The Trooper

And as I lay there gazing at the sky
My body’s numb and my throat is dry

Since tentatively starting back running three months ago, my main focus has been getting fit enough to complete the Bluebell 10.3 Trail Race. That made it a doubly frustrating week, once again forced to rest as heel pain had not cleared despite a slight raise inserted into day shoes, leaving me doubtful for the race.

‘New me’ would be sensible however and not race to injury, so it was left it until Saturday before an attempt at running to make a very late decision on whether to attempt the race. I put bigger raises into running shoes and completed a tentative Oldham parkrun in 23:46, spending most of it easing back as felt so fresh. No pain, so Bluebell was on!

Two weeks of virtually no running wasn’t the ideal lead up to Bluebell 10, but reasonably happy with how things had gone in the weeks before so optimistically stuck to original plan to aim for a 1 hour 30 target time. This represented a step down to 5:15 km pace to take terrain into account, plus a spare 3 min extra to deal with Trooper Lane Hill – a 0.75 km slope with ~125m of climb, averaging 1 in 5, about a third of the way into the race.

This was one of two key points in the race, too fast too soon and chances of hitting target would be blown. A balanced effort on the big hill was required to reach a smaller but significant climb around 10k mark in good shape and ensure a decent run in to the finish.

On the day I arrived a little later than planned, but foreshortened warm up so as to preserve right heel / left tendon – the run to the bottom of Trooper Lane made for a good warm up and aside from an annoying queue at a narrow gate early on- forgot about that! – I cruised along comfortably gradually gaining places but in no hurry.

Found myself dragged along a little as Trooper Hill beckoned but arrived at the bottom in 32:33 – a minute off target pace but bang on really, as spent about a minute queuing at the gate.

Boosted by the knowledge I was running a good pace I quickly got myself into a small fast step slow speed rhythm at the bottom, initially dropping a couple of places but soon gaining a few round a couple of steep corners.

A glance at watch showed HR still comfortably in 160’s so continued on weaving my way through what were now predominantly walkers. On and on it went, and after a couple of exhausted encouragements began wondering if I could make it to the top without walking.

HR was rising but still manageable so I kept on going, until I spotted was I thought was the final corner. I was now well into the mid 170’s and ready to ease back, but was driven on by the closeness, only to turn the corner and find there was still more to go.

There had been a few spectators on the way up, but after reaching the true final corner there was a mini Tour de France style mountain crowd cheering, so there was no way I was giving up now. They dragged me up the last few metres and as it flattened off I felt a wave of power at having run all the way. Tough but comfortable, I took the opportunity to drink half a cup of water and splash the rest on the back on my neck at the water station. Refreshed, it was on briefly down, then up to Beacon Hill with its spectacular view of Halifax and Calderdale beyond.

The descent was good initially but became increasingly rough and slippy and I reluctantly eased off to protect tendon, but still kept advancing places.

The 6 mile climb was the first really tough bit where I felt my legs beginning to tire, but it was onward and more places gained. A nice bit on downhill was allowed a bit of a see saw before a climb through trees saw me advance away and onward towards the next couple of runners. The sloping fields were now getting tough and my legs started to go.

I dropped a couple of places but after a small bad spell got one back and picked up a few others before the woods, which were carpeted in fantastic blue. I pushed hard to pick up another place, more to hold off any catchers from behind, as now I was definitely working.

Out of the woods I suddenly got my bearings as we joined the canal for the last km or so, I knew I would be close to target so pushed on. After dropping one place to a fast finisher, I had a couple of runners ahead catchable, maybe more. After getting the gap down to 20m, a near miss with a dog upset my rhythm and the gap eased out again.

There was just the final river crossing to go, but a glance at my watch showed I would be over target. As I jumped in the water the coldness seemed to freeze my legs and I struggled across and made a duck’s arse of clambering up the bank.

The sound of splashing behind kept me steady to the finish but didn’t bother with a sprint finish, as I stopped the clock at 1:30:31. So close. Average HR of 159.

After a few minutes recovery, was happy with that considering problems of last week and jogged back to the car feeling good with no pains.

 

As that went well the next target will be Radcliffe 3 day challenge in July and so I decided on Monday morning to do the 7.5 mile Coiners Fell Race as a tired legs practise, and partly as I hadn’t done it before. There was no real target, I thought 155 HR average was about right but had no real time/ pace goal other than keeping under that.

I wasn’t sure why but the first part of the race went badly, an unexplained late start, overrunning junior (EC to be fair) prize presentations, race briefing completely drowned out by a noisy generator next to the start, the fact that most runners seemed to be carrying no kit despite the strong full compulsory kit warning on the website, a rush to a too early stile – over 2 minutes queuing after less than 3 minutes running was ridiculous with so few runners – plus a couple of scumbag queue jumpers, all really annoyed me for no real reason.

A couple of miles in and I chilled out and started enjoying my run, even picking up the pace a bit until a nasty pathless descent before Stoodley Pike. An early wobble and my tendon had enough so I picked my way carefully down the hill, glancing across at others going uphill faster to my left. Better to lose a few minutes than a few months out injured.

Wasn’t too despondent as had been on the high side of HR target and knew a bit of a rest would mean I would have plenty of energy for the return up, unfortunately no-one told my legs, and I just couldn’t get going again after walking.

Bit confusing at the Pike, took a while to work out we had to run around- with no visible marshals or flags. The guy in front went round – although on the approach I was sure at least one runner had turned before – so I followed overtaking as we headed out down the path to Sunderland pasture, partway realising there were no flags and that I was on the wrong path.

Decided to cut over the rough stuff to regain the path and once again struggled with tendon. The early path through the trees was good but became increasingly bobbly and painful for tendon. The boggy smelly field was the driest I’ve ever known but struggled across the next couple of fields down to a hard track.

Climbing over a stile I was hopeful of picking the pace back up but was still struggling to get legs moving well so just enjoyed the ride. Lost a couple of rounds of Russian roulette in the bog crossings, mushy looking stuff turned out firm, firm looking stuff turned out knee deep!

The descent around Spring Wood finally got my legs going but eventually gave up trying to hold off the footsteps behind and eased down the last couple of fields with the priority on not spraining anything.

Almost a good day out, average HR 152 in the acceptable range but another local race chalked off the to-do list with a ‘not suitable’ rating for tendon.

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