Wheaton Aston 10k

The Wheaton Aston 10k had become a bit of a post Christmas tradition and I entered it at the end of 2019 as I usually do.  Unfortunately it got cancelled due to flooding and then came Covid so my entry was carried over to 2021.  To be honest I was 50/50 at best with this race, coming so close to the Spine Race, but if I'm honest I really didn't want to know how out of shape I had become over the shorter distances.  Whilst training has got gradually better in recent weeks the focus has moved towards the Spine Race which takes place in two weeks time.  As a result, for the last few months I've done no speed work as its not really a tool that is needed in an ultramarathon.  In the end I decided to give it a crack on the basis that it would be a last opportunity for the legs to have a blast.

Conservative start.

The weather was a rather chilly 6 degrees, dry but extremely wet under foot and the roads were full of puddles making it impossible to take the shortest line.  Some of the roads are not frequently used so were deeply rutted and quite muddy too.  As the race progressed it started to drizzle and it stayed this way for the remainder of the race.

At the start I slotted into about 15th as it was difficult to judge what the appropriate speed should be, having not gone at this pace for a long time.  After the first km I started to move through the field a bit and my watch flashed up as having completed it in 3.15, so I was glad that I hadn't gone out with the leaders.  At this stage a group of 6 had pulled away about 8 seconds up the road and over the second km I was in a mini group of 3 that moved away from those behind us.  One thing I noticed was that although I was coming through the field, the leading group remained the same distance ahead.

Over the next couple of km I worked to drop the other two runners I was with, successfully dropping one, but not the other.  The gap to the lead group was closing marginally and I'd guess I had gained a second or two.  At this stage I didn't seriously consider my race position as the lead group was tightly bunched so felt some of the runners in that group were probably saving themselves for later on.  At the 5km mark my pace remained consistent and I eventually dropped the other runner I was with so I was now firmly in 7th and the gap to the leaders was more or less the same as before.

Over the 6th km the race has a gradual climb; you could hardly call it a hill but as is often the case it worked to my strength.  I managed to catch and pass one of the lead runners who had dropped away, whilst the remaining five stayed together until the last bit of the climb before breaking apart.  I had managed to gain quickly on some of these runners and had probably gained another second or so on the lead of the race.  I still felt ok, but I was definitely working and at the limit of my pace.  My instinct was that even if I caught the lead I would have spent so much energy doing so that I didn't feel like I was in contention.  I also knew that I wouldn't have much extra speed at the finish,

The 7th and 8th km had some minor undulations and over this period I caught and passed two of the ex-leading group so was now 3rd and I had definitely chipped away at the lead a bit more.  I was now about 2 seconds from 2nd and a further 2 seconds from the lead.  I had this weird sensation that I was comfortable at the pace I was going at, but had no more to give at the same time - clearly a by product of lack of speed work.

We were now heading into the climax of the race and it was now or never to do something.  Somewhat perversely I didn't want to have to make this extra effort as I knew it meant it was going to be painful.  With about 1.5km to go I gradually passed 2nd but not enough to make the move stick and a further effort meant I drew alongside the leader with about 1km to go.  I was still comfortable but also hurting a lot at the same time.  Somewhat strangely I still didn't think I was favourite for the win - I was still thinking 3rd was the most likely outcome as I had visions of being passed in a sprint finish.

I decided to give it a little push; I would hardly call it an injection of pace but it was enough to break the two runners behind me and I was now a genuine 1st.  With about 500m to go I would say my lead was about 30 metres and I knew that was all I needed.  I gave it a further burst, not a sprint but enough to work with.  With 100m to go one of the runners sprinted and closed the gap, but I felt in control and didn't need to respond to it at the pace I was going and I ended up winning by 3 seconds in a time of 32.45.

Home straight. Win assured.

Crossing the line.

The time was not fantastic, nor was it poor but it was a damn sight better than I thought.  I had visions of my time being 34mins, and anything better than 33.30 I would have taken, so to break 33 mins is a good result.  It was also quicker than my 2018 and 2017 race times, but in fairness I was not at peak fitness back then.  But it didn't really matter in the end, sometimes races become time trials, or you have a fast time but are not happy with how it is achieved (e.g. going off too quickly in the first half), but this was a real race and it was my race craft that won the day.  There is something satisfying in taking 8km to pull back 8 seconds that I lost in the first km and then pulling away for the race win.  Those sort of races don't happen all that often, but when they do they give you far more of a buzz than a pb.

I now have just 13 days to the Spine Race (268 miles non stop!) which couldn't be more different than the Wheaton Aston 10k.  But, what it does is give me some confidence that things are where they need to be and that I'm not in terrible shape overall.  It also proves that even though I'm now in my 40's I can still mix it with the young'uns!

First road race in almost 2 years and now into my 40's but still able to mix it!


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