You get a Christmas pudding at the end, too!
The last Christmas themed race I ran was a British Heart Foundation Santa Dash (dressed as Santa), which was absolutely yonks ago – but don’t let the name fool you – this wasn’t some Christmas novelty race!
Not many photos for you all, I’m afraid – Lis was battling Christmas shopping hordes.
Prior to the Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run, I’d never actually participated in a 10 mile race before.
There was much deliberation beforehand regarding target pace. With a distance that sat between a 10k and half marathon, it shared more in common with the latter, but not without some of the intensity of the former. Carl Stainton recommended I tackle it at target half marathon pace for a good training effect boost, but also for confirmation ahead of the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in January – if I felt wiped out at the end, it was probably pitched right and if I felt like I still had more to give, I should realign my target slightly. Darryll Thomas was also running and as ever, our identical targets of a sub-65 finish at 6:30 per mile saw us plan to team up to try and share the effort.
Hallelujah, race morning was free of blustery wind for once! Instead, a 4 degree chill and rain took its place, which was forgiven considering the season we were firmly in. I reached race HQ and seriously thought I’d under-dressed, with only a light jacket over my vest. Clearly, I’d over-budgeted how long it would take me to get there because there were maybe a handful of other cars in the carpark and only a few people milling around inside the school grounds.
Number collected, I bumped into Andy Young (great initials) and congratulated him on his recent spate of improvements. He had a target of sub-60 in his sights and I suggested he try and make contact with Carl during the race, who was looking for a similar result. I soon located Darryll Thomas and confirmed our plan was good to go. In the blink of an eye, all that spare time I had on my hands had quickly been eroded away; conversations with various friends from various clubs, Parkruns and so forth had eaten away at it. And that was one of the best things about this race – it was really well supported and turned into a bit of a who’s who of the local running community.
I felt electric during my warm-up and confidence was high. There was none of the usual gasping for breath, though that may have simply been down to how cold it was, motivating me run to faster and with less restraint!
Joined by Darryll, we planted ourselves in the starting grid a few rows back from the very front, based on our belief that we would finish in the top 40 or so. In a departure from the normally short and inaudible countdowns to race starts I’ve experienced of late, there was a full blown countdown from “10” to ensure everybody was primed. “Bu-bump. Bu-bump.” I could feel my heart beating with some anxiety over not having formally raced since early October. “…3-2-1…” And we were off!
In spite of the adrenaline and the red mist in full flow, it actually took Darryll and me a few hundred metres to get into target race pace. The course went through a few residential parts of the local area and was not closed to traffic, and coupling that with a fairly dense field at the start saw us dodging and weaving in a bid to try and settle into a rhythm. That said and done, our first mile came in faster than target for 6:27 thanks to a slight downhill section.
The organisers advised runners to use pavements where possible due to live traffic, though the road was almost always preferable with a smoother surface and fewer undulations from drops and rises due to driveways.
Two laps of this for double the joy…
We had to endure a 2% gradient for much of 2 miles, to be tackled twice in total. So early on into the race, the climb was only a minor annoyance; we stayed reasonably conversational and rotated pacemaking duties to align with our respective strengths. Marshals were fairly regular, though one flooded part of the course could have really done with one or two on the look out for when runners had to go wide and straddle the central road markings, or risk charging through the water with no knowledge of how deep it actually was. Miles 2 and 3 clocked in at 6:34 and 6:29 respectively, so nicely back on track for a 6:30 average.
The field began to thin out as runners settled in for the race. Many that had overcooked things during the first mile or two began coming back to us to reaffirm our mutual plan was working well. The course flattened out and even began to descend for some active recovery. I say “recovery” but what I really meant to say was we began clawing back damage from the ascent of the previous two miles and produced a 6:23 for mile 4 and a 6:21 for mile 5. Yikes! I couldn’t quite believe my eyes to see we were running sub-40 10k pace during a 10 mile race!
Powered on by a cheer from Hilary Foster of Cannon Hill Parkrun fame (Rob Foster was running), we charged through halfway with a 44 second buffer to go under 65 minutes. Sweet! Not so sweet was the field thinning dramatically to leave both Darryll and me firmly on our own, with the next group ahead a few hundred metres away. We agreed to not let each other drift away if either of us struggled – the last thing we wanted was a solo time trial on our hands. The course dropped once more and helped us produce a very tasty 6:13 mile 6 split, which works out as the middle range of my 5k pace…
As we turned the corner for another stab at the climb, we both felt it. Our breathing was laboured and there was no denying that we were working hard to maintain the pace. We continued to reel runners in, especially from the pack ahead that broke apart and sent members back towards us. Remarkably, a Peel club runner shot past us as if we were standing still and marked the only occasion in the race, bar the start, where we were overtaken. Miles 7 and 8 felt ghastly, but we suffered through to surprisingly produce 6:30 and 6:32 for no slowdown compared to the first lap. I switched my Garmin over to the stopwatch for some time feedback – 11 minutes remained to cover less than 2 miles, so we were still bang on target.
Taking a leaf from Darryll’s book the first time around, I opted not to take water in the second lap and relied solely on an energy gel. For a complete reversal of roles, Darryll did take some water on that happened to unsettle his stomach, and prompted me to take up the pacemaking reins. My stomach was also making gurgling noises, though my issue came from the beetroot juice shot I sank earlier that morning – it does work, honest!
The turn for the final downhill stretch was upon us and we were still comfortably within budget of a target sub-65 minute finish. Neither of us were particularly keen on thrashing out an eyeballs out final mile for fear of throwing up. With maybe 300m to go, Darryll confessed he couldn’t press on and urged me to go on without him. I began picking my cadence up and kept glancing behind me to shout words of encouragement to try and coax him to stay on my tail and not drift too far backwards. We turned the remaining corner for home, cheered on by Carl who had finished some 4 minutes prior – finally, the suffering was over!
Here’s the Garmin data for this race.
I staggered over to a wall and propped myself up for support. 1:04:17 glowed proudly on my Garmin’s screen for a huge chunk off from target. Darryll was equally as thrilled as I was, coming in just a few seconds behind for 1:04:21.
Inadvertently stood in height order – Carl Stainton, Darryll Thomas and Andy Yu
Two Andy Ys don’t make a right – Andy Young and Andy Yu
We caught up with Carl, who squeezed out a 1 second PB on last year. Andy Young bumped into us and revealed he had obliterated his sub-60 target with a 58:42 finish – there’s simply no stopping him at the moment! The four of us had a one mile cool-down, which made me smirk with the realisation that it would be one of the only times I’d ever be able to keep up with both Carl and Andy.
I stuck around for the prize presentations and there were some eye watering performances to behold – the first place guy finished in under 53 minutes! Also impressively, one lady ran the course dressed as a rather un-aerodynamic turkey.
Overall, the Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run is a great training opportunity for those working on late winter/early spring half marathon campaigns. Whilst the course leaves much to be desired, it delivered exactly what was promised in the form of a chip timed accurate 10 mile race with a christmas pudding in the goodie bag at the end. I’ll be back again next year for sure.
Conclusions and thoughts
Based on how little time I needed for recovery after crossing the finish line, I knew I had more to give and a sub-64 minute finish would have been possible in this race. In terms of how the effort felt, it was almost as if I was running a slow 10k, or a fast half marathon, which is exactly what I anticipated.
With the month or so remaining between now and the Brass Monkey Half Marathon, I’m pretty confident I can fine tune my training further. On such a pancake flat course, I should be capable of running the same 6:26 average pace as today. That equates to an 84:30ish finish, and a whole minute faster than the original half marathon target I’d set for myself a few months ago.
Comically, this 10 mile PB when punched into the McMillan calculator gives the following equivalent performances:
- 5k – 18:31 (18:51 actual)
- 10k – 38:28 (39:16 actual)
- Half marathon – 85:45 (86:41 actual)
- Marathon – 3:00:27 (3:34:02 actual)
Yes. All of my existing PBs are now soft, thank you Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run! The 5k I can look to bridge with two and a bit weeks of 2015 remaining, but I’m not so sure about the 10k and marathon. Watch this space, I guess…