Having already achieved his 10K target for the year, Michael Nemeth tries his hand at pace-making.
Lambton Challenge 10K: Sunday, 29th June 2014
The pre-race left me feeling slightly out of my comfort zone. I was stood alone seeing a lot of clubs surrounded by their team mates. Seeing them sharing race plans and banter and I didn’t recognise anyone around me. Out of nowhere I hear a friendly “Hey there!” and turn to see the smiling face of Michelle Bannan. Finally a TBHer! This felt very alien as we’re usually more in attendance at local races. Michelle asks me what my goals where for the day and I said I didn’t mind as I’ve actually hit my 10K target for the year (sub-45 mins) so was going to treat it as less of a race as I have my attention focussed on our very own Bridges of the Tyne race. Turns out this was a return for Michelle to her first ever 10K race last year, with a time of 1:03:something to beat. Michelle then mentioned that there was a bit of a tricky double hill that we had to tackle and I suggested that as I wasn’t racing I could help keep pace in her desired time of “around 9 minute miles”. It was then that we saw Michelle’s good friend Lisa Atkinson from Gateshead Harriers and captain of the Gazelles with a few other of the Gazelles. It doesn’t seem to be a race now where I don’t bump into Lisa and a few of the Gazelles as had happened at the Kirkley Hall 10K on Wednesday (25th June) evening. We parted ways and gave Lisa an opportunity to get herself at the front of the field where the pointy end of the race is.
It was at this point I remembered the race as being billed as a bit of a fun run, but a tricky course at the same time. As Michelle and I took our rightful place in the middle of the field this was made more obvious as the 10 o’clock start slipped by. The girls that had been hired as warmer uppers were still going through their routine getting everyone to do lots of exercises that required a lot more space than we actually had as we were bunched together. Turns out the race was delayed by the organisers as people were still queueing to use the facilities, which consisted of 5 festival style portaloos. I didn’t mind so much though as I considered it a more relaxed race atmosphere than a seriously competitively one. The warm up crew rounded their routine off and the announcers gave us a 1 minute warning before the klaxon went off, letting us know the race was underway.
I let Michelle dictate the initial pace and fell in by her side. The start was fairly congested but we managed to settle into a steady pace. After 500m though we were met by a 500m downhill section with very unsure footing. I concentrated on staying upright, as did Michelle. We were both carrying minor niggles (her hamstring and my Achilles) so we were careful. The downhill quickly turned into an uphill of equally tricky terrain, but not quite as steep. The first mile ticked over in 9:12 and I was very happy with the pace we’d kept given both the terrain and the incline. At the 2km ish mark we changed terrain to tarmac and this felt much more solid underfoot and we were happier to have less concern over our footing. It gave me confidence that the pace was comfortable for Michelle as she was able to converse ok. I wanted to pace her well as we knew there was tougher sections to come. After a little digging Michelle informed me that her 10K PB was a little bit over 57 minutes and a quick calculation in my head suggested that we were going to hit “around the 56/57 mark”. A bit of an incline took us beyond the 3km point and the pace had dropped a little, but Michelle still looked strong and we were overtaking more than we were being overtook. The water station was just beyond 5km and Michelle steamed up the hill on the approach to it. Micky would be proud of the way she charged up it!
Halfway now and we were still doing good for time. A little pack of 10 or so runners overtook us on an uneven downhill section. It was here where Michelle mentioned a bit of pain in her hammy, but not a sharp pain. It was just letting her know it wasn’t 100% happy. In all honesty my Achilles was doing the same, but at a dull ache, and I knew the terrain was working it more than a road race would. It was pain, but at a manageable level. The pack were still just ahead and we kept pace with them, throwing out a mile that was comfortably faster than the previous ones. Knowing that the double hill was still to come we held back and let them scout the way. The hill struck and I told Michelle to keep her head down and legs moving. “Don’t look at the hill and use your arms to keep you going”. In all honesty it was a very tough hill that was on grass and it sapped the energy out of my legs. Michelle briefly gave in to the hill and partly walked some of it. There was no shame in being defeated by this monster. It was almost an entire km of double hill with an elevation rise of over 120 feet. We hit tarmac again and the “800m to go sign” as the legs started to get some sensation back. I asked Michelle if she had anything left and suggested that we step up a gear with 500m to go. She said not much left, but agreed to stick to my heels when I upped the pace. I slowly opened the throttle and increased my stride. A quick glance over my shoulder reassured me that Michelle was still there and was pushing hard as she couldn’t really talk now. A guy from South Shields Harriers joined us for the home stretch and I jokingly told Michelle at 400m to go that we couldn’t let him win! He laughed and shared a smile with us. I opened the pace a little more at 200m to go and Michelle was still on my heels. She was working very hard and we turned a corner on a very narrow path. I turned my head to find Michelle speeding past me. She flew past Mr. South Shields and found her next target. A girl in a pink top. She was closing the gap and I had to move quickly to keep up with Michelle myself. Just as we approached the line I heard a lone shout of “Go on Tyne Bridge!” and we nipped past the girl and crossed the line. I was proud of the teamwork and with the Garmin stopped Michelle confirmed that it was about 13 minutes faster than her efforts last year, but more importantly it was an actual 10K PB. I was impressed as this course was by no means easy and I would say is a good 2-3 minutes slower than a flat course. We collected our race pack, which contained a nice technical t-shirt and not much else. It didn’t matter as the race was a great experience and it was more than you get from a lot of local 10K races. I’m very glad that I suggested keeping pace with Michelle as her achievement made it a much more enjoyable race for me. A few minutes after finishing we bumped into the friendly faces of Sandy and Jessica Anderson, who, like us, thought they were the only 2 TBHers present. They had both enjoyed the course too and were rather pleased to have conquered “that hill”.
To sum up, the course around the grounds of Lambton Park was great and the scenery is beautiful. The park is actually closed to the public these days so it was nice to have access to the estate. It’s not an easy race by a long shot and the hill demands some grit and determination. I would recommend it to everyone, just expect a hint of fun run with regards to the organisation of the race. Hopefully we can encourage a bigger turnout from TBH next year as it would be nice to have a bit more moral support in black and white vests.
The run details are available here if anyone wishes to look at the course in more detail: http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/531218124