Don’t Give Up

Don’t give up
You’re not beaten yet
Don’t give up
I know you can make it good

Toe worsened after Haweswater so I reluctantly took a few days off in the hope it would turn out be be something minor like a sprain, rather than a more serious bruising or stress fracture.

Things were not looking good for Transvulcania in May, with all the missed runs due to viruses over the past 3 months the last thing I needed was more rest, particularly one that gave me time to reflect on my inability to run a long race. If I couldn’t cope with 13 on the road, then 17 miles in the mountains was not looking promising. In fact I had never run any race over 10 miles well in my life.

Saturday was a good distraction, doing the results for the English Fell Championships at Flower Scar Fell Race. Managed a bit of scamper watching the women’s race so set off on a hilly 12km run on Sunday, with toe not perfect but much better. With all the tweeting that went on, I was surprised my fingers didn’t end up on the sick list. A great event to be part of.

Tentatively back out with a packrun on Wednesday and then over to the inaugural Croxteth Hall parkrun on Saturday. I hadn’t really examined the single lap course but after a steady start I’d tucked in behind a couple of quickish runners and upped effort.

After sharp bend we passed runners coming other way but then hall came into sight about halfway, didn’t seem correct but had no option but to follow. We looped round and rejoined a stream of runners, with a marshal telling us we had come the wrong way. Considered dropping pace but decided to keep going.

Realised where we had gone wrong as we returned towards the finish, hitting the 5km point in 20:03 and the finish in 22:26 after a bonus 600m.

The next day was the Sweatshop 10 at a new venue in Blackpool. I was expecting a similarly flat course and despite it being a club GP race the plan was not to go all out.

It turned out that Bispham was not completely flat as the route was two loops of the higher and lower promenades with long gradual climbs and short steeper downs, so not to my preference.

Was caught in a much too fast start, so switched race plan to speed and survive, deciding to go hard on first lap and then see what happened.   After going through 5k in a crazy 19:20 this was going to be some survival test!

Calmed down a little but the knowledge of the chasing Tod vests saw me through halfway in 31:36, and the 2nd 5k in 20:20. Tiredness was creeping in but still kept pushing on for the next 5k in 20:42.

There was a noticeable slope up to the finish and lost a little ground going through 10 miles on my watch in 64:35 (would have just been a PB) but the finish line was 181 metres later at 65:14 for my second fastest 10 miler.

Not my preferred tactic but worth throwing in now and again as a test, felt boosted by my positive handling of the fade and even managed 3rd v40 in the Lancs Champs! GPS

Toe seemed almost but not quite right, so took a couple of days off before the packrun on Wednesday.

Friday was a partial solar eclipse.

I was still undecided about Heptonstall so went for a 10k run on the Saturday to help decide. That plus the good weather forecast persuaded me to go for it. At 15ish miles, it would be my longest race ever, and would be a significant marker post for which direction the rest of the year would take after the big one in May.

Whilst in a long queue for the loo realised I had the wrong insole in my right shoe, 3 sizes too small the wrong insole. Reluctantly gave up place in queue and ran up the road back to the car. Didn’t have the right ones but borrowed one from my road shoes. Considered swapping them both for evenness but time was tight and I still needed the loo.

Stood on the start line it became apparent that the other insole was also 3 sizes too small. 1 minute to go, 4 minutes needed to get back to the car and swap it. No choice but to try to ignore it. Shifted it round with my toes and hoped the pre-race blessing would pad out the gap!

Despite positioning myself near the back my steady start still saw me lose a few places and end up almost last as everyone hared off up the hill. Pace – this was all about the right pace at the right time. 5 miles easy, 5 miles steady then hopefully 5 miles still running would probably bring me in 10-15 minutes behind my potential best pace but more importantly give me the belief that I could actually manage to run more than 10 miles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘navigation section’ went by without incident, I couldn’t really spot any alternatives so kept in line with those ahead, taking the odd place. As we approached CP2 at Standing Stone Hill, it was time to move up a gear into steady, made all the more easy by a nice bit of downhill to come.

A steep section of Widdup Road gained me a few more places and as we headed off over the moors, it felt like this was more like race pace, carried on picking off the odd place but didn’t rush. Crossing Walshaw Dean a deliberate moorland burn caused a few breathing difficulties and struggled for a little while but ran well round the Walshaw loop ditching both Tim, an old school friend, and Simon from Tod.

After leaving Walshaw for the second time there was a long steady grassy drag and I took the opportunity to refuel and take on some water as I walked some sections. Legs were definitely feeling the distance now that I was into the last third but the blue skies and sunshine made for a wonderful day.

I found myself alone in no man’s land, unable to escape some pursuers and unable to catch those ahead. Felt like I was losing ground but after taking an unusual but effective line after CP7 found myself with a couple of runners in sight and worked hard to close them down on the rocky lane.

Kept at it and caught one then the other, entering the woods I was just behind Rachel from Barlick, before she took a wrong turn by a few paces and I ended up ahead (I did call her back!). As it felt like an illegal overtake, I went steady up the next climb to allow her time to catch back up. After being passed by a guy I got back up to speed and really enjoyed the section through Crimsworth Dean despite the impending black wall of death that was getting closer and higher with every step.

With just the notorious final climb to go, 165m in 1k, runners compressed up the slope and suddenly there were lots seemingly catchable and lots catching up as we fought to lift legs upwards. At the top the pain didn’t end as there was still a couple of fields of gentle up to go before the final field of down.

I did my best to keep running, it being less painful than walking, but probably no faster and crossed the line exactly 1 hour behind the winner in 2:47:15, the proud owner of my first successful long race. GPS

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