2 years ago, with the Project in its (comparatively) early stages, McCarthy and Simkiss embarked upon a training plan conjured up by Simkiss (with his coaching cap on and having read a few books then conjured something up based on some top class pseudo-scientific reasoning), which was well adhered to, with regular sessions on the roads of Cawston Grange (well documented on this blog in fact). The plan culminated in numerous remarks between the pair that “We’ll look back at this as probably being our best ever period of training”. The solid training plan and reasonable mileage saw successive PB’s over 10k for the boys at Leeds Abbey Dash, and again at Telford 10k – off the back of a 74 minute half marathon (following injuries for both). It has since been argued to be the perfect 10k training plan… reason enough then that Coach Simkiss would tweak the plan for deployment once more in 2015.
With McCarthy for all intents and purposes non-existent, having taken to the Saudi underground running scene… the magic was gone a little from the plan. Nevertheless the troops marched on, regular sessions at the Prawn Cocktail flavoured Pingles Athletics Track in Nuneaton for Simkiss, Jordan, Ponyton, and where he could afford to fit some training in between his races, Adcock too would make an appearance.
Jordan invested in some spikes, giving him an EPO like boost on the track, which meant he was leading out the sessions like a boss when combined with his actual EPO boost. Simkiss found the longer reps harder work, but would usually hit target pace and took to the roads for the latter sessions in an attempt to replicate the majesty of the 2013 training block. Poynton was banned from leading out early reps owing to his gung-ho approach on lap 1.
With all the training done and behind them, race day approached at a vast rate of knots, and with it came the weather – a week of wind saw regular exchanges of weather forecast screengrabs for Leeds posted in the club’s Whatsapp group – varying between 28mph and 40mph – all hope of PB’s were off – and the only question remaining was whether it was actually worth bothering to make the journey.
Jordan and Poynton snuggled up in a Wakefield hotel to minimise the impact of the long Journey from the Midlands – Tight-arse Simkiss decided to drive up on the morning. As Simkiss set off in the early hours for a two and a half hour drive, Jordan confirmed his arrival in the start pen. Rain lashed down and wind rocked the Simkiss wagon all the way up the M1, Simkiss and his travel partner, Simkiss (C.) were soaked through on their warm-up before a strange turn of fortune saw the weather significantly settle down.
A trademark early arrival ensured a decent spot in the start pen for Jordan & Poynton, after the Northern crowds became impatient and stampeded past officials…. a trademark late arrival for Simkiss (3 minutes before the start is NOT late – RS) saw an equally decent spot in the start pen, having hopped the barriers – there was no way this boy was going to get caught up way down in the field like back in ’13.
The start line was loaded with talent (and Simkiss), everyone was primed and ready to go – the rain had stopped, the wind seemed to have settled – perhaps this was to be the PB fest that everyone had hoped for after all! 3… 2… 1…. HAAAAAAARRRNNNNNNNN!!
Pandemonium ensued as the thoroughbreds charged out the gates, there were numerous fallers within the first furlong which Jordan & Poynton did well to clear – twinkle toes Simkiss was brought to a halt but skilfully minced through unharmed. 1km in and another faller had lost his steed – rolling across the floor in the safety tuck position. This was madness!
Round the seemingly endless loop of the retail park – Simkiss caught his first glimpse of Jordan & Poynton ahead in the distance. Jordan with his trademark long, lopey, and upright stride; Poynton trying – well, we’re not quite sure what he was trying to achieve, but he was wearing a cap backwards.
Poynton threw a shoe… not literally – that was an attempt at a horse based joke – actually he threw his cap… but that’s irrelevant… (apologies… you can see the recent quiet spell has seen our MCKEP reporters are well out of practice – Ed.) Poynton slowed down, and was caught by Simkiss between 3-4k, the pair exchanged a few words before realising they should probably be more focussed on the running… It was at this point that FotP Nick Hardy also showed face to say “hello” (…and “goodbye”- having declared himself as ‘going backwards’). The reeling in of familiar faces served as motivation for Simkiss, who was trying desperately to avoid reality by not looking at his mile splits.
The course kicked uphill as it neared the switchback point – the same point that McCarthy opened a few yards on Simkiss in 2013, forcing a notable surge from the affectionately named ‘Thighs’. This year there was no Mac-Dog… there was no surge, and the pace of Simkiss and everyone around him dropped notably up the climb.
A large lead group passed in the opposite direction, Jordan rounded the halfway switchback turn in 16:20 – a negative split would be needed to break his PB – and this course definitely favours a negative split. Simkiss rounded the turn in 16:52 – sufficiently slower than his ‘disastrous’ 16:33 back in 2013 and enough to completely demoralise him; the reality of his ‘minimum requirement target’ of sub 33min wasn’t looking too hot – Simkiss was already pushing hard. Poynton had dropped a fistful of seconds behind Simkiss and now paying for his earlier speedy-spell running alongside Jordan.
After opening miles of 5:13 & 5:14, the uphill section saw a pace slowing to 5:27 – The misery of the halfway split saw Simkiss’ slowed uphill pace continued with a 5:24 mile. Poynton’s uphill mile was 5:36, and his misery also continued with a 5:33… Jordan bounced his way up the hill at 5:17 pace, before a 5:14 pace.
The fifth mile was undoubtedly the fastest, being downhill, but Poynton’s towel was well and truly thrown in by this point – he’d even taken the time to stop and pick up the cap he discarded in the earlier stages of the race – Leeds may have taken his racing pride – but they sure as hell weren’t having his cap too.
The stupidly painful and unwelcome slip road ramp saw racers edge closer to the finish line and ensured legs were completely obliterated ahead of any potential sprint finish… even so runners tried to kick on, eeking out every last second until the finish line came into… “oh… shit… we’ve finished…” A total absence of finish gantry and timing clock meant the only visible reference of a finish line were the black timings mats, easily visible from 5-10m away. We’ve not heard why there was no finish gantry (nor have we bothered to ask) – we assume it was an attempt by organisers to piss off as many people as possible. This would work in tandem with the organised bad weather to spark a social media frenzy of complaints. Facebook comments soon appeared after the event announcing that athletes further down the field were required to queue momentarily for cups of water – a shambolic state of affairs for a circa 6 mile race, on a cool wet day – it undoubtedly cost each athlete several seconds that simply couldn’t have been gained by training harder – the organisers have robbed them of fulfilling their athletic potential – would such a travesty have occurred in the 80’s?
Poynton jogged the final quarter mile at 5:55 pace for a 34:43… a disappointment by his own reckoning.
Simkiss thunder thigh’d his way over the final quarter at sub 5 pace (showing he probably didn’t try hard enough in the bulk of the race) to finish feeling somewhat dejected in 33:28.
Jordan either sucks at sprint finishes, or actually ran his arse off through the race, finishing at 5:48 pace to shave an impressive second (yes – a whole one) off his 10k PB to finish in 32:10… (a disappointment by our reckoning).
Other MCKEP related performances are Tony Woodward in 33:14 – starting hard with an early spurt, only to endure a messy final few miles and staying just out of reach of Simkiss… and Nick Hardy coming in at 34:41 – not too shabby considering his ‘going backwards’ remarks in the first half of the race. ‘Big Brother’ Chris Simkiss came in a 37:55 – again a disappointment by his own reckoning – but a sub 37 is just around the corner we’re sure.
Onwards to Telford!