Running for East Wales and Getting My Mojo Back: The Welsh Inter-Regional Cross Country Championships.
After a poor race a few weeks ago on the cross-country course at Penlan Leisure Centre, Brecon, I returned this weekend to don the purple vest of East Wales for the first time in the Welsh Inter-Regional Cross Country Championships. My preparation for this race was less than perfect, as I’ve been hampered by a tight hamstring and piriformis since my last trip to Brecon. As a result of this it was agreed with my coach that I should not do any more races until after Christmas and just focus on enjoyment and rehab until the New Year. Six days before the race, I discovered that due to an email address related mix up my services were required so the zero intensity plan went out of the window for the day as I joined the other athletes in the rain on the start line.
After chatting with John (tri-coaching.co.uk) we agreed that as I had done very little training in the preceding three weeks, I shouldn’t go crazy in the few days that I had leading into the race as it could set back my recovery and I wouldn’t gain any significant fitness in that time and I’d be best going into the race well rested.
I travelled up to Brecon with another Monmouth athlete, Huw Evans, who according to the runbritain rankings is the best runner in Monmouth (I’ve just checked and I’m up to second, 9152nd in the UK). I’d only raced against Huw once, at the Ross 10k a little over a year ago, and had my backside roundly kicked. As we were leaving Monmouth he announced that he would be running for West Wales but I managed to resist the urge to kick him out at the side of the road and drive off. We are hoping to do some training together in the New Year, which I hope to gain a huge amount from, especially if we can do some interval sessions together. I think that having someone to spur you on/chase when doing intervals is a surefire way to work harder as it shows you where you need to aim for. I have only been running competitively for around three years and I seem to still be on an upward curve, a curve which I hope to steer in an upwards direction for some time to come yet. Hopefully these sessions will help in this quest.
The weather forecast for race day was for rain and it didn’t disappoint as a steady drizzle greeted us in Brecon, which was to become more sustained, as I left the cunningly camouflaged East Wales tent to make my way to the start line. The rain was to become a factor in the race as it continued throughout, making the course more boggy and slippery with each lap.
My usual tactics for a short race like a 10k, is to start too fast and then suffer and try to cling on for the second half.
I decided to try something different this time, as I wasn’t sure how my hamstring would cope. The plan was to begin the race a little further back than usual, take it steady at the start and try to build as the race went on. Finding a suitable start position was tricky as there were very few familiar faces around. After the gun went, however, I saw just ahead, a runner from Pontypool who I’ve only managed to get the better of once before and decided that my positioning was probably about right. The first lap felt comfortable and I felt comfortable heading into the second lap and passed the chap from Pontypool whilst telling myself not to get carried away. I settled in just behind another East Walian where I stayed for the rest of that lap and the first part of the final lap.
By the time that the third and final lap began, the course was getting more slippery and I was delighted to discover that my innov-8 X-talons gave me better grip than the runners wearing cross-country spikes. I’m really happy with these shoes. They are light and comfortable whilst being really sure-footed in slippery conditions. The course involved running down some short but steep banks that had been well chewed up by the previous races on the course that day. I was able to throw caution to the wind and fling myself down them and then turn tightly at the bottom without breaking stride where the lack of grip on the heel of spikes led to runners around me having to run gingerly on these parts.
Through most of the race I had been battling for position with two guys from North Wales but in the final stretch of the race I was able to finish strongly and my sprint was enough to catch them and put some distance between us. I was really pleased that my tactics worked as I made up four places on the final lap and got with in 2 seconds of gaining two more. Perhaps more sensible pacing is the key to shorter races as well as the longer ones, which I am usually pretty good at pacing evenly! I finished in a not too shabby 34:51 for 5.6 soggy miles, which was good enough for 48th place out of 133 athletes and 20th in my age group. Huw won our age group a whole 4 minutes quicker than me.
This race was a huge step up in class compared to the GLCL races, which I enjoyed so much over the summer. It’s a bit like thinking you’re in the Premier League but finding out you’re in the Vauxhall Conference! I’m really pleased with my finishing position especially given my injury travails in the lead up and hope to compete at this level again in the near future. A measure of how bad I had run on this course a few weeks before is that I was 4 minutes quicker this time around. This race was a big deal for me and has given me back some much needed motivation to go and train properly. The hard work will start properly after Christmas as I’ll be looking to kick on with marathon training ahead of a return to Manchester where I will be absolutely determined to go under 3 hours this time having managed a frustrating 3h00:01 this year!
Concentrating hard on a steep downhill section (I’m no. 673)
Managing to smile through the pain!
Huge thanks to Gareth for sharing his running journey with us.
2016 has been a great year for me from an athletic point of view and he hopes to push on next year and build towards trying to qualify for the GB triathlon age group team at iron distance in 2018.
Follow Gareth at any of the below:
Twitter account: @3athletedentist
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