If you're a regular reader of my blog posts, or follow me on Twitter or other social network then you're likely to know that I've not long got back from two weeks travelling around Croatia and Slovenia. These two weeks were lots of fun, but I didn't exactly get much running done - or rather, almost every run I did was short and slow whilst carrying my DSLR and stopping for photographs. In fact, I think it's fair to say that my running really suffered.
By the time I left Zadar my throat was dry, and I found myself starting to get a cough. It was very gradual, so that when I got home I'd still got it. Great. Not only have I messed up the training I'd planned, but I've also caught a cough. Not ideal.
When I got home I needed to see where my running was. I figured an easy 4 mile run, a steady 5.5 mile run, and a 4 mile run would help me gauge that whilst not overdoing it before the race. The easy runs were surprisingly okay, and the steady run actually turned into more of a tempo run. Though I was coughing a lot - it seemed I was at the point where the cough would only be a problem first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and whilst running.
As the weekend rolled around I considered just going for a run by myself as at least that way I wouldn't be tempted to go fast and perhaps I could avoid the coughing. I couldn't do that though - I felt I needed to race to make sure that I actually got out and ran. I think maybe sitting in the cold (or what I perceived to cold) waiting for the Tour of Britain to go passed didn't help. It really sounds like I'm coming up with excuses, but unfortunately this was the genuine preparation for the race.
Anyway, I set my alarm for the morning and took my time getting ready. The Leicester 10K is a race which starts and ends in Abbey Park, so I didn't have too far to go. I parked up in the John Lewis car park, and used the mile between as a gentle warm-up. It felt okay - I didn't cough during it, so maybe it'd be okay to aim for sub-40 instead of around 41-42 minutes. When my friend Gen (@miss_gen) asked, I'd told her 41-42, and she'd predicted 38… she has too much faith in me.
After the toilet queue I came across Jen (jen_f16) and we spoke for a while until it was time to find the right place in the pen. Surprisingly the sub-40 pen was about empty, with around half a dozen people there. One of them was the winner from last year's race - I think I only recognised him as we'd both been in some of the advertisements for this year's race. At least this year it didn't clash with a LRRL league race so there should be a decent number of local runners about.
This year the race was being started by Tom Youngs - the Leicester Tigers captain. After the warm-up the race started on time, and within seconds a large number of runners from the pen behind the sub-40 were running passed me whilst I was doing a 5:30/mi pace. I was going too fast - but those that just ran passed me must be planning for much faster than their pen suggested.
It was a little off putting to have so many people overtake me so soon, but I tried my best to ignore it and not let it get into my head. By the half mile mark I'd settled into a more realistic pace, and was enjoying the run. I was just behind what I believed to be the third female, so felt that I was doing too badly. Friday Street was the first bit where I felt I needed to ease off more, due to the slight climb after dipping under the dual carriageway.
I looked at my watch for the second time when it buzzed for the first mile: 6:19 - I guess that wasn't too bad, only 2 seconds slower than the average pace I'd done several weeks before. If I didn't slow down too much after this then perhaps I'd do okay.
I think the second mile was the more interesting one, where it passes the high street, and some of Leicester's sights such as the King Richard III museum. The block paved floor was wet though, so felt I needed to be more careful with the turns. I was very conscious of trying not to fall over - I didn't though, so it was okay. When passing the market, and reaching the second mile I started to see a few pedestrians; but they did the decent thing of staying out of the way of the runners coming through. I can imagine for shoppers it's a bit of an annoyance having people run down one of the main pedestrianised shopping roads.
It was around this point I started to feel my throat felt a little congested - the way it does when you're getting over a cold. I didn't want to stop so early so I forced myself to continue on, trying my best to breathe. I figured if I could get to 5K then not only would I be passed all of the areas that are likely to have spectators, but I'd also be on part that starts to head back to the park.
I have to admit - that third mile was tough. I did however get to the 5K mark in around 19:20 which was surprising. I'd been able to cough and run a little which meant my throat now wasn't quite as bad as it had been - but Loughborough Road always feels like it's a long gradual up hill struggle. At this point another runner overtook me, and I decided to try and stick with them - perhaps it'd help me forget about the hill.
I think it worked as the fourth mile was done in 6:05. This being the fifth time I'd looked at my watch meant that in between miles I didn't really know what speed I was actually doing. Getting a mile done in that sort of time, that late into a 10K was something of a surprise, and I started doing calculations in my head - could I actually get the sub-39 that Gen thought I'd get?
Unfortunately the extra effort was making me want to cough again, and this time I couldn't run and cough. I slowed to a walk on Abbey Lane, and once I felt better I got going again. I think maybe I started back too quickly though, as after less than 0.1 miles I was already coughing again so slowed down much more to cough, and then from that gradually sped back up. It was demoralising having to stop, and to walk a little during a 10K I'd done well in previously. In fact, it felt like I was doing surprisingly better this time than I thought I would. It made this annoying.
Just before I turned onto Abbey Park Road I stopped to cough again, and then started to build up the speed once more. I'd got about a mile to go - hopefully now I could keep going until the end.
I got all the way along the road, and into the Abbey Park without coughing. I'd almost caught up with a runner that had overtaken me when walking between miles 4 and 5. I could feel a tickle at the back of my throat, but I didn't want to stop. Once inside the gates I knew there was around half a mile to go.
As I neared the lake I thought I was about to have a fit of coughing, but found that slowing down had helped. Well, it'd helped enough to just delay it by several seconds as I soon found myself needing to stop with around 400 metres to go just so I could cough.
Looking at my watch I could see I was about to hit 38 minutes - could I get a sub-39 after all? I forced myself to get running again, and built up the speed again slowly. It'd passed 38 minutes now, and the time was getting closer and closer to 39 minutes. I'd got less than 200 metres to go, and could see the clock above the finish ticking around to 38:50. I wasn't going to do it. I didn't want to admit defeat that close to end so pushed myself as hard as I felt I could - reaching a 4:24/mi pace as I crossed the line. That was hard.
Had it been enough? I was sure that somehow, despite walking, I'd managed my second 10K PB in the space of a month. I looked at my watch - 39:06. I was so close to what Gen thought me capable of, and yet so far. My official time was 39:04 in position 21 out of 1,174 finishers (first 2%), and whilst it felt disappointing I'd not managed sub-39 I realised that in better health and with better training in the lead up, I might just stand a chance. It was still an improvement of 20 seconds from my previous PB.
At the finish I got a bottle of water, passed on the energy drink, and in the goodie bag got:
- finishers medal,
- finishers tee,
- caramel bite,
- tropical flavoured protein milkshake,
- cherry yogurt flavoured protein bar,
- and a pack of mixed nuts.
Maybe Run For All races cost more than some, but their goodie bags aren't too bad - and I'm sure it must cost them a fair bit to close as many roads as they do.
In the coming weeks I've got the Robin Hood Half, and the following week is the Chicago Marathon. Whether the closeness of those two events is a good idea, is yet to be seen; but I know that after that I'll focus on 10K speed for a while so that hopefully by Rockingham I can achieve that sub-39 goal.