A PB..? That’ll do nicely :)

I woke this morning to frost on the ground and thoughts towards the 11:00 start of the “Ferriby 10” 10-mile race at Skidby Windmill, near Beverley. I ran this one for the first time in 2011 in a satisfying but very tiring 84:16 but this time I had a year of training behind me and I really wanted to go sub-80 which obviously meant a sub-08:00/mile average pace. Gulp!

The course can pretty much be summarised as a 5-mile undulating incline followed by a gradual 4.5-mile descent with a 0.5-mile hill to the finish. In order to break 80mins the plan was to try and complete the first 5 hilly miles in as close to 40mins as possible (the 08:00 pace I was looking for overall) which then meant I could stretch my legs downhill and make up some time for the inevitable pace-sapping hill at the end.

From the off the road was choccablock with runners – the race had met its entrant limit some time back and it was certainly cosy with the other 558 runners at the start. As the gun went off it was a good 10 or 15 seconds before I crossed the start line and began jockeying for position, weaving around folks when a gap grew large enough as the mass moved forward. The weather was fine and fresh – clear skies overnight had brought low temperatures and I was grateful that the 2degC morning thaw had not left any slippery patches behind.

I woke this morning with the usual pre-race jitters. I’d reminded myself before I arrived that the race was no different in length or difficulty that a lot of the off-road runs I’d done over recent weeks, and as a result the road ahead was not in the least bit daunting. Last year I remember the hills being long, hard and never-ending; this year they seemed short, easy and actually quite enjoyable.Yes, I know how that sounds(!) but the truth is, although they were completely unaware, those hills had it coming because I was determined to keep up the pace and a positive attitude definitely greased the wheels. I knew my PB chances rested completely on those first 5 miles…

As was the case last year, a race marshall at the 5-mile mark was calling out half-way times to runners as they past. I could see him in the distance and began to hear his muffled announcements as I approached and suddenly was aware of the impending moment of truth. If I was running to plan, I should pass him with 40-minutes on his stopwatch. Here he comes…be gentle on me!

40:02

Yes! Having reached the same point last year a good 3 minutes later, and with 4.5 miles of gradual decline ahead, a smile broke out on my face (which was soon to be replaced by a semi-contorted choking face as I tried unsuccessfully to drink a cup of freezing cold water on the move!). “Here we go…this is where the fun starts.”

** At this point I need to say I’m amazed how I hit the 5 mile point with such accuracy. I’d been replaying my strategy over and over in my head and such was my belief that I could achieve it my body found the resources it needed and simply made it happen. The power of positive thought in action! **

For the next 4.5 miles I upped the speed and maintained it around 07:34/mile, despite the onset of blisters soon after the drinks-station. Grrrr. Safe in the knowledge the next significant hill was some distance away, I settled into the effort and tried to ignore the shouts of pain from my feet. I did have a little self-gratifying “humph” to myself at one point as I reminisced about the times in the not-too-far-away past when 07:anything was a laughable impossibility for me and was then immediately grateful for all the effort I’d put in over the proceeding months to allow me to trot along at that pace. Further evidence if I needed it (which I didn’t) that the training and effort really was working.

The only other event worth noting in this section was at mile-8 when I suddenly found myself drifting uncontrollably from the edge of the road into the middle. I’d gone dizzy and it was as if the road had tipped causing me to drift right. A shake of the head later and I corrected my position only for the road to tip the other way and I headed for the grass verge. Slightly worrying. I was well hydrated, breathing was fine, legs felt good and I was well fuelled before the start, so the cause of this wandering is a complete mystery. A few deep breaths later and it had passed. Very strange.

Hitting the bottom of the final hill brought back memories. At this point last year I was beat. My legs were heavy, my tank almost empty. This time it couldn’t have been much different. I rounded the corner and had the folks in front of me in my sights. They were mine! Off-road running in the hills has equipped me with the ability to ascend inclines much better than I ever have been able to, and I was able to pass people who had been out of reach for the previous half an hour as I put the hill behind be one step at a time before turning right for the finish and a set of smiling faces from my family there to see me home.

Seeing them, then seeing the finish clock displaying 78:something was quite an emotional moment, and I found the extra oomph I needed to cross the line with a final time of 78:41. An improvement over 2011 of 5mins35 seconds and a 10-mile PB by 4m15s!

Today has been really reassuring for me and evidence that I’ve not jeopardised my training over recent weeks which appears to be well and truly still on track. I look ahead now to the Sleaford Half Marathon next month and a targeted sub-1h45 performance with high anticipation. Hitting this will propel me into the long mileage training sessions to come with renewed confidence.

Running…on days like this I just love it!!

76 days, 14 hours to go…

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