A resounding success for MCKEP on another ‘training effort’ race at this weekend’s Rugby 10. Gold and Silver at the Warwickshire County Champs – a testament to the success of the Elite Project training regime. After a hard week totalling in excess of 70mi (a first for a good while for both McCarthy & Simkiss, and certainly since the inception of the McCarkiss Elite Project), the boys pushed through on tired legs to take the two top spots, running much of the race side by side in a show of pure dominance.
McCarkiss Elite Project members had discussed this race in depth… initially it formed no part of the training plan or race calendar in the build-up to Novembers’ Leeds Abbey Dash – however after a good run at Bristol (Half) it was decided it could undoubtedly be a definite possibility. Training plans were adapted and the decision was made – it would be entered despite falling at the end of the first week of ‘proper’ training, and in similar vain to Bristol Half – it would be ran as a solid training effort, working at/around threshold pace – perhaps.
The training schedule differed between the project’s two top runners – for Chris it read “Friday: 2hr time on feet long run, Sat: 4mi Easy, Sun: Rugby 10”… Rich’s schedule read the same other than replacing the “Saturday Easy 4mi” with a MTB XC race – 1hr45 spent on the bike. Or as Chris said many times during Friday’s long run “It’s not a race – it’s a poxy bike ride” – “Stop calling it a race!”
So during Friday’s long run, aside from the time spent by Chris again coming unstuck due to hydration issues, and mocking Rich’s mountain biking exploits – the discussion turned to tactics. In a top secret discussion which self-destructed once finished in a secret service inspector gadget / mission impossible style affair – a master plan was hatched which would guarantee success at the Rugby 10, regardless of the competition. Unknowingly the competition were truly up against it.
After some fantastic navigational skills from Chris, which included some minor understandable mistakes such as “right” instead of “left” on several occasions, and a resultant near fatal overload of Rich’s peanut sized bladder, the duo arrived at Race HQ, collected their numbers and set about their patented pre-race routine including Chris asking Rich if he’s bought plenty of pins, a bit of a jog, water/energy drink, caffeine boost and Chris trying to stay cool whilst Rich is still getting changed and prepped dangerously close to the race start time.
With a number of potential threats to the title choosing not to attend, presumably because they’d heard of the MCKEP presence expected at the race, the MCKEP team decided that there was no need to put their master plan into action, and plan b was henceforth deployed. Plan B consisted of running out at a good strong pace, break the field, and settle in for the second half of the race. Nice.
The race started and Simkiss & McCarthy lead from the off, settling in at the front and happy to do the work, such was the confidence in their stride. Stride for stride they ran together through the first 6miles, as the chasing group progressively diminished and the pair were running solo (well, as a solo pair) after perhaps 3miles.
Course elevation profile was firmly in the minds of the lads, knowing around 5.5mi would see the lowest point of the course, and a long climb would follow for around a mile and a half to the highest point of the course. Bizarrely Chris seemed totally unnerved about this, which is strange since even Simkiss was unsure about how tough the climb would be. However, as it turns out the explanation from Simkiss about there being a climb steeper than anything on Wednesday’s tempo run for a duration of over a mile, didn’t quite compute in Chris’s head – instead he took comfort in fact that the elevation graph “didn’t look that bad”.
The climb started steadily and Chris tucked in behind Rich and the pair worked at an even effort – the climb kicked up to what would be classed as a good a solid hill by any road racers’ standards, presumably this was the section that was referred to as ‘Cart Hill’ (still awaiting confirmation from someone, somewhere). The hill levelled off momentarily as the course looped past the adjacent road of the start/finish area, Chris edged ahead of Rich at this point in front of the crowds before the road gradually climbed again. This was the decisive point in the race as the incline saw Chris tucked in behind Rich once more, but this time Rich began to move away and open a gap as they passed the 7mile marker.
The gap opened and extended dramatically (apparently), Rich refraining from checking over his shoulder – there was no need, and in fact it didn’t matter as this wasn’t intended as a race winning move, Chris just took it easier up the hill, so any closure of the gap would’ve been welcome at this stage.
The lonely few miles that followed felt long – Rich convinced himself he’d missed the 8mi marker and that he wasn’t far from 9mi; he eventually passed the 8mi marker a minute or so later. Thankfully the lead cyclist reassured Rich his lead was ‘massive’ and that Chris had ‘no chance of catching’ – a gap which Chris later suggested must’ve been 40secs. Rich was convinced that the 7mi marker formed the highest part of the course, thus everything afterwards must be downwards and settled into a comfortable run in to the finish – a bit of effort was required to haul himself up the unexpected climb after 9mi where Rich, now happy in the knowledge his fate as victor was sealed felt he would check behind to see how Chris was getting on, and that he hadn’t fallen back and dropped any positions.
“SHIIIIT!” – as Rich glanced over his shoulder, Chris had evidently been motoring along at the same strong effort and closing the gap to training partner Rich – such was the surprise to Rich that he reverted to racing instincts and kicked hard to open the gap again… god knows why… but it bought him home for the win, with Chris crossing the line 20seconds later. 3rd Place went to fellow Kenilworth Runners member Phil Gould, who finished several minutes later.
There are/were some minor discrepancies in mile split times due to the nature of GPS, however assuming the pair crossed the 6mi marker together; the latter splits can be guesstimated to a reasonable degree of accuracy:
That said – this does not in any way explain how Chris managed to close the gap whilst maintaining consistently slower splits, until the last mile where Rich edged the gap open again with a slower split.