Sunday, 31 July 2016

RACE 10 - Millbrook Monster

The last race in my July Triple mini-challenge, this was another tough run. Work continues to be difficult and the hours long, so I have hardly run at all this month. As such, I was tired before the race had even started and slightly off my form.

Over 200 runners packed into the starting area. The race began and we were immediately into a 5km climb. There was a mixed bag of steepness and some flat sections, but it was essentially half an hour of going up. I thought I managed fairly well, although still had to power-hike parts of the last kilometre. There was also a bit of overtaking and then being overtaken again on this stretch.

Some great views on the way up and a quick pitstop for a drink at the water station just the other side of the crest. The next 4km were downhill, so a welcome change. However, it's easy to run too quick here and tire out. I suspect I had a bit of that and was really feeling it for the last 3km of the race.

With about 1.5km to go the route takes you pretty much to the finish line and then swoops you away for a final climb - cruel. Around the 9km mark there's a long series of steps that just finishes you off. I had to walk those. I knew they were coming, but still had no energy left. Other runners were starting to overtake me during the last quarter hour of running, which is a little hard to take, but I wasn't expecting a good time from this race.

Having finally seen the end of the steps, the course swings round for the last descent to the finish line. The gathered crowd was very loud and encouraging and that helped me put on a sprint finish. My support crew (aka mum, dad, Yvonne & Niamh) gathered round to help this extremely tired runner get me some more water to drink and be with me as I slowly recovered.

It was also another great show of runner camaraderie as racers encouraged each other through the tough sections and thanked the marshals as we passed by. The prize for completing was a free chip butty from the local chip shop, but I just had no stamina or will left to queue for it. So I left my fellow Greyhounds early to get home (passing a much quieter local chippy on the way!). Well done to Allan for winning the VM50 category :)

Monday, 25 July 2016

RACE 9 - Mossley 10k

This race was as local as I could get, running around my village and running past the end of my street. It was a good weather day, slightly sunny and a little too warm in the first 10 minutes of racing, but then clouds gave cover until the finish line. There were over 300 runners and a good atmosphere. New to the field were Mossley Running Club, only started this year - quite a few bright bold orange shirts being easy to spot.

This race is roughly the route I use for my Zombies, Run! course, although I start/finish in a different place. This 10k starts at Mossley AFC at the top of the hill and begins with 1.5km of descent. You might think that's a good thing and I used it to secure a bit of time in the bag to draw on later. However, I wonder if I should have held back and saved energy instead...

I managed to fall into a good pace just behind a fellow Greyhound, but after the fast start comes a long, slow climb. By comparison to other races, it's not that big an elevation (around 100m), but at this pace it still takes it out of you. I've come to the realisation that every race is tough, because you are always pushing yourself - even if that means different paces for different distances, you still get to the end tired (or you should if putting a good effort into it!)

So after 4km or so of climbing I was very tired and had a long, winding flat section to try to recover in. That didn't happen - I just about managed to hold on to a reasonable pace, but was gradually slowing down over that 3.5km stretch. Part way up the climb a spectator was handing out jelly babies - runner fuel. I don't usually eat during my races as I don't feel they're long enough to warrant it. However, I tried one jelly baby to see if it would help. I'm not sure that it did (or didn't enough for me to notice). What I was surprised by was how long it took me to eat it. I just couldn't chomp it down quickly and had to nibble at it over a few minutes. Bizarre what your body can and can't do under pressure.

After the very picturesque, but monotonous flat section the race ends with a climb up through Top Mossley. I wasn't looking forward to this, but it was short enough not to really bother me after all that. A descent into the football ground saw me turn on the gas for a sprint finish. I managed to overtake one runner, but another saw my attempt and also sped up... quite a lot! I couldn't quite catch him - we both found it really funny and were laughing as we crossed the line. A nice end to another tough race.

My aim was to complete in under 55 minutes and I ended up with 54m 32s and in the top half of the field, so pleased with that time (although I secretly wanted to be a few minutes faster). Work is extremely challenging right now and I had only managed one run since Alderman's Ascent. Not ideal. I'm in the same boat again, having only run once since Mossley and facing another tough, hilly trail race later this week. That's the way it goes sometimes.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

RACE 8 - Alderman's Ascent

Apologies again for the missed post last week. Work is crazy busy right now and outside of work there is also a lot going on besides running.

Alderman's Ascent was a tough a race as predicted. The weather was inclement, but not really, really bad (although we had clouds great us at the top for a bit of extra wet). The week preceding the race had been fairly rainy, so the course was nice and muddy. Thanks to my mum and dad who came out to cheer me on in that!

Starting at the local Churchill playing fields, we had a long climb up to the obelisk at the top of the mountain, known as Pots and Pans. It began with a lap of the playing field, then across a few roads to get to the meadows. Through nettles, thistles and cow pats and over several styles to get to the really steep climb. It took me about half an hour to get to the top and required crawling on all fours at some points.

Now suitably worn out (and with a sore back from the climb), I had to run to a point to the left of the obelisk and then back to the right, along the ridge line, to Alderman itself. Through some fairly boggy bits and a few more ups and downs in the terrain I arrived at the race's namesake with a stitch.

I had been running with a fellow Greyhound, who had helped me up the various climbs. It was now my turn to help him down the very steep and slippery slope down the back of Alderman's. Navigating this involved quite a lot of carefull sliding. No sooner were we at the bottom than we had to climb back up again!

Back up at Alderman's we had the pleasure of knowing it was all downhill from there. About an hour into the race now and the next 21 minutes were a lot more enjoyable as a result. Some great support from Greyhounds marshals kept us going and we were very glad to finish. Being a new course it was PBs for everyone - I wasn't last and I won a prize (my first ever prize) for this having been my first fell race - result :)

I'll save it until next week to tell you about today's Mossley race, but I was pleased with the fell result. I'm not sure I'll be volunteering to go up and down big hills very often, but I'm glad I did it.