Having suitably carbo-loaded the eve of the race, Michael Nemeth reports from the Cragside 10k.
Run Northumberland Cragside 10k: Saturday, 12th April 2014
A Deluge of Daves:
Ok, as all good race reports start, I suppose I should start with the night before.
I was hoping for a night of will power and sensibility on my behalf, and managed it with reasonable success. I’d been going through arrangements with my colleagues for a few weeks now about now about the Newcastle Beer and Cider Festival that was taking place at Northumbria University. Now, Cragside 10K was firmly at the forefront of my mind when I’d decided to go, but be sensible. I work with James Robson (Group 2) and last time we had a night out before I was racing I ended up getting home about 4am and didn’t wake up until 10 minutes before the start of the Saltwell 10K so ended up missing it. This didn’t bode well for the night in question. I had a current PB of 47:15 from Matfen 10K and felt strong with all of the training I’d been doing for the Edinburgh Marathon. My confidence was pretty high given my PB of almost a minute from the last Winter GP race. I digress anyway. Back to the night in question. Me and my fellow colleagues turned up for the Beer and Cider Festival and paid our entries to get our Beer Tokens and free collectible glass and set to work. I went for my first cider, which was rank to say the least. Thankfully measures were only half pints. I looked through the drinks guide and carefully selected another cider which had to be better. I was right, but only marginally and this one turned out to be just nasty. After a fleeting visit from Aimee Cook and little bit of a chat about Cragside, I was suddenly starting to think my predicted race time of sub 47 was way too optimistic. There were mentions of some brutal hills, but lovely scenery. Aimee left me with a recommendation of Legbender as the next cider of choice. Before this happened it was time for the delivery of food. I ensured that we’d ordered Pizzas from someone who’d been insured by a company like utilitysavingexpert.com. I think there were 8 or 9 of us, and we’d settled for 9 pizza and a garlic bread. I don’t think I’ve ever seen food disappear so fast. In total, I’d say these were inhaled within 20 minutes or so, to a bunch of rather smug people and a tower of pizza boxes. The other festival goers were looking on in awe of our cardboard stack! Off I toddled for my half pint of Legbender which was without a doubt so much nicer than my previous 2 drinks, but it still wasn’t great. After this there was talk of moving on, so I sensibly cashed in my unused tokens with the race still in mind. A fleeting visit from Mike Norbury and bumping into Joanne Lee on my way out reinforced that Cragside was indeed a tough course and “not a PB course by far”. I was starting to doubt my ambitious plans even more now. A visit to Pleased To Meet You welcomed me with a shot of Sambucca bought by another colleague and I settled on finishing the night with a nice dram of Lagavullin 16 yr old single malt. We moved onto Gotham Town after that where I managed to abstain from partaking in the consumption of alcohol and this left me close enough to a Metro station to get home at a reasonable hour. I managed to catch one just after 11:30pm after saying my goodbyes and James wished me luck for the race. Another cameo came from Phil Scott after bumping into him at the Metro station and he wished me luck too. Not much left to do apart from make sure my breakfast was ready for the morning. I got a cheese scone out of the freezer, and this was to be my pre-race breakfast. Bed just after midnight. Perfect! It was still a sensible time (to me).
I woke up just before my alarm at 7:00am and felt fairly refreshed. Went through my usual morning routine and made sure I had my registration email and a set of safety pins. I did noticed I only had 2 right-footed training socks though, so I put them on and decided that this had to do. I’m not sure at what point I paired them up wrongly, but I remember wearing 2 lefts on the weekend. Thankfully I don’t think it makes a massive difference, especially not at a shorter race. I had my cheese scone and made sure I got some water into me as the ciders the night before had left my mouth feeling like a desert. I set off to meet Annette Kelly at Heworth Metro sporting my race colours with pride and thinking about my plan again. Annette picked me up at about 8:10 and our journey was started. We got talking about the club and how it was amazing that all of the groups had been vastly improving in recent times and reminisced on a few races past gone. Annette had no major expectations for a time and was going to be happy to take in the scenic course. She’d also heard horror stories about the hills. My PB was starting to look much less likely. A moment of panic came briefly when Annette thought she’d missed the turnoff because she was “chatting away”. Luckily we hadn’t and negotiated ourselves to Cragside at pretty much 9am on the dot. I had myself a Clif Shot Blok as an extra little helping of energy before setting off. We picked our numbers up, where we bumped into Julie Shaw. After talking to her she revealed how the course was notorious for adding 2 minutes onto people’s times. This really didn’t bode well for my plans and I decided to reassess and see how I felt after setting off and not actually go for a set pace, but run by feel. A few more TBH vests were spotted in the form of David Anderson, David Rowe, David Young, David Appleby and Andy Smythe. That made a total of 50% Dave’s for the TBH representatives. What do you call a collection of Daves? A deluge perhaps? Answers on a postcard please! We also spotted a collection of morphsuit wearing superheroes. I identified Iron Man as someone I definitely didn’t want to get beaten by. Also present were Captain America, Lion-o from the Thundercats and Spider-man. After the bags were left in the care of Julie’s husband we made our way up towards the start line. This was steep and the cool air took my breath away as jogged upwards and onwards. Coming down it was going to be the start of the race. I’m not 100% comfortable with going downhill as I struggle to control my speed. Overhead mutterings and a confirmation from Julie informed us that it was also the finish of the race. A glimmer of hope that it wasn’t just uphill!
We got behind the start line where the Daves and Andy congregated. I made my way a little further back with Annette and Julie and we settled with being about 20 metres behind the line, still within sight of it as the runners collected and huddled together. Conditions felt good with it being slightly cool and little wind. The race organiser appeared just before 10am to inform us to be very careful of the one way traffic control system that had been installed. The spikes had been laid flat and kept in place with bolts, but we would still have to be careful of our footing. I looked at my Garmin and found to my horror that it had gone onto power save mode and lost the satellites. Nightmare! I quickly swiped it and hoped it would get a lock in time. Still looking for reception and the race was off! I set my timer going and hoped it wouldn’t lose too much distance before finding a good signal. We were off and as predicted, the start was fast and downhill. I kept an eye on my footing as Julie and Annette crept further ahead of me as they were more confident on the downhills. About 0.1 of a mile in my watch decided to get a lock which gave me some relief. My first mile-split would be inaccurate, but I could cope with that. The downhill kept on for just over a kilometre and levelled out where I managed to catch up to the girls and slowly start opening a gap from them. Iron Man and Spiderman went flying past and it was at this point that I realised I would be getting beaten by a superhero or two after all. The first incline hit and I slowly started overtaking people. I’d spot someone in the distance and see if I could reel them in. Quickly, I found myself having to find new targets on a fairly regular basis. This wasn’t going too bad. My watch beeped for its first mile and I could actually take notice of the pace now. I seemed to be hanging around the 7:00 min/mile mark and I settled into this pace with the intention of holding on as long as possible. We were given a few moments of reprieve every so often when the undulating course gave us a brief downhill ready for the next incline. The hills were plentiful, but managable. Iron Man and Spiderman were still in sight, but they’d now realised how hot it was and unzipped their heads to give them a chance to breathe. I managed to keep reeling people in, but they were managing to do the same, a little bit more efficiently than me too and the gap was getting wider.
I hit 5km (ish) and saw that I was on for a good time around the 23 minute mark, but not knowing my distance properly I had to have some faith About 6km in we hit a steeper incline and longer than the previous ones too. My legs suddenly felt like lead and were being sapped of their energy. My pace dropped massively yet I managed to keep going and overtook Marie Drozdowicz from Elswick Harriers. I knew she was coming back from injury but I still consider her an incredibly strong runner and she’s beaten me in many a race. We exchanged pleasantries and I pushed on and caught up to a guy who was obviously struggling and had decided to walk. I encouraged him to start running again and we plodded uphill together over a little bridge with a beautiful lake to our right. The path levelled out a little and I told the guy to push on as he seemed to get a second wind. I passed the 7 mile (yes, mile!) marker as we came to another steady uphill that wound itself left. I assumed this was the climb back up towards the start and this left me encouraged that despite my legs feeling drained that there was to be some downhill in the not too distant future.
8km ticked by and the uphill seemed to give up and the course levelled out. A slow decline started as we all settled into a much more comfortable pace back towards the start line. As I passed the start line again, I really felt myself speeding up on the downhill section and went with it. I kept on running and got over the traffic management spikes again without incident. Glanced at my watch to see a pace of 6:30 for this split and the time was still looking good too. A quick calculation in my head and I decided that a sub-47 was definitely within grasp now. I pushed on and opened up my stride a bit, trying to take advantage of gravity as much as possible now. I looked up and the finish line was in sight without about 400m to go. I got closer and the timing board had just ticked over 45:40 and I broke into as best a sprint I could manage on weary legs (Iain Dalby would have been proud of me). The crowd seemed to take encouragement from this and started cheering for me to keep on pushing and I crossed the line in a time that shocked me. Sub-46 on this course! I collected my water and staggered over to the Dave’s and Andy who seemed to be humbly reflecting on their races with all of us agreeing that it was a tough course but amazingly scenic.
David Rowe seemed to be a little annoyed with himself as he shook his finger at his watch’s reading of 44:03. 4 seconds of frustration! I’m sure we’ve all been in a similar situation, perhaps not quite as quick though. I think Dave Young had himself managed around the 41 minute mark. I pulled myself together just in time to cheer Annette over the line in a sub-50 and then Julie came in just over 51 minutes. We’d all done brilliantly, despite Julie telling us she’d picked up a blister and had suffered a stitch mid-race too. Turns out that the lads had managed to scoop the men’s prize with David Anderson coming 3rd, Andy Smythe coming 6th and David Appleby coming 10th. TBH had been well represented and Group 1 were flying the black and white flag proudly again. It’s great to see that we have strength in the ranks.
I decided with Annette that we’d earned ourselves some cake and a hot drink so we popped into the cafe for some celebratory refuelling. I decided on a Green & Black’s hot chocolate and a Northumberland Curd Tart. Annette went for the date and walnut cake with a pot of tea. We sat outside and reflected on the race. Me on my new PB of over a minute at an unofficial time of 45:54 and Annette on her sub-50 time on such a hard course. We also discussed how that as a club we do a lot of hill training and it definitely makes a difference in races like this. We all seem to find ourselves overtaking people on hills, even when we perceive ourselves to be bad at them in training sessions. Thank you to the coaches for making us do hills as often as we do, because it really helps.
Prizes were announced and runners dispersed. A short journey home and some more chatting and we were left feeling that the weekend had started off very productively. North Tyneside 10K is the next race in sight after the Good Friday Relays and my confidence is boosted. Hoping for a better time next week and I know that TBH will be well represented yet again. Looking forward to seeing the official race results too and I’d encourage everyone to enter the Cragside 10K next year. Not an easy route, but a very scenic one and highly recommended. Until the next race!