This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.
In many ways, my last five months have been spent gearing up for this race. I didn’t necessarily have a specific training plan laid out for it, but this was my focus race. During that time, I raced four other 10k events, and set two new PBs, inching my best time down from 47:25 to 47:00 to 46:40. But the Battle of Sedgemoor is known as a PB course, and I had my sights set on a significant new record: sub 45 minutes. Of my three resolutions for 2014, this was the only one I hadn’t yet achieved.
Things started badly: a month or so ago I re-sprained my right ankle playing football, and I still haven’t completely shaken the niggles off. A fortnight before the race, I hurt my left foot on a tempo run. Neither was particularly major, but between them they caused me to severely drop off my mileage in the couple of weeks before the race. I even considered taking painkillers for the race itself, but decided that I really didn’t want to start down that road.
Onto race day: despite being my fifth 10k of the year, this race represented something new for me. This was the first time I would truly be racing as part of my club. Although I had done two other races since joining, there were no other club members at those races, so I was still on my own. This race had a new feel: at 9:30 we were meeting up in Taunton, to head over to Langport in convoy. This meant that at about 9:15 I had to frantically go to the petrol station to make sure I could make it to Langport!
Still, it wasn’t that different: park, find race number, pin race number on, idle around, have club photo taken (okay, that was a bit different), wander over for pre-race briefing, head to start line.
|So… I have a tree growing out of my head… (Photo: M. Lomax)|
At the start line, disaster two struck. (To recap, disaster one was a couple of foot injuries.) Disaster two had the potential to be much, much worse. My Garmin simply would not find any GPS. This was an issue: on the back of my hand I had written pacing notes, but they would mean nothing if it didn’t get some satellite signal. It’s safe to say I was in a bit of a panic. Thankfully, another member of the club, Andy, was also aiming for 45 minutes, and another wasn’t far behind, so I was able to initially judge my pacing off theirs to an extent.
I’d looked at the course profile before the race, and knew that the first mile to mile and a half of the race was a gentle climb. My plan had been to take this gently and then push on, but with no pacing data, I think the first kilometre was at sub 7 minute miles, and the second not much slower. Finally, about 2.5 km into the race, my Garmin started! It was useless as a stopwatch, but it allowed me to keep an eye on my pacing. I was still running with Andy, though typically one or the other of us was a few paces ahead. At the 4 km marker, I asked for a time check: 17:30: about 30 seconds quicker than I needed to be for 45 minutes. And looking at my pacing, I was still running quicker than I needed. I figured I was either doing pretty well, or was about to crash and burn.
At 4.5 km was the first drinks station: I took a plastic cup, just about managed to avoid spilling the whole thing. I then took a tiny sip, more to wet my mouth than actually drink anything, and dunked my hand into the water so I could splash my face. The next drinks station came up far too soon afterwards, at around 6 km, and I opted not to take another drink; a decision apparently shared by more or less everyone around me, as we all arrowed straight through the middle of the offering arms.
It was around this stage that I started to pull away from Andy; I knew that I was still running ahead of my target pace, and I was still a little worried about that, but I felt good, and let myself be dragged along by the other runners around me.
I must admit, I had forgotten about the incline at 7.5 km. I certainly wish the course had forgotten about it too: that hurt. Still, it is a fact that on a course that finishes more or less where it starts, any ups have corresponding downs, and the last kilometre was mostly downs. Although I hadn’t had a real time-check since the 4 km mark, I knew my pace had been good since, and I could cruise the last kilometre, but on the other hand, I was still feeling pretty good, so I notched the pace up a little, which brought me close to the chap in front as I approached the finish funnel. Always one for a bit of a fast finish, I pushed to pass him through the funnel: unfortunately the cheering crowd let him know what was happening, and so he sped up. I ended up in a flat sprint; perhaps not the most sensible thing, but brilliant fun! I pipped him to the line (though our times were identical).
In all the excitement, I hadn’t actually looked at the finishing clock: having crossed the line and been handed my medal, I’d found a spot in which I didn’t think anyone would mind too much if I threw up (I didn’t, as it turned out) and then got a cup of water. By the time I glanced back, it showed 44:05. I’d done it!
|Looking at this, it’s possible that the other chap didn’t put quite
as much effort into his finish as I did. (Photo: M. Lomax)
I returned to the finish line in time to see Andy come through in just under 45 minutes, which meant that I didn’t have to feel guilty about possibly dragging him along too quickly at the start! From there, our club runners came through regularly, and set a dizzying array of PBs.
As the photo shows, my time was actually sub-44: 43:44 in fact, almost a three minute improvement on my previous 10k best, and significantly quicker than I was aiming for. Maybe running without any pacing information at all for those first 2.5 km, and then only limited information helped me: I’ve suspected for a while that the mental aspect of “But I can’t run that fast!” when I look at my pacing might have been holding me back. Recently Sarah (@littlerunnergal) posted, or at least re-tweeted, something about running “naked”, and maybe there is some benefit in it. That said, I’m still planning on taking my Garmin along to my next race.
But for now, there are four months of the year left, and I’ve achieved all of my targets for the year already. Should I relax a bit and just run for the fun of it, or should I set new targets and go about hitting them?