Those of you who often read my reports will know how much I adore running uphill. How that when I am racing and I see a hill I shout for joy and put my little head down and run my ass off enjoying every footfall.
You will also have gleaned that my humour is both sarcastic and dry.
Having run this course twice already I knew what to expect. If I’m honest my knowledge meant that I was wary this time. I knew that my calves were going to be under tremendous strain and that was the worst possible thing for my plantar fasciitis. If my calves tightened, my Achilles would soon follow and then my plantar fascia would too – it was a line of dominoes waiting to fall. I had no idea how to run this race so that I could finish it in the least amount of pain.
Even on the way I was playing with different scenarios. Should I run:walk the distance or just run it and walk when I had to? Should I run really slowly and just try to run without any walk breaks? It was a dilemma and one which wasn’t being helped by the weather – it was wild; wet and windy. I knew that once I’d turned at 4 miles I was going to be running uphill and into the wind. It’s always very windy on the A68 road and it’s a long steady climb into the wind.
In the end I decided to play it by ear. I would set my Jeff Galloway app to “just run” at a 10 min/mile pace, with the GPS switched on and walk as and when I wanted. No one would be telling when to walk and I could assess my fitness/pain and run accordingly.
We arrived slightly later than usual, not helped by following a string of traffic seemingly unable to overtake a cyclist on the way into town. The usual car parks were packed solid so we had no choice but to find a road side gap. This took some doing and we eventually parked on the hill going up to the gaol. I hoped that my handbrake was good. We walked down to the town hall and I collected my number, chip and T-shirt. Unfortunately the number didn’t have holes in it, so I couldn’t use my Event Clips – they just wouldn’t break the paper to form a good hold. I resorted to using the safety pins that the organisers always so thoughtfully provide.
Next stop was the loo.
We met friends, George and Linda, as I left the toilets (great municipal loos, by the way – warm, plenty of toilets and hot water!) George was running the 10k too, faster than me though. George is extremely encouraging and after one holiday George and Linda bought me back a headband to match the one he always wears in races. Together we are now ‘Team Headband’, although my text to Linda last night said that going by the weather we should rename the team “Team Wet and Wild’!
With ten minutes to go I wandered down to line up near to the back. I hadn’t had chance to warm up properly so I did some dynamic stretches and decided to start off slowly. When the gun went off we had a walk up to the line before we could start running. We ran up past supporters and the abbey, round into the town square where the pipers were playing something suitably Scottish and stirring, whatever that might have been. It was nice, whatever it was.
Running on cobbles isn’t ideal, but it sounds great when hundreds of others are also running on them!
The first surprise was that they had added an extra hill. Obviously 5 miles of going mainly up hill wasn’t enough. No. The organisers decided that we should have an extra one at the start. Excellent! My strategy of walking up the steepest parts of each hill was immediately put to the test! The rest of the hills came thick and fast. I was maintaining a great pace, despite walking the hills in an effort to spare my calf muscles.
Mile 1 came in at 10:23.
I was running as much as I could, trying to bring my overall pace down. When I walked up the hills I was usually overtaken by the same people I passed on the flat or the way downhill.
Mile 2 came in at 20:27.
I was slightly envious of the folk who were trudging up the hills, not stopping to walk, but running a slower pace than me on the way down. I was having to work hard on the flat to make up the ground that I was walking up. However, I was delighted to see my third mile pass by in a very respectable time.
Mile 3 came in at 30:41.
At the turn for 10k runners (the half marathoners carried on at this point) I caught sight of number 1003, my Daily Mile friend Helen, who I’ve never met before. I shouted a greeting across and was relieved to see that she wasn’t far ahead of me. I like to gauge my progress against folk who are my contemporaries and Helen runs at a similar pace to me. Despite everything I was running quite well.
This is when my race became a race of two halves and it was nothing to do with my PF, which was actually pretty good thanks to the ibuprofen, the bandaging and the insoles! The wind became my enemy which when coupled with a long slow hill pretty much zapped my strength. My fourth and fifth miles were very slow in comparison to the first three, both being 11:44. This slowed my pace right down and I knew that I would struggle to recoup the loss.
Having battled up a mile long hill against the wind when I reached the top I was expecting to simply hurtle down. What greeted me was a blast of air that took my breath away, literally. I started to gasp and realised that I was about to have another asthma attack! Hubbie had suggested that I took my inhaler with me after my last race and I was grateful for his insight as I stopped to take a few puffs. These enabled me to pick up my pace a little and use the downhill how downhills should be used!
The last mile is pretty much on the flat. It’s a lovely run back into the town, through the autumn leaves. I was tired by then though and running much slower that I can run. I was walking far more often than I wanted. I needed someone, at that point, to run with. Just someone to spur me on.
I crossed the line (I think, because there were two mats) at 67:59* (Garmin time) which is my slowest 10k time in a long, long time. I’m OK with my time though because at the finish I was not limping. My calf went into a spasm once I’d stopped walking, but I wasn’t in pain like I was after my last race. I was given my medal Olympic style, which was lovely!
Helen found me at the finish and we hugged a hello and exchanged race stories. She had done well to finish a couple of minutes ahead of me – it’s not an easy race.
After collecting my banana, Lidl Mars Bar, a bottle of water and Caribbean Lucozade hubbie and I walked up to the leisure centre where I got a well deserved shower before we walked to meet George and Linda for lunch in one of the local cafés. After lunch I was limping quite a bit, but a couple of ibuprofens later I was fine(ish). I’m now happily relaxing at home with a cuppa, a cosy fire and the thought of cheese on toast on the horizon.
Next year? Yes, I’ll be there. I like this race. It’s tough and testing, but it’s good to pit yourself against Mother Nature’s hills and weather now and again.
My foot is OK. I have been sitting with it up for a while now and I’m about use the Shiatsu foot massager to loosen things off and release some toxins before icing it. Fingers crossed that this together with my nightly dorsal splint will mean that tomorrow morning is fairly pain-free!
My next planned race isn’t until January now. Maybe that’s a good thing. Some treadmill and trail running will help to build up speed and strength before then without causing further damage to my foot (now that British Summer Time has ended and the clocks have gone back outdoor evening running here is a no-no on the roads, unless I want to die an early and painful death under the wheels of a car/truck/tractor).