Saturday, 25 June 2011

2010 Race Mileage Surpassed Already?

It's nearly the end of June, so a good time to take stock of where the year has gone and where it needs to go next.  Last week, I went back to Texas to help celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday.  The jetlag wasn't great fun, but I got the chance to do a bit of "warm-weather training".  With temperatures in the 100s every day, and blistering southerly winds, I took the opportunity to wake up early (helped by jetlag) and go for a run before it got above 85 - it's still much warmer than most days have been here in the UK. 

This week was planned to be a nice return to trail racing after the holiday:  land Tuesday, the EVRC invitational "Bredon Bash" on Thursday, and a relaxed approach to leg 2 of the Cotswold Way Relay on Saturday. 

As it happened, a few extra hours in the office and a last-minute trip for Friday meant I went into the "Bash" feeling very tired (jetlag + too much time in front of the PC).  The race is 5.8 miles, roughly 2 of which are up the hill and 2 are down.  I ran/hiked at full effort, but clearly didn't have "it".  Nothing felt smooth or co-ordinated until the downhill section.  Even that section, which I love to run all-out, was laboured and tight. 

With my body clock, and more importantly, my meal clock, completely confused, I had been a little low on energy by the time I got home from work, and grabbed a chocolate chip Clif Bar on the way to the race.  Half of it would have been OK, but I was hungry and ate it all - very yummy.  I've felt worse after a race, but not for a while.  That said, the course, runners, and atmosphere were excellent.  Nic even won a prize (we're not quite sure what for, but she was very happy)!

Then, off to bed, up at 4am to catch an early flight, and back home for 10pm to crawl into bed in time to get some rest before the early race this morning.  Between the two races I probably managed around 11 hours of sleep.  Good prep for multi-day racing, but not the original plan.  Surprisingly, I felt considerably better today than I had on Thursday night!

The Cotswold  Way Relay is a fun concept.  Unlike a traditional relay, where you have to wait for the previous runner to reach you before you start your leg, each leg starts at approximately the time a course-record breaker would finish the previous leg.  For a 100+ mile trail race, this means nobody has to do an entire leg without someone nearby to run with / against, and it means the race finishes a lot earlier!

Today, the morning dawned wet and blustery, but the overnight rain had at stopped.  The blustery southerly wind had not.  What you don't want to see, when you look outside on the day of a North-South run, is a southerly wind.  Oh well, at least I don't have to trot out the old "up hill and against the wind in both directions" line!

I had planned to kick back and enjoy the race as a fastish training run prior to next week's Coniston marathon.  Fat chance.  I took the first mile slowly from the back of the pack.  Then, once we hit the hills I slipped into race mode and ran myself to "empty".  It felt pretty good. 

Following this week's races, I've now amassed 210 race miles for 2011 (200 of them from trail or multi-terrain races).  So, in the first half of this year, I've surpassed the 205 race miles from 2010.  I'm going to have to get some road racing in if I want to pick up a new marathon PB in October!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Cleeve Cloud Cuckoo - an evening well spent

Each year, as Summer beckons, I look forward to the series of mid-week races put on by Cheltenham Harriers.  For the first time, I've been both healthy and home for the run up and around "Cleeve Cloud" - one of the higher parts of the Cotswolds - so I put up a notice on the EVRC website and rescheduled my week to make sure I could race. 

The 5.5 mile course wends a figure of 8 around the hill and into the associated disused quarry.  At around half past seven on a warm sunny evening, 123 runners set off along the hillside - no doubt disturbing a few nearby golfers as we went.  The first mile essentially kept to the countour on the Western face of the hill, with the odd sharp hill.  Then we looped around to head down into the quarry.  A few steepish hills provided for some entertainment before the steep hike back onto the hilltop.  The third quarter of the race gave a bit of time for recovery before the final steep climb to the five-mile mark.  Finally, with a couple of target runners in front of me, I ran at top speed for the last half mile down a steady descent,  leaving me prostrate and gasping for breath once I'd crossed the line.

The race was pretty fantastic.  No single thing stands out about it, but from the moment I managed to get back on my feet, I have only been able to think "what a great evening out!".  I'll have to plan this one in for next year.