Wyvern Christmas Cracker 10K - Dec 11th 2005

Lopsided view of the team!

Although I enthuse a lot about fell running, I'm not averse to the occasional road race, and this one certainly justified the name "cracker". My memories of a previous run here back in 2000 were of a slow course over soft sand with a howling westerly gale all but bringing me to a standstill on uphill beach, so I wasn't especting a great time - just hoping to improve on the 42.30 I had achieved on that wet and windy day 5 years before.

Once again, as at Blaenwern 2 weeks previously, I had the privilege of being a member of a Sri Chinmoy AC team of 3 - the indefatigable Amelia had journeyed down from London and my wife Fran, a veteran of numerous marathons and even more numerous 2-mile races was going to try a 10k for the first time. Weston was fog-bound when we arrived and the air temp was around 5 degrees so I opted for the trusty helly as usual and kept warm in the car until just before the off. I warmed up along the sea front - sun was starting to filter through the sea mist and the vast sand and mud flats in the bay stretched before me toward a distant, hazy horizon. This served to remind me you don't need to head for the hills to find natural beauty - it can find you anywhere, that combination of space, light, colour, and.............but I digress.

Around 1200 runners showed up, many in fancy dress and almost all sporting at least one strand of tinsel as per the race rules. The fancy dress was judged by the Grand Pier then we massed underneath the pier under starters orders. I started near the front - justifying this to myself by the fact I was wearing a club vest rather than a nun or santa costume - and decided to go for it and beat that 42.30. It was a mad dash over the sands, a quick u-turn at the north end of the beach then we were heading back under the pier and towards the village of Uphill. The sand was soft - very pleasant to run on but surely this slows you down compared to an all-road course? Anyhow I ran in the tracks of a vehicle of some kind that had followed the course some time earlier and compacted the sand just a little. I soon found myself in a pack of sorts with runners from Lampeter's Sarn Helen Club among others - not just me who travels for hours to do a short race then?

The run was very peaceful - the fog deadened all the noises and runners just a few yards ahead were just dark shapes outlined by the pale, hazy sunshine. Very meditative. Just how I like it. I tried a bit of chi running technique - falling forwards on relaxed legs - and it helped me surge past one or two runners though as usual I couldn't sustain the "chi" style for more than a few seconds at a time. Note to self - must practise that more, or at least finish Danny Dreyer's book! After the two beach sections (separated by a short stint on the prom, where there was no brass band playing tiddly om pom pom sadly) we climbed a short ramp on to the coast road and rounded a sharp bend to see the water station at what must have been 4k, not the 5k we had been led to expect by the announcer.

I hadn't seen any KM markers so I had no idea of my pace except that I was working hard and probably in the first 50 runners. A church silhouetted on a rocky hill shrouded in the mist hoved into view - a hauntingly beautiful landmark. Then it came - the 5k marker - 18.53 on my watch and the realisation dawning that I was on for a PB, unless I had gone off too fast and was about to die, but I didn't feel that I had. I dug in behind some steady-paced runners as we swung in an arc around the roads of Uphill and headed back towards Weston beach. Knowing you are set on course for a PB brings its own pressure - you can't relax in case you never get such a good start again. Having found myself with a good platform to go under my previous (somewhat modest) best of 39.43 I wasn't going to waste it. As the beach came back into view at around 8k I was having to up the rate of breathing to sustain my pace - but I knew from all those 2-mile time trials last summer that I could keep up the fast breathing for at least a mile. There was soft sand under my feet again - the mist clearing to reveal the Grand Pier. Then I was under the pier, girding myself into that final dash around a marker and back towards the pier and the finish line. I came into the chute at 37.49, happy enough to clench a fist like Tim Henman at having captured that PB.

The fog lifts to reveal Amelia just after finishing

and nearly all of Fran finishing

As usual I was too knackered for more than a token warmdown but I jogged to the car to get the camera in time to see Fran finish but fail to get a shot of her as my rather limited digi camera doesn't always snap the things you point it at. I ended up with a pic of half of Fran coming towards the line, so I hope I got her good side. Fran had run a great race to complete her first 10k and Amelia was not far off her PB so we had all had a good day. Amelia seemed to think she had seen a sign saying "no hot showers" so we headed straight off to Easton Leisure Centre where the showers were both hot and uncrowded. The weather really made this race for me - a totally magical day in perfect conditions allowing me to transcend my previous best for the distance. I was very, very grateful to have taken part. And with 3 races on 3 consecutive Sundays now done and dusted, I was going to leave the fast stuff alone for a week or three. I guess that means it's time to get back out doing long runs in the company of sheep and skylarks. Ah well, it's a tough life....

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