Project Milford: Telford 10k – Simkiss 32:20

Long waffle-y race report warning…


After what felt like a mediocre performance at Leeds 10k and the sense of ‘nothingness’ that it brought about, plans of an end of season break were soon quashed by myself and Chris in favour of pursuing a better 10k time – one which we would feel better reflected the efforts that were put into training for Leeds. Several times now I’ve said Leeds was a couple of weeks too soon – our fitness was still building as we hit the taper when the ideal would’ve been to have peaked, then taken a couple of weeks, not to taper, but for the training to ‘sink in’.

Project Milford was born… and with it, another fantastic master plan and perhaps more importantly – a spreadsheet. The build up would be similar to Leeds, but tweaked and at a faster pace. After a few days rest we were back into the swing of things – well I wsa, but Chris wasn’t happy – Leeds had destroyed him mentally; the training had drained his motivation and the result suggested it was for no benefit. Chris’s lowest session saw my best session, where (according to my wildly inaccurate Garmin) over a 3x2mi session I averaged a pace equivalent to a sub 31:30 10k – god knows how – favourable topography of the reps? tailwind? It just all clicked that day; bizarrely Chris was able to put aside his woes and congratulate me on a fantastic session. Nice chap that McCarthy.

I think that was the kiss of death.

My DIY project of a complete Kitchen renovation (yes, I will continue to mention it), which had transformed ‘home’ into something of a building site for over a month was bringing me down to a McCarthy level of Grumpiness (measuring at least 7 Macca’s on the Grumpometer) and stressing me out – it needed to be primary focus and for the first time in as long as I can remember, running/exercise was not my priority. Perhaps this was reflected in a rather disappointing XC run.

Sessions were dropped and for the final week of training I limited myself to runs before work. Internal dialogue flowed which questioned whether there was any point in taking part in Telford 10k. The planned PB performance became a “see where I’m at” run. I spent the tail end of the week playing down my chances of even matching my performance at Leeds.

Building up to the race I did everything I could to just relax, and do what I wanted – no pressure to perform (at Telford). Saturday was another day working on the kitchen, putting in a 12 hour shift, eating mince pies, a ‘beige dinner’ of tasty oven treats normally reserved for a party buffet – no carefully planned run with strides, no loading with beetroot juice… all I was keen to do was spend 15mins stretching, which I managed to do shortly before bed at 11pm before writing the ‘race preview‘.

Very few nerves came about on race morning – any that did arise were mainly due to friendly rivalries with other local athletes, beyond training partner Chris, there was club golden boy Andy Siggers (cracking runner, unbelievably friendly and always smiling), Andrew ‘The Gazelle’ Savery – fine specimen of a runner who runs at a similar speed to me (okay, often a bit faster), but looks a lot better doing it! and Jamie Langley, who’d had a phenomenal performance at a recent XC race, I was wondering how we’d fair up.

Race start was frantic – very congested and a few elbows flailing around. We managed to stay afloat and I settled in behind McCarthy, and alongside Siggers. Savery was visible up ahead and Langley was out of sight – no idea if he was in front or behind. Perhaps a Kilometer in we had survived the obscenely fast opening descent, and made it to the summit of the small climb that followed, and I found myself just moving in front of Chris – “my time to do the pacing” I thought, although that scuppered my plan to sit in behind McCarthy in the early stages.

Onto the old trainline section of the course, things felt fine – moving along at a good pace, nothing feeling untoward, though the pace certainly wasn’t easy – the most difficult part was navigating the wet mushy, leafy mulch underfoot and avoiding potholes. We hit the turnaround point (a cone on a narrow path) which killed all speed. It must’ve been a downward slope towards the cone because getting back up to speed took every ounce of strength and suddenly things felt very difficult.

The next mile and a bit was spent regaining some rythm and closing the gap to Savery in front… McCarthy and Siggers had fallen back from me a little (perhaps sensibly) and I continued my pursuit of Savery. As I closed in I pondered whether to sit in for a while and let the legs recover before pushing on; that was before reminding myself that I was there to run my hardest, not to play tactics, so I continued my progress and passed at the same rate I’d closed in. Approaching the 5k mark I was questioning whether I could maintain the pace to the finish… it was becoming increasingly doubtful.

The 5k clock came into sight and I passed it in a fairly big 5k PB! 15:45 (vs 15:56 PB), suddenly I knew why things were starting to feel difficult, and I knew I was in for a painful second half. On the plus side I knew that whilst I was likely to fall off the pace, the 31:30 pace at halfway meant that I could afford to ‘blow up’ by a whole minute and still achieve a PB.

The climb in the early stages of lap 2 sapped all speed and made the legs heavy – I knew I had to put a surge of effort in or I would be plodding for the next half mile at least. I forget now whether I caught another runner, or if he caught me, but I found myself tagged onto another runner, he was trying to push the pace and encouraged me to go with him… my legs were dying so I just kept plugging away, at 4miles I told myself “one more 2mi rep to go”… nope… it didn’t make life any easier. The second lap turnaround point was even harder but seeing a maintainable gap to my ‘frivals’ eased the mental battle.

Jesus, that final stretch lasted an eternity… and when the 5km marker came into sight I knew the finish was only just around the corner – picking up the pace as best I could with 200m to go I was struggling to pass the guy who’d pulled me along the past 2.5miles, I glanced over my shoulder and Savery seemed remarkably close – suddenly I was able to accelerate harder and passed the poor bugger who’d towed me round…the clock read 32:19 as I crossed the line – absolutely delighted (thought results say 32:20). I’d blown up massively and lost 50 seconds on that second lap – but still PB’d by 15 seconds, and beat Savery, McCarthy, Siggers, Langley and broke the Kenilworth Runners Club Record… that’s me done for the year now I think.

(My completely non-dramatic finish is about 3mins in)

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