Monday, 26 March 2018
Hundred Acres 5k- A New Racing Experience
I've not done a 5k (3 mile) race before, so yesterday's whizz through Hundred Acres Wood near Wickham was a new experience for me. The wood is part of Bere Forest, an ancient Saxon forest that once spread across the South. It was turned into a hunting forest by the Normans (the hamlet of Boarhunt, just down the road, hints at the area's past) and now is forestry commission managed, so there was a fair amount of pine which leant a wonderful, fresh scent to the air.
There was a 10k and a half marathon also running, but I'd booked the 5k when my knee was bad and it was too late to upgrade the distance, so I decided to stick with it and see what racing 5k felt like. I'd done the half mara at home on Tuesday, 5 miles with Pop on Friday, and 3 miles at parkrun on Saturday, so I wasn't anticipating running fast. Famous last words. It's very hard in a race not to race.
About a hundred or so competitors lined up at the start and soon we were off, running downhill along a gravel track, waved on by marshals and spectators. There were some dogs running with their people, too. I made a mental note not to tell Pop, who would've been furious had she known.
There was a small group of lead runners ahead of me, at least three of whom I reckoned had gone off way too fast and wouldn't sustain the pace, particularly as I knew the course had mud and hills still to come, so I decided I'd keep them in sight and wait and see what happened.
M (who was running the half) had asked a marshal at the start what conditions underfoot were like so he could decide which shoes to wear. My race being only 5k I knew trails would suffice, but he was considering fell shoes for the longer race. The marshal didn't really know and told us people were wearing road or trail shoes. He'd settled for trails, but as we came off the gravel path and swung left onto a very muddy track, I realised he'd need fell shoes to navigate those ground conditions successfully at speed. We thought the half marathon was starting half an hour after the 5k and I had a moment's panic when I realised I might not be back in time to tell him. So I ran faster :o)
The lady in front of me had road shoes on which have no grip and she was struggling to navigate the edges of the muddy puddles. It's never a good strategy: you're much better off getting wet and running through the middle of mud and puddles, so I overtook her by doing that, my more grippy trail shoes helping me stay upright.
We came off the mud and back onto gravel tracks. At the bottom the path swung left and up a hill where a young lad and an old guy were struggling, their pace slowing and their breathing heavy. I enjoyed chasing them down and overtook them both and then wondered how many more people were ahead.
The route doubled back on itself so I was soon able to answer that question by counting the number of people coming back past me. Not too many. I was running well, felt strong, was keeping up a good pace and knew I was in a reasonable position in the field. All good.
However, the lead runners soon pulled ahead out of view and I knew I wouldn't catch them, so I settled for keeping the race position I'd got and hoped the lady I'd seen as I doubled back who looked fit and strong and was a few runners behind me wouldn't catch up. That thought, (and the need to tell M to change his shoes), pushed me on. I was close to the limit of being comfortable pace-wise by now, but there was only 2k to go and I knew I could keep it up and keel over at the end if needs be :o)
I turned left into the final km and realised it was all uphill: a long, steep, hill with a gravel track winding up it that seemed to go on forever. I do a lot of hill training at home, there are 6 steep hills in my home half mara route. I'm not fast up them by any means, but I can at least keep running and I recover quickly at the top. Most people hate hills but M taught me long ago the psychological benefits of training yourself to love them. So I dug deep, lifted my breathing to in-out and concentrated on keeping going, knowing that where I was running, other people would be walking (whether this was true or not, I have no idea: it's the believing it that's the important bit).
It worked. I got up the hill still running (just) and crossed the line in time to tell M to put his fell shoes on :o). I did feel sick as expected at the finish (a build-up of too much lactic acid from working hard) but it went once I'd stopped running and my body had a chance to get rid of it. I was really pleased with my result, but to be honest it wasn't a strong field. Still, it was a lovely morning's run through a beautiful wood, and who wouldn't want a Winnie the Pooh and Tigger medal? :o)
Hope you are all well.