Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Race Report: The Kielder Double

After a disappointing day at the Robin Hood Marathon, and a XC fixture that, whilst enjoyable and a decent enough result, still didn’t feel right, I was equal parts apprehensive about doing the Kielder Double, and fired up about hopefully putting some demons to rest.

"He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs..."
The 10k was Saturday afternoon. Rachel was also running, so I stopped verbally abusing Helen long enough to sweet talk her into wrangling the Little Warrior whilst Rachel and I ran. Hilariously, it turns out that Xan and Olivia took a bit of a shine to each other through the course of the day...! #toyboy #cougar

Lining up at the front next to JB may not have been my smartest idea(!) but it was good catching up and I wasn’t planning on dawdling anyway. There was a slight delay whilst the RBR lot set off, and then it was our turn. The gun was fired by local hero Aly Dixon, and the sufferfest began!

JB shedding some excess weight...!
I had JB in sight for all of about 10 seconds and then the natural spread kicked in; JB and his peers in a tight-knit lead pack, and me part of a slightly looser chase pack. The 10k heads down to the water’s edge before turning off up a fairly long drag to Bull Crag. This wasn’t as bad as I remembered it and, whilst I didn’t feel like I was exactly powering up, my legs also didn’t feel weird like they did at Robin Hood and Wrekenton; undertrained perhaps, but not “WTF is happening here then?!”

Eyes of a killer. #beastmode
There was a bit of leapfrogging, and I was overtaken by the First Lady, a Morpeth Harrier, with a couple of km to go, but I managed a fairly strong finish; as I came down the finish chute I saw the clock ticking perilously close to 40:00 and that was enough to fuel a bit of a kick(!) Snuck in with a chip time of 39:59 and a gun time of 40:00 dead. Skin o’ my teeth indeed! Enough to net me 11th, so just outside of my preferred placing but a decent effort under the circumstances. Indeed, a check of the metrics on my watch showed that I’d been redlining the whole way and probably couldn’t have given much more if I’d tried; the fast start with absolutely no warm-up pretty much did for me and flooded my poor old diesel engine with lactic acid from the off. Not built for speed, like! JB had a solid day and landed second place, and fellow Harrier Jaycee placed well too. Rachel also had a good run out. Even managed a quick chat with Anji at the end, though she never followed through on her threat to scribble "knobsafe" on my bib. #injoke

Getting to the start line the next day for the marathon was a bit more stressful as the little dude was spectacularly travel sick, requiring a clothing change and clean up in the driveway of the Bellingham office of the Forestry Commission. Despite that, I made it to Leaplish on time (and in any case, the start was delayed) and had time for a natter with some mates to calm the nerves a bit. Robin Hood was still gnawing at me and I didn’t want a repeat; despite my efforts the day before I felt alright, but that doesn’t mean a great deal when we’re talking about the Full Mary. Davey the Ever Present was there, as was Gerry, who was setting off on his first marathon (mad fool!) accompanied by John and Lisa. Briefly saw Helen, and lined up next to Chris from NFR. 

A quick wave to Mac who was behind me in the pack, and then the gun went and we were off. With one eye firmly on my HR I settled into a comfortable rhythm, which was actually under 3hr pace. That wasn’t my intention as running 3hrs at Kielder is far from a straightforward prospect but my plan was to run to HR rather than pace particularly, so I was a bit surprised but not concerned; I’d just wind the pace back as necessary. Mac appeared on my shoulder and we had a bit of a chat; she was aiming for “anything under 3:30” which made me laugh as, at that point, we were on 2:52 pace! I had her tipped for a podium as soon as I heard she was entered, and she was solidly First Lady from the word go. 

After a pee break, which caused Chris some glitch-in-the-Matrix confusion as I appeared to overtake him twice(!), Mac and I alternated leads and running together until about half way, at which point I dropped a gear to get up a hill and she powered on. From that point on, as far as I remember, she led the charge (even finding time to send a text!). Absolute machine. By mile 15 my legs were shot from the day before; not a bonk, as I’d been methodically eating Shotbloks every 5k (I say “eating”... I inhaled one and nearly choked to death at the side of the trail!), just fatigue. Chris passed me at this point, looking strong. 

I was clearly not going to make my vague plan of going under 3:15, but I still had a shot at a decent-for-Kielder time, so cracked on as best I could. A few tactical hikes, including the dreaded switchbacks where - typically - a photographer was sitting so I had to run (much to the amusement of the marshal!), and the km continued to tick off.

For the last few weeks, Xander has helped me sweep the 2km route at the Gibside Great Run Local whilst his Mummy does the 5km route. He’s very proud of himself, and tells anyone who’ll listen “IRANTOOKAY! IRANTOOKAY!” With 2km to go, and firmly in the hurt locker, guess what my mantra was...? Again, I managed a reasonable finish, and snuck in in 3:19:46 gun, 3:19:42 chip, earning 34th place. A solid PB for the course and, most importantly, no weirdness; just fatigue. Chris had a solid run too, finishing a couple of minutes ahead of me, and Mac bossed her way to a win, with the competition nowhere to be seen. Epic.

The end is nigh.
Pretty happy with the weekend on the whole and, if I can recover in time, I’m in a better place for the Ennerdale 50k than might otherwise have been the case. A lot can happen on an ultra though, even a “baby” one like a 50k. I'm not gonna lie though, I probably won't do the double again...!

He gets to keep this medal (because I'm getting a bespoke one in the post!)

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