It’s been a loooooong time since I posted a race report. September 2012, in fact, for my half ironman. And it’s been even longer since I reported on a running race. Because I haven’t actually run a real running race since, uhm, Boston 2011. And really, after last week’s rant on issues mostly unrelated to running I bet you’re all relieved to see me returning to talking about what this blog purports to be about – run Petra RUN! (And stop ranting!).
So this is a fresh one – I ran the Aldi Ashby 20M race today in Ashby-de-la-Zouche, Leicestershire (and yes that name seems weird to us in the UK as well). It’s billed as the ultimate pre-London race and it is, in that by now everyone racing London is doing 20 mile runs and you might as well do them with water stations and company. It isn’t great preparation in that it’s hilly which London isn’t. But I guess that means it’s harder than London in some respects, so that’s a good thing (ehmm). Anyway. I’ve done this race twice before (2009 and 2011) and each time I’ve really enjoyed it. What I also really enjoy is that you get a hooded sweatshirt at the finish. I know it’s not all about the goodie bag but when it’s a good one I’m happy.
Coming into this race I was feeling a bit jittery as my coach had set me a target time and pace – warm up for 2M, run 8M at 8:15 min/mile and then 8M at 8:00 min/mile, then 2M maybe a bit faster. While I have run those paces as part of a long run, I have never run them for anywhere near those distances and I was feeling very nervous about it. On the one hand I wanted to trust my coach but on the other hand I vividly remember trying to push too ambitious a pace on this course 2 years ago and coming completely unstuck. I was internally dithering whether to follow her instruction or whether to run by feel and running the first two miles downhill in around 8:30 min/mile did not inspire me with confidence that I would be able to run much faster. After 2 miles my Garmin beeped and within .2 of a mile it had started to beep at me that I was not on pace (I was heading uphill at the time). I made the decision to switch off the planned workout and just run with speedy Sally as long as I felt able to. I had been dreading this moment of abandoning my race plan for days and yet making that decision, so quickly into the race, felt like an enormous release. The pressure was off. And so we ran and ran and ran. It started off dry but then it started raining. By mile 10 I could see the rain was freezing and soon it started to sleet and snow. By mile 12 I lost Sal but by then I was in my zone – I felt myself running hard but just about hanging onto the pace. I was trying to remember what I’d run at this race before (I thought it was 2:55) and thinking that, unless a disaster happened, I would beat my course record. I ran past the point where the wheels came off in 2011 (it really stuck in my mind because I haven’t been here since) and felt great to be running strongly past it. By mile 14 I had stopped looking at my watch – I could feel I was running hard and I didn’t feel I would be able to push any harder without risking a real slowdown before the finish. Moreover, the strength and conditioning class I had taught on Thursday evening (with lots of squats, lunges, burpees and mountainclimbers) was making itself known – I have never had such painful and tightening hamstrings and glutes in a race before! I was worried that if I pushed it any harder I would start cramping (though I have no idea whether that makes sense – I could just feel how painful and stiff and tight they were) and so I just hung in there. The final 2 miles are uphill which was unwelcome but I made it across the finish, cold and wet and tired and sore, in 2:46: 52.
The only real downer of the day came when I was walking back to my car with two other runners and we got lost. The elation of finishing soon wore off and I felt so cold and tired and sore. We ended up having to climb over a few fences (a bit of a challenge after the race) to finally find our way to the carpark and our cars. Where I, perhaps to the consternation of other runners, stripped down to my underpants to get my wet tights, socks and shoes off. I was so cold I didn’t care and drove the whole way home with my seat heating blasting out and the car heating jacked to the max.
But the great news of the day came when I checked my previous race times while I waited for my bath to run – I have never run a 2:55 on this course, instead I ran 3:06:56 in 2009 and 3:07:36 in 2011. So today was 20 minute course PR! I am SO thrilled! After all my jeremiads about getting older and slower it seems there is life in this old dog yet! It’s particularly interesting because my coach has me on a much lower mileage plan than I was doing in those 2 years. I rarely top 40M a week at the moment and was getting a bit concerned that I wasn’t doing enough. But she’s very meticulous about my training and it seems the quality works! The only other thing that is different from those years is that I am doing more strength work than I was doing then (I was doing NONE then) and I wonder whether that is keeping me stronger towards the end of a race? It certainly made me stiff for this one – no more mountainclimbers before a long run – but it might improve my performance generally?
So much more to talk about and it feels weird to be posting something which doesn’t have much of my usual ponderousness in it but there you have it – when you’ve run as hard I did today it’s impossible to feel anything other than satisfied and tired. And happily one-dimensional.