As I mentioned yesterday, today was a big day in my Juneathon. It was my first race in 3 months and the first official test since the first day of my 800km fundraising challenge for Maggie’s when I completed the Carterton 10k.
All the indicators were positive. My legs had not only got used to running regularly but running further and faster than ever before. The confidence in my ability was also good. And I am just generally in a happy place at the moment, despite the 7am Sunday alarm! I woke to find a covering of tiny raindrops on the Velux window and a very misty Witney.
The weather forecasters had got it wrong again. Woohoo! No heat wave today. Get in! I could really do it today. It could be perfect conditions. Even if it warmed up a bit it would still be ok: comfortable but not cold and little if any wind, even a bit of moisture in the air would help to keep us all cool.
I may have spoken too soon as, on arriving at Thame at 08:30 the blue sky was already clear of clouds and the temperature was rising. It was still ok. Nice and warm on the legs to aid the warm up. Who am I kidding? It was H.O.T. (a word that Hootsuite helpfully decided that this was a web address and switched it for a shortened link!) and I was annoyed. The British weather had been thoroughly disappointing for getting on for 6 weeks now, including last week while I was on holiday, and only when I actually wanted it to continue did it decide to become tropical!
Now on all of my race days I get a little nervous, not in a bad way – the adrenalin, energy and focus it gives me is a good thing. However, coupled with my conscious effort to be properly hydrated over the previous 24 hours, it does make me need the toilet even more than I usually do (and as many of my friends will tell you, my bladder is not the strongest at the best of times!) and even after one visit, by the time we were asked to assemble at the start I thought I needed to go again. D’oh! It’d be alright. Once I get running, I thought to myself, I’ll be fine. In truth, it wasn’t too bad although there were a few times when I seriously considered having to stop and water the hedgerows!
The field of 1000 runners assembled at the start, the heat still building in proportion to the nervous energy. Let’s get this show on the road! And so it did.
The start saw us drop downhill into Thame town centre and I was still feeling good. Checking my pace at 1km confirmed I was spot on my personal strategist’s recommendation: my friend Pat, who had helped me achieve an unofficial 10k PB last weekend, had texted me from France last night with his recommendation for my splits.
In fact, now that I am looking at my Nike+ splits, I was on target to achieve a PB for most of the race. Even at the 7km point I was at least on for matching my 51:47 set at Cricklade in October 2009.
It was now that I could feel the heat taking its toll. My legs felt ok and there was only 3km to go but I could feel my body starting to struggle to cope with the heat. There had been virtually no shade all the way round and now on the Phoenix Trail there was no shade and the hedges were shielding us from whatever breeze may have swept across our brows.
I quickly weighed up my options;
- Let my mind take over and continue to pursue the PB with the ultimate risk of keeling over from overheating
- Let my body take control, drop the pace, sacrificing the PB but ensuring a successful completion
Whilst it was disappointing, there was no contest. Like Harbour Fish & Chips on St Ives harbour front, I had bigger fish to fry!
A PB would be awesome but with 4 days of Juneathon remaining, the British London 10k in 2 weeks and of course, the best part of two-thirds of my 800km challenge still to go I only had one option. It was time to slow down, cool down and do what I could to minimise the effect on my time.
Pat had given me another piece of advice when we ran last weekend: set yourself 3 targets – a realistic time, an ideal time and a decent time. I had chosen my three benchmarks as 50 minutes (if everything comes together this would be ideal), 52 minutes (effectively matching my PB) and 55 minutes (a reasonable time if things don’t quite go to plan).
So with target 1 gone at 5km and target 2 slipping away at 7km all my focus switched to target 3 – damage limitation.
One massive boost to target 3’s cause was my support crew! The ranks helpfully swelled by the fact that 3 of The Wife’s family were competing in their home race. My thanks go out to Penny & Eddy, Jackie, Karen, Robyn & John, Ben, my Dad and of course The Wife! Most of them won’t know just how much their cheers of encouragement helped keep my legs going when all I wanted to is call it a day. I am yet to adequately explain to a non-runner just what a boost it is for someone to cheer, clap and call out you name. If I could find a way to encapsulate the feeling and have it work for the whole 10k, I’d be a rich man – after using it myself to give my mate Steve Naylor a run for his money of course!
As I climbed up the last hill before turning for the finish a prostrate runner was being tended to, reminding me that I had made the right decision at 7km. The St John’s tent was full with people suffering from the heat.
I managed to find something spare to sprint the last 100 metres, aided by the race clock ticking steadily towards the 55 minutes target time. I crossed the line with the clock saying 54m30, my Nike+ says I covered the 10k in 54m00 (having started it as I crossed the start line) and I am still awaiting the online publication of the official results which will give me my chip time but I can relax knowing that I have succeeded in obtaining my third target time even if it was the last resort.
I can;t say that I’m not disappointed, because I am – everything had pointed to a much quicker time today if it hadn’t been for the weather – but as I said yesterday, I have achieved so much in the last 3 months. And I have so many more opportunities to record a PB as long as I get back on the horse.
THat’s where Juneathon comes to the rescue. There are 4 days left so I can’t avoid running – it’s the final push! Then my focus switches to the London 10k in 2 weeks time. And then I’ll be looking for more races to aid my 800km challenge!