Don’t try to live your life in one day
Don’t go speed your time away
Last Monday’s Hollingworth 5k was to be my last ‘faster but comfortable’ efforts for a while as I dip down speed in readiness for Bluebell 10.3 and then allow a bit of recovery time as I reach the 3 month point of my rehab plan. In the event it was neither faster nor comfortable so I opted for a low run week with just an adventurous moderate group Wednesday packrun, that looks a lot better on the Garmin trace.
The chance of a double run on Saturday of Oldham parkrun and the race4rugby 10k trail was ideal for ensuring I didn’t go too fast and to get some distance in, but then the day before I discovered SELOC were doing an orienteering event at 10am in Alexandra Park. There were 3 beginner friendly classes and the longest was just 2.9k, so would be manageable. I’d always wanted to try orienteering but never got around to it.
Could also be a chance to do 3 races in 1 day? I decided to do the first two and then see how I felt, and if there was time to get to the third race in time. It would be a good opportunity to practice race pace across around 20k of running.
The parkrun plan was 4k in 20 mins, then go for a fast last km with the aim of coming in around 24mins. I came close at 23:42 but no cigar.
A quick rest and I wandered down to the other end of the park for the orienteering. I was a bit surprised no other parkrunners had decided to double up with a bit of fun but there were a few others there for the early staggered starts.
The chosen light green course had 21 controls. I received a brief introduction to the sport, including how to dib, found out that you had to visit them in a specified order, and that the maps featured lots of weird symbols but in the main were easily understandable.
I set off easy and quickly found the first two controls before an over playful dog hampered my path to a couple of controls but that meant I was going a bit steadier/ walking trying to dodge it and using a bit more time to plan my strategy. Once clear I got into a good rhythm – look at map to see next control location, identify quickest route and key features, get there fast, check control number, dib and repeat.
It was all going well until a seemingly placid dog decided to attack in a frightening frenzy as I passed. I never understand why owners let their dog off the lead in public when they know their dog is highly aggressive and they have no voice control over them. Had I been a small child the injuries could have been horrific, if not fatal. Fortunately I was able to make good use of a nearby downhill to accelerate and escape without serious injury.
I was pretty pleased with how things were going, a couple of route choices could have been better but was finding the controls well until number 11 which I ran past after mixing a couple of paths, after a wasted minute or so, I was back on track and flew round the rest, with only 1 bad route option and 1 control overshoot until a slight failure to spot the last control even though I was staring straight at it, camouflaged on a bright yellow barrier!
Once back I got an instant printout breaking down results, totaling 28:42, which seemed a long time for 3k? After belated stopping watch I realised that the ‘short half’ added up to 2.4k, so must have covered about 5k. Either I picked a very bad route, or the distance was impossible straight lines ? No time to consider as it was straight off to the next race.
After a bit of difficulty tracking down my ‘chauffeur’ and an extra 2k of running! We were away. Legs were tired and I wasn’t sure we would get there in time, but the lure of a new race route, and a first ever 3 race day proved too much and I registered with about 15 mins to go, having got changed on the way.
I then checked out the route map to discover it went down a lot of paths I had no knowledge of and with a small number of runners knew I may be on my own for a big chunk of it. Re-assured it was well marked, I opted for trail shoes – a good decision as it turned out as there were a lot of rocky tracks.
I’d had a 50 minute target planned, but looking at the map doubted whether I’d hit it as it looked a tough course. It was actually tougher, much tougher. The winning time was 42 mins, by a fell runner, suggesting it was maybe worth an extra 5 mins or so on a ‘normal’ 10k? Most of the first 4k were uphill and into a strong headwind. The downs were brief but still windy.
I started very steady and gradually moved through the first km, by 2k others were few and far between in front and I concentrated on managing effort and time. A steep descent after 4km was frustrating as the uneven rockiness made it hard to go fast, with the added need to protect foot. The run varied from lonely wilderness to crowded marshal points and walkers offering encouragement.
The return half was slightly easier being flatter but again the key descents were impossible to let go on, a glance on one showed less than 5 minute pace and I scolded myself. I immediately upped cadence and arm swing which had the desired effect on speed. I knew after the first half 50 mins would be impossible without pushing which I wasn’t prepared to do but needed to ensure I kept effort going at planned level.
As we crossed the motorway I knew we were near and there was a runner well ahead. I doubted I would catch him but a smoother final grassy descent allowed me to let go – legs were by now approaching 24km for the day and so letting go wasn’t actually that fast! Concentrated on leg pick up and gap was closing until finally the last stile before the finish field I just about caught him.
I messed up the gap stile and he pulled away and with half a lap around a rugby pitch I decided to go early in the hope of getting a gap to avoid a battle to the line, as I had neither the legs nor inclination. I thought I had it but in the last 50m a couple of kids shouted a warning that he was behind me and I tried to kick again, not much there but enough to hold him off. 51:34 was more than good enough for the course, one of the toughest 10k’s I’ve ever done. Loved it. They are hoping to do it again, and would highly recommend it. A pint and bacon butty in the sun made for a nice recovery after a brilliant morning of diverse racing. Three races completed in less than 4 hours – insane!
I was tempted to switch from Sunday’s planned Radcliffe multi terrain 10k to the PFO orienteering at Brun Valley, Burnley but decided I needed to build some positive mental images in readiness for the 3 day event later in the year. The final day follows a similar course and is always tough but last year injury turned it into a shocker so I needed to overwrite that memory in readiness for this year.
Forgot that it is very popular and arrived an hour before to find a record turnout crowding into the hall and only just about managed entering, the loo and a warm up. After yesterday my tendon was a bit stiff and I considered opting for a 50 min effort, but was wanting to hit around 47:30 if I could.
After a bit of an inconsistent start, I got effort down whilst clinging onto a pacemaker who I expected to be around 48 mins. Reached halfway in decent shape and as we turned onto a pot holed track that was my main memory section. I concentrated at various times on light feet, high foot lifts, upright back and arm swings whilst keeping effort as comfortable as I could without dropping pace – positive memory stored, we will see if it helps when I’m back at the Radcliffe Three Day Challenge in July!
I’d been troubled by a slipping HR band and finally ditched it into my pockets as it was too distracting. When switching between canals there was a tough uphill and my main focus was comfort so I slipped back a few places. From there it was generally harder work but made gradual progress to gain a few more places, the final loop was another steady uphill and then my second memory section, the last km or so of the canal. More technique tweaks to ease comfort, all the while reeling a couple more runners in.
As we turned off the canal I took it steady and then upped effort on the final 800m to gain another couple of places. I could hear strong feet behind so kept it going, marvelling at how it always seemed to be hot and sunny on this section. Entering the track we had ¾ of a circuit and I eased slightly but stayed just ahead around the bend.
I had no idea if I had any sprint left but patiently waited until the final 50m and accelerated. Surprisingly got a decent pace going and cruised over line with a good gap. 46:27 was very pleasing after a heavy weekend, excellent preparation for Bluebell. It’s all about recovery now.