Doing Well at Ladywell, Ladywell 10,000m, September 2017

It had been a while. Granted, it might have only been 10 months, but it had felt like an absolute bloody eternity since I’d come out of race with that strangest of feelings: ‘satisfaction’.

As it was only a small-ish race in my autumn calendar, I hadn’t planned on writing a report of the Ladywell 10,000m race. Plus, it’s 25 laps of a track which doesn’t tend to be hugely exciting to write about! However, the day was so well organised and I was so chuffed with my time that it’s worth a bit of waffle! Sorry!

The first 6 months of 2017 were pretty miserable running-wise. I had upped my training volume, I had picked strategic races, I had been careful with rubbish food, I had executed immensely precise pre-race toilet strategies to perfection yet I utterly flopped. My marathon time was 10 minutes down on my PB, my half marathon was 5 minutes down, my 10km was a minute off (I even struggled around one in just over 40 minutes!), my 5km was 30 seconds off and the shorter distances were proportionally crappier too. On top of this, I nursed a hamstring injury which I just couldn’t shake off since November.

Ipswich 5km – on the up again!

Clearly, in the grand scheme of things, life could have been quite significantly worse but, when you shape a lot of your weekly schedule around running aimlessly around a park listening to the same mp3 playlist as you have for the last 3 years, you end up questioning your motivation levels when you’re reaching a plateau, let alone getting worse.

And then, in early July, things changed. Newton and Einstein may have scientific discoveries to their names but I discovered something equally staggering: training hard…pays off. No shit, right?

Unsurprisingly, what I really needed through all these months was a bit of a reality check and a kick up the arse. Said kicker in this instance is (former (traitor…)) clubmate Sean Fitzpatrick, who pointed out that my running volume was now too low but, in particular, that the intensity was too low. I needed to increase my Tuesday hard session at least two fold (e.g. do a 5k at marathon pace before the normal training session) and just generally try harder on the rest of the runs. And, importantly, I needed to work on strengthening and conditioning those weakling glutes. And, lo and behold, my hamstring injury was gone within a couple of weeks and my times started improving rapidly. Within a few weeks, my parkrun times were back to normal ranges and I matched my 5km road PB in 17.03 at Ipswich in mid-August.

Suddenly, things were on the up and I could enter the Ladywell 10,000 with reasonable confidence of getting a PB. Gold target was sub 35:30, silver was sub 36:00, bronze was sub 36:11 (my PB) and anything slower than that would have been a nail in the coffin of 2017.

The event is a new one on the calendar and builds a bit on the emphatic success of Highgate’s Night of the 10,000m PBs event in the Spring: lane 3 spectators, music, beer, food, lots of cakes, more spectators (which is worth repeating as track races so rarely have a crowd) and a range of races seeded by times (primarily for sub 40 minute runners). So, rather than the dullness of normal track events which involves tiny fields of runners of hugely varying ability watched by no-men and no-dogs, this would actually be, god forbid, a fun event!

I was in the third of 6 races: Adrian Lowther – the overall organiser of the event too, was our pacer at 17.35min for the first 5km and would ‘keep going for as long as possible after’. About 6 weeks ago, I would have struggled to do that time just for 5km, let alone 10km. On race day however, in ideal conditions (cool, drizzling – not so ideal for the spectators mind you!) and with fresh confidence in my pocket from the Ipswich race, I thought a good time should be within my grasp.

Not wanting to wait for the pacer…

I quickly set myself up behind Adrian at the front. Actually, because I was hoping to be metronomic throughout the race, I ended up running in front of him for a few laps because my watch was telling me I was one second off pace/lap. Every second counts and all that. In lane 3, Pippa was wiping the drizzle off her watch to shout my lap pace at me which was incredibly helpful for me to know whether I should speed up or not as it gets to a point – namely: 2 laps, when trying to add 84 seconds to 84 seconds and working out if you go through the line at the right time becomes a challenge!

In the background, the commentator seemed to have taken a liking to me or may have just found it easier to talk about the giant in the silly looking top. Either way, I enjoyed the numerous comments about how my race was shaping up!

What can I say … some people are just naturally photogenic!

Adrian did his ‘pacer’ title huge credit: he stuck to the pace perfectly and we went through the 5km with about one second to spare. At that point, I was still part of a small breakaway group of 4 or 5 runners and was working out that, if I could hold on for another few kilometres, I could afford a disastrous last 5 laps and still get a PB.

After about 7km, Adrian and two other runners sped up a bit – I did too and posted an 81 second lap but they were still pulling away and I chose not to self-destruct and went back to my target pace. As they pulled away, the commentator still talked about my race which was partly amusing, partly mortifying, and partly very cool (thanks Beany!).

Holding tight…

Though the lactic acid was building up, I gritted my teeth, enjoyed the atmosphere and struggled on. In the end, I ran the first half in 17.35 and the second in 17.39 and ended up with a massive PB by almost a minute in 35.14! (and well done to clubmate Andrew for nailing a PB in 34.49 and winning!)

With clubmate and race winner Andrew

Once I’d peeled myself off the floor, it was time to enjoy smiling after a race again and soak in the rest of the day and with a beer. The next three races were, unsurprisingly, speedier and speedier and even saw Katrina Wootton gets the fastest UK women’s time of the year while the top two men were just under 30 minutes.

All in all – it was a brilliant event and hopefully a new fixture on the southern England calendar. Based on people’s feedback, it’ll be a sell-out for years to come so hopefully I’ll sneak another entry. Well done and thanks to the organisers: it put a running smile back on my face!

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