After never having run a 10 mile race in my life, I was off to run my second of this Summer to Autumn training block. The Eccup 10 promised to be a flatter challenge than the Otley 10 (where I ran 1:04:14), and with the training needing to build to running 5 minute 40 miles, having run a hilly half earlier in the year at sub, and wanting to beat the best performance by a Hyde Park Harrier in last year’s race (Stan’s 1:00:11), the plan was to run sub 6 minute miles for a time just under one hour.
The race started at a relatively early 9:30am from Adel in North Leeds, heading down through Alwoodley, looping round the Eccup reservoir, before coming back round into Adel. The morning was bright and warm-ish, although with a few grey clouds making it a bit chilly before the start. I started from the front row of runners, more to get some breathing space in the early stages than anything else.
It was soon clear that there was a bunch of six or so fast guys who were going to slowly stretch away from me over the course – although over the first mile I was worried that I was getting swept up with their pace and getting carried away, as I was averaging a far faster pace than planned. After the next mile I realised I wasn’t going too fast, and the undulating nature of the course was very much going to be the story of the race – how much could be made up, how much you needed to gain to hold in the bank, a game of judging how to maintain the average pace over the whole distance.
After the first section of climbs there was some respite on the run through the suburb of Alwoodley to Eccup reservoir. At this point I was managing not to be too stressed about my placing – I was somewhere around seventh or eight – and wasn’t too stressed about any Harriers behind me. The hard pace and effort was enough to focus on to be frank. The race already felt like hard, hard work, even at the three mile mark it wasn’t much respite to try and break that down into kind-of a third of the distance done.
Out of Alwoodley and down towards the reservoir was another long, gentle downhill – again a decision about how hard to push the pace to put some time in the bank, without going into ‘effort debt’.
Around the reservoir the race turned onto muddy paths, before turning back onto the tarmac route around the top. At the 5 mile mark I had gone through in almost exactly 30 minutes, and although I was pacing well it didn’t feel like much of a relief that the same was needed again to reach the goal. Especially as the long, straight mile road west across the top of the reservoir was into a headwind – not a particularly strong one but enough to knock me back a bit.
The final four miles were tough – having lost some time across the reservoir I was going to need to be making a bit up each mile. Miles seven and eight didn’t help much with uphill stretches dragging the pace out even more. It seemed that even though I was evenly paced at half-way, there was slightly more climbing to be done in the second half than over the first. The penultimate mile gave the chance to make the time back up. I was knackered, but a long downhill stretch gave me the chance to open the legs. Over that mile I ran 5:44 – giving me a small chance of still finishing in under an hour, as a check of my watch showed 54 minutes exactly.
With half a mile left I thought “this is only, at least hopefully, just three more minutes of effort”. That final half a mile is a staple of our Adel Loop at Hyde Park Harriers, and I knew that although there was a short descent there was a vicious climb turning up onto the right onto the final straight. Looking down at my watch I thought the hour was over – maybe then I gave up. As I got closer, I thought maybe not – or at least Stan’s one hour and eleven seconds was up for grabs. Guttingly the clock ticked over to one hour, but five short seconds after I crossed the line – finishing 8th in 1:00:05.
So two out of three goals achieved – first Harrier, beat the best Harrier time from 2015, but no sub one hour time (though a PB to boot). The course wasn’t brutal, but was undulating enough to pose pacing challenges, and I am only five weeks in to the training blocks – previously my best ‘warm up race’ performances in 20 week blocks before big races have come at around eleven or twelve weeks in.
So overall – a race I’m pretty happy with. Being honest with myself I am probably one to two weeks from the sub hour form. The race has given me additional confidence that the training strategy is working, that I’m absorbing the mileage and being able to go on and do a big effort.
Next week – off to Amsterdam, amongst other things to try and add the 10K to the 2016 PB cabinet!