and continued to accelerate. As I made my way past the small groups working together which were getting slightly separated from each other now, I could see the lead pack of about 6 runners ahead. Without thinking about it I had pushed ahead of the second group and suddenly found myself completely on my own between the lead pack and the chasers, in no man’s land. Idiot! At this point we passed the 1 mile mark. I made a decision to put everything into latching onto the back of the lead pack if I could, which was in single file now.

 

I managed to catch them over the next few hundred yards and thought oh my gosh I’m in the lead pack at nationals. I savoured the moment whilst also thinking, hang on, I’m actually ok at this pace, what happens now?? Before I knew it I had edged past a few more and was now lying in third place.

 

We were approaching the halfway point which is a switchback around a traffic cone and back down the other side of the road. Slowing down to make the 180 degree turn and accelerating back up to race pace took a lot out of me. Not to worry I thought, it will have done the same to the other two. We continued to run in the 3 man breakaway.

 

One of the three dropped back a little bit and I thought he was gone. Wow, where is this going to end? Could I even entertain the thought of being in the lead??

2014 Nationals Masters Relay

 

Before I could answer that question we hit the long drag down the hill back past the lake and towards the final climb, twist, and climb for home. 2 miles came and went somewhere here. On the downhill the lead guy stretched away and the guy who I thought had been dropped came past me as well and latched onto the leader. I was hurting all over the place now, and the pain was sapping the fight from me. They got a 10m gap and then it was too late. They were gone and I was running on my own. It became survival to the finish now, just hang onto third you sissy. I could hear cheering and support not far behind me so I knew the chasing pack was close. I dug in and thought no way I was losing third after putting myself out there for the past 2 miles. I worked up the little pull, focused on pace through the twists and turned right into the final climb up the finishing straight. I put everything into the climb, no-one is passing me now I kept telling myself.

 

Third over the line! 15:24 for the 3 miles. I raced hard, gave it everything and will most definitely take that time on a far from flat course.

 

(Truth be told I’d take that time on a pancake flat course. I had a good day, simple as that).

 

I wasn’t able to stick around for the rest of the relay legs so I’m not sure how everyone else did, other than by looking at the results. Well done to everyone who turned out for the club.

 

M35

15 BRAT A 1h45.58m

Mark Ince 15.24m

Kevin McMillan 17.27m -10

Adam Higgins 18.11m -6

Robin Biles 16.45m +2

Simon White 20.02m +3

Jort Vanmourik 18.09m -1

 

M45

38 BRAT 1h22.02m

Peter Brown 21.30m

Nicholas Iliff 21.44m +2

Paul Robertshaw 20.07m +7

Owen Doherty 18.41m +28

 

M55

8 BRAT 56.10m

Richard Gray 17.07m

Martin Ludford 18.58m -14

Robert Andrews 20.05m -9

 

 

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Yes I know it’s almost February, but here is my wrap up of 2013.

It will not be a year I forget in a hurry.

There are many things that shape our lives, some good some bad. And as we stumble through these things and find the paths we need, we get hurt and we get knocked down. But we develop strength and resilience. And most importantly, we always always learn along the way.

So onto my running headlines for the year.

Where do I start with the year I’ve just had? In any other year each of the following items would be head and shoulders above everything else. In no particular order here they are.

Friends

“Lame” I hear you say. Too bad. The support from my running friends has been overwhelming and unwavering. I’ve lent on so many of you so many times. So many to thank, you know who you are.

There are some standout moments. Running London with Barrow (more on that later) the older brother I never had (and did I mention older? ), the flexibility afforded to me in training times – people being willing to adjust their schedules to suit my higgledy piggledy new regime. Dan doing everything in his power to get me to run the Coventry 5000. “I just really want you to have a go mate”. Offering many lifts, sacrificing his car for the entire week if needs be leading up to the race to help me get on the start line. Simone and Gracie, both rocks in so many ways, there for me, providing hands to drag me from the brink of some of the darkest blackest holes I’ve had the displeasure of looking in to. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude guys. Looking back on how the year started is like looking at a movie of someone else’s life. I’ve come so far since then and it seems surreal that I was ever in that place. The foundation created by those first few months was the platform on which my running year was built, but it could have been so different without the help of all my friends. Thank you each and every one.

15:51

ABMC 1551h the infamous Coventry 5000. Probably the single  most significant race of the year. An earlier blog post covers it in full detail. Click the image for a link to the post.

Summary: I broke a long standing PB from 1994 as well as getting under 16 minutes for the first time.

18:55

2013 6StgNational Six Stage Road Champs. First time under 19 minutes and first (and possibly last) time I’ve beaten the class of Dan R, Chris A and Tim C in the same race. This race is an unusual distance (5.85km), so it is difficult to relate it to the other race distances but the powerof10 website ranked it higher than all my other races save the 33:06 Telford 10k in December.

73:49

Bristol Half Marathon. After the 15:51 this is probably the next big breakthrough I had. I went in with a PB of 77:26 and aspirations of breaking that time and possibly sneaking under 75 for a UK Marathon championship qualifier if it went well. It went very well. I ran fairly even splits to about halfway or just after and then dropped the hammer over the final 3-4 miles for a big negative split and even bigger PB.

33:06

I had the pleasure of running this exact time twice in two months. First in the Leeds 10k in November and then in the Telford 10k in December. My previous PB was 35:00 so I was chomping at the bit to get under the 35 minute mark. Leeds goes down as the big breakthrough simply because it was first. Similar to Bristol I ran a negative split although not as marked. Halves of 16:42 and 16:24. I was over the moon. The whole race felt good, never in too much trouble. The next month at the Telford 10 I put no pressure on myself, thinking that the 33:06 was out of reach. As it turned out I had had another great day and was on pace for a PB and even a sub33 through halfway in 16:29. I tied up a bit on the second half and the final slight inclines from 7-9k did me in.

Mileage 3018

My mileage for the year topped out at 3018 or 4855km. This works out to 58 miles or 93km per week. Not my biggest year, in 2011 I ran 100 miles more overall, but I feel this year the quality of the running was much better and I was able to tap into some of the strength I’ve been accumulating over the past 4 or 5 years of reasonable miles.

108 miles in one week

Prior to 2013 I had never run a 100 mile week or even a 90 mile week. In the summer my training was a bit sporadic on a week-by-week basis depending on the childcare situation. One of the weeks when I wasn’t seeing them at all a colleague asked what I intended to do with my free time. “I’ll probably just run” was my response. The week didn’t even start off that impressively and I didn’t start thinking about what it might total until the Wednesday. I felt great all week, probably because the novelty of the mileage was overriding the general fatigue I must have been carrying. Two weeks after the 108, I ran a 91 mile week. I look back on those two August weeks and really believe they kicked my form on for the rest of the summer.

VLM

2013 vlmA fantastic race weekend with Gracie, Barrow and I and a very personal shared race experience. One of my favourite people in the world and lifetime mate Barrow, who like a fine wine gets better with age, came over from SA to run London with me this year, and to try and break 3 hours. We ran every step together, and although we never quite hit the sub3, ending with a 3:04, it was one of the running highlights of my life.

Iffley Road Stadium Mile

A chance to run on the fabled Iffley track, surely the most famous running track in the world. And better still to run the distance it became famous f2013 Iffley02or, the fabulous mile. Travelled down with Dan and Tim, partners in crime. Dan and I were drawn in the same heat and quickly moved to the front of the race when it became obvious the others weren’t keen on the 70 second laps we wanted. I took over from about 500 or 600 metres in and kept the gas pedal pressed hard, Dan stuck to my shoulder all the way through the bell. I felt him wanting to come past and I pressed again determined not to let the pace slide. Going around the final bend into the finishing straight he eased wide and came past me. I kicked to stay in touch but he was too strong and I ended a second or two behind him in 4:41.62 for second place.2013 Iffley01

Roon the Watter

Going into any race as defending champion is pretty cool and I loved turning up at Roon and getting a mention on the start line. Jon and Teri were there as always. Teri looking after the girls while Jon, Bec and I ran. I had run 34:50 something to win the 6 mile race the previous year and was hoping for quicker. I didn’t know my road form but had been racing a lot on the track which I hoped would have me race sharp at least. I won it in 33:12 and have a full report on the blog already here.

Why?

So that was 2013. In a nutshell the best running year I’ve ever had. All-time personal bests on the track over the mile and 5000m and on the road at 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon. Where did it come from? I’m not entirely sure but there are a few factors this year that have almost certainly had a big part in it. It would be remiss of me not to mention the weight loss. I lost half a stone early in the year and decided to tighten up my diet and ensure it stayed off. I cut out a lot of fizzy drinks and crisps, and my personal Achilles heel, late night snacking.

Nutrition aside, I joined Bud Baldaro’s training group in January and it is surely no coincidence my running curved steadily upwards once the Tuesday sessions with Bud’s group started bedding in. I couldn’t be more grateful to Bud, Johnny Cullen – who talked me into joining them – and the Tuesday night gang. Thanks guys.

The only PB’s I still have outstanding from my uni days (or first career as Jamie calls it) are 800, 1500 and 3000. Let’s see how 2014 goes.

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Official results are yet to appear but before this race becomes a distant memory here are some thoughts.

rtw map

Jon, Bec and I headed back to Gatehouse of Fleet on Tuesday 30 July to run the Roon the Watter 6 mile race for the second year in a row. My second year at any rate – Jon’s fifth (?).  Teri, Jode and Abs accompanied us to provide moral support, cheerleading and photo-taking duties.

Having won the previous year (in 34:52) I was looking forward to trying to defend my title. A year is a long time and a lot of things have changed since this time last year, but I felt I was in as good or better shape. Fitness-wise at least the same, race sharpness was better having run more track races this season than last, and not insignificantly, being a few pounds lighter.

The weather was variable leading up to the 6:30pm start time. Nice and sunny most of the day, then the heavens opened about two hours before the start, and then all but stopped just as the starting horn sounded.

It was race organiser Mac McNamara’s final year of organising the race. After 30+ years in charge he was handing over the reins to Galloway Harriers, who are sure to do as fantastic a job with the race in years to come.

There were some brief announcements at the start, an emotional round of applause for Mac, a mention that the defending champions in both the men’s and women’s race were present, which was nice. And then we were off.

rtw profile

I tagged onto the back of the lead group over the first half mile or so, to see if there were any classy guys about to blast out of sight. I edged to the front of the group without really meaning to and found myself leading the pack of 4 through the first mile in 5:20. The second mile has a fair amount of climbing in it and I wasn’t surprised when we to see we had run a 5:47 to the second mile. At this point one of the 4 had been dropped and I started feeling more confident about the race. I figured if there was real class in the field he wouldn’t have let the second mile slow like that, even up the hill. I pushed on a bit in the next mile, putting my foot down in 10 or 15 second bursts and then easing up to see if anyone had come with me. Covering the mile in this way I dropped first one and then the other runner so that I reached halfway on my own, covering the third mile in 5:29 for a halfway split of 16:36. I realised at this point that I had a chance of breaking 34 minutes if I held it together, which was more than I thought possible at the start.

The fourth mile continued the up-and-down terrain. Running more evenly I managed a 5:31 for this mile. I couldn’t hear any footsteps behind me by now and knew I must have a reasonable lead. I still didn’t feel confident that someone wouldn’t come back to me though and kept a bit in reserve in case someone did catch me. The fifth mile was 5:44. Once I got into the final mile and was feeling more confident about my chances I cut loose a bit and stretched my legs. It felt great running the final mile which is down the high street with lots of support. This mile is also downhill and I savoured just putting whatever was left in the tank onto the road. I ran 5:12 for that mile and crossed the finish line in 33:12.

Roon2013

I was really happy to defend my title and was in equal part pleased and surprised with the time. More than I could have hoped for.

1 00:05:20
2 00:05:47
3 00:05:29
4 00:05:31
5 00:05:44
6 00:05:12
00:00:09
0:33:12

I’m not sure about the extra 9 seconds at the end. I guess my Garmin measured the course as a bit longer than 6.0 miles. Put that down to me not running the best racing line around the corners!

The local paper, the Galloway Gazette, covered the race with a headline article and a full report on the race including selected results.

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 It’s not often I get to talk about “that time I won a race”.

 

I suppose that is not strictly true as I can *talk* about it as many times as I want (collective sigh) but what I mean is that I don’t often win the damn things.

 

So going into last Tuesday evening’s Roon the Watter 6 miler in the lovely Gatehouse-of-Fleet in Scotland I was not expecting to come out on top. I had decided a top 5 was on the cards, given that I had finished 6th two years earlier. That was after a fairly poor performance with some asthma issues (excuses alert!). I knew I had to go back and race it properly. Cue 2012. We were in that part of Scotland on holiday, visiting Bec’s dad, Jon, himself an experienced runner.

 

Roon the Watter is Scottish speak for “Around the Water” I think. Scotland doesn’t bother with new-fangled metric nonsense, preferring to stick with the good old fashioned 6-mile races. Not conforming to current running society’s more favoured 10km. No complaints from this end, since it provided me a good opportunity to improve on my rather weak PB set two years earlier at the same race. Hey it’s the only other 6 mile race I have done.

 

The day was great, ideal conditions for running, possibly not spectating. It started raining about an hour before the evening start. The starting horn was sounded and off we charged. I had looked around on the start line for a few recognisable faces who I thought might be there for the win. I couldn’t see them and guessed they might be a few rows back or something. Once we got going however, it was very clear that no-one was going to take the pace out. It was never my intention to set off in the lead but it happened by default. About half a mile into the race I was a good 10 or 20 metres clear. The first mile marker went by in 5:44. A sensible start after all. I had been wondering if I was somehow sprinting like an idiot. Where was everyone? In the second mile I stopped hearing any other footsteps and started to think this might be a canter home. I lost concentration a bit as a result and slowed to a 6:12 for the second mile.

 

Then things started to get more interesting. During the third mile I heard someone gaining on me, and gaining pretty fast. Oh well, this is it, I thought. If they’re closing me down this quickly they’ll go straight past. I told myself second was still a good position and felt a bit silly for thinking I could win the thing. The guy caught up with me shortly before the third mile marker, which I’d run in 5:42. Halfway in 17:38. I decided that I owed it to myself to at least try and stick with him for a few minutes, so I latched on.

 

The route is pretty hilly throughout and I noticed that on every uphill he slowed a lot. So much so that I thought he might be trying to psyche me out and wondered if it was tactic. I didn’t push hard on the hills but I seemed to stretch away on each one before he caught up on the downhills. We yo-yo’ed like this for the next mile or so, on a very undulating section of the course. I came to realise he just wasn’t very strong on hills.

 

Having a memory like a sieve I did not remember much of the course from my run two years earlier, but luckily I had spoken to Jon earlier who was also running it that day. He told me that mile four to five is uphill and the final mile, five to six, is flat and downhill. I formulated a ropey plan. I would hit it hard as soon as we passed the 4 mile marker and would work my ass off for that mile, get a lead and run the final mile as hard as I could so (hopefully) the guy wouldn’t be able to close the gap on the downs of the final mile. I did it and it worked a treat, which I was thankful for, because the effort on the hills had floored me and I knew if he caught me now I’d be cashing in my chips.

 

Running the final mile back into town and down the high street was a very cool experience. I knew Bec, Jodie, Abby and Teri would be watching somewhere on this road and it felt awesome to be the one following the lead car through this part of the course. I turned into the final right hander up the road to the finish, crossed the line and that was that. J

 

At the prize giving I was awarded a floating trophy, a big shield with the race winner each year engraved onto it. They did nervously confirm that I would be able to return the following year to give the shield back, being that I was coming all the way from England (the deep south). I also got a mini version of the shield which I get to keep, and a voucher for the local pub in Gatehouse.

 

I may not get to experience this kind of thing again so I made sure to savour the moment.

 

Thanks to my able support crew, cheering in rain or shine. And well done to Jon who comfortably completed the race, using his “start sensible, finish strong” approach meaning he crosses the line looking like he hasn’t run yet.

 

 

My mile splits went 5:44, 6:12, 5:42, 5:56, 5:58, 5:20. Halves of 17:38 and 17:14  for a finishing time of 34:52.

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Two Oceans 2012

This is a running blog and I will do my best to stick to talking about the race and not about the FANTASTIC holiday we all had in South Africa this Easter.

 

Chapter 1 (Don’t worry these are short chapters): The Preparation

 

My training this year has been a mere shadow of last year’s. My long run count was down by nearly half (6 runs of 18 miles or over, compared with 13 runs last year). My 12-week average leading into this year’s race hovered just below 60. Last year it had been early 70’s.

But let’s dispense with bland statistics at this point, because, as we all know, we can massage them to tell whatever story we like. The bottom line is that this year I was a lot more relaxed about my buildup and was feeling in great shape. I had my form verified by two performances – a half marathon PB in 77:26 and a 20 mile “marathon pace” race in 2:09. I knew I hadn’t logged the big miles but felt I was in decent shape anyway. I was in a good place.

 

Chapter 2: The Hiccough

 

Two weeks before race day I developed a nasty cough. Was it mental? Would it go away? What the hell man. I didn’t go to the doctor. I should have. The cough didn’t go away. In Cape Town, three days before the race my sister insisted I see a doctor. (She is a wise woman, my sister). The doc broke the news that I had bronchitis. He told me not to run, and immediately followed that up by announcing that he expected I would ignore his advice and run (He is a wise man, that doctor). I dosed up on the meds and waited for a miraculous recovery.

 

Chapter 3: Race time

 

Rain had been forecast for the day. The forecast was right. But we had a dry first hour, so hey let’s not complain. I set off knowing I needed 4:10 or quicker per km, in order to average the 4:17 required for a silver medal. (Breaking 4 hours at Oceans gets you a silver medal). First km or two I was in thickish crowds working my way through. The splits were 4:50 and 4:20. No problem yet. Once I got into my running I ran a couple of sub 4min kays and settled into a pace ticking off kays in the 4:00 to 4:05 window. It felt incredibly easy and I held back, told myself not to get carried away (bitch, be cool). 10km came and went, then 15. All still good. I saw the family all waiting for me between the 15k and 16k mark. High fives and lots of cheering. They’re awesome and I felt great seeing them.

Around 17k I caught up with the unofficial silver bus. A group led by a guy who could allegedly run 3hr55 to 3hr58 with the reliability of death and taxes. I latched on and patted myself on the back for finding this group. From now on I could relax and not think about pace. These guys were the Oceans experts; they knew how to do this.

I was still keeping track of my splits out of interest and after a few kays in the 4:15 to 4:35 range I asked running buddy Adam (another passenger) whether he thought the pace was right. He wasn’t sure. We waited another few kays. The pace wasn’t picking up. We were now running out of flat kilometres on which to bank time. In a few kilometres’ time we were hitting Chapman’s Peak, a climb that announces the second half of the race. Still, to my retrospective regret I made the mistake of sticking with them. I was second guessing myself now. Have I got this wrong? Maybe this pace is right. Wouldn’t I be an idiot if I set off only to be caught by the wizened heads in two hours’ time.

Finally we went through halfway and I knew I’d screwed it up. 1:58:30. I had exactly 90 seconds of cushion to handle the multiple big climbs in the second half, not to mention general fatigue that would soon set in.

Enough is enough and I set off ahead of the group. I was on my own now and made a big push, far too big, up Chapman’s Peak. The km going up Chappies was my fastest in the last 10. On a damn uphill. It was too much. Going down the other side of Chappies I knew I was done. Adam had caught me and I told him silver was still on the cards, just, if he had anything in his legs. He pulled away and I didn’t see him again until much later.

From 32km to the marathon mark I shuffled along. I tried to keep my legs going at a decent pace but the earlier mistakes were unforgiving. I got to the marathon in 3:04 and resigned myself to a final 14km of jogging. I resolved not to stop at any point, nor to fail to notice the wonderful scenery I was running through.

I caught Adam at the start of Constantia Nek, the final infamous climb in the race, from 44 to 46km.

In the pouring rain earlier on, and with two hours plus of running in soaking wet kit I had chafed on a level not experienced before. I won’t go into details for obvious reasons, but it had got to the point that blood had run all the way down my leg and into my shoe. I hadn’t even noticed until another runner pointed it out to me at about the 50k mark. Pretty embarrassing. I managed to rinse it away with some water at a water point so  it didn’t look too noticeable. Let’s just say the post-race shower was not as pleasant as it could have been. I was still wearing plasters two days later.

Anyway back to the race. I settled in to focussing on proper running again from the top of the Nek and got the pace back down to under 4:20 for the final 5 or 6 kays now. The only motivation being that I might beat my 4hr17 from last year.

I finished in 4hr14, with my awesome supporters, Bec, Jode, Amy and Dianne, braving the atrocious mud and cold rain on the UCT Rugby fields where the race finishes. Dale was also in attendance, but had been assigned the task of looking after our younger support crew members, Abigail and Matt, in the warmer confines of one of the cars.

 

Chapter 4: Final thoughts

 

Oceans 2012 was a race I will remember for:

 

  • what might have been

 

  • excessive chafing

 

  • how lucky I am to have such hardy supporters, braving pretty much anything and always with a smile and always cheering wildy as I shuffle past, invariably at a pace far slower than I promised beforehand.

 

 

You win this one, Two-Oceans-Silver-Medal. But you will see me again. Oh yes; we have unfinished business.

 

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