Possibly a bit late into marathon training to be running a 10K, I went ahead with the delayed Ashbourne 10K just 15 days before the Manchester Marathon was scheduled to take place. In the week leading up to this I'd done a double run day, and a couple of other sessions at around marathon pace just to see where I was in training. My legs were not ready for this.
Last year when doing this race the rain was heavy, I took it fairly easy, and somehow came second. I guess a part of me wanted to see how well I could do this year, but I knew with the better weather a podium finish would be out of the question. In fact, with the hope for a 22 mile training run the next day - should I even be treating this as anything more than an easy run?! I'd settle for a reasonable time, rather than a reasonable position.
On my way to the race start it rained constantly and I wondered if this was going to be a repeat of last year's weather. This race had been delayed by a few weeks due to snow, and this put it squarely into the time of year we get April showers… or spring showers as they now seem to be. When I got to Ashbourne and parked up the rain had stopped in time for a gentle warm-up run to the leisure centre to collect my number. On my way there I met Amanda from SBR Events (the organiser), and after collecting my number I bumped into Sam who was doing the 10 mile race. It'd been a couple of years since I'd seen him at Canalathon.
The start was well organised with a clear division between canicross runners for each distance, and each group of runners doing each distance. I remembered a little about this race from last year, such as running on your left, but listened to the briefing anyway as I made my way to a couple of rows back from the front. I think I'd made up my mind I'd be putting some effort in.
When the race started the front row were off like lightning - based on my own pace I knew they were doing around 5:00/mi - impressive! I knew I wouldn't manage that for even a mile if I wanted to run the whole thing so I settled into a more comfortable pace as I reached the Ashbourne tunnel. This tunnel extends for some distance and runs below the houses on the hill. I remembered last year that my glasses darkening and steaming up on the return journey had made this tunnel difficult. For now at least, it was okay.
The Tissington Trail passed a bike hire place, and then dips a little before continuing on a stead incline. I hadn't realised this though, and hadn't remembered it from last year. I looked at my watch after the first mile. 6:46/mi?! I'm not race ready. I'm not fit enough for a marathon if this pace is hard!
Of course though, my pace was slower because of the incline I hadn't noticed was there. Each mile was a little slower than the one before, but I started to not notice this. My main focus was on passing canicross runners and 10 mile runners. Many had ignored the instructions and were running two or more abreast. Running on the left hand side isn't too difficult to understand. It does make passing difficult however.
Eventually my watch beeped for 3 miles. I was almost at the turnaround point and had only counted three or four people pass me, and I knew there was at least one in front of me - maybe two. At the turnaround point I slowed to a walk, turned, and then resumed running.
Now something felt different. Easier. I realised that this must be a gentle descent and maybe that was what had been the problem earlier. I caught up with another 10K runner who had been about ten metres in front of me for the race thus far. Someone passing shouted that if I overtook I'd be in fifth. "Not bad" I thought, but probably not worth speeding up too much. The guy in front offered to let me pass, "thanks! I'm fine at this pace though, I'll stay here"
A couple of minutes later another gap in the oncoming runners appeared and I decided it was time to make a move, and picked up the pace. My fourth mile was done in 06:19, and then the next in 06:16. Things were going pretty well, except for issues passing a canicross runner that didn't have his dog under control, but I knew I was starting to tire. By the time I reached the dip in the trail I felt I needed a break. I glanced over my shoulder and all I could see were some canicross runners I'd overtaken a while before. I'd got time to walk up the hill and get running again before they'd come close.
I caught up with another canicross runner, and once there was space I overtook and entered the Ashbourne tunnel. Fortunately, this year my glasses didn't steam up as they weren't wet, though in the time before entering my glasses had darkened due to the UV. Not quite enough to make it difficult to see - I could see the cones and the light ahead - that was enough.
Whilst running through this tunnel I started to wonder at what point I should speed up. I couldn't remember how far it was from the tunnel exit, to the finish line. It was actually just around the corner, so I finished without bothering to sprint. I finished 5th - not a bad result for a bigger turnout, but I was also first in my age category with a time of 40:45.
With this race done, I've get one more long run ahead of me before my next race: Greater Manchester Marathon 2018. I'll be boring you with the story of that one soon!