Monday, 19 August 2013

British Masters Championships

More wine?

Having finally settled on an autumn goal, I was determined to enjoy a few days of leave before getting back into training. Going away to France for a few days to catch up with friends that I don't often see (for geographical reasons), eat French pastries direct from the local bakery, and drink nice French wine seemed like a good idea at the time. Right up until the final morning.......when we had the bright idea of going white water rafting. We were going to go in individual rafts......called hydrospeeding....but unfortunately the water levels were too low. Hydrospeeding looks like body boarding with a windshield, but it means that your legs are hanging free behind you, so in low water levels, they'd be banging off all the rocks. It sounded like a sensible solution for them to put us on inflatable kayaks instead, so off we went. We soon learnt how to control our own kayaks, but there is no controlling other people......especially French guys showing off for the benefit of the girl in their group.

All smiles before the rapids...

One of them managed to ride his kayak up over the top of mine, which caused mine to flip so that I ended up going down the rapids head first while trying to hang onto both my paddle and my upturned boat. Not the most sensible way of travel.

My battered legs!

Luckily, my helmet saved me from severe knocks to the head, but the same cannot be said for my lower body. Despite the thick wetsuit I ended up with a long gash and bruise down one shin, and some battered twisted legs......owwwwwww!

Unfortunately, over the next few days I discovered that the damages weren't quite as superficial as they seemed, as I found myself limping down the stairs in the mornings. It wasn't exactly the best time to be restarting training..... as I found that I could only run on my tiptoes or uphill without pain. Landing on a bent knee was ok, but if I tried to land on the heel of an extended leg, it felt like a knife was being put into the side of my knee joint.

It's funny how you find that you are only really keen to train when you cannot, but I managed to hold back and so by the weekend it was settling down. 

I had already entered the British Masters 10k championships on the Sunday and went up with my clubmate Lisa. I had decided to try a warmup with her, but if it hurt in this, then I would be the bag carrier/supporter/photographer. I had no real expectations of running well after the previous couple of weeks, but as the warmup went ok, I pinned on my number and went to the startline.

The course was a 2+ lap one, mainly in Pollok Park, but having sections along the side of a busy main road. The same course is used for another 10k race earlier in the year, and people commented on how congested that start was........with 75 runners. Due to this being a high profile British masters championship race, there were almost 250 entrants. Cue some carnage at the start.
A narrow single lane road, people talking and the announcer not being audible, no countdown, cars parked along the edges of the road along with supporters/dogs/children, all age categories and both sexes starting together, and some "speed walkers" wanting to start at the front, meant that I had no idea what was going on for the first few hundred metres. It was rather stop-start with short bursts around people, looking for a bit of road space, but luckily everyone had settled down within the first mile and the field had spread out well.
As the marshal turned us onto the pavement along the main road beside the park, I was settled into my stride and could identify 2 Scottish female runners up ahead of me - the closest being Lesley Chisholm (a V35 who usually beats me over shorter distances) while further ahead was Fiona Matheson (an amazing runner in the V50 category that I'm lucky enough to be friends with) - which meant that I was holding my far at least.

Another lap?
Unfortunately our route was barred by cars parked illegally on the pavement, but the race organisers had thankfully had the foresight to get a line of marshals out in the road in high-vis jackets to slow cars down and provide a safe running lane at the edge of the road. We soon turned back into the park and start heading up an incline. I may not have the raw speed, but uphills favour me as I do have some strength, so, much to my surprise, I managed to pass Lesley, though I knew that I would have to keep pushing or she would just fly by me again. From the top of that slope the course undulated further through the park back to where we started, and from there it was on to was the finish and the start of the second lap (though a headwind did seem to have developed). The downhills didn't seem to hurt as I'd feared the would before we started, though I'm not sure if that was due to adrenaline or the fact that I was landing further forward on my feet due to the increased running pace.
It was tempting to stop as we passed the finish line, but as I still had Fiona in sight and Lesley hadn't shot past yet, I managed to use the support of spectators to spur me on to another lap. I'd like to think that I respect the ability of my fellow runners, though sometimes I underestimate either myself, or the fact that other runners may not always have a perfect race. I couldn't understand how I could be gaining on Fiona as we headed into the park the second time, as I've never beaten her in my life. I found myself settling in a little way behind, but then suddenly thought, "why not enjoy this hill as you're feeling strong?". 
I moved past her and the man than was running a similar pace but thought that 8k was too far out to run for the finish.....after all, we had some dreaded downhills coming up, and I know that Fiona also does track races (unlike myself) so probably has a good sprint in her.

As we descended the final slope to approach the startline, somebody appeared inside me and I thought it was all over for my brief foray at the front. Luckily it was the male runner, who encouraged me to keep pushing, as he thought I was opening up a small gap. I try not to look back in races, but I couldn't believe him, so I did turn my head (while negotiating the speedbumps in the road). I couldn't see anyone on my shoulder, so although I felt like I must look awful and thought I was getting slower and slower, I kept the momentum going. I was convinced that every corner was the last one, and was so disappointed whenever I rounded one, and saw the road stretching further, but thankfully made it to the finish line and even managed an attempt at a wee sprint for line honours.

What a day.......starting out from home unsure if I was even going to run, and coming home as British Masters 10k champion (with my clubmate Lisa 3rd lady and first in her age category too)!