The Vale Gallop has been a regular addition to our personal race programme since it’s inception five years ago. Like an errant cuckoo, the race has never occupied the same date twice. This year it had temporarily borrowed the Oddballs Perch date while that event was on haitus.
With Alan away checking out the Bookham 10k route, I was left to my own devices. It presented an opportunity to secure a little more mileage by running to and from the event. The perfect way to sneak in a little more marathon training for the Brighton marathon in April. (I’ll hopefully find out today whether I have a place for Brighton – if not, will start formulating Plan B!)
There was a really heavy frost overnight. I opted for my poor beleagured Cascadias, (still wearing a heathy dollop of Tanners mud) on the assumption of an optimistic temperature high that would melt the frozen ground and turn it into something much more squishy. The shoes had dried rock hard, and I was covered in a cloud of dust just trying to get my feet into them.
I had a time schedule to keep today since I was meeting Grant about two miles in.
It was all uphill from our house to the rendezvous point. And lord I am blessed with a memory that shortens roads and flattens hills when it comes to recollecting them. But happily I made it, sweating profusely and with a minute to spare at the same time as Grant who had snuck in another mile round the block to use up his spare time (secret training, pah!)
We had a quick route conflab and opted for the most direct but rather hilly route up Hurst Lane to the race HQ. Adopting our familiar ‘run the flats and downs and walk the ups’ – me hanging onto Grant’s coat tails, man that bloke can walk quickly – we got there with plenty enough time to pick up race numbers and have a cup of tea. Bonus.
We met Pauline at Race HQ, (her route there took in Ebbisham Lane Mwahhahah) and Penny who had cycled up to hand out flyers.
Over tea we formulated a race plan (Pauline, ‘we’ll see how it goes’, Grant ‘we finish together’ me ‘just hang on legs’) and then suitable refreshed joined the back of the race start.
The Gallop literally starts with a gallop. A mile long downhill section over difficult to run on terrain of clumpy, divoted grass and cambered mud. The ground under foot can easily turn an ankle or cause interesting and mostly unexpected route diversions on a foot plant and is often accompanied by giggles and involuntary expletives.
It’s easy to overcook and we normally do.
It felt overcooked this morning, so as we pushed on through the first mile I was surprised to see it much slower than I expected. Holy cow, this was going to be a long one. Happily I could hear Pauline wheezing and coughing away behind me, the cold air hitting her chest with every gasp. I know it’s very ungenerous and I apologise but I was rather pleased. If I was going to be really rubbish, having a companion is a much nicer way to do it.
To rub salt in the wounds Grant was having a good day. He made sure we were aware of it by doing happy returns as we plodded up the first hill. ‘Bastard’ P and I agreed in a non verbal eye rolling kind of way. We couldn’t really vocalise it since we couldn’t breathe.
We were over taken by a bloke who sounded worse than we did. He’d achieved the death rattle with every breath stage. He was doing a good impression of how I was feeling. It should have spurred us on but at first sadly didn’t. We did eventually ‘do him’ on a downhill stage and managed to secure enough gap not to be able to hear him again. I was grateful for the gap, it was really rather distressing to listen to him.
At this stage even the flats were a challenge. Without Cliffs one liners to laugh at, Grant turned into both support and entertainment. He gently chivvied us up the hills (he had to push me up at one point) and then irish jigging his way back down again to make us laugh. I was very grateful for his presence.
With relief we turned onto Ebbisham Lane and the climb up to Hurst Road. After this there would be just one final down and up around the paddock before the turn to home and the finish line.
I’d learned that although my legs were absolutely shite going up they were strong enough to stop me collapsing into a heap on the downhills. And since the other two could walk way faster than me, I decided to push on down the hill to get some momentum before they caught me up again.
It was a tough day at the office on the back of a tough week. Hopefully, the transfer from burning carbs to fat will kick in soon and I’ll finally get some strength back into my legs. In the meantime, the mental strength training is coming on really well.