The Gibside Fruitbowl is one my favourite fixtures. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it is my favourite. Whilst not the Fruitbowl itself, my first experience of trail running was at Gibside and I've been hooked ever since. The smell of pine needles as you hammer down some single track, lungs bursting with crisp autumn air... Love it.
Unfortunately, after the gastroenteritis that knocked me out of Robin Hood, I picked up a cold which developed into Bronchitis. I'd continued to run despite this, logging some decent weekly mileage (between 60 and 70 mpw, mostly easy aerobic) and hadn't felt much in the way of ill effects whilst doing so. I just had a cough during the day that wouldn't shift. However, the day before Gibside I did a 15 mile, 1400ft of gain, death march and I had to accept that I just hadn't been giving my body a chance to recover. The decision was taken to run the Fruitbowl as well as I could, and then take a week off.
Sunday morning arrived and I felt much better than the day before. I took my position at the start line, whereupon I met a fellow NFR runner (who was running for his other club). Nice getting to know a few more folk! The "gun" went and we were off.
I was in trouble right from the start and faded almost immediately. The legs just would not handle the pace, and felt like they had battery acid running through them instead of blood. I couldn't seem to move them quickly enough to get my heart rate up, so I'm pretty confident that it wasn't the engine that was at fault.
I knew going in that I wasn't going to be competitive, but I was damn sure I wanted to improve on last year's effort, which was pretty dire on account of a stupid injury and becoming a Daddy the month before. Most of all, I was determined that I would run every step of the Sting in the Tail, however slowly.
I eventually found my groove, and did a bit of leap-frogging with a few folk; they'd overtake me on inclines (insert regular whinge) and I'd let loose on the flats and declines. Towards the 5 mile mark though everything settled down and, whilst I saw a Heaton vest menacingly close behind me at one point, nothing seemed to change position-wise.
I hit the Sting in the Tail and promptly slowed to "grind it out" pace. I'm not sure it really counted as running, at that speed, but it wasn't a hiking gait so I'm claiming it. No-one overtook me on the hill either, which I was pleased about.
Made it home in 21st place, which was just outside what I'd hoped for. Given the field I'd thought Top 20 when fighting fit, and I reckon I could possibly have managed somewhere around 15th. Still, no excuses; that was what I had on the day, and it wasn't a bad effort all things considered.
I then collapsed into a ten minute coughing fit, and so began my convalescence!