With the TP 100 coming up, I wanted a nice fairly flat trail race as a last long run to see how I was shaping up. The Coventry Way seemed the obvious choice.
I ran the Coventry Way 40 back in 2010 and always intended returning as it is such a lovely runnable route. I had a few objectives this time out (a) Run the whole thing (b) Run it as if it was the first 40 of the TP (c) If all went well run it in 6hrs.
As mentioned in previous blogs my weight is an ongoing issue and my thought process is that to get quicker I must first get lighter. I have been doing really well and had dropped a stone and a half up until a couple of months ago when things began to plateau. So a few weeks ago I devised an eating plan which I could stick to and simply wrote at the bottom “No chocolate, No crisps and No Alcohol”. That just about sums up my dietary misgivings. Any way the crux of it is I shaved another five pounds prior to this event and even dropped under 12 stone for the first time in years. So I was going into this in good shape.
Then come Monday, a bloody disaster, sore throat, heavy chest, I had a cold coming. I ran 4 mile Tuesday and it was awful, couldn’t breath and couldn’t have run another mile. Wednesday was just as bad, then Thursday it went from my chest to my head. I was full of it but a head cold is better than a chesty cold for sure, so the race could still be on. I ran 4 mile again Friday and could breath alright so decided to go for it.
Done my usual and kipped in the van Saturday night. The venue was the Queens head pub, the race HQ was out back so I parked in the field at the rear and got my head down. It was lovely and peaceful in my van until 5am when the walkers arrived. All of them! What a racket. I rolled over, put the pillow over my head and woke to my alarm 2 hours later. After the obligatory 2 mugs of tea I was ready for the off. “A Coventry Way” is a LDWA type of event, cheap as chips, well organised and start when you want. That is why the walkers went off so early. Forty miles is a long way to walk, why anyone would want to walk forty miles is beyond me;-) I enjoy being in the countryside and on the trails which is why I love trail running, you get to take in our beautiful countryside just quickly. I do enjoy walking but if I go for a walk it’ll only be about 10 miles max, anymore and I’ll be bored and my dog knackered.
The organisers recommend an eight o’clock start for runners, I had intended a nine o’clock start but as I was ready at 8.10 so I checked in and ran straight off.
Map in hand I set off up through the fields and the first few miles flew by. My cold was certainly present as I coughed and sneezed my way along but my breathing was ok so I pressed on. I set a pace of about 7.5 min miles to start and thought I’d just see how long I could hold it for. After about 4 miles the trail joins a disused railway and this is a lovely place to stretch the legs it continues for about 3.5miles. I had already passed a lot of the 8’oclock starters and as I motored along I passed several more. I knew some of the faster runners would have started after me but at this early stage I thought, if I don’t let anyone past me I’m doing well enough. Soon after leaving the railway about 8 mile in CP1, not much of a stop for me, gave my number in and scoffed a couple of jelly babies and I was off again.
My chest was a tiny bit wheezy but I still felt good so I pressed on. Straight after CP1 we crossed a golf course and as we turned a corner a rather pissed off golfer grumbled something at us as he was just about to tee off. One of the runners in front of me made a quip to him but he wasn’t amused as we passed he swiped at his ball and duffed it into the bush next to him. F**k it, he screamed. As I ran off I thought that is exactly the reason I gave up golf. You go out Saturday morning and go home with the raging hump having played terrible. Not my idea of fun.
About 10 mile in now and a little wobble with my nav as I almost run down the slip road of the A46 but soon rectify. The good thing about the nav on this event is that you have a hand drawn detailed map, written instructions and best of all the way marks are clear and frequent. If you are crossing open ground the waymarks are on posts with yellow painted tops. All very runner friendly. My pace had dropped off slightly, no excuses just natural slow down as I enter CP2 at about 15 mile in around 2 hours. I enter the CP amongst a lot of walkers and have to wait my turn to check in which is slightly annoying but rather that than push in. Now was my first refill of my new UD endure race belt. It is quite a minimal belt with two small 300ml bottles and it is a little bit of a faff to fill. I have some half Nuun tabs wrapped in foil and pop one of those in one of the bottles. A good few minutes wasted here.
I starting to feel rough now and my 18 mile low is hitting home. I go straight through CP3 at Wolston and try and get my head around the rough patch. I take my second GU of the day and within a few miles I am perking back up and try to step it up again. I roll into CP4 feeling good 22 miles done. I fill up my bottles and have some coke. On this event you have to carry your own cup as they don’t supply them so what better opportunity than to use my Salomon Soft cup. The cup is my mandatory UTMB cup but although it does the job it doesn’t hold much so I find myself having to fill it about four times at each stop to get a decent amount of liquid. Ok but not ideal.
Shortly after Brinklow Cp we join the Oxford canal and I put the hammer down for a few miles and pass the last of the walkers. The last two walkers are power walking within about 10 metres of each other almost like they are racing. The one in front tells me there is only about six runners in front and I should be able to catch them. This gives me new found vigour and I power on. When I’m running I look forward to seeing people ahead it really motivates me to catch them and pass them. If I’ve got my racing head on I will acknowledge people but also pass them with purpose. If you put the hammer down people are less likely to pressure you back so my pace will almost always go up a notch the second I pass and carry on for a mile or so before levelling back out. I use such a tactic at about mile 28 when I come across an impromptu CP. I have caught 3 runners as we reach the CP and although I need some water in my bottles I nod and say hi to the other guys but get little response. On that I shoot straight through and crack on. They leave right behind me but I’m off. Gone.
At mile 31, CP5 I again pass 2 runners approaching the CP. This time I need a full replenish of bottles, food etc. So I get it done but just quickly. I’m off before the other runners have decided on cocktail sausage or flapjack.
I know I’m not a front end runner but the thrill of racing is good fun and everyone should have a go. I doesn’t matter where you are in the field just push yourself and take as many people as you can. I would still do it if I was at the back of the pack. To me a top 10 is another mans win so why not push on for that goal.
Todays pace is taking its toll on me, although i'm running at a good pace its far from easy and I have to give myself several talking to’s to push on. I roll into CP 6 and am feeling pretty low so stop for a couple of cokes and a few jelly babies before pushing on. We were warned pre-race that in a field just after CP6 there was some young feisty bulls and we should possibly have to use the road to avoid them. I look into the field and see no bulls, so I’m thinking the farmer has put them away so I go for it. As I reach the second field, there they are and one particularly fit looking bull jumps up and stares at me. I stare back, the gate is a good 100 metres away and the bull 50 maybe. There is no way I’m turning back and start walking he is making me nervous but I carry on. I’m half way and he edges forward, Feck this I’m off and sprint for the gate as I reach it he is still edging forward and I shout a triumphant "Ha you tosser" as I leave the field releaved.
By my reckoning there must only be one runner in front of me and I run as hard as I can with the hope of catching him. Into the last CP and I’m told he was 5hrs 48 to that point and I am 5hrs 55 so with 3 mile to go no chance of catching him. I leave and run on. The last few miles drag especially as I it’s actually 41 miles but the finish soon appears and I’m done. 6hrs 23.
I never did catch the guy in front and he finished 7 minutes ahead of me but going back to my original objectives, I did run the whole thing, (apart from the bit with the bull), I did run it as I hope to run the first 40 of the tp (although I had hoped to have felt a bit better). I didn’t make my 6 hours which in all fairness I couldn’t do much about. I felt I had run a better time but didn’t so there. No excuses that’s all I had on the day so I got to be happy with that.
I do have to add that after all the races I have run “A Coventry Way” is a must for all trail runners. It has everything. It really is as good as it gets in our sport. The route, cost, volunteers, CPs, route all without fault. The organisers even do voluntary work on the route to keep it to a high standard. Fantastic.
As a warm up to the TP100 I’m still not really sure where I’m at the moment. I have a time in mind and a race plan. I’ve trained smart, eat smart and the next month everything will be to plan in prep for the race. I do however have doubts about getting the time I want. I’m sure I’ll finish, I’m sure I’ll go sub 20 but beyond that I’m not sure and a lot will depend on the day. One thing is for certain everything I know about distance running has been put into practice for this race. I know everything I plan to wear, how I intend to start and what I intend to eat. All I can’t say for sure is how the race will unfold on the day.
Since writing this the results have been published and I was 4th, missed a podium by 7 minutes ;-)
Sorry no photos this time as was travelling light and didn’t want to carry my phone.
Thanks again to www.kentphysio.co.uk for their support.