Sunday, 16 March 2014

My first DNS and Sunday Race Day: KFL Cross Country - Swanley Park (the reverse course)

You'll be aware from the last few updates of last week that I've developed a bit of knee trouble over the last week.  Not ideal preparation for Paris obviously.

My last planned long run of 20 miles was the Surrey Spitfire 20.  Straight after Wednesday night's run with the Plums, my knees were really sore.  Thursday they were worse.  Despite ibuprofen and anti-inflamatory gel, I made the decision to pull out of the race on Sunday.  I'd already done two runs of 20 miles in my preparation so running with the knees at no where near 100% on hard tarmac was potentially risking all my hard work over the last three to four months.  So unfortunately, the decision was reluctantly made and I racked up my first ever Did Not Start (DNS).  Its a bloody shame as it was a nice blingy medal from what I've seen on Dave and Lee's Facebook updates!

Back at the Plums on Wednesday night, Robin and Les had suggested that if I didnt run the 20 on Sunday, it was the last KFL Cross Country Race.  One was cancelled with the bad weather in the winter months and had been rescheduled for Swanley Park, where the second race of the season had been held but would be run in the reverse direction.

By Saturday evening, the knees still didnt feel right but they felt well enough to give it a go on Sunday, as long as I stuck to the grass and mud and avoided the firm paths at all costs to give the knees a rest from any potential high impact.

Not ideal race preparation though.  I'd been to the pub with my brother Steve and caught up with my pals Dan and Kev who I hadnt seen in well over a year so we had a look of catching up to do.  Off to bed at about 1:30am and the alarm set for 7am.  After hitting snooze about 4 times, I got out of bed A single bowl of porridge and that was the race fueling done.  No need for anything more significant than that as I was determined to take it easy.  Got changed and was out of the door after I'd caught up with the F1 highlights.

I got to Swanley Park just before 10am.  Grabbed a cup of tea and caught up with the guys who had already arrived and steadily more Plums streamed in.  It was a good turn out today, despite a few of the guys doing races elsewhere...

I dont know why but I opted for no warm up today apart from a few light stretches.  The race plan was to start slowly then just finish the race at a manageable pace whilst protecting my knees as much as I could.

The Swanley Park race is a 3 lap 1.7m course.  Total distance 5m.  Not too far but enough to be a challenge.  Last time I ran it, I had no sense of pacing myself and I felt ruined by the time I'd completed the first lap, so I was even more determined to run a steady pace this time around.

So we all lined up on the start line and off we went.  It felt softer under foot than I imagined it would be, so that was a relief for the knees.

I was surprised how many Plums seemed to be in front of me. I was almost side by side with Julie in the first half a mile until the first climb but as I made my way up, I passed Lee and Vicky and then Robin as I came down the other side. Perhaps I need to start nearer the front next time. 
I caught Dawn as we completed lap 2. I thought she was going to kick on as she normally does and told her not to wait about on my part but I'd caught her again on the last climb and went past. I quick check over my shoulder on the finish straight and I could see she wasnt going to catch me and as I was too far away from the man in front to make any impression, I cantered in rather than waste any energy. 

I finished in 194th place. I was excited by the fact that I made it into the top 200 for the first time but when I realised there was only 243 runners this time around, that took the wind out of my sails very quickly. 

In terms of the pacing, it was pretty much spot on.  Not all out effort by any means but it was definitely quicker than last time around the course.

Last time around, by the end of lap 1, I could have easily have stopped to throw up my HR felt so high but not this time.  Perhaps the HR was a little higher than normal because of the rise in temperature yesterday but not significantly so.

The Strava report shows I ran the majority of the race at tempo pace...

I certainly ran within myself and had plenty left in the tanks so all in all, it was a good run.

I'm glad to say my knees have reacted better than I thought they would.  I did make the conscious effort to avoid as many of the gravel compacted paths as I could and on another day, running on them would have made my run quicker but it was just about finishing today rather than worrying about times and pace.

The body is in a great place at the moment and I'm feeling the benefits of the marathon training programme of the last 3-4 months although the knees are feeling the consequences.

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