Yorkshire spirit and Yorkshire flat!
The Percy Pud, the start of the Christmas period of racing. The last fast 10k of 2018, the chance to claw away at the PB on this fast course, with a super competitive field. Despite it being nowhere near flat! A no nonsense 10k that always sells out in record time, gifted a Christmas pudding on the finish line. Out and back course, set in and around the Damflask reservoir.
With me ‘celebrating’ (I use that term, loosely) my 3 year streak anniversary on Friday, I wanted a big weekend of running to kick start my step towards my 4th year. So I looked at it and it fell perfect for a 3 event weekend! Could’ve been a 4 event weekend too, including the podium 5k last night. Opted against the drive there, servicing is due next month on the car and don’t wanna book it in early and go over the miles on the service plan. Then they charge me £400,000,000 extra.
Anyway first up, a steady Parkrun mover for the weekends antics. Proper team camaraderie around at the minute, particularly amongst the tunnellers, so the chat was flying around straight away. Felt alright at parkrun, but wasn’t my main focus of the day. Paced around steady to equal my time of 17:31 from the week before.
Didn’t hang around long afterwards, nipped home got a different set of clothes on and straight back out. Destination, Silkstone. For a race I know, but I’ve never raced. For a route I’ve run parts of, never together and never at race pace. Although I’ve run Bryan’s ‘Truffle’ if that counts? With me always working on a Saturday, it’s a struggle to get to this one. So we’ll see how I get on, really driven at the minute to improve my off road ability. Believing that it is a personal weakness, plus it’s that muddy time of year, so what better time to hit it. Then ultimately it might help in someway to make me faster! I had a quick look at results from the race, no targets in particular but just enjoy running it and get some confidence off road. Got there anyway, quickly registered and spotted Damien, bit of a chat and took him on a warm up. Even went on a footpath that he doesn’t know, it’s usually the other way around! Shoes on, brand new pair of inov8 x talons for me. Back up to the pavilion and chatting in and around the place. Before making my way to the start, finding myself learning bits about the route from everyone on the way. Then a quick brief and off we go. Quickly found myself at the front of the field, completely unsure on the first bit. Expecting a turn off, through some unsuspecting gate or stile. A little unsure really until the Trans Pennine Trail gate. So I took my foot off the gas and settled to keep just in front of the small pack forming behind me.
I just knew it was 2 mile, ish, up hill and then the rest downhill. I was confident on the route as soon as we got to the TP gate. It was just a case of getting there! Up and up, we climb. Thinking this is too simple to myself, the route feels like I’m going wrong, taking it in my stride but expecting anything to happen and then we got to a familiar looking farm house, which sits at the bottom of the TP path. Thinking surely not in the back of my mind, it really was that simple. Overthinking things too much. We began the true climb on a path I’ve run upwards of a 1000 times. Loose, wet and a bit slippery. Although having 100% faith in my trainers, first time for everything. Climbing on up, getting to the TP gate and knowing it like the back of my hand. Although treading slowly, giving me room to attack in the second half now. Get through the climb in bubble wrap. Spotting the farm at the top, seeing Phil Hinchliffe, then making it towards the road. Hi Geoff and now I go. Attacking my strength on the road. Looking around for the next Marshall point for me to the turn off, anticipating it a little earlier than it actually was. Felt strong on that small bit, then began dropping down everything we just climbed up, weaving through woods and fields. Seeing 2 deer jump the fence in front of my eyes, wishing I was as strong off road as them!
Dropping down, feeling strong and even though the course was a little soft in places with a few rubbish bits near the gates, stiles and fences. I had full confidence to attack in the shoes. For the first time ever, they felt comfortable on the road as well. Not good on the wooden bridge and wet rock though, but you can’t have everything! Before I knew it I saw Kevin Wood again, he told me before he’s at the top of the field near the finish, so I knew now. Not long to go, nearly taking an early left off the course just after I saw him. Reminded gently of the Barnsley Boundary Leg 7 on the old disused railway line. With the wooden planks at the side. Slipped a little bit too. Mark Yates might remember the night I did a ‘Gerrard Screamer’ on them up at Langsett! Spotting the sharp banking up to the finish, finally.
To cross in 28:09 on my watch, 1st place. Not bad for my first Shuffle, hopefully it’ll fall right next year so I can do a few more of them as well!
Went up to York with Ellie later on the day for a spot of Christmas shopping and out for some food, for once, I wore people clothes too! Got back around 7.30 ish, shower, tea and bed. Didn’t have much sleep, found myself lying awake for absolutely ages!
Set my alarm for 6.30 for Sunday morning, hoping to be up early enough so I can wake up in time for the 9.30 start. Slept through that, and my following alarms. Woke up at 7.15 instead! Quick shower, some breakfast and out of the house for 8 ish. Steady drive through, getting there just after half past. Parked a bit further away than previous years. Possibly due to being later than normal! Straight out the car and jog to the field for a quick toilet stop. Spotting plenty of faces in and around, local runners and runners from further a field. Stopping and chatting to people for a brief moment, broken first mile and then started to ‘pick’ it up and stopped the stopping for the second half of my warm up. Spotting Mum and Dad in the process to take my kit off. Heading back to the start line, chatting with everyone I could fit in and milling around for a bit. Didn’t have a pace in mind, didn’t have a real target for time. Yea, it would be nice to PB, but it’s not a PB course, in my eyes anyway. I was just going out fast and holding on. Running the race and taking each step at a time, it’s undulating, so monotonous metronomic splits aren’t really possible. Again, a small speech about the Percy Pud. Plenty of fast runners in and around here. Then we were off. Quickly out the blocks, didn’t start on the front row. But the race settled pretty quickly and people were soon in their rightful place. The field seemed deeper with talent here this year. Previously getting 17th in 34:41 in 2017; 26th in 35:07 in 2016; 115th in 38:42 in 2015. I was hanging on the back of the pack in 10th, knowing full well that the train following Eilish McColgan was on my trail. If I was to beat her, it would probably land me around the mid 32’s. Not quite capable of that today, probably set off a little too quick.
Slowed and steadied. Let the train pass me and held on the back for a while, dipping, climbing and a little more dipping. Dashing all the way to the Dam Wall. Passed by Matt Craig, from Hallamshire, as well, if I could be anywhere near him. It would land me around PB as well, seen him plenty of times throughout the year. Legs feeling not quite at their best, possibly a bit heavy after yesterday’s attempts. That’s all part of the challenge though. Eventually dropping down towards the Dam Wall, seeing runners split either side of Steve Frith crouching with his camera. Swerving around the bend now, on the Damflask route. Knowing this part of the world. Hearing shouts behind me for Joe. Myself trying to give him some encouragement as he coasted past. Sitting in and behind him for a bit. Looking ahead, knowing the turning point is approaching soon.
Near The Plough, the pub on the Damflask route. It was here where the year took a turn for me. It went from a series of tiredness, achey muscles, sore achilles and pulsating calves. The Damflask relay, possibly one of my worst performances to date. Serious focus on recovery in between races, lost a bit of motivation for the sport. Off the back of April and May marathons, had taken the month of June off of racing, serious racing anyway. I struggled round, in a pocket on my own. After playing football all day on a course. Feeling heavy, sluggish and generally knackered. It was here, my focus was reset. On this very road, on a Tuesday night in June. Where my motivation for running returned, where my spell of sluggishness evaporated, eventually. Where after the Damflask Relay, I found a need for speed. To run the Endure 24 and clock an average of 30:30 per lap for nine 5 mile laps. A motivation to run the Doncaster 5k and PB, at least. To try and break my 17:12 Parkrun PB. To go on and break my 10k PB, at The Derwent Dash, Burringham and again at the Abbey Dash. Getting it down to 33:26. An Half Marathon PB at The Vale of York in 1:13:27. Getting my 2:29:35 at York, PB’ing preciously in 2:33 at Hull. Getting a course record at The Snowdonia Marathon. A desire, a passion and a motivation that was built when I last run, on this road. I made the turn, it all came rushing back to me. No longer did I feel sluggish from the race yesterday. I knew that sluggishness wasn’t the way forward. I kicked on and made a move past Joe and held my pace, trying to move up a gear. Grinding it out, thinking to myself, it’s as flat as it’s going to get. Getting cheers, and name shouts for various associations of mine, Penistone, PFR, Barnsley, Team Barnsley, Tunnel Team. Gareth, Gaz and therunningmaninblue! In gear now. Sights ahead, playing the game, waiting for the hill. Wanting to attack that on the way back. Field had thinned out, little to no one coming in the opposite direction anymore.
Coming to the end of the dam wall, the anticipated climb, ready to go. I was determined as ever to make the climb, technically before the climb, I was on for a PB. However from the wall, back up to the finish line you climb 50 ft before dropping down another 30 ft, to then climb again. It feels like it goes on forever, it feels a drag. Then you get to the top, and you can see the finish line on the horizon. A finish line, likened to the Manchester Marathon, Vale of York Half and Salford 10k. Where it is in the view, but it never ever feels any closer until you’re on it! In the power gear, I feel my best mile of the race came right about now. One glance at the clock gave me a nudge to get under that 34 minute marker, for only the 6th time in my life. Kicking and thrashing my body up and down the course.
I worked and worked, until I was beyond the finish line in; 33:59, a sub 34, just. To give me 15th place, for the event. Which would have landed me 10th last year. With Eilish McColgan having 8 runners pip her to the line, in comparison to only the 1 last year! Although for me, it was a course PB by 41 seconds on a course that like I said in my eyes, is nowhere near a PB course. I don’t know how anyone PB’s on there!
Mixed splits looking at it in hindsight, need to find that next gear now and push on next year. Hopefully can get the 5k and 10k time down, take that energy and drive from my performance at the Damflask Relays forward, see where 2019 will take me. Cross country next weekend, followed by the Travellers 6 the weekend after as the year begins to draws to a close, and all those yearly times on the Power of 10 profile become fixed and are written into an ever developing history. Then we begin to build, write new times down and make even more history!
Just Keep Running!