At no point during today’s run did I ever feel comfortable.
I knew my breathing was laboured but I concentrated on filling my lungs as deeply as possible with each intake, and trying to simultaneously keep my posture tall while relaxed. No easy feat. I definitely felt like I was in a race.
When the MC called for the people to line up who were looking to go sub 60 minutes, I strode forward, mostly from hope rather than belief.
I had believed when I first got to Oulton Park an hour before and was lining up for my number. The morning was cloudless and crisp with no real winds to speak of, and I thought that I was in with a good chance of doing the deed.
The work over the last eight weeks hadn’t quite been done exactly according to plan, but it had been done more or less. I’d been pushed way out of my comfort zone on the interval training, something I’d never systematically tried before. Today would test out that training, and I was starting to feel excited.
Then the woman behind me in the queue talked to her friend about THE HILLS.
Tip 1: You should always research a race’s elevation profile, if it’s possible, before the big day. It’s good to know roughly when you’re going to hit any bumps in the road so that you can try and conserve your energy for them.
That’s what I should have done. Except that Nigel, the Chair of Pensby Runners, said, very confidently I might add, that it was a flat course.
Tip 2: Despite what other people assure you, do your own checking. I did have a look, this afternoon, after the event, and the elevation pic on the website isn’t so great. However, with a bit of digging I found a map that showed the hilly bits in red. Lots of red bits.
I turned to this woman with a look of shock.
‘Hills? I thought it was a flat course.’
‘Oh yes’, she said, ‘a lot of people make that mistake because it’s a motor racing track. There’s one really big one, a couple of decent smaller ones and then some undulations’.
‘Are you doing the 10K?’
‘So you get to go over them twice then, as it’s a two-lap course’.
My belief was evaporating.
The reason she had asked if I was doing a 10K was that there were several distances going on at the same time. The Marathon, 20 mile and Half Marathon races had all kicked off before us and they had the pleasure of seeing these hills as many as 10 times, so I think I got off lightly.
In three months’ time there is a similar event here in March, when I should be at the 20 mile stage in my training. Apart from those bumps and the fact that one section in the track is banked so that you feel like you’re running sideways on a hill, it would make a very good training run. They have water on each lap, and gels out so it’s definitely worth considering.
However, for today, it’s safe to say, that I gave everything I had on those two laps (plus the out and back at the beginning) and I could not have gone any farther. I had done a good personal warm-up, and the guys there gave each group of race starters a general warm-up which helped, so I was as ready as I could be. I was resigned to thinking that close to the hour would be good enough, especially as I walked a section of the big hill on the second loop. I still wanted to get as close to it as I could, so much so that I took no pics along the way, and I only spoke to a couple of people the whole way around, as I could barely breathe.
Was it worth it?
I crossed the line and nearly collapsed. I wasn’t quite that dramatic but the water volunteer did come forward with an open bottle and a concerned look. I then checked my app on my phone. According to that I’d done 6.26 miles in 59:51. It really was worth it then. I was hoping the official results would shave a few seconds off, as I put my app on before going over the start.
My official chip time is a mighty 59:26, which I am really chuffed with, as those hills felt tough. My marathon training does not start until the last week of December so for now, I’m going to just enjoy the regular runs and inter-club races currently going on. Having said that, I’m organising an Advent Run Challenge in December for the club and Wirral Facebook pages. Just to help counteract some of the Christmas lardfest. So I’ll have to have a go at my own challenges.