After a short debate with myself I decided to sign up for the NTRIX pretty much as soon as the entry portal had opened. It is a fair trek down from Aberdeen to Stratford Upon Avon so I figured by signing up quickly then that would solve the internal shall I or shall not debate.
A few weeks later I booked a couple of nights at the Premier Inn then plucked up some courage and told my wife(non runner) that I had booked us a short January weekend away. A few weeks later I broke the news of a 12km race and the UKnetrunner agm.
From a training point of view it is a genius race to sign up for. I am normally a lazy winter runner then wait till February to get back into it. However, having a race so early in January required me to keep on moving through December and push on with some decent training sessions in early January. Would love to say that as a result I ate and drank less over the festive period but I love indulging in good food, beer and wine at this time of the year. It comes as an occupational must being a chef.
Road trip down from Aberdeen on the Saturday was not an ideal pre race day relaxation exercise. Drive, brake, snow, chocolate, coffee, snow, traffic, chocolate, snow for eight hours. Stratford is a place I know quite well so with a little help from GPS we found the hotel. Quick check in and out for some food then I was so tired that it was early to bed and I slept really soundly.
I awoke on Sunday morning to find near perfect running conditions, sunny but not hot and no wind. Legs were a bit tight from the day before so I went out and had a gentle trot of a couple of km round Stratford. Ate some Weetabix then we headed off to race HQ which was within walking distance and again gave me a chance to stretch out my legs a little.
I found registration and the changing facilities were decent and managed to speak to a guy that had been doing the race since the early eighties and got a picture/perspective of what was to come; normally I like to drive a route so I have a picture mental plan in my head. Number pinned on to race vest and out to meet up with the rest of the UKnetrunner crew, none of whom I have met before but the beauty of this club is you actually know people without meeting them; through social media, forums on here and just following a persons training and races on Strava so it does not feel like you are meeting strangers. As expected everyone was very welcoming and friendly.
The start is about 1km from HQ so I walked up with my wife and got my race brain sorted. The start is quite narrow but it was very close to 11 O clock so with no time to fret the race started. I negotiated past the slower runners then the road opened a little and I used the grass verge and put my foot down for a bit until the field had stretched enough. So now I was off and moving; moving fast, a bit too fast I was telling myself but feeling good. Being a great believer in positive mental attitude and that progress is made by running faster I convinced myself to keep with the pace that if I tired later I would have some minutes in the bank to play with.
I jockeyed with one of the Spa Strider runners for about 4km before thinking I've had enough of this and pushed out a fast 500m, this was all uphillish and I was thinking this is ok as the hill tops out at about 5km mark and this hill that everyone talks about is almost over, more an uphill gradient than a hill, keep the pace up, your doing good,there are no real hills this far south, keep the pace up.......turns a corner and there it is.......... like someones dropped a mountain in Warwickshire for the morning......a bloody hill, a real hill with a proper incline. Move to plan B but I've already ditched the plan book after my opening speedfest. In reality it is a hill of shape, size, incline that I deal with in training and should have just run over easily but it started to eat me up and mentally dented me. Over the top, that hill is now history, push hard downhill. Push, push, push. Everything that goes up must come down and that is an awesome downhill section. Passed Akgun about halfway, the only Uknetrunner I saw on the course. The race flattened out after that which I find slows me down so I focused on the runners in front and catching them and holding or beating their pace. By now I was into the latter stages of the race and focused fully on keeping going with a chance of going sub 50. Alas there is a tricky little uphill stretch near the end that just tailed my pace off and despite my head screaming at my body to speed out the last 1km, which is downhill, I just couldn't get my pace to increase. Some semblance of a sprint finish into the last 100m saw me cross the line in 50.23.
A very happy result as I was below my handicap time and my predicted time. Not busting through the 50 minute mark actually allows me to soundly continue my years running knowing full well that I will return to race the NTRIX again and try and improve.
A gathering of Uknetrunners at the finish area saw a lot of swapping of stories of how the race unfolded and everyone had a good race by the sounds of it. Shower and changed we all headed for the prize giving, Steven picking up 2nd place and the Uknetrunner team also placed. Win Win in my book.
The AGM is held in a pub round the corner (Baljit gave me and my wife a lift round, cheers again). Again for a club where I do not know people everyone was very friendly and welcoming to the both of us. A nice lunch and some decent beers along with the AGM, which gave me more insight into how the club operates and I got this feeling of being a part of a unique band of runners, geographically separated but together pushing forward ideas to make this club better and stronger.
Despite the 1000 mile round trip drive I will be returning. It was a marvellous weekend away in January with some great running.