Wyvern Christmas Cracker 10K 2011

Third time out at this popular Christmas run, and the two so far were a PB of 37.49 back in 2005 and a useless time of over 42 minutes (when I felt equally fit as on that PB day, but it was windy enough to slow me right down). Third time lucky? Well, as I’ve learn’t from all these runs at Weston, it’s all about the conditions. If it’s windy, forget your time, everyone will be slower than expected. The prom is so exposed, especially to westerly winds coming in off the sea, that there’s no way you can hit full speed.

This year, it was pretty still in Bristol and I was hoping for conditions good enough to have a crack at 39 minutes. Once I got there, and felt the wind on the sea front, I revised that down to a desperate attempt for “40 minute respectability”. The course had changed slightly, with a loop on the beach and prom repeated before heading on to the road, but the rest looked like familiar territory from the course map. We went as a Sri Chinmoy AC team – myself and the in-form Rasmivan plus Kokila who was looking for a time of around 1 hour, but who I expected to notch up something around 1.05 because of the conditions.

The field was around 1500 runners – many in fancy dress and all wearing the obligatory piece of tinsel. After a decent warmup we massed on the beach – it was blowy, with temperatures around five degrees and the threat of squally showers to come during the race. The sky was a dramatic mix of swirling, broken cloud and mist coming in off the sea. There was no delay and we were off over some bumpy timing mats into the teeth of the stiff breeze. I was trying all kinds of ways to draft runners or bunches of runners in front of me, but the wind seemed to swirl around them and I’m not sure how much it helped. Gradually as the field strung out, there was just the sound of the wind and the odd shout from a marshal or supporter – the beach muffled all our footfalls and the wind swept away the noise of our laboured breathing. I was back in a proper race, in daylight for a change (after all those evening runs on the prom) and it felt great.

The first few Ks came at around the right pace – averaging out at 4 minutes each. Coming off the beach for the second time the road took us past the dramatic church at Uphill, perched on a crag above the village, and memories of running this same race in past years drifted back. As before, I felt strong, but knew my limits. There’d be no PB for me in this shape, or in this wind, but as I was on target for 40 minutes after fighting into the wind, that goal at least should be possible. Perhaps I had gone off too fast though, as when I got to mile six, I started to slow and Rasmivan eased past me to join the pack up ahead. I managed to stay not too far behind, but my watch was telling me that I was of the pace now and would need to accelarate somehow to hit the target.

We turned a corner and at last had the tailwind that had to come after all that battling with headwinds at the start. K markers came and went, telling me I was on target again, but only just. I caught up with Rasmivan and edged ahead, trying to hang on to runners who passed me so I could feel myself “towed” past the next in line. Approaching the beach I knew I could get 40 minutes, and as we came on to the firm sand I could see the finish and pushed hard, passing a couple of runners. Of course, it was too soon, and I had pushed for a bend, not the finish itself, so I now had the prospect of holding on for another 400m to the pier (feeling totally spent after surging for that “finish line” that never was). I dug in, and although I lost a couple of places again I didn’t lose too much pace. Approaching the pier I pushed hard again, only to realise that it still wasn’t the finish – there was another bend! Still, there was a clock there showing around 3.50 as I passed, so the final and correct sprint saw me lurch over the line in a watch time of 39.56 (39.48 chip-to-chip). Victory! Well, victory in my battle for 40 minutes – in fact I was 38th in the race. I was nauseous and had to make the de-chipper wait a few seconds before I could stand still and let him snip the chip from my shoe. Rasmivan came in a few seconds later – I had given it 100% but I got the feeling he had held a little back and done a very hard training run rather than a full-on race. We’d both had a great time though, as did Kokila who clocked just over the hour, faster than I’d expected. Both of us were relieved to not have had any injury trouble. A great day!


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