Monday, 10 December 2012

Christmas Cracker - Follow The Man in... er, Blue!

Right – time to tell you how I got on!

I ran the Wyvern Christmas Cracker 10k yesterday – which starts and finishes on scenic Weston-super-Mare beach. You may recall (if you ever read the post in the first place) that I was aiming for sub-50’. Did I achieve my goal? Hmmm
let’s find out

I headed down to sunny Weston-super-Mare with Simon From Church (Simon Faulkner), getting there in good time. As avid readers of this blog
(of which there are none) will recall, my only previous 10k had been The Sheffield TenTenTen, with a few hundred runners registering and getting set in Endcliffe Park. So Weston was a shock… all that stuff was indoors, in the comfy, almost luxurious surroundings of Weston College! Changing facilities and everything! They even had a crèche!

There was just one thing I needed to check: whether there’d be distance markers. To achieve my goal I knew I had to pace myself: start off around the 5’/km mark and ensure I had enough left in the tank to up the ante during the second half. Next year I plan to use a GPS watch for this purpose but Father Christmas hasn’t done the 2012 rounds yet! Anyway, so long as there were markers in place I could make do with my stopwatch and my perfectly decent mental arithmetic skills: alternatively, I’d have to strap my smartphone to my arm. Something I do on every training run, something which I’d never done in a race: it’s harder to hear the phone’s voice reading out distance and pace and I dread it coming off in the crowd. But there was an over-riding goal here… not for the first time, fashion was not the issue! Not to worry, anyway: promptly assured kilometre markers were in place, the phone went into runner 2505’s bag which was duly handed in.

We walked across to the beach and lined up for the start just before 11:00. Out of the corner of my left eye (you know, the one where my vision might be impaired) I spotted a runner sporting a… Sheffield Wednesday hat!

There you go. You train hard, you put in the hours and the miles, just for some muppet to turn up in something like that. Not quite as bad as when I went to the top of the Empire State Building and saw a family of Tesco-bag wearers there, but still… a Blade’s gotta do what a Blade’s gotta do!

That’s right – introduce himself. “Look, if you’re going to be wearing that I must tell you I’m a Blade!”. He suddenly went on the defensive, claiming he was a Rotherham supporter and he’d just borrowed this off his son. I instantly believed him, purely because you wouldn’t claim to be a Rotherham supporter unless you really had to. We exchanged best wishes and got our minds back into The Zone…

…shortly afterwards, the gun went – and the crowd of 2,000 set off! There were meant to be 2,000 of us, anyway – although the results page ‘only’ shows 1,604 and I doubt there’d have been 396 DNFs*! And no, you’re not having the link to the results just yet…

…as I set off, I felt good. I didn
’t place myself too close to the front and it’s really true, it does feel good to overtake other runners rather than starting off too ambitiously and watch others fly by you. My mind felt I’d found the right pace and my legs felt they had the challenge in them. A glance at the watch at the first marker confirmed I was right about the former. As for the latter… well, it would take another nine kilometres to find out!

And I wasn’t particularly keen on running those 9km on my own. I wanted to find someone to follow, someone who might pace me to sub-50’. I eventually settled on a guy wearing a blue vest with “Minehead” on the back, just because he was running pretty much at my pace and so it seemed fair enough to assume he was aiming for a similar goal. Again, you train hard for weeks, you spend time planning your race… and then put your fate in the hands of a complete stranger. Makes sense, right?

Actually, it does. You’re using him or her as a marker but you’re still keeping an eye on your watch and leaving yourself time to take remedial action. But Mr Minehead and my watch got on just fine as we wove our way through the flat roads of Weston-super-Mare. Around the 7km mark, and still feeling I
’d not been overtaken by many, it felt safe to see whether I could stretch the contents of the tank, so I upped my pace slightly and hung onto the back of someone else. A kilomentre or so later I wondered whether I’d regret this, as my legs found themselves having to counter the fresh sea breeze of Weston-super-Mare beachfront: but I coped just fine until, with a few hundred metres to go, I even managed to put in a bit of a sprint… and crossed the line in what my watch stated to be 47’05” only for the chip to shave off a couple of seconds for an official time of 47’03”!

Cracking cracker! 3’42” inside my Sheffield TenTenTen time of 50’45”. I’m not surprised I set a PB: I’m fitter than I was in September, I had figured I needed to pace myself better – and, most importantly, the Wyvern Christmas Cracker is virtually flat! But I did exceed expectations with how comfortably sub-50’ I was. Back in September, my TenTenTen time was 5.7% better than any training 10k I’d run in the build-up. Yesterday’s 47’02” was 5.27% inside my training best of 49’40”. Thanks adrenaline – and thanks flat Weston sand!

Last but by no means last, thanks Mr Minehead! As he crossed the finishing line shortly after me, I felt compelled to go up and thank him for pacing me to a PB! He
’d put a hat back on, one he’d taken off around the 4km mark. I tapped on his shoulder but wasn’t prepared for what happened next…

…as he turned around, he became Mr Wendy hat! I’d seen the hat before the race and the Minehead top during it… and not made what is hardly the most obvious connection! [says Giacomo Squintani, born in Sheffield and now residing in Portishead having grown up in Italy]

He again apologised for the hat. I obviously checked the timings online later in the day but scrolled a little further down: I wanted Mr Wendy Hat / Mr Minehead Vest to have a proper name. I duly found it on the results page and got in touch with him. He enjoyed the post but has chosen anonimity. He also enquired as to what a “Wendy hat” may be. One oft forgets that there are people not caught up in the United/Wendy banter out there… so here’s hoping the context of that comment clarifies it without me having to spell out that name!

There you go: the secret to a PB is following a a stranger sporting the hat of a team you loathe! Just as well I didn’t realise that was the other side of Mr Minehead or I’d have felt an irrational need to overtake him earlier – and believe you me, I did so just at the right time. And before any Blades start lauding me for the 54” I finished ahead of Mr Minehead – his result stands proudly in the MV50 category, far more so than mine in general Male one! Still, much as these (few) races I run are against myself and the clock, not the rest of the field, coming in 253rd out of 1,604 doesn’t sound too bad for a fat lad from Sheffield!

Simon and I were both in a good mood on the way back to Portishead. He’d claimed on the way down to be nursing a slight twinge and to not having trained as much as he’d like, though his time of 40’48” hardly suggests that! And me
, I had my PB. And trust me, I really enjoyed that little sprint along the beach!

Next up for me: well, in 2012 a bit of a rest! From ‘racing’, anyway – this morning’s 12.5km marked day 60 of my runstreak, which I shall endeavour to keep up over Christmas (albeit on reduced mileage)! As for 2013…

…it will feature the Bath Half Marathon, 03/03/13, followed by the Greater Manchester Marathon (28/04) and the Sheffield Half Marathon (12/05). As for 10ks in 2013, I will probably stick to the TenTenTen (13/10) and this here Christmas Cracker (I’m guessing 10/12). Cousin Natalie is suggesting the BUPA Great Yorkshire Run instead, which takes place on September 29: far flatter and more suited to a PB. Having looked at the course, I can see why! But I’m not setting out to record a PB every time: besides, I can wait till December for that. I feel indebted to the TenTenTen and genuinely want to make it a fixture of my running calendar, even if it were to become the only fixture on it! And I don’t mind that hill: it’s what makes the race. And a good race it is, too. Hopefully in 2013 I can record sub-50’ there, after September’s 50’45” – sounds a reasonable goal. What about Christmas Cracker 2013? What do you reckon – sub-45’? A further two minutes off this year’s time?!?

Sounds good, eh? Well, let’s see. There could be another couple of thousand miles between now and then. Who knows.

* Did Not Finish. Jeez, am I starting to use jargon and TLAs under the assumption they are universally known?!?

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