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

Midsummer 10k Virtual Race - June 21st 2020


I arrived at Bitton nervous and excited. But more nervous than excited if I'm being totally honest! I'd raced hard for several weeks then switched to some hard training runs - aiming to improve my speed endurance as much as I could without pushing myself into injury or exhaustion. Some big challenges in my job were making me mentally tired and it was good to have the goal of my 10k race to focus on.

A dodgy forecast meant the path was less busy than usual - during lockdown it's become more popular than ever with cyclists and runners, plus a few walkers. I warmed up with around 3k of jogging and strides, then after a brief silence at my start line I was running back towards Bitton with one eye on the path and one on the Garmin, telling myself to stick as closely as I could to 4 minute KM pace. At the same time part of me was wanting to run just a little faster, so that I'd have a "cushion" of spare seconds should things go pear shaped in the second half.

I think I got the balance about right - my pace of 3.53 for the first k slowed to 3.55 for the second and while it was far from comfortable, it was about the right effort level as far as I could tell. I knew I could run 7k like this but had no idea what would happen after that - more of the same, or a sudden crash?

The third KM included the turnaround just before Bitton Station and clocked in at 3.56. As always it took a big effort to get back up to race pace after losing all momentum at the turn. In a normal race you hang with a pack or pace yourself off other runners at times like that, but this was virtual racing with only me and my Garmin. I had it set to show 3 data fields - lap pace, avg pace and time. Lap pace gave me a good indication of how I was running for that KM, my target being never to drop below 4 mins pace. The overall avg pace would be more relevant as the race went on, telling me if I was still in with a chance even if I'd broken a bit and lost the ability to maintain target pace. Time was only going to count as I approached the end of the final KM.

The 4th KM was my best, a hard effort rewarding me with a 3.53 just a shade faster than lap 1, but then the slight rise past the platform at 5k sapped all my energy and I missed my target on the 6th KM by a few seconds - 4.03 - because I was still feeling too low in power to get back on pace. My mind went into calculation mode, but I tried to still it and just focus on getting under 4 mins for each remaining KM. I pulled it back for the 7th KM with a 3.58 that made me optimistic. For the next two KMs  I thought I was managing target pace, as the readouts on my wrist of lap pace were coming in at 3.58s, but there is always a time lag with GPS and I was slowing towards the end of both lap 8 and lap 9 - both were over 4 mins again though I didn't know this at the time. Probably just as well. By now I was totally exhausted but the "crash" hadn't come. Last time I tried 40 minutes for 10k, in 2017, I'd been finished at 7km and limped home with three very slow kilometres. This time I still had something in the tank even though I had that feeling it could all fall apart at any moment. As I edged towards the end of lap 9 I went into finishing mode with a faster pace of breathing and a forward lean and the final KM, coming to the edge of Bath, was a comeback kilometre at 3.56.

The alarm sounded at 10km and I staggered on for a few more seconds just in case GPS was going to give me some anomalous reading of 9.99km, then stopped the watch at 3.55. Victory! Not in a competitive sense you understand, just victory in my personal battle against that 40 mins barrier. Hard work had paid off and I felt fantastic. In a totally wasted sort of way.

I began walking back, checking the Garmin, seeing that I'd completed 10 x 1km laps in 3.42. Better than I could have hoped for. The walk/jog back to Bitton took forever but I was able to enjoy the beautiful views that I hadn't noticed at all during my race - the River Avon that the path crosses and re-crosses on numerous bridges, the hills and woodlands, the lush and green valley fields, the boats and stone cottages of Saltford.



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