Being blown away

Crikey! That was hard work. But I’m back, 15 mile race completed successfully.

First surprise came when I get dressed this morning. The capris I was going to wear were the same one’s I’d worn on last week’s long run. As i was putting them on, I discovered something in the back pocket. on closer inspection, it was a gel pack. I took 4 with me last week, but only had 3, this must have been the spare one, which has since been through the washing machine and been dried in the airing cupboard! It looked a bit battered, but intact, so I decided I may as well take it and use it today.

The weather forecast was not promising. not cold and no rain predicted, but very windy. 20+ mph is gale force. Yikes!!

The weather forecast looked blowy.

That leaves me with a clothing dilemma, you don’t want to overheat, but windy conditions do make you cooler quite quickly. I opted for long sleeves under my club vest. The legs don’t notice temperature quite so much, so capris as usual. Packed up hat, garmin, gels, milkshake for after, pre and post run bananas and all the usual paraphernalia for a race. Pinned the number to the club vest and set off.

Had arranged a lift with two other ladies from the club, so had to be ready to collect at the services just round the corner for 9 am. A later start than sometimes, for an 11 am race start.  Arrived OK, and were directed to pack in a rather lumpy bumpy field.It was blowing quite decidedly, so we quickly made our way to race HQ and met up with the rest of the club. This race has the unusual routine of giving out race shirts before the race. It does mean that I got a size that fits, rather than the tents that are left at the end. Everything got stowed in then bag, warm layers stripped off and ready for the rather long walk to the start.

I headed for the back of the pack, in order to not get carried away too early. After discussing how to approach this, the plan was to run the first 5 miles easy, then pick up to marathon pace for the next 10. So easy to say, but how very difficult to actually do…

Gun went off and we headed for the start line. As usually, I got that first half mile far too fast – something about the start of a race that completely throws me. So I made a conscious effort to slow down. It was quite breezy, but it wasn’t exactly a headwind at this stage. It became a full on head wind when we turned the corner. Blimy! It was hard going! The road wound through a small village, then headed up hill to the radio transmitter. It was at this point that I rapidly began to loose the ability to run to pace. It was just so very difficult to keep going at the required pace uphill and into a very stiff headwind. I was amused to hear the marshal at the top say “not far to go now” I shot him a surprised look and he corrected himself, “to the top of this hill”. Ok, I will let him off that extra description, but I’d barely gone 2 miles! The next stretch was downhill and it was a remarkable experience. I lean forward going down hill, trying to relax and let gravity help me out here. Long strides, arms flapping – I must look bizarre in the extreme. With the strong headwind, it was easy to lean even further forward than usual, and it felt remarkably like flying. I didn’t land with a bump at the bottom, but this rather fast patch, along with the slow one before it, mucked up the idea of running to pace. I felt I was continually trying to run faster on the difficult bits and not taking advantage of the easy bits. I won’t say I stopped looking at the watch, but I did worry less about it. 

See: they've marked the hills just to make them obvious!

After the downhill, we turned a corner, such that the wind was now marginally following wind, then up another hill – not quite as steep this time and onto a plateau. Turned another corner and it was magic – flat, and a really strong tail wind. Apart from the annoyance of the ponytail whipping round and trying to get in my mouth, this was quite fun. About 4 miles I had a gel and water station, and decided that I was just going to pick the pace up and aim for something about 11 minute miles, where I could and accept that some of the stretches would be slower. Went OK until around 6 miles, when there was a lovely long, shallow downhill, followed by the corresponding up hill. At the top of this, I was at about 7 miles, the leader came past. Blimy! He was going some, 1:16 ish and he had ~ 0.5 mile left. I applauded politely, while gritting my teeth. The marshal ahead said that I musty be in second place, seeing I was following the leader. How nice to dream of such a thing. He did break the course record, so good going.

Lap 1 down, and lap 2 commenced. Gel again at 8 miles, just to keep the energy levels up. I suspect it’s probably a mental boost, but they do help me keep going. The route hadn’t changed any, although it was, if anything, even harder to get up the steep hill. I passed Sue & Heather through the village at the bottom, and emerged round a bend into a phenomenal headwind. You know how cartoon characters sometimes run, head down, into a wall/obstacle – the legs keep turning, but the body goes nowhere? It felt an awful lot like that as I headed up the hill. Head down, like way down, trying to head butt my way through the wind and up the hill. The marshal at the top remembered me from the previous lap and promised me I didn’t have to run that hill again. Downhill was exhilarating again though.

One of the nice things about having a slow race start is that you catch people and pass them. This is always good for the competitive spirit. Going up the next hill, I passed Rob, who was trying to run to a heart rate, which the uphills certainly weren’t helping. Passed another runner towards the water station, then a group of girls strung out across the road (grrr – keep left signs were there for a reason) and turned the corner onto the fast section. I’d kept going at a reasonable pace. I won’t say it was really comfortable, but neither was it exhausting. Final gel at 12 miles (I did debate this one’s usefulness, but I figured I need to get into the habit of having them, so I may as well). Then past 13 miles, and down the last hill. 14 miles at the bottom and it was half a mile up hill, then turn the last corner and half a mile flat in to the finish.

As I turned the final corner there were 2 ladies from Herts AC ahead. That little competitive spirit got the better of me and I picked the pace up a bit. after all, only half a mile to go, what’s to loose? With barely 200 yards left, I snuck past them on the inside and approached the final turn to the finish line – and heard the rest of the club start shouting me to the finish. I do love this about them. Some of them must have finished over an hour before me, but there they all were, shouting, clapping and generally encouraging me into that last sprinty flourish at the end. They also seem to be the only club that consistently do this – and I do appreciate every last ounce of encouragement.

Crossed the line in a quite pleasing 2:46:30 (or so). No, it didn’t go exactly to plan, as the splits show. But I think that elevation profile looks pretty tough too!. You can see the fast spikes line up nicely with the down hills.

The stats don’t lie

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 14.94 miles (Under reading again – must be it’s habit)
Time – 2:46:33 (but I did turn it off after the finish line)
Average pace – 11:07. (oooops, that was a bit quick)

 
Finished an headed back into the HQ to collect my bag, and get some clothes on. it was cool out and the body temperature can dip badly after a long run, so some extra warmth is essential. Then the post race milkshake and banana were consumed. Again, it helps keep the body warm and helps recovery. And I like chocolate milkshake. Went back to the finish and the last 3 of the club were all seen in safely. We all congregated, and then set off back home. Sitting in the car I managed to set a bit, such that the walk from the roundabout home was more of a waddle initially, but the legs did remember how to function eventually. After some toast, and a bath I’m feeling human again. Next run is Tuesday, club night. If I can’t manage the speed session, I did this too hard – there’s one way to find out…

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