I can’t remember when I last entered a race where I ran flat out, at threshold, for a sustained period of time. Perhaps it was the Nocturnal Ultra where I ran 5km laps as a relay. I went flat out then, but knew I needed to save myself for other laps ahead.
The Antonine Trail Race is a half marathon distance over Croy Hill and along flatland marshes. It mixes up grassy track and gravel trails. I only entered two weeks previous after seeing a chance spot come free. It was a race I’d always fancied entering due to its reputation for a muddy race. My mates had done it a few years back. Perhaps as long as 5/6 years ago but it remained as one that I’d wanted to do.
So without much thought I entered it. I’d been keen to get some motivation to run as the Helvellyn Ultra looms in a few weeks time.
It wasn’t until Brian from Twitter asked what my expected time was that I really put any thought into it. Ultras, you see, are different. Different in the approach and different in mindset. I often just want to finish ultras. I pace myself by keeping me well under threshold pace and walk up anything that looks remotely like an incline.
It wasn’t really until the start line that I thought, you know, ill go at a swift pace and see how long I last. I wasn’t near the front so the first km I spent dodging people until I met runners at a pace I felt I could sustain. It was bumpy at the start. Some energy sapping hills that had me still running but slowly. I definitely would have walked it if I’d been on an ultra!
I think I left Brian behind just at the railway bridge. I then realised I was going canny. After rounding the top of Croy hill it was a steep descent and I was hot on the heels of a runner. He was going a decent pace and I was keeping up. Suddenly he slipped and fell over. He was Ok so I kept my momentum up and headed down the hill at some pace. Letting the brakes off and flying downhill.
The inov8 roclites were probably not as grippy on the grass as I’d have liked but I think they were the best choice for this mixed terrain
I was at the bottom of the hill and kept on at a steady pace. I settled into it and started to feel like I was on the cusp of the threshold. It felt good to be running at that for more than just a few hundred metres. I wasn’t sure though how long it would last.
The route turned to the marshes after crossing the canal. This was flat. Really flat. I kept at this pace. I could see two in front and I kept the gap the same. Someone was gaining slowly on me behind but I didn’t care. We were running along a gravel path. The guy behind almost caught up and we entered an apparently notorious boggy bit. He slowed a his grip wasn’t as good as mine. The route meandering around bushes following a fence line.
I was starting to feel some pain in my groin but ignored it for as long as I could.
At this point I’d wished I paid more attention to the route profile. I chatted to the guy who was behind as he’d caught up. He said the last 5 mile was hilly so not to worry as I proclaimed I wasn’t used to such a runable course. I also proclaimed I didn’t like running.
That reminded me it was only 12km in. Still some way to go.
He eventually passed me and I kept up until we reached the forest after some road section. The forest trail was beautiful, gentle incline I kept running but reigned in the speed. The guy disappeared up the hill. I kept on running. In two sections the trail got quite steep so I went to a walk/ hike. Keeping my HR high.
I certainly wasn’t used to this feeling of pain. Lactic acid building in my legs and core. By this point I’d entered familiar territory having been on this trail when I did the John Muir Way. It was a downhill trot to the road and then a fast descent back to the canal. After losing all that height it was straight back up again. This time to the top of Croy hill. I slowed to a walk and even took a photo. A guy over took me. Couldn’t tell if his white gloves were a Michael Jackson Halloween outfit or if he has cold hands. He was in a vest tho so who knows.
I reached the top puggled. And wished it to be downhill all the way. And it was. Except for a wee hill on the return route down the train line. I wanted to stop running but never gave up. I finished in pain and wanting to be sick. It was by far the most energy id expended in a long time. 24th place was also a surprise as I hadn’t dreamt that I had and could keep a sustained pace. Some 20mins slower than first place but still a decent time. 21.6km in 1:45:50 by my watch.
I’m not sure how I feel about running fast races. It gives me some pleasure to think that I can run fast but also it hurt a lot. And was the opposite of enjoying a nice run in the countryside which it could have quite easily been. I’m not sure I would enter another short race but perhaps my curiosity will get the better of me and I might want to see how fast I can go. Still, 20mins behind my PB!