Race report: Gordon Smith Memorial Relays

Race report: Gordon Smith Memorial Relays

I wasn’t sure how I’d come out of the Les Allcorn 10km with a quick follow up race in the Gordon Smith Relays 2 miler a day after.

I’d been elevated to the Tyne Bridge Harriers A team as each 3 man team needs a Vet 40 and we had a drop out. I felt like I had to challenge myself.

On waking I didn’t feel too bad, slightly tired with a bit of muscle soreness but nothing unexpected. That said I wasn’t convinced I could run my very best 2 miles.

I felt I could at least aim to hold a similar effort to the NEMAA relay the week previous and hopefully benefit from the faster course. I still felt like something around 10:30 could be possible if I could hold 393 watts. However, the suspicion is that the NEMAA is slightly short of 2 miles and I’d ran 10:30 there.

As the day wore on I did feel the fear somewhat.

It’s a strange feeling racing two days in a row. I can’t remember ever doint it. It’s weird having to wash the club race vest so quickly – usually it resides in the wash basket a little while…

I was down to run the second leg and the mens race wasn’t off until 7.45pm. With the drive being much shorter I had plenty of time and decided to try to nap after work and before setting off back down the A1.

I like the Gordon Smiths course. This would be my 4th running of the race and I still have great memories of running this race for Elswick in 2016, picking up second leg in first place from Tadele and holding onto it, definitely a running highlight! We picked up 2nd place that night. I wrote a blog on that here.

I also had a great race last time out in 2019, running my fastest registered time on the course of 10:21 for Tyne Bridge Harriers B Team that year.

But I also remembered the “all out” effort levels required to achieve a 10:20-10:30 clocking and felt I wasn’t there yet – both mentally (and now physically after the 10km the previous day).

I’m still feeling my way on low mileage this year (I’ve averaged 26 miles/42km in the last 12 weeks). And, truth be told, I am having the usual doubts about the calibration of the Stryd power meter, especially now it measured the Les Allcorn as 250 metres long which is difficult to believe!

What it means is I need to plan my races with a +1 – 2.5% variance on distance to work out what I really need to push out power wise for a specific time goal. I also need to factor in what Stryd calls “air power”, i.e. wind resistance. The Stryd race time predictor assumes near perfect conditions…

As I said in a previous blog, I had these same doubts back in 2021 and it all came good in the end. I decided to plan on aiming for 393w again which for 2 miles should be around 10:30 in good conditions.

As the race got closer I toyed with the idea of not referring to my watch at all and just race to feel. In the end I lacked the confidence to do so which, with the benefit of hindsight I regret. But that approach will return at a future “A” race.

I completed a short jog warm up which didn’t feel great. But warm ups rarely do. I was nervous but not in a getting pumped up to run hard kind of way. Nervous about doing myself justice and getting round respectably.

And so it was time to get in the busy start pen for leg 2. I wasn’t sure when leg 1 would arrive. As it happened our A and B team runners (Connor and Zak) were battling to the line, running fast legs of just over 10 minutes. Only my race number had been called and so our B team second leg (Paul) was late to join me on the start line. If anything Zak finished ahead of Connor and so it felt like a messy start to the race.

I was immediately a few yards down on Paul as I tried to get into a rhythm. Overall I felt a bit race “dead” – there wasn’t much adrenaline to speak of. I hadn’t had pre race caffeine (again save that for an A race) and so I felt like I just needed to get round solidly.

Getting into a rhythm early on…

Paul was stealing a decent lead and going round the first left hand bend my first aim was to not let the lead grow too far. I couldn’t hear anyone behind me and pleasingly nobody ever passed me by in the race.

Paul had overtaken a Heaton Harrier and a Sunderland Harrier. The Heaton Harrier seemed to be travelling slowest and so became my main target. I seemed to be travelling OK. So far things had started similar to the NEMAA relay power wise – I was averaging over 400 watts. Stryd believes I’m capable of that for 2 miles, unfortunately I felt like I just needed to keep steady and let it ease off just a tad to leave something for mile 2. In a better mood my approach should have been to battle for 400w for at least 10mins and use the will of God to finish whatever was left…

But despite the cautious approach I was past the Heaton lad and closing on Paul and the Sunderland Harrier.

We were on to the toughest part of the course. A slight incline to the highest point although nothing like the Les Allcorn hills. But you invariably slow a little at constant effort. There is also undoubtedly a head wind although I don’t recall feeling it as such. I was shocked after the race to see Stryd recording 3% air power across the whole race which is significant…

My power had ticked down to 399 and then 398. The Sunderland Harrier had regained the lead from Paul who seemed to be slowing, probably taking the brunt of whatever headwind there was.

After the incline we were onto my favourite part of the course, the downhill approaching the sharp left hander back onto the gravel to the finish. I felt quite good here considering and part of me felt like I could not only pass Paul but target the Sunderland Harrier as well. I had an urge to try to change gears but never did. It was more a gradual effort and I was making ground.

Turning onto the sharp left hander I was probably 10 maybe 20 yards behind the Sunderland Harrier. I felt like I navigated this final stretch on slightly muddy ground really well, potentially not a million miles away from my 2016 and 2019 efforts if the Strava segment is to be believed.

Finishing off my 4th Gordon Smiths

That said, onto the home straight the Sunderland Harrier had gotten away and I stayed on one paced.

Clicking the watch and seeing 10:47 was initially disappointing. I will save detailed thoughts on where I think I’m at and where I’m going for a later blog.

For now all I’ll say is my Stryd measured the course approx. 60m long with 3% adverse air power.

I managed to hold 395 watts for 10 minutes (393w as planned for the whole race) which was just slightly higher than the NEMAA relay. Although I think it’s very difficult to compare as these two courses are so different – especially the sharp turns at Bedewell Park.

As a result my Stryd Critical Power has increased to 378 watts and predicts 16:08 for 5km! Spookily this is identical to where I was in early August 2021 prior to running 16:01 in the Quayside 5km…

It’s on me now to not question and try to believe what it is telling me, and not forget how closely this mirrors what happened in 2021. I’ve got a lot more work to do though.

So my job now is to work out how I can best prepare for the Great North 10km in early July.

The published results showed Tyne Bridge A team finished in 5th place. My time was recorded as 10:38 which looked incorrect. Race organisers were contacted as I’m a stickler for detail and I’d prefer my time to be correct in the “annals of time”… I also think our 3rd leg Tim deserves the time he ran on the day to be recorded correctly.

Well done to our new Mens club captain who took over duties and this race was his first at the helm. And also all of our other teams – especially the ladies who came second.

Thanks for reading!


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