Saturday was a lovely day for a race. Crisp winter air, warming sunshine, not a breath of wind. The race was on Sunday though, and it snowed on Sunday. Milly ran 22miles on Saturday morning, the first 10 with me for company. As we parted, he continued away from the City and I ran a mile downhill home. A good extra run on top of the usual 4 which, by Sunday would give me a total weekly mileage in the 50s for the first time this year.
Soon, Sunday was upon me. The day of the Buttermere Round, a circuitous, hilly route of a little over 21 miles which had been extended by around 600metres due to an impassable bridge near the end. I had eaten very well on Saturday and continued in the same vein on Sunday morning, stuffing down cereal with yoghurt and banana, and toast, also with banana, as well as juice and tea. No way was I going to be running out of blood sugar during this event. The snow came to nothing and despite a complete lack of sunshine, the day was as good as you could realistically expect for a February day in the Lakes
I had no pre race nerves. I was happy for as many people to run away from me as wanted to. I had a race plan and I was intent on sticking to it. As we ran South down the Borrowdale Valley I had Penrith Stu for company as well as my good pal Plucky and his lady companion Gill. There were also two or three others in our group who I didn't know - we were effectively all in joint fifth place. At about the 5 or 6 mile mark our group broke up somewhat as we hit the drinks station. Stu got himself ahead of me, not by far, near enough to continue shouting banter/abuse at him from behind. Gill and Plucky dropped off the pace slightly though again not by much distance - I could easily see them behind on the subsequent climb of Honister pass which we began at about 7 miles.
The rolling roads prior to Honister had been pleasant running. I had enjoyed a good laugh and a bit of crack with pals. I had deliberately ran at an easy pace, constantly checking my heartrate and not allowing it to rise above the mid 150s. Climbing the steep pass I actually eased my effort even more. I was determined to run strong in the second half and that wouldn't be possible if I didn't temper my input with yet 12 miles and another steep pass to cover. Rolling over the top of Honister I was alongside another pal, Trevor. Having been caught and passed by several on the ascent we were in tenth position. As we belted down the very steep road into the Buttermere Valley I told Trevor that once the road flattened off a little, the race would begin. I never saw Trevor again until after the finish. I had several runners in my sights and one by one I picked them off as I cruised steadily along - heartrate now at around 160 bpm.
By Buttermere village , where we turn right to ascend Newlands Pass, I was running with none other than Penrith Stu again. We were in joint fifth place, and all those we had passed since Honister were looking very unlikely to come back at us. I impressed upon Penrith Stu my rigid plan to run easy up the pass. This allowed a chance for another good chat. Pulse going up the pass was about 162-164. The highest yet, but still way short of the 170 odd I know it would be if had ran it as hard as I could have.
After a brief, incredibly steep few hundred metres descent I told Penrith Stu my pulse wasn't high enough and I was going to do something about it. I never saw Penrith Stu again until after the finish.
Running hard now, very hard, I enjoyed the gently downhill miles to Stair village. I relished the short steep climb out of Stair. Pulse high, in the 166s-170s save when the gradient was down. Past the Swinside Inn and on toward Portinscale. Really hurting now, only a mile or so to go. Milly drove alongside and a welcome last drink, mostly spat out as I didn't really have time to stop breathing long enough to swallow. Finally I am in Keswick, through Fitz Park, dodge a dogwalker, swing round a soccer pitch - match in progress- and across the line to record 2hrs 28 and a half minutes, fifth place. Delight. Relief to stop. Cold day hits me for the first time.
The detour added 2mins 30secs (at my pace) to the normal race route. I ran 1min 30secs faster than 2009 despite the extra distance, and with an average pulse of 160 bpm, EXACTLY the same as 2009. All in all a very pleasing performance which bodes well for running my fastest Marathon for nearly 3 years come April 25th.
As is traditional with most runners I did note that despite nearly every mile being faster than last year, I ran the two very steep downhill miles several seconds slower than last year. I can attribute this to a lack of time spent on the fells since Christmas. Still, a very minor quibble I suppose.