Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tatton Yule Yomp 10k

Some things are happening. 1.Winter has arrived with a bang and despite the amazing carpet of snow, it is bloody freezing. 2.My post marathon recovery is complete and my legs are feeling good again. 3.I am injury free and looking forward to the inevitable and extravagant festive celebrations.

Having said all this, the past few weeks have been up and down. Something in my mind just hasn't been giving me the extra push that I've been used to in this last year. That's not to say that I'm not enjoying my runs. It's just that it takes an extra level of determination to get out the door. I think that the cold and the looming Yuletide haven't particularly helped. It feels like I'm maintaining my fitness instead of increasing it.

In my preparation for a half marathon on the 2nd of January I decided to do a 10k race. The Tatton Yule Yomp in Knutsford seemed to fit the bill. It was fairly close to home and was on the correct weekend. It was also my first 10k race since high school. Since the marathon I have only been running short distances with the maximum length of my long runs being 11 miles. As a consequence of this I was able to concentrate on upping my pace. I've done plenty of tempo work and interval sessions and confidently ran a sub 50 min 10k on the treadmill. Of course, I knew that a race situation would be different but I was confident that a sub 50 minute race was at least physically possible. As the race day approached I discovered an important and hitherto unknown fact that the race was cross country.

The morning of the race was ice cold and Tatton Park was covered with a freezing mist. I felt slightly stupid getting lost trying to find the race registration especially having two GPS devices in the car. Nevertheless, with a bit of hustle and bustle I managed to get to the start line just in time, fired up and ready to go.

The first mile was tricky. In order to run at my target pace I was forced to weave in and out of the crowds of people. I must have overtaken a couple of hundred people in this first mile. It was frustrating as this portion of the race was mostly downhill. However, I was having fun. As a solitary runner in training I rarely get the chance to run with other people and it is always a pleasure. I enjoy the snippets of conversation and the sense of purpose garnered from hundreds of people moving in one direction.

The second mile was much the same and it was not until the third that I had the space to get into my rhythm. The freezing conditions and nature of the course reminded me of cross country in school. I was taken back to miserable mornings of forced torture where I would struggle through through pits of mud and freezing water. I would often finish close to last and always hated how rubbish I was but never had the conviction to do anything about it. I was always a sprinter in school so forcing me to run anything over 400m was a cruel and unpleasant injustice. I had all the grace of a weightlifter dancing an act out of Swan Lake. While I don't claim to have regained much of that grace I do have renewed sense of determination and a new found tolerance for pain. Also, no one is making me do this except me.

I knew that the second half of the race would require me to push as hard as I could. As a consequence I remember very little of these latter stages. All I knew was that I was very tired and at any moment I would be on the limit of my fitness. On the plus side I was still overtaking people and still going strong. From the wheezing and huffing around me I ascertained that there were people a lot worse off than me. With a mile to go I upped my pace again. This was going to be hard.

My other races have been feats of endurance as opposed to fitness. The marathon and half marathons I have completed were dependent on my leg muscles not giving up and falling off half way round. This 10k business was all about getting enough oxygen into my lungs and not passing out. In that last mile it felt like I was sucking in a gallon of air on every step and with a quarter of a mile to go my vision was starting to cloud. As soon as I saw the finish line 300m away I kicked again. Pushing into the familiar sprint I've come acquainted to at the end of all my runs. I had finished strongly and now all that was left to do was to fight the urge to throw up. Hacking one's guts up whilst someone hands you a medal and a Warburtons festive fruit loaf is hardly dignified.

After a few minutes I calmed down and jogged slowly back to the car. It was nice to still have the use of my legs after a race. It usually takes a good thirty minutes for me to recover from some of my longer endeavours. As I munched on Jaffa Cakes and quaffed hot tea I watched the 3k fun run going by. All that zen running rubbish about kids having great running action is a load of old twaddle. I saw several toddlers who would have been faster if they ran the course backwards. Pretty cute though.

I didn't know what my time was but I was fairly sure I hadn't run a sub 50 min. When the results were published my official time was revealed to be 51:58. I was initially a bit disappointed not to crack 50 minutes but then I looked at the standings. I came 191st out of 652. Not bad for a first 10k. I am pleased because I think, if I was a bit more race smart, I could have gone faster. I ran a huge negative split where my second half was two minutes faster than the first. My biggest mistake was overestimating the field and starting way back at the starting line. This lost me a lot of time. I also wasn't very sharp from the start and it took me way too long to get into a rhythm. Perhaps a longer and more intense warm up would have helped in this regard. All I know is that if I was two and a half minutes quicker I would have made the top 100. That is surely something to aim for.

This has been a great experience and I have learnt a lot more than I expected. In my other races I have just been aiming to finish within a few minutes of my target time. This 10k gave me a taste of competition; a sense that I was running against people not with them. This way is not necessarily better, just different.

Next up is the Central Lancashire New Year Half Marathon where I will be running a lot more slowly. It will be nice to be back in familiar distance territory. You know where you are with a half.

Merry Christmas everyone.