Yesterday saw the running of the Tynedale Jelly Tea 10 (and, new for this year, the 15).
"What better way to taper for a goal marathon next weekend than by destroying myself in a hilly 10 miler?" thought I, and so the entry fee was paid.
This is the second year that the JT10 has followed its new route, which takes it literally past my front door. Last year I wasn't able to run it; due to the imminent arrival of young Xander, Mrs Heathcote quite reasonably put an embargo on any racing until after the event. No such arrivals were imminent this year, and she virtually pushed the button on my behalf on the basis that this was a race that she could support from the comfort of our house rather than driving for miles and then mooching around in a field somewhere.
Turning up at Hexham Racecourse to register, I bumped into Dexter from NFR, who had been kind enough to stop me adding on an extra loop unintentionally in July's Hexham HM. After a bit of needling along the lines of "You do like wearing your NFR vest at road races, don't you?" - guilty as charged, but they're the only club I belong to and this has been an unprecedented amount of road racing - I got my race number and made my way to the start line.
Spent a few minutes chatting course profile with some other guys and then before I knew it we were being counted down and sent off. Now, as you may recall, I'm supposedly in taper for a marathon next weekend and so really this should have just been a supported long run at easy pace. Well, that lasted about 5 seconds when I found myself in 3rd place... What can I say? It's my local race, I had to put in a good effort!
Felt strong for the first 2 miles or so, which are net downhill. Opened up the stride and got a good head of steam up, hitting <5.30 pace. Then, we hung a right at the Dipton Mill, and hit the first grind of the day. I'd run this hill once before and knew what to expect, but that didn't make it any less painful. I spent the whole of the climb somewhere around 177bpm heart rate, which was quite unpleasant to say the least. I lost a couple of places here and had to work hard over the next few miles to reel them back in. By the time we'd started the descent back down towards the ford, however, I'd pretty much managed it, and consolidated that by the time I passed Dexter again, who was marshaling at the turning to Eshells (and made sure I didn't get lost!).
We were now running along my road, and it was once again a net downhill, so the stride opened up and I managed some pace. Really lifted the spirits to run past Rachel and Xan, and it gave me a bit of extra kick, which was much needed for the final 3 miles or so.
At the end of our road the course turns sharp left, drops down steeply, and then there's roughly a mile of climbing. I know this climb well, but haven't done it for a while. I was overtaken briefly by the first lady and one of the guys I was chatting too at the start, but when the climb levelled out again I was able to regain my place. As we hung a right to begin the final descent, the marshals shouted "3rd and 4th, first lady"; she'd closed the gap again and was right on my shoulder and running strong.
When we reached Dipton Mill and began the final climb, my quads just turned to jelly. My regular reader (Hi there!) will be familiar with my whinging about lack of hillwork, and this was once again my downfall. I slowed to a hike/run approach and lost two places, never to be regained. Ah well...
Picked up the pace again to gut it out to the finish, ending up 5th overall and 4th man. A podium finish would have been awesome but on the day I just didn't have it in me. I wasn't even really supposed to be racing, so 5th overall (my best placing in a race, not counting the BHF 5k fun run I "won" a decade ago) is not to be sniffed at!
Had a good natter with a lad called Jonny from Jesmond Joggers as we polished off the sandwich and jelly all finishers got (hence the name of the race). A quick phone call home and I was told "Y'know that sign? We only have one can of beer... Do you want to get more?!" Off I went to Tesco for supplies, before heading back to partake of an ice bath in an attempt to aid recovery before next weekend.
A cracking race, with fantastic organisation by the Tynedale Harriers. Friendly marshals, a great pre and post-race atmosphere, and a course that was as tough as old boots! Back next year? Almost certainly. May even go for the 15...