After yesterday’s toughie, Llanbedr to Blaenafon, I was a tad nervous at the prospect of the Combe Gibbet today! However, after yesterday’s grey skies, yet more glorious sunshine, combined with a cooling breeze, was most welcome.
I love ‘point to point’ races, so 2 in the same weekend has to be a good thing. Routes that follow ‘geography’, such as coastlines or, in this case, ridges, are even better, so I knew I was in for an aesthetic treat today, if I could focus on anything other than my tired legs.
I turned up at the HQ/Finish at Overton Primary School, just in time to catch the coach to the start, at Combe Gibbet, a hill top that is pretty bleak when the sun’s not shining. My legs felt surprisingly normal after yesterday’s rigours, so I felt fairly comfortable when we set off. I started near the back of the pack because I realised that my shoes needed tightening – I’d driven over to Overton in them and ‘racing tightness’ shoes make my feet fall asleep if I’m not running in them – just before the race director said, “Go!” I’d planned on a gentle start, just easing into things, so that was fine, but there were plenty of slow runners to work past anyway.
The scenery was magnificent, with views far and wide and, with my ‘normal’ legs, I was enjoying myself. When we got to the 5 mile marker (there were only markers at 5 and 10), I realised I was running about 8 minutes a mile, and thought, “Fine, that’ll do after yesterday”. However, despite keeping a fairly level head, I built up speed, really feeling the flow of the run and being spurred on by each ‘next runner’ ahead to catch.
The race has one ‘big’ climb, a fairly long grind back onto the high ground after the A34 is crossed (foot tunnel) at about half way, although of coarse it’s nothing compared to The Blorenge! I dropped several more runners on my way up, enjoying the easy gradient after yesterday!
By the time I was on the high ground again, I felt like I was really flying, loving the feeling of strength and stamina my training has given me. It’s one of the most joyous running experiences I’ve ever had, real bliss. A consistent 8 minute mile run would have given me a 2:08 finish, but the 10 mile marker made me realise I could beat that by a few minutes.
The icing on the cake was that I didn’t fade at all: negative splits aren’t recommended for nothing. Malcolm Green, Winchester & District AC, clung to my heels for the last three miles. I’d tried dropping him on the small climbs, but we were so well matched, that wasn’t going to work. My suspicions that Malcolm is a good sprint finisher were confirmed when he shot past me as we got into the last 200 meters, but I didn’t resent this in the least because there’s no way I’d have gone sub 2 hours if he’d not been right behind me: I finished in 1:59:47, 27th out of 141. I’d upped my pace by a whole minute in the second half (average 7:29). Result!
So here I am, on a bit of a high. Yay!