Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Race Report – Salisbury 10-mile road race, 10th March 2013

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Having left it too late to enter any of the local early-year half-marathons (thanks to a combination of feeling like crap in December and possibly an upsurge in sporting interest thanks to last year’s Olympics, I suspect), a quick search around on the web found me entering the Salisbury 10-mile road race.  For the last couple of years, I’d used an early half as a gauge for how well my winter base training had gone.  This year, with my first ‘official’ 70.3 race fast approaching in May, it seemed especially pertinent to get some race experience at half-marathon distance.   Oh well, it’s three miles short, but should still be a good indicator of current fitness.

Since starting work with my new run coach in earnest in early January, my run training has been pretty much turned on its head, with a very different approach.  This was, in effect, the first proper test of the new regime’s effectiveness.

But true to form (coach Dave is very selective over what races deserve a taper and which ones should be done as an extension of training), there was to be no taper ahead of this Sunday’s race. In fact, in addition to a full training week, he not only had me do a totally brutal brick session on Thursday (4x 15min tempo bike into 5 min temp run), but I was also ordered to run the local parkrun on the Saturday too.

The parkrun, however, would be slightly different to normal.  Instead of my usual tactic of starting at the front and then hanging on for dear life for 5kms, this time I was instructed to start right at the back of the field and run steady for a few minutes before then making my way through to as close to the front as I was able.   Coach’s rationale was twofold – first it would stop me going off too hard and totally knackering myself ahead of Sunday; second it would give me an opportunity to practice overtaking. Perhaps that sounds silly, but again there was method to Dave’s madness – he wanted me to get out of the mindset of ‘hanging on’ and instead progressing ‘through’ the field.  Oh, and I was forbidden to wear a watch at all – this was all to be done totally on feel!

To my own surprise, I still managed a 19:47 at the parkrun.  I’ll admit I was hanging by the last 500m (and lost a place in the finishing chute, dammit, but was mindful that the main event was on Sunday), but starting at the back was a revelation.   It was, as predicted, great fun to make my way through the field. There was also, I admit, a bit of an ego boost to comfortably pass people who were clearly at max effort (to be crystal clear, I am certainly not meaning to put anyone down, but there is a comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one that feels dreadful during a parkrun!).

If you’re struggling with improving your parkrun time or want to just have an ego boost, it’s certainly something I’d recommended giving a try once in a while.

Salisbury 10-mile
And so on Sunday morning, we headed down to Salisbury for the 10-mile road race.  It was properly freezing with a reasonably gusty wind, definitely a race for gloves (I also chose to run in my nice long 110% socks, for both compression and warmth)!  I admit I had slight conflicting thoughts on how to approach pacing. On the one hand I wanted to prove to myself that I could hold a better pace than I managed at last year’s Wokingham half-marathon (itself a PB at an average of 4:07/km), but on the other hand I was mindful of Dave’s recent teachings at judging effort/pace more by feel.  So, rightly or wrongly, I set my pace on the Garmin at 4:02/km and then told myself I’d check my progress once each mile and if I was ahead of pace, great. If I was behind, I’d have to think whether I could/should push harder.   As the race grew nearer, I became a little nervous about this approach and decreased the target pace to 4:05/km – I was just looking to PB, after all, it didn’t need to be a huge PB.

I wasn’t sure where to put myself as we lined up to start; I always find it difficult to judge who around me is likely to be fast and who will be slow. So as the gun went, I just accepted there would be some jostling (and jogging) in the first few hundred metres as the traffic thinned out.

As we crossed the 1-mile mark, a quick check of the Garmin showed I was about 15-seconds ahead of pace. Great, but perhaps a little too hot so I actually backed off just a little. Two miles in and the pace gap had increased to about 30-35 seconds ahead, but I was feeling good so decided to stick at the pace.  By now I seemed to be with a small group all running a similar pace, so I used them to help gauge my own efforts.  My Garmin stats show that 5km was dispatched in 19:54.

As the pace gap continued to grow in the next few miles, I began to think ‘hey, I’m going to do a sub-40 10km as part of a 10-mile race, cool!’.   What I hadn’t counted on was a sharp drag of a hill at just around 8km! I couldn’t help but notice my gap slipping down from 1:04 to about 35 seconds as I consciously reigned in my pace, mindful that blowing up before mile 6 of a 10-mile run was not really a clever move. In the end, 10km was done in 39:46. Only just sub-40, but still sub 40!

Just after mile 6 there was another energy-sapping climb, but after that the course flattened out and I was able to get back to better-than-pace running.  Just after mile 8, another athlete came alongside as said “krlrjne 64-ish jchjck”. At least, that’s all I could make out!  I blurted out “pardon?!” (I am terrible at articulating words when running at speed and my jaw was half-frozen!). “Are you on for a 64-ish, mate” he replied. “Yeah, but I’m well ahead of target” I just about replied (to be honest, I hadn’t given any thought in the last few miles to my actual finish time, I was just trying to continue building my pace gap).  We ran together for a mile or so until he left me about 9.5 miles. I was really having to work hard now, having to consciously focus on my breathing and not allowing my head to roll or shoulders to tighten.

Nearing the finish line at the athletics track in Salisbury was a big relief. Onto the track itself for a final lap and I found a little extra speed to pick off one competitor before the line. With 100m to go I could see the time was just about to tick over to 1:04:00. Damn, a sub 64 would have been cool!

In the end, I crossed the line with a clock time of something like 1:04:02, but my chip time was later confirmed as 1:03:54. Result! A new 10-mile PB and extrapolating the pace to half-marathon distance would have given me a time somewhere around 1:23:50. A definite improvement.  I think I was most chuffed that I’d actually managed to average sub-4 kms for the race.  It seems the coach knows his stuff (as if it were ever in doubt!).

A big thank you to the organisers and support staff at the race – very well organised and the marshals were all great and supportive.

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Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs