Virtual 10K report by Vicky Henderson.

For those of you who read my last race report, you may remember that I mentioned about a parallel universe not being possible. Well…, I’m not quite so sure – read on!

Today I ran the same 10K route (well the last mile was slightly different); with very similar weather conditions, rain that had stopped and a slight breeze (though not in the same miles), slightly overcast with the sun threating to emerge at any point. The difference? Today Stuart was also racing so he wasn’t pacing me; it was down to me to race and see what I could do. So, I decided I was just going to let my legs do the talking – well, as long as they went relatively quickly!

Laura was also racing 10K today because she had entered the Calne Clock Change Challenge (as did Stuart) and it had been changed to a virtual race. I was racing for my 2nd claim club, Ravens (London based).

As we were preparing ourselves, a young male runner went past. I knew we’d probably pass him at some point, but wasn’t sure where. It would be interesting to see, if he chose the same route as us.

So as per before, 2M warm up, quick pre-race wee and count down from 3, 2, 1 and go. Now Laura had said she was going to stick with me for the following reasons: she had a few drinks the evening before, a very late night, an even later morning and just managed half a biscuit on her way to ours (to follow us to our designated parking in Chippenham). She also noted a slight niggle in her lower leg. I’ll be honest, I doubted she would stick with me because she is quicker so there was no reason for her – but to be fair, she did – well at least for the first 4 and a bit miles.

Mile one was pretty uneventful; you all know how it feels, it’s great, you’re running with pretty fresh legs and it doesn’t hurt. So, mile 1, 6.38 – that’s okay I thought, same as I started last time but slowed to 6.50 to keep the pace; no such thing holding me back today. I didn’t question the time or wonder if I could maintain sub 7 this time.

As we were working our way on mile 2, we were approaching the young man I mentioned earlier. He must have wondered what was happening; first Stuart would have passed him within the first mile, as would Robin (Schols from AVR), then came Laura and I. I was actually quite surprised at how fast he was running when we approached him and how long it took to overtake him; I tried to guess his pace – I decided it was probably about 7.20s – 7.30s. Other than that, nothing much happened on that mile other than I was trying to gauge how I felt last time, but to be honest, there wasn’t much either way. The wind was slightly more within the first two miles, but nothing I couldn’t tackle with fresh legs. Mile 2 finished with 6.50 so yes I’d slowed but nothing to be alarmed about.

And so we pushed on, Laura and I almost stride for stride; it felt good being able to align my breathing with my leg turnover; it felt comfortable having Laura at the side of me and probably spurred me on too. There was absolutely no conversation, both of us concentrating intently on the road, our pace, our breathing and conserving energy. Mile 3 ended very quickly too, 6.52. Another 2 seconds down but I didn’t feel it was anything to worry about at this stage.

Mile 4 was quite interesting; whilst I was still maintaining pace, it was clear Laura was ready to up the pace and so I stuck with her for a few hundred metres but at the end of mile 4, I could see she was making quite a space between us. However, at 6.49, I was still holding steady and had not slowed. My glutes were starting to complain a little but I tried to pass that off and not think about it. If I gave it too much head space, it would start to bother me; and with two miles to go, I didn’t have time to be bothered with twinging glutes. I could stretch and rest when I’d finished, so get on with it woman!

Mile 5 saw me trying to chase; it’s not my favourite part of the route; once you go past the pig farm, the road winds a little and the wind picks up and it seems a very long way to the end of that particular road, where you can turn out of the wind. I also find that the road on this part of the course has quite a tough camber but I don’t like running directly down the middle of the road either, as there is a lot of gravel so you can’t get a good grip. Call me fussy, but it’s my nemesis on this part of the route. Before we get to the end, my watch beeps and that’s another mile done, mile 5 in 6.47. To say I don’t like that mile, I’ve obviously found something from somewhere to propel me forwards.

Finally, we’re at the end of this particular road and making a right turn (instead of left which is what we did last time); it’s not time to relax yet though. Not only have I got a mile to go but actually it’s then .22 on top to make the 10K distance (and to make Strava happy), so it’s almost another quarter of a mile on top. Stay focussed I tell myself, don’t get side-tracked, you’ve done well so far, keeping your splits under 7mm, you really can’t afford to lose focus now. Unfortunately, Robin thought he had taken a wrong turn (although he hadn’t) so retraced his footsteps only to see Laura and I and had to turn around and continue where he had originally headed. So he is now running to catch up with Laura and probably overtake her to stick to his own strategy. Meanwhile, it’s now getting hard for me. It’s always the last mile (I even think this to myself). If it had been a 5 mile race, I’d have been fine until mile 4 then started to struggle! So, I had to employ tactics I’d not needed until now. Head up, arms like pistons, but relaxed, (pretend you’re drawing a gun, someone once told me), trying to lift your legs, feet up to your bum if you can, not scuff them along the floor.

I can see a tight corner ahead, one I always cross over to the left-hand side of the road, the same as flowing traffic as opposed to opposite it. I was unable to shout to Robin and Laura to warn them as they were too far ahead. There was a very slight mishap; two cyclists were coming in the opposite direction just as Laura & Robin were running around the corner. Fortunately none of either party were injured but the cyclists were very shocked when they came past me. I don’t think it affected either Robin or Laura.

Up until now, I had only looked at my watch when the mile beeped but I needed to know how much further I had to run. The watch was on 5.40 so still a fair bit yet. Yes, I tried the old “maths” in my head – always a good tactic to try when you’re tired. I tried to think of how much I actually still had left to run – .80? No that wasn’t right, try again. Then horror of horrors; I saw Laura and Robin take a right turn where I was planning to go straight on. I can’t really blame them, it is after all still part of the HM route. But I know this is a slightly hilly part of the route and the last thing I wanted at the end of my race. I now faced a dilemma; should I follow them or continue on as I’d planned in order to make the “hill” more palatable and probably less of a hill. I couldn’t; if I didn’t follow them, either they might turn around wondering if they’d gone wrong, or they might wonder what had happened to me and why I hadn’t followed them. Just suck it up I told myself and another quick look at my watch. An inward groan and I’m still only on 5.79 and that means almost another half a mile on an uphill section.

Stuart was just up ahead cheering us all in; I saw Robin next and he was very encouraging, telling me to finish strong. I pumped my arms extra hard and tried to keep the legs turning over. I was determined I wasn’t going to go over that 7mm pace; I’d eluded it this long! So on to the top and a left turn. Laura was ahead and had finished, shouting me on – and finally I looked at my watch and I’d done just over the distance, of 6.23. Ah, finally, I could relax, press the stop button and slow right down to a stop.

We were all pleased with our results; Stuart finished in 37.53 so quicker than the AVR relay. Robin finished inside 40 minutes, which was the aim of the day for him. Laura knocked yet more time from her 10K PB to finish just over 42 minutes and yours truly finished in 42.29 – a full 20 seconds faster than when I was paced by Stuart a couple of weeks ago for the AVR relay. So that parallel universe I was talking about….

Laura and I walked back to Robin and Stuart and we all walked back to the main road where there was a beautiful field of sunflowers that everyone of us had missed as we’d run past it. It was stunning and we may even be able to provide a photo soon.

It was rather a longer cool down than I’d have preferred, jogging back to the car was over 4 miles with what felt like mountains to climb. But we made it and I was dreaming of ice lollies and cold drinks.

Having looked at the elevation and map on Strava, I’m wondering if it would be slightly quicker if we ran it in the opposite direction, because it certainly looks like it might be. Will there be a third 10K on this route? I’m not sure, but you can bet if we do run it fast again, I’ll be writing another race report 😊

Till next time.