Description: So, 7:30am, lying in bed thinking do I really want to do this? Get up, go to the club and hope I can get a lift, or get a train and taxi? Meh. OK, I’m up. Let’s get dressed and pack. As I’m on the bus, I get confirmation that a lift is available. I get down there and have some time to find some breakfast. Which is harder to do before 9am than you’d think. Betting shop is already open though!
So after a ham sarnie my lift arrives. A pleasant journey to Bath race course with someone who’s occasionally running with TACH and who lived in Germany for several years. Thankfully it’s warmer today, so no sheet ice to negotiate. We arrive a bit later than usual, and chat with the other SRC people and Liam and his friend are here as well.
Only 10mins before the start, I do some very quick warm ups (not enough) and pop to the toilet just in time to make it into wave 1 before 30 seconds and the start. We’re off and I want to be quick here like last time to try to get ahead of as many people as possible before the mud bath. I manage to close the gap to Tom and Lee for a bit, but then after a couple of km I’m sensing my lack of warm up, energy and that ham sarnie still digesting. Slosh, slosh, slosh as I bound down the big hill. It doesn’t seem as fast or as controlled as last time, I’m using bigger strides. But STRAVA tells a different story. A very different story. I smashed that today in 1:52 at 3:27/km pace. (Which almost seems slow as that’s downhill, and I’m doing that on the flat at WISE.) But last time, I was nearly a whole minute slower on pace. 2:21 at 4:21/km pace. Wow! Mark, the guy from B&WAC is #1 on this segment, Lee and Tom from SRC are 2nd and 4th respectively. Only 10s off top place, but that was done at 3:09/km! Nice work.
It’s been cat and mouse with a guy from SRC, I’m just faster on the downhill, but I pay for that on the up hill. I try to keep jogging, but have to fell walk the rest of it. Then forcing myself back in to a trot. Then comes the mud. Not so much of it this time. I have quite a gap in front. There are still really muddy bits, where I think I’m gonna loose a shoe. But it seems to pass quicker than last time. However, coming up the hill towards 5k my legs feel like they’re full of acid. Shit, too much too soon. Lack of prep, lack of food, lack of hydration, this is my fault. Similar thing happened at Sugarloaf last year. It’s flat after 5k, but it just seems to go on and on forever. I’m dreading the woods. Eventually they come and I’m still slow in them. There’s no queue but I get over taken. Despite being drier, I still don’t trust this ground. I can’t let go on this. Going up is still painfully (yes, lower back hurts) slow. I make it to the top and I’m shattered. Speeding up as fast as an oil tanker on the flat. Less confidence on the downhill. This needs to be under the hour, and it’s looking extremely close. I’ve just got to keep the pace up. Approaching the last km I’m starting to catch the SRC guy I’ve been tailing. As we both get on the final straight I tell him we should be under the hour. Four minutes to go. The closer I get, the more I know this should be under the hour. I’m certainly not comfortable, but I’m not half a second away from death. I pass a guy who’s just slowed to a walking pace and I tell him to keep going, he’ll be under the hour! He starts jogging again J I make it to the finish and see the clock is 58:40. As I pass it, I know it must be under 59 minutes. I’m happy with that! I turn around and the SRC fella comes in and we shake hands. Great race.
It makes a nice change to get to the tent and be very few people around. I grab some food and my third medal and head back to the start. On my way, someone comes up to me and says they recognise me from Pen y Pass. I recognise him, but it takes me a while for the cogs to turn. Then his wife turns up and yes, they are the couple from Bristol who were also at the Pen Y Pass YHA in Snowdonia when I was there. Awesome! Forgot she is a member of SRC.
I get to start and the others are there. We cheer in the other runners as usual; “Sprint Finish!”, “Go on, get him!” etc. We cheer Liam in and 118. Great atmosphere. And wearing my SRC Green jacket, it almost feels warm. Great way to end what is likely to be my last Skyline for a while.
The Prep: Race #60 for run 160. Attempting this three days following after a trail marathon, I’ve been through a sports massage on the legs, and cold bath and “recovery” 8km run. Monday felt amazing, so light, and so ready. Tuesday was a different story. It may be psychological, it may be DOMS from my exuberant 8k Sunday recovery run. The legs just seem to be a bit more niggley than they were yesterday. They’re sore after the alternative lunch walk and they’re not as light on the stairs. Can I really do this?
I leave early and get back home and I’m tired! I last ate at 1pm and I don’t want anything bouncing around in my stomach for the 7:30pm race. Stomach is grumbling. I lie on my bed for an hour. The wait is killing me. And then the first of two saving graces; Prodigy’s new track. It’s brutal!
I close my eyes, lie there, listen and let the images form. “The day is my enemy, the night; my friend.” There is no 9am start for this. It’s dark and I own the night. This race is on my turf. The bass kicks in just as the race bursts open at the start. Running round the curves, hunting down that time like a deadly animal.
I get changed and do a few minor stretches. I walk out the door, and I’m on my way to register. I’m listening to this track and literally bouncing around. Can’t wait to do this, COME ON!!!!
Then, reality hits as I see who’s registering. Fuck! I’d hoped that I’d get away with attempting this 5k PB without certain other people being here, but that’s not gonna be my luck tonight. And suddenly, here I am in this glass atrium, 1 minute away from my house, feeling like an imposter. Even though I’ve run this circuit more often!
But then I see a shining beacon, someone I know, but who I can actually talk to without a SWAT team taking me down! Marcus! The guy who helped me get round the whole of the Greenman route on NYE.
So I tell him I’m here to claim my first sub20 5k, three days after my 6 hour trail marathon, and he says something amazing. I can’t remember the exact words, but he refers to my stubbornness to finish the Greenman and trying to get this PB right after a marathon. He says something like I don’t know the meaning of the phrase “that can’t be done”. It just doesn’t apply to me. And hearing that, felt incredible. That, here in this room full of the elite of running in Bristol, to someone that was once given up on for not being inspiring. Wow! If only I could hear that, from the person over there.
Despite this, my warm up didn’t feel great, nor did my stretches. There’s a couple of faces I recognise, but don’t claim to know. And to be honest, yeah, it’s all pretty intimidating. I’m here now on the start thinking “I don’t know if I can do this”. This is despite Marcus saying he’s aiming for a sub20 tonight and that I should just pace him. And another Southviller in green, Pete, aiming for sub20 as well. Slightly less of an imposter now, but still intimidating. “30 seconds…”
The Race: And rather than the bass dropping in that Prodigy track, I’m thinking shit, shit, shit as the race starts and I set my Garmin going. I concentrate on only two things, keeping Marcus within distance, and watching where my feet are as they get very close to the kerb. I do not give a shit where anyone else is except my pacer. I only occasionally glance at my Garmin to check that our pace is neither too slow, nor stupidly quick. It’s 3:50km/min. I’ve run at least 2km at this pace, this is…manageable.
In a semi-haze I only half register that this middle lap is a little bit tougher than the first. There’s a small amount of moving around people to keep pace, but nothing that’s going to waste too much energy. All the pre-race studies of the inclines and pacing mean very little right now, even on the back straight. Suddenly, somehow we’ve crested the highest point and we’re well in to our final lap. This is getting really tough now, but it’s nearly over. I haven’t been paying any attention to distance, only pace. When we go past the 4km mark I remember that I’d calculated that I’d need to be bang on 16mins or less by this point to have a chance of a sub20. It’s 15:?? something. Okay, just keep this up. The pace has definitely quickened. Marcus tells me to keep up with the girl in front, Tracy. So without thinking, or emotion, I do. And for a while I over take. At this point I look further ahead in the field, and think I can make out someone in green in front, and someone tall in a white and blue top way out in front. Then Marcus comes back and offers me more encouragement. I’m losing him as we start the last little incline to the finish. 400m to go. I am so close to throwing up. I can’t be bothered to think about how shit I feel. I just try to sqeeze out every little bit of gusto I have going up that incline, knowing that I just have to keep going faster if I want that sub20. I can’t remember if I over took many people, it certainly didn’t feel like that. And it certainly wasn’t a highly accelerated sprint finish. Round the corner and the last 100m. This is it, do or die.
The Result: I’ve made it in to the funnel, then I recognise a green shirt in front of the person ahead. I go to try to tap him on the shoulder, but I’m told to get back in position. I’m too delirious to be thinking straight. I hear someone take my number and I wobble back out of the funnel. There’s Marcus, I’m so relieved it’s over. There’s a couple of green shirts ahead so I wobble over to them and shake their hands. They say something to me, but I can’t talk. Only shake their hand and smile. Then I suddenly remember I haven’t stopped my Garmin yet. I go to stop it, and see 19:55. Holy shit I did it, I DID IT!! MOTHER OF GOD I’M SUB20!! And then as the euphoria hits like a tidal wave, I find my voice again. “Sub20” I squeek/croak! (Think of a frogmouse. I may have just made that up.) “I did it, sub20!” As I say it and the weight of what I’ve just done sinks in, I can see the two faces I recognise talking. I really don’t care about how far in front they were. I just wish to high heaven that one of them could hear me right now, and see the time around my wrist. After an appalling September last year, I vowed to make October better and to set my mind to running a sub20 5k. Tonight, I delivered on that promise. Half the satisfaction is achieving the time. Half of it is achieving that three days after running a trail marathon. If you only knew!
I AM SO FUCKING HAPPY RIGHT NOW. I walk in and get my bag. On my way out I see Marcus again and thank him so much for pacing tonight, and that I couldn’t have done that without him. As I leave the finish and get back on to the pavement opposite, I burst in to life again and jog home. My mind wants to run another marathon!
The Aftermath: I get back to the flat and tell my flat mate about it. I must seem like I’m off my face. And I am. I feel incredible. He has a couple of ice packs, which I use to rest my calves on. Bliss. But I can’t stomach much of the stir fry. I know that after such a natural high, there’s gonna be a crash, and lack of food and sleep wouldn’t help.
But even the next day, I went to work feeling so happy and bouncy. I wanna to tell EVERYONE! But in the end had to settle for a select few. It’s all I wanted to think and talk about. Had a good chat with fellow SRC runner Sergio. At lunchtimes, the official results come out. 19:35! Holy fuck! 19:35!!! I did that! My legs! Marcus and Pete are only a few seconds ahead of me. Someone else is now sub19. (Holy fuck that’s fast.)
And then another amazing thing. The effective boss of my boss is amazed at my time, that it’s bloody fast. That it’s “something to look up to”. Holy shit, that’s effectively saying that what I’ve achieved is inspiring, isn’t it? That’s almost saying that I’m inspiring, no?! And more comments “You are so quick”, “Just wow”, “fair shouts that’s amazing”.
But all I really want is just one single word of praise from the person downstairs. Or just an acknowledgement of how happy I am that I can achieve something like that. I leave work…restless. When I get home, I write a very short and concise message saying well done on a hugely fast time, and that I’m happy with my sub20. Nothing. And then I hear the door slam. And now, second day in a row, I’ve lost my appetite. I was happy with my 19:35. The more time goes by, the more I think it’s not enough.
Description: Two down, two to go! I’ve been pretty apprehensive all week about this. Probably haven’t carbed up as much as I could have done. But Thursday evening I was reading an article that said that I need 500g of carbs for one or two days before. And that I don’t need to eat MORE, just make sure that I’m eating 90% carbs, and less of the other stuff. Seems doable, as energy seems to be my limiting factor. And I decide to revert from wholegrain back to plain pasta again. Yes wholemeal may be better, but I just don’t end up eating anywhere nearly as much of it as plain. So I figure that plain is what works best for me, and I should carry on. Also interesting to note that three handfuls of pasta gives me much more carbs than a bag of rice. Noted.
I eat well the day before, and manage pasta and sweet potato that afternoon with plenty of time to digest. A little lacking in sleep maybe, but a coffee beforehand perks me up and I’m actually feeling pretty relaxed on the bus. I make it in plenty of time, so I can relax on the warm up run to Greville Smyth and limber up. Feeling good about this. Weather is cool. May see a bit of drizzle later. Good breeze. Perfect.
Nice chat with people as we wait to start. My competition isn’t here yet again thank God. I can concentrate on running this race how I want. I try to get nearer the front, and I’m keen to get off ahead quicker than I did last time, but already people seem miles in front. I’m pleased to keep sub 4:20 pace for the first few km. The race thins out, but I pace behind one SRC runner for a while who has similar pace, and then decide I can push harder. Once past it seems an age to catch up to the next person. The other people are coming back the other way. I reach halfway and the guy says 22:29. That would put me on 45mins. What?! I look at my pace and it’s 4:25. What?! Come on! I’m really pushing here. I get past the guy in front, carried by the downhill momentum. But it seems to take FOREVER to cut the gap to the next group in front. I’m too tired to talk to people much. I feel that I’m stuck in one gear, which isn’t fast enough. Even when I’m only a few meters behind the group, I find it so hard to speed up. In hindsight, perhaps easing off and then catching up may have varied it more. But gaining pace up and down and small incline, I cruise past another SRC runner who says I have better pace. We’ll see at the end I say.
I just can’t seem to gain much, even going up the bridge. Running across the bridge, I know I’m running out of time, and that I should be overtaking people. I will myself closer to the person in front and the increased speed in doing that allows me to overtake several people on the rollercoaster before the field. I catch up to another woman, who kindly encourages me on faster. Amazing.
The SRC crowd is a lot quieter today, and it makes it even harder. There’s a Westbury guy in front. Part of me thinks that it’s pointless trying to catch him. But I keep pushing and edge past him, convinced he’s gonna get me back just like the old Westbury chap from last time. But I see the time, 42:40 and that gives me the impetus at the end I need to push, I wanna be sub43!
I make it! And I don’t feel I need to puke next to a tree. I obviously held back. I’m not gasping as much, and my legs don’t feel as broken as they did in the first race. Maybe I could have pulled 30 more out of that and be where I really want to be. A mixture, happy to have a PB and have momentum again. That 43:20 wasn’t just a fluke! But it’s only 30secs faster, and I need another 30sec before I’m in free air. Sub40 seems more than one race away that’s for sure. Can I do 42:20 in a months time? And If I’d known how close I was, maybe I’d have found that 30seconds in this race. It was perfect conditions! Maybe it will be scorching next time. But I did find it harder with less people to pace and overtake. I was stuck in too slow a gear. But a good pace early on. Need to be faster, stronger physically and mentally.
Description: So, it’s absolutely boiling. I haven’t carbed up. And I’m running a trail marathon up the highest mountain in England in two days time. But I want that time!
Today is an interesting lesson in negative psychology, as well as heat. Having pulled such a surprising PB out of the bag a month ago, I struggle to see how I can top that. I’m almost scared to try. My close finish last Monday makes me even more despondent, and I’m worried about who may be here. Today is looking like certain failure.
But I try my best, and have to grab some water on the way round. 45:27 is slower than I wanted, I would have been more comfortable with a 44:30. Being sprint finished by an old guy from Westbury Harriers didn’t feel too great either. Maybe that’s for Monday?
Description: A very special run. A very special race.
135 hours spent running
15 months of training
That’s right, after 15 months, 1,200km, 17,000m of ascent, 135 hours of heavy breathing, sweating and calorie burning, I reach my 19th race and 100th run! A century!
I wasn’t even sure I was gonna run this race, bearing in mind 24hours ago I was dragging my feet up nightingale valley exhausted, and dripping with sweat after 28k! But it was looking like a great Southville turnout, and I was looking forward to the technical off road bits. So despite the heat, the soggy mud and what little energy I had, I thought what they hell…
…It was a great SRC turnout. A warm up and a recce up those final steps to the finish, it’s time to start. Nervous, conscious of the formidable competition present. Part of the reason I think I did so well at the one last year was a blistering start and no other option but to hold on till the end. I don’t want to spend this entire race being distracted and worrying about other people. So I just edge my way to the front, and then run like fuck. Just get out in front and try to stay there!
It’s tough to keep up. One blessing is that I’m in a group of two people from SRC I get on well with. We occasionally swap positions over the undulating terrain, but we cheer each other on with “go on Southville”.
I’m still in front of where I want to be. I’m not gonna look back. I’ve just got to believe and keep running. I overtake one SRC on the long straight field, and then when we get to the final steps I overtake the other. The last few steps are pretty muddy and I have to slow a bit to get traction. I keep pushing up those last steps, but I think I must have this in the bag now. I probably ease off a few percent as I can see the light through the trees. Past the treeline, I’m onto the final flat to the finish. Nearly there.
After a slog up the steps, my mind dull, warms to the relief of seeing the finish. It wanders, thinking of the relief of walking and sitting down once through. But now there’s a knife at my back. I can hear breathing behind to my right. That’s got my attention back. I turn my head. OH FUCK!
“COME ON!!!” I scream.
I run, I sprint for my life.
Arms, legs flailing, saturated with adrenaline, I charge my way to that line. I’m so close. The stewards are waving at me to slow down through the funnel. No fucking way am I slowing down! I shoot out the back of the funnel like a raging bull and don’t look back. I manage to slow down before I hit the trees. But there was no one in front of me when I crossed that line!
That’s for that ParkRun!
After gasping for air like a fish out of water, finally getting my breath back, I stagger back to the SRC gang. They say they have never seen anyone sprint finish so fast.
On the bus home, I sit on the top deck and reflect. What a run that was! I was faster, but only by a whisker. I was so close to losing out on that. I walk away from that thinking that was too close. There was nothing really in that, but to me the glass seems half empty.
Description: I’m standing on the top of the cliff, looking down into the Cheddar Gorge, taking it in and thinking it’s great to be back. The first of the Cheddar Gorge Challenge races, a 10k. It’s tougher than I remembered. The 10k course carried on much further up Velvet Bottom (no smirking) than the half last year. It seemed to go on and on. Knackered myself out going out, and coming back was tough. The Hell Steps were horrific. Would have been happier with a sub 50, but a sub 60, and a sub 55 isn’t too bad all things considered. I just didn’t feel as though I “owned” this as much as last year.
Description: Round 2. And what a lovely evening. Running club group photo beforehand. I’ve left the office and come straight here, and I’ll need to go back after. But I boss this! Even without much carbing up, hydration and no gels. I was arguably faster last weekend if you trust the GPS (9.85km for this course). It’s over a minute closer to my Towpath target.
So the race? Pretty bloody good. I love the Towpath series, and this is why. I seem to be able to take it steady at the start, you don’t have much choice as things are pretty congested. It’s a nice route along the river bank under the trees and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. But you get to the halfway point and you’ve been just a touch slower than target pace, which should be good for a negative split. You’ve been inching up the pace from about 3.5/4k, but you turn and now it’s time to go up another gear.
You now have people running in both directions, so if you’re gonna overtake, it’s got to be opportunistic and quick to avoid a pile up. Right…space, sprint, in front, ease off, close gap to next person, pace, pace, sprint, overtake, in front…and so on…and so on. NO ONE is overtaking me, and I’m knocking these people down one by one. Maybe that’s because I started behind my target pace, but this feels bloody great. I won’t lie, I still have to ignore the voice that is shouting “give up, ease off” in my head. All I want to do is stop, curl up in to a little ball on the side of the road and hug a cup of tea. But if I can just catch up the the next person in front…
I’m so tired, GPS is showing slower pace than last weekend, but if I keep up with this person in front. And after a short while I’ve had enough and ease out in front. The worst bits are the long gaps, psychologically it’s so much easier to be pacing just behind someone and then power past. But I’m on the bridge now and if I can negotiate this up and down bit without falling flat on my face I’ll be there soon. Bystanders and runners are encouraging me on. I get to the edge of the park, and all I want to do is run the shortest route to the finish, but around the edge of the park we weave. It’s this point I dread the most. I’m exhausted, but the fear of being overtaken by a sprint finisher and a fellow running club runner keeps me pushing until I’m over the line. I can hear the shouts of “come on Southville” from here. How far behind me is he? Come on, push. PUSH mother**ker PUSH!!!
I’m through! I’m logged. My GPS says…says 43! Holy mother! 43!…43:26! Ha HAA!! I’m up against a tree trying not to throw up. GASPING for air. I feel like an asthmatic about to have a heart attack. But 43:26! Oh YEAH! 43:26! Two weeks ago I hadn’t broken sub47. Now I’m nearly 4 minutes faster! 4 minutes CLOSER!
But I think the best bit about the whole evening, after getting a couple of cups of water and my breath back, is walking back to the large mob of green garbbed Southville runners screaming “come on Southville”. The adrenaline is still pumping, and you’re screaming ” go on, get him, GET HIM” at the girl sprint finishing past another runner.
“COME ON SOUTHVILLE!!!”
I bloody love this!
After a brief gathering in the pub afterwards, it’s back to the office to finish the job. Like a boss!