Fresh from the Woodhall Spa Sprint Triathlon I was certainly not in the days following my first ever triathlon. Monday saw a session at the gym on the stepper and the elliptical trainer with an easy paced recovery run in the evening which felt not too bad. Tuesday however saw me by mid-afternoon in a state of near exhaustion (Perhaps slight exaggeration – very tired is closer). I was contemplating doing nothing at all, but with sunny warm conditions and – for the first Tuesday since 2015 time trials began at Witham Wheelers, – there was barely a breath of wind.
Sensing opportunities to ride windless time trials are going to be at a premium I had a strong coffee and lackadaisically headed to first the cricket club to sign on and then onto the TT start. The lure of a PB appeared to do the trick, for although I rode mediocre at best, I came home in 25:41 – a new PB and first sub 26 clocking. Wednesday saw me feel a touch fresher, but still tired on a gentle, mostly off road 11 mile run around the very pleasant Belton House Estate. Thursday was a day off, which would hopefully see me revitalised for the Friday evening race.
Evening races when there is an F1 race on is always a touch of a risk in terms of being able to participate; thankfully Friday was a quiet day in Spielberg which enabled me to arrive in Long Bennington just shy of an hour before the start of the race. Being a member of Grantham Running Club, the hosts of the race, there was no shortage of familiar faces at the race HQ, all doing a fantastic effort to make this one of the slickest and well catered for evening races I’ve ever attended.
Gravity FM were putting on an outdoor disco and warm up show which, I must admit, didn’t think would work, but actually was really uplifting. I left it though to perform my usual warm up – a 1.5 mile out and back affair, with the return being a series of race pace strides. Everything felt good – aside from a touch of hay fever making breathing a little wheezy, and I went about final preparations.
Jogging to the start line I felt a twinge in my left glute. I tried to ignore it but was a bit concerned – random aches like this have led to sacrum stress fractures in the recent past. I ran a couple of practice starts and the ache appeared to disappear. After helping Scott on the start line with his camera settings I lined up at the front of the race. This time last year I was at the same start line barely caring less how the race panned out – today I had my race face on and I was keen to do well.
The race gun fired at dead on 7:30 and for a few glorious seconds I actually led the race! For a brief moment thoughts of actually winning the event flooded through my brain. Then Shane Robinson of Lincoln Wellington remembered he is a 31:34 10k runner and swiftly disappeared into the distance, setting a new PB and course record of 31:30 in the process.
After the initial frantic dash ‘downhill’ where Garmin was throwing up sub 4:40 pace alerts, we collectively settled down into something more realistic. I found myself third, the orange shirted Daniel Page of Clowne Road Runners ten meters or so up the road and Grantham AC’s Adam Madge sitting on my shoulder in fourth, with a gap growing to the fifth placed runner. On the long flat run on Valley Lane out to Grange Lane there was a slight, but definite, headwind, and I didn’t fancy being a wind break for Adam. I did a deliberate pull out and tuck in behind Adam. I stayed in his slipstream for around 30 seconds but twice I clipped his heels, forcing me to apologise profusely and pull out to retake third place.
At this moment second placed Daniel thought he should play the tactical game and eased up to allow us to catch him and sit behind me and Adam. I was now second, and with the first mile covered in a potentially PB shattering 5:18 I decided to scrap the tactics and just run as hard and fast as I could. The second mile was a fair bit slower in 5:34 but it was then as we turned left and towards Staunton I pushed on again in a bid to try and drop Daniel (Adam by now had dropped off our little group and was fading fast). With the wind now more behind us Daniel took the odd turn to take the lead but I repassed him on several occasions. This battle meant we sped up in the third mile (5:24) and as we passed the official 5k marker I glanced at my Garmin, which read 16:47 – inside my 5k PB!
At this point I was still feeling comfortable and felt I had every chance of finishing second with a sub 34 clocking a real possibility. Then the little ache I’d felt minutes before the start in the left glute reappeared and quite quickly became quite a severe ache. It didn’t really slow me but it was disconcerting and, frankly, a little worrying. The discomfort reached it’s peak as we hit Staunton and turned left again to head back towards Long Bennington. The race’s main drag uphill began and it was there that Daniel was able to eke out a small gap on me. I wanted to push on and go with him but the ache in the glute was just too much to do so.
What was reassuring was that once it reached quite painful the level of discomfort stabilised and I was able to run at a fairly decent pace. The fourth mile was 5:31, and the fifth, where I had mentally settled for third place and was thinking more about fending off the rapidly approaching fourth placed runner, was the slowest of the race (5:41). As we began the final mile I could see Daniel ahead making more and more turns of the head, an indicator in most races that he was tiring. I picked up the pace, not only to try and catch him, but because there was the small matter of a PB that was still within my grasp.
We came back into Long Bennington (5:28) and as we hit the finish straight I put on as good a sprint I could with the left glute tightening rapidly. Unfortunately for myself Daniel was wise to my efforts and sprinted at least as effectively as myself (probably more) With a final spurt I crossed the line third.
The official time would take some time to materialise, but eventually it was given as 34:10 – a new 12 second PB! I was thrilled! I also hurt quite a bit and was relieved to see my regular massage therapist David McKee on hand to help release the back, glute, and Piraformis.
He did a good job of averting a full lock up, but there was no thoughts of a warm down. Instead it was catching up with plenty of other runners and waiting for the presentation where I would receive just my second ever prize (My first came at the Taunton Marathon in 2011, where I also finished third). £25 the richer and with a new PB – a very successful evening’s work!