Races have been very quiet due to the winter season; however on the 8th of January I took part in the Kent Fitness League at Minnis Bay. It is one of my favourite cross country races and one that I very much look forward to. It is quite well known down in Kent for being challenging and the water dykes that you have to go in. I was targeting a position in the 20’s with the basis of pushing for a top 20 position towards the end of the season. Last season I achieved 21st position which was my best result and in races this year I have been placing higher than last year – in the 20’s. This was my easy week, where all my running mileage goes down and I slowly pick it back up in the coming weeks. So I was really fresh.
It was quite mild, so shorts and vest did the job, I got to the race and decided to sit somewhere and listen to music, something I do all the time now as Gobinder recommended it. I normally go somewhere quiet and reflect on the race ahead, how I am feeling and what I am going to try and do. I then proceeded to the Canterbury Harriers tent and met up with club runners. I decided to make the first mile the slowest and then ease into the race from there.
The race director started us all off and I had a slow start, just what I wanted. I eased into the race and realised that the grass was not very muddy. After about a mile I decided to do negative splits, I had lots of runners in front of me and I started over taking runners and using them as targets. Then came to the dreaded dykes I had a pack behind me, I jumped in to the first dyke and there was no water in there, I then ran to the second and again no water. When I got to the third one, I misjudged it, like I do every year and fell right into the water. I then proceeded all muddy and wet to the next two and I started to struggle as the dykes took a lot out of me. A runner went past and said come on keep going. I suddenly was back into the zone and chasing people down. I knew I was doing well but didn’t know what position I was. I pushed on at the last mile and was sprinting at the end. I then was told I was 7th and I was over the moon. Didn’t expect to be in the top 10 so this now gives me something to build on now as I have back to back races coming up. Everything is starting to look very bright with training at the moment.
Next stop was the Parker Tools Canterbury 10 mile race. This was my target race and I had targeted a PB. The course is undulating with two hard hills to tackle on mile 5 and 7, however the race has potential as it has some good downhill sections.
I had two days rest before the race to see how fresh I could be. I jumped in the car with my wife as she was running it too and it was freezing, the car said the temperature was -5 outside and it was really misty.
Got to the start line with some top runners competing in the race and was hoping to place slightly higher than 48th compared to last year and hopefully take a new PB home with me. As it was freezing I decided to wear a base layer under my vest and gloves. I made sure I had a good warm up and decided to stick to my plan of negative splits, so go off the first couple of miles slower than my other miles and to attack the hills as I knew that last year I lost a lot of time going up them. The race started and lots of runners sprinted passed me, I didn’t get carried away and stuck to the plan, the mist was so bad I couldn’t see more than a few metres in front and therefore found it tough to see who was in front of you and the course.
Whilst going off slowly I was slowly overtaking some runners that went off too fast and I felt very comfortable, while others were struggling after a few miles. After keeping to my plan, I soon came to the first hill and attacked it, I had one runner shout out “he is going for it up there” I got to the top and my heart rate was to the max, I struggled for a few metres to keep my legs turning over, but my heart rate soon dropped and I was going downhill. I only lost around 20 seconds up that hill, compared to the 1 minute last year. I then was ready to push the last five miles going past more runners. I started to get quicker and quicker each mile, something that I having being trying to master over the off season. I then came up to the next big hill and again I attacked it fast passing a few more runners, it felt good. I got to the top and this time kept my legs going at speed, again I only lost another 20 seconds on that mile.
The remaining miles were all downhill and I kept getting faster and soon came to the finish line with my last mile over 30 seconds faster than my first mile. I was well chuffed as I placed 28th and managed a new PB by 30 seconds at a time of 01:01:11, so defiantly aiming towards my target. I do think I could of gone faster and still have more in me for next time. The course is hard to judge because of the hills and therefore makes pacing slightly harder. However I think I got it right on the day and this gives me confidence to now target my next race Reading Half Marathon.
Next race was on Sunday the 29th of January in the Kent Fitness League in Meopham. Still feeling tired from the Canterbury 10 and my Achilles playing up I was debating whether to do this. I also had to cut my long easy run short on the Friday due to having really sore heels. Anyway I decided to take the 40 minute trip to the race and I do like this race as its in grounds that are not normally open to the public. The race is quite hilly with lots of downhill sections.
The race started and as soon as I started I felt I might struggle, I decided to try and focus on mini groups as targets. Again my target was top 20, but any higher would be amazing, I stayed with a big pack on the first lap and then decided to pull away. At this point another runner had dropped the group with me and we were pushing each other along. I got to the last stretch and tried to catch the people in front but they were just a little in front. I finished and again was very pleased as I was 8th and it was another top 10 finish.
Whats next? well one more Cross Country race to go on the 5th February and that’s it for me on the cross country season. All my goals have been achieved for the cross country season and all focus now towards Reading Half Marathon.