Seven weeks before the Snake Lane 10, I sat down and made myself an eight week training plan, based loosley on a generic plan I found online.
I retro-fitted the runs I had done in the first week of January so they counted as week one. Then I swapped round and substituted some of the sessions for the remaining seven weeks with runs that I’d be doing anyway (such as Parkrun or GoodGym).
I started week 2 with my regular GoodGym group run on Monday (which counts as a recovery run day) and then an interval session on Tuesday. Then I got the flu, which wiped out the rest of week 2 and all of week 3.
Once I was on the mend, I jumped straight into week 4 of the plan. This is, of course contrary to all sensible advice that you should never try to make up for lost time after illness or injury and instead you should drop back and gradually build it up again. I reckoned I could get away with it. (Spoiler alert – I did).
By week 6, a causal conversation at work resulted in me signing up to run an ultra marathon (actually, two ultra marathons over two days) which will take place at the beginning of May. This is not enough time to train properly to run 65 miles in a weekend, not to mention the fact that I was still recovering from the flu and battling a lingering cough.
I decided to live in denial and continue to focus my efforts on the 10 mile at the end of February. I’d worry about ultra running later. Even so, the terrifying distances involved were still at the back of my mind, so I did add a few extra miles to my planned training, mainly by running to GoodGym missions which were far enough away that I would usually have cycled to them.
In week 7, I went a bit off piste… I had the week off work which somehow resulted in a weekly total of 59 miles, as opposed to the planned 35. On Monday, I decided that I was going to run everywhere that I practically could in the few months leading up to the ultra. The logic behind this is that I will be able to cover lots of miles over the weeks preceding the event, but would be less likely to break myself though doing massive long runs in one go. Though I haven’t done any proper research into it, I’ve certainly read that a few medium length runs in the same day can have the same training effect as one longer run, and is kinder to your body. As the result of my new ‘run everywhere’ strategy, I covered about 13 miles that day. On Tuesday I’d planned a social trail run with friends which added another 11 miles, this time with mud and hills. The following fatigue led to me skipping the actual sessions on my training plan and taking two much needed rest days. A spontaneous trip to some more trails on Friday added another 10 miles, and a planned trip to parkrun and trail run on Saturday, another 10. The rest of the miles came out of GoodGym missions.
By week 8, I knew that I needed a rest, so other than my usual Monday GoodGym run, I had the week off. On Friday, I went back on plan and ran my weekly visit to my GoodGym coach, with a few 100m strides to stretch the legs. The day before the race I went to Parkrun. There were lots of us celebrating a friend’s 250th Parkrun, and instead of the recommended easy run, I managed my fastest Parkrun in months.
My 10 mile goal for the first half of this year is sub 85 minutes, but with the rocky start to my training, I decided to make this the goal for my next 10 mile race, on 15th April. For Snake Lane, I decided on a conservative and confidence-building sub 90 minute goal – something that I should easily be able to achieve and a good baseline for my first 10 mile result.
Paul had offered to make breakfast so I left nutrition logistics to him. He set his alarm for 7am and I set mine 15 minutes later. When I woke up, Paul was still fast asleep and breakfast was far from being underway. Getting ready and getting food was a slightly rushed affair. We managed to swallow our last mouthful of scrambled eggs just as Nick messaged to say he was waiting outside for us.
Nick had offered us a lift to the start, so I left arrival logistics to him. I thought that 7.45am was a tad early to be setting off for a race with a 10am start time, since it was only a 30 minute drive away, but I assumed Nick knew what he was doing. He didn’t. We arrived at 8.20am to deserted streets and an empty car park. Fortunately, a local café was open to offer us warmth and hot drinks, which actually made a very relaxing start to the day.
Refreshed and well hydrated, we dropped our coats off at the rugby club, pinned on our race numbers and then found our way to the start line.
Still not sure about what shape I was in, I took my starting position just behind the 90 minute pacer, with the intention of starting at 9 minute miles and speeding up in the second half if I felt good. Though my legs were a little tired from going hard at Parkrun the previous day, I felt that somewhere around 87 minutes might be within the realms of possibility. I hadn’t really done any research on the race so had no idea about the course profile. Nick explained that it was gently undulating, so that you almost don’t feel like you’re going uphill on the inclines; that it feels more down than up in the first half, and that after the hill in the second half, it’s mostly downhill to the end.
Mile 1: 8:38
Becky, in her standard way, said that she wasn’t feeling very fast, and talked about running at my target pace, or slower. We ran the first mile together, out of Pocklington before she started to pull away. It seemed to be going gently downhill, so I wasn’t too concerned that I was slightly faster than planned. Nick had told us that the first half of the course was mostly down so I could expect to be a bit faster here.
Mile 2: 8:28
Becky was disappearing into the distance by now, despite the fact that I’d increased the pace slightly. It still seemed to be going downhill, and I didn’t feel like I was going to run out of steam, so I went with it. As the course snaked through country lanes, I could see the line of high-vis runners meandering their way ahead. The winter sun was shining in the cloud-speckled blue sky, bringing with it a hint of springtime warmth, and casting a warm glow over the spring green hills around us. It was good to be running on such a nice day.
Mile 3: 8:35
I lost sight of Becky in the stream of runners ahead, and it was starting to feel like a bit more of a slog. I told myself that it was just because we were now travelling uphill and that it was alright to slow down – I was already ahead of my planned pace. It was actually getting quite warm under the beaming sun and I realised that I didn’t even know if there were any water stations on the course. I could probably survive without water but a drink would be nice…
Mile 4: 8:57
A bit more of a slog, but there was a water station! I grabbed a cup and took a gulp from it without really stopping. The cold water made me gasp and I could only manage one more gulp before casting it aside.
Mile 5: 8:23
Speeding up now because we were heading back down hill. I checked the time on my watch as I passed the five mile maker – 43 minutes something. It seemed more than possible I’d be able to match that in the second half. The lanes gave way to a long gradual, meandering incline and I wondered if this was ‘the hill’ that Nick had mentioned. It didn’t seem hilly enough to be noteworthy, so I decided it probably wasn’t.
Mile 6: 8:14
More downhill made this one a fast mile.
Mile 7: 8.28
Where was this hill I’d been told about? As I passed the 7 mile marker, I checked the watch again – it was time to predict my finish time. If I could do 8:20 miles for the last 3 miles then I could sneak in under 85 minutes. It would be hard, but seemed possible…
Mile 8: 8:49
I turned a corner and saw ‘the hill’. 8:20 miles no longer seemed doable. I wondered if I’d be able to borrow 10 seconds from each of the last 2 miles but as I tackled the hill, I realised that it probably wasn’t realistic. Even so, my watch was slightly out of sync with the course markers, so it was possible I had a few more seconds than I thought I did. I didn’t ease off… just in case. I grabbed some more water from the second water station and ran down the other side, looking forward to the promised ‘all downhill until the end’. Instead I found another uphill!
Mile 9: 8:48
I was managing to overtake one or two people on the way up the second hill and feeling more optimistic now that the end was in sight.
Mile 10: 8:12
I ran past the Pocklington sign and back into the town. Nick was out cheering near the final corner to spur me on in the final sprint over the finish line. By now I knew I’d missed sub 85 but it felt worth seeing how close I could get. The answer? within 28 seconds
Finish Time: 01:25:28
With it being my first official 10 mile race, I make that a personal best!