The one that wasn’t meant to happen- The Paras’ 10
I’m sure you are all sick of my posts now (there must be an award for the most contributions to the website?!) but the good news for you guys is I have no races until January now. And all my future races are heavily represented by other flyers, so someone else can write the review!
The Paras’ 10, labelled as ‘the ultimate endurance race’, was not meant to happen. Firstly, it was organised and booked in for the height of summer in July after Amanda raving about the 2014 race. Having a dog who loves the heat, my main concern was my own ability to do a tough 10 miles in the blistering heat. However, the organisers took that decision out of my hands by cancelling the event and rescheduling for November. Now I was worried, having a dog who particularly dislikes cold and wet weather!
The weeks leading up to the race were particularly bad. No distance work, a little bit of speed work with Southend AC which left me feeling dead on a Tuesday night. I contacted the organisers to asked if I could defer. No, but I could transfer. I looked into this but it all seemed a massive hassle. Seeing that the race had a 3 hour cut off point, I did quick calculations in my head (15 x 10 = 150 = 2 hours 30mins) and the decision was made, I’ll do it. I’ll walk it.
Thursday and Friday I was able to digest a meal for the first time in ages and going for a run on Friday night, Rafa and I were on fire (well by our standards!) running with Vicci Mallam. Negative splits- each mile considerably faster than my average. My body stopped me doing parkrun by switching my alarm off without me even realising, which was probably for the best.
My target of ‘3 hours’ came down to 2 and a half at this point. ‘I should be able to manage 10K of it at a respectable pace’ I thought. Early start Sunday morning, first to pick up Sam Pickett, followed by Connor who kept us waiting! The drive was an unspectacular, uneventful one, which for those who have shared a lift with me will come as a surprise. We got there in good time, there was a huge field to park in, no dramas. The weather was very unpleasant. Bitterly cold, very windy. We picked up our numbers and Connors bag was weighed in. 50lb of sand as he was tabbing- but the requirement was 35lb. Not quite sure why he didn’t remove some sand at that point! Nor why he chose sand to weight his bag considering it was going to get wet. I think he’s in training for body removals, but taking a corpse to the barracks would be risky with bag checks! Maybe he will tell us when he writes his tabbing review as promised!
We spotted Amanda, Dean and Diesel, followed by Josanne and Paul (Daisy and George also present) and then all the tailrunners seemed to appear. Quick visit to the toilets reminded me I can’t handle them, and I set about looking for somewhere more natural. But the barracks seemed to actually have very little shelter! Managing to find a quiet area was a relief; until I looked up and spotted the ‘CCTV in operation’. Oh well!
We headed to the start, where we were given our briefing. The guy kept banging on about 1hour 50- to which I was almost in tears, saying to Amanda ‘I can’t do 1 hour 50! I struggled to get that at Mersea Island in August when I was well! There’s no way I can do that! I thought it was 3 hours!’- she said she thought that was the tabbers, but I would be fine, I’d do it, don’t worry. Erm, Amanda you lunatic, I just told you I can just about manage that on a pretty flat road race! Never gonna happen in a million years!!!
We observed a minutes silence out of respect for those lost in the tragedy of Friday night in Paris. Madly enough, pretty much all the dogs were even able to respect the silence (a few wimpers and Rafa not guilty!). A moment to realise that failing to run a 1hr 50 would be so insignificant.
Canicrossers were told to start at the front- the first time this has ever happened at a race I’ve been to. It makes sense, it is far safer to overtake a canicrosser than a canicrosser try to overtake you. The start was crazy. Dogs jumping everywhere, screaming, barking. And we were off! Paul started just behind me, quickly over took me, but strangely remained in my sights for a while. I know he said he was taking it easy, but this is a bit strange? I glanced down at my watch. Sub 8 minute mile pace, approaching 1 mile. Ermmm, better slow this down! I told myself that I would resist watch watching- I hadn’t been well, I had no expectations, I just wanted to complete. Along the way, a few tabbers passed me and made comment about Rafa loving every puddle on route. One said ‘He’s gonna love the water coming up!’. I wasn’t so sure!
When he hit the first lot of water, I had actually forgotten I had Rafa attached to me. I jumped straight in, and then half way across, waist deep in water, I remembered. ‘Oh my god! Rafa!’ I looked down to the side to see Rafa swimming strongly next to me! My face of fear returned to the big smile I had been running with that morning ‘Good boy Rafa! Mummys best boy!’- those around me must have thought what a weirdo! My shouts of my pride in Rafa continued into the very muddy, very stinky bog. Talking to him the whole way through ‘You are such a good boy Rafa, Mummy is so proud of you’.
Coming out the other side of the water and the bog was not great- clothes and trainers wet and heavy made it hard to run up the hills. But I kept going. As I saw the 6 mile point, I thought ‘10k nearly done, over half way there’. I glanced at my watch and realised I hit 10k in under the hour- considering my race PB, not trail, is just under the hour, this was phenomenal! And I was sick twice getting my 58, so what’s going on?? But I said to myself ‘don’t get carried away, stop looking at the watch, push on’.
Further along, guns were going off, and we were also smoked out, ‘Keep going Rafs we are being shot at’ I laughed. Which brings me to another point- the route was lined with predominately men in army camouflage. Didn’t spot any hotties, but to be fair, I didn’t pay that much attention. Perving opportunity missed. One was a true gent however, and took the bag of Rafa poo I had been carrying about half a mile off me! Josanne informed me that despite her speed, she was still able to clock a few hot guys. Hence the smiles in her photographs! Next year I must make more of an effort to be more observant!
At the next water crossing, Rafa dived straight in. He was loving it! Army guys had to lift me out the steep bank. I was actually having so much fun! At the 8 mile point, I had a sneaky look down at my watch and the realisation hit me that actually, I could get a 10 mile PB. Don’t get carried away, and just keep going. The wind was bitter and took my breath away. The finish seemed to just appear, and looking at the watch I knew now, I had nailed it. I finished strong- trying a little race against a fit looking tabber (who beat me over the line but I gave it a go!). 1:43;14. A massive 5 minutes off Mersea from August! That shouldn’t have happened. It’s not a PB course at all!
Waiting for Connor and his 50lb bag of sand allowed me time to reflect. What was the difference today? Was it the weight loss from 3 weeks of illness? Was it the 2.5 sprint training sessions with Southend AC? Was it running with my best friend? Was it that I wasn’t watch watching? Or that I had zero expectation and just went out to complete it? Probably a combination of all of these factors. But the biggest of all was probably the fun I had. I felt so relaxed and so happy to be running, without pain and with Rafa, through woods and natural obstacles which broke the race up, with absolutely no expectation. I think we are all guilty of putting pressure on ourselves, and I think this can often cause more harm than good.
Arriving back at the car, Sam was surprised ‘You’re not meant to be back yet! What time did you do?’ The others had done fantastically as expected. Confirmation of the results showed just how well everyone had done. Lisa Bolton appeared to have run under the pseudo name ‘Leo Bond’ which made tracking her result less straightforward! We went back home, stinking the car out, but happy! Everyone ran fantastically; runners, canicrossers and tabbers alike! Results can be found here: http://www.sportsystems.co.uk/ss/results
Photos available at: http://www.myeventphoto.co.uk/event/7134/paras-10-colchester-2015.html