The Otley 10 Mile Road Race of a few weeks ago was my first outing over the 10 mile distance. I went into the race having put myself under quite a bit of pressure – with the race bing in the club road race championship I wanted to be the first Harrier home in my division and overall, try and run as close to an hour as possible, and aim to finish in the top ten.
The race is incredibly hilly. Just a look at the elevation profile will tell you that, and the fact that it rounds out from Otley to Lindley Reservoir, and the base of the infamous cycling climb of Norwood Edge. The Wednesday evening that the race was to be run on turned out very warm and muggy as well, so I knew it was going to be a tough race.
I lined up and went off as the first Harrier (a clear goal then to keep everyone else behind), and aimed to start off at just under 6 minute per mile pace, trying to stick with the front runners. This was alright for the first two or so miles of the race, but the pace started to toughen a long way before the hills started. The pace and effort was already absolutely brutal in the hot and sticky evening, but feeling the pressure of keeping my closest challenger Scott behind me, I could only ‘moderate’ the pace rather than properly slacken it.
The route then turned north and started climbing on the winding road from Leathley, heading to Beckwithshaw. I remembered this road as a long timed cycling segment from a cycling club competition, unremittingly lumpy and winding. We would only run the bit to the highest point and then turn towards Lindley Reservoir, struggling up tough gradients that merited gradient warning road signs. At points even for front-runners (I was probably running somewhere either side of 20th place) the pace slowed to a crawl.
After that there was no time to stop – a mantra that was drilled in to me at university cross country training was ‘it’s not how you go up the hills, it’s how you go over them’. So there was no time to recover, but just stretch the legs out and crash down the descent as fast as you could.
Perhaps the toughest part of the course was yet to come, with no flat respite a mile of breakneck descending turned into another tough, steep hill climb. The route had been so twisting that I hadn’t been able to check behind and I had no idea where my closest Hyde Park competition was, and my tired mind imagined they were right behind and gaining on me.
Soon it was time to descend again…
On the final descent into Otley the final check of the watch showed me I’d be coming in in something in the low one hours. With actual close competition behind me, I needed to run hard all the way back in to Otley, through the twists and turns through some parks, and sprint hard on the final finish in the cricket ground to hold position.
All in all, it was a good race for me. Only half way through the second week of my training block, I finished 21st at a hot, hilly road race (not bad as it was doubling as the Yorkshire 10 mile championships) in a good time of 1:04:14. I was also able to finish as top Harrier – even if the effort did require me to collapse onto the cricket pitch in exhaustion, although I had enough time (just about) to recover and go and cheer the rest of the Hyde Park team in.
By the time it’s taken me to catch up on this race report it’s back of to another 10 miler, the Eccup 10, this Sunday. On a flatter course and with a bit more training under my belt, it’s time to see if the sub hour 10 miler is possible!