I really enjoyed the annual Friday 5 in Nowton Park – to tweak a football cliché, it really is a race of two halves – once you are on the start of the gravel track you can get your breath back and prepare for the cracking second half, fast downhill back through the village and on the flat of the quiet country lanes before the tree-lined avenue sprint finish back in the park. I had no real expectations as to how the race would go, other than the pace would feel sharp and a bit of a shock, as I’ve not been doing a lot of training at that sort of pace and given my last three races going back over the last three months have been a road marathon, an 18-mile trail race and a hilly trail half marathon. 9th place on Friday night therefore felt solid if unspectacular – I do feel strong at the moment but certainly not race sharp, however strength is most important going into the Snowdon race. It was also great racing in the company of so many Pacers again – I feel our ‘home’ races are must-do events throughout the year and the club does so well to combine putting on such a brilliant organisational show whilst still being competitive and filling the race with red, black and white.
Yesterday was a nice 2 hour off-road run to/from and around Ickworth. Pace per mile is fairly irrelevant in my long runs at present given my current training target, so I’m really just trying to envisage being out there running for over 4 hours, hence running at a much slower pace than usual on these long runs and trying to make sure my legs remain fresh and strong given how long the Snowdon race will actually take me. As with any trail race, particularly in the hills / mountains, the pace will fluctuate wildly (last year’s winner took over 30 minutes on the climb up towards the summit of Snowdon and that was after 20 miles of the course in the foothills already in his legs!)
It’s funny when the circumstances of a target race dictate training and also change a mindset: I’ve never been a fan of hill training, partly because I’m not very good at them (I’ve always used my size as an excuse) but I know how important it is for a mountain marathon and I’ve been doing one or two hill sessions every week pretty much now since January, when preparing for London. My mindset has now well and truly changed as I realised yesterday when reaching the bottom of the gravel track by the little stone bridge in Ickworth and seeing that the adjacent field was no longer fenced off – I actually got excited that Ickworth's biggest/best/worst hill, depending on your viewpoint, was available again to hammer away at. I remember when it was part of the Suffolk county XC course a few years back and I certainly didn’t appreciate it then, but given my current training circumstances I really appreciate such hills as invaluable training venues right now (even if this view won't last forever!). I need to put in a really decent training week this week, so i’ll be back at Ickworth tonight for a hill session, a 10 mile off-road run on Wednesday night, a hill session in and around Hartest on Friday night, two gym sessions in between and then another 2 – 2.5 hour off-road run next Sunday. After that my attention will really turn to a suitable taper for the Snowdon race.
I'm not pretending these are monster training weeks but mentally I now have no fear of failure when the big race arrives and by not trying to max out my training every week, I'm also reducing the chance of injury and of missing a significant chunk of training time. As I'm also raising money for charity, getting to the start (and finish) in one piece is all important.