Wednesday, 27 May 2015

3 races, 3 surfaces, 3 countries....

One of my international running friends told me that one of the main things that changed once he got a coach was that he ran fewer races. I guess that some people might think I should take similar advice as I raced 3 times in a single week in May, but every race had a purpose to me. They were 3 very different races - the first two bring approximately 10k (the first one a "fell" race and the second a "trail" race) and the 3rd a road half marathon (funnily enough, the first was in Wales, the second in a England and the third in Scotland).

Photobombing the Cumbrian Team!!
I started off with the Intercounty Fell Running Championships in Wales, where I was representing the West of Scotland. I knew that I wouldn't do very well in that race, but I don't believe you should only run races when you hope to come out at the top. Racing people that are better than yourself makes you work hard, and hopefully helps you to improve. It's also an honour to wear the representative vest; unfortunately I was running alone as my teammates withdrew. But if nobody runs, then they may think twice about sending anyone to the event next year.
Having watched several people tumble after the jostling at the start of the junior men's race, I kept myself clear of all danger and hence was plum last as we hit the first corner. Although I passed a few ladies before we headed onto a steep climbing section of single track, it then became very difficult to find the space to power past anyone else. I knew I needed to work on the uphills as several of the ladies would (and did) fly past me on the descents. Still, I passed more ladies than passed me on each of the two laps, so was happy with my final result. Unfortunately the race was almost 3/4 mile shorter than advertised so I did not have a chance to try to reel people in at the end (the race was rather short and fast for me, but this generally means that people start to tire before the finish). 

Final sprint to the finish

Still, I'd got what I wanted out of the race - I'd been out of my comfort zone, was running faster than I would make myself run if out alone on the trails (I recognised a couple of sections were similar to those used in the 2013 world trail championships, but I definitely had to run them faster in a race that was <10k rather than >75k), and it had made me come down to Wales with friends.....leading to some more running in the mountains over the rest of the weekend.

Round the castle

Next up was the midweek Carlisle Urban Trail Race, which was a new race and so fitted with my vague plan for the year of doing different events. Several of my clubmates were running it as it was the first counter in our club "Trail Grand Prix", and it was the second event in the Carlisle 10k series (the first of which I'd won back in January). The race started outside the cathedral, near the centre of Carlisle, before moving closer to the river. Shoe choice was an interesting one as there were cobbles, road, grass, trail, carparks, pavements, tarmac paths and even mud. We also had to cross a dual carriageway via a narrow footbridge (though it was easy to spot those runners more used to climbing and descending as they took in several steps at a time getting on and off the bridge). 

Over a bridge
The route had to be changed at the last minute as a large herd of cows were not overly keen for runners to charge through their field, though I nearly headed that way anyway as the marshal on the vital changed corner didn't point out the new hairpin back on ourselves, but luckily the runner behind me shouted me back. Still, I found it a fun way to spend a weekday evening, even if a couple of sections could do with some better risk assessment.

My third race was the Kirkcudbright Half Marathon on the Saturday, and it was the race that I was least sure about running. I have run Kirkcudbright prior to every one of my runs at Comrades in South Africa, but it was difficult to weigh up tiring myself out (or having a disappointing run) and giving myself a good confidence boost. I decided to leave the decision until the last minute and so just entered on the day. I knew that I would have to be mentally strong if I ran it, as Comrades was just a week later. I wanted to have a good strong run (and the fact that it was a hot sunny day......well for Dumfries anyway.....would be good training for South Africa), but I didn't want to race it hard, so I would have to ignore everyone else, especially my clubmates. 

Kirkcudbright finish line
As I chatted to my clubmate Alan in the first few hundred metres, I realised that I had to consciously drop back, as his pace was quicker than my desired 80-82minute effort. I managed to do this, but then he had to stop for a few seconds to tie his shoelace. When he caught me back up, I went with him to try to help him close the gap back to the guy he had originally been running with. We managed this, and then my brain kicked in again and I let them go. From then on , it was a solo run the whole way round. I could see the pair of them ahead of me, and knew that 2 of my other clubmates (Kevin and Lisa) were not far behind me. I told myself that I would encourage Lisa is she passed me and just stick to my plan, but by the time I got to the 11 mile marker, I really hoped that she wouldn't overtake (I seem to have been overtaken on that final run down the High Street every time I have run the race). 
I needn't have worried as I finished 2 minutes clear in 5th place overall at the faster end of my target range.

I did, however, develop a slight problem in the half marathon. At about the 5 mile mark, I felt a tiny stone lodge in the top of my right hand sock between my Achilles and my shoe. It jagged a bit but then seemed to settle down and I more or less forgot about it. When I got to the finish, I looked down......and noticed that my sock and shoe were bright red with fresh blood. That'll be the second time I've been taken off to "medical" from a finish line.....luckily no broken bones this time, just a bleeding raw open area on my right heel/Achilles.....and boy did it hurt if I tried to put a shoe on, or even have a shower! Luckily, I wasn't planning on doing much over the week from then until Comrades so I was confident it would heal nicely!

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