I’m running towards nothing
Again and again and again and again
A steady trot around the Littleborough 5k route on Monday, at 30 min pace, was followed by the first in Cannonball Littleborough 5k series on Wednesday. The plan was to take it steady and come in around 22:30, so 22:42 was about the right pace, but a combination of a pollution smog made breathing very laboured and a weird wind storm that blew up just before the start meant effort was far too high. Spent most of first km over 180 bpm when I would have expected 170 max and was forced to back off to get it back under control, the lack of warm up & a quick start may have contributed a little, but suspect mainly down to smog.
Saturday was the inaugural Keswick parkrun, an out and back along a former railway line. Obviously it’s a long way for a 5k, so meant a weekend away with an excellent stay at Hazledene Hotel, who kindly allowed us a late breakfast post-run. This meant for the first time ever, just a short run to the start!
The plan was to run 12:30 (5min/km) out and then faster on the way back. I hadn’t quite decided but was thinking of 11 min on the way back but was feeling good and upped it to a 10min target. Pleased to record 12:34/10:07 for 22:41 but possibly should have saved the fast bit for just the last km? Added a 9 mile walk up Bleaberry Fell in the afternoon as the big hills were shrouded in rain clouds. A big meal out and a couple of pints at the fantastic Pheasant Inn to re-stock energy topped off a fine day.
Sunday was the big test – The Great Grizedale Forest Trail Race – my first 10 mile race for over a year. The route through Grizedale Forest was on the opposite side to where I know, so whilst expecting rocky track and hills it was a bit unknown as the exact nature of the course.
The plan was to run 5min/km for 1:20, which on the one hand seemed realistic after recent shorter runs. However with only one run at that distance in the past year and the hilly course meant I had major doubts about my endurance. Last year’s 10 mile pancake flat race saw me fade a little at 6 and die at 8 miles, with more miles in my legs. And I hadn’t run a 5k and hill walked 9 miles the day before that one!
The weather didn’t help either, windy and wet with the course map revealing that we would spend roughly 5 miles straight into the wind, including the last three.
The start was very steep and I positioned myself in the back third of the 150ish field, but still slipped backwards as we climbed the first few hundred metres to a cattle grid. I concentrated on my own efforts and didn’t worry that I was almost last. Over the cattle grid it levelled off and I got up to speed, regularly checking watch pace which because of the hills was all over the place. Generally seemed to be below 5:30 but after a high start HR was around 160 which I reckoned was about right, so switched to HR view and decide to run on that.
Every time I glanced down and saw 157/158 I upped effort, every time it was 162/163 I eased back. This allowed me to steadily move on settling into a nice catch-recover-move on pattern. Whilst it felt sustainable, after 4km each split was way behind target. Whilst it had mainly been up, there had been downs and I wondered whether too much time had been lost already to make the 1:20 target, when finally km 5 popped up at 4:30.
By now the field had thinned considerably and there were only a handful in site in front. With less climb but still plenty of ups and downs I rattled off a few quicker kms to reach halfway just a few seconds over 40 mins. Target back on as surely it was nearly all down from here?
That gave me a boost and combined with feeling in good shape I now pushed on to catch first woman and another guy. Just as I made a move to get past on the right side of the path, I suddenly wondered if we were supposed to turn off left. Slightly confused as there was a runner up ahead, who we shouted out to. A bit of tape off to the side and some orange paint on the ground were not really obvious.
The path then descended steeper on rockier ground and I eased off to protect foot. As it flattened off there was an unexpected water stop, and I dithered over whether to get a drink, which I did but then after walking a few steps found it hard to get going. The combination of these three events in succession interrupted my relaxed rhythm and took nearly a km of chasing down first woman to get past her again, having dropped the guy at the water stop.
Once past her there was no-one in sight ahead and after nearly missing a turn I kept a sharper eye out. The route was fairly twisty and I upped effort to try and create a gap behind to get out of sight. Whilst I hadn’t looked behind since the start, I knew there probably 10 runners within a minute or two.
At 12 km, every km was still blasting past sub 5 mins, so I knew even if I slowed a little then primary target of sub 1:20 was assured. The hills were non-stop though and every time it went down, I knew another up would follow, but overall it was feeling slightly more down than up until the 12th which was a tough one.
With just 4km to go, I decided to push on and put in my fastest km split so far of 4:17 in the hope of building a bigger gap to those behind. For the first time since I had overtaken first woman, I caught a glimpse of a couple of runners through the trees but they were well over a minute ahead, so I ignored any hope of catching and concentrated on keeping cadence going, playing alternate games of lifting heels/ lifting knees as I had throughout.
It was good to pass the SportSunday photographers, as I’d been feeling very lonely for 20 minutes or so. With a couple of km to go I finally saw another runner ahead walking on a hill, just maybe? My legs were tiring but I pushed a little harder to try to close the gap which was down to under a minute but he started running again and extended it out. The same thing happened on the next hill and a muddy section (due to some forest works) took the last out of my legs as I crested a rise and I settled for concentrating on my time again.
After clearing the last bit of mud I got cadence back up and after a near miss with an out of control dog on the steep rocky descent to the finish – I was tempted to ‘comment’ to the stupid moron that passed as its owner but couldn’t think of a polite response or one that wouldn’t involve violence, so resisted – and concentrated making it to the finish grateful that I had no broken bones.
A very pleasing 1:16:11, still feeling good despite the just out of the lake look and even had the energy to jog back to the car! Feet felt a bit battered, tendon a little sore but no major issues.
A couple of rest days off was followed up with the Joe Salt Cowm 5k on Wednesday. I’d been a little unsure about entering beforehand, and didn’t have a clear plan, all of which lead to a well paced 4:30 first km, and then stupidly upped pace for remaining 4km to set a season best 20:34 but with a pain in my left calf when I stopped. That then developed into a very tight plantar fascia the next day and wrecked weekend plans. Will I never learn?
I generally use the 1 mile a day recovery rule i.e. after a hard 10 mile race, no hard efforts for the next ten days. I broke it. I broke me!
After a couple of rest days I decided on a tentative Oldham parkrun on Saturday to work out how much damage had been done. There was no specific pain, so ran at a decent pace for 21:46 but always within myself. Probably too fast as both calves sore and tight afterwards, which was good as it meant injury to left is minor. Will rest for a few days and make a decision on Wednesday about when/where I run next.