Race Report – Keyworth Turkey Trot, Sunday February 11th 2018

The 2017 Keyworth Turkey Trot was meant to be a thrilling conclusion to the inaugural Grantham Running Club Grand Prix Championships. I had worked out that I needed 1:17:20 to secure an age grade sufficient to overhaul Series leader Rob Howbrook, assuming he wasn’t able to improve his age grade himself. After running a minute quicker than that at the Worksop Half Marathon, I was quietly confident, but after a month of injury post Rockingham Duathlon I was barely able to bring myself to attend the event let alone consider winning.

It therefore came of something of a relief when dire weather forecasts on the day before the December 10th race day forced the organisers to postpone the event. With no prospect of the race able to be rescheduled before the end of the year, it was Rob who took the club title and also the club champion title as a consequence. Although I could claim I had been denied the opportunity to win, the reality was that the hip and a recent bout of illness meant that I would have needed a miracle to win.

When it was announced just before Christmas that the Turkey Trot had been rescheduled to February 11th, I had mixed feelings. It did give me something to aim to get fit for, but on the other hand I’d not considered racing so early in the year. Once my physio’s exercises and all the other exercises I grabbed together and put into practice eased my hip woes, I planned on taking part in the Trot, albeit going in to it with the intention of it being a hard training run rather than a race to peak for. This was a different attitude to what I took for the 2017 Folksworth 15 in late January, which I used as a race to train for before beginning my marathon training.

As it was a training race I didn’t taper for it, the winding down of running coincided with a planned step back week after three weeks of increased running mileage. I worked hard on the bike in the days leading up to the race. I increasingly found myself bothered with a chest infection which, on the evening before the race, driving back from Yorkshire after visiting relatives, was threatening to explode into the full blown fever half the family was already suffering. I fully expected to wake on Sunday morning unable to move or breathe – as it was I was able move and breathe, albeit feeling just a little stiff and breathing through a slightly blocked nose and chest that did like to cough quite frequently.

I made it to Keyworth nice and early with over 90 minutes before the start of the race. With a bitter cold wind I minimised the time spent outside, just 1.5 miles for warm up before a quick trip to the toilets (not much of a queue with numbers down on usual thanks to some key fixture clashes) and more waiting inside, posing for photos and generally trying to keep composed.

I made my way to the start line with just five minutes or so to spend shivering away, despite being attired more appropriately for a cross country skier in PyeongChang than Keyworth in South Nottinghamshire. Not wanting to commit wholly to racing, I lined up a few rows back from the start, which I immediately regretted when the firing horn was sounded, as I was stuck behind some fairly slow runners for a few seconds. Up to speed I was alarmed to find myself running faster than anyone else in the field and heading towards the lead, so I eased up a touch on the downhill dash to the first uphill kick of the race.

On the kick up a small group of three or so just eased away and I found myself in the second group of four or five runners. Once at the top of the short climb we turned right and into the stiff, cold, headwind. I had two choices, either push on and commit to racing with the lead pack, or ease up and be a part of group two. I went with the latter and eased off, tucking in behind two taller runners and trying to get shelter. Whether this actually helped in the long run I’m not sure. I found myself constantly having to check my stride, possibly expounding more energy than had I just sucked up the wind and ran to my own pace.

Mile one was 5:42, as was mile two as the mostly favourable gently downhill road was tempered by the wind. I kept to the plan of tucking in as much as possible, feeling fairly comfortable, but feeling more as if I was racing than training hard.  Approaching the amusingly named village of Bunny we turned sharp left and suddenly the headwind was more a cross tail wind. I took this as my call to push to the front of the group and just push the pace on a touch, knowing that this section has the first of two periods of climbing. As I went through mile three in 5:58, the road went upwards and the group fell apart. I found myself third up the first hill, with perhaps three behind me. I then caught the two ahead midway up the second climb before losing them again as the road continued upwards. 6:04 was mile 4, the Strava GAP of 5:24 feels about right as it was the hardest mile of the race.

Miles 5 and 6 I tried to relax and push on the with the plan of it being a training run. This kind of went out of the window when I caught the two runners ahead of me and was still within shouting distance of the lead group of (I think) four runners. 5:39 for mile 5 was heavily wind assisted, mile 6 was slower at 5:56, but featured another climb where I dropped one of the runners I was with but was dropped by the runner who I thought was suffering, but instead pushed on once at the top of the climb and was able to slowly but surely pull clear of me by some margin.

Miles 7 and 8 took us up to and through Willoughby on the Wolds. I didn’t feel great here and ran 5:52 and 5:57, although they were both predominantly uphill. Mile 9 is nearly all gradually downhill and normally where you can push on for a quick mile, but this year the crosswind made the going tough. At one point I was nearly blown off the road! I forced out a 5:55, but was caught by a V50 runner who was looking remarkably fresh. We chatted for much of the tenth mile, commenting on how we felt the mile markers were somewhat inaccurate. This 5:54 mile felt fairly comfortable as the wind was nearly on our backs.

This wasn’t to last as we turned sharp left to head towards Keyworth. This mile and half section is at the best of times tough with one long drag uphill, then a downhill swoosh that punishes tired quads before another steep climb before a welcome plateau. This year a block headwind made it almost unbearable. Despite this I managed to ease clear of my recently acquired running partner. It was clear I was stronger than him on the hills and he was a little quicker on the flat and downhill sections. No matter how hard it felt I needed to push on and maximise my gains on the uphill sections.

The first climb saw us battling wind and gradient, inching slowly towards welcome shelter in the form of a tall hedge roadside which, once I reached it, instantly gave me at least a one mph speed boost. I went down the hill as relaxed as possible, sensing just a little discomfort in the left hip, before pushing on again for the second hill. Mile 11 was the race’s slowest at 6:16; mile 12 as I thankfully hit the plateau was still slow at 6:13 – the wind still very much a factor, although there was now some protection from the houses as we returned into Keyworth itself.

This flat section seemed to drag on forever, far longer than it has in previous years. Finally I dropped downhill and knew the race was nearly done. There is however one last sting in the tail in the form of two final climbs in the final half mile. I felt like I was running on empty, yet Strava suggested I was second only to the winner (and only a couple of seconds slower than him) in this tough last part of the race.

The penultimate climb less than a mile from the finish. Dressed for the Winter Olympics! Picture c/o John Oldfield

The final hill done it is mercifully a short downhill dash to the finish back at the school. I clocked 1:18:06, my slowest of three Keyworth Turkey Trots but, given the wind, probably not too far off in terms of performance from the other two. I finished sixth, my best yet (I was seventh in 2016), and again I claimed the winner’s prize in the V40 category, thanks in part to the race having prizes for the top 5, of whom at least two were V40 runners as well. News broke that the traditional turkeys handed out as prizes hadn’t survived Christmas and so it was we received hampers, or more accurately, a Co-Op shopping bag with some random weird and wonderful food and hair care products. The kids liked the soup….

Collecting my glass memento and Co-Op ‘Hamper’

To summarise, I was pleased with the performance given that my training was delayed two or three weeks by injury and I went into the race with something of a chest infection. I do wonder what I could have done had I committed to going with the front group in the opening stages, which I felt I had the capacity to do, but opted in the interests of the long term goal of not doing. I think I may have been able to have gone a minute or so quicker, but ultimately didn’t have enough on the day to go much quicker. If I had done that and the race was in December I may have grabbed the club’s GP prize, but that is all conjecture and speculation!

The contents of the Co-Op ‘Hamper’

Filling in the gap: November 2017 – February 2018

As alluded to at the end of the recently written Rockingham Duathlon, two days after the event I was broken to the point that I took a full week off running, then ran two or three times with pain in the left hip, before succumbing to a bad cold that wiped me out for the rest of November.

December was a month spent very much on turbo trainer and with Zwift especially, the odd foray into running was a mostly social exercise with the running club and not particularly satisfactory, suffering during the run with hip pain and long afterwards, affecting my walking and general day to day activities with the back frequently locking up while performing the most trivial of tasks. The GRC Christmas lights run was a highlight, the Christmas Eve run, coming the day after a fairly positive parkrun (first in 17:54) a low point as I was quite clearly a hobbling mess unable to run within a minute per mile of what I am capable of.

If pre Christmas was bad, post Christmas was worse yet. In Minehead on the 28th I managed, just, seven miles which involved both the legs cramping up in a manner I’d not experienced since just after the London Marathon. Two days later I ran Minehead parkrun, something I had been really looking forward to but it turned into something of a disaster, hobbling all the way there, mustering a hard earned slowest time of the year (18:41 – good for third) which saw both legs cramp up again and forced a painful walk back to the caravan. The last run of the year on New Year’s Eve in Stroud was just a shambles – 3 painful slow miles with legs cramping and hip aching. I was at rock bottom.

I didn’t run until January 4th in the New Year – I was back on the turbo and the elliptical trainer. On the third I booked myself into Physio for the bad hip. In finding the physio I saw last time I found my notes for left hip pain (Like I have this time) which was caused by my right glute not firing properly. I thought I may try these exercises as there was nothing to lose, in addition to the exercises I got from a different physio that had eradicated the cramps I was now suffering again with. To my surprise after just two day’s exercises, the eleven mile club run on the 4th was the best I’d had in several months, with barely any discomfort in the hip.

I still saw the physio who declared the glutes as firing but just not doing their job very well and so putting huge strain on the hip flexors and other surrounding muscles. I got some more exercises to do and was told to not run for a week and come back in six days time. After six days on Zwift and another trip to the physio I was ready to run again. She said I could run a maximum of four miles for a week. I ran four miles on the first day and was so enthused by the lack of any discomfort in hips I ran 10k the following day, ten miles (Including parkrun) on the Saturday and a post ride brick 5k run on the Sunday – all pain free.

Happy that the hip was much improved I commenced with full training with the London Marathon in mind. The first set of 10 mile runs were quite hard work, the legs not used to running and more suited to cycling as well as being a fair bit overweight thanks to Christmas celebrations. The third week of January I ran 56 miles, the following week 61, and the next (including four days of February) 68 miles. The long run of 17 miles on January 28th was a fairly tortuous affair, but three days later I ran a good 16 miles on the Fraction Course and then on the Saturday was a most pleasing 20 mile run with 11 miles, a 17:34 parkrun, and 6 miles to finish at a 6:31 per mile average.

I was back in reasonable shape as I took a cut back week after three weeks of progression. I ran 5K after spinning on the Monday, a comfortable 10 mile progressive run with Stephen, who has become my Tuesday run partner of late, and 10 miles easy with the club on the Thursday. This has all been supplemented with regular Zwift sessions which has revitalised my hate affair with the turbo trainer, so much so I found myself racing online two days before the Turkey Trot, probably giving more than I intended to for the real race.

From a position at New Year’s End where I thought my running days were numbered, January and early February has gone really well. I’m quietly hopeful that although my form is a touch down on the same time in 2017, I can use the injury to my advantage and work to a peak right on the London Marathon date rather than perhaps two or three weeks before it. Only time will tell, of course. If there is one thing I know about running, it is that it is a fickle beast and you are only one run away from being totally injured and having to start all over again.


Race Report – Rockingham Duathlon – Sunday 5th November 2017

I’m writing this three months since the race took place, so the detail may be a little lacking! Following Worksop where I felt like I ran really well despite some niggles, the week leading up to Rockingham was a case of trying to recover as best as possible while managing injuries that weren’t showing any signs of disappearing soon. The day after saw a recovery 5k on the treadmill before an easy effort at the spin session. Wanting to protect the hip especially which was aching I went on Trainer Road for three days, enjoying looking at a graph for the final few weeks before I got a new laptop and was able to immerge myself in the virtual cycling utopia that is Zwift.

I ran on Thursday evening with the club, enjoying a cider mile post run which has become a welcome staple of Thursday night runs in recent months. The left hip was feeling a lot like a bout of sciatica, but it was more bothersome than burdensome at this point. Saturday morning saw the second anniversary of Belton House parkrun and a round of the Grantham Running Club GP Series. I hoped to put in a fast time somewhere around 17 minutes to boost my chances of winning the series. Alas that sort of time wasn’t on the table, a lonely run at the front and some soft conditions underfoot meant that it was first place and just 17:56. Worse was that I’d managed to tweak my left calf muscle during the run and had to limp home. I was convinced it was related to the hip and the sciatica like issues. The only good fortune I enjoyed that morning was that I’d managed to drop my phone on the opening lap of the parkrun. I was aware not long after I’d dropped it and as I was leading at the time I was convinced it had trampled on and smashed into a thousand pieces. Very luckily a boy in a skeleton costume who was just behind me saw the phone bounce around, risked life and limb to pick it up and hand it to a marshal. A little muddy but otherwise fine, I was one relieved runner when I retrieved it after I finished!

That day I imagine I spent many hours working on my calf and hip. I remember the following morning when driving down to Rockingham I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to manage much more than a few hundred meters. My rather depressed mood wasn’t helped when I was guided into the wrong car park and wasted twenty minutes or so trying to get to the correct car park. Wore was to come. In a rushed warm up I jumped on my TT bike and rode up and down the paddock car park. I was told by a marshal to not use a particular bit of the car park and in turning to heed that advice managed to get my rear disc wheel stuck in a small drainage concrete gap. I still don’t know quite what happened (I haven’t yet been able to bring myself around to survey the damage) but all I know is I heard a loud bang and the escape of significant amounts of air. Being a tubular tyre it should have been game over. But, for the first time ever I’d bought a spare rear wheel – not thinking about a puncture, but because of the wind and fearing a disc may be too hard to handle.

To my credit I believe I remained rather calm while changing the wheel, which also meant adjusting the brakes; things that can take me the best part of hours and plenty of cursing. This time I effected all the repairs with plenty of cursing in just five minutes. I rushed the bike through to the transition zone, racked it, gave a cursory look around to work out where I was in relation to the pit lane markings and went out to attempt a running warm up. The warm up was just over a mile of jogging up and down the car park. The hip and calf felt bearable, to be honest I was running on so much adrenaline given the dramas with the bike and running late that I think I could have had a shattered hip and still feel nothing.

I lined up just in time to miss most of the pre-race briefing, but having been here a year before I knew the score: two laps of running the infield circuit to make 10K, 16 laps of cycling the oval to make around 40K, and 1 running lap of 5K to finish. I knew the hardest thing would be to count the right number of laps around the 1.25 mile oval bike leg – last year I memorably miscounted, rode a lap too many and lost the race win as a result. The prime objective of returning was to at least complete the race having done the correct number of laps. Anything else was a bonus!

The start of the Rockingham Duathlon.

Not quite as cold as 12 months earlier, but still fairly bracing, I was lined up in fairly full winter attire. Thankfully I was not in conspicuous but rubbish Team GB kit, the tri suit debuted at Sleaford a couple of weeks earlier was back having been a big success. Without much fanfare we were sent on our way and immediately I was finding myself somewhere near the front. To my relief there was little discomfort in the calf especially and I pushed to the front of a pack of five, clocking a 5:31 first mile.

The start of the Rockingham Duathlon.

As we turned and faced a fairly prominent headwind, sensing the opposition was of a similar running ability, I played tactics and tucked in at the back of the group making it quite clear that I was unwilling to take the pace. With others willing to push on the second mile was 5:35, but I was feeling really good, perhaps the best I’d felt racing in 2017! The third mile became a tactical affair as we ran on the oval apron into a wind and it slowed to a 5:48 as the lead runner began playing tactics of his own and the pack dwindled down to just three of us.

The opening run lap of the Rockingham Duathlon.
The opening run lap of the Rockingham Duathlon.

In spying upon gauging the opposition before the race, I’d noted that the standout athlete based on previous events was a member of Loughborough University. As the backside of the leader’s tri-suit had Loughborough Tri Club emblazoned upon it, I assumed that this was the guy I needed to be tracking. I was therefore caught a little napping when, as we ran down the pit lane to end the first lap, the Loughborough Uni athlete and his similarly youthful opponent peeled off into the transition zone. They, it transpired, were sprint distance athletes who were running just 5K for the opening run leg. I looked around a little nervously and realised I was running alone, with a sizeable gap to the runners behind me.

Leading the first run leg.

Wondering if I should ease up or push on I went for the latter, reckoning that maximising any gap during the run would help mitigate the inevitable losses during the bike leg. Mile 4 was a 5:27 and felt easy (The nice tailwind undoubtedly helped). A 5:38 fifth mile and a 5:46 sixth mile meant that I ran a 35:12 opening 10K leg. This was over a minute quicker than last year and gave me around half a minute over the second placed runner as I went into transition and found my bike.

Leading the first run leg.

The helmet on went okay, as did unracking the bike and taking it to the transition exit. That’s when the race began to unravel. I’d opted to attach the bike shoes to the pedals with the tried and tested elastic band trick. As I mounted the bike and slowly got up to speed I was able to get the left foot in the shoe and snap the elastic band. The right foot though would not go into the shoe. Firstly I went slowly trying to get the foot in the shoe. Then realising that I was losing loads of time I decided to get up to speed and then try and perform the operation at 25mph. This quickly proved to be impossible and impossibly dangerous as I was coming up behind slower riders taking part in the sprint race and being passed by quick riders also in the sprint race.

By the time I reached the exit of turn three and began the gentle uphill drag to the pits, I knew the only thing to do would be to stop and get the shoe on. I pulled over to the outside of the track, propped the bike against the wall, removed the shoe from the pedal (Not a totally straightforward procedure under pressure) and fixed the issue with the shoe – which was caused by the velcro fastening getting wedged inside the shoe when I’d tried to force my foot in.

Shoe on foot and back on bike and riding I lost probably only around 20 seconds but all momentum and first position had been lost. I spent the next hour or so riding not particularly well. The conditions were not as windy as last year, but the wind was just strong enough on the uphill run back to the pits to be quite demoralising. I found myself simply unable to push myself as hard as I’d done the year before. It may have been because I’d gone off too hard in the run, I think it was also a case of just not being willing on the day to put in a do or die effort, and being disappointed in not having my disc wheel available to me, which in the conditions would have been a big benefit.

The bike leg of the Rockingham Duathlon.

I was pretty sure I’d lost the lead, but had no idea of who or where the leader was, nor who was also possibly behind or ahead of me, given the unique multiple lap configuration of the Rockingham Oval race. I made sure I counted the right number of laps by not trying to count the number of laps and instead going by distance, knowing that when the Garmin clocked 23 miles it was time to come into the pits. This did work; I know that for others, once again, they under counted or over counted the number of laps they rode. I think if I am going to do this event again, they need a system in place to help people know when they’ve ridden enough.

The bike leg of the Rockingham Duathlon.

After a fairly disappointing hour and  eight minutes, which was a net three minutes slower than twelve months earlier, I was at last off the bike and heading to the run leg. I avoided cramping up for perhaps the first time ever in a Duathlon and was on my way. There was no-one behind me and for a while no-one ahead of me either. I went off steadily and controlled, resigned to finishing in whatever position I was currently in. The first mile was 5:43 – I could have gone quicker. It was then I spotted a runner ahead of me who looked quick enough to not be a straggler in the sprint race and so, I deduced, was ahead of me in the standard distance. With nothing else to maintain interest in the race, I kept an eye on him, keeping the pace honest, if not entirely flat out. He was at least a minute ahead when I first spotted him, but slowly and inexorably I began to reel him in. The second mile all but matched the first at 5:44, the final mile back to the pits was harder than in the 10K leg as the wind had by now picked up. And by now I was definitely catching the runner up in front quite quickly.

Entering the pits to finish the race I’d clocked a 5:53 and now put the hammer down approaching 5 minute mile pace as I sprinted towards the finish. In the end it was too little too late as I came home around 15 seconds behind the runner in front, but I was pleased at least with how I closed the race and that the 18:27 5K to end the race was a minute or so quicker than in 2016.

Coming to the finish.

I congratulated the runner in front on beating me, wherever he had finished and headed to the machine that punched out the final results. It was the receipt printed that told me I was third! I immediately cursed my misfortune on by bike mechanical for had I not had those I would have almost certainly have finished second. Somehow (and I cannot remember how) I was able to see the official results, and the winner was nearly ten minutes clear. Immediately my suspicion was that the winner had ridden a lap or two too few on the bike leg. But when I caught up with him later that morning and realised it was the Loughborough Athlete I’d reckoned would be the biggest competition I was not too concerned. When I dug into his Strava profile later that day it turned out he was simply bloody quick on the bike, clocking 58 minutes for the leg. This made me feel more at easy over the shoe incident and the wheel puncture – he was and is simply a better Duathlete than me, and unless I found eight minutes on a 23 mile bike leg, I was never going to beat him.

I got to chat to a few BTC and GRC folk who had either completed (Or who had disqualified themselves from) the Duathlon or who were taking part in the 5K, 10K and 10 mile races later that day. I was then presented with my trophy for finishing third in the Duathlon and the day was done. I had originally planned to hang around and watch the race but right then I’d had enough of Rockingham and so left for home.

The Rockingham Standard Distance Duathlon Podium (L to R): Matthew Kingston-Lee, third; Laim Walker, winner; John O’Dwyer, second.

And that was it for racing in 2017. A few days later the hip issue turned into full on can’t run pain, which lasted right until the start of 2018. I managed a couple of parkruns in December but couldn’t run for days thereafter. Thankfully some physio early in 2018 appears, touch wood, to have solved the issues, and hopefully I can enjoy as good a 2018 as I did 2017.