Spring sprung at the Gloucester 20 mile road race.
After “The Beast from the East” and the “Mini Beast” had befallen some pretty miserable and very very cold weather upon us recently it felt good to finally get running in very pleasant weather. That “Mini Beast” made for some challenging running conditions in Lancaster 7 days before this race so lining up on the start line in bright sunshine felt positively tropical in comparison and it felt like spring had finally sprung.
But first the lead up to the race!
Gloucester is a fair distance from god’s own country of Widnes so travel down the previous night is needed. However it was Kate’s Great Uncle Frank’s 90th birthday so we headed up to Leyland for his party on Saturday afternoon. Frank had lost Sylvia, his wife of 61 years, back in January so it was super important that I went to the party at least just for a short time to show my face and to show some love. (See my blog entry Guess Who’s Back?….. for my tribute to Sylvia).
We had bought him some “Rum and Pep” for his birthday present as apparently it was THE drink to have back in the day. Rum and Pep is dark rum with alcoholic English peppermint cordial. I had a tiny sip of this and I think it’s now going to be my drink of choice at festivals in the summer. Think dark rum with alcoholic peppermint mouthwash. It tasted awesome and there’s no doubt this stuff is rocket fuel.
Unfortunately I could only stay for 30 minutes or so before heading down to Gloucester but I’m glad I went and it was great to see Frank enjoying himself on the old “Rum and Pep” so I left Kate and the family to enjoy themselves and I headed out on the drive south.
On the way down I got this picture through of Frank and his Great Great Grand kids, Nieces and Nephews. How cool is that?! Happy 90th Frank!
So I gets down to Gloucester after a 3 hour or so drive (and after filling my face with crappy motorway service station food and crisps and snacks – not the ideal night before race carb load) and I checked in to The Edward Hotel.
Last week I stayed in the rather wonderful Toll House Hotel in Lancaster before my 20 mile race up there and it was fantastic. This place was the polar opposite. If you ever find yourself need somewhere to stay in Gloucester then avoid this place like the plague. I can honestly say I’ve had better sleep in high altitude mountain huts and in youth hostels. The room I got was adequate enough, the bed was big (too big for the room) but was super hard, as where the pillows.
Anyways I got my stuff sorted out then headed down to the local Tesco to get some provisions and to get some food to have for an early breakfast as I wouldn’t have been able to get breakfast till at least 7.30, which is getting a bit close to the race time of 9.30 for a big feed.
I had a little stroll around then headed back the hotel for an early night and here is where my problems started. The room looked out on to a very noisy main road and I found it nigh on impossible to get to sleep with all the vehicle and people noise outside (the hotel was about 100 yards away from a pub). I addition to this there were no curtains in the room, just some vertical blinds to “keep the light out”.
As you can see from the picture light was flooding in and sleep was impossible. By midnight I was totally fed up so I rang the hotel owner to see if there where any other rooms, and after he said no I was on the phone to the local Holiday Inn as I was packed and ready to leave to go there.
To be fair to the hotel owner he called me back and they did have one single bed room available at the rear of the hotel. This one had curtains and was much quieter but by the time I’d got there I was unsettled and it took me some time to actually get to sleep. Added to this woe the clocks went forward this night losing another hour of vital sleep, so when my alarm rang at 6.30am. I got up very tired and not at all happy (and had an extra couple of snoozes as I was not ready to get up!)
I headed back to my original room and ate the breakfast items I’d picked up from the Tesco (a porridge pot and a granola and yogurt pot – again, not the best pre-race fuel, I’d usually have some toast and eggs as well as the porridge), got myself showered, ready and KT taped up and got the hell out of Dodge.
I headed down to Quedgeley (about 20 mins outside of Gloucester), parked up at the Park and Ride (as per race instructions) then followed the runners and the signs to race HQ. It was a little bit of a walk for the car park. If I was to do this race again I’d be tempted to park on one of the streets closer to the start.
Anyways, got to the race HQ inside a leisure centre, got my race number dropped my bag off and done my warm up stretches. I was in the loo when the call got made to head to the start so I was right at the back of the field when the race started but this was no bother as the race was chipped timed.
The race itself consisted of 3 x 6.6 mile loops and a little bit extra at the start/finish area to make up the 20 miles. I don’t usually like races with loops in so I figured this would be a good mental test to put up with the monotony or repeating the route.
The aim of this race was to simply get some miles in my legs and to beat my time from Trimpell last weekend. My ultimate is is a sub four hour marathon so I wanted to push the pace a little quicker here, hopefully keeping around the 8.40min/mile pace for as long as I could
So the first loop started and we headed past the massive Gloucester Constabulary HQ and in to the spring sunshine. Then we went through a bit of an industrial estate, and out on to the open road, up and over the M5, then a left turn to the end of a lane and back round a turning point and back down the same lane then back on to the main road which headed up and over a railway bridge (not one of the two small hills out on the course I don’t think!), then passing through the village of Haresfield and heading towards the village of Colethrop.
On this stretch (if I remember correctly) there was a car on its roof in a ditch by the side of the road and this had been marked off with police tape. Looked like someone had been driving a bit too fast on the country lanes.
Not long after this was where the first hill started, followed by a short downhill section and then straight on to the second hill a little shorter and a little steeper the first one. Then we went back over the M5 on a country lane and there was a fast downhill section heading under a railway bridge (with a great photo op), then passing a farm burning something which threatened to get on my wheezy asthmatic chest before finally leading back to back to the start/finish area.
1st lap done and feeling good and pace was sticking quite close to 8.30 min/miles.
The second time around I still felt pretty decent and I was enjoying some of the views out on the course in the warm spring sunshine, I was concentrating on getting my breathing pattern right and was feeling pretty relaxed. Even the hills the second time around didn’t feel too bad.
During this run I was trying out some other fuelling products as well as my tried and tested High5 gels. In this first lap I tried out some GU Gums, I felt these worked a treat, tasted good, easy to digest and provided a quick energy boost. Result.
Soon enough the second lap was done and I was still feeling good. Pace slowing a few seconds a mile but still pretty decent. I had hoped to get round the course without being lapped, alas this was not to be and as I was getting close to the end of lap one I could hear a motorbike behind me. This was the lead bike then sure enough the race winner come running past me finishing in something like 1.54. Amazing!
At the start of the third lap I’d tried my other fuelling product, a Torq chew bar. Not good. I found these almost impossible to eat on the go, far too chewy and too much hard work. It went straight in the next bin and I switched back to the GU Chews and the High5 gels.
It started to get tough getting out on to third lap, especially during the hilly sections where my pace dropped off and over the 9min/mile barrier. I’m sure these hills got a little steeper and a little higher on this third lap! Once the second hill was done though it was all downhill back to the finish! I managed to pick up some pace again, put on my best “sprint” finish and crossed the line ins 2:51:49!
I was pretty ecstatic with this time. I knocked 7 minutes off my time from Trimpell the previous week and this was a big 20 mile PB.
The last mile was still my joint second fastest mile of the whole race so I’m happy with that at the end of 20 miles (yes I know it was downhill!). In fact I’m pretty happy with the pace throughout the while race, I think I was pretty consistent right through the race with the expectation, maybe of miles 16 and 17, the hills on the third lap.
I said earlier that I don’t normally like lapped courses. On reflection I think that may be wrong as the two races I’ve performed well in so far this year, Great North West Half and this one have both been lapped courses. This was my last big race before London and I smashed my expectations on this one on about 3 hours sleep too so this gives me a lot of confidence for the marathon and beating that sub 4 hour target. Just one more longish run now and I can start the taper!
Some thoughts on the race itself. It was very well organised with some brilliant encouraging marshals. It really does help when you have people shouting encouragement to you. I was a stranger in these parts after travelling down from up north so to hear the marshals shout “Come on Widnes” was a big boost!
Other than the bits around the start/finish and passing through some small industrial bits that course and the views were great. As far as enjoyment in running 20 miles goes I really enjoyed this race. And of course we finally had the weather.
Hello sunshine, Come into my life!
Peace and Love.
P.S. Get signed up for our awesome fund raising event at Sweat Fitness in Widnes on 7th April at 9.30am and bag yourself some sweet bling. All details are here:
P.P.S. I hadn’t mentioned it was my mother’s birthday on Saturday also. Happy birthday mother! (I had called round with a card and prezzie early on – I hadn’t ignored my mam’s birthday!)
P.P.P.S. Please sponsor me…