As you may be aware, I ran the Trail Rush race just over a week ago – now in its second year.
Good race. Great course. Brilliantly organised. I had a ton of fun.
Here’s my summing up of how it went.
Just a few days prior, fellow Team Accelerate runner Dot Kesterton had asked me what I might be planning to eat while racing, to which I shrugged – as I usually wouldn’t bother with food for 15 miles, so long as I was fed beforehand and had something waiting for me at the end. Same goes for drink. But her suggestion of a Banana inspired me to scoff one ahead of the start and having done so, I felt good to go.
Dot had also asked about my target finish time…. something I was undecided about. I knew (or at least hoped) I’d be quicker than in 2014, when I’d really done hardly any running at all before committing to a 15mile race. I’d recced the route with my brother and a running buddy, only to crawl across the finish after 3hrs on very tired legs. Just over a month later, I’d fought the temptation to walk for the final half mile and came in at 2hrs 11mins.
This year, as I explained to Dot – I was hoping to maybe shave 30 minutes from my time, but having checked the results from 2014, saw that the winner outright had managed 1hr 41min or so and that seemed a little ambitious. Seemed a little stupid really.
So when Dot said ‘sub two hour?’, I agreed with a ‘yeah, sub two hour’ and left it at that.
Race day 2015 then, I was in high spirits. I’ve been running. I’ve had some fun completing ultras and park runs so far this year, as well as an amazing experience on the new Sheffield Half Marathon. Strangely though, it was Trail Rush that I was really looking forward to. It’s such a good course, right on the doorstep. So green and at times on the outer edge of Sheffield – almost a Peak District feel to it. The chance to trim from my existing race time and the opportunity to run on stronger, more conditioned legs, with the benefit of experience. I expected that the PB was in the bag. It’d just be a case of seeing how well I could do overall…
We started at 8am (with option of starting at 8.30 or 9am), figuring it’d be best to get on with it and avoid getting too warm if the weather turned good. There was a breeze, threat of rain, but humidity that meant it was still about 10C.
I set off fairly quickly, among a group of 5. The leader promptly disappeared. The four of us who then spread into single file, thinned out along the route – but always within sight of each other. The ups and downs, along with the option to ‘dib out’ (stop the clock) at road crossings meant that we gained on each other here or there, but then broke clear again when the terrain suited us differently. By Endcliffe Park I was overtaking the guy who’d been just ahead for most of the way, then passed another chap who asked how long we’d been running. I saw it was 40minutes already, which surprised me as it had been a blur. I really was enjoying myself. By now it was drizzling, but I didn’t mind, as it provided some relief in the humidity. Besides – we were about to tackle the biggest uphill.
Once we began the climb into Porter Brook from Whitely Woods, there was a sense that I was really racing and the running became a little more like hard work. I was wearing my heart rate monitor, trying to stick with level 2 for common sense. Good form and efficiency were my weapons of choice, with me trying to resist the temptation to run too hard on any given stretch. That was, until the top of Limb Valley, where I finally locked sights on another of that group of 5.
Having thrown myself through the initial wooded section, avoiding any trips for all the tree roots and stones, I was clear and instead of easing off, made a mad dash downhill for the entirety of the trail. From nowhere came the chap I’d passed back at Ecclesall Rd. He might have gained from the short rest he took by the road crossing, but I figured it was more likely he was just fitter than I was and had paced himself effectively. Either way, he was now in front of me again and looking strong. Pffft!
We crossed into Ecclesall Wood and descended to Abbeydale Rd in similar fashion (fast feet). That guy kept losing me, then I’d be right behind him. He’d shimmy through a gap in the fence, I’d duck and go under (I’m 5’2″ – bonus!).
We finally came to find ourselves at the same crossing, on Twentywell Lane as we entered Nether Wood, so I said hello and asked if he’d done the race before. He said no, but that he lived in nearby Hathersage and was familiar with parts of the course. What he neglected to say, was that he was also still feeling incredibly fit and good to go and promptly got a wriggle on, while I began to tire. I settled back into a run soon after the enormous set of steps (73 of them!). He was gone. I was going, going, gone!
I checked my watch. It was fast approaching 1hr 40mins or thereabouts and I was trying to work out how far I had left, how long it should take and how on Earth I’d even dared to imagine finishing in 101 minutes.
I fully expected to see a second set of steps, but as I found out afterwards – the route had been slightly revised and cut out the second staircase, which was fine, but they’d weighed heavy on my mind all the way to the main road. I didn’t much care – this was the A61, last road crossing and clear sign that you’re about to re-enter Graves Park, where the start/finish was waiting.
Having spent myself completely – I again slowed to a walk on the final rise (just as I did the year before), just managing (resentfully) to run past Marshalls on the final right hand turn and into the finish funnel. I was tired out, but was very pleased to be back.
I was third across the line. Third in my group that is. So I smiled and accepted compliments from spectators and finishers alike, while offering my congratulations to the two fellas who’d already finished so strongly. Then I scurried away to collect my finish time print out and grab a drink.
All that remained was to clap the rest of the finishers in and watch my third overall begin to slip as runner from the 8.30 group turned up in fine form.
I ended up coming 10th overall, which I’m more than happy with. I completed the 14.7mile course in 1hr 57min, which is 14 minutes faster than 2014. As was pointed out later that week, means I’ve almost managed to run a full minute/mile faster.
Many thanks to all who worked on the race. Marshalls and officials, top job. Whoever goes out ahead and labels the course, nice work.
Things to do differently: well, as I’ve stated in two separate blogs – my guide to running the Trail Rush clearly states that road shoes would be a good choice in order to stay comfortable on what is essentially a road surface of sorts for the majority. Sure, it’s labelled as 75% trail, but it’s all tarmac paths through parks. hard packed dirt and stones. So why I keep choosing the Salomon Sense, with their firm midsoles and low drop is beyond me. They’re just so lightweight, comfy on and great for genuine trail, that I cannot resist. The parts where things got technical allowed me to really get stuck in, but they’re no road shoe. I’ve had such stiff leg and tight calves ever since, I seriously have not run for over a week since. Durrr.
Otherwise, I don’t think there was more I could have done – other than train harder, for longer and with more attention to hills.
Full 2015 results.