Draycote 5 2008

Great setting for a fast race - a traffic-free road around a big reservoir just outside Rugby. My first thought was how great it would be to have a flat road loop like this at my disposal to organise a marathon and an ultra (as they do here), but this was tempered just a little when I discovered the course was more "undulating" with a few heart-pounding climbs.

Since New Year, my knee has recovered really well and today was the day I planned to race "properly" - I'd already done four flat-out two milers, but five miles at race pace would mark a proper comeback, if all went to plan. My PB for this distance was set some years ago (eight or ten I reckon) in Weston Super Mare on the Prom, so I ambitiously set my watch for 6.20 miles to see if I could match that at the age of thirty nine and a half. Hey - don't forget the half!

Equally ambitious at the start, I lined up in the third row, and had an immediate dose of realism when the front row went off like a rocket when the whistle blew. I hadn't had time for my usual preparation, but I felt pretty focussed, and my mind was as still as it gets as I worked hard on the first mile, trying to stay in touch with a club runner whom I had overheard predicting a 31 minute finish for himself at the start. It went well to start with and I reckoned I was on pace, until the first mile marker came round in 5.34. No way! Mile markers not accurate then, I thought. Mile two, still working hard, breathing "on the limit", heart rate high, the merest twinge in the knee but nothing to worry about. Mile two took, allegedly, six thirty five! Well, perhaps I was bang on target and the mile markers were just a little awry - even with the aforementioned little steep slopes every so often, I wasn't slowing enough on the uphill to explain that kind of difference. Mile three was tough - beginnings of a stitch, more hilly bits (not really hills - just little slopes that break your rhythm) and I reckoned I was still in the first twenty - if the third mile marker was right, I was ahead of schedule. Then came a nice sight - a downward slope followed by a long, perfectly flat straight along the reservoir wall - time to get into a perfect rhythm and really dig in for the PB. I knew there were climbs to come, as the start had been at a hill top, but I reckoned I was still on for a reasonable time. At the fourth mile marker the fun began in earnest with two more stiff little ascents, but then I was back at the start (4.75 miles) and looking down a hill at the finish line - I was overtaken by a runner putting on a decent surge, but I'm quick downhill these days (cycling is responsible - quad strength has improved) so I battled back and finished - by my watch at least - in 30.37.

The whole race had been tough, with no easing up, so I was glad to get over that line and walk for a few minutes, breathless but very happy with how it had gone. Ten minutes of warm down jogging and I was back at the finish to greet mum-in-law Pat (race photographer) and get my extra layers on in time to see Fran finish in a great time of 47 minutes - she looked really strong and was as pleased with the day as I was.

Lovely race in a lovely place, and the good news for me was that the knee was good as gold. I was knackered though - writing this two days later I'm still exhausted - well, it proves I gave it all I had. Might be some years before I'm ready for the Draycote ultra though!

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