Since the Winter Spine my focus has primarily been on rest and recovery and only more recently have things got back to some form of normality. Unfortunately my back has started to spasm/stiffen again so has limited my ability to do any speed work, although barring the odd day here and there I've still been able to run. I entered the Pennine Bridleway 18km as a warm up to the much longer 270km full length of the Pennine Bridleway that takes place in 3 weeks time.
Just before the off.
Although the distance is 'just' 11 miles, the sting is that there is c.640m of total ascent (and descent) along the out and back course. In theory it requires navigation too, but on the whole I found it to be pretty obvious. The first 5km has a 250 metre climb so I knew that early pacing was key; get it wrong and it would make a pretty miserable remainder of the race. However, what comes up must also come down, so effectively the final 5km are steeply down hill, so in some ways the difficult stuff is over and done with by the 13km mark (at least that was what I was telling myself!). In between, there is a further large ascent before flattening out at the half way point, then same again but in reverse so effectively the 640m of total climb is spread out over 3 hills.
Setting off from the start at Hayfield Cricket Club
The time trial format makes for unusual racing and difficult to judge pacing, its just you against the course. I enjoyed the format though especially when in the hills its nice to appreciate your surroundings without throngs of people about. I saw a few people, mostly those on the return leg of the PB18 (I was a later starter), quite a few DofE students and a fair few mountain bikers about. The first 5km to the top of the first climb I went relatively fast as the ascent starts to creep up on you before really kicking in after 2km. I was definitely blowing hard but in a way that I thought was sustainable. This was pretty much the story for the remainder of the race - I never thought like I was going into the red zone, but there was plenty of gates to open and close which forced a few seconds of rest albeit slightly disrupt your rhythm, plus the descents gave enough rest until the arrival of the next big hill.
As usual with me the descents are where I struggle and they were more technical than I expected. There was nothing particularly hard about them in the main, but there was plenty of loose rocks and I just don't have the confidence to go full gas with my weak ankles. In the end I finished in 1hr 25 mins, about a min quicker in the second half of the race so it shows my pacing was reasonable, but much of this will be accounted for the terrain being easier on the return leg. Overall I came 1st and set a Course Record, but it was just nice to have a blast in pretty decent weather without any racing pressure and see a bit of the Bridleway in readiness for 3 weeks time, albeit 18km is much more normal to me than 270km so I expect much less for the latter race!
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