Hereward Relay – stage 1 Peterborough to Whittlesey 6.9 miles, 42:01, 8th place.
It was great to be back racing and wearing thePacers vest.
I had no idea whatsoever about how I would feel or what pace I would be able to manage, so I just focused on a thorough warm up and easier pacedstart than I have done in the past and to then hold on as long as possible expecting to fade a bit in the last couple of miles due to the lack of miles in the tank. I've also started wearing calf sleeves tokeep my previously injury prone right calf nice and warm.
The pace felt comfortable early on, it’s an awkward start and you can only really properly start running when you hit the river path and from there it’s a great run to the outskirts of Whittlesey (apart from the brief stretch past the sewage plant!) before a slightly messy finish through Whittlesey with traffic etc to negotiate.
All the way along the river path, I felt strong in terms of my running form/posture (so the gym work must be starting to help) and I felt comfortable maintaining the pace, targeting the runners ahead of me all the way along the riverpath, maintaining my stride length and I was really pleased that in the second half no-one passed meand being able to step-up in pace through Whittlesey. I was handing over to Kevin on stage 2 and he’s always in great shape for this race, so I wanted to give him as good a chance of possible of competing on his stage. I wasn’t wearing a watch, given I had minimal expectations, but after 9 months away from racing and the confidence I got from how it felt along the route, I was pleased enough coming in to the finish and it was great to see all the familiar Pacers faces waiting to run, plus my three favourite faces (wife and kids) waiting for me at the finish. Only later looking at the results, I saw I was 8th, running more than 2 minutes faster than last year when my injury interruptions started and noted my pace was surprisingly only about 30 seconds outside sub-6 minute per mile pace for the 7 mile route.
Going forwards from here, being able to sustain virtually sub-6 minute per mile pace for 7 miles has given me a huge confidence boost about where I’m at but I’m also still very realistic – I have not yet raced cross-country and I know that is a very different beast to my forte which is a flat road race. I’ve got a few grass interval sessions under my belt now – I do a weekly lunchtime session on Parkers Piece in Cambridge – roughly 3 ½ minutes effort with 60 seconds jog recovery and 5 to 6 reps. I’ll start running fully off-road in the next week or so, starting hopefully with Parkrun on 8thDecember, running there over the fields from Horringer, to dip my toe into a bit of XC, before doing some full XC races. My next race is one for my old school, the Alumni XC in London on 15thDecember hosted by my old club Thames Hare and Hounds – I am very unlikely to be near the front end of that race and I know I am also unlikely to be near the front end of the Suffolk County XC Champs in January, but my mantra of week by week seems to be working for now and making small improvements race by race. These races also give the opportunity for me to play a small part in helping the Pacers men get back in the mix to win some team races and emulate our successful ladies team. Looking slightly further ahead I hope that, if I continue to make these gains, by Tarpley 10 time at the end of February, I will be fit enough to be really competitive in our home race, without pinning too many expectations on it.