Having all of a sudden found themselves race free this weekend, the McCarkiss team bus looked like it would be getting a much needed weekend off, as would the legs after the last few weeks of racing. The McCarkiss entry manager is starting to get a bit of a reputation for pulling off the unachievable however, and Friday was no different. With 24 hours to go until the Highgate 10,000 there was to be no MCKEP athlete on the starting line, a few favours called in and the over trained, exhausted and almost broken duo of McCarthy and Simkiss were planning a trip to London.
With McCarthy having run 32:17 around 6 months ago in Manchester, the non-science based calculations were all coming in with a figure of sub32 being well on the cards. McCarthy now facing his 5th race in 11 days must be fit by now and Simkiss, who won the Ruby 6 not 4 days ago on a tough and hilly course and pushed himself with a weights session on Thursday, he must be fresh and stronger than ever. Two equal 5k splits of 15:55 would show a strong but controlled run and hint that there was more to come if they could run such metronomic laps, 76-77seconds was laid down.
Setting off late the pair finally parked, changed and collected their numbers with 12 minutes to go. The old adage that ‘sometimes it’s best not to prepare well as you feel less pressure’ was being rolled out, no-one believed it. A few daft stretches before McCarthy slid the spikes on for the first time in 6 months and Simkiss prepared for his first experience of 25 hard laps round the tartan and they were under starters orders, having left for the 90 mile journey not 2 hours ago. The ‘C’ race was still being paced to 31:00 and 31:30, far too quick for our lumbering chumps who had managed to talk themselves into believing that 31:59 was possible.
Falling to the back of the field on the first lap, even the planned 76-77’s were always going to leave the pair trailing off the pack, the same happened in Manchester for McCarthy. What was going to be key was just knowing your individual lap times, pacing strong and controlling and running your own race. In Manchester, McCarthy had his individual splits called every lap and just forgot about the pack, the same tactic was planned here. Planned but not executed, after a couple of laps the pair were already losing all sense of pacing. With the noise and the amount of people, basic calculations for time and distance quickly became confused.
With those excuses out of the way, now the main one.
5 laps in, the pair had acquired a third man in their group, but were completely detached from the main field and fighting into a headwind on the final bend and home straight. Simkiss had firmly consolidated himself in last place and decided he could start to think about taking his turn at the front of the group… McCarthy dropped onto the shoulder of Simkiss for shelter, then dropped a little more…before slowly succumbing to serious leg fatigue. After 8 laps it was already clear this was going terribly and after 4 further laps of discomfort, 5k ticked over for Simkiss who was only 15 seconds off pace with 16:10 and McCarthy was further back in 16:23. Not an insurmountable loss, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story, they were both in pieces, sinking away from the main packs, and running with awful form, spurred on only by the odd straggler who had gone off too quick and was in an even worse lactic nightmare.
The split between the McCarkiss pair progressively grew to nearly 200m, and watching each other cross the start/finish line via the big screen positioned on the back straight was about the only distraction from the world of discomfort they were both in – the lap counter seeming to never decrease – surely it must be over soon?
Simkiss kicked hard to shave an important few seconds off his time, finishing 20th in 32:44:87 whilst McCarthy crawled home 23rd in 33:23:92. There is no place to hide on the track and both agreed that the race had been one of the toughest, mentally, they had ever done. Were it not for the accompaniment of the Mrs and Mrs of McCarkiss, it would have been so easy to drop out, have a beer and fall asleep in the sun, or go cruising on Hampstead Heath.
Focus turns to recovery and getting McCarthy to Edinburgh in one piece – the pair are adamant they’re in great shape (by their own mediocre standards), if only they can get themselves to the start line of a fast course on fresh legs then PB’s are there for the taking.