The threshold run at Newcastle parkrun was a confidence boost and I looked forward to my first road race of 2018 at the Dalton Park 10km on Sunday 4th February.
It would be my 4th 10km race and my PB still stood at 35:37 from Blyth in April 2015. So my main goal was to beat that.
On Monday I got in the gym for a simple 40 minute easy run on the Treadmill. I’d felt a little twinge in my right hip which was a little like an old injury I’d picked up back end of 2016.
I’d noticed it on the 2x 8mins on Saturday (after parkrun) and also on the Sunday long run. So I was keen not to aggravate that further. I did some strengthening work on the appropriate gym machines as well.
I was happier on Tuesday as it had settled and the plan was to attend another Tyne Bridge Harriers session.
The advertised plan was 10x long hills but the Group 1 lads had another session in mind so I joined in with them. There was about 8 of us getting stuck into 4x1min, 1x10min twice and 3 of the faster lads were doing an extra 4x1min to finish.
Conditions were very similar to a week previous with a strong wind against heading out along the Tyne river.
I handled the first set of 4x1min quite well and the key challenge was the 10 minutes into a strong breeze. I decided not to wear my heart rate monitor expecting a hill sesh so the effort had to be judged carefully.
Three or four of the lads were away and three of us worked together in a group probably around 6 minute miling or slightly quicker.
It felt like longer than ten minutes but we were able to reel one of the lads back in who hadn’t stayed with the front pack.
It was a bit of a relief turning back with the wind favouring and I was able to run the second set of 4×1 at low 5 minute miling.
There was a little bit of confusion on the last 10 minutes as I was left with the fast lads knowing I wouldn’t be able to stay with them as their threshold was probably 20s per mile faster than mine. I also had one eye on Sunday’s race and didn’t want to kill myself.
I felt I could run around target 10k pace with the wind at my back but again I didn’t have the heart rate monitor to validate whether I was staying around lactate threshold. I also hadn’t timed the session so I had to guesstimate the ten minutes of effort.
I’d say the first half was fairly controlled but as I passed the millennium bridge and the pitcher & piano I was having to work.
Looking at the Garmin I was able to see I was approaching around 7 miles total and felt that that was enough for the session. I’d been running for around 45mins.
I completed a recovery run back up to the club meeting point.
Truth be told my runs on Wednesday and Thursday were pretty tired and my legs were sore.
Both were 40 minutes easy.
On Friday my run reduced to 30 minutes and overall felt a bit more spritely. I was starting to think a lot more about the race on Sunday…
Having run parkrun at no harder an effort than threshold made me feel confident that I could run well but as the week went on the usual doubts re-surfaced.
The key point is I want a PB. Having ran things by Coach Tune the key is to be realistic and execute a good race and not blowing up too early.
My PB at Blyth was a case in point as I recall going through the first mile in a low 5:20 mile which was close to suicidal and I spent the rest of the race holding on.
At the Clive Cookson 10k in May 2016 I felt like I paced the first mile much better (5:37) but then ran the second in 5:23ish and struggled badly in humid conditions in the 2nd half.
So the key will be to play a bit of patience. I’d like to go through the first half around PB pace and then build to around 35 minute pace until the last mile where I just need to give everything I have left in the tank.
I would be pleased with anything 34:**.
On Saturday I got out in the damp and wet conditions. The plan was just an easy 20 minutes. My main concern was to let the legs recover so I decided on a very light jog on the grass. Everything felt fine.
I spent some time reading some instructional running books to ensure I could go into the race with a good mindset and get things planned out. I find Alberto Salazar’s very good for this.
The race was due to start at 10am and I had a 30-40 minute drive to get across.
Everything went to plan on the morning of the race except I ruined the porridge in the microwave. I was up at 6am for that and then back on the sofa for an extra hours nap.
The drive from Newcastle to Seaham was enjoyable as the roads were quiet and the race HQ being in a shopping centre car park meant everything was nice and relaxed with loads of parking available and portaloo facilities etc. I got some stretching done at 9.15 and then a 15min jog warm up and a few strides. I wanted to feel what target pace felt like (approx 5:37ish).
Before long it was time to get on the start line which was a short walk. A little annoyingly the race organisers decided to narrow the start funnel to about 3 or 4 wide. So it was impossible to get on the front. I thought about a Craig Mottram documentary I’d watched the night before – everyone gets anxious at the start, a necessary evil.
Having said that my deliberate plan was to run very easy the first 400m at least. Indeed the usual stampede was off and I was looking down at 5:30 miling feeling like a jog so I was content to let them go. I was probably top 20 at best.
The front pack was already away. I was determined to stay with my game plan of focussing on a PB.
About 1km in we had a decent incline of a 1/2km to tackle and I was able to go passed a group of maybe 5 who had gone off too hard and couldn’t maintain pace. One lad had peeled off the front and I focussed on his heels as we went right handed onto a trail type path with a fair amount of standing water and mud. Initially it was downhill and I was able to get onto the lads shoulder. I could tell he was making efforts to not let me by and I noticed he was breathing heavily. I was able to go by. At this stage I was probably 10th with another lad a little further ahead and then a large gap to the top 8.
This path was now proving difficult to maintain a rhythm. It was very much off-road mud and puddles and I was struggling to maintain sub 6 minute miling. This wasn’t the plan.
We then went left handed onto a rocky uphill section and back onto the pavement. I was able to close the gap on 8th and pass by on the way down to a roundabout. I didn’t get round the island very well and then came onto a slight incline into the breeze. I was to be alone for the rest of the race – detached from 8th place by 50-100m.
Checking the watch through 5km it looked like 17:30 but I couldn’t believe it and I knew I was sitting on more like 5:44 pace. I was struggling to settle into 5:37 pace as the course became a long road section which was ideal but into a slight headwind.
Completely alone I tried to dig in. I started to realise what “the road to nowhere” meant…
A slight incline brought me to a complete u-turn and a run back all the way and this was where I had to capitalise on favourable wind and gradient.
I was finally able to get on target pace but it wasn’t enough to get me ahead of PB schedule. And another u-turn took us back up the same road into the headwind and slight incline again.
This was a low point in the race for me. The u-turn had meant I’d completely lost my rhythm and trying to pick up again was all the more difficult as fatigue was setting in.
Part of me wanted to take the foot off the gas and another was determined to keep going. I wondered if anyone was behind who might take me.
I was glad that my determined side was the dominant and I felt like I wasn’t necessarily losing any time.
I tried to look ahead and envisage the last couple of kms. I could see the leaders bearing left onto the downhill which was the incline we had gone up between 1 and 1.5km.
That gave me hope that I could make up some time. It gave me fresh impetus to dig in harder. I let a young boy annoy me by standing in the middle of the path. Although stupid it made me concentrate and push on. Afterwards I had to relax.
On getting onto the downhill I focussed on both increasing stride length and cadence. I was able to pick up decent pace here and I was pleased to get through 9k.
I knew it was well under 4 minutes of running to go.
I was running quite strong here and was actually enjoying the race for the first time. I was back into the shopping centre area and despite some tight cornering I’d manage to pull back into a PB position.
Coming into the last straight the clock was counting past 35 mins and I was able to get over the line in around 35:23.
It was a tough race and I was well shy of a sub 35 clocking. That said I was pleased overall as for this stage in the season I feel in good shape with a good platform to build from here.
I know I’ve got more in me and I need more race experience. Attention now turns to the next Harrier League fixture at Thornley Hall next Saturday.
Onwards and upwards.
Thanks for reading.