Hello buzzers, well the Beast struck again and so many important races were abandoned, there must be thousands of frustrated runners around the country. Today a jewel in the northern running crown; the Wilmslow Half, got cancelled and the story seemed to be the same along the length and breadth of the country. But Blackpool and it's surroundings, as we have recently learnt, has it's own micro-climate and so The Lancaster road race, 'The Trimple 20' went ahead as usual. Jenny and I were there, 3 weeks before Manchester, 5 before London, the perfect time for a 20 mile race. Although the conditions were not any where near perfect!
But I get ahead of myself, my training chart this week does not look like a happy chart, my speed session produced a frowning face. 6 x 1200m , my least favourite speed distance lived up to all expectations, well off the pace and not at all happy, but it got done. Move on. The tempo session was just 5 miles but again produced a less than smiley face on the chart. My mistake was to run with Bella. Now usually it is lovely to run with Bella, she has such a great time and is a joy to watch. But this particular day her heart was not in it, she kept stopping, once to go for a poo (how thoughtless of her!) another time she and I went different ways round a gate-post, so a sudden stop! Then we got to the park and were joined by Jenny on her run but Bella just got confused as she didn't really know who to run with. All in all it was a rubbish tempo session and I even ended it with quite a painful right knee which gave me something to worry about...
So to today and the 20 miler. Well, yesterday it snowed, and it just didn't stop, so when we woke up to about 4 inches of the white stuff I feared the race would be called off. But Jenny rang the race headquarters and they said they didn't have much snow so the race was going ahead. Secretly, a small part of me was a little disappointed at this news. I knew I needed the race but my heart wasn't completely in it. Still, after walking Bella and a bowl of porridge,(eating, not walking) off we set, luckily the race start was 11am so it gave us a lot of time.
When we got to Lancaster it was freezing but we got all the formalities done and managed to park the car within 50 yards of the finish line so we were happy. The start was a bit chaotic as we didn't know where the start line was (turned out there wasn't really one at all so my Garmin was out by a quater of a mile from the off) and the route was so narrow for the first few miles that there was no way we could run at target pace. After lengthy debate with Jenny I had decided to aim for roughly 8 min miles for the first 10, then, if possible, to increase the pace to around 7.50 for the last ten, this way I ought to get a lot of useful info for my pacing strategy for Manchester. Anyway that went right out the window as my first mile was 8.55!
The next three miles were roughly 8.10 as I struggled to settle, overtaking, weaving in and out, and not happy; legs feeling heavy. The right knee made it's presence known after 2 miles and complained on and off for the rest of the race.
Miles 5 and 6 were sub 8's as I tried to claw back some of the average pace, then another tough one as mile 7 was 8.18. It wasn't until miles 12-15 that I could put a string of sub 8's together. The route was quite dull and at one point took us along an A-road which was not nice, but worse was to come...
I was just beginning to enjoy myself for the first time, the knee had settled down and a strange pain in my right foot was being managed. I could see me sticking to around 7.45 pace all the way home when suddenly at mile 14 .5 we were sent on a sharp left turn which took us up a hill and onto a dual-carriageway. The next 3 miles were the most grim miles I have ever run in a race! The out was uphill and cold, the back was directly into a strong, icey wind. It was soul destroying. All that hard work disappeared as I ground to an almost dead stop. In fact I did have to walk at one point and i had a 10 min+ mile. This very nearly broke me. My knee was in a lot of pain, I was worrying about Jenny who I knew had this to come, I wouldn't have wished those three miles on my worst enemy!
Miles 18 to 20 were about salvaging what I could, I was not a happy runner but I did comfort myself in the fact that despite my pain and tiredness my pace for those last 3 miles was still sub 9's, hardly marathon pace but in the circumstances, not horrific. I finished the race (up another ridiculously steep hill back to the castle) in 2hrs 49 with an average pace of 8.23. Slightly faster than my 20 mile run two weeks ago. Not fast enough for a sub 3.30 at Manchester but surely the conditions will be far more favourable in 3 weeks time...
So now I need to fix my knee, and rest, and recouperate. It feels good to have got my last really long training run done, and I know Manchester will never be as bad as what I've been through today. I don't think I'll be rushing back to Lancaster as I think it was a bit too challenging really, but I'm glad it's behind me now.
Now I just hope we've seen the last of the snow and the next 5 weeks can be about lovely tapering in the sun!
Happy training everyone!
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