"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Capetown 10 -  10k Virtual Race - Jan 1st 2021

Back in June I trained and prepared well for a 10k and pushed myself as hard as I can remember to scrape under 40 minutes - looking back it was my big achievement of 2020! Not sure my mind or vital being were in amazing shape - lockdown was not condusive to overcoming worry, doubt and restlessness - but at least my body must have been aspiring or I couldn't have achieved that time which I had been aiming at for several years.

Now, on day 1 of a new year in which everyone is investing an amazing amount of hope, Suswara, Kokila and I headed out to Bitton again for another 10k. This time it was part of our series of virtual races over the Christmas and New Year period in which we were trying to re-create the atmosphere of our Christmas Trip which has taken place every year since the 70s but which this time round is a virtual gathering. While others would run in the Australian summer or deep snown in Scotland, our main obstacle was a run of wet days followed by sub-zero temperatures which had made the last few days icey. When we got there Kokila was happy to head off and run a cautious race on the stretch we usually use from Bitton towards Bath but Suswara had warmed up there and found it slippery as soon as he tried race pace. We had an exploratory jog on the frosty 2k stretch towards Bristol and thought that while it was far from ideal it did give marginally better purchase underfoot. Take a look at that photo and you'll see what I mean by "far from ideal".

Our warmup was just that 2k out to our start point near Warmley - there we turned around, stashed warmup gear out of sight under an arch of an overbridge, had a brief silence and race-prayer ("A new year means the blissful descent of a new consciousness") and then began.

For most of the 2k I was able to keep my footing while running flat out - which for me on a 10k means around 4-minute KM pace. In places the frost was thicker and more slippery or the camber on the path was steep, so there I had no choice but to slow down and shorten my strides so as not to lose my grip. I went off too fast perhaps because of the cold, seeing a KM pace on my watch of 3.45, but soon that dipped down into the mid 3.50s and gradually degraded from there. When I got to the 2km mark I had a choice of the dogleg through a gate to the other side of the single-track railway or turning on my heel and running back so I made that my turnaround - my imaginary cone - and ran back passing Suswara who was just a few seconds behind at that stage. The return seemed to be a little bit uphill but it's hard to be sure, and mostly it was flat with the occasional "ramp" where you had to run uphill for a few metres past a station platform or path junction. On that return stretch I was passed by the steam train that was running for New Year's Day - an old pannier tank pulling an assortment of carriages with lots of excited kids and grandparents. The steam and smoke billowed out and filled the railway cutting. It was like that famous "Race the Train" event they have in Wales, except that nobody was going to match this train for speed.

I pressed on and found myself still theoretically on target for a 40 min 10k but my pace was still falling gradually and in my mind my actual target was somewhere between 40 and 41. After all I had run my best 5k for 10 years 1 week before on Christmas Day, then thrown in a 6 hour bike ride with 2000m of climbing and a 16.5 mile training run with a tempo section in the  middle AND a flat-out mile in the days in between. With prep like that I was never going to equal by SB / V50-PB of the summer.

Shortly after half way I encountered the train again on its return journey - I was in a narrow section of the cutting near an overbridge and the path was completely filled with the white cloud billowing out of the locomotive - I wondered if it was smoke or steam? Fortunately it was nice, clean steam as I had to take several lungfuls of it as the train came past. I came through 7km with the watch showing an average pace of 4.00 and I thought my target of 40+ was realistic. When I passed Suswara he was expressionless - I sent him some positive thoughts and felt he was doing the same in return but there was no hint of a smile from either of us as we were 100% focussed. Totally in Race-Trance!

The time began to slip down over 4.01 to 4.02 per KM as I pushed myself through the last few KM - each turnaround was tough as when you lose your momentum with a 180 degree turn it is a major struggle to accelarate back up to race pace. Add the challenge of tired legs on an icey or frosty pavement and that task becomes tougher still. I did manage a surge of a sort in the last half minute though and I finally heard and felt beep countdown and vibrate alert on my watch that told me 10k was complete. 40:22. More than happy with that. Suswara was in soon after at just over 41 and Kokila was happy with her time despite encountering a lot of challenges on the stretch of railway path out towards Bath. We were 6th, 7th and 65th in the race, but it was not about those finishing positions.

We'd had a good run considering the conditions. Prasad was protein bars and kombucha from the boot of Suswara's car in the carpark at Bitton. Nice way to start the year.



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