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The worm has turned.

 

Progress this week, as I raced 10k for the first time in perhaps over a year, maybe even longer.  The result was a little bitter sweet.

I’ve trained and trained this year, already having achieved a PB in the Sheffield Half Marathon back in May, but definitely with my sights on successful completion or improvement during the Ultra Distances I have lined up.  So far so good, when up pops Andy Hough (my brother) with a last minute invitation to enter a race called the Barlow 10k.

I grew up near Barlow, visited friends after school, so I was kinda charmed into revisiting the area and seeing how the training might have paid off.

I’ll admit, I kinda fancied my chances, since several of my recent tempo runs have proven an ability to sustain quite a fast pace without climbing very far past level 2.  All I needed was a fairly flat course, with maybe one ugly hill to separate the roadies from the trail runners.

Early on the day, Gareth Lowe (Clowne Road Runners) popped into store, so I asked him if he knew of the race, in particular the route – which seems a very well kept secret.  His response was “Pan flat that race”. He smirked.

________

I arrived ahead of time on Friday evening, parked the car after locating one of the only spots remaining.  It was heaving.  I began to scan the crowds, trying to work out who might be the real competition among the fun runners and try hards.  It was impossible to tell (often the way).  The one person I knew I was going to struggle against was my Brother (nearly always the way).

We assembled at the start line, where we were welcomed, thanked and reminded that Accelerate had sponsored the race and was the place to go if you take your running seriously.  Me decked out in Accelerate ‘A’ logos, trying to keep a low profile at the far end of the front row.

GO!  We ran like the clappers straight through the end of the cul-de-sac and onto a gravel track, left into a farm yard and squeezed onto a country lane.  Then it went UP.  Up and up, more and more – climbing and up again til it finally went up and higher.  Rising.  Steep.  UP.

I hoped that the small lead my Brother had would shrink as soon as he tired of hills and my training kicked in.  I hoped that as long as I maintained a steady rate on the ups I’d be able to turn on some real speed when it finally levelled out.  I hoped that the route turned left at the first sign of a Marshall, standing at the crossroads just ahead.  Disappointment on all counts.  “Straight over” she yelled at me.  Straight UP you mean – dear God it was brutal.

Tell you what though, I did manage a little spurt once we reached a downhill and I did catch Andy up toward the last 100 meters.  Passing a chap in his front garden – who’d had the genius idea of lighting a BBQ and filling our path with thick smoke (thanks).  I gave so much in catching my Brother, I had nothing left as he said in a generous tone “go on”, gesturing for me to finish in style.  I rounded the final bend ahead of him, but met with a sudden 60 meter climb to the finish line.  My legs had turned to lead.  My Brother clearly hadn’t wasted as much as me in reaching this final section and he pulled away.  Not fast, just fast enough to leave me once again in his dust and picking off another runner up ahead for 7th position.  I settled for 9th.

I say settled, but in actual fact I’d turned in my fastest ever 10k, earning a place in the top ten at the same time.  Nothing to frown about, despite the reality check.

Doesn't even look that steep does it?!

Doesn’t even look that steep does it?!

So what I’ve learned is:

Training for endurance is great, but speedy runs at level 2 on level ground won’t spare you during 3 solid miles of steep uphill slog – Gareth Lowe is a comic genius.

The GPS Track pod works brilliantly when attached to the top of my shorts (close to waist band), but flaps like crazy when dangling at the bottom of my shirt (near the hem).  It took a moment for me to wrestle it free and relocate it, maybe costing me the lead over my Brother early on, and definitely annoying the hell out of me – but entirely my own fault.

The Inov-8 Base Elite 140 SS T-shirt is ace, very comfy, well fitted and fast drying.  Saved the car seats from once again looking like the Turin Shroud come home time.

The Inov-8 race Elite 140 Trail Shorts are similarly amazing, with extreme comfort, lightweight liner and rear zip pocket for car key this occasion – more importantly an elasticated gel pocket on the right hip that turned out to be where I SHOULD have placed the GPS, perfect little place for it in future.

Hot weather and 10ks make me want to stand in the toilet and flush myself away.

_______

I was incidentally up again at 6am the next morning (Saturday) to do a 2hr trail run, and a 4hr on the Sunday.  Yesterday (Monday) I was yawning like a crazy person for no apparent reason.  Funny that.

Despite the yawns, after work I went and did a half hour recovery run – only to discover I’d trimmed an easy 2 minutes from a route I haven’t done in a while.  All in all the last few days have really boosted my confidence.  I’m faster by default.  I’m more efficient and capable of maintaining long steady runs without much effort or fatigue.  Little race once in a while as a ‘treat’.  See you out there.

 

 

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