Race Report – Holme Pierrepont 10K, Thursday 29th June 2017

With the Holme Pierrepont 10K in mind immediately after the Summer Solstice 10K, I was determined to prepare for the race better in the six days I had available than I’d managed for the Long Bennington Race. Work over the weekend meant that I was restricted to a short run on Saturday evening, and a ride on the bike club’s chaingang route on the Sunday morning (with a mile brick run to follow). There was the obligatory jog to the gym, spin, and jog back on the Monday, followed by the other big effort of the week – Witham Wheelers 10 mile TT on the Tuesday evening, which netted a new course PB. Wednesday could have perhaps been a touch easier, but the legs felt good so I went on an easy 10 mile loop on my familiar route, albeit in very wet and unseasonably cold conditions. With no damage done, come Thursday evening the legs felt pretty good!

The Holme Pierrepont 10K was the second in a four race Holme Pierrepont GP Series. The winner is the runner who accumulates the lowest time over all four races – held on consecutive Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. It’s a long established series and is pretty popular, with 285 runners taking part in all four races. Because of work I could only commit to this one race. The event meant a return to the National Water Sports Center, just a few weeks after my first visit for the Notts 10 Mile Race. This race was a lower key event in terms of organisation, but there were many of the same familiar faces around as I warmed up, which would ensure a good, competitive race.

The warm up was unspectacular, two miles in length. As it was up and down the dead straight rowing basin path, I used the opportunity to re-calibrate my Garmin footpod. It measures a KM before performing it’s magic. I was slightly bemused to see me head some way past the 1KM marker, but didn’t think too much of it. On my return I headed to my car to finish changing into race kit, then headed indoors to take some shelter for five minutes or so from the cool, slightly wet conditions. For a late June evening the weather was very disappointing and far cry from the balmy, sunny conditions we enjoyed at the recent Notts 10 mile race at the same venue. Tonight it was very overcast with light rain, only around 14C and a light breeze. For spectators and photographers, the conditions were miserable. For running races though, conditions were nigh on perfect – it would only be that nagging breeze which would perhaps hinder us along the rowing basin coming part way through the opening lap and on the 2km run to the finish line.

Moments before the start of the race. Picture c/o David Greenwood.

I made my way to the start just a minute or two before the scheduled 7:15 start. Mercifully the pre-race briefing was short and it wasn’t long before we were sent on our way. Determined to not repeat the mistake of Long Bennington and the too hard too soon approach, I lined myself just shy of the front of the pack, and found myself probably outside the top twenty in the opening minute or so.

The start of the race. Picture c/o David Greenwood

At the front it was a familiar face in Ben Livesey leading the field away – which he has done now at my last four races! The other familiar face ahead of me was Ian Boneham, who was making his race comeback after a more than seven year absence. The talented Grantham runner, who has a 29:30 road 10K PB, has trained a bit with Grantham Running Club and members from it, and had donned the green GRC vest for no other reason than he didn’t have another singlet to wear! I knew he was targeting something around 34 minutes and so was happy to see and attempt to track the familiar vest ahead of me.

The start of the race. Picture c/o John Oldfield.

As I’d promised myself I kept my powder dry for the opening mile or so and attempted to keep the effort in check. I was therefore somewhat alarmed when I went through the 1km marker in 2:58 which, even with my dodgy maths, is sub 30 minute pace! A minute or two later and my Garmin clocked the first mile at 5:31, and I was satisfied that the KM markers were perhaps not quite in the right positions. Compared to the opening mile at the Solstice, it was only three seconds slower, but thanks to a slight tailwind rather than a stiff breeze to run into, the effort (perceived and looking at average HR) was significantly lower.

The second mile was run partly into a headwind as we turned at the far end of the rowing basin and came back down the other side. By now I’d picked off quite a few runners who had gone off too exuberantly and found myself behind one runner – who I believe was Matthew Nutt of Holme Pierrepont RC. Employing similar tactics when at the Notts 10 (The wind direction was near identical) I stuck resolutely on his tail. After a minute or two he began weaving from side to side in a clear attempt to shake me from his slipstream. I would have considered helping with the pace, but with the second mile a 5:29, I knew I was somewhere near my limit. The awkwardness of the situation was soon resolved when Matthew shot off with a Kenyan inspired burst of pace to almost literally sprint clear of me and catch a group of three runners who were around 20 meters up the road. Initially I laughed at his folly, but to be fair to him, he stayed ahead of me for the entire race, albeit winding up around the same distance ahead as he was when I tailgated him come the finish line.

Hitting the climb on the start of the outer loop. Picture c/o John Oldfield.

The third mile, at 5:41, was the slowest of the race. Unlike at the Solstice however, this didn’t mark a deterioration in form. This section of the race included the small rise out of the rowing basin and onto the road that took us out of the Water Sports Center for the section along Adbolton Lane – all of it continuing to be into the slight headwind. Mile 4 was the run to the left turn which took us back onto the Canal Basin. Familiar with this section from the 10 Mile race, I pushed on the effort a little. I was feeling good, running alone but with some vests to attempt to chase down, including Mr Boneham’s, who I perceived was coming back to me a little having been around 30 seconds down the road at one point.

The fourth mile was 5:29 and the fifth saw me push the effort again, clocking a 5:24, despite this section being partially on gravel and featuring the second climb of the race, albeit a very small one. Back on the canal path and I was in a very happy place. I love races where I feel stronger the longer the race goes. I was seeing my average pace get quicker and this inspired me to keep on pushing. I think too reverting to the Nike Frees after a couple of races in the Hoka’s helped – they feel just that little bit faster.

Coming around the top of the rowing basin and onto the near 2km dead straight run to the finish, I sighted two runners ahead of me and made an effort to close them down.I clocked another 5:24 for the sixth mile and there was now just the question of the final 0.2 miles to the finish (or 0.3 as my Garmin was overestimating again).

Trying to chase down Matthew Nutt at the finish of the race. Picture c/o David Greenwood.

I caught and passed, briefly, Marlon Dunkley and had my sights on the runner ahead who I sensed was the same runner who I’d tailgated earlier in the race (Matthew Nutt).

Sprinting to the finish with Marlon Dunkley. Picture c/o David Greenwood.

Coming into the final 200 meters Marlon came back past me. I could see the finish clock in the distance and it had just clicked past 34 minutes. There would be no PB but a strong finish could see one of best times over the distance.

Sprinting to the finish with Marlon Dunkley. Picture c/o David Greenwood.

I didn’t have the sprint in me to get back past Marlon but I was able to follow just behind him as I ground it out to the finish.

Coming to the finish. – who says I never look like I’m trying! Picture c/o John Oldfield.

I was working hard, evidently unusually so, given the pained expression on the photo above! This battle with Marlon allowed us to close on Matthew Nutt, closing the gap to just a couple of seconds. Marlon was a second ahead of me and I came home seventh in 34:33. This meant I’d clocked my third fastest ever 10K, one second ahead of  the time I first broke 35 minutes at the 2013 Leeds Abbey Dash.  I was the first V40 finisher too, To my chagrin there would be no prizes on the night, just for the winners in the series overall. All I had was my good time and a new WMA age grade PB of 82.85% (2010 values) to come home with.

For the record, Ben Livesey came second (again), clocking 31:39, 40 seconds behind Michael Cotherd. Mr Boneham finished fourth in 34:15. Not bad for a near 8 year layoff from running!

As far as my racing is concerned, that is it now until a planned 5 mile race in late August (I’ll be continuing the cycling time trials) with summer holidays and other things to factor. Hopefully I can take this good summer form, both running and on the bike, with me into the early autumn season and beyond!


Race Report – Nene Valley 10, Bretton, Peterborough, Sunday 6th December 2015.

For the second race in succession, the final decision to take part in the Nene Valley 10 was made very late in the day – this time it was made the morning before rather than the morning of the race. Once again the dithering and non-committed attitude was as a result of niggling injuries that have plagued me ever since I passed the 19 mile mark of the Chester Marathon.

A few days after the first Belton House parkrun I was out for a six mile run when, after four miles, my right calf tightened to the point of it being very painful and barely able to run on. I took a couple of days off running and things felt much better, so I headed to Belton again for another stab at parkrun. There was little amiss in the calf for the opening mile – I ran a 5:28 and was in the lead. I then let a guy behind me take the pace as we approached a section of headwind. Passing Belton House itself, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in the right calf as it tightened again. I stopped at the start of the second lap and massaged for a couple of minutes before jogging the second lap and jogging home. Running on the calf was painful but bearable. Still, fearful of something serious amiss, I took two weeks off running and hit the elliptical trainer once again.

Two weeks later I began with a two mile run and over the next week gradually built up the distance, running eight miles on the Friday, two days before Nene Valley and the day after one of the most painful massages I’ve ever endured. The upshot was there were numerous parts of my right leg that was very tight. My right calf was more or less okay after the massage and the run; the bigger pain was in the left groin which appeared to be suffering courtesy of issues with the TFL and most likely the lower back.

My Nene Valley 10 place had been given to me courtesy of fellow GRC runner Scott, who couldn’t take part as he was lead singer at a Christmas party gig on the Saturday night. To add to the dilemma of whether I should race, Scott offered me a ticket to the gig. I was sorely tempted, but a good stretching session on Saturday morning and I decided I’d give the race a go. That said I hardly prepared in the most diligent manner – an hour on the elliptical trainer in the morning, then a few glasses of red wine in the evening and a much smaller pre-race meal than usual. All that and Storm Desmond was sending battering winds through the area that would make racing all but impossible.

Thankfully in the morning the wind was still strong but nowhere near as bad as it had been on the Saturday, and nowhere near the worst I’ve raced in. It was a relatively relaxed affair pre-race – cereal rather than cereal bars for this non-key race. I arrived well ahead of the race start and firstly went about changing my race entry from being a 16 year old to a reluctant veteran runner, courtesy of an administrative issue. I then went for a short warm up run where it was obvious the left groin was going to be a source of consternation during the race. I spent much of the next 40 minutes or so frantically stretching, trying to put off the inevitable pain in the race for as long as possible.

Some welcome relief came in the form of meeting by chance fellow Kenilworth Runner Martin, who I’ve known since I first ran with the club back in the year 2000. A few years older than myself but a consistently fine runner, Martin was my favourite training partner for his innate ability to churn out metronomically paced miles. Having not seen him since moving away from Coventry over two years ago, it was great to catch up with him again.

The Nene Valley 10 is very much a race that would be a good example of how races were put on in the 1980s and that is mostly a good thing. A no-nonsense, few thrills, good value race with the vast majority taking part being club runners. The two lap course is something of an oddity though, for although it is classified as a road race, only around 400 meters of the entire course is run on road.

The remainder utilises footpaths, alleyways, underpasses, parkland paths and pavements. A fair amount of the race even uses trail through woodland. The one section of road at the start and finish was open to traffic, so you had racers in the middle of the road dodging cars (and buses) coming in all directions. This would have been perfectly normal 25-30 years ago but is a more unusual occurrence these days.  There are plenty of twists and turns and finding a rhythm is hard work. That said the course is flat and fairly fast – my 57:20 PB for ten miles was set there two years ago.

The start was a curiously slow affair – perhaps influenced by the man holding the official clock, who nonchalantly strode to the start and plonked it down by the start line with twenty seconds to spare. Despite the field featuring Aaron Scott – one of the quickest runners in the area (and by my reckoning winner of every race except one that I have taken in within a 50 mile radius of Grantham in the past two years) we appeared to almost jog the opening 200 meters or so. Either that or I was feeling remarkably strong – for a moment I thought I may try and take on the pace – just as Aaron remembered he was in a race and buggered off into the distance for yet another victory.

The adrenaline of a race start meant little ached for the opening mile. For the majority of it we had the strong wind blowing us along, so although the 5:33 was quicker than planned, it wasn’t alarmingly fast. I soon found myself isolated and as we turned slowly into the headwind I decided it would be pointless to try and fight the elements alone and so eased up a touch to allow a group of four runners to close. Through mile two in 5:52, we hit the twisty stuff through the woodland and I slowed to allow a runner past, tucking immediately into his slipstream to take shelter from the wind. The third mile was hard work: 5:57 was scant reward for our efforts.

The fourth mile saw us turn and head back to the start line and we had a tailwind again. There were two short climbs as we firstly tackled an underpass, then a footbridge over a busy road. I was the strongest of the four of us on the second climb and decided to push on – breaking decisively the group. The fourth mile was a 5:45; the fifth, despite some severe twists and turns, was exactly the same time. I passed five miles in 28:40, which with my dodgy maths I calculated would mean a PB equaling time if I could match my performance over the second lap.

I knew within seconds of starting the second lap that that would not be possible. One of the runners who I pulled away from a mile or so earlier had passed me and eased away, to be followed half a mile down the road by another. I was able to keep them within spitting distance (with the tail wind, that is) for the rest of the race, but didn’t have quite the muster to reel them back in. It was a combination of lack of running miles in the past couple of months coupled with a left groin that by now was really aching quite a lot and enough to take the edge off my running. The right calf too was now just starting to ache and, unbelievably for December, I was feeling quite dehydrated thanks to it being a balmy 14C and the two drinks stations being all but useless thanks to having no one handing out the water and the drinks tables being literally no more than 50-60 cm off the ground.

The sixth mile (wind aided) was a solid 5:38, but as I turned back into the wind, the seventh mile was 5:55 and the tough eighth mile was a pedestrian 6:08. I rallied for the final two miles when the wind was again a friend, I dragged my tired body through a 5:52 ninth mile and finished with a 5:48 final mile, where I caught and just held off another runner in a sprint finish.

My finishing time was 58:08 which I was really rather pleased with considering the lack of preparation put into the race and the niggles I carried through it. I could though barely walk though after the race with the groin pain and so settled myself near the finish line to watch Martin finish. We chatted for 10-15 minutes before I headed abruptly back – I had a narrow window to collect an eBay auction win.

I found out later I was third veteran finisher, a frustratingly short amount of time behind the second placed vet and the prize money that would have netted me. More pleasingly I found out three days later that the time netted me an age grading of 80.01%, which is most satisfying for a race I all but forgot about hours after racing it.

A possible parkrun or two aside, that’s it now for 2015. It’s been quite a year!


A Look Back: 2013 Leeds Abbey Dash 10k

When, back in late September, I got whiff that I may, despite all expectations, be entering a spell of good running form, I entered the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k. It was a calculated risk, it was on the day of the United States GP, which meant a late evening of work on the Saturday night followed by  an early start to the race before rushing back home to cover the F1 race.

Leeds seemed a smart choice. A club mate, Chris McCarthy, had set an excellent time there a year before and the quality of field on a fast flat course was high. After entry things continued to go well, a strong run at the Robin Hood Half Marathon, more good weeks of solid training followed. A parkrun in Peterborough was one second outside my PB; had I paced that run properly I would have smashed my 5k best. A rare race off road at Seagrave saw me come home in the top ten. A quick look at my nearest rivals on Power of Ten showed I was running in good company.

Training in the week of Leeds was atypical. A big drinking session on Saturday night saw me incapacitated on Sunday. I punished myself by running long on Monday, a hills session on Tuesday, eight miles on Wednesday and then sixteen miles on Thursday. I was knackered on that Thursday run. Overdoing it, I thought, so two days rest before the race on Sunday. Working on the US Grand Prix meant I had odd work shift patterns to contend with. I finished work at around 1am on the Friday night and not much earlier on the Saturday night.

I woke at around 5:45am and thankfully the plan of having everything packed and laid out ready came to fruition, for I was out of the door in less than 45 minutes. Sticking to the new policy of consuming three cereal bars for breakfast two and a half hours before the race, I had driven a fair way towards Leeds before breakfast was taken – washed down with a shot of beetroot juice for good luck.

I arrived in Leeds at 7:45, a long time before the start of 9:30 but I wanted to be assured of finding a spot in the most convenient car park, within easy jogging distance to the start line. Parking was free, or maybe free, because in the time it took for me to walk to the race village, 
use the amenities and return to the car, the signs saying it was free to park on a Sunday had been replaced with ones saying it cost £1! Much confusion reigned; a local assured us that it was free on this Sunday and that charges were to be introduced the following Sunday – the council slyly putting the signs up early to catch as many runners as possible. I believed the local gentleman as I was sure my eyes hadn’t deceived me 20 minutes earlier; plenty didn’t and stumped up the unnecessary cash for peace of mind.

I only usually do a mile or so for warm up, today I decided, especially as it was only 10k, to do a two mile warm up. I jogged along the A66 Kirkstall Road, which would form around 95% of the race. What was immediately apparent was that this section of the course was wide and pancake flat. Moreover the weather conditions were looking perfect for racing, overcast and windless, maxing out at around 9°C. After a mile I stretched a little, refastened the laces and headed back at a quicker pace. What gave me confidence for the race ahead was that as I came to the end of the mile I glanced at my Garmin and it said that in the final 1/3 mile I had averaged 6:02 pace and that felt ridiculously easy.

I headed back to the car and changed into my race kit. I walked towards the race village, but when I saw the queues for the Portaloos I realised there was little hope of being able to use them and be anywhere near the start line. I remembered that the TGI Friday’s opposite the car park clearly had its doors open where their toilets were. I took a chance and jogged back to the car park. I was right and a few others were taking the opportunity to use facilities far plusher and less popular than the official race provided amenities.

Thankful I was that crucial bit lighter I made my way back to the start, still with around 15 minutes before the off. Realising there was little point in placing myself in the start chutes I joined the hundreds who had already decided to queue for the start. It was there I met club mates Richard Simkiss and Chris McCarthy, a.k.a. the MrCarkiss Elite ProjectI’d not seen either of them in months and it was good to meet face to face rather than on Facebook or the like. They were clearly both nervous – both looking to break 33 minutes – and both anxious that we were nowhere near the front of the pack waiting to start the race. The event may have been chip timed but positions would be hard to make up if it took ages to cross the start line. Moreover there was no knowing who would be lined up in front of you. Many a time there has been a 16 minute miling MP3 player wearing loon getting in everyone’s way because they decided they had the right to stand at the head of the race.

With a couple of minutes before the off I caught eye on quite a few other Kenilworth Runners, some of whom had higher expectations of how they would race than others. I wished them all luck and, with a minute to the off, truly focused on the race ahead.

At exactly 9:30 the gun fired and we were off. It only took around 15 seconds to cross the start line but it felt like an eternity. Richard and Chris were clearly peeved at this and set off on a mission, darting left and right to pass other runners and assume their rightful positions in the race. I did a little bit of the same but was a little more cautious, I too felt I was being held up, but a quick look at my Garmin showed we were averaging 5:30 in those early stages – that was quick enough for me and I was actually grateful I was unable to go off as fast as maybe my body would have liked. I made that mistake at the recent Peterborough parkrun and blew up in the final stages. Hopefully this enforced slightly more reserved start would pay dividends come the closing stages.

We soon navigated the roundabout that contained the car park where my car was and onto the road I had warmed up on not long ago. The section that followed, from there, to around where my Garmin flagged one mile, was probably my favourite moment of running to date. Here I was running fast, surrounded by people in front, almost as far as the eye could see, and behind, to either side spread along the width of a wide dual carriageway, We were all running fast, yet silently. With no traffic and precious few spectators, the only sound that could be heard was the pitter-patter of hundreds of runners, all seemingly striding in unison. It was an ethereal moment. I’d run in large groups during races before, but usually during a marathon or maybe a half marathon, where runners were, understandably, running well within themselves. Here everyone was running nearly flat out, it felt how I imagine it must be to be in a horse race.

I went through the first mile in 5:35, fast, but crucially some 24 seconds or so slower than my opening mile at the ill fated parkrun, so, in the scheme of things, comfortable. The ethereal nature of the race was broken not long after when the race took us through the carpark of an out of town shopping complex, complete with some poorly placed and not well highlighted sleeping policemen. It barely slowed us, but it felt a little odd at this, one of the country’s premier road races, for us to be utilising a car park.

Not long after rejoining the main road I passed another club mate, Pete Matthews. He has improved year on year, but I was surprised to see him this far up the field, as his target was a 37 something 10k. Maybe it was birthday exuberance or how he prefers to attack races, I wished him well as I passed him and continued on. The second mile was 5:31, quicker but still comfortable.

The third mile was a bit of a shock as it contained something of an uphill drag. Nothing too difficult to slow too much, but enough to make itself apparent. I was under the impression that the race was pancake flat and here it clearly wasn’t. Whilst I cursed the climb it was obvious, as the lead runners began to pass me on the return home, that the climb would be a pleasant descent not long after.

The third mile was a 5:38, not bad considering the climb, and I passed 5km in approximately 17:30 – just 10 seconds outside my 5k PB. Metres after this split it was a sharp U-turn and the return home. Feeling good and strong I made a conscious effort to increase the pace a touch, feeding off the energies of the runners behind me I began to pass on the opposite side of the road. I began picking off runners ahead of me, but unlike most races where running at this pace would see large gaps between groups, there were no gaps to be seen.

I passed the fourth mile in 5:29 and spurred on by this quickest mile yet continued to pour on the coals, revelling in the perfect conditions and the quality of the field around me. I passed through the fifth mile in 5:24 and although I started to feel just a touch tired I was spurred on by the thought there was just over a mile left to run. I was also spurred on by my Garmin Virtual Partner, who was set to run the 10k in 35:00, and I was around 20 seconds up on him. Just one more mile at this pace and a new PB would be mine!

The end of mile 6 saw us leave the flat road and onto a slip road that took us briefly up onto a ring road. This was a pretty short, but steep, climb, not before used in the race, and thought to cost as much as 20 seconds. Undeterred I pushed on almost oblivious of the climb, passing 6 miles in another 5:24. Coming off the ring road and swinging right towards the finish line I caught sight of the finish line and gave it everything to ensure that I would break 35:00 on the clock, let alone by chip time.

I crossed the finish line in around 34:50, stopped my Garmin, which read 34:34 and I was simply elated. Thirteen years in the waiting, I had finally broken my 10K PB, the PB I’d considered to be my strongest as it was set when I was in the previous peak of my powers. I couldn’t help but throw a few fist pumps as I made my way out of the finish area, forced along by an insanely loud PA system.

I met upon Richard and Chris, who had both broken 33 minutes, both clocked PBs and Richard indeed set a new club record. Both though looked as miserable as sin and I struggled to reconcile with them – telling them quite bluntly to ‘Get over themselves’. Maybe its because I’m a fair few years older than them that I’ve learnt to cherish a PB no matter if it wasn’t quite what you are hoped to achieve. When you are punching at this sort of weight it won’t be long before those PBs become very hard to achieve, so enjoy them whilst you can.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. We went off on a two mile warm down, cheering on some of the slower runners as we passed. We then enjoyed a meal at TGI Friday’s trying our best not to let on that it was Pete’s birthday for fear of a waitress attack of Happy Birthday singing and dancing. I soon had to say my goodbyes and hot foot it back home to work on the US GP. I was lucky not to be held up on the A1 by a crash – I’d pulled off at the last minute before the tailback, and followed my nose to rejoin the road around 10 miles further south, where mercifully the traffic was clear. I’d barely pulled into my drive and my phone was busy with requests to get on with my work – my success would have to be enjoyed another day.

Me, Richard and Chris
Me, Richard and Chris


I knew I’d put in a strong performance, it transpired that it would statistically be my best ever to day, scoring a WAVA score of 80.98%. It was the first time I’d broken 80% –  a goal I’d targeted for some years and was thrilled. I also knew it was a strong field, I didn’t realise that I’d been part of one of the deepest quality road races in Britain for many a year – finishing 242nd or so. Thankfully Athletics Weekly saw fit to publish all finishers who broke 35 minutes – a mere 250 of us!

Split Summary
1) 1m – 5:35(5:35/m) 166/172bpm 91cal
2) 1m – 5:31(5:31/m) 174/177bpm 97cal
3) 1m – 5:38(5:38/m) 175/177bpm 99cal
4) 1m – 5:29(5:29/m) 176/178bpm 98cal
5) 1m – 5:24(5:24/m) 176/177bpm 97cal
6) 1m – 5:24(5:24/m) 176/177bpm 96cal
7) 0.31m – 1:36(5:07/m) 180/181bpm 29cal