It was a weekend of dilemma.
We fancied going away as it was bank holiday, but then I needed to recce my Calderdale relay leg, San had her park run to do & had some physio booked for her potentially dodgy knee, we had a 40th party to go to, then it was Hameldon for the first of the GP races, a race I've actually never done.
To cap it all, it's the Windermere marathon soon & my long road runs have been virtually non existent due to 3 Peaks training, so what to do??
My prayers (and Sandra's, although she doesn't know it) were answered in the form of the Keswick half marathon; we could do everything on Friday & Saturday then head up the road for the half and stop over, killing a whole flock of golden eagles with just the one pebble - Hameldon would have to wait for another year. So, it was a leg 2 recce with Neil Alderman on Friday afternoon, Sandra's park run & physio on Saturday (IT band issues it turns out), partyyyyy Saturday night then up and out at 7 on Sunday morning for Keswick.
What a gorgeous morning for a drive in the Maxine & Paddy mobile; don't bother with the motorway & up through Windermere & over Dunmail with superb views of the fells. But in typical lakes weather fashion, on dropping into Keswick, the cloud rolled in and the rain (& snow on the tops) started.
Luckily, it wasn't to last long, although the walk from the rugby club to the start at Portinscale was a little moist and breezy.
After having my usual pre race rollicking courtesy of Sandra about not setting off too fast, we had our usual good luck snog (with each other, not random strangers) and lined up for the start, Sandra determined to take it steady to make sure her knee could cope & me just wanting a good run out (don't look at your watch, stop checking your pace etc!!)
11.30 sharp and the sound of the airhorn heralded the start, off we trotted. The race is basically an anticlockwise lap of Derwent water, with a small loop of the Newlands valley & Stair thrown in after a couple of miles, just to warm up the legs on some hills.
The views are brilliant, running along the bottom of Cat Bells, first on the west side & then on the east side with views over the lake to the hills beyond.
It felt great to be running without the added weight of a bumbag for a change, although I had opted to start with gloves as my hands were frizzin! Well, starting mid to back field was very pleasant; I found myself trotting along, having a bit of a chat to people here and there and not bothering with my pace.
It's a very "undulating" route, with all the short sharp climbs on the east side of the lake; after Grange it's not bad, just a bit uppy downy if you get my drift. I became aware that it was on the first of these hills that I was running up at a similar pace, passing people who were already slowing, it must have been the spirit of the three peaks pushing me on. This continued, with me gradually catching, then passing people & thoroughly enjoying it, without feeling particularly out of breath or like I was racing, all a bit weird really!
On past the first drinks station (no thanks I'm fine), I resolved to settling down, watching the scenery & taking on some fluid at the second station, and then seeing how I felt at Grange. Dropping to Grange, water bottle in hand, I was still passing people, although at a slower rate by now, and still hadn't really looked at my watch. I got rid of my empty in a handy bin before turning back onto the Borrowdale road for the remaining 4 miles back.
The race here isn't quite as nice; nothing to do with the scenery but more to do with winning the lottery of life against Sunday drivers who frankly all seem to have had a lobotomy - "Caution Runners" signs everywhere & they're still surprised to see you, idiots!
Anyway, apart from that, you're back next to the lake for this section, all undulating with no daft climbs and plenty of bends so you don't lose the will to live. I was still feeling OK although getting a bit tired now, so had a glance at my watch....hmmmm 6:40min miling, maybe I'm running faster than I thought & I'm about to blow up. Hey ho, can't stop now it's only 3 miles back.
Head down time, shouldn't have looked at my watch, I've now put myself under pressure, dammit!
I kept on pushing, keeping people in sight & not getting passed so I wasn't slowing down any more than anyone else, in fact I was still gaining on a few I could see in front. The final slope is just after 12 miles, with a run up to the top roundabout in town, and I managed to bag another couple of places. Then, just what you don't need; a bunch of locals who obviously know a bloke who I've just passed start up with the old "come on you can get him" trick - it's like a performance enhancing drug to this lad, he's back on my heels again - oh no you sodding don't I thought, I'm off.
The speedwork training at the track appears to have helped. I dropped down the hill into town at full pelt (grimly hoping not to fall / blow / spew or a combination), yer man behind fading into my dust, whilst I was gaining on another scalp or two. Less than 400m to go, I've just passed another local chap & reckon I may have time for one more.
Dig deep & onto the rugby field to the finish, gaining, gaining, gaining.........then I saw the clock - I'm only on for a PB! Oh well needs must I suppose. I gave up chasing the chap in front in favour of finishing in my now usual way on grass, my ever artistic forward roll - it was a joy to watch (I imagine, but then I have a vivid imagination!).
I crossed the line in 1.28.48, 41st overall & knocking almost a minute off my previous PB, not bad to say I didn't plan to race.
Must not race more often!!
I honestly think that this is the first race I've ever done when I have done all the passing, all quite strange really, but hugely satisfying.
I can't really report on Sandra's race (she may add her own ditty), other than to say that she ran through her knee soreness, finishing in a superb 1.56, only 2 minutes slower than the last time she did the race, so well done San, excellent result if I say so myself!! Plenty of Biofreeze required on the knee after the race, before retiring to the pub for some mush needed anesthetic!
It must be said this is a brilliant race to do, put it in your diary for next year, we've now done it 4 times and enjoyed it everytime!