I reckon that having a birthday is really just an excuse to spend a day doing some of your favourite things........and for me that means running, eating, drinking and hanging out with friends.
My lovely "virtual" birthday cake made
(and eaten) by my nephew and neice!
I did ponder the wisdom of my plan for the day when I had to leave the house (with presents and cards still unopened) before first light to drive down to Carlisle. I met some of the lads from Denton Holme runners there and we all piled into one car to drive down to Inskip for one of the first road races of the year.
Having followed the directions perfectly, we found ourselves parking at the edge of a field, wandering into a marquee to register and then lining up for the lovely portaloos! It had been raining on the drive down, but luckily that had stopped and keeping warm was the only problem (especially if you are a numpty like me and grabbed a sock and a glove before leaving home rather than 2 gloves)!
Jogging out under the huge gantry marked "Start/Finish" for my warmup, I wasn't sure which direction the race was due to go in, as there were cars parked on the side of the road in both directions. I opted to turn right and soon came across a large "13" sign, hence guessed we were due to run in the opposite direction. Turning round, I jogged back, past the turning to the gantry and then came across a sign marked "Finish". I was now really confused, as this sign was a good half mile from the "13" marker, not the 0.1 of a mile that I'd expect!
Everybody seemed rather nonplussed by this as we milled about under the start gantry, but I figured if would all become clear as we neared the finish. After a short run briefing, we were told that we would be led to the start. We started to chat as we jogged out to the main road, behind the race organiser in his car. At the main road we turned left, and we all assumed that we would then get lined up on the start line (as there was no chip timing in the race - hence a good start was important if you were running for a time).
Unfortunately it turned out that the clock started as soon as the car passed the aforementioned "finish" sign and so the race had started without most of us realising. Several people (myself included) suddenly found ourselves caught up way further back than we would have chosen to be, and had to dodge past many others in a fartlek kind of effort for the first few hundred metres or so. Luckily the field quickly spread out, but my pace for the first mile was probably way too fast due to some panicky moments.
I avoid looking at my watch too often in a race such as this one, and try to run more on feel, but then like to review the race afterwards with my splits. Unfortunately, although it seemed to be working in the race when I glanced at it, there was no recording afterwards. Interestingly, according to my garmin, I did a warm up and a cool down with nothing in between (did the race actually happen?).
With clubmate Kevin postrace!
I started off feeling comfortable with my speed and was pleased with the time it took me to cover the first 10k. The main obstacles we had were patches where the water stretched across the road up to ankle deep in places, but it only took a few steps to cross each of these puddles. Marshals kindly warned oncoming traffic (as the roads were open) and there was only one man (with a huge trailer) who appeared to be very anti-runners. At one point in the race, we turned off the roads onto a gravelling lane, and I did have a close shave with a walking stick. A Preston Road Runner and I were running very similar speeds as we spent the first 11 miles of the race leapfrogging each other. We rounded a 90 degree bend on the lane with me inside the other runner. Unfortunately a family was standing with their dogs just around the corner hidden from view, and the grandfather's walking stick was tucked under his arm horizontal to the ground exactly where I was running - whoops!
I had felt (strangely) hungry in the first part of the race, and this must have taken its toll on me, as I cannot remember much from about 11 miles to the finish. I remember my vision going a bit blurry and fuzzy black, so I'm blaming a chocolate deficit. I must have slowed considerably in the last couple of miles as the man from Preston RR finished 30s ahead of me.
Toasting a carload of success!
Still, I managed to negotiate the final turn from the road up the lane to the gantry (luckily not back up the road to that previously mentioned sign) but couldn't work out why I was being directed away from it. I wondered if I was being directed off to break a bit of tape as first lady home, but this was not the case. We were all directed down a stretch of grass alongside the tape to the side of the gantry and were handed a bag and a bottle of water. I guessed that this was the finish - luckily for me, I was not involved in a tight sprint finish, unlike one of the Carlisle lads, as he also made the mistake of heading for the centre of the gantry.
The goodie bags we received were great as they contained a huge bar of chocolate and a good quality hat, and then there was as much hotpot as we could eat available in the marquee afterwards.
We then decamped to a pub down the road and toasted the success of the car....3 of the lads had run PBs and I had a new CR! Not a bad way to spend your birthday!