Friday, 26 July 2013

4 Out Of 4!

If I only learnt one thing last year, it was that racing when you are not really up for it has no benefits, and can actually lead to injury and despondency. I was due to be taking part in the inaugural Snowdon Supercup (an invitational uphill only race to the cafe on top of Snowdon - just my cup of tea!!) just 2 weeks after the World Trail Champs. Having sustained the psoas injury in the trail race, I wasn't sure of either my body's recovery, or my ability to get a "race head" back on in time, and so I withdrew from the race. I was disappointed to do so, but lesson from last year taken on board, and hopefully the Snowdon race will develop and be there for me in the future.
Post-party chilling with friends
The Pentlands seen from East Cairn summit
Making the most of a suddenly free weekend, I went up to Edinburgh to stay with my Wales roomie Fionna - and was introduced to running in the Pentlands (admittedly after a party the night before). The Pentland Hills are a range of hills running about 20miles from the southwest of Edinburgh towards Biggar. We did not go to the more popular area near the skislope, but to a beautiful quiet part, where we hardly saw a soul, but had great views from the summit of East Cairn Hill (567 m). Fionna told me that it is usually very muddy, and you would expect to come back filthy, but the fact that it hadn't rained for weeks meant that the ground was bone-dry with springy turf rather than boggy peat. I loved it - definitely a place to come back to and explore further!

Having felt relatively OK on the Sunday, I felt that I could join in with the Gelston 5 mile road race on Tuesday night. This race is part of my club's Grand Prix, and a race that I've not been able to do for the past few years, so I was keen to better my previous course best-time of 30:30. The only problem was that the race started at 7pm and I was due to work from 7am-6pm, but as registration was only possible on the day, there was plenty of time as the start was delayed due to so many people wanting to enter.

The start was very low-key - a whistle was blown and people started running, but as we headed out of the town I fell in with a couple of guys in a small pack - with the two leaders (my clubmates - Steven and Alan) just up ahead. Even though it was very warm and muggy (the forecast storms held off until we were in the pub afterwards), my legs seemed relatively fresh from not having run much in the previous fortnight. I did wonder how long it would be before the "Trail-tiredness" kicked in.....but I hoped it wouldn't be before the finish!

The start of the Gelston 5

By the time we got to the 2 mile marker, I was amazed to have left my initial group and joined up with the guys in front, though they did make it look like they were "running easy". The 3rd mile did involve an uphill drag and Steven then started to pull away, stretching the rest of us out along the road. An extra water station was kindly provided (due to the heat on the night) just as we turned a sharp 90 degree bend, but as I was on the outside of the corner, I couldn't get to it. Alan passed a plastic cup across, but clumsy me didn't manage to get anything into my mouth.

The road stretched away on front of me and appeared to go on for ever, with many undulations. I really thought that I couldn't keep going as it felt so hot and I thought that I must have been slowing down considerably. Still, I figured that if I can force myself to push to the end in an ultradistance race, then I had better do the same in a short race - and if it doesn't feel uncomfortable, then you're not trying hard enough. I couldn't remember when the final turn across the grass into the park was.....and seemed a lot further away than I'd remembered, but finally I saw it, and went for the line.

I was surprised that nobody has come past me in the final miles - and checking my watch later shows that I still have little idea about the speed I run at, as I hadn't really slowed down much at all. Not only did I beat my previous time on the course, but I broke the course record by 46seconds in my 2nd fastest 5mile time! Then again, I had to push all the way as my clubmate Lisa ran superbly also finishing under the previous record and gaining a well-deserved PB.

The Gelston 5 was the 4th GrandPrix race I've run this year, and I'm so happy that I managed to achieve my private target of breaking the CR, as I'd set a quiet trend with new records in the 3 previous ones. Maybe now I should just quit while I'm ahead?

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