Gloucester New Year’s Eve 10 Mile 2017 review

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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…

Pre-race

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…

The race

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!

Post-race

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!

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This week’s running – 7th to 13th of December 2015

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So, just how long would you have to run to burn one of these off?

This week was about preparations for the Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run.

5k from work

I was hungry and tired leaving the office, so an 11mph headwind was most unwelcome. Even with my headtorch, I almost ran straight into a dog walker that was dressed entirely in black; it was only because the dog’s eyes reflected some light back at me that I realised there was somebody on the path at all.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

8 canal miles with 2x miles at half marathon pace

I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to cover on my Tuesday run. With the Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run on the horizon only several days later, I was very conscious of the fact that I hadn’t even remotely touched half marathon pace since crossing the finish line of the Cardiff Half Marathon in October. That was enough to convince me to slot in 2 or 3 miles at 6:30 pace to try and gain some familiarity.

The out leg featured one mile at 6:28 pace into a headwind to leave me feeling out of sorts. When it came to the return leg, I opted for another single mile at the same pace in an attempt to balance sharpening up without overdoing it ahead of Sunday’s race.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

5k from work

The 2 miles at half marathon pace from the night before had some effect here, and after an entire day’s worth of meetings sat down, my legs were ready to stretch out.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

A day of rest

Another day of meetings and a late finish at work meant I really wasn’t game for a 10 mile run, even at an easy pace, so I swapped Thursday and Friday around for an evening of recovery instead.

10 miles with 2x miles at marathon pace

Not a great run, truth be told. I was tired from the last couple of days at work along with less sleep than I’d have liked. The first 3 miles were also marred by an incredibly painful stitch that ran from the bottom of my sternum through to the right-hand side of my guts. Thankfully, it cleared before I reached halfway because I knew I definitely wanted to get 2 miles in at marathon pace to stop my legs from reverting to a plod-like pace.

In hindsight, I probably flew too close to the sun with this run where it was a touch too long (8 would have been ideal) when coupled with the 2 faster miles. I did feel slightly run down afterwards and spent the rest of the evening alone and feeling slightly sorry for myself.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

Having moved my schedule around, there was no chance that I was going to run at Cannon Hill Parkrun and still be fresh for Sunday’s race, so I opted to volunteer as a marshal instead. Armed with a water-proof coat and an umbrella, I was ready for one of the wettest Parkruns I’ve ever seen.

Of note were some incredibly fast women in attendance that morning, most likely visiting whilst in town for the next day’s Telford 10k. Looking at the results, most of them seemed to take up the vacant unknown runner slots where I guess they didn’t want to be formally recorded.

I happened to catch a few people off-guard who totally weren’t expecting to see me on the penultimate corner of the route. Very kindly, Steve Dunsby, Nigel Beecroft and Dave Burton came to stand with me after they’d all finished, cheering on the remaining runners out on the course.

Just as Dunsby and I were finishing up and heading off, one chap came over and asked if I was the “Yellow Runner” (I’m no longer sure if I’m being ironic anymore…) Confirming my identity, I was pleased to hear he’d discovered Cannon Hill Parkrun from reading my ramblings. Dunsby found it all quite hilarious and surreal, before telling him of other similar occasions from the past. Don’t be shy and come on over if you see me!

Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run

For the full race report, please click here.

It’s with sadness that we’re now formally at the end of Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book with only a few odds and sods left in the appendix, which may just about see us into the New Year.

It was over two years ago that I started including them at the end of each week’s write-up! I’m not looking to replace the rules with anything unless somebody has a suggestion?

Anywho, here’s this week’s entry:

Snappy retorts to 5 common heckles

Heckle: “Run, Forrest, run!”

Response: Approach hecklers. In deadpan delivery, recite another Forrest Gump line, such as “I’m not a smart man. But I know what love is.”[Important: Do not blink.] Repeat as needed until hecklers become uncomfortable and walk away. If time allows, follow them and repeat lines from other Tom Hanks films.

Heckle: “Woo woo! Nice legs!”

Response: “At least I have legs.” [Note: This response works only when dealing when dealing with a legless heckler.]

Heckle: “Nice shorts!”

Response: Assume that this is a sincere compliment, and say something kind in return. For instance, “Woo woo! Nice legs!”

Heckle: “Faster! Faster!”

Response: Pause to explain to the hecklers that you would run faster, except that you have a 6 mile tempo run on tap for Thursday, at 10k pace, and Wednesday is a cross-training day, so today you’re just logging an easy 4 or so, and besides, you’re still kinda recovering from your long run on Sunday, which was supposed to be 12 miles but you ran 14 to help make up for the fact that you missed the previous Sunday’s long run altogether and you were feeling guilty. If hecklers are still around at that point, try explaining what fartlek is.

Heckle: “Get off the road!”

Response: Confound the heckler by replying in French – e.g., “Je ne parle pas Anglais.” If the heckler retorts in French himself, you have met you match. Best get off the road.

Sneyd Christmas Pudding Run 2015 race review

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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.

Pre-race

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!

The race

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.

Sneyd Xmas elevation

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!

Post-race

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.

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Inadvertently stood in height order – Carl Stainton, Darryll Thomas and Andy Yu

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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…