Victoria Park 10k race

After my slow 10K in the storm I was feeling more confident about the official Victoria Park 10k race. We decided as I was going to be pushing the pace (relatively speaking!) I would use my faster intervals with a 90 second run followed by a 60 second walk. Stephen spent quite a lot of effort setting up my watch as we wanted it to show a kilometre pace as well as my current pace and total overall pace, so I could keep track, although on the day I couldn’t quite interpret what the screen was telling me while also concentrating on the actual running, but it’s worth trying out again in the future.

Eager and ready to go

The forecast for Sunday looked quite likely to be wet and cold, but I knew I would get very warm while running, so I overrode my coach’s advice and elected to wear a short sleeved shirt for the race.

Warming up

We timed our arrival perfectly for the group warm up, led by a woman who is probably well known to most people except me. I didn’t catch her name, but she was alarmingly enthusiastic and dressed in a very metallic shiny suit! Warm up completed, we headed for the start, and they called people to line up in order of the pace they thought they would manage, which makes sense of course but does slightly make us slower runners feel like the kid picked last at school!

Underway – with watches being checked carefully

Anyway we set off – the route ran out to the perimeter of the park, then three times around it, finishing with a short run back into the middle of the park. There was a half-marathon race which had started half an hour before us, and a 5k starting soon after, so once we started running around the perimeter it was quite busy throughout, with people on various different laps according to their speed and distance.

Half-way round the first lap – and both feet off the ground

Stephen was kept busy jogging to various spots to watch me go past and cheer me on. For this relatively short race I was able to carry the nutritional gels I had chosen with me, but in future efforts he may be passing me more nutrition. There was also a water station so it was easy to get more fluid on each lap.

The relatively compact course and single drinks station makes it easy for the organisers to pick up all the bottles for recycling

The weather was much better than we had feared: it started to drizzle just as we set off, but although it briefly got a bit heavier it stayed calm and the rain wasn’t too bad at all, and to be honest once I was running I barely noticed: it was Stephen who was glad of his waterproof coat and umbrella! Although a lot of people were wearing long-sleeved shirts, I was pleased that my decision had been correct and I didn’t feel cold at all.

Tiny Lucy in the background, running parallel to the Hertford Union Canal

I tried a few different screens on my watch and settled on one that gave me total time elapsed and overall pace, which was showing about 6 seconds per kilometre faster than my intended pace, so although I didn’t feel I was pushing it too hard, that encouraged me to hold to the effort I felt I was making without needing to try any harder and risk running out of energy.

Nearly there!

Taking the gels worked fairly well: it’s a bit tricky to tear them open with sweaty hands, and the second one did end up partly going down my front, but I’m sure my t-shirt felt energized by it as well!

Keeping going at that pace proved easier than I had expected, and I was able to keep a few of the slower 10k runners in my sights. One in particular had pulled ahead of me but in the last 2 or 3 kilometres I started reeling her in. I wasn’t quite able to catch up to her, but I’m sure she helped keep me going at my intended pace in the last sections – though I was starting to think that the cones marking the point where finishers keep right to head inwards while continuing runners stay left to go round again, would never appear in the distance. It was a bit frustrating not quite to catch her, but after we finished she hugged me and thanked me to pushing her to keep going, which wasn’t quite what I’d been going for but it was very nice anyway!

It was fun to find they had set up a podium so we could get a photo of me on the top with my finishing medal! My legs of course felt pretty tired, but not too bad at all as we walked back to the car. We drove home, and as I knew I would stiffen up later, I gave the dogs an afternoon walk, and made sure to rub my legs with ibuprofen gel in an effort to minimise soreness, and had a nice nutritious dinner. I was irritated to wake up the next morning with my calf muscles so stiff I had to hobble around to avoid using them, and possibly a day sitting at my desk wasn’t the best way to work them gently.

On Tuesday I went for a short run before work and was pleased to find that running, after the first 2 or 3 steps, was pretty much ok and hardly hurt at all. However walking was still an issue throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, though if I stayed on my feet for longer and made an effort to walk normally things did seem to improve.

I went to the track running session as usual on Wednesday evening and although I didn’t push the speed I was able to complete the session, and the following day my legs were nearly back to normal. The people at the track seemed to think it was perfectly normal to have such stiff aching calves after a long race, and these are mostly people who are twice as fast as me and run half marathons and marathons, so it sounds like even with preparation and nutrition in place it’s just something that’s likely to happen.

So overall a highly successful step on my journey, as I completed the 10k in 90 minutes (according to my watch I was just under 90 minutes for the 10k distance and according to my chip time I was a few seconds over 90 minutes for the race distance, so that’s close enough) but more importantly I took nearly 5 minutes off my previous 10K time, had four runners finishing after me (and not people in their 90s either, people my age!) and felt perfectly able to complete the distance.

The next major milestone will be the Tarpley 10 mile race which my athletics club runs at the end of February: it will be harder both because of distance and because although it’s on roads, there will be hills which I am not good at, but I’m sure with Stephen’s training plan and support, and perhaps a little less intention to push the time, but to just run steadily through, I will complete it!

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