Main thing I’ve learnt from February is I’m still a chunky monkey. Look at this picture from the MK Winter Half. It’s the finishing straight. That guy behind me is damn near transparent compared to me. I’ve eaten (too many) spare ribs with more meat on than him. I’m not going to get an eating disorder over it, but may need to accept that if I want to get faster I might need to eat like a normal, fully functioning adult, not a kid in a sweet stall. Either that or campaign for weight categories for running like in boxing. I might not get a Good For Age but I could be in with a shout at Good For Chubby.
Cross County at Campbell Park
First February race was also my first go at cross country (running as guest for second claim club Redway Runners so a good excuse to borrow the wife’s green top).
Another first – my first go in proper cross country spikes. 15mm spikes look menacing and likely to be classed a dangerous weapon. The difference they make on the course is amazing and powering through slime whilst those in fancy trail shoes that cost multiple times more money struggle to get any traction demonstrates the real difference. Once again I’d been tight fisted and found a nearly new pair on ebay for £7 and longer spikes for £3. There is so little to trail shoes in terms of support or cushioning you really don’t need to spend big bucks. The minimalist design also means very little sticks to them so you don’t get the usual ‘walking on stilts of mud’ that trail shoes create.
The course was ‘only’ 5 miles which is far below my usual race distance but route was brutal. Three loops of Campbell Park in Milton Keynes sounds mild but when the course picks up every incline, boggy crossing and sharp uphill it takes a real toll. I’ve never been closer to wanting to quit at 4 miles before but soldiered on and found myself gaining some places back in final mile (maybe endurance training has helped after all) and finished at an average 7:36min/mile pace so not awful either.
Cattle Creep 10k Night Run
Second race of Feb was the Cattle Creep Night Run. A 10k race using the same course used for the summer run. Starting at 7pm through unlit country footpaths and fields it’s a case of stick head torch on and run as hard as you can. Although I’ve run through the night (well more like ambled) on a couple of ultras it’s never been at a pace that would even be quantified as running so was a first to be pushing it in the dark. The course is mostly flat with a few cattle gates to go through and a few sudden bumps the headtorch failed to show up. The lead runners lost me pretty soon and by about halfway I broke away from those around me and had a solo effort to finish 4th place in 42 minutes in what felt a controlled effort and gave me some morale boost for the forthcoming HM.
MK Winter Half
Final race of Feb was the rescheduled MK winter HM. Optimistic plan was to try and break 90. Had some last minute nerves in terms of kit. It was cold so stuck with long sleeve top and club vest. Regretted it soon after as it warmed up and I overheated. Made another classic mistake of running straight through first aid station (only one with bottles) so had to make do with thimbles of water from the cups at the next two or three. The 90 minute pacer was open about intention to go off a little fast to make up for the inclines and twisty nature of the second half. Sadly that meant for me I couldn’t stick with him so tried to hold steady 6:52 pace with a target of ‘even pacing’. I’ve heard other people talk about it, never done it myself.
Had a brain melt somewhere around mile 8 and figured I was well off pace and on for more like 1:35. Still a respectable time but given I normally go through halfway on marthons in a similar time it was a kick in the teeth. I walked the final aid station to try and get some water in me and ploughed on. Only with a couple of miles left did I recalculate that I wouldn’t be far off the 90 minutes so pressed on.
With a mile to go I knew I was on for a PB, somewhere around 1:31.
On the final stretch I kicked on and saw the finish line clock click over to 90 just ahead.
Stopped my watch and it showed 1:30:07. So close. Why hadn’t I run 8 seconds faster!
Checked the time on the race timing PC, 1:30:02. Even closer. Why hadn’t I run 3 seconds faster!
Later that night checked official results online. 1:30:01. For fox sake! Why hadn’t I run 2 seconds faster!
It all highlights what a stupid world running is. We push ourselves to run an arbitrary distance in an arbitrary time and punish ourselves for failing. Had I run 1:29:59 I would be checking online race predictors to see what my new marathon target would be (either 3:07:36 on the traditional formula or 3:20:28 using the new fetcheveryone.com tool adjusted based on actual data collected), two seconds slower and I might as well retire. 😩
Next stop is March and a marathon PB attempt at a small local Enigma event, and a HM PB attempt at the opposite end of the scale, at the behemoth Reading Half Marathon where I’m hoping a flatter route, more crowds, maybe some sports drink on course will outweigh the negatives of congested routes.