Peak tan line exposure! Photo by Lis Yu
How would poor race preparation, Christmas, strong winds, and food poisoning affect this race? Read on to find out…
Peaking for a race is actually much harder than it sounds, requiring an ability to know when to push, when to back off, and when to hold steady; if in doubt, it’s almost always better to be under-cooked than over-cooked when reaching a start line.
Back on the 10th of December, I was ready to tackle the Sneyd Christmas Pudding 10 Mile, but snow put paid to that and many other races in the wider region. Hanging on to that hard-found fitness was a trial, especially as the snow became ice and subsequently wrote-off much of the following week’s opportunities to train.
I needed a 10 mile race at effort, both as a sighter for the upcoming Brass Monkey Half Marathon and also for its potent training effect. Speaking with Darryll Thomas, we identified the Gloucester New Year’s Eve 10 Mile as a potential replacement race; closer to the Brass Monkey than ideal, but I figured the training would fully soak in over the course of the fortnight in between.
Having already finished work for 2017, I found an abundance of time to stretch myself in training and to adequately recover. I felt fit once more and maybe, just maybe, I’d done enough to offset any damage? Of course not! Christmas landed and even though I don’t drink, the calorie-fest of the festive period took its toll. I felt fat and some of my running kit felt slightly more snug than usual as further confirmation. I even picked up some food poisoning, making it difficult to absorb nutrients from anything I ate – at least I had plenty of calories stored in my new muffin top!
With such a challenged build-up, it was only the thought of the training effect that got me up on race morning to drive the 60 miles for the event. Lis came with me and we soon met up with Darryll Thomas, who was similarly not in the mood due to having already peaked a few weeks prior – only the need to complete his full set of distance PBs for the year kept his enthusiasm simmering.
A shorter than preferable warm-up jog from the race HQ to the start line was more of a token gesture than anything to get either of us into gear. We even ran out of time to get a set of strides in due to one final toilet visit. Nothing went to plan at all!
On the starter’s orders, off we went into the Gloucester countryside…
A fast performance that morning would be hard to come by with ferocious winds howling in the background. Nonetheless, runners were deterred not and everybody charged off at their target paces, including Darryll and me. The effort got the better of me after a mile at 6:24, convincing me to back off to sub-marathon pace.
As Darryll pulled away into the distance, I settled in with a couple of guys that I would spend much of the remainder of the race with. It was fascinating to see such a regionally diverse crowd in the race, with club runners from all four corners surrounding Gloucester in good representation; I saw plenty of BRAT from Birmingham, Les Croupier and San Domenico from Cardiff, and so on.
Miles 2 to 4 came in at 6:31, 6:48 and 6:57, with some rot setting in due to the strength of the wind, the undulations and the big climb up to halfway. Wearing the Nike Vaporfly 4% seemed to make little difference, and in hindsight I should have wore the Nike Zoom Streak 6 instead for some nimbleness underfoot.
As the race progressed, the mile markers grew more and more out of sync with my Garmin. I wasn’t alone on this, as other people’s Garmins also fired off late on each occasion.
Marshals and water stations were plentiful on the course, with the latter appearing on four occasions, thanks to the two lap configuration. It was even bottled water, too, which is a rarity for smaller events of such a nature.
Reaching halfway, it was time to take on a gel. I was incredibly anxious, as my stomach had been unsettled by food poisoning and I didn’t want a guest appearance from the gingerbread man (Marathon Talk gag). I cautiously sipped and nursed it for the remainder of mile 5, which was easier said than done as I was largely charging downhill… Mile 5 was back on form for 6:37.
Somewhere beyond halfway, I was caught by Huw Jones from BRAT. I knew Huw would be running that morning and I’d anticipated staying with him, due to our similar current levels of ability, but I started too fast and he started off by holding back. It turned out he was covering the race at marathon pace, but still provided a solid target for me to chase in the second half to stop me from slacking off. Huw opened up the distance between us before I was able to keep the gap stable at some 20m; shortly thereafter, Matt Gresty, another familiar BRAT member that I was hoping to see that morning, joined me briefly. Both Huw and Matt’s more conservative starts meant they had the power in reserve to drive on, whereas I struggled to reel either of them in. Note to self: don’t burn the first mile like it’s a 5k!
I remained steady, as much as could be done on the windy course; much of the second half splits resembled the first pass, or turned out to be marginally faster. Miles 6 to 8 came in at 6:53, 6:52 and 6:29.
Heading into the penultimate mile, I teamed up with a Forest of Dean runner I’d run much of the race with to chase down Huw Jones. Everybody’s pace lifted a touch and it took the rest of the mile before we finally caught and overtook Huw (mile 9 came in at 6:38).
With just a mile remaining, I wanted to see if I could catch Matt Gresty, who had also kicked on. I gasped for air like a fish out of water, hoping that one of the right turns would eventually be the finish line. More and more spectators lined the course, including Lis, so I knew the end was nigh. Remember the out of sync mile markers from before? They came back for vengeance with all of that cumulatively missing distance being corrected in that final mile, making an already long-feeling split feel even longer! I kicked for the line, even registering 4:08 pace at one stage!
Here’s the Strava data for this race.
I registered 66:42 to be over 2 minutes slower than the last time I ran 10 miles in 2015 on the Sneyd course. Thankfully, I’d made peace with the pace way back in mile 2, so I appreciated the sub-marathon pace work. Darryll had finished minutes earlier but missed his PB by just 17 seconds, falling prey to the distance correction of the final mile. Reviewing the list of results, there were very few PBs attained, which is hardly surprising given the conditions and timing of the race.
Does this race stand up to the repeat entry test? Tough question… Whereas it was cheap enough to enter the race, it did require a 60 mile drive to get to the venue. The route felt preferable to that of Sneyd, with far fewer cars to contend with and more marshals and facilities on course.
There was one additional positive that made the race worthwhile, because afterwards Lis and I ended up at the nearby Gloucester Quays outlet shopping centre, which happened to feature a Nike factory store. Remember a few weeks ago when I bemoaned Nike for having made too many changes to my beloved Pegasus line of shoes? Well, it just so happened that the factory store had ample supply of the Pegasus 32 at reduced prices! Needless to say I stocked up and without a marathon to tackle in 2018, they should last even longer!