Having gone a few months without racing I’m now in the midst of an intense two month race period before Winter arrives. Whereas earlier in the year I was trying to structure my training and racing towards a priority race, now I’m just having fun and taking advantage of a solid year of consistent training.
Last weekend I took part in Salt & Sham’s hill climb in the Chew Valley. It’s on Chew Hill, a nasty little half-mile hill that starts at about 7% and just gets steeper and steeper the further you go. I think it tops out at about 15% before you crest the top and have a 100 metre sprint across the plateau to the finish line. My goal was to get under 3 minutes and crack the top 20 again. I hadn’t really given my tactics too much thought, but by the halfway point and a baying crowd ahead shouting and ringing cow bells I was out of the saddle. The hill gets steeper, so you can’t sit down, you can’t shift down, you just have to wrestle the bike to the top. It’s horrible. I finished 15th with a time of 2:59. I was well happy.
I finished ahead of a few people who usually beat me. I’m not sure why but the shorter steeper ones seem to suit me a little better. It’s a shame because they’re the most painful! I also beat my club mate again to make it 2-0 in our mini series!
Next up was a Thursday night 5 Mile running race. The Weston Athletic Club “Prom Run” – two laps of the seafront promenade. I’d never done it before but was told it would be great practice for my duathlons – learning the race craft of running in a fast group. I was told that there’s usually a group who run together to get under 30 minutes. I’d never run a 5 mile race before but thought I could probably go sub-30 at a push. Just run my 5K PB pace and then keep going for another 3K, right!
I turned up to find out 300 people had entered. It was a big race and quite exciting. Within the first few hundred metres a couple of rapid guys had sprinted away and I found myself in the first group of about 6 runners. We settled in to a very consistent 3:35/km pace (5:45/mile). Nothing much really happened other than we ran fast in a tight group. HOWEVER, a lot was going on in my head!
0 – 1K: This is fun
1 – 2K: This feels quite easy. I could probably outpace this group but it would be good practice to stay running so close to other guys
2 – 3K: This actually feels about right. I couldn’t go any faster than this
3 – 4K: This is starting to hurt. I’m not sure I can hold this
4 – 5K: If I stay in this group I am going to die.
5K: 18 minutes exactly! I can easily go sub 30 if I let this group go
5 – 6K: Dropped. Running solo
6 – 7K: Caught by a runner. Ran with him for 100 metres. Dropped.
7 – 8K: Oh shit, there’s a group of about 6 people right behind me. Do not get overtaken by a whole group. Run harder!
I held them off and finished in 29:45. It was a good lesson. My heart rate was through the roof for the whole run. I felt pretty tired for the next few days and had quite sore calves and quads.
The next race was Sunday – my own club hill climb. If there are two groups of muscles you want firing on a hill climb they are quads and calves.
I think I said this last year, but if you want to find a way to make racing less stressful then try organising a race! The prospect of just riding my bike for 6 minutes was a welcome break from all the proper effort of organising and managing a million jobs for a big race. But I enjoyed it all and will definitely do it again next year.
My race went ok. It’s a tough hill to judge. Basically 2 kilometres in total, consisting of two steep sections separated by a long plateau. By the end of the plateau I thought I was on for a great race but I just seemed to just lack the power / condition / fitness / [insert other excuse here] to nail the final two minutes and I lost a little bit of time. I was hoping for a sub-6 minute time. I ended up getting 6:16 and finishing 14th out of 46 so fairly respectable. My main club-mate rival’s chain came off on the start line. I was a couple of people behind him. I felt awful for him, didn’t really know what to say as he climbed off and put the chain on. From the results it looks like we would have had exactly the same time, or possibly he would have beaten me by 1 second. He was gutted. I was gutted for him.
It was a great day. Once everything was over we all headed to the pub for some lunch and a few belated birthday beers. My birthday was Saturday but I postponed celebrations until after the race.