Monday, 2 May 2011

A Very Windy South Cheshire 20

Being a true runner, I really don’t mind what the weather does, and I’ve ran in conditions ranging from freezing cold temperatures and knee deep snow to temperatures of 30 degrees and 90% humidity. However, there is one type of weather that I absolutely detest, one that saps the energy and makes me swear like a trooper – and that’s the wind. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a side wind, a head wind or a flaming tail wind, it isn’t much fun and makes a mockery of the phrase “are you going for a PB today?”

Even without the wind, a PB was never on the cards on Sunday, but I still had a time and pace in mind and was hoping to run around about 2.17-2.18 realistically, but hoping for as close to 2.15 as possible. However, having seen the weather forecast the previous day, I was beginning to think I would be lucky to get anywhere near 2.20 let alone any quicker!

I’ve done the South Cheshire 20 a couple of times in the past, and it’s a great race organised by neighbouring South Cheshire Harriers. It’s cheap to enter, has loads of friendly supportive marshals, takes in some of the beautiful country lanes of Cheshire, has homemade cakes at the finish, and this year a pretty cool t-shirt! It’s also a notoriously hilly 20 miler with a couple of good climbs mid-race, and there never seems to be quite enough downhill to recover before the next hill starts.

Being the same day as the Uttoxeter Half Marathon this year, there were very few local vests at the start, but I have to say that it made a refreshing change to see so many other club names, mostly northern clubs, and many of the competitors were using the run as final prep for either the Edinburgh or Windermere Marathons. It also makes the race more interesting as you don’t know who your competition is, and as I lined up at the start, I noticed a lady not too far away in a white vest that looked particularly lean and mean, and thought that she would be the one to watch.

Lining up on the start line, it really was like being in a wind tunnel, and whilst I was looking forward to the run, I wasn’t looking forward to being battered by the wind all the way around. Add to that the hills and the warm temperatures, I figured this was going to be a tough one.

Before long we were off and I settled into my pace of around about 6.45/6.50 pace. Shortly afterwards, the hills started - short undulations just to tease us, before turning into longer and sometimes steeper drags. The first few miles were straight into a head wind, but I was still managing to hold the pace give or take a few seconds, probably because I was convinced that the lady in the white vest was just 400 yards behind me! From past years at this race, I remembered running along the main road and around about 9 miles, you bear left and take in the first of the nasty hills past a farm. I figured that if I could get up that hill and not let white vest lady come past me, I could quite possibly hold on to first place, assuming I didn’t start tiring after half way.

The hill, as suspected, was bloody hard. Okay, we were sheltered somewhat from the wind by now due to the hedgerows, but it also meant we were exposed to the sun and boy was it warm! I struggled up the hill, but thankfully only a couple of gents overtook me, and on reaching the top, I went through 10 miles in a shade over 70 minutes with the last mile split being my worst at 7.45.

I’d convinced myself that after the long climb at 10 miles, things flattened out a bit, but nope, those hills kept on coming, albeit the worst was pretty much over. A burst of energy at about 13 miles, courtesy of an energy gel, gave me a bit of a push and before long, I was counting down the last 5 miles. I was still leading the ladies race, but had no idea how far ahead I was, and every time I passed marshals, they all shouted encouragement and so many of them knew my name. I felt quite humbled by that as I never realised how many of the Harriers actually knew me, and whilst I attempted a “thank you” to each of them, I started to think how ignorant it was of me not to know their names.

By now, it really had got quite warm and the wind was stronger than earlier in the race, but with the final couple of miles fast approaching, I felt spurred on and even managed to pass some of the chaps that had passed me on the big hill. I was feeling good, I was feeling strong, and I was thoroughly enjoying the race.

At last, I turned into the road by the leisure centre and could see the turn to the finish ahead. One last little hill over a bridge sent the legs a little wobbly, but a shout from one the marshals lifted me again, and with about 400 metres to go, I realised that 2.20 was still on the cards. Running across the grassy playing fields towards the finish, I gave it all I had, finishing first lady in 2.20.23 – I was happy.

Going for it in the finishing straight 

Following a quick drink of juice and some tasty homemade cakes, I waited on the grass in the sunshine to cheer in the 2nd lady and all the other runners. White vest lady, as suspected, did have a good run to finish 2nd but she was much further behind than I thought, finishing in around about 2.30. Having spoken to her afterwards, she was happy with that and felt it a good indication for her attempt at the Windermere Marathon in a couple of weeks.

So yet again, another good day and another good race, and I can now look forward to the shorter but no less challenging Kibblestone Clamber on Thursday evening. 

Oh yes, and before I forget, Trentham ladies had yet another brilliant day of racing, with Sarah winning the Lichfield Half and Mandy winning the Uttoxeter Half, where the team also finished 2nd. Fantastic results again ladies , fantastic J

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