Race Report: Les Allcorn Trail 10km

On the day of the race I was asked to take the A Team leg at the Gordon Smith relays so I felt like I needed to at least take this into account for my final race plans for the Les Allcorn.

As I mentioned in my race preview blog this more than anything was to be a solid training run and I didn’t want to miss the relay, especially now I was upgraded to A team.

I’d also found a better course profile picture which showed the majority of the climbing should be completed in the first 2 to 2.5 miles of the race. With that in mind I decided the best approach would be to keep average power below 369 watts in the first 4km. I’d then click the lap button and seek to keep average power above 370 watts in the final 6km and see how it felt.

The race kicked off at 7pm near Alnwick Castle so I had to set off at a decent time for the 40 minute drive from Newcastle.

I’ve got a Vespa scooter and hammering down the A1 is always interesting and this ride was all the more interesting for the biblical downpour that ensued for about 15 to 20 minutes. I couldn’t see a thing and got absolutely drenched. Not an ideal start. Then I chose to ignore the big neon sign for the race and instead ended up at a concrete factory!!!

I got there in the end and still had time to pick up my number and have a jog around the beautiful location.

Before I knew it I was on the start line. I started wondering what the hills would be like and, more importantly how the effort was going to feel.

The starting whistle went and we were quickly away. A pack of maybe 4 or 5 runners were away up front but I just tried to focus to settle in at target wattage which I did at around 359-361 watts on the flats.

The first hill was fairly tame but wattage spiked to 367-368 so I tried to just keep it smooth and not push too hard. It then felt like every hill got a little steeper. The steepest had us doing a sharp right hander onto another long gradual climb. My wattage had landed on 370 watts and I was a little isolated with a couple of runners still in sight up ahead meaning I could gauge what was coming next.

I wondered whether 370w was too high already but when it became obvious the worst of the climbing was done I just focussed on stride and trying to take advantage of the more favourable descents, keeping my steps as light as possible.

It was at this point I felt like I was pulling in closer to an Alnwick Harrier who became my immediate target. I was able to pass on quite a steep decline and by doing so was immediately getting closer to another runner in the process. Much further ahead were two Morpeth Harriers. At that stage I thought they were 1st and 2nd but I was mistaken as another Morpeth Harrier must have been further clear.

So in my head I was aiming to catch third which I did not far past 5km. I’d obviously descended much better than I’d climbed. I’d pushed quite hard to get power as close to 369 watts downhill and I’d clicked my lap button at 4km to help with this but I noticed the best I was managing was maybe 365 or 366 watts.

I caught the runner I thought was in 4th and followed for a while trying to suss out how I felt and what to do. At some point he invited me to take over and I decided to speak as I felt we could work together to catch the Morpeth Harrier up ahead. Eventually the lad took over the headwind at which point I noticed the Morpeth lad stop just after a cattle crossing. This was our chance to give it a go.

I took the initiative again but alas it wasn’t to be. I was starting to feel laboured. I’d allowed myself to become a bit disenchanted as I was sure I’d seen and passed the 7km marker only to notice it some minutes later. That demoralised me as was the farmers track which reminded me of Town Moor parkrun. There were puddles to avoid and large stones to be wary of.

I noticed I was struggling to keep power in the high 350s. That spurred me on a little. Focus on effort and nothing else. Push.

Unfortunately at around 8km a decent stitch appeared just under the right rib cage. I can usually deal with them but this one stuck with me until the end.

I started wondering who was coming from behind. I was still in third (or so I thought) and in with a shout of a prize. But I was slowing and gave up my place again never to be regained.

For the first time I started looking at distance on my Garmin. Watch was saying 9.65km. Only 350m to go! I was thinking to myself I could just go now and finish it off. But it never came. By now I knew someone was coming. I looked over my shoulder and saw the Alnwick Harrier who I’d passed before 5km. He was already approaching a sprint.

It was onto the grass finish. I did pick up but not enough. Once he was by I slowed down to a jog, a walk. Over the line…

There isn’t time to write more. It’s onto the Gordon Smith relays.

Thanks for reading!


Race Preview: Les Allcorn Trail 10km

Race Preview: Les Allcorn Trail 10km

Coming out of my season opener at the NEMAA Open Relays I was forced to take a couple of unplanned rest days.

As I covered in my race report, I’d gone into the race with a sore throat and felt worse on waking the next day.

Although I don’t think it negatively impacted my performance, I didn’t feel well enough to train and took two days off.

This was a bit of a concern as I approach my next assignment at the Les Allcorn Trail 10km in Alnwick on Tuesday 9th May.

I’ve never tried this race before and, from what I can tell, it is a mixed terrain and hilly 10km. With that in mind I’m not necessarily looking to run a PB in this race (note: current 10km road PB is 34:49 from 2018).

A quick check on my power of 10 reminded me that I’ve only raced two 10kms on the road and two “Not Official Distance” (NAD). I suspect this race could be registered as NAD as well.

That’s fine as my main goal will be to get in a hard training run with one eye on following up with another 2 mile relay at the Gordon Smiths a day later!

But we will have to see if that plan is possible given how my body reacted to the 2 miler.

I’ll then look to use the data from all 3 races to create a short 6-7 week training plan taking me all of the way to the Great North 10km in early July where I will be aiming to set a new 10km personal best.

Race predictions and planning

Following the NEMAA Open Relay my Stryd running app is suggesting I can hold an average of 377 watts for 10km with a predicted finishing time of around 34 minutes +/- 41 seconds.

New Stryd race predictions

I’d managed to track down a Strava GPX file of the Les Allcorn course profile which can be uploaded to Stryd. If the race calculator is to be trusted the course shouldn’t present major issues, i.e. the uphills must be cancelled out by subsequent downhills.

From what I can see there is a decent portion of uphill at the start and end of the race and a decent downhill section in the middle portion.

The key therefore will be to maintain equal power output both uphill and downhill. That is harder than it sounds as you typically need to ease right off uphill and really push downhill – the exact opposite of what most runners do naturally. Most seek to maintain pace uphill by working harder and use gravity to help them downhill whilst trying to recover from the efforts expended uphill. Running hard downhill is a very specific skill not often practiced – it is inherently risky and can easily cause injury.

But as I said earlier, I’m looking for a hard training run so the rough plan will be to average around 360-370 watts in the first 5km, check the split, see how I feel and then decide whether to push on and average as close as possible to 377 watts in the second half.

The unknown will be the ground conditions. I’d found a race report from some years ago that mentioned muddy conditions early on. Given the recent wet weather that could make shoe selection tricky and it may be best to go with a pair of training shoes. I don’t think supershoes would be wise. Nor trail shoes.

With that plan in mind I was looking to complete one final training session on the Saturday before the race. I would usually long run on a Saturday but I felt like something around 15-16km easy with a 3km portion in the middle approaching something like 369-377 watts would suffice.

Overall volume for the week was going to be low (~50km/30mi) given the forced two days rest. That is well down on the 70km/44mi completed last week but in many ways I suspect that was a factor leading to my slight lethargy and sore throat this week as I’d (deliberately) spiked my training which I accepted as a risk worth taking for this set of “B” races.

But there’s not much I can do to move the fitness dial now, so this session was more designed to get a feeling for what something approaching 377 watts felt like in the legs more than anything else. Then tick over Sunday/Monday as I feel able.

I was still keeping an open mind to the possibility of pulling back the race plan even further, for example aiming for 355-365 watts overall for the race and a potential race finishing time of around 35:15 or even 36mins plus, i.e. still a very useful training run. For reference, I ran 77:46 at the Great North Run in 2021 averaging 355 watts on a challenging and energy sapping revised undulating course – the first 10km was done in 36:42.

Great North Run 2021 result

Alternatively, a target power average of ~369 watts (which is what I held for half marathon at Manchester in 2021 in a race time of 73:34, first 10km sub 34mins) and see where it lands time wise. Stryd is currently predicting a finishing time of sub 35 minutes at that effort level.

Final training…

Waking up on Saturday 6th May I felt a little better but still fatigued and snotty. I knew a hard long run was a terrible idea. And now even risking any portion of running at close to 10km intensity seemed potentially the wrong thing to do.

I’m a big believer in listening to the body and I’ve learnt the hard way that pushing a tired body too hard is counter productive. But I’ve also been using the Oura ring to track “readiness”, heart rate and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) since late 2019. Oura was much more positive than I felt within myself. Indeed Oura hadn’t really registered anything as being amiss all week, suggesting I could train as normal.

All things considered I decided to run at least 10km easy. First 5km keeping power below 245 watts and the second 5km around 270-275 watts. I’d then decide whether to stop the run there or add in some portions of faster running or strides.

In the end it didn’t take me too long to decide to keep the run really easy. I did an initial portion of 9km (5.6 miles) keeping average power around 250 watts which translated to 5:09/km (8:20/mi) pace. Average heart rate was 133bpm.

I then completed three 200m strides on a slight uphill gradient, just trying to visualise myself starting a 10km race. I was interested to see where that would land in terms of average power.

All three strides came out >380 watts and closer to the effort level at the NEMAA relay. I take this as a good sign as the strides felt very solid and controlled. I now just need to let my brain take over when it comes to the race on Tuesday. I know I can run quite comfortable, at least in the first half of the race, and still achieve my race aims.

Measuring Aerobic Efficiency: Beats per Mile

A useful metric I like to track is Beats per Mile (bpmi) which “does what it says on the tin”, i.e. calculates how many times your heart beats per mile on a run as an average. It’s very easy to calculate and once you have enough data it’s easy to spot trends in your training cycle and assess whether you are aerobically fit enough to start considering faster running.

So for this 9km easy run completed 3 days prior to Les Allcorn, my bpmi is average pace per mile multiplied by average heart rate, so 8.33 x 133 = 1,108bpmi.

To give some context, when I am detrained or something is not quite right my bpmi on easy aerobic runs could be 1,200+ whereas when I am pretty fit my bpmi can be <1,050,

I think this run felt about right and I am happy now to tick over with easy runs on Sunday and Monday.

Thanks a lot for reading and stay tuned for the race report!

2023/24 plans

2023/24 plans

So far I’ve just been chipping away in 2023.

Nothing major. I’ve managed to just “stay in the game” and, although mileage is still relatively low, I feel ready to try a few races.

Behind modest mileage target so far this year…

My main immediate aims with racing are to basically see where I’m at and push my fitness on towards a good go at bettering my 10km PB in July as I’ve entered the Great North 10km.

Before that I’ll be lining up at the NEMAA Relays (approx. 2 miles) this week, the Les Allcorn 10km and (if everything is Ok) the Gordon Smith Relays (approx. 2 miles).

That’s quite a lot of racing in a short space of time for me but it’s deliberate. The short relays should give VO2 max a little boost while the Les Allcorn is more of a hard training run as it’s a mixed terrain course with some hills.

To give some perspective on my current fitness level, when I ran 16:01 for 5km and 73:34 for the half marathon in 2021 my Stryd Critical Power (the power I can hold for 30-40mins) was 383 watts. As it stands today it is currently 360 watts. I’m hoping following this bout of races that my CP will edge closer to where I was in 2021 which would give me some confidence that I could certainly run something sub 34 minutes at the Great North 10km.

But we will have to see. My CP of 360w is predicting approx. 17 minutes for 5km which feels about right.

Current Stryd race predictions based on CP @ 360w

Some recent positive training runs have given me cause for optimism but also lead me to believe that my current CP of 360w is still quite challenging, and I’ll need these little race tests to confirm or deny where I’m at.

I completed a 30 minute threshold run at right around my predicted half marathon target power of 345w (1:19 predicted time). Note: I managed to hold 369w at the Manchester Half where I finished in 73:34.

I ran it as a 15 minute out and back with the first half feeling great. The second half was much more challenging as I ran it solo back into a headwind. But overall a good workout although I was left wondering how I could hold it for another 50mins.

And then on Saturday just gone I ran a full half marathon at around 3hr marathon pace. Again I ran to power (avg. approx. 306w) on an undulating course with the first half net downhill and the second net uphill (point to point course). Aerobically I felt very good although at an average heart rate of 157bpm I feel I have scope to improve around 10-12bpm. In addition my legs went quite badly at around 18-19km, mainly around the hips. I put both the heart rate and leg issues down to a lack of long runs generally.

Overall this week’s training was quite risky as I vastly increased both volume and intensity which isn’t recommended but I feel it was a calculated risk which gets me ready to race hard and see how things come out the other side.

I haven’t yet thought too far beyond the Great North 10km in July but I was inspired by the London Marathon and I can’t help but feel the full marathon is something I need to try. I’m also keen to have another go at earning a Masters England vest. One option may be to see how things stand after the Great North 10km and potentially aim to have a go qualifying at that distance before deciding on any approach to the full marathon in 2024.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates on the upcoming races.