A Tale of Two Hilly Races

I know I need to do more races. The reason I get so het up on a start line is because I just don’t put myself in that position enough. Every race suddenly becomes this massive deal and I find that in the days leading up to it my sleep is disturbed and my temper easily frayed.

So to have two races in one week is not like me at all. Without realising it I had signed up to the Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog (purely because of the megalolz name, obviously) which ended up being the day after the penultimate Kevin Henry League race of the season, hosted by Haverhill Running Club.

Now the Haverhill KHL race is notorious because of the “f*cking great hill” (not my words, but the words of quite a few people I had spoken to about the run) that you have to run up for the first half of the race, before thankfully coming back down again. So I was feeling a wee bit nervous on the 45 minute drive from Cambridge, but I’d been working really hard on trying to keep those nerves in check, and so my distraction technique at the start of the race was mainly to make friends with every dog I found. I thought I was doing quite well for me, even though my usual stress symptoms were making themselves known, and I started the race in a reasonable frame of mind.

But boy oh boy it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off. The first 2k or so were hard going, but I felt ok. It was when I got to what I thought was the top of the hill that I started to struggle. I’d been told that you had a 1km flat before the final 2km headed downhill but this wasn’t the case at all. The middle 1km was actually a slow steady incline before it dropped down, something I hadn’t mentally prepared for. I then found myself overtaken by 3 other female runners and that’s when the wheels really came off. My mental strength gave up entirely and I stopped to walk, something I’ve not done since I was injured back in May. And once I did that, I was simply unable to recover. I could not in any way get my racing head back on and I just wanted to sit on the grass on the side of the road and quit. By stopping to walk I felt like I’d let myself and my entire team down, and when other runners said to me “come on, you can do it!” I felt mortified, fighting the urge to shout – “I know I can, I just can’t bloody well do it today!”as I ran/walked to the finish line.

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Pain

I was crying as I crossed that finish line, the lovely marshals asking me if I was ok as I just sobbed about being disappointed before walking across the field to sit on my own. I’m blushing now just thinking about it. And that’s what bothered me more as I sit here and write about it. I should be beyond tantrums by now. I should be beyond walking three times in a race too. My time was 21:48 (at least 30 seconds off where I really should be for a race with such a tricky terrain) which put me as 17th woman (out of 111), and realistically even if I hadn’t walked I would have only come 2 or 3 places higher. I’m just so frustrated with how I dealt with a difficult race. Instead of gritting my teeth and fighting through, I mentally gave up.

My fellow runners were so lovely, and as Alan came to give me a cuddle, through my tears I said “I’m sorry for being a twat” to which he responded, “It’s ok, I like twats. Put this behind you and let’s move on.” I can always rely on my racing family to make me laugh (particularly through the use of Carry-On style innuendos on the car ride home).

So I have to say that on Friday morning the thought of another race just a few hours later did not fill me with glee. In fact I felt awful, my stomach wrecked due to the stress of the previous day, manifesting itself in some serious nausea that left me unable to really eat. It wasn’t until some fresh air on the bike ride home and a 20 minute power nap that I finally felt human and decided that sod it – I would do the Wibbly Wobbly Log Jog, and I would just treat it as a bit of fun. I was going to get right back on that horse.

On the drive to the High Lodge Forest Centre with fellow Ely Runners Lee and Andy I was feeling wary but determined to do the run. I knew my body was dehydrated and not fuelled as well as I would have liked, but I was going to just enjoy it. There was no pressure, no points riding on me, and Andy and I made a pact to run together, so I knew there would be someone there to mentally pull me along when I started flagging. I shoved some biscuits in my mouth, covered myself in bug spray, tied my chip to my laces, undid my laces when I realised I’d done it wrong, and joined the throng at the start line.

And oh my giddy aunt it was one of the best runs I’ve ever done. I loved (nearly) every second of it. The course twisted and turned (hence Wibbly Wobbly!) so much that I didn’t have time to think about whether or not it hurt. Dodging tree roots, trying to keep my ankles strong as they threatened to turn on a rogue stump and clambering up short but steep inclines I had an absolute blast. The marshals were also some of the best I’ve ever come across on a run, whooping and cheering at every turn. Andy and I worked as a tag team, overtaking runners when the opportunity arose (not often as the course is narrow, so you have to really grab your chances) and  checking in with each other over the five miles.

As I sprinted across the finish line – taking out one last runner in the process – I remembered why I love running – because those moments when you have a great run far outweigh those bloody awful ones. Even the fact I didn’t get a medal couldn’t take the shine off. Ok maybe it did a little bit. I flipping love a medal. Sad face.

Over the weekend I had time to digest what had happened on Thursday. Not only was it a tough course, I’d had a week of bad sleep and it soon became clear that hormones (“that ole performance killer” as my sister calls them) had clearly played their part too (although as a female athlete I need to learn to cope with the effects of them better). I also chatted to the running community on Twitter and got the most heartwarming couple of tweets from TrueStart Coffee that meant more than they probably realised:

TrueStart

The fact is, despite walking three times I still managed a sub 22 minute 5k on a tough course. But even more importantly, I shoved it to the back of my mind and raced the very next day, and found a new race that I loved and can’t wait to do next year. All in all, I call that a win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Waterbeach Running Festival – My Review

A couple of weeks ago, a mere 6 days after the behemoth (well, for me anyway) run that was the Wings for Life World Run, I found myself heading to the old army barracks at Waterbeach to take part in the 10km race that was being held as part of the inaugural Waterbeach Running Festival. The festival was being held in aid of the Waterbeach Toddler Playgroup, and when my friends Pete and Rach told me that they had signed up, I thought I may as well give it a bash myself.

After the scorching heat of the previous weekend, it was a bit of a shock to the system when we arrived at the barracks to a leaden sky and temperatures that were seriously struggling to reach double figures, as well as a less than helpful wind. The barracks themselves are also a little spooky – a great setting for a horror film for any keen amateur film-makers out there. Despite this, the atmosphere was buzzy and everyone seemed genuinely excited to be the first to take part in a new addition to the Cambridgeshire running calendar.

The festival itself was made up of four events – a 100m toddle for under 5s, a 2km fun run for ages 4+, a 5km run for ages 11+ and then the 10km for ages 15+. I have to say that when I found myself having a major internal battle regarding whether I should run in capris or shorts I did ask the others why we hadn’t signed up for the 5km. Sadly none of us had a sensible answer for that.

After we had grabbed our race numbers (a flawless process), we then ventured outside to do a highly necessary warm up. I did feel a bit sorry for the vendors who had pitched up for the fair, including the awesome Sweet Ally Scoops, because the freezing cold weather meant that ice cream wasn’t high up on people’s snack agenda. I imagine that if the weather had been nicer the whole festival would have had an awesome party vibe.

Once we’d warmed up we headed to the race start, which was about a 2 minute jog from the sports hall where we’d registered (not “miles away” as some worried looking folk were telling us as the start time edged ever nearer)! The race itself was a 2-lap course, set to start 15 minutes after the 5km runners had started. This meant that some of the faster 10km runners would find themselves catching up the 5km tail runners, but the path was so wide that this wouldn’t be an issue. There were around 100 runners taking part in the 10km, and after we had the usual housekeeping chat from the organisers, we were off.

To be honest, if you’re looking for a picturesque race, then this isn’t the one for you. It’s pretty barren, and the layout of the course means you can often see the runners who are way ahead of you, which has the potential to mess with your mojo. Plus I know runners have mixed feeling about 2-lap courses. Personally I don’t mind them (10km is 10km however you look at it), but I get that it can be mentally tough to finish 5km only to think “bloody hell I have to do that again?!” But the positive thing about this race is that it is flat. There is the occasional pothole and the surface is ever so slightly gravelly, but the upshot is that this is a course with serious PB potential.

When I started the race, I got ahead of the other handful of women at the start within about 100m. However, I regretted this pretty quickly as I started panicking that I had gone off too  quickly and I had no idea just how close to me these women were. Were they just drafting behind me, waiting for the perfect moment to strike and zoom past me? At about 7km in, my left leg started to grumble a bit. After the 11 miles in high temperatures from the previous weekend, my legs didn’t really know what had hit them. As someone who averages 10-15 miles a week, after this run I would be at 24 miles in 7 days. That’s a pretty serious increase, and I started to wonder if my leg would hold up. At 8km I had no choice but to walk for about 10 seconds, which annoyed me immensely as I hate it when I don’t manage to run an entire race. On the plus side however, I managed to look over my shoulder and see that there was no other woman in sight. This gave me the mental boost I needed, and I dug deep and completed the race as the first woman, something I’m still in shock about.

Waterbeach 10k Podium

I completed the race in 43:55, which is not a time I’m particularly proud of (my PB being 42:41) but which I suppose wasn’t bad on tired legs. In even more exciting news, both Pete and Rach managed PBs, which considering the windy conditions was blooming awesome. Hopefully these results will put as all in good stead for the season, and put Pete on his way to finally achieving his sub 1:30 half marathon.

Waterbeach 10k Medals

Unfortunately my leg has been grumpy ever since the race. Every time I run, I feel good during the session but the next day it completely seizes up. It’s my own silly fault for upping my mileage so much, but I don’t think it’s muscular as a physio appointment and some epic foam rolling and stretching hasn’t eased it much. I’m seeing my fab osteopath Melissa at Spritely Osteopathy at an ungodly hour on Tuesday morning, so fingers crossed she’ll be able to pinpoint the root cause of the problem. Wish me luck.

As far as the races goes, I can’t recommend the Waterbeach Running Festival enough. It was smoothly run, the organisers and marshals were friendly, encouraging and professional, and the course is ideal for anyone hoping to smash their 5km or 10km PB. Every runner gets a medal, and my trophy is so gorgeous. Fingers crossed this becomes an annual event, and that next year we get ice cream weather.

Waterbeach 10k Trophy