Epsom 10 2010

With three months or more since my last proper race it was great to have a race in my sights! A trip to see my daughter in Brighton and my folks in Leatherhead happily coincided with this hilly ten miler that I had raced before, so I could nip off and do the race and get back in time for lunch with the folks (killing two birds with one stone). It was a chilly, damp morning and Kokila and I were both nervous - me because of the nagging injury that was officially better but still feeling sore, and she because she hadn't been able to run for 3 weeks, was getting over a virus and didn't like the look of the rather-too-fit-looking-club-runner crowd arriving at the race!

Race HQ is about the best you can get at this event - the all new Queens Stand at the Derby race course is really high class, the toilets seem to outnumber the runners and are superbly clean, they actually have the heating on and the whole place has huge glass windows looking out over the downs. The showers were plentiful and piping hot. Five stars! Anyhow, leavning aside the HQ there was the small matter of a race to get through. I had run 65+ two years before and in my coming-back-from-a-niggle state I was hoping for 67 or 68 this time round. Kokila had her eye on 1 hour 50.

There were 300 or so in the field, including a lot of lean, mean veterans here for the VETS AC championships. Once at the start (five mins jog from the HQ) we stopped the traffic (not that there was much) and crowded out on to the road until the horn sent 300+ of us on our way. Great feeling to be racing again! I was so grateful to be out there doing it after three months off, and I nervously enjoyed the first mile, wondering if the achilles would start to play up. Mile one was down hill and I came through in 6.10 - way ahead of the 7 minute pace target I had set for the first half, but soon I was down to a much slower pace as the hills unwound along the course. Lap times were: 6.11 6.58 7.08 7.20 6.41

This brought me to the half way stage, feeling pretty good, at 34.20, so pretty much on target. The course was wooded and pretty picturesque - classic surrey lanes and back roads that reminded me of my youth, as I grew up not six miles away and lived there (Mole Valley) until I went to uni at 18. Couldn't afford to live there now though :) As soon as I passed the half way mark and grabbed a drop of water (I have never mastered drinking from cups at that pace) I decided I had enough in the tank to step it up a bit and aim for negative splits as planned. Mile times for the second half were: 6.39 7.10 5.44 7.49 5.12

Pushing a little harder I still felt strong, and I found myself edging past a few runners, so I felt I was finishing strongly and likely to manage the negative splits thing. I rarely do that - perhaps it's time I made a habit of it? The pros say it's the way to run a good time, but I always worry I'll finish with something left in the tank if I don't go hard from the start. Anyhow, as we came through the wooded hills to Walton on the Hill and on to more populated streets, the relentless ups and downs continued but I pushed a little harder on both. With 1.5 left to go I could see the flags on the grandstand where we were to finish and that made it a little easier - still some tough hills though, until the very last mile which was downhill as promised. My split times look a little suspicious - not so much the last mile as it was downhill and I was really going for it, but the 5.44 then the very slow mile suggests things were slightly out? Anyway, it's a great course and I was thrilled to finish in under 67 minutes, just beating my target and comfortably (or should that be uncomfortably?) faster in the second half than the first. I grabbed a quick shower and waited for Kokila, who arrived wasted but very happy in 1.44, not last as she expected but with more than a dozen still out on the course. She was rightly chuffed and a very happy bunny thereafter. Good news for me was that the achilles did not play up at all but seemed to feel better for a workout, so it's back to racing regularly (if I can make the time for it) for the rest of winter and spring. Fingers crossed.

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