Of course, Mo wasn't the only person to run 5k this weekend...
Saturday was long run day, and the plan called for one of only two twenty milers in this training block. Since I was racing the next day, I took it nice and steady and, rather than running to a target pace, just aimed to keep my heartrate at or below MAF. Despite trepidation regarding the weather forecast, I managed to get out and back in pretty perfect conditions, really, and logged the twenty in almost bang-on three hours, with 1,686ft of vert. What I was most pleased with was the fact that I kept it to MAF without having to change to a walk at any point. Whether this means my aerobic capacity is increasing, or whether I'm just becoming more efficient in my gait, I don't know (and I'm not sure how much it matters? Both are advantageous!) but I was pleasantly surprised.
On Saturday's run I also used Tailwind for the first time. I much prefer solid food for energy, and am partial to ClifBars. I actually really like them, and pretty much view them as a treat! However, I can't chew and run my marathon goal pace at the same time, so have been forced to experiment with alternatives. I struggle to open gels on the move, they have the consistency of snot, are horribly sticky, and also have a fairly pathetic energy yield in my opinion, so they were quickly ruled out. I was using jelly babies when I ran the Kielder Marathon the first time and, whilst they worked well in training, on the race itself I struggled with really bad nausea and an inability to eat or drink anything beyond 13 miles. Whether the jelly babies contributed to that or not, I don't know, but I associate them with that feeling now and start to feel ill just thinking about consuming enough for a marathon. I have some Clif ShotBloks but haven't actually tried them yet, having been advised by a good friend (who knows my affinity for getting energy from avocados!) that I'll probably hate them. Besides, they would involve chewing too, and don't have an especially good energy yield. Enter Tailwind, which the ultrarunning world has been going nuts for for some time. They promise no "gut bombs" and, so far, I'd agree with that. 100kcals per scoop, with a sweet but not desperately overpowering, taste (I have the lemon flavour; people describe the green tea flavour as tasting surprisingly savoury but, being as it's caffeinated, I don't want to risk trying it before Robin Hood as the ill effects would be very ill indeed!). So far, it seems like it's probably going to be the best solution; I'll only be able to carry about 300kcals of it on the race, but hopefully that will be enough to take the edge off, and I'll have a couple of emergency ClifBars with me for if I bonk spectacularly as by that point I'd be walking anyway, so chewing becomes less of an issue.
Sunday was the Northumberlandia 5k trail race, and my first 5k for something like five years. I'm going to say this up front, I am most definitely not a 5k runner. That shit hurts! Still, it was a good opportunity to put in some more interesting speedwork, and entry fees went to a good cause (the Percy Hedley Foundation). Rachel and Xander didn't fancy getting up early on a Sunday morning, so I snuck out of the house leaving them in bed fast asleep.
Got to Northumberlandia in plenty of time, got registered and changed into my X-Talons, and went for a quick warm-up jog. The quads felt, how shall I put this, poop. Keeping the heart rate low the day before was certainly not a bad idea, but twenty miles with 1600ft vert is twenty miles with 1600ft vert, and there was no way I was going to feel fresh going into this race. Still, it wasn't a goal race by any stretch, so I wasn't too fussed.
|Pre-race briefing, "FIVE?! Shit, I thought it was fifty..." (Thanks to Owain, the winner [and only entrant] of the caption competition)|
Lined up at the start next to, amongst others, a couple of Tyne Bridge Harriers, someone from Blythe, and a guy from Sunderland AC wearing the shortest and tightest shorts possible (seriously, these things were obscene). I was the only NFR runner there on the day, unless others were incognito/running for other clubs.
"Fast lads at the front, eh?" said RD Tony, of the Ultra-Runner store in Cramlington, at which I laughed nervously. Soon we were counting down from 5 to 1 (kickin' it old-skool) and then the insanity began.
I managed to hang with the front-runners for all of about 400m before my quads rebelled. I was neck-and-neck third with the dude in the speedos masquerading as running shorts, before he stretched out as we entered the Northumberlandia site proper and, from that point on, I was just trying not to hemorrhage out of my eyeballs. A quick check of my watch showed us clocking 5:05m/m.
Now, as I said earlier, I am not a 5k runner. There was no way I was going to keep that kind of pace up for one mile, let alone three. However, if I wanted to be even remotely competitive I was going to have to get as close to it as possible. So, I knew I was in for a whole world of hurt. I didn't need to worry about maintaining 5:05m/m for long though, because we shortly turned a corner to be met with the full force of Sunday morning's wind, and I found myself grinding to a thoroughly pedestrian 8:30m/m! The joys of being a literal lightweight... This was going to be the pattern for the rest of the race; absolutely redlining it where possible, before hitting a hill, or some wind, or both(!) and slowing to, at times, virtually half the speed. Did I mention the hills? Oh yes, there were hills. Not a huge amount of vert, actually, but the race was pretty short and, as we know by now, Ben has no climbing legs at the moment. The places I lost were primarily down to my crappy performance on the ups, which is a bit frustrating, but I know the reason for it and it'll be rectified soon enough.
Twenty minutes and change later, I crossed the line in seventh place which, coincidentally, was my placing last time I raced a 5k. The winner was one of the TBH runners, who came in just shy of seventeen minutes; an impressive time on that course. Blythe was second, and Sunderland AC, of the hot pants, was third. Under the circumstances, I'm reasonably happy with that placing. Obviously I would have preferred higher, but with heavy legs from a long run the day before, not to mention no hill training and the fact that I don't have the upper gears to compete at 5ks anyway, I can't expect to be a serious threat for the podium. Give me an ultramarathon any day of the week! Home for a quick shower before collecting the family and heading up to Kielder - my Happy Place - for Sunday lunch with my father-in-law.